Sunday, February 25, 2007

Session Report February 20, 2007

Attendees: (11) Sharon Madden, Warren Madden, Michael Hall, Adam Whitney, Eileen Tooke, Troy Shady, Steve Walker, Joel Weeks, Andy Manning, Andrew Bradley, and Danielle Banks.
(Izzy is interested in Andrew's shoes and nearly got her head stuck in them...)
We all gathered at Warren and Sharon's house this week. Troy Shady was a new attendee having met the Madden's up in Chattanooga at a Train boardgaming convention.

Troy, Adam, Eileen, Andrew, and Sharon started this game before everyone arrived. Troy started off his gaming in Acworth with a victory at 116 pts. Adam was second with 79. Sharon and Eileen tied at 71 and Andrew finished with 53.

Joel brought along Augsburg 1520 and Steve, Andy, and I were ready to try it out.

This game is for 2-5 players, designed by Karsten Hartwig, and published by Alea. The theme is that players are Merchants trying to influence Nobles in order to gain money, prestige, and favors (debts). They do this by winning auctions with cards affiliated with particular nobles (suits). Each round consists of 5 auctions for the 5 nobles (4 suits + 1 Wild Card noble) with each winner receiving a reward. The rewards are 2 actions from a choice of 3 on each reward card. There are 5 of these reward cards per round and these cards are selected in auction order (ie winnner of the 1st Auction gets 1st choice of the 5 cards).

Rewards can be spent to earn advancements in 3 areas (Money, Prestige, and Noble Debts). Money allows players to buy cards and build Churches and Cathedrals. Prestige advancements provide more Victory Points. Noble Debts allow more cards to select from each round. There are more complications but the idea is that players need to manage advancements in all 3 categories to succeed. Making this more interesting is that there are limits on the top advancements and if one is not available then players must steal one from another player. Finally, there is a limit on Victory Points -- players cannot exceed 25 without a Church or 45 without a Cathedral.

There is a lot going on in the game and the method of purchasing cards and looking at what you need to win in various auctions is interesting. It can be somewhat difficult to analyze when buying new cards while you have several cards in hand. Also, I'm not sure how much long range planning can be accomplished but it has many interesting tactical choices and it is not obvious which reward choices should have priority (at least not after one play). All in all, a challenging game.

Joel pulled ahead early by winning auctions and gaining a prestige (VP) advantage. Andy was close but stalled at 25 while he was unable to build a Church. I was fortunate to win a few late auctions and make up ground going into the last round. Finally, I was able to win at the end by winning a late auction and taking the last VP adding card so I edged Joel out by 1 VP. Final - Michael 60, Joel 59, Steve 44, and Andy 33.

During Alhambra and Augsburg Warren and Danielle played a few 2 player games...

Cant' Stop & The Reef

(Danielle and Warren enjoying some two player games)
Danielle won while Warren couldn't stop...but Warren won The Reef.

Ticket to Ride - Europe

Daneille 127, Troy 124, Sharon 110, Andy 98, and Eileen 93.

(Warren shows Andrew where he is planning to move...)
Scores: Joel 15, Steve 15, Adam 7, Michael 1, Warren 1, and Andrew -22.


This was a new game for many of us. A card trading game with some unusual artwork... Final Score: Andrew 14, Steve 10, Warren 10, Michael 10, and Adam 9.

Final Scores: Warren 7, Steve 4, Michael 2, Andrew 2, and Adam 0.

Session Report February 13, 2007

Attendees: (8) Steve Walker, Adam Whitney, Andy Manning, Andrew Bradley, Michael Hall, Sharon Madden, Eileen Tooke, and Frederick Law

The last time I saw Frederick was over a year ago at the original Acworth Boardgame group. It was good to welcome him back and have him join us in some gaming.

Power Grid

Frederick, Sharon, Eileen, and I decided to try and build the largest network of power in the USA. We had an unusual game since most of the lower power plants came up early including a ton of coal power plants. The result was a coal shortage that really stalled out the income for Sharon. Frederick and I were able to buy out most of the coal since we were late in the turn order for a few turns. The game was unusual and no one was buying plants since there was no benefit since so many low plants came out. I was able to end the game by building to 17 cities and only powering 10 of them. Eileen and Frederick finished with 8 cities but Eileen had more money $146 to $140 and Sharon finished only able to power 5 cities due to lack of coal. I only bought the plants 4, 11, 16, and 25 during the game.


After Frederick left, Eileen, Sharon, and I decided to build towns in the new game Masons. Masons is a game that requires tactical play as you try to maximize your points earned on certain cards while minimizing your opponent's chances to score big points. There is a lot of luck in the cards and dice, but it can be mitigated somewhat by setting up good opportunities or positioning yourself in last place so you can swap out less useful cards and draw better ones - hopefully. I was fortunate to pull out a close victory with 125 pts. Sharon finished with 118 and Eileen with 96.

Mare Nostrum

Andy, Andrew, Adam, and Steve fought for supremacy of the Mediterranean in Mare Nostrum. Steve recently purchased the expansion so everyone was playing with new regions and mythological units. I left before they completed this econimic and military light civilization game but I was told that Andy was victorious in the end.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Session Report February 6, 2007

Attendees: (10) Sharon Madden, Joel Weeks, Steve Walker, Michael Hall, Eileen Tooke, Adam Whitney, Andy Manning, Aaron Banks, Danielle Banks, and Tamara Feretti

Empires of the Ancient World
Steve, Adam, Andy, and Michael

Empires of the Ancient World is a wargame with some economic factors based in the central Mediterranean during the Roman Empire time-period. Players have various cards that are used to represent Armies (Sword, Spear, Light Cavalry, Elephants, etc), Galleys (ships), Siege Engines, Artillery, and special characters (Merchants, Military Leaders, Engineers, and Diplomats). Each player starts with a set of cards based on their initial territory location (either North or South) and each player starts with a number of trade tokens (5 + one for each specially marked territory).
The game is broken up into 4 turns with scoring at the end of rounds 2,3, and 4. Each turn consists of many rounds (10 for the first turn and one round less for each subsequent turn). On a player's turn they can either draft a card (from a face-up pile of 6 cards), discard a card, build a Fortress, place trade tokens, or attack a territory.
When drafting cards a player may spend a trade token to refresh the 6 cards with new cards if they wish, but then they must select a card. Many cards carry a VP cost (for instance a 7 level Galley costs 3 VP). This cost is paid if the card is still in hand during the scoring. Most cards are build up a player's military but there are special characters that have certain abilities available also. Engineers help with Artillery and Sieges. Military Leaders give more flexibility in combat. Merchants produce additional trade tokens each turn and allow more trade tokens to be placed. Diplomats allow more powerful diplomatic attacks on territories.
Territories have victory point values on them ranging from 2 to 8 and these are worth points when held during scoring. In addition, the player with the most trade tokens on a territory during scoring gains half the VP value (round down). This is why trade tokens are important.
The game has an interesting combat system that allows players to order their cards (usually 5 but only 3 in sieges) based on the speed of the units involved (Military leaders break this rule for one card) and then players reveal cards in order. Each combat results in either a win for one player or a draw (block). If one side wins a lot of these combats in a row then they can win in a rout and get special benefits, but normally both sides will suffer some losses. Combat is fairly quick but it is interesting as underdog victories are not too uncommon.
To make things even more interesting, a victorious invader gets to take all trade tokens (not his own) from the territory he/she just conquered and they count as VPs. This makes placing trade tokens in contested regions a riskier proposition, and it can also be leveraged to encourage attacks in those areas (usually the higher VP regions).
The game offers plagues, diplomatic invasions, sea combat, and sieges to vary the game and provide multiple strategies for army composition and ways to earn victory.

The game is great fun but it does tend to run a little long (about 3 hrs with some experience) and there is a little too much emphasis on controlling the Mediterranean (although with experience this should not be too much of an issue).
(Adam hides from the camera!)

I started in the Central Med with Greece and the surrounding area, while Steve was in the Mid-East, Andy was in Italy and the West, and Adam was in Egypt. Most of the 1st turn was spent recruiting forces and conquering Neutral territories. I focused on building a powerful navy and this was a useful strategy later. During the 2nd turn, Steve and Andy spent a lot of trade cubes conquering each other in the Central Mediterranean Sea Zones. I took control of Central and West Med with my Navy but Steve invaded my land areas and kicked me out of Greece. I was able to hold Africa against both Adam and Andy giving myself more VPs and trade cubes. At the end of round 2 Adam and I had 45 VPs, Steve had 35, and Andy had 25. Turn 3 saw me take over the rest of the Mediterranean but I lost Africa to Andy. Holding all the sea zones got me the lead with 100 VP to Adam's 77, Andy's 55, and Steve's 53. Turn 4 saw me lose almost all of my land territories and Andy took 2 Sea Zones from me with clever diplomacy but my trade cubes kept me with some positive VPs. The final score was closer with me at 126, Adam 106, Andy 105, and Steve 103! I would definitely try this one again sometime...

**Thanks to Sharon again for her comments on the following games played**

Ticket to Ride
Aaron, Danielle, and Sharon

(Aaron enjoys a successful block)
Since Aaron and Danielle are relatively new to the world of boardgames, I suggested one of the most popular gateway games and 2004's Spiel des Jahres winner, Ticket To Ride. After a quick explanation of the rules, it was full steam ahead as we began claiming our initial routes. At the start, we were laying track fairly close together, with Aaron and Danielle in Southeast and me in the mid-Great Plains, and before Danielle and I knew it, Aaron had blocked both of us. So, we had to quickly change our trains of thought and figure out alternate ways to reach our destinations. The scores were tight all the way, and Aaron was on the right track with a score of 87, followed by Sharon with 71, and Danielle with 53. OK, enough of the train puns and on to more games!

Time's Up
Aaron, Danielle, Sharon, Joel, Eileen, and Tamara

Aaron, Danielle and I finished Ticket To Ride at the same time Joel, Eileen and Tamara finished Dancing Dice, so we all decided to play Time's Up! Time's Up! is played over 3 rounds and the goal is to get your teammate to guess as many names of famous people as possible. At the beginning of the game, players divide into teams of 2 and each player is dealt 9 cards. Each card has 2 names on it; one name is on the yellow half of the card and the other name is on the blue half.
Players vote on which color to play with and then, from their 9 cards, decide on 7 to use in play. Those cards are then mixed together to form the "Deck of Fame". During the first round, any type of clue is allowed, i.e. verbal, gestures or sounds. In the second round, players can say only one word for each name; sounds and gestures are permitted.
In the third round, no words are allowed -- only gestures or sounds.
Points are tabulated for each round and after the third round, the team with the most points is the winner.
(Everyone had a lot of fun with Time's Up)

This is a party game that I am either really good at or really lousy at, depending on which names players choose. Give me movie stars, television actors, singers, presidents, and I'll do alright, but as Joel found out, art and/or artists are not my forte. In our game, the teams were Joel and Sharon, Aaron and Eileen, and Tamara and Danielle. There were a few moment which will go down in infamy. In round 3, Joel's gesture of Gloria Steinem (I'll let him tell that one -- if he wants to) and Danielle's depiction of popcorn for Orville Redenbacher (pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, etc.) were the 2 that stand out. OK, I had a couple in there too. For Patrick Stewart, I was trying to pull my hair back to look like I was bald. Those of you who know me, my hair is quite thick
-- didn't work. And for Alfred Hitchcock, I acted like a bird flying around poking peoples' eyes out -- didn't go over so well either.
Anyway, when the time was up, Joel and Sharon were the winners with 58, followed by Aaron and Eileen with 44 and Danielle and Tamara with 24.

Balloon Cup
Sharon and Eileen

Well, time was up for Aaron, Danielle, Joel and Tamara, so while Andy, Michael, Steve and Adam were finishing their battles over Medieval Europe, Eileen and I decided to try Balloon Cup. In Balloon Cup, players compete for trophies by winning balloon flights. Four landscape tiles are laid out -- two plains tiles alternating with two mountain tiles. Depending on the number on each tile, 1, 2, 3 or 4 cubes in assorted colors (gray, blue, green, yellow, red) are placed on them.
Players lay numbered balloon cards on the tiles, and they must match the colors of the cubes. For mountain tiles, players are placing high-numbered cards; for plains tiles, low-numbered cards. Your opponent can blow you off course and foil your plans to pass a landscape by playing cards on your side that make your total either too high or too low, depending on the terrain. Once all cards have been played for a tile, the flight is over and the winner receives the cubes. The tile is then flipped over to the opposite landscape, new cubes are drawn and a new flight begins. When a player collects enough cubes of a color, he earns the trophy card for that color. The first player to earn 3 trophies is the winner. Tonight, Sharon had all the hot air and got her 3 cups first.

Other Games played (no reports or scores)

Zoff in Buffalo
Joel, Tamara, and Eileen - not sure who won.

Dancing Dice
Tamara won, Eileen was second, and Joel third.

(Joel teaches Dancing Dice)