Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 30, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin

Light game night, long game.


Nadine 24, Jon 5, Gili 5

Or thereabouts. Nadine just killed us. I ended with 15 positive points, but I had had to dump 10 cards. Gili hadn't dumped at all. Nadine had dumped 3 cards.


Binyamin 124, Jon 98, Gili 98, Nadine 94

First play for Binyamin. Both he and Nadine took fairly long turns, especially at the beginning. Binyamin was particularly concerned with squeezing every last drop out of all six of his mission cards; can't say it wasn't worthwhile for him. However, the game took 3.5 hours (including explanation, which wasn't all that long).

Binyamin really likes this type of fiddly game. I like some fiddly games, and I like this one, when it doesn't take too long. The key factor in a fiddly game that makes it fun is if there is always something worthwhile to do. If the fiddliness is accompanied by a sense of helplessness and frustration for lack of progress, it can be dull. Also, if the fiddliness is simply imposed to make what should be straightforward into something complex and obscure, just to make it complex and obscure, it can be grating. The latter is how Nadine feels about the game.

I compare the game to Le Havre, but Binyamin liked it better then Le Havre and better even than Agricola.

I pulled nearly entirely useless blue missions; just useful enough to make me waste my time trying to eke 8 points out of them, when I would have been better off concentrating on nearly anything else. My green missions - number of ships, number of ship tiles, number of 5 tile ships - gave me 50 points, which was about average for everyone, except Binyamin who managed to get 72 points out of his missions. I built my fourth 5 tile ship on the last turn; it was only worth 2 points on its own, but boosted my missions nicely.

To play the game correctly, you really need to count your actions, which I'm generally doing around the time that I have 8 actions left.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 23, 2011

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

Zachary is a newcomer. His experience included HeroClix, Blood Bowl, and other American type games, as well as come Settlers. I think I didn't give him a great impression, as I whined a little more than I typically do over both games he played, even though I wasn't doing badly in either. Hopefully this won't dissuade him from returning.


Jon 33, Nadine 28, Gili 22, Zachary 22

Kingdoms: Chapel, Moat, Village, Bureaucrat, Feast, Moneylender, Smithy, Council Room, Laboratory, Envoy.

First play for Zachary. I used the chapel to destroy every copper and estate in my hand, carefully replacing them with silvers and a gold, and a village, laboratory, and finally a smithy. I thought I was doing well, and I was.

However, Nadine, who simply bought silvers and golds and an initial bureaucrat, still managed to draw two provinces before I could get my first, and then a third after I got my second. And with two other players also drawing provinces, the game looked like it would end before I caught up to her.

I miscounted and thought that she was one point ahead of me when the game ended. Actually, she only ended with 3 provinces, 2 duchys, and 4 estates. I had 5 provinces and a duchy.

Princes of Florence

Zachary 56, Jon 53+, David 53, Nadine 53, Gili 46

First play for Zachary. The rest of us hadn't played in a long time, which is why I suggested it. Five is a tough game. I make the following changes for five players: people pick only 1 out of 2 when buying a profession, and the last profession cannot be bought, but can be recruited.

Nadine's theory is to buy nothing at an auction for more than 200. Which would not be so bad, except that she somehow picked up two prestige cards and a recruiter for that price. I bought an early forest and then paid higher prices for my goods: 1100 for my first jester, 700 and 500 for recruiters, I got another jester later for cheap.

Gili bought two early builders; she also had a prestige card for the least spaces on her board, but Zachary also had two builders and out-built her.


David 209, Nadine, Jon, Gili

We played four hands of this, and David just missed beating all of our scores combined. Again, I suggested we play this because Nadine didn't really want to play Race for the Galaxy and Gili didn't really want to play Tichu.

Although I first reviewed the game as highly uncontrolled and random, and although I still feel that way about the play to some extent, I now think that there's a lot of room for exploring strategies in bidding and play. Each player concerned about his own score, and not just the partnership's, adds some intrigue. However, not having a dummy removes most, but not all, of the play strategy; still, there's some possibility for the occasional finesse or end-play.

I think I need to play this a dozen more times to get a better handle on it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 16, 2011

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

Quiet night with lots of play.


Jon, Nadine, Gili

We played three games while waiting for others to arrive. I played only five letter words, but I also noted four letter words, mostly so I could cancel them out against Nadine. Nadine played four letter words, while Gili, a native Hebrew speaker, played three letter (and the occasional two letter) words. No one really kept score, anyway.

Glory to Rome

Binyamin+, Jon, Gili, David K, Nadine

First play for David. We played that you could not have more than four buildings in progress at any one time. While we were wary about how Forum would play, since we thought we knew a few ways to counter it, we decided to give it one more try. Binyamin ended the game with a Forum victory; I was a few moments away from ending the game with Catacombs. If I had done so, I would have won, followed closely by Gili.

Binyamin thinks, and I agree, that the trouble with Forum is not that it's unbalanced, which it isn't. It's that it makes the game less fun. It's just not a fun experience to do well and play well, working toward something, and then not have the game even judged on that criteria. It would be different if Forum's exceptional win criteria weren't so easy to fulfill. I generally don't like mechanics that end a game at someone's will; this is much worse. I think that we're going to have to change Forum to something like "end the game and gain +3 points" or something.

Magic: The Gathering

Jon++, David

It's a rare day when I beat David at Magic. I felt like I drafted all over the place, but I ended up with WG with a U splash. David played BG. One of David's black cards was Eastern Paladin (tap to kill a G creature), and most of my good creatures were G, which is why I diversified to W and U. Lucky for me, David never pulled out his paladin.

In the first game, David thunmped me down to 7, but I brought out blockers, and then a flyer and a pinger. The latter two worked him down for a while. He tried to kill one of my good creatures, but I was saved by a card I had never used before and wasn't entirely sure how to use: Standard Bearer, which I had innocently thrown on a Bears early on.

In the second game, I brought out an early Bears followed by a +3/+3 enchantment, and he resigned three rounds later.


Binyamin+, Nadine, Gili

All I know is that Binyamin won and the game went fairly quickly.


Jon/David, Binyamin/Nadine

We played a few hands. David and Nadine don't play often, but we still had fun.

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 09, 2011

Participants: Mace, Gili, Jon

Game night at Mace's house, since mine was being painted and Nadine had other plans. I bought two games, and those are the games that we played. Once again, I didn't take notes.

Glory to Rome

Jon 21, Mace, Gili

The game took only an hour. Three players, so less sites, and this was our second play. Mace was hoping to do another Forum victory, but the rapid decline of sites, the lack of any supporting cards to quickly add to his Clients, and my stealing his Forum card scuttled that plan.

I saw the dwindling site supply and so I did an early Vault which was very lucrative for me; we didn't use Vault in the last game and so the other two weren't planning for it, I think. After I did mine, however, they started to catch up with Vault, so I ended the game by building the last four sites.


Jon 110ish, Mace 105ish, Gili 90ish

First play for Mace, second for Gili and me. I explained the game better this time, and Mace appeared to be up to speed already at the beginning of the game.

Once again, the game reminded me strongly of Le Havre, with all of its little bits overflowing the board, the constant trading of this for that, and the essential feeling of "you versus the board" rather than "you versus the other players". An Ameritrasher's nightmare. While the game has you intensely focused, it - as do other games that are Ameritasher's nightmares - seems to lack a little something in the way of soul. Too many cards, numbers, and bits to match, not enough "play".

I's still happy to play it, but I feel like I could read a magazine while doing so, which is the same way I feel about Caylus (actually, I liked Caylus less).

I produced a number of ships to match my required missions, but I needed propellers, and a) barely any of the ships had propellers and b) Mace and Gili took the workers who lets you add an extra propeller to any ship. Without that worker, and without ships that let you add propellers, you're pretty much sunk as far as producing ships with much value: they'll have little speed and little points for their trial run. At the end of the game, I looked at the remaining sterns and saw that 8 out of 10 had propeller space. I won anyway because I took the two ships that had the propeller space, and because I focused on my other missions.

Mace also did well with his missions, but poorly with his ships. Gili had a 29 point ship, but that was one of only two ships that she launched. After the first two laps, I planned out the rest of my turns; Mace tried to do the same, but Gili stole the one action he needed on the last round, preventing him from taking a smokestack and at least 10 extra points for his ship.

Friday, March 04, 2011

March 02, 2011

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Mace, Binyamin

Once again I'm doing this without notes. Bleah.

Fairy Tale

Gili 51, Jon 45, Nadine 36

Scores approximate. I tried a combination strategy only to discover on the first round that Gili, sitting in front of me in the passing order, was using the same strategy. I'm always scared to try the once that need specific cards from a smaller pool (such as 4, or even 1), because, with three players, it just seems unlikely that those cards are actually going to turn up. So I passed them all, and of course they did show up; luckily, no one else tried for them, either.

The baseline seems to be 3 points a card. So when you can score more, you should do it. The 6/1 cards (flip, unflip) are marginally better than 3 points a card, and even better when you have ones to flip down when you must. The game is actually kind of interesting. I think I need to play it more often.

Glory to Rome

Mace +, Jon, Binyamin, Nadine, Gili

First play for all of us, and we all liked the game. However, like Tigris and Euphrates, some of the basic mechanics, while seemingly simple for some of us, caused a lot of confusion again and again for others. I'm not sure why that happens, but sometimes a particular rule is just hard for an otherwise smart person to wrap his or her head around. I think I can teach the game better next time.

GtR looks like shlock, and the "box" that the game comes in is less then shlock. But the game is really good, deep, and satisfying. The game is just a card game, but each card has five different uses: a)cas a role; b) as an extra action for a role whenever anyone plays the role; c) as a resource for building a building; d) as a building that gives you a bonus power when it is completed; or e) simply to tuck away for vp's at the end of the game. once you get the hang of it, the cards make sense; however, they initially are very confusing, as the bonus power is foremost on the card and it isn't active unless the card is played as a building and the building completed.

On your turn you play a card as a role (a), and anyone else with the same role card can play it to also do the role (or can pick a card or cards, instead). So, like Puerto Rico, you benefit everyone else by what you choose to do, hopefully benefiting yourself more through the timing or the available resources to select first. On everyone else's turn, you can play the same role card as they played or pick cards; in addition, everyone, the player whose turn it is and any other player, gets to play the role additional times for each "patron" they have previously played (b).

The roles allow you to take patrons (b), take resources (c), play buildings (d) or add resources or cards to buildings (c/d), steal other players' resources (c), or convert resources to victory points (c/e). You pretty much have to complete at least one decent building during the game, because, in addition to the points and special power you get from the building, your capacity for patrons and victory point cards increases according to the building's points.

Owing to the building powers, the game is wild and fun, with your strategy determined by the cards you have at any one time. But you can always choose to draw back up to a full hand (so you can dump or play cards pretty freely), and there are always a lot of options.

The one negative ... which I'm not sure is a negative ... is that a few buildings can end the game with instant victory for a player, or simply end the game early. I'm not a big fan of that mechanic. I understand that this allows even a "losing" player the chance to win the game, but it makes all the other game play that occurred feel like a waste. In our game, mace won by completing a Forum, and the game ended like that. There are a number of possible responses to this move, but you MUST take them and prepare for them, which disrupts the game flow severely. On the other hand, this was our first game, so the idea of the "game flow" that I got from playing it once may have been illusory. We'll see.

In the Shadow of the Emperor

Jon, Nadine, Binyamin, Mace

I taught this to Binyamin and Mace and refreshed all of our memories at the same time. It took a long time to explain, and a long time to get through the first two rounds, at which point Binyamin had to call it quits. The game suffered in comparison to Glory to Rome which we had played just before; it's actually a decent game, but not nearly as exciting.