The Games We Play

The Games We Play

A repository of reports on the Wednesday night sessions of the club and anything else related to the club or boardgaming in general, which may be of interest to anyone who may be passing by.

Monday 31 December 2007

Session Summary - 19 December 2007

The last meeting of the year saw 4 people and 2 old favourites, one of which has not been played for some time, while another still gets regular play. First was

Acquire 90 mins
Player Posn. Points
Matt 1 49300
Dave D 2 37700
Steve H 3 31700
Mike 4 20000

According to the records, the last time we played this was 10 January, so we just managed to get 2 plays in the year, which is odd since I think everyone likes the game and we have 3 copies among the regular membership of this year.

The game followed a normal sort of pattern with all the chains formed followed by a wait for the first mergers to happen. I made that merger with Luxor taking over American despite having no interest in American (I think I had one share) because I had in my hands the tiles to make a chain followed by a swift merger elsewhere on the board, unfortunately 4 of my tiles were then unplayable and the only other playable tile would have stopped the play just mentioned. So I played the merger in the hope that the opportunity would still be available when it cam back to me. As it happened it worked well as Mike, who was short on cash followed by merging The newly enlarged Luxor with my Festival, where he was second.

After that Luxor continued to grow and Matt, Steve and Mike competed for it's shares, with Matt winning out over Steve. I contented myself with majorities in many of the smaller chains. Matt ran out a comfortable winner while I (somewhat to my surprise cam in second). I made a mistake late on when I enlarged Imperial where I had the majority and allowed Matt to have it take over American, leading to my dropping to 3rd place in the holdings, when Steve and Matt exchanged their American shares. I don't think this would have made a difference to the placings however.

Industrial Waste 70 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 54
Mike 2 50
Steve H 3 45+
Matt 4 45

This was a longer game than some with 3 players all reaching 20 on the growth track on the same turn. Both Matt & I were vulnerable to an accident at one point but got away with it and were able to get back in to the green zone. Steve suffered from money trouble and at one point had 2 loans outstanding, managing to pay one back before the end.

Next meeting 2 January

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Session Summary - 12 December 2007

5 this week with no Mike but Steve Perkins back. Dave indicated that he could be called away to pick Lisa up from some where so we split up 3 & 2. These comments are going to be brief since I think I've said all I need to say regarding the games I played before and I don't know anything about one of the 2 that Dave & Ben played.

Race for the Galaxy 45 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 34
Steve H 2 31
Steve Pe 3 29

Taking advantage of Mike's absence to bring this to the table again. I am now convinced of it's superiority to San Juan and our ability to bring the game down to a reasonable time period when the players are aware of what they are doing.

This was I think the lowest scoring game that I've seen, with very little consumption so the victory points chips were hardly touched. I won by adopting a military strategy, building up a strength of 10 which was enough when combined with the New Galactic order development (1 VP for each point of military)

Pillars of the Earth, The 90 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1 48+
Steve Pe 2 48
Dave D 3 46

A very close game, I did not do enough in the early stages to win and could not quite make it back despite having the highest score in the final round. Steve H had the goldsmith from round 5 and was able to use that to convert enough gold to catch the other Steve with just enough left over to win the tie break. Unusually I was the only one who went heavily for metal and I was hoping that I might have picked up both the big craftsmen using the stuff in the final round. Unfortunately they both came out in those to buy in the first phase and I couldn't afford both, so I had to settle for the Bell Maker. If one of them had been available with the master builders it's possible I might have gathered a few extra points, but I wouldn't want to say for sure.

Meanwhile Ben and Dave played

Starcraft the Boardgame 55 mins
Player Posn. Points
Ben 1 8
Dave C 2 7


Saga 60 mins
Player Posn. Points
Ben 1 90
Dave C 2 81

This seems to provide the evidence that Starcraft can be played in an evening. The game would obviously take longer with more players, but from what I saw before, the increase ought to be somewhat proportionate. I gather that the end of this one was determined by the random appearance of the game end cards in the deck.

As I say I know nothing of Saga, so will not comment. It is a game brought along by Steve Pe which Dave liked the look of. I have not inserted a geek link as I'm not sure which of the games in the database this is. There are several with the same name.(Edit: Steve Perkins has let me know which one so I've now linked it)

Session Summary - 5 December 2007

It was nice to see Gordon tonight and Jonathan back from Oxford for the vacation. Gordon had a new game along and we decided to give it a go. This was

Cuba 140 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1 71
Dave D 2= 57
Jonathan 2= 57
Gordon 4 54
Mike 5 49

How to describe this? Take a little Puerto Rico, Caylus, Pillars of the Earth and stir well, liberally seasoning with other ingredients from here and there. This seems to be the classic case of taking known mechanics, mixing them up and seeing what you get. I am somewhat undecided about the result, but having mentioned Puerto Rico and Caylus I will say that at this time, I find it less offensive than either of those 2.

The game is played in 16? rounds (note the more I think of this it seems wrong is it 24?), which are divided into sets 0f 4. Each player has a set of 5 identical cards indicating which action he can take and each card has a value from 1 to 5 which comes into play for determining the play order for the next set of 4 rounds (the number on the last card played by a player) and a number of votes in the assembly (parliament or whatever it's called) following the 4 rounds (the card not played). The cards are played in turn starting from the start player and have the following effects, to move the worker on your sub board and claim crops or resources in the same row and column, to visit the market and trade, to build buildings on the sub board, to activate buildings on the sub board and to place crops and goods on the ships in the harbour earning victory points. Note I'm not trying to remember which card does which or the value of the particular cards.

When all the cards have been played there is a vote where all players have votes equal to the value of the last cards they played plus any votes they buy using money (corruption is rife here) and the winner is the one with a simple majority of votes and can choose 2 of the 4 available measures to apply until the next vote. The first player in the following round is the one whose 4th card played is the one of greatest value with ties resolved in favour of the player who went latest in the last set of rounds. This makes for an interesting system of card play where, when playing cards you have to consider not only what to do, but the turn order and your voting strength. If you are late in the turn order you may want to hold a high value card until last, but for other reasons, you may need to play that card early or not play it at all because you want its votes. So there is a dilemma here.

Victory points in the game are earned in various ways such as shipping items, there are 3 ship in the harbour and the most vps are earned for placing stuff on the one about to leave, but if you wait for this, you may find that someone else has already taken the space on the ship allocated to the good you want to ship (the goods a ship will carry are preset and each carries a total of 5). Victory points are also earned by some buildings and by the secondary effects of some of the role cards. They are also earned by paying taxes, which strangely is optional, but you are then rewarded for filling the government's coffers.

As can be seen this game was comfortably won by Steve who built a building giving a extra 2 votes and was then able to control the passage of legislation for the rest of the game due to a measure that was passed forbidding the buying of votes. This particular situation is extremely powerful and it is certainly to be watched for with a view to prevent it unless of course you are the player who benefits. When Gordon indicated that money was very tight at the start I decided to take step to ensure a good supply and came to the conclusion that it was perhaps not as tight as had been suggested as there were time where it was difficult to know what to do with the stuff, although it nearly all got spent in the end and I had 1 left to tie the tie breaker with Jon.

The game suffers, it seems, from a badly translated rule book and there was discussion at several points particularly with regard to one particular building and also about the names used to describe the different kinds of goods, which seems totally illogical. Despite this, the game seems to me to be worth at least another play. Steve was greatly impressed while Mike was not, mostly seeing to find the method of determining the first play not to his taste as he seemed to spend most of the game going late in the order. I think that the problem was at several points Gordon was first player, making Mike 4th and me 5th, what would then likely happen is I would become first meaning he was 5th. he seemed to be of the opinion that starting in the middle was a disadvantage because of the way the tie break worked, but I don't see this because it seemed to be that the first player was usually determined by a value 4 card, which could be beaten by a value 5 and also once I was was first player it made Mike 5th meaning he was in pole position to be first in the next set of rounds. As I say this is an interesting mechanism and it is also probably the only original one in the game.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Session Summary - 28 November 2007

4 people this week and as the buildup to the American presidential next year gathers pace the game was

Candidate 120 mins
Dave D2262
Steve H3

Going back a month or 2 when we played Condotierre, I was reminded of this, not that the game are really anything alike, but they do, in a sense, take the form of a series of battles. That's about where the similarities end.

I bought this game when it first appeared, back just before the 1992 American election and we had great fun with it for some time. The idea is that you play a candidate bidding for his parties nomination and the game is played as a series of primaries visiting all the states. In each state the players play cards representing money and other effects on themselves and each other and once all cards have been played they are revealed and whoever has committed the most money probably wins the state barring other problems, such as a scandal which causes a rerun or a deadlock which cancels the election entirely. A player may also play favourite son which will automatically win him one state, barring scandal or deadlock.

Each state won awards a number of electoral votes according to its size and to win you need to accumulate an outright majority (270 votes). If this does not happen before all states have been visited, you move on to the convention when first all the previously undecided states are awarded and then the last player drops out and his votes are reallocated until a winner is achieved. The rules for the convention follow the same rules as the primaries but deadlock and favourite son have no effect.
In this game I got off to a good start winning California, Texas and one of the other big states, while Steve settled into 2nd place with Mike and Matt squabbling for 3rd. Going into the convention Matt was last but won the 50 votes available for the undecided states to eliminate Mike, leaving Steve 3rd. I won the reallocation of Mike's votes leaving me on 262, agonisingly short of the finishing line with Steve eliminated. When Steve's votes were reallocated, Matt won, I having a hand solely filled with money cards of which I could only play one on my self, and no rumours or other things to play against Matt.

I had fun with this game, although it is not one to be played too often as it is definitely a case of having the right cards at the right time. That said there is some thinking to do in the manner of do I go all out to win the state right away or do I hold back expecting someone to play a scandal card causing a rerun in which case I will have wasted my cards.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Session Summary - 21 November 2007

4 of us in this week (Me, Mike, Dave & Ben) and the game was Starcraft the Boardgame from Fantasy Flight. Dave picked this up at Midcon and I understood it was to be a Christmas present, but it seems that Santa is early this year.

The game is supposed to be based on the computer game of the same name, I have not played that so I do not know what resemblance there is between the 2. What we have seems essentially to be a space exploration and conflict game, where each player represents one of 3 races, so there are potentially 2 representatives of each race, and moves to occupy planets and exploit the resources found there. Victory is achieved, either by accumulating 15 points gained by occupying certain planetary areas or by achieving a special objective in phase 3 of the game.

The game is played in turns broken into steps, in the first of which players give orders as to what they will do in the following, this can be to do research, to build units or buildings or to mobilise (that is to move units either on a planet or from planet to planet). This is complicated somewhat as the order of resolution of the orders is the reverse of that in which they were placed so if I want to move to an area and then build a base, I have to place the build order first and then the move order. I had thought it would be better if this were eliminated by flipping over the order stacks and simply executing in placement order, but this would cause issues with the other complicating factor, which is that if, when it comes to your turn to execute an order, there is another players order sitting on top of the stack, you can't execute it that turn. This can be painful, if say in the example, you were moving from another planet because you could find that your move order is blocked, forcing you to execute the build order first, which is then wasted because the units haven't yet arrived. There is therefore a potential to screw your opponents by placing your orders on top of theirs and ruining their plans. For this reason, the first player which rotates every turn is significant.

Combat is a fairly simple case of lining up opposing units one to one, with spare units as support and playing cards for each match up. There is one round only and if the attacker does not eliminate all defenders in that turn, all attackers must retreat.

What do I think? I'm not a great fan of games where players are pitched into direct confrontation with other, but this is OK. It seems nothing special, but there seems enough to set it apart from the likes of others of that type, the classic example of this being Risk, it may even be possible to adopt a defensive strategy, but I'm not sure that would be entirely successful. Where I would take issue is the same problem I have with many games produced by big American manufacturers and that is the mass of plastic bits, which clutter up the board and add pounds (both weight and currency) to the products. Fantasy Flight can and do produce very nice cardboard counters, (although it would be good to have unit names on them) and there are some in this game as well and these would be preferable in my opinion. If the pieces were to be painted, which could be done, they would perhaps add something to the game, but otherwise they are just plastic pieces of uniform colour. Perhaps an idea would be for the companies to produce the base game with cardboard counters and then sell the plastic pieces as an expansion, for those who might wish to customise them with their own colour schemes.

We were forced to call a halt to this playing because of time, but several players were in contention to perhaps score a win in the near future. I don't see why this shouldn't fit into an evening when there is no need to explain the rules

Friday 23 November 2007

Midcon 2007

Ben had been asking for some time if he could come to Midcon, as he enjoyed Games Expo and Hamstercon this year, I agreed he could come. We met up with Steve H and Mike at the bus stop and arrived at about 10.15. Dave D was already there; we launched straight into a game of Nottingham. This is a nice card game of collecting sets with enough player interaction to keep it interesting. Ben won, so he was well pleased. After this, Steve had got himself involved in a game of Civilisation and Mike was playing Imperial (actually, it turned out he wasn’t, but I digress). Dave, Ben and I played Race for the Galaxy. Not a big hit at the club, but Ben and I like it; once you’ve played a few times the strategy of building your hand and spread of cards becomes apparent.. We broke for dinner; the food was nice but horrendously expensive. And why does EVERY sandwich filling include mayo?
Lacking a fourth player; we tried Brass. This is Martin Wallace’s latest outing; a game of building canals and railways in industrial Lancashire. I liked it, Dave won and Ben was second. I then watched Starcraft being played on the next table; impressed, I bought the only copy on sale (and then had to fight off people desperate to borrow it to play – sorry folks; I like to punch out my own components and store them.)
We played Race for the Galaxy again, then Ben got into a Yu-Gi-Oh game with a lad he made friends with. Still lacking players; Dave and I played Dracula, a two-player game of Van Helsing chasing Dracula around a generic housing estate. I say played – we gave up after about three turns as it was rubbish; dull, pedestrian and boring.
Dave made a strategic withdrawal at this point (i.e. went home), and we had tea. After that, Ben and I played Mordred, another Martin Wallace game about Arthur’s knights battling evil Mordred. I won that one. We also chatted a lot to Hazel, the nice lady on the Bishop Games stand. We then played a curious 5-in-a-row game, the name of which I can’t remember; basically it’s like 5 in a row, but different elements of the board can move or rotate to change the patterns in place. We played several games and liked it.
Steve H came to join us and we introduced him to Vikings; I (just) beat Ben by 2 pts due to having lots of fishermen. Ben went off to play 5 in a row with Hazel, and Mike and another guy joined me and Steve for another game of Vikings. This game didn’t go so well and there were several comments about the fixed turn order penalising the last player. I’m not sure; I think it needs a few more playings to see if there is a different strategy the last player needs to adopt. The night was drawing on; we finished with Worms (no idea what the German name is); throw dice and collect worms. I won (eventually). We called it a night and headed for bed.

Ben watched a ‘Carry-On’ compilation on the TV and I started to read the rules to Starcraft before we turned in.

Sunday dawned dull and rainy. We had a super breakfast (one of the highlights of Midcon) and then headed back to the Wroxton. Dave, Mike and Steve had scheduled to play Britannia; on entering the room we got invited to join in with Andy and his sons Edward and Thomas. After playing Nottingham as an icebreaker (which Ben won); they suggested Twilight Imperium III. I’ve got TI II, but it’s never made it to the club; Ben’s asked to play a few times but again we haven’t. So we settled down to it. Ben liked it and was having great fun; it did transpire that the others play it a lot (family game). I wasn’t sure about it. I like TI 2; but I think they’ve added a layer of complexity that the game doesn’t need by putting in the ‘Puerto Rico’ style select-a-role/Action/Secondary Action mechanism. Also, there’s no point in making the hexes bigger if you then make the models bigger! This took up the rest of the day and we left to catch the bus home.

The turn-out was fantastic; I don’t think I’ve seen the Wroxton that full. Jeremy told me there were about 140 people attending on the Saturday,

It was good to see a lot of younger players there

The rooms were good, but the food ordering was bad. It took three attempts ( and two sendings back) to order a Club sandwich with NO mayo, NO lettuce and NO tomato

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Session Summary - 14 November 2007

We got to split into 2 groups tonight. At the beginning there were just the 4 of us and it was decided to give another outing to

Il Principe 60 mins
Player Posn. Points
Mike 1 60
Steve H 2 53
Steve Pe 3 49
Matt 4 46
Dave D 5 36

I was undecided about this one on first playing. The game is basically a series of auctions with knobs on. This second time I really just lost interest almost from the start and it seemed a very long hour. This probably explains my very poor performance. I think I'll pass on this in future.

After we started playing Dave & Ben appeared and got stuck into a game of

Scarab Lords 40 mins
Player Posn.
Ben 1
Dave C 2

I gave this a try with Dave on a recent Saturday and git the impression it was an OK game, though nothing really great. Not one of Reiner Knizia's best by any stretch of the imagination, bit not his worst by any means.

Both the first 2 games, finished at roughly the same time and Matt joined Dave & Ben and was introduced to

Vikings 60 mins
Player Posn. Points
Matt 1 71
Ben 2 64
Dave C 3 38

Matt seems to have taken to this, but I'm not sure as to his opinion of the game

The rest of us played

Industrial Waste 60 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1 33
Steve Pe 2 30
Dave D 3 27
Mike 4 26

This was another low scoring game, but this time it was because all players had financial trouble had to take out loans by the end of the game, also there seemed to more than the usual number of accidents. Steve Hilton, formerly the greenest player in the club now seems to have discarded this enlightened stance in favour of employing as few people as possible and not worrying about the mess left behind. This strategy brought him a victory which was really easier than the score suggests, despite suffering the end game accident in the red zone.

That's got the Wednesday sessions caught up for now. Still to come, comments on the Saturday 1870 game and thoughts on Midcon. Oh and there's another session tonight.

Session Summary - 7 November 2007

Steve Cox was with us again this week and we introduced him and Steve H to

Race for the Galaxy 90 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 42
Steve C 2 38
Steve H 3 33
Mike 4 24

Mike agreed to play again and it was again a rather longer game than I expected, I think due to new players getting the hang of the game. I'm not going to go into any details, but I tend to agree that this length of game is too long, although to me it was still an enjoyable way to occupy the time. I was of the opinion that once we got a group of players who knew the game the time would fall a lot. The key being for players to perform actions simultaneously and being quicker in selecting actions. This seems to be borne out by a couple of games I played with Dave & Ben at Midcon, both of which came in easily within an hour. I'm not sure how much more play we'll get on Wednesday's however as Mike has no desire to try a third time.

Clans 50 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve C 1= 44
Mike 1= 44
Dave D 3 33
Steve H 4 32

Steve C brought this one along. A game of shoving coloured pieces representing tribes around a board until there are no other tribes adjacent to them. The isolated tribes then form a village and points are scored by the colours according to the total number of tribes present. Before the scoring, the tribe(s) with the lowest representation are eliminated in a way reminiscent of Attila if all the colours are present. The key to the game is to have your colour tribe involved in as many villages as possible and have the fewest huts you can get away with in each village, while trying to maneuver your opponents huts into less advantageous positions. This is complicated by the fact that you do not know what colours your opponents are playing in a way similar to Heimlich and Co. and like that game there may be colours on the board that do not represent players.

It's an interesting game, but I can't say it did much for me as it seems to be one of those where there is increasing loss of control with number of players due to the number of things that happen between your turns. May be I'd enjoy it more with fewer players or it's quite possible that I'm missing something, based on the fact that Mike and Steve C did appreciably better than the other 2 of us.

Session Summary - 31 October 2007

There were just 4 of us this week in the absence of Steve who I believe was out dining for Halloween. We played a couple of games, one new to all of us, one was just new to Mike.

Race for the Galaxy 80 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 39
Mike 2 34
Ben 3 31
Dave C 4 26

I had just picked this up having been anticipating it ever since I learned about it some months ago. It is essentially an advanced version of San Juan, rethemed into outer space. The main difference is in the selection of actions. Unlike in San Juan, where the roles are chosen by each player in turn so in a 4 player game 4 actions will certainly take place, here players simultaneously select secret actions which are then revealed meaning it is possible that only 1 of the possible 5 actions will take place if all players choose the same. Like in San Juan, everybody gets to perform the action chosen, but those who selected it get an advantage, but in the case of the Explore and Consume actions, there are 2 different advantages which can be selected.

Some of the actions are very like those in San Juan. Explore is the equivalent of the Councillor, where you draw cards and decide which to keep. Develop is like builder and allows the constructing of developments, which are sort of equivalent to the violet buildings. Produce is something like Producer, but every world that is eligible produces, in this case the advantage of selecting this action is to draw a card. Settle is also somewhat like builder, but allows the colonisation of worlds rather than placing developments, there are 2 kinds of worlds, one of which is colonised peacefully by the placement of cards, while the other must be conquered by having a high enough military value, no cards being used in this case. The final action is Consume, which requires that all available goods on worlds are expended are used by developments and worlds that require them gaining cards and VPs, if the action is chosen using the Trade advantage, then one card must first be sold at a value depending on its type, meaning that in this case there is a similarity with the Trader of San Juan. There is no equivalent to San Juan's prospector.

The game is played until any player has 12 cards (worlds or developments) in front of him or a number of VP chips set by the number of players is handed out at which time the current round is completed and VPs are given out depending on the cards the player has in their tableau. As in San Juan there are 6 value developments which give special VP scores, but they are much more varied when compared with the 4 in the former game.

This game played longer as a first try, it taking a bit of getting used to the icon system used on the cards to indicate their powers, there is also text on some of the cards but this is difficult to read and seems to be superfluous, since the text only describes in words what the icons say. By the end of the game I felt confident with the iconography and the game was moving quicker. With experience I don't really see why the play time shouldn't come down near to San Juan length.

In this game I went for a mostly peaceful expansion, while Dave & Ben went the military route, Mike followed the middle way. Dave, Ben & I all enjoyed the game, while Mike was not so convinced, commenting about the game lacking the flavour of San Juan. I don't see that San Juan, although a great game, has that much of what I would call flavour anyway and this is to a certain extent the same, both when it comes down to it are about playing cards to get further cards and Victory points, its just that in one case the cards are meant to represent buildings in a historical colony, while the other has them representing futuristic technology and alien worlds, I find both equally valid or not as the case may be. May be Mike is more comfortable with a historical theme rather than SF.

Next was

Khronos 80 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 41
Mike 2 37
Ben 3= 27
Dave C 3= 27

More Science Fiction, although this time it's Time Travel. I'd played this one the previous Saturday with Dave & Ben and liked it. I'm not going to attempt a description in detail, but there are 3 boards representing the Ages of Might (oldest), Faith and Reason(most recent) and buildings are built in the 2 older time periods, which if large enough "ripple" through time to more recent periods, nothing is built in the Age of Reason. Scoring is carried out on 3 times and occurs differently for each of the 3 boards.

On each turn a player gets 4 cards which can be used to build, upgrade and demolish buildings and this can only be done in a period where one of his 2 time travellers is present, each giving the ability to player 2 cards, thus it is necessary for these to flit between periods to build and also to score as a traveller is necessary in a period to score for a period on the scoring turns. The game is essentially a battle for control of collections of linked buildings, known as domains, which can be linked together by civil buildings leading potentially to conflicts because the highest ranking religious or military building in a domain must be unique. This gives the game a vaguely Tigris & Euphrates feel, but the deterministic conflict means that the result of any conflict can be determined before any cards are played to link domains.

The foregoing waffle may or may not give you an idea of the game, which is not really as complicated as it sounds, suffice to say I like it, Mike again is not so keen.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Session Summary - 24 October 2007

This was half term week and Dave had gathered the younger members for a game of D&D downstairs. That left 6 of us and the game of choice was

Power Grid 150 mins
Player Posn. Points
Gordon 1 16
Steve C 2 15++
Steve H 3 15+
Matt 4 15
Dave D 5 14+
Mike 6 14

Gordon and Steve Cox were with us this week, having visited Essen and come back with various goodies including the new deck of Power plant cards, so we gave this a go on the German map using the option of simply substituting the new deck for the old.

Time and more playing will tell as to what difference this will really make, but in the short term there is certainly enough to make you rethink strategy. My first thought is that there seem to be more powerful and/or efficient plants toward the upper and lower ends of the range, but in the middle range the reverse seems to be true.

The game was close and I felt that both Gordon and Chris played well, in contrast to me and I think Mike felt the same regarding his play. I think I made several mistakes throughout, but the major one was at the end, when I bought the 50 plant which powers 8 cities for 2 nuclear, I think it was the eagerness to buy such a powerful plant, which of course was far too powerful for what I needed. If I'd have settled for something less powerful I would have been able to build an extra city and got into the shootout for second place. Oh well, maybe now the novelty has worn off I won't do that again.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Session Summary - 17 October 2007

Another Week, another Steve. This time is was Steve Perkins, down from Telford. If all the Steves ever show up at once it's going to be really confusing. When I walked in Dave & Ben were introducing Steve to

Mordred 30 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve Pe 1 27
Dave C 2 18
Ben 3 17

This time the good guys beat Mordred so the game was decided on VP and it looks like Steve had a good win.

While this was going on Steve H and Mike were chatting and I joined them, we spent a bit of time perusing my copy of the book Hobby Games, agreeing and/or disagreeing with some of the entries, while the others finished off, then we found a 6 player game to play.

Condottiere 45 mins
Player Posn. Points
Mike 1 3 in row
Dave C 2=
Dave D 2=
Ben 2=
Steve Pe 2=
Steve H 2=

This is played on a small board showing Italy broken up into areas and the players fight over each area in turn, using a hand of cards, consisting of mercenaries rated from 1-6,10 (I think that's right) together with some special cards, 2 of which also have a combat value, while others allow you to do things like modifying the existing cards (for example).

The game is played in a series of battles and the territory is won by the player with the highest value of cards when everyone has passed (or the battle is terminated by play of a surrender card). It is not a long game, but I can't say I found it enjoyable, there being several problems as far as I can see. First is that cards are not refreshed until all but one player has run out, so if you don't have a good hand you are effectively stuck from the beginning, denied even the possibility of discarding your cards in the hope of drawing better ones, this was certainly true of our game, since the game ended before anyone had a chance to refill. This problem may be reduced with fewer players because I would have though that refresh rates would be quicker.

The other problem, which to me broke the game was the way Steve P and Mike, when they were the only 2 players left, were able to agree to carve up 2 areas between them before actually doing battle over an area, which Mike won and with it the game. If this sort of arrangement between players is allowed, I don't think I would want to play this again, if the opportunity presents itself. (3/10).

While writing this, the idea of battling over regions has given me the urge to see if I can find Candidate and dig that out.

After this we split 4 & 2.

Dave & Ben played

Khronos 50 mins
Player Posn. Points
Ben 1 51
Dave C 2 26

Someone described this as Tigris & Euphrates through time. Now it has been so long wince I played T&E and I've never played this, but Dave was explaining a bit about it to me on Saturday and it does sound interesting. He mentioned an online tutorial, but I haven't been able to find it. I may get a chance to play this Saturday.

After that it was

Vikings 40 mins
Player Posn. Points
Ben 1 76
Dave C 2 56

I did play this with Dave, Jenny and Ben the other week and didn't find it really to my taste, although again I had a feeling that it might play better with fewer players. That said Ben certainly likes it and seems to be good at it.

Meanwhile the rest of us introduced Steve to

Industrial Waste 60 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 42
Steve H 2 39
Mike 3 36
Steve Pe 4 30

This was a strange game which was marked by a strange lack of orders in the early stage and a certain lack of innovation throughout, there were several accidents (which affected no one) and I did see a few innovation cards cast aside as duplicates, together with a few which were not selected due to players needing other cards in other sets. I don't think anyone innovated more than 3 times throughout the game.

As a result of all this the game was a close and low scoring affair. Although there was little innovation there was no shortage of growth and I was able to advance my factory on most turns. I could have brought the game to an end earlier than I did, but held the card until the next turn when I was first player for 2 reasons, one of which was that I hoped to be able to draw a bit of innovation the following turn, but mostly because I was sitting on 8 on the Waste track and strongly suspected that Steve H, who had a card to play after me would play Waste removal and push be up into the yellow zone, leaving me prey to the end game accident, which would destroy my chances of winning. I was right and Steve did play the card, but I was able to get away with it as no accident came up when the cards for the following turn were laid out.

In the next turn I was able to pick up an innovation card, while Steve H couldn't, I also outbid him in a raw material auction denying him the material needed to produce the order, he had picked up. As it turned out Steve P outbid me so I didn't have to pay for the goods myself. When I ended the game that turn, the only points separating us, were my 3 point advantage on the growth track.

This was Steve P's first try of the game and he seems to have enjoyed it. I noticed he has rated it 8 on the Geek, so another convert to what I think is one of the most underrated games of them all.

Finally, it was another run out for

Guillotine 25 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1= 13
Mike 1= 13
Steve P 3 11
Dave D 4 9

This is our filler for all seasons and was a close but low scoring game. If only Steve H hadn't terminated the game with the Scarlet Pimpernel, the turn before I was to make my move. Oh Well.

Until this evening.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Session Summary - 10 October 2007

It was nice to see a new face tonight, with Steve Cox, who was working in Birmingham popping along to see us. He arrived just as we were starting so it was easy enough to restart and as he knew the game, we were able to dive straight in. The game was

Vinci 110 mins
Player Posn. Points
Mike 1 127
Dave D 2 125
Steve H 3 117
Steve C 4 107

This was the first playing for this since the beginning of the year. I have had it out of my bag for some time to make room for newer games, but I know it is popular and particularly one of Steve H 's favourites so I thought it was time to restore it. This is a short precis from memory.

Mountaineering was in favour at the beginning of the game with Mike taking a combination with Weapons, while Steve H chose a combination with Currency after I had passed that one in favour of Astronomy/Rebirth. I have been burnt with currency in the past when it comes time to decline, also there were 2 VP on the combination I chose whereas I would have lost 2 VP on the Mountaineering/Currency option. Mike and Steve H as expected surged ahead at the start, while Steve C (who had Medicine) and I moved steadily on behind. When we came to the first declines, Steve H was ahead, but when he declined he lost 6 points by taking the Field General/Slavery combination in position IV which was a big knock back when combined with the fact of losing the currency and Mountain VPs. Mike and I at this stage both picked up Mining/Port Building, but his Port building survived declining, while mine gave me an extra man. I was able to make a better transition having had Rebirth in my first Civilization and was able to move into the lead at this point.

With the third empires, Mike moved into a commanding lead with specialist Livestock Breeding, which as so often happens, he grabbed a turn before I could. I had Currency/Messages at the end and was almost able to catch up with Mike when he was attacked from all sides on the penultimate turn, but he was able to maintain the lead by declining and picking up the Civ in position I, which had 6 VPs on it.

We had some time at the end and Steve C had some games which none of us had played. The one picked was on the basis that it was quick to explain.

Ricochet Robots 40 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve C 1 5
Steve H 2= 3
Dave D 2= 3
Mike 4 0

This is more a puzzle than a game, the idea being that a tile is turned up showing a colour and a symbol and the players then have to come up with the fewest number of moves to get the robot of that colour to that symbol, by bouncing it off barriers and other robots. When someone thinks they have an answer they declare it and then a sand time is turned giving the time for any one else to declare a smaller number of moves. When the timer runs out, whoever declared the lowest number has to demonstrate the route and if equal to or lower than what they declared, they win the token. If they are wrong they lose a token that they already have. The winner is the one with the most tokens at the end.

This is an interesting curiosity requiring an aptitude for spatial awareness, I think it is probably one I could become pretty good at with enough practice, but at the same time, I'm not sure that I would have the urge to play often enough to get that practice. I'm not sure how many times Steve C has played, but he won this time, although Steve H and I managed to grab a few tokens later on in the game. Mike started well, but then made mistakes resulting in the loss of the tokens he'd previously collected.

Note to Dave C, while we're on the subject of robots, we must play Robo Rally again sometime.

Until tomorrow

Friday 5 October 2007

Game Labels

I've started to go back through the posts and add labels where they refer to some of the more often played games. You can see the list so far down the side.

Should make it easy to find plays for these games without hunting all through the old posts.

Session Summary - 3 October 2007

By way of a change, here is a report with a couple of days of the actual session, for some reason I felt more inspired to sit down and right this than recently, which perhaps also shows in the length of it.

I was a few minutes late arriving and found Steve watching Dave & Ben play

Mordred 30 mins
Dave C1

This is a strange game by Martin Wallace, which I played once over at Dave's. I'm not sure what the players are supposed to represent, but the idea is to defeat the forces of evil represented by the black pawns of Mordred, while simultaneously building up a network of towns villages and castles, which earn victory points. The game ends either when a player has placed all of one type of building, when all the Mordred pawns are on the board or possibly if a player defeats Mordred in his home castle on Anglesey (in which case that player automatically wins). That last victory condition is straight forward, but the interesting part is when the game ends by one of the other methods. You first look at whether Mordred has won (more Mordred pieces on the board than total player pieces). If he has not then the player with most victory points wins, otherwise the player who did least to aid Mordred wins.

So you have a balancing act because to build things you need money which you get by rolling dice at the beginning of your turn, you can choose from 3 tracks to roll on, with increasing average income, but if you choose the higher value tracks your chances of having to place Mordred units increases meaning the probability of an evil win is increased and you are further along the Mordred track putting you at a disadvantage if he is victorious. To counterbalance this you can use your settlement (Castles are best) to attack adjacent Mordred pawns and if you win, not only is the evil power reduced, but you also get to move back toward the side of light. It is an interesting system and I'm not entirely convinced of the skill element, but it plays in a short time and is quite fun.

I remembered all that and it's been a few weeks since I played, I'm sure Dave will correct me if I got anything wrong.

After Ben & Dave finished we decided to play one of the hot games of the moment.

Age of Empires III 150 mins
Dave D1105
Steve H269
Dave C366

I had played this once before at Luke's Happy, Happy Games Day a couple of months back and found that I quite liked it, which surprised me a bit as I've never really been taken by games on this theme, other than the old Sid Meier PC game Colonization.

At the beginning of the game we decided to record the scores on a piece of paper as the scoring track on board is not the greatest ever produced of it's type. Also it's not exactly a vital thing to have when scoring only takes place 3 times. If it had been constantly changing that would be different. As a result of all this I've tried to reconstruct the score breakdowns from Dave's notes, the first and second ages should be accurate as are the totals, but it's possible that the Age III distributions may be very slightly off.

Ben played the Dutch and adopted the strategy of spreading the word of the Lord to the natives, sending over many missionaries and gaining extra colonists that way. He acquired the Monastery in the first age, giving an extra Missionary each turn and then picked up the Cathedral at the end of the second age, so his missionaries would give 2 colonists instead of one. However despite sending many people to the New World, he was weak in the other area, having few trade goods and ships, although acquiring the Taxation building brought in a regular income. He also made no discoveries. Ben might have done better if the Cathedral had turned up earlier in the age giving a longer period for it to have an effect.

Score -
Age I 2
Age II 10
Colonies 18
Discoveries 0
Capital Buildings 2 (Taxation 2)
Economy 4
Total 36

Dave C was the Spanish and adopted a strategy primarily geared toward colonisation and also some discoveries. He acquired Conquest of the Incan empire in Age I and this enabled him also to pick up New World Cartography for a free discovery. He was soon sending a lot of men including soldiers to the New World and this was helped when he got Indian Allies in Age II, which he used to virtually eliminate every foreign presence in New Spain (fortunately I'd already picked up the Gold having discovered it and been first to 3 colonists). Elsewhere he had more competition, particularly in Brazil, where I had a presence and Steve who also had a soldier, resulting a a kind of standoff. Dave's weakness was income, although he had Trade goods and a couple of ships, he had no other regular source and after the initial boost from the Incan Empire he struggled being unable to afford Capital Buildings in Age III.

Score -
Age I 6
Age II 12
Colonies 20
Discoveries 14
Capital Buildings 4 (New World Cartography 4)
Economy 10
Total 66

Steve was the British and adopted a similar strategy to Dave, although he also went for trade goods and employed Merchants (I think he picked up Trade routes in Age I) to boost his income, so he had sufficient money to fund his plans. In age III he was able to acquire Mercantilism which boosted his score well due to his collection of goods, but just failed on a last minute discovery, having not had time to accumulate enough men for the expedition. That said he did benefit earlier in the game, when Ben had a failed discovery and he was able to immediately follow up knowing he had sufficient force to do the job.

Score -
Age I 6
Age II 16
Colonies 14
Discoveries 11
Capital Buildings 11 (Mercantilism 11)
Economy 11
Total 69

I was the Portuguese apparently, but this was because of my desire to be green rather than because of the country. I went first and seeing that the Navigator tile was available I decided to try a similar strategy to that which had served me well in my only other game, so I headed straight for the Capital Buildings. The Captain in the discovery box each turn would allow me to make plenty of discoveries. In addition to this I concentrated early on picking up Trade goods and Ships, then aiming my discovery missions at areas where the goods matched what I'd got. Specialist wise I concentrated on more Captains enabling me to be certain of success in my discoveries and some missionaries, which I would send the following turn to pick up the goods. I didn't bother that much about keeping my discoveries after that abandoning them if hoards of other muscled in. At the start of Age II, I already had a good income and was additionally able to pick up Privateers, which was quite good as I already had 2 ships and this would later become 3. In Age III I had enough money to afford 2 Capital Buildings on the first turn and the fact that one was Factory ensured I picked another 2 in the following turn, the others were Wealth, Prosperity and Population, I'd have liked Mercantilism, but Steve beat me to it.

Score -
Age I 8
Age II 6
Colonies 12
Discoveries 25
Capital Buildings 36 (Factory 5, Wealth 14, Prosperity 12, Colonisation 5)
Economy 18
Total 105
I won comfortably as I did in my other game by adopting the same strategy. In both games I was the only one to play this way, while the others were fighting a lot over the New World colonies. I can see that at some point I'm going to have to modify this as it relies so much on having the right Capital buildings to support it. I probably play this way because of my general preference for an economic route rather than one of conquest/conflict and it is nice for a game to allow both types of play. Whichever way, it looks to me as if Money is Power as it buys Capital buildings and whether they are direct point scorers or give other advantages, the right ones are vital to whatever strategy is used.

Until next week

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Session Summary - 26 September 2007

4 people this week.

Caylus Magna Carta 135 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1 53
Dave D 2 47
Mike 3 39
Matt 4 38

This was the second time for this one, I think Matt and Steve had played twice before, myself once and this was Mike's first. The first game we played ran over 2 hours which I thought (and hoped) having read the views of many on the Geek was probably an aberration and, thinking about it afterwards I thought I saw the problem as being not enough castle building because people would not do so if they couldn't get the gold preferring to hold their resources in the hope of getting another try in a future turn when they would be first in the castle. I think we were influenced by Caylus in this, but on thinking about it I thought "Is the gain of gold worth as much as a favour in that game?" and came to the conclusion it was not. Having thought this I had it mind to try to play it differently next time. Unfortunately I forgot all that when it came to actually playing the game.

This was a 4 player game and the initial set up included the buildings giving 2 gold, 1 food and 1 stone so there was no initial source of wood. Early in the game both Mike & I built the small wood buildings providing supplies for all in the early going. Steve & I also built small stone buildings while he also built a lawyer, which was going to be very helpful as it was the only one built in the game. I don't recall Matt doing any early building, but taking a few of the 4 value castle tokens. Moving on there was a bit of a food shortage as only one large food building had been built in addition to the initial one, I think. There was no Stone problem as there was soon a large quarry built in addition to the small ones.

Matt then built a food building, but immediately converted it into a residence before it could be used, although the food shortage then became relatively less important as both the previously built wood buildings became residences, leaving no supply of this resource at all, the only choice was to buy it, which was possible using 2 buildings by this time.

It was also about this time that I built a gold mine, which for a long time was the only one in the game, this served me well as someone (nearly always Steve) would always use it allowing me to convert another resource into gold, meaning that Steve and I accumulated a lot of this. There was also a bank enabling the buying of gold so this was another option, but this of course cost money, which we did not (with the exception of Steve who got the income from his Lawyer) havemuch of. I think it was the gold mine that decided the game in Steve's favour and gave me second place as it allowed me to build the largest and one of the the 2 second largest prestige buildings, while he just accumulated gold, since he only managed to get to the Lawyer first once and so only got one residence and hence one prestige building.

The game concluded with all prestige buildings built and a run on the castle. We were all pretty close on castle points, while I came out on top in buildings, but Steve overtook with spare money and resources and a lot of surplus gold. The game had again run over 2 hours and I still think this was due to slow castle building with no hurry until the prestige buildings were all used. Another factor, which I have not considered before is that each player has a building where castle tokens can be bought, and I don't remember that any of these were built during either of my 2 games.

After the game 3 opinions were expressed, based on the length of the game as we play it:

Matt & Mike expressed disappointment. They are fans of Caylus and at this length are of the view that they'd rather play that.

I feel that given the choice between this and Caylus (of which I'm not a fan, finding it rather tedious), I'd rather play this, but if this length is going to be normal for our group then there are a lot of games I'd choose in preference. If we could play it a fair bit shorter (and I still think we should), I think I could play this fairly often.

Steve finds Caylus somewhat too much for it's length, though not as anti as I am, but is happy to play this even at this length.

Following this there was time for

Guillotine 25 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1= 25
Mike 1= 25
Matt 3= 21
Dave D 3= 21

A close fought game, Mike was leader for much of the time and, therefore, the number one target. Matt had all sorts of support cards in front of him while I built up a huge hand of cards which usually weren't useful when it cam to my turn. Steve finished the game and was able to equalise the scores between him and Mike.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday 30 September 2007

Session Summary - 19 September 2007

I was hoping to post this together with last weeks summary, having again let it ride longer than it should, however I'm umming and arring a bit over comments on Caylus Magna Carta and it's taking a little longer to write than I thought, so here's this one that I did earlier.

It was me and Mike this week so he dug out some 2 player games.

Kahuna 50 mins
Player Posn.
Mike 1
Dave D 2

I seem to recall watching Mike play this in the past, but have never played it myself. The idea is to control islands by building the majority of bridges form that island to its neighbours. When you achieve this you get to knock down an opponents bridge form the island you've just taken. This is done by the play of cards to place bridges and also to knock down bridges. Scoring is based on whoever controls the most islands at the end of each of the 3 rounds.

The problem to my mind is that when you reach the 5 card hand limit you have to start discarding cards to draw new ones, so if you accumulate the cards to make a major attack, you are virtually committed to playing it immediately or lose one of the cards and if you are forced to do this too early in the round you give your opponent time to respond, while you have to start building your hand again.

Still fairly inoffensive 5/10.

San Juan 30 mins
Player Posn. Points
Mike 1 32
Dave D 2 26

This works OK with 2 players, but as has been pointed out by many people including the designer Andreas Seyfearth, the Library is so very powerful when one player has one and the other doesn't (despite the fact that you can only use it for one role when you're Governor). In this case Mike had one as his first build but he was unable to draw many other good cards to go with it. He still won by 6 points.

Babel 30 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 18
Mike 2 5

Another in the Kosmos 2 player series and to my mind better than Kahuna. I seem to recall playing it before in the dim and distant past before records began (I think with Julian). The game has interesting options with scope for some nice combos to bash your opponent. It was indeed quite satisfying to finish the game off by stealing the top of Mike's big temple and then demolishing the rest of it and I'd certainly play again, but I think that if I know a session's going to be exclusively 2 player I'd rather fill it with Fury of Dracula. 6/10

Now I must get back to last week and Caylus Magna Carta.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Session Summary - 12 September 2007

3 of us last Wednesday and the game chosen was

Power Grid 90 mins
Player Posn. Points
Steve H 1 17+
Dave D 2 17
Matt 3 16

This was played on the Italy board, only the second time this has seen play. The last time was a long brain burning affair when the game went on a turn too long resulting in the 2 leaders becoming back markers due to running out of fuel. This one was a more conventional affair played on the bottom 3 regions, so leaving out the 3 at the top of the country with all the cheap connections.

Matt set up in the South with me in North, while Steve sat in the middle. The game developed so that Steve was left in the position of starting Step 2 by making a very expensive connection up the east coast by passing several cities and then building last in the following turn after Matt and I had picked up the best of the newly available '15' spots. When the game came to an end I thought I was in a good position and was amazed to realise that Steve had so much more money left over. It's true that I probably paid more for fuel over the length of the game, but I'm sure he paid more for connections. I'm still wondering what I missed.

With plenty of time available it was onto

Industrial Waste 25 mins
Player Posn. Points
Matt 1 38
Steve H 2 35
Dave D 3 30

This game was a milestone for me, in that following it I was the one with the most recorded plays of it on the Geek. The fact that this was with only 23 plays tells me that the game is grossly underrated.

The game itself was not my finest hour as Matt rushed through for a quick finish, before anyone could really get going. It was a successful tactic that gave him the win.

After the quick previous game, it was suggested that we play another game of Industrial Waste, but as the second game probably would not have been as quick as the first, we settled on

Guillotine 15 mins
Player Posn. Points
Dave D 1 25
Matt 2 24
Steve H 3 22

This was the third successive week for this game. Early on (I can't remember the exact circumstances) Steve played a card to swap hands with me, I was at first unhappy about this, since I had a good hand, but as it turned out the hand I received was pretty good as well.

Going into the last day I was in 3rd place and was first to play that day. Steve had handed me a Double feature early on and Robespierre was second in line, so I was able to collect him and one other for 5 points and finish the game in my favour.

So 3 players, 3 games and we each achieved a first, second and third. It goes without saying of course that Guillotine is the most skillful of the 3 played.

Until tomorrow

Monday 17 September 2007

Session Summary - 5 September 2007

Another late report. There were 6 of us on this Wednesday with Mark bringing along his son Jonathan. The games were:

Canal Mania 110 mins
Player Posn. Points
Mike 1 93
Steve H 2 92
Dave D 3 89

This is was the first outing for the second edition of Canal Mania at the club. The new rules do make a difference in that there does not seem to be the previous tendency for a player to run away. I have played this edition 3 times and on one occasion the game was decided on a tie break, while as can be seen for this one the scores were very close. The other game was also very close for much of the game before scores spread out towards the end.

In this game I was set up in the north running down into the East Midlands, Steve played mostly in the south, While Mike seemed to stake out territory in the middle. Mike led early, with us not far behind, before opening out a bit of a lead, which was closed right up at the end. Each us us had our own story of bad luck/incompetence. Steve reckons he built his junction canal in the wrong place, missing out on the extra point which would have enabled him to take the game on the most prolific constructor tie break. Mike was just short of finishing another contract at the end. I made an idiotic move (in retrospect) of not taking a card to place a good in Manchester at the end, which may have made me 5 points potentially (although I'm not sure it would have).

The others still seem lukewarm about the game, but to me it is definitely the best game to come out in recent times.

We had another game on another table

Age of Empires III 110 mins
Player Posn. Points
Jonathan 1 54
Ben 2 50
Dave C 3 35

We had another table as well, with a game of Age of Empires III going on. This was the first Wednesday night outing for this and the scores seem very low. Mind you that is based on the limited experience of having played 1 game and read reports of a few others.

Dave & Ben disappeared after that and Jonathan joined us for

Guillotine 20 mins
Player Posn. Points
Jonathan 1 25
Steve H 2 23
Mike 3 21
Dave D 4 15

Guillotine seems to have become popular again. This was a very high scoring game, which saw me coming last with a score that was better than the one I won with last week, that was with 6 players mind you so the scores would be lower.

I hope to post last week's report either later tonight or tomorrow.