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.