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.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Games Played 16 April 2014

We're into the holiday season and a few of the regulars are missing, but by the same token Lee & Rachael were around making up 12, which we split into 3 groups of four. The games played this week Power Grid (India), Glen More, San Juan and two new to the club games Kings of Air & Steam and Paperback. I actually wrote most of this last Friday, but seem to have got distracted and I've just remembered.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Nations Revisited

Okay, I admit, I have played nothing but Nations at the Halesowen club since I got my copy of the game. But it does seem to be popular and there have even been some repeat visitors besides myself. The last game on Wednesday 9th was long and difficult, proving that Nations continues to be something of a brain-burner even after a few plays. Here are my thoughts on the game, and a few tips on how to play, based on 4 plays, half of them 4-player and the other half 5-player.

A game of Nations is never going to be short - all of our games have fallen between 2.5 and 3 hours in length. There seems to be no significant difference between 4- and 5-player games. The rules themselves are fairly straightforward and seem to be easy for new players to grasp. I continue to recommend that new players use the 'A' (generic) side of the player boards, as the 'B' (nation-specific) sides increase the difficulty of play due to players starting with fewer resources and having only 4 spaces for Buildings and Military rather than 5.  I cannot yet judge how balanced the 'B' sides are, but I'd be surprised if any of them gives more than a small advantage over any other - however, in any given game it is possible that a particular nation will benefit more than others due to which Progress cards become available. The impression has arisen that China is more difficult to play than the others, but I note that the only time it featured in a game, the player (Dave F) had the most convincing win we've seen so far: 45 points versus 35 for the second player. We have been using the handicapping system by allowing newbies to play as Chieftains (4 resources per Growth phase) and more experienced players as Princes (3 resources). I don't know how much difference this makes, but as I've won my last couple of games as a Prince, I should probably try King next time.

In terms of tips, it is difficult to generalise both because each game is different and because this is more of a tactical than a strategic game (at least compared to Through the Ages). A key area of play is in adapting both to the available Progress Cards and to the tactics of other players. All of the resources are important and there is no clear winning strategy. However, I can make the following comments:
- Military is possibly more influential than other factors. In any case, it impacts on many different aspects of the game. Having a high Military places you favourably in turn order, makes you less vulnerable to Wars, and enables you to collect Colonies. It is also significant in terms of Events (see below).  Furthermore, having at least one worker on a Military card enables you to purchase Battles. The disadvantage of a focus on Military is that is costly - it will probably generate negative resources, and every worker on a Military card is one less worker on a Building generating resources. It is very difficult, and probably not advisable, to be the player with the highest Military throughout the game - you should be prepared to focus on other factors when necessary. On the other hand, being the player with the lowest Military is risky. At the very least, if you have low Military then you should probably compensate by having a high Stability as this mitigates the effects of lost Wars and potentially enables you to pick up benefits from Events.
- Stability brings fewer benefits than Military, but it does have its uses. The two most significant are in Events, and in enabling a player to take workers off the Population Track. It shouldn't be forgotten that it acts as a tie-breaker in determining player order.
- Food and Stone are both vital. However, an excess of either will not necessarily provide any benefit. These resources are important throughout the game. The requirement for Food increases as famines become ever more severe. Food also plays a role in events: some events reward the player with the most Food, while many events impose their cost in Food. Finally, generating plenty of Food enables you to take workers off the Population track. The requirement for Stone also increases during the game as deploying workers becomes more costly with Buildings/Military from later ages. Of course, Stone becomes more important if you want to focus on constructing Wonders.  
- Money is perhaps not as vital as Food and Stone, but a lack of money significantly restricts your options for taking Progress Cards. As the cost of Progress Cards does not increase through the game, players tend to have more money in later ages than at the beginning. It is particularly important to have spare cash in the Industrial Age in order to pick up cards that will give you Victory Points.
- Personally I regard Books as the most important of all the resources. At least, my focus on Books has stood me well in all the games I have played. Books do nothing besides give you Victory Points, but they do provide a lot - up to 12 VPs in a 4-player game and 16 VPs in a 5-player game, plus a few VPs at the end when they are summed with all of the other resources. Players should certainly keep track of how many Books other players are generating each turn, and be aware that some Wonders and Events can generate a one-off increase in Books.
- It is, without a doubt, not easy to get new workers into play. Besides the cost in Food or Stability, there is the penalty of not being able to take resources. However, the benefits are commensurate - don't forget that each deployed worker provides 1 or 2 VPs at the end of the game.
- Events. As Steve H. learned to his cost - you simply cannot afford to be the last player in both Military and Stability! Almost three-quarters of events concern Military or Stability. Roughly a third of events penalise the player who is lowest in one of these two factors - this rises to just over half of events in the Industrial Age. Food is also quite important for events - about a quarter of events concern Food, either rewarding the player with the most, penalising the player with the least, or imposing a cost in Food.

Looking back on the results of our games, I see that scores vary from 28 to 48. Breakdowns for the individual categories (min. and max. scored) are as follows:
Game VP (markers): 4-21
Colonies: 0-5
Wonders: 0-10
Buildings and Military (workers): 6-16
Resources: 7-14
The winning players have always had a good mix of VPs from the various categories. The following are the minimum scores obtained by any of the game winners in each of the categories:
Game VP: 13
Colonies: 2
Wonders: 1
Buildings and Military (workers): 12
Resources: 8
I suppose the message from this is that you should be aiming to have at least 13 Game VPs by game end (bearing in mind that you begin with 3-7 VPs): ie. gaining from Books, Events, and Golden Ages, and avoiding losing from Wars, Events, and lack of resources. Though I should note that in our last game Mark R almost won with only 7 Game VPs!

Future Games Days

A week ago, we held our first Saturday Games Day and it went down well, so there has been some discussion about when we do another one.

My thoughts are that 2-3 a year is probably about right and it's probably a good idea to stay away from the Summer months to reduce the chance of clashing with people's holiday arrangements. On this basis, I think that September or October would be a good time for Games Day 2 and perhaps in future years we could look at something like March/April & September/October or if 3 per year then January/February, May/June, September/October.

Those are my thoughts and the purpose of this post is to provide a forum for discussion, so please everybody chime in if you have thoughts either agreeing or disagreeing.

Games Played 9 April 2014

13 in attendance this week and 7 games were played across 4 tables. A new attendee was Gary. The games played were Power Grid, San Juan, Russian Railroads, Carcassonne, The Manhattan Project, King of Tokyo and Nations.

Monday 7 April 2014

Games Day 1 - 5 April 2014

On 5 April, which was coincidentally International Tabletop Day, the club held its first Games Day at the Stag. This was an event which we could not have held at the Townsend, due to lack of space and also due to getting access during the game. I believe that the event was a great success, despite a slight hiccup at the start when we couldn't get in due to a last minute meeting in the room we use, so people were standing outside at the 11:30 start time. We were in by 12:00 though and I think the Stag also did all right due to the number of accumulated glasses I saw and the amount of food that was brought up to the room at various times.

According to the results sheet a total of 28 people were in attendance at various points during the day including regulars and a few who have not been around for a long time. Also a few new faces. In total 20 games were played, assuming none were missed off the list.

Friday 4 April 2014

Games Played 2 April 2014

15 in attendance this week and 7 games played. First time attendee was Ed.