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.