Wednesday, March 28, 2007

27th March - Colosseum

No Steve again this week, so only Richard, Garry and myself. I had pre-ordered the new Wolfgang Kramer/Markus Lubke game, Colosseum, from DoW and according to UPS it was due to be delivered today. It duly arrived on time and we decided to give it a test drive. As usual with games from DoW the production is of the highest quality. The game board and components are very good and very colourful. The box insert is designed so that all the pieces fit neatly inside, attention to detail as usual. I had downloaded the rules and read them on the train on the way home from work, they looked pretty straightforward. After we laid out all the pieces (you get a lot of pieces) ready to start play, I read through the rules. Each player gets a very clear crib sheet detailing the turn sequence and on the reverse all the assets needed to complete each event.

The very colourful board

The game runs through 5 turns, each turn has 5 phases. Investing, acquiring assets, trading assets, producing an event and closing ceremonies. In the first phase you can make one investment - buy a new event programme, buy a season ticket, expand your arena, construct an emperor's loge. In the second phase you can acquire asset tokens, this is done through an auction mechanism. On the board there are 5 markets, each holding 3 assets, the active player chooses a market and then bids at least 8 gold. If he wins the auction he takes the assets and the market is refilled, if another player wins the market stays empty. To be truthful in our game with 3 players the bidding was not very competitive, there always seemed to be something you needed without having to bid up the price. If there wasn't you could let the bid initiator win and see if the refill gave more interesting options. Obviously with 4 or 5 players the bidding may get more competitive, but with 5 markets to choose from with 3 players we didn't need to.

Ready to play after the sandwiches!!

Third phase involves trading assets, the active player can ask for assets or offer assets for trade you can use gold in the trades too. Each player gets the chance to trade, again the trade phase wasn't very busy, it may be different with more players.

The 4th phase is the heart of the game, producing an event. Each event requires a certain combination of assets, musicians, gladiators, horses, lions or whatever. You can produce an event with fewer than the required number of assets for a reduced return in spectators. First you roll one of the special die (2 if you have built the emperors' loge in your arena) to move the nobles around the track and try to get them into your arena. If they do you get more spectators for your event, if they land on a resting space you get an emperors medal. Emperor medals have various functions, you can trade them for 6 gold, add 3 spectators to an event or move a noble 1-3 spaces forwards or backwards, lastly you can pay 2 medals in the investment phase to make an extra investment. You then add up the number of spectators your event attracts, this includes number attracted by the event, plus 5 for every previously produced event, plus 5 if you have a season ticket, plus 5 if you have a star performer tile, plus 7 if the emperor is present in your arena, 5 for a consul and 3 for a senator, plus 3 for every podium you have. You can then cash in emperor medals if you have them for 3 spectators per medal. Phew! that can add up to a lot of spectators, your marker moves on the score track only if the number of spectators your event produced is greater than any other event you have produced. In other words they are not accumalative scores, you only score for the highest event you produce.

The Emperor and a Senator sitting on a resting space

In the 5th and final phase, the closing ceremony, the player with the highest score is awarded a podium, each player must discard one asset used in the event just produced and the last player on the score track can take 1 asset from the leader on the score track. On the 5th turn there is no closing ceremony, at the end of the 5th turn the player with the most spectators wins, gold is the tiebreaker.

End position plus asset tokens, coins, events and star performer tiles

Overall I enjoyed the game, it plays smoothly and only takes just over the hour. I must say I think it will play better with 4 or 5 players, if only to make the bidding more competitive and the trading a bit more involved. In our game it looked like Garry was going to run away with it as he had just bought a large event to produce, Richard was intent on getting as big an event as he could to stay up with him, unfortunately he forgot he needed some gold to buy some assets in the marketplace and this is not something you want to do. To say it held him back a bit is an understatement.

Final Scores
Garry 80, Colin 75, Richard 68

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

20th March - Yspahan/Ave Caesar

This week with Steve still unable to attend because of work saw a welcome visit from Jo. It was Garry's choice and he chose Yspahan and if we had time Ave Caesar. I was the only one who hadn't played this 2006 game from Ystari Games. Jo ran through the rules and Garry had printed off a handy crib sheet with the card abilities on them. Here is a brief description from the official website:

1598. Yspahan the fair becomes the capital of the Persian empire. Thus, being placed at the center of the world, the city enjoys a period of cultural and economic blossoming. The cities and villages of the region intend to take advantage of this expansion. Caravans loaded with goods and jewels set out for the desert, bearing the promises of a radiant future...

The players embody merchants trading with Yspahan. Meaning to take advantage of the coming of the Shah’s supervisor, they score points by placing their merchandise in the right shops, by sending them to the caravan, and by constructing buildings.

Going through the rules

The game gets a solid 7.5/10 from the Geek and I would agree with that. Gameplay is interesting, the dice do not introduce to much of a random element and it plays quickly and not too long. The game components are well up to standard and the boards are colourful and well designed.

Colourful gameboards

I suppose you could say this game is all about manipulating your camels, but only if you're Richard. Garry and myself didn't get one cube on the camel track, whereas Richard got enough to garner 24pts at the end of the game. Jo got an incredibly good start with the cards that enable you to build a building with no camels and no gold. Obviously he built the most expensive one.

Close up of the board

In the end the game was very close, only 3 points separating 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to playing it again.

Final Scores
Richard 83 (the camel strategy obviously payed off), Colin 82, Garry 81, Jo 74

Ave Caesar
As I said Yspahan plays quickly and we had enough time left for a couple of races of Ave Caesar. Set in a roman colisseum this is the ultimate chariot race game. Each player has their own set of cards, numbered 1 through 6. You draw a hand of three cards, play a card and move your chariot, it's as easy as that. If you are the leader you cannot play a 6 unless you have only 6's in your hand.

Jo making a move

We were playing with the Cafe Games reprint and I love the resin chariots and roman coins. Using your cards to try block your opponents progress while maintaining your position is fun. While there is no great strategy involved here, it plays quick so you can play a series of races and is great entertainment.

I streak into the lead

We played two races, one on each of the double-sided game board, I used my previous chariot driving skill to wangle a win in both races, although Jo did manage to lose one of his 6's under some papers in the second race which would have made a difference to the result.....ah well!!

The resin chariots

Final Scores
Race 1
1st Colin
2nd Garry
3rd Richar
4th Jo

Race 2
1st Colin
2nd Jo
3rd Garry
4th Richard

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

13th March - King's Progress

This session we are still only three, Richard is back from skiing in Colorado but Steve got stuck in Birmingham. Anyway, it was Richard's choice and he chose a game he bought at Essen 2005, King's Progress, and this was the first playing. After the success of Steve Kingsbury's City & Guilds this is the follow up. Here is a brief description courtesty of BGG.

This game is based upon the typical life of a late medieval English court. Many Kings came under the influence of a select inner group of courtiers who used their influence to gain gifts of land, titles, money etc.

This game recreates the desperate race to get the best and the most gifts for yourself. The game is played over three rounds; each round the King visits a royal castle or house (The Kings Progress). Your aim is to gain the most prestiege for your family by collecting courtier cards, melding them to build your influence and thus gain control of the courtiers, advancing those courtiers to the royal castle and then using the courtiers to select various gifts for yourself. Gifts and courtier control gain victory points at the end of each round. As the game progresses gifts become more valuable. Each courtier also has a character ability which can be used by the player in control to gain extra actions or other advantages.

The board and components

I had printed out the rules and read them on the train on the way home so had a vague idea of what it was all about. Richard started going through component list and we thought that we had some cards missing. We definitely had two King Cards and two lots of King destination cards. After some head scratching we realised that the Courtier ability cards and Minor Control cards were double sided. Doh! A trifle misleading but printing costs probably was the deciding factor. So after we had read through the rules, which seemed a bit confusing, off we went.

Have we got all the rules no!

You are allowed to perform 2 actions out of a choice of four: Advancement - Build - Collect - Discard. You can perform the same action twice.

Advancement - move a courtier on the board one space
Build - play influence cards to the table to build melds of courtier cards, person with the highest build gets the ability card, second highest gets minor control
Collect - pick up one influence card from the 3 card display
Discard - discard the topmost card from one of your builds

Each courtier has a special ability that if you have the ability card you can use at the beginning of your turn, once the ability is used it is exhausted until control changes hands then it becomes available to the new owner.

The game consists of 3 rounds and the King moves to a different location each round, the idea is to move the courtiers to that location and then pick up gift cards. These consist of money, land, titles etc. Whenever 5 courtiers reach the Royal Court or the King marker reaches the crown on the king track the round ends. The players with minor control can then choose from the minor gift display.

This is obviously only a brief description of the game, and as we discovered halfway through the game had played several rules wrongly or ignored them altogether. I enjoyed the game despite coming last by one point, obviously the rules we got wrong would have made all the difference and I would have finished with a better score had we got it right :)

Final board position

Final Score
Richard 41, Garry 31, Colin 30

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

6th March - Tigris & Euphrates

Well, finally made it to a game session, Richard is still skiing in the States but Jo made the trip from Burgess Hill to join us for this classic Riener Knizia game from 1997. We are working our way down the BGG all time great list and this one clocks in at number 2, after Puerto Rico. I think Jo and Steve had played this game numerous times, but Garry and myself have only played the once and that was a while ago.

Jo contemplating his next move

Steve quickly ran through the rules for our benefit, this game has numerous tactical options and can lead to my brain hurting quite a bit. I expect every serious gamer has played this so hopefully readers of this blog will know what I am talking about :)

Board close up

Initially we all started well spread out, but the board quickly becomes filled and conflicts inevibably occur. There were only 2 monuments created in the whole game and the second one was fairly late on. As you all probably know the winner is the one who has the most cubes in his weakest colour, a typical Knizia scoring mechanism. Well, black cubes were a premium because we were at least halfway through the game and there were only 2 or 3 black tiles on the board, and I hadn't drawn one at all.

Steve looking extremely frustrated as he tries to figure out his next move

In the end Steve won by a clear 3 points but it was close for the remaining positions.

Final Score
Steve 9, Garry 7, Jo 6, Colin 6

So, next on the BGG top ten list is Power Grid, a game I really like, that should hit the table in about 4 weeks, interruptions permitting.

Happy Gaming!!