Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Players are dealt 6 cards and draw a 7th before playing one or more. There are 84 speed cards showing numbers between 39 and 50, plus Spurts (+2), Headwind (-2) and Mountains. One player starts as the race leader with a yellow token, and plays a speed card. Successive players must play a card that is within 2 km/hr to stay in the Peleton (the race pack), or they must draw chips equal to the difference. So if the race leader plays a 44, you must a lay at least a 42. If you play a 40, you draw 4 chips, showing you're 4 km off the Peleton. If you play a card higher than the race leader, you take the lead, take the yellow token, and successive players must now match your tempo. If you have chips in front of you, playing higher does not get you the lead, but you pay back chips for your excess. If you keep going slower than the leader, you keep drawing chips! Headwinds must be played when drawn and you can use Spurts as you like. You play Mountain cards onto the race leader, which prevents overtaking and removes the 2 km shadow, ie you must equal or beat the tempo just to stay in touch. The race ends when the deck runs out.
The player holding the yellow token wins and scores a point, the other players lose points equal to the chips in front of them.
Admittedly, luck plays quite a large part of your strategy, you can only play the cards you draw. But its light and quick, the ideal filler. We played 2 hands before Steve turned up. First game I took an early lead, holding the yellow jersey, but gradually my high cards dried up and Natalie overtook me and held on for the finish line. In the second game I was dealt a good starting hand of high cards and never looked back really. All the cards I drew were either high cards or spurts (+2). I cruised it.
Game 1 - Natalie Yellow Jersey, Neil 10 minutes behind, Colin 8 minutes behind.
Game 2 - Colin Yellow Jersey, Neil 27, Natalie 13
Im Schatten Der Kaiser
It being Steve’s choice he had picked a different game for 3,4,5 or 6 players, depending on who turned up. As it was 4 out came Im Schatten Der Kaiser. Here is a very brief description 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.
This is a very simplified description of what is a very.....not difficult exactly......but complex game. I will not endeavour to write a fuller description of the gameplay here, if you would like to read a very good description of gameplay go here:
Again, although Natalie, Neil and myself had played this once before, Steve hadn’t played at all and the learning curve is fairly steep. The first turn, what with rules clarifications and such took almost an hour. I think this is another game destined not to finish in our alloted time. Obviously the game speeded up as we became more familiar with the game mechanisms. The gameplay is very rich, each round has 8 phases and includes buying action cards that do some very powerful things, and giving birth to continue your line. This is an original mechanism where is you have more blue action cards you get to place a noble (boy) on the gameboard, and if you have an equal or more number of pink cards, you get a daughter and you can propose to a noble of another house on the board. If they accept the noble becomes a couple (more influence) and you get 1VP. As I say, a quite interesting and influential mechanism. Steve started off being the Emperor and Neil called an election to take power on the very first turn.
Both Natalie and I considered Neil’s position to be more of a threat to us than Steve so we voted to keep the incumbent in office, and got a VP to boot. Natalie called an election on the very next turn and managed to kick Steve off the throne. We only managed to play 3 of the 5 turns so again as last week this is not a true reflection of the game, but even it was highly enjoyable. On the last turn Steve called an election to try to regain power, even though he only controlled one province. Neil and I knew that if we voted for Natalie we would be handing her the win so Steve squeaked back onto the throne by our good graces. The VP was a bonus, he he. In the end the game was very close with a 3-way tie. I think this is a game that needs to be played a couple of times to get the hang of the flow things, but all in all a gamers game with loads of decisions and opportunities for good gameplay.
Final Scores after 3 turns
Natalie 10, Steve 10, Colin 10, Neil 7
Game Rating (0-10)
Monday, February 21, 2005
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.
I had read the rules on the train on the way home from work and Steve had read them as well, even so it took us a good 40 minutes to work our way through the rulebook. There were several ambiguities that took us some time to resolve. The rulebook suggested that if it was your first game that you only played the first step of the game. That is until a player had established his 7th city. Pooh, to that, we were going to play the whole shebang! Well, as it turned out the first full turn took 50 minutes. With quite a lot of questions and such. Er......perhaps we’d better revise that. To be fair the turns speeded up considerably after that, even so it was obvious that we weren’t going to finish the whole game by the end of the evening. So we decided on a time limit and scored at that time. Now I know that that will affect the bidding for power stations and various other things, so I think this first game was more of a learning game and next time the game will flow a lot quicker and get closer to the time on the box of 2 hours. Neil had arrived shortly after the 1st turn and took over the duties of managing the bank and the auctioning of the power stations. I thoroughly enjoyed our first look at Power Grid and can’t wait to play again. There are a lot of decisions to make and some maths are required to manage your cash. Bidding for Power Stations, buying fuel to power them and of course establishing cities and paying connection charges.
In some ways it is a bit like Age of Steam with replenished resources and connecting your power plants (stations) on the board, anyway that’s how I felt. And although I find Age of Steam a bit hard going, I liked this game a lot. We did actually get into Step 2 of the game, where you can have 2 players connecting to a city, and some evil blocking moves ensued (thanks Richard!). One other thing that you have to pay attention to is the turn order, this is determined thus, the leading player is the player with the most connected cities in his network (first house on the scoring track). If two or more players are tied for the lead, the leading player is the player with the bigger power plant (the power plant with the higher number). In the auction of power plants the leading player starts, on the buying resources and building phases it is in reverse turn order. This can make an enormous difference to your planning. So, quite an introduction to Power Grid, really looking forward to our next playing. In the pic you see the concentration needed to play this game, either that or the effluent from all those power stations is making an awful smell.
These are the final scores, I’m sure Garry will claim the win, but bear in mind we didn’t actually finish the whole game.
Colin 131/11, Garry 113/13, Richard 156/10, Steve 149/9
Game Rating (0-10)
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Natalie 7, *Steve 4, Neil 11, Colin 9
Having thought about it I am still not a totally converted Settlers fan. I still think that you are at the mercy of the dice. I know you can trade for resources, but if you are close to getting 10VPs nobody will trade and you are relying on the dice. Notice in our second game I had the sheep sown up on a 9 and Neil had the ore on a 12. Everyone knew I was on 9 VPs so no trade also no 9s rolled. Whereas Neil had the luck to have several 12s rolled and steam in for the win.
Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Natalie 3, *Steve 4, Neil 10, Colin 5
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Actually the first time we played the game at Christmas we read one of the rules wrong and found it difficult to get 2 boats on the river at once. Doh! Garry won both of those games but when I suggested they should be void results he didn’t seem keen. Obviously being the farthest upriver, right on the brink of the falls in fact, makes the pink gems the hardest to collect. Good fortune rather than a planned move seem to prevail here. Boats that lurk empty downriver and try to mug the lucky possessor of the pink gem are frequent. Anyway, as I say, the first game ended quite quickly and the final result was:
Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Neil 7 any, Steve 6, Garry 3, Colin 5, *Natalie 5
Game 2 was a much different affair with decisions over which tile to play taking longer. A lot of stealing went on in this game, indeed Garry was one move away from getting the winning gem to the bank when some nasty character stole it off of him. Errr, that was me then, sorry Garry. But of course I immediately had it stolen from me. Doh! Then Neil became the target getting quite close to winning, and myself actually. I had 6 and only needed one more. Unfortunately I was at the wrong end of the river. A lot of clouds appeared that kept the river flowing rather rapidly and both Garry and Natalie had canoes that plummeted over the falls. Steve was giving a lot of advice, aka ‘remember you need to be in position to stop X next time’. Which in fact Natalie did, stopping Neil from winning and sacrificing the chance to gain a pink gem that she had been trying for all game. Funnily enough in the next round Steve scrambled 2 gems to the bank to claim the win. Nice misdirection there Steve. As you can see from the final scores everyone was one gem away from winning. All in all a very enjoyable evening and Niagara is a game I can enthusiastically recommend for gamers and non-gamers alike.
Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Neil 4 different, Steve 7 any, Garry 4 different, Colin 6, Natalie 4 different