Thursday, April 26, 2007

April 25, 2007

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

This week we had to say goodbye to Josh and Idit, on their way to Boston for the next few years. Boston game players, do find them a home. Thanks.

David brought back Apples to Apples Jewish edition, which he said worked as well as the regular edition, and he would choose if he had to choose between them.


Jon, Zack, Elijah, Nadine

Vulkan is a game played using the components from Feurio, a game that I really didn't like. In fact, my review was so negative, that the author of the game, Heinrich Glumpler, wrote to me and asked me to try this game instead. All you need is Feurio and the rules to Vulkan, the latter of which is available as a free download.

In Vulkan, all the tiles are laid out in any sort of shape (a Settlers of Catan configuration seems about right, but you can just start playing at the end of a game of Feurio). One tile is turned over to be the volcano.

On your turn, you "fly" over the fire, dropping water. In other words, you place yuor pieces on all tiles in a straight line. You can't fly over the volcano.

Any hexes that are now filled are scored. The person with the majority in the hex scores the hex; in the case of a tie, the current player scores it, even if he or she is not involve in the tie.

These hexes are removed from the board. If this creates any isolated ares no longer connected to the volcano, these hexes are also scored, and empty ones collected by the current player.

If you run out of pieces, you can no longer take a turn. The game ends when all players have run out of pieces.

The biggest change in this game from Feurio is that there is no luck. This makes the game a simple abstract puzzle, which takes no more than 5 to 10 minutes to play. The decisions are clear and meaningful. It was fun - or at least would have been if I wasn't still reading the rules while we were playing. In any case, it is light-years better than Feurio.

You simply analyze the board, make your move, and hope your LHO doesn't give his LHO the game, like in so many other turn based abstract games. I doubt the game will survive dozens of replays with the same opponent, but it is a nice filler for a few games, at least.

Zack won, but most of our turns were helping each other with the moves.


Nadine 91, David 90, Zack 65

David still suggests this game whenever he comes. Zack also still likes it, but this time Nadine appeared to get bored of it. She complained that the game was too balanced; i.e. no matter what you did to get ahead, the players in back would regain again.

For myself, I have a problem with games where there are so many paths to victory that it simply doesn't matter which one you choose, since everyone will end at around the same number of points anyway (*cough* Goa *cough*). I think this is what she was getting at.

I heard the usual mutters of complaining about past mistakes. Zack ended the game before David was ready for it, apparently, by building six castle spaces in a single round, which filled it up. 

[Actually, what caught me unprepared is that he used 3 gold cubies in order to build the sixth 
space in the castle. I had also made sure that I would go first on the next round... - David]

Die Macher

Jon, Binyamin, Gili, Adam

Us veteran members of the Die Macher club were convinced that given a four hour game night that we could finish a game of this. We had learned the rules on Games Day.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be, as we only made it through three rounds, yet again. This time, however, Gili and I painstakingly wrote down every single state of the game, so that next time we bring it out we can start from round four.

By the third round, Binyamin was getting bored with the game, saying that the grand complexity gave one the illusion of more control than you actually have. Sounds like politics to me.

Our provinces have been pretty low scoring ones. Gili had a large lead in the national polls for a while, but Binyamin just refused a campaign contribution and went up twelve points. I've co-won two out of three elections so far. I have no hope in the next one, but a strong chance for the fifth. Binyamin also has two co-wins so far, and Gili and Adam each have one. Adam has been having financial problems owing to his poor election placements so far.


Josh 65, Idit 65, Elijah 54

Ben left his copy of this lying around, so when Josh and Idit showed up and we were all in the middle of other games, they played this. This is the original version with the River supplement (whose rules I don't really know).

It looks to me like it was a low scoring game.

San Juan

Elijah 38, Idit 36, Josh 29

And they continued with this game, while Caylus and Die Macher were still going on.


David/Jon-Elijah 1005, Zack/Nadine 295

I started playing opposite David while simultaneously playing Die Macher, and then Elijah took over for me after San Juan ended.

David and I started off with a cool 300 points, and Elijah and David took another 300 point hand two rounds later. In the first hand, David called Tichu when I was going to.

I had an interesting situation where I had remaining in my hand four aces, two fives, and a four. The only guaranteed way to win was to break my bomb into a full house, a single ace, and then play my four as my last card. So it pays to break up bombs, occasionally.

Elijah also had a situation where he had a two, two fours, two fives, and a straight from six to ace. He was going to play a straight from four to ace until I, looking over his shoulder, told him that that was a losing play; instead he played his six through ace, then his two pairs of fours and fives, and then exited with his two.

Nadine is convinced that there is very little actual strategy to the game compared to the luck factor.


Adam, Zack, Elijah

Mau is a game that I loathe, but Adam likes it. Zack and Elijah had never heard of it, and we had to convince them that they would love it in order to get them to play, From the sounds of hysterical laughter on their part for a good 45 minutes, we knew we had done well. They loved it, especially Zack.

If you want to know what Mau is, you're encouraged not to look it up, as part of the "fun" (read: childishness) is not knowing the rules before you start playing. But you can look them up on Wikipedia, if you so desire.


Binyamin/David 1260, Jon/Nadine 280

We managed to play four hands. My opponents bid and made a 6NT contract on the first hand.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 18, 2007

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

I received an evaluation copy of Apples to Apples Jewish Edition, and we spent some time looking at the cards. More on that on my blog.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben+, Jon, Elijah

Elijah always wants to play Cosmic, and I haven't had the chance to play in a while. Most of the others are bored (?) of it, or something. But Ben still likes to play, so we made a threesome.

As usual, it was a game of sheer lunacy. Ben had Antimatter and Loser; the winner was the loser who was the winner who was ... something. I had two great powers, Judge and Witch, the former of which is a tad overpowered. And Elijah had Pacifist and Filth.

With the Filth in the game, it was hard for Ben or me to get foreign bases in Elijah's system. I was Judging my way to extra bases and having fun with my curses, which were not all that effectual. Ben decided to take me out.

A number of conflicts were decided by just a point or two.

The game was in a situation where Ben and I had three foreign bases and Elijah had two. Elijah had an empty home planet and a base in each of our systems. I won an attack against Ben, which would have given me my fourth base, but decided to play Emotion Control, generously offering Ben a base so that he would join me in an attack against Elijah, or invite me for the same, if we could flip Elijah's system.

Instead, I flipped hum again, and he was able to win the game on his turn by convincing Elijah to abandon his base in my system. I'm still not sure how all of that happened, but that's the way CE breaks.

Power Grid

Nadine (14), David (13), Adam (11+), Zack (11-)

David loves this game and convinced the others to play either this or Caylus. This despite the acknowledgment by all [except Adam --Adam] that there is too much luck in the power plant supply. They propose that from now on, the next four plants that will flip up are kept face up in a third row, in order to reduce this luck factor.

They played on the expensive part of the U.S. map. David was faced with a situation of either ending the game one round and achieving second place, thus allowing Nadine to win, or extending the game one round and achieving last place, thus allowing Zack [you mean Adam. Zack was broke. --Adam] to win. He chose the former.

Zack was wholly bored by the game by the end of it. Adam enjoyed it, however.

I think the luck factor is overstated. For example, on the third round, both Zack and I got some fairly nice power plants, which put us as the favorites at that time. Then everyone started complaining about luck. In fact, I had been planning to be in that position from the beginning of the game. Of course. there was still some luck as to exactly what came down, but I think everyone was overstating it.

Zack a couple of times paid very large amounts for cities (once for example paying a connection fee across the board in order to force round two). He also bought a few too many power plants in my opinion. Otherwise, he would have been the leader easily. -- Adam

San Juan

Ben 39, Jon 28, Elijah 27
Ben got out an early Library, which made the game impossible for me, basically. Combine that with a slew of production buildings and a Guild Hall, and there you go. I did my valiant best with a City Hall and lots of minor buildings. Elijah did poorly, but also gained a Library mid-game, so was able to almost catch up to me.


Adam/Jon 735, Zack/Elijah 665

I played this simultaneously while I played Bridge, and only suffered once because of it. It's really a very nice game, although it's missing the depth of Bridge. We won by Adam calling and making a Grand Tichu on the last hand.

I called Tichu a couple of times (too many), and missed a few of them, otherwise we wouldn't have been in the situation where we need to make the Grand Tichu on the last round. There's a strategy as to when to call Tichu, which I'm starting to figure out. -- Adam


Jon 1520, David 1120, Nadine 930, Ben 530

I played this simultaneously while I played Tichu, and suffered several times because of it. Bridge really needs more of my attention.

Both I and Nadine made errors that cost us contracts, while David made an error that gave us a contract. Ben didn't make any major errors, but managed to lose for all that.

I found the card part of the evening much more enjoyable than the board game part of the evening, and would be happy to have several evenings only playing cards for a while.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

April 11, 2007

Participants: Jon, Zack, Gili, Adam.

A very small group tonight, which was great for me, as I started getting sick earlier in the day and was going to have to kick everyone out early, anyway. Also, it's amazing how quiet four people are compared to a whole group.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon+, Zack

Zack tends to lose this when he plays Elijah, but as this is a fairly quick opening game which he already knew how to play, I opted for it.

I played white. I made an early sacrifice of Gandalf with a low card so that my remaining cards would be one step up over his. This was against Shelob, and therefore I saw, for the first time, Shelob return to her lair.

Zack seemed to be ignoring the search for Frodo, concentrating instead on trying to get into the Shire. Frodo was therefore able to sneak into Mordor before he could do this.


Gili 80ish, Jon 70ish, Adam and Zack 60ish

I'm not a big fan of Caylus, but with only Zack and Gili around, and the fact that Gili likes it and Zack had never played, I agreed to give it a go. Then Adam joined us just as I finished explaining the rules and so we made it a four player game.

The game went generally better than the lest few times I played so I wasn't interminably bored. There was a lot of jockeying for position with the turn order and the Provost. Furthermore, every brown building was built before the gray ones began to appear (one gray building was built before the last brown building), and then all but one gray building was built.

As a result of the building order, gold was in very short supply, but we still managed to get a few blue buildings built. Gili was obviously winning already by the last third of the game (one of the problems I have with the game). I knew I could catch up a bit, but not enough.

She built the 25 pointer, and I was ready on the next round to build two smaller blue buildings, when she passed in the placement phase a round before I needed her to, resulting in my being able to collect one less cube than I needed. Lucky for me, I noticed that I could build the small blue building for 7 and a favor, use the favor to get the extra cube I needed, and then in the last scoring phase build the other blue building for 14. Still not enough, as you see.

Adam would have liked to take that 7 point blue building, but I got it first, so instead we helped him notice how he could get the blue building that required pink cubes through some finagling, which he did.

It was only 9:45, but I decided to go to bed.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

GAMES DAY: April 4, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Ben, Tal, Josh, Avri, Keren, Debbie, Gili, David K, Saarya, Binyamin, Adam, Pinchas, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda, Itamar, Nadav, Shlomo, Rafi, Meir

21 Participants, for a fairly smooth, albeit loud, Games Day. My apartment is simply too small for this. I must find a larger place for next Pesach. Sukkot we play on the roof, anyway, so the noise is not so bad.

Avri is a player from Beit Shemesh who came for the first time, bringing his brother Rafi. Rafi brought his brother-in-law Shlomo, and Shlomo brought his brother Meir. Or something like that.

Keren is a reader of my blog, and she came by for the first time with her friend Debbie. Except for Gili playing Settlers with them, I somehow neglected them while they were here, which I feel bad about. Come again, and I promise to play more with you personally.

Itamar brought his nephew Nadav, and Binyamin brought his kids Tikva Shira and Zvi Yehuda. Pinchas came on the last few Games Days too, and he is an old Bridge partner of mine.

The others are regulars.


Tikva Shira+, Zvi Yehuda

I taught this to the kids; they kept forgetting the rule about rows not going past 24, and Z"Y never quite got the way you get points.


Saarya 43, David 36, Nadine 33

Nadine was ahead 2 points in the interim scoring, 15 to 13 to 13.


Jon, Adam, Nadine, Ben

We played this simultaneous with our game of El Grande, while waiting for people to take their turns.

Binyamin, Adam, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

They played one hand of this at the end of the evening, waiting for the Amun-Re game to end, so that Binyamin could take the game home.

Carcassonne: the City

Jon 130ish, Binyamin/Ben 85ish, Nadine 55ish

Binyamin taught us this version of Carcassonne. It has the usual three area types, but one third of the way through the game you begin placing walls and towers around the tiles.

The most significant difference is that only roads have to match, not areas. We found this to be a huge huge Bad Thing. Most of the tactics of Carcassonne derives either from merging with other areas, or from locking opponent's areas so that they can't close them. This rule significantly reduces both of these options, making the game simply a matter of picking the best tiles and putting them down in the best places each turn. Whoopee.

It is one of those situations where too many opportunities for scoring makes a significantly worse game, rather than a better game. There is not enough tension.

I got luckiest. Nadine made a few sub-optimal choices, according to Binyamin, and he got upset enough to leave the game early. Ben filled in for him for the last few rounds, without any understanding of the rules.


Pinchas+, Jon

Pinchas loves Chess, and I play very infrequently, and totally tactically. I also get bored with games where it's clear that one person is winning, and the only way for them to lose is to make a dumb mistake.

So I enjoyed the game at the beginning where I managed to secure a lead over Pinchas by a Knight and a Pawn. Then I got bored, moved too quickly (I should mention, perhaps, that I don't like to take too long with my moves, and I was also simultaneously playing El Grande at the time), and went down to a single Pawn advantage.

In the end, I didn't feel like dragging the game out for another 50 moves, so I lost a few more pieces and resigned. It was a little rude of me. Sorry, Pinchas.

Keren, Debbie

Keren and Debbie played a game of this later in the day.

Die Macher

Jon, Gili, Binyamin, Adam

This is one of our grails of gaming - simply getting it onto the table. That took most of the day.

The rule explanation then took another hour and some, as usual, and it was about three hours before we finished the first round. I was really hopeful we would finish the game, for once, because we were ll enjoying it, and the second round went much quicker and smoother. But Gili had to leave before the game would finish, so we only finished three rounds.

We all really enjoyed it, for what we played. There are a lot of rules that I have to keep digging up and remembering, but we all suffered the adverse effects of this, and managed to keep on forging forward, anyway.

El Grande

Nadine 107, Adam 100, Ben 94, Binyamin 90, Jon 83

I made the mistake of having a slight early lead after round three, which made me a target. And this despite the fact that this is Nadine's signature game. And she won, of course, in the end.

Nobody was horribly behind the whole game.


Rafi 13, Avri, Saarya, Shlomo, Meir

I taught them this game as a brain cleanser between the games of Power Grid and Santiago. Rafi won it.

Lost Cities

Keren+, Debbie+

They played two games of this, while we were davening Mincha. I think I didn't explain the rules completely. I believe they were drawing and then playing, and opposed to the other way around.


Ben, Nadine, David, Josh

These guys were looking for what to play and started with this. Binyamin warned them that it wasn't really their type of game, and he turned out to be correct, and they abandoned the game halfway through, not particularly enraptured.

They also complained about the sameness of the colors on the chips and other design elements.


Jon++, Binyamin

Rather than try to find my Magic lands, I taught this to Binyamin. I first played the Corp, while Binyamin drew a number of expensive cards and couldn't quite get together a cohesive attack. I took home 5 agenda points without too much trouble, and we decided to switch sides.

We then played the fastest game of Netrunner ever played. Binyamin played his turn and didn't protect R&D. I raided R&D three times and pulled three agendas, totaling 8 agenda points. Game over.

Perhaps there is a tad more card luck in Netrunner than in Magic, after all.

Power Grid

Saarya 14, Avri 11+, Rafi 11-, Meir 10, Shlomo 6

Saarya taught them this, and naturally won, as the only experienced player. The others bought too many power plants. They played on the US without the NW, but no one even made it into the SW.

I should note that Shlomo's dismal score is not due to lack of plants, but probably being shut out of fuel.

Princes of Florence

Ben 58, Avri 57, Nadine 53, Josh 48, Tal 41

Tal would like it noted that she was leading at one point. Keren and Debbie also looked interested in trying this game.

As you can see, a close game, with Avri scoring well for his first time.


Avri 76, Meir 55, Rafi 51, Saarya 45, Shlomo 37

I suggested this one to them, and they were all first time players. They seemed to enjoy it.

Settlers of Catan

Gili+, Keren, Debbie

I was going to play this with them, but Gili sat down before I got there. They all enjoyed it, even though Gili was the more experienced player and gave them a trouncing, it appears.


Adam+, Pinchas

Pinchas likes Chess, so Adam taught his this Japanese game of Chess. Unfortunately, all the pieces were disks with Chinese writing on them; I have no idea how Pinchas could ever distinguish the pieces.

World of Warcraft

Itamar, Nadav, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

The award for the day's longest game goes to this, not Die Macher. They started playing at 12:30, and ended, without finishing the game, at around 9:00 or so. I have no idea what they accomplished during that time. The biggest problem was that none of them were native English speakers and the cards were all in English, so they had to keep running to Binyamin for explanations.


Zvi Yehuda, Tikva Shira

Played at the end of the evening.