Thursday, July 26, 2007

Session Report July 24, 2007

Attendees (12): Warren, Sharon, Steve, Eileen, Adam, Joel, Andy, Troy, Tamara, Sarah (Tamara's daughter), Frederick, and Matt.

We gathered at Warren and Sharon's house for our weekly gaming fix.

Caylus Magna Carta
This was Caylus "the card game" and I was interested in trying it out. Matt, Sharon, and Troy had all played Caylus last week and we were all ready to give this version a go. It has most of the standard elements of Caylus but with some variations that make it a different game. One big advantage of the card game version is that it takes less time to play. We probably took longer since we all had to learn it from scratch but if you have played Caylus then most of this game will be easy to digest.
Since VP's are only calculated at the end the effect of placing workers on another player's building allows that player a small benefit. Another interesting twist is that the passing order determines both the order for moving the provost and the order for building in the Castle. In our game Deniers (money) were at a premium so Matt and I leveraged Sharon and Troy's Lawyer buildings to transform our buildings into Residences and earn additional income each round. Matt focused on grabbing VPs in the castle while I got a lot of Gold to use in Prestige buidlings. It was a close game but Matt held off Troy for the victory.
Final: Matt (36), Troy (32), Michael (29), and Sharon (26).

I enjoyed the game and would play it again but I still prefer the original. The advantages of a shorter game with different strategies make Caylus Magna Carta a game that I would enjoy playing when I'm in the mood for Caylus but don't have the time for the full game.

Around the World in 80 Days
They had a large 6 player race around the world and everyone finished in over 80 days! Tamara was the winner and Joel, Andy, Steve, Warren, and Sarah finished behind her.

Adam won against Eileen in this abstract tile placement game.

Adam won against Eileen and Frederick in this fun filler where players race to connect 5 cities the fastest. We have started teaching my 5 yr old this game and he is doing well at recognizing the cities based on the first few letters. In my opinion, this is still a great gateway game since there is no way to "mess up" an opponent and everyone has a decent chance at winning. It is still light but it can be very fun with kids (and it teaches them US geography).

Tamara, Warren, Matt, and Sarah played. Sarah finished in 2nd place while everyone else finished in a 3 way tie for first. This is another game that I enjoy playing with the kids. We use the Diamond Joe expansion to give the kids a slight benefit (handicap for us) so that games stay pretty close.

This was an interesting stock market game that Adam wanted to play. Dice rolls help determine which companies are doing well but players also get to place markers that can allow companies to grow and increase their stock values. Players can also place markers so that larger corporations can destroy smaller ones and reduce the value of the smaller company's stocks. This makes for an added twist where you want to invest in companies that are doing well but so does everyone else so there isn't much net benefit and the cost of getting in late is high. I think that Shark is an interesting game and I would be willing to try it again especially after we ironed out some of the rule questions thanks to Joel.
Final: Adam won with $676k, followed by Joel ($515k), Michael ($425k), and Eileen ($395k).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Session Report July 17, 2007

Attendees (10): Matt, Jaimie, Warren, Sharon, Steve, David, Danielle, Troy, Barbara, and Michael
We gathered at our house for Tuesday night gaming.

Barbara, Jaimie, Matt, and David played a very fast game of Settlers. Apparently, 5 was a popular number on the dice and Matt had some good settlements on 5's...
Final: Matt 10, Barbara 7, David 4, and Jaimie 2.

I asked Sharon to bring it over so we could play this one again. Troy and Steve joined us for a 4 player game. I haven't really figured out which people to plan on hiring during the various days or how to incorporate them into a strategy but I've certainly got a grasp on the basic tactics. It seems that early plays on the bank and the one that gives you cubes can give you some early advantages and these cubes can be transfered to the Hospital or the Park later to control rats or provide more victory points. I'm not convinced that Notre Dame is worth the effort but if everyone passes it then one player stands to gain a lot. The region that accumulates victory points and the one that has the most options seem to be the least useful. The Park is very strong provided that you can maintain enough cubes, money, and rat control to reap its VP benefits.
This was Troy's first time playing it and he did very well. Troy got two influence markers in the Park on the first round and kept them there for the game. I was fortunate to rack up a bunch of late VPs with the VP region + Park and was able to squeek out the victory. Final: Michael 58, Troy 54, Steve 41, and Sharon 27.

Warren taught Daneille this game while they waited on Settlers and Notre Dame to finish.

Warren pulled out a victory in this amusing and clever card game. Final: Warren 85, Barbara 76, and Danielle 74.

David taught Matt and Jamie this game while they had a few minutes after their quick Settlers game. Scores: Matt 8, Jaimie 7, and David 5 (they didn't play a complete game just a few rounds).
Warren taught this one to Danielle and Steve, David, and Barbara joined them. They played it on the US board. This is one of my favorite games but I've played it quite a bit this year already. I am excited about the new deck of Power Plants that is coming out this fall as I have been very pleased with all the expansion boards and variants. This game was close and Warren pushed it to the end game a turn early in hopes of pulling out the victory, unfortunately for him Danielle had the cash to connect to more cities. Final: Daniell 14, Steve 13 ($16), Warren 13 ($14), Barbara 13 ($7), and David 9 with a lot of cash.

Troy had never played Caylus and so we played a 5 player game while the others played Power Grid. I went down the Money and VP track this time and built a lot in the Castle to earn even more favors. This was the only game I have played where every single space in the Castle was occupied at the end of the game. Also, Troy built 6 times in the castle on the final turn. Final Scores: Michael 75, Sharon 56, Troy 50, Jaimie 50, and Matt 47.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Session Report July 10, 2007

Attendees (15+4): Adam, Eileen, Warren, Sharon, Troy, Michael, Barbara, Steve, Andy, Tamara, David (Tamara's son), Aaron, Danielle, Chris, and Elaine (+4 children).

We had a full group over at the Madden's for Tuesday gaming. They had friends who are visiting from Michigan and came down for Gulf Games who decided to join us -- Chris and Elaine Lohroff and their two children. Tamara also brought her son David over so we had several new faces which is always great.

I arrived early and saw that Warren and Sharon had recently acquired a copy of Tempus and I was anxious to try it out. So I brought it down and began learning the rules in anticipation of playing it. I recruited Steve and Andy and after learning the basics we got Adam and Eileen to join us.

Tempus is an interesting civilization themed game. It is not extremely complicated but it has a very incremental feel to the turns. The game has a variable map so each game will have a different feel. Each round you have a certain number of actions you can perform and your 5 choices for each action are: Move, Have Babies, Have Ideas, Build Cities, and Have a Fight. Each of these choices can be impacted by your position on the progress chart. For example, at the start of the game moving allows you to move 1 piece-1 space, but by the end of the game you can move 3 pieces-up to 5 spaces each. A brief look at the actions:
Move: you can move x number of people, y spaces based on your progress level. Also, you can move from one space that is next to a lake to another space also next to a lake. Later in the game when you have shipbuilding you can move from a space adjacent to the sea to another space adjacent to the sea. This water movement counts for that pieces entire move for the action.
Have Babies: the phrasing of this action is humorous on its own. It allows you to place 1 or 2 (depending on progress level) new units in Grassland spaces where you have existing units so long as they don't exceed the stacking limit. Stacking limit starts at 2 and progresses up to 4.
Have Ideas: Draw 1 or 2 cards (depending on progress level). Your hand limit is initially 5 but eventually it will increase to 7 (again based on progress level). Cards can be played using their text during a player's turn or using the terrain on the card for combat and advancing progress so they are important.
Build cities: you can convert a pile of units into a city with a rating of 2-4 depending on the number of units in the stack being converted. Cities cannot be place in Mountain spaces and must not be built adjacent to another city. Cities are more defensible and allow for benefits on progress and VP's at the end of the game.
Have a Fight: This is an attack from one space into another space. Combat is resolved by the defender playing a number of cards face down and then the attacker playing some cards face up. Each unit in the battle counts as a point. Each card played by either player that matches the terrain of the defender counts as a point for that player. Each weapons card played adds 1 point and each fortification card played by the defender counts as 2 points. Highest total wins with the defender winning ties. The defender of a city gets the city number + his cards played AND he gets to determine the terrain before anyone plays cards which is a huge advantage. If the attacker wins then the defender loses all units there but if the defender wins then the attacker only loses 1 unit.

After everyone takes their turns then their is an opportunity for players to advance on the progress chart. The first thing done during this step is to move all players up to the lead player's position on the chart (so they "catch up" to the current technology). Then, starting with the start player, each player plays a number of cards face down. These are revealed simultaneously and each player totals their progress points with the highest player(s) advancing to the next level. Progress points are: 1 pt for each unit on a space that matches the terrain of the next level on the progress chart, 1 pt for each city (regardless of the number on it), 1 pt for each Education card played, and 1 pt for each card played that matches the terrain of the next progress level.

The progress level determines: how many units you can move, how far they can move, how many babies you can have, how many units you can stack in a space, how many idea cards you can draw, how many cards you can hold in your hand, whether you have sea movement or not, and how many actions you can take during your turn. Each step offers slight benefits in one or more areas so that leading players have a slight advantage for that round. It's nice to have the advantage but I don't think that they are all crucial to winning the game.

Play continues until someone advances to flight. At that point victory points are determined by adding up: 1 pt for all non-mountain spaces occupied by units, pts equal to the value for each city, and 3 pts for any player who achieved flight.

I am surprised that progress levels do not improve your ability to win battles (except indirectly by increasing your hand size or allowing you to draw more cards). Also, there is a rule that disallows attacking a player with units in only 3 spaces (not counting cities). I understand the logic in not allowing a player to be eliminated but this seems like an arbitrary way to do that. I would recommend a house rule that allows you to ALWAYS attack a player's cities and only attack their units if they occupy more than 3 spaces. This should limit the Turtling strategies.

The game ran a little long since we were all learning it (and I think we could reduce the time significantly if everyone knew the game). Adam proved the winner by holding onto his "peninsula" and racking up the victory points. Final: Adam (24), Andy (18), Michael (18), Steve (17), and Eileen (12). Overall, I enjoyed the game but I think it needs to last about 90 min instead of 180 min (hopefully it will be closer to the 90 min mark next time). I would like to try it again but it didn't hit the mark as much as I was hoping.

Chris won this one with 175, Elaine finished next with 173, followed by Sharon with 133.
Chris and Aaron won this one with 56 pts while Danielle and Elaine tied for second with Sharon and Barbara at 35 pts.

Troy proved the most successful explorer tonight. Final scores: Troy (108), Warren (93), Tamara (90), and David (87).

Danielle won this tile collection game with 14 pts followed by Sharon (11), Aaron (8), Elaine (8), Chris (7), and Barbara (5).
(the picture looks like a fight for the +7 tile! but it also shows too many pieces for a 5 player game -- I'm guessing this one lasted a while ;-)

Troy (69) proved the astute trader in Jambo against Warren (52)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Session Report July 3, 2007

We gathered at our house for pre-4th of July gaming. It was nice to welcome David and Mary Ellen Kennemer back since we hadn't seen them for some time. Attendees (8): Michael, Barbara, Sharon, Warren, Andrew, Steve, David, and Mary Ellen.

Sharon taught us this game. It is an interesting game but not very interactive during most of the plays. However, the key element of 'drafting' your actions is very interactive and really drives the decisions in the game. I was fortunate to build up a strong early income and then transfer all of these cubes to the Hospital to control the rat population. This proved key as I always had money to bribe special characters and put cubes in Notre Dame. A fun game but I would like to play several more games and see how it holds up. Final Scores: Michael (73), Mary Ellen (48), Sharon (40), Steve (36), and David (32).
Heather got a chance to play this game with the game group. This is an easy to learn abstract game with some clever strategies. Each player places one of his colored tiles (they are various Tetris like shapes) on the board. Each tile must connect to another of the same color by touching at the corners. The object is to get rid of as many tiles as possible and your final score is the number of remaining tile sections that you cannot play.
Barbara (0), Warren (15), Heather (21), and Andrew (21).

This is a game that I considered for my in-laws since they like Blokus. It is another abstract game and plays very easily but the scoring element is taken from Tigris % Euphrates. Your final score is equal to your lowest total in any color and whoever has the highest final score wins. This requires you to score in all the colors and so you must try to score in your weakest color.
Warren (11), Andrew (10), and Barbara (9).

I finally got a chance to play this game with the game group. It is a more involved deduction (a la Clue) game that has a great thematic element. The players are at a monestary and trying to uncover the murderer that killed Brother Adelmo. The game allows you to move to various spaces and take special actions as well as encountering other players and asking them questions. If you ask a question then the other player may take a vow of silence or answer the question. If they choose to answer then they get to ask a question back and you must answer it (no vow of silence!). At the end of each round players go to mass and pass cards around the table. This keeps players hands changing and makes it difficult to deduce anything conclusively. This plus the scoring rules encourage guessing and this game was no exception as Andrew made an incorrect accusation (-2 pts) before he correctly accused Father Michael of the crime (4 pts). Mary Ellen made a correct Revelation so she also scored 2 pts but since Andrew correctly accused Father Michael he was the winner.
Andrew (2), Mary Ellen (2), Michael and Sharon (0).

They played this one with the expansion buildings which is definitely my favorite way to play it now. I like randomly choosing the buildings since it allows for different strategies to be viable.
Warren (40), Steve (38), Barbara (35), and David (34).

Andrew and Sharon stayed a little later for a quick game of Ra. I was fortunate to get a collection of all the monuments and win majority in Pharaohs for most of the game to pull out the victory. Michael (63), Sharon (47), Andrew (39), and Barbara (29).

Session Report June 19, 2007

We gathered at the Maddens for Tuesday gaming. Attendees (9): Warren, Sharon, Michael, Troy, Andrew, Andy, Adam, Eileen, and Joel.

Taj Mahal
We got in another game of Taj Mahal. This time Sharon got the early lead and never looked back. She was able to win some early auctions for commodity tiles and got some more commodities off of early fortress plays. Final Score: Sharon (49), Andrew (34), Troy (32), Michael (26), and Andy (23).

Notre Dame
Warren taught this new game to the rest of the group. No scores but final rankings were Warren, Joel, Adam, and Eileen.

San Juan
After Notre Dame Warren, Eileen, and Adam played a game of San Juan. Final Score: Adam (29), Warren (26), and Eileen (20).

Power Grid
We played on the Central Europe board. Andrew and Sharon ended up tied for the lead with 13 cities powered but Andrew won on cash 32 to 9. I finished 3rd with 11 cities, followed by Andy with 9, and Troy with 6.