January 05, 2007

Less (and More)

So, for those who might have wondered what happened to the boardgaming club reports... I haven't stopped doing them, but I also haven't made it to a Wednesday night gaming day in almost two months. I'm hoping work will lighten up a bit and let me resume attendance soon!

My bi-weekly RPG was called on account of GM cold this week, which would make this nothing but a message of "no gaming" except...

This Sunday, I'll be heading up to Geeks and Gamers and giving a trial run to Spirit of the Century, an RPG I've been looking forward to giving a try to since I spent the drive down to T'Con reading it. If this goes well, I'm hoping it lead to more opportunities to try small-company and Indy RPGs. I've put together what I think is a solid little intro episode (lacking only because I don't have PCs to directly hook plot points to) and printed up character generation aids... Should be a great day!

With any luck, you'll be hearing more about this soon!

Posted by ghoul at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

11-1 Gaming Club

I missed most of the last month, due to meetings being away from Concord and to work being fairly intense approaching some major year-end deadlines.

Even though I had to leave early, I still managed to get five fun games in...

When I arrived, I caught the tail end of Eric showing the lovely copy of BattleLore he has a month before the rest of us (thanks to his trip to Essen and the game festival there). So I've seen and even touched a copy (if only to help it be packed away)... which just means the end of the month is even higher on my anticipating list. This one, I really want!

After looking at a few more of the titles Eric had brought along from Germany, we started actual play with a quick game of Und Tschüss!, suggested by Eric to occupy the first 6 of us to arrive while others we still coming. This is a clever card game I've owned for several years but never had a chance to play. Cards are dealt out as rewards, then everyone plays from their hand, trying not to be the lowest score. Each round, the lowest score takes the lowest reward card and is out of the hand. Everyone remaining adds a card to their own total, repeating the process, until finally there is just one (usually quite high) reward card left (and two players). The highest total then gets that card, everyone's hand is re-filled and it's all repeated. Quick, easy, and fun. Unfortunately, I was one of two players who ended up taking as many negative as positive cards, so ended up at the tail end of a 50/39/20/11/0/0 score.

A very large group was forming, so we split into three games. I joined folk setting up Ave Ceasar, a chariot racing game I'd heard no end of good things about, but never quite gotten a chance to play. It's a cruel game of chariot racing, cruel mostly because the route is often narrow and easily blocked, which can force you to lose turns or take longer routes. And there simply aren't enough cards in each player's deck to finish the required 3 laps if you take too many overly-long routes. In fact, this happened in this game, as Dave almost managed 2nd place... but wound up 1 space short of the finish line after playing his final movement card. I didn't do well at all, despite starting on the pole, and ended up near the tail end... but I did finish.

Next, Linda encouraged us to play Bohnanza, Matt, who was attending his last gathering as he is moving from NH to PA for a new job, had never played before, and that isn't something we could allow. He quickly caught onto the game, and I proved once again to not manage trading well at all, ending up tied for last in a 14/12/10/8/8/7/7 game, which was dominated almost from the beginning by Max (who scored that 14).

Next came another game I've owned for a while but never gotten to play, the highly regarded Tichu. It is a rather interesting mix of partnership trick-taking with post-deal card passing with "play out all your cards" play, with significant encouragement for risk-taking because the best way to score points is to "call Tichu", which means to brag that you'll play all your cards first... and take a big loss in points if you don't. I was new and made several early mistakes, including once stepping on my partner's Tichu call for a very foolish reason and misremembering a card's value (trying hard to keep a card worth -25 points I should've been trying to get rid of), but the last hand managed to see me with a nearly unstoppable Tichu and the good fortune that my partner also had a strong hand that could go out second, winning us 300 points and letting us win 566 to 335. Normally, the game is played to 1000 points, but we cut it short because I was hoping to leave early... Still, it took long enough I missed what I was hoping for, and so stayed for one more game, especially since I saw a nice, quick, light game being set up.

I played Transamerica then, and had a great time despite a very poor first round (I was 6 links from my target cities)... Thanks to much better luck in the succeeding rounds (I didn't win either, but I was only 1 or 2 links from doing so), I ended up in a close 3rd place. A nice, fun game to end the evening. And enough to make me decide to find space for the game in my TurkeyCon packing.

Posted by ghoul at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2006

10-4 Gaming

Another fun evening of boardgaming, mostly new games (to me, at least)...

More inside.

I showed up a little early, so Eric and I decided to try out Robber Knights, which I'd been bringing for a while but had never quite made the table. It's a game I'd wanted to try since picking it up at GenCon because I really couldn't tell how it worked. The game consists of playing tiles, some of which are open plains, lakes, or mountains, while others are villages, towns, or castles. Those last three are worth points to the player who claims them, and claiming is done by sending knights out when a castle is placed. The trick is that only the last knight claiming a tile matters. So there's lots of following other players' actions and trying to arrange blocking terrain as a defense. The first game featured Eric cleaning my clock, 35/20. While we were playing, Ray arrived, and as we were setting up a three-player follow-up, Jim arrived. So it was a four-player follow-up instead! At four players, there's a lot more options each turn, but also a near certainty that if you leave a weakness, someone will take advantage of it. So this game was much closer, and essentially came down to who was most careful and slow playing out their tiles. You see, you must play one each turn, but you can play as many as 3, and the game ends when every player is out of tiles, so the last player will get extra turns with no need for defensive play any longer. Eric was that player, with 3 or 4 tiles left when I ran out, so we ended up at 29/28/22/22. Games that close can't be bad, even if you don't come out on top.

We knew some others would be arriving soon, so we decided on a relatively quick game next. Eric pulled out his original Japanese Fairy Tale deck, offering another game I had read but never played. This is a tricky little game of scoring cards (which often work best in complex combinations), with an added trick from a drafting mechanism, where players are dealt a hand, but only keep one, passing the rest around the table. And repeat until you've taken 5 cards (2 from your original hand, the one you choose and the one everyone else rejects, plus one each from everyone else's). Then you play 3 cards, discarding the other two. 5 rounds are played, then whatever cards you have out (and still face up, as some cards force others to be flipped and thus taken out of scoring), you score. Somehow, everyone failed to notice that I was collecting several cards that fed each others scoring, even passing me just what I wanted even in the last round. The scores reflect that lopsidedness, as I won 82/47/41/36, with most of my points coming from 8 cards, 4 that are worth 3 points each, and another 4 that are each worth 3 times the number of cards of the first type I had in play. So 60 points just from those! The rest were just gravy.

By now, Dave and Jon had arrived, as had a newcomer, Barbara. Eric proposed Around the World in Eighty Days, a game I'd read about but never played. Linda, Jon, and Barbara joined in. The game consists of playing cards (1, 2, or 3 based on the icons on the map) to move from city to city along the route of Verne's novel. Just which cards you play, and just which available card you take to refill your hand, decide how many days each step takes and what, if any, special effects you get to use. Barbara took the "race ahead, moving as quickly as possible" strategy, which is a good one. She ended up back in London 4 turns before the rest of us, and not too long past the 80 day "goal". Eric, meanwhile, lounged back a bit and took advantage of several "last player to arrive" bonuses to keep his score low. In the end, he and I were right beside one another... but thanks to a lucky draw on my last turn, I was 1 day quicker. Final score 74/75/85/89/X (due to bad luck drawing, Jon was still in New York when the game ended, unable to reach London to score).

To bring everyone together in a more social game, we brought out Time's Up. I had fun playing, but after a second play, I'm pretty sure Charades-style games are not my strong suit. The only thing Barbara and I had going for us in the end was consistency, scoring 6 points each round. But that put us in a very weak 3rd place in the 34/28/18/16 final score.

Ray had brought along Oasis, a game he'd apparently been trying to get onto the table for nearly a year, failing because he really wanted to play only at 5 players. I can understand why, though. Having read the rules but not played the game, I also suspected the game really only comes into its own at more players. We got a full table, with Matt, Jim, and Dave joining us. This game involves a very odd bidding style, where you offer cards from a stack you manage (but don't see until you flip them up in the act of offering them). Each turn, you try to attract the choice of the player with an early turn order marker (the #1 marker is extra good because it gives an extra bonus), but you don't want to offer too much because it 1) enriches the other players too much and 2) drains your stack so you'll have less to offer next turn. Once you take cards, you trade them in for the right to either place tiles of 3 terrain types or camels on the board, add cards to your stack, or gather scoring tokens. Scoring tokens are associated with the terrains and the camels, and in the end your score is the product of the number of the appropriate tiles/camels and the associated scoring tokens. I took a strategy of ignoring one type completely and focusing on just 3, and that worked quite well. Unfortunately, I got more scoring tokens in my #2 tile type (rock) rather than my #1, camels, so I ended up in second to Ray, you got the right match. Still, it was very close, at 103/99/78/50/38. OK, very close for the two of us, at least.

Lots of fun, and I was mostly competitive (except for that first game of Robber Knights and Time's Up). Not a bad evening at all!

Posted by ghoul at 05:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2006

September Boardgaming Summary

Covering gaming nights on September 13, 20, and 27 (I missed the 6th dealing with some late-day work meetings). Includes several new games (to me and in general).

Details below the cut.

On the 13th, I arrived at Eric's to find he and Dave playing a very interesting looking game with Eric's mother and brother (who I'd been told would be there, visiting Eric). The game was on a square table-like board, but I could see it was divided into square "cells" in which balls of 4 colors (and a couple oversized black balls) rested. The underside was fabric, not wood, and the players each had long-handled mallets. I was, at once, intrigued. The game, I was told, was Pirate Billiards (and, yes, there are pictures at that link). Their game was just ending and Eric stepped out to let me take a spot, after explaining the rules. The game involves moving the balls across the board by means of striking the underside of the board with the mallets, hopefully shifting the ball the way you want it to go, either toward the opposite side or to land in (and capture) other player's balls. I wasn't very good at the game, managing only one point. Eric's brother Russ won the game with 8. But this is one I want to try again!

I had brought along Cloud 9, which I've always found to be a fun, light game of "press your luck". No one else had ever played it, so I taught the rules, we dealt the cards... and I only managed 3rd place, as Russ and Dave pushed each other to a serious lead. 51/46/32/21/7. This would hit the table again later in the evening.

Eric wanted a quick game to fill time before a couple more people arrived, so he brought out Transamerica. I'd read the game, but never played it, and two other players were new to the game as well. Which doesn't explain how one of the new players (Matt) won handily while the other two of us (myself and Russ) were way in the tail. The game is about building links to various cities (based on the goal cards you're dealt), and while I did well enough, I had a terrible last turn (only partly due to a bad draw, one city far isolated from the others) and completely fell apart. 9/8/6/1/-1/-3. Yes, the -3 was mine. Ouch!

Eric brought out Diamant now, saying it was a solid game for 8 players (which we now had). I think he's right! This was my first time at this one, another "press your luck" game much like Cloud 9. Here, you're a team of miners, deciding each round if you're happy with the take so far or want to push on to get more, hoping that nothing goes wrong. But things will go wrong. There are as many hazard cards in the deck as treasure, and once the hazard cards match, this mine is done and anyone not yet backed out gets nothing. Repeat over 5 mines. A lot of luck involved, though good decision-making of when to pull out is vital. If you NEVER pull out, you will score nothing. In the end, Eric won with a solid score, 20/16/14/14/13/11/10/0. I had the 11, so wasn't all that competitive. We set the game up again, as a new player, Christine, arrived (a couple others left the game to set up another table). I didn't do any better the next time, but I definitely got a feel for the game by this time. Joe won with 17/16/16/15/10/5/0, with Christine and Max the two scores right on his tail while I was the 10. Linda, BTW, was the 0 both times... but the slightest bit of better luck could've won her either game, as she was always taking the greatest risks.

Bohnanza was pulled out next, and while I tried, I simply did not compete Max pulled out a win in the end, 16/15/13/12/11/11, with me one of those tail-enders. I gave away far too much and got far too little in return. A poor showing.

We played Attribut next, and I'm still undecided if this is markedly better than Apples to Apples or just behind it. I guess it really depends how you want to play. I confused my words several times, including once playing what I meant to be an opposite when I was supposed to be matching... but Linda picked it anyway and we both got a point we didn't deserve. I wasn't quick claiming other's words, which kept me score back, but I ended up in 2nd to Eric, 14/12/11/11/11/10. It was very close...

Cloud 9 was brought out again, with some more teaching so Max, Linda, and Christine could join. This time, the gambles came out fairly close, but I think people found it to suffer in comparison to Diamant (which I just might agree with, as much as I like Cloud 9). I did manage a win, 59/44/38/35/34/31. And, with that, I called it a night.

The 20th meant a gathering at Dave's, and the first game was a new one Eric had brought along, Nottingham. This is a clever card game where the players are the agents of the infamous Sheriff, sent out into the wood to gather valuables so he can pay for another year in office and you can become his right hand goon. Actually, the theme is rather thin, and the game is more a set-collecting card game with some very interesting restricted trading rules. In effect, every type of card has a unique way in which in can be given to another player in exchange for something (a card at random, a chosen card, a card just as it's being played, etc.). Our particular play ended up with lots of "ambushes" (that last sort of "trade", where you take a card away as someone tries to meld their set) being established, so everyone was afraid to play cards for much of the 2nd half of the game. In the end, Dave won and I took 2nd, 68/63/61/43/35.

I then joined Eric, Jim, and Linda as Eric showed us how to play Shear Panic, which I'd picked up at GenCon but not gotten to play yet. The game has some of the prettiest pieces I've seen, large and heavy sheep to move around in various patterns, trying to achieve certain positions. The game plays in 4 "rounds", each with its own goal. Get your two sheep together, get to the front of the herd, get near the black sheep, or get to the back of the herd. It took all of us a bit to get a handle on the odd rules, and I had a bit of a disadvantage by moving first (a disadvantage because none of us really knew how things work!). In the end, I came third behind Eric and Jim, 29/26/23/22.

Linda then went to join people in the other room and Jim, Eric, and I gave a try to Bison, which I'd picked up at GenCon and Eric had played once before. It's a tricky game of area control, with some map-building and economic management tossed in. I got off to a bad start and didn't get much better, locking too many of my pieces in low-return territories and too far from the real valuable hunting grounds so Eric and Jim really controlled the game. 29/23/19 shows how far out of the game I was.

(On the 27th, I forgot my game notebook, so I don't have as complete of notes as usual... but we played 7 games, most of them new to me, so it needs to be commented on!)

The 27th opened with just Eric and I, so he offered a new two-player game, Voltage. It's a bit similar to the very enjoyable Balloon Cup, with enough unique traits to make it stand on its own. It's also much simpler, which isn't always good. The object is to have either the higher or lower total on your side when 5 cards gather at one of the 4 play locations ("circuits"). You can play to either side, and circuits can change from High to Low unpredictably. A lot comes down to luck, but just as much it's a game of gathering resources and knowing when to start cashing them in. This game, I took a gamble and started a rush for the win while Eric was still gathering. I didn't have what I needed, but I managed to draw the cards when I needed them, so I won 5/3.

Eric brought out an unexpectedly odd game next, King of the Dicemouths. Yes, there are dice, but the game is actually a physical race game. Each player gets a cardstock "mouth" atop a ramp and a die. On your turn, you drop the die down the ramp and your move is as far as the die goes. More rolling dice (d12 or d10) have shallow ramps, less rolling (the d4) have sharp ramps. The race is around several posts, then back to the finish line. Most of the game comes down to how you set facing when you move your Dicemouth, how you use your mobile obstacle to adjust your die's path, and good or bad bounces. I had the very rolly d12, but not the best of luck. I was a rather distant 2nd.

Eric brought our Ca$h 'n Gun$ next, and I'm wondering how I missed this beauty so far. Every player gets a toy gun, the loot is split into 8 piles, and each pile is turned up, one at a time, and everyone goes into stand-off. Guns are pointed, people back down or get shot at (though each player only has 3 shots for the 8 rounds, so there's lots of bluffing). The object is to get rich, but staying alive (that is, not getting shot too many times) is critical as well. The first game, we forgot to charge people $5000 for cowardice when the back off, so two of us got an early lead and then just cowered until the end of the 8th round. I won that round, by a hair. The next round, we added the "special powers" rules, so each of us had little ways to "cheat". This time, I didn't get quite the edge I wanted, and even contributed to the winner's lead because he had a card that scored extra point for every kill, and I used my last action to eliminate Dave for less $$ than that power's payoff.

With the number of people we had, we went for Formula De next, using the Monaco track. I started off 3rd from pole, and made a few good moves, but that wasn't enough as first place went to a nearly perfect driver, more than 20 spaces ahead of my 2nd place at the end.

Traumfabrik came out next, and I now very much regret not snagging a copy of this when I had a chance 2 years back. The game is one of studio heads trying to make movies, bidding for directors, actors, music, effects, etc. Actual studios, movies, and actors are used (as are 4 directors), which won't be true in the soon-to-be-released US edition. The game itself is a nice bidding game, with occasional breaks for "parties" where everyone gets a resource. And, since you pay your bids to the other players when you make them, eventually they win because you won. Personally, I had fun with very appropriate and every inappropriate castings (I put Boris Karloff in the guest star role of Bambi, for example), but that isn't worth any bonus points, so I ended up in 2nd to Max, 5 points behind, 69/64 (and I don't have other players' scores).

And, finally, I joined Eric and Matt in a game of End of the Triumvirate. We were all new to this game, and it showed with several hesitant moves as Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus fought over control of Rome as the Republic reaches its end (a struggle that never quite got this far in real history). Eric as Caesar dove across the Med to attack Crassus's (my) North African territories, and that ended up locking us in a battle that left Pompey (Matt) just able enough to avoid to muster his political power and take the win on the first move of the 3rd year. I really like the workings of this game, even though I did very poorly in my first try, eventually left with almost no forces and few political resources in the end. I want to get a few more plays of this one under my belt, which means it's VERY likely to come along to T'Con in 7 weeks.

And that is 3 weeks of boardgaming. Lots of fun, even if it contains very few wins by me.

Posted by ghoul at 02:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2006

August 30th Boardgaming

Another Wednesday, another club meeting... Not a good night for me as far as winning goes (I was a reasonably close 2nd three times out of five, and dead last the other two), but a lot of fun anyway. Details, for those who care, inside the fold.

When I arrived at Eric's, Jim and Alex (who I hadn't met before) were just setting up Techo Witches, which I gladly joined in for. The game is a very clever sort of race game, with players building routes for their vacuum-cleaner-mounted figures in advance by eyeballing route pieces and the state of the board. When you actually move, from 1 to 6 pieces will be laid out in a trail based on your plan, and if you did it right you'll go where you want and not hit anything. It's easier than it sounds, but it's still not easy. Eric certainly has a gift for it, and I managed to get most of my programming right, but in the end I miss-judged a rather desperate attempt to hit my final target the round before Eric was sure to hit his... Eric took the win cleanly, as expected, the next turn.

We set up Goldland next, a game I hadn't really heard much about before except from Eric since, for some reason, it's never come out in an English edition. It's a solid exploration game, with some very interesting resource management systems working within it. Every square can potentially require the expending of resource, and most allow the acquisition of others, so much of the game becomes trying to find a minimum-cost route to the gold-rich temple in the far corner from the starting space. Alex managed that task, with an especially nice feature that each "pay resources to enter" space he uncovered on his route had a space providing the necessary resources right next to it. Eric and I were just a move behind Alex, but that wasn't quite enough. I ended up in the back of the game because of a couple of no-reward turns, including one where I moved myself to a spot where I could neither acquire any resources at all nor explore, so I literally wasted that whole turn. Still, it was great fun and I'm going to be looking for this game for myself, because I know several people who would like it. Final score was Alex in front, then Eric, Jim, and me, 17/15/14/12.

We unpacked Great Wall of China next, this time doing the rules right. (In fact, Eric had found a set of rules online and reviewed them himself prior to my arrival.) And it's just as good as I'd hoped it would be. It has a lot of the feel of Samurai to it, which certainly doesn't hurt in my book, but here there is no board, no differing suits, a couple new special powers, and no upper limit on the number of pieces one can place in a conflict. Alex and Jim and Alex and Eric got into a huge fights each, but both were over high-score tokens (I believe an 8 and a 5 and an 8 and a 4), and in the end they were right to have done it. On the final turn, I was denied (by being locked into ties) three potential scoring tokens and Alex claimed others, and that decided the game... Alex won, but just a point over Jim and I in a tie. 36/35/35/26. If there were any hard feelings from the miss-play last week, I think they evaporated.

Mark (who I had also not met before this game evening) had arrived while were were playing GWoC, and Ray arrived just as we were setting up Lifeboats. This a a delightfully fun game of backstabbing and shifting alliances. Play consists of manipulating survivors of a ship's sinking, voting which boat springs a leak, which passengers are tossed overboard, and which boat manages to inch toward safety. No one can be trusted, and no one is really safe. This particular game turned on one particular round not far from the end when, in a critical vote, four of the six players decided to use one of their three limited "override the vote" options, neutralizing each other and leaving the other two players to make the decision. Yes, I was one of the four. Even then, I cam in a close second to Jim, 23/20/16/13/13/13. I'll be watching for the forthcoming Z-Man Games release of this one!

Ray then headed back out (he'd come primarily to be part of an arranged game that, unfortunately, had fallen apart without him knowing it) and the rest of us picked Mü as a good 5-player game. It's a very tricky sort of Bridge-like game (trick-taking with bidding), with complex and shifting partnerships, many trump options, and more than a few fiddly bits. I don't think any of us completely avoided mistakes, but I managed more than my share, only achieving a good hand both in bidding and play right at the very end, when I came back from -16 points to end, still in last place, but positive. Eric won with exactly 200 (the target), then Mark had 171 (he'd proven an astonishingly good player in defending, breaking several bids decisively), then Alex at 140, Jim at 67 and me at 52. Ugly! But I really think I figured out the game with only 2 hands left to play, so I'm hoping to get another go at this!

And, with that, Alex, Mark, and I called it a night, though Jim and Eric were setting up Memoir '44 as we left.

Posted by ghoul at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2006

Before The Next Club Meeting

Here's two things I'm going to do.

  1. Limit my game selections to 2 or 3 each week.
  2. Carefully re-read those games before the meeting.

I think with those I'll manage to both get more games I pick on the table (though I certainly haven't done poorly on that count so far) and have fewer mistakes in the games I teach. The Great Wall of China incident alone is enough to encourage that!

Posted by ghoul at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

Catching Up On Gaming

It's been just over a month since I last posted a boardgame club report, but since I still have my notes, I thought I'd catch up and add things since then.

So below the cut are two club meeting reports (I missed two meetings as well, one while at GenCon and the other trying to catch up on sleep missed at GenCon), as well as a brief comment on a GenCon demo and some casual gaming on a Friday afternoon.

The 7/26 club meeting had me play 4 games. (By the way, I've now asked and I'll be using names not just initials in these reports.)

Beowulf was played for the 2nd time with the club, this time with the unfortunate "everything falls apart" happening to Eric. It turns out after-the-fact that we may have been a bit overly generous with Risks, allowing players to take a risk, fail, and then supplement their bid anyway from their hand, which is OK if the risk gives you something but not enough, but not OK if the Risk completely fails. The rules specifically say if a Risk fails completely, you're out of the bidding. This led to a lot more random play than the game intends. Anyway, final result was Matt winning in his first play of the game, Adam in 2nd, my in third, Dave in 4th and Eric at the back. 30/27/21/15/-15.

Eric brought out Don, a game none of the rest of us were familiar with, for a short fill while we waited on Rich's arrival (Jim had already joined us near the end of Beowulf). This is an interesting little bidding game, with winners claiming numbers which, when they appear as the final digit of someone else's bid, means you pay THEM, not the bank. It takes some time to get the hang of things, and I wasn't alone in getting caught over-bidding then going several turns without getting paid, which means several turns effectively out of the game. In the end, Eric dominated and I was a surprising (given my big mistake) 3rd place. 10/9/7/6/4/2.

Formula De was next. This one is a favorite of mine, one of the classics of a genre I very much enjoy (race games). Rich had arrived, so we had 7 players, which means the field was crowded enough this game got to really shine, and we used Track #2 (Nederland - Zandvort No 1), which I find much more enjoyable than the much slower Track #1 (Monaco). There were the normal problems (bad luck can eliminate a car, and in this case took out Adam barely into turn 4, then another driver a couple turns later), but that's the nature of the game (and of Formula One racing). We had a real neck-and-neck finish, with me 1/2 a space ahead of Dave at the end. By the book, I moved first and so won the race. However, by an optional rule I actually prefer which makes the tiebreaker the number of movement points left over after the line, Dave beat me by rolling a 30 over my 27, so was 2 1/2 spaced ahead. So I don't know if I call that a win or a 2nd place (we hadn't expressly said we were using the optional rule, after all), but it was a great ending either way.

I sat out a Linkity game when dinner arrived, as did Ethan and Erin. It was Erin's birthday, which was also celebrated. With 10 players, we then turned to a party game, in this case Time's Up. This is a nice little variation of Charades, played in progressive rounds where the limitations on the type of clues you can use become more and more restrictive. But since the answers are from cards and are the same in each round, the 'secret' is to learn to recognize them when they re-appear. Adam and I teamed up, but only managed 3rd place in the end, while Jim and Eric absolutely cleaned up on everyone round after round for their win. Final score was 32/25/24/21/18. And that 32 was achieved as 11 points in each of the first 2 rounds and 10 in the final. Only one other team ever got into double digits for even one round, and they came in 2nd in the end due to their 2nd round score of 11. As Charades games go, this one's very nice!

At GenCon, I played in several demos, none of which really qualify as a full game, so I won't report any here. The only one of real significance was a demo play of The Order of the Stick Adventure Game, which I found to be a lot of fun, but clearly far too long for its strategic depth. We only played 3 turns per player, but it was quite obvious how this would drag out, and the rules admit to the game's playtime. Oh, it has some interesting bits and frequently HILARIOUS cards, so I'll probably find some people to play it with, but I much prefer my 3+ hour games to be a bit more weighty. The explanation that the game was designed to take the place of a D&D session when critical players can't make it doesn't persuade me, I fear.

The Friday after GenCon, I was early down to Fall River for the GURPS campaign, so I pulled out a filler game at Stillpoint to pass some time. King of the Beasts - Mythological Edition is one of many Knizia games that looks very simple, and is in terms of rules, but not necessarily in terms of strategy. Like Trendy, cards are played until one suit (here representing dragon, unicorn, or other mythological beasts) gets enough points to win. But the trick here is that, every time you meld a set of 3 to 6 cards, you put some forward toward that suit and keep others toward winning. The creature that reaches 6 cards first wins and scores 2 for every card kept, and the 2nd and 3rd place creatures each score 1 point per card. Simple? Yeah. (Though posters on BGG point out that the rules lack a statement of what to do if the deck completes without a winner... that never happened in our plays.) We ended up playing 4 hands, each with different players. The first Pat won over me and Kurt, 6/5/4. Then Pat and Kevin split a win over Kurt and I 4/4/2/0. The third game was a win for me over Kurt, Pat, Kevin, and Nick 4/3/2/1/0, and then Nick got his revenge over Kevin and I 7/4/4. Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, particularly for a 10-15 minute filler.

This week, I was back at the club, this time up in Laconia. We started with El Grande, using the nice new 10th anniversary set though playing with only the base rules. I've only played this once, and that years ago, so I wasn't that embarrassed by my 4th place finish, as the game really was tight. Eric won, then Adam, Dave, and myself. 112/108/96/94.

We broke out my GenCon purchase of Knizia's Great Wall of China, but a mistake by me in the rules meant we barely got started before we mistakenly stopped. Rather than refreshing each wall section after it was scored, I somehow decided the initial 5 sections were the whole game. Dumb. Eric took an unassailable lead, and without additional scoring tokens entering play, we all just stopped playing. I hope we'll put this on the table again with the RIGHT rules, because I think there's a good game here, spoiled by my mistake. The score when we called the game was looking to be 12/8/7/5/3 (I had the 7), but easily twice, if not three times that many points were left undistributed by my mistake.

China was brought out while we waited for pizza and 3 others to arrive. I'd read (but never played) Web of Power, the original game this is an update of, so again I wasn't expecting much from my performance (as it's a fairly subtle and unforgiving game). Apparently I looked harmless and unfocused enough that everyone let me got unchecked, building a chain 8 houses long that really should have been blocked. Not that it was enough to do me any better than a tie for third, because Eric was going to claim his 3rd win in a row pretty much from the start. 31/29/28/28/26.

Pizza arrived, but was badly overcooked (to the point of burned for one, and just below that for the other), and a surprising degree of drama was necessary to get that corrected. Not surprisingly, this distracted us from gaming for a significant time. Set had come out to occupy the three late arrivals while China was completed, and then we re-assembled into two foursomes. Ticket to Ride - Europe was played by one group while I joined Eric, Ethan, and Adam to try out Blue Moon City (which only Eric had played before). I'd read the rules (I had picked up a copy just before leaving for GenCon), but I still happily listened as Eric explained them (he's VERY good at that), then we set to play. The game is an odd mix of competition and cooperation, as you try to re-build the titular city structure by structure. Each building requires certain efforts to be re-built, most several different steps. Multiple players (as many as 4) cooperate to achieve this, then share in rewards. Collect enough rewards and you can buy into the victory objective, with the game going to whoever buys 4 steps first. Essentially, this game split into two pairs, with Eric and Ethan working one half the board and Adam and I the other. This proved to be my downfall, as Adam was one step ahead of me in turn order, so was able to dive in for the win the turn before I claimed it. Still, a very close game, with Ethan also just a turn or two from the win in the end. 4/3/3/1. A future re-play will probably see a bit more competition, and Eric observes that a 3 player game may have significantly better competitive dynamics.

Replacement pizza arrived (though it wasn't all that much better), and then Eric, Adam, and I headed back to Concord.

And, with that, I'm caught up on gaming reports.

Posted by ghoul at 08:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

Boardgame Club II

Before the leg injury, whatever it turns out to be, several games were played, many of them new to me. And pretty much all fun, though I was really uncompetitive for several of them, sometimes because I was learning the ropes, sometimes unlucky, sometimes just plain off my game.

Game-by-game details below the fold.

Beowulf - The Legend was my copy and my teaching E and J (no, I didn't ask about names yet). And while I was the experienced player (by one training game at GenCon), I was definitely the loser here, falling behind early and struggling to avoid total embarrassment. Final score, 44/31/18 with me far in the back. And I would've been MUCH worse without winning 3 of the last 5 auctions, which removed 3 Wounds. With them, I would've been 20 points lower for an ugly -2 score.

Trendy was a surprisingly fun game of fashion trends (not normally a point of interest). Cards are numbered 3 to 7, each representing the fashions of a fictional designer. Players play one a turn and if the total number of, say, 4s or 6s equals the number on the card (4 or 6), that is the trend. Trend cards score their value in points, all other cards are discarded. Complicating matters are Supermodel cards (count double toward establishing a trend, single for points) and Out cards (immediately discard all cards matching their number as totally out of style). Yes, it's a Knizia game; it has that just-themed-enough-to-hide-the-math feel, doesn't it? I had a great first hand (tying for the lead at 30 points) and a good 4th hand (28 points), but was at the back of the 2nd and 3rd so ended up in 4th place overall. We had added M and L and played 4 rounds until someone broke 100 points (M and L were at 95 and 94 at the end of the third). Final score 132/128/101/95/85. I like this game quite a bit, and it's made my "purchase soon" list.

Linkity was the one game that didn't quite work for me. Players are dealt cards with letters (and meaningless but cute drawings of bugs). One player plays a card and says a word that starts with that letter. Others then try to play a card of their own with a word that relates. Bad choices or repeat words are challenged and you must draw cards. When one player runs out, everyone else scores their remaining cards as penalty points. Even though I ended up winning (tied with E at 5 penalty points), I really found the game less than inspiring, especially since there is no adjustment for harder letters, no real encouragement to be creative, and all the normal problems of "speed" games (judging who really played first, etc.). Not a bad game, but not really to my tastes. Final score 5/5/6/7/9, and L swapped out after the first round for E2 when E2 and E3 arrived along with their son C. (This initial thing is getting bothersome. Next time, I definitely remember to ask!)

Bohnanza was the next game, of of my faves from several years back. Unfortunately, I was off my trading mojo early and took too long to get it back. I'd forgotten how unforgiving this game is when you don't trade aggressively, and so I ended up having to cash a couple of fields of very sub-optimal payoffs. Also, this was a crowded game (7 players), which leaves little room for forgiveness. I ended up in the back while M took the win with E2 and E3 sharing second, final score 11/10/10/9/9/8/7.

Attribut came next, a game described by some as "Apples to Apples but Fun". Now, I actually like A2A quite a bit, but I can see the appeal of this game as well. Players have a hand of cards with Adjectives and are each dealt a Sheep card, either White or Black. One player says a Noun or Name (their choice, not a card), then everyone selects a card to either match (if a White sheep) or to distinctly not match (if a Black sheep). Players then QUICKLY try to claim any card they believe is a match. If you pick a match correctly, you and the match's player score a point. If you pick a non-match as a match, you lose a point, as does the player. If you play a match but no one picks it, you lose a point. If you play a non-match and no one picks it, you gain a point. Play goes around the table twice. I liked the game, but for whatever reason I was painfully blank on good Nouns in my turn and also got my white and black reversed one turn. In the end, L won by a significant margin, 18/14/13/11/11/11/4. I was one of those 11s. L then retired for the evening, having earned quite the triumph.

Fearsome Floors was next, a game I own and have wanted to play but hadn't gotten the chance. Players control prisoners in a dungeon trying to escape and the rules control a monster who chases them. The monster moves by a set of programmed rules, so the heart of the game is to position things (yourself, your opponents, and movable terrain bits) so the monster chases down opposing player's characters and not yours. This was my moment of glory for the night, as it is a game that really plays to my strengths (rapid prediction, quick ability to update based on changes, ability to count ahead). I didn't get the first character to the exit, but I got the 2nd, 3rd and, if I had needed to, the 4th as well, as I'd managed to move all three of my characters to within a single move of the exist. But victory comes once you have 2 characters out, and this game Victory was mine! It was to be a short-lived moment of glory. E2, E3 and C now left us (it getting late for the young'n) and M2 arrived. Which meant it was time for E to bring out a trickier game.

Aladdin's Dragons is a game I had tried at TurkeyCon in the past, but we were sufficiently unimpressed with the base game to never try the full game, which adds numerous rule-bendiing magic effects. It turns out those effects add a ton to the game, but were more than I could manage, it seems. The game consists of all players blind-bidding with tokens numbers 1-9 (except no 3s) on several locations on the board. Then each is resolved in order, with the highest bid (and sometimes the lesser ranks as well) getting rewards. Treasures earned in the Dragon Dens are used to purchase Artifacts in the Calif's Castle, with a town in-between the two where game-changing effects (spells, trades of some treasures for others, future turn order) can be won. My fate was to always be 1 or 2 points short of payoffs, and when I did win to be sufficiently short of resources to capitalize. M2 took an early lead, buying 3 artifacts on the 2nd turn, but E was able to pull off a comeback via good use of spells and artifacts (including one spell played by M, which threw M2's plans to defend his lead into total chaos). Final score, 8/7/6/5/4. I was the 4.

On that note, I decided to call it a night, which led to events already recounted.

Posted by ghoul at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not The Club Meeting Update

This is not the club meeting update.

You figured that out from the title, didn't you?

The reason it is not is that, rather than typing up my notes on the games played last night (that will come later... if memory serves, there were either 7 or 8, and most of them I quite enjoyed even if I didn't do too well at some), I think I'd better tell about something that happened just after.

Stepping out from E's house, I missed a step, landed hard on my left foot. I didn't drop any of the games I was carrying, but I definitely twisted something. Still, it all seemed quite minor, I didn't even bother calling anyone inside for help. Instead, I limped to my car (20 yards, maybe), drove home, limped in and up the infamous non-euclidian stairs (after taking a couple aspirin) and dropped off to sleep.

This AM, the leg (about 2-3 inches below the knee, so thankfully not the knee itself) is sore and very unpleasant to put weight on. I visited the company doctor in the clinic at the office and he suspects I may have broken my fibula (the smaller, thinner bone of the lower leg, which doesn't hold weight but does support the ankle and provide for flexibility), but also may have just stretched/strained the surrounding muscle. We can't be sure without an X-Ray, and that would be over-kill as long as it could just be a strain. At his advice, I'm taking ibuprofen, using a cold compress, and have acquired some crutches. If, in 48 hours (or more if I wait until Monday, which is likely), things aren't improving, I'll be either visiting an ER or finding an orthopedic specialist to visit.


Posted by ghoul at 12:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Boardgame Club

Thanks to noticing a message on the BoardGameGeek discussion boards, I made contact with a local gaming club, 6AM Gamers. Last night was my first chance to meet them (what with all the travel and other distractions recently). Wednesday night is their regular local meeting, either right here in Concord or a reasonably short (~35 minute) drive away in Laconia. This week was a Laconia week, and I offered to drive the other Concord resident, E. (I didn't ask other players if they minded names being used on my blog, and while I don't expect anyone has a problem with it, out of courtesy they are initials only. I'll ask next time.)

Fun was had, and I think I may be playing (rather than just reading and fiddling with) several more board games in the future!

Details of the gaming are below the fold for those interested...

When we arrived, it was just the host, D, and the two of us, and we decided on Louis XIV for the first game. This sounded great to me, as I love the look of the game but was sufficiently intimidated by the rules that I didn't try to teach them based on just a reading last TurkeyCon. Now I have a better idea how the game flows, and it's significantly simpler than it looks (though still a bit fiddly here and there). But it was certainly a learning game for me, and I was thoroughly trounced, scoring barely more than half what the winner scored, the game ending at 59 - 44 - 36). But I'm pretty sure I can identify three or four mistakes I made (such as not having a strategy at all, just playing via short-term tactics), so another game should show improvement.

Two more players, J and R, arrived while we were settling the affairs of the French royal court, so it was a 5 player game of Rheinlander next. Rheinlander was, you may recall, on my list of "really want to play this soon" games, and I'm quite glad we put it on the table. It was a bit more quickly aggressive than I'd expected from the rules (though that may be a function of having 5 players; with 3, there would be more development time before confrontation begins, something E confirmed from his prior experience with the game), but it was a good, fun game. I had a vicious looking combo of cards in my initial hand, but the way the game developed I never got a chance to use them. Instead, I stuck to steady development, avoided most conflict, and was just ahead of the pack on points when, as a game-ending move, Ray swallowed one of my small duchies. Yes, I was paid 2 points in compensation, but that duchy would have been worth 6 points at game's end... Even with that late -4 point turn of events, I managed a tie for the win (32 - 32 - 28 - 23 - 22). My suspicions about this game are mostly confirmed... I know I like it, and possibly a lot. And, having now seen both the original European and the recent American release... Well, I'm not sure which I prefer on that count. Both have their advantages.

Next, Ra was brought out. I hadn't played Ra since a couple of games at a TurkeyCon at least 4 years ago (because I know it was at the old house, it has to be at least 4 years ago), despite it being on my Favorite Games list, so I needed a slight rules refresher and worried that I'd made a big fumble early on (the move certainly wasn't what people at the table expected). But, in the end, I squeaked out a 1 point victory (in a very close 32 - 31 - 31 - 30 -22 game), so it mustn't've been that bad. If I had to ID my strategy, it was to establish early and maintain throughout a Pharaoh lead (or at least a tie for the lead), snatch one Civilization tile each Epoch to avoid the penalty for having none, snatch other cheap points when available, and otherwise just look small and insignificant. But, I have to admit, it was more luck inhibiting other player's final round scoring options than real skill on my part.

Next, the hot new game Thurn and Taxis was offered, though since it was only 4 players, one of us had to sit out. Fortunately, J had come to the meeting with a set of new purchases and offered to read them over while we learned T&T. All I knew about it was that several comments say it's too similar to Ticket to Ride, but I find the relationship superficial, at most; both games allow you to draw from either an exposed set of cards or the draw pile to build your hand and both feature building routes from city to city, but otherwise they are completely different. Thematically, you're developing postal routes in 17th century Germany; practically, you're trying to meld out longer and longer runs (with adjacency established via a map rather than by numbers) of cards (cities) with a managed balance among concentration and distribution of color (region). Bonuses are paid for performing several tasks (establishing a base in every city of a region, establishing one base in each sub-region, melding a route of longer lengths), with said bonuses decreasing in value for each player who achieves the goal. The base structure of the game is draw 1 card (from face up cards or from deck), play 1 card onto either end of your route (it must be linked by a direct road connection on the map), then optionally score the route (if it is at least 3 cards long). But there are 4 "special actions" and you can (and usually should) play one each turn, those being to discard and replace all 6 face-up cards, draw 2 instead of 1, play 2 instead of 1, or score your route as if it is 2 cities longer than it actually is. I devised a strategy fairly early on and stuck to it, that being to try to bag some quick points and then push as fast as I could toward ending the game (using the "score route longer than it really is" action to progress toward the endgame trigger, scoring one route each of at least length 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 in sequence). This was an option I had because I was the last player... The rules insist that all players get the same number of turns, so if anyone other than the last player triggers the end of the game, the remaining player(s) get one last turn. As last player, I alone could end the game immediately, so I decided to use that "power", such as it is, to my advantage. No, not the most subtle or sophisticated of strategies, but it almost worked. I did end the game with two of the three other players right on the verge of big scoring plays, but I hadn't socked away quite enough and so came 3 points short, but a reasonably solid second place. Final score, 18 - 15 - 11 - 0, but don't be deceived... that 0 was about to become something much higher on the very next play, probably 12 or more, as he had a major scoring route on the table needing just one more card to complete it, and I'm fairly sure he already had in his hand. This game now hits my "pick up a copy" list (at a fairly high spot), as it is compact, is reasonably quick to teach and to play, offers numerous tactical options, and is fun. A powerful combo!

It now being 11 PM, E and I called it a night and headed back to Concord. I had brought Beowulf and Bolide as potential games to play (and had stuffed Street Illegal, No Thanks, and Pickomino into the oversized Bolide box, just because there's room), but Bolide is a longer game than fit the evening and while E wanted to play Beowulf, he wants to learn it with only 3 players not 5, so it will wait for a future meeting.

Which I'm sure I'll be attending.

Posted by ghoul at 03:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack