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.