December 27, 2006
Snow fell in Jerusalem. Not in any great quantity, but even a few flurries are enough to create panic on the roads and send people running to and fro. This havoc caused a number of people to have to skip the game club this evening. We had also been hoping for Nadine to return, but she had just come back from California, so we excuse her.
I had an idea for another prototype which sounded good on paper; I wanted to test the basic mechanics. It didn’t work out so well. Back to the drawing board, again.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
Adam lost as dark to Elijah’s light. It was only his second play, so he is also excused. I’m just in an excusing mood, I guess.
Or something like that.
This is the last of the new games I got for Hanukkah. It looked like a really good game and I was eager to try it out. It is by Wolfgang Kramer, of El Grande fame. This is obvious when you get to the scoring, as he always seems to use the same scoring mechanism (area control, ties push everyone down a level).
My first impressions with the game were very good, with one major exception.
The games is 2 to 6 players, which is great. Of course, a lot of games are supposedly 2 to 6 players, but 5 or 6 players means 4 hours of pain while 2 players means some other pretend version of the game entirely. We played with 4 players, so we can’t really know.
The game is essentially an area control game. There are twelve areas on the board, 2 each of 6 types. Each player starts off as a race that is restricted from some areas, able to move in others, spontaneously generate in others, and actually kill in others. During the game you can upgrade your abilities in each type of area, so that an area you were formerly forbidden to enter you could then migrate into, and then generate, and so on.
You start off with a number of meeples on the board. Each round you get to do two actions and auction off a third. This last mechanic was transparently added to give people something to do during other player’s turns because otherwise there is no other interaction on other player’s turns. Luckily, unless you’ve never played before, or you’re playing with high-AP players, most turns will move fairly quickly.
The actions you can do on your turn are based on selecting cards from a hand of 10 cards. These include: do something in one of the areas (what you can in an area do is based on your race/progression chart), upgrade your progression chart, acquire one of the bonus cards, or play some other card that has text on it. After your turn, you draw back up to ten cards. You are rarely unable to do just about anything you want (which is probably not good).
If you are the one to place the last meeple in a previously uncompleted area, you score some points. The fourth, eighth, and last time this happens, there is a general scoring across the entire board based on area control, but which also includes: most meeples on the board, most progression, most bonus cards, and most cash. I like the additional scoring possibilities as it adds greatly to the possible strategies that you can try.
If someone runs out of meeples to place, the game also ends with a final grand scoring.
That’s the bulk of the rules. Not having access to an area is tough, and having “migrate” only access is also pretty tough, because you have to have someone near an area to start with in order to migrate into it. Strangely, to breed in an area you don’t need anyone nearby – spontaneous generation, apparently. And the same for attacking, which you can only do if the area is already full. When you attack, you simply remove one of the enemy meeples from the game and replace it with yours.
The results is a lively, interesting game that is area-control, but more than that. Some intense fighting for areas, and the care you have to use to figure out if someone is going to end the game or get to a scoring round, or if you should, make for fun play. Because you are dependent on what others do, however, with six people the game will probably be unmanageable.
Problems: There is one overriding horrible problem with the game, from my first play experience, and that is the bonus cards. These cards are hugely beneficial, but that’s not the problem. If the one you want isn’t available you take it from the opponent who has the highest score who has one; that’s not a game problem, but it is a conceptual problem, because it makes no sense. If I want to acquire intelligence, I take it from you and you’re no longer intelligent? Huh?
But that’s still not the worst of it. The big big problem with it is that two of the cards: Intelligence and Agression, give you free actions, and you can use these free actions on the turn that you acquire them. Since you always replenish your hand back up to 10 cards at the end of your turn, anyway, this means that it is essentially a free action to take this card from an opponent. Which means that it is a no-brainer that is always done every round by every player and continues to be done until some unlucky chap runs out of cards that let him steal the bonus card. Boy, is that a bad mechanic.
The question, assuming that we played correctly, is how to fix it. For my part, I would be happy to dispense with the Intelligence and Aggresion cards altogether. I think that they’re simply bad cards. I would, instead, provide some other cards in their place so that the entire bonus card mechanic doesn’t need to be scrapped.
A second problem, which may not really be a problem, is the essential tit-for-tat game play. I kill one your yours, you kill one of mine, I kill one of yours, …. etc. back and forth without any real progress. This doesn’t give the game much of a progressive feel, more like a continuing stasis feel, like what I felt about Nexus Ops.
Thirdly, and similarly, since there are 6 small territories and 6 large territories, the small ones are all filled almost immediately, rushing past the first major scoring, and then the rest of the game goes slowly since no one wants to make it easy for someone else to fill any of the large areas.
Lastly, the cad that let’s you draw money seems a bit overpowered, but I am reserving judgment on it.
What is good about the game definitely outweighs this, after one play. Although this is an area control game, points come from all different directions and finding the right strategy is a good struggle. Although in my element, I did not get any sort of grasp about how to proceed until the last third of the game. Which is why I caught up from down 50 points going into the last scoring to only down 30.
I very much look forward to trying it again.
In our game, I was Snake, Adam Crocodile, Zack Mammoth, and Elijah Human. That put Adam and me in general proximity to start with. I quickly dominated a small desert and kept it the entire game, and then adapted my way into the mountains in order to chase Zack who was clearly winning even early on. Adam and Elijah were stuck more in the middle, competing for second place.
Adam insisted on playing with the regular set of buildings, so the only changes we made were the increased utility for Hospice. We had planned to switch the costs of University and Factory as well, but both Adam and I forgot about that when we bought them.
Rachel started off with strong shipping and decided to follow through on that with massive shipping, acquiring Hospice and eventually Custom’s House and not much else. I had a monopoly on Tobacco for most of the game (Rachel and Adam both had coffee), so was able to trade it a few times and also block off the large boat. Meanwhile, both Adam and I acquired Factory and Harbor. Adam had the earlier Factory and then coffee and so managed to acquire three large buildings by the end of the game, leaving me to buy Wharf. Between my Harbor and Wharf, I was also making a nice killing on shipping.
By game end, Rachel only had two more shipping points than me (36 to 34) as her last shipping netted her about 6 or 7 (plus CH), while netting me something like 15. But her CH trumped my City Hall, and she ended 1 VP ahead of me. Adam’s buildings were great, of course, but he only had 22 shipping points. Still, a very close finish in the end.
December 20, 2006
Hanukkah game night, so attendance was light. Zack and Nadine are out of the country, and Binyamin brought his too young children.
I had unwrapped a few new games for the holiday, so we got to play them.
Saboteur is a card game of dwarves versus saboteurs, where all players are playing cards digging from the mine shaft to the hidden treasure. Each round, you either play a new tunnel area, play a special card, or discard a card, and then you draw another.
I got this game after Shadows Over Camelot proved to be a hit with our group (even though it’s not really my cup of tea). This game seemed like SoC lite, and looked like a viable filler game for up to 10 people. Bang! had not proved as successful.
Reading through the rules, I was forced to add ‘and Mille Bornes’ to ‘like SoC’ to the description. You play paths (tunnel cards with various different entrances, entrances, and blockages) to achieve the goal. But only if you are not stuck with a broken wheelbarrow, broken lamp, or broken pickaxe, which you can fix with the appropriate fixed item (like flat tires and spare tires in Mille Bornes).
N+1 cards are mixed, of which about a third are saboteurs and the rest dwarves. The number of saboteurs dealt in each round may vary by one. The dwarves have to create a tunnel that reaches the goal, while the saboteurs have to play cards to prevent this from happening. Path cards may only be played if you have not been ‘brokened’ by another played. Keep going until the deck runs out.
The secrecy of who is supposed to be whom is pretty much destroyed after one round of card play; the saboteurs out themselves very quickly. And it is a tough game for the dwarves to succeed, if the number of saboteurs is on the higher side.
In our game, the saboteurs won all three rounds. However, this was due to there being the higher amount of saboteurs in all three rounds, as well as Zvi Yehuda misunderstanding the card the role he was given in round two and playing like a saboteur, even though he was a dwarf!
Once players got the hang of what to play, each player’s move was fairly quick. After the deck was exhausted, and we were supposed to play out the remaining cards, we typically found that there was no point as there was no way for the dwarves to win at that point.
Children of Fire: board game
CoF:bg is a neat blind-bidding/area control game where you are trying to collect influence counters in order to move four figures in the directions that you want their lives to take. Your opponents are working with or against you, depending on which figure is being moved.
I bought this lovely game on Tom Vasel’s recommendation, and it looked to me like it was going to be a lite version of Ys, a game I think is nice but over the top in complexity. This game looked like all the good parts of that game without all the complexity. And I was right.
Essentially, you get to play three cards each round vying for control of a) the counters in four sections, or b) a fifth section that controls turn order, or c) in front of you in order to move four figures in either of two directions (for which you need counters collected from a previous round). You can only place one card in any location each round, and three cards total per round, so you have to choose carefully. The cards are numbered, and placed face down, but can be turned up to use their special ability, if any.
Each player has secret objectives to move the four figures in certain directions and in a certain order, and the game ends when their fates have been decided. You also gain points by “swaying the masses’ which means trading in one counter of each color for a white counter.
So it is a simple blind bidding game with enough twists and a simple theme to be a quite lovely game. Each player’s cards are slightly different, but the decks seemed balanced.
In our game, Adam successfully hid his intentions from all of us as to which way he was trying to move one of the figures. In the last round, both Saarya and I passed on moving the figure so as to trade out counters in for “masses” victory points, figuring that Adam would move him the direction we wanted anyway. But he ended up moving him the exact opposite direction from what we wanted.
Adam collected so many counters during the game that we ran out of common ones to replenish the board between rounds. This was not good for him, because he should have been trading these in for “masses” points, and he ended the game with a barrel full of useless counters.
We ran into a few rules problems. One was what to do when you run out of counters for the replenishment – we ruled to use substitutes, but one could just as easily rule that no counters get placed. Another was a special ability that removed one counter; how does that applie to two counters spent on moving a secondary figure one space. After removing one counter, does he move half a space? Lastly, it seems at least possible that the game will never terminate.
I’ll have to find out about these issues, and I look forward to trying this again.
This was Ben’s first game, and I heard him complaining that he lost due to not having had the rules explained properly. I don’t know who won.
This really is a nice game, although so is team Hearts. It delivers almost as much fun as Bridge with almost none of the pain. Still, Bridge is more deep, no question.
In our game, Tichu was called four times out of five. In round three, I called it and failed. But in round four, I called Grand Tichu and succeeded, to make up for it. By the end of round four, we were pretty much tied. We had one more hand, and Saarya called Tichu, and both of them managed to go out before we could.
We have the idea of the game down, although I did learn that it is better to call Tichu with pairs and triples than to call with straights, since it’s harder to get in with straights.
December 13, 2006
Many people brought a partner with them to game night, in some sense or another. Binyamin brought his wife Rivka, Josh brought his friend Idit, Adam brought his roommate Shlomi. A new guy Eyal came, and he brought a friend, too – Dovid. I’ll call him Dovid to distinguish from David K.
Zack picked up a copy of The Menorah Game. Gili was absent this week, probably with tests. Elijah is on play practice, and both Nadine and Zack are off to the US for a while.
Settlers of Catan
I was late with my dinner, again, so while waiting for me, David played Settlers with the new guys Eyal and Dovid, which is one of the games that they already knew. David apparently came back from a losing position to win the game.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting much from the game as I had played it before and been unimpressed. But everyone on BGG keeps singing it so many praises, that I thought I would get a copy and maybe some of the other players in the group would like it as a filler game. I tried it again and remained unimpressed. But I have no objection to playing it as a mindless filler.
And not the least because the entire came can be played with any other five suited deck of cards. Get rid of the freakin’ board.
I managed to score positive points in four out of five tracks, and I didn’t play on the last one. Dylan scored negative on two tracks and positive on one.
A little shuffling back and forth until we decided what to play. They played with several hidden powers and God knows what else. They seemed to have a good time, anyway.
I still love this game, no let up in sight. I introduced the game to all the other players and they all enjoyed it, too. The game was played pretty viciously, with fields getting blocked and extra bids placed just to entice the waterbearer into doing harm to others.
In our game, the fields, with minor exception, were not large. Josh managed the largest field, 7 cubes on 8 tiles, but had almost nothing else. Meanwhile, Idit and Dylan had 5 or 7 cubes on a 6 tile field, as well as other smaller fields.
Everything I tried to do during the game got thwarted. I saw that there was no way I could compete in the fields. By the third to last round, I realized that the field scoring would not be very high, so I collected some money from the other players. In the end, it was a good boost, but not enough.
I was second to last in field scoring, but as you can see, came in second place, anyway.
Binyamin taught this to Rivka.
All players managed to score at the end of the game, which doesn’t always happen in five player.
They played on the East and Central parts of the US, which is the cheap area of the map. First time play for some of them.
I taught them all this game. I can see how the game can get addictive, but really it is not as deep as Bridge, and much more lucky.
In the first round, I went out first and my partner followed. In the second round, Dylan called Tichu and went out first, helped with an 8 card straight. I went out second, however. In the end, they had 0 points in tricks while we had 100, so we tied the round.
Adam has been hankering to play this game again for a long time and he finally found some victims to play with him.
Nadine taught this to Adam and Zack for a round or two, but then Zack had to go. This is Nadine’s biblically themed version or Ra.
Magic: the Gathering
They drafted and played with the same cards we’ve been using for the last few times. There may also have been a fourth game.
Tigris and Euphrates
This is and was a fun game, as always, although Shlomi seemed to have trouble grasping the rules (as he also did for Tichu).
Unlike many other instances of this game in four players, the kingdoms were very multi-cultural, almost all of them having four leaders right at the start from three different kingdoms. Tresures got taken early; I took them and then moved my green leader away from conflicts. In this way, I progresses very nicely in all colors.
There were few conflicts, but astonishingly enough for four players there were eventually four monuments. These were all helping me, primarily. And I thought the win was going to be relatively painless.
Unfortunately for me, Nadine decided to pick a fight that she couldn’t win in order to end the game and collect the last treasure. In doing so, she gave massive amounts of points in three colors to Shlomi, who went from a meek 6 points to a studly 10 points as a results of this. Grrr. Kingmaking at its finest.
December 06, 2006
Gilad from Modiin managed to drop by for a game; this was only the second time he managed to make it. Josh dropped by to pick up a game he ordered but wasn’t able to stay. Gili also dropped by to pick up a few Menorah games, but was only able to stay for a light game; she is in the middle of some sort of exam period.
Both Gilad and Binyamin brought games that I hadn’t played and wanted to play, but I couldn’t play all of them.
Tal taught this game with my help. They all seemed to enjoy it well enough.
The game has a down side. Unlike games where the game is supposed to get tense and build up to something near the end, this game just sort of peters out for the last third.
I had played Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, but never the original. I finally got my chance. We also played with the tiles from the Princess and the Dragon but we ignored the rules for them.
I had trouble on my first play identifying the Cloisters from other buildings and at least once I simply ignored it when I placed it on the board.
Compared with the scoring in H&G, I’m not too keen on the Carcassonne scoring model. The Cloister scoring is kind of silly, and there is not enough scoring from the fields at the end of the game. I made the mistake of going for some field bonuses but they turned out to be nothing to write home about.
It could just be that I’m used to one thing and presented with another.
This is one of those games that I was looking forward to playing but didn’t get a chance to. The components looked suspiciously like those of Ys. Nadine liked this game, however.
This was another new game for us. It is supposed to have won some awards, but it came off as yet another middle mechanical Euro-game. I’m supposing that the awards are because this was one of the earlier ones and thus set the stage for all the others. But it is certainly not one of the best.
For one thing, once you’re behind, you’re likely going to stay behind. For another, there is almost no interaction, although there is some in the route placement. For another, there are some irrelevant mechanics, such as secret tiles, as well as irrelevant components.
For another, the majority of the game is spent planning and planning, only to have to sit and plan and plan again once somebody places a tile. It’s designed for AP. I just wanted to play casual and quickly got bored waiting for others. And for another, if you don’t pick the cards that everyone else is picking, you’re likely screwed.
The game is based around the idea of traveling salesman, by the way. In our game, I started off right down the middle of the board, the net result of which is that the rest of my pickups were on either side of the board from each other and therefore going to be highly inefficient to collect. Zack managed to do a clean sweep of one half the board and was easily able to maintain this lead for the last two turns.
The only game that Gili had time for.
Adam, Nadine, Binyamin, Zack
We have taken to this game as a nice filler for four.
This was Nadine’s first game of this. I didn’t see the results.
Magic: the Gathering
As usual, David and I got in a hand of this, and as usual I lost despite David thinking he had the worse deck. We’re still playing with the new cards that I got on Games Day.
November 29, 2006
I started taking notes but then lost my piece of paper. Tonight’s game night showed more signs of difficulties in finding games that multiple people all agree to play. Not only does everyone have a list of games that they won’t play (or, won’t play this time because they played it last time), they also have trouble negotiating compromises, often trying to convince fellow players, futilely, to play the game that they want to play. Or, refusing to commit to play any game until it is known what all the games being played are.
In the end, we devolved into playing some two-players games. Which is kind of ridiculous. I have to come up with a solution for this.
Rachel didn’t get to play last time, and she had to go at 8:00, so she insisted on playing this as three-player at the start of the evening. Any more players and the game would take too long.
We played with a few odd buildings, but nothing extravagant. I could see early on that I was losing the shipping race, which resulted in me actually thinking the longest on my turns than my opponents. There was nothing I could do to catch up, however, since both Nadine and Rachel were happily feeding into each other’s shipping.
And that’s despite having a coffee monopoly. We played with the building “Farmer’s Market”, which is 1/1 and lets you take an additional plantation from the remaining face up plantations at the end of the Settler phase (you don’t get if none remain). It’s a poor man’s Hacienda and it doesn’t work half as well (although it’s strong in 2-player).
They played six games, five of which Zack won.
This was my first multi-player game of this, and while better than two-player, my opinion of the overly tight scoring range remains. There are simply not enough ways to score and the scoring range results in too much swing for the skill involved. If the scores went to 50 or so, and there were some other ways to score points, the game would be much better.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
They played three games, and Elijah won two.
I thought this would be a perfect game for Adam, but he managed to lose six straight games, five of them to Nadine, who I thought would NOT do well with this game. Adam claims that he kept trying to do defensive plays and there is no viable defensive strategy, which means that the game is simply a race game.
I will have to play him to see what he’s talking about.
That’s one hundred and forty something to one hundred and twenty something. We didn’t record the exact score. Two-player Caylus is much more tolerable, even though there is still too much calculation at the end game. On Binyamin’s last two turns, he had hundreds of options available to him; all of which would result in beat me, anyway, but it was hard for him to see that.
They played this card game after LotR, while others were involved in their own two-player games. I don’t know the rules.
Zack guessed this right after everyone got it.
Adam essentially taught this to Nadine who played without any handicap. She agreed to play with one next time.
The Menorah Game
I have no further information on the games.
Children of Fire RPG
They spent some more time creating their characters.
Elijah will now be gone for a while, and Gili will be back next week. Maybe we can finally start roleplaying, since we seem to be burned out on board games.
November 22, 2006
A small group tonight. But we ended way way way way way too late.
Nautilus is a beautiful looking game with deep sea colors reminiscient of Nexus Ops. It is both a tile laying game, a resource management game, and an exploration game. In the end, however, it is a racing game. The theme is about building an exploratory sub-sea station, placing your guys into each module (think Carcassonne), and launching subs to explore and collect sunken treasures and curiosities.
The object of the game is to have the most victory points, which is roughly the product of the number of modules upon which you’ve placed your guys times the number of treasure chips you have collected from the board. You also add your leftover cash, but it seems unlikely that anyone is going to have much leftover, or even if they did, that it will swing the score.
Like Princes of Florence, cash is extremely tight. Unlike PoF, however, it is hard to get any back. In a four player game, each player starts with 45 cash, but you ideally need about 60 during the game. The only way to get cash is a) for others to land on the tiles you placed and pay you, but that only gives you 1 cash, once per tile per player, and you are just as often going to have to give it back to another players when you land on theirs; and b) collect one of the nine sunken treasure chips, for which you collect 2 to 4 cash depending on if you have progressed in the treasure collecting track (think Goa).
You have fifteen guys to place on tiles and five progression tracks that go from 0 to 4. You progress on a track for placing a guy on the right tile, and once placed it can’t be moved. So you will have to forgo at least some of the track progression. But that doesn’t matter much.
For each track, you score either 0, 1, or 3 points, 1 if you’ve reached space 2 on the track, and 3 if you’ve reached space 4 first and no one else reached space 5, or space 5 first (think Cities and Knights of Catan). Only one person can get the 3 points on each track. But it’s not too hard to get to at least 1 on each track, so the odds are very likely that you will be scoring either 5, 7, or 9 for your track progression multiplier. Once in a while you may have to forgo one of the tracks. Suffice to say, the person with the highest score on the progression tracks is going to win, barring extremely bad luck with his discoveries.
The treasure chips are placed face down on specific locations on the board, so you don’t have to figure out where they are. They generally yield either 0, 1, or 2 points with which to multiply against your progression track score), or they yield treasure which provides cash. At the end of the game, you can use remaining cash to bump up half of your treasures one point each. Each person is randomly assigned as to which two out of four basic treasures he will be able to so bump up at the beginning of the game. The net result of this is that you need to keep some cash in reserve for the end of the game, and roughly half of what you collect won’t be bumpable, so you would prefer to recover the ones that are better for you.
Two mechanics are added to assist you with this. The first one is that the lowest valued treasures allow you to look at some of the face down tresures on the board, but only if you’ve progressed in the “look at face down treasures” track. The other is that you can spend one cash before moving any sub to look at the face down treasures within your sonar range, typically the nearest 2, 3, or 4 treasures. After a single round of the game, and having not used the sonar ability even once, I decided that this is a collosal waste of resources, as the precious cash that you use just to look at the nearest treasures is better off being used to place more guys on the modules. The odds are very high that you will get something valuable regardless of what you pick up, and all you will have done is thrown out the money which is one less you have to bump up treasures at the end of the game, anyway. That was my impression, anyway.
There are three methods of annoying other players: a) placing modules far away from their guys, so that they have to take a long time to walk their guys over to them (and in fact, may not be able to), b) taking treasures before they can, and c) progressing in the chart and taking the 3 points for that track before they can. Other than that, it’s just a matter of counting action points.
I have to say, I don’t ever recall playing a game where I really wished for more explosions and combat. Adding a few undersea mines would boost the value of sonar greatly. And adding some missiles and a sixth track for missile/defense ability would made for a much for tense, interactive, and adventurous game. You sometimes wonder if Euro-designers believe that they can’t add this as it would violate some unwritten rule.
In my opinion, the game is very nice and should generally play very quickly. The calculations are light, and like any other game with a score based on a product, a square number is the goal you’re aiming for. But my fellow players, especially Binyamin and Rivka, were ponderously slow. The game took 3 and a 1/2 hours, of which I used about 10 minutes of it.
The last round saw me stealing the three point chip for one of the tracks from Gili who was poised to take it; one of my treasures was “move any sub an additional three spaces” which is what I needed to land at a module and take it before she could get there.
These guys played with passing powers and ten or so comets, as well as the Laser and Loser powers, and then complained to me afterwards that the game felt kind of random.
There was a lot of luck, usually you win some battles, lose others. With Loser, which Elijah passed to me, I was able to win almost everytime. Laser didn’t help Elijah much, because I was lucky with my cards – Most of the game I had only one or two Challenge cards, and my last draw was a 40 and 4 Compromises. By picking so few Challenge cards, I also ended up with tons of Flares and Edicts. So on the last round I could play an Edict banning cards that round, Elijah wanted to block my Loser. The round before I would have won, but Elijah played a Flare that made me lose the battle. The Comets had very little effect. It’s easier to lose powers in a three-player game because the same systems get attacked more.
Adam took the time to teach Elijah how to play Go on a 9×9 board. He spotted him 9 stones, as well.
They played this vicious negotiation game. I doubt it works as well with 3 players, but it was also probably less vicious.
It’s not particulary vicious, it’s just that you know that agreements may not stick. It depends a lot on the players decision-making about who to help or hurt when, with some tile strategy. Paying bribes doesn’t guarantee anything and you lose the money even if you don’t get the deal. So it rewards players who convince other people to pay them the most. It might work a little better if it was open auction, rather than bid only once.
At 11:00, Rachel was almost going to play a 4 player game of PR with us, but Binyamin and Rivka wanted to join also rather than play something on the side with me. 5 players would have been too long for Rachel, so she wisely bowed out. Rivka took her spot, and we played 5 player anyway. I hope never to do this again, as 5 player PR is long enough, but Binyamin, Rivka, and also Adam, were again so slow as to try my patience. I was a little snarly, I admit, especially since I have more experience with the game then they do, and especially since it was the first time they were playing with some of my expansion buildings.
Some notable expansion buildings we played with include:
Assembly Line instead of Small Market.
Prospector’s Cabin: 5/2. Allows you to either a) collect an addiitional 1 GP if you collect 1 GP from a privilege (Trader and Prospector), or b) collect 1 GP instead of using a privilege. I have tried to use this building before with only Prospector giving the additional bonus, and always found it to be too weak. This time I played with it and I killed with it. Everyone was convinced that it is broken, although I notice that no one else bought the other one. After all is said and done, it is not really broken.
A few things I did with it: take a corn plantation and a gold piece during Settler; take a useless phase with a gold on it, such as trader when I had no goods to trade, and still collect a gold piece; take a Prospector for 3 gold pieces a few times.
All in all, I gained an additional GP about 6 or 7 times in the first ten rounds of the game; I don’t know if that is more than I would have gotten from Large Market, but somehow it seemed more annoying to the other players, because it is just so flexible. I ended up losing the game enyway, so that should say something. And it was because I didn’t have enough money.
Large General Workhouse: 8/3, 2 circles. Counts as production circles for any type of good. So, along with manned matching plantations, allow you to prodcue anything. You choose each time you produce.
|1||R||Builder||Rivka, Adam, and Binyamin are still exploring the game. Initially, Nadine and I tried to point out better or worse moves, especially if what they were about to do would greatly help one of us, but I decided early on that they should just play, as it was late, too long to explain some of the long range impacts of their moves, and it is better to let people work things out on their own, anyway.There was no corn in the opening batch of plantations, and all 4 Small Indigo plants were bought here. I bought Small Sugar.|
|A||Settler||He was going to take Mayor, which wasn’t a bad idea since he had an indigo and a Small Indigo Plant, but he ended up taking this instead, since he likes quarries. Binyamin started on tobacco, and Nadine started on coffee. The next set of plantations again didn’t have any corn.|
|B||Mayor||Binyamin now had indigo running.|
|2||A||Mayor||I now had sugar working, Nadine still had corn, and everyone else had indigo.|
|B||Craftsman+||This is where I gave up trying to give advice this game, as this move clearly helped me. Binaymin didn’t see why.|
|J||Trader+||I sell sugar, netting 4 GP.|
|R||Settler||Binyamin gets his 2nd tobacco. Finally some corns come out.|
|3||B||Builder+||Binyamin buys Tobacco. I buy Prospector’s Cabin, without realizing its potential, yet.|
|A||Settler||Adam takes a corn, but Binyamin takes another tobacco. He says he doesn’t like corn, much. I take my second corn.|
|4||J||Trader+||I use my Prospector’s Cabin to net 2 GP on an otherwise useless phase.|
|N||Builder||Nadine builds Large General Workhouse. She has running indigo, and is about to have running tobacco and coffee, now. One of the things about LGW is it allows people to still produce tobacco and coffee, even after the standard production buildings are out.|
|B||Settler||Binyamin takes a quarry, and I take a coffee, I think. By the end of the game, I have 4 running corns, sugar, and coffee.|
|5||N||Craftsman++||This gives Binyamin tobacco, and Nadine tobacco and coffee.|
|A||Captain++||In theory, Binyamin could have been forced to ship his tobacco, but Binaymin wanted to do that, and Adam didn’t want him to do that, so Adam instead shipped his sugar.|
|B||Trader||Binaymin trades tobacco, Nadine trades coffee.|
|J||Settler||I take a corn and a gold piece for forgoing a quarry.|
|6||R||Builder+||Rivka buys tobacco; both she and Binaymin produce three tobaccos each. Binyamin and Nadine both buy Discretionary Hold (or Nadine buys it next round). I buy coffee.|
|J||Settler||Again I take a corn and a GP. I now have 4 corns. Nadine is producing indigo, tobacco, and coffee. Rivka is producing tobacco, sugar, and indigo. Adam has indigo, corn, and sugar, and will soon have coffee. Binaymin has tobacco, sugar, and indigo.|
|7||A||Builder||Adam now builds coffee. He actually has room to produce three coffees with Assembly Line.|
|B||Mayor||I’m happy to get colonists, because my corns need filling.|
|J||Trader+||I take the gold again, with nothing to trade.|
|R||Craftsman+||Setting me up to trade coffee.|
|J||Trader||I trade coffee, Nadine trades tobacco.|
|A||Settler+||Both Rivka and Adam have or had Haciendas going, and Binaymin got a Construction Hut at some point.|
|9||J||Builder+||I build Wharf.|
|B||Trader||Binaymin trades tobacco, and the Trading House is full and emptied.|
|R||Captain++||At this point I’m shipping 5 corns on my wharf each Captin, ot blocking a boat. However, others are shipping a lot of tobacco, sugar, and other things, so I’m inching ahead in shipping points, but my building is still weak. However, aside from the one big building I buy, I never buy anything else for the rest of the game. And I buy the wrong building, Cathedral (think Guild Hall), rather than Custom’s House which I should have bought. I guess I figured I was going to have another chance, but I didn’t.|
|A||Builder||Adam builds Factory, Binaymin builds Wharf.|
|11||R||Settler++||The plantations are pretty much already all gone.|
|J||Prospector+||I now have enough for my big building.|
|12||A||Builder+||Adam builds Harbor, I build Cathedral.|
|B||Prospector+||He takes it, not wanting me to get three more GPs.|
|J||Craftsman||Which I didn’t care about, anyway, or so I thought.|
|N||Trader||Nadine has enough for a big building, now.|
|R||Captain||Rivka’s shipping was not too shabby, I knew, but mine was still better.|
|13||B||Trader||Binyamin hopes to get a big building, but never does. Rivka and Adam both eventually take one, and Nadine takes a second.|
|N||Builder||She takes Fairgrounds, which is worth 7 for her once she takes a quarry.|
|14||J||Captain+||The victory points are now down to 8.|
|A||Builder||Adam takes Fortress, Nadine takes Custom’s House, Rivka takes City Hall. Or something like that.|
|R||Captain||Ending the victory points.|
|A||Builder||Ending the meaningful phase choices.|
Nadine: 24S + 19B + 11b = 54
Jon: 31S + 14B + 4b = 49
Rivka: 25S + 17B + 6b = 48
Adam: 22S + 19B + 5b = 46
Binyamin: 24S + 14B + 0b = 38
Rivka got her big building in round 13. Her selection of Trader in round 14 is what enabled me to build the second big building, making up for Binyamin’s Craft in front of you in the second round – she traded sugar and I traded Coffee, I was last but no one else could trade. Rivka did buy two more small buildings, which helped with City Hall. Adam took Customs House, I had Fortress which only gave 4 points.
I didn’t have a Quarry til the end and never used it, the first time I’ve done that. I mainly took Workhouse due to bad plantations choices so I had both Coffee and Tobacco early on. Which I usually wouldn’t do, but it ended up being handy with the Workhouse.
We should have reminded Binyamin that he would be better off with a big building instead of Wharf near the end of the game because he had Discretionary Hold, but he wanted to buy a building, and it’s harder to remember all this at 1 am. 5-player is always fun and interesting, a very different game than 3 or 4-player.
And then I kicked them all out, at 1:20 am.
November 15, 2006
Prior to this evening there was a lot of discussion about restarting with roleplaying. Despite numerous messages back and forth, at the end nobody was sure what was happening, who was playing what, or who was DMing.
Some only wanted to play Chidren of Fire, which was my suggestion. Some only wanted to play D&D. Some were open to one or the other, but preferred one over the other. And all of us were hoping to avoid too many players in one group like we had last time, but no one wanted to sit out.
In the end, I told everyone to go work it out on their own without involving me. It took a few repetitions of this, but in the end that’s what happened. We ended with a group of five for each game, with Adam willing to DM CoF and Ilan willing to DM D&D.
After trying this game last week and not enjoying it, I thought about a possible rule change that would make the game more interesting. Its problem is that every game plays exactly the same, because the moment someone makes a three letter word, it’s game over. I changed the rules so that the game continues until all of the spaces are filled. Forming a three letter word is 1 point, a four letter word is 2 points, and a five letter word is 4 points.
The reason this makes the game better is that you are now free to experiment in giving away a three letter word in exchange for forming something equivalent or better in return. This removes the paralyzingly repetitive nature of the original game.
It still wasn’t a rip-roaring good time, but it was playable. I won after scoring for the word “duh”, which Adam contended wasn’t really a word (everyone else disagreed).
The Menorah Game
They played the advanced version of the game. Shevi claimed that she had been playing all last week and won every time.
Children of Fire
Finally I am close to getting this out onto the table, and I don’t have to DM it, either. We didn’t actually play this week, but Adam helped the players set up characters.
AD&D, 2nd ed
Looks like I’m not the only one who prefers 2nd edition over 3rd. These guys not only set up characters, despite only having one version of the manual, and online at that, but actually began a campaign that Ilan made up on the spot. They killed a few kobolds, I hear.
Magic: the Gathering
I was keen to play this, and David was just as happy to oblige. We drafted from the cards that Nate had brought me on games Day, and the cards were completely new to both of us. It made drafting last a while. Since the cards were all from the same block, we were able to draft some nifty decks with lots of synergystic effects, something we don’t usually get from random drafting. So the decks were both more powerful and more fun to play than usual.
I thought I had a nice deck, but David squeaked out two wins, both times after being reduced to 2 points.
Dylan also took some time to teach Adam how to play.
As usual, the game is just 10 to 20 percent longer than it should be. Especially with heavy planners/thinkers like us. This time even I took a long time to make some of my turns.
David, as everyone else, made the occasional mess-ups, not the least of which was due to not remembering the rules about when the castle scores. Even so, he still won, but only owing to his abundance of left-over items.
This game didn’t run so smoothly, as Rosie had some difficulties in figuring out how to use the mechanics best for her and ended up just doing what Elijah said, which annoyed the other two players.
Somehow they made it through and apparently the non-colluding players won, anyway.
Dylan 66, Elijah 64, Zack 60, Rosie 38
Zcak 73, Dylan 71, Elijah 66, Rosie 46
They needed something light and comprehensible, and this satisfied all involved.
Apparently, in the time between creating a character for CoF and this game, Dylan was waiting for a game to open up. I hadn’t realized that or I would have played a game with him simultaneous with my Caylus game, which only required attention on my turn.
I made up for it by playing a game of Hive with him during the final stages of Caylus. This was my second play, and I very much enjoyed it. I especially think that Adam will like it.
I beetled his queen early on, and slowly and methodically cornered him a piece at a time, although he bravely tried to stop this from happening. I think he may have missed an earlier opportunity to aggressively attack my queen in the process.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
They each swapped a victory. I don’t know which side played what.
November 08, 2006
Josh was able to come and he brought with him Idit, a nice young woman. Tal had stayed home today from school, so she was also around for game night.
We began the game group by playtesting four games that were sent to me by On the Spot Games. For a full review of the games, see my blog.
Jon, Nadine, Adam
We tried this two-player and three-player. Nadine didn’t think the game was at all fun. I thought it was poor.
Letter Hold ‘Em
Nadine, Jon, Adam, Zack
The game rules suggested that we use this letter-enhanced poker deck to play Texas Hold ‘Em, but we played standard Five Card Stud. That may be why it wasn’t spectacular. We deemed it ok for those who like both word games and poker.
Jon, Nadine, Adam, Zack
This is a straight party game, where you have to guess what every one else will choose. But since every one else is doing the same, no one is really choosing anything other than what other people would choose. Which doesn’t appear to work. It could be salvaged by changing the mechanic to choosing what the active player would choose.
Jon, Nadine, Gili, Adam, Zack, David
This is a straight party game which appears to work. It’s major problem is only that the game play is ended once the cards have all been used up.
Ben 50, David 49, Nadine 45, Adam 41
This was Ben’s first play. Ben was nowhere near getting any blue buildings, but had strong castle play and ended the game before others could outbuild him. The game took four hours.
Cities and Knights of Catan
Gili 15, Tal, Shevi
For some reason they played to 15 points instead of 13. Worse, Gili was already so far ahead that the others had no chance during the extended part of the game, anyway. Gili ended the game shortly before Shevi was able to collect her second metropolis. The game took two and a half hours.
Idit/Pacifist+, Josh/Mesmer+, Jon/Disease, Zack/Virus, Binyamin/Insect
I introduced Idit to the game, and this was Josh’s second game. So I deliberately cut down to only one power. I also eliminated reverse cones (excepting the Solar Wind edict), comets, lucre, moons, and special hexes, which I don’t like playing with, anyway.
Idit could have jointly won with me instead, or she could have won singly if she had known that Josh had no edicts to throw at her. I discovered that I am missing the Disease power card from my game 😦 . Luckily, I remembered how the power works (even the specifics of the Mayfair power). Zack’s Virus was neatly countered by three of the other powers.
Binyamin/Prophet/Judge+, Jon/Loser/?, Idit/Boomerang/Demon, Josh/Mind/Ghost, Zack/Connoisseur/Vulch
In this game we played with three hidden powers, of which you were able to reveal any two during the game. Binyamin’s two powers ensured him a constant stream of bases and pernicious ones at that. Zack and Idit had most of their pieces in the warp for most of the game, until they were able to draw and play Warp Break once each. My other power was Sorcerer, but I wasn’t able to reveal and play it before the game ended.
On my last turn, I would have won the game but I failed my fourth base challenge by a single point. My fifth base would have been a cakewalk, as I could still call upset with Loser and my only challenge card was a compromise. Or I could have forgone calling upset and simply revealed my Sorcerer, switching a compromise to my opponent. Either way, I never got the chance before the game ended.
November 01, 2006
David brought his daughter Shevi who brought a friend, Bracha. Apparently David has turned Shevi on to gaming who has turned some of her friends on. They are both lovely young women and quite giggly as teenage girls are apt to be. At one point they had to excuse themselves for a while to get over a joint laughing fit.
Binyamin’s wife Rivka also returned. And this was Brendan’s last visit to the club. He has been in Israel for several months and now returns to Thailand to be with his wife. I sent him away with a parting gift from the club, a Hebrew/English copy of Slamwich.
While buying Slamwich, I also picked up this game based solely on its reputation on BGG. My version is the pretty version with the Bakelite pieces. I didn’t get to play, but these two played three games. Brendan indicated that he liked it well enough and would play again.
Meanwhile, I opened with a game of Go with Adam. Both of us are now devotees of the game. Adam is the stronger player, probably because he actually reads about or studies the game, whereas I haven’t committed to that, yet.
We played on an 11×11 board. Two weeks ago I took my Pente board and drew concentric squares in different colors so that we would have defined areas on which to play as we increased our playing levels. The result was mixed; the board area is ready to go, but you have to remember that the border is defined by the blue lines, and not the black lines drawn within that.
I played first. I actually started pretty well, but then made two mistakes that cost me two areas. I also fought over an area that I probably could have won, but I am not strong enough and didn’t see the solution. In the end, I resigned.
Binyamin introduced this as an opener game, intending to play three players and be finished in a half an hour. Nadine joined them before the game started. Binyamin didn’t count on both David and Nadine, who seem to prefer to “solve” games rather than play them. Every turn, they both treid to map out every possible remaining move until the end of the game, or so I hear. It ended up taking about three hours. They still seem to have had some fun.
David and I didn’t try to map out every possible move, or plan beyond one turn, though we were discussing strategy because we were trying to figure out how to play a new game. The only lengthening part was at the end. I was choosing the last placement location, and I picked the one which was most likely to give me the most points. Binyamin complained that I was giving David the game, because that position gave David lots of points as opposed to Binyamin, they were both ahead and in contention to win. So after playing out that spot, which gave me second place, we went back and played out the other spot, to demonstrate for Binyamin and everyone that it wasn’t as good of a spot for me, which was the case. David still would have won, but I wouldn’t have come in second, and Binyamin would have done better. It’s a tricky game, but you don’t really have control because other players have too many ways to attack you when you can’t respond. I prefer games where what I do feels like it matters more. David did a good job catching on quickly to key aspects for winning. We all blocked Binyamin more because he was ahead early, I guess to David’s benefit.
Settlers of Catan
This pathetic scoring was due to Zack starting on all numbers 4 through 10, and a good assortment of all resources.
It’s definitely a beautiful looking game. I think I may try it next time.
This is usually my game, but I ended up with the short end of the stick here. Brendan and Adam took an opening lead, I briefly had a nice position on the board, but not long enough to score anything with it, and then Dylan took over and booted everyone else off the board. This was his first play.
The usual discussion about which game to play ended up with this. Time was also short, and this was deemed the shortest of the choice games available.
Binyamin has played the game a number of times but has always inadventantly played it wrong, thinking that you could play either one or two of any card each turn. As a result, a number of times in the first round he played multiple cards with the same color backing in a single play. It took a few rounds for the others to realize what it was that was going wrong.
By that time, they were faced with either continuing or starting over without enough time. They continued, but the end score has therefore been recorded merely for posterity’s sake.
Binyamin only got away with playing wrong once – he put down two green cards with 2 and 1 elephant. Since it could easily have been one green card and one white card, and might have been if he had understood the value of white cards and picked them, it seemed not so critical. And it offset the slight handicap he had from having selected and planned cards based on the wrong rules. He did a good job with connections and won due to that. Gili almost caught up at the end. I was way behind from the beginning after getting nothing from 2 long battles with David and Gili. I collected 10 matching cards to score at the end, but it wasn’t close to enough. Playing with 5 is tough.
They played multiple powers, with at least a few comets, and probably too many flares.
The Menorah Game
Shevi 52, Bracha 41, Jon 40
Shevi 58, Bracha 41
Shevi 51, Bracha 43, Jon 37
Shevi 53, Bracha 37
And maybe a few other games that I missed. I introduced this to Bracha; Shevi apparently plays this “every week” at home with David and her friends. David taught her the rules. Apparently they were an early version of the rules because I had to correct her a half a dozen times and get her up to speed with the latest rules.
Bracha fell in love with the game, and Shevi also expressed love for it. Such nachas. *sniff*.
This was Shevi’s first time at the advanced game (only the first play was the basic game) and after some initial trepidation, she also took to it and said that it was even better.
And now I have six new orders for the game. I think I will have to either get the damn thing produced or make more mockups.
Farewell, Brendan. May the road rise to meet you and may the wind be always at your back.
October 25, 2006
Tyson and Rebecca made their first appearance at the game club after attending Games Day. Max, who first came last week, brought with him Jack and Sergei. Dylan brought along Genya again, but Genya doesn’t really like complicated games, so she probably won’t be returning as a regular.
Behind the scenes, we are discussing various plans for reintroducing RPGs into the games group again once a month.
I was a little under the weather and called the day a little short. I called the end for 10:30. People finished up and were out by 11:00.
With just Dylan and Genya, I brought this out as a quick opener. They actually remembered it from the last time Genya was here, which may have been the last time we played it, too. Anyway, it was certainly quick.
Zack then showed up and I needed another quick filler. Zack loved our game of team Hearts last time, and Dylan and Genya needed to be taught it (so says I). We managed one hand before others arrived. Zack forgot my little rule about my generally passing him diamonds and he passed me three diamonds right back.
Despite our resolution not to play this with six players again, that’s what it ended up becoming. We started with four. Then Max joined us and we settled on five. Sergei showed up after the first round of plants had been auctioned, and joining either game would have been difficult so we snuck him into ours. It’s a testament to his playing that he did as well as he did without ever getting a full explanation of the rules.
Max had wanted to play this to see if it was as good as its reputation on BGG, and with six players it isn’t. Too much downtime while others calculate their moves.
In our game, I decided to actually jump forward in cities rather than hang back as I usually do, and I won. This was partially because unlike in other six player PG games, people bought very little fuel – almost no stocking up, so fuel prices remained low and fuel plants were diverse. Even at the end of the game, coal, garbage, and nukes were sold in the $1 range.
Also, the bidding on plants was healthy so I was able to get the size of plants I needed when I needed them. Nadine tried to catch up, by I outbid her enough. I think people tend to undervalue the right plant at the right time. I probably should have been outbid more. The game easily progressed from stage one to two to three, so we also never got stuck with a lack of building locations.
I was hoping to play this instead of Power Grid but it didn’t work out. I have no info about the game except that Zack liked it.
In Big City you score points by playing cards that represent city plots, and building a building on those plots. Larger buildings (taking up multiple adjacent plots) and buildings which must be in more specific locations score more points.
There are a number of different types of buildings, each with their own rules for where they can be placed and what bonuses they get, which was a bit complicated to keep track of in the first game, but would probably get easier with replaying it. I found that the strategy was a bit shallow, and overshadowed by the luck of the draw. There is only one card for each plot in the game, so if you hold the card for a certain plot, your opponents are somewhat limited as to what they can do to block you. The only real options are extending the light rail so that it goes across where you want to put a double or triple building, or placing a park or factory over the plot (since those don’t require cards for specific plots to play). There is a variant which we did not play with where you can negotiate and trade cards, which would probably improve the game greatly.
On the plus side (depending on your perspective), with the light rail doubling up onto itself and things like two cinemas sprouting up right next to each other, a factory next to a park, etc., it does a decent job of simulating real-life cities.
Tigris and Euphrates
Adam taught the game to these two. Nobody used their disaster tiles and the game ended with the tiles running out.
Binyamin taught the game to these two. They appeared to like it. So far both Ys and Caylus are just a bit too gimmicky for me, although I enjoy playing them.
October 18, 2006
Elijah came with his father Michael and younger sister Rosie. Max is a new guy. Max is a Russian born who speaks some Hebrew and less English, but we managed to get along, and he had a good enough time to promise to return and bring some friends with him.
As often is the case, a lot of good will took some time overcoming the particular taste of each participant about which game to play.
Even without moons, comets, and lucre, two powers for each player proved to be too much, too soon, for some of the newer players. I had to spend a lot of time each round carefully explaining the round order and time resolution rules. And, like in any Cosmic game, even I had trouble figuring out certain rules, like if you can play a card in response to a Plague before you have to toss it, when you are the main player and the Plaguer is not.
Zack played Pentaform (Phantom, Assassin, Subversive, Anti-Matter, Oracle) and Vulch, Elijah played Reincarnator and Terrorist, I played Aristocrat and Grief, Nadine played Siren and Reserve, and Michael played Doppleganger and Laser.
Zack barely used his Pentaform power, but he did use the Vulch nicely. One anomoly that happened was when I used a flare that lets me swap four tokens with another player. Zack had only two tokens left on his sun. I chose my four from the warp, and Zack chose the two from his sun along with two others. Two of my tokens therefore ended up out of the game on his sun.
Elijah’s Terrorist proved to be influential, although Nadine thought that it made the game a bit more random than necessary. I enjoyed my initial hand full of flares, but it didn’t last long. Nadine Sirened well enough but never used her Reserve. Micahel’s Doppleganger was a potent adversary for an Aristocrat, but he never actually used it on me because he thought it would be too difficult to decide. He eventually hand zapped me, however. Meanwhile, his Laser was a potentially potent adversary for the Oracle.
The game ended with a joint win for Zack and me. We both had four bases going in to a challenge of Nadine attacking Michael. We both defended Michael, and then Zack used a Solar Wind to flip over the cone, giving us both base five. Don’t try to correct me on this one; we play with a number of house rules, including that the Solar Wind card can be played at any time, since it is a fairly useless card, otherwise.
I had wanted to try this one out with five players, but I didn’t get a chance. The game ended in a tie, which enhances my feeling that the scoring range opportunities simply aren’t diverse enough in the game.
This was a first play for Dylan, and close to first play for Michael and Zack. Elijah, although he knows better, always plays hell bent on winning every round at all costs. I got lucky in one round against Zack, and then very lucky in the eleventh round, pulling in ten points worth of commodity bonuses. That clinched the victory for me, as Dylan was working on connections and doing a fine job of it, pulling in nine points on the last round.
Binyamin realized that Adam was his closest competitor and worked to ensure that Adam wouldn’t score in the end.
Apparently, Binaymin figured out the rule too quickly.
Not only don’t I know the results of this game, I don’t know the rules of this game. The rules can be found online and the game is played with Icehouse pieces.
Magic: the Gathering
I pulled out the new cards that Nate had brought me on Games Day and gave thirty green cards to Binyamin and thirty red cards to myself, after winnowing out the cards that depended on certain colors or the presence of artifacts. I added lands and we played.
Binaymin is still learning, so there was some discussion, but he pretty much gets it by now. He ended up with a lot of mana producers and big creatures, but only one of them made it out. I fended off that one while I put out a 6/5 flyer and pummeled him, finishing him off with some direct damage.
The Menorah Game
First play for Max, who really enjoyed it. For the first game they played the basic game.
Adam 52, Zack 39, Max 36
And for the second game they played the advanced game, which Zack prefers, as do I and Binyamin. I find that a simple 5 point bonus for completing your menorah seems to be sufficient. It needs more playtesting, still.
The card game of Tarot is some sort of trick-taking game.
They all knew how to play Hearts, and we had a few minutes left until they had to go, so I introduced them to team Hearts. Zack particularly enjoyed the variant.
Odds and Evens
Michael insists on my reporting this “game”, as it was the only complete games that he won. We’re talking about the game where each player chooses whether to stick out one or two fingers.
October 9, 2006
It was a good games day, with good weather out in the sukkahs and a record number of attendees. Everyone appeared to have a good time, and the most regrests were from not being able to play with everyone or to play every game.
- Jon: That’s me.
- David K: Long time friend of mine and my brothers.
- Shevi: His daughter, now 16 years old or so.
- Nadine: Game group regular for three years.
- Saarya: My son.
- Binyamin: Game group regular, and also runs his own group in Beit El.
- Zvi Yehuda: His son.
- Brendan: Our Aussie visitor, soon returning to his wife in Thailand.
- Michael: Friend, occasional visitor.
- Elijah: His son and game group regular.
- Zack: New game group regular for this year, friend of Elijah’s.
- Nate: Game group regular from BGG.
- Guy: Also game group regular, friend of Nate’s.
- Adam: Game group regular.
- Ben: My brother, and occasional game group attendee, and also plays games every shabbat in his town of Cochav Hashachar.
- Yitzchak: Game group regular, Shogun lover.
- Tyson: New to neighborhood, but game lover. Their first time, of many more, we hope.
- Rebecca: His wife, and ditto.
- Dylan: Friend of Ben’s, and occasional attendee.
- Josh: Game lover, used to attend more, hopefully will again.
- Alan: Former regular, moved away for a while, and now wants to play once a month, preferably role-playing.
- Richard: Comes to games days, and was my Bridge partner once upon a time.
- Erez: From the Tel Aviv area, newly back into gaming and looking to start up with a new group.
- Rachel: My Puerto Rico playing wife.
- Gili: Game group regular.
Notes from Games Day: It went from about 10 am until 11 pm. We used my own big sukkah, and then spilled into our neighbor’s sukkah (called the Gold level membership sukkah), and then onto matresses on the floor outside the sukkahs when we ran out of chairs. I announced the schedule at the beginning of the day: “I’m playing Magic with David. The rest of you can do what you want.” Two games of Rochester Draft, followed by a 5 player game of color magic ended up taking five hours, without feeling like more than two.
The longest game was Runebound, however, which went for seven hours while players gave it more or less attention. We introduced a number of people to Puerto Rico, and I played a new game: Nexus Ops. Some of us had considered planning an RPG session, but it never happened. And once again, we didn’t manage to get to Die Macher or Shogun.
We had a full quorum for the daily afternoon prayers (Mincha). We made a large burger order, and got and paid for all of it before we noticed that my burger was missing. It took the store another hour and a half to re-send my missing meal. Dew began falling in the evening, making everything wet.
We also received 283 NIS in donation for new games. Those of you who donated can now make suggestions for a game order.
Binyamin+, Yitzchak, Zvi Yehuda, Ben, Guy
Yitzchak brought his copy of the game.
We played a twelve game round-robin: I partnered with David for four hands, and then with Nadine for four hands, and then with Ben for four hands. Each set had vulnerability: none, dealer, dealer, all. Scoring was duplicate style.
We did a lot of table talk, as David only plays once a year or so, and Nadine is still fairly new. Ben is an expert, and I’m ok, although you wouldn’t know it from the scoring. I don’t play enough to eliminate those silly mistakes that I keep making. I overbid once or twice, and misplayed once. Nadine played well; David got most of the points and played most of the hands.
Ben says that he worked hard to get in position to take the king on the final round and then ended up passing on him after all.
When I heard that David had neglected to teach Shevi Go, I made it my business to do so. She enjoyed it very well, and she was happy to play a game that really made her think (her words, not mine). I gave her a two stone advantage, and she won 41 to 40. Adam gave her a two stone advantage, and he beat her by a lot, which either means that Adam is a better player that I am (which is true), or I gave better advice during the game.
Shevi and I played one game of go, and then I showed her a few tesuji (tactics). We played 9×9, as it was her second game, and she took a two-stone handicap, though she should have taken three or four. The score was I believe 50 to 31 Chinese style and about 20 to -1 Japanese style (we counted both ways). I am by no means a competent player, but I’m starting to get a feel for some of the positions, though there are still a lot of obvious things I miss only to notice them a couple of turns later. I pointed out when Shevi was making very obvious mistakes, but I wasn’t analyzing her position closely to show her what I thought the best move would be. I do remember that there was one point late in the game where I recommended that she shore up territory in her lower right corner, which was the only part of the board without fairly well-defined boundaries. She played elsewhere, and I extended my territory in that area, which probably cost her about seven or eight points.
I didn’t see this one.
Another go at Binyamin’s tile exploration/despoilation of Mesoamerica. Enjoyed it, but we have to settle on one of the two rules translations Binyamin has, staple the pages in order and edit them into a better format. A few things are still not completely clear or hard to find: if you have to swap goods for others as part of an adventure (instead of simply giving them up) does that count as your goods acquisition for the turn, or is it part of movement? When you buy treasure with 2 fish in some adventure tiles, is that part of movement, part of acquisition of items or what?
In other words timing is all important and this needs to be settled.
Fun game, I’d play it again. It even managed to be carried across the roof halfway through the game when dusk fell: portability is an unrecognised asset!
I didn’t see this one, but Binyamin came out of it complaining that the game doesn’t teach good morals. The object of the game, as in Diplomacy, is to lie, take money offered by another player, and then break your side of the bargain. He just can’t see any redeeming value in playing it. Actually, that’s kind of why I don’t play Diplomacy.
This game is definitely vicious, which is what I like about it. It strongly encourages you to backstab the partners you have deals with. I had only played a 3-player game before this, and the intrigue that develops with 5 players is definitely more intricate and interesting (the game is definitely worthy of its name). It’s basically pure negotiation, but instead of negotiating on a price and then exchanging something, you give a bribe, which you lose whether your bribee honors the deal you had or not. Thus the logic of the game is quite different from a typical auction or negotiation game (and like I said is vicious). Also, in the early part of the game there’s plenty of opportunity to retaliate against someone who doesn’t honor your deals with him, but closer to the end retaliation is either not possible or less compelling, and the negotiations become quite dicey. I like negotiation and auction games, and this game is actually thrilling in its way, but it’s definitely not for everybody.
Magic: the Gathering
And that was even though both of us thought that I had drafted the better deck. We both keep forgetting which edition of the rules by which to play.
Ben (R), Binyamin (G), Nate (W), David (U), Jon (B)
Binyamin is a new player, and Nate was very rusty. Ben and I were both fairly mana screwed to start with, while Binyamin and Nate were pulling out great rows of cards, offense and defense. Before going down, I managed to get out a Crypt Rats and blow most of everything away.
I ended up still alive, however. Long enough to cast a 3/1 shadow creature. I wandered away for a short while and came back to find that Ben had managed to blow away almost everything that I hadn’t. My shadow guy was still around. I had a choice of playing correctly and saving my mana for a Broken Visage (with which to kill two creatures) or go for style; naturally I chose the latter. I cast Feast of the Unicorn on my shadow, making him 7/1 and unblockable. My opponents decided to take me out right then and there. Oh well.
Ben and Binyamin won on a tie. In the end, I spent the first five hours on these Magic games, and I still don’t know how they took that long, as they didn’t feel that long.
I didn’t see the game going on, but it looked pretty.
This is a relatively new game, and it was a first play for all of us. Nate brought it to Games Day.
It is a relatively quick and simple war game with several Eurogame elements. Essentially, there are four parts to every round: buy and place troop on your starting positions, move pieces one space each, fight anything in the same hex as you, receive income for each mine you control.
Combat is your simple “roll a d6” and compare to your unit type’s ability to kill. Better units not only kill on lower numbers, but also roll first in combat. Adding to the complexity of the game, each player is dealt a “secret mission” card at the end of each round that gives them bonus points for occupying something or killing something or with something. And you can also get bonus action cards for losing a battle or for occupying the center hex.
The game has pretty, translucent pieces, although some of them are hard to distinguish from the others. There is some sort of thematic story involved, but it didn’t marry that well with the mechanics.
The game has going for it that it has different avenues to success, and that it will most likely be a relatively short battle, as you simply play until twelve points. The pieces are balanced, and money is tight. The game seems to flow well, turn to turn. It has against it the method that the secret mission cards are distributed; once per round, at the end of your round.
Aside from making no thematic sense, this almost completely robs the game of certain strategic elements and introduces some senseless luck. I kind of understand the reason that they did it: it’s so that you can build us missions and then score a lot at once, giving the game a kind of narrative flow. However, it would be much better to auction off the missions, lay them out and let the first player to complete them take them, or any other method that gives advanced planning to the game.
Aa a result, the game is just a flow of battles, back and forth. As a war game, it’s not my type of game; I’m not drawn into rolling dice to see who wins battles. But if you’re into that sort of thing, or you want a hybrid Euro/wargame, it is a very good game for that.
In our game, we started out discovering all the mines, and then flowed back and forth in our little battles. Josh got to the center hex and occupied it for most of the game, which gave him enough action cards to dominate his way to victory. It also helped him having made an alliance with Alan at once point, allowing him to leave one front unguarded.
Princes of Florence
I started this, and then also joined a Puerto Rico game at the same time. I left when Gili showed up to take my place. I left her 400 Fl before round three to acquire a Forest, but Saarya managed to prevent her from getting it. David managed a first turn Jester for only 900 Fl, while I acquired a first turn Recruiter for 800 Fl. Apparently, David wasn’t able to turn this into a victory.
This was Tyson and Rebecca’s first game of PR, and Tyson seems to have done very well. They loved the game, I hear.
I had both a large and small market and a coffee monopoly for a good part of the game (it worked for me last time I played), so for a few turns everyone ganged up on me to force me to ship it, which gave me a coffee boat instead, though it wasn’t enough to win. Tyson cleaned up with about six corns and a wharf, raking in the victory points despite being unable to get a large building (both Rebecca and I had two).
Erez 44, Nadine 41, Rachel 39
And this was Erez’s first game of PR, and he also loved it, enough to play another. Apparently, Erez got a coffee monopoly which they forced him to ship rather than trade. The result was simply that shipping got completely stuck the entire game. Very few shipping points were handed out, which is a good thing, because Nadine forgot to only included 75 shipping points and had dumped all 122 into the game.
Jon 52+3, Rachel 52+1, Nadine 50, Erez 48
A very close game, as you can see. In this game, I left the PoF game and switched seats before the game began, giving me third position – first corn – to Rachel’s second position. She wasn’t happy about this, and spent the entire game trying to thwart me, hoping that it would let her take first place in the process. To that end, she blocked boats I needed, took plantations I wanted after I bought the production building, and so on. I beat her anyway, but only on the tie.
E: Settler. I take a second corn, and continue to take only corn until I have four corns. Then I switch to trying for cash in tobacco and then sugar. I end up with some early shipping leads, sometimes gaining 8 shipping point for each Captain in the early stages of the game. While I know the lead will erode, that’s still nothing to sneeze at. Nadine takes coffee and ends up with the coffee monopoly.
R: Mayor. We weren’t playing with Small Market, and Rachel wanted to prevent me from producing three corns on the first turn.
J:Prospector. I have no interest in any buildings at this point. I am looking towards Large General Warehouse, an eight cost production building that can produce any type of goods. I never get it, however.
E:Settler. Erez takes a second quarry. I take a third corn.
N:Builder. Nadine builds Coffee. I build Small Warehouse, I think.
R:Craftsman. To sell sugar, I believe.
N:Trader. Nadine trades corn, Rachel trades sugar.
E:Settler. That’s three Settlers. He takes sugar, I think. I get a fourth corn.
J:Craftsman. I want to see how far this shipping thing can go.
E:Mayor. And now I have a manned Small Warehouse, too. Everyone thought that I would prefer Discretionary Hold (allows you to store three of any sort of barrel, and also allows you to ship one additional barrel on to any full ships, costs 6), but a) I was still saving the money for buying something that could give me a better income, and b) I knew very well that Rachel was going to try to ensure that there were not too many full ships, so as to hinder my corn shipping.
R:Builder++. She builds Factory. I build Tobacco. I have no tobacco plantations, but there are two up in the draw. Of course, Rachel ensures that I don’t get any of them.
J:Captain. Either this one or the last one gave me 8 shipping points.
N:Craftsman. For coffee.
E:Settler. Number four. He and Rachel both take tobacco. I take sugar.
J:Builder. Prospector had a coin on it, but I needed the sugar building sooner, rather than later.
N:Captain. They’re trying to bloack the boats, but with my Small Warehouse, and the fact that they are producing enough to full the boats anyway, it doesn’t slow me down much. The only thing it does is reduce income from their Factories.
E:Settler. Number five. He takes his third quarry.
R:Captain. Boats are left blocked against corn this round, but they empty again on the next Captain.
R:Builder. I don’t remember what, but she eventually gets Discretionary Hold, Custom’s House (again, to thwart me, plus she ships a lot, too). Nadine and Erez get Harbors. I get Fortress, Nadine gets one large building, and Erez gets two.
J:Trader. I traded tobacco last, and now sugar.
E:Settler. Number six. I think he gets a fourth quarry.
J:Captain. Another eight points to everyone else’s 1 or 2.
E:Settler. Number seven.
J:Builder. Everyone has an unfilled large building at this point.
R:Captain. Victory points run out.
J:Prospector. I now have 2 coins and a barrel to Rachel’s no coins and a barrel. Which is how I end up winning.
N:26S + 18B + 6Bo = 50
E:16S + 20B + 12Bo = 48
R:28S + 17B + 7Bo = 52 + 1
J:36S + 11B + 5Bo = 52 + 3
This game was 7 hours long, a record for longest game played at the club. Players apparently left midgame or wandered off occasionally, although Michael, Elijah, and Zvi Yehuda remained faithful for the duration. Michael won with a magic sword, or so I hear.
It’s a board-game version of a role-playing game, where you wander around, fight monsters, gain experience, and buy stuff. Unfortunately not very compelling with what seemed to be minimal strategy (mostly just roll and move, roll and fight). I was playing other games at the same time, and if I had been paying attention, a bit more strategy may have emerged by attacking the other players, but it’s probably not worth it. It also took an incredibly long time (about six hours), though with a few players not paying much attention and doing other things at the same time.
Not sure why this took so long. I generally did my turns quickly I thought. But highly repetitive play-nature. With 3 or maybe 4 I think it would be fun, especially with a group that all speaks one language, so can table-talk the theme up a bit to overcome the general lack of interaction. Binyamin needs to paint his minis too, the slacker!
Richard returned, having not played since playing Settlers last year, and he wins. He was happy.
Not too much to say about it. A good game, not too much heavy calculation (I don’t bother with keeping an exact tally of the score).
Good game! Simple to set up, explain and play. Not too long. Decent decision making involved. I like it.
Settlers of Catan
Shevi was apparently close to winning, and Saarya stole her Longest Road or Largest Army, or somesuch.
Shadows Over Camelot
Erez took over for somebody midway. There were a lot of noisy accusations flying around, and Michael knew that Nate was the traitor, but no one let him accuse him, for some reason.
Ticket to Ride
Played as an opener between themselves, as they waited for others to finish games.
They played four games, with Adam, Dylan, Zack, and then Brendan taking turns as master. Zack guessed once, Dylan once, and Adam twice. All of them really like the game.
Continually engaging, and much more fun than you would think from the description of it. After a few more rounds it will be interesting to get some more complicated rules. The rules stayed quite simple, but are still enough of a challenge to guess. There are a lot more possible types of rules that we haven’t tried yet (no one has stacked the pieces yet, for example).
You have to have some limit on the possible rules though, and make these known, as there are way too many possibilities otherwise that it becomes impossible without an infinite supply of pieces. “Mastermind” and “Queeries and Theories” have this by limiting the number of colours that can be used. “Zendo” has no specific limits, so I think it’s important for players to settle on some before hand. Otherwise with nested logical statements it would get impossible.
October 4, 2006
The decision to hold tonight’s game night was made at the last minute (I was considering cancelling it due to next week’s Games Day), so attendance was light. That, or Sukkot was coming up.
Adam bought a few packs of Icehouse pieces, so he brought them over to play the most popular Icehouse game, Zendo. Zendo is an induction game similar to Mastermind and Queries and Theories.
Everyone seemed to enjoy it, which surprised me, as I thought it would be too complicated or at least too low-key for the group.
*Gili, Adam, Nadine, Saarya, Binyamin, Jon+
Enough so that they wanted to play again. I figured out the rule without too much dificulty, as I was the last to go and had eight previous figures from which to work.
This is a trivial themeless game that, like Quarto, looks like it should be easily solvable. Or at least, provably broken in favor of first or second player, or forced into a tie.
Basically, each player has eight pieces of his color, and players take turns either placing a piece onto the playing area or another piece, or taking the top piece from a stack and moving it onto the playing area or onto another stack. Stacks can grow no higher than three pieces. The first player to have five pieces/stacks on the board with his color on top wins. You can’t move the last piece just moved.
As Binyamin pointed out, it seems fairly trivial, with reasonably good play on both sides, to get into an infinite loop where neither player can win. If someone can disprove that, we’re all ears.
We all thought this would be too long with six players, and we were right. It’s not only because we broke once to go have a l’chaim with th downstairs neighbors and another time to return a lost puppy. It’s not only that a slow player takes time while you have nothing to do. It’s that your attention wanders during this time, so that someone then has to remind you that it’s your turn again, and then bring you back up to speed on what happened since.
In our game, we played Germany, and Adam decided to block off the central Eastern region, making for wide north and south areas, but a cramped narrow passage on the west. I decided to start in Essen, just for the geekiness. I was immediately completely surrounded on the first turn by Binyamin on my East and Adam on my West.
We all bought very diverse fuel plants, which resulted in no particular fuel shortages during the game. Nadine got to six cities first, and I made the mistake of buying a cheap plant just to improve my capacity slightly while the plants market was stuck. The result helped other people more than myself, as new plants came down and the third phase started before I was ready. Note to self: patience is a virtue in this game. But when the game drags out for a long time, it’s hard to play that way.
In the end, the game devolved into constant calculations and recalculations, to the point where people simply handed me their cities and money and said, “Here. You’re quicker at this.” Which kind of reflects badly on the game. Furthermore, the game may not be exactly decided by the last few rounds, but those who have no chance certainly are, and it is a pain to play at that point. And the final result coming down to a three way tie decided by money is anticlimactic. I think I have to lower my rating for the game, at least when playing six players.
One of my new games, Binaymin very much wanted to play it, and did so with Gili during the Power Grid game downtime. I didn’t see how it went.
I taught this to Adam. Despite liking the game very much the first time that I played, a second playing revealed some apparent faults with the game. The major one being that it looks like, with reasonable play on both sides, the game gets into an infinite state of never ending. Maybe I missed a rule somewhere.
September 27, 2006
David brought one of his daughters, Sheffie, who is around sixteen years old.
I had played this three and four players, and very much wanted to try it with five players.
After two moves, the board seemed to me to be already pretty clogged. I was all set to complain that the game didn’t work with five players, since I had to pass two turns doing nothing but moving Caesar. Only when it came around again to my next turn did I notice that I had completely missed one of the available paths on the board, and I hadn’t actually been stuck at all.
My misplay set me back. Zack got two senators in before either David or I had gotten any, and he was seated before me, so I ended up being shut out. My overall impression was therefore quite good. A very nice game with five players.
First play for Ben and Sheffie, and Ben didn’t appear to be too impressed. Not that he hated it, or anything. Everyone was surprised at the close finish.
I will leave out the names of the players here, other than to say that the game started with some people and Brendan. The game ended prematurely when Brendan could not continue due to religious objections to Christian symbology having been purposely scribbled over on the game pieces. For more information, see my blog entry.
As far as the game goes, it is a thinly-themed Euro-abstract game, like so many others. Simple, pastoral. Also, like so many others, the theme elements of the board served in part to confuse the actual gameplay areas, so that it was not immediately obvious which castles or churches belonged to which areas at a simple glance.
Brendan+, Jon, Zack/Binyamin
Despite some people saying that I shouldn’t play my new copy of CE and should sell it instead, I was hankering to play at least one game with it. It ended up being a three player game, which works fine for most powers. Four is probably optimum, five already starting to get unwieldy.
I was the Doppleganger/Clone, which I thought was a pretty neat combo and not forbidden by the rules. Brendan was the Laser/Pentaform(Macro, Serpent, Delegator, Demon, Crystal), and Zack was the Reserves/Vulch. Brendan’s Laser wasn’t much use against me when I only had a single challenge card, and I usually had a good one which then I kept. On the other hand, he managed to force a compromise into my hand, leading to situations where he was blindly choosing between a 30 and a comp for my defense. Harrowing.
Meanwhile, I spent much of my game trying to Hand Zap Zack’s horde of Edicts. Each time I zapped, he would unzap or edict zap, then he would collect the hand zap, and then I would dopple it out of his hand again and try again next round. I think it never occured to him to simply leave the spent hand zap in the discard pile.
The game progressed nicely and evenly, which made for an excellent experience. I was pretty sure that I would win at one point, but I failed my challenge for base five by a few points, and Brendan eventually secured the win on his own.
Princes of Florence
Ben 71, Gili 68, Nadine 64
Another staggeringly close game. I was under the impression that Ben didn’t like auction games, but apparently he is growing in to them. Readers should know that he is essentially running a weekly game group in his settlement at this point, Kochav Hashachar.
I suggested to them that they play with rules changes for three players: only two each buildings and freedoms, and bidding on the landscapes as a single category.
Magic: the Gathering
David K+, Binyamin+
David loves to play Magic, and we usually get a chance to play each other. This time he instead got a chance to teach Binyamin. Benny had heard the rules before, but not actually played a full game face to face. So David build them each some simple black/red decks and helped him through his first two games.
Settlers of Catan
David, Sheffie, Zack
Zack left the Cosmic game early to join in this game, as it was his favorite, and Binyamin took over in the Cosmic game for the last round or two. I have no further information.
Zack took something like 10 development cards, but got very unlucky in that all but two were soldiers. Shevy pulled ahead to an early substantial lead, and at 7 or 8 points we stopped trading with her. This together with some ill timed rolls of 7 held her back for *WAY* too long. Even so she finally won the game, though Zack came close. The die rolls seemed to be badly against me, so I didn’t get far.
Jon, Brendan, Binyamin
We tried to get a game of this in before Brendan had to leave, but we only made it halfway through. This was my first play, and after Rheinl?nder, I was beginning to get a little jaded at yet another thinly themed Euro-abstract game.
And again, the game has some strange useless drop shadows on the board, as well as a poorly constructed score-keeping mechanism.
Ben, Binaymin, Nadine, Jon/David
I was allegedly playing this, but also helping my wife set up a new computer.
This game continues to grow in popularity at the club. David/I had a nice run of some good hands.
September 20, 2006
Rosie is Elijah’s younger sister.
The Menorah Game
I decided to try the advanced version of the game, which I created back at the same time as the basic version. I’ve played the basic version hundreds of times, but the advanced version only once before.
It is definitely a more challenging and less lucky game. For all of you who have copies of the game, I tried it with a bonus of only five points for completing your board, and that seemed to work fine. I may have written 10 points in the rules I gave out; try it with five and see which works better.
I’m pleasantly surprised at how well the game has held up over time. This was the first play for Rosie and Zack, and Elijah’s first play of the advanced version. They all enjoyed it, although Elijah said that he was used to the basic version. Rosie completed her board and won.
A filler game. Ari won three rings to two.
I tried this relatively new abstract game once and wasn’t impressed. Adam and Benny had a nice game of it. Adam says that strategies are still being discovered for the game.
First plays for Zack and Ari. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play. Unfortunate for two reasons: 1) I love the game, and 2) I would have insisted that a less chaotic version of the game was played for the first time players. Ari wasn’t overly impressed, and that was partly because too much chaos was allowed in the game.
First I stopped them from throwing in the entire flare deck. I didn’t get to stop them throwing in every comet and asteroid (or whatever the name of those other destiny pile cards), nor prevent them from using double powers.
Some of the powers in the game: Filth, Crystal, Fungus, Plant, Wrack, Vacumn, Sting. Zack ended up winning because Binyamin kept inviting everyone to ally. No one noticed that Zack had four bases when Benny invited him, and he simply sailed in for the fifth base.
Nadine has a long history with winning this game, and she did it again, although I gave her some competition. By midgame, she was obviously winning. Through concerted effort we ganged up on her, which allowed me to actually tie her coming up to the last scoring round, but she still was able to pull ahead in the end.
This was a long, long game, as first Nadine took ages and ages to think through her turns, and then Gili did. It was also Rosie’s first play, so we had to explain the rules and occasionally give advice.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
Elijah taught Zack how to play this. I have no further info.
I started this two-player with Elijah, but we only got to the fourth battle before he had to go.
Rosie and Elijah had to leave, so I took over for Rosie’s position in the early stages of the game. It was a tough battle, and both Nadine and I pulled what we needed quite often. I had Library, but opted for Councelor on a few occasions when I could also have taken Prospector, forgoing the bonus card for the chance of getting what I needed. This worked once.
Gili had 8 cards under a Chapel at the end of the game, as well as a Palace.
This was a new game for everyone except Binyamin, who had brought it. They seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t see much, except that it was an area control game and had what was probably the worst designed scoring mechanism that I’ve ever seen.
L’shana Tova Tichatev V’techatem.
September 13, 2006
Elijah has started work on another play, so will not be available for most sessions for the forseeable future. Nate brought his copy of Reef Encounter.
I was interested in playing this, but I was also interested in replaying Santiago. Nadine was also eager to play this. I heard some strange sentences coming from their direction during the game, such as “my squid eats you algae,” but that is not much better than the ones coming from our game of Santiago, “I place my peas to block your bananas.”
The game was really long, more than three hours, and there is literally nothing to do on someone else’s turn, since you can’t plan. Either the game is flawed, or the players thought way too much.
I was disappointed, most likely because I had read about the game and it sounded very good. It’s not different from many Euro-games that I’ve played recently, which all seem pretty reactive. There is no opportunity to really plan a strategy. In Reef, there’s no point in planning or thinking in between turns. Your turn is interesting and there is a lot to think about at the time, including future moves, but the options still seem pretty limited – you find your one best mov based on what’s available. I don’t know if my reaction is based on playing games only once; it’s possible that more familiarity would make the game more interesting, but it doesn’t seem like it. I do like the colors and theme of Reef, but that’s not enough of course.
Earlier comments from Nadine indicated that she liked the game.
I continue to absolutely love this game, which is so elegant and so full of possibility. And that’s even though I lost.
I discovered two mistakes with the rules that I had been playing, which I corrected this game. One, that if you pass, you place one less cube on your tile. This is a good rule. Two, that only one person can place their bonus water at the end of a round. This rule doesn’t work as well, and I prefer to drop it unless someone can tell me why it exists.
Yitzchak taught all of them how to play the game (only Tal had played once before) and then proceeded to wipe the floor with them.
Adam suggested this, and I was more than happy to play. After around fifty games of 9×9, I felt that I was ready to graduate to the 11×11 board. Adam asked to play with Japanese scoring rules, which I was not very familiar with.
What a great game. This is the game you want to have if you are stuck on a desert island. How many other games do you think that you can play for twenty years, every day, and not get bored of?
Adam is the better player. In the first game, he had a superior position and lost only by letting one careless stone slip through his hand right before the game ended. Even after that gave me a dozen spaces, I won by a few spaces, but less than the bonus given to the second player.
The second game was less dramatic. I fought hard in some areas, but I made a foolish play in the middle of the board, which I kind of knew as I was playing it, but didn’t convince myself not to do it. He ended up winning by 12 spaces, not including his bonus.
The Menorah Game
Gili and Nate needed something short to play before leaving, and this filled the gap. Binyamin insisted on playing with the advanced version of the rules (count the values on your candles), as he said that it made the game less luck dependent. He also won.
With a little more time, I taught Adam how to play Dvonn. Dvonn is really an excellent game, and doesn’t get played as much as Yinsh does, but should. I had reasonable control, but somehow it slipped through my hands by the end of the game.
We played a few hands of this. Ari was my partner. It’s been a while since I played. I should probably work my way back into playing it more often again. It’s still the ultimate card game.
September 06, 2006
A welcome back to Nadine from her U.S. trip. Elijah brought Zack with him, a friend. Ari, a former neighbor of mine from Beit Shemesh, also returned, having come once or twice before. And Rivka is Binyamin’s wife.
Queries and Theories
This is an old induction game from Wiff-n-Poof. They produce expensive, educational games that teach logic and computer theory. In this case, the game consists of tubes of plastic disks in various colors and a sixty page rule book. The book talks about natural language, basic sentence and substitution, and provides several games to play.
The basic game is for one player to invent a “language”, and for the other players to guess the language by constructing sentences and then being told if the sentences are included in the language or not. The level of difficulty in the game is varied by limiting either the number of different colored chips that are allowed in the language (tokens) and/or the number of different rules that the language can have.
This is pretty much like Zendo (but predates it). The more players playing, the easier it is to get to the right answer, because you can look at the sentences constructed by the other players as well as your own.
In our game, I created a language with one basic sentence, one substitution rule, and three tokens. The basic sentence was “123”, and the substitution rule was “2->321”.
Yitzchak dropped out after two guesses, moving on to another game. Brendan tried to guess the language on turn 7 or so, but errored. Elijah continued until the end without being able to formulate a valid guess. Only Brendan seemed to like it, and he sat down to read more of the rule book later in the evening.
Adam beat Rachel by one point; Nadine was still jet-lagged, and so was playing at a disadvantage, or so I heard.
I think my mistakes were more due to not having played in over a month, but jet lag’s always a good excuse.
Yitzchak might have won if he had bought a big building earlier, instead Rachel grabbed it as her second building. He had 4 indigo plantations so would have scored at least 8. I had one big building, Adam 2. There was little corn the whole game, I never produced it. Adam and Rachel both had Factories and Coffee, Adam was sitting behind Rachel but had Large and Small Market, Yitzchak had a Wharf. Adam had no storage, and benefited from advice to buy production buildings rather than Const. Hut after he already had one Quarry.
The first of my two major losses this evening, as well as teh first of Binyamin’s seemingly inscrutable wins. I thought I was doing pretty well for the first two rounds; I had more missions than any other player. Then I stalled out, and Binyamin ended up surpassing me in missions.
I actually find this game to be rather inelegant. Too many substitution and clean up rules designed to correct elements of the game that don’t work. The influence markers are the exception, as they work rather well.
Settlers of Catan
I don’t know the results of this game. Elijah came to me at one point and asked if he was allowed to build more than 15 roads, as he had just picked a Road Building development card.
Tigris and Euphrates
Ari came during the Louis game and watched me for a while. Then he joined this game when it started. It was his first play. I think they all had a good game.
Yitzchak developed a powerful kingdom and didn’t lose conflicts, and initiated a lot that he won. Most conflicts were between Adam and Yitzchak, one against me at the end. Ari did very well.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
Elijah played white and taught Zack how to play this. Zack had to leave before the game ended. I found that I had a man in Mordor, a man in the Shire, and the Flying Nazgul, while Elijah only had Frodo. I moved my man out of Mordor, and then hit with the Nazgul. When he finally made it to the space next to my man out of Mordor, he was unable to retreat sideways from my Nazgul attack.
Princes of Florence
Binyamin had played only once, and this was first play for Rivka. Once again I thought that I played fairly well and should have won, and once again I don’t know how Binyamin won. Or how Rivka scored so well.
Binyamin bought two early Jesters, but paid 1300 each for them, which should have killed him. I got my two Jesters for 1300 total, and had only played one work before using them. He ended up getting a cheap Recruiter later, as did I. Both of us picked uninteresting Prestige cards. My two together were worth 10, while his was only 3. One of the things he did do was get a lot of “best work” awards.
Elijah had to leave during the last round, so we finished playing for him. Both he and Gili ended up with one work that they couldn’t play.
First plays for Brendan. Several hands were played for over an hour. This game appears to be gaining in popularity in the club.
August 30, 2006
And we’re back in my house for games night, which is most comfortable, if only because I don’t have to lug a selection of my games around to other people’s houses.
Origins of World War I
Brendan proposed this game a few weeks ago and we finally were able to give it a try. I approached the game with some trepidation, for several reasons.
The basic idea: each player gets a number of tokens to place into areas on the board, no more than five per area in a round except for his own country’s area. Once per round, a player can challenge another player’s influence in one area, which results in one or both of them removing pieces. At the end of the game, each player gains points based on having ten or more tokens in certain areas (each player has different objectives) or by limiting other player’s achievements. High score wins.
First of all, our game group had rejected playing Origins of World War II several months ago because the game box had Nazi symbology on it. This game, Origins of World War I, is a predecessor of that game and was published in Sid Sackson’s excellent A Gamut of Games. We had to come up with the components ourselves (thanks, Brendan).
Secondly, the game is at least thirty years old. Most elderly games are not my style. It is also a pure negotiation game with a die rolling chart to resolve conflicts. All of which don’t particularly appeal to me. Nevertheless, the game also doesn’t have that much “combat” (the combat is really clashes of political influence), and the main mechanic is really area control, which I guess you could say about most war games, actually.
In the end, I’m always willing to try new things. So how did it go?
The superficial answer is that I was pretty bored for most of the game. There are supposed to be negotiations going on. That is how you are supposed to maximize efforts and ensure efficient resource utilization. Instead, I played it like a strategy game, with little negotiating.
I took full advantage of the “only one attack per turn” mechanic, and spread out to multiple areas, forcing people to be unable to attack me everywhere at once without ganging up. I also played a lot more for limiting other player’s advancement, rather than looking for my own, since the net point differential in doing so was more advantageous to me.
The unfortunate part of all of this is that Britain’s main objective was to ensure that nobody else gained too many points. David, as Britain, was easily going to be able to achive this objective unless people focused on preventing this. Unfortunately, everyone else’s main objectivs are stated in such a way as to make them think that they have to take out Germany (which was me). I kept telling them that attacking me wasn’t going to help, it would only let David win, but to little avail.
Eventually I allied with Russia (Brendan), but we weren’t able to rack up enough points to challenge Britain.
As far as I my personal opinion goes, it seems to me that the strength of the game is in much deeper and stronger negotiation. Furthermore, players have to be more aware of Britain’s strengths so that they can team up and ensure limiting his point gains. A few more games may have to be played in order to achieve this.
So I think it is probably a reasonably good game for those that like this sort of thing. On the other hand, the game allows you to gang up on other players without much hope for that player to respond, has a boring die rolling conflict resolution system, is unbalanced (which is not such a problem if players gang up effectively), and resolves to kingmaking at the end.
I liked Origins, but think it needs some work on the combat table. A 3:2 column would be good. But overall better than Diplomacy: much quicker, more than just negotiation, and more historical, with asymmetric victory conditions. … It’s fun if you get into the silly accents. Maybe everyone should wear an appropriate national hat?
Tal played with Binyamin and Tikva Shira, as they showed up while we were in the middle of our OOWWI game. Tal always plays to get a straight flush for the last battle, but the other two were not cooperative, and they simply never played the last card that she needed for it. Meanwhile, the last two rounds of the game were nothing but straight flushes from all players, except for Tal on the last round.
At least at one point there were no cards left to draft from, and Tikva Shira was forced to call Havoc. She also ended up winning the game.
Yitzchak only had an hour left to play, and he is a San Juan nut, so he roped these guys into playing before he left.
I picked this up at a recent board game event and quite like it. It is also a negotation game, but more interesting, quicker, and Eurogamey than OOWWI. Binyamin was the only one who had played this before. Apparently, he learned from my previous wins against him and went on to a crushing victory in this game. They played with the expansion tokens, which I have not yet played with.
Magic: the Gathering
David and I love to draft, so we always try to make time for it. In this draft, David was placed into the very unusual position of taking white cards. He almost never ever plays white, but that’s just how it turned out. He claims that that is why I beat him in both games. I think it has more to do with the solid large damage and creatures I drafted in both green and red. Neither of us had any mana problems in either game, despite both playing two colors with a splash of a third.
After the first game, we broke to play Shadows Over Camelot, and then returned to play the second game after it was done.
Shadows Over Camelot
Neither David nor Dylan had played this, and I suspected that David would like it, so dragged him away after the first Magic game to play. I told them that they really needed almost no instructions on how to play. I taught them the rules in about three minutes, and then filled in the details as the game went on.
With seven players, it was almost inevitable that there would be a traitor, and usually it is Adam or Brendan that gets it. Amazingly enough, none of us were traitor. Still, the mechanic that made it likely that one of us might have been made for a crucial element in keeping the game interesting.
It is very hard to win the game, even without a traitor. David said at one point, when many catapults were arrayed against us and cards and causalties were mounting up, that he didn’t think that we were doing very well. I told him that we were doing quite well, actually; this amount of damage was normal.
With some fancy footwork, we got the grail quickly and then beat off the Picts. I took out the Black Knight and Adam took out Lancelot. With six white swords, and the traitor still not revealed, the best course of action was then to take the grail while holding the catapults at bay.
We got the grail with a concerted effort, giving us nine white swords. Now the best way to win was to simply let the black swords fill in the rest of the slots before the catapults won. That is actually a rather strange twist in the mechanics. We ended up upping the number of swords we would lose due to the Saxons in order to end the game. We lost to the Saxons, the game ended, and we won.
I still think the game is generally rather dull, but I enjoyed this one.
August 23, 2006
Ofek is Gili’s daughter. Elijah and Rose are Michael’s kids; Elijah is a regular, of course, and Michael comes occasionally, but this was Rose’s first time. Tikva Shira and Zvi Yehuda are Binyamin’s kids.
We played at Gili’s house this week, my house still being unavailable, and wanting to give Ginat, Nadine’s daughter, a rest from the game group. Ben is Gili’s upstairs neighbor, who was curious as to the fact that we were playing games. I invited him down to see what it is all about.
At first he thought I was trying to sell him games, and then he was surprised to hear that these weren’t party games or quick games, and that we played them seriously. He agreed to a short game, and from what I had brought over, I selected San Juan.
I’m going to mess up this session report, because I didn’t take any notes. Adam very much wanted to play Origins of World War I, but it was hard to get the right number of people playing acceptable games at the right times, and it didn’t work out.
This may not have been the best first choice. Ben didn’t appear to be unintelligent, but he didn’t seem to make the transition into the game world in any way. No matter how many times I told him the rules, he couldn’t remember what he was supposed to do at any time. He never read the buildings that he built, and he built constantly without any plan. I guess that the reality of games and his expectation about what games were supposed to be just didn’t connect.
Yitzchak built an early Library which I scorned in four player. He got as much use of it as I did with my Poor House. But he won, and by a large margin, so who am I to say that this was because I couldn’t pull a six point building to save my life until the last round?
Played as a filler. Binyamin couldn’t believe that I would buy this, as it’s not a heavy strategy game.
Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda, Ofek
Played early as an opener, and then later as a closer.
Cities and Knights of Catan
I taught this to Adam and Yitzchak. In the last game of Settlers, Adam won by placing his settlements on the 11 and 3 and then rolling nothing but 11’s and 3’s the whole game. This time he was on the 8, 4, and 10. I promised to quit the game if nothing but 8’s, 4’s, and 10’s were rolled in the first several rounds. They were, but I didn’t quit, anyway.
Adam took an early lead, but then the dice rolls evened out a bit. The game proceeded in a more balanced fashion, helped out by our embargo of Adam in the early game.
I eventually won by taking a second metropolis and pulling the merchant card. It was a surprise all around, because I don’t think anyone but me was actually counting the points until I won.
By Hook or By Crook
Michael had the largest collection and was one spot away from winning. He realized that he could force a win by playing the detective, because even if someone else got to the finish line before he did, he would still win with the largest collection. And he couldn’t risk someone stealing his works. The game ended fairly closely.
Adam 465, Jon 420, Gili 421, Brendan
I honestly no longer remember who played in the first game; I’m just guessing. In the second game, I thought that I was playing pretty well for once, but Adam won again, anyway.
I also played some hands of this at the same time that I was finishing up my game of Modern Art.
August 16, 2006
Another week at Nadine’s house, while Nadine is away and my house is rented out. Dylan had come a few times previously along with Genya, who had come a few times with my brother Ben. Dylan hadn’t come regularly because he had had a conflict on Wed evenings, but the conflict is now over.
Yitzchak always wants to play San Juan as an opener, but I was a little tired of it, and Brendan doesn’t really like it. So we played one round of this, which I lost. I had nine hearts to the Ace-King, but Yitzchak had the other four.
Brendan and I also tried to start an El Caballero game while we were waiting for Gili to show up, but she came during the first round, so we abandoned it.
Tigris and Euphrates
Adam expalined this to Dylan while I piped in with some annoying notes during his explanation (it irks me when someone refers to the leaders as “kings”). They seem to have enjoyed the game. One thing that bothers me is that the disaster tiles don’t do enough to clarify that a kingdom is split into two parts. The game would probably play better with more color contrast between the pieces and board, as Mike Doyle suggests on his blog.
By Hook or By Crook
We started this hoping Ofek would join us, but she decided just to watch. A shame, because I don’t really like the game.
Brendan started off with a complete exhibit, while I had two “B”s and two “F”s. The entire rock-paper-scissors mechanic is boring for me, and Brendan won with almost no effort. Brendan, on the other hand, really likes it, because of the chaos.
This is one of the few games that Ofek know and likes, so we played it. Saarya showed up right as we were starting and he joined in. He wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it. I like it better than By Hook or By Crook; it’s enjoyable, but more of a toy than a game.
After the first round, we decided to cut the game short to only two rounds.
Adam and Brendan were both keen to play this, while I prefer to play it only once in a while. It is a bit repetitive to me, and the strategy and tactics don’t vary enough from game to game.
Meanwhile, since it looked like we would only have two players, I suggested Caylus, since with two reasonable fast players, the game at least moves fairly quickly. It sure looked to both of us as if I was marginally winning during the game with my tactics, but Gili only ended up a few points behind me. That is probably because I gave her about twenty points in building usage fees.
So building usage does add up, but not quite enough. I built both more big buildings, and more castle segments, netting more favors. We also helped each other occasionally, pointing out mistakes that we were about to make.
Saarya taught this to Yitzchak, who didn’t have enough time for a longer game. They didn’t fight at least two of the battles, including battle number eight. The rules don’t indicate what happens if battle number eight doesn’t happen. I told them to just pick two cards each and proceed to battle nine. According to the rules, you are supposed to do what the card says only if the battle is fought.
Settlers of Catan
More scrounging around to find a game with which to end the evening resulted in this one.
Ore and Brick were both scarce. I started off monopolizing the ore. Adam placed his initial settlements on pathetic numbers, and then proceeded to win because the most common numbers rolled throughout the game were 3 and 11, just what he needed. Argh!
I got some quick cities, and then stalled when Dylan kept placing the robber on my ore hex. Adam surpassed me, and Dylan also worked his way up, until it was actually a close game for the three of us. Dylan was about to get Largest Army.
I had one of those little sweet moments where I traded all of my ore away to everyone else and then played a Monopoly card.
August 09, 2006
Tonight was the first of three weeks at Nadine’s house, as my house has been rented out. It was also the last week before Nadine’s trip to the states for three weeks. I will be staying at her house.
Owing to this confusion, perhaps, we had a lighter than usual game night. Or perhaps it’s just because it is summer.
Brendan arrived after me and tortured me by wanting to play this game until the others arrived. Gili showed up in the middle of the game and sat down. She was given a card and was forced to play it. Then Brendan went and was forced to play his, which resulted in Gili winning. How exciting.
I have mixed opinions about this, but it is an ok game for a light luck game. When you have choices of several horses to move, there is some skill involved. When you only have one or two horses to move, it is pretty automatic.
We played one round, and Brendan was ahead. Then we decided to start a real game.
Adam called as we were setting up, so I played his moves for the first two rounds until he arrived. This was Ofek’s first attempt to play the game, but it was long and too hard for her (she is 8 years old?), and she drifted away towards the end of the game, and Gili had to play her final moves for her.
The game was really long and slow even for our standards. The primary problem was six players, which meant more downtime and more complex calculations. Add to that Nadine’s very methodical math analysis, and Gili having to explain the options each round to Ofek, and we were all a little bored by the end of it. Even though the game “situation” itself was pretty interesting and would have been exciting had it gone faster.
We played on the American map without the East Coast. Brendan took the entire west coast and essentially played solo the entire game. Despite the higher connections, he managed a win.
We were all fighting around the three central and southeast areas, but even with the crowding, none of us paid the same high connection fees that Brendan did. His price savings came from always building in the first positions in any city, while we had to build into second and third positions.
Meanwhile, Brendan spent a lot of time looking at another game that Nadine had in her closet.
July 30, 2006
Game day was on Sunday this week, owing to Tish’a Ba’av being on Wed night/Thursday. The schedule adjustment made for lighter attendance. Next week we will be back to Wed evening, but it will be at Nadine’s house.
Tikva Shira and Zvi Yehuda are two of Binyamin’s children, and they don’t speak or understand much English.
Shadows Over Camelot
I was thinking of abbreviating this as SoC, but that acronym is already in use. Adam played the traitor, again, and won, again. They had eight white swords on the table. Without uncovering the traitor, they needed one more to ensure a majority. The game ended with twelve siege engines however.
Elijah+, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda
Yitzchak showed up and we tried to figure out what to play. A number of people wanted to play Shadows Over Camelot, and Binyamin had to play with his two kids in order to translate. I’m not a huge fan of Shadows anyway, so Yitzchak and I played San Juan.
Yitchak declined the opening build (I built Quarry), but then returned on round two with Library. The only way to combat Library is to continuously take Builder or Prospector, to ensure that the Library user can’t get both. It definately slowed him down, but it also slowed me down.
We built almost identical buildings throughout the game, but in the end he pulled up two big buildings to my one, and they were better ones.
We started another one which ended when the Shadows game finally ended. In this game, I made one change and declared that the Archive’s ability was to draw three additional cards during Councelor. I started the game by building one, and in the few rounds that we played, it seemed about balanced.
Later in the evening, when the three kids needed something to play, Elijah convinced the other two to play this, which was a really bad idea, seeing as the other two kids don’t read English. They kept having to ask Binyamin what the card texts said. They are really bright kids, however, and could remember what the cards did as they played.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
I introduced Yitzchak to this game as we were still waiting for Shadows to end (between San Juan games). I played black, and while Yitzchak’s pieces got lucky – Gimli killed the Orcs, Legolas killed the Nazgul – I eventually had him cornered where Frodo either had to walk into me or let me walk into him when he couldn’t retreat. There was a way out for him, but he didn’t see it.
Binyamin introduced this game to Nadine and Yitzchak. It apparently involved area control in order to increase your odds of winning an area, as well as set collection. The mechanic involved placing a large black disk with a small hole over all of the cubes in one region and shaking them up until one cube comes out. That cube is the winner. It’s a little like the Wallenstein tower idea.
Unfortunately, the way that you shake the black disk probably has a strong influence on what comes out. Add to that the basic random nature of this mechanic, and Yitzchak didn’t like it, and I wouldn’t either, I suspect.
This one was a bit of a cake walk for me. We played on Germany minus the south. I ended up with the cheapest region in the beginning and no one else even contested me for it. By the time stage 2 rolled around, I was ahead in cities, power capacity, and cash.
We ended the game a round or two from the end. It is possible that Tikva Shira could have overtaken me at the last, but only with all three of them cooperating against me. Also, Tikva Shira let me get a final power plant that she shouldn’t have; otherwise, she played very well.
Tigris and Euphrates
I really like this game, but it doesn’t come our more because other people in the group have never been enthusiastic about it. Tonight’s game was an excellent game, and served to make both Adam and Binyamin promise to want to play more. Nadine also enjoyed it, although she still claims not to have a full grasp on what she’s doing.
This game was the first game in a long time that I actually had to sit and think for some time on what to do, not once, but repeatedly. It was that complicated.
Everyone else was convinced that I was winning owing to two lucky defences I enjoyed early one, but I knew that I was very shy in black cubes (I only had two). After using my two black tiles, I was up to four, but still far from winning. Meanwhile, Adam was pulling in red and green due to a monument.
No disaster tiles were played, even though the kingdoms stretched and twisted around each other. At several times during the game, people wanted to merge three kingdoms at once, or play leaders to merge two kingdoms, both of which could not be done.
In the end, I saw one possibility of gaining extra black quickly, by externally attacking Adam in black. I was up 5 to 2, but he pulled out three black tiles. Net gain was five blacks for him, giving him the game, and squashing any possibility of my winning. The game ended when the tiles ran out before I could even get another turn.
As embarrassing as it is to report this, the kids played this at the end of the evening while we were wrapping up T&E.
July 26, 2006
Nadine was noticeably absent this week. Also, as this was Rachel’s last night in Israel before heading off to Canada, she requested that the game night end a little early, which it almost did.
Brendan is a train game enthusiast, especially if the game is played on accurate terrain. I had bought this game used, but hadn’t had a chance to play it, as I understood that it is a bit long and it requires writing, which makes it impossible to play on shabbat.
Elijah was going to play with us, but he was persuaded to play with Gili and Ofek when they showed up.
When we opened the game, we couldn’t find any crayons, but I scrounged some up. We set up and were on our way, hoping that the game wouldn’t take too long.
Here’s the good news: it didn’t take too long. In fact, we finished in about an hour and change, an hour and a half tops.
Here’s the bad news: The game is phenomenally boring. Talk about your multiplayer solitaire. It may be that with more players there is some kind of competition for goods and track routing, but there sure isn’t in three players. On the other hand, more players is supposed to slow the game down to a crawl.
You can’t help but notice how this game predates Euro gaming. It’s like the designers came up with one good concept but then neglected to make the game actually interesting. However! And this is a big however. This essential underlying mechanic actually works well, and so the game is simply ripe for changing into something enjoyable. It seems almost trivial to add some variations to make the game work, such as:
- A public pool of deliveries, so that the players compete to be the first to fulfill them.
- Or, auction the deliveries off to the players
- Trading goods when trains meet or within cities
- Train/Rail delivery pacts
- Unique sub-goals, such as connecting certain cities
Now I have to go find out what variants exist, and which are any good. Also bad was the whole crayon thing. While I admit that it has a primal coolness factor, you are constantly having to fight with the materials, rubbing out mistaken lines, redrawing accidentally rubbed or smudged lines, and so on. And, of coure, you can’t play on shabbat. Tracks would definitely work better.
In our game, nothing happened, except that Brendan had more going on on the west coast then we did, so he delivered more lucrative deliveries. We decided to end when he was at 200 with two more big deliveries on the way.
Age of Steam
Meanwhile, a better train game was going on, although it lasted twice as long as ours. This was Saarya’s first game, and I simply assumed that he would win, which he did, even though he didn’t know the correct scoring rules until the game was over.
Tal is in love with the game, and taught the others. Yitzchak didn’t like it, as he has apparently outgrown games with high luck elements.
Yitzchak and Elijah had the most experience in this one. I think this was Elijah’s first win for this game.
I taught both of them. I should have warned them that the treasures can be lucrative. I ended up with much too large a set too early, which easily gave me the game. Brendan apparently is also playing a game of this on line, and either the rules he learned there are incorrect, or he was playing without having read all of the rules. Still, they both played very well, treasures aside.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
I didn’t see these, although they attracted some spectators at the end of the evening. Binyamin had been hoping to play a few hands of Bridge, but I had to send everyone home.
July 19, 2006
We started game night early for two events: David K came early to play Magic with me, and Binyamin made plans to play Twilight Imperium III with other brave and hearty souls, so he came early to set up.
At the start of the evening, we had the usual discussions as to what to play, when Yitzchak showed up with my spanking new copy of Winner’s Circle.
Magic: the Gathering
We did the usual Rochester drafting of random cards from my collection. I didn’t think that I was doing too badly, but apparently I had. I had an easy Blue pick, but then had to add both White and Green. David also ended up with three colors – Green, Red, Black – and even splashed some other colors, owing to having three sources of multi-colored mana production.
Well, I saw quickly enough that I was in trouble, with no cards of any sort that were worth very much. In the second game, David had a card that let him sacrifice his creatures to look through my hand and force me to discard cards. He used it once and realized, as I had told him, that it was a waste of his time to use it, since I had nothing worth him forcing to discard.
Twilight Imperium III
I didn’t see how this went, but there was a lot of negotiation going on and not much seems to have happened otherwise. After four hours, from 7:00 until 11:00, they had barely spread out from their home bases, and were only halfway done. By which time they had to end the game. Consensus was that Binyamin and Yitzchak were in the lead.
For all that, they all looked like they enjoyed the experience.
I wanted to play this, but agreed to play something else when other players came and needed another player. My understanding is that the game is more on the lightness scale of Settlers than the heavy scale we have been playing lately, such as Caylus. I expected Brendan to like it.
Brendan and Tal loved it, and Nadine and Zeke both enjoyed it, although Nadine wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the repetitive nature of the mechanics. The horses are cool, however. I didn’t notice any color problems with them, as has been reported.
This is the game of Caylus that made me realize how the game is more work than fun. There is so much disconnect between the actions and the rewards, it is laborious to get there. I don’t know. I would play again, but I wouldn’t enthusiastically suggest it. There is also a lot of downtime as you wait for others to make their decisions, and I find that my own decisions are not that deep or difficult.
I began with the building track in favors, which served me well, as there was a lot of competition for the building actions on the buildings. David really overdid the income track, ending with tons of money and cubes. Ofek tried a strong VP track, and had some success.
The play of the day was on the last round. I was sitting with one green building. I had enough cubes for two blue buildings, but it looked like I could only buy one. I had three favors coming to me, but could only use the building track only twice owing to phase restrictions. However, I managed to secure the building that lets me build an additional green building, which meant that I would be able to build my two blue buildings after all.
Meanwhile, David had enough cubes for several dozen blue buildings, and had two green buildings. He had secured the Provost moving building, but was going to go right before me on the bridge. He had no chance to build either blue buildings this round, because he had no markers on a blue-building building, and no progression on the building track. When it came his chance to move the provost, he had to decide between moving the provost forward a few spaces, which would end the game, or moving it backwards a few spaces, which would wreck two of his markers on the buildings!
Truthfully, wrecking his markers was the right move. But if he could manage it, the best alternative was for him to have the provost land exactly where it was and gain the best of both: extend the game one more round and also utilize his buildings. But he was worried about my ability to move the provost after him on the bridge.
He agonized about this for several minutes, finally leaving the provost where it was. Unfortunately for him, both Gili and Ofek moved the provost two spaces forward, and there was nothing he could do to move it back.
Only then did I point out to him what was in plain sight: I hade no money whatsoever, and couldn’t move the provost even if I had wanted to. Of course, as soon as I said that, I also realized that having left myself with no money, I couldn’t buy the green building that I needed to end with two blue buildings.
Anyway, this ended more painfully for David then for me. He lost the chance to build a blue building or potentially two if he could have found a way, and I lost one. But I had more houses in the castle anyway and ended the game about twenty points in front of him. There was no way he could really have caught up.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
Nate had been planning to play TI3, but wasn’t able to make it until around 7:45, by which time the other players had started long since. Winner’s Circle would be over soon, so he had to wait. I played this with him while I was also playing Caylus, which shows how much attention I really needed to play Caylus.
Gandalf did his usual damage. I discovered that it is always more worthwhile to attack as white, rather than to be attacked, except for Frodo. In the end, we had gotten our cards back and it came down to his three remaining pieces versus my three. Galdalf was in Mordor and of no use, and the Troll was already in the Shire. I had Sam and Frodo left, and he had the Witch King and Balrog.
Sam had to move forward, and Nate attacked him with the Witch King. If I killed the Witch King, he can’t win, since Frodo had a free walk. If I didn’t, he would end up winning by one move – the number of steps remanining for him to get both pieces to the Shire versus the number of steps remaining for me to get Frodo to Mordor.
Nate was considering his card when I thoughtlessly threw my Noble Sacrifice face up rather than face down. I had forgotten that he still had the card that can cancel any text card that I play. Nate said however that he was not considering playing that card, and would have played the 5 probably. So he gave me the win.
Nate was able to join this game after Winner’s Circle. I love this game but was still playing Caylus. When Caylus ended, Gili had to go with Ofek, and Brendan wanted a ride. He left an open position which I would have taken, but the game rules are so simple that I insisted that David take over even though he had never played before. It was round 8 out of 9 and Brendan had left David a really good position.
David took to it soon enough and began explaining how the bidding system was like a Chinese auction and much discussion ensued. At the end, although David was able to score well, he was unable to prevent Nate from also obtaining his own large scoring position. It came down to the money, and it was a complete tie.
With little time left, we sprung yet another new game on David, Ra – or Nadine’s Jewish reworking thereof. Nadine started out nicely ahead, but both David and I had more tribes (monuments). I was able to make better bidding choices with my experience, and I ended with a nice set of tribes in the end. I even ended with most money. David could have, but he followed Nadine’s advice for a play that could have worked out but didn’t.
Like many other Knizia games, there is a whole lot more luck in Ra than there first appears, which is a bit of a negative.
July 12, 2006
Two regulars brought their kids along to the game group this evening. Binyamin brought Tikva-Shira, now a seasoned player at Binyamin’s house. TS has come before on at least one evening, and a Games Day. Gili brought her daughter Ofek. This was her first time, although Gili has played Settlers with her mother at her house.
The Menorah Game
Tal begins her winning streak this evening with a win at this game. I was going to play, but people kept arriving so I got up for Adam to sit down.
Tal 33, Elijah 32, Guy 19
We needed a simpler game for Ofek to play, and Tal is always up for a game of this. Tal lost the first game, as you can see, but she won the second game later in the evening. As usual, she saves up for straight flushes to take the last two battles.
Only Adam had played this before, so we were able to approach the game unburdened by any understanding of strategy or prior opinion.
Overall, the game is fairly enjoyable once you get into the swing of things, and the mechanics work smoothly. It’s not exactly a thrilling game, but I would certainly play it again.
New England feels like it’s got a lot of clutter in it, even though the play is fairly elegant. It’s kind of like marrying the simplicity of Santiago with the plant arranging in Power Grid. It all kind of works, but it feels like another few weeks of development could have pared it down just a bit better.
As an example, the player’s choice at the start of each round as to how many cards vs tiles come out isn’t a bad mechanism, but it doesn’t feel like it’s really necessary. It doesn’t add enough to the game to warrant its inclusion. Another example is the poor choice of color and identity recognition. It is difficult at a glance to determine who owns what field and how many of each thing each person has. Another: you are not allowed to count the remaining tiles in the bag, but almost all of the non-remaining tiles are on the board; anyone with sense can just waste time counting them each round for a fairly close accounting.
As a side note, I have never seen a theme so divorced from the mechanics of a game. Even Through the Desert feels like it has a more coherent marriage of theme to mechanics. Trying to arrange three plots in a particular shape is the height of abstract game play.
In our game, Adam started off doing things that didn’t seem to make much sense to us. We all figured out that extra income was a good idea, just like it is in every other game. However, he took a barn and a scoring tile very early and he paid a lot of money. This turned out to be a hindrance for him, as we spent no great amount of effort making it difficult for him to fulfill the scoring tile. He eventually got it scored, but it wasn’t worth the effort to do so, in the end.
By the time it was done, I had more pilgrims than he did, and I scored four 6 point bonuses of my own. I ended with 4 pilgrims, 4 6-point tiles, one barn, and the bonus for most pilgrims. Elijah was using his ship here and there, but he was mostly bored with the game and sorry that we wouldn’t let him quit to play Shadows Over Camelot.
Nadine seemed to like it, but only as a second tier game.
By Hook or By Crook
I don’t know why so many people enjoy this game more than one or two times, but there you go.
Settlers of Catan
Another game played, familiar to all participants.
Shadows Over Camelot
The good guys actually won the game. Tikva-Shira was the traitor, but she didn’t want to be, so she just played straight.
Another game played, familiar to all participants.
We hadn’t played this at the game group in a while, so I thought it would be nice to give it a go, as I’m always ready to play it. It also allowed us to include Rachel. I called her upsairs from where she was working on her thesis, and she seemed happy to come up.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t joined our group for a while, and was unaware as to how loud it had become. She ended up regretting coming up, partly due to the nouse, partly due to wanting to finish her writing, and partly due to her making a mistake in the play.
This was only Adam’s second game. I generally stayed out of giving him any advice, as he’s a smart fellow, but I threw in something once, only after he had just received some self-serving (although reasonable) advice from one of the other players.
I had a coffee monopoly the entire game. Rachel mistakenly let me get a coffee boat on the big boat which severely restricted Adam and Rachel’s Harbors for the rest of the game. Rachel had assumed that I would ship my three indigo rather than my one coffee. However, I am never unhappy to toss out barrels for a greater good.
Nadine had the other Factory and then a later wharf, with four or five corns going. Against a wharf and two harbors, I was gradually losing the VP race, even with the coffee boat. I managed to get two big buildings however, and then the game ended.
I was called over for the very last round to take over for Nate when he had to go, only to find that he had three power plants each valued 3. That is a Bad Thing in PG, since you can only buy one power plant each round. An upgrade from a 3 to a 6 is only a net increase of 3. That means that any power plant that I bought would only boost me 3 production. Someone with 6, 5, and 1, on the other hand, could go straight from 12 to 17 after buying a 6 power plant.
Moral: don’t get yourself a bunch of middling power plants.
For some reason, they decided to cut the game down to only 14 cities, too. They played on the Eastern U.S.
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
They played this two-player game at the end of the evening, because they didn’t want to lose any more games to Tal, says Tal.
These guys wrapped up the evening playing some games of bridge. This is becoming a habit, I believe.
July 05, 2006
Sixteen people, nice crowd. And it all went pretty well, I think. Some notables: Yitzchak Handel is a good friend who moved back to the states some time ago. He came with his seven year old daughter T’chelet. Gilad part runs the monthly game group at ‘Freak’ in Tel Aviv and another monthly one in his house in Modiin. He has come before, and he came this time partly to retrieve his Traders of Genoa and buy Alhambra from me.
I borrowed some chairs and a table from my downstairs neighbor in anticipation of the large crowd.
Some sort of trick taking card game played as an opener.
Also played as an opener.
By Hook or By Crook
Brendan loves games like this, and grabbed these guys into playing. I think they all enjoyed it. It was the first game I saw where more than one person made it over the finish line. Brendan and Elijah actually tied, and Brendan broke the tie with his collection size.
Brendan and Binyamin were both especially keen to play this again. The original power picks included Schizoid, Insect, and Plant, all of which variously say not to play with the others, so they rechose.
Without guidance from experienced players, they ended up doing some interesting things. They played with all of the comets and asteroids, which makes for a lot of chaos. They played with three quarters of the flare deck; however, the deck wasn’t mixed well, so most of the flares were bunched up lower in the deck and they didn’t see many of them.
There were several rule misunderstandings, and the usual complaining that “if I had known that the rule meant that, I wouldn’t have done this” sort of thing. That’s Cosmic for you.
Quote of the evening came from Brendan, who, in answer to Elijah’s “I don’t understand Filth” said “You will when you’re older”.
Although this was long, and although too much calculation was made about things like which plants are still left in the deck, which I feel is against the spirit of the game, it was still a good game experience. It’s a funny game, with a lot of little inelegant rules that serve to make the game play itself work well.
We started with five players, but Baruch had to leave early. That is a difficult thing to accomodate in a game like this, but we managed. We took out three plants, moved Gilad’s city connections to equivalent locations in another area and walled off an area from the board. The replenishment and victory conditions also changed. Somehow it all worked.
Gilad was on the far side of the US west coast, while the rest of us were central or south. As far as I can tell, as long as you have access to seven early cities, it is worthwhile to be on the central or east coast, even if you end up competing for space.
Nadine was powering with a lot of garbage at one point. I had the only nuclear at some point, but abandoned it and ended up with all coal. This was problematic, as Nadine was ahead of me and able to buy out all of the coal that I needed. At the end, I upgraded to only 15 capacity, because any bigger plant required coal and there was no way that I could to acquire it.
David, meanwhile was using a mixture of the three major fuels, and was easily able to secure the win at the end.
Played as a filler.
Settlers of Catan
Nate had never played this before, if you can believe that. Tal pulled ahead early to 8 points, which prompted everyone to gang up on her. Which makes sense, although they neglected to notice Ben until he was at 9 points himself, after which it was too late to block him.
Introduced to them as a filler. I didn’t see who won.
They needed a game for six that was easy enough for T’chelet to play, so Havoc. Tal did her usual saving up for the last few battles, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. She kept pulling cards all of one color. Everyone else eventually caught onto which color she was looking for.
Magic: the Gathering
Early in the evening I set up a stack for drafting while others played filler games. Then David and I drafted while others played bridge. At the end of the evening, after Power Grid, David and I finally got to play our drafted decks. This was the first time in a while that the draft included my rares mixed back in. I didn’t recognize many of the cards.
I knew I was in trouble because I had an almost complete color division and not enough damage sources in any three colors. The most I could wrack up was 11 creatures, either in black/blue/white or black/blue/green. I lost one game with each, although the second one (BUG) was slightly better.