January 24, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Zack, Dylan, Adam, Eyal, Binaymin, Rachel

Eyal returns again, as does Dylan, but we push off roleplaying yet again.

Mykerinos

Jon 49, Nadine 46, Gili 30, Zack 25

This was our first play. For a review, see my blog entry.

In our game, I started by securing an x5 in black and brown. I didn't realize brown's potential until too late; I will correct this in the next game. I decided to pick up either first or second in three areas each round, and either first or second seemed about equal to me, since there is typically enough left over for second place that whatever first place chose, I simply chose something else equally good.

Another thing I sort of missed in my first game was the value of third and fourth place wins in the first two rounds, where cards are typically left over. Another thing to correct in the next game.

Regardless, I still pulled off a win of 49 points, to Nadine's 46. Zack, who only had a single x5, and Gili who had none, were not really in competition.

Caylus

Dylan 93, Eyal 76, Adam 69

Adam taught these two how to play. The game actually went fairly quickly ending around the same time as our Mykerinos game.

Poker

Adam, Dylan

While waiting a few minutes for us to finish Mykerinos, Adam and Dylan played a few hands of five card stud. Another first for the game group.

Princes of Florence

Gili 54, Jon 48, Nadine 46, Binyamin 45, Zack 36

Proving that most Jesters doesn't equal the win if you spend too much on them, and especially in a five-player game. The order of play was as follows, with me starting first. In our game, players may choose one profession out of two, instead of out of five, and the twenty-first profession is flipped up and available for recruiting but may not be purchased.

JonZackGiliBinayminNadineNotes
Recruiter 800
Travel
Profession
Jester 1200
Profession
Opinion
Builder 700
Travel
Profession
Lake 200
Profession
Watch Maker [+2] (+3)
Forest 200
Profession
Opinion
Second player is the one who can afford not to buy a profession in the first round (and if he doesn't, third player can also skip, and so on), but Zack bought, so everyone else did, as well. My Recruiter came cheaply, partly because others didn't recognize them as more valuable in a five player game (despite my warning).
Recruiter 700
Opera [+3]
Choreographer [+0] (+3)
Builder 900
Laboratory [+3]
Religion
Forest 200
Opinion
Bonus
Jester 1200
Travel
Bonus
Lake 200
Travel
Bonus
I get a second cheap Recruiter. The professions were all gone last turn. Since I am last player, it is easy for me to take the three point bonus, while playing a work for cash. I still have five more works to play.
Prestige 200
Bonus
Bonus
Forest 200
University [+3]
Philosopher [+0] (+3)
Recruiter 700
Religion
University [+3]
Jester 1100
Religion
Poet [+0]
Builder 600
Opera [+3]
Composer [+2]
I didn't realize that this was Binyamin's second Jester, or I would have bid one more time. Gili and Zack are both shy on cash at this point.

There are eight more actions to go; I have five works to play, which leaves me three actions, and I have two bonus cards. At this point I figured three more bonus cards and then five works, each with a bonus. Except that I didn't think I would be able to get all my works out without a Jester or two. Also, my Prestige and Bonus cards both required me to have Lakes, as did half my works.

Lake 200
Bonus
Religion
Jester 1100
Library [+3]
Bonus
Prestige 200
Philosopher [+0] (+3)
Workshop [+3]
Recruiter 900
Opinion
Theater [+3]
Park 400
Laboratory [+3]
Physicist [+3]
Zack and Binyamin both have two Jesters each, but they've paid high prices for them. Now Binyamin is also working on Recruiters. I get my first Lake, which is good, but I take Religion instead of a Bonus, thinking that the +3 for one of my works, plus potential +3 for something I recruit, is better than another Bonus.

In this, I'm wrong, as I had plenty to recruit that used Lake and Travel, so I used Religion only for that one work, and a Bonus would likely have been at least as good or better.

Gili fought briefly for the Park, and Zack is out of cash, again.

Lake 200 [+3]
Mathematician [+4]
Bonus
Park 600 [-6]
Bonus
Jurist [+6]
Prestige 200
Bell Maker [+6]
Bonus
Builder 300
Cartographer [+4] (+3)
Library [-3] [+3]
Jester 800
Chapel [+3]
Bonus
Zack and Binyamin both pay the price for not having enough cash. I gain some cash and points carefully from my works. I'm starting to worry, because I know I can't play all of my works and I don't have the Jesters that I need. My second Lake helps both Prestige and Bonus.

Even now, I don't see Gili sneaking up behind me.

Jester 400
Painter [+8]
Watch Maker [+8]
Lake 200
Botanist [+10]
--pass--
Park 200
Theologian [+10]
Studio [+3]
Recruiter 600
Dramatist [+6] (+3)
Tower [+3]
Forest 200? [+3]
Organist [+7] (+3)
Bonus
I was thrilled to get a Jester at this price, even though I still couldn't play my last work, yet. I was less thrilled when Binyamin picked up his second Recruiter.
Jester 400
Composer [+8]
Physicist [+8]
Prestige 400
Alchemist [+11]
--pass--
Park 200 [+3]
Bonus
Sculptor [+11]
Forest 400
Jurist [+10]
Astrologer [+12]
Lake 200 [+3]
Bonus
Pharmacist [+14] {+3)
I was again thrilled to get a Jester, which finally allowed me to play my last work. However, Nadine took a second Lake which reduced my Prestige bonus from +6 to +3. Gili ended up unable to play both of her last works, so she took a bonus and played one of them. I thought that that was that.

However, my Prestige card was worth only 3, Zack's was worth 7, and Gili's two cards were worth +13, which gave her first place.

Wildlife

Zack+, Binyamin

Binaymin and Zack wanted to play this, and Binyamin was only willing to play two or three players, since it was already ten o'clock. They played two player.

Tichu

Jon/Dylan 210, Adam/Gili 90

We played three hands. Dylan called Tichu in the second, but Adam went out first, which would have been the same result if Adam had simply called Tichu first. In the third hand, we both went out before our opponents.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 47, Jon 45, Nadine 41

The scores were predicted from our seating position, according to Nadine. However, the seating position is less relevant when we are using different buildings (and especially no Small Market), and when I screw up the classic opening by starting with Builder/Construction Hut.

We almost never play with Construction Hut, but I was playing with a four point building that gave +2 VP for each quarry you have, so for once the building was worth it. Unfortunately, still not enough to beat Rachel.

Nadine was able to man and produce indigo on the second turn thanks to the unusual opening. Both Rachel and I acquired early Hospices on our next plays, because Corn hadn't made a showing on any of the first three settlement pools, which implied that they would be readily available in later pools. This was correct, and combined with my Construction Hut, made Settler always productive for me.

Meanwhile, Rachel was using Hospice just as well. Nadine had early trading in Tobacco, and I followed it up with early trading in Coffee, but she was also able to secure Tobacco shipping (producing three each time), while I was never able to ship Coffee. Rachel took Tobacco as her fourth good type and acquire Harbor. Even though she ended with no big buildings, she had 31 shipping points to my 7, which was enough to clinch the victory.


January 17, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, David K, Shevi, Josh, Idit, Jeremy, Adam, Gili, Binyamin, Zack, Rachel

Another week of almost-RPG, pushed off once again until next week.

The Menorah Game

Nadine+, Jon

David+, Shevi, Nadine, Jon, Zack, Binyamin

I wanted to try out a variation on the tile distribution that was designed to accommodate between two to six players. Each additional player adds a set of tiles, thus keeping the relative number of tiles available per person about equal.

For two players, the number of tiles was slightly less than usual, but the impact on the game was extremely minimal. For six players I added most of the tiles from another set. With six players, like with so many other games that accommodate up to six players, the game bogged down considerably.

With six players, there was a tremendous amount of auctioning, so it's not like you were bored. And the auctions went quickly. In fact, as far as bogginess, I would rate this game better than other games with six players, such as Power Grid or Wildlife. But other games with six, such as Geschenkt or Havoc would beat it.

As a result, most of us were bored with the six player variant and we decided that three or four is still best.

In both cases we played the advanced version of the game, which was the first time for the advanced version for some of the players, such as David and Nadine. Remarkably, both Nadine and David didn't like the advanced version compared to the basic version, and David said the advanced version was decidedly more lucky!

This is in contrast to some of the other people their, such as Binyamin and Shevi, who both much prefer the advanced version to the basic version, and consider the basic version too lucky. So it was a fifty- fifty split.

Yinsh

Josh+, Idit

I quickly rattled off the rules to these two who played while we were playing TMG. Josh won, but declared Idit to be a great blocker.

Children of Fire: the Board Game

Adam (Anakim) 12, Binyamin (Sorcerors) 10, Shevi (Children of Dark) 9, Jeremy (Watchers) 6

The same complaint from the last two plays reared its ugly head again, which is that the game is not guaranteed to terminate. When you get to the last undecided character, if the balance is equal, the game can just keep going back and forth.

This was particularly aggravating to Binyamin, whose cards were the least numerically, and therefore the worst at picking up points with the masses as everyone else did at the end of the game.

It is a general consensus that the game can be fixed with a rigorous number of turns limit, such as twenty or so. One person suggested that masses tokens become more difficult to buy as the game goes on.

Amun-Re

Zack 43, Idit 40, Nadine 35, Josh 25

This was a first play for all but Nadine. I assume that everyone liked it, although I have no further information about the play.

Caylus

David+, Jon, Gili

David and I almost started Netrunner, but Gili came along so we joined her into a game of Caylus, which was one person more than I really like to play the game.

Well, to be honest, it's three people more, as each time I play it it goes down another notch. I was particularly bored this game, and not simply because it looked like David had a relatively early lead, but because I really didn't care to calculate the results of my actions so much. These two facts are rather related, I suspect.

I don't know why. I'm happy to calculate breadth games such as Magic, or depth games such as Go, but Caylus, which has so much of both, just leaves me bored.

David managed to thwart my building plans a lot, and then managed to shoot to four green buildings while Gili and I had only one, although I acquired a second. Due to my refusal to do any calculations, I ended up only converting one to a blue building (the 25 pointer). I was still about 25 points behind David, and Gili was also about that behind me.

I was happy to see the game end.

Netrunner

David (runner), Jon (corp)

And both of us were very happy to get back into another game of this. This time we made it about halfway through the game in about one and a half hours. By the end, we were still looking up tons of rules, but having a blast doing so.

Netrunner, like Magic, is a rich game with complex rules. Having followed Magic, one gets the sense that they built on Magic's successes, tried to avoid some of the problems, and added a whole lot more. As a matter of fact, Netrunner and CCGs in general have more in common with the previous generation's war games and RPGs than they do with modern Euro games. They sit in this lovely place in between, where the rules are deep, expansive, and complex, but the resulting game is easy and compact, and quick to play.

Last time David took the corp and I had the runner, and this time we reversed. I had managed to cash in two agenda worth four agenda points, while David had built up a veritable army of programs and hardware, but had yet to liberate any agendas.

The next time we play will go smoother, and we may even finish the game. Only thereafter will we start to think about deck construction with our limited supply of cards. I suspect I will need to acquire more in order to give us some deck-building options.

Magic: the Gathering

Adam+, Binyamin

Although they had some play experience, neither had deck-building experience, and they had to get some tips from us as to how to pull something playable together. Then I had to field a lot of questions during the game as to how and/or why to use certain cards.

Still, they both seemed to enjoy themselves.

Puerto Rico

Zack 58, Nadine 50, Rachel 41

Zack does seem to have a genius for winning his first games, much like Elijah used to have. This was his first play of Puerto Rico, so he got a lot of assistance during the game.


January 10, 2007

Participants: Jon, Ben, David K, Shevi, Nadine, Gili, Adam, Zack, Binyamin, Eyal

Eyal returned for his second visit. With Zack barely speaking Hebrew, and Eyal speaking English, but much more comfortable in Hebrew, games are our meeting point.

And with only ten people, it's amazing how many games can hit the table on a single game evening.

Feurio

Binyamin, Jon, Nadine

Binyamin came to me and asked me to see if I could find anything resembling tactics or strategy is this game that seems to get a lot of high praise on BGG. Knowing only that he doesn't see any, I gamely sat down and gave it a looksee.

The game consists of hexes numbered 1 through 6. Each turn, you flip over a tile and must place it at any location that has the highest numbered surrounding hexes. So where you can place the tiles is very limited, and sometimes give no choice at all.

Then you choose to put some of your meeples onto any one piece on the board that still has available space. Since you have a limited (but not very) number of meeples, you have to decided where to put them. Also, you may only put onto a hex the maximum of a) 2/2 the number on the hex, rounded up, or b) the number of free edges the hex has remaining. If a hex becomes surrounded, it does not lose the meeples it has already acquired.

That's it. At the end of the game, you score the numbers on the tiles under each of your herds divided by the number of the lowest tile that is not entirely surrounded by other hexes.

While this all sounds good on paper, I was forced to agree less than five turns into the game that Binyamin is entirely correct. While not entirely free of any tactics altogether (although entirely free of strategy), the barest amount that you have under your control is so pitiful, and your moves so forced, and the results so luck-dependent, that I literally stoppd caring by the last third of the game, and couldn't even be bothered to count, let alone record, the scores.

It's just dull, and what decisions there are are effectively meaningless. The possibility that one could actually block your opponent, as opposed to simply taking the maximum score on each play, is a non-starter, and if it occurs was also beyond your control.

The only thing nice I have to say about the game is as follows: it's quick and easy to learn. The mechanic of how the hexes spread is a neat mechanic and fits the theme (fire spreading), but entirely doesn't work in this game.

San Juan

David, Shevi

Shevi has decided opinions about games. These two came and tried to get in a filler game, but abandoned it after a few rounds, because two others had also shown up, and because Shevi didn't like the game.

Santiago

Zack 94, David 91, Eyal 79, Shevi 70

Instead they played this excellent game. The rules are almost as simple as Fuerio, but boy is there a difference in game play!

Wildlife

Nadine 100, Gili 89, Adam 87, Binaymin 73

I sat down to start this game again, eager for another play, and this time with the correct rules (about herds). Halfway through the explanation Adam appeared, so we included him. After the explanation, Ben appeared, and I refused to turn it into a six player game, so I abandoned it to play with Ben.

In general, people liked the game, except Binyamin. This wasn't helped by the fact that Nadine had a mammoth herd on the board and was on her way to winning near the end of the game when Adam and Gili decided to spend upwards of 45 minutes taking a single turn in an attempt to find a way to break it up.

This resulted in Nadine getting rather bored, and Binyamin getting rather frustrated, and I can't say that I blame them. All in all, this extended the game to around 4 hours. For 4 players. Ouch.

Caylus

Jon/David+, Ben

So I sat down to play 2-player Caylus with Ben who had only played it once before and 3-player at that. We got going, and then David popped over from finishing his Santiago game, sad that he had wanted to play it. Since I wasn't really into it anyway, I got up, yet again, and let David take over for me.

This was David's first play with 2-players.

Princes of Florence

Zack 60, Jon 59, Shevi 52, Eyal 43

Instead, I got to teach three first-time player the joys of PoF. Luckily, Eyal could understand enough of my English to play the game. Shevi was initially fearful, but began to get into it. Zack and Eyal liked it already by the end of the first round.

The only real strategy tips I give is the approximate values for the auction items in the first few rounds, especially warning about the Jesters and Recruiters (the latter less so in a 4-player game). Zack took the first two Jesters for 1200 and 1300, while I took the next three or so for more reasonable prices.

Shevi took Builder in the first two turns for 900 and 1000, which I thought was rather excessive. Other than that, most other items went for fairly cheap, and several times several players took items for the minimum price of 200.

I had no real luck with my cards, but still played a fairly solid game, which seemed to be pretty good. Zack's win in the end was simply for having the 3 point bonus for best work as well as buying a Prestige card on the last turn for a full 8 points.

Settlers of Catan

Eyal 10, Zack 8, Jon 5

Shevi left, and I wanted a filler game for three. Since Eyal and Zack had played Settlers even prior to joining my club, this was one of the few games that we could get into and play through quickly. I started on reasonable places, including the only worthwhile brick hex, the 8, where the others were on 2 and 3.

The other players had more city starts, with high ore and wheat. That wouldn't have bothered me, as I shared their wheat and ore hexes as well. But wouldn't you know? 8 never rolled up except when the robber was on it - and I mean not once the entire game - whereas 3 rolled up at least half a dozen times in the first twenty rounds or so. Eyal even traded 4 bricks for something at one point.

I sulkily decided that my goal was simply to get to five points before the game ended, which I actually managed to do, with one round to spare.

Tichu

Adam/Jon 65, Nadine/Zack 35

There was discussion over whether to play Bridge or Tichu, and our population had difficulty figuring out how to do this.

We played one hand of Tichu here with no Tichu being called. While this game was going on, I simultaneously played Lost Cities with Binyamin.

David/Jon 50, Adam/Zack 150

And then I simultaneously played Tichu while playing Bridge. We played two hands here, and even though David and I "won" the last hand, we netted 0 points from the tricks.

Lost Cities

Jon 100 something, Binyamin 30 something

Known on BGG as the best two-player game or as the best game to play with your non-gaming spouse, I have to completely disagree with the former while reserving some judgment on the latter. As a gamer, this game is simply brainless. Oh, it's much better than Feurio, as the decisions you make are actually meaningful and the game includes both tactics and strategies. But they are not that deep, and can easily be absorbed by the end of the first game.

As a result, I was easily able to play this simultaneously with Tichu, win to boot, and not particularly care anyway.

Bridge

Ben/Beinyamin 400, Jon/Nadine 0

Ben and Bin made two games while Nadine and I went down in one. Bridge is still The card game, and Tichu is Bridge-lite - very lite. As light as can be an simple be a complex and interesting game. Well, maybe Team Hearts is even lighter, but no lighter than that.


January 03, 2007

Participants: Jon, Tal, Zack, Alex, Nadine, David, Shevi, Josh, Jelman, Idit, Adam, Gili, Binyamin, Ben

Zack brought his grandfather Alex (I think I got the name right). He had no particular game history, but is a brainy, curious, and friendly type, which made him a happy addition to the group. Josh brought his friend Jelman (again, not sure about the name) who lives in Katamon. Jelman had game experience and was astonished and thrilled to come to the group. I expect his return as a regular.

I had gone over the rules to Netrunner before the group and was eager to try it out with my CCG partner David. Since we ended up with more than ten attendees, I was able to leave the others to work out their game choices while David and I slipped away for a go.

Saboteur

Saboteurs: Alex, Nadine, Shevi +, Dwarves: Jon, Tal, Zack, David

We started off with five until David and Shevi showed up. With five, two saboteurs against three dwarves is bad enough. Three saboteurs to four dwarves is nearly impossible. Especially when the rock slides all end up with the saboteurs.

Everything seemed hopeless until the deck ran out. Suddenly we were able to make a comeback, exploring a side branch and diligently working our way to the gold nugget. Unfortunately, we got close - within two lengths - but not close enough.

We played the game as a filled, and so we stopped after the first round. This was first game for all players (except me) and all of them seemed to like it well enough.

Netrunner

David, Jon

David and I slipped off to try out Netrunner. We've been playing Magic for ten years and have never tried another CCG. I recently acquired both this and the Middle Earth CCGs, having heard great things about them. Too bad both are now discontinued.

Initial impressions are: wow! I haven't seen bad CCG's yet, so I don't know if I can simply say that the entire idea simply lends itself to incredibly rich and complex gaming, or if I'm spoiled by these two great games.

The major differences between Netrunner and Magic are the unequal roles of the two players and the victory conditions. In Netrunner, one player plays the Corp, whose job is to play and activate Agendas, while the other plays the hacker, whose job it is to raid the Agendas before the Corp can activate them. The Corp tries to prevent the Runner from raiding by placing ICE defenses in the way of his raids or by dealing direct damage to the Runner, while the Runner tries to increase his hardware, resources, and countermeasure programs to give him enough power to get past the Corp's ICE and heal or prevent the damage.

I have only the barest feel for the types of cards that exist, how to approach the game strategically or tactically, or even the basic rules, of which we got several wrong on our first attempt, of course. We only made it through a few turns before we decided to stop and join others for a larger game. But I definitely look forward to trying it again.

Wildlife

Nadine, Zack, Alex, Josh, Jelman, Idit

Like other great games, six appears to be pushing the limit as far as downtime for a game like this. Despite this, they all seemed to enjoy the game. They discovered a major rule we had wrong, namely that points are given for largest herd, not most amount of creatures. This game went on for much of the evening.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Adam (B) +, Gili (W)

Adam and Gili had to wait for the Saboteur game, so they played this. This time, Adam took my advice and caught Frodo in the mountains where he couldn't retreat.

Children of Fire: the Board Game

David 14, Gili 9, Jon 8, Adam 8

Adam and I were both looking forward to trying this again. I enjoyed it again, but I think both Gili and David felt like it dragged on near the end. They may be right. One problem with the game is the lack of a definite ending, so there is a sense of wanting to simply end the game just to get it over with. This could easily be fixed by adding a limit to the number of rounds to the game, such as ten or so.

We still don't have an answer to two of our rules questions, both of which came up again.

In our game, I was thwarted on every turn, achieving only two of my four primary prophecies and not through my own effort but only because someone else wanted it, too. That, and the four masses I converted, gave me only 8 points. Adam did a lot of the moving, achieving a huge number of influence stones again, but even though he locked two of the figures, he didn't do any better than I did.

Gili had an additional secondary prophecy fulfilled and one less mass than either of us. David, on the other hand, fulfilled every single one of his prophecies, both major and minor, and also has a mass stone. This, despite losing countless times the fight over the influence stones to Adam, who always seemed to beat him with just the card he needed, just one number above David's.

Palazzo

Binyamin 45, Ben 41, Shevi 39

Binyamin introduced this game that is "better than Alhambra". It is, but I still didn't think it ws any great shakes. Ben particularly didn't like it, because he doesn't like auction games in general. Shavi and Binyamin both liked it.

Binyamin won, as he did for the rest of the games he played this evening.

Metro

Binyamin 72, Ben 68, Shevi 57

Binyamin introduced yet another game, about which I heard many mediocre comments on BGG. I don't know how it was received.

Power Grid

Binyamin+, Ben

Shevi left, so they played this two-player. As usual, Ben was blindsided occasionally by a forgotten rule, and he doesn't perform well in the auctions for the power plants, anyway.

Tichu

Nadine/Adm 205, Jon/David -5

Settling in to some enjoyable play, and we discussed whether their is any real cooperative aspect to the partnership. I maintain that as we become more experienced, our discards and play will become more subtle and more able to fully utilize the partnership aspect of the game.

We played three hands. I called Tichu in the third hand, and lost only to a bomb played by Nadine before I could finish my hand. Hence the negative score.