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.