Thursday, February 22, 2007

February 21, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Josh (*), Adam, Gili, Zack, Binyamin, Dylan, Genia, David K, David E

Nadine opened up game night, as I arrived late again. A new player, Josh, joined us for his first visit. Josh has been playing games in Jerusalem for quite some time, but only managed to make his first visit tonight. Dylan and Ganya also made a return after some absence. David E is one of my friends from Beit Shemesh, who happened to be around this evening and joined us for some Bridge.

I didn't take any notes, and not only forgot the details, but even the games we played. As usual, there were the various false starts as people jockeyed for the games they wanted.

I'll fill in what I remember, and others will fill in what they remember later.


A commenter helped me find the name of this game. It might have been one of the expansions.

Nadine adds:

We played history fluxx or whatever it's called, the historical assumptions
are interesting but the play was confusing.

Power Grid

David K, Nadine, Zack, Elijah

Nadine adds:

David won. He did a good job and was ahead throughout. He had a capacity of 17 most of the game, while Zach and I were stuck at 16; we had both passed on the last 6 plant that David got. When we finally reached Step 3, I was second to bid, but there were no 6 or 7 plants so I passed. Zach was last, and one of the few 6 plants came up, letting him power 17. So he tied with David, who won it on money. Which is excellent for Zach's first play of this game. There was not a lot of competitive bidding for plants, many good ones were taken at cost by the last person. Elijah had a lot of free power and tons of money, but not enough capacity.


Jon, Binyamin

This was my fourth game of Zertz, and it was the first game I played with any real seriousness. Binyamin and I thought things through in various directions, and made various exchanges. Each turn was carefully considered.

As the game rolled to a close, Binyamin needed either a white or gray stone to win, while I needed either a gray or black stone. And then we hit a situation not described in the rules.

This was surprising, since Kris writes his rules very well, and his games are designed with elegance. He even adds rules for special infrequent situations that may come up. Unfortunately, he missed this one.

In our game, Binyamin was able to place a stone but not remove a disk; all the disks were interior to the board. So, the balls were not isolated, but he was also unable to complete his turn. We didn't know if that meant that he should remove a disk, even though he couldn't slide it out, or if he didn't remove a disk at all. Of course, one way I would win, and the other way he would win.

The game was still an excellent game, aside from this quirk.

Update: Ah ha. I thought Kris wouldn't have overlooked this. From the rules:
However, it may occur that you cannot remove any of the vacant rings without disturbing the position of the other rings. In this case you must not remove a ring (i.e. your move ends after having placed a marble).
Thanks, Kris.

Cosmic Encounter

Dylan adds:

Josh - Warpish/Macron; Dylan - Vampire/Bully,Gambler; Genia - Vacuum/Clone; Adam - Vulch/Wrack +?

Adam sort of won. I got a very near first turn win by playing a demon flare to force Adam to cede me two bases, plus one I gained from allying with Josh on the first turn, and one I gained in my first challenge. I lost the second challenge by a near margin, and it all went downhill from there.

It was a rather weird power game, with most of us forgetting or being unable to use their powers - I forgot about Vampire and Bully (I used a Pentaform flare to swap them); Genia never got a high card to clone; Adam forgot or chose not to use Wrack and very few edicts were played for Vulch; and Josh's Macron powers paled in comparison to his Warpish. We went several rounds without any Warp Breaks or Mobius Tubes, and Warpish reached something like +40 to his strength before Adam finally got a Mobius Tubes.

Other strange things happened - I drew tons of cards because all I kept drawing were flares instead of attack cards, though I did get both the 30 and the 40. Josh barely got any cards, because nobody would attack him with his Warpish bonuses.

In the end, Adam sort of won - in that, he used a flare to win his last challenge, which Genia canceled. But we thought Genia's card only worked on edicts, so it passed and he won. Only after we started picking up did I read Genia's card and noticed that it said edicts or flares.

I think the game would have played very differently if everyone had been paying more attention (like forgetting about power usage, as noted above). A lot of fun, regardless.

Stephenson's Rocket

Jon 89, Gili 81, Binyamin 78

I like train games, so I thought this would be a no-brainer. Gili was also willing to give it a try.

Unfortunately, as the rules were explained, I began to get a sinking feeling. This was a Knizia game, through and through. It wasn't about trains, it was about points and set-collection. As the rules explanation wore on, I began to think "Acquire" done by Knizia.

Now, Knizia is brilliant, of course, and makes great games, sometimes. But you have to be in the mind set for him.

Worse yet, as the game progressed, it began to look more like "Acquire done by Knizia, but not quite finished". Leaving aside the mismatch between theme and mechanics, there were just a whole lot of mechanics which felt awkward. As usual, this may very well be because we played wrong or read the rules wrong.

One, moving the train and then putting the track behind it is annoying, especially when you have to pick up a station and place the track under it. That doesn't feel right. Two, when tracks merge, there is no way to indicate this, and trying to visualize it is made difficult by the track patterns that don't actually connect.

Three, the passenger mechanic, where you get a passenger if you connect to someone else's station, didn't feel right. Neither did the good chips, which were simply set-collection that perforce dominated the first part of the game.

Also, we kept bidding one share when someone else proposed to lay a track just to make them lose a share. It was so easy and cost essentially nothing.

Now, many of the above could simply be a result of first play inexperience. Maybe we just didn't value things properly. But the entire experience, so thematically promising, turned out to be rather dull in the end. Move collect money, move collect money. Collect lots of money. Gili was bored to tears. I was rather unengaged, myself.

I will have to read the rules myself to see if we missed something.

In our game, I quickly realized that it was not worth fighting for things with other people because there were so many other ways to win points. As a result, Gili and Binyamin fought a smidge more than I did, and I walked away with a relatively easy victory.

Update: The only rules we appear to have gotten wrong is: Stations may not be placed on towns, cities, or tracks, nor adjacent to locomotives or existing stations.

Grave Robbers From Outer Space


Jon, David E, Nadine, Binyamin

After Stephenson's rocket, I went out for a few minutes and returned and sat down with a deck of cards. Others who were lightly playing a few other light card games that Josh had brought left and joined me for a few hands of Bridge.

David E and I have a special bidding system, which I essentially remember, but we didn't get to use it much, as we only played two hands.

Nadine adds:

Jon and Binyamin made 4 Spades, bid 2
Jon and David made 4 Spades, bid 4
Nadine and Binyamin made 3 NT, bid 3

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 14, 2007

Participants: Jon, Eyal, Elijah, Zack, Nadine, Adam, David K, Shevi, Gili, Binyamin, Rachel A

Rachel and I were a little late with dinner again, so Eyal sat around a bit while we ate. After that we taught him how to play Puerto Rico without actually playing. We also almost played Geschenkt.


Adam 148, Shevi 147, Elijah 115, Eyal 97

A game of outright lying and deal-breaking. Shevi had an opportunity to win at the end of the game but didn't take it because she considered the basic mechanics of the game to be cheating.

Wild Life

Zack 98, Jon 93, David 89, Nadine 85

Every time people come to the game group they clamor for the games that they want to play. Zack always wants to play Wild Life, Elijah always wants to play Cosmic Encounter, Adam always wants to play Modern Art, and so on.

When people don't agree on games, they then start hashing out what they are willing to play, but constantly change their commitments as they hear of new possibilities. It only proves that we should never play any outright negotiation games.

In this instance, we managed to cure Zack of his Wild Life obsession. Even with only four people, the game took three and a half hours. And it wasn't on my turns that the time went on (I took an extra minute for my last move, but that was all).

Frankly, after all the thinking by some people, and lack of thinking by me, the game progressed rather evenly. Nadine believes that the card draw is too luck dependent. I suggested that next time we divide the cards evenly among all players, letting them pick ala Torres.

Zack was finally tired of the game and just wanted it to end. But he said it was better with more players (5 or 6) since there was more competition that way.

Nadine adds:

On luck in Wildlife - the same as with many games of this type - with skilled players who know the game and optimize, luck, such as with cards, is more of a differentiator than play ability. And there don't seem to be different strategies, it's tactical, where most people would do the same thing in the same situation, unlike Puerto Rico where there's more worthwhile variability.


Jon+, Binyamin

While I played Wild Life, I taught Binyamin how to play, and, like others in the game group, abstracts are not his thing. I gained a white ball advantage, and forced a few more exchanges, gaining whites each time for the win.


Gili+, Binyamin

Then Gili taught Binyamin this game. I don't think they finished it, but Gili was in the lead.

Settlers of Catan

Shevi+, Eyal, Gili

I didn't see this one.

Tigris and Euphrates

Binyamin 9, Adam 6, Elijah 4

I didn't see this one, either. Binyamin apparently had 9 in all colors.

Cosmic Encounter

Binyamin (Siren, Ethic)+, Elijah (Dragon, Pacifist)+, Zack (Entrepreneur, Grief), Adam (Extortionist, Delegator)

Another I didn't see. Apparently, Binyamin and Elijah compromised their way with each other several times to a double win.


David (Runner)+, Jon (Corp)

This time the game went more smoothly. We both removed cards from our basic decks to bring us down to minimum sized decks. We only had to look up one rule about Nodes.

David ran my R&D once, and then pulled agendas from my HQ three times to win. I managed to get two agendas fulfilled, so it was a close game.

David became a little disenchanted with the game after realizing that winning is partly due to luck, since running is so often blind - on hidden cards, and pulling cards at random out of HQ.

While of course there is a little luck in this, I still think that it is on par with, or even less of a problem than, the luck in Magic. So I am still quite enamored with the game. David is now asking to move onto the next CCG, Middle Earth.

[David: Two comments. First, Jon doesn't emphasize just how lucky I got in order to win. Though on one of my runs on HQ Jon had two agendas, typically HQ should average about one agenda out of 5 (rough estimate). So the chance of my getting three agendas from 4 runs is about one in 30. More to the point, the expected number of agendas one should pull on a run is 0.2, but the standard deviation is 0.4, twice as large as the expectation. That is why I say that there is so much luck involved. Magic also has luck in which cards get drawn, but NetRunner has the same luck in that regard, plus the enormous amount of luck involved in random runs.]

Puerto Rico

Eyal 53, Rachel 48+, Nadine 48-

This was Eyal's first game, so Nadine gave her usual tips and helps along the way. Eyal's novice moves threw Rachel off of her game. Between the two of these events, Eyal managed a newbie win.

Nadine adds:

I didn't give my usual tips and help along the way to Eyal. I had time to explain the game beforehand, and he understands games. I told him to ask if he had questions. Both Rachel and I restrained ourselves, even when he let me trade sugar early instead of forcing me to ship. But when I was going to have the opportunity to trade coffee, we explained to him what was going on, but at that point he didn't stop me because it would have caused him to lose goods. Most of the time he figured out the best role for himself. He did Craft somewhat frequently, but with 3 player it benefits both players more than in 4 or 5 player.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

February 07, 2007

Participants: Nadine, Zack, Elijah, Binyamin, David R, David K, Ben, Jon, Adam, Gili, Rachel A

Tonight's most unusual feature was that I was unable to make it home until 8 or so, and no one else was home either, so I left the door open and asked Nadine to be in charge until I got there. When I got back, everyone was happily playing and had even managed to order food without my assistance, which only goes to prove that they can do these things without my help.

As it happens, after I got home I was unable to join a game for over an hour. But I was kept busy answering both rules questions and strategy tips for the entire hour. Well, it's nice to be needed for some thing, I guess.

Tonight was David R's second visit, but he now returns to the U.S. Thanks for joining us, David.


Dwarves: Nadine, Zack, Binyamin+, Saboteurs: David R, Elijah

I'm impressed that the dwarves were able to overcome the 3 to 2 odds to win.

Magic: The Gathering

Binyamin(B)+, David R(R), David K(G), Ben(W), Adam(U)

This game of rainbow magic took some time to play. Binyamin and Adam are still newbies to the game, and there was some intense negotiation going on. Adam started off the game with an enchantment that caused all players to play with revealed hands. And Binyamin kept throwing out things like Pestilence and destroying every creature in play.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Nadine+, Zack, Gili, Elijah/Rachel A

The consensus is that this is really too long and boring compared to other games that can be played in a similar amount of time. While no longer my favorite, I disagree, and think it is still a good four player game, at least for a hundred plays or so.

Rachel had to take over when Elijah had to leave.


David K(Corp)+, Jon(Runner)

Not the number of games played with unequal forces tonight. First Saboteur, then Magic, now Netrunner. There's certainly something appealing about these when they are done well.

This is David and my third play at the game, and the first time that we actually made it through the game to its finish. Even so, we are still very unclear on many of the rules, such as rezzing Nodes and advancing Agendas and so on.

David loves the game, and says that it may have even more room for depth than Magic, although he has played Magic so often that it may simply be that he's too familiar with it. I think it's about the same level, probably. It's truly a very neat game. It appears to be overly restrictive in how the points work, being solely based around agenda cards. And the game appears to end rather early at only 7 points.

So far, all of our plays have been with untuned decks, straight out of the starter boxes playing sixty cards each. At the end of the evening, I sent David home with the Runner deck, and we're both going to try to come to the next game with at least semi-tuned decks.

We're on the lookout to buy a few more starter boxes, if you know where we can find some at a good price.


Jon+, Ben

I wanted to play this one more time, and I introduced it to Ben. He didn't get the tactics down on his first play, which gave me an easy win. A series of forced exchanges gave me four white balls.

I liked the game even more than last time. I hope it holds up.

Princes of Florence

Ben 61, David R 55, Adam 50, Binyamin 50

Another play for this classic. This was the first play for David R, and he appears to have played well enough.


Jon-David K 590, Zack-Nadine/Adam 210

Technically, this is another game of which we have never actually finished an entire game. We simply play a few hands at the end of the evening when we have four players.

In this game, we played four hands. I called Tichu three times and made them all. Zack called on the last round and made his. As Adam pointed out, it's a curious fact that it makes no difference whether you or one of your opponent's calls Tichu, as the rewards and losses are the same either way; so long as someone calls it.

Nadine wasn't sure that she liked the game any more, claiming that it was too random.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

January 31, 2007

Participants: Jon, David R, Elijah, Binaymin, Nadine, Adam, Zack, Eyal

David R is an American in Israel on the Birthright program; actually,
he extended his visit after the program for a few months. He was happy
to find a game group in Jerusalem, and we are happy to have him over.

Attendance was fairly light this evening, but we had a good time.

The Menorah Game

Jon+, David R

It's always my pleasure to introduce new players to the game, even if
only two players and even if playing the basic version.

For Sale

Elijah 91, Zack 75, Nadine 73

This is not one of Nadine's favorites, but she gamely played it as a
filler game.


Jon+, Adam

Adam had been practicing, going to the Go club and reading up on Go
strategy and the like, which gave him even more of an advantage than
usual. Furthermore, I haven't really graduated from the 11x11 board,
yet, but Adam wanted to play 13x13.

I'm pretty lost on a 13x13 board. As a result, Adam gave me two stones
to start with. While I'm not an expert on Go, I'm still a fairly strong
tactical game player.

As a result, and combined with the fact that we wanted to play quickly
so that we could join others in a larger game, Adam made a few mistakes
in play which I was able to exploit, while I only made one major error
(that I noticed).

Adam resigned when it was obvious to him that he would lose the last
major corner he needed to compete.

Wall of China

David R 42, Binyamin 40, Eyal 38

Another filler game played before the main games, I didn't see what
happened and I don't know the game. It appeared to be one where the
theme was not relevant to the gameplay.


Binyamin 57, Adam 34, Elijah 31, Eyal 30

I taught them all how to play and they all appeared to enjoy it. With
a bit more strategy information than I had about the museum, the
resulting control of the museum was more evenly distributed among the
players, and therefore appeared to me to be heading to a close game.

This was obviously not the case, however. Apparently Binyamin was able
to pull every five-point tile he needed, and collect sets. I don't know
what happened with all the other players.

El Grande

Nadine 125, Jon 111, Zack 75, David R 66

Speaking of runaway winners, we taught this game to Zack and David.
Nadine took a commanding lead already by the end of the first scoring
round, around 15 points ahead of the rest of us in a pack. By the end
of the second scoring round she was 30 points ahead of me, and I was
around 20 points ahead of Zack and David R.

Partially this was owing to Nadine dropping single cubes in five areas
and then moving the King in the first round of play, and partially it
was due to a lot of clashing for second place which left Nadine taking
first place and no one at all taking second - a lot of wasted resources.

We seriously considered resigning, but Nadine wanted to play it out,
and the game is still enjoyable even when you're losing, although
obviously a bit discouraging for all that.

Nadine took interim scoring between scoring rounds two and three which
put her even further ahead. But my continuous and directed assault on
her positions, ultimately futile, were doing good damage. I managed to
catch up 30 points on her by the end score, which was much better than
I had anticipated.


Jon 113, Zack 111, Nadine 103, Eyal 102

Another non-favorite of Nadine's, this is still a favorite of mine. We
played for the first time with the optional oases, which didn't add very
much to the game, but neither did it hurt the game in any way.

The water irrigation was plentiful and abundant in our game, so that the
water carrier wasn't making much money and points were high. Only one
field dried out at the very beginning of the game, and only two other
fields lost any cubes at all the rest of the game.

Fields were large and contiguous. Zack managed a great play of singly
occupying two separated potato fields and then connecting them while
I was busy with a large pea field. It netted him 70 points for that
field alone.

Cosmic Encounter

Elijah/Jon+, David+, Binaymin, Adam

Elijah had to go near the end of the game and Nadine briefly took over
after which I took over. Eyal had begun learning the game near the
beginning, but he switched to Santiago and gave David his seat in
return. That was a good switch, I think, as there was too much English
for Eyal, and it was more the type of game that David has experience
with I think.

They played two powers each and a few comets (which I detest). I
inherited a position where everyone had four bases. After being briefly
thwarted for the win by Binyamin who Filthed a planet, bringing me back
down to four bases, I captured the win on the next challenge with the
joint assistance of David.

Only after Binyamin went home did he write me an email saying that we
forgot that David also lost his fourth base on the Filthed planet, and
therefore he had only four bases at the end to my five, and therefore
wouldn't have allied with me if we had noticed/remembered this. Ah