Wednesday, April 25, 2007

24th April - John Silver/Ur

This session we were only 3, Richard having to work this week. We were going to play Power Grid, off of the BGG top games list, but decided as we were only 3 to have a free week. In the end Garry had John Silver a game he bought at Essen last year and hadn't got around to playing and we followed that up with Ur a game that I bought at Essen and we had played only once before.
John Silver is a card game for 2-4 players designed by Martin Schlegel, and published by Eggert-Spiele. The game consists of a deck of 44 cards, 3 type cards and 4 character cards. The character cards are placed in a row and the type marker cards (ship, treasure, pirate) are laid down the left edge. Play is simple, each player is dealt 6 cards, you play a card to the grid, score if appropriate, then draw a card. When the draw deck has run out, play until no legal plays are left. Each card has a type, ship, pirate or treasure, a number and either coins, black spots or apples. There are some jokers with all three types on them so they can be played anywhere.

John Silver Card Layout

When the row is complete, the next to highest number is put on the highest and the next to lowest is put on the lowest and the appropriate player gets those cards. Obviously you want coins and not black spots. Apple cards are a bit different, if you play an apple card you do not draw a card from the deck but pick up another card from the display, this gives you some interesting options. When no more plays are available you pass all the apple cards you have collected to the left. The player with the most black spots gets -8 and next highest gets -4.
A clever little game that takes one play just to figure out what you are actually trying to do, as the rules are not particularly well written.

Final Scores
Game 1
Steve 16(-8)=8, Garry 16(-4)=12, Colin 19

Game 2
Steve 19(-8)=11, Garry 20, Colin9(-4)=5

As you can see in the first game when I didn't know what I was really doing I did really well ;)

Ur is a tile placement game by Paolo Mori, published by What's Your Game? We have played this game before so I won't go into the rules too much. Suffice to say, the tiles are laid in a 6 x 6 grid, and each tile has 2 out of 5 available actions printed on it. Each player starts the game with one in hand, then he can either to 1, both or none of the actions on the tile. This involves putting cubes on the tile grid, moving them around or having wars. Certain combinations of actions are definitely compatible and the initial tile grid layout can determine what your plans are. I like this game, it can be a bit of a brain burner, but plays in an hour or so and doesn't outstay it's welcome. Of course I forgot to take a picture of the layout so I have cheated a bit and used one from the last session we played.

Ur tile layout

I did take a picture after we had collected our tiles and formed our sets to score though.

Scoring Tile Sets in Ur

Final Scores
Colin 37, Steve 29, Garry 24

Monday, April 23, 2007

21st April - Richards Games Day

Steve picked me up around 10.15 and we arrived at Richard's house in Haywards Heath at 10.45, Jo had already arrived and while Richard got the coffee on we decided to play a game of San Juan while we waited for any others to turn up. As every gamer knows (I think) San Juan is the card game version of Puerto Rico, you still pick a job and build buildings and such, but you pay for them by discarding cards from your hand.

San Juan in progress

The game ends as soon as someone builds their 12th building, then you count up all the VPs on the cards and .....gasp....the one who has the most is the winner. I hadn't played for quite a while and then I only played it a couple of times. I really like it and realise I wished I had played it more, I remembered that the library was a really powerful card, enabling you to use the privelige on the job you selected twice. I managed to get a library down first, and in the end Jo was the only one who never built the library. He did have a chapel though, as did Steve, Jo also had a card that gave him 2 extra VPs for every production building he built which proved decisive.

Final Scores
Jo 39, Colin 29, Steve 29, Richard 26

We finished the game and Frederik and Michala arrived, Mike was also due to attend but we weren't sure what time he was turning up. Richard was keen to play either Through the Ages or Struggle of Empires. SoE would take 7 players and although it says 180 minutes on BGG. Richard was talking about 6 hours plus. Anyway before Mike arrived we decided to play Tutankhamum, a game by the prolific designer, Reiner Knizia. In this game there 69 artifact tiles laid out in a snaking path leading to a pyramid, each tile depicts one of 15 different artifacts and players move along the track selecting which tile to get, you cannot pick any tile you have already passed.

Tile layout for Tutankamun

The object is to collect sets of tiles, when the last tile in a set has been passed by all the players the set is scored. The player with most tiles in the set gets the points ie the number of tiles in the set, and the second gets half the number. Just to spice things up a bit there are 3 tiles which break ties in your favour, and 3 tiles which let you steal a tile from another player.
The game has colourful graphics with an Egyptian theme (obviously) and plays fairly quickly. Some interesting decisions are presented, but its not too taxing. In a 6 player game each player starts on the 14 score and then deducts their points score, so the first player to reach zero is the winner.

Final Scores
Winner - Michala

At this point we had a break for some food, Richard had provided some pizza's and the rest of us had all brought various stuff to eat. Some discussion then ensued about what to play next, Mike still hadn't arrived and Jo contacted him on his mobile and ascertained he was enroute, I think he got a bit lost. Anyway we decided to split into two groups with Richard, Jo, Michala and Frederik going to play Age of Steam. I'd rather go to the dentist than play AoS, so Steve, Mike and myself where going to give Martin Wallace's Tempus a run out.
I don't know much about their game of AoS, apart from the fact that it was on the standard map, Michala and Frederik hadn't played before, and by the sounds of it, it was a bit bizarre. Hopefully Richard will post a comment on this entry with some details to enlighten us all. I do however have the score.

Age of Steam in progress

Age of Steam - Final Score
Jo 85, Frederik 77, Michala 72, Richard 63

This must have been a really weird game as it is one of Richard's favourites and usually he does really well....ah well, we shall have to wait and see.

As for our game of Tempus, well, I must admit I am not a fan of Martin Wallace. AoS....ugh! thanks, I realise I am probably in the minority here, an awful lot of people think AoS is the bees knees, but I really can't get my head round it, in fact it always gives me a headache. Railroad Tycoon on the other hand I will play anytime.....guess I'm just funny that way :) So back to Tempus, on first appearance it looks good, but on closer inspection the player boards are really hard to read, all the information is on a really bright, busy background (note for a reprint, tone that background down....a lot). Mike had arrived by now and while he stocked up with some food and tea Steve started to run through the rules.

Steve going through the rules

I must say of all the Wallace games I have played I like this one the most, it has been described as a Civilisation game that clocks in under 2 hours, as I haven't played Civilisation I can't say if it is anything like it. The board is modular, that is the number of hexes tiles varies according to the number of players and they are laid by the players at the start of the game so the board is different every game. The hexes display different kinds of terrain which have a bearing on which player advances on the technology board. You can decide to populate which kind of terrain you need for the next upgrade or go for positioning regardless of this. There is a mechanism whereby all the players catch up so you are only one advance behind the leader. I think Mike was the most technologically advanced in all but one of the phases. The battle system is fairly simple, the number of men I have on my space against the number of men you have on your adjacent space, this is augmented by playing idea cards. These cards have a dual purpose, each one has a background that is one of the terrain types, they also have special abilities on them. You can use them in a battle and each card with the correct terrain gives you a plus one modifier, or you can use them during different phases for their special abilities, more babies, move more men etc.

Technology track and idea cards

I forgot to take a note of the time it took to play, but I didn't notice which is a good sign I think. Mike and Steve had played once before and Mike in particular said he had an awful time, getting hammered by the other players and never really getting going. I think this game redressed the balance, he had good draws of idea cards and although at various time Steve and I attacked him, he never retaliated, in fact he ran out a clear winner. Steve said that I never attacked him enough, but this game was a learning curve for me, and next time I will know better. Yes, I would happily play this game again, so it was a positive experience.

Final Scores
Mike 27, Colin 19, Steve 16

As the AoS game was still in progress Steve grabbed Richard's copy of Taluva, the tile laying game from Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, this game came out at Essen last year. As you can see from the picture this is a very visually pleasing game with execellent components.

The very pleasing landscape of Taluva

In this game you each have a certain amount of huts, temples and towers and your turn consists of lay tile and place a building....simple. Well it sounds so but there are a moves available to you, and as the landscape grows so does your options. If you can't legally place a building in your turn you are out of the game....ouch! The winner is the first person to get rid of two types of his buildings, or when the last tile is laid, the player with the most huts, if tied then the most temples, then towers. The rules are fairly simple, lay a tile, it's volcano must cover another volcano, but the lava flow cannot be in the same direction, then place a building. Huts must go on the lowest level, temples must go in a settlement of at least 3 of your buildings and towers must on the 3rd level in a settlement of any number of your buildings. Read the geek for more info on this intriquing game, in fact Steve reckons it's in his top 3. I had played a couple of times before but Mike hadn't played at all. It plays quickly and although it could lead to analysis paralysis we didn't have a problem. Steve quickly trounced both of us for a easy win.

Final Scores
Steve - Winner

The AoS game had finally finished and Mike had to make a move and Jo decided to call it a day as well, so that left us down to 5 and we decided to play the new Kramer/Lubke game Colosseum. Frederik and Michala were the only ones who hadn't played before, Richard, Steve and myself had played twice. I must admit I really like this game, but only with 4 or 5, the first time we played with 3 and it didn't really work. The auction and trading phases were really flat with each player just pursuing his own path without too much interaction. This definitely improves a lot with 4/5 players and this game proved that once again.

Frederik and Michala ready to play Colosseum

The game board and components are up to Days of Wonder usual high standards, very colourful board and the noble dobbers are especially pleasing. Each player is a roman impresario vying to put on the best spectacle to impress the Emperor, Consuls and Senators. Each show needs different components be it gladiators, poets, lions, horses etc. The game is played over 5 rounds, each round consisting of 5 phases. Investing, acquiring assets, trading assets, producing the show and clean up.

Board layout

In the investing phase you can buy a season ticket, expand your arena, buy an emperor's loge or buy a new event programme. In the acquire asset phase each player puts up one of the five markets on display, each market consists of 3 asset tokens drawn at random, each player can only win one auction. In the trading phase players can trade assets or money. The main core of the game is producing the show and each event programme requires a different mix of assets, if you have all the required assets you attract the maximum number of spectators to your show, before the performance you roll 1 or 2 (if you have an Emperor's loge) dice, this allows you to move the nobles round the track. You can try to get them into your arena to get more spectators, or get them on a resting space which gets you an Emperor's medal, more on those later. You then add up the total number of spectators your show has attracted and move your marker along the outer scoring track. Note this score is not accumulative, you only move it again if you put on a show that attracts a greater number of spectators, it then moves to that higher number.
The Emperor medals have multiple functions, your trade them for 6 coins, 3 VPs or move one noble 1 to 3 spaces forwards or backwards, also you can trade in 2 during the investment phase to get an extra investment. Our game played smoothly with quite lively bidding and trading phases, again Richard got the win with an impressive score.

Final Score
Richard 94, Frederik 86, Michala 80, Colin 71, Steve 57

At the finish I looked at the time and it was gone 10pm, wow, the day had flown by but it had been very enjoyable. Thanks to Richard for hosting and it was nice to meet Frederik and Michala for the first time.

Happy Gaming!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Richards Games Day

Looking forward to a full day of games on Saturday, hosted by Richard! I know Steve bought Tempus and Perikles at BayCon last weekend and is bringing them along. Richard is keen to play a full game of Through the Ages. I am going to take Colosseum along and see we can play that again, it definitely worked a lot better with 5 players when we played it last. Should be 6 or 7 of us in attendance, although Garry can't make because of pressure of work, he missed Richard's games day last time. Hopefully I will take the camera along and a report with pics should be forthcoming shortly!!

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

17th April - Thief of Baghdad/Yspahan

Only 3 of us at this week's session. My choice and I chose The Thief of Baghdad. This game is designed by Thorsten Gimmler, the designer of that popular game Geschenk. The premise of the this game is that you are trying to get your thieves into the 6 palaces on the board and steal the treasure chests. The game is card driven, the deck consists of cards of 6 colours, corresponding to the colour of the palaces, and a smaller deck of dancer cards which act like jokers. The palaces have 4 spaces for guards to protect the treasure chests. Each player has 3 guards and before the game a black, neutral guard is placed in each palace, then the players place their guards. In a players turn he can either:
Place a thief in a palace by playing cards of that colour equal to the number of unfriendly and neutral guards that are guarding that palace.
Move one of his guards from one palace to another by playing a card of the colour of the palace he is leaving or the palace he is going to.
Do the same action but take one of your thieves with him.
And finally move a neutral guard, this takes 2 cards, one of the colour of the palace he is leaving and one of the colour he is moving to.

Steve working out some clever moves

At the end of your turn you replenish by taking 3 cards from the face down deck, if you make no moves in your turn, you take 3 cards plus a dancer card which can be used as any colour. In each palace is a stack of treasure chests, each chest requires an increasing number of thieves to purloin it, 4 for the top one, increasing to 7. As soon as you have the required number of thieves in a palace you can take the treasure chest.

Board layout

As with all games that are card driven you are reliant on which cards you get to a certain extent, but having said that I don't think it's too bad in this game. The fairly simple gameplay does give you several opportunities for clever moves and also to stuff your opponents. Never a bad thing!
The game comes in the standard Queen sized box and the components are good quality and visually pleasing. Taking only around an hour or so it doesn't outstay it's welcome. Play is smooth and I enjoyed it quite a bit. In a 3 player game the winner is the first to steal 5 chests.

Final Scores
Colin - 5 Treasure Chests

As we had some time left we visited the city of Yspahan again, in keeping with the eastern theme of course. As we played Yspahan on the 20th of last month I won't go into the gameplay in too much detail. Again this game takes only around an hour or so to play and although one of the mechanisms is dice rolls (not one of Steve's favourite) I don't think it affects the luck factor too much. Steve concentrated on getting his camels on the camel track and got quite a few points that way, I managed to populate a number of souks and when Steve tried to depopulate my 12 pointer by moving the supervisor, I luckily had a handy camel to disgard.

Final Board position

Final Scores
Colin 84, Steve 71, Garry 70

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

10th April - Colosseum

After a week's break here we are again, Steve hadn't been with last session and as it was his turn he chose the new DoW game Colosseum. Our last playing had been with only 3 players and we weren't sure that it was that good with that number. In particular the auction and trading phases seemed decidedly flat. Jo had joined us this week so we could give it a proper test drive with a full complement of players.

Colosseum is a very visually pleasing game

I ran through the rules for the benefit of Jo and Steve neither of whom had played before and after a few questions off we went. I was the first player and I immediately bought an Emperor's loge, this gives you 2 dice to roll in the event production phase and after last time I thought that it was definitely a benefit, giving you more opportunity to move the nobles into your arena and to get Emperor medals. The game is definitely much better with 5 players with some action on both the auction and trading phases of the game, although you can still wait and see if you can get what you want when the markets are replenished when the bid initiator wins the bid. Some interesting different strategies were in evidence, Richard for instance only bought one other event programme I think, his spectators were treated to the same show 3 times, brought back by special demand he reckoned. He also didn't move the nobles into his arena much, leaving them queuing up just outside so other players had to move them in.

Jo seems to have got things under control while Richard studies which event to purchase - then puts on the same one again.....and again!!

Whereas last time Richard made a miscalculation and used all his money to buy an event and left none to bid for assets, this time it was Steve who purchased an event for production on the last turn only to realise that his arena wasn't big enough!! Jo was in the lead for 3 turns garnering 3 podiums, Richard had purchased 3, or was it 4 season tickets. I hadn't got any season tickets, but I did get my arena to maximum size, as did everyone except Steve.

One of the Consuls cozying up to the Emperor just outside Richard's arena

As I said we all thought the game was much better with 5 players and our game took just over 2 hours. I suppose you try to build up your assets to produce the blockbuster event on the last turn, well I did anyway and Richard cashed in 6 Emperor medals for a hefty 18 points. So a very enjoyable evening was had by all.

Final Scores
Richard 90, Jo 84, Colin 80, Steve 65, Garry 60