Monday, March 26, 2007

Session Report March 20, 2007

Attendees: (12) Joel Weeks, Sharon Madden, Warren Madden, Andy Manning, Eileen Tooke, Adam Whitney, Jaimie Asher, Matt Asher, Troy Shady, Steve Walker, Frederick Law, and Michael Hall

We all met at the Madden's and got started on 3 tables of gaming!

Adam brought along an Alan Moon game called Andromeda. It was some type of space trading game but, since I didn't play it, I don't have any details. Sharon, Eileen, Adam, and Jaimie played this one. Final Scores: Adam 55, Sharon 50, Jaimie 38, and Eileen 25.

Merchant of Venus

This one was popular last week and it came out again this week. Five players took on the challenge of trading goods with Alien Races and Warren proved you can win even when "rolling a 3" -- since we all heard him announce his dice roll when things weren't going well early in the game... Final Scores: Warren 2851 , Matt 2456, Frederick 2305, Steve 1962, and Troy 1374.

I had been hoping to play this game soon and I recruited Joel and Andy to give it a try. We got through the rules and got started. The game is deceptively simple to learn but it has an interesting balance in various tactical decisions. Players represent archaeologists placing workers at various digging sights and also claiming locations in the museum where the discoveries will be displayed.

The game is divided into 4 seasons and each one consists of a placement phase and scoring phase. Players start each season with a specified number of workers that they take from a common pool. During the placement phase each player may either place workers, use special character abilities (discussed later), or pass. Once a player passes then they are out of the placement phase of the turn. If a player is out of workers then they must pass. After all players, except one, have passed then the last player can take one more action before the placement phase ends.

The dig areas are randomly created (by combining two different tiles) and at the end of a placement round, majority in these areas offers privelages. During Seasons 1-3 there are 6 areas and in Season 4 there are 8 areas. Players can place 1 worker on an area to start a dig. On future turns they may place a new worker in a new (or the same area). They may be able to place 2 workers in an area where they have already started a dig. In this case, the first new worker must be placed orthagonally to the existing worker and the second new worker must be placed orthagonally to the first new worker. This can be tricky as there are Pyramids on many of the sights where workers cannot be placed.

After all figures are placed then majorities are determined in each area. Ties are broken in order of the passing position (ie the 1st player to pass wins all ties). 1st and 2nd place get the choice of (a) either of the tiles (2nd place might only have 1 tile to choose from) or (b) placing in the museum. 3rd and 4th place cannot place in the museum but they may take a tile provided one is available. All remaining workers are moved back to the common pool.

(a) Tiles have symbols on them that correspond to the special character on the back side of the tile and some will also have victory points on them. Players who take a tile score the victory points and then flip the card over and place it in front of them. During future placement phases these characters can be tipped (turned 90 degrees) to use a special ability. This can only be done once per card per season.
(b) The museum is divided into 5 hallways (corresponding to the 5 special characters). There is a 3pt and 5pt space in each hallway and a 2pt space between each hallway. A player can place one worker on a vacant 2pt or 3pt space. In order to place on a 5pt space the player must already have a worker on that hallway's 3pt space OR a worker in one of the two adjacent 2pt spaces. This forces players to place more workers in the museum to get the valuable positions.

The special characters really make the game interesting so I will briefly go over their abilities (although I don't remember all their names so I'll label them 1-5). (1) allows the player to take an additional worker from the common pool before placing workers on a dig area. (2) allows a player to place 2 workers when starting a dig (instead of 1). (3) allows a player to place up to 3 workers when adding to a dig (instead of 2). (4) allows a player to place one worker on a Pyramid. (5) allows a player to place a worker in the musuem.

Final scoring is determined by adding up the value of all the tiles a player has acquired. Each tile is worth a number of victory points that corresponds to that player's placement in the museum. It will be worth 5 or 3 if the player has placed in that hallway or 2 if adjacent or 1 if the player has no workers near that character's hallway in the museum. For example, if I have 3 Lord Lemon tiles and I placed in both the 3 and 5 pt locations in his hallway then I would get 15pts for those tiles (you only get pts for the best placement). Players also score 5pts for each complete set of characters that they possess.

In our game I was able to get a lot of the character that allows you to place in the museum and this proved invaluable in claiming great scoring spots. Final Scores: Michael 81, Joel 58, Andy 38.

Mykerinos offers a lot of interesting tactical decisions in a relatively short (60min) playing time. Which areas do you fight for, which ones will be easy to claim with little effort, which characters are more valuable, when do you choose to pass, and when do you place in the museum? Overall, I like Mykerinos and would definitely give it some more plays and see if I can figure out the relative value of the various powers. Each has its benifits but I definitely saw advantages in the museum guy...

After Mykerinos and Andromeda ended, Sharon joined Joel and I for a game of Taluva. This is a very easy to learn game with tile placement but with some clever mechanics. It is a great production with firm and durable tiles (they are 3 hexes in a triangle pattern) and great colorful pieces to place on the tiles. The object of the game is to run out of 2 of the 3 types of pieces first with an additional victory condition if all tiles are placed before this occurs.

Each player draws and places a tile on their turn. The tile must be placed either adjacent to an existing tile OR on top of multiple tiles (there are some particular rules on this placement). Each tile has a volcano hex and two others (with various types of terrain). Then a player may place 1 or more buildings. Players have 20 Huts, 2 Towers, and 3 Temples to place. Huts can be placed (a) 1 on a single hex or (b) x number of huts on x consecutive terrain spaces adjacent to that player's hut. In addition, more huts are placed when hexes on higher elevations are chosen (1 addl hut per elevation level). So a player who places huts on a level 1 hex and a level 2 hex would place 3 huts. Placing a Temple is allowed provided that it is in a settlement (series of consecutive buildings) that covers at least 3 hexes and doesn't already contain a Temple. Towers may be placed only on elevation 3 hexes in settlements that don't already contain a Tower.

The tricky parts of the game involve positioning tiles that will benefit you getting rid of buildings while limiting others from doing so. Also, placing tiles on top of player's huts is allowed (the huts are removed and not returned to the player) provided that the entire settlement is not destroyed or that the tile covers any towers or temples. Players can also lose outright if they cannot place a building on their turn (so running out of huts too quickly can be costly). Finally, if no one runs out of 2 of the 3 building types when the last tile is placed then the game ends and the player with the most temples on the board is the winner (# Towers and Huts will break ties).

I enjoyed this game also and I was able to use the elevation levels to place most of my huts and place two Towers. I finished the game by getting rid of my final 3 huts.

Ave Caesar
Since Taluva was so quick we got out Ave Caesar! for a quick chariot race. I was fortunate to start with a "6" and grab an early lead that I maintained throughout the 3 lap race with Joel claiming 2nd and Sharon finishing in 3rd.

Don Pepe
This is one of Adam's favorite games and he pulled it out after Andromeda. Eileen and Jaimie also played and Andy joined them after Mykerinos. This is a light maffia game where everyone's various gang (family) members sit around a table and try to kill off rival maffia families (especially people that are making money running various business from their seat). Players play cards to move people, shoot people (if a gun is handy), knife people (if a knife is available), poison people (sitting with drinks..), or send an exploding cake around the table...The person with the most money wins! Final Scores: Adam $57k, Eileen $25k, Andy $21k, and Jaimie $17k.

After Joel and I left, Sharon joined the Don Pepe group for 2 games of Coloretto.
Game 1 Scores: Adam 26, Andy 23, Sharon 22, Jaimie 19, Eileen 12.
Game 2 Scores: Jaimie 24, Eileen 22, Sharon 21, Adam 18, Andy 14.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Session Report March 13, 2007

*** Thanks to Sharon for the pictures and Report since I was watching Matthew play baseball ***

Attendees: (12) Andy Manning, Chris McKeraghan, Jeremy Ebersole, Troy Shader, Cheryl Fisher, Sharon Madden, Warren Madden, Andrew Bradley, Matt Asher, Jaimie Asher, Steve Walker, Danielle Banks

It was another great evening of fun and games at the Madden house! We had twelve people for this session, and at one time, there were three games going, which I believe is a record number of games being played simultaneously with this group. (Editors note: It ties the record...we had three tables on Feb 20th, Feb 6th, and Jan 30th but who's counting..).

Merchant of Venus

In this classic Avalon Hill game, players are space travelers exploring clusters of stars and nebulae to discover the remains of ancient civilizations. Each civilization produces commodities that players purchase and trade with other civilizations for income. Money is used to improve spaceships, purchase equipment, and acquire deeds to factories and space ports, making trading more profitable to the owner.

At the end of the game, the winner is the space traveler with the highest total of cash and deeds.
This is an oldie, but goodie that I really enjoy playing. Because we had a couple of new players, we stuck to the basic game with no variants. I've yet to find a good strategy for generating income quickly, but I came across several fares to the galactic base that kept me in the game. The Niks (Chris) were able to deliver psychotic sculpture to the Nillis early in the game, which generated a big payout. The Niks also purchased several factories and spaceports throughout the game, which generated a good amount of income and gravitated them to victory with 1992 points. Drifting behind them were the Whynoms (Warren) with 1561 points, the Humans (Troy) with 1502, the Qossuth (Sharon) with 1381, the Dell (Jeremy) with 1005, and the Eeeps (Andy) with 330.

San Juan

After conquering Puerto Rico, players are now exploring it's capital city of San Juan. The game is is played with a deck of 110 cards that include production buildings (42) and violet buildings (68). The violet buildings either count toward victory points at game end or have special functions used during the different phases of the game. The cards have multiple uses -- (1) a building when laid face up in the player's area, (2) money to purchase goods or buildings, or (3) goods placed in production buildings.

The game is played over several rounds. Starting with the first player, or governor, players choose a role for that round -- producer, trader, builder, councilor or prospector. All players take the action of the chosen role, but the player who picked the role always gets a special privilege, such as a reduction in building costs during the builder phase or producing an additional good during the production phase. In San Juan, there are no colonists for hire, players do not ship goods, and trades cannot be blocked. Game end is triggered when one player builds 12 buildings, and the winner is the player with the most victory points.

The explorer earning the most wealth and fame in the new world was Andrew with 33 points, followed closely by Matt with 31, Steve with 26 and Jaimie with 21.

The Reef

This is a cute two-player game where players breed specific varieties of fish to enhance the reef. From the 60 cards laid face down on the table, players locate coral cards for the parent fish to meet and find the right parents to produce the desired offspring with the aid of reef boats and worms. But, sharks also inhabit these tropical waters and chase away fish and boats (swim away, swim away!). The first player to breed 5 sets of offspring is the winner.

Danielle was able to impress Neptune the fastest with her 5 colorful varieties of fish, but Neptune was also impressed by Cheryl's efforts.

Ticket to Ride

By building the longest track, Steve chugged his way to a victory with 115 points, followed by Andrew with 111, Cheryl with 99 and Danielle with 60.

Queen's Necklace

In Queen's Necklace, players enroll in a three-year apprenticeship program to assume the role as the King's jeweler. Jewelers must decide how to spend their 10 ducats efficiently each turn, using them to acquire lovely gems (diamonds, emeralds, rubies or amber) or buy favors of court followers. The jeweler who sells the most precious gems and builds the largest fortune wins the game.

Andrew earned the coveted title of King's Jeweler and a place at the Court with a total of 250 points, followed by gem apprentices Cheryl with 150 and Danielle with 140.

Session Report March 6, 2007

Attendees: (7) Steve Walker, Sharon Madden, Michael Hall, Andy Manning, Andrew Bradley, Troy Shady and Barbara Hall

We hosted the game group at our house so Barbara could join in the fun.

Power Grid - Central Europe

Steve, Troy, Andy, and I tried out the new Central Europe map for Power Grid. Central Europe makes some changes where Coal is more plentiful, Nuclear power plants are restricted in certain countries, and one city allows for a Garbage discount. This was an extremely close game where all players were in the hunt until the final scoring. Steve held on for the victory with 17 cities and 35 Electro, Troy was second with 17 cities and 17 Electro, I was next with 16 cities and 19 Electro, and Andy was right behind me with 16 cities and 16 Electro.

Puerto Rico - with the Expansion

Andrew won with 52, Sharon was next with 46, and Barbara finished third with 43.

Fairy Tale

The kids joined the Puerto Rico players in a game of Fairy Tale before going to bed. Both kids love this game. Scores: Heather 62, Andrew 55, Barbara 43, Sharon 39, and Matthew 38.


Everyone settled into 3 games of Bang! to close out the evening.

Game 1 - Sharon was the Sheriff and Troy was her Deputy. They got rid of the Outlaws (Barbara, Andy, Andrew) and the Renegade (Me) for the joint victory.

Game 2 - Andrew was the Sheriff. Andy and I were the Outlaws and we finished Andrew after his Dynamite reduced his health. Sharon and Barbara were the Deputy and Renegade respectively but with the Sheriff dead the Outlaws win..

Game 3 - Sharon was the Sheriff again and Andrew and I were the outlaws. I killed off Andy (Deputy) and Barbara (Renegade) killed Andrew and me. Then it was down to a shoot-out between the Renegade and the Sheriff and Sharon was able to outdraw Barbara for another victory!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Session Report February 27, 2007

Attendees: (9) Troy Shady, Cheryl Fisher, Andy Manning, Sharon Madden, Steve Walker, Michael Hall, Adam Whitney, Eileen Tooke, and Andrew Bradley.

We met at Steve's for gaming on Tuesday. Troy introduce his wife Cheryl to the group and they started learning Princes of Florence with Sharon and Andy.

Princes of Florence

Troy, Cheryl, Andy, and Sharon hired artists to complete great works of art. Andy won in a close contest. Final Scores Andy (51), Troy (48), Sharon (48), and Cheryl (47).

Santa Fe Rails

Cheryl won big in this game. Final Scores: Cheryl (162), Shraron (139), Andy (129), and Troy (117).

El Grande

(2nd picture is the cubes inside the Castillo) The rest of us started a 5-player game of El Grande. Eileen was the only new player to the game but she quickly got the idea and had a huge 17 pt special scoring about mid-way through the game that put her in the lead. Andrew and Adam came close but Eileen held on for the victory. Final Scores: Eileen (91), Adam (87), Andrew (87), Michael (78), and Steve (75).

Next we played a few quick card games to close out the evening.


Andrew won this one in his first play of the Bean Farming card game.
Andrew (15), Adam (14), Michael (13), Eileen (10), and Steve (10).

Frank's Zoo

I ran out of cards first in a single hand of Franks Zoo.
Michael (4), Steve (3), Adam (2), Andrew (1), and Eileen (0).

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Games with the Family

Instead of my usual session report (I'll post this week's report soon), I would touch on some of the games that I've played with my Family during January and February 2007.

Fairy Tale (12) - We've certainly played this game a lot already. It has quickly become one of our family's games of choice. The kids really like the drafting element of the game (getting to choose the cards that will make up their hands each round). Also, Matthew (age 5) is able to get the general strategy of the game and some of the card combinations. I was surprised that Heather (age 7) liked the game so much but she is very mathematical and it seems to appeal to her too.

D&D Labrynth Game (4) - This is one of Matthew's favorite games to play. It is an old game from Mattel where players take the role of adventurers searching through a maze to find the treasure and bring it out, but the Dragon awakens and hunts them. It is really a clever game where the maze changes each time and players "discover" walls (and doors in the advanced game) by bumping into them. The idea is to map out the board for a while and then after the Dragon wakes up you try to get his treasure and escape. It's pretty engaging, once you get used to the sounds, and is still fun to play now as an adult.

Pick Picknic (3) - This is a game that both kids enjoy. It teaches counting and some limited tactical choices each turn. A good dose of luck gives everyone a chance but a skillful player has advantages.

Walk the Dogs (2) - This is a great game visually and it is a fun game too!

That's Life (2) - Another fun game that the kids and adults can play.

Lego Creator (2) - The kids like the game but they also enjoy playing with the toys they build after the game is over.

Matthew will also play Marvel Heroes with me (even though he doesn't understand all the strategy). He loves Super Heroes and he likes rolling the dice in the combat sequences.

Barbara and I have played several games ourselves - Caylus, Ticket to Ride, Amun Re, Thurn & Taxis, Power Grid, Alhambra, San Juan, and Backgammon. Backgammon was a game that I hadn't played in quite a while but it was interesting to revisit it after playing so many designer games. It is a very mathematical game in it's own right with a good dose of luck in the dice...