Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 24, 2008

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine

A small gathering on Hanukkah.


Jon 65, Gili 62

Our second game was very close. Gili had some good card-drawing engines, which are essential in a game where access to cards is a premium. I managed to win on the bonus turn after Gili hit 60.

Taj Mahal

Nadine 65, Gili 54, Jon 46

Approximate results. I wanted to play something older; I was getting tired of only newer games.

Three-player gives a better chance for connections, which Gili took advantage of. Nadine and I fought over commodities. Nadine had the upper hand. I managed to make mine count by only battling over the ones I needed, but I never had the card capacity that she did. In any case, that left Gili free to pursue her connections in peace, but they weren't connected in a good enough order.


Nadine+, Jon, Gili

First play for Gili, second for Nadine, third for me. Mexica is another game that I loved when I played it at BGG.con but fell flat once I got it back home.

It has a few problems with it. The action point chips are simply a bad mechanic; I can't think if anything else to say about them.

The "end round triggers and then the game is played until the last person takes his turn" is also a bad mechanic. I don't mind a set number of rounds so much. And I don't mind a set number of rounds if the order the players play in each round is variable, such as the auction for turn precedence in Tikal. But in Mexica, fist player has a huge advantage in selecting the better province chips, and no such comparable advantage is given to later players.

In general, I still like the rest of the game, but neither of my opponents did, which made for an unhappy game experience. They were happy for it to be over. I suspect that this will eventually get traded away.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 17, 2008

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine

Very light attendance, which was just as well, as I had gotten sick earlier in the day and needed to cut my activity short. I suggested that they play an additional game after I went to sleep, but they opted to leave.

La Citta

Gili 35, Nadine 33, Jon 27

Nadine's first play. I was rather hazy during the game, so I'm not surprised to have lost. Actually, it began to feel a little too much like work in rounds 4 and 5. Gili had the first successful influx of citizens, and I never really recovered from that, although I did steal a few from her on the other side of the board later.

I almost managed to get a second city to score for me, but I was vastly shy in food, so instead had to spend my last actions building more farms instead of little arches. Nadine stocked up to the gills in food, ending with much more than she needed.

Nadine thought it was a good game.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 10, 2008

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, David K, Avraham, Adam, Binyamin

Welcome back to a few irregular regulars.


Jon 63, Gili 49

First play for both of us, I taught this new game to Gili who liked Odin's Ravens. Jambo is in the same niche of two-player light games.

Jambo is a card game for two. Each player starts with a six space market and several cards. The market contains six types of goods. The main cards have 3 goods on them and two numbers: the smaller number is how much the goods cost if you buy all three at once, and the larger one is how much you earn if you sell all three at once. So the essential mechanic of the game is getting the cards to match up correctly.

A whole lot of other cards do special actions, like add more space to your market, start an auction for some cards or goods, take something, swap something, cause your opponent to discard something, and the like.

Each round you get five actions, of which you can only add to your hand one card. We found this to be a very harsh limit, and it provided a slowdown for us in midgame after we both had basically nothing left in our hands. Hand management is therefore very important.

It was a nice game, about as nice as Odin's Ravens was the first time I played that. I still like OR, but I don't usually suggest it. We'll see what happens with Jambo.


David/Avraham, Adam/Nadine

They played this as a starter game.

La Citta

Jon 35, Avraham 25, Gili 20

First play for all of us. This is a nice game, reminiscent of other games, but not quite like any other. You build cities by adding various buildings to your cities using money or actions or both. You need to add quarries to increase you money supply (or take an action to get money). You need to add farms to increase your food supply to feed the people on your buildings. You need to add markets and fountains to allow your city to grow beyond a certain point. And you need to add buildings in three different colors for two reasons: 1) at the end of each year, people move from cities with less of one of these colors to cities with more of one of these colors, and 2) a city scores at the end of the game if it has at least one building of each color.

In the first place, your actions are limited, so you have to make trade-offs. This is nicely done. And in the second place, having extra people is more buildings and more power, but if you exceed your food production, you are hit hard. That makes acquiring extra people dangerous. In fact, forcing other players to take your people is often a tactical powerhouse of a move. Quite the opposite of common sense, but nicely in keeping with the theme.

The board and bits are pretty, if a bit much and over-produced for what was really necessary. It's a nice game, and I look forward to playing it several more times soon.

In our game, I realized a bit ahead of Avraham how more people is not necessarily better. Especially on the last round, where too many people equals a lot of negative points, I made sure to keep some extra food around. In fact, Avraham tossed me an extra guy and I had exactly enough. I also had the most cities. Gili was drained too much by Avraham's nearby cities and so had the opposite problem: not enough people and room.


Binyamin 47, David 36, Nadine 29, Adam 23

First play for Binyamin and Adam, and look how well Binyamin did. I heard a lot of voices saying that while Agricola is a nice game it is simply too long. Well, with new players it is definitely longer. My last games haven't been too long, but it takes four or five playings before you get to that point.

Again, a plowed field strategy beat a stone house strategy.


Jon 8, Avraham 0

I taught this to Avraham. I was thinking of selling this (or sending it to my secret santa recipient) since no one around here wanted to play it (i.e. David doesn't want to play it). And it's true that there's a different type of luck factor in the game, but Magic also has a tremendous luck factor in it; most of our Magic games end by mana screw, after all.

Once a Netrunner game gets going, it's always a great game, regardless of what cards come out. The only thing to watch for is if the runner has no icebreakers of the type he needs. Then he's in trouble.

In our game, I messed up the rule for activating Nodes, but even so it was an excellent bit of fun. Well, for me, as I won. But Avraham liked the game, too, and will play it with me again if the opportunity arises.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

December 03, 2008

Participants: Gili, Jon, Nadine, David K

Game night was at Gili's, who had to stay home and watch the kids. Game night was interrupted by a small accident with the sink in the bathroom. It broke and spewed hundreds of gallons of water over the floor before we managed to turn it off from outside the apt. Then we did a little mopping. Exciting.


Jon 113, David 98, Gili, Nadine

First play for all of us.

Hacienda is a deluxe version of Through the Desert. Each round, you place tiles on the board trying to balance reaching as many markets as possible (instead of oases) and securing long routes. The added feature to Hacienda is that you have to buy your tiles: slightly cheaper if you pick them randomly, but in any case the ones you really need might not be available, which adds some luck to the game. You have to balance placing tiles to earn money vs placing to earn points; but often these were the same action.

In our game, money was not that tight, so the latter is not much an issue. A tighter money game might have made that part more interesting.

The seemingly main path to victory, which is the one I chose, is to connect to as many markets as possible; you earn a triangular bonus for each connection, so 10 markets is 55 points. It's also the main way to get money. You get a lot more money if you invest more tiles at each market, but you get far less points. And you don't really need that much money.

The second problem is that a route length of 3 or more is worth 2 x the length of the route. Only one type of route is counted, and there's no bonus for having a single route of length 6 versus 2 routes of length 3. That made the large route strategy slightly less effective than the one of getting to every market. Of course, if everyone simply tries to get to every market, the game is balanced; but it is a little less interesting.

The third problem, and it's now the second game where we've hit this problem, is that the game end triggers after someone does something, and then the last player gets the last move. This is simply a bad game mechanism. The idea is to give all players an equal number of turns, which is a decent idea. But when some turns are spent planning and others placing, the person who triggers the end game has the power to end it right after you planned. That makes planning for players earlier in the starting order very difficult. The advantage they got for going first doesn't make up for it.

Games should avoid this mechanic, and instead go for a) ending after a set number of turns, or b) ending on the turn after the end condition is triggered, or c) the game goes around until it gets back to right before the person who triggered the end game.

Despite these problems, the game is slightly less dry than Through the Desert, and quite enjoyable if you like route-planning and light mathematical games. We'll definitely play again.

In our game, as I mentioned, I promiscuously hit every market. I was light on cash, but I still had two land routes with four tiles, which gave me emergency cash when I needed it. I didn't buy any haciendas, but they were not worth enough points overall.


Jon/David 300, Nadine/Gili 0

We played one hand of Tichu while we were also playing Hacienda, which annoyed me to no end. David bid Tichu, and both of us went out first.


David 38, Jon 36, Gili 30, Nadine 29

We played this one, even though it takes a tad too long for a game group such as ours: close to three hours. We started by drafting occupations and then minor improvements. We used all the cards.

Nadine had a nice card that allowed her to add a family member whenever she added a room, which she used to add two family members at once. She was unprepared to support them, however, and spent a lot of the rest of the game struggling for food. She ended up getting two begging cards as a result.

David complained about his occupations and minor improvements, and then ended up playing 5 occupations and 3 minor improvements, nearly all of them in the first half of the game. They gave him so much wheat and vegetables, that we actually ran out of wheat coins. [DK: Actually Jon missed a few. I played two minor improvements in the last round, and 1 occupation in the round before. In toto I played 12 out of my 14 cards!] 

Gili played a balanced strategy with a lot of sheep. She also played an annoying card that required anyone who wanted wheat to pay her a food when they took it, which made gaining wheat no immediate benefit food-wise for the other players. She only got to three family members, which hurts.

I wanted to do farming, but I only ended up farming vegetables, playing a single occupation and a single minor improvement, both of which boosted vegetable acquisition and production. Otherwise, I focused on building a stone house, expanding my family, and acquiring major improvements for the points. I almost had to beg in the last round, but I ended up selling my cow instead (for a loss of 2 points, instead of 3). I had 10 bonus points, but still lost to David's fields, veggies, grains, and family members.

So far in all the games we've played, an active farmland beats the stone house route by just a few points each time. Unfortunately, to get an active farmland requires the right minor improvements and occupations, which makes that avenue only available to those that get them. If only one person gets the right card comboes, the game is going to be a lot easier for them.