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