Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 26, 2008

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Binyamin, Ben, David K

Another typical, lightly attended game night.

Race for the Galaxy

Nadine 45, Jon 40, Binyamin 39, Ben 30

It may be San Juan on steroids, but it's a lot more interesting. The ability to ensure that you can always get the phase you want and the privilege, too, gives you control. The Production and Consumption phases only doing things for you if you have the abilities to utilize them is hard to wrap your head around, but cool. And the seemingly vast number of different paths to victory is intriguing.

The latter may simply be due to the fact that I've only played twice. It may be that a few paths dominate others. Your ability to choose which path is severely curtailed based on the cards you draw. Therefore, if a few paths really don't work versus others, you're not going to win if you're unlucky, which could make any particular game frustrating.

In San Juan, there are not that many different final destinations that will win. In this game, it seems that you can work with not only different synergies but different end points. I'm eager to try again.

In our previous game, Nadine killed us with a straight Brown strategy. Luckily, she didn't get the cards for that one again. Neither I nor Ben could pull a 6 point card to save our skin, but I realized in mid-game that I was the only player producing goods; everyone else had windfall worlds. That's when I realized that I had to start shipping big time. It caught me up, although not enough to win.

The card that let's you build military worlds for discards instead of conquest is a super card, and also helped.

Year of the Dragon

Binyamin 114, David 104, Jon 97, Ben 79, Nadine 76

Binyamin taught us all this game, which turned out to be another excellent Euro strategy game. Binyamin claims that it's like a less lucky version of Notre Dame; I think that's a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, he neglected to mention how difficult the game is to those with the least initiative, so I started off feeling a crunch. On the other hand, Binyamin won even though he spent the last half of the game in last initiative place.

David tried a straight victory point through books approach, gaining 9 points every round for half the game and pulling way ahead of everyone else, and looked like he was headed to complete victory. But Binyamin's dragons were eventually giving him up to 7 points a round, and his people and statues added enough bonus to overtake David's lead at the end.

All in all, quite interesting.


Ben/Binyamin 600, Jon/Nadine 130

We played a few rounds. Actually I played three hands, and Nadine played the fourth. Our biggest loss was down three doubled in the last hand.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 19, 2008

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Amitai

The group definitely feels like it's at a low point from its once height of over ten people each week. Still, a few core members show up each week, for which I'm grateful.

Amitai is a friend, and the son of friends, who lives down the street. We've played together on occasion.

Before the Wind

Jon, Gili, Nadine, Amitai

Nadine liked this well enough last time to try it again. This time was a mixture of good and bad experiences.

The game went on for far too long for its length; we essentially quit somewhere close to the end after two and a half hours. This is largely because of the take-that mechanics that allow people to spend their time slowing others down rather than moving forward themselves. Also, the game ends when someone gets fifty points, but that could take any number of rounds.

You need to acquire cards in a certain order to move forward, but you don't have control of that order. In a four player game, you're only going to have a shot at the cards you need when it's your turn again. But if you're unlucky with your flips, you may not get what you need and have to wait four turns again to come around to you while you have nothing useful to do.

Even if the card you need comes up, it's easy for the others to make your life miserable, and possibly wreck your setup so you have to start all over again. And finally, as Amitai pointed out, the game doesn't have a progressive feel to it. It simply restarts again and again until someone wins. You can plan from one turn or one round to the next, but not over the course of the game.

For all that, there are many times when the decisions that had to be made were very interesting; that's what kept us going for the first two hours. But it wasn't enough to save Nadine from declaring it a bad game by the end.

In order to gt played again at our group. a few changes would have to be made: 1) The game should end at 50 points or 3 rounds, whichever comes first. 2) Players should be required to flip at least one card from each pile. Not doing this simply slows the game down interminably. 3) Players should be able to keep more items between rounds, or later ships should be worth more, or more abilities should accumulate as the game goes on. Or something to make the second part of the game more interesting.

Puerto Rico

Amitai 60, Nadine 48, Jon 39

We played with my special buildings, and Amitai had only played a few times before. Still, he managed to completely crush us. He had Factory going AND the only coffee in the game. He also had two quarries and five goods going early. So he was easily outproducing us and outbuying us.

I bought Large Business first and has an earlier Tobacco, but I was severely colonist shy and so produced nearly nothing. Meanwhile, the Trading House was blocked the whole game and so my Tobacco didn't help me. I'm embarrassed by my poor showing, but them's the breaks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 12, 2008

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Bill, Binyamin, David

Bill is from Kansas City and just moved to Israel for one or two years with his wife. Both of them have RPG and board game experience. Bill and I had discussed starting up a new RPG campaign. Because he has to go back to the US several times over the next few months, each session was to be (is to be) a single night's play.

Unfortunately, his wife was held up negotiating a lease so she never got here, and Bill was called away to help right when we were going to start the RPG so we didn't get to play that this evening.

Race for the Galaxy

Nadine 72, Jon 38, Gili 32, Bill 30

This was everyone's first play except Nadine's. I only wanted to learn a few round before Bill got here but we ended up playing out the entire game. Even though I hadn't played before, I ended up explaining the game while Nadine piped in with strategy advice she learned from her previous game during the process.

First games are about learning the mechanics, so all of us were just playing around with the cards. In the meantime, Nadine built nothing but brown worlds and bonus cards. Not only did every building count for her three times at the end of the game, she was making 10 or 14 points during each consume phase. As you can see, she slaughtered us.

Meanwhile, I tossed out my early high point cards but then couldn't drawn them again later.

RftG is still a lot like San Juan, but I like the double building opportunities and the choice of trading or shipping which is missing from San Juan. While the interaction is pretty low, I can see how you get more when you start to think about what the other players are doing and how to thwart them. Still, it's pretty close to solitaire.

Once I know all the cards and abilities, it will remain to be seen whether the game is really any more complex than San Juan or if it will feel "played out" like San Juan does (at least until we get an expansion for it). As of now, I'm happy to play it again and several more times after that.

Magic: the Gathering

David+, Binyamin

David and Binyamin played this and were going to keep playing this if we had started our roleplaying. As it was we had to drag them away from it to play a five player game when Bill left.

David won by one point, I hear.

[DK: Binyamin was going to kill me on the next round (I had 2 life). I needed seven points of damage, but even with my humongous trample creature, I could only get through with six. Then I noticed a d6 which represented a piddly 1/1 token creature...]

Notre Dame

David 81, Nadine 77, Binyamin 68, Jon 55, Gili 41

Binyamin wanted to play Year of the Dragon but Gili didn't want to learn a new game and really wanted to play this.

I decided to give the Hotel area a go since it's obviously the worst area on the board and can't possibly win. I figured to at least try to see if I could do something useful with it. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom is correct and there is now way to make any use out of it. By the time you're up to three cubes, you've so fallen behind that you begin losing them to the rats or losing out on the rest of the bonuses everyone else is getting.

Meanwhile, David won with a straight VP area win, scoring the region three times in the last round (twice with cards, and once with a purchased favor).

[DK: FOUR times in the last round. Three with cards and once with a favor :-). With park, 8+7+6+5 for 26VP]

Nadine used a combination of money for Notre Dame and park bonuses; one early Notre Dame score shared with me helped her gain an early lead over David, but not enough. Binyamin tried park and VP scoring.

Mr Jack

Jon (Detective)+, Nadine (Criminal)

We played this while Binyamin and David finished up their Magic game and then while we played Bridge. I got two characters eliminated in round one, and then three more in rounds two and three. It was not hard to win in round five after that.


Jon/David, Binyamin/Nadine

We played a few hands, all of which seemed to start with 1 club or a preempt.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March 05, 2008

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Gili, David, Yardena, Yedidya, Yitzchak the Smaller, Binyamin, Ben, Dylan

I'm back in Israel. Yardena is a great friend of mine and Rachel's from when I first moved to Israel; she also worked with Rachel on occasion. She brought two of her children, Yedidya and Yitzchak the Smaller, in search of better games.

Before the Wind

Binyamin 50, Nadine 44, Jon 36

I played this game at the BGG.con. I really liked it; it's sort of a card game version of the shipping part of Puerto Rico. Let's call it San Juan II.

When I played it at the con, we played incorrectly so that the core action distribution rules seemed broken. But even as we were playing it, we knew that it shouldn't work that way, and we were right.

It's very different from our typical Eurogames. It's very interactive. The action distribution has a very strong take-that mechanism; but unlike other games with take-that mechanics, it doesn't feel like the game is brought down by it. That's because there are too many things that you need to do at the same time, so you can't spend all your time hosing other people.

It's very challenging to move forwards when people are arrayed against you, but they are also not moving forwards when this is happening and you can work that into your game play. It's challenging and fun.

I seem to be pretty bad at it, which is all the more challenging for me. David sat beside me as I played, and he immediately noticed some of my major goof-ups as the game went on, such as trying to by Binyamin's card which I couldn't afford instead of trying to buy Nadine's which I could have.

Ben sat in at the beginning of the game but immediately decided that the game was not for him when we started playing.

Settlers of Catan

Ben+, Yardena, Yedidya, Yitzchak the Smaller

So Ben went to teach these guys how to play their first Eurogame. They had a good time, and promised to come back, even though Ben beat them (stealing Longest Road, I believe). Yedidya actually looked more interested in playing the Arkham Horror game which was going on.

Arkham Horror

Yitzchak, Gili, Dylan, Jon (sort of)

Yitzchak was trying to get a group to play this for sometime, and we finally agreed if it was the shortest boss-guy. It only took three hours and a bit, which included some explanation to Dylan and Gili.

I was allegedly playing as well. However, I couldn't start until my Before the Wind game finished, which ate into about an hour of game time. And then I called myself away to play Blue Moon with Ben who would otherwise have had no one to play with after only twenty minutes or so.

Yitzchak didn't seem to mind, as he had played the game solitaire a number of times and could easily play my character at the same time. In fact, even when I was playing, I wasn't doing much. I made a decision as to move or attack, but otherwise rolled some number of dice when I was told to and how many.

Which is my problem, really. In order to know what to do, you need a vast knowledge of how the game works, and you have to remember at every stage what modifiers are in effect on every card in play around the entire table. This is laborious and probably no one has ever played a game without forgetting something or messing something up.

And in the end, you're rolling a lot of dice, which is exciting and fun, but not very much in the thinking department. You roll well you succeed, you roll poorly you don't. I can't see that there's much difference between good play and slightly better play. Obviously, it helps to maximize your dice chances. I think I'm just not cut out for this type of game anymore.

Blue Moon

Ben, Jon

I taught this to Ben. he took the Vulcas and I took the Hoaxes. We worked through our decks trading battles back and forth. I managed to get up three dragons near the beginning of the game, but I then lost them. After that, Ben got and lost one dragon a few times until the game's end, which was a tie. We started another game, but abandoned it midway.

Many people think that I gave Blue Moon a short shrift in my BGG review because I said it was basically a typical Knizia number game with special ability cards added for flavor. The special ability cards do more than add flavor, complained they, as they add all of the tactics.

I don't deny this, even though it doesn't really change what I said. It's still a dry kind of number game. Though numbers figure into Magic, too, Magic doesn't feel like a number game. It feels much more like a sorcery combat game.

One thing that probably improves Blue Moon after several plays is getting to know your deck. In that way, you're no longer doing what's best for each battle, one after the other, but able to plan ahead to future battles. The name of the game is not to win a particular battle, but to win four more than your opponent or to be ahead when the game ends. Which adds a lot to the strategy.

Race for the Galaxy

David 43, Binyamin 42, Nadine 33

I didn't get to see this, known as San Juan III, but Nadine said it had even less interaction than San Juan. I hear that as you get to know the game better, your role selection choice becomes more interactive, so we can reserve judgment. They liked it, however, so we'll try it again.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon

David and I dealt out 68 cards each from the new card I brought home. I crafted a neat deck with nearly all Elves and Shapeshifters (G with B and R). It was pretty cool, but it wasn't as strong and David's deck (U and G). So I lost, as usual.


Yitzchak, Ben, Nadine, Binyamin

These guys seem to like getting all the other games out of the way so that they can end the evening with this.