Thursday, December 27, 2007

December 27, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, David, Binyamin, Ben, Yitzchak, Gili

A very ordinary, but enjoyable, game night.

Down Under

Jon+, Nadine

Nadine 32, Jon 30, David 21, Binyamin 21

This little game was sent to me as a gift. It's about the size of my game It's Alive. It's a boardless tile laying game for up to four players. A second game is also explained in the rules, using the reverse side of the tiles.

On your turn, you have access to all of your tiles, which means that there's no "luck" in the way of tile drawing. Each tile has a road of your color, a separate road in gray, and an animal on the gray road. You place one of your tiles so that the road of your color on your tile extends your route. Your route includes all previous tiles you placed of your color, and any gray tiles that you managed to include in the route by connecting to them.

The board can only grow to a certain width and length. When no one can't place any more tiles you count the length of your route plus sets of animal combinations on your route to arrive at your final score.

It's actually quite nice and fairly quick. I enjoyed both the two-player and four-player game. None of the other players seemed to like it, unfortunately, except Nadine seemed to like it a bit. It seems to work two, three, or four player equally well.

I found some of the rules a bit hard to understand, especially the "cap" pieces that you are able to play at any time, but don't make sense to play until the end of the game, and don't do anything anyway. I couldn't figure out how or why they did anything.

Power Grid - Benalux

David 15, Jon 12, Nadine 10

This was our first play on one of the new boards. Benelux is a very cheap board, and the power plants cycle very quickly, making the game pretty short. In addition, oil is cheap and plentiful, while coal is expensive and scarce.

David managed to tap into the oil well and maintained a lead because of it throughout the game. He also expanded quickly into my cheap territory. A pretty easy victory on his part, but still fun to play.

Taj Mahal

Binyamin+, Yitzchak+, Ben, Gili

This game hadn't come out in a while. Ben had to have the rules refreshed to him. In the end, Binyamin and Yitzchak tied when the cards were added to the interim scoring.

Cosmic Encounter

Binyamin+, Yitzchak+, Ben

After Gili left, they got this game out. Wild as usual, but the game didn't last long and I think they weren't keen to continue it anyway, for some reason. Binyamin and Yitzchak managed a joint win on a deal.


Ben/David, Jon/Nadine

Ben/Yitzchak, Binyamin/Nadine

A usual evening-ended, sometimes for more than an hour, like this evening. They don't seem to tire of it.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David+

Binyamin actually wanted to play Magic, too, but Ben preferred Bridge. David and I continued to plow our way through the new cards I brought back from Canada. I think I had the stronger deck. We split the games, but I only lost the second game because of mana screw.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 18, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Yitzchak

This week's game was changed to Tuesday as I would be unavailable Wed evening.

Mr Jack

Jon (Mr Jack) +, Nadine (Detective) +

Nadine continued her obsession with this game coming into the evening. I continued to play Mr Jack with the hopes of proving that he really had a viable chance against the Detective. In the first game, I made an error to tip my hand in round four. Unfortunately, Nadine had no trouble pouncing on me in rounds 5.

In the second game, I played purely defensively, and managed to keep 4 people suspects until round 6. One of them wasn't really a suspect, since the piece didn't try to escape when it could have. As round 6 rolled into round 7 and 8 and Nadine realized that there was nothing to do but try to guess one of the pieces, Nadine finally decided that the game wasn't so interesting after all if Jack could just hide in plain sight until the end of the game.

In other words, Nadine was nearly about to say that the game is obviously tilted in favor of Jack's winning! I teased her about that. In the end, she said that, once again, with evenly matched players and no particular mistakes, it came down to the luck of the card flips.

My next goal is to take back the Detective role and prove her wrong.

Odin's Ravens

Yitzchak+, Gili

I taught this to them as something to play while waiting for Nadine and me to finish our first game of Mr Jack. Gili didn't catch on quite as well as Yitzchak, and so suffered some major losses, although it took three races for Yitzchak to win.


Jon+, Yitzchak, Nadine, Gili

We played this for the first time. I love a route creation / pick up and deliver game. This one has a cute board with gamer in-jokes. It also has a wickedly hard action bidding system, where you place your limited cubes onto the actions you want, but as further people do the same, yours become canceled. In theory, it's very good.

In practice, the game doesn't quite work. Two of the bidding areas are simply no-brainers during the game. First player places his cube onto the only slot in "Expand Your Bus Capacity" Position, and second player places his cube onto the only slot in "Start Player Next Round". That leaves five other action types.

The ordering of "Bring in New Passengers" is not very significant if you have enough passengers on your route already, and irrelevant if you don't have a station connection, and even more irrelevant when there are no more passengers to place. It could be that we were playing this wrong, as it didn't seem to provide much tension. That leaves four other action types.

"Placing new buildings" also doesn't really provide that much tension on most turns, unless you have rail tracks to empty spaces in which they can be placed. On some turns this was significant, however.

The clock mechanism was rather odd, but seems like it might have worked. It didn't work too much for us in our game.

The last two action types were "Place new rails" and "Deliver passengers". These are the core mechanisms of a pick up and deliver game, and were also the only two that really provided significant tension in the game.

We may have subject to some group think in our first game, or have played the rules incorrectly. As it was, Nadine didn't really like it, Gili was happy to run out of cubes and leave early, and Yitzchak wasn't particularly thrilled. I was the only one who liked it despite the flaws, although I've already set my mind to figuring out how to fix them.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 12, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Hillel, Yitzchak, Binyamin, David, Channie, Saarya

Hillel has come occasionally before, and Channie is the latest of David's daughters to try out the group.

Arkham Horror

Jon, Nadine, Hillel, Yitzchak, Binyamin

I knew this would take a long time, but I also thought it might be interesting. Yitzchak was very keen to play. In theory this could have accommodated all the participants, but I thought it might be unwieldy with more than five. Turns out that it probably would have worked better with eight.

We didn't finish the game, but it looks like we were all headed to our doom.

The game is a huge and complex thing, with dozens of different avenues to explore. We barely scratched the surface. I found it to be all-the-more intriguing for that. On the other hand, Nadine thinks that once you've explored all the basic strategic paths, it's going to get less interesting.

She points out that, unlike Shadows Over Camelot, there is almost nothing in the way of cooperative activity in this game. In Shadows, aside from the traitor, you have to combine players on certain tasks. Here, everything can only be done by one person. There are a few cards out of the hundred available that say something like "heal 1 point" to another player, but you both have to be in the same space, which is generally a waste, and 1 point isn't a big deal.

You can't fight monsters together: if you fight a monster, it gets to hit you. If two of you fight, it gets to hit both of you; it doesn't have to choose which one of you to hit. Gates are always closed by one person, and there's nothing you can do to combine efforts.

So our first game felt like a classic multi-player solitaire. Will this change with more plays? Maybe. There are a lot of cards I haven't seen yet. Even so, just exploring all the possibilities looked like fun.


Binyamin, David, Saarya, Channie

Played as an opener.

Power Grid

David, Channie, Saarya

I have no idea, but I assume they tried out one of the new maps.


Jon, Binyamin, Nadine, Yitzchak

Played as a closer.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

December 05, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Binyamin, Rivka, Yitzchak, Jack

The second night of Hanukkah, and possibly why attendance is even lower than usual. Still, Jack returned from a prolonged absence. He reports that the Jerusalem Russian-speaking gaming group petered out. As such, he hopes to be joining our group more regularly.

Robo Rally

Yitzchak+, Nadine, Jon, Jack

I decided to try this on the most minimal board configuration: four players, one board, one flag, and that's it. Even with this, it was a challenging game lasting a reasonable length of time.

Part of the reason that it lasted a reasonable length of time was that the flag was placed in a location that was quite difficult to get to. You had to be in exactly one of two spaces and have a "2" card. As a result, although two players got close to the end first, the other two were within contention by the end of the game, as well.

Yitzchak finally landed the right combo.

Nadine adds: Even though I managed to screw up a turning direction card every single time in Robo Rally, it's a fun and challenging game, compelling even if you're behind unless you're dead or powered down.

Vegas Showdown

Nadine, Binyamin, Rivka, Yitzchak

I didn't play this, so Nadine comments:

t seems like a good game – choices, interactivity, variation through an event card each turn. But it didn't seem exciting, fun or original, the way Robo Rally does. Or even Mr. Jack which you want to see if it's solvable. And in Vegas, it seems like it will be much less interesting to turn over Event cards in future games, when they're not new. And it seemed more tactical than strategic, based on one play.

Mr Jack

Rivka(Det)+, Binyamin(Jack)

I taught this to these two when they came in, warning them that playing Mr Jack was still considered unsolvable in our group. Rivka made mincemeat out of him, I believe.

Jon(Jack)+, Jack(Det)

I, however, am still working on improving my skills in this game as Jack, in order to prove or disprove whether Jack can really win against an equal opponent, one way or the other. I'm very proud of myself for winning against an opponent who had never played before.

My opp didn't make any really bad mistakes; a few mistakes here and there, but nothing horrible. Still, he only revealed one character in the first and second rounds, and none in the third. By the end of round 7 I still had three suspects on the board. At which point he gave up and tried guessing (and lost).

It's a very compelling and interesting puzzle, and should it turn out that Jack really has a chance against a good opponent, it will likely be considered one of my favorite two-players. Nice pieces and theme, and good play mechanics.

However, one thing I can't stand about the game is the mechanic of guessing on the last turn. I hate a rule that let's you simply win by a lucky die roll on the last play, and this is equivalent to that. I think you should have to guess Jack or not, and be done with it.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 10, Jack 8

Jack challenged me to a game of this. We played on two thirds of a board with seven starting temples and with the game ending with only one treasure remaining. We should have taken a collection of the tiles out of the bag as well, but we didn't bother, so the game was bound to end only with treasures taken.

That also means that essentially all kingdoms, however large, were going to have to clash at some point. Of course, removed tiles and disasters mitigated that somewhat.

Anyway, it was a fascinating game and a pleasure to play. Jack really liked it because I was tougher than his usual opponents (not that I'm particularly good).

I began very quickly mingling our leaders. Eventually I built all three of the monuments that would get built, unconcerned that I was giving him half the points. That's one of the interesting things about the game: you can give loads of points to your opponent assuming it's the right points.