Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Attendees: Yehuda, Ben, Sharon, Yacov, Nadine, Ari, David K, Saarya, Ephrayim

First of all, the Strategist, The monthly newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society has published part two of my Puerto Rico expansion buildings. The first part was an early version of my first three sets, and the second part is a more recent version of my second three sets. The current and correct (more playtested, and therefore more balanced) versions of all six sets can be gotten by emailing me.

Before the official game evening, David K came over to whip me in several games (he came Sunday, too). Lucky for me, I don't put the results in the scoreboard unless we play during the official game hours :-) . The importance of these pregames was that:

* I have decided that Citadels works with two or three players, but not with more.
* We tried a game of El Grande for two people, using one of the variants on the Geek and it was great. I was led to believe that it would be horrible. Not at all.
* We played two player Princes of Florence, my first Princes of Florence game of any type, using Kramer's rules, and it seemed to work fine. Next time I will try the other variant listed on the Geek.
* We played two games. In the first game, David seemed to concentrate on builders, which, even if I thought quarries were useful in Puerto Rico, which I don't, are not so useful here, especially when there is not much in the way of competitive auctioning. In the second game, David latched on to the secret jester strategy, and easily defeated me.
* In two player, Recruit cards never get bought, and the Prestige cards are usually maximum value.

The real game session began when Yacov, Ben, Ari (a friend from Beit Shemesh), Nadine and Ephrayim came in. We split into two groups.

El Grande
Yacov, Ben, Ari and David K played El Grande. I couldn't really follow, but it seemed like massive amounts of people were getting dumped into the castle. The final scores were very close, with Yacov squeaking out a close victory at something like 120 points, a few points past second, third and fourth places.

Princes of Florence
Meanwhile, I taught Nadine and Ephrayim how to play Princes of Florence, my first game with more than 2 players. Interestingly, Nadine and Ephrayim both liked it more than El Grande, while I like El Grande more. Nadine thought about it and then said that El Grande was more directly interactive all the time, which makes you feel constantly into it. We were into PoF also, but it was a more pastoral and calm game, certainly, and the auction definitely gives interaction. However, most of our auctions went for the minimum bids. I had so much money I didn't know what to do with it. Nadine looked like she was winning, as she also picked up on the jester strategy, and was producing the best works and taking the pp's. I did manage to get two prestige cards, but they both ended up at half value. Nevertheless, I crept closer and closer, and finally landed on the same spot as Nadine, winning by a 100 Fl tiebraker.

Settlers of Catan
After some rearranging, we played two more simultaneous games. Ben, Sharon and Yacov played Settlers, where it appears that the only bricks were on 12, 3 and 11, Sharon was on the 3, and she proceeded to roll six 3's in a row. Ah, there's nothing like a challenging game of Setttlers, and apparently this was nothing like a challenging game of Settlers. Yacov said playing the game was like watching the Enola Gay come into Hiroshima. Sharon won.

Puerto Rico
Meanwhile, I, Nadine, Ari, David K, and Saarya played PR. This was Nadine's first time actually playing, and Ari's first non-two player game. The first two plantation sets were multiples of coffee, indigo and corn. The third set had tobacco. Only the fourth set brought us sugar. Meanwhile we all took coffee, with me trailing the other two, and even though I got my roaster first, I was afraid to produce, knowing it would all be shipped, or traded before me, anyway. A careful building strategy on my part landed me an early Factory, and I chose Wharf over Harbor, and finally Custom's House. Ari, meanwhile had Harbor and Wharf, but no big buildings. It all ended up pretty close, with scores of 50, 47, 45, 44, and 42.

I think a good time was had by all. If I can be sure of who is coming for which sessions, we could oragnize the games in advance, assuming no surprise visitors show up. Another future project. Til next time ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Attendees: Yehuda, Ephrayim, Nadine, Sharon, Roy, Rachel, Ben, Yacov, Saarya

This week I met the major importers of games and gaming products into Israel. The imports consist of WotC, Mayfair (Settlers), other card and RPG stuff, and miniature / warhammer stuff, and soon to be Fantasy Flight and a few others. Unfortunately, all of the prices they are selling are more than it would cost me to buy retail, ship airmail (let alone surface) AND pay VAT AND pay import taxes.

Nevertheless, they are nice guys, and I hope we can do things for each other with regards to league play, tournaments, etc...

Sharon and I and two of my kids saw Return of the King. Very enjoyable, of course. Can't wait for all three extended versions so we can watch the whole thing the way it was supposed to be shown.

El Grande
We finally got to play El Grande! A great game, but, like the rest of our games, always a bit slower than it should be. There were no real rules problems, and by round 3 we already were starting to work on tactics, There seemed to be a lot more tactics than strategy, from what I've seen so far. The game looked like a runaway win by Sharon, followed by Nadine, but by the end, Sharon only won by 3 points (102) to a second place tie by Nadine and I. Ephrayim really started off trailing, but managed to make a better showing during the last half, although not enough to put him in competition.

Ephrayim came to his first session here. He is an old time war gamer, so I'm sure he had an adjustment to make to working out the likes of El Grande, but he seemed to enjoy himself, and promised to return, and to bring a game with him that he thought we might enjoy.

Puerto Rico
Meanwhile, Rachel (my wife) and Ben and Yacov played a Puerto Rico game, which Ben won by 1 point, his third straight win.

After the first games were over, and the dust was settled, Sharon and Nadine and Saarya and Rachel and I stuck it out to try a Citadels game. We had been playing 2, 3 and 4 player during the week, this was our first 5 player game. So far, I like the game as 2 or 3 player over 4 or 5, although 4 I like least. The game is a good game for kids and grownups to play together, because it is enjoyable enough for grown ups to play with them, and simple enough for kids to figure out. But, as Sharon and Nadine pointed out, it is just not engaging enough for the length of play. It really should be a shorter game, or quicker, or something. Saarya won by one point (29), with Rachel and I trailing behind at 28.

I am waiting to find the right time to try Princes of Florence and Bang. I think Bang might suffer the same problems as Citadels, but I don't know yet. PoF just looks very beautiful, but very involved, which means players with time for thoughtful liesurely play. Since we all enjoyed El Grande, I think it will have to sit for a while, unless I get to play it outside of the club.

See you next week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Attendees: Yehuda, Haim Frydman, Ben, Denya, Saarya, Tal, Nadine, Sharon

Ben brought his neighbor Genya (originally from Siberia) over for her first official night of games, and Haim, who had played with us before we became an official club, made his return.

David and Goliath
We started off with some David and Goliath to warm us up (Yehuda, Ben, Genya, Haim and Saarya). It was Haim and Genya's first time, so naturally Haim won, by a pretty close score. Another game had Ben winning by a pretty large margin. I think he had over 80 points, when the average score is about 30-50.

Puerto Rico
Next came the entree, a 5 player game of Puerto Rico, same players. I finally agree with Alex and Jim about 5 player PR being more prone to collusion, as Ben and Haim methodically aimed to take me down. Due to strange money supply, me only producing coffee and corn, and an unfortunate early shipment of coffee, I opted for an early Harbor which was huge, equally huge was the lack of money needed at the critical time necesary to buy the last big building, leaving me with no big buildings and Ben with 2. I still ended up with 44 shipping points, but only 12 building points, and he won by 1 point, 57 to 56.

Settlers of Catan
While we had been playing, Nadine and Sharon arrived, and they played Settlers with my daughter, Tal. They finished only a few minutes after we did, with a victory for Sharon: 3 cities, longest road and 2 hidden vp's.

Take 6
Everyone except Sharon, Nadine and Haim left, and it was getting late, so we went back to some light fare, introducing a few light games to those who hadn't played, yet. One game of Take 6 (very close, my win of 35 to 37, 37 and 41) and a last game of David and Goliath, also won by Haim.

Next week we will go to LotR, hopefully, and then game, or vice versa. See you then!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Attendees: Yehuda, Nadine, Sharon

Well, we almost didn't have a session, but at the last minure Nadine called and said she would come over if anyone else shows up. At 9:00, Sharon showed up, so Nadine came over and we had a simple and relaxing game of Settlers.

It was a very enjoyable, albeit long, experience, with room for building all over the place, and points handed out for road, army and developement. Nadine and Sharon both targetd me with the robber early on, so I lost some early developement, but when the robber did move, it seemed to attract the dice fairly consistently for all players. And except for a slew of early 9's, which gave all of us one resource, most the the rolls were unexceptional.

Thus, we all had a close game, and despite an early lead by Nadine, Sharon and I ended up neck and neck, until she took the victory the same round I would have (barring a 7 being rolled).

Anyway, I hope to see the lot of you next week, and if anyone is up for a longer game during channukah, let me know. I think we will make it a half day, especially if my games get here by then. I think they are held up by the strike in meches.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Attendees: Yehuda, Ben, David B, David K, Yacov, Nadine, Sharon

I can't afford many games, but I am willing to try out games by crafting them out of stuff I find lying around. Sometimes what I craft is not exactly the original game...

Turn a Settlers of Catan board upside down. Evenly space 4 settlements of each color around the nexii on the edges of the board. If you have the 5-6 player expansion, I guess you could put 3 settlements of 6 colors. Each player then gets a random hidden color to connect using the roads, starts by placing a city on the board as his starting position, and walla, you have a mini TransAmerica.

I played three games with my daughter and David K, I won twice, and my daughter (age 10) won once. It is not the same as the real game, of course, but I think with a little sprucing it might suffice for a little game filler. Also, the positions all start equal, so noone can complain of being dealt bad cities to start with.

Afterwards, I tried out a game I invented called Tripole and submitted to the shared playing pieces contest on I played with David, who beat me. Basically, fill 37 hexes with 36 pieces, one per hex, 12 of blue, yellow and red. Each person is allowed to move one piece to combine with another, scoring for green, purple and orange points. When the game permits, you can score a tripole, removing it from the board for 1 wild point. The game suffers from a very chaotic opening, followed by a not chatoic enough ending. I need to tweak he rules to get it right, because there is a great game in there somewhere.

By then, we were hankering for something real, so David K and I played Magic, using 1 card of the alphabet from one color, no color hosers. He player red, I played green, and as usual, even though I thought I had a better deck, he beat me 2 games to 3.

Ben and David B showed up. David B, my other brother, doesn't usually come, but he is interested in these games, so we played Puerto Rico. David K refused to sit on my left. My brother Ben, amazingly enough, won with one more point than me. For the first time, everyone took my basic strategy advice about going for early money. Each play was thoughtful, yet not too long for all, and it was one of the most fun games I have played with straight PR in a while. With good players, you can play many times.

Next, Nadine and Yacov showed up, Ben left. Someone else was supposed to come, so I thought Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers wouldn't take long, even though we had to introduce both Yacov and Nadine to the game. I was wrong, as, unlike PR, you should not overly analyze CC or you can be there all night. Suffice to say that there was a tie win between David B and Yacov.

Well, the other player, a friend of Yacov's, Sharon, showed up during the above, and Ben and Nadine left. Since we weren't sure how late we wanted to stay up, I broke out the even lighter games of David and Goliath and Take 6. We played 2 games of D&G, which gets more interesting, as I learn the strategies. I and David K each took a game. Sharon liked it so much, she said she wanted to pick up a copy when next she is in the states. Take 6 was after Yacov left, and I took that one. Most of our Take 6 games end up being a slaughter by one person, and this one was no exception. Sharon expressed interest in returning, so hear hear.

I am looking into plans to have an Israeli gaming convention. Anyone interested in attending or helping out is welcome to contact me.