First, let me apologize for not being around for a couple of weeks. Between business travel, a nasty throat infection and finishing up a couple of big projects, my time has not been my own. I noticed yesterday that I'm about 3 months behind on posting my "games played" and boy is it going to be fun to catch up on that! So, unlike the song, right now I don't have too much time on my hands. In fact, as soon as I post this I have to get ready for people coming over the house later, which involves cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking. All in the next 3 hours!
Welcome to this week's discussion list!
If you found us by accident you're welcome to join in the conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life (and, in fact, we're looking for more interested and interesting people). If you want more info about the GCL in general or the Amoeba division in particular, follow the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us.)
Okay, we're all here on this geeklist because we like to play games. I'd venture that for many, if not most, of us, its our main leisure activity. So, what robs your game playing time? For me, sometimes (I'm not sure if "not frequently enough" or "too frequently" based on my recent dating record) its a social life. More often its work commitments or travel or just exhaustion. My throat infection mentioned above is an exception rather than the rule. This was the first time I had to go on antibiotics in years...although they did the trick.
I'll be honest, one of the reasons I game is for the thrill of it. Pitting my wits against the other players or sometimes the system (especially in solitaire games). Although I like to win, if I had a really good experience with the game, that can be just as important. And sometimes, gaming's not available to give me that endorphin rush. Sometimes I substitute video games for that, sometimes a good book can do it, sometimes an exciting baseball game. What else in your life gives you that same sort of thrill as gaming?
I know players who often get very frustrated with games that last more than an hour or two. While there are enough games out there that I enjoy the variety of playing several games, if its a really engrossing game, like many of the 18xx games I play, many wargames, games like Age of Renaissance or Through the Ages, I'm happy to sit down and play for many hours (although with experienced players, the TtA playtime isn't bad at all). Do you prefer longer games or shorter games?
For the first time in many weeks, I got to both my morning group and the game shop this week. And, as mentioned, I have people coming over for gaming later today. Tomorrow, alas, I've committed to some client work.
Saturday morning we started off with Terra Mystica. I played the Giants...badly. I went for a temple early to help reduce the shovel cost of building since it always costs the Giants 2 shovels to terraform. In retrospect, I think an early push for the stronghold, which gives 2 free shovels a turn and would likely have helped me a lot more in the long run. We play this game about once every couple of months, I wouldn't mind playing it more often.
Next up was Anomia, a loud card game of quick wits. I will say that I had fun, however I'm not sure its one I'd like to play that often. I can see it being very appealing to the right crowd.
Finally, I taught the group Pax Porfiriana. It went over well except with one player who thought it was too long and had too much downtime (we played with 5). Well, I think both of those factors get very much mitigated with repeated play. On a 1st play, there's a lot of "what the heck is this?" The 2 players I expected to most enjoy it really did. We didn't quite finish, however one of the players may have had a plan to win on the next turn.
For the evening group, we started off with 2 quick games of No Thanks!. The new players really had no clue how to bid and it threw the game off. This is a game I enjoy as an occasional filler, I'd never actually purchase it, though, and probably won't suggest it.
Then we played a game of Tenka, which I think was pretty well received. I made a tactical error at the end which, while it didn't steal the victory from me, sealed the victory for another player. In retrospect, a poor play.
Then it was back to Pax, which sees a lot of table time these days. There were 2 of us with several games under our belts (this was game #7 for me) and 2 new players (1 had played in the morning game). I initiated a depression because I had a lot of depression proof income, and it wrecked one player's position. At that point, it came down to which of the 2 experienced players could trigger the final topple. I had the position to win with US Intervention, he had the position to win with Rebellion. Unfortunately, he got the break first, and we couldn't stop him. Good game, and hopefully we'll play again today!
Finally, 3 of us played Copycat, which I had wanted to try for a while. Yes, its definitely a mash-up of Dominion, Through the Ages and Agricola, yet it didn't feel like any of them. While I wouldn't call it a spectacular game, I really enjoyed it and would like to play it more.
Sunday we started off with 3 of us and I taught 2 new players Bios: Megafauna. I almost won the game on a total fluke. We were doing great, the earth was thriving (although about to boil) when cooling and disasters started to cascade. As we ended the 3rd era, a level 6 disaster dropped the temperature to where a bunch of biomes flipped. Between the disaster and shifting biomes, all but 1 animal (one of mine) was wiped out. Getting 1/2 of the tarpit tiles while the other players got none gave me a surprise win...until I noticed, that my 1 surviving creature couldn't survive in its biome (there were only 2 biomes left on the planeet) so it died off, too, and I really didn't get the points! The earth was a near-frozen wasteland with nothing living. We stopped then because another player arrived and we were done with the Mesozoic Era.
We then taught the new player Tichu, although we only got to play about 5 hands before yet another player arrived. I think I hit 1 Tichu and missed 2, one because the a player bombed me and the second because her 7 card straight was higher than my 7 card straight (and I still almost pulled that one off).
Finally, we played a playtest of the 2nd edition of Circus Train (First Edition). The rules haven't changed much since the 1st edition, however the components have had a huge overhaul and we were testing a lot for ergonomics. While everyone enjoyed the game, there were definitely issues with some of the components, so my notes are off to the designer/developer.
More gaming today? Maybe, however I have work to do first.
La Boca was quite enjoyable as a puzzle game with a unique twist - you play with a temporary partner to build a skyscape that looks different from each person's perspective and you build it together at the same time.
Mice and Mystics is a family oriented dungeon crawl that reminds me of the Redwall books. In my first couple plays this week, despite the family friendly theme, the game proved challenging but I was a bit put off by the lack of clarity in the rules at times.
Mermaid Rain did not impress in my first play. I kept getting frustrated with my card draw and felt too constrained to be able to do much anything.
Montage is a Kickstarter reprint I've had for quite some time and had wanted to play for a long time...and the time finally arrived! I found this one to be an enjoyable partnership game of spelling, deduction, and giving clues seeking to claim ownership of four zones first. Due to the 1 minute timer, this game clips right along too!
I enjoyed revisiting Cribbage with a friend. Learned to play this one with a cut-throat bunch in college and grew to enjoy to the game immensely. With all the other games I have, I don't pull this one out all that often.
Played games with my roommates quite frequently this week, hence the larger set of lighter games like Escape: The Curse of the Temple. Enjoyed pulling Blokus Trigon out again which is a complex game in a very simple package.
A quiet week for some reason; not many games with the kids. The circus school is over for the summer, and I had to miss the weekly game night (family commitments: a rather entertaining activity day at my son's preschool).
I finished a long game of Urban Sprawl for the first time last weekend, when my mother and sister came to visit. My sister definitely got the hang of the game over the course of it: I started out with a huge lead, but she closed the gap considerably near the end. Each time I play Urban Sprawl I respect it more.
On Tuesday evening I had a quick teaching series of Hive. Since it's a game with a lot of common pitfalls, we essentially went through about six of them in a half hour.
Wednesday evening I taught, but did not participate in, a game of Pax Porfiriana. Man it looks like fun! I also soloed a four-player game of the same. The two combined are kind of like a real play.
I finally played my 100th game of Yomi, after a 10-month hiatus. My regular gaming opponents generally don't like Yomi too much. The one who does is way better than me at reading, so it's a fairly even matchup even though I know the game better. This particular match came down to me guessing that he was going to split up his Aces instead of playing all four at once; I felt pretty good about that read.
In addition to the four games of Dark Ages Dominion I played with opponents, I tested out a few tableaux on my own. I think this is my favorite set.
Not too much gaming this week. I seem to be choosing Terra Mystica as my representative item an awful lot lately...
Terra Mystica: Chaos Magicians vs. Nomads vs. Alchemists vs. Halflings vs. Dwarves. An exciting game throughout, and except for the Chaos Magicians who dominated the cult tracks but lagged quite a bit on the scoring track everyone was still in the running for the last turn. In the end, the Nomads emerged victorious, with solid points in all three categories. I once again crippled myself by not taking enough care with my selection of starting locations which didn't allow my Alchemists to compete for the region bonus. I think I made three points from the cults scoring, and ended up 3 points behind the winner.
City Tycoon: I went in expecting something along the lines of Sim City (or maybe Suburbia) but the game focuses entirely on energy production and consumption and therefore has a completely different feel. The spatial aspect was mostly negligible (try to build your own stuff close together and close to power plants, but that's pretty much all there is to it) and the only marginally interesting feature were turn order considerations but since they were also very straight-forward and obvious there wasn't too much interesting game left. Certainly not for the time it took us to get through the four rounds.
War of the Ring: We didn't have enough time to finish the game and had to abort just when things started to get interesting. Sauron was about to rattle the elves and dwarves in the north while the fellowship was drawing close to Mordor, largely unmolested up to this point.
Bohnanza: It's fascinating how pockets of isolated gamers can develop their own house rules for a game and then claim with utmost certainty: "But that's what the rules say!"
A continuation of the week-long gaming retreat from last week's entry...
- MONDAY -
_6_Agricola: The Legen*dairy Forest-Deck(new!) - We also played with the Gamer Deck (which I had done before), but the Legendary Deck definitely dominated this play. This was with Anni, Sara, and Ben. Playing with the Legendary Deck is a little like playing Agricola while drunk, high, or dreaming. Early in the game, Ben drew a card that said one of his family members wandered off into the forest and left 10 food in his stead. Pretty unfortunate when you only have 2 family members--fortunately, the "family growth" space became available next turn. I got a card that made me start-player until that card was drawn again (which never happened), but somehow I was unable to capitalize. Anni got a card that gave her some sort of zombie-family-member, which didn't eat and didn't take up room, and allowed her to take two consecutive actions after everyone was done placing. In any case, it was pretty trippy. I didn't win.
_7_Sleuth(new!) - Next up was this old-school Sid Sackson deduction game. It worked a little like Clue--each player had a number of cards, and had to question others about their cards, trying to rule out everything and figure out the card that no one had. Anni was dealt 8 "cluster" cards, which worked out pretty well for her since the hidden card was also a cluster. She was quickly able to locate the 3 other clusters and determine that no one had the last one, and made her correct guess while I had barely figured out anything.
_7_Pax Porfiriana(new!) - Tucker taught this game to me, Anni, Jeff, and Jerry. I ended up investing fairly heavily in Loyalty cards, which may not have been the best idea since I couldn't flip to Loyalty, but the extra income was nice. When the first couple of Topples came along I contended for being able to pull it off with Loyalty, but couldn't quite come up with the right cards at the right times. By the time the third Topple card came, Anni had set up a combination to win the game.
_9_Terra Mystica - This time, I took on the role of the Alchemists. I had done the Alchemists once before, but I didn't really understand the game at that point, and did much better this time around. While workers seemed to be in short supply early, money turned out to be the limiting factor. I put out a temple on the first round to get a necessary priest income, and I grabbed the bonus tile that gave me two bonus points per house, which I used to great advantage. From there, I was able to drop houses like crazy (bolstered by the turn bonuses for houses early), but upgrading proved to be more of a challenge, since my borders were fairly small. Things worked out though, and eventually I was able to turn both of my starting placements into towns. I wasn't able to merge them, though, and had to settle for just expanding one of them to 8 hexes, earning me 3rd in the bonus. I was very weak in end-game points, though, and ended up with second place.
_9_Power Grid: Russia & Japan (Japan) - I started both in the center of the map and way out on Hokkaido. I ended up winning the 26 plant (2 oil powers 5) in a bidding war, and then got the 29 plant (1 hybrid powers 4). I do wish I hadn't had to spend so much money on the 26, as at several points I was short of being able to build the cities I wanted to, but I had no regrets on buying it in the first place. On the second-to-last turn of the game, Bob and I were in a stare down--we could both power the same number of cities, but if either of us built to 15, the other would win. The next turn, Bob bought a plant taking him to 16 capacity. I needed to get a 7-capacity plant to do the same, which was more difficult because several other players needed 7-capacity plants to bring them to 15. I decided to bid conservatively instead of getting into a bidding war, hoping that I'd either get a 7-plant with the final flip, or that we could stop Bob from going to 16. Neither of those scenarios played out, and Bob was easily able to go to 16. Guess I should've been more aggressive.
- TUESDAY -
_7_Asgard(new!) - Scott had apparently been reading the rules to this game since Game Days, so Anni and I volunteered to be his guinea pigs. It was a game of investing in different Norse gods and benefitting when those gods win in Ragnarok. Anni and I both invested heavily into temples early, since they gave you points every turn. Scott got a bunch of special powers that helped him in Ragnarok. My gods ended up matched up with Scott's twice at Ragnarok, which wasn't great for me, but I did actually win one of those matchups. It didn't matter in the end though, as Anni had way more points than either of us.
_6_Finito! x3 (new!) - Next was Finito with a large number of people. This was a multiplayer solitaire game along the same lines as Take It Easy, but with dice-rolling. We played this three times, with a different winner each time (never me). It was a decent filler.
_7_Wurfel Bingo(new!) - Another multiplayer solitaire dice game, but a little longer this time as a single game lasted three rounds. I did fairly well at this, and had a solid score during each round. That was good enough for second place.
_6_Coup(new!) - This is a secret role game in which you can lie and claim to be whoever you want, unless someone calls you on it. I lied and said I was the Duke early, but Tucker called me on it. I guess I suck at lying. I managed to stay in the game with my second role, however, mostly by doing things that didn't stand out. At one point I called Ambassador like three times in a row. I realized that I'd never be able to do anything this way, but I did manage to figure out who all the remaining players were. Anni, who was actually the Duke, had control of the game though, and won in short order.
_9_Navegador - I again pursued a colony/church strategy in which I neither built nor sunk any ships. I ended up doing Sugar as my main commodity this time. Unfortunately for me, Anni was pursuing the same exact strategy (using Gold instead), and doing it way better. We both ended up with the same number of churches, but she had 4-5 more colonies than I did, and hers were generally earning more money. Late in the game, I pivoted and tried to pick up some factories as a tertiary strategy, which was really the only reason I didn't come in dead last. Despite all this, Tucker managed to win with an exploration/shipyard strategy.
_9_The Castles of Burgundy - I ended up with the board that had two 5-size building zones, which somehow is a board I've been playing a lot lately. Generally I consider this board to be a pretty good one to pursue ships, but I worked to get the tile that let me pick up tiles at +/- 1, which made ships more important. Everyone else was doing ships, so I decided to forgo them. I worked to fill up my yellow hexes, and got the +1 animal bonus, so I filled up my animal hexes pretty early and got the big bonus. I filled out the building tiles too, and was able to eek out a win over Anni at the end with my bonus scoring.
_7_Through the Desert - Three player game with Anni and Rob. Both Anni and I walled off sizable plots early on, and I stopped Rob from doing the same. About midway through the game, though, I got kind of stuck, and wasn't able to do much useful with my placements. So I tried to go after the majority in blue camels. I had a slight advantage over Rob, but he could actually use blue camels to do other useful things, where I was just filling in space. It was really the only thing I could do though, and I ended up getting that majority. Anni easily won.
- WEDNESDAY -
_7_Empire Builder - This was a four-player game with me, Anni, Jeff, and Chris. The game was a little worrying early, as everyone started in Kansas City, and Chris's early track to Atlanta was pretty much parallel to mine. We spread out after that though. I took the southern route to the west coast, while Jeff took the Salt Lake one. Everyone had completely ignored Mexico early, but almost at the same time, Jeff and I decided to go there. Fortunately for me, I was the one with the coffee deliveries. I finished the game fairly far ahead of the other players. Oddly, Chicago was the major city I didn't connect.
_7_Batman: Gotham City Strategy Game(new!) - I took on the role of the Penguin in this game of competing villains--Jeff was the Joker, Rob was Two-Face, and Anni was Killer Croc. Early on, none of us remembered that ties for districts were friendly, so we competed with each other, which wasn't good for anyone. The extra income provided by my special abilities turned out to be pretty nice for the early levels, which I quickly advanced through. I did have a more difficult time getting my threat markers on the board, but eventually I worked my way though that. At that point, the next two levels were spending 10 money, and getting 4 henchmen (which would cost 20 money). Since the henchmen were actually useful, I decided to get cute and get them first, so I could advance both levels at once. Unfortunately, the game ended the turn before I could pull that off, and Rob, who somehow amassed 5 henchman (he must've had some discount) won on the tiebreaker.
_8_Le Havre - Three player game with me, Rob, and Will. I held off on spending on buildings early, instead opting to amass large piles of resources. When I did invest in buildings it was the Wharf, and somehow I ended up getting the first and second ships in the game: one wood and one iron. Rob pulled off a neat trick, buying several buildings off the stack so that he could build the Coilery. At that point he started to amass large piles of coal. I ended up getting the second Wharf, and noticed that many of my buildings were factory-type, so I decided that I would go after the end-game bonus building for those. Unfortunately, it was buried beneath the largest stack. I was going to pick up a huge pile of clay so I could start building through that stack, but Will picked it up right before I could. I tried to wait for Will to build some of the buildings in that stack, but he never did. Eventually I got impatient and spent several turns gathering clay and turning them into bricks, when Rob swooped in and bought several of the buildings in that stack with money (he really wanted to use the Coilery, and got tired of waiting). At that point, *both* bonus buildings were on top of the stack, with the one I was looking for being the second one. But heck, I just built both of them with the Construction Firm. Rob started shipping all of his cows and coke, and gathered massive piles of cash. Fortunately for me, he neglected to use that money to scoop up available buildings, which I later did for the bonus points. In the end, I won the game by a few points, but I would've lost if Rob had simply bought those buildings when he could.
_8_Shipyard - Anni taught this game to Chris and Matt, and I was along for the ride. I decided to go for 5-length ships and soldier/gun pairs. I got early employees that let me take an extra soldier and an extra gun on their respective wheels, which let me pretty much ignore the trains for the game. Chris took a really strange strategy of getting tons of employees that let him put lots of stuff on his boats without room. Toward the end of the game, he launched the most crowded ship that I had ever seen! In any case, Anni maintained a lead over me (and everyone else) during the game due to more valuable ships, but I had slightly more valuable contracts, and we finished with the same point total. The tiebreaker is money, of which we both had one. Tie!
- THURSDAY -
_7_High Frontier(new!) - I had been intrigued by this game since I first heard of it, so I jumped at a chance to get to play. Tim taught me and Chris, though none of us had played before. I was the first player to manage to launch anything into space, I used that to fly by the moon and claim it, and head onward to Mars. Chris was coming behind me with a rover robonaut--I was thinking of trying to claim Phobos and Deimos on the way to Mars, but if I delayed he'd claim the entire planet before I could get there. Therefore, I skipped the moons and claimed 1/3rd of Mars, with Chris quickly claiming the other 2/3rds. Both of us then worked on getting factories on Mars, while Matt geared up to explore the asteroid belt. Using his amazing zero-mass crew (that's some diet!), he successfully had a manned mission to Ceres. My Mars factory yielded me a very nice solar sail, so I decided that my next mission would be a manned mission to Mercury. Chris, meanwhile, got a second factory on Mars and sent out a rocket to the asteroid belt. My crew arrived on Mercury and spent several turns setting up operations. Through some lucky die rolling, Matt managed to claim enough V-type hexes to get the bonus. The game ended up shortly afterward, one turn before my crew returned from Mercury for the bonus points. I came in last, and Matt won with the extra bonus points.
_7_Kingdom Builder: Nomads - This game was with Anni, Joe, and John. Scoring was for being next to mountains, most houses in a horizontal row, and in-game scoring for placing three houses in a straight line. This actually was a fairly dull rule-set, especially since there weren't very many mountains on the board. I ended up getting stuck on the bottom half of the map, away from any mountains. I scored decently in the horizontal line thing (though that was messed up a bunch by the water), but otherwise I had trouble scoring much. John, who had the foresight to actually place near the mountains, won.
_7_Ninjato(new!) - I played this with Jeff, Chris, and Ben. Only red and blue nobles were available at the game's start, so of course, everyone who cleared out a house early switched it to green. As the first scoring round came, there was only one green noble available, so I snapped it up and was able to score big. Later, Jeff got an even older green noble, so I got another one to maintain my majority. Surprisingly, the green tiles that were around for the first scoring hadn't changed for the second scoring, so I was able to score big again. I picked up a third green noble to make sure that no one could usurp me, and decided to spend the rest of the game trying to make sure green scored well. However, due to some bad luck with guards, two of the three green tiles made it though to final scoring, netting me some more nice points. I didn't score very well with the bonus cards, but the points from the three scoring rounds won the game.
- FRIDAY -
_9_Taluva - Quick game of Taluva between Ben, Will, and myself. We were all experienced, and this turned out to be a really good game. Ben spent the early part of the game stomping on my attempts to get a size-3 settlement, and making the board difficult to build up to the third level at the same time. So I lost a bunch of my huts, and I was beginning to worry that I'd lose because I ran out of huts. We eventually got up to the third level, and I placed a tower, but Ben managed to get all of his temples out. I had a tower, a temple, and 2 huts left, and I had spots where I could place both the tower and temple. Things were looking good, but I wasn't paying attention to how many huts Ben had left. I placed my temple, and he placed his last three huts to end the game. Turns out I could've put that temple in the spot where he placed his three huts, which would've made the game last long enough for me to win. Oh, well.
.10!Merchant of Venus - This was with Jeff, Anni, and I on the Dathkadan board that Jeff made. Jeff only rolled a 5 on his opening roll, so I jumped over him and discovered the system he was heading for. I managed to pick up a Mulligan Gear and a relic Yellow Drive early, which worked out pretty well for me. Anni, meanwhile, was on a mission to flip over every single hazard in the game. Seriously, she flipped over like 8 of them. Eventually, Anni picked up a moderately useful Jump Start (there were two telegates), while Jeff got a relic Shield (right after he bought a normal one) and an Air Foil (whee!). I identified a four-loop along the right side of the board fairly early, and got my ports on each of the stops. I was to late to get factories at two of the stops, though. For some reason, I kept forgetting to go up to a Clipper, but it didn't matter that much. I won the game pretty handily.
_7_Helvetia - This was with me, Anni, Jeff, and Matt. I didn't really remember much about this game, so it was essentially new to me. I started with wood, brick, and stone buildings hoping to grab the easy bonus, but Matt scooped that up before I could get a turn. I decided to focus on building, taking time to make sure I sold everything that I could (though rarely first for the bonus). At one point, I was able to use the bonus trader tile to marry into Jeff's family and snipe the bonus for trading leather from him, though. I finally finished building all the buildings around my town square to take the 4-point bonus, when I'm promptly told that all of those buildings need to be occupied to claim it. *Now* you tell me... In any case, the game was over, and Matt was the runaway leader, with me in second.
_7_Batman: Gotham City Strategy Game - This time is was with Anni, Jeff, and Scott. I took on the role of the Joker, whose special abilities seem geared toward actually fighting Batman. I quickly played the card that gave me information each time I fought Batman, and used it to great effect--at one point, I joked that Batman was like my information ATM. We exploited the friendly ties a lot more in this game, so we were all able to advance higher in level before the game ended. At the end of the game, I needed 12 information to advance, and suddenly Batman is nowhere to be found. It's just like Batman to go sulk in the Batcave when I need information! To add insult to injury, Anni played a card that allowed her to "pay" me for my information, stealing 6 from me. As a result, Anni got to that level and I did not, so she was the winner.
- SATURDAY -
Saturday was time to drive back, but instead of going home, I went to my friend Don's house, as he was having a Memorial Day BBQ.
_9_Taluva - Don ran out of tables for gaming, so Anni, Derek, and I ended up playing this on the back patio table--it was cold! I tried to stop Derek from building temples, but I couldn't, so I stopped Anni instead. Unfortunately, my own position was not very strong. Derek won this pretty easily.
_9_Taj Mahal - This was between me, Anni, Don, and Steve. Don owns this game but hadn't played it in forever, so I had to re-explain. I took early control of the princess, and didn't relinquish her until the very last turn--in fact, I turned in princess tokens to maintain control twice! Both Anni and I were going for road strategies, Don was very focused on goods, and Steve was doing more of a hybrid thing. Neither Anni nor I was scoring very much for the roads, but the repeat play of the princess was allowing me to keep pace with the others. I decided early that I would focus my hand on blue, and it turned out that everyone else was avoiding blue, so I managed to get a ton of blue cards. In round 11, Don and I ended up having an epic-showdown after the other two players dropped out early. I had way more blue cards than he had of anything, so I managed to corner him out of getting anything, and I claimed all of the rewards for that district. This was great for me as it allowed me to link my roads, and the goods there matched the few goods I already had. Both Anni and I scored well for roads in the last round, but since my score was already high, I ended up as the winner.
- SUNDAY -
On Sunday, I went over to my parents' house to celebrate my sister's birthday, which was this past Wednesday.
_6_Space Cadets - I bought this as a gift for my sister, since she really enjoys cooperative games. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a game full of epic fail. We kept managing to find ways to damage outselves without even the help of the enemy ships, and quickly found ourselves in a rut with almost every station sucking up power. We did manage to destroy the first two wimpy ships, and after great effort, tractor the first crystal. Once we headed up to the second crystal, though, the enemies there combined with the nemesis made short work of us.
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
.10!India Rails -- My other main hobby is Challenge Square Dancing, which could be described as cooperative real-time puzzle solving involving walking around in patterns. I was scheduled to attend a square dancing weekend in Lenox MA, about 2 hours from my house, but since it didn't start until 10:30am on Saturday, I drove up Saturday morning. On Friday night, Claire suggested a game of India Rails, another crayon rails game (my previous game had been Russian Rails with Claire on Tuesday night, as reported in last week's GCL Amoeba.) It's one of our three favorites.
In this game, I started by building from Bombay to Quetta, picking up Dates and Gypsum to take to Bombay and Raipur(?) This was a great start. Claire had a pretty good start as well, but her loads weren't as good. At the start, you ideally want two deliveries tracing the same general route, ideally over a distance that's just short of what you can afford with your starting cash (or over a shorter distance so you can buy a Fast Freight right away.) Later on, I wound up building east to Calcutta, south to Madras and then from Calcutta to Delhi and Srinigar, using track that was completely separate from the track to Quetta. It didn't matter; it worked for the contracts I had. I went over $250 million when Claire had about $200 million (and she had enough to win on her train.)
_8_Take it Easy! -- I was too tired to play games on Saturday night after a drive and a day of dancing, but on Sunday night I played a bunch of lighter games with people who were at the square dance weekend. Some of these people aren't regular gamers, so I threw a number of accessible games into my game tub. The first one we played was Take it Easy!---a great choice for a starter when you don't know how many people may show up and you want to play a game while you wait. We had 6 people for this game, including two children of square dancers. My tile placements were massively sub-optimal. I started a row of 9's down the middle but never got the fifth 9 to finish the row. It didn't really get any better. I had a score of 114 while the winner had about 170.
_6_The Bucket King -- After Take it Easy! we broke into smaller groups, and I played The Bucket King with Cally and a child. We used the "if you exactly match the total, you go back the other way" variant, which adds interest. I started with about 7 yellow cards, not an ideal start, and was down to six buckets quickly, but things got better over time. I wound up losing my last bucket when Cally had one left and the child had 2, so it was a close game. The child, who can play games just fine, won. I only rate The Bucket King a _6_, but I don't mind playing it when requested.
_8_San Juan -- I'm a big fan of Race for the Galaxy, but I still enjoy San Juan more than seems reasonable. After another game reshuffle, I played a 2-player game with Cally. For the longest time I felt I was behind, but I got a Statue and then a Victory Column (with help from a Quarry) and decided I had a chance if I could get a City Hall, a Triumphal Arch and a Hero. So that's the way I played it, and in fact, I got those cards and played them. On the final turn, I prospected to get the one card I needed to be able to play the Hero. I ended with 41 VP to Cally's 38 (a very high score.) This was the only game I won this week, but I had fun playing all of them.
_8_For Sale -- Another group was playing Finca, a game I really don't like. One of the dancers learned the game several years ago and always asks to play it, so there's a game every year. The other 4 of us played a quick game of For Sale. Paul (who is famous for his articles on "How to Lose at Power Grid" and "How to Lose at Saint Petersburg" here on BGG) managed to buy the second best property several times, saving money, and his timing was excellent when he sold as well. He won by a margin of 72 to 63.
_7_Hamsterrolle -- I like dexterity games, but many of them have fatal flaws (Villa Paletti is a prime example,) so it's hard to find good ones. I played Hamsterrolle quite a few years ago---it must have been in 2000 or 2001, since I hadn't recorded a play after I started recording plays in 2002 until I got a copy last month. People are really attracted to the game, with its big yellow wheel, and a crowd gathered as we played. I managed to generate some laughter when I placed a piece I thought was safe and half a dozen blocks came tumbling down onto the table. Tom was the winner, and was really pleased, claiming he rarely wins games when he comes to the weekend.
_8_No Thanks! -- Wow. It's hard to believe that this Thorsten Gimmler design is less than 10 years old. It seems like a classic. (I'm one of those old-timers that thinks a game isn't old unless it came out before Catan in 1995.) It's a game that is especially enjoyable to me because it requires that you consider both your income statement and your liquidity---something the recent financial crisis demonstrated can be hard to do. People who are analytical but who have never played the game often do a quick calculation and start playing, only to realize that they are going to run out of chips, and that there is no bank to make low-interest chip loans. Paul won this game as well, putting a nice string of cards together and collecting some stick-em-up chips in the process.
_8_Exxtra -- I know this game is now called Excape on BGG, but that just gets it confused with Escape: The Curse of the Temple. I greatly prefer the old name myself, with its "XX" in the middle reminding you of what can happen when you roll the dice one time too many! People think this is a luck-driven game, and I guess it would be if all the players were of equal skill (something that's true of any game,) but in practice, some people win more often than others. My daughter used to dominate this game, even as a child. Somehow she could read the mood of the table and shift between aggressive and cautious play effectively. In this game, Paul got out to a big lead, but Andy caught him, and then I caught him, and the three of us battled for the win. It's great when you put a 76 up on the board and someone else rolls a 76 to knock you off. If you play a "push your luck" game, it has to have suspense, and Excape has suspense! Andy made it to the finish line to take the victory. At this point I went to bed, though others may have kept playing. I had played 7 games in a few hours, playing games that were, on average, much shorter than what I usually play.
_6_ (provisional) 18PA -- The dance finished early Monday afternoon, so I was able to make it back to the Boston area for more gaming (my family was away.) When I arrived, a group had 18PA set up and were ready to play. I've played before, though because it's a prototype, the rules had changed. I think the game is interesting, so I joined to make a 5-player game. One of the interesting features of the game is a collection of minor companies that can be bought in by corporations later in the game, providing a token and a permanent 2-train that does not count toward your train limit. In this game, Brian Hanechak bought the #4 minor and got a lot of help building track. This allowed the #4 to run for ridiculous amounts of money, putting Brian out to a big lead which he never relinquished. The game still has some rough edges that need to be ironed out, but it has potential. (I'm also interested in trying 18NY, though I'm not sure whether the latest playtest files are available.)
_8_Indonesia -- My other game of the evening was Indonesia. It's a game in which my fortunes vary fairly widely from game to game. In this game I decided to try researching Turn Order early, just to see what I could do with it. (If you're one of those people who thinks trying something different that may not be optimal play is sacrilege, you may be better off avoiding me in your games, because I enjoy experimenting!) Well, it didn't work, at least not the way I did it. It was a remarkably quick game (less than 2 hours for a 5 player game with one first-timer) and the winning score was $1001, an unusually low score for our group.