Tag Archive | pillars of the earth

September 15, 2010

Participants: Jon, Debbie, Nadine, David K, Gili

We skipped last week, the holidays wreak havoc on the game night schedule. Debbie is a friend of Rachel’s who decided to join us for game night. Hopefully, she’ll come again.


Jon 43, Nadine 42, Debbie 34

First play for Debbie. Brave soul. She did pretty well, too. We decided to stick to the basic set to make things easier on her (this decision was reached from experience).

Kingdoms: Moat, Village, Woodcutter, Feast, Militia, Smithy, Festival, Laboratory, Mine, Adventurer

As we said a few times during the game, many good choices. I took an early Village and Militia, but then took a few golds, which make the Village underused for a while. Should I have taken Festivals instead? I eventually took some, a Moat and some Smithies.

Nadine took Feasts, Festivals, and a Laboratory. She started with silver instead of Village. Debbie also took an early Militia and a Woodcutter. No one took Mine, though it would have been nice to get rid of all of those coppers.

In the end, I won by taking an Estate before Nadine ended the game. I had two earlier Provinces, and she thought for sure that I was winning, but I knew it was closer than she thought.


Jon/Nadine 555, David/Debbie 45

First play for Debbie. She wasn’t sure how to help her partner, but she was able to play well enough after three hands.

I opened with an made a Grand Tichu, with my partner going out second to boot. Second hand, I set David in a Tichu (I was really going to call it myself) with a net result of +5 for us and -5 for them. Third hand I made another Tichu.

Jon/Nadine+, David/Gili

Later in the evening we returned to this. I don’t remember the final scores, but I set David in yet another Tichu. My hands were pretty good all evening.

Pillars of the Earth

Jon 47, Nadine, Gili, David 40

Scores approximate, but I know that I beat David, the last placed player by 7 points, since if he had bought the craftsman that I told him to buy on the last round, he would have netted 8 more points and won the game. David was flush at 30 cash the entire game. I hovered around 10 to 15 as usual, but sank to 0 on the penultimate round. I was a few points ahead on the score track the entire game, however.

Which was weird, because a) I had my usual abysmal luck with the master craftsman, as usual, and so missed nearly every important selection on the board most rounds, and b) the most I was ever able to convert was 1 to 1, although I could do it by round 2 and could do it for every type of resource.

I have to admit that I finally got fed up with the master craftsman mechanic this game. It’s just too brutal to lose by it (or win by it) so often for so many games. A mechanic that evens out over the course of a single game is one thing; one that only evens out over the course of many games is useless unless it’s a game designed to be played many times in succession (such as Poker).

I like everything else about the game. I’m thinking of replacing the master craftsman mechanic with something like the initiative track from Year of the Dragon or with some kind of auction.

Nadine adds: Gili was ahead of me by one point so she was second, though she seemed better positioned the whole time. I agree with you about the mechanic.

No game night next week again, and the week after is Games Day.

June 30, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Elijah, Maxim, Sergey, Alona, Miriam

Maxim and Sergey return after a long absence due to conflicts, and they brought Alona with them. I guess Alona has played games with them before.

Game night was very chaotic, partly because everyone was trying to learn new games all at once, and partly because Nadine was trying to both teach one game and learn another at the same time, something which I should have stopped much earlier.

Oltre Mare

Elijah+, Nadine, Gili, Jon

We picked this to learn. I had never even read the rules, but it was simple enough to read them out loud and go through a sample turn.

OM is an expanded version of Bohnanza; that’s all I could think the whole way through the game. They’re not really identical in mechanics, but trading away cards you don’t want to get what you do, and then planting them in sequenced groups, is the core of both games, and so it naturally leads to that conclusion.

Oltre Mare has more to it. Each round, you have to play a certain number of cards and gain the value of these cards. It’s just that each time you play, you determine not only this turn’s results, but the points you get based on the order you discard them, what you played last time, and will play next time, as well as your hand limit at the beginning of your next turn and the exact number of cards you are required to play next turn. Since the cards are designed to ensure that you can’t generally get the best of all worlds on each play, you simply have to decide where to compromise each round. This is not that big of a deal, because, owing to the trading that happens on every players’ turn, you can often make up for the compromise by the time it gets back to you again.

I thought it was a lovely game, with a few caveats. One is the mechanic that gives you a trade chip each time you trade with someone else on their turn. The player with the most trade chips at the middle and end of the games gains 6 points. Since this is entirely dependent on other players’ whims, I dislike it. It’s an unnecessary mechanic, anyway, since you already have incentives for trading. It’s not too much of a deal, however.

What’s bad is the trade rules. Each card has a “type”, as well as symbols that indicate the types of actions you get when you play the cards, and the hand limit and number of cards you must play if the card ends up on top of your played stack. And the rules clearly say that you must tell the other players what types of cards you are trading them but may LIE about the other symbols.

As a Eurogamer, that mechanics simply turns me off, entirely. Some people may like it, war gamers mostly, and that’s fine for them. In our game, we simply didn’t bother to mention anything else on the card, trading entirely by card type.

One additional mechanic which I really dislike is the same one which annoyed me in a few other games, and it’s the combination of a) a variable game ending trigger, and b) that the player to the right of the starting player always gets the last turn. This mechanic entirely screws the player who goes first, who typically has no control over when the game will end and is therefore typically caught entirely sunk after he has invested resources for his next turn, only to suddenly find that he has no next turn. Which is exactly what happened to me in this game, but I will point out that I objected to the mechanic already when the game started, entirely for this reason.

Other than these issues, the rest of the game is simple and should, in theory, be relatively quick. Our game wasn’t, because of the chaos I mentioned above. And, strangely, Nadine came close to winning, despite not really paying attention and having an 11 card run in her stack of which she could use only 5. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the final scores and how they came about to see how that happened.

Nadine writes: I thought the ships and ship tokens would be more relevant than they were, and they’re about equal including the pirate blocker. It’s different from other games, you’re actions are very constrained so you have to plan within that which is hard. I was sure I had started off with 3 torahs, but I guess I hadn’t. Even with the other game, I could have remembered that if I had concentrated.


Sergey+, Maxim, Alona, Miriam

Nadine taught this to Sergey, Maxim, and Alona, and continued to teach them throughout their game. Miriam had played twice before, but she was still somewhat shaky on the rules. I think they all basically enjoyed it.

Nadine writes: Near the end I noticed that the money was an obligatory condition, but I said they could decide to play without it, I think it hurt Miriam but I’m not sure.


Elijah/Gili 95, Jon/Nadine 5

We played one hand of this, and both Elijah and Gili were the less experienced players, as you can tell from our final scores.

Pillars of the Earth

Jon 45, Miriam, Maxim

Unfortunately, the people who played this game last time had not separated the expansion cards from the main set, and there are no distinguishing marks or reference sheets that enables one to distinguish between the original cards and those of the expansion. I made a reasonable guess for nearly all the cards, excepting one of two character cards, one of which showed up during play and I didn’t understand its special ability at the time. We managed to muddle through.

First play for each of them. I taught them very straightforward and they picked it up nearly immediately, with only some confusion as to the difference between placing the workers and placing the master builders. I also showed them the later craftsman cards early on so they would have an idea what to look for as the game went on.

They both enjoyed the game. Maxim had been hoping to try Stone Age as an alternative to Caylus which he thinks is too long (as do I), but I was glad to play this instead (Gili owns Stone Age, but she didn’t bring it).

Notre Dame

Nadine 53, Sergey 46, Gili 46, Alona 45, Elijah 35

Nadine writes: Only Gili and I had played before. Sergey started out strong with a lot of points from cars, and money but then couldn’t keep it up. After two rounds the scores were close, 28 and 29 for 4, 25 for 1 person.

December 02, 2009

Participants: David K, Jon, Gili, Nadine, Emily, Eitan, Abraham

I’m back, with many games from BGG.con. I wanted to break out two of them, but David insisted that I wait, since I would have to do all the explaining for both.

Dominion: Intrigue

Nadine 16, Eitan 10, Jon 9, David 8

Breaking out the new Dominion expansions didn’t count, because we already knew how to play Dominion. I’d played with a few cards here and there, but the others hadn’t.

Intrigue make planning harder, since a number of cards cycle or trash cards out of other player’s hands. That may be more fun for people who like chaos, but it’s a bit negative to those who like planning. Still, only a bit, since Dominion’s usual chaos outweighs the chaos from those cards.

Many of the cards give nice choices and combos.

We played only with Intrigue cards, including … oh … whatever. Suffice to say, the most frequently heard statement was not “Damn, I’ve got seven”, but “Damn, I’ve got four”. And four wasn’t much use.

It took me forever to get to five or higher. I think, in the entire game, I got to 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 each exactly once. No one is quite sure how Nadine won, including Nadine. But she got two Provinces well before anyone else could.

Dominion: Seaside

Abraham 36, Gili 28, Emily 26

I think Eitan and Emily had both played with Seaside cards online. Gili hadn’t. I didn’t see the game.


David/Eitan 200, Jon/Nadine 155

We played this while we waited for Seaside to finish. David and Eitan both went out first on the first hand. On the second hand, I called and made Tichu.

Le Havre

Jon 109, Abraham 96, Gili 59, Nadine 42

I may have the bottom two scores mixed up, but whatever. First play for everyone except me, second play for me. We played the short game, which was around 3.5 hours long, including setup (first time for me) and explanation. Second game should go somewhat shorter.

Abraham and I love the game. Nadine complained starting around mid-way through until the end that the game is too complicated and not enough fun. I said that, like Agricola, you have to know the flow of the game and all the cards and how they can work before you can possibly understand what to do during the game. When Nadine got home, she emailed me that she thinks the longer game with the special buildings and more time to pay off ships will be a better game.

I think the only thing we got wrong was that Abraham sorted the buildings by build value instead of card number. That made the wharves come out fairly late.

Abraham bought or built buildings at every opportunity. Even when they didn’t help his VP value, he gained by not having to pay for the building, or having others pay him for them. He also smartly bought the buildings which produced the most food, and these were used the most often. But he had to sell a building once or twice.

My first game I ignored the ships and just sent my goods over to the bridge at the end of the game (netting 19 points). This time I tried to do the ships, but I’m fairly sure I did something wrong with the approach, and I was only able to use my ship once, at the end of the game. Of course, that may be because I built the last two available buildings, which net me 40 points in the process (so was probably worth it).

Gili and Nadine both struggled with debt, and they also couldn’t see all the cards and so missed some opportunities, as well as some rules, being their first game.

Pillars of the Earth

David, Emily, Eitan

David agreed to play one of the previous games, so as not to have to wait for my explanation. But it was the first play of this for both Eitan and Emily.

I didn’t see the results, but I assume David won.

San Juan

Eitan, Emily

First play for both, the game ended in a tie.

September 02, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, David K, Nadine, Eitan, Emile, Tal

Eitan and Emile just showed up midway through game night, having seen one of my advertisements. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a game. I set them up with some two-player games, and by the time we were all done, they had to leave. Hopefully they’ll be back.


David, Nadine, Gili, Jon

This set had the three major attack cards – Witch, Thief, and Militia – but also had Moat. It had no cards to trash cards, however. It also had only a single card that gave bonus actions, and that was Festival (+1 action, +2 cards). The Throne Room could double that. Still, it didn’t look easy to get to the magic number of 8.

I bought Woodcutter, Militia, and as many Festivals as I could get my hands on, which was only 3. David managed to get 5 of them, and, together with great Throne Room draws, always seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else. I picked the only Province in the game early on, but I also collected the most curses owing to not concentrating on Moats the way everyone else did.

Moats ran out first, followed by Festivals, and then it looked like it would either be Woodcutters or Duchys, and it ended up being Duchys.

David 40, Jon 29

We played this to cap off the evening. In this game, there were no attack cards, but there was Black Market, which let David pick up the Witch. To counter that I Black Market’ed the Chapel, dumping Estates, Copper, and Curses. I also had Mines and the guy who trashed Copper to get +3 (forget the name). David picked up the Thief, but it didn’t harm me.

Still, though I trashed 4 curses, I still ended up with 6. Also, I might have taken vicory points a tad too soon; I went slow and steady, but David picked up a bunch in the remaining rounds. The game ended with Markets, Throne Rooms, and then Curses.

Pillars of the Earth

Nadine 48, David 45, Jon 43, Gili 31

OK, I really liked this game for a while, but last time I played I was hit with extraordinary bad luck with the Master Builder pulls. I wrote this off to a fluke. This time I got the same extraordinary bad luck with the Master Builder pulls, and I’m now a little dissatisfied with this mechanic. Surely there must be a way to make these a bit more fair.

It didn’t help that I played with very low money, as this didn’t allow me to take advantage of the very few times I was actually pulled out of the bag at a better time. But one of the reasons I didn’t have this money was bad luck in timing to begin with; David and Nadine ended up with the two craftsman that give bonus money, and wouldn’t you know it, they both won. It was fairly close though.

Nadine looked like she was behind, but she had tons of money to convert to points at the end, as well as buy the best craftsmen and goods she needed for a final push (of 22 points). David was scoring less than me early on, but I knew he would overtake me with much better craftsmen pulls as the game went on, which was due to luck in the Master Builder draws, mostly.


Eitan 6+, Emile 6-

First play for both. We taught this to them to play while we played PotE. They enjoyed it a lot, and ended on a virtual tie. Eitan had tossed less, but both of them tossed more than 10 cards each.

Mr Jack

Emile (Detective)+, Eitan (Criminal)

First play for both. Another game to play while we were finishing PotE. They both enjoyed this too, I understand. Jack’s identity was revealed on round 6, and he was captured on round 7.


Jon/Tal, David/Nadine

We played one hand while waiting for Mr Jack to finish, but Eitan and Emile ended up leaving after they finished, anyway. Nadine bid Tichu, but then found herself left with 2 cards: the Dog and a 6. And her partner had only 1 card.

May 20, 2009

Participants: Jon, Hershel, Gili, Abraham

Small game night. Also game night has been moved back to 7:00 pm until mid-August.


Jon 16, Abraham 6, Gili 5, Hershel 5

We played with Witch and no card whatsoever that could block or mitigate the Curses: no Moat, no Chapel, no Remodel, nothing. I took here early on, and began toasting all them. I ended up with 3 curses, which was nothing compared to their 8 or 9 each.

Otherwise, the set had no two cost cards, and only Bureaucrats for other attacking. Plus Village, Mine, and Market and maybe Lab. Once the curses were done, we realized that that was one of the three piles completed toward the game ending, and the Duchy and Village finished it.

Hershel 41, Jon 32, Abraham 21

We played another game to close the evening. Witch again, but this time there was Remodel. Also Thief, Feast, Adventurer, Throne Room. No 3 cost cards. Hershel had much of his copper stolen, and then played Throne Room/Adventurer at least three times, which was incredibly powerful. Throne Room/Witch a few times, too.

I played Throne Room/Feast to snag two Duchys at least once, and bought a slew of other Duchys. Ended with Estates, Duchys, and curses.

Pillars of the Earth

Hershel 45ish, Abraham 33, Jon 32, Gili 26ish

Having complained about the luck in Stone Age last week, especially in contrast to this game, I decided to pull this out to show Abraham how it’s done. First play for him.

Boy was I made a fool of.

The luck in this game revolves around a) which professionals are available for purchase in phase 1 versus available by means of Master Workers in phase 2, and b) the order of the Master Workers drawn in phase 2. I’ve had a little trouble with a) a few times, but nothing to write home about. b) can get a little annoying and tight with money on occasion, but generally speaking, even if you miss first chance to get what you want, you usually have a chance to get something decent. With really bad luck, you get screwed for an entire round.

I got screwed THREE TIMES IN A ROW, in rounds 4, 5, and 6 (out of 6). With my three pieces in a bag of twelve Master Workers, mine didn’t get pulled until after AT LEAST 6 others were pulled each time. In one of the rounds, only after 8 others were pulled. There is simply nothing you can do with that. Nothing at all. I’m amazed that I scored as well as I did.

Hershel got the professional who give money for wood, and so had flush cash the whole game, which let him buy things with his Master Workers every round, even at the higher prices. Abraham and Hershel both converted cash into VPs at the end. Gili lost out to my buying all the stone out from under her once, and then she did it to me when I was already dying a slow death, anyway. Otherwise, she doesn’t understand what she’s doing wrong.

March 04, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Binyamin, Bill, Nadine, David K

A low-key game night full of games.


Binyamin 42, Bill 39, Nadine 36

Binyamin taught this Ystari game to the other two. It looked like a typical Ystari game; I find their games to be clever and complicated, but soulless. I don’t know how the others felt about this game.


David K 34, Gili 29, Jon 27

First play for all of us, although David had played twice online. Dominion is The game of the last year or so (not counting Agricola), and it’s deck-building mechanics made me fairly sure that the game would be well-received by our group. It was, for the most part.

I really like the deck-building, and the way adding, removing, and swapping cards makes such a difference to your play. I like how some cards are better early and some late, and so on. It’s very clever, and the different types of cards seem like they will make for many interesting plays.

We played a number of different strategies, and many seemed to have possibilities. And, since many different ones will be available in future games, we’ll always have to be on our toes.

However, there are a number of drawbacks.

The most glaring is that the game is quite obviously far far better as a computer game than a tabletop game. One, you constantly have to shuffle your cards, which is just insane, especially when you have so few of them. Two, you constantly have to keep track of how many actions and buys you have left. The buys usually don’t matter too much, except when you accidentally buy two cards but are only allowed to buy one. But the actions can be confusing. Third, you constantly have to check how many cards are left in each deck, where a nice number over the deck back would come in handy.

A few other drawbacks: The game end is somewhat problematic. In our second game (see below), we all concentrated on three certain cards. As a result, the only person to buy any victory points at all won without breaking a sweat, as she could finish two piles with only one card each on her turn before any of us noticed. I guess everyone should play different strategies, but, unlike PR, you have to choose different strategies in order to prop the game up, not just because of the limited resources.

The interaction, apart from the two possible times that something can run out, is nearly non-existent. Often one of us just took his turn as the last player was finishing. Thank goodness for the few cards that add a bit of interaction, like the militia.

And as I mentioned on my blog, the box insert is supposed to help you keep your cards in order, but it’s strange arrangement and differently sized slots are most confusing.

Lastly, I spent an hour trying to understand the game setup. It is very difficult to understand that the ten kingdoms mean “select ten of the card types and only play with those ten types.” I couldn’t figure out what a kingdom was for the life of me. Eventually I figured it out, about the time that David was explaining it to us. Very very poor instructions. They could have included an illustration of the setup.

In our game, we played with the suggested starting kingdoms. David played the Markets, while I played Mines and Golds. David won, but he also started with a better first draw (5/2 vs my 4/3) and also the markets let him buy 2 things (3 and 1 VP cards) when he had 7 coins, while I could only buy one thing with 7 points, since I didn’t have a second buy.

Although David won, and I see how the markets are like free coin cards, I don’t think they are a killer strategy; decent, but not killer. We will have to see.

Gili 9, David 3, Jon 3, Binyamin 3

As noted, this game ended way too quickly and quite unexpectedly for all players. Gili simply realized she could end the game by removing the last two cards from two piles, and she was the only one with a VP card.

Pillars of the Earth

David 58, Binyamin 57, Gili 45

Binyamin had only played once before, a few years ago.

Puerto Rico

Jon 63, Nadine 52, Bill 48

Bill hasn’t played this much. I played the first half of the game and my second Dominion game simultaneously. Bill had tobacco and Small Market and eventually Factory and Wharf. Nadine on my left got coffee and eventually Harbor.

I got coffee and Harbor, too, in front of her. I also got all five goods, and several times passed over building or several coins on cards in favor of just pushing through victory points. I only abandoned this once to get Guild Hall (maxed out at 10) at the end of the game, although I suffered a small shipping point loss to Nadine to do so.

Fairy Tale

Jon 33, Nadine 32, Bill 28

I suggested this again, believing that I will continue to like it more and more each time I play, as I become familiar with what works and what doesn’t. It’s true, but the large random factor of what cards are available to me in the game are still so very high. Somehow this is ok in Geschenkt, but here it’s frustrating to try something and have no chance to accomplish it not because your opponent thwarted it (which also happens) but because the card never even appears.

If you can let that go, the game is actually quite good, and pretty fast, which makes it a nice filler.

Bill 41, Nadine 37, Jon 35

In this game, I tried a variation: two rounds of picking from 8 cards and playing 6. It gave us more control as to our comboes (plus), but less cards entered the game making rarer comboes even more difficult (minus).

I have several other ideas on how to fix the game. I’ll have to try them.


Jon/David, Binyamin/Nadine

We played only one hand before I kicked them out.

February 4, 2009

Participants: Gili, Binyamin, David, Nadine, Jon

I arrived late to find them playing on the wall outside my apt; sorry!

Apples to Apples

David, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili

They played a few rounds of this, and David said he enjoyed it. I guess any game played on a wall outside is probably enjoyable.

Merchants of Amsterdam

Jon, Nadine, Gili, David, Binyamin

This is a Knizia auction/area control game with a nice but mostly irrelevant 16th century Amsterdam theme. It’s not bad in some respects, but the auction system sucks. Really.

The game uses the Dutch auction (naturally), which means that the price starts high and gradually falls until someone is willing to pay the price. Why is this so bad?

First of all, it uses a mechanical spring-loaded component which is almost guaranteed to break fairly quickly. Ours is new and seems fine. Second, the thing is loud. It doesn’t just silently spin until it dings at the end; it makes an awful stream of clatter which my wife immediately banned from the house.

Third, it’s terribly boring to sit and watch a clock tick down. I guess it’s supposed to be tense, but that gets old after the first auction. And we’re not talking 1 or 3 auctions per game. We’re talking an auction on every player’s turn! That means the vast part of the game is simply waiting for the damn thing to spin down to a reasonable price.

Fourth, it’s just not an exciting auction type. It starts, there’s one bid, and it’s done. Only one person gets a chance to do anything.

So, one dutch auction in a game could work, but not every turn. Moving on …

We considered alternatives to the auction given. We ended up having the first player count down from some reasonable starting point, but this gave the person counting down an unfair advantage to be first to call a certain number. We also had no way of resolving auction ties (with the clock, the first person to slap it wins, which should result in fewer ties).

David pointed out that the auction is actually similar to blind bidding, since each person simply chooses what bid they want to make before the auction starts. Our group isn’t too keen on blind bidding, though (I kind of like it). It could probably be played with either turn or free-for-all auctions, as well.

The rest of the game is somewhat better, but still has some problems. For one thing, at different points in the game, certain cards are simply much better than others. If you draw them when you want to, you’re lucky. If you don’t, you’re unlucky. That’s the problem with many card games, but not all card games. There should be a more equitable distribution of cards so that all players can get roughly the same opportunities. Otherwise, the game simply devolves to chance.

The game looks like it has a decent progression. The beginning is investment, with payoffs on your investments coming later in the game. That seems to work. And there are just enough areas and types to make the choices of where to place what interesting.

Nadine didn’t like that the time track moves forward at random times, especially that it disrupted people’s turns. The cards themselves were repetitive; not actually that bad if the game moves quickly, but nothing really special.

It took all I could just to get everyone to agree to finish to the third scoring year, and then they all happily quit. Oh well.


Binyamin 55, Nadine 32

Binyamin is till trying to figure out the game, and this was his first two-player game. He was not interested in winning, per se, but in pursuing a particular strategy. This game, the strategy was to get lots of bonus points. He succeeded, with an incredible 21 bonus points (to Nadine’s 2). He also had all five members, and a 4 room stone house. He didn’t plow once.

Nadine had a more traditional farm layout, but most of the game only 3 members, a simple clay house, and not near enough of everything else.

Pillars of the Earth

David 52, Jon 50, Gili 38

Meanwhile, we played our own worker placement game and had a great time. David was a little reluctant to play, remembering only sort-of amused by the game, but when our game ended, he said he really enjoyed it and would play again. Excellent. I didn’t change my opinion, in that I still really like it.

However, I do note that the worker drawing mechanism really makes a big difference to the game if you’re really unlucky/lucky, and it seems to be happening in nearly every game. I need to think if maybe something needs to be done about it, when some player gets drawn several times in a row for costs 6, 5, and 4.

In our game, I was doing super conversion and thought I was going to end well, but I realized at the beginning of round 6 that David was going to beat me my a few points. It was the first game that I acquired one of the “convert gold to points” craftsmen, but I wasn’t able to use it in either 5th or 6th rounds. The other one wasn’t bought. That makes the first time in my four games experience that one of these cards didn’t swing the victory.

I’m not entirely sure how David won the game in the end.


David/Jon, Nadine/Binyamin

We played a few hands, and the other guys got all the cards.