Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 28, 2011

Mace, Gili, Eitan, Emily, Nadine

Eszter, Bill and Shirley couldn't make it. Mace's last time, he leaves again on Monday.

Gili's waiting to play London, but it's 4 player, so we postponed it.

Nile

Eitan won, then Mace, Emily, Gili and me. I had two cards, I kept losing to the locusts. I don't even think I could have done much differently, so it's a lot of luck. Eitan didn't even understand the scoring and he won, he thought it was most cards. Which does help.

Agricola

Mace 41, Nadine 36, Emily 33, Gili 29, Eitan 24

Emily and Eitan had never played. First play with my new used game from the math trade. I'm not used to setting up, we were confused at first until we realized we were on the wrong side of the main board, I didn't even know there were two sides. Emily like it, Eitan didn't like how slow it was with 5 players. Mace and I spent a lot of time trying to order real food. Two restaurants didn't answer, another had a different number, it took a while. I have the expansion which we didn't use, the game is complicated enough without it. I spent some time trying to figure out whether to plow two vegetables or a grain and vegetable, but that didn't hold up the next player. I had five family members, Mace also. He had very synergestic cards with lots of grain and plowing. I could get a vegetable on Day Laborer, and get 5 food per vegetable. Emily did very well for her first play, she had no empty spaces. Eitan got 8 bonus points from cards, but didn't fill in most of his board. Gili got a field anytime someone plowed. Eitan said we needed Yehuda to add up the points, it took 3 people.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chanukah Games Day

Gili, Maor, Bezalel, Binyamin, Lotem, Nadine, Mace, Emily, Eitan, Eszter, Kate, Moshe

Gili had the good idea to have a games day on Chanukah, on the day that Eitan and Emily were off from university. Eszter and Gili's kids and a friend came. I met Moshe in BGG RSP, I like his philosophical posts on religion, and joined his RSP group on Facebook. He lives in Jerusalem but works nights so he's never met anyone in our group. Kate is his wife, she's very good at Eurogames, Moshe is also good but more of a wargamer, they brought their very cute and well-behaved year old daughter. Kate is from Ireland, Eszter from Hungary, Mace is from NY but lives in Australia.

Highland Clans
Gili 39, Mace 34, Emily 34, Eitan 33
My other free bgg.con game. We started learning this, then when more people arrived I stopped. Close game. Consensus was that it was a bit too random.

El Grande
Kate 33, 76,130; Nadine 41,72,118; Eszter 25,60,110; Moshe 27,54,75
Moshe had heard of this but never played, so I taught it. Same with our next two games. Eszter had played once. I started strong with special scoring, but that leads to fewer boots on the ground for the rest of the game. I was attacked a bit, and Kate caught on and played very well.

Egizia
Emily 90, Mace 82, Gili 76, Eitan 73
One of Eitan and Emily's new games, they had played once. It looked interesting, Egypt under the Romans, but also similar to other games. Emily said the starvation strategy is highly penalized but she made it work.



Princes of Florence
Nadine 62, Kate 60, Eszter 56, Moshe 49
First play for Moshe and Kate, second for Eszter. I taught it and pointed out strategy issues, but it's hard to grasp the first time. I won due to two Prestige cards, Kate played six profession cards for more points than I played my six. Bidding was very low, jesters went for 500 max. Kate and Moshe had a bidding war at the end for a second builder for him, third for her, he got it for 1000. Turns out he misunderstood the situation and didn't need it, she did.

Louis XIV
Mace 59,Gili 51, Maor 48
Gili's variant where the high value mission cards score more, Mace had the most of those.

Year of the Dragon
Nadine 114, Kate 98, Moshe 84
Another hard game to learn the first time. It's not as competitive with three. I built a lot and thought I'd lose people, but ended up managing to get a lot of rice. Everyone played low numbers on the turn track, so I was first more than I expected to be. Famine and Disease were both towards the end of the game, with War, two Fireworks and Taxes in the first half.

The kids played Clue and Munchkin.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First night of Chanukah

Bill, Shirley, Liza, Mace, Shlomia, Shachar, Nadine

Mace flew in from Australia; Liza is a friend of Bill and Shirley's, who also flew in for a few weeks.

Dreidle
Bill won, beating Shirley by 3 points. Shirley started, Bill was second, which is an advantage when the pot is only refilled by ante. We played with m&m's, two or three rounds. First time playing Dreidle for Bill and Shirley.

Train of Thought
By the end, we managed to get faster at it. Mace did particularly well and was the first to be willing to be timed, he got 2.5 in the two minutes. But it's not easy, and again everyone said it didn't really feel like a party game.

Lo Ra
Mace 13,13,29; Liza 12,19,29; Shachar 1,6,20; Shirley 7,7,20; Bill 0,-7,9.
I asked Bill to get this out of the drawer. He couldn't find it until Mace pointed it out, I forgot that the title is in Hebrew. When Liza arrived I let her take over for me, Shachar and Shlomia teamed up. Two ties and Bill, at least he didn't end up negatives. He had a lot of Tribes but not much else. Disasters didn't show up til second and third yovels, but then a lot did of course. Some suspense at the end of yovels waiting for the last mosaic. First play for everyone, they got it by the second round but were slightly hurt by not understanding everything at the beginning. It worked well with five, everyone liked the game.


Shadows Over Camelot
Rather than caring about winning, everyone's goal was to be the traitor. Mace played very cagily at the beginning, in case he became the traitor. We passed out the cards at 5 swords. Liza had left, so it was 6 cards out of 8. After that everyone was cooperating well, and Mace committed himself to winning as a team, and as we suspected, there was no traitor. We won with 7 white swords. Shlomia did well, winning Excaliber and the solo knight quest, Shachar got the grail.


Upcoming: Mini Chanukah game day on Sunday at Gili's, and regular games next week on Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 14, 2011

Gili, Emily, Eitan, Eszter, Nadine

Glen More
Emily 50, Eitan 41, Nadine 31, Eszter 22, Gili 16
Emily and Eitan got this game last week and played it once, which helped them. Gili was hit by a card misinterpretation which lost her a lot of points. This is a complex and interesting strategy game with a lot to consider, and explore. I took the fewest turns which didn't help me enough. It takes a while to understand the mechanics, scoring, cards and options. Emily got a Distillery right away and used it well.

Train of Thought
Gili brought over my new games, yay! We didn't want to learn the rules to a new game from scratch, but figured it would work with a party game. We played more seriously than it seems to expect. You get words and give three word clues to get the others to guess, with required start words. There is a two-minute sand timer. It took each of us at least two minutes just to think up our first set of clues. We did make it harder by requiring the required word to be used first instead of anywhere in the phrase. And we didn't use the timer. Because Eszter wasn't sure of the meaning of a word, Gili introduced us to a distracting cool phone app, Camdictionary, that reads and translates words in images. Emily got the most cards for guessing. Gili did the best at having her word used in the next clue phrase, which gives no points but was impressive. The game is fun but challenging, but we didn't really see how it's a party game.

Previous Plays
Gili hosted while I was away. Apparently, Jake and Daphne, who met at our Sukkot games day, showed up together once, and Jake came another time on his own.
Settlers of Catan - Jake+, Daphne, Emily, Gili, Ezster
El Grande - Eszter and Eitan tied for first with Emily a close second, Gili third.
Key Harvest - Gili, Jake, Emily and Eitan started as a team, then Emily took over when Jake left while the game was in progress, the team won.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NJ, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

I’m describing my experience of the trip to bgg.con, and trying not to repeat too much that Jon included in his blog, Yehuda. The Board Game Geek conference is organized by the bgg community.

Teaneck

I arrived in Teaneck Thursday evening. Candle lighting on Friday was at 4, so we mainly cooked. Friday night my cousin and husband went to a birthday party after dinner. I played Puerto Rico, which I gave them, with their kids. They barely remembered having played in Jerusalem a few years ago, so I taught the game and helped them a bit with strategy, because after I left they’d be playing on their own. They did pretty well, Debra took an early hospice, and Michael was doing well and had a lot of points. I ended up winning by 3 points.


Kansas City

Sunday I met Jon at Newark for the flight to Kansas City. A very small plane and a small airport where we were met by Bill and Shirley. Their house is big; we each got a bedroom with bath. They also have a mostly well-behaved, beautiful large puppy dog, Musi, that doesn’t really bark. But does sniff people a lot. Their Christmas tree, which is set up all year, has themed decorations including Americana, comics and Bible stories.




Secret Santa

Jon and I usually participate in the bgg Secret Santa, where you are assigned someone to give a game to, and receive a game from someone. Jon had said he wasn’t going to this year because he was getting enough games, but ended up signing up. He got someone in Singapore. After having gotten someone in Australia one year, I did U.S. only. The assignments came out the Friday before the con, so one of the things we did on Sunday was select and order games. I was going to send Carson City which I like but ended up sending Navigador, which is a better game. My target is in Sebastopol, relatively close to Menlo Park.

I added a note to my Secret Santa that they could ship the game to me at the hotel instead of sending to Israel. Jon added a note to his that they could contact me for suggestions. His Secret Santa did contact me, but when I asked Jon he had no info beyond his wishlist. But I wrote back that they could ship to the hotel, and to let me know which games. Jon wanted to be surprised, but didn’t want to purchase something he was receiving, so we were supposed to stop him from buying those games. His Secret Santa wrote me back that he was shipping to the hotel, but didn’t say which games.

Monday

Bill and Shirley were being supportively kosher and had bought enough utensils to cook for us. Monday we hung around a bit setting up new phones and planning food. Then we shopped, did some sightseeing, and got the rental car for the trip. I went along to be listed as a third driver, but at $9 a day for a few hours of driving wasn’t worth it. Shirley could drive, but Bill ended up driving the whole trip down. I went with Bill to drop off something at a friend’s place and to pick up some stuff from his office; I ended up cleaning up which I enjoy doing in offices that need it, and also got a demo of his company’s product.


Tuesday

We ended up leaving at 9 instead of 8 on Tuesday morning. They had to drop the dog off at doggie day care, and we had a lot of food which took a while to fit into the car. Jon wanted to arrive at the con by 6 to help pack welcome bags, where the social card-matching game called Spare Squares which he designed for all attendees to play was being distributed. So he didn’t let us stop for lunch, we had sandwiches in the car.


We did manage to stop for breaks several times, including to take pictures after crossing into Oklahoma and Texas. We listened to a few NPR podcasts and took pictures. I expected the land to be flat and boring, but it’s scenic with a lot of trees with colorful autumn leaves.

Dallas

We hit a lot of traffic in Dallas, and had problems connecting to get GPS directions; once we got them I wrote them down just in case. It was also very warm, 79 degrees, so Shirley and I were discussing how we only had winter clothes along. We checked in to our hotel, then walked over to the con at the Westin. Of course all the welcome bags were ready and they didn’t need help with setting up. There were already a lot of people playing.

The Con

Roll Through the Ages

We ate the food we had brought, and then played some games in the lobby area. Jon, Bill and I played Roll Through the Ages with someone we met. It’s a cute short and simple game, I tied for second. We walked around gawking at everything, Jon showed me how Crokinole works – it’s tough on the hands like Pitch Car. All the dexterity games looked interesting.

Troyes

Then Jon and I learned and played Troyes with two other people. I had read about the game but not how it worked, Jon had more of an idea and caught on quicker. In addition to all the actions, each player gets one secret card which gives bonus points at the end of the game. I didn’t understand how everything worked, but focused on my card which gave points for placement on cards. Placement on cards also gives additional victory points for each placement. The other players helped me calculate optimal cards, but within the area I selected, such as which was the best red action. I didn’t understand all the rotating worker mechanics, Jon didn’t either, which affected our points. At the end, I had to choose between two possible bonus point actions without knowing which bonus cards were in the game, I picked wrong, but it ended up not mattering, I won with 37 points. Jon thinks I get extra help because I don’t understand games right away and ask questions, it’s hard to separate learning mechanics from strategy.


I walked around looking at all the different types of games like in the War Game room.





I thought the Game Library with 4,500 games would be crowded and have a long line, but they had a very efficient scan system of a barcode on the game, and on attendee badges, so there was barely any waiting time.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning Jon left early and volunteered at registration, and saved spaces in line for Bill and Shirley but not for me, we were in different lines alphabetically. We didn’t get there until close to 10, which I thought was late. I talked to people I was in line with, very representative of the participants – computer programmers from Texas. I said that I was surprised that the line wasn’t moving, they told me it doesn’t open til 10. So we got there at the right time, it went pretty quickly, all very organized. You pick a free game or two upon registering, I took Highland Clans and Train of Thought, I'm not familiar with either of them.

I had read about a new game, introduced at the recent huge Essen game con in Germany, Walnut Grove, which I was thinking of buying it and wanted to try it out. All day Wednesday and Thursday, whenever I went by it in the Hot Games room, which has Essen games set up, either a game was already in progress or there was no one there. I not only needed players, but someone to teach it.

K2

I walked around looking at games, and ended up joining one in the large main game room, K2. One of the people playing was Mischa, a friend of Jon’s who runs the bgg math trade. I had traded one game but wasn’t going to be able to attend the official trade time on Saturday, so I had emailed the person I needed to give my game to, and the person who was giving me a game. The backup plan was to leave the game with Mischa.

K2 has a simple structure with deeper strategy than it appears.You expend points for climbing and oxygen, selected from cards you pick. I didn’t understand certain things right away, so I was behind most of the game. The other woman player was doing really well, she got both of her climbers to the very top, and down again alive, without even pitching a tent which reduces oxygen required. We were playing on the easy side of the board, with only summer weather, but it was still challenging. At the end, two players weren’t able to prevent either one or both of their climbers from dying, which results in a complete loss of points, so I came in second.


First Sparks

I went back into the Hot Games room and sat down by Walnut Grove, but no players came, and I was hungry, so I found the others and we took a break for lunch. I tried again after lunch, but switched to a game nearby which was starting, First Sparks, by the creator of Power Grid. The game is similar to Power Grid which helped us figure out how to play, and someone came over to teach it. One person hadn’t played Power Grid so we gave him some tips. It has a cave man theme and is simpler than Power Grid. The card structure is similar, but you place cavemen competitively for end game points.

We found out near the end of the game, because someone overheard us, that one of the changes from Power Grid is that you don’t bid for cards, rather you have right of refusal in turn order, so you never pay more than the amount on the card. We hadn’t had much competitive bidding, so it wouldn’t have made a big difference in the game, the card movement and availability are the same. I tied to win and had 3 vs. 1 food left to win the tiebreaker. I want to get this game because it’s good with attractive graphics, and I don’t have Power Grid. The store at the con finally got it from the airport on Friday, but it will be available for less at other stores, hopefully in time for Bill and Shirley to bring it.


Coney Island

Then I played Coney Island in the large room. I had this on my wishlist at one point, but couldn’t remember if I had taken it off or not. After playing, I was really hoping that I wouldn’t receive it as my Secret Santa gift. No one liked it, there are so many better games. We all helped each other as we tried to figure out the game. At one point, they recommended that I make a different move, where if I got a red tile instead of white tile in a random draw, I would get 9 points. It worked, which helped me, though I was still behind. I did start to understand the game by the end, by which time things were mostly already placed. I did what I could, and somehow ended up winning by one point.


Flash Point

Then I joined a firefighting game, Flash Point, an Essen game but in the main room. I didn’t realize it was cooperative, but it was interesting. We were playing with intro rules which meant no firetrucks and hoses, which must make it more interesting. I was fighting fires, everyone else was rescuing people. The game actions cause explosions and destruction. We ended up losing, the house collapsed before we could rescue everyone. But I was the only one who didn’t die because I happened to be outside the house. We had bad luck with the people, the first two tokens were blank rather than victims. It’s a good game because there’s a lot of fast action and some planning.

Jon came with me to try to get a game of Walnut Grove going. Scott Nicholson of Board Games with Scott walked by, he didn’t want to play but gave us a quick rules explanation. More players didn’t join, and Jon decided he was too tired to play a new game.


Niagara

We walked around a bit, Jon agreed to teach Tobago, and I saw a game of Niagara which I had heard of because one year I gave one of my Secret Santa targets a Niagara exapansion. Jon ended up playing Tobago, so I went back to join Niagara. It’s a good game, simple and cute mechanics, you physically move plastic discs in the river which push your canoes around and over the edge sometimes. It’s very difficult, an experienced player won. They played again but I left.

It was freezing cold on Wednesday, we didn’t have all our warm clothes with us because it had been so warm the day before. The rest of the week it warmed up with sun and some clouds, but we were mainly indoors.



Chitin: I

Bill and Shirley played the redesigned Chitin: I, which Bill had a copy of when he was in high school.

Thursday

Nefarious

Jon and I started off playing Nefarious, by the designer of Dominion. It took me a while to understand it, but it didn’t matter that much because we had crazy condition cards. I came in second.

Tanto Cuore

Then we walked around and played a game similar to Dominion, Tanto Cuore. It’s Japanese with a theme of hiring maids, Jon had heard of it, and they had a demonstrator in a skimpy maid costume. Jon’s really good at Dominion, I’ve beaten him like once and usually don’t even come close. We thought we understood the game well, but didn’t understand the set-aside mechanic which is not in Dominion. I did very well, but Jon still beat me, 51 to 47, with 30 for the demonstrator, who may not play as hard as possible, or you can’t get good players to wear a maid costume.

I reached the person giving me Agricola by phone, and on the way to Madras Pavilion for lunch we picked it up from him by his hotel. Madras Pavilion was great even though it’s not a pavilion but in a strip mall. Really good kosher vegetarian Indian food, with Bill as a very helpful guide to Indian food.

Space Mission

After lunch Bill, Shirley and I went to pick a game from the game library. Bill wanted a space theme, so we picked Space Mission from the Essen games, and went into the main room. While we were trying to figure out how to play two other players joined us, one was Simon Strange. We managed to work it out, it’s a nice simple game. Tom won the tie with Simon at 39, Shirley and I had 30 and Bill 29. I commented on the nice look of the planets, Simon said better than ours. It turns out that he is a video game developer of Hellboy: Asylum Seeker and Godzilla: Save the Earth among others. He’s now working on a space-themed board game, with prototype artwork including planets, hence his comment. After Space Mission, Bill, Shirley and another player played his prototype with him. It looked too route-like so I decided not to play. Simon also play-tested Bill’s game and provided feedback.


Navegador

I played Navegador, which I had played once before. I had won that game, but we played something wrong so I shouldn’t have won. This game was the first time for everyone else, someone came by and gave a quick overview. I made a mistake on my first move and was behind the rest of the game. Two of the other players were doing really well, one was doing terribly. He improved, and we ended up tying for last place, he won the tiebreaker, so I lost.

At dinner, Jon said that I played Navegador which he likes, and he played Walnut Grove, which I wanted to play, and didn’t know til then that he had gotten to play. By then, his Secret Santa had written me that he got Navegador and Incan Empire for Jon.


Puerto Rico

Jon and I wanted to try the game library’s copy of the fancy new 10th anniversary edition of Puerto Rico, but it was checked out so we took the regular one. The new version is approved for sale in Europe, but not in the U.S. because of the lead in the coins, they have to reprint them. Jon held it up for a few minutes and two players joined, one had played before. Jon’s much better than me at Puerto Rico, but I can beat him. I’m also not experienced or good at 4-player, we usually play 3-player, and online I play 3-player.

One of the other players crafted into Jon, who was able to trade sugar with two role coins, and he pretty much had the game from there with a coffee monopoly. I got blocked out of trading and couldn’t get anything going. I had a small warehouse, but no harbor, factory or wharf. One player, who only had tobacco and corn, took a harbor at one point. He had enough for a wharf, but I didn’t say anything, because he seemed to know what he was doing, having rejected advice before. But it turns out he had a wrong impression of how harbor works, so I should have mentioned it. I did tell him later that he should consider shipping, which he did, to my detriment. It’s always hard to know how much to help other players, they learn more by making mistakes, but it also makes the game more frustrating. Jon won by less than I expected, but still a lot, I came in second. 58, 45, 40, 37.

Gifts

We stopped by our hotel office to check for packages. Jon could see a package behind the counter. The desk clerk said it wasn’t for us and went to check the back, nothing there either. Jon asked again about the package he could see, which was a big box. The clerk showed it to us to prove that it wasn’t ours, but he was looking at the return address. It was my Secret Santa package, with an Agricola expansion and London, and Jungle Speed for my kids.

Jon had played Inca Empire on Thursday and liked it, which was handy since that was one of his Secret Santa games. We picked up his package Friday on the way to David’s for Shabbat.


Shabbat

Friday

Friday morning Shirley and I packed up, loaded the car, checked out and drove over to the Westin. Jon had gone over early as usual, and Bill was going to Proto Alley that morning to demo his role playing game. He had also done a demo the night before for people he had gotten in touch with before the con. The game sounds interesting with an unusual structure – no DM and an internal economic system. He got a good reception with useful feedback.

I collected all our Spare Squares cards and matched them into sets, and labeled them and the envelopes to turn in. At lunch, Jon scored all the entries to date. The one I did for Shirley scored well, we thought it wouldn’t look right if she won, but Jon said not to worry, there would be higher scores, and there were.

Walnut Grove

Shirley and I sat down at the Walnut Grove table and I finally got to play. A guy from Brazil offered to teach the game, then decided to stay and play because it’s quick, and another guy, who had played before, also joined. I like the game because there’s very little down time, it’s not complicated, but has good decision-making. The guy who had played before beat me by one point, if I had one more cube I could have cancelled my -2 point loan and won.

Later, when I was thinking about the strategy in the game, I realized that I played wrong on the last turn, and actually lost by 2 points. I wanted to make one more enclosure, and I needed one more wood, but I couldn’t enclose my wood area. So I enclosed a different wood area to get the last wood, forgetting that I needed a worker there to produce. So I should have expanded my wood area and lost the extra point for the enclosure. I had 29 points, the winner 31. I got 18 points minus 2 for a loan from having 3 building multipliers. I didn’t realize how they interact so that was good for my score, but probably won’t happen again. We had an advantage during the game because the double production sections came up first round. I may like First Sparks better just because of the graphics, I’ll have to think about that. Well, it’s also a meatier game.

I gave Mischa my game for the math trade, and later ran into him with the person, who preferred to wait for the game rather than carry it around. Jon tracked down most of his games also. He’s taking back a lot of games including 4 or 5 of mine.

Shaarei Tefillah

Friday afternoon was a big rush, more than usual. We ran into a lot of traffic, we saw later that there had been an accident. We left at 3 to arrive at 4, we arrived around 4:15, Shabbat starts right after 5 in Dallas, not 4 like most places this time of year. Jon had the wrong address which delayed us slightly because we had unloaded the trunk and had to reload and re-unload, or rather Bill did. I was staying with someone else who wasn’t home yet, so I helped in the kitchen while the others were moving furniture and making beds. Then I wheeled my suitcase over, took it upstairs, made my bed, got ready, practically threw a gift at the hostess who had already lit, and rushed back for candlelighting and shul. We drove to shul which confused Bill and Shirley, they’re not used to the one-way drive system. No singing during Friday night services, nor dancing, I miss my shul.

I wanted to find out where my friend Joel Zeff was in Dallas, but his wife hadn’t known the name of his shul when I contacted her on Facebook. We were staying with David Elkin, I’d met him several times at Jon’s, he lives in Modiin but spends a semester each year teaching at SMU, and Jon always spends his bgg.con Shabbat with him. David was staying with Hanan Schlesinger, who lives in Alon Shvut but works in Dallas, not so unusual for Israelis. It turns out that Hanan and Joel work together; they had invited Joel for dinner but he was doing something else, he didn’t know that I’d be there. Joel gave two shiurim at shul they next day which I enjoyed. Hanan has met my kids in Alon Shvut through Joel though he didn’t remember them in particular. Eli is currently working with Joel’s son-in-law Micah Smith on set design for videos. At the tisch after dinner, playing Jewish geography, they discovered pretty quickly that the rabbi being honored had taught at the school Jon attended in West Hempstead.

London

Shabbat afternoon, Jon wasn’t feeling well and went to sleep. Bill, Shirley and I tried out London, with Hanan watching us struggle through the directions for a while. The rules weren’t very clear, even with examples, but we eventually started playing. Jon came down towards the end, right as we were trying to understand a card, which said that you’re exempt from receiving (negative) poverty points from hand cards, because we hadn’t been taking poverty points for those. Jon couldn’t understand how we missed such a basic rule. Which changes the game considerably, so we’ll have to try it the real way. In our game, Shirley won and Bill came in second.

Awards and Prizes

Saturday night is the main con meeting for everyone, where they announce the bgg game of the year winners and raffle prizes. Jon was also announcing the Spare Squares winners, entry deadline was 5:30 Saturday. When that was planned, he hadn’t realized that Shabbat ends at 6:07, so it was another rush to pack up after Shabbat and get back in time. We made it with 10 minutes to spare, and they didn’t start right at 7. It’s fun to see the game winners announced after reading about it for years on bgg, same for many aspects of the con.


The guy sitting across from me won awards for artwork on two games.


In the end there wasn't time for Jon to come up so Aldie announced the Spare Squares winners. Jon got the envelopes later, there were a lot of entries, and perfect scores where they drew for the winner. I hadn’t understood the tracks, I thought they were by letter, but they were by card section.

We had our raffle tickets but didn't win any prizes like this lucky person.


Occupy bgg.con showed up with signs about Meeple rights.


Agricola

Jon had planned a game of Agricola with friends of his, Jim and Chris. I’d played Puerto Rico with Chris when he visited the group in Jerusalem. Jon had said more could play, Bill decided not to, Shirley was going to work on her laptop, and they also went out to get some dinner. We played in a side room, very calm and quiet. We selected 7 out of 10 for the cards. I had bad cards, and played poorly from the start. Jim was doing really well with tons of food, but then stalled. Jon was doing well, he took actions I wanted a few times, mainly because he was going before me; it didn’t matter since I wasn’t going to win. Jon ended up winning by two, we were the only ones with all our spaces filled, but he had animals and points, I had to kill most of mine for food and never got offspring.

Sunday

Sunday morning we packed and checked out again. Bill and Shirley were leaving to drive back to KC, they dropped us off with our luggage so we could take the shuttle from the Westin.

Last Will

I wanted to play the new game by the Agricola designer, but the games were in progress, I didn’t have that much time, and another game looked like it was starting. I had seen it and it looked interesting, Last Will. It puts you in a counter intuitive situation where you’re trying to spend money rather than save it. As we were starting, a fifth player asked to join, he had played before but not a full game. I asked questions and thought I understood the game, but I got the victory condition wrong. I thought you need to be at zero by the seventh round and then there’s an end game mechanic. But it’s actually a race to see who finishes first, at that point it’s the person with the least including negative money. I don’t know if I could have done better if I had gotten that; I would have done better if I understood everything from the beginning. I came in third, I had two left, the guy who had played before had minus 6 and another one had zero. I don’t think I like the game, it doesn’t feel very strategic, rather tactical and limited control affected by turn order.


Airport

I took the shuttle at 11 for a 1:35 flight to SF which was actually scheduled for 1:48, I didn’t have time for another game anyway. People on the shuttle said there were fewer locals this year, to me it seemed like mostly locals at the con, counting Kansas and Oklahoma. I went through checkin and security in half an hour, it took that long because one self serve kiosk didn’t work and the one I used didn’t print my luggage tag so I had to wait for an agent. I’m used to Newark where everything takes forever.

I found a plug and chair at an adjacent gate, so I couldn’t see my flight info. And I couldn’t get up without packing up my laptop. It needed to charge, and if I got it fully charged I could use it on the plane. At 1:35 I went to see and found out that the flight was delayed at least an hour due to bad weather in SF. So I plugged in again and tried to keep an eye on the far gate. One gate close to me was Chicago, the other one another SF flight. When I heard the SF announcement, I thought it was that flight and not mine, but then I saw people boarding at my gate. We took off at 3:30, with my laptop finally fully charged so that I could finish writing most of this on the plane.

I enjoyed the whole trip with great friends. I had expected to play mostly games that I knew already because it’s harder to learn new games, but learning them with other people at the con worked well, and it’s fun to try out new games. People were very friendly and supportive, and most of the time someone who knew the game explained it which helped. Playing new games is a different challenge than ones you know, and I have more of a chance to do well because focusing on one or two strategies is more likely to work when players haven’t grasped everything.



Wednesday, November 09, 2011

November 9, 2011

Gili, Eszter, Emily, Nadine

A short night because I'm leaving for the U.S. tomorrow morning - NY, Kansas City, Dallas and Northern California. Yay bgg.con!

Genoa

Emily 685, Gili 605, Eszter 565, Nadine 525

Emily collected buildings, and at the end paid Eszter 40 for hers, which let Eszter beat me. I was mostly focused on sorting my email before leaving and a work issue, and my son Eli came by. I did complete 4 cards and had three markers on locations. I knocked Gili off one at the end because I thought she was ahead of Emily. After catching on, Eszter exclaimed what a great game this is. We told her that she says that about every game, she agreed. She wanted to know how we find out about all these great games. Whereas Eli, who isn't into these games, commented that they all look the same.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 26, 2011

Gili, Eitan, Emily, Eszter, Nadine

Nile
Nadine+, Gili, Emily, Eitan
First play for Emily and Eitan. I had by far the most cards, but had no Papyrus. I still won because everyone was missing at least one type. We like the game as a filler.

Amun Re

Emily 27,50; Nadine 9,41; Eszter 6,39; Eitan 18,36; Gili 12,33
First play for Eszter; Eitan and Emily had played once a very long time ago and didn't really remember much from then. Everyone enjoyed the game. Eitan started off doing well and had a lot of money, Emily had a strong first era and managed to keep the lead. Eszter could have taken one most pyramids instead of tying with me, but if she had then Eitan could have taken the other one from her. She got points for both, gaining the most points in the second era as she caught on to the game. Eszter said her kids would like the game, her son really likes Puerto Rico which she bought after learning it with us this summer, and she plays Settlers with her kids all the time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 18, 2011 - Sukkot Games Day

Nadine, Emily, Eitan, Gili, Jake, Eliezer, Meir, Rochelle, Daphna, Eszter

Rochelle is from Australia and comes regularly to our evening sessions.
Gili, Emily and Eitan are regulars.
Eliezer and Meir came from Beit Shemesh, Eliezer attends the group there, Meir is in yeshiva.
Eszter is originally from Hungary and came a few times during the summer.
Jake is a new oleh from Boston, he's been here 3 weeks.
Daphna is in ulpan, she made aliya 3 months ago from LA. She heard about us from Eitan's mom.

People arrived between 1:30 and 2 pm, and most stayed until 10:30. One additional person emailed for directions, which I didn't see until the evening, but he could have called because my number was in the announcement that he had. My new neighbors who just moved here from Efrat combined their sukkah with ours, so we had a lot of space. And it didn't rain, though it did get cold later in the day.

Carson City
Nadine 44, Emily 40, Gili 35, Eitan 33, Jake 25
We picked this as easier for a new gamer than Amun Re with the auctioning. Jake has played Settlers, but this was his first more complicated game, and it took him a while to understand all the different implications. Emily and Eitan were also pretty new to the game. There was a lot of fighting for everything, and a lot of duels. Last round Gili, Jake and Eitan had 10 cowboys. I managed to get the white cowboy only once, by passing early, for the third round, but that was enough to put me far enough ahead. I had the building discount card the first two rounds, which helped me because I had good buildings and income from the start, and third round the available buildings weren't good and people didn't buy many. This is the first time I understood how the surroundings work for buildings other than mines and ranches, I thought it was buildings and houses, but it's actually only houses.

Eitan robbed people's income several times, Gili fought him but I didn't, he took half of my 15 for a saloon twice. Everyone except me fought for the guns on the last round; I had used all my workers to get money third round so I went last and took the plot card. Gili played well but had bad luck in dice rolls, which Eitan had counted on. Overall people liked the game.

GoSu

Gili and Eitan played during a break.

Taj Mahal
Eitan 61, Eszter 42, Gili 36, Daphna, Jake
Jake left partway through but they continued playing. First play for Jake, Eszter and Daphna, who all enjoyed the game. Eitan said he understood and liked the strategy this time.

R-Eco
Eliezer and Meir played when they arrived and we were still playing Carson City.
We played at the end also:
Eliezer 15, Nadine 10, Emily 7, Meir -1

El Grande
Nadine 30, 76, 107
Eliezer 26, 63, 99
Meir 35, 79, 92
Emily 14, 50, 86
Rochelle 23, 61, 85
First play for Meir and Rochelle, Eliezer explained the game.
Eliezer picked this and was teaching it as we were finishing Carson City, so I joined, and then Emily also did. There was a bit of confusion as we tried to start El Grande, finish and count points for Carson City, and select restaurants and order food. We tried a brand new one, Daisy where Shakespeare used to be, with mixed opinions, and some people ordered from Village Green.

I wasn't ahead until the end and didn't think I'd win. Meir was ahead most of the game, with Eliezer catching up. Other people did things at the end which helped me, such as special scoring. My region was New Castille which I don't like because it's competitive and in the middle, but someone put the 4-0-0 scoreboard there which helped me because then everyone stayed out of the region. Until the very end, when two others went there from the castillo, matching my 3 pieces, and giving all of us 0.

The scoring round before, no one challenged Meir in Granada because we all thought everyone else would go there, there was duplication in where we went from the castillo. Rochelle caught on and played well, but hurt herself by making her Old Castille region too competitive with the 9 point scoreboard. People put large numbers of pieces into the castillo, and then crowded small regions such as Aragon and Seville.

Lo Ra
Emily 8, 19, 39
Nadine 10, 13, 28
Meir 0, 9, 26
Eliezer 5, 3, 22
Eliezer really liked my Jewish theming and pictures, he had played regular Ra. It was hard to get everything we needed. Eliezer took a large set at the end of one round, and Meir got the three items he wanted at the end of the game before the last auction tile.

Tangrams
Daphna got this recently so we played a few cards after everyone else left. The wooden pieces are nice.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

October 05. 2011

Gili, Eitan, Emily, Nadine

R-Eco

Emily 18, Nadine 2, Eitan 1

We managed to end with positive scores. Emily had most of the chips. We played with random piles, the -2s showed up early. Everyone dumped.

Stone Age

Nadine 186, Eitan 136, Emily 131, Gili 120

The first time I've won this. I used the starvation strategy and it actually worked. Last time I tried it I decided too late, after I already was up 2 on the food track. I paid for food my first two turns and on the last one. I had no picture cards, but I had multipliers, and I rolled well. I ended with 9 people and 9 buildings. Eitan did well but took cards instead of buildings on the last round, so I got 3 buildings. Eitan and Emily competed with Gili for picture cards, and Gili had terrible luck with rolls. She had 6 picture cards, Eitan and Emily 3 each. We had a lot of tough choices with good card options.

Tribune

Eitan+, Nadine, Emily

We agreed this was our most boring time playing this game. It's less competitive with 3 players, more mechanical. I started with two factions first round, and didn't get another one until the last round. Eitan and Emily took a lot of factions, and with a lot of high cards. We played with 4 victory conditions. When Eitan won, I had 3 victory conditions, and was 3 laurels away from the fourth. Emily had one victory condition, but would have reached four next round. Emily went first on a round when two leaders were available together. Eitan forgot that he was getting the last laurel he needed from the purple faction. He had faction markers, laurels, tribune and favor of the gods. I had favor of the gods, legions and money.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September, 21, 2011

Participants: Nadine, Emily, Eitan, Rachelle, Gili

Taj Mahal

Gili 47, Eitan 44, Rachelle 38, Nadine 33, Emily 31

Gili brought this. First play for Emily and Rachelle, and Eitan only played once. Eitan was ahead most of the game, Emily seemed to be doing well too. Rachelle caught on well and had the yellow two-point card half the game, but would have done some things differently if she had realized about the cards points at the end. I saved cards for 17 points, which wasn't enough, I would have done better by competing more. Gili had 3 more cards than Eitan at the end so she won.

Lo Ra

Eitan 41, Emily 32, Rachelle 33, Nadine 11

Eitan 4, 14 41 (scores each round)
Emily 6, 11, 32
Rachelle 3, 6, 33
Nadine 9, 12, 11

I was ahead first round. We had a lot of fun with the tension at the end of the rounds. Rachelle was left last twice, once she took one tile, once 4, all before the last auction tile turned up.

Emily and Eitan played Railroad Tycoon in Copenhagen last night, and saw real Ra game boxes. Next game night in two weeks.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

September 07, 2011

Participants: Gili, Eitan, Emily, Rachelle, Nadine

A lively session with a new player, we ordered burgers from Flame. Rachelle is from Australia, here for her second year doing a post-doc at Hebrew U, Eitan and Emily met her through Shani.

Lo Ra

Emily 42, Rachelle 23, Nadine 18, Gili 15

Gili would have beaten me but I had one more coin. The game is fun, and people are catching on. Rachelle did a good job, she had a lot of Tribes. It's different with 4 players, you only get 3 coins.

It's Alive

Eitan 63, Rachelle 51, Nadine 50, Gili 44, Emily 42

This engendered a discussion about which were arms and which were legs, some people saw it the reverse of what it is. A lot of auctioning at the beginning. Emily's score was the same as in Lo Ra.

Louis XIV

Emily 49, Nadine 48, Gili 44, Eitan 44

Gili wanted to try a variant she came up with: the basic mission cards score 5 as usual, but the medium ones score 6, and the advanced ones 7. I don't think it made much of a difference because everyone had a pretty similar mix.

A hard fought game with a lot of thinking. First play for Eitan and Emily, Gili taught the game.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 30, 2011

Participants: Nadine, Gili, Eitan, Emily

Hive

Eitan+ Nadine

We played when Eitan arrived first. I had printed out the rules, but forgot that my version has different animals so I had to translate them. I do own a game but it's somewhere else. Eitan caught on and thought and planned well.

Lo Ra

Nadine 52 Eitan 35 Gili 10

We played correctly this time except I didn't check who starts first in new Yovels, we just kept going in order. First Yovel I had 7, Eitan -5 and Gili -6. Next one I had 26, Eitan 6 and Gili -5. It seemed like luck that things worked out for me, though I did decide well on calling auctions several times, and second Yovel I had two auctions to myself because I'd had low money amounts. It's an interesting game.

Shadows Over Camelot

We won! 4 players, no traitor. We waited to add a traitor after six swords, but then decided we better not, it would be too hard to win. And Gili didn't want to get the traitor card.

Citadels

Nadine 25, Emily 23, Eitan 22, Gili 16

Emily and Eitan brought two of the few games they have, this and Gosu. They like Citadels and play a lot, but the two-player game is different, faster and better. I didn't like the game, too random; Emily and Eitan didn't like it as much 4-player. I focused on finishing the game to get the extra points even though I didn't calculate whether I would win, ending was my best chance.

The Game of Life

Eitan 2,800,000 Gili 2,115,000 Emily 1,705,000 Nadine 1,625,000

Gili wanted to check this out for her kids, and we ended up playing it because the others hadn't seen the newer version that I have. Gili decided it was very similar to her Pirate version so didn't borrow it. I like not going to college, my salary was fine, and I switched with Emily's 100,000 towards the middle, then Eitan took it from me near the end. I still wouldn't have won, but I lost a lot by selecting Millionaire Estates. Even though I had more money than Eitan who went there too, he took 3 Life cards away from me when the pile ran out, and the 4 I gained were all only 50,000, so I lost a few hundred thousand there. Eitan had a lot of Life tiles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011

Participants: Nadine, Gili, Eitan

Nadine takes over the session reports. Game night was at her house.

Emily wasn't feeling well, refua shlema!

Set

Nadine+, Gili, Eitan

Eitan arrived and joined when we were almost done.

A Touch of Evil

Nadine+, Gili, Eitan

Gili brought this, we'd played it once and she played it one other time. Eitan was interested in trying it. We all agreed it was anti-climactic, a lot of build-up for a 2-roll battle at the end. I was behind in cards and power, but was in the right position to be able to fight first, and the werewolf only had 5 combat. I almost lost, but someone else would have won if I hadn't tried. Gili bought the first Lair after it went down to cost 3, but couldn't reach the spot on her next turn despite having a 2 horse. I couldn't reach my spot either, but it was my turn next. Gili thinks the advanced game should be better.

Ra (my Lo Ra version)

Nadine 66, Eitan 31, Gili 19

I won due to experience and luck, first game for both Eitan and Gili. And I didn't remember the rules so well, we haven't played in years, so that affected my explanation and made the game harder for them. They liked the game, and understood it by the second round. We played a few things wrong, like allowing auctions after the last auction card, not playing disasters immediately, not bidding on just the money tile if there weren't other tiles, and not having an auction when the track was full. I remembered most of the correct rules but we had already started playing wrong so we continued.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 10, 2011

Participants: Nadine, Esther, Jon

I had to come to Jerusalem this week. Even though most everyone else on vacation, Esther was available this one more week, but going on vacation herself next week. So Nadine invited her over to play.

It's Alive

Esther, Nadine

Nadine taught Esther the basic version. She liked the game. Nadine had two 10 point coffins and would have come within 3 points of winning in the advanced version.

Puerto Rico

Esther 53, Nadine 47+, Jon 47-

I thought I was doing ok. However, my shipping was terrible, and I began to realize that as the end-game started. I had 11 shipping points, while both Nadine and Esther had 20 or more. My superior building wasn't enough to make up for it.

Esther pretty much played on her own; once or twice we led her through a play to explain all the implications. She decided to start with Hacienda instead of Small Market, letting Nadine take it instead. She did well with it, netting a tobacco, corn, and coffee. Esther also had a coffee monopoly. I had no quarries and a de-facto tobacco monopoly. Yet I took Guild Hall around mid/end game when I should have taken Harbor. I ended with two big buildings. Nadine ended with one big building, though she had both Factory and Harbor for half of the game.

Princes of Florence

Nadine 63+, Jon 63-, Esther 53ish

First play for Esther. it's very hard to figure out your auction strategy during the first few rounds of your first game. I got three Jesters on rounds 1, 2, and 4, all for 7-800, so I was feeling pretty good, though I was spending more than my opponents. Nadine took two early Prestige cards. I took three later ones, though the last one was by default on the last round when I had nothing better to do (come to think of it, I think I could have earned one more point with a Recruiter) and Esther had taken the landscape that I needed. The last Prestige card earning me 0 points.

Still, I earned 12 points from my other two. I had best work every round that I played a work (3 or 4 rounds). So how did I lose? Nadine had more works, more buildings, and spent less money, I guess. I don't know.

Friday, August 05, 2011

August 03, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Esther

Nadine, I, and Saarya were the only three participants at the first "official" JSGC night back in October 2003, so it's only right that Nadine, I and someone are the only members at the last JSGC night that I shepherd (for the foreseeable future). Esther is new; she called me on Sunday having just heard about the club. She was rather disappointed to learn that I was leaving the group and handing it off to Nadine and Gili.

But, after all, with attendance between 2 and 4 every week, it's gotten pretty pathetic. Our regulars weren't.

Some of them said that they were busy during the academic year, or busy on Wednesdays, and might be able to come again starting soon. Esther enjoyed her game tonight and wants to come again. We will see. It's up to Nadine and Gili, now.

It's Alive

Nadine 52, Jon 43

We weren't sure if anyone else was coming. I had packed all my games away and moved them to Raanana, so we met at Nadine's house. This was one of the few two-player short games that she had available.

Despite the fact that I count points and Nadine doesn't, she beat me handily. Apparently I still don't quite know what I'm doing in this game.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 56, Jon 42

The ignominy. In what I thought would be the group's last game, Nadine beat me handily again. Mostly because she started with corn and I had allowed Harbor in the game, when I usually replace it with Large Business. Nadine had both Factory and Harbor, despite not having a trade good.

Jon 53+, Esther 53-, Nadine 50

I left after the two-player game, thinking that we were done, but after I left I got a call from Nadine that Esther had shown up after all, so I came back. Esther had played Settlers of Catan. We thought it a reasonable choice to try her on Puerto Rico.

It was a good choice. She loved the game. We played with the straight up standard set of buildings. Nadine took an early Harbor over Factory, and she also had a coffee monopoly and bought Guild Hall. However, she sat to my left, and I managed to block many of her moves during the game. She often only had one boat on which to ship and she didn't get any corn until the last few turns of the game.

I was pretty sure that Esther was winning by a good 7 points of so. She was shipping well, trading tobacco, had a Factory and Wharf, had two big buildings, and was the only one to complete her board. But we ended up tying because I had Harbor and better control of the boats. I won the tie with 4 corn barrels and a doubloon versus Esther's 4 doubloons.

And that was the end.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 26, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Ben, Gili

My brother showed up, mostly to collect things I'm giving away. :-)

Carson City

Nadine 56, Ben 50, Jon 50, Gili 43

Scores approximate. First play for Ben. This game, like Endeavor, is deceptively slow in the first round or two only to explode in the last rounds. This must be the first game in a really, really long time that I had to think for an extended period of time before deciding on a move - not once, but twice. Both times were for role selection.

Like all but the first two times we've played, I reduced the gun bonus from three to two (though it still counts for three when calculating gun spaces) on both the role and the "three gun" board space. I found that three guns was just too many; it essentially meant automatic victory on all future gun battles. That meant that, if you were fighting someone in several spaces, this battle determined all other spaces, which was too much to decide with a single die roll.

Ben points out that reducing the "three guns" space to two guns only nets you a single gun gain, since you have to give up a guy to take it, and the guy counts as a gun, anyway. Not to mention that, if you fight someone for the gun, they get their guy back, netting them a one gun gain. Yeah, yeah, I know. Trust me. It still works much better this way. In fact, there was no lack of people fighting for the "three gun" spot, which proves my point. On the other hand, no one took the gun role this game, but he has been chosen many times in previous games, so there.

Anyhoo, I took a strong start, while Ben made a small error in understanding one of the buildings, so he gained a little less income than he was anticipating. Nadine and Ben were hot on my heels by round two, however, and Nadine passed me by round three. I still had more building points than she did.

In round four, however, I chose roles last. Ben took the sheriff gaining him a 5/1 trade, while Gili and Nadine both took the roles that let them store $60, giving them a lot of 6/1 trade. That left me with roles letting me store a maximum of $30. Advantage Nadine.

Then Ben and Nadine fought over one of the scoring spaces, Ben lost the die roll even though he was up on the tie, and Nadine took the five points that Ben would have taken. If the single die roll had gone the other way, Bwn would have won instead of Nadine. And that's why we all hate dice.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 19, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili

Attendance is still so low, it's hard to feel too bad about leaving Jerusalem. I'd like to stay and keep a good club going, but three people week after week is not much of a club. Hopefully things will pick up again if/when Nadine and Gili take over.

Quest Adventure Cards

Jon 43, Nadine 34

I was sent this to review. I received six packs (1 through 6), which is enough for a two player game. You can play up to four with more packs.

I will give a full review on Purple Pawn soon. Nadine and I played only one game. It was, at least, a quick playing game, but only because the decisions were either trivial, luck-based, or irrelevant. Maybe I'm missing something.

Nadine didn't understand the point count at the end. Actually, now that I remember the rules correctly, since the sixth quest wasn't completed, the game actually ended in a tie.

Santiago

Nadine 132, Jon 122, Gili

This is not really meant to be a three player game; there's too much water and the water carrier makes no money. What's left is calculating the amount of money spent vs money returned compared to the other players, which is still fun to those who like that sort of thing.

I gobbled up a center potato field and got some cubes on some of Nadine's fields. Gili had a smaller field, and we were all pretty sure that I was going to win by a bit. But Nadine spent almost zero money on the bidding, while I was down to about 5 dollars before the final tally. She won due to frugal spending.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Nadine 13, Jon 11, Gili 11

Although I often complain that I'm losing when it feels like I'm losing, but stop complaining when I see that I'm actually doing ok, in this game I really really felt like I was losing and I was really really surprised to see that I actually came fairly close to winning.

Though I didn't start the game with either 6 or 8, I had good and varied numbers and resources on my starting hexes - except sheep. I even pulled an early Inventor and switched away an 11 for a 9. Wouldn't you know it, but 11 and 8 rolled up time and time again, with barely any occurrences of 5, 9, or 10 over the entire game.

As a result, I watched Nadine and Gili pull resource after resource while I collected the occasional brick or ore. Nadine's hand already had over ten cards several times before the barbarians hit, and she maintained a large hand throughout the game.

Gili and Nadine both got to an early/mid-game Aqueduct, while I didn't get to it until near the end game. Wow, is it hard to do ANYTHING without Aqueduct. I already knew it's the most important strategy in the game, and I still keep underestimating it.

Nadine had early knight control. Gili got the first metropolis (paper) and took over the knights around mid-game. I managed to disappoint them both by failing to activate a single knight, twice losing cities to the barbarians in the process.

Despite this, and my paucity of building and resources, I finally got a harbor and a string of 4s to give me a metropolis in coins. I was sitting on the merchant card. I came so close to 12, only to lose a city (twice) or be off by a single resource each time.

Nadine missed an opportunity to end the game through stealing my coin metropolis, but she managed to get her 13th point anyway on the next turn.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 13, 2011

Participants: Jon, Christian, David K, Nadine, Gili, Shmuel

Christian is a visitor from Germany who will be in Israel for a month. Shmuel is Gili's nephew, who will also be in Israel for a month.

San Juan

David 41, Jon 38, Christian 32, Nadine 27

Christian had played this once a while ago; it has been supplanted in his group by Race for the Galaxy. I changed the Guild Hall to only give 2 points for each type of production building.

No one built a Prefecture, but David built a fairly early Library. And he still built a complete Guild Hall. I had Aqueduct and Wishing Well going. Nadine was behind in buildings.

Odin's Ravens

Shmuel, Gili

Gili relearned this game and taught it to Shmuel. Shmuel won the first race after Gili extended the board several times. They ended the game after the one race.

Homesteaders

Jon 56, Christian 49, David 34

First play for Christian. One my, and David's, favorites. I racked up some early debt, eventually hitting 5 debt chips, which had me worried. Also, I'm usually able to buy Church by round 6 or 7; when I couldn't, largely because I wasn't producing any trade goods (gold, cow, or copper), I was concerned. David had both Gold Mines; however, he didn't have a single trade chip producing building. He was taking trade chips, instead of more valuable goods, when he moved forward on the railroad track.

In the end I was able to cancel all but three of my debt chips, though just barely.

Tribune

Nadine+, Gili, Shmuel

First play for Shmuel. I didn't see how it went.

Tichu

Jon/David 600, Nadine/Christian 200

First play for Christian. We played five hands. I bid and made one Tichu and one Grand Tichu, both by the skin of my teeth. I bid the Grand Tichu with AKQJT92 and the Phoenix.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

July 07, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili

Down to the stalwarts.

A Touch of Evil

Jon+, Nadine, Gili

Gili just got this game and brought it over, eager to try it out. I had rather low expectations. Nadine was concerned about the theme, since she doesn't like horror.

These type of games, like some FFG games, are high on beautifully illustrated components and themes but revolve around simple random mechanics, like dice rolling or card flipping. I don't find the games to be interesting; actually, that's an understatement. This game is just like those; it's a fine game for people who like to roll, roll, roll, dice and pick cards with random effects that can help or hurt you, without any influence as to the results of the rolls or card picks. I found the experience of playing the game to be (nearly) physically painful.

Each player is a piece on the board with a random special ability and some stats. Each round you roll to see how many spaces you can move and then you pick a card from the deck of the location to which you traveled. The card can be good, bad, or in between. Many make you roll dice. Some dice rolls make you roll more dice. If you encounter a monster, you get to roll and roll until one of you is dead. Certain cards you may have saved, or that others may have saved, can be played on your combat to make you re-roll dice or otherwise hurt or help you.

Eventually, you have collected enough items and feel comfortable enough to fight the Boss. Then you do. Each Boss has its own special ability, of course. Roll and roll until one of you is dead. If you beat the Boss, you win the game. All of this is done with beautiful pieces and tons of counters. But only a few of the counters (Boss' minions) are used each game, so the enemies become repetitive.
There is a cooperative way to play with a bigger Boss and more bad events happening, but I hear tell that the tension isn't really high compared to other cooperative games. There is also an advanced way to play with more special powers and effects, which would add more thematic color to the game without changing the basic idea: pick an action and then randomly resolve it. Ugh.

I grimaced the entire time without trying to be a complete sourpuss. I don't think I wrecked the experience for Nadine or Gili, both of whom appeared to like the game. Nadine liked it because most of the effects were positive effects. Gili liked it because it would probably be a big hit with her teenager.

Naturally, I had several of my "luck moments". During one fight, I had to score a single hit to kill the monster, and I needed to roll a 5 or a 6 on any of five dice to do so. I rolled all five dice and didn't get above a 3 on any of them, so the fight continued to the next round. On the next round I did it again with the same result. And then again. Finally I rolled a single 6 on the fourth round. I finally killed the 1 HP monster, just as he simultaneously killed me. Then I rolled a d6 to see how much of my treasure I lost for dying, and naturally I rolled a 6.

Still, I went on to win. How? Nadine tried to fight the Boss first, but she rolled really terribly and the monster rolled really well, so she died. Then I tried. I rolled really well, and the monster rolled really terribly, so I won.

Wow.

Vegas Showdown

Jon+, Nadine, Gili

I don't remember the final scores, but I was about 8-10 points ahead of Gili and Nadine who were within a point of each other. All of us filled in both colored sections and also connected our two entryways. The game ended when Nadine filled in her entire board, the first time I ever saw that happen.

I won because of a solid early income, being able to pay for points in one round when they couldn't, being able to outbid Gili one time when I needed to, and Gili and Nadine both spending all their money on middleweight buildings on the penultimate rounds, leaving the last heavyweight building for me.

Friday, July 01, 2011

June 29, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin, Tzvi Yehuda

Small nights bode ill for the future of the JSGC. This game night was interrupted in the middle. I had to run out at 8:30. Game night continued at Nadine's.

Canal Mania

Jon, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin, Tzvi Yehuda

First play for all of us. I think I played or watched a game of this at a BGG.con, which is why I asked for it as my secret santa gift. Unfortunately, the game did not succeed with our group.

Canal Mania is a light "train" game, i.e. route connection game. It's a little heavier than Ticket to Ride or La Strada, but lighter than Steam. The game's core mechanics are not complicated. However, each mechanic has a slew of very specific provisions and exceptions that make the game harder to learn than it would first appear. Undoubtedly these niggly rules were added after much play-testing, and it's clear to see how some of them add to the interest of the game or prevent certain problems. But there's something wrong: niggly rules that have no thematic purpose. They make it seems like there is something wrong with the core design, but it's just managing to hold together.

In the third of a game that we played, I didn't see any major flaws with the game. Aside from the fact that no one else was able to think on any other players' turn, despite that their turn pretty much didn't affect yours, I was interested enough to continue. This is because I love route building games, unless they're flawed. The others don't feel that way. They found the game uninspiring, not interesting like Steam or Power Grid, and not painless and intuitive like Ticket to Ride (which they don't like much, either).

None of them were unhappy to end the game when I was called away at 8:30. I fear that the game isn't going to be played again by us.

El Grande

Gili 103, Nadine 101, Binyamin 95, Tzvi Yehuda 93

Nadine continues the report: From the games I have, some people would have played PR, some Shadows, but everyone agreed to play my new El Grande, which I didn't think I'd ever get to use.

Binyamin wanted to handicap me 10 or 20 points, but I never win 4 player, and not even always with 5.

Scores each round:

Gili 30 63 103
Nadine 27 53 101
Binyamin 27 57 95
Tzvi Yehuda 27 53 93

It was very close first round. Later Zvi Yehuda was doing well for a while, which caused him to get attacked. I was way in last place, not reflected in the scoring. Gili was hard to attack. When I had played my 1 to play the 13 on the last turn of the second round, the second king came up. Binyamin protected his high scoreboard at the end when he selected for the Castillo; he would have done better somewhere else. Gili played the Castillo and mobile scoreboards well.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 22, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin, Tikva Shira

Nadine returned, as did Binyamin, giving us a more normal session than last week's.

As I noted on my blog, I will be moving to Raanana in August. The fate of the JSGC will be left in the hands of Nadine and Gili. Hopefully they will be able to keep it going while I'm gone (at least a year, maybe more).

Fairy Tale

Jon 39, Nadine 35, Gili 35

I saw that several of my cards were going to be worthless by the end of the game, so I was pretty sure I was going to lose. How did I win? Seven of the nine cards I scored averaged 6 points or so. Nadine and Gili had several cards that scored only 2 to 4 points each.

Navegador

Gili 70, Nadine 70, Binyamin 69, Tikva Shira 67, Jon 62

I requested this, since I loved it the one time I played it. Binyamin thoughtfully brought it. First play for everyone else except for Binyamin.

I may love it, but I'm also bad at it, or at least I'm bad at the strategy; the tactics I can handle. I bought an early ship-building house and had essentially no income for the next fifteen turns. Everyone else had little houses or colonies and raked in 100+ income on markets; I pulled in 20 or 30, and I couldn't afford to buy houses or colonies, which made is a catch-22. (Binyamin, with his extra sail action, swooped in and took the only colony I could have afforded.) I figured that this early mistake set me back about ten moves. And I barely even used that ship-building house during the game.

By the end of the game, when everyone else was pulling 250+ or more from markets, I was finally pulling around 100. I scored as well as I did because, other than that early mistake, I get the tactics of games like this. I can focus on points in a game rich with intriguing mechanics that distract from the end-scoring. As I said, I love the game. I just have to figure out how to play my start-game correctly.

T"S was the first to pull ahead in worker-building advancement, and Gili followed. Nadine had the most ships and the most blue disks. Binyamin had the most colonies.

Set

Jon 12, Tikva Shira 8, Nadine 4, Binyamin

There wasn't time for a full game, so we let T"S choose a short game. Binyamin would have gotten more points if he had been actually playing. Which is odd, since he's pretty colorblind.

Bridge

Jon/Nadine 550, Binyamin/Tikva Shira 0

Three hands of Bridge. Nadine and I set them one trick in two hands, and we bid and made one game in the other.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 16, 2011

Participants: Jon, Gili

I thought that missing a week would bring extra people this week. Instead we get a number I don't expect unless it's August (when everyone is on vacation). Actually, Nadine is on vacation.

Guardians of Graxia

Jon 65, Gili 26

A bit of a blowout, as you can see. This was the second play for both of us. Gili won her first game against two other people at Games Day. The one time I played, my opponent and I discovered the numerous rules we were playing incorrectly. So this was my first play with the correct rules.

I think. The rulebook it lacking. Many simple and obvious questions are not clearly answered. For instance, there are four decks of cards, and four cards from each deck are face up in the "draw area" at all times. The game ends when a particular one of these decks (the monster deck) runs out. Does that mean "the deck", or does it also include the four face up cards from that deck? There's a spell that lets you draw cards when you play it during combat; can you play it and then play the rest of your spells, or do you have to play all spells at once (and therefore can't rely on drawing more spells as the result of this card)? How many cards can you buy each turn? Etc.

In a two-player game, when the monster deck consists of an entire 10 cards, this makes a big difference. We played that the deck and all four face up cards had to leave play for the game to end. It seemed too short, otherwise.

In this game I found that an early heavy money strategy worked well. It worked, in fact, rather too well, as you can see from the end scores. If you can buy early high powered cards, not only are you far more powerful, you also have more early victory points (which, unlike Dominion, don't hurt you). I expect that you could try to attack rich players, who have probably neglected some offense or defense capabilities in order to get their money. But the window of opportunity for doing so is very tight, since, owing to the limited size of the initial deck and the vast amounts of cards you can draw due to early purchases, you can play your high powered cards by turn three or four (like I did).

That's not the big problem with the game, if all players can do the same thing, more or less, and I expect that some other strategies will show themselves after additional plays.

The problem with the game is its reliance on a "these cards are available for purchase, and each card is replaced by one from the deck" mechanic, a mechanic that has destroyed (or nearly destroyed) countless games. La Citta is an example. Unless you have some ability to pay to cycle away all of the cards on the table in favor of a fresh batch, you eventually end up with the great dead pool of low-powered cards that nobody wants. Therein lies stagnation.

Owing to my early wealth, I pretty much sucked the pool dry by mid-game. Only by sacrificing myself (or by my opponent doing so) was there any possibility of buying new cards, and each of these appeared one by one. We then immediately bought the good ones when they came out, if we were lucky, or left a good one for our opponent if we were unlucky enough to turn it over after we had finished buying our own cards. Ho hum. Please, designers: don't do this.

I'm thinking of allowing players to cycle one or more cards as an action. In fact, I'm definitely allowing players to do so.

The "bonus"es earned from killing the monsters are additional cards from the dead pool, which wasn't thrilling. I ended up buying any card with a victory point on it just to keep things cycling. Of course, eventually none of the cards even had victory points on them.

What kept the game interesting was planning attacks against monsters and fellow players (I wouldn't have attacked Gili, but Gili wanted there to be at least some inter-player combat during the game, so I killed one of her armies). The success of these attacks relies partly on the play and partly on what spells you drew, which keeps it fresh.

The game went down a point in my ratings. However, I would still play it to explore other kinds of strategies; though it's hard to see how you can complete with early, repeatable cash.

Jambo

Gili 63, Jon 61

I wasn't a fan of Jambo, nor am I a fan of the other two-player Kosmos games (having played two others). Gili likes the series more than I do. I hadn't played Jambo in a sufficient amount of time to make me wonder if there was anything I should be missing. Actually, there was. Well, there's more to the game than there is to Odin's Raven, in any case.

Again I took a commanding lead, and both of us were pretty sure that I was going to win by a fair amount. We both had three items working for us, and Guardians exactly when we needed to prevent others from destroying them.

I was a bit luckier with some of my draws. I reached 25 quickly, and then (dropping down and up again, of course) went to 30, 40, and finally 46, while Gili was only slowly climbing to 25 and then 30. She had a marketful of goods, though.

Finally, on my turn, Gili had a choice of paying me 2 coins or letting me take two cards. She paid me the two coins, bringing me to 48. I played a card that let me dump my remaining 6 goods for 2 each, bringing me to 60. And I took 1 more coin instead of my final two actions, for a net of 61. Gili still had 30.

Gili top-decked the 6-good card. She cashed it for 18, and then another for 12, tossed her last good for two more (with the same card that I had used), and somehow earned one more on her last action. Net total: 63.

I bowed to her superior play.

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