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