Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tuesday 13th December - Byzantium

On the table today was Martin Wallace's Byzantium, his newish release from Essen this year. A game with many nuances and sublties. If you read this blog regularly you will have seen that we played this a few weeks ago, but didn't finish the game, it was more of a learning curve. This time we had a quick run through the rules, with the movement costs for sea travel and attacking cities getting some attention. I was randomly picked as the starting player and the opening moves seem to be claim cities and grab the emperor or caliph first. The place I picked to start last time wasn't
optimum as I ended up being caught in a pincer between two powers and squeezed out.

Well, the position I picked this time didn't turn out to be a lot better. The game is a fairly long affair, it took us about 3 hours and money is quite tight in the early turns. Combat occurred early on when Steve and Richard started on the Persians. Steve had grabbed a couple of 3 stack Byzantine cities and Richard activated the Bulgars to try and eliminate one of these, successfully.

As the game progressed Steve and Richard were battling it out in the front and I was reduced to attacking quite a lot. I actually attacked one of Garry's Byzantine cities 3 times and was repulsed every time. I sort of lost heart after that. Richard was building Mosques and Churches like they were going out of fashion and in the end it proved decisive as the final score shows. Garry was doing reasonably well and Richard thought at one point that he would vie for lead but as it turns out in the end the win was a close thing.

Final Scores
Richard 72, Steve 70, Garry 58, Colin 46

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will see my thoughts on Age of Steam, almost everybody hails this game as a classic. I seem to have a mental block regarding it and I have a sneaking suspicion that Byzantium is going to fall into the same category. I do like most types of games, the exception being dexterity games and games with lots of maths and caculations. Not that I'm that bad at maths but it seems to take the edge off of an enjoyable experience if my head is full of figures and stuff. Not that Byzantium has a lot of maths, I just don't know what it is. I can enjoy immensly a game that I don't do well at if I enjoy playing the game. I could come last but still enjoy the experience of playing the game. Puerto Rico is one of my favourites, one time I may win and another I may do disasterously, but I still enjoy playing. Railroad Tycoon is another example, although a derivative of AoS, I really enjoyed my one game, even though I didn't do particularly well. A lot of the maths had been removed, the ability to take shares as you go to pay for actions makes it a better experience for me. But thats just me.

Anyway have a happy and enjoyable gaming Christmas, the next session for
Billygames is not planned until January 3rd, so until then.........

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tuesday 6th December - Durch Die Wuste/Diamante

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Tonight we a guest appearance of Jo, always a welcome visitor to our games night. It was Garry's choice and he wanted to play games that he had purchased at Essen this year, so Durch die W├╝ste was on the table. I think everyone had played except me and Garry. Jo quickly ran through the rules and considering this was a Renier Knizia game the way you score points seemed fairly straightforward. The colour of the camels were very pastel and could easily be mistaken in other than good light. A mistake I made once
during the game. Anyway as this is a fairly old game I expect most people are familiar with the concept, you form camel trains across the desert trying to connect to waterholes and oasis's and enclose areas to score points. At the end of the game the biggest group in each colour scores 10 points also you get 1 point for each unoccupied hex that you have enclosed with your camels. I managed to enclose a couple of areas and have the biggest yellow group and garnered a surprising win.

Final Scores (waterholes, oasis, biggest group, enclosed hexes)
Colin 23+15+15+11=64
Steve 14+10+20+11=55
Richard 13+15+5+13=46
Jo 15+15+15+8=53
Garry 22+5+0+10=37


Originally uploaded by coljen.
Garry also had a copy of Alan Moon's game Diamante which again only Garry and myself hadn't played. Jo ran through a very colourful description of the rules for our benefit. Of which this is an abbreviated extract, not verbatim but close enough. Each player has a playing piece shaped like a man in his own colour. To determine whether you are staying in or out of the cave you take your man in your hand under the table!! We then all place our fists on the table and reveal simultaneously. If your man is in your hand, then you are exiting the cave, if your man is in your hand under the table you are penetrating further in!!! Well, that was worth the purchase price of the game to start with.I found this to be a fun, light game with a short playing time. Ideal for non-gamers and to round off a gaming session. We played 3 games and Steve ran away the easy winner. Jo had the distinction of scoring no points in the last game. Richard was determined to get a good score in the second game and bravely ventured on alone into the cave only to get clobbered with a large pile of gems in front of him. Expletive deleted!!!
In the picture you can see Jo's expression after getting, not the 17 card he wanted, but an explosion which ended his little expedition this time.
Final Scores
Game 1
Steve 33, Jo 29, Garry 25, Richard 5, Colin 14

Game 2
Steve 43, Jo 15, Garry 8, Richard 14, Colin 20

Game 3
Steve 14, Jo 0, Garry 15, Richard 27, Colin 18

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Tuesday 29th November - Winchester/Packeis am Pol/Puerto Rico

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Garry couldn't make it tonight because of work commitments so it was only Steve, Richard and myself. Before Richard arrived Steve and I had a quick game of Packeis am Pol, a game I hadn't played before. The rules are simplicity itself. You place a series of hexes to form the board, these have a number of fish on them from 1 to 3. You take turns in placing your penguins on the board then you can move them in a straight line picking up the hex you start from. Trying to corner your opponent and secure sections of the board for yourself is the name of the game and Steve soon had me stitched up.

Final Score
Steve 52, Colin 47

Then Richard arrived, it was Richard's choice and he wanted to play something he hadn't played for a long time so he chose Kremlin. But as there was only three players he thought it might not play so well, fortunately he had bought along with him Winchester. This is an old game by David Rostherne of Railway Rivals fame. Basically it's a race game, trying to get your five dobbers round the track avoiding the obstacles and other players on the way. Movement is accomplished by rolling a die which has chess moves on it. So a player rolls the die and then each player moves one of his dobbers according to the rules of chess. If you take another players piece they are not removed from the game you just swap places. There is a scoring chart and as players get their pieces home they go on the chart and score points. There are various bonuses, first piece home, 3 pieces in a row, all pieces home and so on. The mechanic works OK, but I think we all found it a bit dry for our taste. Probably not going to come out again for a long while.

Final Score
Richard 49, Colin 43, Steve 28

Finally we just had time for a 3 player game of Puerto Rico, always a favourite in our group this turned out to be a very close game indeed. I opted to go for the construction hut and the hospice so that they came out manned. I didn't have many goods the entire game, just able to produce 1 indigo, 1 tobacco and 1 corn at a time. I did have the large market which helped me when I sold my tobacco and this combined with the 4 quarries helped me to get 2 large buildings. Richard was doing very well too and got 3 large buildings. Steve was doing a lot of shipping and did ship over twice as much as Richard or myself. I think my large buildings did give me more VPs than Richards (1vp for every 3 colonists, and 1vp for every violet building). In the end the scores were very close.

Final Scores
Colin 52, Richard 51, Steve 47

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Tuesday 22nd November - Power Grid/France

Originally uploaded by coljen.
I have played Power Grid only a couple of times but it is a game that I really like, so as it was my choice this week I thought we'd give one of the new maps a run out. France looked like a good bet with the extra nuclear power and slightly different set-up of resources. The triple city of Paris with no connection charges looks a good place to start for the first player to build, but as they warn in the set-up rules this could be a drawback as they will be last to buy resources and build next turn. Anyway Steve went first and snapped up two of the Paris locations and built a third city so did indeed end up last next turn. I started building just to the south west of Paris, Garry to the west and Richard further down south east. This map does give you space to build and nobody got really stuffed. Whereas the Italian map looks really crowded, be interesting to see if that is the case when we do play it. Considering that more uranium is in the initial set-up of resources and a nuclear power plant is the first one off of the deck it seems slightly strange that the uranium is not given more when you re-stock each turn.What was interesting was Richard building cities all over the map but for most of the game, up until the penultimate turn I think, only supplying 5. The right power plants just didn't turn up and there was quite a lot of passing. I think we had 2 rounds where everybody passed and no power plants were bought at all. Actually in the game the nuclear power plants didn't feature much, I had one for a time, Garry had a couple but I don't think Steve or Richard had any. I know I made a couple of mistakes but didn't think I was doing too bad. Nearing the end game Steve, Garry and I could all supply 15 cities and Richard had finally got the one he wanted and went up to 18. I made a big mistake which cost me dear in the end, as I failed to notice the coal resource gradually drying up and when Steve bought it all on the last turn it shut down my power plant that could supply 6 cities. So Richard finally got the win, the first game of Power Grid he had won he told us.

Final Scores (Money is the tie-break)
Richard 18, Steve 15 (60 money), Garry 15 (22 money), Colin 9

Power Grid France - Close up of Board

Originally uploaded by coljen.
This is a close-up of the board around the Paris region. Notice the 3 centre city with no connection costs. As an aside I have just got a new digital camera, an Olympus Mju 600, and these and the pics of Byzantium are the first taken with it. I have to say the macro mode is going to come in really handy. The quality is really good.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tuesday 15th November - Byzantium

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Tonight was a chance for us to tackle Byzantium, the new game from Martin Wallace published by Warfrog. None of us had played before so Steve ran through the rules. This took about 40 minutes. I thought it a bit like Caylus, no not the game but the way the rules looked a bit daunting at first, but once you have got into the game it seems to play quite smoothly. Not to say its an easy game, because you need careful planning of your resources to avoid running out of money to pay the upkeep of your army. Actually we knew that we probably wouldn't finish a complate game so we decided to play to a time limit, not ideal but it gives you a chance to explore the games mechanics and hopefully when we play again everyone will know what they are trying to achieve.

The game is unique in that everyone has a Byzantine and Arab army, and that everything is determined by cubes which represent everything. Your army, movement and special actions all involve utilising your cubes. You have a certain amount of free cubes to use and once these are used up you can use cubes off of your playmat for a cost of 3 money each. Basically you have a certain amount of actions you can perfom during your turn. You can take control of a unowned city, strengthen your army, choose a special action, tax, move an army and fight or not, activate the Bulgars and fortify one of your cities. You take one action each in turn until 3 people have passed then the fourth player gets one more action and that ends the round. You
play 3 rounds.You score points for both your Arab and Byzantine armies, at game end your weakest score must be at least half what your strongest score is otherwise
it doesn't count. A bit Knizia like.I started in the middle but soon got caught in a pincer between Richard and Garry so my cities soon dwindled down. Richard activated the Bulgars (just cos he could) and attacked one of Steve's cities with them. Garry worked his way across the med and Steve attacked my Arab cities.

I think we would all have different ideas next time we play, managing your resources is obviously key in the game. I think there was a lot more attacking as we were playing to a time limit so the scores are not very representative of a full game. Anyway after our first play these where the scores.

Final Scores
Steve 47, Garry 45, Colin 41, Richard 37

Byzantium Board Close Up

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Here is a close up of the board. As you can see the components are very very colourful and high quality.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

AoS - Switzerland close up of board

AoS Switzerland 2
Originally uploaded by coljen.
The Winsome maps are in two parts and sort of laminated thin card. But they do the job. This is the central part of the map showing Zurich and surroundings.

Tuesday 8th November - AoS Switzerland

AoS Switzerland 1
Originally uploaded by coljen.
So this week was one of the new maps from Essen for AoS - Switzerland. Richard, as a AoS fan, has written the report for this one, so take it away Richard:

As it was my turn to choose the game for tonight, after a bit of thought, I decided it would nice to play one of the Age of Steam expansion maps that I acquired from Essen in October. As we going to be 4 players, the Switzerland map seemed ideal as it allows upto a maximum of 4 players.The main differences between the Switzerland map and normal Age of Steam map relate to track building in a mountainous country, the full rule differences can be summarised as follows: Some hexes are greyed out - indicating you can't build in them Some hex borders have dark boundaries - indicating you can't build across them Track building, Track Upgrading, Town Building & Upgrading are all $4 There are several tunnels that automatically get built on Turn 5 There also 3 green cities to which accept deliveries of blocks of any colour In a players have the option to buy back one share for $8 each turnRandomly determining starting order results me starting. Initially I issued 2 additional shares (calculating I would need to pay $6 maintenance & $12 for track building plus some a little bit more for bidding). Bidding $2 on first bid I was a little surprised that none of the other players upped the bid.I choose to increase my train size to 2 - whilst Garry took first build, Steve Urbanisation & Colin Turn Order. For our first builds Garry expanded from La Chaux-de-fonds to Bern via Biel, I connected Schaffhausen, Zurich & St Gallen together via Winterthur, Steve expanded east from Geneva to an urbanised Fribourg whilst Colin connected Basel to Zurich via Aarau.My 2 train gave me an advantage on the first turn as I was able to deliver goods generating a total of 4 income, the other played mostly delivered goods to a value of 2 after manually increasing their train size.As the game progresses I expanded east trying to increase my route length by getting to the yellow city Steve had (kindly) placed on Fribourg (I had access to alot of yellow cube on my eastern cities) whilst Steve attempted to expand his route the other way so that he could deliver goods to Geneva (A green city). Garry tried to do a similar thing to Steve and access more cubes that could be delivered to La Chaux-de-fonds (A green city as well), whilst Colin became stymied because of a lack of good to deliver (Almost going broke at one point).As the game entered its final stages, on turn 5, the tunnels were automatically built allowing easier access to the southern part of the board. Despite this we do not connect to Lugano, which remained isolated from the rest of the board. In fact because of the way the map was designed
there was only ever one route into Lugano and that that only became available once the Gotthard tunnel appeared on turn 5. None of us really felt it was worth the effort in building it (Minimum of 2 turns building).At the end of the game both Steve and I were generally shipping blocks for 5 points, which was generally more than Garry or Colin. As I had issued less shares a generated slightly more income during the game I came out the winner.

I know Colin did not enjoy the game as it went badly for him. I don't know why, but he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to playing Age of Steam.The re-strictive nature of the map (ie the mountains) means there is quite a bit of necessity to pay to use other player's track - which means if you get certain routes first you can generate a bit of cash from other players using it. I also felt the game could have done with a bit of extra play testing, especially as regards the consequences of how certain tile plays can restrict access to certain critical parts of the map (one of the reason I think Lugano was not reached was because of how I placed the Zurich - Luzern link on my second build - effectively making it expensive to reach Zug and therefore the tunnel beyond it on Turn 5).

Now all I need to do is get 7 players together for the Netherlands map I have!!

Final Scores
Richard 111, Steve 85, Garry 37, Colin 34

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Tuesday 1st November - Caylus

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Only three of us tonight as Richard has an early start tomorrow to go to Birmingham. Garry decided that we would give Caylus another go and try to get the rules right this time. We just a quick run through of the bits we misplayed last week and we were off. The game definitely played a lot smoother with the correct rules. The castle took on more significance and the favours tracks were used more as a result. As the game progressed you could see that we were all pursuing different strategies. I used the castle quite a bit to get points and favours, Steve built the bank where you could buy gold blocks and was getting on it and the gold mine whenever possible. The provost was travelling down the track fairly quickly nobody was paying to move him but using the free space to move him quite a bit. Garry got in the Inn early and stayed there quite a long time, the stables were used several times, notably by me on the last turn to go first and be able to build the Cathedral.
Steve had been amassing gold cubes regularly and had enough to build the Monument on the penultimate turn and still had 7 or 8 left I think. I was lucky to get to first in the turn order for the last turn because I think Steve had emough cubes to build another prestige building and that may have got him the win. Meanwhile Garry had been collecting gold and grey cubes getting ready to build a prestige building but never got the chance, but he had enough cubes to put 3 batches in the Castle on the last turn and had four gold cubes as well. That gave him an extra 21 points on the last turn which was enough to give him the win by 6 points.
As I said before the game played a lot better now we had the rules nailed. Steve made the comment that there was not a lot of incentive to screw up your opponents because you give up an opportunity to better your own position which could be critical. I was quite surprised also that as there was only three players the game took about 150 minutes. On the geek someone mentioned about 40 minutes per player so we were way over that.

Final Scores
Garry 78, Colin 72, Steve 70

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Caylus - End of game board

Originally uploaded by coljen.
This was the position at the end of the game. As you can see no blue buildings were built at all, and nobody advanced very far along the favours tracks. I think we all will have a better idea of what we are doing next play. Nice board and components though, very colourful.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tuesday 25th October - Caylus

As you can see from a previous post the Billygamers brought a fair few games back from Essen, and as Garry had snagged a copy of Caylus, which won the fairplay poll, I thought that would be a good one to choose. I had downloaded a copy of the rules from the Geek, and after a quick look sent everybody an email suggesting it might be a good idea if they could have a read before our session. The rulebook is 12 pages long and quite comprehensive. It takes a little while to figure out what the mechanisms are and what you are supposed to be doing. The ways that you can score Royal Favour for instance are scattered throughout the rulebook so it is easy to forget you’ve just earned one. The reading of the rules took well over half an hour and together with the set up we didn’t actually start playing for 45 minutes.
However once we had played for while it all started to fall into place. I’m sure that we played a few rules wrong, for instance if you played a worker in the castle but didn’t have the right cubes to build you got -2 prestige points, nope didn’t do that. The person who builds the most houses in a turn in the castle gets a Royal Favour, nope, didn't do that. Also we didn’t notice the space with the goldmine on it until after the final scoring. We had commented that it was proving difficult to get gold. Doh! Nobody got very far up any of the Royal Favour tracks, so I’m sure we’re missing something here. Not one blue building got built either, Richard had the building that allowed you to purchase prestige points and kept getting first dibs on that and scored a fair few points that way. I like the mechanism that the cost to place workers gets more expensive the more people pass. Gives you some interesting decisions. The pub was also quite a popular place, quite a few fights in there to get possession. I guess the game took us at least 150 minutes but I think this will come down next play as we all have a better idea of what is happening. Everybody will have different ideas of how to proceed, probably a lot different to this playing. As to the game components, they were good quality. Nice wooden dobbers, good quality tiles and the board is nicely illustrated.
Even though we misplayed a few rules I think we all enjoyed it. I’m sure our final scores are pretty low and the average winning score is probably a lot higher, but that will change next play I’m sure.

Final Scores
Richard 53, Steve 41, Garry 40, Colin 40

Sunday, October 23, 2005

East of Thebes

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Jo had got a copy of this limited edition game at Essen. I really don't know much about the game and couldn't find an entry on the Geek. Produced by an independent publisher they had forgotten to put in the wooden bits so we had raid a couple of Richard's games for the appropriate bits. Basically the game is about digging for ancient artifacts, you have five areas to dig in, Egypt, Palistine, Macedonia, Greece and Crete. You travel around the world gaining knowledge and equipment (spades, assistants, airships, horses and such) to help you in your execavations. The game is card driven with the four spaces on the board for the cards which are replenished as the players take them. The turn mechanism is quite nifty, each action, travel, digging or the cards you take have a cost in weeks. You move your dobber round the track the appropriate number and the player in last place then takes his turn. Every now and then an exhibition card turns up which is placed round the board a number of weeks in advance of the last players position. If you have the the appropriate artifacts and are in the correct city on the right week you can exhibit (ie you count your artifact cards and add the roll of a die) if have the greater number you take the exhibition card which is worth points at the end of the game.
The game lasts 2 circuits of the board, 2 years, and at the end the players score in a number of ways, very Knizia. The players with the most knowledge in each of the areas scores 4 points, kongress cards score for how many you have collected (1=1, 2=3, 3=6 and so on) exhibition cards, and finally artifact cards. Also the player with the highest score in his weakest area gets 5 points.
I quite enjoyed this game and I hope Jo gets his wooden dobbers soon.

Final Scores
Jo 55, Richard 49, Steve 47, Colin 46

Railroad Tycoon Close Up

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Close up of the board


Originally uploaded by coljen.
Here is a photo of the final board position. Pretty ain't it!!!

Saturday October 22 - Railroad-Tycoon

Originally uploaded by coljen.
So Richard couldn't wait to play Railroad Tycoon and had rustled up a few of us to play this Saturday. Players in attendence for this post Essen game fest were Myself, Steve, Jo, Luke and of course Richard. I travelled over to Richard's house in Haywards Heath with Steve. I hadn't met Luke before as he plays with the group in Burgess Hill. Richard was punching out the hexes and we all pitched in sorting the various bits out. I had run over the rules with Steve as we drove over and everybody else had a rough idea of them. I think Luke was the only one of us who hadn't played AoS which RT was similar to. Anyway we were at last ready for the off, I took a note of the time as we were interested in how long the game was going to take, it says 2 hours on the box but I thought that might be optimistic.
As you can see from the photo the board is huge, hanging off of Richard's table. You have to stand up if you are sitting at one end so you can see what is going on at the other end! In the rules they had suggested that you not let one player gain a monopoly in the north east as there is a concentration of cities there. Consequently only Steve and Luke started there but Luke rapidly went north and west and Steve pioneered down the east coast. Richard started in the south and went west round the foot of the mountains and Jo started in the mid-west and forged a rail link all the way down to New Orleans. I went west across to Chicago and on to the western link city of Desmoines. Right at the start of the game we had a bit of a situation, the card that says 'immediately take 2 actions' is a very powerful one and both of them appeared in the 10 face up cards that started the game, so the player that went first could immediately take the first card and get 2 actions, and with the first of those actions take the other card and get another 2 actions thus getting an extra 3 actions total and of course denying the other players those cards. We hadn't realised that when we had the first auction for 1st player which Steve won. He agreed to do the auction again with the result that the price went up a lot for first player privilege. A five player game ends when 16 empty city markers are on the board, we had played 2 hours before the first marker had appeared! Taking shares to finance your empire is a big part in the game and Richard and Luke were taking shares freely, while Steve, Jo and myself were a bit more consersative. As the game progressed into the third hour Luke and Jo were pulling ahead of the rest of us. But I kept my shares well down and the others thought that my Railroad Tycoon card must be the one for least shares issued, actually it was for longest consecutive rail links, which I had no hope of achieving.
Once those empty city markers start appearing they soon mount up and finally the game ended on the dot at 4 hours. Luke had managed to achieve his RT card for an extra five points and finished a well deserved winner. The share issued were Jo 12, Steve 8, Luke 17, Richard 25 (I think!) and myself 6. I never did build the western link and I think everyone has thoughts on how they would proceed in another game.

Final Scores
Luke 75, Steve 65, Jo 62, Colin 51, Richard 47

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Spam Comments

Seem to have started getting spam comments so have altered the settings so that only registered members can post. Don't know how that works, any feedback welcomed.

Sheep in a Blanket

Originally uploaded by coljen.
As I said the playing pieces are really good, but they are not really protected in the box, only Roger the Ram and the Sheep Shearer are in bubble wrap. Well I showed the wife the game and she was really delighted with the cute little sheep and before I knew it each sheep had it's own little sleeping bag made of bubble wrap. So now they are really snug and well protected. Pity it is only 3-4 player I might have actually had a chance of getting her to play this one!!!! Ah well.


Originally uploaded by coljen.
Shear Panic is the offering by the Lamont Brothers at this year's Essen. I had heard good vibes about the game and as it was limited to 500 copies I pre-ordered a copy. The pictures that appeared on the net of the playing pieces convinced me to order a copy before I had even read the rules. Anyway after Raudritter we wanted to give the sheep a run out. As you can see from the picture the actual playing pieces are superb, high quality resin figures, and the game is very good as well. After Steve had run quickly through the rules, trying to ignore all the puns from the rest of us, off we went. Basically you travel through 4 fields, team tig, Roger's field, Black Sheep tig and the Shear Panic field. Each player has a control mat with 12 actions on, as you use an action you cover it with a 'mutton button', each action has a cost which moves the timer marker on. Your actions get limited as you use them up. In the first field you are trying to get your 2 sheep to touch, in the 2nd field the closest to Roger scores most, in the black sheep field you are trying to touch the black sheep. The last field sees the dreaded Sheep shearer appear, you are trying to get as far away as possible from him as the front row is taken out of the game (ie gets sheared) and the furthest row scores most.
The game flows smoothly with lots of awful puns along the way (ie ewe can't do that, you baaaastard). That said there is quite a lot of strategy in there all contributing to nicely rounded package. I am really glad that I got a copy.

Final Scores
Garry 37, Steve 30, Richard 27, Colin 27

Tuesday 18th - Raubritter and Shear Panic

Originally uploaded by coljen.
So the first session since Essen, and Steve chose the new Rudiger Dorn game Raubritter, or Robber Knights. Basically it is a tile laying game with dobbers a la Carcassonne. Each player has their own set of tiles, some are lettered on the back, A to E. You arrange the tiles in a stack with all the E's on the bottom, then D's and so on so the A's are on top. You always hold 2 tiles in hand, so you play one then draw one. On the tiles are Castles, Villages, Towns, Mountains or lakes. The Castles, Villages or Towns can be on the plains or in the forest. When you lay a Castle you have the option to place up to five knights (ie dobbers) on the Castle and then move them off in a straight line orthogonally. The restrictions are that you must leave at least 1 (on plains) 2 (on forests) and 3 (on mountains). Lakes are impassable. There is a maximum of 4 dobbers allowed on any one tile, the tiles are scored at the end of the game. The knight on top scores as follows: Castles 1 point, Villages 2 points and Towns 3 points.
The playing area is restricted to a 10 x 10 square, so you are laying tiles and dobbers trying to score, and protecting that score and trying to limit the scoring opportunities for your opponents. I liked it even though I came last. The colours on the board ebb and flow during game as one player gets an advantage then it changes completely as another player lays a line of his knights covering all yours (doh!).
Final Scores
Richard 34, Steve 22, Garry 20, Colin 15

The Billygames Essen Haul

As promised here is a complete list of games lugged back by Billygamers from Essen via train, plane and car.

Colin (ie me, in Richard's car)
Railroad Tycoon (couldn't believe how heavy the box was or how big the board is)
Shear Panic (gotta love those sheep)
Memoir '44

Garry (train)
Durch Die Wuste
Power Grid France/Italy Maps
Warfrog Aos Steam Pack
6 Nimmt Special Ed.
Niagara Expansion
Arch Opti Mix
Raub Ritter
Hol's Der Geier

Richard (Car)
Railroad Tycoon
War of the Ring
Aqua Romana
Carcassonne - Neuland
Power Grid France/Italy
E & T The Cardgame
Scream Machine
Carcassonne - Der Fluess 2
1825 Expansion

Steve (Plane)
Go West
El Grande + El Grande Expansions
Raub Ritter
Packeis Am Pol

As you can see quite a haul, Byzantium seems to have been a favourite. We have already played Raub Ritter and Shear Panic, reviews to follow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

So Essen 2005 has been and gone

Time flies as they say and this year's Essen is over already. As you know I didn't make it after all but my good friend Richard crammed a few games into the boot of his TVR and bought them back for me. The games haul for Billygames I will post later when I have all the info. Tonight we are playing at Steve's and at a good guess I reckon we will be playing something that made the trip back from Germany. I have been following a few blogs written by people at the fair, especially Rick Thornquist. It's not the same as being there but gives you a feel for the buzz and excitement that you get.
Garry has documented his trip with a write up and some excellent photos, you can find it here:

So I will post later in the week with a report of tonights session and a full list of games lugged back from Essen by the Billygamers.

Happy Gaming!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Tikal End board position

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Here is the board position at the end of the game. As you can see there were a couple of battles, notably in the foreground between Garry (orange) and black (Steve). Also on the right between Richard (red) and myself (light coloured cubes). As Richard said getting his camps down in favourable positions definitely helped him to the win. I couldn't get my second camp down at all, this hampered my development so only second place. A nice game and one we don't play enough.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Tuesday 4th October - Tikal

Back to four players this week, and Garry chose Tikal as the game this evening. This Wolfgang Kramer/Michael Kiesling game won the Spiel des Jahres in 1999. One of a series that also includes Java and Mexico. I think we had all played this before except Garry and it was his copy on the table. Steve quickly ran throughthe rules with some clarifications from Richard reading the rulebook. Basically you lay a tile on the board then you have 10 action points to place explorers on the board, dig temples or treasure, build a new camp or swap treasures you have acquired with other players. The stack of tiles are numbered on the backs with letters A through F and as the game progresses 3 volcanoes will be turned over which triggers a scoring round. Temples are scored by the player with the most explorers on them, treasures are scored in sets of 1pt for 1, 3pts for 2 and 6pts for 3.
Steve was the first one to build another camp deep in the jungle, Richard promptly tried to find ways to seal his exits off. Garry had placed a 3 value temple hoping to build a camp near it later but I managed to get there first, luckily it was adjacent to a 4 value temple as well. Both of these had very expensive or no access for the other players so I was able to dig them up to 10 and 6 respectively. Richard declared that he hadn’t got a hope of winning so obviously you know who won this very enjoyable game. He had occupied quite a few temples and scored heavily in the 3rd scoring round and at the end.

Final Scores
Richard 95, Colin 87, Garry 79, Steve 72

Essen draws ever closer and the disappointment I have at not going now gets more accute. But I do have the week after Essen off from work so if Richard is able to get all the games on my list I will be able to drawl over them. LOL!!!!

Happy Gaming!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tuesday 27th September - Puerto Rico

As I said before I didn’t make last night but Garry has given a few details. Only 3 Billygamers in attendence, Richard (back from his round the world jaunt), Steve and Garry. First up was Puerto Rico, always a favourite with our group. Whenever we are not sure what to play out comes PR, anyway I haven’t got any details about the game save the result.

Garry 40 (+1 doubloon), Richard 40, Steve 37

As you can see it must have been a very close game.

To finish they played a game of Un Reifenbreite, a cycling game with lots of dice rolling. Again a close game, haven’t got the exact result but only a spread of 5/6 points separated the players. All I know is that Garry won his second game of the evening. Go Garry!!

Hopefully I will be back in attendence next week and it should be Garry’s choice of game. Not AoS please Garry!!

Happy Gaming!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Another Essen Update

Bad news for me on the Essen front. I am unable to go now because of some health problems I’m having, I won’t go into details but needless to say I am very disappointed. The upside is that the friend that I was going with, Richard, has said he will pick up some games if I give him a list. So from not going, then out of the blue I am going then back to not going. That sucks, still I shall definitely make a big effort to get their next year.
I have also missed a few weekly Billygames sessions because of the aforementioned problems, and I will miss tomorrow’s too I think, but I will be back next week. So keep watching this space the reports will be back to normal service soon. If anybody has a list for Essen please leave a comment and we can see what are the most looked forward to games. At the moment on my definite list is Railroad Tycoon, Shear Panic (got to love those sheep) and Memoir ’44. I don’t want to pick to many for two reasons. I don’t want to burden Richard with too much of my stuff, he’s good enough to be getting anything, and space in my games cupboard is definitely getting to be a premium.
I have been looking at Memoir ’44 because another friend, Jo, has recommended it as a goodun’. I am not a wargamer and I like games that are 2 hours tops, but M44 plays in 30-45minutes and the production values are top notch. As the company is Days of Wonder this is not a suprise. I am sure all the Billygames guys that are going will be bringing back a good selection of the new stuff for us to get our teeth into. So until next time.......happy gaming!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Tuesday 13th September - Capitol

Originally uploaded by coljen.
This week's game was Capitol by Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum. Released by Schmidt Spiele in 2001. The theme is building houses in Rome, and the board depicts the City of Rome and the available spaces to build. The game is played in 4 phases, construction, improvement, scoring and end.
Most of the action takes place in this phase, player perform actions with their hand of roof, permit and floor cards. Buildings are constructed off of the board. The floor cards let you take 2 floor blocks from the supply, the roof card lets you place one of your roofs on a completed building and the permit card allows you to place a building on an area on the board corresponding to the colour on the card. When all players have passed playing cards you proceed to improvement.
In this phase there are 3 auctions, 2 for fountains and 1 for either an amphitheature (rounds 1-2) or a temple (rounds 3-4). Fountains can be placed on an area on the board and increase the scoring by 1pt. The amphitheatre allows the first and second players in each area to draw extra cards in the end phase. The temple scores the area in which it is placed double points. You use the numbers on your cards to bid with the winner placing his on the discards.
Each area is then scored, the player with most floors gets 2pt + 1pt for each fountain. The second gets just points for the fountains, if any.
End Phase
Each player, starting with the start player then draws 6 cards each to replenish their hand.

Garry hadn't played before but Steve and I had. You have to use your roofs carefully keeping an eye on which shape, round or pitched, the areas are using. It's an easy game to pick up and it plays very smoothly. Deciding which cards to draw can be interesting as you don't want to leave high numbers for the next player if you can help it. It plays in just over an hour and I find it a solid design with some interesting choices to make. In the end the scores where quite spread out as you can see.

Final Scores
Steve 57, Garry 47, Colin 40

Friday, September 9, 2005

Essen 2005 Update

Getting closer to Essen now, so much so that I have started to browse the Gamefest Essen Preview of games. The financial director has assured me that I will have a few euros to spend on games, although where on earth are you going to put them she says. Anyway there are a few games that have piqued my interest and needless to say Martin Wallace features in a couple of them. I never have been a fan of Age of Steam, although I am in a minority in our group, but the new Railroad Tycoon does look as though I would enjoy it a lot more. The board itself is a work of art, if you have a table big enough to put it on! So that is on my list at the top. A few others include, Shear Panic by Fragor Games. I have just pre-ordered my copy, the game sounds interesting but you just got have it for those sheep!!
Martin Wallace is again on my list with Tempus, a conquest type Civilisation game that plays in under 2 hours. Ostia is a game of trading set in a around the roman harbour of Ostia. I am a sucker for historical games, especially roman, greek or eyptian so that sounds interesting.
Splotter Games are not a name I am familiar with but I have just read a review of their new game Indonesia in Counter and that sounds as though it's worth a look too.
And last but I'm sure not least is Byzantium, another Martin Wallace game published by Warfrog. A wargame in 2 hours, cool! And by Wallace just gotta see this one. Hope some of you will make to Essen, it's a gamers paradise, just make sure you take enough cash and luggage space to get everything home.
As I said before I did go to Essen 2003 with Richard in his TVR. We did it in a day. Fun but tiring. If you would like to read the report of that trip with pics go here.

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Tuesday September 6th - Euphrates & Tigris

E & T 1
Originally uploaded by coljen.
So here we are back again after last week's absence. This week we played at Steve's place and it was just myself, Garry and Steve, and the game on the table was Renier Knizia's Euphrates & Tigris. One of the most prolific game designers, this game is considered by many as his finest game to date. Released in 1997 this game is rich in strategic decisions, has Renier's quirky scoring (your score is the colour you have least cubes in) and you always want to do more than the 2 actions you are allowed.
Garry hadn't played at all, despite owning a copy, I had played once and I suspect Steve has played multiple times, as the final scores suggests. Garry and I started off reasonably well, but by mid game Steve had successful disrupted our ambitions of empire and started to dominate the board. I managed to build the first monument but only enjoyed the benefits for a couple of turns before Steve had kicked my leader out. Garry did make one cracking move that knocked Steve back for a bit, but it was only a hiccup in his progress. Four monuments were built and I think Steve was gaining blocks from all of them at one point. So Steve was a clear winner, I need to play more to appreciate the depth of this game I think.

Final Scores
Steve 15, Colin 9, Garry 6

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tuesday 23rd August - City & Guilds/Einfach Genial

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Had quite a troublesome couple of weeks personally. Got taken ill on the train to work and admitted to hospital in Croydon. Stayed in for 3 days while they tried to sort out the problem. Turns out I have high blood pressure and high cholestrol! Plus they think I may have arythmia. A heart rythmn problem. So I am off work for 3 weeks wired up to a box to monitor my heart. The wife said I could still play games as long I didn't get stressed stressed out. So I had the pleasure of Steve, Garry and Jo to play City and Guilds. From the Geek:
As the streets and blocks of a medieval city are built up with the various guilds' buildings, players will want to speculate in supporting the more successful guilds, but also to invest in their buildings themselves. A clever tile-laying game, City and Guilds present players with devious options and decisions.
I think Steve had played once before, but the rest of us hadn't played at all. Steve ran through the rules, a bit of confustion on scoring the blocks and guilds but we coped. Of course we failed to notice the rule about scoring guild chains at the end of the game, so we decided to ignore that one. It would have definitely influenced the positioning of our buildings and markets, but hey, we'll know next time. The game flowed quite nicely and gave you several interesting decisions to make. I think we were all a bit conservative in placing 2 men on a building, fearing that we would run out. This proved not to be the case, in fact all but Garry I think had men left resulting in minus points. Another point to bear in mind for the next play.

Final Scores
Jo 34, Steve 40, Garry 40, Colin 48

Einfach Genial

Originally uploaded by coljen.
After City & Guilds Jo produced Einfach Genial, a Renier Knizia game that is purely abstract. Not even a pretence of a theme here and it doesn't suffer at all from that. Here is a description from BGG:
The game is played on a hex board. 120 equally sized pieces, each consisting of two joined hexes come with the game. There are symbols on each hex that makes up the piece – some pieces have two identical symbols, some have two different symbols (not unlike dominoes). The pieces go into a cloth bag so that they get drawn randomly. Each player receives six pieces to start the game, which are placed onto a rack and visible to them alone.

The goal of the game is, through clever placement, to obtain points in the different symbol colours. Points are claimed by placing a piece such that the symbols on it lie next to already-placed pieces with the same symbol. Pieces are placed onto any open spaces. So, for example, if a player places a piece with a purple circle on it such that it sits next to an unbroken line of four other purple circles already on the board, then the player scores four purple points. A newly placed symbol can lie next to at most five individual rows of symbols.

As we were 4 we played the team version. Jo/Garry versus Steve/Colin. I quite liked this one, the board and pieces are very nice and play flows smoothly with lots of strategy to consider. Our game was very close in the end, only 1 point in it. Steve and I lagged behind in purple for quite a while, but it opened up and became our best colour. We finally got stuffed on blue, neither of us had any blue tiles or places to put them.

Final Scores
Garry/Jo 21 Colin/Steve 20

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tuesday 9th August - Settlers of the Stone Age

Originally uploaded by coljen.
This weeks game was Settlers of the Stone Age. With four intrepid explorers forging settlements across the Neolithic world. Richard, Steve, Neil and myself have all played this game before and we decided than rather to use the designated set-up in the rules we would choose our own start positions as with regular Settlers. Now I am the first to admit that generally I do not do well in Settlers games, in the last one I didn’t get a single resource for the first 5/6 turns. This does hamper your progress just a tad. Anyway in this one I got a good start, building 2 new villages very early on, and also a good supply of resources. Richard had grabbed the nearest place to get out of Africa for his first two villages and was off and running too. Neil and Steve had a slower start, in fact Neil didn’t build his first village until well into the game.
Richard was first across the bridge into Asia? and I soon followed him. Neil had grabbed a few development tokens and Africa was turning into desert fast. Richard also forged south crossing over into Australia. Steve diligently records all the dice rolls whenever we play Settlers and craftily did it on the paper I wrote the results down on so I guess I will record them here. Nine and five equalled both six and eight and luckily I was on both. In the end we couldn’t stop Richard from getting the win, we did slow him down a bit but his victory was just a matter of time. This is one of the Settlers variants that I really like, pity we don’t play it more often.

Final Scores
Richard 10, Colin 7, Neil 5, Steve 5

Dice Rolls (number of times rolled)
2(2) 3(5) 4(3) 5(10) 6(9) 7(7) 8(10) 9(10) 10(3) 11(1) 12(1)

Sunday, August 7, 2005

August 6th Gaming Day at Garrys - Powergrid

Originally uploaded by coljen.
OK Jo, what’s it to be? The game he chose is a game I like quite a lot and always goes down well with everyone, Powergrid. Here is a brief description from BGG.
The latest cooperative publishing effort from 2F and Rio Grande Games, removes the crayon aspect from network building in the original edition while retaining the fluctuating commodities market like McMulti and an auction round intensity reminiscent of Princes of Florence. The object of the game is to supply the most cities with power when someone's network gains a predetermined size. In this new edition, players mark pre-existing routes between cities for connection, and then vie against other players to purchase the power plants that you use to supply the power. However, as plants are purchased, newer more efficient plants become available so you're effectively allowing others to access to superior equipment merely by purchasing at all. Additionally, players must acquire the raw materials, like coal, oil, garbage, or uranium, to power said plants (except for the highly valuable 'renewable energy' wind/solar plants), making it a constant struggle to upgrade your plants for maximum efficiency while still retaining enough wealth to quickly expand your network to get the cheapest routes.
So we set up the board and pieces and chose the regions to play in. Some interesting decisions before we start, playing the Germany map Jo chose the region with Essen in it....... had to do it. Garry said Iv’e been there picked another one. Anyway I started slowly being pretty strapped for cash early on. Steve was boxed in by Garry a bit but it didn’t seem to cramp his style too much. This game was played pretty tight by everyone with careful thought going into every move. I was building only one station to everybodies two for a couple of turns and thought I was lagging well behind. I did manage to get a couple of wind power stations to ease my financial worries for a bit though.
Garry had cornered the market in uranium power stations and by this time it seemed that Steve was well ahead. As the game entered the end phase Jo reckoned the only way to stop Steve was to buy all wood and oil to prevent him from supplying his cities.
This strategy seemed to work well and Steve was crippled in the end and we all sneaked past him and suprisingly I pinched a narrow victory.

Final Scores
Colin 16, Garry 15 (most money), Jo 15, Steve 14

August 6th Gaming Day at Garrys - China

Originally uploaded by coljen.
As Powergrid took nearly 3 and half hours, we took a break here for some refreshment. Garry had provided some quiches and salad we all chipped in with various goodies which where all quickly consumed. We had agreed that the loser would choose the next game. So Steve asked for suggestions, we all fancies giving China a runout so that is what he chose. China is an updated version of Web of Power and features a few changes: two different boards, a slightly different card distribution, four face-up cards to choose from, no "half time" scoring, and optional fortification pieces which double cloister scoring. I liked Web of Power so was looking forward to giving this a run out.
The fortress tiles are interesting although you can win without actually playing it, as Steve proved. As with WoP you have to get points not only from houses in the provinces but with emissaries also to have a realistic chance of winning. It all seemedfairly close, I think Garry was the only one who hadn’t played WoP before. In the end the emissary scores gave Steve a win.

Final Scores
Steve 45, Colin 43, Garry 39, Jo 36

OK then, Jo’s choice and it was a favourite of everybody I think, Geschenkt! Very simple in concept but an enjoyable and fairly light card game. Do you really want that high card or do you pay to pass? A chances to stuff your opponents too, as Garry found out in hand 4. He was leading fairly comfortably up till then. Steve had a good win here.

Final Scores
Steve 185, Colin 202, Jo 216, Garry 264

As Jo had to be going fairly soon we chose our final game of Tongiaki. I had only played this once before, but both Garry and Steve had played it a few times. A starting tile - Tonga - is placed in the middle of the board, with six beaches on each of the six sides of the tile. Each beach has three “moorings” at it, each which can hold one ship token. Players take fifteen boats of their color, and then take turns placing two boats, one at a time, on the start tile, leaving at least one open mooring at each beach.
Thirty-two tiles are stacked in a face down pile near the board, one player starting the game as play proceeds clockwise around the table. Players place boats on the beaches and as they fill up they set sail and a new tile is turned over. Once the last sea or land tile is exposed the game ends and points are scored for every tile you have a presence on. Again Steve and Garry seemed to be vying for the win. A lot of boats sink in the 3 player version as you can never have four colours on a beach and if you turn up a 4 sea, glug, glug there gone. Of course this can be a good tactic to get rid of your opponents boats. Anyway I hung in to split the pair for a second place with Steve getting the win.

Final Scores
Steve 29, Colin 24, Garry 20

All in all a good day’s gaming, thanks to Garry for hosting.

Essen 2005
I didn’t think I was going to make this year again. Went in 2003 with Richard but couldn’t make it last year. Anyway Richard mentioned last tuesday that the fee for the eurotunnel had dropped dramatically for a two day return. Hmm, that made me think, let me just run that past the financial director (the wife) and see what happens. The outcome is that whoooo hoooo I am going to Essen this year with Richard in his TVR. Eurotunnel Saturday morning early, really early to arrive at Essen by about 9am. Dump stuff in the hotel back by the 10am opening time. This time we can relax and have an evening meal and a beer (or two) and travel back the following afternoon. We did it in a day in 2003 which was fun but really tiring. So look out Essen here we come! Just got to get some money to buy games now. Oh well.

August 6th Gaming Day at Garrys - Familienbande

Originally uploaded by coljen.
As Garry’s wife was out for the day, he invited us round for a day of gaming. We were going to start around 10 and Jo was coming from Burgess Hill to join us again. I caught the train from Billingshurst and arrived at Horsham around 9.45, Steve picked me up and we arrived at Garry’s soon after. As Jo hadn’t arrived yet Steve produced Familienbande for an opener. Garry and I hadn’t played this one before, but it’s light and quick, ideal for a filler. Here is a short description.
Familienbande is the third game in Winning Moves’ new “Compact Game” series, and is by Leo Colovini. It’s a fast and funny board game that deals with the dynastic succession of royal families. Brides are chosen, heirs are born. Unmistakable traits such as large noses, red hair or cauliflower ears are depicted on the humourously-illustrated cards; these traits must be used to score points and be combined in engagements and births. Incest? Shame on you for thinking of such a possibility! The game is for 2-4 players 8 and up.
Jo arrived in the middle of the game and we told him to have a think what we could play next. Both Steve and I had brought a selection of games and of course Garry has a load too. We quickly finished Familienbande and suprisingly I got the win.

Final Scores
Garry 35, Colin 61, Steve 55

6 Day Race

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Here is a shot of 6 Day Race. As you can see all the riders are fairly well bunched up. Just waiting for someone to make a break and sprint for the finish line!

Tuesday 2nd August - Mississippi Queen/6 Day Race

Originally uploaded by coljen.
We were playing at Steve’s this week and it was Richard’s choice of game. He chose Mississippi Queen to start and if we had enough time, 6 Day Race. We had a guest appearance of Jo this week, Jo has played a few times with us before, mainly at weekend sessions but it was good to see him again. I have played Mississippi Queen once before. This is a brief description from BGG.

In this light, fun family game, players race their paddleboats down the Mississippi, picking up passengers along the way. But onboard coal supplies are limited, so each ship's acceleration and maneuvers must be carefully planned. Perhaps most interestingly, the twists and turns of the river are unknown at the start of the game, and are only revealed as ships progress downstream.

You have to pick up two passengers during your progress down the river and you must be at speed one to dock at the landing stage to pick up. Garry made a good start and made a beeline for the first landing stage. The rest of us went to the left of the island to go the next one. Fortunately for us the next tile laid went to the left, Garry was on the wrong side of the river so got a bit left behind. He did get his passenger though. The pushing rule can be cruel, as you end up in completely the wrong place. Ideal for nasty players to stuff you!! Jo made the decision to go full steam ahead and got a large lead right on the leading edge of the front tile, he rolled the dice for the next tile, rolled straight on, turned it over and there was a dirty great island slap bang in front of him, doh!! Needless to say this allowed the rest of us to catch up somewhat.
Richard had gauged his coal consumption perfectly and had picked up his two passengers and was making for the end of the river. I had slowed to pick up passengers and Garry had overtaken me. Jo had used all his coal and had to go round in a circle to even get his first passenger. As the boats pass down the river all the tiles are removed when everyone has passed through them. I was the last one off of the previous tile which it got removed, this completely stuffed Jo who had run out of river and promptly sank. So a close and fun game.

Final Scores
Richard 1st, Garry 2nd, Colin 3rd, Steve 4th, Jo sunk!

6 Day Race
Next up was 6 Day Race, this is a bicycle racing game from 1988. I was the only one who hadn’t played this one before. This from BGG.

A bicycle race game. When it is your turn to play, a player can play any card in his hand and move his rider forward the corresponding number of spaces. If he lands on a unoccupied space, his move ends there. If he lands on a space occupied by one other rider, he doubles his move. If he lands on a space occupied by two other riders, he triples his move. And so on.

Nice mechanism, I didn’t really know what I was doing so I decided to stay well with the group and not play any fancy tactics. There is a space about half way round where you can ditch your remaining cards and pick up a new hand of cards. Is this a good move I asked? Yes, said Jo, no said Garry, it depends on what your cards are said Richard. Thanks chaps. I ditched and picked up some nice 4s and 5s. Garry won the first sprint, and I managed to win the second sprint and play a five which landed me on a space with two cyclists so I bounced 10. I just went for it then and the rest couldn’t catch me. Appropriately my piece was yellow so I already had the yellow jersey.

Final Scores
Colin 15, Garry 14, Steve 7, Richard 3, Jo 3

As a final note, Jo reckons he is the ideal guest, he comes last and he brings cakes. Nice one Jo!!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Tuesday 26th July - Stephensons Rocket

Stephensons 4
Originally uploaded by coljen.
Met at my place this week, only three of us arrived as Richard cried off at the last minute. We had a committee meeting and chose Stephensons Rocket for tonights game. That suited me OK. I bought this game at Essen 2003 from a second hand stall. Out of print at the time it was shrink-wrapped and on sale for the princely sum of €10. What a bargain I thought and was well pleased with my purchase, well this is the first time I have played the game since I bought it and I enjoyed it a lot. Here is a brief description from the BGG:

In an surprisingly thematic offering, Herr Knizia expands his fleet of tile laying games with this game about colliding railroads in early 1800's England. There are seven different rail companies that players can expand. Each time you extend a rail, the other stockholders can veto your action, but it might cost them their shares. When two companies' rail touch, the railways merge to become one. The game is over when only one company remains or there are no rail tiles remaining, and the winner is the player who earned the most money over the course of the game.

Steve had played before and it showed, as Garry and I didn’t really know what we were doing until about half way through. With three players there is enough space on the board to get a fairly uninterrupted start. But Steve chose to muscle in on Garry right at the beginning and a tussle ensued for the next few turns which left me to pursue my own designs at the other end of the board. As usual with games by Renier Knizia there are loads things that you want to do but only limited actions available to you. As the game progresses and the board gets more track laid the decisions get more complex. And as lines merge and the companies get removed from the game the game end springs up on you quite quickly. We actually finished the game by running out of track. I think the game is one of Knizia’s best and definitely want to play again. As you can see from the final scores Steve ran away with the win and Garry and I very close together for second and third.

Final Scores
Steve 91,000 Colin 59,000 Garry 57,00

Friday, July 29, 2005

Poker, is it just a game??

For a couple of months now I have become interested in Poker. The World Series of Poker World Championship has just finished in Las Vegas and Joe Hatchem won the accolade of World Champon, $7.5m and the gold bracelet. Well, that is a bit out of my league but the game is fascinating. Their are two TV channels devoted to all things poker and the increased publicity is drawing in thousands of players from all over the world. Poker is not a game for old grey-haired guys smoking huge cigars in back rooms anymore. No, it’s for young hip guys with iPods and shades and girls, yes, girls beating the guys at their own game. Players are being recognised in the street and signing autographs. The game has it’s own stars now. The Devilfish, Phil Helmuth, Greg ‘fossilman’ Raymer, Annie Duke, Cyndy Violette and loads more.

The internet has played more than a part in the increase in popularity of poker. There are literally hundreds of online poker sites where you can sign up, make a deposit of real money and off you go. Play is 24/7, ring games, MMTs (multi-table tournaments), SNGs (sit and gos), satellites and the rest. If you’ve got the bankroll and the bottle you can play big time. Well, the buy-in for the World Championship main event is $10,000 so you’ve to be serious and good to play in it, but anybody can have a shot. Just enter one of the many online tournaments that offer a seat as a first prize and win it. Many players at this year’s championship did just that.

I don’t play for real money, for one thing the wife would kill me. She says it’s all luck anyway. But it isn’t is it! OK, it’s luck what cards are drawn, but it’s how you play those cards and read the other players, that’s the GAME. You can go to most online poker sites and sign up and get 1,000 play chips and off you go. Players from all over the world are just waiting to take those chips off of you. It’s ideal for learning how to play the game. The internet is just overflowing with poker information, strategy and tips. And if you want blogs, wow, there are just hundreds. The bad beats and success stories, the road trips to Vegas it’s all there. I have a few bookmarked and one of the best if you are at all interested is Table Tango, published by a lady called Linda R Geenen. Linda lives in Vegas and deals poker at the Bellagio Hotel. The Bellagio has one of the best casinos in Vegas and Linda details her experiences dealing low and high stakes poker 5 days a week. The players famous and not so famous all have a tale to tell and Linda’s writing is always entertaining. Take a look:

I am still very much a beginner but I am in red and slowly building up my stack. One day I might play in Vegas, anythings possible.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tuesday 19th July - Wyatt Earp/Al Capone

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Garry was the host for tonights Billygames session. On the menu tonight were two card games in Mike Fitzgeralds Mystery Rummy series. OK, I know I said last week that we don't very often play card games, stuff happens. :)

Wyatt Earp
This is the first in the series, well it doesn't actually say Mystery Rummy No. 1 but the system is the same and I think it started the series off. Basically you play sets, or melds as they are called, of outlaws to the table. Each time you add reward money to their reward posters which are in the centre of the table. $1,000 x number of cards minus 1. You also have sheriff cards which can affect play in different ways. Getting a card from another player, pinching a card already in play and so on. The hand ends when either one player discards their last card or you have been through the deck twice. You then score the outlaws, each card has a number of capture points (CP) on it and their have to be 8 CP on the table for the outlaw to be captured. The player with most CP if he is more than 5 CP in front of the second player gets the lot. If their are players within 4 CP of him they get a share to.
The game ends when someone gets to $25,000. I like the mystery rummy games and I think this is one of the best. Garry was obviously a very good bounty hunter because he had an easy win. Even though I tried to play the hideout card on his biggest stack of outlaws. The hidout card makes the meld not counted when scoring, he managed to get rid of it with his Wyatt Earp card. Doh!

Final Scores
Garry 31,000 Colin $19,000 Steve $18,000 Richard $15,000

Al Capone

Originally uploaded by coljen.
We had time left after capturing all those outlaws for a quick couple of hands of Al Capone, the fourth in the mystery rummy series. The system is basically the same except you are laying melds of gangsters instead of outlaws. And instead of sheriff cards you have 'gavel' cards. If you can collect complete sets of gangsters you get a number of points for the set, if you just have some of a gangster you get the number of points printed on the card. Obviously you get more points for the set. The gavel cards let you search the discard pile for a card, turn over a number of cards from the deck to try to match cards you have already played and so on. The most powerful gavel card is the 'raid'. This lets you pinch all other cards in play of a meld you have in play. This combined with Search Warrant which lets you search the discard pile. You wouldn't be searching for a raid by any chance!!
A bit unbalanced I think, the cards are better quality and the game is presented in a nice way with good graphics etc.
Garry again played a stormer, raiding to get all the Al Capone cards, the most valuable set, and going out as well. This resulted in a shut out, when only he scored points.

Final Scores
Garry 73 Richard 31 Steve 18 Colin 16

Oh, by the way Garry was on picture taking duty, and he couldn't resist showing us his full set of Al Capones!!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tuesday 12th July - Die Weinhandler/Mogul

Billygames do not very often play card games, I don’t know why but that’s just how it works out. Well tonight was an exception as we ventured into the intriquing world of wine auctions. In Die Weinhandler players participate in auctions for wine and try to build up the most valuable cellar of bottles. The deck of cards consists of images of various shapes of bottles in different colours. The object is to build a ‘cellar’ in reality a pyramid of cards laid down in front of you. Each card has a value, used for the bidding, and a star value, the vintage, which gets you VPs when played to your cellar. You start with a hand of 5 cards, and 4 cards are turned face up from the deck for the first auction. Players bid with cards from their hands or pass, if you bid you can add further cards to increase your bid when it comes round to you again or pass. When everyone has passed the auction ends. The interesting bit is that the winner takes the four cards on offer and the second highest takes what the winner bid, the third highest takes what the second highest bid and so on.
This leads to some interesting bidding when players are not necessarily trying to win the cards on the table but cards that other players have bid. When you have over 6 cards in your hand you have to lay cards to your cellar to get down to 6. Again this forces you to lay cards that you might not really want to lay yet. I liked this game quite a lot. Garry seemed to have a monopoly in the blue cards and Neil had quite a few of the red. The game ends when the deck has run out, you then can lay any cards you have in your hand. In the last bidding the cards on the table were quite beneficial to me as it would let me complete a set for a bonus of 4 points. Also I had enough cards in my hand to outbid the others without throwing to many points away.

Final Scores
Colin 41, Steve 32, Neil 31, Richard 28, Garry 24

As we had a bit of time left we decided to give Mogul a spin. Some of us had played this once before but it was a while ago. This is a very brief description from BGG:

There are six shares each of five railroad companies. Each turn, one of the share cards is revealed and an auction ensues. Players earn money by dropping out of the auction, but the last player in wins the right to take the card or sell shares he already owns. Points are kept on a scoring track.

The bidding for the cards is very like Geschenkt, you either add a chip or take what is on the card. This can be very evil as you can leave the next player pretty broke (thank you Richard). I seemed to have cornered the market in brown shares. Everybody else had got points on the board, but as the game progressed I realised that I would have to gamble that a card appeared that allowed you to sell brown shares. I carefully hoarded my money, making sure that I could outbid everybody else. The flaw in my plan was the stockmarket crash card. This is shuffled into the bottom four cards. Well the card I wanted hadn’t appeared and we were down to the bottom four. If it appeared and I won it I would get 20 points, enough to win the game. But you guessed it, the very next card that was turned over.......was the crash card. Doh!!! Nice little game though.

Final Scores
Neil 18, Richard 13, Steve 9, Garry 8, Colin 2

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Tuesday 5th July - St. Petersburg/Quivive

Originally uploaded by coljen.
First of all let me mention that we have started rotating venues for Billygames, Natalie/Neil, Garry, Steve and myself host an evening a month now. Last night was Steve’s first time. And it was quite a momentous occasion as we were christening Steve’s NEW TABLE, complete with impressive green beize tablecloth. First up was:

St. Petersburg
When this game was released it got a massive burst of popularlity, this has lessened somewhat and is now just a ‘good’ not great game. That said I will always play when asked and indeed to own a copy. I won’t go into the gameplay in great detail as I expect most people are familiar with the concept. Basically you are building up buildings and aristocrats in St. Petersburg. The game components are very good and the graphics are pleasing and represent the theme well.
Steve and Richard had played a few times, I had played once and Garry hadn’t played at all. This game is all about getting income early on and gradually changing to collecting VP’s as the game progresses. This didn’t seem to worry Steve as it was apparent he was doing very well right from the start. I was lagging well behind on the VP front and Garry and Richard were up the front too. Richard said that he was trying a different strategy this time, he probably won’t be trying this again. Steve was in front all the game and just kept getting further ahead. He even had the pub and could buy VP’s as well! I plugged away and gradually began to catch up to Richard and Garry. Garry had been doing really well but seemed to fade at the end. Both he and Richard hadn’t got many Aristocrats and consequently didn’t get a very big bonus at the end. I had 6 and got an extra 21 points which made the difference finally overtaking Garry at the end to come second.

Final Scores
Steve 151, Colin 99, Garry 87, Richard 87

Steve then took us up to his spare bedroom (steady!!!), and showed us his impressive collection of games. Ranging from some really old ones right up to the latest releases. As we had a bit of time left he suggested with have a game of Quivive.

Quivive is a game of avoiding running out of moves. The board is made of 49 disks -- some are stacked to double and triple height. On your turn, you must move your pawn to an adjacent, unoccupied disk in any direction -- horizontally, vertically or diagonally -- and remove any unoccupied disk of your choice. You
lose if you no longer have a legal place to move your pawn. The last player left wins.
Neither Garry or myself had played this french game and were surprised to end with Garry winning and myself coming second. Yeh!!

Final Placings
Garry 1st, Colin 2nd, Richard 3rd, Steve 4th

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Tuesday 28th June - Amazonas

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Played at my place last night with just Richard and Steve. We sat down to explore the fairly new Stefan Dorra game Amazonas. This game involves building huts across the Amazon river and surrounding jungle. The game is driven by an 18 card deck of event cards, each turn you turn over an event card which affects all players for that turn. After the last card is turned over the game ends and you add up your points. You get points for collecting species tiles at the site of your huts. Basically you get 1 point for each tile but you have to have at least three of a type for them to count at all. You each have a set of seven cards numbered from 0-6, you each play one card together, and the highest gets to go first to build a hut. There are also specie symbols on the cards that are added to the number, one extra for each tile you have of that type. At the start of the game you also get a mission card with four villages on, for each village you don’t build a hut in you get -3 points.
This is not a heavyweight game by any means, more of a middleweight romp with some interesting decisions to make. A game you could get a non-gamer to play I think. Anyway I did disasterously, we played 2 games and I came last in both. So I didn’t even learn from my mistakes! Each player gets to place a hut before you start and the placing of that hut is important in the relation to the villages printed on your mission card. Steve obviously cracked this game straight away winning both games by a considerable margin. A pleasant way to spend an evening, and the chicken and mayo sarnies the missus knocked up were pretty good too!

Final Scores - Game 1
Steve 17 Richard 9 Colin 3

Game 2
Steve 18 Richard 9 Colin 6

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tuesday 21st June - Alhambra

Originally uploaded by coljen.
We finished off the evening with a game of Alhambra. Building the gardens of Arabia took us just over the hour. I can never seem to get the right colour of money when the tiles I want appear. Anyway this turned out to be a very close game with the result being decided right on the final scoring. Garry, Steve and Richard all very close with me not far behind. An enjoyable game, one I will always play if asked.

Final Scores
Steve 108 Garry 107 Richard 105 Colin 95

Tuesday 21st June - Settlers, Cheops expansion

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Phew! The 21st June, the longest day of the years. After a hot sweaty day at work, those tubes in London are a sauna bath, an evening of good gaming was just the right relaxer. Richard had chosen the historical scenario of Settlers, Cheops. The only one we hadn't given a run out. This scenario recreates the building of the great pyramid. At the start you are allowed to place 3 settlements as opposed to the normal 2, but you can only place them on the banks of the Nile. This poses an interesting decision to make as the the pyramid is on the west bank and the only ore producing hexes are far to the east on the other side of the Red Sea. Hmmm. You need to contribute to the pyramid building as being the major contributor gives you an extra 3VPs, but being the least contributor gives you minus 2 VPs. Funnily enough you need ore to build stones on the pyramid!
Richard and Garry made a beeline for the ore, while I copped a sheep port and made for the pyramid. I placed my settlements on a couple of sheep hexes and reckoned I could use the port to get the ore. Those ore hexes became a magnet for the robber too. Anyway it didn't quite work out as planned, I managed to get the 3vp Tile for being in lead for building the pyramid and held on to it for quite a while. But I was held back at the beginning as for the first five dice rolls I didn't pick up a single resource, let alone any sheep!

At the end Richard and I were on 9VPs each and then Richard swooped and bought 2 pyramid stones to take the lead, the 3VP tile and the victory. I enjoyed the game but I think the others weren't as impressed and liked some of the other scenarios more.

Final Scores
Richard 12 Colin 6 Garry 6 Steve 4

Tuesday 14th June - Carcassonne with Dragon Expansion

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Carcassone is a game that is enjoyed by all our group, and this week we were going to give the Dragon and Princess expansion a run out. Basically you have a dragon (suprise), and when tile with a .......dragon on it is laid, the dragon moves six spaces. Each player moves the dragon one space, any meeples that are on those tiles get eaten (go back to the player). You also have a.......Princess. Her image is on certain city tiles and when these are placed the player has the option not to place a meeple but to remove an existing meeple from the city. Wait, theres more, you also have a fairy.
This cute little wooden piece, resembling a member of the KKK more than a lickle fairy, can be moved if you do not place a piece and it protects the tile it stands on from the dragon.
There are a couple of other different tiles, a magic gate tile that allows you to place a meeple anywhere on the board not already occupied or scored. And volcano tiles that move the position of the dragon around. How did it play, well, it could be quite cut throat if the players want to play it that way. Personally I think that is the only way to play it. Even if I did get munched by the pesky dragon on several occasions. You think you have a quite good position, then, have several meeples back in your supply. I scored 8 points for a city early on and then never scored another point until the scoring at the end. A massive city began to take shape with Richard, Steve and Garry all contesting it. The tile needed to complete it finally appeared with a grateful Garry placing it, Richard had been kicked of by now by the Princess so Steve and Garry scored a huge number of points, over 50 if I remember correctly.
I must say that I think this expansion does add to the game, some people may not enjoy the more confrontational aspects, but hey, munching dragons is cool. There are so many full expansions and mini expansions I think you have to be careful which you play with because they do not all mix and match. The game could turn into a chaotic mess. We played with just the basic set.

Final Scores
Garry 143, Steve 122, Richard 107, Colin 52, Neil 40

We rounded off the evening with 3 games of that very good cardgame Gschenk. People have definitely got different strategies for this. I seemed to think most points won in the first game. Doh! A good round off for a good evening.

Game 1
Steve 27, Richard 31, Garry 32, Neil 44, Colin 65
Game 2
Garry 5, Colin 8, Richard 25, Steve 28, Neil 79
Game 3
Steve 7, Colin 15, Richard 25, Neil 31, Garry 39