Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, 2009

Participants: Jon, David K, Hershel, Gili, Abraham, Sarah, Binyamin, Moshe Avraham

Sarah is Abraham's wife; this is her second visit. MA contacted me two weeks ago interested in knowing if anyone knew how to play Pentago, as he was interested in learning more about it. I invited him to drop by. He was uninterested in any other games, just in Pentago.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon+

I invited David to come a bit early and we got in a draft and three games of Magic. The first two games were both mana skewed victories. Really, Magic has a mjor flaw and this is it. Way too many games come down to mana screw, even after mulligan rules.

I created a rule a few years ago that helped out immensely; I stopped playing with it when they introduced the new mulligan rules, in order to give them a chance, but we find them wanting. Here is the rule:

Each player can, once only, and only before finishing his or her fifth turn, do either of the following: a) discard a random non-land card from the game to draw a random land card from his or her deck; or b) discard a random land card from the game to draw a random non-land card from his or her deck.

In practice, we look at the bottom of our deck, choose the first one we find, and then shuffle the deck. If, for some reason, this would interfere with some already played card (such as something that puts a card on top of your deck), we work around it in the most sensible fashion.

The one land difference usually turns an unplayable game into an enjoyable one. We have decided to reinstitute this rule in future games.

In our third game, I used this rule, and we had a longer battle. I still lost, though David said my deck was slightly stonger. I played White/Green with a Blue splash. Many fliers, counters, and cards that gave bonuses for the number of creatue type X in the deck. David played Green/Red with Blue.

Stone Age

David, Gili, Abraham, Sarah

First plays for Sarah and David. David starved some of the time, but I don't know the rest.


Hershel 59, Jon 46, Nadine 46, Binyamin 44

First plays for everyone. Binyamin taught the rules, though it was his first time, too. He warned Nadine that she probably wouldn't like it (too complicated), and she didn't. In the end, she didn't not like it as much as she thought she wasn't liking it most of the game.

I thought it was quite good, as did Hershel. Owing to not understanding the strategies and values of resources, we made mistakes in our priorities and only came to realize how valuable the commodity chips were in the last third of the game. It was about that time that we also noticed the first real problem with the game, which was that a different number of cards to acquire these chips are available each round, and if you happen to be last player and N-1 of these cards are turned up, you're screwed - especially if N cards were turned up on the other rounds.

Aside from this, there are a lot of different strategies to explore and many paths end in frustration once you realize that someone else is going to beat you to the payoff in that path and there's no longer anything you can do about it. It is for that reason that I thought playing with chips hidden might be worthwhile: you're just as screwed, but at least you don't know it for a few more rounds.

In our game, Binyamin tried ignoring the tiles altogether, but it didn't pay off fo him; I was able to beat him to the cascading point sets anyway, which was the payoff he needed to compete. I played a balanced game, but ignored the transient points from irrigation too much. Hershel had the most irrigation and tiles, which gave enough of a VP boost to win.


MA and Jon, David, Hershel, or Binyamin

While or between various games, each of us took turns trying this simple abstract. It's a 6x6 board divided into four 3x3 quadrants. Each quadrant can rotate. On your turn, place a piece and rotate a quadrant. Five in a row wins.

6x6 is not a very large board. As we played, we found several of the major patterns, none too difficult to discern if you can keep the abstract lines in your head. Though I didn't prove anything, I pretty muh decided that first player will always win (maybe force a draw), as his first move advantage is huge and second player spend too much time playing catch up. This advatange may be mitigated by allowing the second player to choose to play or swap colors as his first move.

It's a decent abstract. I wasn't thrilled with the way that one player can exactly unrotate the previous rotation of his opponent. I would rather that there be a one move wait between undoing a rotation. I think it would make it slightly more interesting, and also, perhaps, help the second player somewhat.


Sarah+, Abaraham, Gili

First play for Sarah. Everyone thought Abraham was winning, but Sarah snuck through a victory. They played with the suggested introdutory card set.


Jon/David, Binyamin/Nadine

We played a few hands to wrap up the evening.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June 10, 2009

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Nadine, Ben, Max, Abraham, Gili, David K

A few early birds showed up and started playing in the living room. The flow of games that were played confused me; I'm hazy on anything played in which I didn't.

Mr Jack

Nadine, Elijah

Nadine re-taught this to Elijah, but she wasn't interested in finishing it as other people came in.


Max 32, Jon 30, Abraham 27, Ben

First play for Ben, who didn't manage to find synergy (or, in his words, had very bad luck).

Thief was in the game, as was Festival, Feast, and Library, all of which should lead to the Festival-Feast-Library and no treasure strategy. Abraham headed that way, but he got there by means of Remodels. Somehow he got the synergy going too late, though it was doing nicely at the end.

I did something of the same thing, but I also added some silvers and golds. I lost a silver to an early thief, but as the game went on, thieves are used less which made the treasures safer bets.

Max used thief and Gardens to rack in coppers. He only made it to 30some cards, but it was still enough to squeak out a victory. For one thing, his point accumulation started earlier than ours did.

Ben tried a thief without success. He managed to get an early Province, but then his two silvers were stolen by Max and he never recovered.


Gili, Nadine, Elijah

Meanwhile, these guys played this quick filler while waiting for David to show up.


David, Gili, Elijah, Nadine

When David showed up, we only had ten minutes left to Dominion, so they played a hand of this.


Jon 50, David 42, Nadine 35, Max 35

First play for Max. Max requested to play this, as he had bought a copy and hadn't been able to get it to the table where he plays, fearing that it would be too complex. After playing, he realize that he was right; he liked the game, but it's too complex for his group.

David complained early on about how poorly he was doing, as usual, even though Nadine and I saw through him. He was also convinced that my few early occupations (gain a vegetable when I take one of the food spaces; add two items when I sow) put me majorly in the lead. I admit that they were decent.

However, I gained nearly twenty points in the last two rounds. If two of these had gone awry, or one of them and David achieved some other sudden coup, the end would have been different.

In my last rounds, I added my fifth clay room (+1 for the room, +2 for a minor improvement that gave me +2 for a five room house), converted to stone (+5), played an occupation that gave me an additional +1 per stone room (+5), solidified having the most/tied for most number of occupations (+3 due to an earlier played occupation), and gained a wheat (+2).

David thought he stole back the most occupations on the final round, but he hadn't noticed that I played one on the penultimate round as well, so he only tied him. This gave him +3 as well, but didn't prevent me from getting my points.

I had my vegetables and a stove, but I usually had to take at least one action before each harvest to ensure I had enough food. David had fantastic wheat and baking running at mid-game, and so didn't need to worry about food the second half of the game. he also had a pasture with a bunch of each type of animal (minor improvement let him mix animals). Unfortunately, he was exactly one animal short of 3 points in each one.

Nadine expressed dissatisfaction with the artificial limitations of points for animals and produce and so on, as well as how 1 sheep is the same as 3 sheep, but different than 4 sheep. This leads to all sorts of annoying calculation that shouldn't be necessary.

Nadine spent a very long time calculating on round 12 and 13, and in the end it didn't matter that much. Max had good pastures, produce, and animals, but his house and bonus points were small.

Cosmic Encounter

Elijah+, Gili, Ben

Elijah always like to play this, and I thought it might make Ben happy to play something he's familiar with. He still lost, though.

This was Gili's second play, but had been so long since her first play that she had to relearn the game. She hadn't been too impressed with her last play; this one she enjoyed somewhat more.

Ben played Void and something, Elijah Machine and something, Gili Visionary and something.

Traders of Carthage

Gili, Ben, Elijah

First play for Ben, and probably second or third for Elijah. Ben enjoyed this game which is weight-wise on par with R-Eco.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

June 03, 2009

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

Elijah had no play practice, or school tomorrow, I'm guessing.


Jon 42, Nadine 39, Elijah 33

First play for Elijah, who liked it. This time Nadine didn't believe in the power of Chapel. I took it and used it thoroughly. It was still hard to get rolling, because there were no cards that gave any bonus coin (except Market) or bonus actions other than +1 (Market, Cellar, and Spy). I ended with 6 Provinces, 2 Duchys, and 1 Estate.

Nadine did much better than I expected, having slowly taken 9 of the Duchys, as well as 1 Province.

Magic: the Gathering

Gili, Abraham

I taught this to Gili last time (or the time before), and she came back with a lot of rules questions to clarify. Abraham showed up and helped her through many of them. They played with some random cards until we finished Dominion.


Jon 9, Abraham 5, Elijah 4

First play for Elijah. I figured it would be his type of game, and he liked it. Abraham also was willing to play, and we were splitting into 2 games of 3 players each, so that worked.

I played Germanic, Elijah Italy, and Abe Greece. I moved forward 1 level in Know Hows for defense, production, and army movement, and then built a massive army. Elijah built one temple close to me which I sacked, and then I move on to Abe.

Abe concentrated on temples, building 6 temples for his 6 cities, and moving to second level in defense. He couldn't build any more until he expanded. I built a temple opposite his and massed armies. He couldn't defend all of them, but thought to lure my armies off to one side and them strike back into my territory. Unfortunately, he miscalculated his defense. I had just enough movement and armies to sack two of his temples at once, and doing so put me over ten cities, for a net gain of 3 point in a single round, which was enough to win immediately (we played to 9 points).

After I sacked his temple, Elijah spread out to Africa and the Spanish coast, largely trying to avoid conflict and hoping that Abe and I would kill each other.

Power Grid

David, Gili, Nadine

While we played Antike, they player Power Grid on the Eastern coast of the US (wussies). I don't know the results, but I know they skipped straight to phase 3 from phase 1. And played with our house rule of the top four cards of the deck open for inspection.

[DK: I won by powering 17. I think Nadine and Gili both pwered 16 with Nadine having more cash. Nadine could easily have built more cities, but she couldn't increase her power (6 plants ran out). Gili could power 18, but couldn't afford more than 16 cities. I ended with about 70 cash (before powering). Throughout much of the game Gili had tons of cash and thought she could afford to pay top bucks for power plants. In hindsight she overpaid.]

It's Alive

Abraham 51, Jon 49, Elijah 35

Abraham suggested this. I know it sounds ridiculous, but after playing the game again I really liked it. I've played it hundreds of times, but I still feel like I'm finding new strategic ways to approach it. I considered my point counts with coins near the end of the game, for instance, and evaluated whether it would be worth it to end the game with no coins but get the 5 point bonus, which is what I did.

But I lost to Abe, who had a smaller board but a hoard of cash. I actually lost the game on his turn, right before my turn, by buying a card from him instead of letting him take his own auction.


Elijah, Abraham

I introduced both of them to this, just to see if they liked it. It's not easy to get into, because of the huge decision space available at the beginning of the game on each move. They didn't get to finish the game.

Atlantic Star

David 47, Nadine 44, Abraham 37, Jon 36, Elijah 31

First play for David, Abraham, and Elijah. Elijah had to leave mid-game, so we tried to play out his hand for him as best we could.

No one ever wants to play this, so I asked if I should get rid of it. I didn't realize that so many of them hadn't ever tried it. In the end, there's certainly a lot of luck, more so as the game goes on, but still enough decision making and money management to make it fun. I think they enjoyed it well enough to play again (if not suggest it).

David won, despite having accidentally bought a high valued card for a route he had already completed about mid-game.