Gili, Maor, Bezalel, Binyamin, Lotem, Nadine, Mace, Emily, Eitan, Eszter, Kate, Moshe
Dec 29, 2004
Yedidya is another in a series of people who called wanting to know what the game group was about. Only he actually showed up. But it turns out he didn’t really get what he wanted, or so it seemed. After explaining the game of Amun Re to him and into the middle of the first round, he suddenly remembered he had to go somewhere and couldn’t really come on Wednesdays, but could I forward him info on any chess groups in Jerusalem?
Shlomo Argamon flew in for his semi-annual visit and dropped by, so he sat in after Yedidya. He came late, and was supposed to join our Tikal game, but since we had already started, he played Amun Re instead. This started another round of explanations, as he also never had played Amun Re, although he had played other games in our group before. By the time they got started, it was about 7:30 or so, and the first three rounds didn’t end until 9:30. More on that later.
The last three rounds went much quicker. David K was sorely behind. Elijah got at least 35 gold after the third round’s farming, but spent a lot on the next auction. By the end, Shlomo the pyramid builder claimed a narrow victory.
We waited for Shlomo to start this, but when he said he would be late, we started without him. I mercilessly beat my 13 year old son and 11 year old daughter.
Tal requsted to play, as she is always looking for another game like Settlers of Catan that she can enjoy with me and/or her friends. She was definitely quite capable here, playing fine for her first game. Unfortunately for them, they both fought over an early 9 point temple (eventually 10 point), neither one wanting to sacrifice their tokens to guard it, but, in effect, doing so. I collected the most treasures, and spread out among several lesser temples, pulling a comfortable victory.
Saarya had originally wanted to play Torres, so I will have to find some time to play that with him.
I had recently read both New Rules for Classic Games and A Gamut of Games, which made me want to play something from them. Also, I have a hankering to try out more games that the entire group can play, instead of always splitting into two or more games. Towards the end of Tikal, I decided to make up a set of Haggle, using some old playing cards and wirting out a set of random rules. Haggle is described in both books.
Haggle is a game where two or three rulesets are created, and each player, other than the rule creator, gets a set of cards and two rules from the set. The rules are on the order of: “diamonds are worth 4 points each, unless you have six or more, in which case they are worth 3 points each”, etc… Each player must trade cards and/or rules in order to both discover and collect the best hand. At the end of a preset time, such as ten minutes, each player hands in their cards and is scored. It sounds like a lot of fun, and should work well with any size large group.
Unfortunately for me, by the time our Tikal game was ended, they had just finished round three in Amun Re (you were wondering when I was going to get back to this, weren’t you?). I proposed a break in Amun Re for a game of Haggle, but Yitzchak was adamant about finishing one damn game this evening before going home (while David K wanted to quit). Unfortunately for me (even more), this left me without any play partners.
Luckily for me, Tal and Saarya were both willing to play a short game with me while we waited for them to speed up. I inflicted on them yet another in my series of games played with three colored pegs: red, yellow and blue. The theme behind all of the games is that the pegs combine to make other colors (red/yellow => orange, etc…).
In this game, played on a 4 x 4 grid, there is a shared pile of 16 of each colored peg. Each player is dealt a card with one of the three secondary colors (orange, green, purple) which he keeps secret. Each player then takes a peg of his choice and places it on the board, such that he doesn’t put the same colored peg into the same location. You win when either a) anyone creates three in a row of your color, or b) you place a piece such that it forms three browns in a row (brown = all three colors).
I was hoping that the secret of who was playing which color would hinder the usual problem of three player abstracts, which is always being able to block what the third player is doing. Unfortunately, it was rather easy to guess early on who was what, so it didn’t really work out. Still, the game was guaranteed to terminate by someone winning in brown. Except that I carelessly let Tal win three in a row in her color, as I was distracted. Back to the drawing board.
Puerto Rico + expansions
Since David K wasn’t interested in the end of the Amun Re game, he shuttled back and forth between the last moves of Amun Re and the first moves of PR.
This PR game was almost completely expansion buildings. The only buildings we didn’t toss were Hacienda, Wharf, and City Hall. The other buildings:
- Assembly Line (1/1): all production buildings hold additional colonist. Nadine bought this thinking it wasn’t too useful (?), but both she and Rachel made reasonably good use out of it.
- Civil Office (2/1): Choose one phase. Get double privilege for that phase when you pick it. I took this as my first building and chose Builder. David took it and chose Settler, because he found the killer combo with Soybeans (see next building). BTW, the double privilege is like Library’s privilege.
- Soybean Plant (3/1): Pick a soybean plantation. Soybean is like corn, but if there is no soybean space to ship, ship on corn and/or sugar boats for 1/2 point each. In addition, other players can ship corn or sugar on soybean boat for 1/2 point each. This is a complex building, maybe a bit powerful (as you get, effectively, a corn each round) but it needs to be combined with something else. David K comboed this with Civil Office, and ended up with 4 quarries and 5 soybeans.
- Mayor’s Estate (4/2): +1 colonist during Mayor phase. Simple and clean, I could have used it, but didn’t take it.
- Inheritance (5/2): Take the corresponding plantation when buying a production building. Cute, but a little expensive.
- Exchange House (5/2): Swap (not trade) one of your barrels with one in the trading house at the end of the Trader phase. This is one of my best buildings. In some games it doesn’t do very much. In others, it is a powerhouse. This was one of the latter games. Rachel bought Coffee, but I just swapped for it, and traded it every time I needed to, which shut her coffe down. To add insult to injury, in later rounds I swapped for goods to ship (only once, actually). A wonderful and simple building which completely adds a new dimention to the game, without dominating it (most of the time).
- Specialization Wharf (6/2): When crafting, place one of your barrels into SW. You have Wharf for that good, only. Barrel no longer considered one of your goods. This is another fairly well designed building – you lose one barrel, and you lose flexibility. Again, in this game it was more poweful than usual, in that David K had 5 soybeans to ship each round. Nadine also made good use of it.
- Supermarket (7/3): trade at +3. Another simple building, better than Large Market, almost as good as Factory. With Exchange House it shines, since I could almost always trade.
- Large Business (8/3): Builder and Captain privileges. A better balanced building than Harbor, which is a bit powerful in 3 player, in my opinion.
- Royal Market (8/3): take vp’s instead of gp’s for your trade. A strange building, which is worth buying after the big buildings are gone, as it then becomes the most efficient means of vps for gps. Until then, however, you are better off saving them.
There were also 4 various large buildings, which were interesting. As I said, David K worked hard with his Civil Office (Settler) and Soybean combo, while I went for big cash and building power. Nadine got indigo and Spec Wharf, while Rachel got coffee and then Large Business. At the end, Nadine and Rachel were right in that I have an advantage having created the buildings in that I know exactly how the rules work. David K said that playing with expansions is much better than playing straight, and I can’t argue with that.
Daniel and I love Geschenkt, but I recognize that not everyone likes everything, and this one didn’t hit it off with Yitzchak. There was not much time was left before Yitzchak had to leave. Still he tried it, and said that there was still enough time for one game of …
This game sure seems like it should be growing stale, but it doesn’t. It seems like it gets better each time we play (slowly, but surely). It can’t get too much better – until the expansion sets get released, that is. And there better be, because this just screams expansion buildings.
Daniel once again had the hand full of 6 pointers in the opening, but Yitzchak built the solid city by game end. Didn’t see the final buildings.
There was a bit too much running around, shouting, and chaos in general this time. I hope things run smoother next time.
Dec 22, 2004
This week: I started trying to write my blog again. I’m going to try to write a few times a week, even silly stuff, just to keep my hand in.
This week I received 2 great books: A Gamut of Games, by Sid Sackson and New Rules for Classic Games by R Wayne Schmittberger. Both are so full of great game ideas that use simple components, that it’s a wonder I spent my childhood playing boring games like Gin rummy and Stratego. I feel like I could teach a game course now. Inspirational.
Also been playing many games of PR on puertoricogame.net, an email slow PR game site, that lets you think or break between moves, as opposed to the real-time game sites, such as brettspielwelt.de .
We all knew that David K would be the one to love this game, and also be the one not to play with, as almost every move he spent in deep concentration trying to maximize every last point (with a lot of “Sorry”‘s for taking so long), followed by ten minutes (or more) of kicking himself for making some real or imagined sub-optimal play. When it all came down to it, while we had fun, we were all so close in score that one wonders where the difference comes from, as we all see, basically, the optimal plays each time, give or take a self-kick or two.
In the end, David didn’t take unbearably long. This was also first game for Saarya.
In this game, Saarya started off with the king near him (and me), and David had to traipse across the board to get the bonus. I started with my usual jump up, followed by placing a piece under my kniight. David pointed out that the better cards are probably best left until the end, since point counting at the beginning is not much compared to at the end, anyway. He’s probably right.
David ended the first round a few points behind, leaving the King where it was, which caused me no end of headaches, and required 5 actions on my part to get the next bonus, not including a diagonal jump card. By the end of the second round, we were all within one point of each other. That’s when David’s position as high point on the biggest castle took him into a slight lead which he carried over for the slight win at the end of the game.
Another first game for David, and very quick. This one is still a lot of fun, primarily because there is no perfect optimal play. The luck gives you only a best chance. Even when you know what cards are removed, you only get best chance of the cards you need coming up when the tokens are in the right place, and when other players can’t benefit from the same card.
Here I tried for an early high card, but only got a run of two, which wasn’t enough to match Saarya’s several pulls into two runs and many stones.
Jon 62,David K 80,Saarya 129
In this one, Saarya found himself without stones time after time, as David kept taking the following card, forcing him to take the next one without stones again. Finally Saarya took the one card David needed to meld two runs, which didn’t help Saarya, but put me into first place.
Played while we were finishing Torres, and then Geschenkt. Four player is quite different than 3 or 2. Daniel decided on a heavy Chapel strategy, building one the first round, and placing every turn. He ended up with 14 points from Chapel cards alone, but not enough anything else. He complained that he never saw a 6 point building, to which I noted that his field wasn’t developed enough to cycle through cards, so his odds of picking one were reduced. That’s why first round Chapel doesn’t work so well. As usual, the game came down to Guild Hall vs City Hall, and Guild Hall won out.
Yitzchak 31, Daniel 30, Shai-El 26
Shai-El was brought over late in the evening by Yitzchak. I explained to him about some of what we play, and while I was finishing Tikal, he played a game of San Juan as his first intro to German games, and he liked it. In this game, Daniel drew one of each of the 4 6 pointers all at once, and then built City Hall and promptly pulled the next Guild Hall. Shai-El managed to get down City Hall and Palace, leaving poor Yitzchak with only Triumphal Arch. But, when the points were counted, Yitzchak’s many Silvers and monuments won the day for him, as Daniel and Shai-El had built too many low cost buildings.
We split to play 3 player Taj Mahal and Tikal. I feared that Tikal might be too much for Elijah, and since Daniel and Yitzchak both wanted to play it, and Nadine wanted Tikal, off they went. Daniel continued his run for palace connections (definitely easier in 3 player than in 5 player), and succeeded in connecting every province except the first, in which he withdrew without bidding. Yitzchak had lots of elephants, but couldn’t translate that into victory.
First play for all of us. I feared that if Torres were too much analysis, then Tikal would be worse, since a) that’s what they say, and b) it has twice as many action points, and twice as many actions. To my pleasant surprise, it was not the case, since the higher randomness of the tiles , treasures, and number of possible good plays made it unlikely that there was an optimal play, so we just did what seeemd best, except when we wanted to steal something.
The treasures were a real pain, since no sooner did you discover one, that someone else swapped you for the one they wanted and dumped you with something uninteresting. All around, Tikal had a better theme, better graphics and components, and better gameplay than Torres. And we played with the non-auction version. All of us knew instinctively that the auction version is going to be ten times better.
The first scoring round saw us all at about 7-10 points. Saarya quickly got the 10 point temple sowed up, and Nadine established a base camp, after collecting set after set of treasures. (Why do all game designers play with this 1,3,6 rule?) By second round, Nadine was at 30, Saarya at 40, and I at 34. Saarya looked like he was headed for victory. Still, he had little in the way of treasures, and Nadine’s hand just grew, until she had 3 complete sets and some oddballs. I think it is a problem that treasure hexes only have up to 4 treasures, but you can take up to two per round. One per round might work better. Also curious tha they put the larger treasure hexes up front, and the smaller ones later.
By third score, I had the 9 temple and was working in two opposite corners, and Nadine finally grabbed a series of 6 point temples. Scores were Nadine 74, Saarya 7, me 68. Nadine wasn’t paying too much attention, since she didn’t know what tiles she would get, there was not much she could do to plan, and there is no interaction during other player’s turns (we could probably fix that, too 🙂 … ok, we’ll wait a while before messing with the game).
Last score brought Saarya to 121, Nadine to 120, and me to 114. However, we recounted and got a different result. Then we did it again and got another different result. This went on for some time, with different results each time, so even though we think we got the right result finally, odds are that we miscounted somewhere else along the way, so final scores are highly questionable, and it ended on a tie, anyway.
Definitely hoping to play this one again, with four players, and considering it with two, also.
Dec 15, 2004
I received 4 new games for Hannukah: Torres, Tikal, Traumfabrik, and Abalone. (I also bought Battle Cry for my son which should arrive at the end of the month). I have a little trepidation, as the first two tend to bog down with over-analyzers, which is what we have. If things get bad, I will have to force time limits, which will just make the game unenjoyable for those people who simply MUST always make the best move, even if it means taking back a move finished five minutes ago.
We only got to one of the new games this week. Torres has a basic theme about rebuilding castles, but it is basically an abstract game. You have 5 points each round within which to do any of the following in any combination: place a castle piece, place a knight, move a knight, buy a card, or buy a vp. Cards are played once per round, for free, and are always worth at least the action paid to get them.
Naturally, you always need just a few more action points than you have.
I had a two game advantage over Yitzchak and Nadine, but they figured it out fairly quickly, Yitzchak a little more than Nadine, who seemed more to psyche herself out that it is the type of game she shouldn’t get. As you can see, the final scores were very close, and Yitzchak just pulled ahead of Nadine in the final round.
Yitz’s last two rounds were spent trying to ensure that I didn’t get the king’s bonus, which succeded, but not enough.
Puerto Rico + expansions
A very interesting game with some wild expansion buildings. The building set was:
- Small Market
- Surveyor’s Office
Choose any plantation from the supply instead of a face up one.
Trade anything for a colonist during Mayor, anything for a good during Crafstman, anything for a GP during Trader.
- Small Warehouse
pay 1 less per building (no restrictions)
- Exchange House
At the end of Trader, swap one of your goods for one in Trading House (no restrictions)
Like Crane in San Juan, may trade buildings in and rduce the cost of a new building. Colonists from old buildings move to new ones. Also, you have no quarry restrictions.
- Specialization Wharf
Place one of your goods on SW at the end of the Craftsman phase, discarding the good on it if any. You have a Wharf of the type of good on SW.
- Marble Works
Take Marble quarry. 2 marble quarries and 2 colonists on MW make 1 marble during Craftsman. Marble sells for 5, ships with any other good for 2, and doesn’t need to be stored.
- Guild Hall
- Custom’s House
- Assembally (5 VP)
- Giant Production Building (5 VP)
+1 of each type of good you produce
Rachel went for a round four Giant Production Building, followed by a Small Warehouse. She didn’t get too much out of it until a few rounds later, unfortunately. She also didn’t get Harbor, and a late Specialization Wharf only let her ship 6 goods.
Yitzchak got many corns, a coffee monopoly, harbor, and Specialization Wharf, followed up with Custom’s House. An easy win.
Nadine got an early Tobacco and Harbor, but no big building until a too late Assembally.
I don’t know why, but I got 4 early quarries, Mine, and Developer. Unfortunately the colonist requirements for all of this made me unable to produce anything, so I never had a good to trade, which made others almost as rich as me until late game, plus they were shipping. It was just too slow to get the 3 big buildings I wanted, so I only ended with 2. Argh. I shipped 5 VP, and had 41 in building points. Not enough to chase Yitzchak who had 28 shipping VP +7 CH bonus, to add to his other 19 building points. At the end I was taking buildings for free but wasting my bonuses on them. And everyone else was hapy to ship.
Still boggles the mind that our group is (almost) the only group that plays with these buildings. See you next week!
Dec 08, 2004
Through the Desert
Once again, Through the Desert proved to be an interesting game, but not a spectacular game. I am growing disenchanted with it. Which is a shame, because I still enjoy playing it, but others don’t see the shine.
This is a simple auction game, where the objects you are acquiring are bad, so you are bidding to prevent yourself from getting them. Each round a card is flipped up, and you either take the card or toss in a token to give the next player the same choice. When you take the card, you also take all tossed in tokens. Your score is the face value of the cards minus your tokens at the end, and points are bad. Also, runs of card only score the lowest card. To keep you on your toes, 9 cards are tossed out at random to start from a set of cards numbered 3 to 35. Each player starts with 11 tokens.
This is a very nice bidding game, which feels like Ra-lite, even though Ra itself is a lite game. Strategy is not that deep, however, so it may not hold interest for too long.
Jon 34, Daniel 43, Elijah 94
The beauty of new German games that are really really simple, is not that they are easy to teach and fun to play. It is that they can be created from components I have lying around the house. To create the deck, I used the Flinch cards that I had previously cannabalized to make 6 Nimmt (Take 6), and took out the 3 through 35. For markers, I first used the camels from TtD, and later Othello pieces.
The first game, I used cards 3 – 33 by accident, instead of to 35, and I played that the first bidder in each card was to the left of the player who bid first on the previous round, which was hard to keep track of, and wrong, anyway.
Daniel 26, Elijah 63, Jon 66
In this game, we started each auction off correctly, but we still played only with cards to 33.
Daniel 30, Elijah 31, Jon 75
Played correctly this time. Elijah didn’t want to play again. Daniel liked it.
Nadine 3, Jon 68, Daniel 86
Nadine 31, Jon 60, Daniel 62
These two games were played to close the evening.
Since I had the cards out, I showed Daniel and Elijah 6 Nimmt. This was the closest game we even played of 6 Nimmt. We had stopped playing a while ago because there is not much in the way of strategy, but with 3 players it is not too bad. Nothing special.
This was a wierd game. We dragged Daniel kicking and screaming into trying it again, since he hates PR due to there being too many rules and too many choices each round, and he complained the whole time, but he did finish the game.
The rule changes were: Hospice lets you move a colonist onto it when you buy it, Trading Post instead of Office, Large Waehouse lets you take any one barrel for free when you buy it, University comes with a colonist on it.
Rachel ended up buying an early Hospice and Construction Hut. I ended up buying a large warehouse. Notable facts:
- The seating order was me, Daniel, Elijah, Nadine, and Rachel, which Rachel and Nadine carefully constructed, since they knew that Elijah was somewhat careless about his crafting and they wanted to take advantage of this. When women conspire …
- Daniel also didn’t try to figure it out, so ended up doing lots of crafting into Nadine and Rachel. Between the two of them, I couldn’t trade the coffee I began producing on turn 4 or so once the entire game. Not once.
- Instead, I had to buy the large warehouse, just to get a tobacco to trade with it, which was the only good that I couldn’t produce, and ended up being the only good I traded the whole game. The Lg Warehouse gave me some VP’s, but just shy of the amount I would have gotten if I had just gotten a large building as I could have at the time.
- If I had gotten it, I still wouldn’t have won, but Nadine’s victory would have been more decisive, as Rachel wouldn’t have gotten it (it was left unmanned when the game ended).
- As you can see, there was very little in the way of shipping this game. I had Factory and 4 goods, Elijah built nothing but tobacco and lg indigo for the entire game, until building harbor on the last round, Nadine also had Factory and coffee, but she was able to trade it, Rachel had tobacco and sugar to trade.
Settlers of Catan
From what I heard, Daniel played a powerful wood monopoly, which basically ended the game shortly thereafter.
This was a fairly long game for us, and I couldn’t get many 6 point buildings, despite having early Prefecture and Library. I eventually found them. Nadine played too many early little buildings. I had a Chapel with 10 cards under it by game end. The gory details:
|Governor||Roles||Jon build||Nadine build||Trade value|
|Nadine||Trad/Build+/Prod||City Hall||City Hall||11223|
Dec 01, 2004
A good hopping night. I also got a call from someone new at 6:30 who said he would come for the 9:00 game, but didn’t show. Welcome to Jonathan, who had played El Grande once with us on shabbat, and was awake enough tonight to try out the full group.
You guys aren’t bringing snacks like you’re supposed to. That’s not too much to ask for an admission price, and I’m happy to serve the tea. Please bring something with you, next time!
Both of the above came a bit early, so they played around with this for a while, but ended when the main games started.
Jon 46, David K 31
Toward the end of the evening, we played a game of this after I got my usual whipping in M:tG, and David was nice enough to let me win, as he Councelled dozens of times through the deck with Library and only found one 6 point building, Guild Hall. It wasn’t enough to take on me with City Hall, Palace, 2 monuments and Chapel.
His early Prefecure was balanced against my early Library, which two dominated the game play. We think my Library had the edge. However, David K could have played better, as every time he took Councellor, he left Builder and Prospector for me, which made my life easy.
Settlers of Catan
Best game for introduing new folk (at least, until we try Ticket to Ride). The game took a while, and looked quite spirited, but I don’t know exacly what happened.
I decided to try Goa one more time, as opinion last time was that without the random Colony founding it plays better. OK, yes it does. I still hate it. I can no longer say why, exactly.
David K got bad luck with the expedition card drawing, and still killed us during one auction where he won everything but one plantation. And the end of the game, where he had 8 expedition cards (4, 3, and 1) – even without them, he still would have won. But the luck factor of the caards, plus the strength of the card track still bugs me. Without that track, se out on a quarter of the possible points of the game, so you have to go for it, and not everyone can get it. Still, that is not the problem.
Maybe it’s the hopeless feeling in the auction, maybe it’s the complete lack of interaction (yeah, some resources get exhausted, and yeah, somebody races (if you can call a turtle’s pace “racing”) for the progression, but … blah. Too bad. I would really like to like it, and I’m happy that others in the group like it. If Daniel can not like PR, I can not like Goa.
David K started off doing everything wrong (in his words), and had bad luck with expedition cards. But, because of one killer auction round, and the fact that he got to last row in the expedition cards and then swapped for the expedition card tile, he won easily.
From last in Goa to first in Amun Re, Yitzchak already had this sealed after the first round, I think. One comment I heard was that 3 player, unlike 5 player, was harder to match the bonus cards, since it was possible that the required provinces simply didn’t turn up. Daniel’s 38 included more pyramids, so he claimed second place on the tie.
Rachel told me that Elijah kept Crafting right into Nadine’s hands, allowing her to trade and/or ship (35 shipping points) with impunity. They played with a number of my expansion buildings.
Jon +, Rachel A – At the very end of the evening, we had a quick two player using the same buildings. A dull game, but a quick victory.
Magic: the Gathering
I don’t know why I bother. The last game David won from down to 6 life to my 20. We played Rochester draft.
Next week is Channaukah, and we will play as usual for those interested.
Nov 24, 2004
We miss Sharon.
I prefer the original El Grande, in general, and we had two new players, Daniel and Elijah. From the first day that Daniel came here and professed his love for controlled chaotic games, I knew that he would love El Grande, and he did. In fact, both newcomers were tied for first place in a very close game.
Nadine, Daniel and Elijah all had spiky period, gaining 20 points at a time, while I had sustained growth, to take a lead midway by a few points, but couldn’t quite sustain my lead. The final count was nailbiting, and it ended in a three way tie.
Settlers of Catan
Settlers is quick and mostly painless. My usual turn is roll *clatter* *clatter* flip flip “Go”, in about 5 seconds total. I got a slew of ores from an early series of 11’s, but got robbed over and over so that was that. Daniel continued his “start on a harbor” strategy, with a sheep harbor and an 8/10 sheep. He somehow purveyed this into 6 points, longest road and two VP cards. I also drew a VP card (three of first four cards were VP’s), but was otherwise way behind (not enough wheat).
Still waiting for new games to arrive. Sigh.
Nov 17, 2004
A good game night, but a sad day for the JSGC, as we say goodbye to Sharon, leaving for Chapel Hill. I have already given her some info about game groups over there, so I hope she hooks up. We’ll miss you! I made a little cake for the occasion.
Also, welcome back David K and Avraham K after a long absence, and congradulations to Avraham for graduating army service. Hope to see you both more often. Also, welcome back to Michael, Elijah’s father, whose only previous appearance was game day, Sukkot.
This was an exciting game, although it looked like Jon pulled out ahead very quickly, Daniel did a lot of closing the gap. Jon collected so many commodities that he just concentrated on them, gaining 10 points from his elephants on the last round. Meanwhile, Daniel concentrated on links, gaining 10 points from them on his last round (ten connected provinces). Unfortunately for him, Elijah took the first withdrawal in the last round and the four point token. If Daniel had played the right card to stay in, he would have gotten all of the castles and the token, and would have won by a point.
Daniel expressed his great happiness about the game.
Puerto Rico + expansions
While 4 people were playing Goa and another four playing SoC, Rachel and Jon played a quick two player game of PR with expansions. Jon started first, with a strong disadvantage of 4 or more VP’s from defensive captaining. Nevertheless, he quickly produced 4 corn and 3 indigo.
Also, taking coffee to fight Rachel instead of tobacco helped. In the end, Jon grabbed Guild Hall, and shipped about the same as Rachel, while Rachel took a building to prevent Jon from getting it (bonus per corn plantation), and lost on the point differential, basically.
Settlers of Catan
Didn’t see this one, but at one point I heard Daniel say he had 11 sheep in his hand and a sheep harbor. At another point, Sharon complained about some alleged ganging up.
We haven’t done a lot of Goa, mostly because I complained about it. But Yitzchak and Nadine were willing to give it another try, since David K loves it, and Avraham hadn’t tried it. I gave them two ideas to help fix the game in my opinion: 1) no flipping for colonists, just add 4 to your attempt (also, taking a colonist is an action). 2) when picking cards, draw 2, and keep 1.
After consideration, they decided to go with 1), and not go with 2). I guess there was o horrible card picking like when I play, and they decided that it makes the card track even stronger which is a Bad Thing. On the other hand, they liked the no flipping for colonies. The impression on Nadine was mixed(?), but Yitzchak had a very enjoyable game after the previous blah experiences. In my opinion, 3 player is a broken auction. 4 player can be broken auction, but doesn’t have to be (it wasn’t in this game, I gather). 2 player auction is fine. Then there is the lack of interactions. I think something like AoS bidding for special abilities could help that.
Nadine: The main problem with Goa, other than that I’m not so good at bidding because I can’t keep track of how much money people have – but that’s not a game problem, is the down time while waiting for other people to take their turns. There is nothing to do, you don’t even need to watch because what other players are doing isn’t critical to your plans like it is in games such as Puerto Rico. This is especially annoying when someone has several extra actions. It’s bad enough that they get the bonus of extra actions without the additional penalty of boredom for the other players. Maybe limiting extra action cards per round would be good, it would also prevent saving them, which I did because it was too hard to figure out in advance what I wanted to produce. But I only saved one….
Anyway, an enjoyable game was had by all, including Avraham, but very long. Yitzchak won, and oh what a surprise, he had a completed expedition card track and 11 points in cards in his hand.
Daniel taught Avraham to play while Daid and I played Magic. The first game ended very abruptly, no big buildings, as Daniel built and built each round, ending the game while he was ahead.
Avraham 27, Daniel 24
Avraham took the next game with a Guild Hall and a lot of production buildings.
The Estrogen Club had its last game before Sharon goes off to the states. Both Nadine and Sharon had early Harbors, but Rachel had a coffee monopoly, lots of corn, a Small Warehouse and three big buildings.
Magic: the Gathering
Been a long time since we had a game of Magic, so David and Jon did a quick draft. As usual, David pulled off a victory, but closer than usual. He ended the game with a Soul Burn while at 9 points, doing 6 points of damage (and going up to 14). Jon may actually have won in another 2 rounds or so.
Nov 10, 2004
Welcome to another adventure-filled evening of gaming. Thrills! Spills! Death-defying leaps! Near-miss collisions! All free!
David and Goliath
Ben hasn’t been back in a while, and this is why … just kidding. Ben managed to pull 5 cards, one of each suit, all 13 or higher, until the last few rounds, where he then pulled another 14, and lost one suit, ending at the inredible score of 74.
David and Goliath was our warm-up-wait-for-the-other-players game.
We had nine people, enough for a full game of Amun-Re and still four left over for PR. We haven’t tried AR for a while, and not with a full complement, which is reportedly best.
Provinces and scores:
After turn 3:
- Daniel: Thebes / Kharga / Avaris // 11
- Yitzchak: Buto / Dakhla / Amarna // 17
- Jon: Abydos / Berenike / Damanhur // 16
- Saarya: Baharya / Mendes / Memphis // 9
- Ben: Edfu / Abu / Sawu // 11
- Daniel: Kharga / Buto / Abydos // 42 + most pyramids
- Yitzchak: Damanhur / Amarna / Mendes // 42 – not most pyramids
- Jon: Berenike / Baharya / Dakhla // 36
- Saarya: Abu / Avaris / Sawu // 31*
- Ben: Thebes / Edfu / Memphis // 36
Like a number of games using a similar mechanic (Evo, Goa, etc…), Amun-Re suffers from an overdose of luck when picking the cards. To solve this problem, we played “draw 2, keep 1”, which worked very well. Even though I still had terrible luck with the cards, I usually felt that I had some options or control over what to keep, and only twice tossed back cards for the money (one other person tossed once, except for the last round).
I kept getting the provinces I needed stolen from me, which means that I have to work on my bidding. Also, the farmer’s didn’t like my provinces, so I invested in pyramids, except that one either side of the river I have competition, Ben on one side and Daniel on the other. Yah.
Daniel had three sets of three at the end. Yitzchak had no chance to build pyramids, so went for bonus cards and temple provinces, which earned him a tie, but then lost to the arbitrary “ties go to the pyramid builder” rule. (Edit from Daniel: For the record, I also had more money and more farmers than Yitzchak. mischievous grin)
Saarya earned 42 gold on the last harvest.
Total play time: 3:20.
I took it very slow teaching Elijah how to play, so they didn’t start until 8:00 pm. Although it took me longer, Elijah remebered better than most people I teach, and played an awesome game, carefully accpeting or rejecting his fellow player’s advice with patience.
Who better to play your first game of PR with than 3 kind women? Well, kind but competitive and sometimes impatient, but pretty good overall, I hear.
Rachel walked away with this one, having Guild Hall and City Hall.
Settlers of Catan
I joined this near the end after Elijah needed to leave. By then, Rachel had a port on wheat with 8,8,6, and 9 wheat hexes. I don’t know why she didn’t win (she even monoplied 8 wheat or so). Sharon had a port on wood with 5 and 9 wood rolling a lot, and won the game with Longest Road and Largest Army.
A dry report, but it’s late and time for bed. Til next week.
Nadine: Easy to explain – Puerto Rico is Rachel’s game and Settlers is Sharon’s.
Nov 03, 2004
Much political discussion after the elections. A lot of milling back and forth to the computer screen, listening to the Kerry resignation speech (boring), phone calls, and discussions about step-parenting.
El Grande – King and Intrigant
Yes, much better after taking out the 70, 50 and 30, cards which send pieces back to the provinces. 70 really didn’t have to come out, but the 50 and 30, which sent piece from the courts back to the provinces were impossible the first time we played, coming out every turn, and making the game too narrow – you always had to play low cards to get your pieces back, and off they would go again.
This time the game was as enjoyable as regular EG, if perhaps a bit too easy to get all your pieces on the board. High scores and almost noone left in the provinces.
The second issue is the rule that the high and low bidders don’t get their special actions but must take the King and Intrigant actions only. That made half of the cards worthless, which is a medium sized problem. By allowing the players to choose between the special action of the King/Intrigant, you end up with the small problem that the king doesn’t move much. Better a small problem than a big one.
Anyhoo, we started off in the four northern provinces. Nadine was first and started out ahead after the first scoring round, but Saarya and Jon caught up fairly quickly, almost tied after the second scoring round. At the end, it was neck and neck, like the elections WHOOPS, scratch that. Saarya scored with his last scoring province.
Cards played, in order:
Nadine: 150, 130, 20, 93, 10, 180, 90, 25, 95
Sharon: 80, 95, 75, 150, 93, 90, 20, 40, 180
Saarya: 20, 140, 160, 100, 40, 95, 10, 93, 130
Jon: 155, 10, 180, 80, 150, 130, 40, 110, 90
Scores after 1st/2nd/3rd scoring rounds:
Settlers of Catan
Daniel and Elijah are still new to SoC, so still happy to play it all the time. Yitzchak is also game for it most of the time. As usual, a lot of longest road swapping.
Through the Desert
Elijah went a little earlier this time. I needed something to keep Yitzchak and Daniel occupied until we finished EG, so I brought out and quickly taught Daniel TtD. He seemed highly intrigued. There was a lot of cordoning off, but I don’t know what else happened.
A close game, once again proving the over powered nature of Harbor in 2 and 3 players. Must tone it down, maybe cap it at 2 points per turn, or make it equal Factory’s bonus levels.
Sharon had early Harbor and then Coffee, and eventually Fortress. Rachel had Tobacco, Factory and eventually Guild Hall. Jon had only sugar, indigo and corn, but a bunch of quarries and City Hall and Custom’s House. Jon was just unable to get Residence (he had Hacienda about mid game) and to spite Rachel (with goods on a Warehouse), and Sharon (with at least 18 colonists ready to come in), removed all of his colonists down to the plantations to end the game a round early with 21 colonists on the boat.
Almost had it, too, but lost on a tie.
Nadine proves why San Juan also needs a little tweaking, winning with all the monuments, Triumphal Arch and City Hall, and Guild Hall in the hand, but no time to build it.
It just doesn’t sit right that number of 6 point buildings = finishing place. Must find a way to make 6 point buildings more accessible. Something like: shuffle them and deal them out before starting.
Nadine: I agree there is too much luck. I had Triumphal Arch and one monument from my original hand, holding on to them the whole game was a challenge. I was lucky to pick City Hall and Guild Hall near the end, though I could only build one. Daniel was in a good position, producing and trading extra, and would have been able to build more big buildings if he had drawn them, though he did build Palace. Yitzchak had City Hall and more purple buildings than we did.
Oct 27, 2004
Participants: Jon, Saarya, Rachel A, Nadine, Yitzchak, Sharon, Daniel, Elijah
The Official JSGC is 1 year old. The game group started several years ago when I got my first box of magic cards, and we would get together irregularly to play. At the same time, we had irregular bridge evenings, online and off (my brothers still play a few times a week online), and a Cosmic Encounter evening every month (again, ?)
Somewhere along the line, I wanted to run a D&D game for my kids, and decided to try it out on my brothers and friends. This turned into a regular game evening every two (?) weeks. Then we got 3e D&D and my brother David started a campaign for his kids and ran his campaign for us.
Unfortunately, 3e D&D is really bad, gutting all of the roleplaying, and turning it into ruleplaying and rollplaying. The rules arguments ran high and senseless, and I eventually quit (not too politely, I must admit). David is still running the campaign for his kids and their friends, albeit with rule changes.
About that time we got Settlers of Catan, which took my family by storm, and a year and a half later, Cities and Knights, and Acquire. Eventually I got some of the D&D people coming regularly to play Settlers, and then Puerto Rico. I was already a regular on BGG and the Yahoo PR group. When I dared to invent new buildings for PR and make rule changes to other games, I began to work on my own game designs.
Towards the end of 2003, I wanted to make my game group offical, and try to get more people, so I put an ad in for the local English papers and mailing lists for the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Group (hard to come up with the perfect name. I got phone calls from people thinking this was a chess group, or a computer game club). The next week, Nadine showed up (and noone else), and we had our first official game club evening playing Acquire (with Saarya, my son). The next week, noone came, although Nadine said she was on call, and I began to fret. The week after that they began coming again. The rest is in the session reports.
I’ve had a great time, we’ve met some great people, and played a lot of great games. Thanks to everyone in the group for their open attitudes, their patience with my new games and variants, and for making it a great group. Here’s to many more evenings and game days.
In honor of the occasion, Sharon brought over a new copy of David and Goliath from her trip abroad, and Sharon and Nadine brought over a handcrafted set of little pieces and dots to use for my railgame. It’s so sweet. And I know it’s not just because they don’t want me to steal the pieces from Puerto Rico while I’m playing the rail game! Thank you.
- Hospice: move colonist onto it when you buy it.
- Large Warehouse: comes with a good (your choice)
- University: comes with a colonist on it
- Round 1
- Y/Settler. Y/Quarry, N/Tobacco, R/Sugar, J/Corn. R took the sugar I wanted.
- N/Builder. N/Sm Market, R/Sugar, J/Sm Market, Y/Sm Indigo
- R/Mayor. Rachel now has Sugar running.
- Round 2
- N/Settler. N/Quarry, R/Coffee, J/Coffee, Y/Tobacco. R took the Coffee ahead of me, too. Meanwhile, Y and N have indigo and tobacco.
- J/Mayor. Fills both corns and Sm Market. Don’t want to trade, or R will have just enough to get coffee roaster.
- Round 3
- R/Trader. For the 2 gold.
- J/Prospector. For the 2 gold.
- Y/Builder. Builds Tobacco. R and I both waiting for Coffee.
- Round 4
- J/Builder. Got the roaster, which Rachel can’t afford, yet.
- Y/Craftsan. Producing tobacco. But will he trade it?
- N/Captain. Y is left with his tobacco, so he will.
- R/Settler. Takes a quarry. I take another coffee. I produce 2 corns, two coffees for most of the game.
- Round 5
- Y/Trader. With gold, to add insult to injury. Noone else has goods.
- N/Prospector. 2 gold
- J/Craftsman. Boats are blocked, so I will be able to trade coffee. Despite sitting to the left of R, I trade coffee five times, to her once.
- Round 6
- N/Builder. Nadine and Yitzchak both pick up Harbor. Time to start blocking boats.
- R/Trader. She trades Sugar, I trade Coffee, Y or N trades indigo, and TH empties.
- Round 7
- R/Craftsman. R and I are doing the Harbor owners work for them.
- J/Trader. J/Coffee, Y/Tobacco, N/Indigo, R/Sugar
- Y/Settler. With 2 gold. J takes trader to earn a lot of gold, but gives almost as much to Y by letting pass gold on other phases.
- Round 8
- Y/Prospector. For 3 gold.
- N/Builder. J builds Guild Hall, R Factory, Y City Hall.
- Round 9
- Y/Settler. Takes corn, I think.
- N/Mayor. Plus 2 gold. Around this time, the colonists start rushing. 7, then 8, then 12, then 7 again. 10 at the end.
- J/Trader. Trades corn to get 10 GP.
- Round 10
- R/Captain. We are colluding against the presumed big shippers.
- J/Builder. Builds Custom House, R builds Fortress. Customs House ends up being a mistake, as we all end with about 20 shipping VP’s, and Fortress nets R 8 VPs.
- Round 11
- J/Builder. Hppay to build for Guild Hall, happy to end game asap, happy to let the shippers work for it.
- N/Settler. Quarry.
- Round 12
- J/Captain. Loads Coffee, I think.
- N/Builder. Builds Residence.
- Round 13
- Y/Prospector. 3 gold
- N/Settler. Quarry.
- R/Mayor. Trying to up her Fortress.
- J/Builder. Running out of money, and Y has build almost as much.
- Round 14
- Y/Builder. J out of money. Y and N build Wharves. Y ultimately uses his to win the game.
- Round 15
- J/Builder. Buys Hacienda
- N/Mayor. Almost enough to end it, but not quite. Y and N want to ship more, so they don’t end game.
- Round 16
- J/Captain. Game will end anyway, might as well block what I can.
- Y/Builder. Fills up building space.
- R/Mayor. colonists gone.
Sharon 49, Nadine 44, Rachel 39.
Later in the evening, the three womenfolk have a game of PR. Apparently, the game ended before the big building were filled. Otherwise, Sharon would have had 51, and Rachel 52.
Settlers of Catan
All of the above prefer Settlers to PR, and Daniel and Elijah are still new to Settlers. So there you go. A lot of Longest Road swapping, I understand.
Saarya had heavy brick and a brick port, Sharon heavy sheep and sheep port, Daniel heavy wood and wood port (started on the port to block Saarya), and Elijah heavy ore and an ore port.
This game was played during the first PR game, and took longer, strangely enough.
Jon 10, Yitzchak 6, Daniel 6
Another game, this one played during the second PR game, and also took a little longer.
All of us started on one end and ended up with contiguous bands across the island, Daniel on one side with heavy wood and wood and wheat ports. Yitzchak on the other side, running across the island, and me down the middle. They competed for longest road, inching up to 7, then 8, 9 and 10. Yet wise man say: two players compete for longest road, third player win. Hoombah.
After gaining my two cities (on bricks and woods) and two settlements, I played 3 soldiers, and then played 6 roads in one turn to take longest road.
David and Goliath
Breaking in the new game.
Daniel 56, Saarya 53, Elijah 36, Jon 26, Sharon 14
My hand was high, and therefore bad. Saarya and Daniel stayed neat and clean the whole game. Final scores were a little hazy, but about correct.
While waiting for the first Settlers game to end, we played SJ. Rachel got no big buildings, despite a lot of Councelling, and neither did Nadine, except for Palace. Kind of frustrating.
- City Hall
- Victory Column
- Guild Hall
- Gold Mine (about 2/6)
- Market Hall
- Triumphal Arch
- Guild Hall
- City Hall
- Chapel ++++
- Market Hall
- Black Market (used once)
- Trading Post
- Victory Column
- Chapel ++
- Market Stand
To celebrate, I baked a cake, and we sang happy birthday. We even took a digital photo. I’ll see if I can get that up at some point.
See you next week!
Oct 20, 2004
Sharon returned, only to tell us that she is leaving for the U.S. in mid-November, so we must enjoy her while we can. Also, Elijah, who played with us on Sukkot, returned for a game.
Railroads of Catan
And I inflicted this on him.
I had streamlined my RR game again, removing the negotiation and events, and adding roll cards, making it closer to Age of Steam. The game gets better each time, but there is still a huge amount of calculating and figuring between all players.
The game is basically:
- Bid for roles (roles are: a) $1000 plus go first, b) Get/Move rail for free, c) etc…).
- Pay maintenance on built material.
- Buy delivery order. Unbought ones gain value.
- Build rails and trains, or upgrade.
- Buy and deliver goods.
- Repeat until 7 rounds.
The way I had it this time, the delivery orders were undervalued compared to the simple selling of goods back and forth between cities, and it cost too much to run on other people’s tracks. Also, with so much figuring, people often come to a general consensus of what the “right” move is. Also, the game led up to a creshendo before the end, but then didn’t quite finish off spectacularly, since Yitzchak could hold his position shipping goods back and forth while doing nothing else. Need a better finish.
Anyhoo, I though I started off well, but I quickly fell behind. Don’t quite know why. Elijah didn’t build any good twin cities, so he couldn’t produce/sell/reapeat, like the rest of us could. The delivery orders were not that useful, for the most part. Ah well.
Still enjoyable to play, but it took 4.5 hours to finish an entire game. One more thing to work on. OTOH, that is how long most railgames take, so I don’t know if I can do anything about that.
Tigris and Euphrates
Daniel taught Nadine and Sharon how to play T and E, and promptly lost to them. I saw that by the end of the game, he had no leaders on the board. I think he lost a few too many conflicts.
After finishing Tigris, and not wanting to play PR, Daniel and I played some sde games of Pente while RR was still going on. He lost five games in a row, but gamely tried one, finally beating me from what looked like a hopeless situation.
Game 2: Rachel 64, Nadine 60, Sharon 42
Don’t know anything about these games, unfortunately.
We seem to have a contingent of people looking forward to a Die Macher game at some point. So we will aim to try it again sometime soon. Also, a week fom this shabbat we will be playing a game shabbat, either at Nadine’s or my house. If you are in the area, stop by.
Oct 13, 2004
Daniel arrived earlier than the others, so I introduced him to Pente. In the first game, I confidently played for a quick triangle and almost lost my shirt as he took over with a straight cross through the middle. Luckily for me, he missed a quad I could form, and when I regained initiative, I placed it down for the win. The second game, I took moe careful control with a triangle, X and I shape to form two triads which could not both be stopped.
A quick game before the heavier game, I introduced San Juan to both Daniel and Yitzchak, who both ended up with the highest scores. In my case, I couldn’t find a large building other than Palace, despite having up to 15 cards in my hand at one time (Tower, two Silvers, Trading House and Market Stand). Daniel had Chapel, City Hall and Palace, and only two Indigo plants. Yitzchak had the nice Guild Hall and a Hero.
Daniel again scored pretty well on his first attempt at the game, but yitzchak eked out the victory. Daniel, Nadine and Yitzchak all had something like 8-9 points in their hand at the end. Daniel did a lot of withdrawing for the bonus cards, and then had a huge hand while the rest of us fought over province 7 or so. He also had huge connections, earning 8 or 9 points at least twice. Nadine and Yitzchak both had nice commodities. I had a lot of bonus cards, and I won a few protraced battles, but couldn’t get enough matching colors afterwards.
Interestingly, Yitzchak did a lot of useless withdrawing but still won.
Cities and Knights of Catan
I introduced C&K to both Nadine and Daniel, who both nitpicked about it the whole time. Nadine remarked how Goa had borrowed the progression from C&K. It was kind of late, and there are more rules than Settlers, and I think they were tired or afraid of missing their bus, so we ended in the middle. The dice were being unfavorable to Daniel, in any case.
Nadine: I enjoyed the opportunity to try C&K, it seems good if you want a long game or really like Settlers. Taj Mahal is fun and engaging; so far it doesn’t seem like people have won due to strategies.
Oct 03, 2004
Participants: Jon, Saarya, Pinchas, Michael, Elijah, Elazar, Ben, David K, Yitzchak, Nadine, Rachel A
An excellent game day on this good day of Sukkot. First I was expecting a contingent of people from Tel Aviv, and then I was expecting them to cancel when I found out that ICON (Sci-fi convention in TA) was happening on the same day. Then they said they were coming anyway, then they said they weren’t because the driver had to go to miluim.
In the end, we had some curious newcomers, a number of curious who said they would come, but didn’t, a number of regulars, including one who said he wasn’t going to come, and one guy from Petach Tikve (Elazar, more below).
Richard was the first to show up. I played bridge with him in the past, and he knows nothing about the newer games. He wanted to play chess, which I didn’t mind starting with. The problem with chess for me is: little table talk about strategies (I don’t like a lot of table talk, but some basic warnings that a play I am going to make is stupid would be nice) and a boring end-game (with lots of room for careless, uninteresting mistakes such as the above).
First I took back a move, then he took back a move, then I told him to take back a move because I set him up for a check-mate. Then I had him dead-to-rights near the endgame, but I was careless, and I took back my move to then carefully finish him off (instead of a stalemate).
Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
Saarya introduced newcomers Michael and his nine year old son to Carcassonne. Michael’s previous experience is Illuminati, probably many other standard games, and vaguely playing Cosmic Encounter many years before.
Carcassonne seemed to go pretty well. There was one irregularly played piece which Saarya didn’t catch on time, making the game results skewed.
Saarya and Yitzchak also had a game later in the day, when it seemed like there would be time for a quick game, but the game was ended about 2/3 of the way through, with Saarya declared the eventual victor.
Through the Desert
He found it interesting, but hard to grasp how to surround territory. The game was a bit of a walkover for me, ending 105 to 48.
The last quick game before other guests showed up, I introduced Pinchas to Anagrams, which he refused to take seriously. He knows Scrabble pretty well, but is the type who likes to make puns and cutesy words. We ended in the middle; I was doing better, but he did have a good word or two that he had snatched from me.
Settlers of Catan
SoC turned out to be the big hook for Pinchas, and eventually for Michael and Elijah, as well (no surprise). Pinchas really liked the many paths to victory, and ended his first game with a big smile.
The first game out, it looked like I was way ahead, 7 to 4 to 4. But I stalled for quite a while, and by the time I finished, Yitzchak had Largest Army and two hidden victory points, and Pinchas had Longest Road and was close to 10.
Yitzchak had really bad luck, rolling 8 over and over which both Pinchas and I benefitted from and he didn’t.
Pinchas 10, Saarya 8, Ben 7, Elazar 6
I then taught SoC again to Elazar. Elazar is the guy from Petach Tikve. He is another who saw my interview on spotlightongames, and wanted to come just to show me a prototype of a game he invented to get my opinion on it (Art of War below). Wow, I have a growing online presence.
SoC is his first Eurogame, and he also really enjoyed it, because the luck factor took the pressure off of winning, and allowed him to just enjoy himself, since no matter how good you play, you can lose to bad luck in SoC.
Pinchas won on his second game.
Elazar 10, Michael 9, Elijah, Pinchas
I then taught it again to Michael and Elijah, who also had a blast, and already asked to buy it.
This game was played by people who I taught that day. This time, Elazar won on his second game, although I don’t know what happened beyond that.
Ben brought Mayfair CE/MCE with him, which was good news to the CE devotees like Saarya. I don’t know the powers, but Saarya won because of that freakin’ reverse cone (which I want abolished), after Ben allied on offense hoping to go for a double win, forgetting that the cone was reversed. Michael also played, with Elijah on his team.
Another CE game was played later, with Saarya playing Miser/Visionary, Nadine Warpish/Siren, and Ben Obverse/Chronos. Nadine had originally picked Virus but couldn’t legally play it with her other powers.
Saarya took this game as well, which was a long drawn out one, as Nadine was distracted watching our game of Taj Mahal.
Art of War
Elazar’s prototype is called Art of War, a wargame based on certain priciples of the same book. I won’t say much about it, as he was testing it out on us, and he wants to publish it at some point. My immediate comparison was to Lord of the Rings the Confrontation, only more and variable board and troops. Since he never played Eurogames, I was surprised at how Eurogamey it was. It is pretty solid, needs some more rules detail, summary information on the pieces, and a little streamlining, but worth looking for if it ever gets published.
David played him and resigned about halfway through, and then I did the same later in the day.
I didn’t get a chance to play this Steve Jackson tongue-in-cheek card game which Michael brought over, apparently based on the ridiculous book by Robert Anton Wilson. The basic idea is that you each are a unique society (variable player powers) with the choice of the general or unique win condition. Either involve spending money and influence to sway other secret societies to your sphere of inflience.
Elijah, Michael and Yitzchak played until the game drew down to a close and apparently Yitzchak and Michael decided to call it a draw.
Magic the Gathering
David and I hadn’t played in a while, so I decided to take my usual punishment. I win barely one game out of ten with him. This time we each had 75 cards to choose a deck. I ended up with just the wrong sort of cards and couldn’t build a useful deck. I had Red/Blue, splash of white. David had Black with some Red. I lost each game 0/12.
We have always been playing with a variant mulligan rule I created (you can discard out of the game a land or non-land up to turn five to get the other type of card, once). David K has been abusing this rule too much, however, so I have decided, as of now, that we are moving to the official tournament mulligan rule (which was created a year after mine, which is why we haven’t used it up until now). It is: mulligan as often as you like, choosing one less card in your starting hand each time.
Tigris and Euphrates
Ben 10, Saarya 8, Jon 6
Another fantastic game of T&E, always gripping. Ben’s first game, with the usual stream of rules questions. He somehow pulled just the right tiles to defeat or win almost every conflict. 4 blue tiles, no problem. 3 green the very next round, followed by 4 red right afterwards? Sure.
I only managed to break his positions up once, and only by sacrificing my own position to do it.
Yitzchak 59, Rachel A 45, Nadine 44, David K 43
Rachel came up to play her favorite game. Yitzchak managed to do a nice bit of trouncing for once. He apparently had 4 corn and 3 tobacco, Harbor and Wharf. With 4 corn, Wharf becomes obligatory. Meanwhile, the other players were all competing for trading space to buy the big buildings, and David K was crafting to pump his Factory, which ended up helping Yitzchak even more.
Puerto Rico + expansions
Nadine 50, Rachel A 49, David K, Yitzchak
In this game they used some of my more interesting expansion buildings:
- Large General Workhouse 8/3: two circles, each count as any production type you want each Craftsman phase. Rachel last played this with me, alternating production between coffee, tobacco and sugar, depending on what she needed to sell or ship that round.
- Exchange House 5/2: exchange 1 good with the trading house at the end of the trader phase. I last used this to trade expensive goods, and then take them back, either to trade again, or to ship.
- Bazaar 2/1: trade gp, vp or good for extra colonist / gp, vp or colonist for extra good / vp, colonist, good for extra gp. A difficult building to use, but can be flexible.
- Goldmine 8/3: after taking two gold mines instead of plantations, can produce 1 gold per round, which sells for 6 and ships for 3 vp/barrel (shipped together with another good)
Apparently, Yitzchak had Library and Bazaar, but no big buildings, Rachel had 2 big buildings and Large General Workhouse (producing tobacco and coffee, or whatever was available otherwise), Nadine had Library and 1 big building, and Ben had 2 big buildings. Exchange House wasn’t bought.
Several hands of bridge were played (Ben, Nadine, Pinchas, David K).
David K 70, Yitzchak 42, Jon 37
David K played and won his first game. I made terrible bluffs in the last two rounds, but I was still nowhere near catching up to him. I don’t really know where he got all of what he got, but he got it. He had both long strings of connected buildings, and a good supply of commodities – bought late, but better late than never.
Whew. Lots of snacks, food and drink, a hot sukkah, and then a chilly evening. A good time had by all, from 9:30 to 23:30, and apologies to David K’s wife Yael for stealing him for most of the day.
Sep 22, 2004
Welcome Daniel to the gaming club. Daniel has experience with Munchkin, Tigris and Euphrates, Diplomacy and other games, and says he doesn’t like Puerto Rico, although he’s only played it twice.
While waiting for the others, Nadine, Rachel A and Jon has a game of San Juan. Nadine says she thinks it’s boring, but Jon still likes it very much.
Jon decided to give Crane a shot, having said how much he thinks it sucks without ever really trying it. It sucks. Yes, it’s true you can build each round, but, if nothing else, you kill yourself from the loss of bonus points from the big buildings at the end of the game. It does combine with the Triumphal Arch, I guess. Suffice to say Rachel built no buildings but still tied Jon’s score. Nadine did the simple play of production/Guild Hall to an easy victory.
Princes of Florence
* Saarya got a low score since we didn’t let him retract a bid after the person after him was hesitating. This may have been unfair, as other players took back moves, albeit with less information from the succeding players. If Saarya had been able to take back the bid, he may have achieved more than 20 points in the swing.
Daniel, first time playing, bowled his way into first place by picking the profession cards 1, 2 and 3 on his opening, and then buying and recruiting 4, 5 and 6. 2 buildings, 3 freedoms, 3 landscapes and 6 full sets of works, and an 8 point prestige card to boot. Saarya actually passed 1 action, hoping the work he played would be more lucrative the next round, and then Nadine passed two actions at once hoping for the same result. A first for me, and made for a very interesting game. Jon had his game planned on turn 4 with the assumption he was about to acquire Religion, but Yitzchak was ahead of him and stole the last one, which meant that Jon couldn’t play his last profession card. Saarya and Jon also couldn’t pull a useful prestige card to save their lives. Yitzchak had 3 builders and ran out of profession cards after round 6.
Tigris and Euphrates
Saarya started off with 5 red tiles, which is a great pull for defending your early kingdom. A series of well fought battles pulled him ahead, but he finally lost a big red battle to Jon (who pulled out 4 red tiles to match his). Daniel was attacked early on and never really gained momentum. From feast to famine for him, after his big win in PoF, and from famine to feast for Jon, as on the last play of the game he leaped forward 2 points, pulling a treasure and a black to go from 6 to 8 and then end the game. Saarya could have ended the game on his turn, but thought he needed his action.
I didn’t follow the game, but Yitzchak had Guild Hall, Factory and a full complement of production, including a Tobacco monopoly, Rachel had City Hall and a Coffee monopoly (must have had Harbor, as well, to rack up 39 shipping points), and Nadine had 5 corns, Wharf and Custom’s House and not much else.
No game next week or the week after on Wed night, but Game Day on the Sunday in between. See you all.
Sep 08, 2004
El Grande: King and Intrigant
I have played many games outside of the gaming group over the last week or two, including a game of El Grande at Nadine’s house over shabbat. This inspired me to finally break out the El Grande expansion set that we bought. I decided to try the “simpler” and more well-regarded of the two expansions first: King and Intrigant.
In K&I, you remove the power (bidding) cards and action cards from the original set. Instead, each player has an identical set of 31 cards from which he chooses 13 to play with during the game. They are numbered (between 10 and 180), and each has the number of caballeros you get from the provinces to your court (generally, the lower the number, the more you get) and a special action (generally the lower the number, the better the action).
During play, each player plays one card. Highest card goes first, and can place five caballeros on the board and either do his action or move the king. Next highest gets to place four caballeros and do his action, etc… down to last place who can place only one caballero and can either do his action or do “the Intrigant” action, which is to move one foreign caballero or all of his own from one region to any other regions. You no longer have the option of doing or not doing the action unless it specifically says “May” in the card.
The game is now more strategic the basic game, since you now know what cards will be coming up next, at least your own. In that sense it is a better game. On the other hand, the agonizing was even longer than the first game, where there was some agonzing over the power cards, but not too much, some over the action, but not too much, and most over where to place the caballeros. Now we have lots of agonizing over the card and lots over the caballeros.
But the basic feature of this game versus the original is that it is much more painful. Wheras in the first game the really painful cards would come up only sometimes, and only twice per game at most, in this game they come up every turn. This makes for a much more aggressive and nasty game experience. The worst of the lot are the two cards that send caballeros back from the court to the provinces. For almost the entire game, noone had anything in their court, which meant a lot of low numbers needed to replenish the court, if you could manage to play them and if you had included them in your opening 13 cards.
I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The game is now more heart-wrentching and hand-wringing, which can be good, but this is almost to the point of painful.
Certainly my experience, since I sank to last almost right away and stayed there for most of the game.
Ben started out with “other players return all caballeros from court to provinces”. You’ll see a lot of those. Even worse was “all players return 3 caballeros from courts or regions to provinces” if you have none in the courts, you take them from the board. Since Ben wiped out all of mine from the courts, Nadine finished by wiping out the only three I had on the board from play. Saarya and I had very little on the board most of the game. Nadine did a lot of double scoring by scoring the castillo and then scoring again where ever the caballeros in the castillo moved to.
For the record, here are the power cards played:
Nadine: I selected my cards based on high numbers and receiving caballeros, figuring the actions weren’t important because they were optional. Well, when we started playing, we discovered that most actions weren’t optional, which made it a bit more challenging. I didn’t think I’d do well because I soon ran out of good actions, but I forgot that everyone else would have similar problems.
Bidding position is a factor over which you have little control except when you play super low yourself. I was able to go first on the last scoring round because Yitzchak played low on the 7th round, most likely to get caballeros, and on the 8th I still had my 10, because Yitzchak had played his 10 earlier. I had gone first 7th round even though it meant using the king with only 3 caballeros. One reason was that I didn’t want to do the action on the card, so wanted to use it when I could take the king. I was sure my strong home region from round 6 (with mobile high scoreboard) wouldn’t last to the final scoring, but the 7th round first player chose not to move the king, mostly because he figured I would just be able to move it back due to my going first during the last round. But leaving it there prevented Saarya from using his Veto on my last round king move, because it is fortunately optional.
I was also lucky in the 6th round to end up first position in a region that Saarya secretly doubled. I earlier had lost three points by missing a move that other people saw, and even hinted at, but for some reason didn’t tell me in time. I was actually in last place at the end of round 5, Jon had a higher score than listed. And I never got to play my Score the Region of Your Choice card. The king didn’t move as often in this game, because if the first player does their alternative action, no one else can take the king, and it was harder to place caballeros to be in a position to benefit from moving the king.
This version is much more difficult to play, but fun and engaging, though more frustrating as Jon says.
Puerto Rico + expansions
This makes the third game in a row where Rachel and Nadine have tied for first place, with the win going on the tiebreaker. We played with several buildings from my new set, and the resulting random mix was a whole lot of very powerful buildings with most of the buildings geared toward heavy building. For example we have small market (+1 trade), large market (+2), super market (+3), and small business (also +1, plus store one good). Plus Church (earn vp’s for building). Plus large business (Both of Builder’s and Captain’s privileges).
For some reason, even though both Rachel and I had Coffee, and Rachel was after me, she still managed to outtrade me. She also took both small market and small business before I reallized that you could do that, by which time it was too late. I had nice production, but only 1 storage space (small business), and Nadine got Wharf.
The building list:
- Small market (1/1)
- Small Business (2/1) (small market + store one good)
- Hacienda (2/1)
- Small Factory (3/1) (+0/+1/+1/+2/+2)
- Trade School (4/2) (Pay one extra for building and gain a colonist on it)
- Church (5/2) (+0/+1/+1/+2 VPs for buying a building from column 1/2/3/4)
- Large market (5/2)
- Beachfront (6/2) (take Dock instead of plantation, counts as wharf for one barrel of any type)
- Super market (7/3)
- Large business (8/3) (pay 1 less per building, +1 VP if you ship at least once)
- Library (8/3) (double privelege)
- Wharf (9/3)
- President’s House (10/4) (+2 each for: most red VP’s, most shipping VP’s, most colonists, most goods, most GPs, most plantations. +1 for ties)
- Governor’s House (10/6) (+4 if you have colonists on San Juan)
- Distillery (10/5) (+2/sugar plantation (max +8))
- Custom House (10/4)
- City Hall (10/4)
Nadine: I actually was in the worse position because I had no big buildings, but I accidentally managed to end the game in time to stop 3 of 4 from being manned, otherwise Jon would have won with his 2.
Jon: Nope. Even with my two big buildings manned, I still wouldn’t have won. Rachel would have. I did forget to mention that the game ended abruptly by Nadine taking Captain and running us out of VP’s before anyone noticed, which is why we were caught unaware.
Sep 01, 2004
Welcome back Rachel A (my wife) and Nadine from their summer vacations. It was a long, slow August.
And we start off with the game of choice, Puerto Rico, followed by the other game we’ve been playing all summer, Goa.
As usual, changes to the game:
- Move colonist onto Hospice when you buy it
- Small Wharf instead of Large Warehouse
- University comes with a colonist
General Guide: Nadine and Yona both got Harbor and Wharf and fed each other Craftsman and Captain. Nadine did a little better, also having Small Warehouse. Neither bought a large building, but each had over 30 shipping VPs. Yitzchak got Guild Hall and all the production buildings, two quarries and 18 shipping VPs. Jon got three bid buildings, but only two manned, and one wasn’t too successful (and 15 shipping VPs). Rachel got one large building, Small Warehouse, good trading and 25 shipping VPs.
- Round 1:
- N: Settler. N:Quarry, Yi :Coffee, J:Corn, R:Tobacco, Yo :Sugar
- Yi: Mayor. Already a rogue start, giving J and R Sm markets, and allowing N to fill her quarry before buying.
- J: Builder
- R: Prospector. R takes Prospector 4 times in the first 6 rounds.
- Yo: Prospector
– After one round, J, R and N still have 4 GP, Yo has a sm sugar mill but doesn’t produce until 4th round.
- Round 2:
- Yi: Settler. Yi: Quarry, J:Tobacco (ahead of Rachel), R:Corn, Yo: Corn, N:Corn
- J: Trader
- R: Craftsman
- Yo: Captain
- N: Mayor
- Round 3:
- J: Builder. J:Tobacco, R:Tobacco, the rest pass
- R: Prospector
- Yo: Prospector
- N:Settler. N:Corn, Yi: Sugar, J:Sugar, R:Tobacco, Yo: Indigo
- Yi: Craftsman, allowing …
- Round 4:
- R: Trader. R trades corn and N trades indigo
- Yo: Captain
- N: Mayor
- Yi: Settler. Yi: Quarry, J:Indigo, R:Coffee (to break away from my Tobacco threat, Yo: Indigo, N:Sugar
- J: Craftsman. J now can trade Tobacco, as he has corn to protect his shipment, and the third ship must be filled firstby Yo’s sugar.
- Round 5:
- Yo: Builder. Yona takes a Harbor! Nadine gets one next round, they will also both have Wharves, but neither will have big buildings by the end of the game. Yitzchak acquires his coffee roaster.
- N: Prospector
- Yi: Prospector
- J: Trader. J trades Tobacco (still has one left), Yo trades sugar.
- R: Mayor (6 colonists)
- Round 6:
- N: Builder. Jon takes Factory, producing 4 goods. Nadine Harbor, Rachel Sm Warehouse.
- Yi: Captain. To prevent Jon from trading a second Tobacco.
- J: Settler. J:Quarry, R:Tobacco, Yo: Indigo, N:Sugar, Yi: Coffee
- R: Prospector
- Yo: Craftsman.
- Round 7:
- Yi: Trader. Yi trades Coffee, J trades Tobacco, R trades Corn, Yo trades Sugar.
- J: Mayor
- R: Prospector
- Yo: Captain
- N: Builder, takes Sm Warehouse
- Round 8:
- J: Mayor
- R: Craftsman
- Yo: Captain
- N: Trader
- Yi: Prospector
- Round 9:
- R: Trader with a bonus, trading coffee.
- Yo: Craftsman
- N: Captain. Two crafting shipping Harbor junkies.
- Yi: Builder. Yi takes Guild Hall, J takes Customs House to ensure that the shippers don’t get it. Thinks he can get 4 to 5 points from it anyway.
- J: Settler, another quarry, hoping to get three big buildings.
- Round 10:
- Yo: Mayor
- N: Prospector
- Yi: Prospector
- J: Settler, and hoping to get Residence
- R: Captain, shipping coffee to help lock the boats. Of course, the shippers both get Wharves.
- Round 11:
- N: Builder
- Yi: Trader
- J: Settler
- R: Craftsman
- Yo: Mayor
- Round 12:
- Yi: Prospector, hoping to get a second large building.
- J: Builder. J takes City Hall, R takes Residence
- R: Trader, eyeing the last big building also.
- Yo: Prospector
- N: Captain
- Round 13:
- J: Trader. With another craft, will have enough for third large building. Unfortunately, Jon fills a tenth building space first ensuring that even if he gets it he won’t be able to fill it.
- R: Builder. Yi has a full set of production buildings, Guild Hall, and nothing else.
- Yo: Mayor
- N: Settler
- Yi: Craftsman, under the theory that Yi would do it anyway.
- Round 14:
- R: Captain. Again starting a Coffee boat, but shippers both have Wharves.
- Yo: Prospector
- N: Builder. Both Yi and R give up on getting the last big building. J gets it in the last round, but can’t fill it, and would have been better off buying two buildings from the second column for 6 points (City Hall), instead of Fortress for 5 points.
- Yi: Prospector
- J: Mayor (colonists almost out). Jon should have waited here, as he may have been able to buy Fortress and convinced R to Mayor to fill it, since her building also wasn’t filled.
- Round 15:
- Yo: Craftsman
- N: Captain (end of vp’s)
- Yi: Trader
- J: Builder. Jon gets Fortress (filled building spaces)
- R: Settler, for Residence.
Despite starting off with double nutmeg and succeeding with my first colony, I pulled useless expedition cards one after another (advance with money when I had none, trade spices for money when I had none, etc…)
I just sat in bemusement and watched the game fall to pieces as Nadine and Yitzchak pulled ships, colonists and track advancement, which I just couldn’t get ahold of to save my life. Furthermore, I ended up being the odd guy out as they trade both the flag and the cash for it back and forth all game.
I flatly refuse to play another game of Goa until I have fixed it. Puerto Rico doesn’t need all of this card flipping luck and, while I really like the basic mechanics of the auction and the tracks, the game is simply unbearable at this point.
Nadine: I agree. Also, trying to calculate which spices you need one or two rounds ahead of time is challenging but neither interesting nor fun. And, watching other players figure and plan their moves is boring because it has almost no effect on anyone else.
Aug 24, 2004
(The system crashed, blew away my first attempt, so here we go again.)
A light night again, as the August vacation period winds down. We should be getting more players again next week. Yitzchak has been the stalwart attendee.
Yitzchak requested Goa, so as to try to “do better than last time”, which he did. Both of us now attuned to the expedition card track, the game came down to a) auctioning, b) luck founding colonies, c) luck with expedition cards, d) general play.
a) Was still mine, but only by a small margin. I got a complete set of tiles in one round, Yitzchak did slightly better later. One mistake he made was that he thought the ducats tile was one per round instead of 4 per round, so he let me have it cheap.
b) Was also, mine, although I did fail once, and he didn’t try often. By making failure equal 2 colonists instead of one, there is never a double failure, which is a huge boost to the game. On the oother hand, colonists lose a bit of value, and you have more at the end – you also had some left over in the original rules. I would like to do something about that, as it bothers me.
c) Was Yitzchak’s by far. I got “progress using cash” in a very cash light game (this card should be changed for two player games), and “flip extra card for a colony” when I already had 4 colonies. Meanwhile, Yitzchak was “last round I harvested, let’s buy a card – oh look, give me two ships.” again and again, getting just what he needed.
d) Was still impossible to say. No one has done an analysis yet of how a move affects the entire game play. It seems pretty balanced, and actually, not a very important part of the game, but can’t really make up my mind about this.
On the last round, Yitzchak put down the flag such that the other two items would be spices. He paid everything to get the flag and action card, giving me platation 1 for 0 ducats, and plantation 2 for 1 ducat. I was left with 18 ducats.
I had the “progress using cash” card, which I could finally use, but if I did, I would be left with 0 ducats to his 1, swinging 3 points from me to him for most ducats, so I couldn’t even use it. Instead I harvested, progressed once and took expedition cards. Naturally I got the 5 ducat bonus card.
A short game than the other meaty two player games, the only changes we made were: Hospice (move colonists onto it), University comes with colonist, Small Wharf instead of Large Warehouse.
In a two player game, we have discovered that an early Harbour is basically game, and that’s what Yitzchak did. The rest of my game was trying to deal with that, and I cam up with some pretty nifty tricks to do it, if I may say so myself.
For instance, Yitzchak was producing only corn and indigo, and I managed to lock him out completely from trading, by trading those myself. This gave him extra dubloons on the other roles, however. Still, I stopped him from getting big buildings earlier.
Second, I locked the ships, either with only 1 empty space each, or with my goods. He got a wharf, but again missed out on a big building to do so.
Lastly, his one big building he got, but couldn’t man before the end of the game, as I ended the game by placing goods that he could ship, forcing the victory points to run out. And I did some pretty good shipping myself. With all that, I still only won by 3 points, which just goes to show you that Harbor needs to be changed in two player.
Aug 18, 2004
I got this slight card game from Haim Shafir himself, the designer; he asked me to give it a try, as he is proud of it. Haim has invented over 40 games, including Taki, a variation of Uno (he says, a variation of crazy eights, of which Uno is also a variation), which is an immensely popular and successful game in Israel, the way Uno is in America.
Being a strategy gamer, and not a Taki player, I admit I wasn’t expecting much. I just wanted to see if it compared favourably to Taki and Uno, those sorts of games.
The game is basically: put three cards in your hand, three face down on the table, three face up on top of those, the rest next to you. Play cards higher than the card in the pool from your hands and draw cards. If you can’t play higher, you eat the pool. Some cards have special meanings: 1/2 is played on anything, 5 means next card has to be lower, zero resets, etc… When you are out of hand and deck cards, you play your face up cards, and then your face down cards, blindly.
The group reaction was … how to put this tactfully … not very receptive. We didn’t understand what the point of playing blindly was, and why, unlike Taki, where the rules were basically straightforward, so many rules seemed so arbitrary and not printed on the cards, in any case. And there were a few rules problems, and some falling behind with a bad hand problems. It could be I misunderstood the rules.
I kind of liked the 1/2 card gimmick and the game will probably find its audience in the general population. It’s not my cup of tea.
David K very much wanted to try to break my version of Forest House (2/1/Settler Take a forest, pay 1 less for buildings for each forest after the first). His plan was to Settle every round until he had 11 forests, and then buy 5 big buildings, or something like that.
Other changed buildings we played with:
- Surveyor’s House: 2/1/Settler take any plantation you want from the supply, instead of what’s up. This proved to be useless during the game, as all the coffees and corns came out very quickly.
- Mine: 4/2/Builder pay 1 less for buildings. Redundant in a game with Forest House, but still a nice building
- Small Wharf
- Large General Production Building: 8/3/Craftsman (2 circles) each circle counts as any desired production (matched with a plantation). Not bought early enough to be of use, and David K kept stealing the only available coffee and turning it into a forest, anyhow.
- Beurocracy: 10/7/End Game: At the end of any round, you may trade/build if trader/builder was taken this round and you didn’t already. This is a great building (normally) for 5 player, as it means you can trade after the trading house empties and then buy a building you couldn’t afford earlier. David K got it, but never made use of it.
I was first, Shlomo (only his 2nd or 3rd game) second, Yitzchak 3rd, Ben 4th, David K 5th.
I got early quarry, corns and Harbor, and shipped early and often, leaving myself enough money to get one big building, but not the sugar mill I needed.
Shlomo got nothing but shipping, producing 3 sugars, 3 corns and an indigo early on, and then 3 tobacco soon followed. Shipped more than me, but less building points as he missed out on a big building.
Yitzchak got the first of several tobaccos and a nice factory going, and he got custom’s house, to take it away from me.
Ben got a factory and tobacco, too. I never figure out how he manages to beat me, but he did it again, taking city hall (for a whole 6 point bonus) and the other forest house (up to +2 benefit).
David K took forest house on the first round, and settled every round for 9 rounds. He got 8 forests, after which there weren’t any plantations left to be had. He got only two big buildings, since we all had enough for one anyway. He had no production, and although he had the only coffee working it was too late to use it effectively.
A very hungry crew ate our very late dinner, after the hamburger place cancelled our order after an hour (they ran out of bread), and the shnitzel place took another 45 minutes.
We taught Ben his first game, and he hates auction games, since he’s not very good at them. Somehow, I pulled out a good lead in round 1. I was first flag auctioner, and I went on to win two of the tiles in the first round.
Our bidding is lower than the accepted standards, and when it is lower in general, you have to adjust your thinking, or you end up down versus other players. Nevertheless, for some reason it always seemed to be up to me to make the sole bid on an item, and I usually managed to hit just the painful spot where it is better to give it to me than to take it.
We all progressed as far as possible in expedition cards; I hit level 4 first, David K level 5 first. I was also at level 4 in another track and had the 4 point tile. It was getting late, so they threw it in and declared me the winner. Good auctioning goes a long way.
We played with two rule changes:
- You get two colonists if you fail the colonize attempt. Works great, as it eliminates the critical double fail on the first turn, yet doesn’t devaluate colonists too much.
- ;Money track progression for 4 player game goes 4/6/10/16/24 . This could be a good change (suggested by Alex), but still didn’t tempt anyone to take the track, at least, not by round 6.
Aug 04, 2004
A slow month at the JSGC, as you can see. Everyone is on vacation. In other news, I had a chat with Haim Shafir, designer of Taki and other games. He knows all the top designers personally, and was very nice to talk to about our club, game designs, etc…
I’ve been scoring higher and higher since following the online advice about the expedition card track, but a lot of it is still luck. I ended with a set of 3 and a set of 2. The last game I played I had 6 cards with only one match. When you add it all up, the difference is really only 4 points (5 unmatched vs full house), so I still would have won.
This is despite: failing TWO attempts at my first colony (yes indeed, I pulled 2/1 and then 1/1) and pulling the least helpful cards imaginable (pay ships and no spices when I had a huge surplus of spices and no ships, that sort of thing). The thing is, while they may not be useful right away, you just plan around them a little longer and they will end up being useful later, usually. I saved my spices and then traded them for cash, instead of taking a cash action. That sort of thing.
The real reason I won was that Yitzchak lost the auctions, not quite bidding when he should have and leaving himself only 2 GP going into one auction. I had played a lot more, so it was a learning experience. I also discovered that the valuation used by Jim and Alex (BGG) just doesn’t work unless all players agree to it. We had so little money, that items went for 3 or 4 throughout the game. It was often a best move to buy your own tiles. Two player games are like that. With so little money in the game, it was easy to corner your opponent into Faustian deals with a little planning.
Another first for Yitzchak, first time playing 2 player PR. I opened with Settler/quarry and my third building was Harbor. Yitzchak again didn’t produce enough, took too many quarries and took a Hospice. He had one more big building, but I shipped 38 to his 18.
Next time we hope for more people to join us!
Jul 29, 2004
It is getting harder to find players during the summer as everyone goes abroad. We couldn’t get a game up on Wed, and just barely eked out a game tonight when David K said he could come after all, if late. Nadine was on standby and came by to make a third.
I’ve been involved in several online discussions trying to figure out if there really is a game strategy behind Goa, or if it all a smokescreen of lots of actions and busy work but everyone goes forward by about the same amount from turn to turn. Jim convinced me that there is more to the game.
It is probably the most subtle game there is. Unlike PoF where a winning auction can be a dramatic victory or mistake, in Goa a dramatic victory means you won a third of an action or so more than your opps, and you have to keep parlaying that each round carefully.
That would be fine, except the luck factor, card drawing and colony building throws the game out by a factor of an action or two either way. Nadine kept trying to build colonies and kept failing, even when the odds were clearly in her favour. No amount of subtle play is going to overcome that. If the balance was reversed, I think the game would be more solid. I just can’t deal with winning/losing based on five cards, all different symbols.
My game this time was the expedition track, as per Jim’s suggestion of opening with 2 reds and a black, one colony, two levels in expeditions, followed by two expedition cards. Drawn cards were: pay money to advance (useless), trade spices for money (useless). Sigh.
Despite this, the track eventually made good, and I managed to get all colonies, advancing only one in the colonist track (and only to get the free action anyway), and ignoring the cash track (got it from good auctioning and the red cash tile) and the harvest track (got spices from cards, plantations and colonies). Finished my expedition track, shipping track and colonies, and some mismatched bonuses. I also did pretty well in the bidding.
David got severely hampered by lack of production types, missing black and white, and eventually he just tried for colonies until he got the wild one. He ended with 3 tracks finished (shipping, money, expedition on the last round), but not much else. David’s first game, so he bid a little wildly on some tiles, but this is his forte, so he did pretty well anyway.
Nadine messed up some bidding by buying her own tiles twice, and never getting the flag. Still the number of times she just missed getting colonies was ridiculous.
While interesting, the game still doesn’t quite get me in the gut. The progression is very slow, and there is no game ending oomph like in PR, PoF and other games. Still like playing it, though.
David Here: I actually enjoyed Goa a lot. After the first game I was gung ho about ordering one for myself. Over the weekend though I gave the game a lot of thought and I believe it is “broken”. Now, since all players face the same choices, it is not truly broken, but I do believe that there is one strategy that will wipe the floor against other competing strategies. In other words, as opposed to Jon’s first take on the game that there are *no* effective strategies, I believe that there is one, fairly unique, strategy. Unfortunately, if I am correct the game becomes quite boring…
In any case, I am dying to try my strategy out next time.
Ooops, just reread a part of the rules. My strategy isn’t so hot after all. Need to give the whole thing some more thought. Still, that’s all for the better.
Jul 21, 2004
Many of our regulars are away on summer vacation, and Nadine is going soon, too. I have placed a new advertisement on Janglo. If you know others who want to play, send ’em over.
I had a hankering to play this again, as I really enjoyed it and last time we got four rules wrong:
- That the bonus cards can be played once per turn until someone else takes it from you, and not once and then discarded.
- That someone who withdraws from the bidding without bidding anything gains a bonus card
- That the “+1” tile is +1 card, not +1 VP
- That the cards in your hand count as bonus points (one color + white) at the end of the game.
The first three of these are a great improvement to the game. The last I didn’t really like; there is a large element of luck involved, and it presents an uninteresting choice at the end of the game where you may earn the same number of points either playing or not playing your cards.
In any case, I took a large first lead, earning the purple bonus card (+1 elephant) early on and acquiring great commodities. Yitzchak was not far behind. Ben and Nadine were in last and resigned to stay that way. Ben got the yellow bonus card and began inching up with 2 points a turn. He played it 6 or 7 times by game end.
Then I stalled on rounds six and seven, hoping to regroup for the remaining rounds, and Ben passed me during this process. Two of the subsequent rounds I just played the wrong cards, and having been an early leader, Yitzchak aimed to take me out instead of Ben, resulting in him and me both falling behind, while Ben picked up steam. I had one leap ahead, but not enough as Ben passed us and ended with an 8 point bonus from his hand points.
Rachel was supposed to be working, but she insisted she needed a break and both she and Yitzchak want to play Puerto Rico. None of us regretted it, as this was as good a game as any we had played. It just never gets boring, even with five players and so little control.
- Hospice: when bought, you may move a colonist onto it
- Trading House instead of Office
- Scavenger Yard instead of Large Warehouse. You may collect any one players total discards (you may choose your own) minus all of their corn and one other barrel.
- University: comes with a colonist on it
- Round 1
- Jon/Settler. Jon takes quarry, Nadine takes corn, Yitzchak takes coffee, Rachel takes sugar, Ben takes indigo
- Nadine/Builder. Nadine takes Sm market, Yitzchak takes Sm market, Rachel takes Sm sugar, Ben takes Sm indigo, Jon passes
- Yitzchak/Prospector. This was a bad move as it let Rachel get an early sugar production going.
- Rachel/Mayor. Rachel mans her sugar/sugar, Ben and Nadine man corn
- Round 2
- Nadine/Settler. Nadine takes a quarry, Yitchak takes ?, Rachel takes a Tobacco, Ben takes a Corn, Jon takes an Indigo. Rachel is to maintain a deathhold monopoly on Tobacco for the entire game.
- Yitzchak/Trader. For the coin. Yitzchak will have a huge cash shortage for the entore game, despite several quarries. He never produces more than a corn and an indigo or so.
- Rachel/Craftsman. Of course, for the sugar.
- Ben/Captain. Of course, for the gold and vp’s.
- Jon/Builder. Jon builds a Large indigo (for 1 GP), Nadine builds Sm indigo, Yitzchak builsing Hospice and moves his useless colonist onto it, Rachel passes, Ben builds ?
- Round 3
- Yitzchak/Prospector. +1 GP. Most prospectors taken had +1 GP on them this game.
- Rachel/Prospector. +1 GP
- Ben/Mayor. Ben is now producing two indigo’s, as is Jon.
- Jon/Settler. Jon takes the only coffee available. Jon will be the only one producing coffee for quite a while, which is almost as good for his as Rachel’s Tobacco is for her, but she locks up a boat for Tobacco for half the game. Ben and Nadine take Sugars, Yitzchak gets a second Coffee (and doesn’t produce any until the last round of the game), Rachel takes a second Tobacco.
- Nadine/Builder. Nadine builds Sm sugar, Yitzchak builds Sm indigo, Rachel builds Tobacco (and the scary music starts), Ben builds Sm sugar?, Jon takes a free Sm indigo (waiting for Coffee)
- Round 4
- Rachel/Mayor. Rachel now has working tobacco, sugar and corns. Ben and Nadine also have sugar. Nadine and Yitzchak have Small markets.
- Ben/Builder. Ben builds an early Factory. Jon passes. Don’t remember the rest.
- Jon/Trader. For the GP, and anticipating some trading coming up.
- Nadine/Craftsman. Nadine has sugar, indigo and corn. Rachel has tobacco, sugar and corn. Ben has indigo and corn. Jon had indigo. Yitzchak has an indigo.
- Yitzchak/Captain. Knowinf Ben will do it if he doesn’t, and he gets the GP. Rachel saves her tobacco.
- Round 5
- Ben/Settler. Quarry for Ben, Jon inidigo. Rachel took another tobacco, and no one else did.
- Rachel/Trader. Trades a tobacco, when noone else has anything. Couldn’t have been captained, as boats had corn, indigo and sugar on them.
- Round 6
- Jon/Builder. Jon has a fistful of cash and a quarry, and he builds a Coffee. Others have coffee plantations but can’t get to Coffee for a while. Nadine builds Harbor! and proceeds to smackdown on shipping for the rest of the game. Rachel builds Small warehouse, and at this point I realize that although Scavanger Yard can be a great building, it is useless when all of your opps have warehouses or wharves, which is what happens this game. They remain unbought.
- Nadine/Mayor. To man her Harbor.
- Yitzchak/Settler. Finally uses the Hospice to get a manned quarry.
- Ben/Captain. Same situation Yitzchak was in earlier; better he take it than Nadine take it next phase. Jon is left with a coffee.
- Round 7
- Yitzchak/Prospector. Still trying to get money
- Rachel/Captain. Starting her infernal tobacco boat, saved with her Sm warehouse.
- Ben/Trader. To prevent Jon from getting two extra GP’s. He trades his coffee.
- Jon/Mayor. Jon is now producing two indigos and two coffees Yitzchak spends the rest of the game with many colonists on San Juan.
- Round 8
- Yitzchak/Builder. Builds a Harbor. Jon builds a Trading House so he can trade coffee at will. Nadine builds a Sm warehouse.
- Rachel/Craftsman. No craftsman fear here, except she is still getting less points than Nadine during shipping.
- Ben/Trader. He trades sugar, Jon trades indigo.
- Jon/Settler. Takes another quarry. Still noone takes tabacco.
- Nadine/Mayor. Mans several goods and Sm warehouse.
- Round 9
- Rachel/Trader. She trades sugar (to prevent Nadine from trading it), Ben trades indigo, I trade Coffee, Nadine trades corn. Yitzchak is locked out.
- Ben/Builder. I don’t remember, but Jon takes Wharf I believe. Nadine buys Lg Sugar.
- Nadine/Captain. Lots of VP’s
- Round 10
- Jon/Mayor. With Wharf and Trading House, Jon no longer cares about shipping space or trading space. Now he is working on big buildings.
- Yiztchak/Settler. Still hoping that manned quarries will do him some good.
- Rachel/Trader or Builder. Can’t remember.
- Round 11
- Jon/Trader. Coffee. Jon is now the only one who can reach a big building.
- Nadine/Builder. Nadine buys something, and Jon acquires Guild Hall.
- Yitzchak/Prospector. Still trying to get a big building by game end.
- Rachel/Captain. With leftovers from Sm warehouse. The boats are all sugar, indigo and corn, which suits Nadine just fine.
- Round 12
- Nadine/Prospector. Also wants a big building by game end, and trying to make up for her last build.
- Yitzchak/Settler. Hoping a third manned quarry will do the trick.
- Ben/Trader. Still locking out Yitzchak. Jon trades Coffee one more time.
- Jon/Builder. Jon buys Fortess, much to Yitzchak’s chagrin. Ben gets Residence.
- Round 13
- Yitzchak/Trader. Trades an inidgo and fills up the House.
- Ben/Settler. A point for residence. Someone besides Rachel takes their first tobacco plantation.
- Jon/Mayor. Points for Fortress.
- Round 14
- Rachel/Captain. Leftovers from Sm warehouse
- Jon/Builder. Not much to do, so buys tobacco.
- Yitzchak/Trader. Finally has enough for a big building. So does Rachel. Nadine will be one shy.
- Round 15
- Ben/Settler. For the point.
- Jon/Mayor. For the point.
- Yitzchak/Builder. He takes City Hall, Rachel takes Custom’s House.
- Round 16
- Jon/Captain. Finishes up shipping points, and prevents any major shipping later in the round. Might have done better building or mayoring.
- Nadine/Craftsman. A key play, gives her more goods than anyone else, and winning the tie at the end of the game.
- Yitzchak/Builder. To pump City Hall. Jon doesn’t have enough to buy Lg sugar.
- Rachel/Prospector. I think.
- Ben/Settler. Filling in his last Residence point.
Comment from Nadine: It was very close, any of the top 4 could have won depending on how things went at the very end. I didn’t know it was possible to do well without a big building — I didn’t have enough money because certain people went out of their way to block me from trading sugar the whole game, when they had Tobacco and Coffee monopolies!
A few hands of bridge to round off the evening, found Ben and Rachel with hand after hand slamdunking Jon and Nadine.
- Second rubber: B/R: 4 spades (450), 4 hearts (650). J/N – set B/R once, for (100)
- Third rubber, first half: B/R: 3 hearts making 4 (170), set J/N once (50), 4 spades (450)
Proverbial towel is then thrown in.
See you next week.
Jul 14, 2004
Tonight we only got to one game, Goa, which we tried starting at about 6:35, spent about 20 minute rereading the rules I thought I had understood, and actually started around 7:00. We finished at about 10:30, at which point we ended the evening.
Goa is enjoyable, in my opinion a cross between Princes of Florence and Cities and Knights of Catan. It ranks below Puerto Rico and Tigris and Euphates, but above PoF, etc…
Like PoF, there are a number of defined rounds, with items up for auction, followed by each player getting a certain number of actions. In Goa, there are 8 rounds, which are all indistiguishable, except that there are 25 items up for auction in the first 4 rounds, followed by 25 different ones in the next 4 rounds.
There are 6 types of actions:
- Take ships (free)
- Take spices (free) (there are five types)
- Take money (free)
- Take cards (free)
- Take colonies (pay colonists)
- Move up one progression track (pay spices and ships)
If you are on the first space of the ships track, you get 1 ship during the “Take ships” action. If you are on the second space, 2 ships, etc… The second track determines how many spices you get if you “Take spices” (if you have space to produce them), the third track how much money for “Take money”.
The fourth track determines how many cards for “Take cards”, as well as your hand limit. Cards do things like give you free ships, free money, or free colonists, or reduce your payment for progression on the tracks. If you don’t play them, they are worth victory points. Cards also have a “colonist” count on them which is irrelevent in your hand.
The fifth track determines how many colonists to add to your attempt to get a colony during “Take colony”. For colonies, there are 4 types available, and you may acquire 1 of each type. Each one comes with 1 or 2 spaces for producing multiple types of spices, and comes prefilled with spices to boot. Each costs some number of colonists. When you “Take colony”, you add up the number of colonists on your colony track, the number of colonists flipped over in two cards from the deck, and the number of colonists you toss from your hand. If it equals the price, you got your colony. Otherwise you acquire a colonist as a consolation prize, which makes the action easier next time.
You can “Move up one progression track” by paying combinations of ships and spices. Different spices are needed for each track progression, and 1 ship is needed for each spice. If you are the first to reach 4th or 5th space in a particular track (sound familiar?), you gain a free expedition cards. Once all of your markers are out of their first, second, … spaces, you gain free action cards.
Free action card are usuable once.
The are numerous tiles available in a 5×5 grid, each of which does something different. The most common ones are plantations that gives you 1, 2 or 3 spaces for producing a single type of spice. The others give you free ships, free colonists, free victory points, free cards, free spices, or free actions during the round. A few other are more complicated, but that’s about it. The auction is the only time you need money.
Which tiles are available is done in a gimmicky way of the person holding the “I’m first” tile placing it down with his marker on it next to a tile, followed by other places putting there markers down one by one on tiles adjacent to the last played marker.
There will be 5 auctions: one for the “I’m first” tile, which comes with a free action token, and one for each player (so less if you’re playing with less players). You can win none, one or all of them. Bidding is once around, with the marker holder placing the first and last bid. If you win the bid, you pay the marker owner. If you’re the marker owner, you pay the bank.
Victory points are:
- 0,1,3,6,10 points for each marker on the progression track in space number 1,2,3,4,5.
- 0,1,3,6,10 points for having 0,1,2,3,4 colonies
- Bonus points for cards in your hand. Each card has a symbol in the corner, and you get 0,1,3,6,10,… points for having 0,1,2,3,4,… cards of that symbol.
- A few bonus points from tiles
- 3 bonus points for most gold
The gamebook is not up to the standards of other game manuals I have read. Information about the development track is not all under “Development track”, but scattered around in random places. It was halfway through the game before I found the rule about free action cards on the development track. The symbol is on the board, but it is inscrutable as to why, until you know why. There were other problems like this.
There are numerous rule ambiguities, such as the misuse of the words “immediately”, when you can use your free items and other abilities from the tiles, etc… etc… Some manual writer or rules designer needs a slap on the wrist. And BTW, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why this isn’t a five player game.
Like PoF, you need to deal with what you get from the auction, and plan a game strategy around it. Like C&K, progression gives you more vps, better production and more bonus cards. If you like these games, you will like Goa. If you didn’t like C&K you might still like Goa, because there’s less luck, less falling behind for the whole game, and less screwing your opp. If you didn’t like PoF, you might still like Goa, because there’s less serenity and more choices, and the auction is more involving.
Anyway, we started off our game with me starting on the spice track, Yizchak on the money track, Rachel (who had to leave for a half hour and was replaced by Saarya) on the colony building track and Nadine also on the colonist track, but somehow not building them until late game. Yitzchak proved the value of money once again, by using his money to win several of the auction tiles, each of which is worth, when you think about it, about 1-3 free actions. I seemed to have money problems which kept me behind a bit.
Rachel/Saarya then progressed in balance to end at spaces, 3,3,3,4,4 and a complete set of colonies. Yitzchak, Nadine and I all had 5th level in one track. In the end, it was a tie game of Rachel/Saarya and Yitzchak, with Rachel winning the tie by having 2 more gold. Perversely enough, I ended with the most money. I blew away a few actions trying to get matching expedition cards, and could’t draw a third card with the same symbol to save my life.
Final scores: Rachel/Saarya 33 (9 gold), Yitzchak 33 (7 gold), Jon 27, Nadine 27.
See you next week.
Jul 07, 2004
Through the Desert
David K showed up a little early, so we started off with one of the new games. As often happens, I lost the first game I taught a new player; actually I lost every game tonight, all of which I taught. C’est la vie.
As I had suspected, enclosing territory comes into play more in a two or three player game than in the five player game. Still the game is vastly different from Go, in that a) you can’t drop your piece anywhere on the board, and b) the game has a short and controlled end. David started off with what looked like a huge area of control on one side of the board, but at the end, all of my little places added up to his big one. Still, he managed to lead in three of the five colors, which game him the 10 point bonus he needed to win the game.
I really like this game, and I suspect I like it more than anyone else here. Most of the players in our game group seem to feel the need to note that it has more luck than Puerto Rico and that it is not “as good” as Puerto Rico, and that it is not as deep a game as Puerto Rico. None of this bothers me. San Juan is a great game despite the fact that it is not “as good” as Puerto Rico, because it fills a different need. The way a good hamburger fills a different need from a chocolate cookie. I wouldn’t want a hamburger for a snack, and I wouln’t want a cookie for a meal. If nothing else, San Juan fills that great space when two people are waiting for a game to finish.
I also think that there is a lot less luck than there is made out to be. Yes, you will always draw different hands, and you can never count on drawing one particular card that you want, but it is not so common to draw only bad cards, or only cards you can’t play.
Bad luck would be getting:
- only duplicates of what you have
- cards too expensive to build, one after another
- a fistful of only the bad cards, which are:
- Indigo, Sugar and Tobacco. Sugar is twice as expensive as Indigo, for 1.4 times the value in gold, and no bonus in VPs. Tobacco is a little better, in that it gives you a bonus VP, but it can never give you 3 gold, Coffee is much better here, and Silver, while not much better than Coffee, is at least worth another VP. REVISION 12/07/2004: I believe I have underestimated Tobacco and overestimated Coffee. See my analysis on the Geek for more info …
- Archive. I just can’t see this ever really being worth it, as any given hand is useful for building one building and maybe saving one card that you want. The situation where this matters would be very rare. And I hate wasting space on my board for rarely useful 1 VP buildings. In general, buildings that don’t give you a bonus in gold or VP’s are not as useful as those that do.
- Poor House. While potentially useful, there are better cards in this class, and I hope not to count on having no cards in my hand this often, if I can help it.
- Black Market. Is on the borderline. It definitely seems worthwhile, and is the most likely to be so, but I have to count on having poor production buildings to begin with to find this useful. It shines when it can save a building phase for you. REVISION 12/07/2004: Also probably underestimated. Have to try this again.
- Crane. When you think about it, aside from wasting the building phase it took to get out this one point building, all this does is turn all of your big buildings into small buildings. The only conceivable use for it would be when you already have 11 buildings and have time enough to improve your buildings before the game ends. Woo hoo. REVISION 12/07/2004: Lots of people seem to think that this is a good buy, and their explanations always follow: it lets you build every round, it lets you build buildings without ending the game, it lets you get nice buildings for cheap over other buildings you don’t want, etc… Sorry, I don’t buy a word of it. I challenge anyone to show me a step by step building log through a complete game of San Juan where this building was the right choice.
- Triumphal Arch. Also on the border. Think of it as a 6 cost building worth 2 VP, that gives you 2 points for each monument you build, up to a maximum of 3 monument. This hardly compares with Guild Hall or City Hall. Again, on the edge, and I wouldn’t throw it out if I had already built mounments, but doesn’t seem worthwhile as a strategy if it can at all be avoided. REVISION 12/07/2004: Note that I never said that I wouldn’t build it. It’s a Bad Card because it is simply a weaker version of City Hall. For those of you who say that 3 monuments + Triumphal Arch is worth 20 points, my answer is yes, but 3 monuments + City Hall is worth more than 20 points. It is just a bad design. See alternates I suggested on the Geek.
- Trading Post
- Market Stand
- Prefecture. The best, as it gives a direct bonus GP.
- Market Hall
- Library. Turns every phase into a bonus VP. Does take a round or two to recover from building it.
- Guild Hall / City Hall. One or both necessary for victory.
- REVISION 12/07/2004: Add the gold producing “building phase” buildings, such as Quarry, Smithy, Carpenter, etc…
In our game, I built an early Gold Mine, and flipped, flipped, flipped … 8 times. Didn’t win once. David K brought out an early Library, and I saw immediately that unless I did the same, that was going to be game. Luckily I had one also, but mine cost me more in terms of initiative. David had many early 2 and 3 point buildings where I had 1 point buildings and Library. I did slowly work my way up and even passed him, but in the end he dropped a City Hall to make 12 buildings and I couldn’t build anything.
Now stop here, all you game purists. One of the reasons that San Juan is not as deep a game as Puerto Rico is that there is only building, no shipping, and there is no competition for resources, such as colonists, trading space or shipping space. But why?
It seems so trivial to me to remove the Councellor phase, which doesn’t really do much, and add the Captain phase.
Captain: place one of your goods under your production building for a VP. Captain may place two of his goods. Only one good of each type can be shipped each round. Which means that as captain, I place my Indigo and Tobacco under my buildings for two VP’s, and you have a choice of shipping your Coffee or trading it later. Makes the Sugar Mill a much better investment, and we can then get rid of two cards, the very weak Archive and the very Strong Prefecture, and replace them with some new buildings:
- Hold (1,1): ship a duplicate of a good already shipped this turn (including your own)
- Harbor (3,2): Gain a card from the deck when you ship at least 1 good
and easy enough to add corresponding buildings like trading post, etc… for shipping. One could also test the Trading phase to exclude other from trading anything already traded this round (perhaps so long as bonus trades only come after each player has traded at least once). REVISION 12/07/2004: Discussion continued on the Geek.
Puerto Rico + expansions
David won everything else he played tonight, but he got creamed here. Yitzchak, in his first game with expansions managed to pull a Ben, playing in a way which gave everybody else bonuses (he let Rachel, Nadine and David K get great trades), yet still managing to pull off a victory, getting two big buildings and reasonable shipping points.
I was sitting to Yitzchak’s right, so I never saw any of these benefits, but Nadine and David to my right both managed to get Tobacco and Coffee going before I could; if I had known that would happen, I would have skipped both and gone for Large Market. As it was, it was too late for me to recoup my investments. I think I traded one sugar the whole game. I did manage to get the most shipping points and one big building, but it wasn’t near enough.
David K crafted with Library a few times and didn’t manage to get a single bonus good out of it; he produced 3 types of goods, and those were exactly the goods that weren’t available by the time it came back to him.
Tigris and Euphrates
We had actually borrowed this game from Yaron more than a year ago, before our becoming a club. I remember losing a lot, and that David K beat me once 6/6/6/7 to 6/6/6/6 . Tonight was our first play with the new purchase.
I thought I could explain the game as simply as Through the Desert, but, while the play is almost as simple, the rules are more complex, and the strategy is a hundred fold more complex. Through the Desert may have many agonizing decisions, but the implications are not that hard to see. Here, the implications continuously perplex, and I had to explain the same rules again and again. I had the same problem; I didn’t need the rules explained again, but I made moves without realizing the full implications before it was too late.
I had no idea how I was doing near the end of the game. I had 4 points, and for all I knew others had 2 or 8. I didn’t know. I figured if I got to 7 or 8 I would be ok. Two notable events: Yitzchak built a monument. I warned him that monuments attract conflicts, but he decided to try it to see what would happen. He got points for it the round he put it down, and for no rounds thereafter. The second event was my joining the two huge middle kingdoms toward the end of the game. Aside from not fully seeing the implications, it still would have been successful except that David K pulled out 3 red tiles to tie me, giving him 4 points in red and 3 points in green, the two colors he was shy in. I ended up +1 point all around, but he ended up +2 or 3 all around, which firmly gave him the lead.
Last time around we played this game, the feeling was that the group didn’t really understand it. This time, after many other Eurogames, the group really did like it, and I think we will be playing it again, and hopefully often.
Jun 30, 2004
A huge thank you to Alan who brought us our game order from the U.S. New games:
- San Juan (2 copies)
- Through the Desert
- Tigris and Euphates
- El Grande Expansions
We unwrapped and started a game of San Juan at 6:35, Yitzchak came as we started playing, and watched.
San Juan is a card game that is nothing like Puerto Rico, except for some chrome, some artwork, and some of its round mechanism. Even the round mechanism, which involves governor, roles, etc… does not feel the same, since the order of who does what is completely irrelevent.
The game feels somewhat like the building part of Citadels minus all the bad parts: no assassination and no boring buildings. The building are all complicated, which means interactions between them are fun and challenging to remember each turn. It would have been nice if they were all patterned or colored by phase, so you could check which buildings apply each phase (they do say in block letters on the card).
The biggest problem seemed to be that the person who builds the most big buildings wins, followed by the next most, etc… That was what happened to us. However, like Prince of Florence, where everyone has the opportunity to bid up the Jesters, it seems likely that unless you never see a big building the whole game, most people will have a fairly good chance at building some of these buildings.
Of course, we didn’t really know what we were doing, so the game was wild. Eventually, the team of Tal and Nadine scored two big buildings (City Hall for 10 and the monument guy for 6), I scored City Hall for 9 and two Chapels for +2 each, Saarya had Palace for 6, and Alan had Palace for 5.
Definitely want to play this a few dozen times more. Everyone asked me when I’ll start making new cards 🙂
Through the Desert
The crown of our purchase was this game, available for a few minutes on [http://www.timewellspent.org] . Tigris and Euphrates will also see play, but this one is still OOP, and therefore a better catch. I don’t think we’ll end up playing the third Knizia biggie, Samurai, seeing as one third of the pieces are Buddha figurines. 😦
Through the Desert is described as multiplayer Go, but it’s not really. Yes, you are placing pieces to section off areas, but that is a small part of the game; also, one of the main elements of Go is that you can place a piece anywhere on the board, which you can’t in TtD, which means the play is totally different.
You can score points by stepping on puddles, touching trees, and playing the most camels of a color. The sectioning off is not a huge factor in a five player game (probably a lot more so in 2 or 3 player).
Starting with no familiarity with the game, Saarya ended up with a strong sectioning off position on three corners/sides. Yitzchak abandoned two of his camels, allowing him to score big in two colors, while I had the ridge area and one color. I also managed to hit all the oases once. Then we remembered you could hit them once for each color, but the game ended before I could get in one more.
This was Yitzchak’s evening, as I introduced him and Alan and Nadine to Amun Re, since all of the spanking new games were made for 4 players.
I had run after run of phenomenally bad luck with the cards, drawing nothing but bidding cards and duplicates of useless scoring cards for my first several cards, after which I couldn’t afford anything anymore. I capped it by drawing 3 cards in the last round, all the same (meaning that I could only play one) and playing a scoring card which didn’t mean what I thought it did (I thought it meant all one side of the Nile, but it meant all next to or away from the Nile).
I still managed third by a squeak; mostly because I fully understood the scoring mechanisms better than the others, so they didn’t fight me for most pyramids on one side of the Nile (they also ended up with some useless cards, not realizing fully that they couldn’t play duplicates). Nadine finished the first half with only one point. Yitzchak fought me for most pyramids in the second half, but I made it more worth his while to complete his sets, which he did. Alan fought bravely, but was also outdone by Yitzchak in a crucial brick battle.
And now we say goodbye to Alan for a year. Good luck in your travels, and come back safe and sound. See the rest of you next week
Jun 23, 2004
Roy brought over Wallenstein, a Eurogame of resource allocation, territory control, development and direct conflict. The theme is the 30 year war over a map of Germany divided into 5 sections of provinces. My review on BGG:
I don’t generally like wargames AT ALL, and I despise dice based combat. This is still a very good game, blending Eurogaming concepts: event cards, resource allocation, actions, etc… with light conflicts. It is only 6 turns long, and you can only initiate 2 conflicts per turn, which means that a lot of it is about the other stuff.
The drawbacks: if you fall behind, you are likely to stay behind, one of the insufferable problems in many wargames. Wallenstein plays quickly, however, so you don’t have to suffer much.
The other is the random factor involved in conflict – not dice, but a cute little tower that you throw your armies into, some of which fall out again. Not my thing, but the best I’ve seen in non-deterministic conflict, so far. It is at least quick (not a long series of rolls) – but still feels unfair and silly when the outcome is grossly skewed in one direction. That’s wargames for you, take it or leave it.
You get 10 set actions each round, which you allocate to 10 different provinces you control, so you can either build armies here and attack from there, or the reverse, but you can’t build armies and attack from one area, etc… You can do much less than you want to, which is a minor headache, but this only becomes a huge headache when you really HAVE to do more than you are allowed.
The first half was fairly uneventful. Saarya started off all in the south, while I was spread over the board, and Yitzchak was primarily to the north. Yitzchak ended up ahead at the first half: Yitzchak 24, Jon 15, Saarya 14, Roy 10.
Then Roy and I made a non-aggression pact at one area of the board so we could concentrate on taking down Saarya and Yitzchak, who made their own pact in another area.
By the end of the fifth round, I was telling Saarya that he should break the pact with Yitzchak or he would just waltz to victory … (The following is my whining and excuses, so pay no heed) … by which I did not mean to violate the pact immediately, but to inform Yitzchak that the pact would no longer apply to future battles.
At the end of the sixth round, I left myself completely open near Roy, trying to take out Saarya and Yitzchak, when Roy unilaterally wiped out my half of the board in violation of our pact, to which I got slightly incensed in the real world; my understanding being that the formation of a pact is only breakable if a) given warning that the pact is over on the next turn or at least b) that it was implied that pacts are breakable at will and unenforcable. I guess I felt like I was playing a game where the actual rule of the game was unknown to me. If I came into the game knowing that pacts are unenforcable, I would at least have played with the possibility in mind, My position near Roy was deliberately left open.
I know everyone else out there is laughing at me, but the truth is, I wouldn’t have minded at all if I at least understood that violating a pact is legitimate. I didn’t really whine that much (I couldn’t, after berating Ben for whining a few weeks ago); I leave it up to Roy and Yitzchak to confirm or deny my words. Next time I’ll get a firm understanding before the game begins!
(Addendum: to be fair, there was also no implication made that pacts DID have to be stuck to; it was simply my concept of gaming. Roy and Yitzchak certainly have different assumptions, being veteran wargamers, so Roy did not know that my assumptions were what they were.
Another addendum: Another controvertial issue from last week, is when Alan used an opportunity at the end of a game to attack Yitzchak, doing himself no good, but simply because Yitzchak attacked him earlier. This is a longstanding unresolved issue in gaming: if you can’t win with your last move, what is the “right” or “fair” play? If Alan was doing it because he was roleplaying, that seems fair and natural. If he was doing it because he was maximimzing his position relative to the leader, that also seems “right” somehow. If he was doing it as a meta-game issue to try to discourage Yitzhak from attacking him in future games, that seems “wrong” somehow. But it is hard to pin down.)
Anyway, Saarya, having been left alone by Roy, jumped ahead, but not quite enough to catch up to Yitzchak, who ended with a peaceful victory. Roy’s decimation of my position reversed out final standings, bringing him into third place.
While we were halfway through, Yedidya showed up, a wholly new attendee (and very quiet person) who is a friend of Sharon’s. Yedidya has no Eurogaming experience. He watched us play Wallenstein for a few minutes and then I gave him the rules to Settlers of Catan and Evo to look at. By the time that Sharon came, I suggested that they start with Carcassonne: (Hunters and Gatherers), which they took out. Then they decided to play chess, which they took out. Then Rachel came up and decided that they would play Puerto Rico, which I suggested was a bad idea for first Eurogame, but they went ahead anyway.
I don’t know much about what went on, except that Rachel and Sharon did a lot of advice giving, and that Rachel once again went for University (priced 7, comes with a colonist).
Roy saw all the new games on our shelves, including Amun Re, Evo and Taj Mahal, but we only had enough time left for a quick game, so we introduced him to Lo Ra (Nadine’s Temple-themed version of Ra). Roy had a quick, small lead at the end of the first round, but Yitzchak managed to collect a fistload of tribes (monuments), giving him a 28 point bonus, plus several other bonuses in the last round to pull way ahead. My 10 menorahs/oils (Niles/floods) weren’t near enough.
- Alan should be back with the new games. If you were planning to contribute, please bring some cash to pay back David Klein.
- And bye bye Sharon, who is leaving for the summer; we’ll miss you!
Jun 16, 2004
I was eager to play Taj Mahal again, so I set it up before everyone else came and dragged them in. It is one of those simple and pure games, a little abstract, and deliciously painful. We have to learn the strategies still – when to battle, when to build up. The most difficult part is that the winner of one round is usually in the worst position for the next round. And we also learned that the commodities are key, providing cascading points as the game progresses. Linking castles doesn’t seem to be much of a strategy; it’s usually too hard to link more than 1 or 2, and you are better off denying someone else the bonus for the same price.
Nadine got ahead in commodities, after saving up a large hand, and had enough to keep ahead the last two rounds. I got Orange a number of times (play an out of color card), but could never effectively use it. I also got into a large battle with Alan midway which drained my hand, from which I never really recovered.
When you are starting player, you should use the opportunity to withdraw first in order to get the bonus (if it is a commodity) and increase your cards.
Once again, Lo Ra is Ra, only rethemed with Jewish biblical elements (designed by Nadine). Otherwise, it is almost the same gameplay. This was the first game of it that I played that was not light and quick, with a lot of considering before each move that made the game plod a bit. The second era was really quick, though, ending before any of us had bid more than once. Saarya maintained a good lead with Baskets and Tribes, and thus kept ahead through the second and third round.
Yitzchak had a coffee monopoly throughout the game, and got a coffee ship and Harbor to ice a victory. Ben had the Tobacco monopoly and an early Factory, but made some mistake at the very end (not buying the right building?) that cost him 12 points, or so he told me. Rachel had only corn, indigo and sugar, but a large market. She also bought University again (priced at 7 and comes with a colonist), but while a good building, it is still not worth getting over a large building, which is what she says she should have bought. Alan bought too many low cost purple buildings before producing anything.
SETTLERS OF CATAN
We finished Lo Ra before they finished Puerto Rico, so we finished up with a quick game of Settlers, which Sharon wanted to play again before giving a copy to her nieces and nephews. It is a very serene game, following raucus games like Taj Mahal and Puerto Rico; Nadine was bored actually. I had a quick nice lead, but Nadine was able to exploit good trade relations with Sharon and two initial settlements that were close together to get a quick Longest Road for 10 points. Sharon’s early development cards were both victory points, which were useless in actually helping her develop.
In other news:
- Our game order should have gone out, or be going out momentarily. Thank you to everyone who committed to contributing.
- Several people are going away here and there, Sharon and Alan. We’ll miss you, have good vacations and come back soon.
- We are hoping to plan a large game day in Hol Hamoed sukkot. Suggestions for the date are welcome. Sunday, October 3, looks good. Sokay with everyone? Only problem with having a game day on sukkot is finding a large enough sukkah for eating.
- Roy will be bringing Wallenstein next week. See you then.
Jun 09, 2004
Well, one of the highlights of this evening was several games that we have never played before, including our first plays of Amun-Re and Taj Mahal, and our second plays of Ra. Except that we didn’t have Ra, so we played a beautifully crafted simulation of the game created and rethemed by Nadine. The new game uses Jewish temple elements for all the sets, such as 12 tribes, animals, menorahs and oil, etc… For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call the game “Lo Ra”, which in Hebrew means either “not ‘Ra'” or “not bad”. 🙂
The other highlight, or lowlight, was my yelling at Ben (my brother, so it’s ok) when he complained for ther umpteenth time that I didn’t tell him the rules properly and this caused him to make a mistake, on our first playing of the game. The mistake didn’t change the ultimate scoring order. I believe that the first plays of games are reserved for learning the rules, not for winning. Winning the first few games is always luck anyway, because none of us knows what we’re doing. Still, I must be calm and not yell … I will put all my frustration in a bubble and *poof* blow it away. La la la …
We were planning on buying Amun-Re, so it was great for Yaron to drop it off last week for us to give it a go (and turns out he says we can just buy his copy).
Amun-Re is unusual, in that, unlike other games, investing heavily in income sources doesn’t work as well as usual, since they are all destroyed after 3 rounds. Nevertheless, I got a huge windfall at the end of the third round. Farming was working out very productive, and we reached level 4 at the end of the third round. David K ended the fist half with 19, Ben at 18, me at 13 with the most money, and Saarya at 6.
I had two cards that gave me bonuses for having all my areas next to the Nile, so I tried for that in the second age, the first province without much trouble, but the second one I had to pay every single GP to get it, effectively killing me. The third round, only one area was available next to the river and I didn’t have enough to bid for it. Meanwhile, Saarya and David both had double sets of pyramids.
Interesting game, and enjoyable. Decisions like many of the other great games, such as Puerto Rico and Prince of Florence. Only … somehow, a little bit less than them, because you’re not handling very many resources (money and position, basically), and your game is driven by the luck of the cards you draw, to some extent.
David K loved the auction mechanism, I wasn’t so thrilled with it. I would certainly play it again.
This was Yitzchak’s and Alan’s first games, and I guess technically Nadine’s first game of Lo Ra, although she played Ra last time.
Very close game, as you can see.
Another close game. More info would be welcome.
Another in the Alea series, this one is an awesomely good game at first playing. Ra, which we played for the first time last week, gave us our fist taste of an amazing light game (as compared to Carcassonne, which is just a very good light game). Taj Mahal is even better, being a more meaty game that feels like a light game.
Each round is agonzing, yet fairly simple like Ra, but the whole game begins to develope as provinces become connected and stockades begin accumulating. Unfortunately, Nadine and Ben both became very tired by the time we got to area 8 out of 12, so the game ended unfinished.
What a shame this is out of print, because it would definitely be on my buy list!
See you next week.
Jun 02, 2004
We welcomed back Yaron, who came from Haifa (he was in Tel Aviv, so he popped by), bringing lots of games with him which we always wanted to play. Yaron is part of an unofficial gaming group in the Tel Aviv area. If they ever get themselves a name, I won’t be able to call myself the only Eurogaming club in the Middle East.
Yaron brought Evo, Ra, Amun-Re, Taj Mahal, and a homemade copy of Modern Art.
Ben, Yitzchak and Nadine came earlier, and I started them up while we were waiting for Yaron with a brainstorm of mine from the previous evening called Medici Poker. MP is a simulation of Medici using a 5 suited deck, 5 suits letters A through E and 16 cards in each suit. Each player gets eleven cards, 1-10 and 16, in one suit to use for bidding. The 11-15’s of all the suits are mixed together as the auction items.
The active player flips over 1, 2 or 3 cards (his choice, flipping over 1 at a time until he decides to stop) and the LHO starts the bidding which continues around until all players pass. The winning bidder uses any combination of his cards to pay for it and gets the cards. Each player can only win 5 cards total, and can’t bid on a set that would put him over. When all but one player has 5 cards, the last player takes cards off the top to fill up to five, and you score.
- 3 of a kind (letters or cards)
- 4 of a kind
- 5 of a king
- Full house
- 4 card straight
- 5 card straight
- Highest value cards
- Lowest value cards
- Most value in your own suit over all previous rounds
Continue for three rounds. Highest score at the end wins. We only tried one round, and I think the points assigned were not correct based on the odds of getting each item. In any case Yaron showed up, so we ended in favor of including him.
PUERTO RICO with expansions
Yaron had never tried my expansions, and I wanted to encourage him to bring them back to his gaming group, so I pulled out a set for him to try. Yaron was shut out of early trading twice, but managed to build up again nicely. Rachel had a coffee monopoly and a small fashion district (sell indigo for +2) so did best on trades, and then she got harbor and racked up 20 shipping points in the last two rounds, easily more than either of us. Yaron had two big buildings, both of which gave him a total of 1 bonus point.
I didn’t get to play this, and I heard that it was ok but not great. For those that don’t know, you’re playing on an unchanging Settlers of Catan board, moving your dinosaur herds around to different areas as the climate changes, and trying to buy evolutionary advantages, such as more feet or horns.
We finished PR+ before they finished Evo, and we still had time for a complete game of Ra, including explaining the rules to me and Sharon. Ra is an auction game where each person has 4 bidding tokens, and tiles keep being flipped up until someone calls “auction” at which point someone has to take the set (with occasional exceptions to this rule). Each person either bids or passes, and that’s it. There are numerous different types of tiles, each with their own unique rule about how they give or take away points and occasional bad tiles that destroy some of your tiles if you have any to destroy.
The range of what you can do actionwise is VERY small, which makes the game quick and light, but the numerous types of sets you can acquire is sufficiently complicated, making this a unique game of strategy, a little luck, yet quick. I rarely like lighter games (Carcassonne I like) but this is an excellent game.
Notes: I quickly dropped out of the Pharoh race, earning myself -2 each round. I was doing pretty well anyway, but I let Yaron get a complete set of monuments with many duplicates which let him shoot to a final victory. One thing Sharon and I kept forgetting about was that the winner of the auction also gets the previous winner’s bid tile for use next round (or for scoring in the last round).
Sharon and I started up another game with Nadine, quickly explaining the rules. Nadine shared our opinion of the game. In this game, I went into the third round with 1 point while Nadine had about 20 and Sharon close behind. Again I ignored the Pharohs, but this time I got the monuments.
On the very last move of the game, with only myself able to bid, there were two more monuments out there and the 12 bidding token. I could have just taken them, but I decided to be greedy and flip one more tile, which unfortunately ended the game. If I had acuired them, I would have had 10 more points, and Sharon 5 less, which would have given me the game. Argh!
Meanwhile, since Yaron’s game group doesn’t play PR that often, he decided to get in another game. Ben as usual whined the whole game that he was behind, and then went on to win with three large buildings. I can’t remember when he has lost a PR game, and he never plays “correctly”, either. One day I am going to have to give him a huge beatdown.
Unfortunately, Yaron had to take Ra back with him, but he left the other games, which is great, so we can try them out before we make our game upcoming purchase. See you next week and with new games to play!
May 27, 2004
Alan came because it was a special Thursday game, but says he can come on future Wed’s for the next few weeks. He showed up a bit early, so we played Blokus 2 player, his first time. He caught on quickly, but I was able to leave myself some late wiggle room, ending with only 3 pieces total from both colors, while he had 3 or 4 pieces each. Yay me.
I gained 4 corn plantations and a coffee plantation in the first few rounds, leading me to get coffee and wharf and harbor (right before getting indigo going). Having a coffee monopoly also helped. Rachel was before me, with tobacco, sugar and small warehouse, which, while nice, is still not nearly as nice as wharf. She also bought University (cost: 7, comes with a colonist), which she used to good effect, planning her plantations and then buying the manned production, or buying Sm Warehouse when she was already stocked with goods. University works well with these modifications, and is worth buying in some positions.
Alan had serious cash problems for most of the game, despite three quarries. Nadine had sugar, large market, guild hall, harbor and small warehouse. I ended up tying my record of 45 shipping points and custom’s house, winning with 72 VPs to Nadine’s second place of 49. Yay me.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
Yacov showed up, and Sharon was on her way, so we played a filler of D&G. Yacov has a history of success with this game, and continued his success, beating Alan by some 52 to 47 (give or take a point or two). Nadine and I were far behind. Yay Yacov.
Having played enough PoF and PR over the past few weeks, and not enough EG, we decided to give it a go. I thought we might like to play a shorter version, 6 rounds, scoring after rounds 3, 5 and 6, but the rest of the group was up for the full game. It was Alan’s first game, but as a seasoned Diplomacy and war gamer, he had little trouble picking it up.
Nadine is the one with the history of winning this game, and she did come close; Sharon was also close, with two high scoring regions. Nevertheless, I was a few points ahead after the first scoring round, having gotten 10 points on the first round by scoring all the 4 mark regions. The board started to fill up, with me in control of basically the 4 regions, which I again scored in round 6 for 14 more points, which put me about 10 points ahead.
The game’s flavour was “empty courts”, as at least 3 of the cards sent all the caballeros from the courts back to the provinces. Another interesting feature is that the king card was not picked first (or even second or third) in the scoring rounds, which is very strange. Despite some late attempts to gang up on my positions toward the end, I went last in the last round, moving around pieces to hurt second and third place, and ended the game with a score of 100 to Nadine in second place at 97, and the others close behind.
Next week Wed evening. See you there!
May 19, 2004
As Sharon put it: a hopping game night.
Magic: the Gathering
David K came early to play some hands of Magic, and, as usual, walked over me, although the games were closer than they usually are. I even won a game. We play Rochester Draft. The first set of decks had very few large creatures. I played a BUW weenie deck with 22 creatures (5 clerics), but it wasn’t enough, as he almost as many creatures and bigger ones. The second game with those decks, if I actually could have gotten my Island Sanctuary out on time, I actually would have won by decking him! But I was mana screwed and mana shy.
The second game I actually won one. We had slower decks, but I had some game shorteners, like Hurricane and Barbed Wire. My first try was close, I played BW with splash R – more mana problems. My second try was better, since my R really wasn’t so good, I splashed U for two flying enchantments, and some fatty flew over and hit him. The third one I don’t remember, except I lost soundly. Oh well.
Purto Rico + expansions
We played with several buildings from the expansions. I tried ”Assembly Line” (each production building can hold an additional colonist) which my wife has used to beat me a few times, but I couldn’t get it going. I had a good start, producing Indigo, Sugar and Coffee fairly early. I still don’t know where I went wrong. I ended up shipping 10 more points then him, but he ended up with 3 large buildings to my 1, and a few better buildings besides.
Railroads of Catan
RR of Catan, my rail game for playing on a Settlers board, is a 4 player game exactly, so Nadine and Saarya doubled up until others arrived, after which she left to play PR with them. I went over the rules again (now in their third iteration), and as often happens, we made a few on the spot adjustments and noted some changes that needed to be made. Nevertheless, the game is now much smoother and much better.
The new rules make the money situation much tighter; David K missed out on this and overbought, leaving him in such a difficult position that he didn’t feel he could get out of it (which led to him resigning the game, and us stopping when Sharon came, on the third turn). The same thing can happen in Acquire, so I’m not sure it is a huge design flaw, but it will need more playtesting. It is crucial to be able to get one of your delivery orders complete in the first or second turn.
There was a lot of calculations going on, which introduced some downtime. It is partly due to the fee structure, and perhaps simplifying it would speed up the game (or, it could be just the nature of train games to be like that). Also, Yitzchak complained that the whole game comes down to getting good delivery orders. It seemed that way a bit, but as the third turn rolled on, I was more certain that this was not true, as there were many key strategic and tactical decisions that needed making, regardless of the DO’s. I think that unless the DO’s REALLY suck, everyone should be able to compete. I could fix this a bit, by eliminating the worst paying of the DO’s, and/or by adding some other factor, such as choosing among two or three, or offering all DO’s for auction, instead of drawing them randomly.
All in all, it went well. Yitzchak and I were both getting some good DO’s in, and we were pretty neck and neck, while David and Saarya hadn’t gotten any in yet, but were poised to do so by next round. It took about 2.5 hours for the explanations and the first three rounds. Still a bit too long; but we are a slow group.
Nadine explained the rules to Dylan, a guest of Genya’s (a guest of Ben’s). I wasn’t watching, but somehow Ben ended up with Factory, Harbor AND Wharf, and Nadine with Harbor and Wharf, so the two of them getting first and second place is not much of a surprise; if anything it is how close third place is.
Princes of Florence
David K coaxed us into a PoF game. It is best with 5, so it didn’t take much coaxing. We play with randomly discarding one Profession card before starting, which eliminates the huge advantage to 2nd player (and adds some mystery to the game).
The profession cards were gone in first round, of course, which boosted the value of the Recruiters, which were going for up to 1000, with the Jesters between 1100 and 1200 each until the last round. Even the landscapes were being bid up. A tight and vicious auctioning kept the game scores low. I wasn’t able to get more than one Jester, and no Recruiters, but I got an early Builder and 3 Prestige cards which I sweated to make work. Yitzchak and David K both ended the last round with two works, each with one at 29 WV, but Yitzchak’s were just slightly better, and he had gotten just a few more points along the way, so he took second.
A good game night. See you next week.
May 12, 2004
Yitzchak returned from an extended vacation. Since it was he, Roy, myself and Saarya, we decided to play Samurai Swords (formerly known as Shogun, from Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster series, who brought you Axis and Allies). Swords is not a good game for our group, generally, for two reasons: 1) It is a direct conflict game, which we tend to avoid, and 2) its primary mechanism of determining success is a dicefest, like Risk, etc…
Nevertheless, Yitzchak and Roy are both into these sorts of games, and Saarya, after his first play, also seems to like them. We tried to mitigate the second problem by reducing some dice rolls to their average outcomes (2 armies that kill on a 1 in 2 chance will always register 1 kill, no rolling). On the one hand, this did turn it more into a leaner, more strategic game. On the other hand, it was a little less thrilling, as the outcomes were more deterministic. an’t have it both ways, I guess.
We only got to play 1 round, which took about 2 hours, including the rules explanation. I’m happy it was over, since, due to my unfamiliarity with the consequences of certain actions, I left myself with all my soldiers in my armies, and therefore limited amount of attacking power in the next turn. Both Roy and Yitzchak were dong well, controlling two central areas of the board, and Saarya was little more spread out. I had one side of the board, but wasn’t doing as well due to the aforesaid misplay of my armies. If I had the final phase of the first round to do over, I would have been in better shape.
Anyway, Sharon saved me by coming in. Roy wanted a quick game before he left, so I introduced them to Blokus, for which Saarya sat out. They very much enjoyed it, it seems. My first piece in the middle was soundly surrounded, leaving me struggling to snake out the sides. It ended up with Sharon and me fighting on one side, and Yitzchak and Roy on the other. Yitzchak managed to get more penetration, so he ended up with only 9 blocks left, the rest of us around 15 or so. Good job.
Roy left, leaving us 4 players. Once again, I wanted to play Railroads, but it was deemed to long, and both Yitzchak and Sharon are still relative newbies to Puerto Rico, so out it came. Yitzchak started with an early corn/coffee combo, and managed to pull 3 quarries later. I had the first Tobacco, and then got an Office to ensure I could trade it, when Saarya picked up Tobacco. Saarya had early sugar. Unfortunately for me, Sharon did an early craft when it was the last phase of the round, 1 empty spot in the Trading house, and 1 GP on the trader, and going into Yitzchak governor with a coffee to trade. Net result: 8 GP for Yitzchak, nothing for the rest of us.
Eventually, Yizchak and I both had Harbor and Wharf, but he had better building because of his 3 quarries. Saarya had Factory going for up to 5 GP (I would have gotten Factory, but we had changed it to cost 8, which made it just out of reach for me at the critical time). Sharon got the second big building, but Yitz ended with 62 points, Saarya 55, me 51, Sharon 48.
See you next week.
May 05, 2004
With only three of us for the first session, I thought a nice quiet game of Puerto Rico might hit the spot. After a little discussion, we played no expansions, but with my minor changes, the most significant one being that Factory and University switch places. As player 2, I was set to get Factory at 7 GP on round 3, but since it cost 8, I took Coffee instead.
I ended up getting Factory later, anyway. Nadine as first player had a strong Tobacco monopoly, while I was in front of Yacov with Coffee. He ended up with a first Harbor, and most shipping points at the end of the game. I made one very important bad move at the end of the game, building when I could have crafted and guaranteed ship, holding Harbor and Wharf, and thereby losing a 9 point advantage.
In the meantime, Nadine had 3 large buildings, including a maxed out Guild Hall, and took the game 53, Yacov 48, me 46. And I thought I was good at this game!
Princes of Florence
We tried to get in a quick game of Settlers, but Roy showed up, followed by Sharon, which was 1 too many for Railroads, too, so we introduced Sharon (and reintroduced Roy) to PoF, seeing as both of them find El Grande dry. Funny, because Nadine and I find PoF dry.
I don’t know; it is tough, and brain burning, but for all that, it just comes down to kicking yourself for not seeing all the factors, and a lot of math. Anyway, Jesters were in high demand, Recruiters should have been (we tossed out one Professional Card at random, so that each player could only buy 1, instead of giving the 2nd player an advantage), but I got 2 Jesters and Recruiters, which, with a lot of conservation and a first round builder gave me a pretty easy victory, melding 41 points in the final two rounds for a final score of 64. Nadine was closest, with 53 (or something like that), 13 of them from Prestige cards. Sharon came in last, but her last play was a 32 point work, using 3 bonus cards (actually, we may have forgotten to give her her final 3 point bonus).
Nadine brought over Fluxx, much to my fear, having heard of its reputation on the Geek. It was kind of cute, like Munchkin. A very silly game, with little strategy and lots of luck, but lots of mental whirling to try and remember all of the rules in play. I can’t see playing it often, but not as bad as I had heard.
For those who don’t know, Fluxx is a card game consisting of cards that, when laid on the table, define the rules of the game, such as how many cards you must draw or play each round, and what the win conditions are. Since everything changes every round, there is little you can hope to do in the planning department, except know all the cards played and guess what will come up next, if you are lucky enough to have what matches it.
Anyway, hope to get to Railroads next time. See you then.
Apr 28, 2004
Magic: the Gathering
David K came early, as usual, and took time out to roll over me in a few hands of Magic. The first few draft was at least somewhat close, him beating me with Blanket of Night (turns all lands into swamps) and swampwalkers. The second one, my draw was so awful, I simply tossed the cards in halfway through the first game. In this one, he has Pestilence, several protection from black creatures and COP: Black. All of my cards were double colored mana.
We then played a 2 player game of PR (with only my tweaks), and I took the opportunity of playing two player to change my strategies, yet again. Let’s see. David ended up with a Factory, Coffee, and Harbor, which was enough 54 points. I had Sugar, Indigo and Corn, and an early Large Market, which was ok, but not enough; I got to 49 points.
Puerto Rico w/expansions
- Convenience Store 2 1 Sell twice to trading house (no additional bonuses, all trades legal)
- Civil Office 2 1 Pick a phase when you buy it, get double privilige when taking that phase
- Trade Annex 3 1 Sell into full traing house (trades must still be legal)
- Commons 4 2 If Settler Phase taken, get additional colonist on San Juan, and move all colonists at end of round
- Inheritence 5 2 Get manned plantation when buying Production building
- Discretionary Hold 6 2 Ship into the Hold of any full ship at the end of the Captain phase, AND store up to 3 barrels of any type
- Specialty Factory 7 3 Get GP = one type good you produce (boosted from official expansion)
- Goldmine 8 3 Gets gold, with 2 colonists and 2 goldmine plantations, gold sells for 6, ships for 3 VP into the Hold (which blocks Discretionary Hold from doing so) [See my Expansion sets for more info]
- Moneychangers 8 3 Get VP whenever you get money from a building, or a trade facilitated by a building
- Private Boat 9 3 A wharf to ship any four barrels
- Beureucracy 10 7 At the end of a turn, build or trade if you haven’t done so this turn [In the second game, we used Residence]
- Historical Society 10 4 4/5/6/7 VP for 1-8/9/10/11-12 buildings
- Emergency Measures 10 7 Gets 4 counters, loses one per round, and game ends when all counters gone
- Travel Agency 10 5 +1 VP/type of square on plantation area
- Fairgounds 10 4 +1 VP/empty circle on your board (city and plantations)
In the 2 player game, I started off very strong, using Civil Office (Builder) and building very strong. Somewhere around turn 8 I stalled, trying to get a Goldmine going. David managed to get a good Discretionary Hold running, and managed to beat me by some huge margin. Notes: Civil Office is greater when there are less players, of course, just like Library. Aqueduct and Specialty Factory are practically broken (less so in multiplayer), and almost made me unchange SF back to N-1 goods, but not quite. Goldsmiths must be bought early to be of any use. Private Boat is good, probably better than Wharf. All those trading houses look tempting, especially in 2 player.
In the multiplayer game, I got my Goldsmiths early, and it was much more beneficial, giving me several trades and some good shipping too, on my Private Boat. This time I took Civil Office (Craftsman), while David K took Civil Office (Prospector) (which might have been more powerful in 5 player). All around, we were pretty balanced, except for Rachel’s board, because she didn’t fully understand my explanations of the buildings (happens when I introduce new buildings). I ended up winning 58 – 56 – 55. Notes: Trade Annex is good in 5 player, Convenience Store not so, and the reverse in 3 player. 4 player ??? we couldn’t figure out which was good. Civil Office is much tougher in 4 player, and as a twist causes your opponents to want to pick “your phase” to prevent you from getting it. As David found out to his chagrin, don’t be holding a Discretionary Hold if your RHO has one (although, he still used it to save goods and ship them the next round).
The set was a good set, balanced for shipping and building. I had to tweak Inheritence (still wasn’t bought), and neither was Emergency Measures or Moneychangers (not much use for it in this set of buildings)
Settlers of Catan
While we were playing this, Nadine, Sharon and Yacov held a Settlers of Catan game, wherein Yacov and Nadine raced to 9 points, and while Sharon had 5, they still kept hitting her with the robber, or so Sharon reports. Yacov edged out a victory.
Last of all, despite my wanting to play Railroads of Catan, we had 5 players left (me, David, Avraham, Nadine, Sharon), not enough for 2 games, and too many for RoC. So we introduced Avraham to El Grande, trying for a 6 round game. Unfortunately, it was already late by the end of the 4th round, with David about 2-3 points ahead, and all of us close behind. I was all setup, guaranteed to play my 1 / 13 power cards in the next two rounds, so I was hopeful, but it was anyone’s game.
Still, an enjoyable evening, and hope to see you all soon. We are going to make a game order soon, and many members of the group have volunteered to buy a game just to loan it to the goup, which is super. Thanks!
Apr 21, 2004
Princes of Florence
Eager to try PoF again, I brought it out for the first game. I have the feeling that I will continue to want to play PoF until it is “solved”. After all, there are only 21 actions for each player duing the game, plus 1 decision per work played. It can’t hold out forever. Also, the game seems to revolve around what you miscalculated, and by the end, I always feel like an idiot.
This was Yacov’s first time. Despite a good opening two Jesters in the first few rounds, I wasn’t able to pull in enough profession cards . 2nd and 3d seat, Yacov and Saarya, bought two, Nadine and I bought 1, and we were playing without the University. I think that this is a mistake. With university, everyone would have been able to buy 2, and to prevent Saarya from purchasing 3, we can simply limit each player to 2. I think there should be the same number available for each player, if possible.
Nadine ended up with 3 recruting cards, 1 more than she needed, as she had no Jesters and cuoldn’t play her last work. Saarya timed everything very well, and played 5 18-point works in the last three rounds for 45 points, ending up the winner.
Sharon showed up just in time, and after some discussion, and lamenting that I was selling Bang! along with Settlers of Catan card game and Bohnanza, we ended up playing Acquire. Again, this ws Yacov’s first time. 5 player Acquire was very nice last time. This time I had my head handed to me on a platter, as Saarya ended up with all of the merging tiles, and before it could come around to me, Sharon kept starting all the new companies again (4 times, at least). Sharon won, $45k to second place of $33k .
Acquire felt more “lucky” this time. The unknown elements are who gets the critical tiles (the concept of critical tiles this time was very pronounced), and how much each player bought. I would be happy to see an expansion to the game, where players earn bonus points for controlling certain hotel chains, have special priviliges (not as radical as the AH suggested ones, perhaps), can trade in stocks, have other ways to earn money, etc….
Apr 15, 2004
This evening was punctuated with a few frustratingly long and distracting phone calls. Ugh.
Settlers of Catan
Anyway, we had an unusual Thursday night game which allowed Alan to participate. We started him off easy with a game of Settlers. There were five of us, but I had to have one of those phone calls, so Alan, Saarya, Rachel (BF) and Ben began, until Saarya had to leave for karate. When I joined them, Ben was in the lead, although limited in expansion space. I quickly made a number of good trades, catching up, until it was anyone’s game. Once I got 8 points however, I was in a position to buy myself into largest army without much trouble, although Ben was one soldier behind me.
David & Goliath
We fooled around a little, and I played some David and Goliath with Ben, Yacov and Alan, while we waited for Nadine to show up and Saarya to get back. (We also ended the evening with a hand of D&G) Yacov won all these games.
Yacov was not happy when we moved the game along a bit by having Saarya ally on offense during the first round while he was showering (even though that is what he said he would have done), and that he ended up with Antimatter, which he didn’t think was as strong as our powers – Oracle, Fungus, and Industrialist. We actually had second powers as well, Chosen, Trader, Delegator and Chronos respectively. Once again the reverse cone robbed me of a game, where Ben and I would have gone for a joint win, instead Ben and Saarya did a joint compromise (with a little verbal prompting as to his best strategy) for 5 bases each.
Side note: during the week, we tried a Cities and Knights game, and boy have we outgrown it. When the dice go your way, you’re winning, when they are going his way, oh look, he’s winning. There is a certain loss of innocence to discovering this about a game you had loved for so long, and a certain amount of trepidation, as well; what about all the new games people love now that are only a few years old? Will they suffer the same fate?
See you next Wednesday.
Apr 07, 2004
Participants: Jon, Ben, Saarya, David B, David K, Pini, Sharon, Nadine, Yael, Tal
First day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, a good day for games. The JSGC held an all day gaming event. The first part of the day we decided to go to my brother, who is rarely able to get to us. Ben, Saarya and I headed out to him in a cab, while David K was to meet us there. The intention was to hold a Magic: the Gathering tournament. I had prepared 8 sealed decks before hand (random from my batch of cards) for Ben, David B, David K and myself to play, while Saarya, who doesn’t know Magic too well, would play a game with Pini.
Princes of Florence
Unfortunately, when we got there, David B forgot that we had set our clocks forward the night before, so we were kicked out to wait in the stairwell for another hour. David K, Ben, Saarya and I played a game of Princes of Florence on the staircase (ouch). It was Ben’s first game, but an easy game to pick up on.
Side note: Princes of Florence took me a long time to get into, primarily because I was playing it 3 and 4 player, and none of us bid very much. It took two changes to make the game into a real winner. 1) Players have to get used to what is important enough to bid up, namely Jesters and Recruiting cards (see change 2). 2) The resources have to be restricted in a 3 or 4 player game. I can’t say that strongly enough. The changes you need to make are:
- 4 player: remove University and cards associated with it. 3 buildings and 3 freedoms of each type. You may even want to lessen the availablity of certain buildings.
- 3 player: remove University, Theater and Chapel and cards associated with them. 2 buildings and 2 freedoms of each type. 5 jesters.
You may also want to remove certain Bonus and Prestige cards associated with Large and Small buildings. Saarya adds: it is a problem that 2nd and 3rd players end up with more Profession cards, and one should either make it such that the number of cards equals a multiple of the number of players, or that player’s initial seating is determined by auction (PP’s or money).
Continue: Competition now became fierce for both Jesters and Recruiting cards, as the profession cards were gone by turn 2. Ben played a successful building strategy, but, in my opinion, didn’t start building early enough (first game, after all), and David K swooped to a massive triumph with about 40 points worth of works in the last two rounds to add to 15 points worth of Prestige cards. I was off by a WV point here and there, so I couldn’t quite match it. By the time we finished, David B was ready to receive us.
Magic: the Gathering tournament
We were very late, however, and both David B and Ben are very slow deck builders. David K and I played out 3 games by the time they were in the middle of their first. My deck was Red and Black big guys, with creature control (no direct damage, however) and Blue flying cards. David K’s was probably slightly weaker than mine (Blue Black), but I still usually lose to him, and I did this time – 2 out of 3, although the last game was close.
David B was playing Red White, and Ben was playing Blue Green, and it appears that Ben managed to eke out a victory, despite some early mana screws. David K then played Ben while I played David B. I summarily handed David B his head, and he complained that his deck was just no match. Since I am a quicker builder, I gave him my deck to play with, and I quickly opened another set and built a deck, which lost to my previous one, as my creatures were poorer and I had less control cards (Black Blue with massive amount of flyers).
In the meantime, Saarya taught Pini 2 player El Grande. Saarya (my 12 year old son) is sort of a master at 2 player El Grande, using his power cards to operate his two teams in successive strokes perfectly, and he is less merciful than I am when I teach new players, so I believe it was something of a slaughter against Pini (David B’s 15? year old son). David B has put in an order for Tigris and Euphrates and El Grande, so Pini is now prepared for at least one of them.
In any case, we were behind schedule, and had to return to my house for the second game, where Nadine and Sharon were waiting for us.
Puerto Rico + expansions
We were going to have a Die Macher game at this point, and Puerto Rico + expansions later in the evening, but Ben said he could only stay for a while, and we had 6 people, and then 7 when Yael (Ben’s wife) agree to try Settlers of Catan (first time). So Yael, Sharon and Ben tried a Settlers game. Unfortunately, Yael’s children returned at this point, so she only got about halfway through, and Tal (my daughter) tried to take over, but then Ben also had to attend to his kids, so I believe the game remained unfinished.
During this time we played our game of Puerto Rico + expansions. Here were the available violet buildings:
- 1/1 Small Market
- 2/1 Investment Club – This was the broken building in the set. As written, it gave 1 GP per round, and 1 GP extra for each 5 GP on it each round, until you used any of the GP, at which point it was removed from the game. The problem was with the extra GP per 5 GP on it, which quickly grows to 60 GP by the end of 15 rounds. Combined with one of the big buildings which lets you swap excess GP’s for VP’s, it would have been a disaster. The building is now changed to give 1 GP/round, period. Still a very nice building, arguably better than Small Market, but not a killer. [Why is it sometimes so hard to see broken buildings until the first second one starts playing with them? Corollary: some buildings seem broken until one starts playing with them, when you realize they aren’t.]
- 2/1 Covenience Store – trade a second time (without bonuses). A nice building in 3 player, with limited usage in 4 or 5 player.
- 3/1 Small Distillery – +2 GP when trading sugar. Not as nice as the 2 cost equivalent for indigo, but still useful at certain times.
- 4/2 Tobacco Commision – +1 GP/tobacco produced -1 . A specialty factory for tobacco, also of limited usage, but worked well for David K who had all 5 goods an this, and was getting 7 GP for crafting.
- 5/2 Large Market
- 5/2 Exchange House – trade goods with Trading House at the end of Trader. useful for retrading expensive goods, or for getting an extra barrel to ship.
- 6/2 Discretionary Hold – Place barrels into “The Hold” of any full ship, and store up to 3 barrels. The ONLY shipping related building this game. “The Hold” on each ship can contain one item, and several of my buildings relate to it.
- 7/3 University – cheaper, and comes with a colonist on it.
- 8/3 Governor’s Mansion (2 circles) – 1 GP/colonist whenever anyone else takes Governor. Feels like cheating, but not acually unbalanced.
- 8/3 Factory – made more expensive
- 9/3 Construction Crew – Buy a second building (all bonuses apply).
- 10/4 Reserves – +2 VP/type of good on your board
- 10/4 Good Works – Swap excess VP’s for GP’s or vice versa (e.g. if you have more GP’s than VP’s, you can swap the excess GP’s for VP’s, or vice versa). This is abused with the original version of Investment Club. It was bought by Saarya to prevent one of the Investment Club owners from using it.
- 10/5 Travel Agency – +1 VP/plantation type in your plantation area (including quarries, etc…)
- 10/4 Cathedral – +2 VP/column that you have at least 2 buildings from
- 10/6 Transport System – You may move colonists at the beginning of each phase.
All in all, the buildings were excessively building oriented. Tons of money makers, and a few abusive buildings (now corrected). Because of this, or despite this, I decided, after Investment Club, to concentrate on shipping, since I figured I wouldn’t have much competition, and I was right, having the best shipping production, and forcing craft and captain whenever I could. I was behind in money (again, not including the investment club, which I cashed in at 14 GP), but the big buildings were gone by the middle of the game. Still, David K managed to pull ahead and win by a few points. Nadine was close behind.
By this time, it was time to try Die Macher again. This, our second attempt (for me, Saarya, David K, and Nadine, and first attempt for Sharon), went smoother than our first attempt. Still, we forgot the opinion polls the first round, and forgot that we should do them for all the areas during the second round. Others made mistakes based on not knowing the rules properly, as opposed to just tactical mistakes or forgetting a bestter move. The first round took about 2 hours, the second 1 hour. I would have liked to continue; I think the first rounds are very different from subsequent rounds, since people who have blown their resources during the first few rounds are bound to lose some of the later ones, but we chose to stop and try again at a later date, knowing better how to play properly. We all still felt it was a great game.
This left us a little time left, so I taught David K how to play Blokus, as Tal (my 11 year old) and Saarya took up the other colors. Tal won, Saarya in second. Still enjoyable, and looks like it will continue to be so.
All in all, a little frustration, but lots of fun. Next week’s game is moved to Thursday for a little variation. I hope to see you all then!
Mar 31, 2004
Sharon came early for the first session this week, and brought along a new player Hadar, whose gaming experience is in Poker. (Let me just note how incongruous it is to see a tightly head covered young religious woman whose gaming experience in Poker, and who shuffles her feet to Eiffel 52.)
Although I usually start new player on Settlers, there were five of us, so I opted for El Grande, which is simple enough to learn, but a full five player game can be really long, and this one was 3.5 hours. I think that five player games from now on have to be 6 turns only.
In any case, Hadar made a strong first showing, pulling out in front after the first scoring round by a surprise castille holding, and basically taking over the entire south of Spain. Nevertheless, we were all pretty close the whole game, and Nadine won at the end by a few points, which is not much of a surprise, seeing as she has won the last, oh, 546 games of El Grande we played.
Yacov as usual then decided to sit it out, and being too late for a Settlers game, I brought in Blokus. My copy actually belongs to the shul (bought for “game night”), but I borrowed it (heh heh – no really).
Blokus is a simple abstract tile laying game. The board and pieces are very pretty and it is a joy to watch the game develop. You start with 21 pieces; each piece has between 1 and 5 squares, and you have 1 piece of each unique shape. Starting from a corner of a 20×20 board, each piece may only be placed touching the corner of one of your other pieces – it must touch your piece, and it may not touch along any side – corners only.
The basic idea is that you need to worm your way through to as much open space as possible, and your opponenets are trying to block your liberties, which can be non-intuitive, as your liberties are corners of your pieces, not sides. It is quite fun, actually. There is something exciting about placing a little piece in the middle of a buch of other pieces to use a a bridge through their territory, and someting painful to watch what looked like an open side of the board die from a carefully placed opponents piece.
In our first game, Nadine won handily. After that, we all played a little more carefully, but I pulled out a victory with only 9 “blocks” remaining. Hadar had to go, and Yacov was so intrigued by the game, that we played one more game for him to try it out, which he won.
Next week, first day of Chol Hamoed is game day. Further discussion on the mailing list. See you then, and have a Chag Kasher V’sameyach!
Mar 24, 2004
Yitzchak asked well before the game if it is ok to bring over Shogun (now: Samurai Swords), and we all said ok, if he is willing to endure complaints and criticism. So he went through the trouble of lugging it over and we didn’t even get to it. Sorry.
What happened is that while we were waiting for Yitzchak, Roy showed up with Munchkins, a strange card and humorous card game that plays similarly to 3e DnD 🙂 . You deal everybody cards, each player starts default at 1st level, human and classless. Each turn he flips over a card which is either a monster he has to fight, a curse that affects him, or a class or race he can become.
Monsters have a level; you defeat a monster by being higher than his level by adding your own level plus any magic plusses you have from treasure items. If you defeat the monster, you gain a level and the number of treasure items listed. If you don’t, you can try to run away. If the monster catches you, he does the Bad Thing that it says on the card. Each monster has some other special difficulty (e.g. +4 against Wizards) and a cute picture and name.
The whole things is rather ridiculous, and completely unstrategic (which is why I compared it to 3e), but fun. Unfortunately by the time we finished it (I won by a flip of Divine Intervention), it was just a little late to start Shogun; the time remining would have been eaten up just with the rules explanations, we feared.
However, I judged there to be enough time to play a game of Acquire. It was actually one of the most enjoyable games of Acquire I have played. Sharon took over Yacov’s role as 5th player, and 5 was just about right to cause severe pain in the decision making without being extravegantly chaotic. Possibly 4 would work best, but 5 was better than 3, I think, and much better than 6. Also, we all played fairly quickly, and picked up the rules very quickly. The strategy is still beyond me (Yitzchak won, having formed several intial companuies), if indeed there is a real strategy that can be played effecively.
Yitzchak now goes away for a month, but he left Shogun with us, if any are interested in trying it. It is supposed to be best with 4 or 5, and not too good with 2 or 3.
Mar 17, 2004
Magic: the Gathering
As often happens when David K come for game night (every three weeks), he comes early so we can get in a few games of something before the actual game night starts. We usually play Magic, and as often happens he whomps me, despite some strange shared belief that I know what I’m doing. I have always thought David K the best player in our group, and I think he has always thought the same about me, which makes for a nice friendship.
There were six of us, and it probably would have been better to split into 3/3, but I wanted to give Settlers of Catan card game one more go, so while Saarya and I tried that, the above 4 played a long liesurly game of PR. I don’t know exactly what happened, but from where I was sitting, every single turn sounded like this:
OK, my turn. What should I do? Settler looks good. Yes, Settler. Craftsman also looks good. No, he shouldn't take Craftsman, because he has Factory and she has tobacco, and he won't be able to trade. Captain looks good. Or Settler. But if he doesn't take Craftsman, then he will, and then she'll trade anyway, and with a gold piece. He should take Mayor. Mayor looks good. Mayor is sweet. But he should take Captain, so that he won't be able to ship when she takes Craftsman. She won't take Craftsman, she will take Trader. Oh yeah. You should take Settler. Unless he takes Captain. Prospector looks good. Also Settler. Yes, definitely Prospector, Craftsman or Settler. Or Mayor. Mayor looks sweet. Or Captain. Don't take Prospector. What about Builder? Oh yeah, Builder looks sweet. Or Captain. [several minutes later] OK, I think I'll take Settler. Wait, what about [insert role here]? You will be helping her far more than you'll be helping yourself. Blah blah blah .... [several minutes of argments later] Well, I see your reasoning, but I still want to take Settler, and we'll see what happens. You're probably right. OK, on your own head be it. [Settler phase] OK, whose turn is it? My turn. [pause] What should I do?
While I favor giving advice to newcomers until they understand the implications of the role selection, I think we are going to have to play at least some games with no advice allowed, just for a change of pace.
Settlers Of Catan Card Game
This was a rather quicker affair. The game does seem to work marginally better now that I have the rules right, but in a few turns I was already beating Saarya 6 to 3, and it seemed unlikely he was going to catch up. But the main problem is that, like Citadels, it just doesn’t click. Not as engaging as real Settlers, with the trading. Not as interesting as Cities and Knights two players with the competition for board space.
Railroads of catan
I bullied them into trying my Railroads of Catan game, a makeshift simulation of a crayon railroad game with my own rules significantly changed from the originals, and on a Settlers of Catan board. I ironed out a few kinks since the last attempt, but there is still a ways to go. Despite this, it is still very enjoyable, and I will work on fixing it. Again we stopped before completion, with Sharon ahead $10,000 over David at $90,000, and me trailing at about $65,000. Yitzchak left earlier and his holdings were transfered to the bank.
Which left Nadine to play Saarya a two player El Grande game. Nadine has won all of the last several El Grande games, but Saarya managed to best her in a format she was less used to, pulling ahead early and keeping there through the six rounds of play. Saarya said it was something about him always taking the middle two moves, while Nadine went first and last, thus allowing him to double team with two special cards in a row. Something to think about.
Mar 10, 2004
Ben, Nadine and Yacov all arrived at roughly the same time, for once. It certainly helps make scheduling a little easier. Ben also finally brought Cosmic Encounter with him (Mayfair Cosmic + More Cosmic), so we got to introduce both Yacov and Nadine to the joys of breaking all the rules. We don’t play with all the silliness, but we do play with flares, edicts, reinforcements, kickers, and reverse cones.
After tonight’s two Cosmic games, I’m not sure we should play with the reverse cones. The only real net effect is that, in both games, nobody could ally for or against the last challenge, which kind of ruins the point, I think; I miss everyone allying against someone lest he win, or the possibility of going for a joint win. On the opposite end, as we usually do, we started off the new players with single power games, which we will have to complicate next game.
In the first game, Saarya showed up to take last seat after we flipped the destiny pile for Yacov’s first move; Saarya picked up a Parasite and sat down. The game was over before he had a chance to be the offensive player, as during Yacov’s, Nadine’s, mine, and then Bem’s turns, he simply allied … and gained five bases and won. Yacov was Conneisseur, Nadine the Mirror, Ben … I forget, and Saarya the Parasite, and I was the Ameoba. In the second game, Ben got Conneisseur and Saarya got the Parasite again (out of over a hundred powers, sheesh), Nadine the Fungus, Yacov … I forget, and I was the Reincarnator, once Reincarnated into the Pacifist. I almost took the game, but was hit with a Zap trying to Compromise, and Ben got to take his turn with a reverse cone and win the game.
Railroads of Catan
The next game we gamely tried a rail game I created using the Settlers of Catan board. The game was completely unplayed, so the prices were expected to be way off base, and the turn order was unpolished, with a lot of rules forgotten or done out of order. I expected we would go a round or two and then stop, but it was actually interesting enough that we kept going through four rounds when we had to call it quits in any event. Ben won by a nose despite a huge last gain on my last turn of $53,000 netting me a total of $70,200. Ben had $71,000 exactly. Sharon has something like $69,000 and Nadine had some difficulties, including a derailment at a crucial time, putting her at somewhere in the $30,000 range.
There is definitely a lot of potential here, and a lot of polishing work to be done. See you next week.
Mar 03, 2004
We started off with a 5 player game of El Grande, which lasted way too long. Don’t get me wrong; it was fun. It’s just that we are supposed to fit in our time slot of 2-2.5 hours for a game, and this went from 6:30 (a little later) until 10:00. One of the interludes included yelling at the burger place we ordered from who, for the last time, delivered the wrong order, and then was rude to us and hung up three times when we called them to complain.
In any case, the game was close after round 3, and then Nadine pulled ahead from everyone, as usual. Still, not by that much (6-7 points), so one day we hope to catch her. 🙂
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
During this time, Sharon showed up, and Rachel played a game of Carcassonne: H&G with her to keep her occupied, which Sharon won, despite it being her first game (with help from Rachel and then me as the obnoxious kibbitzer). Sharon then practiced playing Set for a while.
Apples to Apples
Being late, we didn’t want to start a full game, so I thought I would just show the group Apples to Apples, not at all a strategic game. It needs the right crowd and the right level of inebriation to really work, but it was a little amusing for newcomers, and YItzchak got a quick win. After that, I also showed them 6 Nimmt, which is also not that strategic, so also not a big win. I can’t remember the winner, and I’m not sure anyone really cares.
Next week is Purim, so Happy Purim everyone.
Feb 25, 2004
Nadine has been asking us to play El Grande again, which I am not averse to, so we brough it out for a 5 player game. Some games, particularly El Grande and Princs of Florence work better with the maximum number of players (5), whereas others, such as Settlers and Puerto Rico work better with 4.
In any case, it was Nadine, Saarya, David K, Yacov and myself. A lot of high cards went out early, but after the first scoring round, we were all within 5 points of each other, still. By the second round, however, Nadine had established her dominance, with myself and Saarya 10 points behind, and David K and Yacov another 10 points behind us. Although we tried hard to bring her down, and it helped a bit, Nadine still won by about 6 points. I think I was in second place.
While this was going on, Sharon showed up. So as not to keep her waiting (we have a lot of slow thinkers, and a lot of group advice being given out during each turn), I played a few games of Pente with her. This was her first time, so I won the first game, but she won the second, and I won the next two. Of course, this distraction was why I ultimately lost El Grande 🙂 (no).
Afterwards, we broke out Puerto Rico, for a five player game with myself, David K, Nadine, Rachel (my wife), and Sharon. Again, this was Sharon’s first time, although she had watched many games, and Yacov sat beside her advising her. I took an early lead with coffee, and David, even though he was on my right, got locked out of a lot of traiding, whereas Rachel, on my left with tobacco and a small market benefited from my trades. Rachel looked like she was doing pretty well with cash (eventually having 5 goods and Factory, plus a 10 point bonus from Custom House), but I also looked like I was doing well with shipping, having both Harbor and Wharf. David K also got Factory, however, and eventually Wharf and two big buildings to my none, through a very stupid move on my part of not trading when I should have. Two big buildings is hard to fight, and he won the game 55 to Rachel’s 51 and my 49.
11:30 pm, and time to go home.
Feb 18, 2004
History of the World
A quiet, small group. Roy brought over History of the World. It is played in seven phases, like Die Macher, on a board where each person is vying to control territory, like El Grande, but, unlike El Grande, scoring is after each player’s move, instead of at the end of the round. Each player also has 10 special power cards to help him during his turn.
Unfortunately, it ends up playing more like Risk, since the bulk of the game ends up being combat with the very Risk-like rules: two dice to the attacker, one to the defender, highest die. Lots of rolling and kicking out people from territories. It is definitely better in that there is no early elimination and the game ends after 7 rounds. But the positions are not balanced (it trades some balance for historical accuracy), bad dice rolling is frustrating, and there is little strategy (El Grande doesn’t have much strategy, either, and that is a weakness).
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
We elected not to continue after 2.5 hours and the end of round 3, much to Roy’s dissapointment. Instead, we played a game of Carcassonne. I always forget how much more difficult it is as a 4 player game. We also decided to try my brother David’s suggestion of holding 3 tiles, to try to reduce the randomness and increase the strategy. While it did both, to a slight extent, I didn’t feel it added enough to the game to warrant the slightly increased analysis time. I could take it or leave it. In any case, it was a close game, and despite my stealing a waterway from Roy, he managed to find and hold a very profitable field, which won him the game.
Alan Frazin has comlained that he can never make Wednesday nights. If other people want to get together to play on another night, once in a while, he would appreciate it.
Feb 11, 2004
Magic: the Gathering
As often happens, whenever David K is available to play, we met early to play a few pre-sesion games of Magic and Puerto Rico (once with my expansion sets, once without). David says that it is most enjoyable to play as a pair, once with and once without. Too much expansions leaves one discombobulated, too much straight PR can get dull.
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
Saarya then joined us for a game of Carcassonne: H&G, where I quickly fell behind, although I started a nice waterway and a field. Saarya played an early tile that locked one meeple of both David and I until late in the game. Then both of them joined my waterway, and then, before I could add a second hut, Saarya added one, and pretty much closed it off. He also managed to join my field, clinching the game.
Five of us, me, David, Saarya, Nadine and Yacov all tried to play the game Die Macher, which David brought to the group. Starting at 6:30, by 9:30 we had finished the explanations and one round, out of seven. At that point, Yacov gave up, Saarya gave up, Nadine wanted to try one more round – she said she liked it, but that it should be four rounds, not seven – David need to go by 11:30, and I was having a ball, even though I was not doing so well, and David had hugely one the first election.
The second round only took half an hour for the 3 of us, which proves my point (I’m not sure what point, but it proves it). I really hope we try it again, now that we know the rules. We may have to play with fewer players or fewer rounds, to fit it into the normal game evening.
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
While that was going on, Roy and Yitzchak played their first game of Carcassonne: H&G. I understood that neither of them took much of an interest in the fields. Afterwards, Sharon joined them for her first game. I don’t know the results of either of these games.
Now being about 10:15, and David having to go at 11:30, and leaving us with five players (me, Saarya, David K, Sharon and Nadine), we tried a ganme of Bang. It was pretty good, but there are really two problems with the game: one is that the Renegade really doesn’t have a chance, and two is the early knockout, which leaves players twidling their thumbs while the game finishes, luckily not for too long.
See you next week!
Feb 04, 2004
Once again I delayed this for too long, and now I’m a little hazy on what happened, so here goes, anyway …
We taught Yitzchak and Rachel how to play Puerto Rico. Now this is a new Rachel; Ben has been bring a steady supply of new gamers (way to go, Ben!) from his yishuv to play. Rachel (the new one) sat down to play, and my wife Rachel helped her out until she had to go. Ben also bought Puerto Rico so that he could play at his house between games.
Yitzchak had also never played, but he had watched us play before.
Ben once again triumphed, starting out with an early coffee monopoly. I had the opportunity to buy coffee, but with all the coffee plantations already flipped over, when it cam time to buy a building, I figured there wasn’t going to be a plantation left to go with my building by the time it came around to the Settler phase, so I took a Tobacco Storage. Lo and behold, I think 3 more coffees flipped up in the next Settler phase.
As is typical, I also divided my time between trying to win and helping out the new players. I thought we were already in turn 8 so I got a Wharf (better than Harbor in a 5 player game), but it turns out that I had miscounted and we were only on turn 6, so I should have gotten a Factory. What can you do?
Because of Ben’s coffee, he managed to trade for 2 large buildings, which always takes a good position to a winning position. I believe Yitzchak came in second, Rachel/Rachel in 3rd, me in 4th, and Nadine in last, but all very close.
Princes of Florence
David K had an unusual chance to play off of hiw regular “every 3 weeks”. He came while we were still playing Puerto Rico, so he sat down to teach Saarya why letting someone get a lot of Jesters is a Bad Idea in Princes of Florence …
Princes of Florence
… and then proceeded to show me and Nadine, as well. The only solution, as he says, is to bid up Jesters until they come at a cost. Now we have to find out where that cost is.
Hey, I just discovered that the boards of Princes of Florence are all subtly color coded to match the pieces. Cool!
Settlers of Catan
While this was going on, Yitzchak, Ben and Rachel had a quiet game of Settlers, and, for the first time this year, I believe, Ben lost a game. Yitzchak took it.
David K left, leaving Nadine and I with not much time until the Settlers game ended, so we played a few quick games of Boggle (I vowed not to mention the results on this page, since it’s not really a strategy game … so there!)
David K bought Die Macher to loan to the game group, so next week will be two gaming tracks: the usual, and a Die Macher track. See you then!
Jan 28, 2004
Puerto Rico w/expansions
Another day, another great gaming session.
I was third player position, Saarya second, which gave him the worst seat, but at least he was in front of me. I can’t remember the expansion buildings used. From now on, I am going to take better notes! I recall that we all thought it was down to Saarya or me, but after flipping over the victory points, it ended up being Nadine who was fourth player position.
Settlers of Catan
This was Ephrayim’s first game of Settlers. Being an experienced war gamer, he picked it up pretty quickly. I had an opportunity to completely cut off Nadine, I believe, but I don’t believe in doing that sort of thing, since I don’t enjoy spending an hour and a half with no chance to win, and I suspect that noone else does either. (I will cut off people, just not if it kills them entirely.)
Anyway, it was pretty close for a long while, but I had no wheat, which hurt. I still squeaked out a win by pulling to lucky victory points.
David and Goliath
With not quite enough time left, we played two games of David and Goliath. It is really a good game, somewhere between hearts and bridge. Rachel (my wife) tried a game, but I think Sharon took it. I think. Hmmm. Yacov also played sometime tonight. Oh well. I promise to take better notes next time.
Jan 21, 2004
This report is late. I got over being sick, so at least it was at my house again. Again, I don’t remember what games Roy, Yacov, and Yitzchak played, sorry. My memeory is baginning to go.
Magic: the Gathering
David Klein comes only once every 3 sessions, so when he comes, we try to play some early games before the official session starts. In this case, we got in a draft of magic cards. Each time we play, I try to come up with something different. This time, I took a random 96 cards, 16 from each color and 16 artifacts/special lands/golds. I shuffled, gave each of us 48. We each picked 2 cards, and passed one to our opponent, then picked 2 more cards, etc… Usually we use the same 96 cards and do a standard 4 card up draft.
Anyway, though I usualy lose horribly, this time we came up with balanced decks, and I felt I had a chance. He won 2 out of 3, anyway.
Puerto Rico w/expansions
We moved on to a 2 player game of Puerto Rico using 2/3 my buildings. I don’t know how often I have to repeat this: my buildings ROCK! Playing PR with them takes a great game to amazing. I usually don’t brag this much about what I do, but I haven’t heard much from others around the world, yet, except for some noise inItaly and one group in the U.S. The rest of you are just missing out. Anyway, I won the game by a few VP’s, about the time that Nadine showed up.
Princes of Florence
Nadine and David and Roy and I played Princs of Florence. I’m starting to get into it, but I really don’t think I will ever really love it unless I can make up some new things for it. It is more like a puzzle than a game. As seems to be a familiar pattern, Nadine pulled into an early lead, and just kept it. Well done.
Settlers of Catan
Ben and Sharon and Saarya and Yacov played a game of Citadels, just to prove that we still don’t like it. I tried to explain that it is about bluffing, not choosing the best card, but it still just doesn’t work for us. Sharon put evryone out of their misery by winning quickly.
For the comic part of the evening, we had exactly 7 people, and it looked like an opportunity to try out Bang, which I had bought but never played, yet. With a lot of whining and wheedling, I convinced everyone to try. What followed was rather amusing, as I didn’t remember any of the rules, and they are not easy to understand from the instaructions whcih rely on all these symbols.
We tossed the cards around and almost gave up, but struggled through. Once we understood what was going on, we actually enjoyed ourselves. I was the first player eliminated (I shot at lots of people, and it is the general rule to target me first, it seems). Ealy elimiation is definitely a downside to the game. It was down to David (renegade), Yacov (sherriff) and Sharon (deputy). Sharon had already convinced everyone that she was a deputy, but David K worked hard at trying to confuse Yacov (successfully), but Sharon managed to lay him low anyway, leading to a win for Sharon and Yacov.
Jan 14, 2004
This report is late in coming, and I was also sick and I couldn’t host. Nadine lives around the corner, so she hosted. Thanks Nadine for saving the day!
Settlers of Catan
Ben, Hana, Yitzchak, Sharon Soc: Ben 10, Ha 5, Yi 6, Sh 4
Ben, Saarya, Yacov and Nadine played Settlers. A very close game, with Ben winning, Saarya and Yacov both at 9, and Nadine at 8.
Ben brought two newcomers, Hanna and Yitzchak. So they played an introductory game of Settlers (what else?) with Sharon, where Ben won again, this time a trounce. I told Ben he should let new players win, but he doesn’t listen to me (Ben is my younger older brother).
Meanwhile, Saarya, Nadine and Yacov played Puerto Rico. I didn’t hear much about this one except the final scores: Saarya 61, Nadine 52, Yacov 39. Well done, Saarya.
Jan 07, 2004
This report has been a long time coming, so it will be brief and as accurate as my memory: