Wednesday, December 13, 2006

12th December - Kampf um Rome

The last session before the festive season for me, next week I shall be really busy so very unlikely to have time for gaming. Anyway tonight we had a full compliment to play Kampf um Rome, the new Settlers of Catan variation. In this game you have a fixed map of the Roman Empire with hidden counters on each city. There are 5 resources, wheat, ore, horses, oxen and gold. Each player has 2 tribes, horsemen and warriors, these start in the NE corner of the board, and basically you move your tribes across the board looting the cities for the counters which give some benefits, gold, resources or development cards but also in most cases cause you to lose a man which weakens your armies. When you have at least counters in three different colours you can start to conquer the cities, when you do this your tribe stops moving and then conquers cities within one arrow away. You have to have an army equal in the strength to the number of watchtowers in the city.

It is an interesting decision when to stop pillaging and when to start conquering. I got the required 3 different colour counters for both my horse tribe and my warrior tribe, I had a development card which let me move anywhere on the board, so I moved my horse tribe to the middle of Spain and started to conquer cities from there. My warriors settled in Gaul and started their expansion there. One interesting thing is that once I had settled I had no gold and the only way I could get any was to do nothing in the build phases and either pick up 2 gold or a resource of my choice. I think I was the first to settle and start conquering, Richard started next, Steve third and Garry seemed to be quite happy to carry on looting!! With rules explanation the game lasted just on 2 hours which was OK. The scores where really close, with Steve just nicking the win.

I must say I enjoyed this Settlers variation a lot more than some of the others I have played. I usually get really useless die rolls and so not a lot of resources, in this game that didn't seem to happen, although I think Richard suffered in this respect a bit. There definitely wasn't as much trading between players in this game and my progress did stall a bit just after I started to conquer cities, you have to place a wagon and tribe member in each city as you conquer them, so you need to keep building them, and I didn't have the correct resources for a couple of turns.

Final Scores (money is the tiebreaker)
Steve 10, Richard 8(2), Garry 8(1), Colin 8 (0)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

5th December - Ur

On the table tonight was one of the games I purchased at Essen this year, Ur, published by What's Your Game? and designed by Paolo Mori. Basically this game consists of 40 double sided tiles and number of cubes for each player. On each side of the tiles is depicted an action, Agriculture, Trade, Politics, Culture and finally War. . The tiles are laid out in a 6 x 6 grid with no tile the same as an adjacent one, and each player starts with a tile in hand. In your turn you are allowed to perform none, one or both of the actions depicted on the tile. If you only perform one action you can put an extra block on a tile you control, if perform none of the actions you can put 2 blocks on tiles you own or 1 block on any free tile. Finally at the end of your turn you exchange your tile for a free tile on the board, this tile cannot have the same pair of actions as the one you hold. Each action allows you to manipulate your blocks in some way or another. The objective is to control as many tiles as you can by the end of the game, you then put all the tiles you control into sets and score points according to the sets you can make up. You can only have a maximum of 5 blocks on a tile, you can also choose to build a ziggurat, there are 5 ziggurats in the game and when the fifth one is built that is one of the ways to end the game. To build a ziggurat you take replace the 5 blocks on a tile you control with the ziggurat and mark it with a block, this takes that tile effectively out of the game and cannot be affected by actions any more. You can only build a maximum of 2 ziggurats per turn. The other way to end the game is if you cannot exchange your tile with a different one from the board.

The Tile Grid

We managed to get in two plays of this game and as with most games the way to play the game becomes a lot clearer second time around. Steve and Richard homed in on the Agriculture tiles in the second game to get a lot of blocks onto the board quickly. The war action is very powerful as you can attack many times using one war action, a fact that Steve and I think Garry didn't realise until halfway through the first game. As the tile each player has is in view you know in advance what actions they are likely to take next turn which can be helpful. You also have to keep an eye on the ziggurats as they can get built quickly and the game is finished before you are ready.

A close up of the tile grid

I enjoyed this game although from my score you can see I did a lot better when I didn't really know what I was doing!!! There are many options available on your turn and as you have only 20 blocks available to you war and ziggurats are necessary to get some blocks back. All in all a game with a bit of meat on it that plays in an hour.

Final Scores - game 1
Richard 30, Steve 27, Colin 27, Garry 17

game 2
Steve 36, Garry 32, Richard 31, Colin 13

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 28th - Heart of Africa

This week Steve chose Heart of Africa, a game we played back in September. This Phalanx Game by Andreas Steding is about trading in Africa and trying to expand your holdings by kicking out neutral traders and the other players in the areas that produce the most VPs. Each commodity, gold, ivory, diamonds, ivory and the empty areas are given a random value at the start of the game and tiles depicting them are placed on the board at random. There is then an auction for a pair of tiles that have a number of action points on them and a special action. If you win the auction you can use either the action points or the special action, or save the tile for later. You can then use it for fighting another player or use the special action but lose the action points. The first player to 50 VPs wins the game, the rules say 42 but we decided 50 was a good number.

Final Board Position

Last time we played it I didn't do very well, Steve won with a score of 54and I came a distant fourth on 34. I hoped I would do better this time. Steve explained that the tiles with no special action and zero action points were pretty worthless (only useful for fighting), so we implemented a house rule that if one turned up for auction we rolled a 6 sided die to determine how many action points it was worth, this made the tile a lot more attractive and useful.
We all managed to win a couple of auctions and our scores were all around the 15-20 mark when Richard made a mega move and scored a load of points and he moved up to 44/46 points I think, just short of victory. I managed to make a similar move myself which put me one point behind Richard.

Garry was the only player to get his big dobber on the board

Then Steve won an auction and during his turn he attacked one of my territories that had a trading post in it, I retreated because I thought I could win the next auction and the resources I hoped I would get from Steve might help me to struggle over the line. In the event in the next auction Richard bid 20 and I only had 17 so I had to chip in with 4VPs to win it. One of the tiles allowed me to exchange a neutral trader with one of my own and I captured a gold province with that, and combined with my other provinces and the tile I won off of Steve which scored 2 VPs for every controlled province, I scored 16 points which put me on 58 and victory!

Final Scores
Colin 58, Richard 47, Steve 40, Garry 39

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Game Free Week

Yup, no games session this week..... cancelled at the last moment due to work and illness. So what to do? Luckily I have just got the new Beatles CD, Love to listen to. I am a long time Beatles fan, I saw them live in 1963 at the Lewisham Odeon, I say saw advisedly because I never heard them much, only the girls screaming. But what an experience, I was only 15 and I have loved their music ever since. Love could have been a disaster, but George Martin who has a unique afinity to their music has done a fine job. I would love to go and see Cirque de Soleil perform to the music, but it's only on in Las Vegas. Doh! Perhaps it will come to London eventually.
So no games until next week, happy gaming until then.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

14th November - Leonardo Da Vinci

So tonight Garry chose Leonardo Da Vinci, published by Da Vinci/Mayfair Games. I had read the rules twice during the day and I must admit the first read it didn't make much sense, anyway it became clearer as Garry started to explain the rules and set up the board. It took us nearly an hour to go through the rulebook, we decided to go straight into the advanced player setup with equal apprentices, florins and 3 favours each.

Each of us took a different mix of favours to start and I took 4 components, my other lab and an extra apprentice. It started to go downhill after that really, for me that is. I started to research an invention and when I had the required weeks research I declared I had finished and turned over the required components only to find I had put wood under the lab when I needed bricks!!! Doh! That set me back quite a bit as I was cash strapped for my next few turns. Steve was going down the ‘get as many apprentices as quickly as possible’ route. The mechanical men were quite popular quickly being taken. To be perfectly honest I played a pretty awful game and would definitly like to play again just to try do better. Richard realised near the end of the game that florins were in fact VPs and had been using them quite liberally, Garry had invented a number of nice contraptions and Steve had all 9 apprentices and some good inventions too. I on the other hand had not invented a single thing, only getting the lower value because everybody was inventing faster than me and picking the same ones as me.

Obviously this was only a learning game (I kept telling myself)), it seems to me that you have to be aware that the two research turns approach quite quickly and you need to prepare your components to take advantage of that, I of course did not do that...... Together with the rules explanation our game took nearly 3 hours, but I am sure that will come down a lot with the next play. The game does have some Caylus like mechanics and Steve did say he preferred it to Caylus.

Final Scores (bonuses for different inventions)
Garry 54 (8), Steve 47 (0), Richard 32 (8), Colin 20 (0)

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

7th November - Power Grid/Benelux Map

Richard's choice tonight and he chose one of the new maps for Power Grid - Benelux. Full complement of 4 of us and we all knew the rules to Power Grid so just a quick run through of the changes for the Benelux map. The fifth power station is available for purchase if it is ecological. More oil and less coal available and the uranium is a bit restricted too. After that we just had a good look at the map, quite a concentration of cities in the northwest and central part with some good opportunities to build and grow. The game progressed very smoothly, Garry got a bit blocked in and payed to build through a couple of cities to get to the other side of the board, I had built in the north east and thought I was OK and Richard had started on the double city of Brussels. At one point we had four out of five uranium power plants on the top row with uranium being quite expensive nobody went for them.

The second phase triggered when the seventh city was built, Steve had built into my bit at the top with his first cities but that left me spaces to go in the second phase, Richard had pretty well spread all over the centre of the map with Garry a bit hemmed in. Interestingly Richared never discarded a power plant whereas Steve his a couple of times, I changed one and I think Garry changed a couple too. As the game was drawing to its end we were waiting for the third phase to trigger, it must have been close because we were running out of second phase cities to go to. In actual fact Richard built 7 cities on his last go to reach the magic 17 mark, thus triggering the end of the game, but he had built a couple of them on Steve's cities leaving a couple of place where Steve could build. So in the end they both had 14 cities and could power them so it came down to the tie-breaker. Garry had been hanging on for some good power plants and the 3rd phase I think and had left it too late to regain lost ground and as I was third to build there was no place I could go. We were wondering where that 3rd phase card and it turned out to be the next card to be drawn.

So a very enjoyable game and a very interesting map. We still have loads of games from Essen to try out so the European map may be a while before it hits the table.

Final Scores (most money was the tie-breaker, Steve had 7, Richard 9)
Richard 14, Steve 14, Colin 12, Garry 10

Monday, November 6, 2006

31st October - Hameln

Yes, I know, I'm a bit late with this post but better late than never. I was a bit busy over the last weekend playing with my new laptop (early Christmas present from the wife), I have just got to figure out the wireless router now! Anyway last tuesday we played the new Fragor game Hameln. As usual very nice figures, rats, pied piper and cat and the production of the game was much higher than Shear Panic, I think they were produced by Ludofact this time. Richard and Steve had played this last week, albeit with a few of the rules wrong, but this was a first playing for Garry and myself. Hopefully we would get the rules correct this time. The game is played in 3 phases, each phase ending when a pre-determined number of rats infest the houses of Hameln triggering the appearance of the Pied Piper. There are some unusual and interesting mechanics going on, each house is inhabited by a male and a female controlled by different players, and they have the opportunity to produce offspring as an action, said offspring going into the church waiting to be married off. I thought the cat was too expensive, cost 4, remove 1 rat, and in our two games he was only purchased once. I posted on the geek to that effect and within a couple of hours had received an email from Fragor saying that they had played around with the cat quite a bit before coming to the final ruling and that the cat was meant to be used sparingly and would be useful in the final phase, freeing an infested house to score points.

Our games played pretty smoothly and I think there was a mixed reaction to the game, we would play again but it seemed that although there was some interesting ideas here it didn't quite seem to gel. I took onboard the observations about the cat though, I could have freed up a house near the end to score another 5 points and that would have got the win I think.
OK, I have time to grab the results with a gentle push from Garry (he won both games), but the pics will have to wait until the weekend.

Final Scores (with minus points for children gone to Transylvania) most influence is the tie-breaker
Game 1
Garry 15, Richard 15, Colin 12, Steve 10

Game 2
Garry 13, Richard 12, Colin 11 (-1), Steve 3 (-6)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Richards's Post Essen Games Day - 28th October

Richard had invited us over to his place for a Post Essen Games Day. Attending were Richard!, Steve, Jo, myself and Tony who was coming along around teatime. Steve picked me up from Billingshurst and we arrived at Richard’s house in Haywards Heath just after 10. Richard, Jo and Steve were keen to give Through the Ages a go, so that hit the table.

Through The Ages

This game by CzechBoardGames was advertised for Essen as Civ-lite or Civilisation the card game. Richard started to set-up while Jo, who had read the rules, started to give us the run down, we decided to play the basic game just to give us a feel for the mechanics and play, actualy winning the game wasn’t so important. Going through the rules took about an hour. The game doesn’t have a board as such just a place to lay out cards and keep track of various points. I won’t go into the rules in any depth here, it would take too long, suffice to say once you have played a couple of turns it easily falls into place, certain aspects of the game weren’t relevant in the basic game, mainly military activity and territories. The components for the game aren’t what I would call absolutely of the highest quality, the cards are a bit on the thin side and the small glass beads that you use are a bit fiddly for large fingers.

The basic game only plays through Age I and that took us about 150 minutes. I know that I said that winning wasn’t a priority, but you know how us gamers are and I think winning the game did figure in some of the moves :) (basically that means I didn’t win). The game ends when you have gone through the Age I deck of cards and that came upon quite quickly at the end. Meaning I hadn’t noticed I wouldn’t get another turn. I could have improved my score if I had noticed.....really!! but winning wasn’t the priority, remember errr hem!! Anyway I quite liked it, although we couldn’t play it on a Tuesday evening it would take too long, have to wait for another day long session, and the advanced version is obviously going to take much longer I would think.

Final Scores
Steve 61, Richard 45, Jo 44, Colin 35

Blue Moon City

Jo had purchased Blue Moon City, another Renier Knizia game, and was keen to give it a go. It had been a getting a good buzz at Essen and on the Geek. Richard put some pizzas on and Jo gave a run down on the rules. After fuelling up on pepperoni pizza and sausage rolls we started the game. Basically you are trying to rebuild the devestated Blue Moon City by moving your dobber around the til that make up the board and attempt to build on one by playing cards from your hand. Each tile has different requirements to build it and provides various rewards when it is completed, dragon scales, crystals and extra cards basically. Each other completed tile that is orthoganal to the tile that is being scored provides extra benefits (more crystals, dragon scales or cards). If there is a dragon on the tile when you build you get a dragon scale straight away. As you collect crystals you can get to the central tile and make an offer to rebuild the obelisk, this involves paying crystals to the bank and you put a marker on said obelisk. As more markers are put on the cost to build increases, when a player has 4 markers on it they win the game. The cards are values 1-3 in different colours, each colour has a different special ability, enabling you to move the dragons around the board, or using cards of a different colour to pay for a build, they are all pretty well depicted on the cards and you get used to quite quickly.

The components for the game are very good, nice thick tiles and the cards have very appealing artwork on them. You are reliant to a certain extent on what cards you draw, but you can discard 1 or 2 cards at the end of your turn so you can then draw 4 (you draw 2 anyway). I like the game, it’s easy to understand and sets up quickly, good for non-gamers and has a bit of strategy in it and plays in about 60 minutes. Steve complained about the cards he kept drawing until he realised that 2 brown cards could be used as a 3 of any colour, which obviously made his cards a lot better. I got 2 offers on the obelisk pretty quickly and then concentrated on getting a presence on a few tiles to benefit when they were completed. I managed to get enough crystals for 2 more offers but couldn’t get the card that enabled you to make 2 offers in one turn, so I had to wait a turn and hope that nobody else had enough crystals and the right card to make 2 offers, nobody did so I got my fourth offer on the obelisk and won.

Final Scores
Colin 4 offers

Richard was very pleased with a game he got from Toys R Us and that was next on the table, albeit only briefly.

Loopin’ Loiue
I won’t go into too much detail because this game is obviously in every hardcore gamers collection. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture, the excitement was too much. Steve rated this game very highly and tried to win as quickly as possible to get it off the table, and he did.


Null & Nichtig
We weren’t sure what time Tony was going to join us so we had a couple of hands of Null & Nichtig. We had played this trick-taking cardgame last tuesday and found it good fun. Lots of opportunity for stuffing someone’s score, also for getting your own stuffed too. Richard had obviously been thinking about it because he went from coming last on tuesday to winning.

Final Scores after 2 hands
Richard 67, Colin 48, Steve 35, Jo 18

On The Underground

Jo had decided to call it a day and Tony finally arrived, we gave him the choice of the next game and he chose the JKLM game On the Underground. Yet another game about building/laying track/tunnels/canals yada, yada, yada. I must admit my hands are getting quite calloused with all the track laying and tunnel/canal building, and some of them just don’t appeal that much to me. This variant has you digging tunnels for the London Underground and moving the passenger around to various destinations as designated by a deck of cards. The map depicts the stations with 1 or multiple connections between them, you place your track (looked very like roads from Settlers to me) and then move the passenger. As an aside I don’t think the underground companies are going to make much money with 1 passenger....anyway. There are multiple ways to score points, joining track to national railway lines, connecting to a terminus, joining 2 tourist spots etc.

After you have built your track the passenger moves and for each line he moves over the owner gets 1 point. There are two types of station, gold and silver, he will always move to a gold station if he can, then onto a silver station. If there are only silver stations he just moves to one of them. I found it OK, not one I would choose or wish to own a copy of, but will play it if someone else chooses it.

Final Scores
Richard 40, Steve 40, Tony 39, Colin 33


Lastly on the table was a game that had got rave reviews for the bits and the very pleasing look, but was it a good game? I hadn’t managed to get a copy of the english rules, but had managed to piece together the gameplay from several very good reviews and some input into Google Translator. Basically it is a very simple game, on your turn you play a tile and then build one of your buildings. Each player has 20 huts, 3 temples and 2 towers. You can either add a tile adjacent to the tiles in play, or cause a volcanic eruption, which means laying a tile on a higher level. You must place the volcano on the tile on another volcano with the lava flow going in a different direction, this means you can’t just place your tile directly over just one other tile. You can destroy buildings, but cannot wipe out a complete settlement i.e. there must be at least one building of a settlement left in play.
When you place a building you can either, place a hut on level 1, build a temple on an existing settlement of at least 3 hex size that doesn’t already contain a temple, build a tower on an existing settlement at level 3 or higher that doesn’t already contain a tower. There is one other move and that is expand your settlement by choosing a terrain type and putting huts on all the hexes of that terrain type adjacent to a settlement, 1 hut on a level 1 hex, 2 huts on a level 2 etc, and that’s it really. Placing the tiles is tricky, trying to protect your settlements by not giving any opportunities for your opponents to erupt all over them and gaining height to build those towers.

The winning conditions are when any player has built all buildings of two types, or if the tiles have run out, the player who has built the most temples, if tied, the most towers and if still tied the most huts. Tony had expanded one settlement and placed lots of huts in it, leaving him with only 1 hut left. This gave him a dilemma as he couldn’t get a 3 hex settlement to place his temples. It looked as if the rule where if you cannot build in your turn you are eliminated from the game may trigger. He placed the hut anyway. We were down to 1 or 2 tiles and Richard was looking to place his last tower, we realised that if he did that he would have built all of two types of building, oh, realises Tony I did that last turn. So in the end from the possibility of being eliminated Tony claimed the win. I liked the game a lot, simple but with quite a depth to it, and it does look great!!

Final Scores
Tony winner (built 2 types of bulding)

It was about 9.45 now and we decided to call it a day. A good day of playing the Essen releases, and we still have loads to go!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Haywards Heath to Essen - There and back in a day

As I mentioned before I went to Essen in 2003 with Richard in his TVR, we did it in a day. Very tiring but quite a buzz, well it was for me anyway, I wasn't driving! Well, this year he did it again, this time taking his sensible car and a couple of friends. You can read all about his trip here.

  • Richards Essen Trip 2006

  • Well worth a read, even if it's for the curry :)

    Tuesday 24th October - Gheos

    Here we are and the first session post Essen, Garry couldn't make it courtesy of a cold he picked up in Germany. So it was just Steve, Richard and I. Steve had chosen Gheos, one of the games I purchased at the show. This is basically a tile laying game with a bit of Euphrates and Tigris thrown in. The tiles form continents and islands on which you establish civilisations.

    A close up of the tiles with civ counters

    The components are very good, nice chunky tiles with good graphics representing land and water, with clear symbols in bright colours. All the blocks and discs are wood. The manual is clear with good examples of play. The gameplay is fairly simple but has a lot of possibilities. You either add a tile or replace a tile that is already laid. You can then start a civ on an unoccupied continent, or take a block of an existing civ. If you replace a tile this could either lead to a war or a civilisation migrating. There are 6 civilisations (colours) and when you establish a civilisation you gain followers (coloured blocks) of that civ, these can then earn you VPs in various ways. When you have sorted that out you could play one of 3 scoring discs each player has. You get points for each follower you have for civs in play and each follower is worth the number of cups depicted in that civ. Only the player that played the scoring disc actually scores. You then draw a tile from the supply to make your hand back up to two. If you draw an epoch tile then there is another scoring, in an epoch scoring each follower a player has is worth points equal to the number of pyramids on that civs continent, all the players score all their followers.

    The overall gameboard

    The interesting bit is when you replace a tile and cause a war or migration because the losing civ loses all its followers, and the players with any followers have to discard them. On several occasions in our game 4 or 5 followers were lost at a time. The game ends when all players have played all of their scoring tokens or when a certain number of epoch tiles have been drawn, in a 3 player game that was 7.
    At game end all players score again just as if they had played a scoring token. Steve managed to end the game by making a move and then playing the last scoring token he had which ended the game, he scored 20 points for that, then there was the final scoring and he scored another 20 points....ouch, that effectively won him the game.

    Final Scores
    Steve 78, Richard 73, Colin 53

    I think we all enjoyed Gheos, there are a lot of possible moves and plenty of opportunities to screw your opponents. It also plays fairly quickly, which left us enough time to end the session with a short cardgame.

    Null und Nichtig (Null and Void)
    This is a simple trick-taking game with a twist....well they all have haven't they. Basically there are cards 0-11 in five colours, with 2 zeros in each colour. Each player is dealt 13 cards and chooses 3 cards to place face up in front of him. The player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick, you don't have to follow suit (colour) and the highest card wins the trick. This is the clever bit, the winner of the trick then picks up the cards in order, starting with his own, and adds them to the cards in front of him by colour, so each colour is in a single stack. You play the 13 tricks and at the end you score points for the top card of each colour stack you have in front of you. Easy uh!! well, it makes you think a bit, I found it easiest to play 3 high cards in front of me at the start and then try not to win any tricks. Never lead with a zero, every one dumps zeros of different colours on you...oh, I forgot if there is a tie for the highest card, it's the one who played it first that wins the trick. I admit I do like trick taking games and this one is very good, I'd like to play it with 5, the maximum number of players, should be a laugh.

    Final Scores
    Colin 88, Steve 79, Richard 69

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Essen 2006 - Day 3/20.10.06

    At breakfast our games lists were updated, final purchases noted and last things to check out. We arrived at the halls at 10.15, Jo had stayed at the hotel to catch up on a bit of work, and we arranged to meet him later. The halls were definitely more crowded today, I would hate to be here tomorrow, I should think it will be packed. I wanted to have a look at Ave Caesar, the Pro Ludo reprint was selling for around 20/21 euros. I think that will fill the remaining space in my case nicely thank you so I purchased a copy. We met up with Jo and he wanted to check out the Japanese games on the Japon Brand stand, they had a small stand in hall 4, with very polite assistants bowing every time they give out a leaflet. I didn’t know too much about their games but Jo was ecstatic to find them selling Q-Jet 21XX, a space-themed version of Ave Caesar, and immediately bought 2 copies, one for himself and one for Richard. I purchased Phantom Rummy, a cross between Maj Jong and Rummy, mainly I admit for the artwork, which was really nice.
    Fiske had a marvellous colour-coded checklist to work from and he diligently tracked down the best price for each game he wished to purchase, saving one or two euro’s on each one but wearing out a lot of shoe leather.
    Time was getting on and we decided to go back to the centre of Essen for some coffee and a snack, so we bade our farewells to the Messe around 3.45. The hotel had let us leave our cases there so we went back to pick them up and fit the final games in. Our train was leaving at 5.36, and we arrived in plenty of time, we saw it on the display then it disappeared, after some enquiries we found out it had been cancelled. I thought the german railway system was perfect, ah well. Not to worry, we eventually arrived at the airport for our short flight to Gatwick. Our adventure to Essen was over, we all had a great time and came back with enough games to keep us playing for quite a while.

    Battlelore from Days of Wonder

    Watching a dexterity game manipulating cups

    Fragor Games new offering Hameln

    Playing Imperial

    Jo and Friend

    Taking a break

    Waiting in vain for our cancelled train

    My game purchases

    Fiske's Essen purchases

    And Garry's

    Essen 2006 - Day 2/19.10.06

    We met up this morning and had a leisurely breakfast, discussing what games we wanted to buy and things especially wanted to do. We had all printed out lists off of the web, Spielbox had a really good one, and noted all the possible purchases. Fiske, a friend of Jo’s was meeting up with us at the Messe later. We set off for the short metro ride to the halls arriving about 9.45, we soon had our tickets and Jo departed to stock up from the cash machine. We arranged to meet at the Winsome Games stand, Garry wanted to go there first as he had pre-ordered some AoS maps. The crowds were surging into the fair and we plunged in, there was quite a crowd at Winsome because pre-ordered items had to be picked up between 10-12 and the free player mats went in 20 minutes. Jo arrived to claim his copies and we decided to split meeting at the steps by the restaurant, a favourite gathering point, later.

    Garry and AoS maps at Winsome Games

    It was great just wandering around taking in all the atmosphere, I had only been once before in 2003, doing the round trip from the UK and back in a day. This time we could take more time and take it all in, it really is a paradise for gamers. A lot of english and americans visit the fair, we got talking to a guy from Southampton at the Allgamesfor you stand.
    Some of the fantasy role-playing costumes and equipment are something else. Whole suits of armour and chainmail, swords, axes and some great characters in costume selling it all. I tried the weight of the chainmail and boy was it heavy, just imagine wearing that all day!

    Garry feeling the weight of chainmail

    We started checking out the prices on various stalls, and it was surprising how much some of them varied. Soon it was approaching 12 noon the time we were due to meet Fiske.....and sure enough there he was, he had missed the 9.12am ICE train by minutes and had to wait for the 10.12. It was the first time we had met and Fiske was kind enough to say he enjoyed reading the Billygames blog.

    The AllGames4You stand

    Garry lost in the AllGames4You

    The rest of the day was spent checking out possibles and picking up games we had pre-ordered, I had to get Hameln, the latest Fragor Bro offering, and Metromania. The figures in Hameln are really cute, my wife loves the rats. Zoch Games, who are reprinting Shear Panic, had a giant-sized version on display attracting a lot of people. Garry and I were taught Kabale und Hiebe, a card game from Hans Im Gluck, it wasn’t bad but the cards had special abilities on them so you really needed an english version to play. Jo was really pleased when Garry found a copy of Busen Memo for him, in this game you have to match the left and right breasts of 48 women.

    The giant-sized Shear Panic from Zoch

    The Kosmos Stand

    We managed to grap a table to have a look at Eggert-Spiele’s, Imperial. Fiske reckoned it had a bit of Diplomacy in it, there are loads of bits in the game and the board gets really busy. None of us were that impressed and decided not to buy. We all were lugging around our purchases and as we were flying the baggage allowance comes into play. So we were constantly hefting games to see how much they weighed or discounting them because the box was too big. Ah, and I really fancied Shogun too. The time was getting on to 6pm now and frankly I was knackered. We decided to call it a day and make our way back to the hotel. After a quick shower we were meeting up for dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was when I was going to see how my purchases fitted into the suitcase the crisis arose. Before we had left in the morning I had put my passport and some cash into the case and locked it with one of those combination locks. I put in the combination and pulled.....nothing. I tried again, and again, and again. Doh!! No passort or cash and I had visions of running around Essen on our last day trying to buy a hacksaw. Anyway we had a very nice dinner, during which I explained my problem. Fiske and Garry decided to come and have a look, and after some fiddling and deduction managed to release it......phew, was I relieved!!!
    So I was able to retrieve the passport and cash and then try and fit all my game purchases in and see how much space I had left. No problem, room for 1 or 2 more I think. I might have a look at Khronos tomorrow.

    Dinner at the Hotel Korn

    Essen 2006 - Day 1/18.10.06

    3.55am pouring with rain and Garry arrives to pick my up for the short drive to Gatwick. No problems checking in although we se our 6.20am flight to Cologne is listed at 5.55am. No panic we have arrived with plenty of time. We soon link up with Jo and the flight goes smoothly arriving in Cologne around 8.40. Grab our cases and proceed to the train ticket office, Jo is in charge of train tickets recommending that we reserve our seats for the return journey on friday. It’s now 9.08 and the ICE train for Essen is leaving at 9.12 on platform 2, we manage to board in time and arrive in Essen around 10.20. A short walk brings us to Hotel Korn our base for the next couple of days.

    Garry and Jo departing the ICE train at Essen

    We check in and dump the cases as the rooms are not ready yet and ajourn to a local Starbucks for some coffee. We sit outside in the morning sunshine and just chill out for a while. Jo had told us about a games shop he has visited before but can’t quite remember the location, so off we go for a pleasant strong around Essen. We look round for a while but no luck, we ask a couple of people who direct us but we still can’t find it. We do however find a nice department store called Mullers which has a games department that puts english games shops to shame. Quit a range of ‘proper’ games including Null & Nichtig and Relic both of which I was planning to buy to I pick them up.

    Coffee outside Starbucks at Essen

    We were all pretty whacked so made our way back to the hotel and had a shower and rested for a couple of hours. Meeting up again at 3pm we had another destination, Garry had found out where Toys R Us was and we visited for a while, again a very good selection of games. Jo did manage to locate his games had ben turned into a 1 euro store!!!

    Cold beer and hot coffee

    It was a lovely sunny afternoon and all the open air cafes and bars where buzzing. Time to relax with a beer (or coffee for Jo) and just watch the people pass by. After a nice meal of pasta we decided to call it a day and some serious sleep time in to be ready for a long day at the Messe tomorrow.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Essen and New Message Board

    The message board developed some problems so I have replaced it with another one, hopefully this will work better. Please feel free to comment or post your thoughts.

    Essen is nearly upon us now and the excitement is building, I have got to pack this weekend, well I say pack I shall be taking minimul stuff in a big case to leave room for all the games I hope to get. Garry is picking me up at 4.00am Wednesday morning for a 6.20am flight from Gatwick airport to Cologne. Jo is meeting us at Gatwick, then from Cologne we take the ICE train into Essen, should arrive there about midday. So a nice leisurely afternoon and evening before we hit the Messe first thing on Thursday, ready for the 10.00am opening. I have been following the Essen preview on Boardgame News and have printed out the checklist of games from Spielbox online which will be a big help. I will be taking lots of photos throughout our trip and will have, hopefully, a full report after we get back.

    Richard on the other hand is going to do Essen in a day, leaving from his home in Haywards Heath at around 1.30am on Saturday morning, going through the channel tunnel and driving through europe to arrive at Essen around 9.00am. Then blitzing the Messe and leaving about 4.00pm for the drive back. I did this a couple of years ago, and while fun, is really tiring. Anyway I have badgered Richard to write about his trip so we should have a report from him too.

    Next report will be post Essen, see you all then.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Tuesday 10th October - Big City/Cronberg

    This is the last session before Essen, and unfortunately because of work commitments, Garry couldn't make it. Richard had chosen Canal Mania for his choice this week and because that was a game of Garry's he had to make another choice. He chose Big City, a game dating from 1999, my one playing was over 2 year's ago. So Steve, Richard and myself sat down to refresh ourselves with the rules. Basically there are 8 gameboards, each board divided into squares with a number, each representing a neighbourhood of a city. There are 8 corresponding decks of cards with 1-8 on the backs and the numbers of the squares on the front. So on you turn you can either add a new neighbourhood (only after City Hall has been built), build a building using cards from your hand, add trams (only after City Hall has been built), exchange as many cards as you like from your hand or pass. There are also 2 parks that can be build and 2 factories. The buildings score points depending on there type and the location in which they are built. One interesting feature is City Hall, the game can't fully develop until it is built, but the player who actually builds it gets zero points and everybody else can benefit from the new position first. Steve had no qualms and built it fairly early. After City Hall the trams become a nice feature enabling double points to be scored if a building is adjacent in a lot of cases.

    Steve built the tram line out on a new neigbourhood and Richard immediately built a factory there, diminishing the value of any buildings in the vicinity. The church (there are 2) can only be built on a square with a double number (33, 55, 88 etc.) and only if it is the last square left in a neighbourhood, this scores a nice 15 points. I managed to build both, tempting someone to build on the penultimate square of a hood by placing a tram nearby. All the bits in this game are first class, the buildings are really good. Our game took just over the hour.

    Final Scores
    Colin 126, Richard 108, Steve 80

    We had a bit of time left so we finished off the evening with a game of Cronberg. This game was web published by the designer before getting professionally produced. Basically an easy, fast tile laying game. In your turn you either lay a rhombus-shaped tile or place one of your pawns on an intersection between tiles. If the pawn gets surrounded by tiles it gets scored, or if there is a space that can't be filled it gets scored at the end of the game. A good filler with a bit of thought required, obviously from my score you can see this bit passed me by.

    Final Scores
    Richard 24, Steve 14, Colin -4 (Yes you can get minus scores!)

    Wednesday, October 4, 2006

    Tuesday October 3rd - Masons

    Originally uploaded by coljen.
    After our Saturday session, which was excellent, Richard has already chosen Canal Mania for next week's game. So tonight on the table was Leo Colovini's latest offering, Masons. Author of such games as Carolus Magnus, Clans and Cartagena, this latest game is about building walls to form cities with houses and palaces in the mix somewhere. But in reality the theme is pretty thin, building walls (wooden sticks) and then houses and palaces (small dobbers and big dobbers), an almost abstract placement game then, with some dice and cards. But having said that it played pretty well, and in just under the hour so we managed to get two games in.

    The board is made up of triangular areas, which are divided up into 3 larger areas. Two edges of board are coastal and two are not. There is a deck of guild cards which depict the various method of scoring points, e.g. 2 points for every white tower not in a city or 1 point for tower in a just completed city and so on. There are also 3 dice, one of which is colour of the towers, white, black and grey, and 2 depict the colour of the houses. Each player starts the game with a hand of 6 guild cards. So on your turn you first place a wall on one side of one of the triangular areas, you then roll the dice. This will tell you which colour one of the towers must be on the end of the wall, the tower on the other end is a free choice. Sometimes though there will a time when there are no spaces for towers or only one. You then place a house on each side of the wall, the colours you rolled with the other 2 dice, if you roll a ? you have a free choice of colour. If after your turn there is a completed city this initiates a scoring. Each player can then play 1 or 2 guild cards from his hand and score as they indicate and draw 1 replacement from the draw deck, or you can discard 1 card and draw 2 replacements.
    Be aware when you initiate a scoring, everybody scores, and they may score more points than you if they have the right cards. The game progresses until there are either no more towers, houses, palaces or walls left, then there is one more scoring and the player with most points is the winner. So, how did our games go, as Steve was the only one to have played before, Garry, Richard and I just plunged in. Some cities were quite quickly formed and scored, with some larger ones appearing later in the game. You have to have the right cards in the right situation, no good having city cards if there are no cities likely to be formed and no good having non-city cards if cities are being formed all over the place. The scores in the two games reflecting our grasp of this concept. :)

    Final Score (game 1)
    Steve 143, Richard 120, Colin 118, Garry 117

    In the second game the scores were much lower, showing how different this game was from the first. A lot of isolated walls and towers to start with and Garry capitalised by playing the card which scored each wall not in a city. I had all the white towers not in a city which is why I kept playing walls separately. This game was so different from the first, yet just as enjoyable. All in all a good game, not rich in atmosphere, a bit dry but makes you think, plays quickly and looks pretty good.

    Final Score (game 2)
    Richard 89, Garry 83, Steve 75, Colin 68

    Monday, October 2, 2006

    Garry's Games Day - 30th September (pt 2)

    Canal Mania is another game about laying track, oops sorry, building canals across England. Although there are elements of TTR (fixed routes and card collecting) and AoS (moving goods cubes), the game does stand on it's own merits. Garry ran through the rules, and after a few questions and clarifications off we went. Basically there is a deck of cards representing straights, locks, aquaducts, tunnels and surveyors (wild). This deck has 5 cards turned face up. Each player has his own set of canal tiles, with limited numbers of each , so you have watch what you build in case you run out of the kind of tile you need to complete a contract (route) There is a deck of contract cards of which 5 are turned face up, these display 2 towns or cities with maybe a third (via) and a number which is the maximum number of links it must be completed in. You can only have 2 contracts at a time. There are 2 types of terrain, clear and difficult. You can build stretches and locks on clear and tunnels and aquaducts on difficult. It takes 1 card to build a lock or stretch and 2 cards to build an aquaduct and 3 for a tunnel. In addition each player is dealt an engineers card, these have special abilities that can be used in your turn. Things like draw 4 build cards instead of 3, build a tunnel with 2 instead of 3. Each players turn is in 3 phases. Phase one take a contract, or exchange your engineer with someone elses, or discard the 5 face up build cards. Phase 2, take 3 build cards or build on the board. Phase three, move a goods cube. You can also take a face down build card instead of any of these phases.
    Certain build cards have coloured symbols on them and if they are chosen the player immediately puts 2 goods cubes onto the board on whichever colour the symbol is. There are limitations where they can go, connected cities first, then connected towns, unconnected cities and unconnected town.
    The victory condition for a five player game is the first to 40 points, the round is then finished and 2 more rounds take place, finally moving any goods left on the board. Our game was very close again with Richard and Jo tied for first place yet again. This time the tie break, having the youngest engineer card, went in Richard's favour.
    In spite of the obvious comparisons to train building games I think Canal Mania has enough going for it to make an enjoyable experience in it's own right. The production quality is right up there with the big boys and it's a very pleasing game to look at.

    Final Scores (Richard wins on tiebreak)
    Richard 61, Jo 61, Colin 53, Steve 51, Garry 40

    Here are a few pics as promised: First Railroad Tycoon

    This is the end position

    And Canal Mania - this first one is the end position