Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 28, 2007

Participants: Jon, Adam, David K, Gili, Tal

A light and short Pre-Passover game night.


Adam 57, David 56, Jon 51

After posting our first session reports to the Geek, and getting encouragement to try this again, I decided to try this again.

As I'd said in the last report, I thought it was good, but believed there might be some problems. In particular, it seems that the museum basically gets jammed in the first round or two, and after that it becomes unplayable - as do the brown cards that let you put pieces there.

According to the Geek, this is group-think on our part. Apparently, other groups take the cards in the first round, and then use the brown abilities in the second and third rounds. I find it hard to believe that this is a successful strategy. As I mentioned, this is one of those NxM games, where you need a balance of both N and M.

A 5 point cube in the museum times 5 cards is superior to 20 cards with no cubes in the museum. And cards are in plentiful supply, while museum space is not. That means a rush to the museum, no matter how you slice it.

As far as the variable worth of the cards in the later rounds, that makes the game less interesting rather than more interesting, because there is less competition for specific cards. All in all, something doesn't quite hand together right.

In our game, the first round saw no brown cards at all, so there was no question about rushing to the museum. Somehow, David managed to get 3 out of the 5 prime spaces, leaving 1 each to Adam and me.

David and Adam kept passing before I was ready to quit, leaving me extra cubes and not enough actions to use them.

Adam, however, took many more high-scoring tiles. David had freer choice of what to go for in the last round, but he needed to catch up. He could have, but on the very last move of the game he chose the wrong tile, giving Adam a complete set of 5 colors, which was enough to give him the win.

Taj Mahal

David 51, Jon 48, Gili 46, Adam 24

This may look like close scores, but it wasn't really. I took a commanding early lead, while David reinforced his hand round after round. From round 7 and on, he dominated commodities. I couldn't let him take them too easily, so I had to fight him a little, which resulted in both of us draining cards, with him draining slightly faster than me. But it wasn't enough.

he overtook me round 8 or so; by round 10, I knew I had no way to win. Meanwhile, Gili was keeping close pace behind me, but just far enough behind. After the twelfth round, she lay down the largest point hand I've ever seen in the game: 12 points. Which was almost enough to catch me.

Adam was trailing behind, knowing he couldn't catch up, which is one of the slight flaws of the game.


Jon/Tal 230, David/Adam 70

We played two hands of this, but David and Adam had to leave early. In the first game, no one called Tichu and we all seemed to have pretty bad hands. In the second round I got back almost exactly what I passed and no one called Tichu again. This time, Tal and I managed to both go out first.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 21, 2007

Participants: Jon, Ben, Binyamin, Zack, Elijah, David Barren, Adam, Gili, Nadine, Dylan

David wraps up his last visit to the JSGC and returns to America next Tuesday. Thanks for joining us!


Binyamin 5, Ben 21, David 22, Zack 34, Jon "many"

First play for David and Ben. Binyamin had made me a mockup of this and I needed a filler game while waiting for the stragglers to come in. Still a nice quick game. I somehow lost control of my tokens and swallowed a lot of bad cards.

Blue Moon City

Zack+, Binyamin, Jon, Nadine

First play for all of us. BMC is a board game based on the card game Blue Moon, which none of use had played, either.

There is some story about rebuilding a city and seven races with different abilities and so on, but essentially it is an area control game. You control areas by moving to them and playing the cards of the same color as the area. Simultaneously, you can use the cards for their special abilities, such as moving further, changing card colors, gaining "scales", and so on.

Each time you complete an area, all players who contributed to the area gain the value of the area plus a bonus for all areas completed nearby. First place in the area also collects a bonus.

Furthermore, any time you build you can get "scales" if a dragon is on your area. Whenever all the scales are collected, bonuses are given to the one with the most and all who have at least three. The scales are returned and you start collecting them again.

Eventually, you convert your collected points into cubes on the big tower, and the first to place four cubes on the big tower wins.

It is yet another one of those "get this to get that to get the third thing" games, ala Caylus, as well as having to match cards to claim areas ala Ticket to Ride or Alhambra.

The game is nicely progressive and interesting enough, and most importantly, quick enough. That's Knizia for you.

Undoubtedly there are some strategies to use in this game, such as which areas to go for first, whether to share in many areas or steal areas all to yourself, and whether to use up your cards early or try to save up. Most of us emptied our cards early.

I can't tell you after one playing why Zack won. All of us had three cubes on the tower when he got his fourth.


Dylan++, Jon

While waiting for my turn to come up in BMC, I taught Dylan how to play Dvonn and he beat me twice in a row.

Tigris and Euphrates

Gili 7, Adam 6, David 5, Ben/Jon 5

First play for David. Ben was very unhappy after losing a few conflicts he initiated, nor about lacking green and red tiles throughout the game. He also wasn't open-minded about varying his strategy. After BMC and Dvonn finished, I stepped in to his place. He had no green cubes and few cubes in other colors, and he had one treasure.

I through out all his tiles and picked up a green and red. Then I placed a monument for Green and Blue. I didn't worry about the Blue, letting someone else take it, since I was more concerned with boosting my own score. After two turns, I was already up to 4.

Unfortunately, people kept handing Gili 5 point conflict victories in various colors. And she had been losing until now, too. On my last turn, I made it to 5 points and I tried to end the game through a conflict by tossing out 4 tiles. Unfortunately again, I should have just tossed out all my tiles, as I was one tile short of ending the game, which let Gili have one more turn.

Either way, I wasn't going to win, but I did pretty well considering my starting position.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Elijah+, Zack

Zack was fresh off of his victory in BMC, but he rarely wins this game against Elijah.


Zack/Elijah 335, Adam/Gili 265

They played three hands. Elijah and Zack took the lead in the first hand, and then the next two hands were 300 point swings either way.


Zack+, Elijah

Zack wanted to play, and Elijah fought to the bitter end.


Jon, Dylan, Adam, David, Elijah, Zack

We played two games, one with me Master, and one with Dylan master. My rule was "All objects pointing different directions" which stymied them for a good number of round. Dylan eventually guessed it.

Dylan then stymied everyone else (I was off playing Bridge) and had to reveal the rule when I kicked everyone out for the evening. His rule was "A prime number of pips", which Adam cried foul, saying that even if he thought of that he would hev rejected it as too complicated.


Nadine/Zack|Jon, Ben/Binyamin

We sure seem to be playing more and more Bridge. They taught Zack how to play, and then he went over to Zendo while I filled in for him.

Nadine and I had most of the hands, although nothing extravagant. I played 4 out of 5 of them.

The Menorah Game

Jon 46, Dylan 36

Dylan 52, Jon 40

I taught Dylan this. Unfortunately, he's not much into auction games.


Jon++, Dylan

I also taught (or re-taught) Dylan this. As he is a smart fellow, I simply gave him first move on a 9 by 9 board. The first game was rather close, but in the second he made a serious mistake which let me live on a large section of the board.

Great Game.


Dylan+, Jon

I almost never get to play this deceptively simple and under-appreciated game. I figured Dylan would be willing. We played while simultaneously playing Zendo.

I made a small mistake (are there any others in Checkers?) which prevented me from keeping parity with his jumps. Once ahead, he was able to corner me into resigning.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 14, 2007

Participants: Jon, David K, Nadine, Ben, Binyamin, Adam, Elijah, Zack

Binyamin returns after being absent for a few weeks.

San Juan

Jon 47, David 38

I picked up David on the way home from work so we had a few extra minutes to play before the others arrived. David asked to play this.

I started with Builder/Tobacco, while David played Prefecture. While Prefecture is a great building, he made the mistake that most Prefecture players make which is taking Counselor at every opportunity, leaving me Builder or Prospector every round.

Despite his counseling, I still managed to get a Library out a few rounds before he did. By mid-game, I was essentially up a building. He also dropped a bunch of utility buildings mid-to-end game on his City Hall, while I was dropping Silvers on my Guild Hall. My Palace sealed it.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben+ (Obverse, Industrialist, Pacifist), Binyamin (Berserker, Virus, Zombie), Elijah (Symbiote, Sniveler, Worm), Adam (Amoeba, Vampire, Clone)

If I say that a lot of weirdness happened in this game, it won't surprise you, because it's Cosmic, after all.

The first problem was the large amount of time they spent deciding how the play would work, lobbying for and against Lucre, comets, moons, etc. In the end, Ben won this battle. To balance this, they ended up each playing three powers each, where two powers were active at any one time, and the third rotated in if you won a challenge.

Unfortunately for Ben, his "out" power was Pacifist, his in powers were Industrialist and Obverse, and his hand consisted of three Compromises, a 0, and a 6. Despite this, he managed to win the game. Apparently, he used Wild Trader to gain his fifth base, and then, as he was under attack, he used Wild Antimatter to essentially end the challenge.

But the weirdest part of the evening was reserved for Elijah and his Symbiote. The Symbiote is the power that gives you twenty additional pieces, which count for all purposes, but not for establishing foreign bases for the win.

The first problem was when Elijah played the Wild Schizoid. I ruled that the hexes change, but the Symbiote pieces still remain Elijahs where they now reside. This immediately gave him five foreign bases, although none of them counted towards the win. I considered a number of other possible rulings, but none of them seemed to work.

This resulted in all other players immediately ganging up on Elijah, so that he couldn't get the opportunity he needed to simply rearrange his pieces onto those foreign bases and immediately win.

The next problem was when Elijah lost his power and Binyamin played Wild Crystal, which lets him rearrange all tokens in a system. The problem is that the Symbiote power is written poorly. It says that the tokens may not be moved if you lose your power. This would seem to imply that even if others try to move or destroy the tokens or the planet, these tokens cannot be sent to the warp. I found this to be ridiculous, and I ruled that they cannot be moved "by you".

Power Grid

David 18, Jon 17, Nadine 16, Zack 15

We played on northern Germany.

In this game, we were truly at the mercy of the luck of the power plant flips, which made me wonder that there couldn't be a better power plant system. The only other alternative I can think of simply makes you vulnerable to the decision of whatever the guy before you does, which is no better.

This kind of swings the game too much, in my opinion.

The remainder of the game is still enjoyable, if you like this sort of thing. In the last few games that these guys played, the fuel was constantly running out. Therefore, they were in the habit of always buying as much as they can, which, of course, meant that the fuel kept running out.

On my first turn, I got the hybrid plant, and I bought only a single piece of fuel. I figured, both oil and coal weren't going to run out so quickly, so I'll just buy whatever is cheapest next time.

Owing to my decision, and my gentle persuasion, I convinced most of the other players to do the same. As a result, fuel prices all stayed very low the whole game, with coal and oil in the 1's for much of the game.

David found himself cornered at the beginning of the game. It looked near the end that I was going to win it, but with some collective help, we found the cities that David needed to build to eke out the victory in the last round.


Adam/Elijah 495, David/Zack 205

They played 6 hands. They were neck and neck until the last hand, when Adam pulled off a Tichu and then Elijah went out, giving them a 300 point boost.


Ben 1990, Jon 1810, Nadine 1610, Binyamin 850

We played with the following rules:

- 12 hands, switch partners after 4 hands.
- Each 4 hand round is No Vul, Dealer Vul, Dealer Vul, All Vul.
- Scoring is duplicate standard, assigned to each player in the pair.

My first partnership was with Nadine. We made a partial and set Ben 2 tricks in a slam they shouldn't have been in.

I then played with Binyamin. We made a game, but I went down in a game that I could have made with a whole lot of luck and cross-ruffing. Instead I tried a finesse which didn't work, combined with a 3-1 trump split.

In the last set, I played with Ben. At this point Ben was behind Nadine and needed a good 300 points or so to beat her. Neither Binyamin nor I could win, but that's not what Bridge is about, anyway.

Unfortunately for Ben, Binyamin began by making 4+1 in clubs, and then setting us 2 tricks in a some game. Ben was now down 600 or so points.

I bid and made a game. It was one of those hands where I had exactly matching distribution and I was missing three aces, and there was nothing to be done one way or another. Makes 4 all day.

This put us still back 200 points, which meant that we still needed a game (or to take them down many tricks) to win. With one hand remaining, Ben decided to go for broke bidding 3 NT when I had 6 clubs and 4 diamonds, and neither of us had bid the majors.

They had 5 tricks off the top if they would have played them, but it was hard for them to see it. Instead, Binyamin led a diamond into my ace-king. Ben had exactly 8 tricks, managed to steal a ninth, and simply gave them the rest. That moved me into second place.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Elijah++, Zack

Elijah won two games, first playing White and then Black.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

March 7, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Zack, Adam, David K, Gili

A light game group tonight.


When I first got home, I found Nadine waiting, and together we did a lot of cutting and drawing to try out my new prototype. Eventually five of us gave it a go. However, the components were so crude, and the crowd so not into trying a new prototype, that we didn't even get through the rules before they made me start some example rounds. And we only got through one round before they wanted to try a real game.

Which doesn't mean that they didn't see potential, only that it wasn't the right time for it. Nadine and David both said that it looked like it might be interesting. I will have to make some nicer components and try again.

Power Grid

David+, Zack, Nadine

Once again they were plum out of both oil and coal for most of the game. Zack eventually had a garbage plant and was happy. David was surprised when he won.

Children of Fire: the Board Game

Adam 10, Jon 6, Elijah 6, Gili 5

We tried this area control game again. It still appears to be a flawed game with a nice core and good theme. The game began to drag on, and we called it quits after 12 rounds.

I began the game by saying that we have to impose a turn limit, which is what I learned last time we played. I think 10 turns is probably about right. Adam, on the other hand, favors devaluing the points from the masses tokens.


Adam, Zack, Elijah

All three love the game. Zack and Adam each had a turn being the Master, and both guessed the other's rule.


Jon(C)+++, David(R)

David began to have a bad night at this point. He built his runner deck out of my pathetic 60 cards, and each time he couldn't draw a sentry ice-breaker to save his life. He gave up three games in a row, once after his first turn.

I'm afraid that this left him with a bad taste about the game. If the game is so dependent on drawing the right ice breakers, it's not fun to play when you don't. I wonder if this is solved simply by tuning the deck with more cards, or if we just have to stack one or two ice breakers on top to make the game enjoyable.

By Hook or By Crook

Adam, Elijah, Zack

I didn't see the results of this game.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon(W)+, David(B)

From one ignominious defeat to another. David had only played this a time or two before, and so didn't think through the implications of some of his card play. After falling to two piece behind, he gave up in disgust, to fight another day.

Some days are just like that.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

February 28, 2007

Participants: Jon, David K, Nadine, Adam, Elijah, Zack, Ben, Gili, Josh, Idit

I had had enough of work by mid-day, so I invited David to join me a bit early. In this way, we were able to get in a few games before game night actually started.


Jon (Runner)+, David (Corp)

David and I are beginning to grasp the game, and only twice needed to look in the rulebook. I was able to grasp the possibilities of a few cards that David had overlooked when he was Runner last.

Only this game did I grok that accessing traps can hurt you, even if they are accessed from HQ or R&D. That was a fun lesson.

I made many fast and furious runs on HQ and R&D until David put enough Ice in place, and even then I kept doing it whenever he didn't have enough bits to rez the Ice. My runs on HQ were spectacularly unsuccessful, but my runs on R&D eventually gave me the win, although it was close.

Both of us lamented that what seemed to be missing from the game were "Instants" like there are in Magic. If I'm making a run, there is nothing the Corp can do about it by playing special cards from his hand. This eliminates a bit of the tension in the game.


Jon+, David

I introduced this to David, who spent a long time calculating each move. I took an early lead with a forced swap that gave me two jumps to his one; I probably won't get away with that again in a future game.

After that, we did some swapping, but I was able to get the better colors, until I needed only a single gray or white ball to win, while he still needed at least two more balls to win. He conceded.

I still like the game a lot.


Jon+, Nadine+

While waiting for David to make his moves in Zertz, I played a few games of this as a filler. We played two racks, both of which had a paucity of words. I came up with about 7 words in the first game, two of which Nadine didn't have. The second rack was about tied, with Nadine having maybe one more word.

Louis XIV

Jon 60, Elijah 43, Adam

I think this is my first win for Louis, and it was not only a win but a massacre. This was Adam's second game, and he needed a refreshing of the rules.

It started out innocently enough, with me slightly behind after the first round, even. I had only managed one mission, while Adam and Elijah both had two. However, I had gained a slew of peripheral items from the previous round, including coats-of-arms, ax extra influence card, money, and an influence marker on the board. This allowed me to dominate the second round. At the end of it, Adam couldn't complete a single mission, Elijah could complete only one, and I completed two.

I ended the second round the same as the first, with tons of peripherals, and this time I was last in the bidding order. I ended up with three additional moves after all the other players had placed. Adam and Elijah both went to four missions, while I was at seven. The game was already over at that point.

In the end, I ended with a hand full of coats-of-arms, too, to add insult to injury.

Power Grid

Ben 17+, David 17-, Zack 16, Gili 16

They played on the East and Central coast, which are the cheapest areas. A glance in mid-game revealed that their fuel market was nearly exhausted, or completely exhausted, the entire game.

As usual, a close game, with the win decided on a tie (not my favorite mechanism, actually). The game took around three and a half hours, as people added and added again near the end of the game (also not my favorite mechanism).

Puerto Rico

Nadine 41, Josh 36, Idit 31

Nadine taught Idit how to play, and this was Josh's fourth game. Apparently, they all enjoyed it. Idit didn't have any large buildings at the end of the game, and her settlements were nearly all corn and sugar, a result of some Hacienda activity.


Adam (master), Jon, Elijah

Adam didn't have the Icehouse pieces, so we played "Sentence Zendo". Adam wrote a sentence that was, and a sentence that wasn't. We went through about a dozen sentences, and I had no idea.

Elijah and I started guessing "sentences" that were not grammatically correct, and even simply words, which seemed to annoy Adam, who said that we really should only be allowed to guess real sentences.

I was thinking two structurally - number of words or letters, and so on - when it turns out that the rule was that the sentence have "something to do with nature".

The Menorah Game

Adam+, Nadine, Jon

We were casting about for some fillers. I suggested this and both of them agreed well enough.

Both of them prefer the basic game. Nadine was a little bored at the end of it, however, I think. But it's quick.

I still like it a lot.

San Juan

Adam, Nadine, Jon

We only made it partially through the game and then broke for Bridge. I had nothing better to open with, so I decided to give Crane another try, despite being nearly 100% positive that it is a wretched, wretched card. Why? It turns all of your 2 and 3 VP cards into 1 or 2 VP cards, and it also destroys all the VPs you get from having more buildings at the end of the game.

In my game, I turned my Indigo into Coffee, and then debated on whether to turn it into Silver or Library on round three. I chose Library. This netted me an additional card from Prospector every round, but in the meantime, Nadine and Adam were gaining 4 cards each every two rounds from Production and Trading, while I had no production buildings at all.

When I finally got out a Tobacco building, we abandoned the game. Eh; I might still have won.


David/Jon, Ben/Nadine

We played five hands of this. It is so sublime a game, that we don't really keep score. We simply zen the experience.

I had fairly few points, but David had good hands. He ended up playing three of the five hands (making one of them, I believe).


Adam+++, Zack

Adam taught Zack how to play this on a 9x9 board, and then they played three games. Adam spotted him first four, then five, then six stones, which gives you an idea of how they turned out.

Cosmic Encounter

Elijah, Josh, Idit

Elijah's favorite game, was a game that Josh wanted Idit to learn, anyway. I have no further info on how it turned out, or what powers they played. I know that they played with Lucre and (against my advice, as usual) comets.

I heard some good news and some bad news from Josh and Idit. The good news is that they're engaged (Mazal Tov). The bad news is that they are returning to the U.S. indefinitely in May and getting married there. Oh well.