Friday, April 29, 2011

April 27, 2011

Participants: Jon, Tal, Jessica, Nadine

Very small game night. Starting to feel like the group may have trouble sticking to a weekly format.


Jon, Nadine, Jessica, Tal

A few games waiting for others to show up. We didn't keep exact score, but Jessica probably won. Tal won one of the games, however.


Jon 54, Nadine 46, Jessica 20

Kingdoms: Moat, Village, Woodcutter, Workshop, Bureaucrat, Feast, Militia, Remodel, Library, Mine

Jessica requested to try this again. The only action-granting card was Village, as you can see. Jessica didn't tune into this, kept getting to 4, and kept buying more useless cards (sometimes two if she had Workshop).

I played Village, Moat, Feast, and Remodel, trading Feasts for 2 Library's. These work well against Militia, especially when you also have a Village. I realized eventually that I also needed some Woodcutters for the 2 buys. Nadine also took Villages, as well as Militia and Mine. She bought the first two Provinces, but I caught up and then remodeled golds into more of them, buying Duchy's in the same turn.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 9/9/9/10, Nadine 7/7/9/10, Jessica 5/6/6/6

First play for Jessica. Nadine goes hell-bent and straight toward treasures, which makes for a quick game. She started on the bottom right while I started in The Garden. Jessica started in the middle and eventually got booted from the board by my encroachment on her terrain. I built some late monuments which remained remarkably uncontested for the three turns they were on the board.

Blokus Trigon

Jessica 4, Jon 10, Nadine 13

First play for Jessica, Nadine doesn't particularly like this game since it is spacial. Jessica liked it, however, and winning didn't hurt. I love the game, as well as the original. This one is definitely better with three. However, I'm still of two minds as to how to interpret "corner to corner" when it comes to the triangular pieces and hex vertices. We played with the most liberal interpretation, but I think a slightly stricter interpretation would make a more tense game.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 20, 2011: Games Day

Participants: Jon, Gili, Lotem, Nadine, David 1, Ellis, Peleg, Zachary, Michael, Elijah, Abraham, David 2, Eitan, Emily, Adam, Vallah, Jessica, Diana, Max, Hila, Saarya, Noam, Aryeh, Ori, Yishai

I think that's everyone. I got to play several games I really like but don't get to play often enough with my usual regulars. It was a hopping, successful games day, with just enough chair and table space to go around, and only a little downtime for some people. Most everyone enjoyed their games, from what I heard.

There was one exception: one guy who appeared to be a lonely grandfatherly type showed up to play without the slightest idea as to why or what we play. He was, perhaps, the worst match for game playing since Dan Bosley's infamous Misadventures in Gaming series. He was loud and talked continuously in bad Hebrew (he was an English speaker, and we were all (mostly) English speakers as well). He thought he was very funny when he wasn't the slightest bit funny, ever. He kept accusing everyone, jokingly, of cheating, hiding cards, and being a shark. He wouldn't listen to single explanation of any rules - deliberately reading unrelated game material while you tried to talk - and complained every turn about not knowing what to do or what the game was about.

He was the first person I was going to personally throw out of my house for being impossible; thank goodness he chose that moment to leave. After four excruciating games.

Note that it's possible that I missed a game, somewhere.

Age of Empires III

Michael 84, Abraham 83, Gili 78, Elijah 74, Lotem 52

I almost started playing this game after teaching it to Lotem, Elijah, and Abraham, but them Michael walked in and wouldn't have had a game partner. I knew Michael would like the game, so I told him to take my place and then gave him the quick run down as the first turn got underway.

At the end of the game, as they were packing up, Michael was down 14 points. he then asked if he was supposed to score these face down tiles in front of him that he had forgotten about. So it turned out that he won by a point.


Jon 8, David1, Ellis, Peleg

The last excruciating game played with the above described non-gamer. Ellis and Peleg appeared to enjoy the game. I started off as the Phoenicians, and, while Peleg and Ellis fought in northern Europe, I took a commanding and embarrassing lead.


Emily 32, Eitan 31

They played together when they first arrived and were waiting for other people to free up. They like this game, which I don't because of the Assassin.

They also took Gosu off of my hands, another game that only they liked (not that no one else liked it, it's just that we didn't like it).

Cosmic Encounter

Adam, David2, Elijah, Zachary, Vallah

I heard a lot of laughing going on in this game. The ending appears to have come down to a major kingmaking situation.


In all of these games, only the base set was used.

Nadine 42, Ellis 36, Peleg 27, David1 23

Nadine says that this is the first time she's really gotten the game. She was cycling she cycled through her entire deck several times as the game played.

Abraham, Nadine, Peleg, Ellis

They ended the game early, though it appears that Abraham had tuned his deck and was on his way to winning.

Jon 33, Max 29, Elijah 24, Jessica 10

We played with the same set that was abandoned by the previous players: Cellar, Chapel, Bureaucrat, Militia, Moneylender, Smithy, Spy, Thief, Throne Room, Library.

Note the lack of a 3 point card, the lack of anything useful in 5 point cards, the great amount of 4 point cards, and the great amount of attack cards with no defense. And note that many of the cards trash cards from your own or others' hands, or force you to discard cards.

The result was a game where decks were shrinking nearly as fast as they were growing and we were constantly mixing. Max was already starting to feel a little burnt out on Dominion, and this was a particularly annoying set.

I had dumped all of my coppers and Estates and had just enough cash to buy provinces, but lived in constant fear that a thief would take away my purchasing power. I was very lucky; the thieves either got my little money, or no money at all, or I always bought a new Gold right after they trashed one of mine anyway. Still, I thought Max might be winning.

Elijah was the only one who bothered to take a Throne Room, and therefore was able to chain double actions. It didn't seem to help him much, as he usually ended up with only 4 purchasing power after his chains, anyway.

El Grande

Abraham/Elijah 95, Michael 94, Nadine 92, Emily 85, Eitan 64

Abraham starts this, but then switched to Steam because a) he wanted to play Steam and b) Elijah didn't and would have been sitting around waiting for a game otherwise.

After the first third, Abraham was in the lead by around 8 points. By the second scoring, the lead had narrowed to 1 point ahead of Nadine, the usual favorite to win.


Gili 785, Eitan 700, Noam 690, Emily 550

Noam was rumored to be winning the game at around the half-point. This was the last game to finish the day.

Heroes of Graxia

Jon, Zachary

I wanted to try this game out for its first play, and I thought that Zachary would like it, since he's more of an American-style gamer than a Euro-gamer (he likes some direct competition in his games). Yes, he did very much like the game. I liked it, too, though perhaps a bit less.

Unfortunately, we decided to stop the game around mid-way because we had messed up so many rules that the game balance was entirely off at that point. For instance, we mistook the price of the cards at one point, letting Zachary buy ten or so cards
at nearly nothing when they should have been 3 or 4 times as expensive (we mistook the toss-out value for the card cost). We forgot the defense value in our first two attacks, thus suffering about twice as many wounds as we should have. And so on.

First game is a learning experience, as I always say. I think I'm ready to teach the game for the next try.

So what do I think? Unlike Dominion, every card is available each game, but only certain cards are available to a player on his turn; you may buy a mediocre card only to reveal a better card which your opponent can now buy. So that's bad. But, otherwise, the game looks pretty solid and enjoyable. Certainly for my opponent, who was looking forward to something with a little PvP. It's VERY hard to figure out the right buying approach on your first play.


Jessica 54, Jon 48, Ellis 41, Peleg 37

First play for everyone except me. I said a number of times, apparently, how much I like the game. I though I was doing pretty well, but I had had to accumulate 6 debt chips to do it. I was hoping to cancel most of them by the game end, but I was still left with 4. that was enough to sink me from winning.

The other three players all had piles of 4 or more trade goods (gold, copper, or cows) at the end of the game. I'm not sure exactly how Jess managed to pull off a victory; actually, I thought Peleg was doing better.

It's Alive

Adam, Vallah, David2

Vallah noted to me later that she didn't particularly like the game (I'm not sure if she knew that I was he designer).

Saarya, Noam, Aryeh 

Zachary 49, Elijah 43, Jon 33

First play for Zachary. This was a quickly played game. I failed miserably, as you can see.

Key Harvest

Zachary 25+, Eitan 25-, Emily 22, Nadine 19

I've never played this, and I didn't see how it went.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Adam, Vallah

Played when they first came and were waiting for others to free up.

Notre Dame

Nadine 73, Ellis 50, Zachary 43, Peleg 27, David1 26

Nadine administered a beatdown, I see. First plays for everyone else.

Odds and Evens

Michael 3, Elijah 1

Michael insisted that I record this one, so that it be known that he won something.


Nadine 11, Peleg 7, Ellis -1, David1 -5

First play for all except Nadine.

Rock Paper Scissors

Michael 3, Jon 2

See Odds and Evens.

Settlers of Catan

Gili 10, Jessica 6, Diana/Max 4

Diana started playing this as her first game, but she got bored of it. Max took over for her when he arrived.


Abraham 46, Jon 45, Ellis 43, Peleg 14

First plays for everyone except me. A tough fought game. Any one of the three leaders could have swung the game by transitioning from income to points one move earlier or later.

Peleg spectacularly failed to get his engine moving and spent too much time building his first links.

Tigris and Euphrates

Eitan 4/4/4/10, Nadine 4/4/4/4, Emily 3/4/5/7, Gili 3/4/5/5

Looks to have been a close game.


Jon 44, Abraham 36, Lotem 29, Gili 18

One of the first games played, first play for everyone except me. Once again we played without the curses. I took this idea from Binyamin, and I think I will play this way from now on. The amulets are still very useful for chaining actions and for removing cubes.


Yishai+, Saarya, Aryeh, Oren

First play for everyone except for Saarya, and he hadn't played this in a very long time. Actually, no one in the game group has played this for quite a long time, which is a shame.

The cards were in German, but I only had to field one question during the game, so the symbology was basically good enough after my explanation.


Max+, Elijah, Jessica, Hila

They played the four player medium game where 30 Denari is one of the four required conditions. First play for everyone except Elijah.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 13, 2011

Participants: Jon, Jessica, Nadine, Binyamin, Tzvi Yehuda, Zachary

Zachary and Jessica both returned for a second visit. Binyamin brought T"Y to game night because they won't be able to make it to Games Day next week.

7 Wonders

Binyamin 59, Jessica 53, Jon 50, T"Y 50, Zachary 49, Nadine 40

First play for all of us except for Binyamin and T"Y. Of course I'd heard about this game on BGG, but I never really took a closer look, assuming it was some kind of long civilization building game. It was entirely unlike what I was expecting.

The game is simply a card game, a cross between Fairy Tale and Race for the Galaxy. The game comes with huge over-produced but beautiful boards and bits in a large box; but it's just a card game; the boards and bits are essentially superfluous.

Each player gets 7 cards. Pick one to play and pass the rest to your neighbor. Repeat until you've each played 6 cards. Repeat 3 times (a total of 18 cards). That's it.

The cards can "produce" resources, give you military power, give you victory points, add to sets (that also give victory points), or have some other minor effect (give you cash, reduce the cash you need to play something). Many of the cards also allow you to play future cards for free, i.e. if you have card A in play, you can play card B without requiring its resource cost.

In addition to the above, you can also toss a card out for 3 money, or place it face down to activate one of the three stages of your city, each of which requires some resources and gives you a similar benefit to playing certain cards.

Resource "payments" is not actually a payment; you just need to have it in play. A resource never gets used up. If you lack the resources you need to play a card, but one of your neighbors' has that resource, you can pay two cash to that neighbor and utilize his or hers.

That's it, really. What's good about it is that you have to pass away all those cards you want while deciding which one to play; as the game progresses, you might want to not pass a card that will give your neighbor too many points. You also have many areas in which to concentrate: the brown cards, the grey cards, the blue cards, building your city, the green sets, etc. Naturally, you won't get the cards you need to focus perfectly.

Like certain other games, if you are focusing on a strategy that others are ignoring, you are in much better shape than if you are competing for the same card types.

What's bad about the game is a) it's really light. That's not much of a problem, but you might have been expecting something more substantial. And b) the tableau and its effects become crowded and difficult to review as the game goes on. You may have 12 cards that you can play for free now; each time you get new cards, you have to review all the cards you have in play and check the names of all the cards you were passed. Then you have to do the same for each of your neighbors. This can be time consuming, so, in my first game, I didn't do much peeping into my neighbors' fields. But you really have to in order to do well.

It's really, really Eurogamey: the theme might as well be vegetable gardens as ancient wonders. In any case, I didn't notice the theme while I was playing, despite the nice artwork. And there's hardly a whiff of confrontation. You get certain extra points if you have more military strength than your neighbors at the end of each round, but they only lose one point for it if you do. The rest is simply denying them the cards they need.

We enjoyed it and would play again to explore it more. Nadine in particular liked it and found it easy to pick up and understand, compared to some other recent games. Nadine concentrated on blue cards but didn't succeed, as you can see. I tried for early brown resources and then green sets, with some late military might (late military might is worth a lot more than early might is). I don't really know what Binyamin did to win.

Age of Empires III

Binyamin 142, Zachary 110ish, T"Y 80ish

Zachary requested this, and it was his first play. I think he enjoyed it, but I don't know anything about how the game went.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 49, Jessica 47, Jon 46

First play for Jessica, who is probably the brightest non-gamer to join our group. She professes to be confuses initially, but she picks up games very quickly. I helped her through the first few rounds, but she was already making confident and reasonable choices by mid-game.

Nadine was first player and achieved a tobacco monopoly, though she never got any corn. She took a mid-game Harbor in place of a Factory. I was second and took an early sugar, a coffee to play in front of Jessica, and a Factory. I only got a trade good at the end of mid-game; enough to buy two big buildings, but not quite enough to buy anything else. Jessica had the first trade good, a coffee, and Guild Hall, filling out the entire building.

Havoc: The Hundred Years War

Binyamin 29, Nadine 28, T"Y 26, Jessica 18, Jon 16

First play for Jessica. As you can see, I lost every game I played this evening. I suggested this game because it was a light game for five, and we hadn't played it in quite some time.

Still a fun game, though we still can't figure out the rules for how dogs work. I think I understood it once, but I lost it again.

With five players, I wasn't able to get anything approaching a straight flush, but I had a mid-range of three and four of a kinds. I took some mid-game wins and second places, but the rest of my attacks, including Agincourt, I was defeated and wasted my resources entirely. Binyamin was behind at mid-game, and he only came in first in the seventh battle, but he squeaked out a win with that.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

April 6, 2011

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Jessica, Gili, Mace, Matias

Jessica lives close by in Jerusalem. I was recently introduced to her, and she had never heard of these new games. She dropped by to give them a try and enjoyed herself. She promises to return. Matias lives in Argentina and comes to Israel on business every year; this is the first time he checked out the game scene. He is an experienced player and also plans to return (the next time he is back in Israel).


Jon, Jessica, Nadine, Gili

Nadine, Jessica, and I started off with this while waiting for Gili and Mace. We were all on the same level, give or take, which is a new and positive experience for me (I typically win). We played 4 letter minimum. Gili joined us for a second and third game; being a native Israeli, she plays a three letter minimum. We all tied in the second game, but due to the three Americans cancelling out nearly all of each others' words, Gili won the last game by a reasonable margin.


Gili+, Jon, Nadine, Mace, Jessica

First play for Jessica. The trick was to find a game for five that is a good intro game for a brand new player but also not too long or too boring. I usually start new players with Settlers, but I don't have the 5-6 player expansion (I don't really like it). I suggested Power Grid, but some of the others thought it would be too long.

Tribune is a little overwhelming at first, but Jessica picked it up quickly enough. For some reason, the rule "you must play either more cards OR cards with a higher value" seems to be very difficult for some players to wrap their head around; Nadine and others corroborate this, though I never understood why. I typically get more confused when two areas of the board have similar but contradictory requirements.

On the first round, Mace mistook the light blue faction for a dark blue. As a result, he had a hand full of dark blue cards and tried to take over the light blue faction. That set him back a bit. There were a few other, lesser, mistakes of that sort. While we were playing, Matias arrived. he spent the second half of the game watching and acting as rules arbiter.

Nadine got to three out of the four required victory conditions by the second round, and looked poised to win by the end of round three. However, she lost the temporary favor of the gods, and stalled the rest of the game. I got to three win conditions in round four, with the same results. I secured the fourth condition in round five and only needed to convert my temporary favor to a permanent one. Although I peeked at the card color I needed on the board, every single card of that color was taken by other players (purely by coincidence), I didn't have any in my hand, and I couldn't pick one randomly from the stack of five.

Gili proceeded to win the game at the end of the round.

Settlers of Catan

Jessica 10, Jon 7, Matias 8

First play for Jessica. I shunted Nadine and Mace off to play Dominion so that I could hook Jessica onto the gateway game. As often happens with Settlers, the new player won, which only adds to the hook element. I think she greatly enjoyed the game.

However, I must note that once during the game, while waiting for certain resources, she said, "There's an element of Go Fish in here." Probably the most insulting comparison since Gilad said that Cosmic Encounter reminded him strongly of Munchkin.

At the beginning of the game, I warned her of my SoC maxim: when two people fight over the Longest Road, the third player usually wins. Matias started off strongly, getting to five points while Jessica and I were at 3. We both made it to 4 while he jumped to 7 by gaining the Longest Road. Matias then stalled out.

Jessica stole his Longest Road and I encouraged them both to spend the rest of the game fighting over it (humorously, of course, given my opening strategic advice). I made it to 7 points on the board with my third soldier ready to play; Matias made it to 8 points on the board, ready to steal back Longest Road. But Jessica managed to end the game with a settlement.


Mace 67, Nadine 53

Mace and Nadine played with mostly Prosperity cards, which is one of the expansions that Mace doesn't own and that Nadine is less familiar with. The first game appears to have gone typically enough.

Mace 156, Nadine 75

But wow for the second game. Mace took every Colony and tons of additional points by continuously triple playing a card that gave him points every time he bought a card; he kept buying coppers. Somehow that didn't slow down his hand, though I don't know why, exactly.

156 is certainly a high score for our group. Around the interwebs, some people have reported scores of 240 or so, and one even claimed a score in the 400s.


Jon 16, Jessica 3, Matias 2

First play for both Matias and Jessica. I played with my usual random point stacks (mixed colors and order) rather than the prescribed color and order stacking.

Matias loved the game and hopes to bring it back to his group. He pulled some early points, but he dumped again and again and again, until he had a deck of illegal dumps; 16 points worth, I think. Jessica and I dumped lightly, but I pulled in far more chips than she did.