Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Tuesday 25th January - Merchants of Amsterdam

Originally uploaded by coljen.
This weeks game is the 2000 offering from Renier Knizia, The Merchants of Amsterdam. Here is a description from BGG:

Players are attempting to be in first or second place majorities in a variety of categories throughout the game. These include commodity markets, trading colonies, and warehouses in Amsterdam.

On a player's turn you draw three cards and decide how they will be resolved for the turn. You can either remove the card from the game, keep it for yourself, or put it up for auction. The cards allow players to advance or place one of their markers in the various categories.

There are also time marker cards which when drawn move the game through various "historical" phases until the last which ends the game. The historical phases follow a period of time in the history of Amsterdam which can range from no effect, scoring rounds for particular categories, bonuses, and towards the end some penalties as wars begin to disrupt business markets.

The unique twist in the game is that the game comes with a spring driven auction clock to perform the dutch auctions throughout the game. You start the clock and it ticks down as all of the players hold their hands ready close by. The idea is that as time passes the cost of the card lowers and it is simply an issue of who will pay for it first by slapping down on the clock and thus stopping it at a certain price.

Two of us had played once and the other two hadn’t played at all. So after a run through of the rules, Garry started us off. This game gives you many difficult decisions, deciding which card to discard, auction or keep is just the first of many. Keeping an eye on the dobber on the time track is also prudent as the scoring squares can creep up on you quickly if you are not careful. So deciding what to bid for and where to place your storehouses and trading posts etc so as to maximise your position ready for the next scoring is vital. The various bonuses for certain conditions that are met during the game are a welcome boost in cash but you have to be careful as when the game gets towards the end quarter you have to start removing store houses and trading posts, and if the conditions for the bonus are not met after that you have to pay the bonus cash back to the bank. Nobody in our game took the opportunity for a loan from the bank. As to the auction prices on the whole they were 150 or above. and the option to double the prices was taken on 3 occasions I think. Another good tactical option that spices things up. To be honest I thought Garry was well in the lead, but the double scoring round at game end dramatically changed things. Getting the majority in an area is obviously good but getting a large number of second places is also necessary. For anything other than that its no dosh.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)

*Garry 1230, Colin 1420, Natalie 980, Neil 1010

Rating (0-10)

Colin 7.5

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tuesday 18th January - Puerto Rico + Expansion

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Well, numbers down to 3 tonight, but Puerto Rico plus the expansion beckoned and off we go. The new buildings in the expansion add some more options and the way you pick which buildings you use at the start of the game can seriously affect gameplay. As Steve found out, so did I come to that. Anyway these are the new buildings:

This expansion adds the forests and the following new buildings to the game: Aqueduct, Forest House, Black Market, Storehouse, Guesthouse, Church, Trading Post, Small Wharf, Lighthouse, Library, Speciality Factory, Union Hall, Cloister, and Statue.

The old and new buildings are laid out before the game starts and in turn order the players chose a building and place it on the game board. Once the all the spaces for a particular cost of building is filled any remaining buildings that share that cost are out of the game. So we started the game proper with no warehouses at all, only the new version of the storehouse. Also making the cut where the church, small wharf, lighthouse, library, statue, guesthouse and forest house. All these buildings add new options for gameplay and consequently the game took longer than normal for a 3 player game as none of us had played with the expansion before.

Richard grabbed one of the 2 storehouses straight away and I followed suit nicking the other one. Steve suffered after this as all through the game he had to throw quite a few barrels over the side. Steve reckoned he made a mistake buying the church, he was going for small production buildings and thought the bonus the church would give him would be significant. It didn’t help him as much as he hoped. I made a critical mistake I think in buying the library instead of the wharf. Although double privileges are handy, I had limited opportunities to ship. Mainly because Richard had a wharf and was tieing up one of the ships with his tobacco and was shipping stuff to his wharf as well.

I did get a couple of 10 buildings but in the end the lack of shipping VPs crippled me. Steve kept saying he wasn’t doing well and wanted to limit the number of points he was going to come last by. I think that was a good bluff. Richard was crafting and shipping at every opportunity and soon the game ended through lack of VPs. It was an enjoyable experience and in the end the scores were extremely close. In the pic you can’t really see the new buildings, they have a thicker line round the cost, and the forest tiles are bottom right.

Final Scores (VPs+buildings+bonuses)(*denotes starting player)

Richard 32+14+0 = 46, Steve 24+15+6 = 45, *Colin 12+25+7 = 44

Rating (0-10)

Colin 8.5

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Tuesday January 4th - Mogul, Typo

No Richard or Garry tonight, Richard is hurling himself of a mountain somewhere and Garry is having to work. Anyway 2 card games tonight, Mogul and Typo. First up:


Brief description from BGG.

Mogul is one of three Spiel aus Timbuktu games with a common train theme, along with Crazy Race and Station Manager. The boxes even fit together to make a common picture.

There are six shares each of five railroad companies. Each turn, one of the share cards is revealed and an aution 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.

Never played this one and I quite liked it. Knowing when to stay in an auction and when to quit and take the chips is definitely a necessary skill. Also keeping track of how many cards in each share have already been sold is very useful. A crash card is shuffled into four cards and these are placed at the bottom of the deck so you never quite know when the game will finish. At game end all shares on the table are worthless and every 5 chips are worth a victory point.

Final Scores

Steve 9, Colin 19, Natalie 17, Neil 18


A word game on the lines of 6 Nimmt, from BGG.

Players are dealt 12 cards from an alphabetic deck and play them to the table in rows and columns to make words, or the start of words. Players choose their cards simultaneously. When the cards are shown, the lowest in the alphabet goes first and so on. Players add their card to the rows or columns on the table, calling the word or part-word they are forming, so adding E to the start of LAST gives ELAST, for which you can call "elastic".

All cards must be placed, so if you cannot form a valid word to call, you pick up the longest line of cards, which will score against you. In the following rounds, play order is Z-A.

Obviously you don’t want to pick up cards as they count against you, I seem to have missed this vital bit of information and amassed an outstanding total of cards to come last by a long margin. We also had a copy of the Scrabble Dictionary handy to resolve disputes. I really liked this game despite coming a long way back, a few interesting (and legal) words surfaced too.

Final Scores

Natalie -8, Colin -41, Neil -25, Steve -10

Apologies for no pictures again this week, I didn’t forget the camera deliberately but not recording my abysmal performance at Typo is an additional bonus :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Tuesday 28th December - Christmas Games Session

Only 4 of us could make it over Christmas for some gaming fun. We started around mid afternoon so got a few extra games than normal. Unfortunately no pictures as I forgot to take my camera, which is a shame as Niagara is very pretty. First up was:

Carcassonne - The City

From BGG.

Carcassonne die Stadt (Carcassonne: The Town) is a deluxe edition of the Carcassonne-series, that comes in a wooden box with quality components. In this new standalone game, players build up the old town together by placing tiles. While the town area grows, the town walls grow around it, starting from a wooden gateway. The wall is comprised of delicately carved wooden parts, that create a beautiful rendition of the medieval town at the end of the game.

Next to the slightly modified tile-laying rules, players have the possibility to place their followers as guards on the walls, offering them a wide view of the town. This brings the players extra points. Each player also receives three wooden towers which can be placed giving more scoring opportunities, giving the town walls an added aesthetic effect.

I like the Carcassonne series of games so was looking forward to playing this latest incarnation. We played all the expansions plus the The Count a little while ago and the general consensus was that it was a bit of a mess. But this variation is neat. The visual aspect of the game is very pleasing, the wall and towers create a great looking city at the end and the game play is sufficiently different to provide a new challenge. I particularly like the walls and towers. I don’t think any of us had played this before so it was a level playing field so to speak.

Final Scores

Natalie 99, Neil 87, Garry 65, Colin 77

Next up was he new offering from Hans Im Gluck.

Im Schatten Des Kaiser - From Rio Grande Games.

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 emperor. But this decision lies in the hands of the seven elector. 2–4 imperial 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. But, in the shadow of the properly elected emperor are always those who want to displace him.

A while before Christmas we sent off an order to Adam Spielt and this was one of the ones I ordered. The reviews sounded good, a gamers game by all accounts. The rules took a while to get through but by the time we had played one turn it seemed to be coming together. There are many complex strategies running through this game and I think it needs a few plays to figure out the best course of action to take. I particularly like the mechanics that involve your nobles aging and eventually leaving the gameboard, keeps the balance always changing. And the opportunity to marry off your daughters although I think boys are better, gamewise anyway :) As you can see the points spread was very close.

Final Scores

Natalie 15, Neil 16, Garry 14, Colin 14

On to


This was the first time I had played this one, the others had played it the week before. Natalie sat this one out. See previous post for a description of this game. Bribing pirates to carry chests of treasure to your home port doesn’t seem very likely to me, they’d be more likely to have it away on their toes. What shall I have, a couple of bottles of rum or a chest full of OK I’ll take the rum. Not likely. Anyway I like the game, plays quickly and their is a bit to think about. And I won! Say no more.

Final Scores

Neil 26, Garry 38, Colin 46

Last game of the session.

Niagara from BGG

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.

Not too sure about the historical accuracy, but anyway everyone agreed this is a fun game. The game components are top rate and the original idea of positioning the board on top of the box to form the waterfall is great. Careful planning is needed to get your canoe downriver to get those gems at the edge of the drop. If somebody plays a cloud tile you could be over the falls and it will cost you to get that boat back again. We played 2 games they were both quite close. The winning condition of 4 same, 5 different or 7 any type, makes it difficult to achieve. Natalie thought she was home dry with the last winning gem on board when somebody back paddled and nicked it (sorry Nat). Will see the table again soon I fancy.

Final Scores Game 1

Natalie 4, Neil 5, Garry 7 (any type), Colin 4

Final Scores Game 2

Natalie 5, Neil 4, Garry 5 (different), Colin 5

Altogether a very enjoyable session. And please feel free to add your comments on the games guys.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Tuesday 21st December - Karibik/Geschenkt

Well, what with Christmas and work this post is the first for a while. On the 21st Billygames played Karibik and Geschenkt. I can't tell you much about the session, just the results and a brief description of the games. I was tied up with work so couldn't make it. Anyway, onward.


This is a brief description from BGG:

The board shows the Caribbean in the 18th century. Six pirate ships lie in wait on sea, ready to pillage the rich ports, or to rob the booty from other ships.

The sea is divided into spaces. Each player is in possession of three safe havens, marked in his color on the board. If only two or three players are playing, the safe havens in the vacant color(s) are treated as normal sea spaces.

The aim of each player is to lure the pirates to deliver treasure crates to one of their own safe havens, and not to the safe havens of the opponents.

The pirate ships do not belong to any player. That is why the players must bribe the pirates each time they want a pirate ship to act on their behalf. And what is the greatest temptation for a Caribbean pirate? Rum of course, barrels full of rum!

In every round the players try anew their best to bribe the pirates. The player who has offered the most rum to a ship gets to move that ship as many spaces as the number of barrels shown on the bribing chip. An active ship can (a) rob a crate from a port or from another ship, (b) reach a crate over to another ship, (c) swap crates with another ship, and/or (d) deliver a crate into a safe haven.

The aim is to have the most doubloons at the end of the game.

I have played this now and it's a light fun game, doesn't take too much thinking and plays quickly.

Final Scores Game 1

Natalie 22, Steve 33, Neil 11, Garry 27

Final Scores Game 2

Natalie 31, Steve 18, Neil 33, Garry 7


The other game played was Geschenkt. Again from BGG:

The decks consists of cards, numbered from 3 to 35. Each card is worth negative points according to its value. Players start with 11 chips, which are each worth one positive point. However, the chips have another, more important meaning.

There's always one card available. Of course, as cards are worth negative points, taking cards is a bad move. The chips come to rescue here: toss a chip on the card and the turn moves on to next player. Of course, whoever ends up taking the card (either by free will or lack of chips) gets the chips, too. At some point the deal is sweet enough for someone to grab the card, because eleven chips just isn't going to keep you from taking cards throughout the whole game.

This all wouldn't be enough to make the game really interesting. A twist is needed. If a player manages to collect a set of cards with consecutive numbers, they get a bonus: only the lowest card of the set is counted in the end of the game. Now, if you have, say, 30 and 31 comes up. Will you take it? Why would you? It's basically insignificant for you (few positive points, if there's some chips on it), but hurts someone else a lot (close to 30 negative points).

I havn't played this one yet, but do own a copy. All the others thought it really good and played 3 quick rounds.

Final Scores Round 1

Garry 61, Natalie 74, Steve 82, Neil 56

Final Scores Round 2

Garry 16, Natalie 25, Steve 39, Neil 91

Final Scores Round 3

Garry 24, Natalie 31, Steve 23, Neil 30