Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 22, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Abraham, Eitan, Emily

Game night moved to Tuesday, since my lady love was coming home on Wednesday. Once again we were in the middle of a game when Eitan and Emily came. Last time they ended up playing with each other, but this time I divided my attention between two games so as to include them.


Gili 34, Abraham 33, Nadine 32, Jon 26

First play for all of us, we struggled to understand the terse rulebook for some time. I eventually clarified some issues on BGG.

This was an enjoyable game, another hit with the group. We've had so many of those lately, and I'd like to start playing some of them a second time! It was also another infrastructure building game with multiple paths. As usual, when none of us could tell exactly how everything was going to fit together, we had no idea which paths to take, so we played fairly randomly until things began to gel.

Abraham was ahead in VPs, but well behind in production. He wasn't that hampered with this, as his infrastructure included discounts on what he wanted to buy, anyway. Gili had vast amounts of storage potential and production, which worked well together, of course. She also took the other Ship, and was able to outbid me for the final items. In contrast, I had pitiful storage, and had to toss out some of my cash a few times.

I'm not entirely happy with the one major random element of the game, which is drawing cash cards with values between 4 and 6. Nadine pointed out that it's an important element of the game, since you shouldn't know precisely how much another player can afford during bidding. I'm not all that convinced. The rest of the game worked very well.

Atlantic Star

Jon 81, Eitan 75, Emily 66

First play for Eitan and Emily. I took the opportunity to teach them a game that the others aren't crazy about, but which I like a lot.

Our only problem here was the crayon with which we write the route values. Whenever we tried to write something, it looked like smeared lipstick. So we had to try to remember what the numbers were.

Emily and I both took vast moneys from one of our routes, allowing us to toss the pile several times each near the game end. Eitan took more conservative values from his routes.

Alice and Wonderland Parade

Abraham 11, Nadine 22, Jon 36

First games for Abraham. Nadine taught him how to play for half a game, and then the three of us restarted. Abraham drew all the brown cards, and he took nothing but browns and one other card (a 3, I think).

Meanwhile, Nadine and I were fighting for control of several colors, piling on vast amounts of cards. In the end, the color I lost in was worth much more than the color that she lost in.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 16, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Abraham, Emily, Eitan

Hanukkah gaming.

Hare and Tortoise

Abraham+, Nadine, Jon, Gili

I started us off with this little guy. First play for all of us. I understood that this is supposed to be a kids' game, really, which is true if you consider the graphics. But it's more intelligent that any mainstream roll and move game, and challenging enough for adults.

This is a race game where the object is to be the first to cross the finish line. There's dice rolling, but not for movement; it's for the results of what happens when you land on certain spaces. You move 1, 2, 3, ... spaces by expending 1, 3, 6, ... carrots. So your job is to find ways to acquire more carrots for more movement, as well as rid yourself of three lettuces and block the spaces your opponent's require (only one rabbit per space). It's a lot of jockeying for position; last place gets bonus carrots on several occasions. It's even nicely thematic.

Fun game for a filler, or with kids.


Abraham, Jon, Nadine, Gili

First play for all of us. Nadine had gone home with the game to learn the rules and gamely tried to explain them to us, but I had to take over after confusion reined.

Cuba is a meaty Euro, a little simpler than Puerto Rico but in the same vein. The problem is that every game that tries to be in the same vein as Puerto Rico but simpler ends up being unfavorably compared to Puerto Rico. Cuba is no exception.

You've got a few dozen different VP paths, and every building is available for purchase at the beginning of the game, which makes the first few games an exercise in figuring out how the parts of the game mesh together. We all scored pretty closely.

Nadine is under the impression that further games are also going to score closely, so long as people with the same experience levels play each other. This may be true, or it may be that a few good plays can score a wild swing in the points during one or two turns. We just don't know yet. In any case, experienced players should certainly do better than non-experienced ones. Abraham also liked it, but less than he liked some other new games.

I enjoyed the game, and I look forward to studying it more.


Eitan, Emily

Unfortunately for these two, they came when we were starting Cuba, and so tried to play Amyitis on their own, including learning it on their own. I had played it once, but didn't remember enough to teach it.

They weren't thrilled with it, claiming that certain things don't seem to work well. I'm pretty sure that they must have gotten something wrong. I remember liking it when I played it (enough to buy it) although I do recall that one of the cards was somewhat better than the others, and so the number that appeared each round had a strong effect on one's success.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 09, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Elijah, David, Emily, Eitan, Ksenia

We're plowing through the new board games. We started the evening by punching out many of the unpunched ones. Moments before game night started, I received my Secret Santa gift, which turned out to be Cuba, so we punched that one, too.

Alice and Wonderland Parade

Gili 11, David 13, Elijah, Nadine

I started the game, and then David sat down in my place. I was hoping he would be able to figure out the rules just from watching what people did, but I explained it to him after all. Everyone enjoys this game. Nadine thinks it's pretty random.

Dominion: Intrigue

Nadine 45ish, Gili 33ish, Elijah 32ish

For some reason, I've stopped taking notes at game nights, and thus don't know what happened in this one.

Magic: the Gathering

David+, Jon

We drafted, including the 39 new cards I brought back from America (not enough to really make much of a difference). I ended up with a wide mix of cards, and had a hard time getting down to two colors and a splash; I had no multi-mana cards.

I played BR with a splash of green (I just couldn't leave out "GG3: all your creatures deal damage as though they weren't blocked"). I don't recall what David played, but I didn't get to play my fancy green card.


Nadine, David, Elijah, Gili

First play of this for everyone. Everyone was at first very confused about strategy, with so many options and no clue as to what to do first. Around mid-game, David and Nadine both said that they were enjoying it. Elijah had to leave after the eighth round, so they removed one of the columns of cards and continued.

At the end of the game, each player spent a very, very long time trying to figure out the optimum path to maximize points, which dragged the game to a halt. As a result, they said that the game was awfully fiddly. Hmmmmm.

I will have to try it out. I'm wondering if the fiddliness will disappear as you become use to the options. I don't recall who won.


Eitan+ 39, Jon+ 36, Emily, Ksenia

First play of this for everyone. This is a very good worker placement game, which we all enjoyed.

The entire game lasted only five rounds, which was rather quick (though it took us some time to explain the game and play the rounds on our first play). Essentially collect sets of cards, and use those to collect items required for victory (or items that will grant you other items required for victory), so as to fulfill a variable victory condition. And each item also gives various benefits, all themed to ancient Rome.

Everyone else took a lot of coins, while I took almost none, gaining the few I needed from benefits. It seemed to work ok. I couldn't win any auctions, but there weren't many that I cared about.

On the fifth round, it was clear that both Eitan and I were going to have three of the six conditions necessary for victory, and we only needed three of them to win a four player game. Knowing this, I should have gone for the strategy that would have let me fulfill mine before Eitan fulfilled his, which would have been a bonus of two points more for me and less for him; I also would have forgone some other points but in favor of a gain of an equal number elsewhere. And the final result would have been me winning by a single point.

Oh well. First game is for learning.

Friday, December 04, 2009

December 02, 2009

Participants: David K, Jon, Gili, Nadine, Emily, Eitan, Abraham

I'm back, with many games from BGG.con. I wanted to break out two of them, but David insisted that I wait, since I would have to do all the explaining for both.

Dominion: Intrigue

Nadine 16, Eitan 10, Jon 9, David 8

Breaking out the new Dominion expansions didn't count, because we already knew how to play Dominion. I'd played with a few cards here and there, but the others hadn't.

Intrigue make planning harder, since a number of cards cycle or trash cards out of other player's hands. That may be more fun for people who like chaos, but it's a bit negative to those who like planning. Still, only a bit, since Dominion's usual chaos outweighs the chaos from those cards.

Many of the cards give nice choices and combos.

We played only with Intrigue cards, including ... oh ... whatever. Suffice to say, the most frequently heard statement was not "Damn, I've got seven", but "Damn, I've got four". And four wasn't much use.

It took me forever to get to five or higher. I think, in the entire game, I got to 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 each exactly once. No one is quite sure how Nadine won, including Nadine. But she got two Provinces well before anyone else could.

Dominion: Seaside

Abraham 36, Gili 28, Emily 26

I think Eitan and Emily had both played with Seaside cards online. Gili hadn't. I didn't see the game.


David/Eitan 200, Jon/Nadine 155

We played this while we waited for Seaside to finish. David and Eitan both went out first on the first hand. On the second hand, I called and made Tichu.

Le Havre

Jon 109, Abraham 96, Gili 59, Nadine 42

I may have the bottom two scores mixed up, but whatever. First play for everyone except me, second play for me. We played the short game, which was around 3.5 hours long, including setup (first time for me) and explanation. Second game should go somewhat shorter.

Abraham and I love the game. Nadine complained starting around mid-way through until the end that the game is too complicated and not enough fun. I said that, like Agricola, you have to know the flow of the game and all the cards and how they can work before you can possibly understand what to do during the game. When Nadine got home, she emailed me that she thinks the longer game with the special buildings and more time to pay off ships will be a better game.

I think the only thing we got wrong was that Abraham sorted the buildings by build value instead of card number. That made the wharves come out fairly late.

Abraham bought or built buildings at every opportunity. Even when they didn't help his VP value, he gained by not having to pay for the building, or having others pay him for them. He also smartly bought the buildings which produced the most food, and these were used the most often. But he had to sell a building once or twice.

My first game I ignored the ships and just sent my goods over to the bridge at the end of the game (netting 19 points). This time I tried to do the ships, but I'm fairly sure I did something wrong with the approach, and I was only able to use my ship once, at the end of the game. Of course, that may be because I built the last two available buildings, which net me 40 points in the process (so was probably worth it).

Gili and Nadine both struggled with debt, and they also couldn't see all the cards and so missed some opportunities, as well as some rules, being their first game.

Pillars of the Earth

David, Emily, Eitan

David agreed to play one of the previous games, so as not to have to wait for my explanation. But it was the first play of this for both Eitan and Emily.

I didn't see the results, but I assume David won.

San Juan

Eitan, Emily

First play for both, the game ended in a tie.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 25, 2009

Participants: Nadine, Hersh, Navot, Gili.

Once again, and hopefully the last time for now, Nadine hosted and wrote the session report ... take it away Nadine.

Small, short and fun session tonight. I think we're back at Jon's next week. Maybe depending on his airline saga.

Hersh brought Galaxy Trucker, and Pandemic. I thought his knowing the game would be more of an advantage than it ended up being, because of the luck involved. There's also planning/building, not my strong point so I need the luck. I was happy to not end up with a negative score. Navot did very well, he built good ships, partly based on looking at the cards to see what was coming. He prepared with lots of lasers and alien lasers. Hersh then remembered that you can only have one alien of each type, but we let him keep the extra two since he didn't know. Gili and I lost points here and there for not knowing things, Gili only understood on the third round that she could pick up face up tiles. It's fun and fast once you understand the game which takes a while.

Navot 45
Gili 12
Hersh 11
Nadine 2

Some people needed to leave and most didn't want a long game. We introduced Navot to Jon's game [It's Alive], he asked about the development process, which Hersh also hadn't heard, and Hersh hadn't played the advanced version. I won, mainly due to luck - I was the only one who didn't get a Villager (also the only one who didn't draw any Coffins - everyone sold them), and at the end when I needed one card, I drew it and had the money to finish first, which is pretty much all I try for even in the advanced version. Hersh had 3 more points from leftover money that was over the total amount allowed to count.

Nadine 48
Gili 44
Hersh 40
Navot 36

My BBG Secret Santa in Germany already received his gift and emailed me. Puerto Rico - he has tons of games but not that one, shouldn't be allowed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 18, 2009

Participants: Nadine, Yona, Dylan, Gili, David, Emily, Eitan, Abe, Hersh, Navot, Shai, Uri

Nadine wrote this report while I am away:

About 5 people RSVP'd to come at 7.

When David walked in at about 7:20 he found 9 people playing Fluxx. So I
like Fluxx, but an explanation is in order for that. When Dylan arrived at
6:30, Yona and I were just sitting down to dinner. I said he could wait for
more people, or we could play Fluxx. So we played Fluxx, with 3, while
eating, Dylan had never played. Then Hersh arrived and joined, then Gili,
and Navot and Shai who are new, and then Emily and Eitan. Yona left as we
were filling up. We were still waiting for David and Abe, and everyone
hadn't even had one turn in Fluxx. We were drawing about 7 cards per turn,
for a while Play All, then Play 4. The first game with 3 players, I won
after about two rounds on the 10 card goal. I almost won earlier when Yona
played a goal which he didn't realize you can win with only Peace, but took
it back when Dylan pointed out that I had Peace and would win. The second
game, David helped Hersh figure out how to win from a large hand, with the
brain and brain no TV goal. Everyone had come in and sat down in front of
Gili, so she never got her turn.

Some people wanted to play Shadows. It turned out almost everyone wanted to
play Shadows. David and Gili and I were going to play Notre Dame, but
realized we could play something heavier. I picked Year of the Dragon, and
David agreed even though he's tired of it from playing online which he
didn't mention then. After teaching and watching Shadows, I wasn't really
into Year of the Dragon, so when Abe came he took over for me and I played
Shadows which was fun. It was Abe's second time playing Year of the Dragon.

We suspected a few people of being the traitor at different times, but it
was hard to tell. We did well most of the game, and won Excalibur and the
Grail. We had 8 white swords and needed two more swords for 12. We were at
10 siege engines. I lost my last life to fight an engine, with 8 card
points. I had lost a life earlier on a tie at 8, but this time won. Dylan
revived me with the Grail, but the game ended before my next turn. We barely
won, but got the swords by winning Saxons with an extra sword. So the upshot
was that even with 7 players, there was no traitor! Dylan said that happened
last time he played too, with 7 also. Abe did well in Dragon, David lost a
gamble because Abe had a card left to take first place to take book points,
but David won anyway.

I taught 4 new players Vegas, which isn't hard to play on your own once it's
explained, but I kept an eye on it. A friend of Eitan's, Uri came, and
learned Notre Dame. Gili did well but David beat her on money. I played
Puerto Rico with Dylan and Hersh, Dylan did most of the teaching, Hersh had
never played. We gave Hersh corn, Dylan was first and I was second. Hersh
did craft quite a bit, and did well, we pointed out trying to think ahead
and not letting people trade too easily. Dylan and I had Factory but I only
produced 3 goods, and Hersh and Dylan had Harbor, Dylan and I got two big
buildings, I had a full Guild Hall, but Dylan shipped much more.

I played Tichu at the same time for one game, David called Grand Tichu and
his partner Uri, who had never played before, went out second. Abe did point
out on the card passing that Uri didn't mean to give him what he passed, and
gave it back.

Fluxx - Nadine, Hersh
Nadine, Yona, Dylan, Gili, Emily, Eitan, Abe, Hersh, Navot, Shai

Year of the Dragon
David 99
Gili 77 or so
Abe 93 or so

Shadows Over Camelot
We won, no traitor
Dylan, Emily, Eitan, Hersh, Navot, Shai, Nadine

Notre Dame
David 59 +4
Gili 59 +0
Uri 36
Abe 26

Vegas Showdown - no one had played before
Shai 63
Eitan 60
Navot 48
Emily 45

Tichu - one game
David and Uri 400
Abe and Nadine 0

Puerto Rico
Building, Shipping, Bonus
Dylan 24, 25, 10 59
Nadine 24, 15, 14 53
Hersh 17, 26, 6 49

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 11, 2009

Participants: Nadine, Abraham, Gili, David

This is the second week that I'm away. Session report is by Nadine.

Stone Age

Abraham 191, Gili 145, Nadine 102

Huge dice rolling luck for Abraham at the beginning. After one roll he
noticed a die shaved on the six side so we took it out. We should have let
me and Gili each use it once. I was third and behind on food and everything
so I went to a starvation strategy even though I had two food and hadn't
planned it out well. Abe had buildings and cards, Gili had a lot of cards.
David came partway through at the time we thought Emily and Eitan were
coming so he kibbitzed. I think Stone Age doesn't build to the end of the
game, you just what you can at the end, it's less related to what other
people are doing at that point, so less tension than other games.

Power Grid

Nadine 18/18 + 28, Gili 18/18 + 16, Abe 16/16, David 15/15

A lot of big plants came out early. And we played wrong, forgot to toss the
3 upon building to 3, so one early round would have been very different.
Second to last round when Step 3 was showing and came down, David was second
to last to bid and I was last. Gili and Abe had plants. David bid on a 4
plant, planning that I would bid for it, and he could wait and take the 31,
a six. So I passed, I had noticed the 31 would come down without asking. At
that point he realized that his plan was not a good idea, he didn't even
want the 4 plant. I thought he wasn't going to bid, I didn't need the four.
The six brought me to 16, otherwise I would have been tied with Abe, and he
would have tried to build to 17 and possibly won. So we don't know what
would have happened in all these other cases. Last round Gili got a 7, I
took a 6. If I had to bid high for a 7, I might not have had enough money,
but mainly the 7 had coal which Abe could buy out. Abe let Gili have the
plant cheaply because he couldn't win and to offset David's mistake which
had helped me. A long and fun game, a lot of tension and interaction in the
last two rounds, and throughout. A difference of 12 at the end really is a
tie, it's not due to better playing like a difference of 50+ is.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

November 04, 2009

Participants: Nadine, David, Eitan, Emily, Gili

I'm away for the month; game night was at Nadine's. The following report is from Nadine.


David, Eitan, Nadine

David on the second round when Eitan picked a random card out of David's hand, which did it.

Amun Re

David 41, Gili 36, Eitan 35, Nadine 32, Emily 30

Half and end scores:
Eitan 18, 35
David 14, 41
Emily 13, 30
Nadine 10, 32
Gili 8, 36

First play for Eitan and Emily. David plays in online tournaments. Emily didn't realize that bricks counted in most pyramids, but Gili probably would have beat her for most pyramids in any case but it might have been more competitive. A lot of duplicate power cards, I got 5 of the move the temple count.


Nadine and Eitan 200, David and Emily 100

But it was close, D&E lost because David called Tichu on the first game and
didn't make it. Second game with more experience Emily could have gone out
third instead of last.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 28, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Bill, Shirley, Gili, Emily, Eitan, Abraham, Sarah, Ksenia

We have new steady regulars, which is great as it keeps game night lively and provides players with a choice of what games to play. Ksenia is a visiting student from Poland who will be staying with us until mid-December, at least. She has no gaming background, but was excited to try out games night and had a great time. Welcome aboard.

Year of the Dragon

Nadine 102, Bill 94, Shirley 92, Gili 90, 82 Eitan

First plays for Bill and Shirley. Shirley was able to translate the Chinese symbols on the board, and they apparently don't have much to do with the game.

They started with this game, instead of the usual filler, and it took them three hours. Nadine won, as usual. Eitan already liked the game, and Shirley really liked it. So much so, that they all sat around for another half hour discussing the game.


Jon 29, Emily 24

I stayed away from YotD, so I was able to play Dominion with Emily when she and Eitan arrived (Eitan preferred to join YotD as it was just about to start).

We pulled a dream set of cards: Chapel, Moat, Villagers, Spy, Moneylender, Bureaucrat, Throne Room, Market, Festival, and Mine. I took Spy/Chapel, she took Moneylender/Chapel.

It took a while to get to 5, but then it was steady progression. Emily Chapel'd all of her Estates, while I only dropped 2 of them. That left me at a one point advantage. We'll get back to that later.

Heh. She managed to get 2 Provinces before I got any, which made me depressed. Then we both got one, leaving me down, 3 to 1. But then I was able to get 2 Provinces and a Duchy. 3.5 to 3. We each both got one more Province, me getting the last one and pulling an additional Estate just for kicks.

Festivals are lovely, but they have to be combined with card drawing ability or they just sit there. Of course, trashing all your Estates and Coppers in favor of Golds also doesn't hurt.

Settlers of Catan

Jon 10, Abraham 8, Ksenia 7, Emily 5

The gateway game, and first play for Ksenia. She liked it, I'm happy to say. Once again I started off a little behind, but soon the numbers began to swing my way. I was the only one who had to dump to the robber during the game, and I did it three times. Ksenia and Emily did a little jockeying for Longest Road, while Abe and I built up cities. I won with a Largest Army and then my fourth city.

It's Alive

Ksenia 47, Jon 43, Abraham 41, Emily 33

Scores are approximate, but in order. First play for Ksenia, and she liked it too (though not as much as Settlers). I'm STILL finding new ways to think about the money and point aspects of the game. Great game.


Abraham 99, Jon 97, Sarah 79, Ksenia 58, Emily 57

For some odd reason, the old-timers don't like to play this game with me, which boggles me, as I think it's incredibly elegant and fun. Luckily I had four players who had never played it before, and I already knew that Abe would like it (and probably win). it's also new player friendly. So I got another chance to play.

Five players is the toughest scenario, of course, but even so, ours was pretty amiable. Very little land dried up completely until the last round of the game.

One of the interesting things about the game is that it's not enough to play a round by maximizing your point score for that round only. You have to consider how many extra points you can get by taking a smaller amount this round in anticipation of tiles that will give you a really big boost in some future round.

Also, you have to weigh the points you will get if you take tile A and opp takes tile B, and the reverse; not only what you will get with your own placement.

Four of the five crops had some contiguity, while the fifth one only sprouted between the fields, so to speak. I made a bonehead move on the seventh round, missing an already watered spot on the board and therefore not bidding high enough to secure it for myself. That was a 10 point loss, I believe.

But the game came down to the end, where Queenmaker Emily got to decide whether my crops or Abe's would be watered. Abe won out, and he won by 2 points.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 21, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, David, Gili, Eitan, Emily

Eitan and Emily came later again, so we didn't mix gamers much.


Jon 23, Gili 17, Nadine 17, David 7

Dominion has become the filler game of choice for us. In fact it's middle weight, and can work as a main game, too. Especially because we'll sometimes play two games straight in a row.

In this game, we played with Witch, Market, Bureaucrat, Smithy, Thief, Villagers, Black Market, Moat, and two others I can't recall. It was a strange, low scoring game.

I was fairly convinced that I was doing poorly until close to the end game, because I was still working and working to get anything going in my hand, and nothing did. I bought Black Market, which I usually don't do, but David got to use Black Market four times before I could. He took Festival from it, and passed on Chapel. I really wanted Chapel, but could never get it at the right time. Eventually David took that too. The only thing I nabbed from BM was Council Room (?? The one that doubles any other action). CR is a fantastic card, and I got it together with Market, Moat, or BM on several occasions. I also had an early Witch that I managed to use three times during the game.

I saw soon that I was never going to get to 8 (actually, I did once, for one Province), so I started buying Duchy's. But I kept careful count on everyone else's purchases, and as end-game started I realized that I was slightly ahead. And two of the piles - Villagers and Moat - were finished, with two other piles - Market and Black Market - close to finishing. When the time came, and I was fairly sure I was still up a point or two, I chose one of them to end the game.

I should also note that I had managed to purchase two Golds during the game, and lost neither of them to repeated Thieves.

David, meanwhile, had an awesome start, with Villagers, Moats, BM's, and some Markets, but his hand also didn't quite gel. He got to 8 once near the beginning of the game, which made us all a little afraid. But he never bought any treasures, and with all of his drawing and drawing, he was rarely able to get to more than six purchasing power.

Gili and Nadine both used Bureaucrats and Thieves. For some reason, I bought the only Witch.

Eitan, Emily

These guys played this when they arrived, as the four of us were in the middle of another game.

Vegas Showdown

Jon 48, David 42ish, Nadine, Gili

I don't remember the exact scores. First play for David, second play for Gili.

This is another game I don't get out often, and I was wondering if the others didn't like it enough that I should toss it into the trade pile. It just turns out that David had never played it and Gili had forgotten about it. While the graphics are dumb and some of the components a little flimsy, it's actually a great game of money and space management. The event cards and building order add the only real luck into the game, but not enough to ruin the fun.

The events helped David out at the beginning of the game, but at the end of the game, the last event card spoiled his plans by a single dollar, giving me the win (or at least a more secure win; I may have won anyway). David passed the first round, and then overtook the rest of us for a while as we scrambled to gain more money. He neglected nearly entirely the blue side of his board until near the end of the game.

Nadine neatly filled in both sides as well as a corridor between the two. I gained a 6 point boost early on from a lucky event, and then concentrated on victory points with slightly more focus as the game wound down to the end. Although I explained the end game bonus points when we started play, I should probably have repeated them more often to ensure that the others didn't neglect these. I ended up ahead in both income and population, for instance, which the others shouldn't have let happen, and probably won't next game.

In the end, we all really liked the game; a definite keeper. We might try playing with one or more of the event cards on top of the deck revealed, so as to increase planning and minimize luck swings.

Puerto Rico

Emily 49, Nadine 46, Eitan 41

Eitan and Emily played this once, as their second Eurogame, and found it somewhat overwhelming. Now, with several other games under their belt, Nadine got them to return to it, and I think they had a clearer grasp of the game. Nadine didn't ship much, but she and Emily both got big buildings. Emily's good shipping and two big buildings apparently clinched the game.

I didn't see the game, though.

Magic: the Gathering

David+, Jon

We drafted and only managed to get in one game. I had nearly all white, with splashes of Black and Red. Unfortunately, I never saw a Mountain, so the red creature removal cards in my hand just sat there. I knocked David down to 6 points with early weenies, but then I just help on while he built up stronger forces.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 14, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, David, Abraham, Emily, Eitan

Good company.

Bridge Troll

Jon, Nadine, Gili

I was considering trading this. We played it one more time to see. First play for Gili.

Result: Nadine decided she didn't like it, but that's typical with Nadine when she doesn't get the strategy in a game. I still like it - maybe less than other fillers we have - and would keep it, but only if others wanted to play it. Gili thought it was ok, but wasn't enthusiastic. As no one was willing to speak up strongly for it, I decided to trade it.

It's got nice components and the game play works, though it's rough in some places. The game works better with three than it does with six. Six wasn't really fun, as you could go the entire game without scoring any real points. Three players worked fine. Several of the mechanics seemed to exist solely for game balance; I'm guilty of doing the same thing with the Villagers in It's Alive, but that's only one mechanic, not several.

The core of the game-play is blind bidding and the random results of what happens thereafter, which is good if you like that sort of thing, but it's not for my group. Again, it's a decent game, and a lot of groups will like it, hopefully the one to which I'm passing it onto.

Traders of Carthage

Nadine 19, Abraham 17, Gili 15

Playing this filler after Bridge Troll, both Gili and Nadine said that they like this game better.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon+

David and I drafted. I picked up G/R with a splash of W. David had B/G/R. We each had some neat comboes.

David had a mana producer that produced mana of any color his opponent could produce, and then some sunburst cards, which gain bonuses depending on the number of different colors used to cast them. I had an equipment that automatically moves to any new creature that I brought in, and a creature with "champion" that sends a creature out of play while it is in play.

They were fun games, although I lost the second hand because I was shy of mana.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Abraham 13, Nadine 12, Gili 10

First play for Abraham. Not Nadine's usual cup of tea, in part because it's quite longer than Settlers. Their game lasted three and a half hours.


David 26, Jon 23, Emily 23, Eitan 7

First play for Eitan, second for Emily. Emily wasn't thrilled with her first game, mostly because it was dominated by Militias. No Militias in this game, but there were Witches.

Bonus actions were Cellar, Market, and Laboratory. Bonus cash was Workshop and Market. Defense against Witches was Remodel. Getting to 8 cash was nearly impossible, especially with Witches filling our hands with Curses. We also had Garden.

David played a Market - Cellar - Garden strategy. I used an early Remodel hoping to slim down my hand, but early Curses had me struggling to stay even as the game went on. Emily took an early Witch. Eitan didn't make the transition to buying victory points early enough.

I thought I was doing better than Emily, but turns out I was wrong. I did manage to Remodel my one Gold to a Province, which was the only one taken, I think.

Jon 39, Emily 33, David 24, Eitan 19

In this game, the only bonus action was Market. We also had Chapel, Thief, and Bureaucrat. Eitan tried Mines, but Emily kept stealing his Golds. David and Emily both played Thieves, and stole from each other, although Emily was far luckier.

David took a Chapel, but didn't quite get it to work right. I think he's not using them correctly; he thinks he just didn't luck out. He got discouraged mid-game and gave up trying at some point.

I took an early Chapel, let it work wonders, and, though slightly and disconcertingly slowed by an early Thief taking a Copper I actually needed to buy my first Market, still managed to get on a roll. I had no cash at all, but I had 8 of the 10 Markets, and a Workshop. I began rolling Provinces very nicely, but without a Cellar, I slowed down after four or five Provinces. Emily and Eitan both bought one Province before me, using their Bureaucrats and Thieves. Eitan once again didn't transition to accumulating VPs early enough.

Eitan really liked the game, and Emily also enjoyed it more than last time.


Jon/Emily+, David/Eitan

First play for Emily and Eitan, I think they liked it. We played three hands, and I called and made Tichu on two of them.

Monday, October 05, 2009

October 04, 2009: Games Day

Participants: Jon, Nadine, David K and Avraham, Binyamin and Zvi Yehuda, Ben and four kids, Roni, Michael and Elijah, Eitan and Emily, Mace and Shachar, Joel, Yosef, Saarya, Ori, Gili and Lotem, Yitzchak, Eliezer, Abraham and Sarah.

Avraham is David's kid. Zvi Yehuda is Binyamin's kid. Roni is here in Israel for a year. Michael is Elijah's father, and has come to other games days and nights. Mace is a friend who plays D&D, used to play Magic, and has come to games day before, with his son Shachar. Joel is a friend of Roni and lives in the area; first time here. Yosef has come a few times before. Ori is a friend of Saarya's. Lotem is Gili's kid. Yitzchak is a former regular who moved to Beit Shemesh. Eliezer is a Beit Shemesh regular. Sarah is Abraham's wife, and has also come on occasion.

We didn't have a second sukkah this year, so games were played both upstairs in the sukkah and down in the apt. It was a fairly hopping day, and things went off smoothly, for the most part. The burger place even got our large complicated order correct.

Games are presented in alphabetical order, rather than the usual chronological.


Roni, Saarya, Gili Zvi Yehuda

I asked Binyamin to bring this, but I didn't get to play it.


Jon 9, Mace 5, Shachar 4

Yay, I got to wipe the floor with two more newbies. Mace didn't like the game after he found out there were no dice in it. Also, he kept trying to figure out why he couldn't do several actions in a single turn, instead of having to use the rondel thingie. It's timing threw him off.

I played unusually aggressive, built a large fleet and destroyed everyone else's temples and cities.

Battlestar Galactica

Binyamin(Cylon)+, Nadine(Cylon)+, Joel, Zvi Yehuda, Abraham

First play for everyone. The Cylons won, revealed. I began sitting in as we tried to learn the rules of the game, but the rules were so complicated and so poorly organized that I ran out of patience. It took nearly an hour and we still didn't know what was going on, and I hadn't had my turn yet. So I gave my seat up to Joel.

The game looked interesting enough, however, and once they got the rules down, it flowed fine, I hear.


Ben/Zvi Yehuda, Binyamin/Nadine, Mace

Some hands were played, with Mace joining at a later time.

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers

Eitan, Emily, Levana

Levana, one of Ben's kids, taught Eitan and Emily how to play. Apparenly not too well, and they reported that it seemed like she was making up rules as the game went on. They'll need to try it again, I think.


Saarya, Zeev

Saarya played Zeev, one of Ben's kids.


Throughout the day, various people played this, generally the children. The Chess set is made of plastic figures from Star Wars Episode 2.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben/Jon+, Elijah, Eitan, Saarya

First play for Eitan, which explains why he let me win by inviting me to ally with him when it gave my my fifth base. I took over for Ben when he had to go out for a short while. Changeling and Filth were both in the game.

Binyamin+, Elijah, Michael, Joel, Abraham

All of the others had super powers: Vampire, Fungus, Void, etc. Binaymin won with Crystal while they were all fighting each other.


Jon 27, Ben, David, Avraham

We started Games Day with this. The set included tons of powerhouse cards, including Chapel, Cellar, Village, Festival, Smithy. I Chapel'd away my three Estates on my third round, and bought four Festivals, the others got 3, 2, and 1 Festival.

When I won, they all complained that I won because of my 5/2 start, though none of the others took Chapel.

Ben 25, Jon 24, David, Avraham

So we played again with the same set, and we all agreed that each person had to start 4/3. The others took Villages and I took Chapel. And I once again began fine tuning my deck, first dropping three coppers, and then three Estates.

This time I didn't get Festivals as fast as the others, but it still looked like I was winning. Turns out that Ben, with his Bureaucrat squeaked in a win with a final victory point. Beats me how he did it.

David, Ben, Avraham

They played this again later.

Ben, Nadine, Yosef

Played later in the day. After paying, Nadine declared that she doesn't like the game, because other players can simply play your entire turn for you.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

Binyamin (White)+, Zvi Yehuda (Black)

Played as an opener. I think Zvi Yehuda hadn't played before.

Magic: the Gathering

David, Roni

I was going to play Magic with David, but Roni ended up playing instead.

Jon/David++, Ben

Later, Ben and I took random cards and made decks. Mine was a killer deck with black creature kill, red damage splash, and white flyers and soldiers. Ben's was less killer, shall we say, but did have that incredible Equipment that gains a +1/+1 counter every time its wearer deals damage, which is practically a game ended in and of itself (in fact, David and I won't play with in sealed).

Even with my better deck, I only squeaked out a victory over Ben in the first game. David took over for the second game, and he had less problems, apparently.

Market of Alturien

Mace+, Shachar, David, Avraham, Zvi Yehuda

First play for everyone. Binyamin brought and taught it. I had never even heard of it.

Notre Dame

Nadine 58, Eitan, Emily, Jon 38

Played to end game night. First plays for Emily and Eitan. Emily was off to a great start with double park on turn 1. But Nadine's cars and cube swapping powers swamped us all in mid-game. Just in round 6, I think she netted some 25 points.

Emily said that this was her favorite game, so far.

Pirate's Cove

Gili, Lotem, three of Ben's kids

Gili taught this to Ben's kids.

Pitch Car

I asked Nadine to bring this as I figured correctly that it would keep littler kids amused throughout the day.

Princes of Florence

Ben 60, Eliezer 57, Mace 54, Shachar 48, Jon 47

First game for Mace and Shachar. Five players is a tight game, and the auctions were difficult. I thought I wasn't doing too badly, but I had to go back 5 points for get a second Jester that I desperately needed. Ben won nearly every game today, I think.

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak 44, Nadine 42, Yosef, Ori

First play for either Yosef or Ori, or both. They scored 39 and 35. Close game.


Zvi Yehuda, Avraham

Played somewhere in mid-day.

Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm

Abraham+, Elijah, Michael, Saarya, Ori

First play for most of the others. Abraham is nearly unbeatable at this, having played several hundred times online. This was played early in the day.

Abraham+, Elijah, Eliezer, Yitzchak

These guys played this near the end of the day.

Eliezer+, Elijah, Abraham, Yitzchak

And then they played again.

Yitzchak 49, Abraham 41, Elijah 39, Eliezer

And again.

Abraham, Elijah

And again. This time without the expansion, I believe.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Michael 3, Jon 2

An exciting game of this was played toward evening. I began with Rock, forgetting that that's an all too common opener. It still beat Michael's Scissors.

Then I did Scissors to his Rock. 1-1. After that things got tense for several milliseconds. We both did Scissors, and then I did Scissors again to Michael's Paper. 2-1 for me. I did Scissors again to Michael's Rock: 2-2.

We then tied again Rock to Rock, and finally, Michael brought out a Paper to my Rock, clinching a hard-won victory of 3-2. Close game, though.

San Juan

Nadine 41, Elijah 39, Roni 38, Eitan 36

Played as a games day opener, first play for Eitan and Roni. Ron had previously played Puerto Rico, however.

Shadows Over Camelot

Elijah (Traitor)+, Yosef, Saarya, Roni, Eitan

Amusingly, this was being played at the same time as Battlestar Galactica, occupying both tables in the sukkah.


Binyamin, Zvi Yehuda

Binyamin taught this to Zvi Yehuda, but they stopped in the middle.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October 02, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Eitan, Emily, Abraham, Bill

Usually I skip game night before a Games Day, because it's also a few days before holiday. But I figured, what the heck? I didn't take notes, so this will be a poor session report.


Gili 23, Nadine, Jon

Gili toasted us.

Gili+, Nadine, Jon, Eitan, Emily

First play for Emily and Eitan. I think Gili toasted us again, but this time Eitan and Nadine didn't show too poorly.


Jon 164, Bill 161, Gili 130something

First play for Bill, second for Gili and me. I took this out once a while ago, and no one wanted to play it again, not because it was Bad, but because it had a poor mechanic or two and wasn't great. I thought it was ok, though. So I wanted to take it out at least one more time, to see if we were keeping or trading it.

In the end, it's got a poor mechanic or two (but not that poor) and it wasn't great. One bad mechanic is the "complete the turn" mechanic, which works well in non-interactive games, such as race games, but doesn't work well in area control or otherwise interactive games. It induces a fear for the first player to end the round, since everyone else will have a chance after him, while the last player can always decide whether or when to end the round.

I;m also not thrilled about games where the players have the ability to speed up the game end with dumb plays, too.

Other than those things, the game is good, a lot like Through the Desert actually. Connect to your water holes (markets), create large groups, score in a variety of ways. It's enjoyable enough, just like TtD is (TtD doesn't have the drawbacks, though, but it's a bit more serene).

In our game, I was first player. They each built huge blocks of one territory, raking in cash and big bonus points. I built a bunch of small territories, hoping for the cascading bonus, which I got. I wasn't sure it would be enough to beat them out in the end, however. I was actually behind on the first scoring round by a few points.

When there was only one card left to draw in the animal deck at the end of the second round, everything just went into a holding pattern. I couldn't afford to end the game, and Gili took as much time as necessary to eke out more points (hoping to be more than we got in the process). Finally, she ended the game out of boredom (never a good sign).

Year of the Dragon

Nadine 97, Eitan+, Abraham-, Emily

First play for Eitan and Emily, second perhaps for Abraham. Nadine as usual swooped to victory with final scoring of many people and buddhas. Eitan's last play was to move forward on the timing track, having nothing else to do. It ended up giving him the tie lead over Abraham.

It's Alive

Eitan+, Abraham, Nadine, Emily

First play for Emily and Eitan. Eitan finished his board first. Abraham ended up with massive amounts of cash, but few points.

At the end of the night, Nadine also taught Abraham how to play Robo Rally.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 23, 2009

Participants: Jon, David, Emily, Nadine, Bill, Avraham

A fine collection of nice people for gaming.


Nadine 48, Jon 39, Emily 28, David 14

First play for Emily. This seems to have become the default filler game, though it's a tad long for a filler. And it's nearly non-interactive, the way racing games tend not to be.

We played with: Envoy, Mine, Moneylender, Adventurer, Thief, Festival, Workshop, Market, Militia, Moat.

I'm still unsure what it was that happened to David on his first few rounds, but he somehow didn't get what he wanted, and then declared that there was absolutely no way he could win the game anymore. He spent the rest of the game taking Coppers and Estates. Perhaps he can elucidate.

Emily took Mines and Thieves. She played Thief a few times, but even though my deck was stuffed full of Golds and Silvers, she only managed to trash one of my Silvers, and the rest of the times only Coppers. She, Nadine, and I also took Militias. Nadine also took many Festivals and Moats to draw cards and protect against Militias. This was the winning strategy.

I knew that my Festivals wouldn't draw cards, but somehow, instead of taking either Moats or Envoys, I bought Golds and Adventurers. It looked decent, but not enough to beat Nadine.

Odin's Ravens

Bill 4, Avraham 3

I introduced the game to Bill and then he and Avraham played one round. They opted not to continue. It's kind of an "eh" game.


Jon 9, Avraham 6, Bill 6

Yay, I got to play Antike again. Antike is simply the best "warfare"-lite game, in that it has the elements of a war game, and the tactics and strategies that implies, but a) with no dice, and b) with victory points that do not require any combat to achieve. By setting the win condition one victory point less than suggested, occasional skirmishes occur and combat always looms, but it is minimal.

Instead, the game requires you to focus on the points you need to win, and not just concentrate on building up an impressive armed force. Just like Cities and Knights of Catan, a large army is nice, but it's not necessarily the quickest way to victory.

Avraham discovered this. At 5 points, I was already pretty much set on where my remaining 4 points would come from. Avraham was behind me in points, and already at 15 cities, but still building more troops and trying to conquer more areas of the board. I suggested to him that this was the slow way to do things, and that turned out to be true.

He also lost a temple when he calculated incorrectly that I couldn't take it out. He forgot, or didn't realize, that you could use one set of troops to clear out obstructing armed forces, and then a different set of troops to pass over the now cleared area to attack. In most situations, I would have told him this. But seeing as he was so aggressive to me during the first half of the game, I merely asked him a number of times if he was sure that he wanted to end his turn before I played.

My first moves were: marble, temple on gold, gold, and know-how. I ended with five out of the five earned victory points in Known-hows (that shouldn't have happened), as well as one destroyed temple, three temples, seven seas, and five cities.

Princes of Florence

David 77, Nadine 61, Emily 58

First play for Emily, and another three-player game of PoF, which doesn't quite follow the rules and expectations of those familiar with four or five player PoF. There are so many good things in the auctions, that bidding is never that high.

On the other hand, it still isn't a good idea to let one person get three early Jesters, which is what I got last game and what David got this game. He even picked up a fourth on his last turn.

Race For the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm

Avraham 60, Nadine 35, Bill 31, Emily 22

First play for Emily (first play of any RftG game). First play of the expansion for Nadine and Bill.

RftG is kind of fun, but I'm concerned about the amount of luck in the game, and the mechanic of being able to end the game early by super building annoys me. It's very convoluted, so I'm willing to play it, but not overly thrilled.

The expansion with its missions and some changes in the cards looks like it might be a somewhat better version of the game, though it looks over-priced for what you get in components.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David+

David and I foisted them all onto RftG so we could Rochester draft and play this. A good time, as usual, though the mana distribution problems in the game still suck. My homemade fix is still the best way I know to ease the problem. (Each player may once, up until turn five, either randomly toss a land out of the game to pick a random non-land from his deck, or randomly toss a non-land out of the game to randomly pick a land from his deck).

This allowed me in the first game to make a go at the game, despite an initial land glut. I even won. In the second game, I had land, but none of the color of the cards in my hand, so I still got mana screwed. My fix is meant to ease the problem, but not guarantee a great hand each time.

I played R/G/W, with some decent creatures and red and white removal. David played B/G/U. I don't recall what he had, but it looked like an inferior deck to mine, generally speaking.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 16, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Abraham, Eitan, Emily

Eitan and Emily came back for their second night, and look to be new regulars.


Abraham 43, Nadine 23, Gili 3, Jon 1

First play for all but Abraham. I'm proud of myself for ending with a positive score.

Jamaica is a light race game. The board is a track around an island with three types of spaces: pay # food, pay # gold, or pay nothing and take a treasure (if no one else has already taken it).

Each player has a hand of cards, each of which has two actions on it, in order: first action, second action. The actions are: take gold, take food, take gunpowder, move forward, or move backward.

One player rolls two dice and then assigns them to the first and second actions. Each player then picks a card to play, and then the cards are played, starting from the die roller. The dice indicate how many resources you get (of your action is to take a resource) or how many spaces to move (if your action is to move). So, if you play a card whose first action is take gold and whose second action is move forward, and the dice were assigned as "first action 2, second action 5", you will take 2 gold and move forward 5 spaces.

You need to have the food and gold before landing on the pay food or gold spaces; otherwise you get sent back spaces to the nearest previous space you can afford. This often a Good Thing, because everyone can afford a treasure space; rather than having to match the exact movement to get to a treasure space, you can simply overshoot the space, be unable to pay for the space you landed in and all previous spaces back to the treasure space, and thus move back to the treasure space. And thus take the treasure. This makes for unintuitive game play. It also makes for a rich get richer mechanic, as players behind lose out on the treasures that the players in front can keep collecting.

Treasures are worth +victory points (most), -victory points (a few), or a special ability which may or may not help you during a game. If you land on someone else's ship, you fight by committing a number of gunpowders (like T&E) and then rolling a die and adding to the results. 1 face of the die is an instant win. Winner gets to take some of the losers resources, or one of their treasure cards, or give the loser one of their -treasure cards.

At the end of the game you score points for how close you are to finishing, each gold you have in your ship, and the treasure cards.

As it's a light to medium length game, a fair amount of luck is to be expected. In our first play, luck was unbelievably screwy, however. If the roll lets you get to the treasure when you need, your golden. Otherwise, you're not. Nadine was convinced that the game was simply unplayable. She got an early treasure, but Abe stole it and then used the treasure to steal all the rest of the treasures from the board, essentially.

Although I lost horribly, I just couldn't believe the game was so awful. For one thing, the most experienced player won by a mile. For another, it just didn't seem like there should be that much luck given the mechanics. yeah, you may have the wrong cards to take advantage of the rolls, and the dice based combat is what it is, as usual. But it sure looked like a certain amount of planning should help.

I was resolved to try it again.

Jon 38, Gili 30, Abe ?

I forget the other players' scores. We tried this again later in the evening. Abe revealed a number of tactics that help. First of all, there's the shoot forward beyond the treasure and then fall back to the treasure tactic which I mentioned above. Also, that you should play your movement cards as frequently as possible so that they will cycle through your deck and get picked again. This definitely helped my second game.

Luck played a roll again: the combination of what cards you have and what dice are rolled adds to the dice based combat to make too much luck for me. But yes, there is some control. It's nearly all tactical, but there is some. I would play it again, and I would recommend it for non-gamers. The cards, pieces, and board are all gorgeous.

Princes of Florence

Jon 66, Abraham 58, Gili 40something

It's been a while since we played this, and a much longer while since we played three-player. In three-player, even if the landscapes are all grouped together during auctioning, auctions are much less tight since there are several good options available.

However, letting me get three early Jesters was still not a good idea. I picked two more professions, some bonus cards, a single building, two landscapes, one freedom, and a prestige card (4 points, about which I consider myself lucky). My professions were all worth 20+ WV at the end of the game, and one was worth 30. Although both Gili and Abraham had 15 points each in prestige points, they were still shy of catching up.

Abraham had three builders and couldn't play his last work. Gili got her second Jester on the last round, and made a valiant attempt at best work with a WV of 28, but that's when I played my 30.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 60, Emily 57, Eitan 55

Nadine taught this to both of them in her usual strange teaching manner, and also helped them out throughout the game. it was a close game, as you can see. Nadine had 42 shipping points, while Eitan and Emily each had 25. That makes 92, so either they all went well over the last vp on the last round, or Nadine added a few extra by mistake (there are supposed to be 75).

Emily and Eitan liked it but preferred Power Grid, which they had learned last shabbat.


Abraham 39, Jon 34

We played with only 8 each of the vp cards this time, as per the rules. I kind of like it longer. Maybe 10 cards each would be about right.

Bonus actions were only Market and Spy, no Throne Room. Other important cards were Mine, Thief, and Militia. And Thief wasn't even bought, I simply said that I might buy it. He took Mine and Militia, I took Markets and Spies. Somehow, he always gets sente on the vp cards.

We were counting vp purchases, but apparently I was off by one. I thought I was going to win by a point, but I missed one of his Province purchases.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 08, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Elijah, Benjamin, Abraham

Moved to Tuesday again, since I had a conflict on Wednesday. Gili only showed up at 7:00, and I began explaining to her how to play Mr Jack. The Elijah and his friend Benjamin came as I was finishing the explanation, and Abe a bit after that.

Taj Mahal

Abraham 46, Gili 43 (or something like that), Elijah, Benjamin/AI, Jon

First play for Abraham and Benjamin.

Benjamin neglected to tell us that he had to leave very early, and he suddenly left after turn 6 or 7. We decided to continue him as an AI. He flipped over the top colored card of his deck, adding the top white card, if any, on each turn. He continued playing if the next color matched. He took the most logical locations, and then took random cards.

I lost two very expensive battles early on, and that put me out of contention for the rest of the game. After Benjamin left, my goal was simply to beat the AI. And when the final scores were added up, I actually had one point more than the AI did, which was a great relief. And then it was pointed out that the AI's last move was to take the bonus white card that I had in my hand. So I lost to him by one point, after all.

I was feeling depressed.

Notre Dame

Gili 60, Abraham 52, Jon 48

First play for Abraham. Once again I was losing this one very badly until the last round or so. I had to pass the cards my opps wanted in favor of getting the ones I needed; a familiar story, but acutely more painful when you're losing.

I ended up getting a bunch of VP location cards, and the ability to pay for one more, netting me 18 points in the final round. So I didn't get routed, at least. Some of my losses were due to early rat problems.

Abraham did a lot of car moving and Gili did some, too. Gili also got a late Garden, while Abraham took a Notre Dame with no contest on round 6.


Jon 49, Abraham 48

We had a god-set of action cards: Festival, Market, Village, Smithy, Moat, Library, ... There was Thief, but that doesn't really matter when you don't need a single treasure card in your hand to actually buy something.

Abraham actually trashed all of his coppers for 2 golds. I stole one of them, and the other didn't really matter. He cycled through his entire deck until he started filling up with VPs. I had a much more diverse hand.

He started out three Provinces ahead of me, but we kept count, and I began to catch up, gaining something like 3 Provinces to his 2. As the Provinces were running out, I had to start buying Duchys (when I could) to ensure the game would continue. And on one of those occasions, I bought an additional Estate.

That was the one point I needed to win the game, when I took the last Province.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

September 02, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, David K, Nadine, Eitan, Emile, Tal

Eitan and Emile just showed up midway through game night, having seen one of my advertisements. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a game. I set them up with some two-player games, and by the time we were all done, they had to leave. Hopefully they'll be back.


David, Nadine, Gili, Jon

This set had the three major attack cards - Witch, Thief, and Militia - but also had Moat. It had no cards to trash cards, however. It also had only a single card that gave bonus actions, and that was Festival (+1 action, +2 cards). The Throne Room could double that. Still, it didn't look easy to get to the magic number of 8.

I bought Woodcutter, Militia, and as many Festivals as I could get my hands on, which was only 3. David managed to get 5 of them, and, together with great Throne Room draws, always seemed to be a step ahead of everyone else. I picked the only Province in the game early on, but I also collected the most curses owing to not concentrating on Moats the way everyone else did.

Moats ran out first, followed by Festivals, and then it looked like it would either be Woodcutters or Duchys, and it ended up being Duchys.

David 40, Jon 29

We played this to cap off the evening. In this game, there were no attack cards, but there was Black Market, which let David pick up the Witch. To counter that I Black Market'ed the Chapel, dumping Estates, Copper, and Curses. I also had Mines and the guy who trashed Copper to get +3 (forget the name). David picked up the Thief, but it didn't harm me.

Still, though I trashed 4 curses, I still ended up with 6. Also, I might have taken vicory points a tad too soon; I went slow and steady, but David picked up a bunch in the remaining rounds. The game ended with Markets, Throne Rooms, and then Curses.

Pillars of the Earth

Nadine 48, David 45, Jon 43, Gili 31

OK, I really liked this game for a while, but last time I played I was hit with extraordinary bad luck with the Master Builder pulls. I wrote this off to a fluke. This time I got the same extraordinary bad luck with the Master Builder pulls, and I'm now a little dissatisfied with this mechanic. Surely there must be a way to make these a bit more fair.

It didn't help that I played with very low money, as this didn't allow me to take advantage of the very few times I was actually pulled out of the bag at a better time. But one of the reasons I didn't have this money was bad luck in timing to begin with; David and Nadine ended up with the two craftsman that give bonus money, and wouldn't you know it, they both won. It was fairly close though.

Nadine looked like she was behind, but she had tons of money to convert to points at the end, as well as buy the best craftsmen and goods she needed for a final push (of 22 points). David was scoring less than me early on, but I knew he would overtake me with much better craftsmen pulls as the game went on, which was due to luck in the Master Builder draws, mostly.


Eitan 6+, Emile 6-

First play for both. We taught this to them to play while we played PotE. They enjoyed it a lot, and ended on a virtual tie. Eitan had tossed less, but both of them tossed more than 10 cards each.

Mr Jack

Emile (Detective)+, Eitan (Criminal)

First play for both. Another game to play while we were finishing PotE. They both enjoyed this too, I understand. Jack's identity was revealed on round 6, and he was captured on round 7.


Jon/Tal, David/Nadine

We played one hand while waiting for Mr Jack to finish, but Eitan and Emile ended up leaving after they finished, anyway. Nadine bid Tichu, but then found herself left with 2 cards: the Dog and a 6. And her partner had only 1 card.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 25, 2009

Participants: Jon, Binyamin, Gili, Elijah, David, Avi

Game night on Tuesday night by request. Avi is David's son.


Jon 60, Binyamin 46

First play for Binyamin. He almost learned this once from Gili, but didn't get it and they didn't have time to play it.

Jambo, like Odin's Ravens and I suspect all of the Kosmos two-player games, is light like an appetizer. It's nice enough, ok to kill time, nothing that can't be interrupted by a better game. But if time is short and there are only two players ... I'd probably play Magic.

Binyamin thought it was ok, too.


Gili, David, Avi, Elijah

I didn't see the results. They played this while waiting for us to finish Jambo.

Stone Age

Gili 254, Elijah 193, Avi 127

Gili brought this and likes it. I'm not enamored with dice, but I'll play it. First play for Avi.

Shame on Gili for beating up on the kids. :-)


Jon 50, Binyamin 35, David 31

We drafted cards. I didn't get any cohesive strategy from this, but I always prefer the cards that give you an extra X when you take X or Y. For most of the game, I only played two of these. Then I dropped a bunch more, purely for their VP effect, ending with 7 bonus points (+3 from a card Binyamin played).

I thought farming and fencing is the better strategy than house building, but those extra actions are definitely nice. With a 6 room stone house and a middle amount of animals and an early fireplace, I spent the last several rounds simply picking up victory points for whatever I was missing: a grain here, a field there, a card here.

I thought David was really doing better than me for most of the game. He had early and powerful farming. But somehow he never got beyond that. He had food, fields, grains, and vegetables, but no pastures and few animals and bonus points. And no house.

Binyamin also had no animals or pastures, and also had to work at feeding his family on a few occasions. He had a larger house, though, and a few extra bonus points.

Greedy Greedy

Gili, David, Elijah, Jon, Binyamin

I was sent this game as a thank you for posting about it. It didn't look like our type of game, but I felt obligated to play it once. First play for all of us.

The game comes with a pack of card, six d6, and rules. I don't know if I was sent a prototype version or the real thing since my copy was free, but the quality of the cards was just awful. Worse than any quality you've ever seen. In fact, half of the thin cards were matte-faced and half were glossy. As a result, they were difficult to mix. Oog.

It's a push your luck dice game. Amazingly, the designers found a way to make a dice game even more luck-dependent by having each player flip over a card before starting his or her turn which gives additional bonuses or penalties for succeeding or failing in your rolls.

This card thing isn't necessarily a bad design decision. If all of the cards were positive, then this would color your tactical decisions on each turn, which would make a slightly more interesting game. Unfortunately, many of the cards were negative. Your round can simply be ruined by a card flip, which makes everyone else laugh, I guess, but basically sucks. Worse are the cards that make you lose a turn: nobody likes to lose a turn (play less), yet designers keep throwing that mechanic into games.

As far as push your luck dice games go, it's hard to see why this is a better game than any number of traditional games with dice or Can't Stop. But it's not bad for the genre either. We certainly laughed a lot at the ridiculous effects the card flips had, and, like any push your luck game, occasionally tried to work out whether or not is was better to continue or stop.

There was confusion in the rules as to what exactly happens when one "rolls through" (scores with all six dice). The game says you can flip another card and continue, but it doesn't say what happens to the previous card. And some cards say that if you "roll through twice on the card" then something happens, but how can you do that?

There was no convenient way to score, so I was constantly writing and crossing out on paper. Midway through, I realized that tracking the superfluous "00"s at the end of ever score was a waste of time, so I kept scores without them (100 points became 1 point). After twenty minutes, we had had enough. Not our type of game.

Elijah said that he would enjoy playing it as a filler.

Bridge Troll

Jon, Binyamin, David, Avi, Elijah

First play for Binyamin, David, and Avi. Avi was concerned that he didn't understand the rules when I explained them, but he was able to pick it up as the game started and ended up liking it.

We only got halfway through the game when Elijah had to leave, and we abandoned it. Like me, David was not thrilled with the cube mechanism, especially about taking cubes from other players. And none of us like the mechanism where cubes are redistributed at the end of each round. The first time I played this, I thought that all cubes go back to the supply, forcing you to close your bridge to get more. And I think that worked a LOT better.

It's a decent game, all the more-so for the nice artwork and up to six players for a filler, but it feels like an even better game is in there somewhere. If the cube mechanics were just a bit less fiddly. And maybe a tad less luck in the blind bidding.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 19, 2009

Participants: Jon, Cliff, Gili

Huh. Some regulars are away, I know, but we still had a decent show last week. The only regulars to show this week were me and Gili. Cliff is a local gamer who can never make Wed nights, because he teaches. He just happened to be between sessions this week.

He brought Battlestar Galactica, but we decided that three wasn't enough people to play it.

Blokus Trigon

Jon+, Cliff

First play of any game in the Blokus series for Cliff. He made the mistake of not getting all of his bigger pieces out first. I had a tough time deciding at several points when to place something big before my opponent could block it (though he couldn't do anything else with that space) or take more space away from my opponent.


Jon 52, Gili 43, Cliff 33

First play for Cliff. He liked it. We played with a random assortment, where the only Attack card to start with was Bureaucrat, but Black Market pulled in a few more. Gili used it to get Moat, and she happened to pull it against several attacks.

I played nearly straight Feasts -> Markets, Villages, and Throne Rooms, with some flavor. Regarding Throne Rooom -> Throne Room: I thought about this one for a while, and the only difference between doing Throne Room -> X, and Throne Room -> Y, versus Throne Room -> Throne Room -> X and Y, is that the latter saves 1 action (and can only do the former if X gives you an extra action).


Jon 150, Gili 133, Cliff 127

Scores approximate. First play for Cliff. I don't get to play this most of the time, as others in the group don't like it; I still think it's a fantastic game.

This was my first three-player experience, and three players is far more serene - and high-scoring - than either four or five players. Maybe I overlooked a rule.

Poor peas never yielded more than a single plantation. Both Gili and I had plantations yielding 88 points, while Cliff had an 80 pointer.

I still don't know whether it is correct to add a square to your opponent's big field, preventing him from doing so, and with the expectation that he will add to yours, or whether it is better to add to your own field and let the opponent add to his. Must calculate that definitively someday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 12, 2009

Participants: Jon, Binyamin, Tzvi Yehuda, David, Avraham, Moshe, Har-El, Miryam, Elijah

Binyamin brought his son Tzvi Yehuda, and David brought his son Avraham and two nephews-in-law (or something like that) Moshe and Har-El. Meanwhile, Miryam is a first-timer who had played Settlers of Canaan somewhere and was told by her relatives that she should check out our group.

Tonight's session was somewhat disorganized, owing to my being home late from checking my daughter in to the hospital in preparation for a tonsillectomy, and owing to having asked Binyamin to check out my mezuzah's, which I then had to reattach to all my doorposts during the first twenty minutes of game night.


Binyamin, Elijah, Tzvi Yehuda, Miryam

First play for Miryam.

I set everything up and was all set to take my first move, when Binyamin told me that I had to put the mezuzah's up right away. I grumbled, but I took a Silver and then put my cards down. David Klein then played for me after he walked in. He took Throne Room (the card that let's you double an action), and then put the cards down. Then Binyamin picked up my cards to finish the game.

Unfortunately for him, Silver and Throne Room are two ridiculous cards to take on the first plays, and he spent the next five rounds playing catch up. Miryam liked the game.

Jon, David, Binyamin

And we played another game of this later in the evening, to close game night. David started slowly, but was eventually drawing his entire deck each turn (Throne Room and Smithy, Village, Festival) [DK: What makes this more impressive is that the deck had over 30 cards in it and I still pulled the whole thing!]. Binyamin is the first to play the Black Market. His most important purchase was Witch, which gave him the game. That's probably always going to be the best result of Black Market.


David, Avraham, Har-El, Moshe

First plays for Har-El and Moshe.

Cosmic Encounter

Jon, Moshe, Har-El, Elijah

Elijah., as usual, pestered everyone to play Cosmic. I thought it would be a decent choice for Moshe and Har-El, but I was wrong: a) Har-El didn't read English too well, though he spoke it well, and b) Har-El's disconnect between what he wants the rules to be and what the rules are prevented him from grasping the rules. So he constantly tried to put more tokens in the cone than he was allowed, played extra cards, give cards to other people, make unbind-able deals, and so on. He found the game overly complicated. Can't argue with that.

We played one power each: Mind, Ghost, Prophet, and Crystal. Prophet was the strongest power, so Elijah got ganged up on early.

La Citta

David, Miryam, Avraham, Binyamin, Tzvi Yehuda

David taught this to Binyamin, as he wanted to learn it. First play for everyone but David.

I've had a good time every time I played this, but acknowledge that there are some problems with the game: the luck of what cards are available on your turn, and your dead cities that feed people to other people's success. These haven't bothered me terribly, and I imagine that there is some way to fix the luck of the card draw, if we decided it's necessary.

Unfortunately, these guys really weren't happy with the game, owing to the above problems. So much so that they unanimously decided to abandon the game half-way through.


Jon, David, Binyamin

I taught this to David and Binyamin. It's a decent filler, very spacial and calculating. Not too many rules, but I always forget one or two important ones when I teach it. :-o

Furthermore, there are a few rule problems that come up every time, such as can a temple be used to join two small settlements, ending with a settlement large enough in which to play a temple? Can you split a settlement such that a temple remains alone? And a few others like this.

I have to make rulings on these issues each time we play. Otherwise, I find it to be a fun abstract game with a little luck in the tile draw (which can be solved with a pool of available tiles, and upcoming tiles visible).

Winner's Circle

Elijah, Tzvi Yehuda, Avraham

The younger ones played this to round up game night.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 22, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Abraham, David K, Bill, Nadine

A lovely bunch of regulars.

San Juan

Abraham 24, Gili 22, Jon 22

First play for Abraham, though he has played Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy, so this wasn't much of a stretch. Of course, he didn't know the cards as well as we did.

That didn't stop him from putting together an awesome synergy for trading: Market Post, Well, Trading Post, and so on, all working perfectly together. Gili followed with higher paying production buildings and Aqueduct, while I had only my lone Indigo Plant the entire game, going the Quarry and Carpenter route. Word to the wise: if your opponents are crafting and trading, you're not going to make much money unless you can benefit from their role selections, too.

Still, I had good luck picking 6 point buildings. Abraham didn't pick any, so he just built quickly to end the game as fast as possible while he was ahead. Gili got out a Guild Hall and I got out a City Hall, but it wasn't quite enough.


David 17, Nadine 6, Bill 2

First play for Bill (or perhaps second). David likes this game a lot, which surprises me, as it doesn't strike me as his type of game.

Stone Age

David 160ish, Abraham 150ish, Bill 110ish

Don't have the exact scores, but something like that. David thought he made mistakes, so naturally he won anyway, though Abraham came close.


Jon 124, Nadine 107, Gili 80ish

We searched around for a game that both Nadine and Gili liked, since they don't like my favorite games. I'm less than enthused by Caylus, but don't play games only if I hate them (like Fluxx). I find Caylus to be overly dry, overly long, and - strange as it may sound - not requiring too much thinking. It's actually a pretty forgiving game if you keep your eye on the victory points. Or perhaps I just don't care who wins, after five levels of converting money to workers to cubes to buildings to more building to yet more buildings.

Nadine took the first favor, I but I quickly jumped ahead in favors. I got to the end track in cubes, so that I could get the gold cubes I needed, and of course the end track in buildings, which is required to win. I also don't neglect the gray buildings, whose point return is quite good, or the castle.

The provost doesn't get much play in a three player game; I lost out on using one building on one turn, which I couldn't really afford to use, anyway. We all seemed to have a lot of money most rounds.

And since we hadn't played in a while, and the board is really poorly designed, Gili got confused by the rule of which level of the favor track you can use in which phase. I also reminded them about placing workers on your own building for only one coin, even after others have passed. Knowing the rules better gave me a slight but unfair advantage.


Abraham 45, David 31, Nadine 20ish

The only card that trashed other cards was the Thief, and it trashed your opponent's cards. David used Thief a few times only to realize that he was helping rather than hurting his opponents by trashing their coppers. Abraham drew a completely synergistic deck which drew itself in total on every turn.

David reached a buying power of 19 on one turn, which is the most I've ever seen.


Jon 12+, Bill 6

First play for Bill. A learning experience. I really really love this game, because, while conflict is an option, you don't lose much if you lose a combat. The object is to gain points, not territory. And no dice rolls!

Bill was trailing on my Know-hows, and working at expansion, ignoring my immanent poise to strike. I then swooped in an sacked two of his temples, netting two destroyed temple points, one "five cities" point, and one "seven seas sailed" point in one turn. Since it was getting late, and I was now winning 12 to 6, I suggested he resign, which he did. But he liked the game.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 15, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Yael, Abraham, Rachel A

Elijah brought his younger sister Yael. Scores aren't exact; I left my notes at home.


Nadine 15, Elijah 13, Jon 9, Yael 3

First play for Yael. She didn't like it, and found it too confusing. Nadine tried to help her with strategic decisions (as opposed to simple rules explanation), and I tried to stop it since I thought it was confusing her; I think Nadine was right, however.

Yael didn't dump, but she also didn't score any points. I took early dump and a few chips, but couldn't get any more after that. Elijah and Nadine dumped a lot, but also got tons of chips which I couldn't seem to get.

It's Alive

Yael 46, Abraham 41, Jon 37

First play of the advanced version for Yael. She was initially put off by trying this version, having played the basic version many times and winning most often. But she did fine and won anyway. I thought I might have been doing ok, but realized near the end that it's no way to win if you have no cash. I began maximizing my cash, but only got to do it for two rounds before the game ended.

Remember kids: cash at the end of the game is straight victory points, if it's less than or equal to half your board.

Year of the Dragon

Nadine 111, Jon 103, Elijah 80

In our game, medicine and helmets came up early, followed by one famine. Then there was a large break until taxes and a final famine.

I worked out that I needed only 5 people for all of this, and went for books around 1/3 of the way through. I ended up gaining massive points in books, but five rounds from the end I could already see that I was not going to win against Nadine's end game scoring. She was going to have massive amounts of people (9) and several Buddha points. And so she did. She was nearly keeping pace with me anyway, having 6 huts, double dragon (first move) and a princess.

I lost all but one of my huts and people in the last two rounds of the game.

Apples to Apples

The Dealer 8, Yael 6, Jon 5, Abraham 2

We filled out time with this. Two cards each from the two guessing players, and two more cards from the box (The Dealer). Naturally, the dealer won.


Jon 39, Abraham 33, Elijah 7, Nadine 6

We were all happy to play this. We had Witch and Spy, but also Moat and Chapel. Nevertheless, Nadine was still unhappy with the Witch and unable to formulate a counter strategy against it. She grew bored by the end, when it was obvious that there was no way for her to win (she had 11 curses in her deck at the end).

Elijah also got hit with a lot of curses. Abraham got hit with some, too, but he used a Chapel effectively to dump most of them. He had a very synergistic deck of Spies, a Festival, a Cellar, and a few coins. It took quite some time to get going, but eventually, though it was annoying to everyone else, it started netting him a number of victory cards.

My deck started better, however, with first turns Witch and Chapel. After netting a Silver, I dumped 4 Coppers to the Chapel and then my three Estates. I've used Chapel to dump Estates before, and even a few coppers, but this was the first time I dumped so many Coppers all at once. A lean and perfect deck is just worth it. You can only do this when there is no Thief, however.

I took a Festival and then another Witch; I regretted the Witch, as I should have taken another Festival. And then I got a number of victory point cards, and my deck slowed down. Abraham's began building steam, and then Nadine ended the game just to get it over with.


Nadine/Elijah 115, Jon.Abraham -115

I began with a very poor Grand Tichu bid, and ended up going out last. Not a good start. It could only be equaled by Abraham doing the same thing, which he promptly did on round three. Round two, no one called Tichu, so naturally I went out first. And round four, Elijah called and failed to make Tichu; Abraham and I both went out first.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

July 08, 2009

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Oren (?), Bill, Abraham

Gili came with her young cousin, whose name is Oren, I think.

Bridge Troll

Jon 25, Bill 24, Nadine, Gili, Oren, Abraham

Nadine and I had played this once before with three players, but with the wrong rules. This was the first play for everyone else.

The rule we left out last time was the one where each bidder receives the bid stones of one of the other bidders and the end of the round (lowest bidder generally takes the highest bidder's stones, and so on). The designer told me that this was an important rule, and we had to play the game with it. So we did. And while it's a decent mechanic, it nearly completely eliminates any reason to not bid at all, and thus get free stones from the center.

The number of stones you get from not bidding is now not significant compared to the number you get if you bid anyway. Furthermore, now the center stones run out (since nothing is supplying the center, except a very occasional goat) and you end up taking your stones from other players. Often, the second player to pass takes the newly acquired stones from the first player to pass. It's another one of those cases where we got the rules wrong on the first play, and when we found out the right rule, we kind of liked our way better.

And there is a rules ambiguity: the rules say to take the stones from the player who has the most. But if player A has 8 stones, and player B has 7, do I take all 5 of my stones from player A, or do I alternate taking from whomever has the most after each stone, so that players A and B are both left with 5?

Onto our game.

This time I forgot a rule which I remembered last time, namely that one of the cards is face down each round. We remembered as soon as the first Seer was flipped up (the Seer being the card whose special power is to peek at the face down card).

A six player game is just a mess of chaos, which will appeal to some people. It was so confusing that I had to act as facilitator, calling out whose turn it was to act, who won the bid, and so on every single round, right up to the end of the game.

With six bidders, you have scant control over what actually happens to you during the game. You may be able to bid very high and secure a single card once, but you may also (or not) end up taking the last penalty card, depending on whether someone else drops out of the bidding or not.

As a short game, this works out fine, similarly to the chaos of the bidding in For Sale. But the game is a wee too long for me for this type of mechanic. Not very much too long; just a bit too long. We finished in about 1.5 hours. That's about an hour for most people.

And that's really what it feels like: a very long game of For Sale. If you like For Sale, you'll like this game. Our group liked it well enough as a filler game, especially since there are not too many 6 player filler games available. They all said that they would play again, especially now that they had a little more grasp of the rules. I was somewhat less enamored, but I would also play again. I think I would prefer 4 or 5 players over 6, however.

Traders of Carthage

Gili, Oren, Abraham

Gili needed another filler game, as she and Oren had to leave early. First play for Oren. I don't know the results.


Nadine 39, Jon 31, Bill 7

First play for Bill.

Nadine had some killer occupations at the beginning of the game that exempted her from needing to worry about food. There is probably a direct line between this and her win, in my opinion.

But it's hard to draw any sort of straight line in Agricola, even when there are only one or two rounds left in the game. You find yourself adding and re-adding the dozens of different possible moves, trying to figure out which one actually leaves you with the most victory points at the end. If you're prone to AP, that makes for a long game. Otherwise, you eventually go with your gut and then realize you made a colossal mess of you end game, which is what happened to me.

Bill had plowed fields and grain up the wazoo, since he got a field every time he took a grain. But that, and some final pastures, was all he had. And he starved by two food in the last harvest, anyway.

Nadine had vegetables and tons of animals, since she got an extra sheep when she took a sheep and also converted three sheep into a boar and a cattle. And got an extra wood and two food whenever she took wood. She was all ranched out on round 4 or 5, and spent the rest of her time growing her family and slaughtering her overflowing animal population.

I had early conversion to a stone house, and got some grain fields and pastures, but could never hold any animals or grains long enough to reproduce them. I ended with final grain and sowing, but no animals. I got a bunch of bonus points for improvements, however.


Abraham/Nadine 280, Jon/Bill 120

Abraham stuck around until the end of our Agricola game, and I took pity on him so we played two hands of Tichu. First play for Bill. Bill enjoyed it well enough.

In the first round, RHO went out, and then I could have gone out, but then my LHO would go out, leaving them to collect all of my partner's tricks. And he had all of our tricks. Both LHO and partner had a single card, so instead of playing my 7 card straight, I played one at a time working my way downward. And wouldn't you know? Both LHO and partner held 8s. 200 points for opps.

In the second game, Abraham bid and made his Tichu, but the only cards he scored were the Phoenix and a five, netting him 80 points to our 120.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

July 1, 2009

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Nadine, Shachar, Gili

Shachar came for his first time. He's the son of some synagogue members of ours, and he (or his mom) was interested in trying some games other than Chess.

Traders of Carthage

Jon 14, Shachar 12, Nadine 10, Elijah 6

Scores were something like that. First play for Shachar, and second play for Nadine and Elijah. Nadine wasn't overly impressed, but then she's not often overly impressed with lighter games.


Jon/Gili 7, Nadine 5, Elijah 4, Shachar 2

First play for Shachar, second or third for the others. First 5 player game for me. It took ten minutes of wrangling to settle on this game, as nearly every other game was vetoed by either Elijah, Gili, or Nadine.

Five is definitely more crowded than three, but the reduced number of points needed to win makes the game feel about the same overall. I still totally love this game, though I recognize it has possible problems of ganging up and definite problems of king-making.

Shachar declared his hatred for the luck of Risk, and I offered this as an alternative. Though he did rather poorly, he really liked it. Asked for the name, and possibly intends to buy it. Gili was the least happy to play, but coming in tied for first helped raise her spirits about the game a little.

How did we tie? ...

We played on the Arabian side. I played Greece, Shachar played Syria, Nadine the Black Sea region, Gili Arabia, and Elijah North Africa. We all got to one point fairly quickly, and Nadine even led to two points.

Nadine was defending her borders and growing rather slowly. Gili had the advantage of isolation for nearly the entire game. Elijah and Shachar traded skirmishes in the center of the board, which kept them occupied. Then I leaped ahead with some seas sailed.

Add to that 10 cities and two know-hows (sailing and navigation), and the last two points seemed like it would be my capturing two of Shachar's or Elijah's temples. But in the meantime, Gili had also grown to five points, and she only needed 2 additional ships to gain a seven seas card, 13 gold to gain the free know-how point (for all know-hows), or 1 additional temple. She was going to win in two turns unless I won first.

Elijah dropped a boatload of fleets to stop me ransacking his temple, and I could now either occupy 14 seas or sack one temple; I would lose too many ships to do both. And then it would take me a few more rounds to get my last point. So it looked like Gili would win after all.

But then Elijah, seeing that Gili was about to win, abandoned defense on his own temple to sack one of Shachar's, which just let me get enough manpower to sack his. He simply wanted to end with one more point. Mind you, my sacking only worked by bending the theme pretty badly: some of my further away ships had to clear out Elijah's remaining ship defenses, and then my closer ships could just make it far enough to reach his temple.

I had gone first in turn order, so we let the round finish and Gili ended with her points anyway. If Elijah hadn't king-made, Gili would simply have won.

Bridge Troll

Elijah 45, Jon 44, Nadine 36

The designer sent me a copy of this new game.

Bridge Troll is a blind-bid set-collection card game. You play trolls trying to snag the people crossing your bridges. Each round a number of people try to cross, and players simultaneously reveal bids for picking order. Cards are then collected one at a time by bidding players, until all cards are gone (there are often more than the number of bidding players). You may opt not to bid in order to collect more cubes for bidding; you then collect no cards.

Some of the cards are bad, and all the cards must be taken. So if there are N+2 cards, and 1 of them is bad, second highest bidder is going to get stuck taking the bad card on his second pick. So going first is not always good. Sometimes, if all but one player passes, one player gets all the available cards, which is usually a windfall.

Each card has two values: food and money. When you collect the card, you assign it to one of the two piles, generally the one with the higher value. At the end of every turn, you trade in matching values of food and money for victory points. E.g. a card worth 7 money can be matched with a card worth 6 food for 6 victory points. If you passed in the bidding, you can also use cubes to make up the value discrepancy at a rate of 2 cubes / 1 value of discrepancy.

Naturally, some of the cards also have special abilities. Some are bad, as I mentioned, and will sack your highest food or money card. That's the gist of the game.

The components are very nice, for those who care about such things. The theme is silly.

It was pretty easy to understand most of the rules, although one or two cards were confusing and one, at least, was hidden somewhere in the rules and I couldn't find it (we just guessed the meaning of the card; we got it right). I completely forgot one of the rules: about players snagging the bids the other players made during the round. Without this rule, we were forced to pass some of the rounds in order to restock on bidding cubes. With the rule, we may not have needed to do that.

The game flows rather quickly. Decisions were light. The hardest decision was what to bid, and that was somewhat random. A few times you had to decide whether to take a card whose ultimate value would be determined if managed to get access to some later card.

You have to manage you bidding cubes (at least the way we played, you did). I don't mind blind bidding - I rather like it in some games - but in this game the results of the bids were a tad too important to be left to this mechanic, so it detracted from the game for us; a different more strategic bidding mechanism would have been more interesting to us, but the result would also have been a much weightier game, not necessarily fitting to the theme and intent of the designer.

Overall, it definitely works. No obvious problems, quite fun if you like this sort of filler-type game. Though Nadine complained during the first half of the game, by the end she came around to admitting that it wasn't too bad (she doesn't like light filler games in general). On the other hand, other than the pictures of the trolls, she loved the components: the weather die, the card and cube colors, and everything else. That was a plus for her.

The fact that it plays for up to six is also a big bonus for the game. And it probably plays better with more players than it did with only three. I thought it was fun and would be happy to play again.

In our game, Elijah lucked out on collecting a number of helpful special cards which he used to good effect. I worked on managing my bidding cubes, and that helped too, but a few times I took the face down card as a gamble and lost.

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