Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 29, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nechama

Slow game nights for some reason. A pity, because I have new games to play.


Jon 58, Nechama 44, Gili 44

Such as Dominion Prosperity. I played with 5 cards from the basic set and 5 from Prosperity, and included Platinum and Colonies. The Prosperity cards included 3 treasures, a 5 cost card that gave curses, and the 7 cost boosted upgrade.

The set is fun and interesting, which is what I expected it to be. The addition of colonies meant that getting to "only 8" was now not good enough, although it was still better than "only 7" was before Prosperity. It also raised the expected number of end-game victory points. However, I now have Intrigue, Seaside, and Prosperity, and I am not interested in Alchemy or any other expansion for a long time. It will take years to play through the cards we already have.

Unfortunately, this was (equivalently) the first play for Nechama, who struggles with English and is not a fast game learner in general, so in retrospect a first game with several complicated cards was not my best choice. The game took 2 hours.

I love trashing cards, especially when I can Throne Room and do it twice in one go. I didn't get to 11 often, but I traded some Provinces up to Colonies. Gili thought she was much further behind than she was because she didn't get any Colonies. However, Nechama actually alternated between Colony picks and garbage on alternate rounds.

Settlers of Catan

Nechama 10, Gili 9, Jon 9

I suggested this, since Nechama had played it before. However, we had to explain the rules to her as if it were her first play. This one took 1.5 hours, and Nechama was surprised at how little time it took.

Ore was in short supply; However I managed to find two complementary spots, each next to the harbor for the good that the other one produced. Gili started with an early army. We underestimated Nechama's position; she had good brick and wood and used them well to get to five settlements and Longest Road. A city and another settlement and then game.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 22, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili

Weird to only have one guest.


Jon+, Gili

Gili requested this, since she only played half a game with Nadine last time. After an email or two with the designer I finally got the rules right: I had thought you could add multiple cards and also get the +1 bonus when playing in an area matching the card flags and also containing your spy. The correct rules - either a single bonus card OR a +1 - made blocking easier, and thus made the special abilities of the cards stronger. Gili likes the game.

After three games, I have yet to use most of the abilities, and some of them I find rather anemic. Scratch scratch. This may be a case of group-think. There's something flat about the game. It's nice and all, and it's quick and playable, but it doesn't seem to have a story arc. Maybe I just haven't hit it, yet.

Schotten Totten

Gili+, Jon+

I taught this to Gili. Again, after downloading files from BGG, I finally played this with the correct rules: we completely screwed up the special cards the first two times I played.

We started with no special cards. We exhausted the deck, and the score was 4 Gili to 3 me. Gili's final card play gave each of us a stone.

We played a second time using the special cards. Used correctly, they're not as unbalancing as I had feared.

Race For The Galaxy

Jon 61, Gili 29

I previously thought that this was a good game marred by the ability for one person to ram through the game end, depriving most strategies of viability and the game of much of its fun. I know other games that suffer from the same problem.

When that doesn't happen in this game, as it didn't in ours, the game is quite interesting. I've never been very good at it. Which makes my blowout victory here a surprise.

I started with a first round 6 point development, the one that gives a -2 discount for all other developments. Add to that some military strength and my game strategy was essentially locked in. The rest was just fishing for cards.

Gili played something more diverse, but never got enough shipping strength to force through to the game end that way.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 15, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Nechama, Binyamin, Mace

This report is done without notes and a few days after the session, so it's pretty anemic in terms of facts. I sold off a number of games to Binyamin. Making room for a few games on the way.


Nadine+, Jon

I was sent this game in prototype form (pretty well done for a prototype, actually) to review. The game is, as of this posting, on Kickstarter.

The theme is the Cold War of 1955. Two players use card-driven mechanics to achieve political influence in 6 countries. On your turn, you play two cards, refill your hand, and move your spy. You win if you gain control of your opponent's country or if you gain control of any three countries.

The game immediately stuck in my head as "1960-lite". Cards allow you to either add the influence to the location identified on the card (or your home country or the country in which your spy is) or let you take the special action, but not both.

I sent some comments to the publisher. When I get a response, I will post a review on Purple Pawn.

Nadine and I each secured our own countries and one other. We fought back and forth for the remaining countries, and Nadine took it in a surprise victory.

Nadine, Gili

They played, but I don't think they finished the game.


Binyamin 110ish, Nechama 94, Jon 91

Binyamin brought his copy and taught us. It's a fantastic game by the creator of Antike, also with a rondel, but this time with no direct confrontation. You can only take items that others need before they get to them. It's a tight economic game, and if you don't have your engine going early, you're in trouble, like I was. I finished much higher than I anticipated, actually.

A must-buy for our group. I was planning on buying Shipyard, and now I think I need both.

Louis XIV

Mace, Nadine, Gili

I don't remember what happened, except that they all ended with the same number of completed missions.

Schotten Totten

Binyamin, Jon

Binyamin was going to buy this from me, but he didn't. I had never actually played, so he taught me. It's actually better than I expected, since Lost Cities is always held as a great two-player card game and I never liked it. This is better. Luck with the special cards plays too big a role, however. Either we didn't know what we were doing (we only had the German instructions and the symbols on the special cards are worthless, so that's possible) or we need to find a way to equalize the cards or just play without them.


Jon, Mace, Binyamin, Nadine

I don't even remember who partnered with whom.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 29, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Mace, David K, Binyamin, Rivka, Toby, XXX

Game night was moved to Monday night owing to Hanukkah and events thereupon. Binyamin brought his wife Rivka a little late. I was going to play a three player game with them while I played Power Grid with the others, but then Toby (friend of my daughter) arrived, bringing someone new whose name I forgot. Neither Toby nor unnamed had played in the club before, to my knowledge.


Nadine 48, Gili 45, Jon 31

Kingdoms: Bureaucrat, Feast, Steward, Ironworks, Trading Post, Nobles, Haven, Native Village, Bazaar, Treasury

No extra buys in the set. No one bought Bureaucrat or Ironworks. We all tried different five point buildings, with Nadine starting on the Treasures. However, we all moved to get Treasures ourselves, eventually. I bought the first Noble and the first Province, but my luck didn't hold out well. We all pretty much knew that Nadine was winning.

Power Grid - Benelux

Nadine 13+, David 13-, Jon 12, Gili 11+, Mace 11-

First play for Mace, and I think all of our first play on the Benelux map (one or two of the others might have played on it once before). The different fuel arrangement doesn't make much of a difference, and neither does the occasional extra green power plant, but cycling out the lowest plant each round makes a big difference. We all ramped up in power plants pretty quickly, with the exception of Gili.

I took a look at the board before the first round, slapped my hand on my head and said that David was going to screw me in round seven. Lo and behold, the game lasted seven rounds because David ended the game precipitously, leaving me with far less than I would have had had the game gone on one round longer. He ended the game with 15 cities though he could only power 13, hoping that Nadine wouldn't be able to build to 13; but she could, and still had enough money left to win.

Mace, as new players tend to, played a lot of green.


Binyamin+, Toby, Rivka, XXX

Binyamin set this up and explained it to Rivka when Toby and XXX walked in. This game is a bit more complicated than I would normally inflict on new players, but that's the way it rumbled. They caught on by round two or so, and I think they enjoyed it, though they did say it was complicated at the end.

Binyamin was counting out his money at the end trying to find a way to do more than tie for first, when someone pointed out to him a discount he could apply, which let him get an extra point without much difficulty.

I told them before the game started that they couldn't get change from their money cards when paying for auctions, which I think was incorrect in retrospect. Anyone have the rules in front of them?


Jon/David, Mace/Nadine

We played a few hands. While he played Phoenicia, Binyamin coached Mace.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 24, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Mace, Gili, Nechama, Binyamin

Hoody hoo. It's game night.


Jon 5, Nadine 8, Gili 13, Mace 22, Nechama 31

First plays for Mace and Nechama. A good filler. Some find this too chaotic for 5, but I think it's still good with 5. I think this is the first time I've won.

Age of Empires III

Jon 117, Binyamin 110, Mace 93

First play for Mace. Binyamin usually plays with his children, and he found us a bit more challenging.

I told Binyamin about the area scoring rule, which we had always previously overlooked; namely, that there needs to be three guys in a region before it will score. He thought that that ruined one of the main strategies of the game. But when he read the rule from the book, it turned out that what I said was wrong, too. In fact, there needs to be three guys from a single player in a region to score. Oh.

Our game ha a lot of takebacks. It started with me. For some reason I thought that the initiative track applies only to the next round; i.e. you get the money immediately, but the tie breaking for the merchant ship stays as the current first player. Apparently I was wrong.

As a result of this, I placed the wrong people in the merchant ship area, allowing Mace to take it on his last move. Binyamin then told a confused me the rule, and I insisted that we take back the last two placements. Which annoyed him. However, both of them took back several actions later during the game, and I switched the specialist I put down at least once.

The $20 tile didn't show up; if it had, I would have tossed it. I took the $5 tile on the first turn, however, and I managed to get another tile on the second turn. Mace picked up a second on turn three. Binyamin hardly picked up any the whole game, except for the last two turns. But he had a lot of guys on the board.

Mace ended up being the money king, though, with 24 income, not including $10/round from a tile (lucky for us, only picked up in round 6). He also had the one that stole money from the other players equal to the number of merchant ships he had (from 2 up to 4), and the one that gave him 1 VP/$5 he had at the end of the game (18 points). Binyamin thought he might be winning. But he was woefully shy of guys on the board.

I took the most number of buildings, which usually equals victory for me. I was behind Binyamin with guys on the board, but I was the first to bring soldiers and shoot (once). I had a number of second places and a good enough income. It was actually a pretty close game in the end.

Vegas Showdown

Nadine 78-, Nechama 61, Gili 61

Nadine's score is a problem, since it turns out that she placed, utilized, and scored a building on her board illegally, which she only discovered was illegal when Binyamin pointed it out after the scoring. She still would have won. First play for Nechama.


Jon/Nadine, Binyamin/Mace

We played a few hands.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 17, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Mace, Nadine, Elijah

Five person game night, essentially one game.


Gili 0/2/2/3/4, Mace 0/1/1/2/4, Jon 0/0/3/3/3

The haters weren't around to nay-say, so we tried this one yet again. Each time it's about the same, but I don't really know what that is. It's not good. But it's not bad, either. There's too much luck and frustration. You've got a trading ability that looks like it was added to counteract the luck. But then you've got the Plague of Locusts which exacerbates it.

It's not long, there's a funny moment or two when luck trashes someone's plans, but there's no hook. Sorry.

I couldn't get the two fields that I needed, despite trying for them through three cycles of the deck. And that's that.

La Citta

Nadine 36, Jon 26, Elijah 25, Mace 22, Gili 14

First plays for Mace and Elijah. We tend to take a long time on our games, especially the five-player games, and this was no exception. It took 4 hours. For all of that, I only felt the drag a few times.

We don't play it often. It's an interesting game, a strange mix of the fiddly and elegant. The essential mechanics - not too few and not too many people at any one time, how the cities steal people from each other - are elegant. The implementation, on the other hand, has lots of little pieces, and lots and lots of counting and recounting. They gave you markers to count your food production, so why didn't they give you markers to count your people?

Even when you can count your people, you have to evaluate and re-evaluate what's going to happen to them at the end of each turn; it's not random, but it's not entirely under your control. Interesting.

The action card mechanic lets you take a mediocre card only to reveal a better card for your LHO, is a bad mechanic, just like the power plant reveals in Power Grid. A better mechanic would be for each player to have a set of cards they can use, either in the order of their choosing or by picking them from a deck. This is used well in several other games.

Oh well. The positives outweigh the negatives. It's a fun, challenging game.

In our game, Nadine stuck to the edge of the board where only I could threaten her, which I didn't do often enough. She also had rich farmland, which spelled success. Mace and Elijah fought each other, while I trapped Gili in the middle of the board. On my last turn, on my last action, I plopped down a last castle in a suddenly open space, netting one food production and two people. I miscounted by one, however, and ended up losing one person and gaining the 5 point penalty for last round loss. Luckily, everyone else except Nadine also lost on the last round.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 10, 2010

Participants: Jon, Mace, Nadine, Gili, Nechama, Elijah, Rachel A

Looks like we're stuck with small game nights for a while. I apologize that I'm writing this without notes right now, so I'm missing some of the scores and the names of the new Puerto Rico expansion buildings.


Jon 3, Mace 0

I taught this to Mace, who didn't take well to it.

El Grande

Mace 98, Jon 94, Nadine, Elijah, Gili/Nechama

First plays for Mace and Nechama. Nechama actually played as a team with Gili. Our group tends to run long with certain games, and this is one of them. It took about three and a half hours.

Nadine has a habit of winning this game, which I tell everyone whenever she plays, much to her annoyance. She believes that people will prjudicely gang up on her as a result, which they don't really do until she starts winning. I haven't looked at the records recently, but I'm pretty sure she really does win most of her games. She started off ok in this one, too, but eventually fell behind.

I usually try for a "second-place in many regions" strategy, which works right until the card that scores only the first place in every region shows up and kills me. In this game I actually didn't have that many cubes on the board at all. Somehow, through the judicious placing in lightly contested areas and some interim scoring cards, it looked like I was winning about mid-way during the game. Of course, in El Grande, it's better to be second place, because first place gets ganged up on. And wouldn't you know, second place Mace pulled to a close victory in the end.

Mace poured a lot of his cubes into the Castillo. He, and Nadine and Gili/Nechama, contested heavily for a few places, sometimes with 10 or more cubes each in one area. Actually, the only reason I did as well as I did was choosing the right place for my Castillo placements on rounds 3 and 6; I chose wrongly on round 9, which cost me 3 points (just shy of winning, anyway).

Puerto Rico + Nobles expansion

Mace 49, Jon 46, Nadine, Rachel

The three of us are far more experienced at Purerto Rico than Mace is, but a) that doesn't mean that we win, since we all hold each other in check, and b) this was the first play of the Nobles expansion for all of us. I used every nobles building, using the standard non-expansion buildings for the other slots.

It first seemed that the nobles are an absolute must-have. Mayor was taken nearly every single round. And some of the buildings that used nobles, especially in combination, were pretty strong. For instance, the 7 and 8 cost buildings together gave you +1 noble each mayor phase and +$1 for each noble you had each craftsman phase, respectively. That's strong. But it's not really stronger than a Factory/Harbor combination.

The 2 cost building that lets you trade a $1 for a plantation or a plantation for a $1 was very weak. Very very weak, even with the 4 cost building that gives you points for having the least number of plantations. On the other hand, the 3 cost building that gives you either a $1 or a points each round was very strong. Very, very strong. On the other hand, both of the players who took that building - Rachel and Nadine - lost, and both of them were corn players, too.

Nadine shipped good points with the 6 point semi-harbor. But in the end, Mace's and my buildings proved to be the major point earners.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

November 03, 2010

Participants: Jon, Mace, Binyamin, Gili, Nechama, Nadine

Still low attendance, though at least we have two simul games running


Binyamin 63, Jon 44, Mace 42

Kingdoms: Council Room, Coppersmith, Torturer, Trading Post, Duke, Harem, Embargo, Salvager, Ghost Ship, Envoy

A game without a single extra action, and nothing to buy for 3 coins except Silver, yet we were hitting 8 or more coins already at round 3. Binyamin's third turn was Coppersmith and four copper.

When I saw Duke during the setup, I almost tossed it out; I had a bad experience with it last time and was pretty sure that I don't like the card. Sure, everyone can buy them; but everyone HAS to buy them, which kind of ruins the fun of the game. The fun is to try to find the good combinations, not to force all players to go for the only one that dominates.

I left it in to give it one more try. However, the results were just as bad as last time. Binyamin ended the game with five Duchys and five Dukes and as you can see, that was enough to slaughter us.

We were skeptical about the worth of Embargo. However, with not much else to do with 2 coins, both Binyamin and Mace picked up one or two. All three were used on the Province deck, which made the Duke strategy that much stronger. If they were used on the Dukes, maybe the game would have been more interesting. Now that I think about it, that was really my main option for fighting Dukes.

I chose kingdoms based on my love of trashing cards. I took curses from Embargo and Torturer because I could trash them. I trashed golds to buy Provinces (when they only had two embargo chips on them). But it wasn't enough

There were several attacks, but Mace's single Torturer was the only one bought.


Nadine 40, Gili, Nechama

First play for Nechama. Nadine slaughtered them both.

Settlers of Catan

Jon 11, Gili 7, Nechama 7

First play for Nechama. I played this at the same time as Tigris and Euphrates.

I placed my settlements last (3 and 4), which is generally good, but the two of them took the only good wheat and brick locations. With a strong city strategy, I dominated some middle numbers. The 6 rolled far more often than the 8, which was good for me: I was on one 6 hex, and the robber spent most of the game on their 6 hex.

I had a setback when, without any access to brick, I traded four ore for a brick in order to fall under 7 cards. Gili rolled, putting me over 7 cards, and then Nechama rolled a 7. I lost half of my cards and then Nechama stole my brick.

I got Nechama to take longest road right before Gili could take it and win. Then I stole longest army from Gili to win.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 8/8/11/12, Binyamin 8/8/9/11, Mace 7/7/9/12, Nadine 5/5/6/6

First play for Mace. I played this at the same time as Settlers of Catan. It seemed to end up as my turn in both games quite often.

I played first and gave Binyamin a nice location for his first Trader. After that it was the usual game play. I built both monuments, taking only one point from each of them each round (and letting others take the other points). Ultimately, Binyamin lost because he had a shortage of red tiles during the game and didn't try to fetch any.

Mace was also close to winning, as happens in this game. But we make the wrong decisions when we don't know exactly when the game will end.

Mr Jack

Gili, Nechama

First play for Nechama, but I don't know the results.

San Fransisco

Jon 34, Nadine 20, Mace 15, Binyamin 11

First play for everyone but Binyamin.

As I heard the explanation, my heart sank. The game appeared to be a straightforward version of "pick the highest number between 1 and 10; duplicate guesses are eliminated; highest remaining guess wins". Which, as game theorists will tell you, means that the optimal solution is to play randomly.

To elaborate: The game board is a series of boxes (city blocks), and you bid to place your "roads" on the board. Whenever you have an indisputable majority of roads around a block, you win the points for the block: generally 4-6 points, but in two cases 10 points.

Each round you you blind bid some amount of "money 1" (cash) or "money 2" (influence), both of which run out but will be resupplied occasionally after a block is built. You bid to acquire the privilege of placing a road next to a 4, 5, or 6 point block. As is the nature of roads, by placing a road between two blocks (at least one of which matches the required type) you are staking claim to both of them.

Depending on the round, either the first highest bidder, or the first and second highest bidders, or all bidders, will be able to place a road. By highest bidder, I mean highest among those players who don't duplicate their blind bid numbers. In some auctions, the auction is not blind bidding, but a standard circle auction where the eventual highest bidder takes the privilege.

Play until 12 blocks have been captured.

My fears were not only about the random nature of blind bidding (whose bluffing aspect is supposed to be strategic, but that's really nonsense), but that there didn't seem to be any sort of story arc to the game. Every round you flip, bid, place a road. I could see that as roads got placed on the board, more blocks would be likely to be captured in a round. Still, I was game to try once, to see if I was wrong.

I wasn't entirely wrong, but I was a little wrong. There is a certain enjoyment - and frustration - out of being eliminated for bidding the same amount as someone else. Meh. As you get ready to close off certain blocks, the particular block type you need (4, 5, or 6) becomes relevant, and so slightly changes the stake you have in certain auctions.

But not really. In the game I played, on not one round was one particular auction worth more than another for me. If I needed to close a 4 block here, you could be sure that adjacent to it was the 5 or 6 block that would let me place the road, so that it didn't matter one whit if I won a 4, 5, or 6 auction. Such situations did come up occasionally during the game for the other players, but rarely.

Furthermore, even if you don't need the road this turn, placing it is sure to get you one road away from capturing some other block on the next turn, and also prevent someone else from placing it and scoring. Both money types were returned to you a sufficient number of times during the game that - aside from Binyamin who went broke - the fear of spending wasn't a great obstacle.

So how did it all come together? It wasn't as bad as I feared. I wasn't bored due to repetition and a lack of story arc, since the game went pretty quickly and the auction variations added some interest. There was some light money management, and some light spacial considerations (generally there was a best place to play, but finding it could take a moment or two). I'd play again.

However, I won handily by playing every blind selection event during the game (except the last turn) randomly. I chose my influence cards randomly, I chose the block type bids randomly. I only played the standard auction straight. And I was never the worse for wear. Which proves my point: there is no strategy in "bluffing" games (not to say that some people can't master the tactic of out-bluffing their opponent, but I don't call that strategy).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

October 27, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nechama, Nadine, Max, Sergei

Gili brought her friend Nechama, again. Although she doesn't speak English that well, she is enjoying the games and the club.

It's Alive

Nechama 57, Gili 42, Jon 38, Nadine 32

Scores approximate. First play for Nechama. I tried to manage my money well, but I drew very poor tiles for much of the first part of the game, which made life difficult. Happens sometimes.


Jon 78, Max 70, Gili 40

Scores approximate. First plays for both Gili and Max. Max said that he had never played a train game; however, he had played Ticket to Ride and Power Grid, both of which are train games in their way.

Gili started off poorly, and then sank poorer, hitting -7 on the income track at one point. It was as much as she could do to simply get back up to positive and end with a decent score by the game's end. Most players with reasonable play and approximately equal experience should not fall so far behind during a game.

The bigger problem with the game is the kingmaking at the end, something I wrote about last time. Max and I were fairly close, with me clearly in the lead by a half a dozen points or so. However, if she had wanted to, Gili could easily have given the game to Max by moving cubes on his routes. This disturbs me greatly, because often you have to move on someone else's routes, you have no reason to pick one player over another, and the decision determines the game. Bad.

I think I have a possible solution: points earned by someone else moving on your track can only be used to increase your income, not your victory points. If you are negative on the income track, you're behind anyway; if you're positive, you're gaining 1/2 victory point per track used instead of 1 victory point, a significant mitigating factor. And the gain limits out at 10 income.

If this happened at the beginning of the game, it would be a significant advantage. But toward the end of the game, maxing out at 10 on the income isn't as much of a problem or determination of victory. And yet, you still can gain something from someone else using your track. I'll try this out next game.

The map we played on, the Eastern US, tends to favor a certain building pattern. I didn't mind this, since the actual track paths are always so different, but Max thought this could be a problem. Luckily there are two maps included in the game, and several dozen others available to purchase or download.

I took the East, Gili started in the south, and we grew toward each other. With occasional rogue track placement in the other person's territories. Max started out on the West and eventually merged south with Gili, north and then east and west back down the center of the board to merge with me.

We nearly ran out of player disks, and the game doesn't say what happens if you do. Speaking of running out of things, Max was also annoyed at the rule that you can't build a type of track junction if the tile isn't available; and that it can become available by changing an area of the board that is nowhere near your construction. I think I agree, but I can't see how to change that. Otherwise, he liked the game a lot.

Prince of Florence

Nadine 59, Sergei 58, Nechama 55

Nadine taught this to both of them. And it sounded like she pretty much played both of their positions throughout the game, so close game-ending scores is not a surprise.

Notre Dame

Sergei 69, Nadine 64, Nechama 50

Nadine taught this to both of them. as well. Same story. Sergei won with a heavy car movement strategy.


Max 29, Gili 29, Jon 24

Kingdoms: Remodel, Envoy, Courtyard, Masquerade, Baron, Scout, Haven, Native Village, Explorer, Tactician

A strange set, with lots of drawing and discarding. And a rare pull for us with multiple Seaside kingdoms and only one kingdom from the base set. All three of us made mistakes by reading trash instead of discard or vice versa on some card, or by missing that the Explorer puts the money into your hand: quite a powerhouse of a card.

I tried some combination of Remodel, Native Village (mostly for the 2 actions) and Masquerades, hoping to get some Explorers and so on. But Max pulled an early Tactician and two Provinces faster than you could bat an eye. Gili also pulled two provinces before I could.

We eventually all ended with four Provinces, but I had given away all of my other points (Masquerade, Remodel), while Max (on my right) had five Estates and Gili (on my left) had two Estates and a Duchy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October 20, 2010

Participants: Jon, Joey, Nadine, Gili, Mace, Elijah

Joey is a student who dropped by for his first visit.


Gili 0/1/2/2/3, Joey 0/1/1/2/2, Nadine 0/0/*/*/*, Elijah 0/0/*/*/*, Jon 0/0/0/0/1

We didn't particularly like this game the last time that we played it, but I wanted to give it another go. Actually, someone recommended that I try it two-player, but somehow we ended up playing it with five players. I was expecting total chaos.

I read the rules carefully to ensure that we were playing correctly, and then after a few rounds I realized that we were playing incorrectly, so for the last two-thirds of the game I'm fairly confident we played it correctly. And to our surprise, we actually liked the game, a little.

I wouldn't actually go so far as to say that we liked it a lot. The game is still wayyyy too random and chaotic. And I think, with experience, you will begin to find something strategic to do in a two or three player game. I could tell that I made a mistake or two in my playing, but still. Not nearly enough that I deserved my pathetic score. I guess we'll try it again.

Year of the Dragon

Mace 101, Nadine 90, Gili 85

First play for Mace. Nadine was heard to complain about the painfulness of the decisions, which she actually likes.


Joey 46, Elijah 33, Jon 31

I was expecting a greater gap between mine and Elijah's scores, but he had no bonus points in cards.

Joey insisted that we draft out first picks (8 of each, drop the last 1), which added a good fifteen minutes onto the game play. And I still managed to pick crap. Worst, the occupations and improvements that I actually managed to play were unsynergistic, while Joey's and Elijah's were. Elijah had a combo that gave him 4 wheat and a vegetable whenever he took the wheat action.

And Joey sitting on my right made it his business to block whatever I wanted at every move. Knowing that I had no hope of winning, I simply made it my goal to score at least 20 points.


Jon 9, Joey 7, Elijah 7

I suggested this. First play for Joey. I made it clear at the beginning, however, that points were what mattered, not expansion.

The game was closer than many others that I've played. I started with gold, ELijah started with iron, and Joey with marble. Elijah kept pace with me on the Know How track, and then Joey built some temples and advanced massively on the track as well. Unfortunately, that was after he left a temple open for me to sack.

After sacking the temple, which put me at 5 points, I pretty much knew from where my remaining 4 points were coming. Elijah saw one of them and convinced Joey to sack a few of my cities to delay me a few rounds, but the end was inevitable.

It's Alive

Elijah 50, Jon 44, Joey 43

I think this was the first play for Joey. I was doing fine with my money while the others spent theirs quickly. But somehow I lost most of my money just about when mid-game turned to end-game, and with it went most of my points.

I suggested the game, because I hadn't played it in a while. After playing, I have to say that I still love it.


Jon 46, Joey 39, Elijah 24

Kingdoms: Cellar, Chancellor, Woodcutter, Militia, Remodel, Thief, Great Hall, Torturer, Harem, Black Market

As usual I ended up with half or more of the cards from the main set. I still don't know why, since I pick them randomly.

Joey and I took early Black Markets. He started collecting Golds before me, and then had three Provinces before either Elijah or me had any. I began to draw some Great Halls, Harems, and Golds, and Remodeled two Golds into Provinces. Then I played Thief and took one of Elijah's Harems. I also took several Duchys, sometimes two in one turn.

Vegas Showdown

Mace 79, Gili 71, Nadine 66

First play for Mace. Nadine suggested it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 13, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Mace, Gili, Nechama, Elijah, David K

Gili brought her friend Nechama. She pretty much spoke only Hebrew, and my Hebrew isn't terribly good. I hope she enjoyed herself.

San Juan

Elijah 39, Jon 37, Mace 35, Nadine 32

I haven't played this in a while, mostly because I really wish it had a good expansion. I generally remember the game as good, but not particularly special, but when I play it it's always a slightly better game than I remember.

Nadine wasn't particularly looking forward to playing it. This was Mace's first play.

Elijah started with an early Prefecture followed by an early Library and Tobacco. Nadine started with Coffee and Mace with Carpenter. I had nothing to build in the first round. I finally got a Prefecture going by round 3, however, and Nadine built the third. Meanwhile, Mace built Quarry to go with his Carpenter and also ended the game with both City Hall and Palace.

I had Guild Hall, but it wasn't enough.


David 26, Nechama 15, Gili 10

First play for Nechama. David was the only player who tossed out cards, and he tossed out 8 of them. Apparently illegal dumping pays off.

Taj Mahal

Elijah 34, Gili 32, Nechama 32, Mace 29, Nadine 28

First plays for Nechama and Mace. It was apparently Elijah's night, and apparently not Nadine's night.

Oddly for a five player game, commodities didn't do to well and path connections did pretty well. I saw a few fierce battles out of the corner of my eye.

Magic: the Gathering

David+++, Jon+

We played with roughly the same cards that I played with Mace last time, having not properly mixed the random card pile before drafting.

I honestly thought that I had a decent chance at winning a few games with a W/G deck, 8 Plains to 6 Forests and mostly white cards. However most of my games came down to mana screw again. I drew 5 forests and no plains for much of the first game. I drew 3 forests and no other land at all for nearly all of the last game.

I won game 2 partly because David didn't draw quite enough land to support his G/U/R deck, and partly because he drew a few times from his discards by accident instead of from his deck. I thought I was dong well, with a few white cards that sent his creatures back to his deck and a few direct disenchant spells, neutralizing all of his enchantments. But apparently I was fooling myself.

I was doing fine in game 3, but I left myself blockerless at 14 life against his 1/1 creature, and he won instantly with two Giant Growth's and a spell that lets his creature deal its power in damage to target creature or player.


David 217, Mace 129, Jon 108, Nadine 55, Elijah 36

I gave this game the short shrift after our previous and first encounter with it, as it seemed like the strength of your cards determined your success and that the play with five players was somewhat random. It appeared to work better with four players, but that made the game kind of irrelevant since there are some much better four-player card games at hand.

Feedback on the Geek guilted me into giving this another try. Elijah and Nadine both vaguely remembered not liking the game, but unspecifically enough that they were willing to try it again. This was the first play for both David and Mace.

This time was a much better experience. In fact, even Nadine admitted that she found the game interesting after a few hands. Everyone else also said that they liked it.

I got a lot of laughs when explaining the rules, which are not really that complicated, though each of the few major rules has a number of niggly points to make it work, and the two tables (bid vs points required, points taken vs bonus) just have to be memorized or referred to on each hand. But it's really not all that complicated if you're used to other trick taking or bidding games, especially those that reward points based on the specific cards taken (as opposed to tricks taken).

The each-man-for-himself aspect works fairly well. As the hands progressed we began to feel the game was less random, and possibly even less luck-dependent on the cards (thought still highly so), and more for the strategy of the bidding and play. And our bidding got more aggressive.

Looks like this will hit the table again, after all.

Friday, October 08, 2010

October 06, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Mace, Gili, Elijah

Still a small group. Many regulars have moved away.


Nadine 28, Mace 28, Jon 22, Gili 1

Kingdoms: Chapel, Workshop, Throne Room, Market, Ironworks, Lighthouse, Warehouse, Navigator, Sea Hag, Wharf

I started with an early Chapel, but it never managed to dump more than one copper and one Estate. As a result, the rest of my game felt a lack of synergy, and I watched Mace and Nadine begin drawing Provinces well before I could. Lighthouse seemed to be a good card here, but Mace made Ironworks and Navigator sing.

Gili's score was her initial three Estates and two curses.

Elijah 28, Jon 22, Mace 21, Nadine 15

I insisted on playing the same kingdoms again, since I was sure that a better start with Chapel would give me better results. And it did, indeed, start better, with me getting to 6 or 7 fairly quickly and buying golds. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of thinking that just because Lighthouse worked well in the last game meant that it would work well in this game, too. It didn't.

Nadine took Sea Hags this time to annoy other people, but I dumped them all. I'm not really sure how Elijah won.


Gili 34, Elijah 31, Jon 27, Mace 26, Nadine 25.

First plays for Mace and Elijah, but Gili, Nadine, and I had to relearn the rules, anyway.

I started off convinced that someone behind was going to stay behind throughout the game. However, Gili started off behind and went on to win. I started off in the middle and then fell behind for most of the game, but I somehow made it back to the middle on the last round. So I may be wrong.

We're still playing with the introductory rules, which include each player starting with a 5 money card and each player only able to collect 1 "building" per turn. We'll have to try without the latter rule in the future.

At the present, I think the game is quite balanced with many different options. It seems like you have to get workers and advanced industry to thrive, but you don't really. So I don't know how to win, yet.


Jon/Mace 330, Elijah/Nadine 70

First play for Mace. We played two hands, and I called and made two Tichus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 26, 2010: Games Day

Participants: Jon, Mace, Shachar, Nadine, Elijah, Saarya, Michael, Oren, Yardena, Tal, Rachel

Small Games Day, I think because Janglo, the local mailing list that usually publicizes the event, is no longer all that effective. Still, it was fun for all involved, I believe.

Age of Empires III

Elijah 120, Oren 110, Nadine 82, Shachar 69

Played at the end of the day. First plays for Oren and Shachar. They complained about the building that gives you money from each other player equal to the number of merchant ships that you possess. It is the only building that affects other players, and it dulls the strategy of its possessor.


Nadine 44, Shachar 42, Elijah 39, Mace 35, Saarya 31

First plays for Mace, Shachar, and Saarya. According to Nadine, Saarya may have counted player numbers on cards as victory points. The game took five hours.


Jon 8, Elijah 5, Michael 5, Shachar 3

This is one of the few games I love that I also seem to consistently win. I don't expect this to last, however. I focus on the victory points, not on conquering cities and other players, and I expect to have a lot more challenge (I think this has happened in some of the games I've played) when the other players catch on to this.

I played Greece, rather then my favorite, the Phoenicians. My first play was for gold and Market, followed by a temple, some fleets to ward off players on all sides, and then Democracy. Then five cities, seven seas, and a few more know hows.

Shachar was the Phoenicians, and he simply expanded, while keeping away from my glistening three state fortress and one space in all directions. Michael was the Germans, and he spread out throughout the north rather quickly and then harassed Elijah, who played the Romans. Elijah built some monuments, and then spent his time trying to protect them from Micahel who was always threatening to conquer them.

My final act was to take the last unclaimed known how (Roads). Michael was one move away from preventing me from getting it. Shachar could have prevented it, but he was so far behind that he decided to just conquer my cities and let me win. If he had taken the know how, it would have delayed me one round, after which I could have gotten the bonus point from level two in all the know hows, anyway. (I was also threatening to conquer one of Shachar's temples.)


Jon 44, Mace 37, Shachar 17

Kingdoms: Cellar, Village, Bureaucrat, Throne Room, Council Room, Harem, Haven, Ambassador, Lookout, Outpost

More Seaside than usual, but still half from the base set. Why does that always happen when I draw randomly?

I took only a modest amount of Villagers, as well as Council Room, Throne Room, and Ambassador. Elijah managed some nice synergy with Haven and Outpost. I originally thought Lookout was weak because I thought it could be used on the cards in your hands. When I realized that you had to pick three random cards to which to apply the effect, I realized that the card sucked. I'm not thrilled with the balance on several of the cards in both Intrigue or Seaside.


Jon 55, Oren 47, Micahel 41

First plays for both of them. I misplayed twice, taking building auctions for one type of building when I was really planning to build some other type. Second-to-last round, I was locked out of the bidding, and I was not far enough on the railroad track to gain much from it. I was determined hell or high water to get something on the last round, however, which I did, and it was worth over 20 points for me (minus a point or two given up by my having to pay $9 for the privilege).

Michael snared the buildings I wanted (such as Bank) due to my bidding miscalculations, and I wasn't sure that I was winning until that last round.

Oren liked the game.

Magic: the Gathering x 2

Jon++, Mace

Mace hadn't played in a really long time (fourth edition, I think). He was rusty on a few rules. We Rochester drafted from the new cards I bought on eBay.

Our first game, we were both mana glutted, but he didn't have enough creatures in his deck to thwart me. I won fairly early.

In our second game, we entered a standoff for most of the game. However, I had already beat him down to 6 points, while I was sill at 18. Enter the Rod of Ruin on my side, versus a tapping damage prevented on his side, which meant that I could get 1 point through every two turns. In the meantime, he was hitting me for two points each turn with an artifact that required 5 mana to cycle through each point of damage that it dealt to me.

At one point I attacked with everything and cast an instant that gave all of my creatures +2/+2 and first strike, only to have him Fog. Then he attacked with the one creature he could afford to (with Vigilance; he was three points shy of killing me with a full-out assault, and would not have been able to afford the return attack), only to have me Pit Trap and kill it. Back to stalemate and pings.

Eventually, he had three creatures tapped to deal his pinging damage, I had seven creatures able to attack against his four blockers, and he was at two life. He could blast one with an instant, but couldn't prevent the remaining damage. There were six cards left in my deck.

Mr. Jack

Jon+, Michael+

I taught this to Michael. We each won once as Criminal, him on turn three (I goofed), and me on turn 7.


Elijah 20, Shachar 25, Jon 83

I taught this to them, though I think they had each played once before. My inglorious defeat was due to a tremendously bad hand and a timidity at taking cards. If I had taken more, I would have dome better.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 50, Mace 49, Yardena 48, Rachel 40, Oren 38

First play for Mace. Yardena is self-taught and has played with her kids; this was her first play with another group, and we corrected a few minor errors. I think everyone believed that Nadine was running away with the game, but it was pretty close in the end.

Nadine adds: Rachel realized that Yardena might be winning due to huge shipping, she had a wharf and factory, and harbor at the very end, no big building. I had factory and two big buildings, but low shipping.


Yardena played this with Tal for a while. They didnt' play for points, just for fun. Tal had to leave, and Rachel took over. Even so, they abandoned the game mid-way.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 15, 2010

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

We skipped last week, the holidays wreak havoc on the game night schedule. Debbie is a friend of Rachel's who decided to join us for game night. Hopefully, she'll come again.


Jon 43, Nadine 42, Debbie 34

First play for Debbie. Brave soul. She did pretty well, too. We decided to stick to the basic set to make things easier on her (this decision was reached from experience).

Kingdoms: Moat, Village, Woodcutter, Feast, Militia, Smithy, Festival, Laboratory, Mine, Adventurer

As we said a few times during the game, many good choices. I took an early Village and Militia, but then took a few golds, which make the Village underused for a while. Should I have taken Festivals instead? I eventually took some, a Moat and some Smithies.

Nadine took Feasts, Festivals, and a Laboratory. She started with silver instead of Village. Debbie also took an early Militia and a Woodcutter. No one took Mine, though it would have been nice to get rid of all of those coppers.

In the end, I won by taking an Estate before Nadine ended the game. I had two earlier Provinces, and she thought for sure that I was winning, but I knew it was closer than she thought.


Jon/Nadine 555, David/Debbie 45

First play for Debbie. She wasn't sure how to help her partner, but she was able to play well enough after three hands.

I opened with an made a Grand Tichu, with my partner going out second to boot. Second hand, I set David in a Tichu (I was really going to call it myself) with a net result of +5 for us and -5 for them. Third hand I made another Tichu.

Jon/Nadine+, David/Gili

Later in the evening we returned to this. I don't remember the final scores, but I set David in yet another Tichu. My hands were pretty good all evening.

Pillars of the Earth

Jon 47, Nadine, Gili, David 40

Scores approximate, but I know that I beat David, the last placed player by 7 points, since if he had bought the craftsman that I told him to buy on the last round, he would have netted 8 more points and won the game. David was flush at 30 cash the entire game. I hovered around 10 to 15 as usual, but sank to 0 on the penultimate round. I was a few points ahead on the score track the entire game, however.

Which was weird, because a) I had my usual abysmal luck with the master craftsman, as usual, and so missed nearly every important selection on the board most rounds, and b) the most I was ever able to convert was 1 to 1, although I could do it by round 2 and could do it for every type of resource.

I have to admit that I finally got fed up with the master craftsman mechanic this game. It's just too brutal to lose by it (or win by it) so often for so many games. A mechanic that evens out over the course of a single game is one thing; one that only evens out over the course of many games is useless unless it's a game designed to be played many times in succession (such as Poker).

I like everything else about the game. I'm thinking of replacing the master craftsman mechanic with something like the initiative track from Year of the Dragon or with some kind of auction.

Nadine adds: Gili was ahead of me by one point so she was second, though she seemed better positioned the whole time. I agree with you about the mechanic.

No game night next week again, and the week after is Games Day.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

September 01, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili

Hmm. Hopefully participation will pick up, now that summer is over. On the other hand, the next few weeks will be an erratic schedule.

Mr Jack

Jon (Criminal)+, Gili (Detective)

First play for Gili. Gili was slow to differentiate the characters, but she discovered who Mr Jack was by turn 7 (purple). However, she couldn't manage to jump on him by the end of turn 8.

Gili (Criminal)+, Jon (Detective)

We switched sides. I eliminated four characters by the end of turn 1, and two more by the end of turn 2, but that's how it stayed until the end of the game. Turn 8 I guessed wrong.


Jon (Runner)+, Gili (Corp)

First play for Gili. This is still a great game. It's one problem is that too much can swing on a lucky pick (raid R&D and topdeck 3 points, when you only need 7 points to win the game).

After the game, I cataloged all of my cards and added them to my Netrunner entry on BGG. They're for trade or for sale, if anyone wants. I just don't think I'll get to play it much, here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 25, 2010

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Michael

Ah, the low attendance days of summer. Hopefully soon to be over. On the other hand, Michael (Elijah's father) was able to attend, when he usually can't.


Elijah 26, Michael 21, Jon 17

First play for Michael.

Kingdoms: Village, Smithy, Market, Secret Chamber, Swindler, Wishing Well, Baron, Bridge, Sea Hag, Outpost

For some reason, though I draw randomly from all 77 kingdoms, I have yet to pull more than 2 cards from Seaside for any game, and usually it's 1 card.

This game went slowly, and we ended by running out of three decks: Village, Market, and curses.

I thought that Village / Smithy / some Markets would do well, but, in fact, I rarely ever got to more than 4. I eventually got some Markets, but it was no use. Somehow, Elijah killed with Baron and Bridge, while even Michael outdid me with a Baron and an Outpost.

Elijah 34, Jon 30, Michael ??

Kingdoms: Bureaucrat, Market, Adventurer, Steward, Baron, Ironworks, Upgrade, Treasury, and two others.

I thought I had a good chance of winning this one, taking Steward to trash away everything but the silvers I got from Bureaucrat. After that, I trashed all my other cards, including my Ironworks which seemed to have no particular use. But I ended up with the same number of Provinces that Elijah had, while he still have his Estates. Treasure is a no-brainer over Market. I don't remember what Elijah took, however.


Jon 9, Elijah 8, Michael 6

First play for Michael. We played to one less than the recommended end point, as usual.

Michael made the mistake of building a temple too close to me, even after given fair warning. I sacked it, and he played catch-up the rest of the game. Elijah and I pretty much raced each other the rest of the game, but I was positioned for the clinching points quicker than he was.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 18. 2010

Participants: Gili, Elijah, Jon, David K, Avraham

Small game group, since it's August. Game night was at Gili's house.

Age of Empires III

Gili 96, Jon 95, David 95, Elijah 93, Avraham 60

Just one game took the entire evening, from around 7:40 until 11:20 or so. I'm pretty sure most other game groups finish games more quickly than we do. Yeah, we have some AP, but it doesn't seem like THAT much.

First play for Avraham and Elijah, second for David, third for Gili, and fourth for me.

The end scores are all pretty hazy. Several final or interim decisions might have changed them. Also, I tried to discover a province with four colonists twice, once in each of the last two turns, and failed both times. If either had succeeded (which was overwhelmingly in my favor) I would have won; then again, I could simply have waited until I had six colonists on the last round and try only once, with guaranteed success. So this was also the result of a choice, only I didn't know how many points I needed exactly to win.

If they don't do anything to change the board depending on the number of players, worker placement games are optimized for the maximum number of players. In our case, for five players. Though the game was long, it didn't drag much and was pretty interesting the whole way. Elijah, as well as the others, enjoyed the game.

Gili played with heavy soldiers, killing off other colonists here and there; I finally put a stop to her killing mine with some soldiers of my own and then the defensive building that gives you a soldier in every area whenever you're attacked. I don't often say this, but this game could actually use just a tad more conflict.

David had very strong income with tiles and ships, and also a lot of missionaries and the bonus for missionaries. I had strong income with tiles, too, and I took the first building first, which was the one that gives $20 so that you can then go and buy two more buildings; it's always the first one chosen, so it may be somewhat broken. I think it's less broken in five players, because you don't necessarily get to pick your next building already on the first round. Still, there is one that gives $5 per round which I don't think of as broken, so I don't know what the fix would be.

I also had a captain in the discovery box each round, and played for as many of those as I could. Elijah and Avraham also did several discoveries. Avraham neglected everything else, including income, which is why his score was so low. He had a merchant every round, however.

We discovered that we were playing one rule incorrectly: that an area only scores once there are at least three colonists in it. This prevents areas discovered right before a scoring from counting during the scoring. I don't know how I feel about this rule.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

August 03, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Gili child, Binyamin, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, David K, Avraham

Game night was moved to Tuesday again, since I was expecting to be out of town on Wednesday evening. Being summer vacation, several attendees brought their young children with them. Also, as has happened a number of times in the last year or so, I didn't take any notes, so this report will be somewhat hazy.


Binyamin, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, Gili, Jon

Nile is a new game from Minion Games. The publisher sent me a copy to review, which you can find soon on Purple Pawn.

In the first game, we forgot to mix in the used Flood cards with the discarded cards. Binyamin still insisted that we quit after the second run through the deck. He wasn't impressed with the lack of control or meaningful decisions.

The younger kids liked the game and wanted to play again.

David 2/3/3/3/3, Jon 1/2/2/3/4, Avraham 0/3/3/3/4

I thought the game might be less random with perhaps with more meaningful decisions in three player rather than five player. It was a bit better, but not especially. This time we played an entire game through. Turns became rather repetitive, and were not too engaging. Occasionally we had to make a semi-meaningful decision between two options. It's possible that we missed some strategies.

Actually, in retrospect, none of us tried a strategy of building up many cards before playing, which might work. Possibly I would try the game one more time to try that out.

But, as I said, the game is quite random, and wasn't too engaging, so I'm not sure I will. However, the younger kids still enjoyed it.


Binyamin+, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, Gili, Nadine

Binyamin won. They played an easy variant.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David+

David and I drafted from an uninspiring set of cards. I ended up with solid White, no Blue, but an equal number of support from the other three colors. After assessing the worth of the colors, I ended up with White/Green and a splash of Red. My mana curve was terrible, as nearly everything I had cost 4 to cast. In the two games I played, I drew perfect mana distribution, but rarely ever saw a Green card.

David played Black/Red, and, as usual, his most annoying threat was a Black pump creature.

In the first game, I brought out solid white cards and eventually hit 8 mana. David was just too slow. In the second game, I didn't get to 8 mana and I spent a lot of time tossing little guys in the way of a big Black creature. Until I got out the Droning Bureaucrats. David's Black creature didn't allow him to attack with any other creature, so all of his other guys were useless. And my Bureaucrats canceled his Black creature every round, but at the expense of using up 5 mana each round. Which put us at a standstill for several rounds.

Finally, just to relieve the tedium, I disrupted the stalemate, but it ended up with me tossing out some more fodder, him killing his Black guy so he could attack with his other creatures, and him finally overrunning me.

Naturally, my very next pick would have allowed me to kill his last guy, and possibly come back. However, by that point, he also had more things to cast and we were only about 5 cards from the end of the deck, so I might just have decked myself in the end.


Binyamin, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda, Avraham

I taught this to all of them. Binyamin prefers Age of Steam or Railroad Tycoon, and wasn't impressed with this game, a decision he made before he even started playing. For whatever reason, they all stopped the game after two rounds.


David 18, Jon 17, Avraham -3

Although I usually enjoy this little game - one of the better filler games - I found this session even better than usual. At several points I felt like there were some tough and important choices to make, and that I had some control over the results. This is largely due to it being a three player, rather than a five player, game.

We play with the chips all randomized and in random piles, so you never know what color or number will come up next on a pile. I chose to dump early in order to collect a few early high valued chips. David caught up fairly quickly, however. In the end, we both had dumped the same amount, but, because he was the one to end the game, he had a point more than me in chips. If it had made it to my turn, I would have taken the chip and won, instead.

Race for the Galaxy

Binyamin+, Rivka, Zvi Yehuda

Binyamin at least had played this before, though he asked a number of rules questions to me during the game. He won, of course.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 27, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Miriam, Nadine

Game night was moved to Tuesday night at 7:30 owing to a conflict. And it's summer, so attendance is bound to be down.

In the Shadow of the Emperor

Jon 25, Gili 21, Miriam 18

My estimation of this game shrank a little, though I still enjoyed it. I really don't like game mechanics that put person A in a position of deciding to give a bonus to either persons B or C, where person A doesn't even get anything for doing so. Ugh.

I would say that this is what happens in this game with three players, but the truth is that it happened with four players, too. Maybe the game only shines with five players? Being both an election and an area control game, this is probable.

One other thing to note about this game is that, like Greed Incorporated, how you actually get victory points seems non-intuitive. It's not holding the electoral seats, but gaining the electoral seats that gives you points. Which means, it's best to lose control and regain an area every round, rather than simply keep it. Which makes little sense.

Otherwise, victory points are sparse and hidden within all of the other mechanics of the game. That's not necessarily bad, but it is, as I said, non-intuitive.

In our game, I did well in the beginning and then slid a little as the game went on. It appears that it is better to do better in the beginning of the game, rather than at the end, as it is worth slightly more points. Also a rather odd feature in a game.


Jon/Gili 60, Nadine/Miriam 40

Miriam had time for one hand. They had nearly all of the good cards: Nadine had a bomb of queens, and Miriam had a full house of aces over kings, as well as the phoenix. Miriam went out first, but Nadine found herself left with a 9 and the Dog, which was not ideal.

Oltre Mare

Jon 107, Nadine 90something, Gili 70something

Nadine asked to try this again, and then complained at the beginning that it was too complicated, and then admitted at the end that it was good but too complicated. She is not good at games where a single choice of cards determines a number of different consequences; on the other hand, that's also the story with El Grande, at which she generally wins. So I don't know.

I don't like the trading mechanic, where other players get a bonus for trading on your turn. First of all, it's another kingmaker mechanic. Second, it discourages people from trading on their own turn.

I also didn't like the end mechanic, where one player ends the game and the game continues until all players have had an equal number of turns. I don't like it because many times you plan on one turn for the next turn, and it is not fair for some people to know that the game has ended when they take their last turn, while others don't. To solve this, I had the game go around one more time after the game ending condition. This worked very well.

In our game, we all started off in close proximity on the board, which was a little unfair for Gili who was in the middle. Nadine was getting points from playing only one card a turn but having the "X-3" chip, which is not ultimately as powerful as simply playing more cards each turn. All of the chips are worth about 2-3 points, but the gold symbol one is the most reliable.

I'm still not decided on the idea of buying cards. Obviously you have to buy or get cards when you are required to play a certain number. But how often do they return their purchase cost, I wonder?

Still an interesting game.

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 21, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Gili, Abraham, Sara, Miriam, Binyamin, Zvi Yehuda

Binyamin returns after a long absence, with his son Zvi Yehuda. Abraham, Sara, and Miriam will be leaving soon.


Jon 39*, Elijah 32, Nadine 31

Kingdoms: Woodcutter, Remodel, Thief, Council Room, Mine, Adventurer, Coppersmith, Upgrade, Lighthouse, and something else.

I didn't read the Lighthouse carefully enough. As a result, a few times I played it as if I also gained an extra action at the beginning of my next turn. So my score is in doubt.

I played a heavy trashing games, often upgrading 5 cost cards to 6 cost cards, and then remodeling them into provinces. Nadine played fairly straightforward, but both she and Elijah took thieves, which, due to lighthouses, were fairly ineffective.

Gili arrived shortly after we started playing, but I made her wait. I should have restarted, I suppose.

El Grande

Nadine 109, Gili 108, Sara 108, Elijah 90, Abraham 88

Nadine usually sweeps this game with no trouble, so the surprise is how close it was. After the first scoring she was ahead 55 to 47, and after the second 92 to 84.


Binyamin 75, Jon 73, Miriam 53, Zvi Yehuda 37

First plays for Miriam and Zvi Yehuda, and second or third for Binyamin. I think this may have been my first four player game.

Still a fantastic game. Of course, you need to know about the final buildings in order to plan for them throughout the game. Balancing the need for trade chips without getting drowned by them is possibly the biggest challenge. Far better to be drowned by them than not have enough, however.

I thought I was winning, so it surprised me that Binyamin won in the end. On the other hand, he got both of the two best mid-game buildings, so maybe it shouldn't have surprised me so much. Bidding went high in the last two rounds; I passed on round 9, and Binyamin passed on round 10.

Miriam misbid on round 10 and we didn't let her take it back after Binyamin had already made a different bid as a result. Then we let Zvi Yehuda take something back from the previous turn, which wasn't exactly fair. However, Zvi Yehuda is a young boy, and he was losing by a mile, anyway. In the end, Binyamin moved to outbid Zvi Yehuda, and Zvi Yehuda moved to outbid Miriam, so Miriam got to redo her bid, anyway.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 14, 2010

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Nadine, Max, Sergei, Alona, Miriam, Eitan, Emily

Being the nine days, I wasn't sure if anyone would come. Gili was probably recovering from the bat mitzva of her daughter. Also, I sadly must report that Abraham and Sara will be leaving Jerusalem soon, and also that Miriam is going back to the states in a week or two.


Nadine 41, Elijah 37, Jon 33

Kingdoms: Chapel, Throne Room, Gardens, Laboratory, Baron, Conspirator, Torturer, Upgrade, Harem, Tactician

This looked like a nice set, and I should have done fine. Unfortunately, I had the worst luck ever known to man with my card drawing. I bought an early Chapel and did not once get it together in my hand with an Estate. Not once. (In retrospect, I should have just trashed the four coppers, rather than trash one and buy a Silver.)

I bought Throne Room and only twice pulled it together with another action card, and that was Torturer, both time near the end of the game. It was a freaking nightmare. I really wanted to play the same set again, but other people came in the meanwhile.

Nadine avoided most of the kingdoms, bought Silvers and Harems, and did just fine.

Eitan 42, Emily 38

They played this when they came late and waited for others to finish longer games.


Jon 8, Elijah 6, Max, Sergei

First plays for Max and Sergei. I warned them several times to keep track of points and go for them, rather than mess around with armies and battles, but in vain. Still, they really liked the game. I started with marble, while all the other guys started with iron. I also had a slight advantage in starting off in the corner (Phoneticians), though all the other players moved in my direction and boxed me in.

Princes of Florence

Nadine+, Miriam, Alona

First play for Alona, and possibly for Miriam as well. No surprise that Nadine won, but she says the game was close.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 5/5/5/9, Eitan 5/5/5/7, Elijah 4/5, Emily 2

Another game I don't get to play often enough. First play for Eitan and Emily, and a reminder to Elijah who had played once. I set up a few monuments mid-game, giving dozens of green points to Elijah and blue and black points to me. I didn't care about the green points, because I knew Elijah had plenty of them already, anyway.

I won mostly because I ended the game on my turn.


Max, Sergei, Alona, Nadine, Miriam

First plays for everyone but Nadine. Unfortunately, the game went slowly and it was late, so I had to kick them out after round 3.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

July 07, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Miriam, Abraham, Tal

Light night. Gili is planning for her daughter's bat mitzvah.


Jon 48, Nadine 44

Nadine may actually have had 45; she forgot to count her cards for Gardens.

Kingdoms: Village, Woodcutter, Feast, Gardens, Council Room, Secret Chamber, Scout, Trading Post, Duke, Ghost Ship

Two VP cards makes Scout an interesting buy. One Trading Post, one Council Room, one Woodcutter, two Villages, and Feasts completed my deck. Nadine doesn't play trashing cards, so she skipped the Trading Post in favor of more Council Rooms; she also didn't get Scouts. I'm surprised she did as well as she did.


Nadine 53, Miriam 49, Jon 47, Abraham 43

First plays for Miriam and Abraham. Nadine and I had played this before and had not been impressed; not bad, but not quite gelled, we thought. After this play, we both felt a but better about it, but still think there are too many positive and negative ideas to juggle on each turn, for not enough reward. I would compare it unfavorably to Oltre Mare, which has the same juggling idea with less variables.

Abraham started out strong, but lost tempo mid-game. I started off weak without the brick building, since bricks were in short supply and it then took me some time to be able to afford a building of level 3. Nadine was actually the only one to buy a level 5 building, though Abraham also got to that level at one point, while Miriam reached it on the last round (which gave her points, at least).

I sat in front of Miriam, and consequently she felt that I was purposely acting to thwart her the whole game, to the point that she actually got frustrated. On her last play she deliberately thwarted me to prevent me from getting three points while getting two for herself. It took some time to convince her that, in fact, she had a better play elsewhere that netted her 5 or 6 additional points, and I could get 2 points elsewhere, so I would only end up losing 1, anyway. Reluctantly, she changed her play, and ended up beating me with those few points. I think that ameliorated her.

Meanwhile, I sat behind Abraham and felt that he was thwarting me the whole game, but I took it in stride.


Abraham+, Miriam

I reminded Abraham how to play, and Miriam tried it for the first time. However, she doesn't really like abstracts, so I guess she won't play it again. Abraham removed two disks, and then Miriam took off two. The last one went back and forth until Abraham found a subtle forking play.


Jon/Tal 455, Abraham/Miriam 145

We played four hands. In the second one, Miriam and I both called Tichu, when Tal was planning on calling it originally. I managed to go out first with the Dog, and then Tal went out. The score was 370 to -70. On the last round, Abraham bid and made Tichu, while Miriam struggled not to go out first. Tal was able to go out after her, and then I went out. Miriam's last cards were a pair of 5s.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

June 30, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Elijah, Maxim, Sergey, Alona, Miriam

Maxim and Sergey return after a long absence due to conflicts, and they brought Alona with them. I guess Alona has played games with them before.

Game night was very chaotic, partly because everyone was trying to learn new games all at once, and partly because Nadine was trying to both teach one game and learn another at the same time, something which I should have stopped much earlier.

Oltre Mare

Elijah+, Nadine, Gili, Jon

We picked this to learn. I had never even read the rules, but it was simple enough to read them out loud and go through a sample turn.

OM is an expanded version of Bohnanza; that's all I could think the whole way through the game. They're not really identical in mechanics, but trading away cards you don't want to get what you do, and then planting them in sequenced groups, is the core of both games, and so it naturally leads to that conclusion.

Oltre Mare has more to it. Each round, you have to play a certain number of cards and gain the value of these cards. It's just that each time you play, you determine not only this turn's results, but the points you get based on the order you discard them, what you played last time, and will play next time, as well as your hand limit at the beginning of your next turn and the exact number of cards you are required to play next turn. Since the cards are designed to ensure that you can't generally get the best of all worlds on each play, you simply have to decide where to compromise each round. This is not that big of a deal, because, owing to the trading that happens on every players' turn, you can often make up for the compromise by the time it gets back to you again.

I thought it was a lovely game, with a few caveats. One is the mechanic that gives you a trade chip each time you trade with someone else on their turn. The player with the most trade chips at the middle and end of the games gains 6 points. Since this is entirely dependent on other players' whims, I dislike it. It's an unnecessary mechanic, anyway, since you already have incentives for trading. It's not too much of a deal, however.

What's bad is the trade rules. Each card has a "type", as well as symbols that indicate the types of actions you get when you play the cards, and the hand limit and number of cards you must play if the card ends up on top of your played stack. And the rules clearly say that you must tell the other players what types of cards you are trading them but may LIE about the other symbols.

As a Eurogamer, that mechanics simply turns me off, entirely. Some people may like it, war gamers mostly, and that's fine for them. In our game, we simply didn't bother to mention anything else on the card, trading entirely by card type.

One additional mechanic which I really dislike is the same one which annoyed me in a few other games, and it's the combination of a) a variable game ending trigger, and b) that the player to the right of the starting player always gets the last turn. This mechanic entirely screws the player who goes first, who typically has no control over when the game will end and is therefore typically caught entirely sunk after he has invested resources for his next turn, only to suddenly find that he has no next turn. Which is exactly what happened to me in this game, but I will point out that I objected to the mechanic already when the game started, entirely for this reason.

Other than these issues, the rest of the game is simple and should, in theory, be relatively quick. Our game wasn't, because of the chaos I mentioned above. And, strangely, Nadine came close to winning, despite not really paying attention and having an 11 card run in her stack of which she could use only 5. I didn't pay close enough attention to the final scores and how they came about to see how that happened.

Nadine writes: I thought the ships and ship tokens would be more relevant than they were, and they're about equal including the pirate blocker. It's different from other games, you're actions are very constrained so you have to plan within that which is hard. I was sure I had started off with 3 torahs, but I guess I hadn't. Even with the other game, I could have remembered that if I had concentrated.


Sergey+, Maxim, Alona, Miriam

Nadine taught this to Sergey, Maxim, and Alona, and continued to teach them throughout their game. Miriam had played twice before, but she was still somewhat shaky on the rules. I think they all basically enjoyed it.

Nadine writes: Near the end I noticed that the money was an obligatory condition, but I said they could decide to play without it, I think it hurt Miriam but I'm not sure.


Elijah/Gili 95, Jon/Nadine 5

We played one hand of this, and both Elijah and Gili were the less experienced players, as you can tell from our final scores.

Pillars of the Earth

Jon 45, Miriam, Maxim

Unfortunately, the people who played this game last time had not separated the expansion cards from the main set, and there are no distinguishing marks or reference sheets that enables one to distinguish between the original cards and those of the expansion. I made a reasonable guess for nearly all the cards, excepting one of two character cards, one of which showed up during play and I didn't understand its special ability at the time. We managed to muddle through.

First play for each of them. I taught them very straightforward and they picked it up nearly immediately, with only some confusion as to the difference between placing the workers and placing the master builders. I also showed them the later craftsman cards early on so they would have an idea what to look for as the game went on.

They both enjoyed the game. Maxim had been hoping to try Stone Age as an alternative to Caylus which he thinks is too long (as do I), but I was glad to play this instead (Gili owns Stone Age, but she didn't bring it).

Notre Dame

Nadine 53, Sergey 46, Gili 46, Alona 45, Elijah 35

Nadine writes: Only Gili and I had played before. Sergey started out strong with a lot of points from cars, and money but then couldn't keep it up. After two rounds the scores were close, 28 and 29 for 4, 25 for 1 person.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 23, 2010

Participants: Jon, Adam, Shira, Nadine, Gili, Elijah, Miriam, Abraham, Eitan

Welcome to Shira for her first visit. Shira lives in walking distance and has previous Eurogame experience, and so is a welcome addition. Hopefully she will return. Adam also doesn't usually come anymore, since he works on Wed evenings, but he was able to make it for a one-off.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Shira (B)+, Adam (W)

Adam taught this to Shira, who picked it up quickly enough to win.

Fairy Tale

Nadine 46, Jon 42, Gili 37, Elijah 22

We hadn't played this in a while, and we needed something light for three players. Elijah walked in as I was dealing, so he joined, though he doesn't particularly like the game.

I thought I had kind of figured out some strategy for the game, but Nadine won anyway. She claimed that she played randomly, but I kind of doubt that. She just likes to say that when she wins.

Louis XIV

Abraham 42, Shira 39, Gili 38, Nadine 35

First play for Shira, and possibly first or second for Abraham. This is an otherwise decent game where I don't particularly like the scoring system.

Cosmic Encounter

Elijah+, Jon, Miriam, Adam

Elijah always begs to play this, and I and Adam were willing, so I brought it out. First play for Miriam, whom we taught. First time teachings of this game in our house can result in disaster when the fanatics insist on adding multiple hidden powers, half the flare deck, weird destiny pile cards, and other such nonsense. I prefer to have the first game be quite limited: single revealed powers, 20 flares + the power flares, and that's it. Edicts, Kickers, Reinforcements, and the rest of the exceptional card is quite enough for a first time play.

As a result, the game went fairly straightforward (nobody drew the wild Schizoid flare that was in the deck). I played Symbiote, Miriam played Grief, Adam played Will, and Elijah played Visionary.


Miriam 36+, Jon 36, Adam 34, Elijah 28, Eitan 24

First plays for Adam and Miriam. Another great game I don't get to play often enough. It's typically a long game, but the length usually occurs during the track laying and cube moving phases. For some reason, people took a really, really long time to figure out their role selection. As a result, the game took about three hours.

Adam and Eitan commented that a five player game is more brutal, with much undercutting of track space and stealing cubes, apparently more so than with three or four players.

In our games, we all crowded around the Connecticut coastal area before branching west. Adam and Elijah began building in the Canada area extending south, while I just continued north and central through Mass/NY.

I was the first to start churning out victory points. Miriam went to 10 income which I though was kind of a waste, but somehow she had a nice central route and just managed to match my score at the very end, whereupon she won on the tie. Adam was frustrated at one point that train power could not exceed 6, as he had a few 7 link routes he wanted to run.

In the end, we all had about 9 links.

San Juan

Abraham 35, Gili 31, Nadine 30

They played this to wrap up while we finished Steam.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 16, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Elijah, Miriam

Welcome back to Elijah, who looked distinctly taller than the last time we'd seen him.

It's Alive

Jon 57, Gili 45, Nadine 37, Elijah 32

Gili asked to play this as a filler. I've played this hundreds of times, but there are still surprises for me in each game. In this game, I started picking up a lot of cash and then buying tiles only when the slab value equaled twice my cash value. That was my way of maximizing my points, while simultaneously keeping flexibility. My only concern is if someone else were hurrying the game along, in which case I might end up with too much cash and not enough points.

It didn't hurt that I didn't get any Villagers. But it wouldn't have made much of a difference if I had, I think. Gili's 45 include the 5 point bonus for ending the game.


Nadine+, Elijah, Gili, Jon, Miriam

First play for Elijah, second for Miriam. Five players is a tough game with fewer opportunities to make progress each round. It's more important to have a plan, and not just pick up whatever randomly comes your way, which is what I did. It's probably what Nadine did, too, but what came her way was better than what came my way.


Elijah 88, Gili 80, Jon 63, Miriam 44, Nadine 15*

With five players looking for a light game, I finally had my chance to try Mu, a highly-rated trick taking game for 4-6 players. The game has a table for the points required to make for your bid, and a separate table for bonus points for making your bid, and a number of interesting bidding and trump rules in between.

It's fun and interesting, but it's not really all that great. In fact, it's far better with four players than it is with five, which kind of defeats the point, since there are already so many good (better) card games for four. From my limited experience of three hands, it's biggest drawback is that, unlike many other cards games, you're simply going to do well if you have a good hand and poorly if you have a bad hand. Which is not the case for Bridge, Tichu, David and Goliath, and many other games.

Nevertheless, all of us except for Nadine enjoyed ourselves well enough. Nadine gave it two hands and then bowed out for the third. Elijah racked up a lot of points in the first two games, and neither chief was able to make his bid. In the third hand, played without Nadine, Gili was chief and took nearly all the tricks.

Vegas Showdown

Jon 51, Gili 46, Miriam 44, Elijah 44, Nadine

First play for Elijah and Miriam. Elijah was falling asleep near the end of the game, but it was Nadine who caused the biggest disruption when it turned out that she had placed and benefited for several rounds from a building for which she didn't have the correct prerequisites. Miriam also had done it, but it was her first game and she did it after Nadine, so she had an excuse.

Nadine had to remove the building near the end, and never got the correct prerequisite building to re-place it, while Miriam did. Gili jumped ahead in the last round or two in both people and income, when I had been leading in them throughout the game. Which annoyed me. Somehow I still won. I think because I had a lot of good early income, and took some bonus points for Slots (and event) and cashing money in for points (twice during events).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 09, 2010

Participants: Jon, Miriam, Ksenia, Gili, Nadine, Abraham, Emily, Eitan, Rachel

Emily and Eitan make it back after a few weeks absence. Miriam was here for her third week; she's a natural gamer.

Dominion / Dominion Intrigue / Dominion Seaside

Ksenia 25, Jon 24, Gili 21, Miriam 21

Kingdoms: Chapel, Moat, Moneylender, Gardens, Adventurer, Steward, Coppersmith, Ironworks, Bazaar, Tactician

Lots of trashing doesn't mix well with Gardens, but Ironworks does. And one would take Moneylender or Coppersmith, not both. First time playing with Steward, and I noticed that you have to trash exactly two cards, not "up to two". First time playing with Tactician, which is as powerful as it looks, but it was still hard to choose between it and Bazaar.

First play for Miriam. It was a mistake to play with Steward and Ironworks, both of which require a choice between three actions, which makes it difficult to understand, let alone make the decision, on your first play. Tip: when introducing new players, don't play with complicated cards.

I thought it was a close, quick game, and it was.


Abraham 53, Nadine 52, Gili 43

Abraham loves this game, like I do. Nadine wasn't sure after her first play, so she played again to see if she liked it better the second time. She said that she likes it enough to play it again, but it's not in her top tier with Puerto Rico or El Grande.

At the end scoring, they thought that they were tied, until they remembered that Nadine had to subtract 1 point for her debt.

Power Grid

Jon 15+, Miriam 15, Ksenia 15

First plays for both Miriam and Ksenia. I explained the market mechanics as we played, but only mentioned once, and early, about ties being decided by money. As a result, when the end of the game came down to money, Miriam hadn't prepared properly for it. Furthermore, it was fortunate that I was able to end the game the round that I did, because both Ksenia and Miriam were set to gain a lot more than I was on the next round: I was two cities up on them, bit still needed more capacity, while they both had 17 capacity already.

The reason for this was because, in our game, fuel, especially coal, was running out each round. And so, at the end of the game, in order to ensure that I had fuel, I had to dump a 5 plant powered by coal for a 5 plant powered by oil, and so couldn't move up in production capacity to any of the 6 or 7 plants (which were all coal).

I thought Ksenia wasn't handling the mid-game plants well, but somehow she ended up essentially tied with us by the end of the game, anyway.

Mr Jack

Emily++, Eitan

Emily and Eitan end up playing with each other often, as they tend to arrive late and while we're in the middle of other games.

Emily won two games against Eitan. In the first, she was Criminal and escaped in round 4. In the second, she was Detective and jumped on Mr Jack on turn 7.


Nadine/Abraham 140, Jon/Miriam 60

We only had time for one hand while Eitan and Emily finished their second game of Mr Jack. Nadine went out of character and called and made Tichu. Miriam also considered calling it; luckily she didn't. She ended up going out last. I went out second.


Jon 27, Abraham 26, Eitan 14, Emily 4

First play for everyone except me, and I had previously only played one half of a hand. I had to look up the rules (on BGG, since I have the German edition) to remember how to play.

We played four hands, and we all played better with each hand. There are a number of things going on in the game. Still, I'm unconvinced that there is any strategy in the game; it seems to be nearly all tactics. Perhaps more plays will reveal more of the strategy.
  • Hand 1: Abraham 8, Jon 4, Emily -13, Eitan -17
  • Hand 2: Jon 6, Abraham 2, Eitan -2, Emily -2
  • Hand 3: Eitan 12, Jon 8, Emily 5, Abraham 4
  • Hand 4: Emily 14, Eitan 13, Abraham 12, Jon 9

Puerto Rico

Rachel 56, Nadine 51, Ksenia 47, Miriam 40

First plays for Miriam and Ksenia. Rachel had a full Guild Hall, Factory, and Small Market. Nadine had four corns, Factory, Wharf, and Customs House. Which kind of made whatever Miriam and Ksenia had irrelevant. Actually, Ksenia was pretty close (hmmmm... this is not the first time I've underestimated her score during a game).

Thursday, June 03, 2010

June 02, 2010

Participants: Jon, Abraham, Miriam

Some participants were off to a play, and others promised to show up and didn't *ahem*. Miriam returned for her second visit. Yay, Miriam!


Jon 30, Abraham 26

Gardens 4, Laboratory 5, Library 5, Market 5, Courtyard 2, Conspirator 4, Torturer 5, Ambassador 3, Navigator 4, Bazaar 5.

I thought the simplest strategy was Bazaar / Conspirator. So that's what I did. Each of us also picked up an Ambassador and proceeded to trade coppers and estates. He decided to ignore the Conspirators and take instead Navigator. We split the provinces, but I also had two Gardens at the end.

Abraham 34, Jon 27

Woodcutter, Workshop, Throne Room, Conspirator, Torturer, Moneylender 4, Sea Hag, Outpost, Treasury, Wishing Well

Abraham emptied out the Treasuries, while I got two, and some Throne Rooms and Conspirators. I used Moneylender and Woodcutter to get some early provinces, but he used Sea Hag to clog up my deck with 6 curses, and I had no way of cycling past them. Again we split the provinces.


Jon+, Abraham+

I won the first game by a large margin. In the second game, I thought I was doing well. I lopped off half the board leaving me 11 pieces and him 10. However, I think I made a mistake somewhere, and he won by 1 disk.


Abraham 210, Jon 203, Miriam 182

First play for both Abraham and Miriam. I have the German edition, so though I explained the cards to them and there are symbols on the card, the symbols are not unambiguous, and so they needed to ask me what the cards were during play. Or, failed to ask me, and misunderstood what they had drawn.

The game was incredibly tight after the first phase, with Miriam one point ahead of me, who was one point ahead of Abraham (Miriam's point was from jumping over both of us). At the end of the second phase, I was at 111, Abraham at 104 or so, and Miriam at 100. We each had our little castles, and shared control of the king's castle.

Miriam then moved the king to a small castle on one side of the board, and started working on it. Unfortunately, I built the last free space and jumped onto it, which made it impossible for anyone to build past the second level, and so no one got the king's bonus in the final phase.

I was just barely ahead of Abraham, but he played the jump two levels as his final card, after everyone else had played. Which gave him the game.

Settlers of Catan

Miriam 10, Jon 5, Abraham 5

Miriam had only played two-player. We needed something quick, and while we could have played a filler, this also fit the bill.

I placed first, and made a mistake when placing my second settlement. I decided to go ahead what I knew to be true: math. My first settlement was on 8/10/5. Instead of placing my second settlement on a 9/10/5 (which gave me all the resources, and had good values, but limited me to very specific dice rolls) I placed on 9/4/11, which also gave me all the resources, diverse numbers, but worse math. I should have stuck to what I knew to be correct.

After all, not only is it better math, but concentrating on certain numbers is actually a better strategy, since the dice roll screwy, anyway. If they roll screwy your way, you win. If they don't you lose. But if you choose an assortment of mediocre middle, one of the other players will be benefiting from the screwy numbers more than you will be.

Anyhoo, Miriam lead off by blocking off one of my road, and then wrapping around and blocking the settlement in the other direction, as well. Then she hosed by 8 ore, which rolled about 5,000 times while the robber was on it. Abraham lost a few bricks from the short time that the robber was on his 6. And Miriam escaped nearly all injury, took an early Longest Road, and sailed to an easy victory.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 26, 2010

Participants: Jon, David, Gili, Nadine, Miriam, Abraham

Miriam is a new visitor, and new to modern gaming. But she's sharp and so picked up the games pretty quickly. She said she'd return, and I hope she does.

David came early.

Magic: The Gathering

Jon++, David

So of course, we drafted, still using the cards I picked up more than a year and a half ago. They're still new to us. Unusually, I felt like I was doing poorly in the drafting; usually I feel like I'm doing ok, and then I lose. Around a third of the way through this draft, I decided to start paying attention to the creatures that boost other creatures of the same type, something that only works in the modern expansions; but our draft was from mostly modern expansions.

I ended up with a deck of nothing but Elves, Giants, and Goblins, as well as a few utility cards. I had an Elf that brought another Elf to the top of my deck when it came into play (and the same for a Giant), an Elf that replaced any dead Elf card with an Elf token, an Elf instant that gave me an Elf token for each Elf I had, and a few others. Also, an enchantment that could be moved to another creature of the same type when the enchanted creature died.

In our first game, I had 17 land, mostly green with even amounts of red and black (7/5/5). I ended up with too much land, and, even though I kept dragging things out of the graveyard, too much land slowed me down enough for him to overrun me. I tossed out two lands (G and R; none of my R's were double), and proceeded to win the next two games, though they were close. While a synergistic deck can be disrupted, it has to be thoroughly disrupted. Fun games.


David 80, Jon 71

Second play for David, and he had to re-learn the game. The first time he played he was overwhelmed. He was still overwhelmed in this game, but in a good way.

I have to say that I'm really, really liking Homesteaders. Unlike nearly every other game I've played, it has a tremendous re-playability value. There are just so many avenues to explore packed into those ten rounds. I've played five times now, and I'm nowhere near knowing what I'm doing. And yet, it's clear that one can eventually learn to know something about what one is doing. Kudos to Alex for making a game that may actually rival Puerto Rico. What's amazing about Puerto Rico, however, is that PR does it without auctions.

In our game, I racked up some debt, but I never produced any strong goods, such as copper, cattle, or gold. David had some nice gold and trade chips going, which netted him the late game win. He stole 5 points from me by taking the last building that could really have helped me, and as you see, a 5 point swing would have done it.

Jon 56, Abraham 53, David 51

We played this again later in the evening. Second play for Abraham, who also really likes the game. David now officially likes the game, too. This time, in addition to the more competitive auctioning, I managed to get the trade chip/gold thing going, which just squeaked out a victory for me. The building that let me substitute gold for cattle or copper also helped a lot.

Abraham scuttled a late building bid by David, which apparently hurt both of them.


David 34, Jon 33, Gili 25

We played with Cellar, Chapel, Workshop, Feast, Spy, Laboratory, Torturer, Salvager, Outpost, and Envoy. We mostly played with Cellar, Spy, Laboratory, and Salvager, though I made effective use of Chapel, dumping my three Estates and a Copper on turn four. They each started with a Silver instead of a Chapel. I don't know why I lost, actually.

It's Alive

Miriam+, Nadine

Nadine taught this to Miriam. They played the basic game very quickly, and Miriam won by one card. She didn't really like the game. Oh, well.


Gili+, Nadine, Miriam

First play for Miriam, who started off strong but fell behind as the game progressed. Still, she liked the game.


David 20, Abraham 27, Jon 46

David did in this game what Abraham did the previous time he played, which was manage to avoid taking nearly anything for most of the game. Still a cute filler game.


Jon-David/Miriam 1080, Nadine-Abraham 720

David and I started off behind, down a few hundred points. Abraham bid and made a number of Tichus. Then David had to go.

Miriam took over for him, and this was her first play. She played well. I bid and made a Tichu or two, including in one hand, when both Abraham and I bid Tichu, and I made it, putting us in the lead, finally (we went from 480/620 to 650/550. Then we were both tied at 700.

The penultimate game gave us 80 points. And then I bid and made Tichu, and Miriam and I both went out first, which gave us the game.

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