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.

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.