Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Session Report January 30, 2007

Attendees (11): Steve Walker, Andrew Bradley, Adam Whitney, Eileen Tooke, Warren Madden, Sharon Madden, Michael Hall, Andy Manning, Tamara Ferretti, Aaron, and Danielle.

We met at Steve's house and we needed 3 tables tonight because we had so many gamers ;-) Newbies Aaron and Danielle, friends of the Madden's, joined us tonight too as we continue to add new recruits!


Steve, Sharon, Andy, and Andrew got started on a game of Silverton. I have played it once previously. It is an interesting economic/connection game where you try to find good claims that you can tie into your network while selling goods at opportune times. It can run fairly long but there are many tough decisions along the way. This game would take them most of the evening (it was Andy and Andrew's first game too) and they finished up at the end of the session. Andy proved to be the best at Prospecting with final scores of Andy 9325, Sharon 9180, Steve 7600, and Andrew 3730.

Wits and Wagers

I brought this quick party/trivia game and it accommodated all seven other players so we gave it a go. The game is 7 rounds (1 question per round) where everyone rights down their guess secretly. All answers are then revealed and sorted in order from highest to lowest (this can be done since all the answers will be numbers). Then everyone gets the chance to bid on the answer that they think is closest to the real answer - without going over (ie Price is Right). Warren did an amazing job with answers getting 5 of the 7 correct (closest answers) including an exact answer on which year lights were installed at Wrigley Field in Chicago (1988)! Unfortunately for Warren, who had the lead going into the last round, players can wager all their money at the end and Eileen was able to pull out the victory since she was the only player to bet on the correct final answer (her own)! It was fun, quick, and light enough for the Newbies to get everyone started.

Hoity Toity

Warren took the new recruits and Tamara to the 3rd table where they played Hoity Toity. It is an art auction/exhibit game where players try to outguess their opponents next moves. Danielle was able to secure the victory in this one by having the largest art exhibit (15 items) at the end.

Nur Peanuts

Adam, Eileen, and I tried a three player game of Nur Peanuts. It is a different type of Property game (ala Monopoly) where the properties are around in a circle. You only have a fixed amount of money at the beginning of the game and although you may pay each other money at times the bank will never pay the players (so money will run out as the game progresses). It has some interesting twists in that the game ends when one player buys 6 properties and wins, or when the bank buys six properties (player with most money wins), or when one player goes bankrupt (player with most money wins). The only way to buy property is to Stop on the most valuable property that round. There are more complications in how you move (different dice with different probabilities) and an unpredictable group of "banker" tokens that also move around the board.

I have yet to win this game but it is still a fun experience each time. This time I had a plan though. I was able to purchase most of the properties around the $2400 space, which is the most valuable, and therefore when players landed just before or just after it they had to pay me money if they wanted to continue moving (which they usually did). Everything was going well until Adam was able to bump me off of the highest space on a round in which he could win the game if he remained on that space. I spent too much money trying to overtake him and ended up going bankrupt and giving Adam the win anyway... maybe next time ;-)


Hoity Toity and Nur Peanuts finished at the same time, and Aaron and Danielle left for dinner, so we were able to start a 5 player game of Bang!. Bang! is a fun, light card game where everyone has a hidden identity (except the Sheriff). In a 5 player game their are 2 Outlaws who are trying to kill the Sheriff, 1 Sheriff and 1 Deputy who are trying to kill the Outlaws and the Renegade, and 1 Renegade who is trying to kill the Deputy and Outlaws and finish off the Sheriff at the end. Tamara was the Sheriff and I was an Outlaw (don't tell anyone). We all were shooting and drinking beer (to stay alive!) until Adam killed off Warren (Outlaw) who was telling everyone that he was the Deputy. Then the Dynamite that Tamara lit came to me and blew up in my face but a quick beer kept me in the game. I proceeded to eliminate Eileen (the other Outlaw - doh!) and then Adam (the Deputy) put me out of my misery... and the Good Guys celebrated their victory!

Around the World in 80 Days

Tamara had to leave next so we were down to 4 players but we had time for 1 more game. Warren pulled out Around the World in 80 Days and we started off the global race. The game is a lighter Euro with a mix of set collection (train and boat cards) with Role selections that give you special benefits and some lucky/unlucky event cards. It has some clever mechanisms that keep the race interesting whether you are in the lead or just behind the pack. Adam pulled ahead early but the Detective slowed him down for a few days. Warren and I were in the back of the race early but I was fortunate to draw an Elephant event card that allowed me to move quickly ahead. I caught up with Adam and Eileen in New York and moved ahead with a special event (I forget the name) that allowed me to move to London without paying the travel cards (for a total of 10 days on that leg). This allowed me to finish the race but the other players could still win if they could finish in less days than me (each round they increase their time by 1 day as a penalty since I had finished). Adam and Eileen tried for 2 rounds to get the right mix of travel cards to catch me but were unable to best my 70 day mark. However, this gave Warren a last minute chance and using a Balloon he came up just later at 71 days -- whew...

All in all, another great gaming session.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Session Report - January 23, 2007

** Thanks to Sharon for providing a great report and pictures ;-) **

Attendees: (8) Warren Madden, Sharon Madden, Adam Whitney, Eileen Tooke, Andy Manning, Andrew Bradley, Matt Asher, Steve Walker

This week's Tuesday-night game session was held at our house. Warren and I got held up in lovely Atlanta rush-hour traffic while running some errands, and we arrived home to find Andrew, Steve and Matt waiting on our front-door stoop. I guess the cats didn't let them in. :-)
Anyway, once everyone arrived, we split into two groups of four and made the ever-so-difficult decision of what to play. So many little time.


Serenissima takes place during the Renaissance period before the Mediterranean was a Venetian Lake. In this game, players represent merchant families purchasing and moving commodities around the Mediterranean with their fleet of ships. Their race to prosperity balances trade and commerce against economic piracy.

I played this game once several years ago when Don Stout was hosting our Tuesday-night game group. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we bought his copy. :-) This is a great game that unfortunately doesn't see a lot of play in our group. But, maybe that will change.

Tonight's race to prosperity was tight with Andrew sailing off into the Mediterranean sunset with 32 points, followed by Andy in his wake with 29, Matt with 25, and Steve with 21.

Leonardo Da Vinci

In Leonardo Da Vinci, players compete for recognition and rewards from the Lord of the City in Florence, Italy. Players choose their inventions and with their most-trusted apprentices, design them in their laboratories with commodities from the town shops. The more complex
the invention, the more Florins the Lord of the City is willing to pay. After 9 rounds, Leonardo Da Vinci crowns the player with the most Florins as Florence's most successful inventor.

I first played this game at Lobster Trap last year and because I'm more of a visual learner, it took me about the first 3 or 4 rounds to fully understand all the mechanisms of the game. So, I was anxious to try it again to see if my design skills had improved. There is a lot to do in a limited amount of time, and it can be a challenge to get the stuff you need to complete an invention before the game ends. Also, money is very tight, and the only way to earn more is by completing inventions. If inventions take too long to finish or your apprentices don't gain majorities in the different areas on the board, you go through it very quickly.

(Everyone is enjoying the game so
much that Izzy decides to play too!)

Ultimately, Leonardo Da Vinci crowned Warren with inventions totaling 62 Florins (thanks to his diversity in the types of inventions completed). The rest of us will have to go through the inventor apprentice program all over again. Adam ended the game with 51 Florins, followed by Sharon with 28 and Eileen with 20.

Both groups finished up around the same time, and everybody wanted to keep playing, so we were more than happy to oblige.


Ra spans three epochs, during which players bid for groups of tiles representing Egyptian life -- Gods, pharaohs, niles, gold, civilizations and monuments. Tiles are drawn randomly, and each player has three bidding tokens, or "suns", that he uses to acquire groups of tiles. Once a player has purchased his three groups for the epoch, play continues until all other players have bid their 3 "suns" for tiles. After each epoch, players earn fame points from the tiles they have collected, and the winner is the player with the most fame points after the third epoch.

This press-your-luck game comes out fairly frequently in our game group. I usually end up overbidding or missing out on opportunities. I've yet to win it, but none-the-less, I think it's loads of fun!

Tonight, the Sun God Ra acknowledged Andy as our most famous player with 44 points. Following closely in his shadows was Steve with 42, then Adam with 27 and Andrew with 19.

Warhamster Rally

In Warhamster Rally, players race their Warhamsters around a racetrack marked by a pair of Battle Budgies. Each player starts with 9 points to use for special actions and 5 movement cards to steer their Warhamsters. The board is covered with hexes containing arrows pointing in different directions. At the start of the game, players place one of their movement cards face down in front of them. On their turn, they reveal their movement card, move their character token as indicated, and then choose a new movement card for their next turn. The movement cards a player chooses are relevant to the direction on the space the token lands on; however, tokens can get pushed and players may find themselves facing an entirely different direction on their turn. Additionally, players can pay action points to take an extra action during their turn that will either help themselves or trick other players. The first player to make it around the board and across the goal line is the winner.

(Eileen makes her move in Warhamster Rally)

This is another game I played this game several years ago, but I can't recall where or with whom. Those of you who are Dork Tower fans will truly appreciate this game. The best way to describe it is Roby Rally with chariots. There are different variants for this game, but because we were all new to it, we stuck to the basic game play.

In our game, Ken (Warren) managed to steer around the Jongleurs and Kobold-kin and get over across the goal line first, followed by Gilly (Sharon), Carson (Eileen) and Matt (Matt).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Session Report - January 16, 2007

Attendees: (9): Andrew Bradley, Tamara Ferretti, Michael Hall, Sharon Madden, Warren Madden, Andy Manning, Eileen Tooke, Steve Walker, and Adam Whitney.

We gathered at Steve's house for another great evening of games. Prior to everyone's arrival, I started to teach everyone Bang! but the rest of the group arrived before we started the shootout so we put it aside to try at a later session. Tamara returned for another night of gaming, so she must have enjoyed her first experience with Euro Games, and hopefully she will continue to be a regular attendee. We split into two groups with four going to play Thurn & Taxis (the 2006 Game of the Year) and the other 5 to play Caylus.

Thurn & Taxis
Tamara, Andy, Eileen, and Adam played Thurn & Taxis. This is a lighter game but a good gateway game in many respects. It involves set collection as each player tries to draw certain cards to complete mail routes across the country and score points for meeting specific conditions. The nice features of this game are that there is no direct competition for routes (some indirect moves can disrupt players however) and there are multiple strategies and choices along the way. I have played this one with non-gamers with mixed results but I think everyone enjoyed the game last night. Adam was the winner with 22 pts while Andy, Eileen, and Tamara finished with 14, 13, and 10 respectively.

Sharon, Warren, Andrew, Steve, and I tried to build the castle and earn the most prestige in the process. Caylus is an involved game that scales very well with 2-5 players. It can be very cut-throat if players pull the provost back and keep other player's workers from performing any actions. This tactic can also lengthen the game substantially if done in excess, but it is a valid strategy and must be considered. Our game was pretty friendly as the person who moved the provost was often the player in the riskiest position and they would advance the provost to keep themselves safe and speed up the game.

I went first and was the first to build in the Castle while Steve set himself up for future turns by taking residence in the Inn. Warren, Sharon, and Andrew built some early wood buildings and then looked to the Castle. Steve never built in the Castle before the first scoring and was down to 1 prestige, but he set himself up with a lot of money and cubes for the mid-game. I was able to occupy the Inn from Steve and also to get Gold from the mine for 3 consecutive turns. Through some late moves I was able to pull ahead on prestige by picking up 5 prestige for every Favor. Warren was passed up twice in the Castle by players building more after his build and earning the King's favor in spite of his efforts but he was the only one to build a Blue building before the final scoring which moved him ahead of Sharon. Steve built a lot in the castle at the end and picked up 10 prestige in favors while Andrew used his last King's favor to build the 25 VP blue building at the end. I was fortunate to have an outlet for my Gold and hold on for the victory of the surging Andrew.

Final : Michael, Andrew, Steve, Warren, Sharon (I don't remember the final scores).

Tamara had to leave after Thurn & Taxis but the rest of us decided to squeeze in one more game. We split into two groups of four and Andy, Steve, Andrew, and Warren shipped goods and built buildings in Puerto Rico while Andy, Eileen, Sharon, and I auctioned antique displays in Hoity Toity.

Puerto Rico
I won't go into a detailed review of Puerto Rico. I caught the end of the game and Warren pulled out a victory with a Quarry heavy strategy (Construction Hut + Hacienda) which allowed him to build cheaply. His mid-game cash troubles were alleviated by a clogged Trading House which kept everyone's cash low for a time. I don't have other details except a final score.
Final: Warren 51, Steve 45, Andrew 37, Andy 32

Hoity Toity
This is a light game involving buying antiques and earning victory points for displaying them in Exhibits. It is a lot of guessing and you can easily over-think the game although there is some solid strategy too. We taught the game to Eileen and then got underway. I pulled ahead early thanks to stealing some items from Adam's Exhibit and stealing some early cash in the Auction Hall which allowed me to get an early strong Exhibit that I could display. As the game progressed, both of my thieves were caught and everyone else caught up to me. Adam had been in the back for some time but he closed the game in the last few turns as well. Eventually Eileen was able to move into the final space and trigger the final Exhibits. We all were within 2 spaces of each other and the final Exhibits were worth 8 and 4 VP's for 1st and 2nd place. Sharon had a 10 item Exhibit and I had an 8 item Exhibit, so we our final positions were Sharon, Michael, Eileen, and Adam. The game was enjoyable but since Sharon was going on very little sleep (she had been in Vegas for the past week -- playing games of course -- and had just flew in on the Red-Eye flight in the morning) we had several hilarious moments and all four of us had a good time just laughing about various things. This is what makes FtF (Face to Face) gaming so much more enjoyable for me and why I don't play any online gaming.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Session Report - January 9, 2007

Attendees(8): Matt Asher, Michael Hall, Sharon Madden, Andy Manning, Eileen Tooke, Steve Walker, Adam Whitney, and Tamara (new recruit).

We gathered at Sharon's house and split into two groups of 4 for gaming. Tamara joined us for her first experience in playing German/Designer/Euro boardgames. Sharon, Adam, Eileen, and Tamara started a game of Settlers of Catan since both Tamara and Eileen had never played it and it is a good "gateway" game. I don't have notes on this game other than a final score of Adam 10, Tamara 7, Eileen 4, and Sharon 3. After this, they played a game of Pickomino and Tamara dominated the final score (Tamara 12, Sharon 3, Adam 3, and Eileen 0). Looks like Tamara picked up this games pretty well finishing 2nd and 1st respectively...hopefully she had a good time and will join us again in the near future. Adam and Eileen wrapped up their session with a dice puzzle and some telepathic puzzles for Sharon to try and solve.

(Steve contemplates his next role in San Juan)

I have been considering San Juan for a purchase, so I wanted to try it out during this session. Matt, Andy, and Steve were willing to give it a go. Soon we all were trying to produce and sell goods while building up our own sections of San Juan.

I have played many games of Puerto Rico and so San Juan was very intuitive and all of us were able to pick up basic strategy quickly. I like the fact that the cards are used as Money, Buildings, and Goods. Creative and intuitive design with a good bit of depth = something I will play again and probably buy for home since it should play well with 2 players.

Steve made good use of the Archiver early and Andy was able to leverage his Poor House to good effect. Matt made a little use of his Gold Mine but Steve's Gold Mine proved to be more profitable even though it was built much later. I had an early Library and I leveraged the Black Market to good effect but I was unable to build enough VP buildings. Matt and Andy finished just ahead of me, but Steve was able to utilize his Quarry, Smithy, and Library to build both the Guild House and City Hall. This proved too much for us to catch.

Final Scores: Steve 34, Andy 27, Matt 27, and Michael 26.

(Andy and Matt plan their strategy in a 3D battle for dominance on the Island of Catan)

Neither Matt nor Andy had played Settlers of Catan and seeing the other group playing it prompted us to grab a copy and play it. We decided to pull out the 3D version and to teach Andy and Steve Cities and Knights and throw them right into the more complex version of Settlers.

A clump of Mountains slowed down the early development, but Andy got the idea right away and made an early Active Knight. The rest of us were not so lucky and our 3 Cities were sacked by the Barbarian Invaders! Matt used Medicine to rebuild his city quickly and I had been fortunate to get an Aquaduct before my City was destroyed. Andy grabbed longest road but I was able to get some key Victory points by defending Catan with the strongest knights. Matt prevented me from grabbing Longest Road by building 3 roads of his own to block my connection.

(My Active Knight defends Catan and my Settlement from Invaders and Robbers)

Matt, Andy, and I all were able to each build a Metropolis during the game. However, I was able to build a late city and win another Catan Defender VP for the 13th VP and the win! It ran a little long, but I think Matt and Andy picked up the strategy quickly and finished with strong scores.

Final Scores: Michael 13, Matt 10, Andy 10, and Steve 6.

Session Report - January 2, 2007

Attendees(10): Steve Walker, Matt Asher, Jaimie Asher, Andrew Bradley, Michael Hall, Sharon Madden, Warren Madden, Andy Manning, Eileen Tooke, and Adam Whitney

We all gathered at Steve's house and split into two groups.

The Larger group of 5 players finished the 2nd half of their game of Advanced Civilization. Steve, Andy, Sharon, Warren, and Adam all participated in this epic struggle of ancient...well.. civilizations. I believe that Warren won this one, but I don't have more to report although it appeared that everyone enjoyed the experience and would like to try it again sometime.

Power Grid - Benelux

Matt, Jaimie, Andrew, Eileen and I proceeded to build power plants in Benelux (Belgium, Luxemburg, and Netherlands) with the new Power Grid expansion. The expansion comes with two new boards and a small set of special rules for each board. Unlike France and Italy, where the expansion had special rules on certain resources but the overall recource chart was the same, the two new boards each have their own resource charts with various repleneshments for different numbers of players. In Benelux, the board is smaller (one region has only 1 city!) and the costs between cities is very small. Oil is cheaper and replenishes faster than coal in Benelux. Wind Energy is slightly more available due to some special rules. Finally, instead of removing the "largest" power plant during bureaucracy, you remove the "smallest" power plant. All of these changes result in a shorter game. I got the number 3 plant (which is good when Oil costs 1), but because I placed first I was somewhat surrounded in the center of the board. Andrew built south of me and had several large coal plants. Jaimie and Eileen were building in the North and East respectively. Matt was able to buy both large Garbage plants in this game and use them to good effect before garbage price/re-supply became an issue for him. He bought into the 7th city and pushed us into Step 2. As it turns out, we never got to step 3 as Matt was able to build to 15 cities 2 turns into step 2 and win the game. Jaimie made a great comeback and finished 2nd just ahead of Andrew. Eileen and I were just too far back in cities and unable to close the gap. A very enjoyable variant and I'm anxious to try it again (next time we will include the single city region and with enough players there might not be a step 2....).

Ticket to Ride 1910

Matt and Jamie left and Civiliations were still trading in the other room, so Andrew, Eileen, and I got out the 1910 Expansion for Ticket to Ride. It was Eileen's first time to play TtR and she picked up all the strategy she needed by locking me out of New York early in the game (and I had two tickets with NY on them!). We were playing the Mega Game with ALL the new tickets and both bonus cards. It was a cut-throat game and Andrew was able to win since he completed more than 1 of his tickets! 1910 adds a lot of replay value to TtR and really balances out the US board. I think the Big City variant will be an interesting challenge for next time.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A New Year!

What better way to end 2006 and begin 2007 than playing a lot of boardgames over the Holidays! I had my 36th Birthday in December and played Alhambra, Ave Caesar, and two games of the new Marvel Super Heroes. After several more games, I think I'll provide some comments on this one in a future Blog since I love the theme.

Then we played several new games on Christmas including: Fairy Tale (even my 5 year old is able to get the basic concepts), Hey! That's My Fish!, Frank's Zoo, Pick Picknic, That's Life, Cranium - Family Fun, and Walk the Dogs.

We gathered with friends on the 26th and my whole family went over to the Madden's house. My 5 year old Matthew played Lego Star Wars on the PS2 while we got out the boardgames. I finally got to play Die Macher and managed to finish 3rd as I was unable to get Media Control in the last election. Quite a challenging and engaging game though! Heather, my 7 year old was excited to visit "the place I go on Tuesday nights" and she got to play several games of Queen's Necklace and also Walk the Dogs.

During the Holidays we played many new games with family that we gave as gifts including: Gulo Gulo, Rat-a-Tat Cat, Wits and Wagers, Bang!, and The Great Chili Cookoff.

It's a shame that I have to go back to work since this has been a wonderful time for everyone in the famliy to just relax, be social, and play games together. That's what I call a Happy New Year!