Tag Archive | race for the galaxy

March 16, 2016

Participants: Jon, David, Nadine, Nisan, Gili, Binyamin, Aaron

Light game night, prefaced by discussions in the Whatsapp group as to what we were going to play.

Magic: The Gathering

David++, Jon

We drafted and I pulled in strong R and decent B, G, and U, with ok W. I had a few gold cards BGW that I really wanted to play, and I had to play R, so I ended up playing four colors, which I did because I also had two artifacts that gave me any color mana and another that gave me R and B. And none of my spells were double color.

This worked ok the first game; I got out all of my colors and cast one of my golds early. David had more utility spells, however. He was able to knock us both down, and then I stalled while his flyer and other stuff finished me. In the second game, I had G cards and no G mana. I did a little damage and put out a 6/6 blocker, but he had a sorcery to steal my blocker and attack for 15 points in one round (I was at 15 life).


Binyamin 83, Aaron 66, Nisan 59

I was interested in playing this, but Nadine had me roped into another game. First play for all of them.

Race for the Galaxy

Binyamin 37, Aaron 31

First play for Aaron. Binyamin hadn’t played in a while, too, so they had some rules questions.


David 185, Nadine 139, Jon 134, Gili 134

Second play for Nadine, first play for the rest of us. Nadine taught us some basic parts of the game and then I read the rules and retaught the game, my style.

This is a game with a ridiculous Renaissance theme of manipulating men and women in your family for money, babies, and prestige. The men are assigned into business tracks, the women are given dowries to marry well. Whatever. The basic idea is to take dice from a common pool: the higher valued ones are free and infrequently give you a bit more benefit, while the smaller ones sometimes cost more. However, if all of the dice (3 or 4) you take total to less than 14 in a round, you gain a very good benefit: so good, that it is pretty insane not to take it

You need the bonuses to get more men and women (as well as a special free action). You need the men and women to get points and tiles: tiles must be in certain sequences to give you bonus points for sets, and this is one of the bad parts of the game (see below). However, you also need money: money not only pays for the lower valued dice, it pays for bonus actions. You buy a bonus action, and then every time you take a die of that color, you get the bonus action for free. As any player of infrastructure games knows, it is crucial to concentrate on the infrastructure early in order to get more actions than your opponents (or keep parity with them). The dissuasion against that here is that some of the better valued (or correctly matching) tiles might be gone by those who take them earlier, but this doesn’t offset the positive benefit of building the infrastructure enough.

The other thing to note is that certain actions put you up in turn order, and high up in turn order can give you a lot of points. Although you have to do it again each round, your free actions basically take care of that for you.

It is Well Known that the game was shipped before it was fully baked, so the game comes with an insert that contains official variants, and we played with two of them (we left off the one that made each message only usable by one person each round, although I think we should play with that next time).

We all did fairly well, but David did very well, as you can see. I pretty much understood the game by the first round, and I actually thought that David made a small mistake in round one, but it didn’t offset the fact that he and Gili were able to start the game off by activating the “free money every round” action and Nadine and I couldn’t do that without paying so much that we would be sacrificing too many other things. And the free money, of course, let them activate many other free actions. Still, David made better use of that than Gili did, and I could see that.

Part of it was quickly shooting to the top of the turn order track each round, which gave him some 50 points over the course of the game. I admit that I completely undervalued that track until mid game; between that, the round that I didn’t have money and the ability to activate free actions, and the tile problem (see below), it explains the score differential between David and me. I think both of us play these games pretty well, usually.

The tile problem: the game has random tiles coming up each round, of different values and different types. Each player’s board needs specific types, and there are often not enough of that type, or none at all for many rounds. And you need at least three in each row to score the row. If they don’t happen to be the types that you need, then you are at a severe disadvantage unless you planned specifically for that from the beginning of the game. Of course, they weren’t the right ones for me, and I hadn’t planned for it, so I lost another 8-10 points from not scoring a set. There are actions you can take to fix this – giving you 1 point tiles that help complete any row, but again I didn’t realize the importance of this, or how badly the tile draw would screw me, until late in the game. I though of a rule change that would make this mechanic less bothersome, but I would like to try the game again to see if better planning helps. I’m really not a fan of this kind of random draw that significantly helps some players and not others. But 8-10 points wasn’t a brutal loss, just an annoyance. Meanwhile, Gili was annoyed that the 10 special ability actions that are available each round – assigned randomly to different colored dice and that duplicate abilities that are already given by those dice, and therefore may be totally useless when assigned to the exact wrong colors – were too often assigned to the exact wrong colors. I agreed with her about this, too.

I liked the game, and I think we all did, but even playing one round shorter than the original game called for it still took a good 45 minutes to understand the rules and 3 hours to play. There may be a few too many things to do each round; perhaps too much felt like calculating among the various actions than actual strategizing and playing.

bgg.con 2015 Go Abe!


Animal Upon Animal

It was great to spend time with Abe and Sara and Eliana, find out how they’re doing, and catching them up on our friends in Israel. I gave them a game to play with Eliana, she really liked it. It’s a well-crafted stacking game, Animal Upon Animal, with enough game mechanics for a four-year-old.

Race for the Galaxy

Unlike the rainy last two years, it was sunny, though cold and windy, and we went to shul which had a special lavish Kiddush sponsored by the va’ad hakashrut. Saturday afternoon we played Race for the Galaxy, Eliana stacked her game animals on her own while we played. I had really bad cards, confirmed by Abe when I asked for advice. Abe 33, Sara 23, Nadine 13.

The Voyages of Marco Polo

20151121_211651After Shabbat we drove to the hotel, I told Abe we wouldn’t miss the raffle. We walked in at 7, they started a few minutes later with thank you’s, then got to the raffle. I wanted to check out games to play, but figured the library would be out of anything good. I left before the raffle was over to get into the library as soon as possible, but they didn’t open it right away after the ceremony, so I was at the head of a long line. Abe had never played Tzolk’in or Five Tribes, and I thought he’d like them and be good at them, even though I would rather play a game I hadn’t played before. I saw people with Marco Polo, which someone had said was good, I asked them if they needed more players and they said yes, so that worked out well. We found a table in the big room because we thought it more likely to find a teacher there than in a smaller room. I went to put stuff in my room, and someone taught the game and I caught most of it.

It’s a nice game with interesting mechanics, but it has some flaws. There isn’t always something useful to do on your turn, and traveling is too expensive, we thought there should be more rewards. Each player gets a benefit at the start of the game. Mine was Receive one of any good someone else takes, Abe’s was Pay nothing to take actions, and the others were Get a free die and one contract per turn, and Select all your dice values instead of rolling. They all seemed powerful, they thought mine was strongest. It gave me around 4 resources per turn. At the beginning I decided not to travel at all, and just to obtain and complete high value contracts, which worked. I wasn’t sure I’d win, the others all did contracts and travel bonuses, but I had good contracts and got the Most Contracts bonus of 7. I’m not sure the different strategies are different enough, thought once people have experience everything, such as high VP contracts, would be more competitive. Me 58, Abe 47, 41, 39


20151121_190306We decided to play another game together. There were no copies of Five Tribes or Tzolk’in available in the library. I saw two guys with Tzolk’in, and asked them if they needed other players. I didn’t want to ditch the people we were playing with, but thought we might be able to work something out. The guys said they didn’t care which game they played, and gave me Tzolk’in for us to play. Our opponents were experienced players who own the game, I own it too. I learned two rules that we’ve been playing wrong: you can only get corn if you can take a corn chip, when the chips run out you can only get corn with a level two technology; and first player can only double rotate either on the turn that they took the first turn spot, or when they place on the first turn spot, which passes first player to the next player, after the first player turns the gears. We discovered the game was missing a pile of buildings, and expansion buildings were mixed into the game, we used another library copy of Tzolk’in to replace them.

20151121_192520Abe did like the game and did a good job. I had a bad time, I didn’t recover from starting fourth, and I think I had a bad starting card. Abe started with level one skull technology and moved up to level two, he placed four skulls. I kept taking off or placing only one worker. Abe didn’t get food discount buildings til the third season, when he could get the good ones. The other players got at least one monument, one player got two, I got none. My big accomplishment was placing one skull, I also won the brown temple track, the lowest one endgame. Abe 68, 56, 55, me 40


Five Tribes

When we returned the Tzolk’ins to the library after playing, I looked for Five Tribes and checked it out for the morning. Abe also wanted to play the Chain Store Magnate game, which was open in Hot Games Sunday morning. But it would have taken a while to get more players and teach the game, so he decided to play Five Tribes. We put up a Players Wanted sign but no one was really looking for games, but it works two-player. I got the Place a camel on empty tiles Djinn, and got white meeples; Abe had the 3 Points for yellow meeples Djinn and a lot of yellow meeples. He also collected cards, and had 7, I had 4. I got a lot of tiles, including the 12 and 15. Abe also had tiles, and took blue money actions a few times. We stayed low in bidding. You can set yourself up in two-player, but it’s already hard enough to plan moves. Abe did well, but said the game is too prone to AP, he liked it but prefers Tzolk’in where you have more control and can plan. I ended up winning by one point, 176 to 175.


This was the new popular social game being played all over, I wanted to try it, and Abe and Sara tend to find more social players so he was also interested. It’s a good short game, fun and challenging. As soon as we started setting up people came over, two who knew the game taught it and played with us. We each teamed with one of them. You give word clues, and try to apply the clue to as many words as possible. The words are on a secret grid, so you don’t want your partner to guess the other team’s words, or hit the assassin. First game my side did very well, I guessed all the clues which applied to two cards, we were ahead by a lot. But then I guessed wrong and hit the assassin, so we lost the whole round. When I started giving clues I gambled and said my clue applied to 3 words, my partner got them all, and we ended up winning that round. The game takes advantage of all the ambiguity in English words, but would probably work in any language.

First con in three years with no electronics problems, my new phone is great for pictures.


December 22, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili

Weird to only have one guest.


Jon+, Gili

Gili requested this, since she only played half a game with Nadine last time. After an email or two with the designer I finally got the rules right: I had thought you could add multiple cards and also get the +1 bonus when playing in an area matching the card flags and also containing your spy. The correct rules – either a single bonus card OR a +1 – made blocking easier, and thus made the special abilities of the cards stronger. Gili likes the game.

After three games, I have yet to use most of the abilities, and some of them I find rather anemic. Scratch scratch. This may be a case of group-think. There’s something flat about the game. It’s nice and all, and it’s quick and playable, but it doesn’t seem to have a story arc. Maybe I just haven’t hit it, yet.

Schotten Totten

Gili+, Jon+

I taught this to Gili. Again, after downloading files from BGG, I finally played this with the correct rules: we completely screwed up the special cards the first two times I played.

We started with no special cards. We exhausted the deck, and the score was 4 Gili to 3 me. Gili’s final card play gave each of us a stone.

We played a second time using the special cards. Used correctly, they’re not as unbalancing as I had feared.

Race For The Galaxy

Jon 61, Gili 29

I previously thought that this was a good game marred by the ability for one person to ram through the game end, depriving most strategies of viability and the game of much of its fun. I know other games that suffer from the same problem.

When that doesn’t happen in this game, as it didn’t in ours, the game is quite interesting. I’ve never been very good at it. Which makes my blowout victory here a surprise.

I started with a first round 6 point development, the one that gives a -2 discount for all other developments. Add to that some military strength and my game strategy was essentially locked in. The rest was just fishing for cards.

Gili played something more diverse, but never got enough shipping strength to force through to the game end that way.

August 03, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Gili child, Binyamin, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, David K, Avraham

Game night was moved to Tuesday again, since I was expecting to be out of town on Wednesday evening. Being summer vacation, several attendees brought their young children with them. Also, as has happened a number of times in the last year or so, I didn’t take any notes, so this report will be somewhat hazy.


Binyamin, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, Gili, Jon

Nile is a new game from Minion Games. The publisher sent me a copy to review, which you can find soon on Purple Pawn.

In the first game, we forgot to mix in the used Flood cards with the discarded cards. Binyamin still insisted that we quit after the second run through the deck. He wasn’t impressed with the lack of control or meaningful decisions.

The younger kids liked the game and wanted to play again.

David 2/3/3/3/3, Jon 1/2/2/3/4, Avraham 0/3/3/3/4

I thought the game might be less random with perhaps with more meaningful decisions in three player rather than five player. It was a bit better, but not especially. This time we played an entire game through. Turns became rather repetitive, and were not too engaging. Occasionally we had to make a semi-meaningful decision between two options. It’s possible that we missed some strategies.

Actually, in retrospect, none of us tried a strategy of building up many cards before playing, which might work. Possibly I would try the game one more time to try that out.

But, as I said, the game is quite random, and wasn’t too engaging, so I’m not sure I will. However, the younger kids still enjoyed it.


Binyamin+, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, Gili, Nadine

Binyamin won. They played an easy variant.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David+

David and I drafted from an uninspiring set of cards. I ended up with solid White, no Blue, but an equal number of support from the other three colors. After assessing the worth of the colors, I ended up with White/Green and a splash of Red. My mana curve was terrible, as nearly everything I had cost 4 to cast. In the two games I played, I drew perfect mana distribution, but rarely ever saw a Green card.

David played Black/Red, and, as usual, his most annoying threat was a Black pump creature.

In the first game, I brought out solid white cards and eventually hit 8 mana. David was just too slow. In the second game, I didn’t get to 8 mana and I spent a lot of time tossing little guys in the way of a big Black creature. Until I got out the Droning Bureaucrats. David’s Black creature didn’t allow him to attack with any other creature, so all of his other guys were useless. And my Bureaucrats canceled his Black creature every round, but at the expense of using up 5 mana each round. Which put us at a standstill for several rounds.

Finally, just to relieve the tedium, I disrupted the stalemate, but it ended up with me tossing out some more fodder, him killing his Black guy so he could attack with his other creatures, and him finally overrunning me.

Naturally, my very next pick would have allowed me to kill his last guy, and possibly come back. However, by that point, he also had more things to cast and we were only about 5 cards from the end of the deck, so I might just have decked myself in the end.


Binyamin, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, Avraham

I taught this to all of them. Binyamin prefers Age of Steam or Railroad Tycoon, and wasn’t impressed with this game, a decision he made before he even started playing. For whatever reason, they all stopped the game after two rounds.


David 18, Jon 17, Avraham -3

Although I usually enjoy this little game – one of the better filler games – I found this session even better than usual. At several points I felt like there were some tough and important choices to make, and that I had some control over the results. This is largely due to it being a three player, rather than a five player, game.

We play with the chips all randomized and in random piles, so you never know what color or number will come up next on a pile. I chose to dump early in order to collect a few early high valued chips. David caught up fairly quickly, however. In the end, we both had dumped the same amount, but, because he was the one to end the game, he had a point more than me in chips. If it had made it to my turn, I would have taken the chip and won, instead.

Race for the Galaxy

Binyamin+, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda

Binyamin at least had played this before, though he asked a number of rules questions to me during the game. He won, of course.

September 23, 2009

Participants: Jon, David, Emily, Nadine, Bill, Avraham

A fine collection of nice people for gaming.


Nadine 48, Jon 39, Emily 28, David 14

First play for Emily. This seems to have become the default filler game, though it’s a tad long for a filler. And it’s nearly non-interactive, the way racing games tend not to be.

We played with: Envoy, Mine, Moneylender, Adventurer, Thief, Festival, Workshop, Market, Militia, Moat.

I’m still unsure what it was that happened to David on his first few rounds, but he somehow didn’t get what he wanted, and then declared that there was absolutely no way he could win the game anymore. He spent the rest of the game taking Coppers and Estates. Perhaps he can elucidate.

Emily took Mines and Thieves. She played Thief a few times, but even though my deck was stuffed full of Golds and Silvers, she only managed to trash one of my Silvers, and the rest of the times only Coppers. She, Nadine, and I also took Militias. Nadine also took many Festivals and Moats to draw cards and protect against Militias. This was the winning strategy.

I knew that my Festivals wouldn’t draw cards, but somehow, instead of taking either Moats or Envoys, I bought Golds and Adventurers. It looked decent, but not enough to beat Nadine.

Odin’s Ravens

Bill 4, Avraham 3

I introduced the game to Bill and then he and Avraham played one round. They opted not to continue. It’s kind of an “eh” game.


Jon 9, Avraham 6, Bill 6

Yay, I got to play Antike again. Antike is simply the best “warfare”-lite game, in that it has the elements of a war game, and the tactics and strategies that implies, but a) with no dice, and b) with victory points that do not require any combat to achieve. By setting the win condition one victory point less than suggested, occasional skirmishes occur and combat always looms, but it is minimal.

Instead, the game requires you to focus on the points you need to win, and not just concentrate on building up an impressive armed force. Just like Cities and Knights of Catan, a large army is nice, but it’s not necessarily the quickest way to victory.

Avraham discovered this. At 5 points, I was already pretty much set on where my remaining 4 points would come from. Avraham was behind me in points, and already at 15 cities, but still building more troops and trying to conquer more areas of the board. I suggested to him that this was the slow way to do things, and that turned out to be true.

He also lost a temple when he calculated incorrectly that I couldn’t take it out. He forgot, or didn’t realize, that you could use one set of troops to clear out obstructing armed forces, and then a different set of troops to pass over the now cleared area to attack. In most situations, I would have told him this. But seeing as he was so aggressive to me during the first half of the game, I merely asked him a number of times if he was sure that he wanted to end his turn before I played.

My first moves were: marble, temple on gold, gold, and know-how. I ended with five out of the five earned victory points in Known-hows (that shouldn’t have happened), as well as one destroyed temple, three temples, seven seas, and five cities.

Princes of Florence

David 77, Nadine 61, Emily 58

First play for Emily, and another three-player game of PoF, which doesn’t quite follow the rules and expectations of those familiar with four or five player PoF. There are so many good things in the auctions, that bidding is never that high.

On the other hand, it still isn’t a good idea to let one person get three early Jesters, which is what I got last game and what David got this game. He even picked up a fourth on his last turn.

Race For the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm

Avraham 60, Nadine 35, Bill 31, Emily 22

First play for Emily (first play of any RftG game). First play of the expansion for Nadine and Bill.

RftG is kind of fun, but I’m concerned about the amount of luck in the game, and the mechanic of being able to end the game early by super building annoys me. It’s very convoluted, so I’m willing to play it, but not overly thrilled.

The expansion with its missions and some changes in the cards looks like it might be a somewhat better version of the game, though it looks over-priced for what you get in components.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David+

David and I foisted them all onto RftG so we could Rochester draft and play this. A good time, as usual, though the mana distribution problems in the game still suck. My homemade fix is still the best way I know to ease the problem. (Each player may once, up until turn five, either randomly toss a land out of the game to pick a random non-land from his deck, or randomly toss a non-land out of the game to randomly pick a land from his deck).

This allowed me in the first game to make a go at the game, despite an initial land glut. I even won. In the second game, I had land, but none of the color of the cards in my hand, so I still got mana screwed. My fix is meant to ease the problem, but not guarantee a great hand each time.

I played R/G/W, with some decent creatures and red and white removal. David played B/G/U. I don’t recall what he had, but it looked like an inferior deck to mine, generally speaking.