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).