Tag Archive | codenames

February 01, 2017

Participants: Jon, David, Elad, Nadine, Gili, Daniel, Saarya

First visit by Daniel, welcome. Saarya, my son, decided to join us for a game.

Magic: The Gathering

David+++, Jon

David and I drafted as usual. I actually didn’t draft a terrible deck, or, rather, my deck was not so terrible that I didn’t think it could compete with whatever terrible deck that David drafted. I had some larger spells and some X spells, so I added one more land than usual. However, I also had a pretty even distribution between my three colors RWG, rather than my usual 2 colors and a splash of a third.

We played three games, and I drew only two of my three types of lands in all three of them (a different two each time). In the first two games I also drew far less mana than I usually do, which was strange. David didn’t draw a lot of mana in the first game either (despite having 20 lands out of 40 cards), but I also had color screw. But I lost all three games.

Two-Player Cribbage

David+, Jon

David wanted to try this one again, and he handily won the single round we were able to play.

Slap Deck

David 63, Jon, Daniel, Elad

First play for Daniel and possibly Elad. David toasted everyone.

Age of Industry

Jon 46, Daniel 45, David 43, Saarya 41

First play for Daniel and Saarya, second for David. I think it is one of the better games I got recently, being clean and somewhat elegant. I very much wanted to play this again. I was sure David would like it once he got to know it better. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too successful.

Everyone thought there was too much calculation and downtime between turns. They didn’t feel that they could plan their turns while others took their turns. In addition, it took most of the game for people to remember the placement rules. The game rounds certainly went faster near the end, and people were planning their turns during other players’ turns near the end, but the damage was already done.

Saarya took a coal monopoly on the US board. There was a bit of confusion about overbuilding ships and ships that come into play and resupplying the coal market. But I think we did okay. I still enjoy the game, but I’m not sure I will be able to get others to play it. Nadine and Gili think the game is too dry.

Five Tribes

Nadine 158, Elad 132, Gili 113

First play for Elad. Gili had the djinn that let her buy tiles with meeples on them. On the last turn, Elad got 32 points – 18 money with three servants, and 2 cards worth 20 points. And he went last.

Notre Dame

Gili 59, Nadine 49, Elad 47

First play for Elad. Gili went to Notre Dame twice on each of the last two rounds. Nadine was the only one there on the first round.

Dixit Codenames

many …

Saarya was willing to play Codenames, but preferred the picture variety. We don’t have Codename Pictures, so we played with Dixit cards. These take up a large area on the table and they are a little hard to see upside down, so people kept coming to the other side of the tale to look. And it’s perhaps harder to make connections between the desired cards without overlapping the undesired cards since there is so much to say about each card.

I gave some terrible clues, but everyone had a good time.

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December 7, 2016

Participants: Jon, Nati, Gili, Gilli E, Nadine, Nisan, Yael, David K, Elad, Aaron

Magic: The Gathering

David++, Jon

I have lost my winning streak.

Codenames

Jon + Nati, Gili + Yael

First plays for Nati and Yael.

Suburbia

Jon 119, Aaron 110, Yael 89

First plays for Aaron and Yael. I think they both enjoyed it.

Homesteaders

Gili 59, Nisan 52, Nati 50

First play for Nati. Nisan writes: In round 6, Gili spent $12 to get the church. Worth 10 points + 2 points per turn for 20 points. Nati lamented that he played “stupid”. Nisan lamented that his misinterpretation of the “bank” hampered his trading/purchasing ability in rounds 6-8 (he ended up “running off the rails” of the auction-passing track). All in all I think that everyone enjoyed the game and would play it again.

Trajan

Nadine 163, Gilli E 116, David K 100, Elad 96

First play for all but Nadine, who is lording it over the rest of us.

Nadine writes: First play for Gilli and David, second for Elad. Third for me, plus one completed online and two in progress. Everyone did cards except me, they were all collecting tons. David had wild cards, but even with that couldn’t get four the same. Gilli did get four of a kind, without wild cards. I had five cards, I got a pair early, then took the ship action when a card I wanted was available. So I played two pairs for ten points, partly to turn the ship over. In the last two turns of the game I won the Senate to get a bonus card for 9 points for a fire chip, and I managed to get a helmet chip which let me use one of my Demand wild cards for the fire chip bonus. I started with a bonus card 9 points for the helmet chip, so I got 18 from my only two bonus cards. The others had bonuses for cards, and got points from that, though David didn’t get many. He did a lot of building actions, most of them gave him additional actions, and they give points, he blocked me from getting a 5 point building I wanted, but he didn’t have a wild card so at the end only got 10 points for one set of three. I had two Building wild cards so got a pair for 20 points at the end. I completed a lot of 9 point Trajan tiles, and got 10 points twice from military. The others also did military, and competed for Senate. The earlier bonus cards didn’t help me because I wasn’t doing cards, and it’s hard to coordinate the cards you get with the bonuses, Gilli and Elad managed to. Basically it’s hard to plan as much as you need to, so tactically works pretty well, to my benefit. Plus luck with the Demand chips. If a second bread hadn’t come out at the end I would have had to use both my wilds, losing the 9 point bonus, and it hurt David and Gilli who were missing bread. Elad had all three permanent Demands, and Gilli also had a lot of chips.

 

 

 

 

 

Sukkot Games Day 5777

20161020_165201A lot of attendees with more new faces than usual.

Thank you to everyone who helped set up and clean up, a big help. Thank you especially to David for taking care of the long food order. We ordered from Pollo Loko for the first time. David had them read back the names for each item, but the order came without any names, missing one item, and without silverware or napkins. When David called to complain they said people need to request those. You would think with a large order they might ask if we want?

Antike

Yael+, Eszter, Binyamin S, Avi, David E

20161020_145719Bang the Dice Game

Sheriff Yael, Bandits+

Shariff Yael, Deputy Binyamin S, Bandits+

Bridge

Avi / Nadine, Ben / Jon

20161020_170415We played one hand before switching to Tichu, Avi made the 3NT that we bid.

Empires: Age of Discovery

Gili 104, Shnuer 94, Aaron 70, Arie 50

Castles of Burgundy

Gili 242, Yuval 206, Avi E 180, Yedidya 129

20161020_121905Gili taught this, first play for the others.

Codenames

Jon: I taught this to David C, Avi Einot, and Yokhay, and they all liked it. In the first game, Avi and I gave clues, in English to David C and Yokhay, which didn’t always go so well since they are Hebrew speakers and we are English speakers. In the second game, Avi gave clues to me in English and Yokhay gave clues to David in Hebrew. Sometimes they switched to English in order to give a clue that is one word in English but two words in Hebrew.

Five Tribes

Eszter  138, Dov 129, Tal 114, Nimrod 107

Gold West

David 115, Eszter 98, Nadine 81

Eszter taught us. Then when we saw Ezra wasn’t playing a game, she taught it again to him. After being interrupted by dinner, Ezra ended up leaving, but we finally played. I didn’t get all the rules right away, even when I did, I didn’t like the resource movement mechanic. Eszter helped us with recommendations, David liked the game.

Hawaii

Gili 104, Binyamin S 90, Eitan 86, Emily 70

20161020_225519It’s Alive

 

King of Tokyo

Avi+, Nadine, Gili, David, Yedidya

I killed Gili, David and Yedidya, but then Avi killed me to win.

Lo Ra

Nadine 35, Shneur 27, Aaron 20

New to both, they liked the game. Before counting most and least money, Shneur had 32, Nadine 30.

Magic

Jon++, David +

David says Jon is on a long winning streak. Jon: David and I drafted cards and I ended up with a relatively tight deck that had some fliers and creature control, but nothing else spectacular. In the first game, I drew as well as I could have, but I had limited land after the initial opening hand and David took me down with bigger creatures.after killing my fliers. In the second game, David was entirely mana screwed, with a hand full of blue cards and no blue lands. In the third game, I was able to eke out another win where both of us had average draws.

Nefarious

Ben didn’t win, I don’t know who else played.

20161020_145800Pax Pamir

Gili, Cliff, Shalom, Refaela

Gilli and Cliff won together.

Phoenicia

Jon, David, Avi, Aaron

Jon: David made one strategic and one tactical mistake in the penultimate and ultimate rounds. Avi thought it was too hard to catch up once ou were losing (although with more experience, hopefully no one will be losing by too much). I taught the game again to David, Avi, and Aaron. I hadn’t played it in a while, and we are not sure that we got the action card availability mechanics correct. David took a wide lead in the middle of the game and held it, but he spent one 20161020_170126round too long building up his infrastructure. I used that one round to gain a huge amount of victory points; that was the penultimate round. On the last round, he neglected (forgot) to deprive me of a card I used to keep my lead. While I would have gotten almost as many points anyway, it was a mistake.  

Scythe

Ofer

 

Signorie

Ben 154, Nadine 133, Assaf 120

20161020_170110First play for Ben, second for Assaf. Ben complained the whole time that he wasn’t getting the game, and about his limited possibilities, though of course he did well. I don’t think he liked the game despite winning. He’s right about the luck elements, such as which flag tiles are available and which ones you need. Assaf did well with marrying daughters into cities, he placed them all in one city which limited his end game bonuses, which lost him 8 or 12 points, and he didn’t invest in many white discs. I concentrated on the book track, not enough to beat Ben’s training of sons – and he also got points from the book track.

Slap Deck

Jon: I taught this to several new people and played several times. Many people liked the game a lot, especially David C (guy from my work who came for the first time), Avi Einot, and Yokhay Liot (the last two guys are new to me and I met them at the end of the evening).

20161020_105552Smiley Faces

Gili, Yuval, David, Avi

Steam

Jon 55, Nati 52, David C 52, Yael 47

Jon: first plays for Yael, Nati, and David C, who all liked the game. I invited them to gang up on me, and they did some of the time but not all of the time. They also all played very well, but I managed to get a 2 or 3 point lead by mid game and just managed to keep hold of it until the end.

20161020_170142Tzolk’in

Eliezer 68, Alan Greenspan 66, Michael 61, Ofer

Tichu

Avi / Nadine, David / Yedidya+

Avi / Nadine 915, David / Ben 1050+

Avi and I had a pair of kings overtaken by a pair of aces twice, ruining our plans.

20161020_212706Jon / Yechiel 1195, Aaron / Shneur 605

Jon: I played with Assaf’s friend Yechiel from Kokhav Hashachar (first play) against Aaron and Shnuer (first or second play). Yechiel made some beginner mistakes, but played very well for his first time. He even called Tichu twice (made it once). I called it three times and made it twice. In one of the times I made it, Aaron on my right played his second to last card (a 7) and I called Tichu, which shocked him. I played an 8. Luckily for me, my partner played his K so Aaron could not play his last card, which was a K. I overtook my partner’s K with one of my aces, played a long straight, then a full house of Q’s over aces, and then got out with the dog.

In another interesting hand, I pulled in my opening 2 aces, 3 Q’s. 3 tens, a straight 2 to 6, and the phoenix. David and Avi’s advice for passing was to pass one 10 to each other player, but I decided to pass the 2, 3, and 4. I got back 2 4’s and the dragon, making an easy tichu. Aaron also called and made or lost some tichus. At one point, one hand took us from 795, and them at 105, to us 695 and them 405, and then us 695 them 605. But those two hands were their only streak. In the next hand it was 995 to 605, and then 1195 to 605.

20161020_170110Year of the Dragon

Nadine 105, Ben 96, Shneur 81, Assaf 79, Ezra 76

New to everyone except me, Ben had played once. This is a very hard game to get on the first play but they all did well, especially Ben. Assaf jumped ahead of me in turn order before the game and took a dragon, I took one on the next round. Ezra started with Books but couldn’t maintain it, no one else focused on it either. Ben had a lot of people, but was slower with round points. I did single building for a while until I finally took a builder. I took a Monk at the beginning for turn order, and was unexpectedly able to keep him til the end of the game. I got one double one, Ben had two double ones.

20161020_132939

Bang the Dice Game

June 8, 2016

Participants: Jon, David T, David K, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin, Francis, Alan

David Tzur is the new name for the guy formerly know as Alex. He is a designer who has published a few games, and he came to show me one of his new prototypes.

Prototype

David T’s new game occupies the same space as Codenames. It’s different enough to stand on its own. It was a nice game, although the scoring is not entirely worked out yet. Hope to see it again in its finished state.

Codenames

Since David T had never played Codenames, we showed him how it works. I gave clues to David, and Nadine gave clues to David T and Gili. They won by one card, partially because I gave the clue “British” without seeing that the word “England” was on the board, and I gave the clue “Chekov”, intending David to guess “Moscow” without knowing that Chekov was also a “Doctor”. Then David and Gili gave clues to Nadine and David T while I read the rules to Francis Drake.

Notre Dame

Alan 53, Gili 51, Francis 42

I didn’t see how this went.

Francis Drake

Binyamin, Nadine, David, Jon

First play for all of us. David is reluctant to play a game that no one knows and for which we have to read the rules as we teach it. Often I can do better than I did with this game. The rules were less of a problem than figuring out the setup. It took us 25 minutes. The rulebook is 18 pages long, with lots of repetition, yet staggeringly unclear on how setup works.

There are light blue card, slightly darker blue cards, and slightly darker blue cards, as well as gold cards. For a standard 4 player game, you play with the “blue cards”. Even knowing that that meant the middle blue, it was impossible to tell the colors apart. The rules say nothing about the gold cards, and oh yeah: they are not separate cards, but double sided, with one kind of blue on one side and another on the other (so you can’t compare them side by side). The game says to place X, Y, and Z on a board, but there are four kinds of cards called X, Y, or Z, and well as tiles; do we take them from the cards we’re using or the tiles? Or the gold cards?

Cubes and jewels are not properly identified in the setup or on the board, and the board is double sided, which we didn’t realize until we had to undo everything and flip it over for the English side. And on and on.

The game: I pretty much got the idea the moment the rules explanation was done, because the game is freakishly similar to a dozen different games we’ve played before: Macao, Vasco de Gama, and any other game where there is a fixed number of rounds to a) take turns gaining cubes, other resources, and special powers, and b) ship, build, or deliver before or better than everyone else, all set in some Renaissance sea routes or group of villages.

In this game, the first half is progress on an 18 track where you can only move forward, you can jump ahead spaces, the first to land on any space gains an advantage for that space (takes an extra cube), and you only get to land on ten spaces.The second half is going to places and either trading cubes for trade goods or trading cubes for points (called “battles”: your cubes are soldiers and guns and the spaces are forts and ships and so on). Most battles require a varying amount of cubes to win the points, and these are not revealed until after everyone has taken their cubes. Two of the special powers that one person (each) can take is to look at and rearrange some (but not all) of the supplementary tiles that provide varying amounts for battles, after everyone has taken their cubes.

Most games have some drawbacks, including the two games listed above, but this one’s is most annoying: the only thing you keep from round to round is your points and trade goods (you gain points at the end of the game for collecting sets or partial sets of trade goods). All cubes, resources, powers, and positions are reset each round, so every round is exactly the same with the exception of how many trade goods you still need to complete a set. That little point calculation makes it slightly more advantageous to plan to visit a trade good site rather than a battle site, but not by much. A complete set of 4 trade goods (4 visits) is 26 points, and three battles fought in a round (3 visits) are worth at least 30 points. Allegedly there is competition for the trade goods and battles, and there may indeed be in a five player game, but in our four player game there was almost none. Everyone had room to go where they wanted. Maybe I missed something in the rules about blocking off certain spaces in a 3 or 4 player game to make it more competitive.

I’m the kind of player who likes to play the first few games tactically. I may eventually find an overall strategy, but I simply took the most cubes I could and figured out what to do with them as I got toward the end of the track. I happily played without much thought. David and Nadine are the kinds who are unhappy taking actions if they haven’t calculated exactly how many cubes they need by the end of the round and if anyone can stop them from getting them. As a result, owing to the usual complexity inherent in a first play of a mid-weight Euro, David did not enjoy himself in the first round, especially because it had already taken more than an hour to start (setup, rules explanation, etc). It didn’t help that he rolled a 1 for the only die roll in the game, for which he needed a 2 or better to succeed. The first round took a very long time, and he was doing well by the end. Binyamin was ahead, and was more behind on the score track but had more trade goods.

The second round went much quicker. David didn’t warm to the game. I had conflicted feelings. On the one hand, I was okay with the mechanics and I could see how the competition worked, but there was minimal tenseness and the second round was very boring since it was exactly like the first round for me (the track actions were in a different order, but that was about it). And then I had all the cubes I needed for a battle unless I got extremely unlucky (maximum defense in both the card and the supplementary tile. Of course I got extremely unlucky, and lost 12 points because of it, which was the difference between first and last place.  I don’t mind small swings of luck, but that is too much for a mid-weight Euro.

By the time we finished round 2, it was pretty late, I wasn’t interested in continuing and I saw that David and Nadine were suffering, so I said we should end, even though that annoyed Binyamin (rightfully so). I said that I didn’t see any difference between the rounds, but the truth is that that was because I was playing tactically. If you play strategically (which means concentrating on trade goods or not), there is a little difference (you don’t have much control over who takes what in the track and can be easily locked out of taking any trade goods in a round – another thing that would be better if you could save cubes from round to round).

I am willing to try it again, although I might get a bit bored. It’s certainly not thematic and it doesn’t feel original in any way, but it seems mostly balanced, there are decisions to make, and you might even have some tension during the shipping in a five player game. But I see no reason not to flip up all the tiles values at the start of the round. And I am already strongly considering to let players keep a few cubes from round to round.

Nadine wrote that it seemed too lucky.

June 01, 2016

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Nisan, Alan, Bill G

Alan brought his father Bill who is here in Israel for a short visit. Nisan and Nadine started and ended the evening by claiming that I win games all the time, especially when there are new players, but I think that’s very unfair. I didn’t win the second game of Codenames tonight, for example.

Codenames

Jon/Nadine+, Bill/Alan

I taught this to Bill; Alan had played once or twice I think. Alan and I gave clues. Our partners each gave our opponents two cards, but then Nadine finally pulled ahead and I was able to win with one word clues.

Nadine/Alan+, Bill/Nisan

I sat this game out. I don’t know how it ended.

Nadine: Nisan guess the black word towards the end, it was Sink and Bill had given Food 2 or 3 as an earlier clue.

Antike

Jon 7, Nisan 5, Nadine 5, Alan 5, Bill 3

We played this to one point less than the listed points, as usual. I also decided that in this game, for the first time, we would play with the correct maneuver rules: moving is a maneuver and conquering is a maneuver, and you can only do one of them unless you have advanced on the relevant Know How. Honestly this didn’t improve the game.

The way we have always played – you can move up to your movement limit and then you can conquer for free – there is not much in the way of conquering, but there is some, not too much to make me dislike the game, but not too little to make people who like attacking feel bored. The upside is a dynamic game that includes some skirmishing and makes building armies/fleets somewhat more important.

The correct rules make attacking all but non-existent, especially when playing to 1 less point. The only upside is that it makes the two movement Know-Hows stronger. But I kind of missed the skirmishing, so long as it’s not all ganging up on me.

First play for Alan, Bill, and Nisan. I explained everything well enough, although there was a little confusion in the middle about how many Know How steps you can build at once. Both I and Nadine also explained the strategies I planned to use to win the game. And that’s the exact strategies that I used to win the game, made, if possible, slightly easier since there was basically no attacking the entire game.

I played Rome and built an early Market and then an early temple, but my temple was iron since I expecting attacks from my neighbors. Nadine was second to a Know How, and since she was up near England, she built Sailing. Alan was down in Palestine, which is usually pretty strong, and he was first to three temples, but he and Nisan (Greece) basically left each other alone. Nisan spread out to 15 cities and built lots of armies with the intention of sacking one of my temples. I built to Monarchy and then Democracy, so the only temple he could sack was after I already had three temples (all I needed) and was poised to win the game anyway. Bill hung out in North Africa, basically keeping to himself, too.

Nisan said that he liked the game, and Nadine liked it more than she liked Steam.

KinneretCon

Several JSGC members attended a board game convention at Kare Deshe over shabbat. We played games from Friday afternoon until a bit after motzai shabbat. In addition to breaks for food and sleep (not much for some people), the religious ones took additional breaks for prayer, etc. Nadine came up with the name KinneretCon.

Attendees: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Eszter, and other occasional attendees including Cliff, Rafi and Eszter’s son Binyamin. The event was organized by Roee of Givatayim, and about 30 other faces, familiar or otherwise, were in attendance.

People brought games into the miklat, resulting in a pile of about 150 games to play. Once in a while I had to stand outside and take a look at the very pretty and not-quite-as-severely-evaporated-as-last-time Sea of Galilee to remind myself that I was not, in fact, a dungeon dweller.

Jon’s report

Mr. Jack Pocket – First play for me, having played (out) Mr. Jack. This is a smaller, cleaner, shorter version of the game that gives nearly the same experience, so it is preferred. It’s a small tactical puzzle that plays quickly. I won as the criminal.

Nefarious – Gili and I played this with someone else, who played it for the first time.  Our twists were “lose all of your money after inventing” and “gain $2 each turn”, which pretty much canceled each other out. I won with five 4-point cards.

Tigris and Euphrates – I taught this to two people. Zoya was one, but she had played it once several years ago and not liked it. I thought perhaps because it hadn’t been explained well.

Turns out I was right. Both of them were very happy with my rules explanation, and Zoya particularly seemed to enjoy it, despite that fact that I kind of killed them. I had 11, Zoya had 7, and the other guy had 4. It was a very bloody game at the beginning. Then, when I built a monument, they let me keep it too long, despite my urging them to attack me. I ended with game by taking the last treasure, giving me my fifth.

Tichu – Nadine and I played against Roee and Zoya Nuar, the organizers. It was the first time we had serious opponents outside of our group. I supposed at first that Nadine is shy in calling Tichu, but she called more often than I did, even a grand tichu. In contrast, I have a lot of experience but barely ever called tichu, owing to hands that were always just a little shy. The one time I called it, our opponents had two bombs.

Nadine made a few play errors that cost us some big point swings. I played very well, if I say so myself, several times exiting with the dog as my last card.

We played upwards of 15 hands, and Nadine and I were negative for much of that time. Eventually it was something like 800 to our -100, which we closed to 800 to 500, but then finally lost in the end.

Codenames – Others played this a few times. I practiced playing this one on one with Cliff, giving myself four turns and only two errors allowed. Turns out to be much harder when your opponents aren’t eliminating their own cards.

Take it to the Limit – This was on my wish list and Gilad from Reut was selling a copy. I had actually only played Take it Easy, which is its shorter baby version (10 minute game). This is a larger game that takes about 20-30 minutes, and plays up to 6 easily. Although people say it is similar to bingo – because one player draws a tile and everyone has to place that tile on their board – it’s not; it’s more like Crossword Squares, which is a pen and pencil word game where people call out letters and try to make words. In this game, you try to make high scoring lines of numbers.

Nadine was apprehensive, but in the end she was okay with it. I picked it up as a filler game for our group.

Carcassonne Big Box 5 – First play for me, I played with Yovel Zim. I had played Carcassonne before, but never with any of these expansions, and certainly not with many multiple expansions like this. Some of the expansions were ok, such as the traders and builders, and some were irrelevant, such as the hills and sheep. The ones that added luck were a mix. The wheel of fortune was fine, since it gave you additional options to play for. But it was unnecessary to have it sometimes skip a section.

I pretty much creamed my opponent, who kept not leaving himself a meeple to score with on each turn. I also played many more farmers than he did and scored bigger cities. Final score was something like 335 to 245ish.

Bruges – A classic Stefan Feld Eurostyle game I played with Cliff and Nadine (first play for me and Cliff). I tend to like games that have you acquire buildings with special abilities, like this one. I was initially concerned that the disaster events were too frequent and too strong – which is a Stefan Feld signature – but it turned out that they could be dealt with without too much harm. Still, I don’t really like attack cards (they added to the frequency of the disasters for the other players) and I would probably eliminate or mitigate them somehow.

I won this with something like 54 point while Cliff and Nadine were tied at 41 (Cliff won the tie).

Candle Quest – I taught a gamer and his non-gamer, apprehensive wife how to play, and they played the basic game with Nadine. She liked it enough by the end to request to play it again, and I sat in for Nadine on the second game. I lost.

Tokaido – This is a beautiful game with an original and lovely theme, etc. What matters is the game play, which has been – fairly – compared to Candyland. On your turn you go to the next available space that makes any sense for you (i.e. if you have money you go to the next space, otherwise you go to the next space you can afford), draw a card and do what it says. The only clear decision is whether to gamble spending money now for a few points against the possibility that you won’t have enough for a few more points next round. That’s it.

Defenders of this game say that the other decision – whether to skip forward more a few spaces to get something special (in exchange for giving your opponent extra turns) – is where the heart of the game lies, but from what I have seen I call bull. In the comparable game – Glen More – that decision makes sense, because you are getting something very highly valued in exchange for the turns you give up; sometimes 18 or more points, and each additional turn you gave up is also -3 points for the person who takes it. In this game, the most you will get by jumping forward a few spaces is 3 extra points, and every turn nets you 2-5 points, so it is never worthwhile to lose turns.

I would be happy to be proven otherwise, but until then this remains a thing of beauty that  I hope to never play again. Everyone else playing with me – Cliff, Nadine, and someone else – felt the same way. At one point Nadine went to the bathroom and we played her turns for her. The game played us, rather than the other way around. I think the game won for me.

Roll for the Galaxy – Although I don’t like dice, I sometimes like dice placement games, like Alien Frontiers and Troyes. I thought this might be the same, maybe slightly better than Race for the Galaxy, which I think it okay but not great (in particular, I don’t like games where players can act to end the game early when they are winning). Fiddly dice rolling doesn’t add much to the card game, although the ability to choose what kind of cards you draw does. So it’s a mix of things that are better than and worse than the original game. We had to stop this mid-game since shabbat was out and the owners had to go.

Lo Ra – Finally, we played this with the same couple with whom we played Candle Quest. Again, she was apprehensive, and again she warmed to it by the end of the game. The husband had played Ra, so he understood what was going on. Nadine toasted all of us by an embarrassing amount.

Nadine’s report

Someone said the event needs a name, and we came up with KinneretCon. The best game event I’ve been to, very fun and friendly in a great setting.

Roll for the Galaxy – I played twice, once Friday afternoon before Shabbat, once at the end of Shabbat where we stopped after a few rounds. It’s interesting but fiddly, I’m glad I got to try it. Tons of pretty dice.

TIME Stories –  I’ve wanted to try this since I saw at bgg.con, where it was popular. Cliff and Rafi also really liked it. I played with Gili, Eszter and Roee; Rafi got us started and answered questions. It’s a co-op game with a creative mystery story and nice art. I don’t play games for literature-like wording; the others, not native English-speakers, weren’t into the wording either. The mechanics of discovery, deduction, combat tests and puzzles are fine, but we didn’t feel like doing them for three hours, so we stopped near the end of the first run, after spending twenty minutes on the mental maze. Which Rafi later said wasn’t necessary if we had followed a different path. It was a good way to experience the game and see how it works; it’s more of activity than a game.

Five Tribes – I played with Eszter and two players new to the game, they were very good at analyzing and making beneficial moves. They were strong on the board, one had a Djinn for placing camels on empty tiles, and one could place palaces, and keep assassinated meeples. I only had 4 camels on the board, on low point tiles, and no Djinns or white meeples. I did money once. I collected cards, which I usually don’t do because they cost money, but only Eszter was collecting any at all, and there was a good selection available. I ended up with a set of seven and a set of five, I finished the second set at the end, I hadn’t tried getting two large sets in other plays. I also had six yellow meeples for the most; the assassin guy killed one of Eszter’s instead of mine because he was in competition with her for second place, whereas I would have the most either way. I also had bid pretty low, and ended up winning. We all enjoyed the game, I think the open information makes it more interesting because you end up helping people plan moves once they say what they want to do. The new version with Fakirs instead of Slaves.

Tichu – I partnered with Jon against Roee and his wife Zoya. They’re super Tichu fiends. I don’t call many Tichus, but called Grand Tichu early on. I said I don’t know if I could even make a regular Tichu against these guys, they complained about my table talk because they thought I was referring to my current hand, but got it after I explained what I meant. I’m not sure if I could have made it, but I definitely played wrong, which put us in the negative. Our opponents seemed to always have bombs at the right time to stop us from both going out first, or making Tichus. At one critical point, I was trying to go out, and had no idea that Zoya and Jon both had only one card, just because I wasn’t paying attention, a very stupid mistake. I played wrong, letting Zoya go out before me or Jon. Jon couldn’t believe it, and complained, which was totally justified since it basically cost us a lot of points and the whole game, frustrating when I had the right cards. Zoya and Roee commented on his complaining, but he wasn’t seriously mad, just pretty annoyed. And even after I played I hadn’t noticed what happened. Other than losing, it was a very long and fun game, interesting to play against serious players. Now I need to get better at several aspects of it.

Bruges – I had played this twice at bgg.con two years ago, and liked it compared to other games, but not enough to get the game. It’s not too long, and has negative effects, but they can be mitigated. My big move was making the others lose three points, but I lost a house and person card from Cliff’s attacks. I finished my canal before Cliff, a one-point advantage. Jon won, I tied with Cliff in points, he won the tie with one extra coin. I took cards from only one stack to make the game finish sooner, it may have prevented one round. Getting good person cards with synergy seems to be the best strategy, but which cards you get is partly luck.

Take it to the Limit – The game is spatial, but not complicated, so it’s a good break from Eurogames. I was trying to only make a few rows, but should have tried for one fewer, because I ended up with two in the same color with each missing one or two tiles. Next time I’ll pay more attention to the small board, and should get a better result. There’s strategy, but plays quickly.

Tokaido – I had seen a demo of this at bgg.con; it’s known for beautiful art. Disappointing as a game; I left the room for a few minutes, and told Cliff they could take care of my Inn move. When I got back, they had done my next move too, because it was so obvious what I would choose. Which is the case for the whole game, only very minor decisions which have little effect. Our scores were close because the game is well-balanced. I would have had money for food at the first Inn if I had only bought two cards instead of three on my first move, I don’t know how much the point difference was. Jon compared it to Candyland, later I read a review that said that it’s been called Candyland for adults, and the reviewer went into the differences between the two games. A game that needs to be defended against comparisons to Candyland has major issues.

Candle Quest – Jon taught the game but didn’t play. The players did well at understanding and playing. I didn’t draw any bad candle cards, the others drew several, including the person who won. People bought cards several times from discard piles. I hadn’t played in a long time.

Lo Ra – Jon and I taught this to two new players. They wanted to be taught in Hebrew, but after Jon started explaining, one player said “just like Ra.” So Jon let him explain to his wife. They caught on well, and were interested in the game. I won because I managed to win a few good auctions at the right time. Only one person was missing a candle for the menorahs in one round.

December 16, 2015

Participants: Jon, David, Binyamin, Aaron, Shneur, Nadine, Gili, Roman, Shalom, Nisan

Magic the Gathering

David+, Jon+

David came early and we drafted. I took a number of early blue fliers, but then David drafted about 6 green anti-flier spells. I ended up with WR and some U. David played GB, naturally.

I had great mana in the first game, but couldn’t bring up anything useful and he killed anything that came up. In the second game I did a lot of damage to him, but he killed all of my stuff, left himself with one big guy and played an enchantment that would kill the first non-black creature played by either player. I then killed his big guy and we sat at a standstill for a while (his deck had mostly green creatures) until he was willing to sacrifice a creature to get it out of the way. This let me bring in a few of my own creatures and a spell that eliminated all of his blockers for the win.

Codenames

Roman/Gili+, Nadine/Shalom

Nadine likes this new word/induction game. I like it, too, though I don’t know how many times I will enjoy playing it. It’s especially a challenge with non-native English speakers.

Nadine writes: Shalom was giving me clues, he hadn’t played before so made a few errors, including mixing up a card position. We both guessed one of the other team’s words.

Viticulture

Jon 21, Shneur, David

First play for me and Shneur, second for David. Apparently, David’s first game (played with Nadine) went very differently.

In this game, you have to be the first to get to 20 points. Points are gained by fulfilling orders for wines of specific colors and minimum quality (i.e. playing purple cards), or by taking certain actions after building certain buildings (1 point at a time), or by playing certain blue or yellow cards (0-3 points at a time).

Each round consists of four (really two) phases. You get workers for the whole round, which you can use in either phase 1 or phase 3. In phases 1 and 3, you can buy green or purple cards, play green, purple, blue, or yellow cards, produce grapes from your green cards, sell grapes for money or (far more beneficially) produce wines from your grapes, and – astoundingly – buy new workers (you can have up to 6). In a three player game, there are two spaces for each action, but a) the first player at each action essentially doubles the action (or gains +1$ or pays $1 less, which is about a 50% bonus) and b) each player has one grande worker that can take any action, even if all the places for that action were already taken.

In phase 2, everyone gets either a yellow or blue card (or two, if you have built a certain building), and in phase 4, everyone’s grapes and wines increase in value and some people get income. A grape’s initial value depends on the strength of the green cards you have played, and a wine’s initial value is a simple translation of the grape’s values. So it makes no difference when you produce wines from your grapes, since they both increase at the same rate. The only consideration is that you have to buy two buildings before you can produce/store wines of certain values.

There is a turn order chart, selected starting from the “first player” each round, which rotates clockwise. The “go first” position receives no bonus but goes first in both phases 1 and 3. The “go last” position receives an extra worker. All other positions receive essentially a specific bonus equivalent to the second worker in some spot. Going first is by far the best option, since you will get several bonuses (at least two in both phases 1 and 3).

It is possible that we played with an incredible amount of group-think, but for the life of me I can’t see how obtaining new workers as quickly as possible isn’t BY FAR the best option. Thereafter, making money and building all of the essential buildings seems to be BY FAR the next best steps. This is highly assisted by getting lucky with yellow card draws.

Perhaps someone who runs fast to planting, harvesting, producing, and fulfilling orders MAY be able to end the game quickly enough to give the above strategy a run, but it seems highly unlikely, because having more workers is easily obtained and you can then do everything that that other guy is doing starting from turn two.

This made all of the spots for obtaining money, building buildings, and training new workers filled by workers completely in the first few rounds – and then completely useless thereafter. At which point the game came down entirely to how good you were at picking good cards.

The cards in this game are insanely varying in power and usefulness, and what you pick – assuming basic game play competence – determined your end score. I picked well and won by a large amount. David picked poorly and lost. Shneur picked about average, but didn’t get all of his workers for several rounds too long. Sure, there are some interesting decisions and choices, but you can’t have cards hand out varying degrees of bonuses that swing the game by 0-3 points in a game that only goes to 20 points. If a medium length game includes luck elements that swing the game by more than 10-20% there is something wrong with the game.

Binyamin and David believe that the solution should include drawing 2 or 3 cards and keeping 1. That will certainly help. But the game would have been better if there were NO cards, and instead you had to assign workers to move up on different colored tracks to gain increasingly large benefits (some obtainable by only the players who got there first).

I could be convinced to try this again, but it doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of reward for better play.

Dicemaster

Binyamin+, Aaron

These two played this instead of joining us for Viticulture.

Mysterium

Nisan, Nadine (ghost), Gili, Roman, Shalom

Nadine writes: I had played this at bgg.con last year, where it took us four turns to guess each of our three characters, and three turns to guess the final set of three. It’s a cooperative game with some individual scoring mechanics.

I decided to be the ghost who gives clues, the others hadn’t played before. The ghost provides clues in the form of Dixit-like cards, most of which don’t match each person’s murderer, weapon and room that they need to guess. The main thing that messes people up is trying to figure things out collectively, Nisan would have guessed his cards earlier if he hadn’t listened to everyone else. On the last turn they got everything except Gili’s weapon, though she and two others had been discussing the correct one. I didn’t notice early enough that one of the rooms wasn’t out, Gili had inadvertently mismatched the card numbers initially and no one could see the cards I had, so that caused a setback. Even though we were out of rounds, we played the second part where they guess a set out of four from three cards I give. They all got that right on the first try, so overall we were close. It’s fun but giving clues is frustrating because I have limited choice of cards, and most don’t match, or match multiple options.

Viceroy

Aaron 53, Binyamin 79, Nisan 76

I don’t know how this went.

Tribune

Shalom, Nadine, Roman+, Gili   3 victory conditions

Nadine writes: Gili and I like this game a lot, and enjoyed playing again after it having been in Ra’anana for a while. New to Roman and Shalom. We played with the easiest victory conditions – three. Which means that luck, such as Roman starting with the purple leader in his hand, is almost an unbeatable advantage, because if he gets the faction, he gets one victory condition straight off. And that faction ties into getting a second victory condition – a Tribune, which Roman got quickly. He played well, taking Senators right away and paying to protect them. Then he only needed 5 more laurels, which took him two more rounds. I was close, third round I took the purples and got the favor of the gods, and Senators with a leader which gave me an additional faction card, so I had five out of six, and I got a Tribune. If yellow cards had been on the board I would have tried for those, which didn’t require much to take over, except Shalom also went for them, and I wouldn’t have beaten him. And even if I had gotten the last faction card, Roman would have won the tie with higher value laurels. Shalom ended with one win condition, Gili with none, usually she does well at the game.

Thunderstone

Jon 34, David 30, Shneur 25

First play for Shneur, who had played Dominion many times. This game is a pain to set up. However, it is a far better game to play when you DON’T know the other players’ scores. There is no tension, otherwise.

In this game, for example, David was convinced that he was far ahead, for some reason. He took a bunch of medium monsters with some very high powered attacks, but they weren’t better than the bigger monsters that I obtained just barely. I took some bosses, even though I sacrificed a few cards to do it. I also bought several Goodberries, (1 point each) – I had 4 in the end – which David dismissed as irrelevant. And yet, as you see, I ended the game 4 points ahead of him. 🙂