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.

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.