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)