Wednesday, December 15, 2004

No Billygames this week

Falkenstein Walk
Originally uploaded by coljen.
Due to a combination of circumstances, no Billygames this week. So here is a pretty picture of me on holiday in Austria. You can walk from the village of St. Wolfgang over a rock called the Falkenstein to another village called St. Gilgen. This is highest point looking down the Wolfgansee. Shame we couldn’t play this week as either Karibik or Flandern 1302 was on the cards. Sigh. Nevermind there is always next week. Christmas commitments permitting. See you back here then.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Tuesday 7th December - Age of Steam - Korea

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Most of our group really enjoy Age of Steam, in fact I think a lot of gamers enjoy it as well, so I am in the minority. I can’t seem to connect with this game, I have tried playing various boards and I never seem to muster up much enthusiasm. Anyway, this week we endeavour to trek across the mountains of Korea, and boy, are there a lot of mountains. The Korean map was published by Warfrog at Essen I think, its a double sided board with Scandinavia on the other side. I’ll assume most people are familiar with the rules for AoS so the relevant bits are, all cities are non-coloured and blocks can only be moved to a city that has a block of that colour on it, and mountain hexes cost 3.

I’m sure other members of the group can comment on the strategy for this game better than I so hopefully there will be some input from people that actually know what they are doing. With the introduction of the grey city rule, it opened up a whole new strategy for stuffing peoples routes and consequently I found the tendency for analysis paralysis was the greater. Maybe it was because I don’t warm to the game that I found the downtime considerable. So block distribution was critical with the production job and urbanisation taking on greater significance. The game took nearly 165 minutes which I think is a tad too long. So who took the honours?

Final Scores

Steve 72, Neil 67, Richard 62, Colin 36, Garry 26

Rating (0-10)

Colin 5

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Keythedral - End Game

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Although the game took almost 150 mins it never dragged. There was always something to think about and downtime was a minimum. The bidding mechanism for deciding the start player for next round is quite interesting producing some odd decisions. Here we see Richard explaining how listening to the rules doesn’t actually detract from his ability to play the game with a degree of skill.

Final Scores (*denoting start player)

Richard 157, Steve 43, Garry 42, Colin 40, *Neil 32

Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

Tuesday 30th November - Keythedral

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Keythedral, designed by Richard Breese has turned into a sought after game with copies selling at Essen 2003 for over 100 euro. Now they have reprinted it and it has become more accessible. If you would like to read a review of the reprint by Greg Schloesser look here:

Basically each player has five cottage tiles, that can upgraded to villages, and 10 worker tiles. The board consisting of hexes that produce different resources is laid out by the players at the start placing their cottages as they go. Then each player picks a number from 1 to 5 and the workers come out of the corresponding cottages and harvest resources. These resources can used for various things. Upgrading cottages, buying law cards or buying buildings that get VPs etc. And that very briefly is it. As with Settlers the placement of cottages at the start is pretty vital, even more so here as it is more difficult to recover from a bad position, as Neil found out to his cost. Each player has 3 fences that can be placed during the game to restrict a players workes egress from their cottages, this can be particularly nasty. You can pay resources or get a law card to get rid of them though.

This was a first play for Garry, Neil, Richard (I think) and myself. Steve had played a couple of times before so he ran through the rules, Richard didn’t have any wooden blocks to play with so I think he actually listened this time. Including the rules explanation the playing time was about 150mins. I think everyone except Neil, who got particularly badly stuffed in the setup, enjoyed the game.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Carcassonne End

Carcassonne End
Originally uploaded by coljen.
As we were playing with practically all the expansions the game took I think over 90 minutes to complete, not only because of the number of tiles, but because of the extra decisions needed when placing them. Towards the end of the game players concentrated on getting majorities in the farms and meeples in the market ready to influence the scoring at the end. Once again we had a disussion as to how the farms are actually scored, we decided that if a completed city is in more than one field it scores in both. I know there are different ways of intepreting this rule but that’s how we played it. One huge city (top centre of pic) garnered a lot of points for Richard and Steve I think it was. And Neil cleared up a lot of points scoring farms.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Richard (grey) 139, Neil (black) 127, *Natalie (red) 91, Colin (yellow) 64, Garry (green) 56

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

Tuesday 24th November - Carcassonne start with Count and River

Tonights game was Carcassonne with the new expansion ‘The Count’ plus all the previous expansions, except the King and Robber Knight. Nearly a full complement at Billygames tonight with Natalie, Neil, Garry, Richard and Colin (me). After a quick refresher on the rules as we had’nt played Carc for a while, we was off. The Count definitely adds a new strategic element and makes meeple management all the more important. The river soon snaked around the city walls and we was wondering if the playing table was going to be big enough! Cities were being finished pretty quickly by non-controlling players to get that extra meeple in the castle, abbey, market or blacksmith. Also for the wine, wheat and cloth chits. Steve was the only player to get a meeple in the Abbey and was then closed down by having the Count move in for some prayers. The blacksmith never got used at all during the whole game. It was mainly the castle and towards the end game the market became more valuable to control those farms.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

TTR Belgium Board Game 2

TTR Belgium Board Game 2
Originally uploaded by coljen.
As the first game only took about an hour, we decided to play a second game. I think everyone took more tickets in this game. The scores were closer as the routes were a bit more familiar. Richard managed to complete the Knokke to Bertrix route for 18 pts and consequently got the longest train card as well (length of 29). I took some tickets mid game and had one already completed (Liege to Arlon) for 10pts and one I thought I could complete fairly easily. As it was I was one link short. Doh! In the picture their has’nt a been a major train disaster I forgot to take the photo before we checked the scores so the carriages are all on their side. As I said the scores were a lot closer and Garry pushed Richard all the way being only 2pts behind.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Neil 69 (Black), *Steve 66 (Blue), Richard 88 (Red), Colin 72 (Yellow), Garry 86 (Green)

TTR Belgium Late Game

TTR Belgium Late Game
Originally uploaded by coljen.
This shows the board at the end of the game. As you can see if you had played with the full 45 carriages the board would have been totally clogged up. With 35 it was just about right.

Tuesday 17th - TTR Belgium Board

TTR Belgium Board Early Game
Originally uploaded by coljen.
So, after my previous post showing my artistic skill constructing the board and tickets tonight we get to give a whirl and see how it plays. The participants were Neil, Steve, Garry, Richard and myself. As I said previously the board only has about 80% of the routes of the American board so the designers advised that you start with only 35 carriages for a 5 player game. There were no routes that spanned right across the board in the original tickets so I made a couple. La Panne to Arlon for 22pts and Knokke to Bertrix for 18pts. I thought they would be very difficult to complete. Anyway the board played really well, and the game lasted about an hour. That 22pt route clobbered Garry as he failed to complete it and Richard completed all his routes. Steve on the other hand didn’t complete I think 3 of his routes, one of them a only 2 stations apart. The general consensus was that he was trying to use his carriages to spell out a rude word. He said the word was ‘Belgium’.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

*Neil 68 (Black), Steve 12 (Blue), Richard 95 (Red), Colin 67 (Yellow), Garry 43 (Green)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Doge End Position

Originally uploaded by coljen.
The final board position. Richard wins (I said so), with 6 palaces, one in each province. Neil is a very close second, only one house short of building his sixth palace. I am on 4 palaces and close to my fifth and Steve is on three with houses in two provinces. All in all a very enjoyable game, closely fought and liked by all.

Final Scores

Richard - Red 6, Neil - Green 5, Colin - Yellow 4, Steve - Blue 3

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

Doge - The early board position

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Even at this early stage you can see that Neil(green), Richard(red) and myself(yellow) have built two palaces each, and Steve(blue) has a few houses on the board. Richard has control of two advisors already. Perhaps he did listen to the rules after all.

Tuesday 9th November - Doge

Originally uploaded by coljen.
The first tuesday games evening for a couple of weeks and the selection is Doge. A game of political shannigans in Venice. Neil and I had not played before, Steve had, not sure about Richard. Steve gave a run through the rules while Richard tried to build the Empire State Building out of his palaces. As usual here is a quick description from BGG.

Three or four players try to gain the most influence by building palazzos in Venice. Influence is placed face-down into city sections. When all is placed, they are revealed in a predetermined order. Having the most influence in a section allows a player to build the most houses and also give control over the advisor for that section. The advisor can be placed somewhere else in the city and adds influence in a later vote. Houses can be traded for Palazzos, and the player with a Palazzo in every section wins the game.

As I said before we started, Richard didn’t pay any attention at all to the rules so he obviously was going to win. This game from 2000, designed by Leo Colovini, is a nice blend of strataties. Do you take the advisor? Or do you neutralise him and move houses around? If you have the most influence in the province of course. The game flowed fairly well with everyone having a clear idea of what they were doing (Even Richard), I was just winging it :)

Monday, November 8, 2004

Rules clarifications for the Belgium Board

I have just read on the belgian website that published this expansion that this variation is best with 2-3 players! Trust me to read this after I have made the board. Anyway the designer says that there are about 80% of the routes that there are on the original American board so if you play with more than 3 to restrict the number of carriages. i.e. 4 players = 40 carriages and 5 players = 35 carriages. Consequently the game will be shorter, but the number of opportunities for blocking seem to be rather greater. If the Babel-fish translation is anything like accurate it says that there are more coloured routes than the grey generic routes that are on the American board. I have given it a dry run, couldn’t get the wife to play, she did have a horrible cold to be fair, and it plays completely different to the original.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

The finished board!


Originally uploaded by coljen.
After allowing the acrylic spray to dry it is all finished. Time to do the whole thing was only about an hour and a half. I think the acrylic brings out the colours nicely. The sheets for the tickets came with a couple of blanks, so I made a couple of routes of my own using photoshop. There seem to be quite a lot of 8/9 point routes so I made 2 longer routes which will be harder to complete but the points gained are obviously higher. All that remains now is to persuade the wife to try it out.

Ticket to Ride - Belgium Board


Originally uploaded by coljen.
Here are all the materials necessary to make your own Belgium board for Ticket to Ride. First I downloaded the 8 A4 sections of the board from the net and the 4 A4 sheets that comprise the tickets (2 fronts and 2 backs). I obtained a piece of polyboard to the appropriate size (72cm x 52cm). This is ideal being strong and light. Then I trimmed all the sheets and laid them on the polyboard to get the initial position. Using Spraymount I stuck the sheets onto the polyboard, taking great care to match up the graphics. It's quite difficult to get it right across the whole board and I think I am out fractionally in one bit, but it doesn't show too much.

Then I spraymounted the backs and fronts of the tickets together. I had purchased some A4 laminate film from Rymans and laminated the tickets front and back, sort of a film sandwich! This produces quite a decent thickness for the tickets that should wear quite well. Finally I used a scalpel and steel rule to cut out the tickets.

Now the board has had a chance for the spraymount to dry a bit so I finished the board by spraying it with about 5 light coats of clear acrylic spray. This produces a hard, clear semi sheen finish.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ticket to Ride - Expansions

I’ve just been perusing boardgame related blogs (as you do) and found a couple of unofficial boards for TTR. Here are the relevant web addresses if anybody wants to have a look.

Belgian Rail Network

And this is for the Lyon Metro Network

I have printed out the Belgian one, it consists of 8 quality A4 jpegs for the board and 2 more for the destination cards. The Lyon one is 16 A4 PDFs for the board and another for the cards. I think as I have a week’s holiday coming up I will try to assemble the Belgian one. As TTR is one of the games I quite enjoy at the moment it should provide one or two diverting moments. Hopefully I can get the Billygames crowd to give it a trial run.

New Look

I decided to change the look of the blog today, think this is a bit easier to read. Hope to get some photos up soon. Maybe when we (if) start to play some of the Essen new releases I will get out the trusty Fuji and start clicking.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tuesday 26th October - No Games Tonight

Due to a combination of circumstances there was no games played this week. Been reading all the Essen reports I can find and boy, am I jealous. Especially so of my friend Jo, who did go, sounds like he had a great time and picked up some great games too. He very kindly picked up the Ticket to Ride Mystery Train expansion and Der Graf von Carcassonne (The Count of Carcassonne) for me. As Jo was flying he was restricted to how many games he could bring back but I think he did pretty well. His purchases were Carcassonne the City (Rio version), Jambo (Rio version),

Clocktowers, Railroad Dice Duetschland, Reef Encounter, Scottish Highland Whisky Race, besides all the games he got for friends. That City version of Carcassonne is pretty heavy by itself by all accounts. Hopefully we can have a session one weekend soon to try some of them out.

Some of the games have interested me after reading some of the reports but as our group is normally 6 number of players does decide to some extent what I will buy. Some of the good games only play 4 and I know that they will only get played occasionally. Anyway here’s what I like the look of.


Germany in the late middle ages! It is a time of flourishing cities, influential bishops, the powerful popes, and a pompous aristocracy. In such a volatile climate, no dynasty can remain in power for long. Several aristocratic families seek to acquire the crown of the emporer. But this decision lies in the hands of the seven elector. 2–4 emporer candidates use their knights and cities, marry their barons, and work to influence the electors. But all efforts are useless if the candidate is not elected to be emporer. But, in the shadow of the properly elected emporer, are always those who want to displace him and become the new emporer. (Description from Rio Grande games).

Only a 2-4 player but I like historical games.


Niagara is set in the not particularly safe world of rushing waterfalls. In the late 18th Century, the Shawnee and Iroquois Indians pointed white Desperadoes, Mercenaries and Adventurers in the direction of hidden caches of valuable jewels, in the hopes of turning them against one another and away from their territorial expansion ambitions. Players play as some of those Adventurers.

The first player to be able to claim ownership of five jewels is the winner. But the chase after the riches has some snags. The speed of the river is always changing, since the speed depends on the decisions of the players and the changeable weather. And once a canoe goes over the walls, it's a hefty investment to replace it. And there are also the Desperadoes to contend with, who aren't above trying to plunder the riches from Adventurers returning home. Niagara is distinguished by an innovative movement mechanic as well as a beautiful three-dimensionsal rendering of the waterfall setting.

3-5 players, this looks interesting as the board is laid over the box and moved every round causing some boats to plummet over the falls!


From the designer:

Think of Civilization/Age of Renaissance set in the 18th century. Players take the role of one of the major powers of the period and fight in both Europe and the colonies. The twist to the game is that in each war players must form into two alliances. Once allied with a player you cannot fight each other. This means you do not have the backstabbing of Diplomacy to worry about; if he's allied he's with you until the end of the war. This means that a player has to think carefully about who he wants to fight against and who he wants to ally with. Very often he will want to ally with his natural enemy and go to war with the guy who doesn't really want to fight him. On top of this you have lots of improvement tiles that you buy to shape your empire, plus alliances with minor powers, and the possibility of going into revolution. The game is 99% done and personally I am very pleased with it. Even though it is a big empire building game it will scale from 3 to 7 players and has pretty simple rules.

The new Martin Wallace game plays up to 7 and is historical and plays in 90 minutes to boot! Could get this one.


From Gamefest:

The game, which is about power and influence in the French court at the end of the 17th Century is by Rudiger Dorn, who will have his second game in the alea series after "The Traders of Genoa".

The 2-4 players 12 and up take on the roles of members of the Court, and have about 100 minutes in which to carry out their missions and goals at Versailles. By using cards and influence stones, they influence high-ranking Court attendants, such as the King's Mother or one of the countless Royal mistresses. Naturally, the Sun King himself has a special role here to.

An excellent time and a high level of tension are guaranteed. The final outcome is in doubt right up to the end. Each game is different. A change of pace but still a highly promising strategy game in the finest alea tradition, one which sits at level 5 on the Alea complexity scale.

Only 4 players but a rich historical theme.

Anyway I look forward to playing some of the new games from Essen and will elucidate you with my impressions as and when.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Me at Fuschl

Me at Fuschl
Originally uploaded by coljen.
OK I’ve just figured out how to publish photos to my blog using flickr. Whoo Hooo! This is just a bit of a test so expect some gaming related pics to appear here soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Tuesday October 19th - Seafarers of Catan

Full complement tonight, well, apart from Garry, so not a full complement. Doh! Anyway those adventuring seafarers took to the oceans of Catan tonight.

This is an expansion for the Settlers of Catan game. Players can build shipping lanes, which are very similar to roads. Additionally, the game comes with many different water-hex-heavy variant setups. Tonights scenario involved one large island in the middle of the board with an undiscovered area either side. The game is basically the same as regular Settlers with some sailing thrown in, discovering land as you go. The game started pretty evenly, but soon Natalie had got longest road, surprise there then, and Neil had got into sailing mode. Steve and I were confined to smallish areas in which to build at the start. Richard got into the sailing lark as well and captured the longest road/shipping lane card from Natalie. Steve was quietly building away keeping a low profile. And I, well was not doing a lot really. Natalie managed to capture that longest road card back again. The robber kept on shutting Steve and Natalies mud production, who did that?

As we approached the endgame Steve suddenly became a contender, and sure enough built another settlement and announced he had the 12 points required for the win, turning over a special card for the one vital point.

Good game, I am gradually getting to like Settlers more, even though my dice rolls usually suck.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Neil* 7, Richard 8, Steve 12, Colin 9, Natalie 11

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 7

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Tuesday October 5th - Samurai

With only Steve, Garry and myself able to make it this week it gave us the opportunity to play a 4 (or 3) player game. Garry chose Renier Knizia’s 1998 game Samurai. I do own a copy of this game myself, being a fan of the good Doctor, so I didn’t mind that at all. Here is a brief description of the game courtesy the Geek.

Another of the Reiner Knizia 'tile trilogy,' this game is ostensibly set in medieval Japan. Players use hexagonal tiles to surround cities, which have one to three different figures: rice paddies, buddhas, or high hats. The tiles represent influence on particular facets of the cities, and the highest influence on a figure when the city is surrounded takes that figure. The object of the game is to have more of any one else in one category, and then have the most remaining figures.

This description doesn’t do the scoring system justice. To even be eligible to compete for the win you have to have a majority in one of the different figures, rice paddies, buddhas or high hats. If you are able to get a majority in two of these it’s an automatic win. If more than one has a majority you then count your remaining pieces and the one with the most is the winner. This is a fairly quick playing game and with only three players it is even quicker. We managed three games. The first game got under way after a quick resumé of the rules, as none of us had played it for a while. Each city has one of each figure and the rest are placed by the players on the board in clockwise order. You start with 5 tiles behind your screen, either random or chosen, we had a random selection. These tiles of course determine to a certain extent the initial placement of the figures on the board.

When all the figures are placed you then place your tiles trying to accumulate a majority of influence on the piece and when it is surrounded the majority influence captures it. This is a good thinking game but one that plays quickly, quite a feat really. In the first game we each had a majority so could compete for the win. Steve edged it with myself second.

Score (*denotes starting player)

Steve 5, Colin* 4, Garry 3

In the second game the high hats seemed to get grouped together on one end of the board which was quite interesting. Steve started this one and again gained the win. This time with a majority in two of the pieces, Garry had a majority in the other, I didn’t even qualify, with no majorities.

Score (*denotes starting player)

Steve* 2 majorities outright win, Garry 3, Colin zilch!

Game 3 and the start player rotated to Garry, Steve could’t pull off the hatrick, could he? Garry started by capturing all 3 pieces in the city and was off to a flying start. By the way the pieces that are captured are put behind your screen, so you have to try and remember what everybody else has won. I thought that I wasn’t doing too badly, how wrong can you be. Yup, Steve did it again with another outright win with 2 majorities, this time Garry didn’t quality having no majorities.

Score (*denotes starting player)

Steve* 2 majorities outright win, Colin 4, Garry nadda!

Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

This is basically for my own reference, Natalie has posted the official Billygames order for choosing games.

The order, for the record, is:

Dave (Unfortunately only makes guest appearances now)







This order is in no particular sequence and definitely nothing to do with age. ;-)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Magic League Final Thoughts

I have just realised that I haven’t brought you up to date with how my league excursion ended. Well, the league lasts 4 weeks. I played 5 matches 1st and 2nd weeks, 2 matches on the 3rd week and to be honest no matches on the 4th week. Why? you might ask. Well, at the time I can go on MTGO, which is in the morning, there seemed to be only 5 or 6 players in the league room. And all these players were in the top 20 or so. Now, I have read on the forums that the top players hang around waiting for scrubs to appear so they can smash their heads in. Well that certainly appeared to be the case here. You could argue that I’m making excuses here, but what’s the point of getting the crap kicked out of you every game. I will probably not be playing in another league. The cards have helped my collection and I can use some of them in some of my decks so it wasn’t a complete loss. I think I finished up around 180 out of 256 so I was not the only one not to play games, I think some people didn’t even play one game!!

I had a couple of foil rares which I traded and got some nice playable cards. I would rather play in the casual rooms and get a decent game. Well, the next expansion, The Champions of Kamigawa is released online on October 25th. Some nice looking cards and interesting new mechanics so I will probably get a few of those.

Til next time!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tuesday 28th September - Ticket To Ride

Strange one tonight, we was playing at my place and it was Richard’s choice. Last week he indicated that it would probably be Settlers/The Great Wall. I arrived home a tad late because my early train was cancelled. Steve was already waiting on the doorstep and Garry and Richard turned up shortly after. One drawback, Richard had completely forgotten it was his choice and hadn’t brought the game! Doh! I had diligently read the rules during the day and was ready for the off. Ah well! So a quick look at my collection and Richard chose Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride. A good game, not too heavy or too long. Here again is a quick overview courtesy of the geek:

With elegantly simple gameplay, Ticket to Ride can be learned in 3 minutes, while providing players with intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn. Players collect cards of various types of train cars they then use to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who fulfill Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route.

“The rules are simple enough to write on a train ticket – each turn you either draw more cards, claim a route or get additional Destination Tickets”, says Ticket to Ride author, Alan R. Moon. “The tension comes from being forced to balance greed – adding more cards to your hand; and fear – losing a critical route to a competitor.”

So the whistle blows and off we go. My initial draw of tickets were pretty easy but the points total was low. So I decided to take some tickets early. Well after a few turns anyway. I got a few routes down and took an early lead. Richard and Steve I think at one stage had half the train deck in their hands. Loads of cards!!! I completed my tickets pretty early and took some tickets, luckily one of them was half complete so I took that one. As opposed to the last game where nobody took any extra tickets at all, everybody in this game took more tickets. As we neared the endgame, Richard had a coast to coast connection and Steve was lagging in last place. But as I say had a handful of cards. Steve came with a late burst and quickly caught up. At the end we decided to turn our tickets over one at a time round the table. Richard came out a pretty easy winner completing 5 tickets. Actually everybody managed to complete their tickets so no negative points. Steve got the longest train for 10 points which pulled him up to second and Garry beat me to third by one point. A good game. The scores are points before tickets, then individual ticket scores.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Richard* 68+17+22+8+9+11 = 135, Steve 59+10(longest train)+20+12+7+8 = 116, Garry 69+11+13+12+8 = 113, Colin 65+16+13+9+9 = 112

Rating (0-10)

Colin 8

There is a new board and a card expansion coming out at Essen in October. Here is a description of the card expansion from the geek:

The Ticket to Ride: Mystery Train Expansion

This adds some cards to the Ticket deck. These additions aren't actual tickets, though. Instead, they are special cards that allow you to get bonus points at the end of the game, with the exception of one card that allows you to, in lieu of a turn, look through the entire deck of tickets and take any card you want.

One card lets you double the value of any ticket that you make (only for cards worth 10 or less), one gives you bonus points for making a cross-country route, one gives you bonus points for a west coast route and one gives you bonus points for connecting to the most cities.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tuesday 21st September - Carcassonne/Hunters & Gathers - Ark of the Covenant

Attendees tonight were Neil, Steve, Natalie, Richard and myself, ready to go huntin’ and fishin’ in prehistoric times. This game is one of many variants of Carcassonne and is one of the best I think. Here is a brief description courtesy of Boardgamegeek.

A Carcassonne Variant set in the Stone Age. Players build a prehistoric landscape with tiles depicting forests, rivers, lakes and grasslands. They then send out members of their tribe to hunt, gather and fish. In other words, place their pawns in the best positions to score points.

Most of the mechanics are familiar from the original Carcassonne, but some new things are added to spice things up.

I managed to get my fishing hut on a system with good development potential, unfortunately I couldn’t keep it to myself and Richard muscled in so in the end we shared the points. One large meadow evolved with myself Natalie, Richard and myself contesting. I just couldn’t get my third hunter in so Richard and I shared the points with two hunters each. You don’t have many meeples, only 5, so you have to be careful how many you tie up in meadows otherwise you could be meepleless and restrict your scoring opportunities in the forests and rivers. Anyway in the end Richard came away a convincing winner. Obviously well endowed with considerable hunting and fishing skills.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Neil* 77, Natalie 62, Steve 79, Richard 94, Colin 62

The Ark of the Covenant

Natalie decided to sit this one out so Neil, Steve, Richard and myself carried on preaching the gospel. Again a brief description from the Geek.

A new game based on Carcassonne, Ark of the Covenant has players vie for control of cities, roads, flocks, and temples by using the tiles to create the dynamic play area and by placing followers on the tiles.

New features compared to Carcassonne include oasis along roads which award 1 additional point to that road for each oasis, a one-time use "prophet" for each player which doubles the value of a completed city for that player, a simplified field scoring with each sheep in the field adding 2 points and each wolf subtracting 2 points, and a new scoring mechanism for temples. Additionally, players can forgo the placement of a follower on the board to move the Ark around the tiles and award 1 point to the owner of each follower it passes.

Well basically Neil ended up founding Jerusalem and I ended helping the Romans build roads, lots of roads. Very straight roads with not even many oasis on them! And if I wasn’t doing that my meeples seemed to be shepherds. Not a city segment for at least 3/4 of the game. Doh! Understandably founding Jerusalem is quite a feat and as Neil was the only one in it, and with a prophet it gave him a game winning 52, yes that’s 52, points. Ending up 26 points in front of Steve in second.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Neil* 101, Steve 75, Colin 73, Richard 71

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tuesday 14th - Die Neuen Entdecker

Tonights game was my choice and I have been looking forward to playing The Merchants of Amsterdam again for some time. I have played it a couple of times before and really liked it. So I brushed up on the rules on the train home and was all set. It was going to be Steve, Garry, Richard and myself participating. But, fate plays a hand again and a text message from Richard stuck at work knocks my trading venture on the head. A bidding game with only 3 is not so much fun, so to plan B. A 4 player game will play better with 3 of us so out comes Die Nueun Entdecker, an exploring game from Klaus Teuber. Here is a brief description courtesy of Boardgamegeek.

Essentially the same game as Entdecker, the game still starts with a blank game board that represents an unexplored sea. Tiles are drawn and placed on squares on the board. As the tiles are placed islands develop on the board and players pay to place settlements, bases, or scouts on these islands in an effort to become the most powerful discoverer of all. Completed islands yield victory points to all who have invested in exploration on an island, but of course the most points go to the player who has established the strongest presence. This updated version adds a larger board, fees to enter from all but one edge of the board, a different income system, new bonus waterfall tiles, the ability to draw (for a price) from open stacks of tiles, and most of all an entirely new area of the board that represents scouts exploring jungles on the islands in search of exotic plants (this is the bonus discovery chip system revamped), among other changes.

Steve and I had played before but it was new game for Garry. Steve ran through the rules, which I needed too, it was a while since I last played. Then we were off. The board has a few tiles already laid to start off with, including 3 bonus island tiles, two 5 pointers and a 10 pointer. Quickly Garry and I established a presence on these while Steve went off and did his own thing. I got into trouble moneywise early on and had to keep rolling because I was less than 4 money. This took a while to get out of all the while keeping Steve and Garry nicely funded. Steve took advantage of the rule that says if a tile is closed in it automatically gets filled. Garnering some small islands. Eventually the board started to fill and I was lagging well behind, Steve was in front with Garry solidly in second. I had quite a few scouts in the jungle investigating the flora and fauna in the native huts hoping for some late points. The last island gradually grew to a monster with Garry having the biggest presence due to his village.

I had got out of the poverty hole and gambled on being able to get my village in there as well which would give me, hopefully, the majority. I also had two forts on it. Well, when the game ended with that island being completed I did indeed have the majority which gave me a healthy 40 points. This moved me into he lead. As the scouts were moved into the jungle I was still hoping that the points I got there would take me over the finishing line. But I ended up only winning one hut and tieing for about 3 others, unfortunately not having the closest scout. So in the end Steve won by quite a healthy margin but the game was pretty close up to the end.

It’s one of the games I enjoy and Garry said he liked it as well and was glad he had a copy, he might even play it now!

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Colin* 77, Steve 89, Garry 61

Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

Monday, September 13, 2004

Computer bug solved and Magic League update

Well, first a bit about the Magic online league that I am playing in. Opened my 2nd week booster, Darksteel, and found there wasn’t really one card that stood out that could help my present deck configuration. The rare was Darkstell Collosus, a monster at 11/11 and indestructible to boot. But at a cc of 11 it’s never gonna hit the table. I decided to ditch the black and go blue with 4 nice creatures. Because I had my friend Neil coming round on Sunday to try and squash the 15 minute lag bug and we was out Saturday, I only got to play 2 matches. One against a guy in 16th and the other one was in the 70s I think. Anyway lost both, one to a Spikeshot Goblin with a Cranial Plating attached. Ouch!

Anyway enough of that, now that 15 minute lag. Well, Neil ran Adware and Norton Disk Doctor and a couple of other things. Found the odd problem but not one that could be causing the lag. Might as well install SP2 says Neil, might make a difference. Duly installed SP2, touch wood, with no problems. Recognised my ZoneAlarm firewall and automatically turned off the Windows firewall. So far so good, rebooted and ......... bother, lag still there. So call up task manager and monitor CPU usage as we connect to net. As soon as you try to load a page, whoosh the CPU usage goes ballistic, 100%. Ah, look at that process, that’s the little b*&%!r. Terminate process and bang, straight in. Look in the services window and try to identify the one that’s causing the trouble, narrow it down to 2 possibles. Try to connect again....lag.... terminate process.....straight in, and one of the services has disappeared. The culprit identified. Disable it from the services window. Reboot and go through the procedure, connect, load a page and wham, instanteous display.

Well Neil, cracked it for me but not sure what the process is, something to do with DNS I think, Neil is going to investigate and try to find out what it is. At the moment nothing is not working without it, soooo fingers crossed. Problem solved. Thanks Neil!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Tuesday 7th September - Age of Steam/Ireland

I must say from the outset that Age of Steam is not one of my favourite games,this opinion is not shared by the other players in my group, most them enjoy every opportunity to play. The maths do my head in and I cannot see the most productive routes to build from the off. That being said, I quite enjoyed this version of the game. Maybe because I got a reasonable build in early,it didn’t progress much but I didn’t come last which is my usual position when we play this. Garry, Neil, Richard and myself were the budding rail tycoons. This version of the game has several rules variations to the basicgame. Namely, no urbanisation, this becomes de-urbanisation!! This option lets you remove a block from the board. Obviously an opponent stuffing tactic. Also there are water links between England, Wales and Scotland. These links represent the only outlet for blue, red and yellow blocks. They cost $6 to build and you may only build one per turn. Presumably so that one player cannot have a monopoly of these links. There are also brown hexes, these start out with 2 or 3 blocks but do not produce any more. The locomotive action has also been changed. When you take the locomotive you are able to upgrade your loco twice but forfeit both move actions.

I think that as goods have so few outlets it is necessary to built long networks and upgrade your train to be able to transport the blocks over them. So when to upgrade or forfeit 2 moves and take the loco action become a vital decision. Richard and Neil both had large locos, and at the end were transporting over long routes. Neil had a 6 loco, and Richard had a 5. Garry and myself were trailing behind. My train never got above 3 and although I had lots of transportable blocks available it was never enough. Money is tight right up until the end and Garry was struggling, even going back 1 space on the income track. Usually that is my trick!! Richard got stuffed by the de-urbanisation twice and Neil once. I think this made for some nice re-thinking for those two.

Overall I think that I liked the Irish map better than some of the others, probably because it is smaller and it’s easier to see what is going on.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

Colin* 58, Neil 99, Garry 43, Richard 96

Rating (0-10)

Colin 7

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Magic Online League Week Two

Week 2 of my excursion into league play. Opened my Mirrodin booster, not bad but only three cards that will really help my deck. Icy Manipulator, Irradiate and Mindslaver. Icy is always good, irradiate is OK but depends on you having artifacts already in play and Mindslave is cool. Giving you control over target players next turn. I had posted my card pool on the Magic online forum and got a couple of responses to help build the deck. I went with black/white with a splash of red.

Well, I played my five matches and ........ lost every one!! The first week I was losing 0-2, this week I improved to losing 1-2. The way the league works you press the play button and you are paired with someone who has also pressed the play button. I think it tries to pair you with someone who has similar results to you but if there is nobody waiting like that you get anybody. Apparently players hang around until there are only weak players waiting and then press play now. Well, I havent got time to frig around like that so I just press play and see what happens.

As luck would have it I seem to get good players matched against me. I know that I am a mediocre player at best but shucks|!! One in the top ten I get for a second week running. Oh well, it’s only a bit of fun for me and a way of increasing my card collection. It is a bit disappointing though. Any way the minute I decide to play a tiebreaker match I win 2-0. Doh!! You have to laugh.

Week 3 next and I can add a Darksteel booster.

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

My First MTGO League experience

Having played nothing but casual since joining MTGO I thought that I would like to have a go in a league environment. Mirrodin block sounded good as I knew those cards better. So signed up for a league that had started little more than an hour before, 16 players out of the maximum 256 signed on. For anybody that doesn’t know what a league involves here are the basics. You have to purchase a Mirrodin Tournament pack and 1 Darksteel and 1 5th Dawn booster. From these cards you construct a deck of minimum 40 cards. You can add extra lands for free.

The league runs for 4 weeks, each week you are allowed to play 5 matches for points, 1 for a loss and 2 for a win. After you have played your 5 matches for that week you can play for tiebreaker points. Each win gives you 1 TB point. At the start of each subsequent week you have the chance to purchase another booster to improve your card pool. 2nd week Mirrodin, 3rd week Darksteel and 4th week 5th Dawn. Well, do I need some improvement! The cards I got were pretty average. Some white flyers, a couple of decent equipment, a shatter and a shrapnel blast. Not much creature removal to speak of apart from that.

Match 1

Lose 0-2 – I am sure that I have built the deck wrong, too many colours and not focussed enough.

Match 2

Lose 0-2 – Persevered with the deck, that was a mistake, another drubbing.

Match 3

Lose 0-2 – Tweaked the deck a bit, didn’t a scrap of difference another loss.

Before match 4 I thought it’s time for a radical makeover. Changed to 2 colours, red and white, put all the flyers in that I had. And all the red removal, mostly for artifacts.

Match 4

Going much better, then in the first game lost the connection. Doh! That counts as a loss as I couldn’t get it back in the time limit (5 mins I think).

Match 5

Win 2-0. Hurray! A win at last. That Slith Ascendent with the bonesplitter comes good.

OK, now having the deck something like reasonable I played a couple of TB games. What do you know, played 3 won 2. So a little too late I think. Now there are the maximum 256 players signed up and the first 2 guys I played are both in the top 10. :(

So waiting for next week to see if the booster makes a significant difference, could do with some creature removal.

To be continued.

Tuesday 31st August - Puerto Rico

This time we played that classic 5 player game, Puerto Rico, attendees for this one were, Natalie, Steve, Neil, Garry and myself. The seating order always seems to be a factor in this game so we always determine random seating. For tonight this was, Garry (starting player), Natalie, Steve, Neil and myself. As usual It always pays to notice what the player on your right is collecting because they will be able to trade, ship and so on before you. Neil sitting to my right was going into the Corn market bigtime. The corn strategy has been tried before in our games and is a bit of a gamble, but Neil got it right as you will see. Garry seemed to diversify going Indigo, Sugar and Tobacco, Natalie was mainly Coffee and Indigo and Steve was Tobacco and quarries, lots of quarries. I started with a bit of Corn but with Neil on my right cornering the market I decided not to go that route collecting Sugar and Coffee. I was to Garry’s right so could get rid of my sugar before him and was far enough away from Nat so the Coffee should be OK.

In the end the game was extremely close, the only player not to buy a 10 building was Neil, everybody else had one each. Both Steve and Garry were having to throw stuff off the dock not having a warehouse early on. I got an Office which enabled me to sell my Coffee more easily. Neil got the Wharf which enabled him to ship shedloads of corn, which of course was his strategy. A very close game which the results will show.

Final Scores (C = chips, B=Buildings, Bo=Bonuses)

Garry 28c, 14b, 7bo = 49VP, Natalie 16c, 22b, 12bo =50VP, Steve 13c, 16b, 6bo = 35VP, Neil 42c, 10b, 0bo = 52VP, Colin 28c, 15b, 7bo = 50VP

Rating (0-10)

Colin 9

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tuesday 24th August - Hansa/Favoriten

Well, in this session we managed to play a couple of games, Hansa, the newish offering from Michael Schacht, and Favoriten, a 1989 game involving betting on racehorses. First up was Hansa and participating in this one was Neil, Steve, Garry and myself. Only Steve had played before so first plays for the rest of us. Here is a brief desciption of the game from Boardgamegeek.

Players are merchants of the Hansiatic League. Players take control of the ship and buy and sell goods, establish trading posts, and sail to find new markets. The board is a very simple map of Scandanavia, with arrows from point to point restricting where the boat is able to move. Active player takes control of boat and must pay to move to each new city where he may either buy, sell, or expand. Players wants sets of goods that they can trade for victory points, but also need to expand market presence to generate revenue.

Steve definitely had an advantage having played before, Garry and myself were struggling a bit early on trying to find the best strategy. Neil seemed to grasp the game pretty good and was keeping up with Steve. The action to replenish the goods tiles seemed to fall at my door quite a lot, good play by the others I am sure. Anyway Steve ran out a comfortable winner with Neil and Garry being quite close together and me finishing in a pretty lame last place. Need to play again, I enjoyed the game even though I came last and as it plays in less than hour is sure to hit the table again. Only four player though which could restrict its choice.

Final Scores

Steve 12 City + 36 VP = 48, Garry 10 City + 25 VP = 35, Neil 16 City + 22 VP = 38, Colin 10 City + 17 VP = 27

Rating (0-10)

Colin 7

After our expoits trading in the Baltic Neil sat out and Natalie joined us for a game of Favoriten, a fairly old (1989) game involving betting on 5 horses racing round the track. This game by Walter Müller is fairly light with quite a bit of luck in the dice rolls. But there are decisions to be made and the game rolls along fairly quickly and we played a 3 race series which played in about 40 minutes. Ah, games with dice and a splodge of luck, right up my street then. The turn sequence involves betting on the horses, anyone can bet in anyones turn, rolling the dice and choosing which horse to move. You roll the dice once for each horse and obviously you want the good rolls for the horses that you have bet on and the bad rolls for your rivals. A good deal of banter and such make this game a light but enjoyable romp.

Final Results

Natalie 30+38+44 = 112, Steve 46+40+41 = 127, Garry 28+0+61 = 89, Colin 60+60+41 = 161

Rating (0-10)

Colin 6.5

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Computers - love them or hate them?

I know this blog is primarily about games or games related stuff but I also like tinkering about with computers so I occasionally post bits about them too. My computer, which I have had for about 2 and half years has been pretty well behaved. I do try to keep up with all the safeguards against viruses, spyware and the like. Also I regularly defrag, and clear out the registry of redundant keys and dump old files. But I have had this problem for about, oh, I don’t know must be 4-6 months, whenever I connect to the net and boot up IE it takes like 15, yes 15 minutes to display the first page. After that it’s OK and everything is normal speed. Not life threatening but extremely annoying, especially when I was on dial-up with a limited time contract. Now I am on broadband and I still get the problem. I have tried lots of things to get rid of this annoying problem. Binned off ZoneAlarm, thought that might be causing a problem. Trouble is I can’t remember exactly when it started so it’s difficult to ascertain what software I put on that’s causing the problem. If it is a piece of software.

I have just thought, maybe it’s IE itself, so I installed Firefox, nice browser by the way. Nope, still the same. After my last fruitless tinker session the time lag seems to have come down to 9 minutes. Nearly finished ranting now, lol, but you know what I mean. I really love messing about with my computer and surfing and stuff but now this annoying bug is driving me nuts!! If I manage to eradicate this, I will keep you posted of what it was. I’m sure it will be something stupid and simple, which will make it worse. Gnash! Gnash!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Tuesday 17th August - Seafarers of Catan

I can’t say the Catan series of games are my favourites being well and truly stuffed in a few of them by horrendous dice roles. Of course it could have been my bad choice of initial position for my starting settlements. Anyway on last nights menu was Seafarers of Catan. I have only played this one once before quite a while ago so can’t remember much about it. Attendees for this one were Myself, Steve, Garry and Neil. I went second after Neil so had a chance to get a decent position for my first settlement. The board for Seafarers initial placement is not very big so there’s a good chance you could be treading on somebody else’s toes from the off. I had both of my initial settlements bordering brick tiles and quite close to the brick port so I quickly built a settlement on the port. One of the tiles was a six and that quickly became a target for the robber.

As the game developed those brick tiles did enable me to generate a lot of cards, robber withstanding, Neil sailed across the sea to colonise one of the islands and Garry treked across the desert to establish an outpost there. Steve meanwhile seemed to be lagging behind a little although it was all very close. Both Garry and myself were garnering handfuls of cards and consequently dreading the robber. A couple of times we were caught out and had to discard substantial amounts of resources. Steve was quietly buying development cards and eventually got the army card, Neil had long since captured the longest road and managed to hang on to it throughout the game.

I managed to get to an island and eststablish a colony there and hoped to sail along the coast across to the next island but the pirate soon put paid to that! End game it was very tight with trading almost non-existent with everyone afraid of helping a rival to the win. Then Steve who had been behind a lot of the time managed to build an upgrade and turned over a development card VP to claim the win. Phew!! The final scores reflect the closeness of the game. Which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way.

This variant of Catan and the Stone Age one are definitely my favourites of the range. Garry suprisingly had never played any version of Catan and as this was his first game did really well even though he was in last place.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

*Neil 11, Colin 11, Steve 12, Garry 10

Rating (0-10)

Colin 8.5

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Tuesday August 10th - Stadens Nyckel

After a little discussion we decided that our game tonight would be Stadens Nyckel, a swedish city development game. Here is the description from the Geek.

In this fun but luck-intensive game, players represent noble families trying to build up their neighborhoods and have their family members in high offices at the right times. These goals are aided by cards, which either aid families competing for high office or show buildings that can be placed in the neighborhoods. At the end of each turn an event card takes effect, giving points to officeholders, allowing free building, or causing some other occurrence. Layed out around the board during game setup, these event cards are revealed to allow players to see the upcoming three events. When all the event cards have taken effect, players score points for their neighborhoods and for occupying high offices. The player with the most points takes the day.

Steve had been wanting to play this for some time but the opportunity never seemed to arise, anyway tonight he got his wish. After a rather hesitant stumble through the rules I don’t think anybody really knew what they were doing. So press onward, it will all become clear as we play we thought. Well, sort of, money is tight throughout the game and Richard just kept taking the money, which ultimately payed off in the end as he was a convincing winner. As the description in the geek says, rather luck based. Steve had tried to eliminate some of the luck by writing some house rules, which we didn’t know about until half way through the game. Not one of our favourites and probably not likely to hit the table again, but worth giving it a go.

Final Scores

Neil 10, Richard 15, Natalie 11, Steve 11, Colin 8, Garry 5

Rating (0-10)

Colin 5

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Tuesday 3rd August - Maharaja

As Natalie and Neil couldn’t make it this week we suspended the rota and played the two new games that Steve brought along. First up was Maharaja, I think all of us were eagerly anticipating playing this one. First time anyone had played and the participants were: Steve, Garry, Richard and Colin.

After reading through the rules which took nearly half an hour we was ready for the off. Richard was the starting player and after choosing our starting jobs and placing our first four houses we started picking our two actions on the action disk. A quick word about the jobs, I diligently wrote down what each player chose at the start but as the jobs changed hands nearly every turn I don’t think that made much difference. Here they are for reference anyway. Steve 2 Richard 4 Garry 5 Colin 6. Here is a quick description of what the jobs do. 1. Mogul: moves first and breaks ties, 2. Trader: player gets 1 gold. 3. Sadhu: Outer palaces are worth 2 instead of 1. 4. Wandering Monk: Travel costs are paid by the bank for the player. 5. Builder: Builds or moves an additional house for free. 6. Artisan: Pays only 9 for palaces. Not knowing what initial strategy to pursue I made a crucial blunder by not getting in the first city to be scored which left me low on cash for the early part of the game. As each player takes their two actions in the order of the lowest number on the action card first, by the time you get your two actions the whole board position could have changed quite a lot. Also trying to plan which cities are likely to be scored next is a bit of a lottery as the position of the governor on the track can change rapidly.

Garry got the Sadhu (outer palaces worth 2) early and got a lot of cash from it. This is a powerful job and with it only being number 3 doubly so. Game lasted about 1 hour 40 minutes and seemed to go quite quickly. There is a lot to think about in this game and the strategies will take a couple of plays to emerge fully I think.

Final Scores

Steve 5 palaces + 9 gold, *Richard 5 palaces + 5 gold, Garry 7 palaces, Colin 4 palaces (*starting player)

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

Richard had to head off after Maharaja so we decided to squeeze in a quick game of Fish Eats Fish, another Renier Knizia confection.

Each player has a set of plastic fish which move about a board with a grid pattern on it. When two fish are next to each other a fight ensues. Players each have an identical set of cards and plays one card to enhance the fishes score in the battle. There are also octupii?, which nullify the fight, and a shark which is an automatic win. Unless the other player plays the shark too of course. Anyway a nice filler for 25-30 minutes. Garry run away with this one too. His hungry fish gobbling up all the others on the board.

Final Scores

Steve 0, *Garry 14, Colin 9 (*starting player)

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 6

Another double win for Garry, he puts it down to the two pots of coffee he has before playing!!

Friday, July 30, 2004

Finally decided to go Broadband

After using a dial-up connection to access the internet for 4 or 5 years I have finally decided to take the plunge to go broadband. I kept going over my limit on my number of hours and paying extra so I thought I might as well bite the bullet and pay for broadband. Also my other half has recently taken an interest in using the internet so increased usage is a definitely possibility. Anyway which ISP? Which speed of connection? The latter is admittedly limited by my budget. After reading several magazines and surfing info on the net I have decided to go with Pipex. Their Extreme 250 seemed to suit my pocket and give a reasonable gain in speed, 5x dial-up.

So far their service has been excellent, emails informing me of the progress of my order and an order tracker on their website that you can look at. Ordered on a Sunday, email arrived telling me the line should be ready on the week friday. Modem arrived on Thursday, installation looks fairly straightforward. Hope that’s not famous last words!! Anyway all ready to go just waiting for dear old BT now.

Certain concerns expressed by other persons in the household, eg. the missus, that I would be spending all my time playing MTGO are completely unfounded by the way. :0)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Tuesday July 27th - Ticket to Ride

Attendees for an outing of this year’s Spiele de Jahre winner were: Steve, Garry, Neil, Natalie, Colin.

I only found out that it was my choice when I checked my emails in the morning, so not having a game with me I had a quick think of what everybody else had a copy of. Ah, Ticket to Ride, that sounds good, I know Garry has a copy so a rapid email to get him to bring his copy along and we’re all set.

The most experienced traveller we decided was Steve who had been to Melbourne. So he started, I had 3 reasonable tickets and decided to keep all three. I got a couple of good routes in early and took an early lead. Garry was steadily collecting train cards and did’nt get on the score track for a while. But then, Bam, a hefty 6 trainer and 15 points and he was off. Natalie got blocked off a couple of times and consequently found it difficult to complete her tickets. The game proved to be very close and before you know it somebody is down to one or two cars and you only have one turn left. Surprisingly nobody took any extra tickets in this game, concentrating I think after completing their tickets to just grabbing the biggest routes they could.

The final score was extremely close with Garry and Neil tieing for the lead and both having two completed tickets, the win went to Garry with the longest completed train.

Final Scores

*Steve 96 Garry 109 Neil 109 Natalie 77 Colin 98 (*Starting Player)

Ratings (0-10)

Colin 8.5

That only took just over the hour so with some time left we decided to give the Ark of the Covenant a quick run.

I think this is the simplest of all the Carcassonne variants, to encourage more family play perhaps. Anyway, A few large cities started to grow and I couldn’t seem to get in any of them. The Ark was moving fairly regularly garnering a steady stream of points for everybody. A couple of large fields emerged, luckily I managed to get in one of them. Garry scored a couple of temples and had an easy win. I only had one meeple on the board at the final scoring, but the points I made during the game surprisingly gave me second spot.

Final Scores

*Garry 80 Steve 57 Natalie 56 Colin 62 Neil 57 (*Starting Player)

Ratings (0-10)

Colin 6.5

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

MTGO - Fifth Dawn

OK, the new expansion for MTGO appeared last week. The release events seem to have gone off reasonably well. They had to put a user cap on for a while but the servers seemed to cope OK. At least we didn’t get the major crashes that happened when Darksteel came online. I have just purchased 2 boosters and 22 tickets. It’s not the same as tearing real boosters open and feverishly seeing what rare you’ve got though.

And tickets, well, they are a sort of online currency. You use them to pay the entry fee for leagues, drafts and the like. But also use them to buy cards in the marketplace and trading post. I like to get tix (as they are known) and then just get the cards I want for specific deck ideas. I find my pocket doesn’t suffer so much that way. And I get a couple of reasonable decks to play in the casual rooms.

Haven’t had a chance to log on to see what my 2 boosters contain, crap I expect. But that’s part of the lure of the game as the manufacturers know full well. I will let you know how my first experiences with Fifth Dawn fair shortly.

Also at times of these new releases I do wish I had broadband. To download the Fifth Dawn images and associated updates for the MTGO client took me almost 90 mins. When I first installed MTGO the downloads took 6-7 HOURS!! So broadband would be a godsend.

Tuesday 20th July - Java

Java is the middle game in a 3 game series, Tikal, Java and Mexica by the designers Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer.

Attendees last night were Garry, Steve and myself. Only Steve had played the game before and confessed that it was one of his favourites. Garry and I concluded that we were in for a tonking!

Steve ran through the rules and outlined a few starting strategies for us to get us going. You have 6 action points to spend each turn and it is not enough!! Basically the water tiles (cisterns) were quickly placed breaking up the board into interesting shapes. Then it is a case of placing tiles, triples which are in a common pool, doubles and singles which each player has a limited number of. Building villages and founding palaces garner points. If you have the right cards you can then hold a festival and get some more points.

Steve cunningly left the ploy of enlarging the village to a 10, building a palace and then splitting it up and building another palace in the offshoot until actual play. Sneaky I say. This game makes you really think and could easily develop into analysis paralysis. Fortunately our game didn’t and progressed along quite quickly. The game ends when the last triple tile is placed and if you don’t keep an eye on them you find that their are only a few left.

In the last few turns you are trying to get your men to the highest position in each village because at the end of the game the highest in each village scores the value of that village. The last player to place the final triple tile ends the game. He then scores his men in each village and the other players have a final turn and score their men. Both Garry and myself where under the impression that the final scoring would be at the end after each player had taken their final turn which in my case definitely would have made a difference. Yes, I know I came last but that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it. ;-)

Final Scores

Steve 120 Garry 93 *Colin 92 *Starting Player

Ratings for Java (0-10)

Colin 8 Steve 10 Garry ?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Tuesday 13th July - Alhambra

Todays game is Alhambra, the theme is building a palace around your central fountain. The game is deck driven and the scoring cards are shuffled into the deck and appear at random intervals during game. This gives you three scoring phases, the two cards and end game. Seating arrangement tonight is Neil/Steve/Colin/Richard/Natalie. Not sure if this has any significance like Puerto Rico but I thought I would mention it. We managed to get 2 games in, playing time just over 60 mins each. Anyway on to the games.


1st Scoring - Neil ?, *Steve ?, Colin 0, Richard 0, Natalie ?. (*Starting player)

Unfortunately I forgot to note the scores. Doh! All I know is that Richard and I scored zero points in this phase.

The scoring card came out really early on and both Richard and I had’nt built any buildings at all.

2nd Scoring - Neil 25, Steve 25, Colin 19, Richard 23, *Natalie 43.

Wow, Natalie with a huge advantage at this point. Richard had a handful of cards and complained that Natalie was able, with only 2 or 3 cards to buy her buildings for the exact amount. The large wall Natalie was able to score was evidence of this lucky, er, sorry skilful play.

Final Scoring - Neil 64, Steve 83, Colin 58, Richard 77, Natalie 92.

After the second scoring buildings were steadily bought by all players, well except by me, couldn’t seem to get the colours/shapes I needed. This may have been because after the game Steve informed me that he was noting what colour of cards I was taking and endeavouring to take the same so he could buy the tiles before me. Sneaky I say. A convincing win for Natalie. The longest wall/road longest anything tactic pays off for Natalie yet again.


1st Scoring - Neil 11, Steve 10, Colin 5, Richard 0, *Natalie 12. (*Starting player)

As you can see Richard and I still got off to a shaky start. I at least had a couple of buildings. Natalie again had a good wall. With some excellent exact purchases again.

2nd Scoring - Neil 30, Steve 46, Colin 30, Richard 29, Natalie 30.

Scores fairly even here except for Steve who has pulled out a healthy lead. Richard made a large leap from 0 to hero, no sorry, 29 points actually.

Final Scoring - Neil 76, Steve 93, Colin 76, Richard 78, Natalie 82.

Well, as you can see Steve made exactly 10 more points than he did in the first game for the win and Natalie made exactly 10 points less than the first game to come second. Steve had the good fortune to be holding most money in the right colour to get the last purple building putting him in first in that colour garnering him a large 21 points and putting me into second place in that colour. Doh!

Ratings for Alhambra

Colin 6, Steve 6, Neil pass, Natalie 8.5, Richard ?

Neil is not fond of numerical rating systems and declined to rate.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Magic The Gathering - Cool Game or Cash Cow?

Around 1994 I became interested in a game called Magic: The Gathering. As everyone knows, or almost everyone in gaming circles, MTG became a huge hit and single cards from early print runs sold for hundreds of pounds. If only I had bought shedloads of those first runs. I remember seeing displays in the game shops and wondering what this strange new game was. Doh! Anyway from 1994 to 1999 I collected folders full of cards and played the game quite seriously, entering a few tournaments and pre-releases. Soon though the player base in my area dwindled and the cards seemed to be getting stale. A new expansion every 3 months became very expensive as well. So my gaming opportunities and the depth of my pocket became considerably smaller.

Now my paper cards gather dust in my folders and a new phenomon has appeared. The internet! Now this may have been unlucky or lucky depending on how you look at it. Surfing quietly minding my own business I happened upon the old Wizards of the Coast website that I had bookmarked. Ah well, I’ll have a look and see if anything has changed much. Seems the same nothing changed.....hang on, what’s this link..... magic online. Like the sucker I am I thought I’ll just have a look and see what this is all about. That was six months or so ago. Now I have a collection of about 550 digital cards, yes digital cards!! The online game has a lot going for it. Players to play against 24/7, drafts, leagues and tournaments too. The graphic interface is superb and the software handles all the rules, counters and score keeping. On the downside they have had problems with the servers crashing and plenty of bugs with new releases. The digital equivalent of paper comes out about a month after the paper release. Also the digital cards cost the same as paper. And you are only leasing the right to use the images, you don’t actually own the cards!!

Why am I still playing, quite simply because MTG is a good game and the convenience of being able to play when I want is great. I have played hundreds of games in the casual player rooms and have only had two bad experiences. They went straight on my blocked list. Oh yes, you can block players if they are whiners, whingers, bad sports or cheats. Then you never see them again in the playing rooms, chat rooms or anywhere. They’ve gone for good. Likewise if you have a good game with someone, interesting cards, nice chat in-game or such you can add them to your buddy list and you get a dialogue box up when you log on to tell which of your buddies is logged at the time.

I will write more about my MTGO experiences if anything of note occurs. Hopefully when Fifth Dawn, the new expansion that is released this week, hits the servers they will stay up and running. We wait with baited breath.

Friday, July 9, 2004

Steve’s Rating System

Further to Steve’s email about the rating system, here are his values. Hopefully people will take these into consideration when basing their evaluation of a game played.


T - A 'Top 10' game. Not limited to 10 games, but includes all the games that are or have ever been in a player's top 10, or that were ever considered for inclusion.

L - Love/Like. Basically these are all the games that you might consider suggesting if it's your choice, although probably not counting those that you might suggest simply because you haven't played them for years, or because thay have nostalgia value.

S - So-So. All the other games that you don't object to playing.

G - Groan. These are games that you don't actively hate, but that cause your heart to sink if you find you have to play them (games in this category for me include History Of The World, Formula Motor Racing, and Diplomacy (because I can't help thinking how many German games I could play in the same time)).

H - Hate. Games you will try to avoid playing and, if you do have to play them, you will try to make them end quickly, eg. by deliberately going bankrupt.

N - Games you have never played.

What I'm coming to is, it would be helpful if the ratings we give to games under Colin's system were directly related to those in my system, so I suggest the following mapping:

H = 0 - 2.5

G = 3 - 4.5

S = 5 - 6.5

L = 7 - 8.5

T = 9 - 10

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Comments enabled

OK, after Natalie pointed out that comments could not be posted I have gone into settings and guess what? Comments have to be enabled. So please add any thoughts you have on the games we played the blogg or anything really.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Tuesday 6th July - Santiago

Attendees at last nights session were, Natalie, Neil, Steve, Garry and myself. The game on the table, Santiago. I had played only once before and I think Steve had played a couple of times. First play for Garry, Nat and Neil. I had read through the rules on the train heading home to refresh my memory. This gave me an idea of the mechanisms of the game but no idea what the best strategy to pursue was. Anyway, after Steve had run through the rules and we had established that Neil was to be the first Water Carrier off we went. Steve grabbed the overseer on the first turn but after that he changed hands fairly regularly. A fairly large sugar cane field developed which unfortunately I did not have a presence on. I did get on a reasonable pea field with Nat though. As the game developed the bidding became fairly high for the best tiles, and quite a decent chilli field appeared which I managed to get 7 men on. The only time I had the Water Carrier was on the last turn which ensured that I could get the last tile in chilli field irrigated, worth 7 points to me. In the end the scores were quite close. Steve had a theory about this game and after a couple of ‘that wasn’t supposed to happen’ comments I think perhaps his theory needs a rethink.

Final Scores

Neil* 54

Natalie 65

Garry 64

Colin 73

Steve 65

*denotes starting player

Game Ratings (0-10)

Colin 7.5 Steve 9 Natalie 6 Neil pass Richard 7.5

Neil declined to rate and Richard who didn’t play this time but has played it several times before chipped in his rating.

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Billygames tonight

Another tuesday, another Billygames session. Hopefully Garry will be able to come tonight, what with a hectic work schedule and hols he has’nt been able to make it for a while. Should have been his pick but he’s swopped with Steve so we can play Santiago. Apparently Steve’s writing a strategy article and wants to test his theory, should be interesting. Random play I think to see if his theory can cope. He! He! Anyway we may be six so Neil has offered to sit out. Santiago only plays five. I have played only once at Richard’s and cant remember the rules, so will try to have a read through before we start. Tomorrow I will post a report and results.

Sunday, July 4, 2004

Game Session 3.7.04

Steve, Richard and Jo arrived just before 12 noon and after introductions, Jo had’nt met Tina, and chat we started our session about 12.30.


First up was Saint Petersburg, I had the Rio Grande version. None of us had played before so we all knew as much as each other about the strategy necessary. Jo was the start player and quickly built up a good buildings collection and garnered good VPs from them all game. Money seemed tight for all at the start I concentrated on getting a good worker base to up my income level. Richard didn’t have more than 3/4 workers for a lot of the game. I don’t think there was much strategy going on as this was a first play, anyway at the end I had 100 ruples left but not a lot of VPs.....erm, I think I will need to rethink my game plan next time.

Final Scores:

Jo 127*

Steve 108

Richard 98

Colin 93

*denotes start player

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5 Jo 9 Steve 7


Goa is a game that I have read lots about on Boardgame Geek. But the analysis of the auction system has baffled me more than enlightened me! So I did my own thing and hoped it was’nt drastically wrong. There are many roads to victory in this game and Steve seems to favour the expedition card route and Jo followed him down this avenue. I went for colonist development early to get those colonies going, although this didn’t quite work out as you will see. Richard seemed to be developing his tracks fairly evenly. To be fair Steve romped away with this game, developing 2 tracks to the 10 pt level and having all 4 colonies plus those expedition cards to give a very good score of 51. The rest of us all tied for second spot maybe more by luck than judgement. I never got any tracks to 10pts, fatal I think if you have hopes of winning. And I only got the last colony because I drew an expedition card that let me harvest colonists instead of spice. I got it on my last action. Richard was also struggling for that last colony and got his also as his last action. A couple of things to note was that Steve only had one extra action card the whole game (the only time he had he flag), ne never took the money action at all and only bought his own tile in the auction once. Good game.

Final Scores Boards(B) Colonies(C) Bonus(Bo) Expedition cards(Ex) Money(M) Total(T)

Steve 30B 10C 3Bo 8Ex -M 51T

Colin* 21B 10C 5Bo 1Ex -M 37T

Jo 16B 10C -Bo 11Ex -M 37T

Richard 23B 10C 1Bo -Ex 3M 37T

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 9 Jo 8 Steve 9.5

By the way this game took quite a long time and we had to break with 2 rounds to go for refreshment. The interval gave us time to review the game board so far and re-evaluate our strategy if necessary. Not really anything we could do as Steve had almost won the game by now!!


This trick taking card game by Stefan Dorra finished of the day. I picked this game up in a game shop in Bad Ischl, Austria when I could’nt find the game I really wanted. Anyway its not a bad closer. Again it was the first play for everyone, so not too sure what the best plays were. The usefulness of the saboteur was debated but Jo could’nt resist and grabbed it to find out if he could scupper everyone’s plans. Richard also dabbled with him (the saboteur that is, not Jo), and they both seemed to have some success keeping their negative points down. Steve on the other hand had a strategy implosion and gathered minus points very easily much to his disgust. Bit of fun anyway.

Final Scores after 4 hands

Colin -9

Richard -14

Jo -14

Steve* -17

Game Rating (0-10)

Colin 6.5 Jo 6 Steve 6

All in all a very enjoyable day which came a close about 8.30. Must do it again soon.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Tomorrows a games day!

02/07/04 - Well, I suppose this blog is just to keep a record of my thoughts and results of boardgames I have bought, played and liked or disliked. Tomorrow I have a few friends coming over to try out a couple of new 4 player games. Saint Petersburg, which I have only played with my other half, and Goa which I have played twice. Goa is a deep thinking game that has many paths to victory. I shall try a different strategy tommorow. The colonists and spice route didnt quite work last time so I shall maybe try expedition cards and colonists this time. I know Steve wants to play Santiago to test his theory for the strategy article he is writing so that’s on the agenda as well. Our session will start around noon and probably go on until about 8ish. Session report to follow hopefully.