Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 25, 2009

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

David suggested that we play a 2-player and 3-player game, rather than a 5-player game. Turns out he was right, but our game night was still enjoyable.

Fairy Tale

Jon 41, Gili 41, Nadine 37

We exchanged games from the Beit Shemesh group: they got Saboteur and we got this in return. I like this game, but I also knew that it wasn't going to be a big hit with our group, owing to the chaos of blind placement and card flipping.

It's pretty good for a filler game. It's lacking something: the flip and unflip mechanic is not that thrilling, but easy to grasp, at least. The first few games seem random, but by the end of the second I was starting to grasp that there is some control. Synergy is hard to achieve with drafting, since not all the cards are used in each game. In Magic, unless you're trying to get a specific combo, drafting doesn't kill you if you get it wrong; here it does. But it's also not impossible, and that's the point.

I played this once before a long time ago. First game for everyone else. None of us knew what would work and what wouldn't, and we struggled with the pictographs a bit.

Jon 45, Gili 39, David 36, Nadine 33

David had a super combo going, but my second-to-last card play screwed him out of one of the key cards in his combo and he lost 12 points. He would have won, otherwise. I think the other players didn't pay enough attention to attacking cards.

With my 12 cards and 45 points, it looks like 4 points per card is a good target score to shoot for.

La Citta

Jon 40, David 35, Nadine 28, Gili 26, Bill 23

First play for both David and Bill. Third game for the rest of us. This game ran a tad long at 4 hours - about 1.5 hours longer than it should. This was partially due to new players, five players, Nadine's calculations, and the game being chaotic and calculating. It's a little like the Game of Life: simple rules create complex interactions. Lots of recounting the number of people you have and are likely to get. Good thing they give you those food counters.

Ours was a strange game with much food grabbing by the others right at the beginning of the game, only later trying to grab markets and baths. I grew my food supply at a slower pace, and only held two cities throughout the game. This allowed my cities to be strong and steal people away from other players' little cities. I had to concentrate on food growth in the last few rounds, while others, who had enough food, were building arches and so on.

It worked, though I didn't think it would. After all, your score is equal to the maximum of the number of citizens / food that you have. I was simply going for food when they were going for citizens, and vice versa. I had no mines the entire game, and gained two coins twice by using cards.

Gili built an awesome first city that allowed her to get two mines each between two mountains, for four income in the first few rounds. But she didn't have enough food, and the city wasn't attractive enough to keep its citizens so she lost the mines in round 4. David built an awesome first city with several spots for 4 food production, which gave him massive food supply. But his lack of markets were limiting, and his central city kept losing citizens to mine; this was only his first game, after all. My central city was leaching 4 people a round in the last few rounds; one of the benefits of having a strong central city.

Because of our strange play, we ran into problems with the available power cards. At several points, none of the seven was worth anything to anyone. Which meant that whenever anyone took a card, he or she simply made the card that flipped up available to the next person, which was a boon for them. Gili was the one with the cash, so her buying a 3 arch building usually made a medium sized building available to me as I was sitting to her left. It helped; a lot less than others made it out to help. Sometimes a useful card flipped up, but people (including me) often didn't have the cash or food to utilize it.

Despite this, and the long game time, David liked the game, and would be willing to play again with less than five players.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 18, 2009

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

Welcome back Bill from several months in the US.


Jon 15, Gili 15, Bill 5, Nadine -1

Played as an opener. Bill's first time. Gili doesn't really like the game. We played with my usual variant where all the chips are shuffled and placed randomly (face up); makes for a more interesting game, in my opinion.

Age of Steam

David 110, Bill 109, Jon 80

This is one of my top ten games, and only the third time I got to play it. First play for both David and Bill. I really love this game and Antique, both of which have a lot more direct confrontation than the usual Eurogames, so that must say something.

Unfortunately, I lost big-time, entirely because of Bill. Not only did he screw me three times during the game, but he screwed me royally three times during the game. None of that "Oh, I guess I have to pay one more coin" screws, or "Oh, I guess I'll have to deliver a sub-optimal good" screws. But a real heavy metal "I am out of the game; I lose 10 income points" screws. And not once, but three times. Kicked me hard when I was down.

I guess I left myself open to it. I'm not used to playing with aggressive players. We don't usually play games where this type of aggression is possible. It's not like he targeted me just for the heck of it; each time he played the right move for himself. I just got caught in his way because I started on the same side of the board as him. David started on the other side of the board, and so remained largely undisturbed for the first half of the game. Lesson learned.

Three player Age of Steam is not quite as satisfying as four or five player, but it's still a fantastic game of route planning, money management, and delivery. Our game took about 3 hours.

Stone Age

Gili 164, Binyamin 163, Nadine 147

First game for all of them. I didn't see this game play out, but the board looked a lot like the board from Pillars of the Earth. About 2 hours.

Louis XIV

Gili, Binyamin, Nadine

Second game for Binyamin. About an hour and a half. I don't know the scores.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 11, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine

Small game night, but some nice games.

Traders of Carthage

Nadine 19, Gili 17, Jon 15

A light game as an opener, in case anyone else showed up. First play for both of them, second for me.

Last time I compared the game to R-Eco: not at all in terms of game mechanics, but in terms of weight, four color collection, and hand management. I think this game is somewhat heftier. R-Eco's randomness is very random; you do the best you can. There's a bit more going on here, with the several ways that cards can be played and denied to your opponents.

I like it a bit more on this play than I did after the first. Nadine was confused for the first half of the game but began to pick it up in the second. Gili also liked it.


Jon 9, Nadine 7, Gili 6

First play for Gili, second for Nadine. I continue to love this game, especially when played to one less victory point than marked: makes it both quicker and less dependent on conflict. If we had played to one more victory point it would have taken another half hour and involved a lot more armies, which is fine for the right people in the right situations.

Gili realized that she wasn't aggressive enough, and both she and Nadine think it's good but maybe not their type of game. My experience certainly gave me an edge. I destroyed one of Gili's temples mid-game, which gave me a decent lead, and made life more difficult for either of them. I played Greece and quickly swarmed the oceans with my vast knowledgeable fleet.

Notre Dame

Gili 58+2, Jon 58+0, Nadine 57

Gili won on the tie. A close game, as you can see. I started with 2 parks, which the others though was a great play, but of course I was struggling for cash and cubes mid-game. Nadine was flush with cash, but only went to Notre Dame once; she drove her car a lot. Gili played a very balanced game.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

February 4, 2009

Participants: Gili, Binyamin, David, Nadine, Jon

I arrived late to find them playing on the wall outside my apt; sorry!

Apples to Apples

David, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili

They played a few rounds of this, and David said he enjoyed it. I guess any game played on a wall outside is probably enjoyable.

Merchants of Amsterdam

Jon, Nadine, Gili, David, Binyamin

This is a Knizia auction/area control game with a nice but mostly irrelevant 16th century Amsterdam theme. It's not bad in some respects, but the auction system sucks. Really.

The game uses the Dutch auction (naturally), which means that the price starts high and gradually falls until someone is willing to pay the price. Why is this so bad?

First of all, it uses a mechanical spring-loaded component which is almost guaranteed to break fairly quickly. Ours is new and seems fine. Second, the thing is loud. It doesn't just silently spin until it dings at the end; it makes an awful stream of clatter which my wife immediately banned from the house.

Third, it's terribly boring to sit and watch a clock tick down. I guess it's supposed to be tense, but that gets old after the first auction. And we're not talking 1 or 3 auctions per game. We're talking an auction on every player's turn! That means the vast part of the game is simply waiting for the damn thing to spin down to a reasonable price.

Fourth, it's just not an exciting auction type. It starts, there's one bid, and it's done. Only one person gets a chance to do anything.

So, one dutch auction in a game could work, but not every turn. Moving on ...

We considered alternatives to the auction given. We ended up having the first player count down from some reasonable starting point, but this gave the person counting down an unfair advantage to be first to call a certain number. We also had no way of resolving auction ties (with the clock, the first person to slap it wins, which should result in fewer ties).

David pointed out that the auction is actually similar to blind bidding, since each person simply chooses what bid they want to make before the auction starts. Our group isn't too keen on blind bidding, though (I kind of like it). It could probably be played with either turn or free-for-all auctions, as well.

The rest of the game is somewhat better, but still has some problems. For one thing, at different points in the game, certain cards are simply much better than others. If you draw them when you want to, you're lucky. If you don't, you're unlucky. That's the problem with many card games, but not all card games. There should be a more equitable distribution of cards so that all players can get roughly the same opportunities. Otherwise, the game simply devolves to chance.

The game looks like it has a decent progression. The beginning is investment, with payoffs on your investments coming later in the game. That seems to work. And there are just enough areas and types to make the choices of where to place what interesting.

Nadine didn't like that the time track moves forward at random times, especially that it disrupted people's turns. The cards themselves were repetitive; not actually that bad if the game moves quickly, but nothing really special.

It took all I could just to get everyone to agree to finish to the third scoring year, and then they all happily quit. Oh well.


Binyamin 55, Nadine 32

Binyamin is till trying to figure out the game, and this was his first two-player game. He was not interested in winning, per se, but in pursuing a particular strategy. This game, the strategy was to get lots of bonus points. He succeeded, with an incredible 21 bonus points (to Nadine's 2). He also had all five members, and a 4 room stone house. He didn't plow once.

Nadine had a more traditional farm layout, but most of the game only 3 members, a simple clay house, and not near enough of everything else.

Pillars of the Earth

David 52, Jon 50, Gili 38

Meanwhile, we played our own worker placement game and had a great time. David was a little reluctant to play, remembering only sort-of amused by the game, but when our game ended, he said he really enjoyed it and would play again. Excellent. I didn't change my opinion, in that I still really like it.

However, I do note that the worker drawing mechanism really makes a big difference to the game if you're really unlucky/lucky, and it seems to be happening in nearly every game. I need to think if maybe something needs to be done about it, when some player gets drawn several times in a row for costs 6, 5, and 4.

In our game, I was doing super conversion and thought I was going to end well, but I realized at the beginning of round 6 that David was going to beat me my a few points. It was the first game that I acquired one of the "convert gold to points" craftsmen, but I wasn't able to use it in either 5th or 6th rounds. The other one wasn't bought. That makes the first time in my four games experience that one of these cards didn't swing the victory.

I'm not entirely sure how David won the game in the end.


David/Jon, Nadine/Binyamin

We played a few hands, and the other guys got all the cards.