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.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Session Summary - 27 June 2007

Help - the technology's ganging up on me.... Dave?

Hang on, he's not here, which is why I'm doing this. Normal service will be resumed next week. In the meantime, here goes:

Attendance was six (or five and a half when it comes to budget accruals). On my table we had another crack at

Pillars of the Earth (90 mins)
1. Richard 57
2. Dave D 56
3. Steve 46

We've reviewed this one before. Playing with three is less cut-throat because there is plenty of space for workers to be placed. Depending on your point of view, this is either a good or a bad thing (I go for the latter, it's better with 4). I don't think that's sour grapes but I was very crap tonight - I think I spent way too much on craftsmen (where's Thatcher's union laws when you need them?). The other guys scored steadily all the way through really; Dave played with his usual "woody" theme and it nearly worked. Rich used the VP track to good effect and scored heavily from a few key craftsmen.

Phoenicia (90 mins)
1. Mike 38
2. Dave C 30
3. Ben 29

Don't know anything about this so somebody else will have to comment.

Memoir 44 - Arnhem Bridge (40 mins)
1. Dave C 5
2. Ben 4

Looks like another case of "For you Tommy the war is over".

San Juan (30 mins)
1. Steve 40
2. Richard 37
3. Mike 36
4. Dave 27

Me winning at San Juan is getting old, man. I think I've decided to get a bit bored by this game (controversy, weyhay) despite my glacial progress towards actually winning. It just seems to me to be a bit too predictable, mainly in that your strategy is mapped out for you based pretty much on your first hand of cards. I had a Library in said first hand so you can guess the rest.

Katzenjammer Blues (10 mins)
1. Mike 5++
2. Steve 5+
3. Richard 5

This was a new edition, where the theme was mutant fish playing thrash metal and you had to collect worms. OK it wasn't, but I think the idea's a winner.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Session Summary - 20 June 2007

4 Players - 2 games

Notre Dame 90 mins
Steve H257
Dave D442

When we first played this game some weeks back, I forgot a crucial rule that severely disadvantaged Matt, so it was good to give it another try with him. The game played much better as written, and the only disappointment was my own performance.

I made a good start in the first phase, scoring good points for Notre Dame, but got into a mess by running out of money and influence, which even playing right reduced my rate of scoring I think.

Steve suffered a lot from the plague, but adopted a policy of not letting it bother him too much, concentrating on making money initially and then points after a slow start. In retrospect I think he might have won if he hadn't adopted quite such a laissez faire attitude to the rats. An extra 2 VPs together with an extra influence on the board might have given him the win.

Matt went for moving the carriage a lot, collecting messages and collected VPs steadily with bonuses for the park, later in the game he upped the bonus to 2VP and I thought he was on for the win.

Mike got early points for a 2 way Notre Dame share with me and collected some points with the carriage, he also crucially was able to get all his influence on the board, allowing good points from certain personalities. He ended up the winner with what seems a respectable score for a first game.

There was some discussion afterwards about the characteristics of the game. The phrase multi-player solitaire was used, with Mike being the most vocal in the expression of this view. Although it is certainly true that there is limited interaction in this game, you can affect other people and in fact Mike was able to do this very effectively on the last turn by passing me such a load of tat that I scored no points at all from the cards I got to play that turn. Interaction is between a player and the 2 on either side, try to pass your left opponent what you think will be least important to him and try to predict what you are likely to get from your right opponent and plan accordingly (it is this aspect I suspect will take a few plays to get used to). There is also scope for interference in carriage moves. If you can pick up a message someone needs, it may then take them extra moves to reach another one (due to the colour set mechanic) causing them to abandon the idea or waste actions. Also there is Notre Dame, it is good to stop anyone getting sole occupation, but by the same token if everyone else is in there then the rewards diminish rapidly, particularly if you can't afford a big donation.

So all in all, I like this game.

After that we had time for a couple of chariot races.

Ave Caesar 30 mins
Dave D19
Steve H28+

In the first race I started first and took an early lead, unfortunately as I came out of the final corner on the first lap I had got in the position of having 2 6's in hand which I couldn't play and the third card didn't get me into "the pits" allowing Steve (I think) to come and block the lane, forcing me to go round another lap. I eventually finished third.

First race result 1.Steve(6) 2. Mike(4) 3. Dave(3) 4. Matt(2)

The second race was just the opposite, I started third and fell behind immediately due to low cards, I think I only had 1 card above 4 in the first 1 1/3 laps. Mike and I pitted at the end of the first lap, with Matt in the lead from Steve, which he maintained until the end of lap 2 when he got stuck in the pits with 3 6's. Mike then passed blocking the lanes that he couldn't use a 6 allowing me to pass as well. All this of course blocked Steve who was stuck behind Matt. Mike led all the way round the last lap, but I caught up having now of course got the good cards I didn't have earlier and was able to pass on the final corner with a 6 card, when Mike couldn't make it across the line, as the only good cards he had were unusable 6's.

Second race result 1. Dave(6) 2.Mike(4) 3.Matt(3) 4.Steve(2)

Note I have given Steve second in the results above following the rule that he won more races, if this tie break is not applicable, please let me know and I will change it.

Until next week, I shall be there but due to disappearing the next day until the following Wednesday, I won't have time to write the report. Steve has volunteered to do the honours.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Session Summary - 13 June 2007

4 people tonight, 1 game:

Pillars of the Earth, The 120 mins
Dave D153
Steve H249
Richard B444

I had a chance to play this one last Saturday and enjoyed it so much I went out and bought it. Steve suggested we play tonight, having enjoyed the game played here a few weeks ago, when brought along by Steve P.

Of the players tonight Mike, Steve and I had each played once before, leaving Richard as the only one new to the game. Mike was selected as first player and play began. On the first round Richard picked up the Tool Maker from the selection to buy in Phase 1, and when it came to placing master builders, I went for the Master Woodworker who converts wood into gold, this cost me 7, I was unsure about the value, but I did it as I knew I would make 8 from the card immediately and I was pretty much guaranteed this source of income for the rest of the game (or so I thought). I also went to the King's court and took the metal, so denying it to Richard, but in this case the event gave everyone metal so Richard got to use his Tool Maker after all.

The game now proceeded, with everyone fairly close to each other. Richard had Prior Philip early on giving him bonus points for the priory and a narrow lead in the early going, Steve picked up the Architect in round 2 for a point every round, Mike was getting points for his craftsmen as did I, with a few from the priory.

I felt I was falling a bit behind by half way through, but I was fortunate when the event caused everyone to lose 2, when I was in the Archbishop's office and so immune. This tightened things up a bit. Also on round 4 I was able to pick up the Sculptor (1 stone = 2VP (twice)), which together with another sculptor the following round doing the same thing three times, gave me a sound base of VP heading towards the end of the game.

Amongst the other players, Steve was going on steadily, earning Victory points through his architect, Masons and Pottery and paying periodic trips to the market to sell goods (usually wood), making money and buying other goods he needed. Later on he also acquired a glass blower and a goldsmith on turn 5. On turns 3, 4 & 5 he sent one of his master builders to the Starting player space at the Cathedral, meaning he was start player on the last 3 turns of the game. This did not bother me that much as it meant I went second, but it was a bit irritating, when Steve was able to pick up the only wood card on both the last 2 rounds, upsetting my income stream from the woodworker. The other result of this was that I was the only one who was never the first player.

Mike was somewhat handicapped in the later stages when, on 2 rounds (including the last) his master builders came out of the bag very late, meaning the good placements were pretty well all gone. He had managed to pick up the earliest sculptor, but that could only process 1 stone per round. Richard lost ground as the game went on, although he had picked up a glass blower.

Going into the final round, Steve was narrowly ahead, with the rest of us bunched a couple of points behind. I had a couple of metal which I saved from early on and got the Bellmaker, which together with my sculptors using 5 stone and some other VPs from elsewhere made me a healthy total and overhauled Steve who picked up the Organ Builder and also made some points from his Glassblower and a full 6 from his goldsmith. Mike picked up the other Goldsmith, which he was able to use for 8VP, forming a large part of his score. Richard suffered badly at this point as he had no big VP generators.

There was some discussion following the game. I still think it's wonderful and am glad I bought it. Mike is beginning to have some doubts about the random element. The late draw of his master builders, affected him on more than one occasion, particularly badly on the last round, and he commented that he thought that the random element was perhaps too high in a game of this length. I have issues with random elements in some shorter games than this, but it does not bother me here (at this time).

Until next week

Friday, 8 June 2007

Session Summary - 6 June 2007

A big attendance this week by recent standards, with Matt, Julian & Richard (fresh from his triumph at the UK Games Expo) returning.

With the recent expo and other things, some new games have been picked up and 2 of these hit the table.

Phoenicia 100 mins
Dave D136
Dave C3=24

This one was Dave's and he's posted a review on the Geek, on reading the review I was a bit concerned about his comment at the end that this would not appeal to those who don't like auction games, however I'm starting to learn that it's not all auctions that I have an aversion to but blind auction, where you lose your bid whatever the result. The auctions in this are the round the table type as seen in Power Grid, so that's alright. As the game went on though I did see other issues that I'm not sure of.

The game is essentially one of advancing a civilization from primitive roots. Each turn, cards are auctioned which give victory points, production and various advantages such as extra workers and storage, new and improved industries and discounts for other cards to come later in the game. At the start of this game I went with an indentured worker giving me a trained worker as did Julian, Dave bought a granary, increasing his storage space, while I think Ben went for a Tracker giving a discount on a Caravan and upgrading his hunting.

As the game went on I seemed to have found a good strategy. You need to be able to balance your production with the amount of storage space you have, early on I was a bot worried because I had more income coming than I could store, but once I rectified this by getting some more storage I was away, I had improved and then advance mining which brought in a good income as well as Victory points and the ability to store them, Dave had got in the situation of having storage but not being able to fill it.

This seemed to be a weakness in the game, because you can only store so much the incentive is to spend all you've got to make way for that turn's income if you've managed to balance income and production. If you've managed to get this balance in a way that your income is greater than the rest, which I had from a relatively early point, the I don't really see an easy way for the rest to catch up. Toward the end a lot of items with high VP value came up and I was able to pick up one of the best of these, despite other people have a discount of 5 on the items.

All in all an interesting game, but as I say I do have the fear that there is this runaway leader potential. Further games will show how easy it is to get into this position, when everybody knows what they are doing.

Over on the other table was

Colosseum 120 mins
Steve H189
Richard B466

This is a very pretty game from Days of Wonder and form the discussion seems to have more meat on it than other Days of Wonder games I have tried. I must play soon, but I was a bit disappointed that there is apparently not an option to assassinate the emperor to stop him visiting your opponent's shows. Oh Well.

I leave someone else to fill us in on the game, but there is a picture below.

Until next Wednesday.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

UK Games Expo as seen by Brass Jester

Sat 02.06.07
Finally the big day dawned and Ben and I headed off to the Clarendon Suite in Birmingham. It was Ben’s first games convention and he was really looking forward to it.
Arrived at 10.30, both wearing our Halesowen Boardgamers T-shirts (the ones saying ‘Total Beginner’). Queued for about 5 mins to get in; collected our wristbands and goodie bags (some nice d6’s and I got an Urban War figure) then headed inside.
First impression: Overwhelming! I had no idea what scale this was going to be; I’ve never been to Essen or any of the American cons, but this was the biggest convention I’ve been to. The place was like a labyrinth; every corner turned there was something new, and you could easily run a LARP round there.
After some exploring we met up with Dave D, who was playing a game of –Tara ,Seat of the Kings- with the designer. Ben found a computer game demo to play, and we had a brief chat with Nick Kinzett, who was demonstrating World Cup Soccer (was that it’s name?) Dave, Ben and I then went exploring for the next hour or so; we found some other Halesowen Boardgamers (Mike Head and Richard Biddle) in one of the tournament rooms, playing –Puerto Rico- and –Tigris and Euphrates- respectively. A bit later, somewhere on one of the upper floors, we encountered Matt and some friends of his.
Heading back downstairs, the central concourse had been taken over by Darth Vader and some stormtroopers; full marks to the costumes. I found the Mongoose Publishing stand and bought a couple more books for the Conan RPG (a d20 OGL and probably the best fantasy RPG I’ve got). I’ll be running some sessions for the kids in the summer holidays. Ben invested in some more Yuh-Gi-Oh cards.

We then got involved in a game of -Pitch Car-, which I lost (in fact, I forgot which lap I was on) Heading down to Ragnar Brothers, I got a copy of –Invasions- at a bargain price with a set of English rules thrown in. Ben then got playing Heroscape so I had another wander round with Dave, attempting to get the entries for the Win a Dalek competition. We met Julian by the Bring and Buy stand and I left Dave talking whilst I completed the competition. I found Ben and we headed off to get something to eat. This was perhaps the only let down; most of the food appeared to have gone (and it was only 1pm!) and the catering staff were not very helpful (to the point of being brusque). We settled for a baked potato each; then Dave re-found us. A brief chat with Mike and Richard and the sight of Matt playing -Talisman- led us back upstairs. We found another food outlet and Ben had a beefburger; we then tried out a game called –Cinematique-, a cinema trivia game hosted by a very nice lady called Lynn. Any doubts she had about Ben’s age were soon dispelled as he was able to answer quite a few questions, plus the acting out parts etc. that the game involves. After that, a brief look at the –Memoire ’44- tournament (in yet another part of the labyrinth), then it was back to the main concourse.
This is when the wedding party turned up! At first we thought “this is taking LARP a bit far”, but it turned out it was genuine; booked into another part of the building. Quite what they made of it I don’t know, but maybe they were gamers:-
“I now pronounce you Dobber and Meeple. You may now trash the bride at –Caylus-“
Dave settled down to play -Canal Mania- at the Ragnar stand, Ben got into another –Heroscape- game and I played –Niagra- at the Esdevidium stand. Said hello to Roj from Waylands Forge (who weren’t able to be there), then finally succumbed and bought a copy of –Phoenicia-. By this time we were both getting a bit tired (and it was rather warm in there) so, having met up with Dave D again, we all called it a day and headed home. Spent the evening getting trashed at –Invasions- by Ben.
Overall: I hope this appears on the calendar every year as a regular event at the same venue; other than (perhaps) the food (and there were other places close by we could have gone to), the event count not be faulted and was excellent value for money.

UK Games Expo as seen by DaveD

Just got back from UK Games Expo, I ended up going on Saturday and also Sunday afternoon. Here are my comments on what I did and my thoughts. Please anyone else who went and has posting access, post your reports as well as it will be interesting to compare notes on what we did, thought and played. Some of the memories are over 24 hours old now, so please forgive any inaccuracies that you may spot.

I got there on Saturday morning a few minutes after 10 and stood in a short queue, once I was in I headed in the direction of Ragnar Brothers (stopping on the way for a quick chat with Richard Dewsbury and to admire his HeroScape setup) to pick up my copy of the Canal Mania 2nd. edition upgrade kit, this turned out to be the only new thing I picked up all weekend and I'd paid for that in advance so my expenditure was lower than I thought it might have been. After chatting for a bit with the Ragnars, I set out to explore the show, seeing several dealers selling Caylus Magna Carta, which I had thought I might get, but not without being able to try it out first, disappointingly Esdevium weren't demoing it, so I didn't buy but obviously many did as by the end of Saturday all the copies seemed to be gone.

I eventually sat down with the designer of Tara, Seat of Kings who unsurprisingly soundly thrashed me at his game, essentially an abstract using cards to play pieces on a board to eventually capture the space at the top of a pyramid. I think, in this one, experience and knowledge of the card mix would be a big advantage. Just as I'd finished I was found by Dave C and Ben and we wandered around together for a bit taking in a five player game of Pitch Car. I was in second early on overtaking Ben in the second half of the second lap and eventually won by half a lap (obviously a game requiring great skill).

Dave & I left Ben playing HeroScape and went to find the boardgame tournament room where Mike & Richard were playing, running into Matt, who had played a game of Fondue, his comment as I recall being that he would rather have played Fury of Dracula (you can draw your own conclusions about that). Having exchanged brief greetings with Mike & Richard who were heavily into Puerto Rico we ran into Julian and I spent some time chatting with him while Dave went to find Ben.

When I left Julian I briefly ran into Dave again and then headed over to the Garden House for a pint and something to eat, it sounds as if this was a good move as it seems the catering at the show had run out of most things on the menu, possibly something that needs to be looked at for future events. I must say that the Garden House is a much more pleasant environment anyway.

After lunch it was back to Ragnars and a first try at 2nd. edition Canal Mania. Unfortunately I made a bit of a bad mistake right at the beginning and this together with a lot of advice given to the newbies by the designers meant I lost rather badly (oh well never mind). That was my last game playing for the day the remaining time being spent wandering. I left with Dave & Ben just before 5 I think.

I had been in 2 minds about whether to go on Sunday but when I got home and opened up my Canal Mania box I found a few of the contract cards were creased, so I set off back for the show after an early lunch the following day. Ragnars were happy to replace the cards and after dealing with this I had another quick look around and had a quick chat with Mike & Matt, then went and had a game of the new 4th edition Talisman. Although I am not one to give high priority to how a game looks, I have to say that the production of this is a vast improvement on the old 2nd edition on which it is based. What surprises me is that the set we were using seemed to be of production standards (although there are a few corrections to be made on some cards and the board) but it is not due out until October. While I was playing Matt wandered by (apparently he won a game of this yesterday) and later on Gordon & Steve P. There was a bit of a commotion at one point when someone rushed past proclaiming his innocence pursued by several Imperial Storm Troopers (and a girl dressed in the costume of one of Jabba the Hutt's slave girls?). We did not have time to finish the game but I was declared winner by virtue of advancing my character the most. Some pictures I took follow:

All in all I think the show was a great success and will definitely go again next year, although I do think some more space could be set aside for open gaming and it sounds as if the catering could do with improvement.