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!!

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