The CBBS Game Night Goes Around the Bend
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Previous Session Reports

On June 12, 2010, summer finally arrived in the Tri-Cities, as temperatures near the 90s drove ten gamers into the slightly less torrid climate of the Official CBBS Gaming Basement; while they were there, they figured they might as well play some games, too. The players were Tim, Rose, first-timer Kelly, Jim, Nyck, Scott, Bryan, Andy, Counterclockwise Scott, and Nolann.

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1. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:633]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 6:05pm
End time: 6:40pm


The traditional Game Night start time of 6:30pm has been carefully studied and calibrated through the years. It maximizes the chances that everybody will arrive in time to get in on the first configuration while still making sure we have time to fit in several rounds of games. It would take a scientist to explain it fully - fortunately, while your humble narrator actually is a scientist, we shall forgo that explanation for the time being.

However, this start time does contain a certain amount of risk, as beginning on the half-hour can be a cause for some confusion. That was the case on this night, as Rose introduced summer student Kelly to the CBBS by arriving a half-hour earlier than expected. Fortunately, Tim is a highly evolved human, capable of altering plans to account for unexpected circumstances. Thus it came to be that the first game of the evening would be a quick three-player game of Can't Stop. Actually, while Rose, Tim, and Kelly played a couple of rounds by themselves, when Jim showed up he became the fourth player - as having no markers on board several rounds into this game is not an unusual situation for him. (He describes his strategery as "roll until you win".)


Tim was the first to capture a column, but Rose quickly ran up the board to capture two more numbers. Kelly eventually earned the 12, and Tim managed to poach Rose's initial stab at a third number, but rather than keep rolling to try and get two more spaces to win the game he chickened out and stopped. Sure enough, Rose won the game on her next roll, which just proves that fortune favors the bold, and wimpiness is rarely rewarded in Can't Stop.
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2. Board Game: SET [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1231]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 6:45pm
End time: 7:00pm


As the game of Can't Stop was not quite as quick as Tim thought it would be, the Official CBBS Gaming Basement was soon almost full of non-playing gamers mulling about. Nevertheless, it was decided that a straggle-inner was required, to give a few more minutes to any latecomers before the first config.

It is traditional, of course, not to keep score, but we shall award the honorary victory to Kelly, as she was well-versed in the ways of SET and earned many cards along the way. Honorable mention goes to Andy for finding at least three "all different" SETs, which are the hardest to find and may indicate some fundamental alteration of his brain chemistry. Perhaps he should get that checked out.
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3. Board Game: Powerboats [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1346]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 7:00pm
End time: 9:00pm


Despite having ten gamers in hand, Andy demanded that he be allowed to run nothing but the four-player games he had brought himself. That meant Tim had to find a six-player game for the first configuration, which was how it came to be that he, Nyck, Jim, Scott, Bryan, and Kelly played Powerboats on Table One.


Powerboats has the advantage of being pretty easy to splain and quick to get into; however, Tim had forgotten that a full three races with six players can take a couple hours to finish. Nevertheless, after polling the players after the first and second races, it was unanimous that the full three races be run.

For a dice game there is actually quite a bit of control, as you can keep whatever dice you want and have a lot of choices for rolling or rerolling. But there are still times when the dice can really help or really hurt you, and rolling poorly at the wrong time can mean taking an extra four or five turns to negotiate a buoy. For that reason, I think rerolling should be avoided altogether if possible - often you will find yourself able to go around a buoy in three turns if you just maintain speed, and trying to roll to cut that down probably isn't worth it.

Also, it may seem counterintuitive for a race game, but going too fast is usually a bigger problem than going too slow. But we discovered in this game that using the "island brake", where you (kind-of) deliberately crash, can be a reasonable tactic, as long as you don't kill your boat. Buoys tucked away in complicated archipelagos are hard enough to get around, and using an island to force yourself onto the right line may actually be the quickest way through them.

At the end of the three races Nyck and Bryan had tied with 24 points; after learning the ropes in race one, they performed much better in the final two races. Tim finished in third with 16 points, after a disastrous second race and some awkward die rolls in the third made him fall behind the leaders. Scott crashed out in race one, but recovered enough to earn 12 points, while Jim won race one but was less successful in the later rounds and finished with just 11. Kelly picked up the game quickly but her dice were not kind, and she ended the game with 6 points.
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4. Board Game: Cave Troll [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:1597]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 7:00pm
End time: 8:15pm


The aforementioned four player game that Andy insisted on playing was Cave Troll, which I thought was a new game but apparently came out in 2002 and again in 2006. Counterclockwise Scott, Nolann, and Rose joined Andy for a session of this non-new game.


Someone who may or may not have been Andy gives the details:

Andy got off to a big lead, because he scored a 10pt. room (doubled from illegible his dwarf), then forced two more normal scoring rounds with his dwarf giving +10 each time. Rose finally put an end to those shenanigns by sending her orc over to kill off Andy's dwarf. [Ed. Harsh!]
But Andy continued to dominate, using his thief to protect his treasure chest (which scored another bonus 4pts.)

Apparently Andy's dwarven escapades were enough to secure him the victory, as he earned 82 points, easily outdistancing Nolann with 66, Counterclockwise Scott with 45, and Rose with 27.
 
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5. Board Game: Pocket Rockets [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2970]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 8:15pm
End time: 8:50pm


Andy had refused to speculate on how long Cave Troll would take, which meant that Tim was unable to properly coordinate the ending times of the two tables. Thus, Table Two found themselves ready to play again while Table One was but halfway through their game. Rose decided to call it a night, and thus Andy, Counterclockwise Scott, and Nolann decided to play a quick game of Pocket Rockets.


It was a tense, close affair; cards were played, pawns were moved, points were scored. At the end, both Andy and Counterclockwise Scott had earned 18 points, with Nolann but a single point behind. The scoresheet notes, however, that Andy won the tiebreaker, although it does not mention what the tiebreaker was; rumors that ties are broken in favor of the person filling out the scoresheet are probably unfounded.
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6. Board Game: Finito! [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:3356]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 8:45pm
End time: 9:00pm (three games, perhaps)


Table One still wasn't finished (Tim regrets nothing!), so Table Two had to kill another fifteen minutes. The instrument of this destruction would be Finito!


It appears that Nolann is credited with two wins while Counterclockwise Scott and Andy get half a win each. This suggests that three games were played, but is still somewhat ambiguous - did Nolann get two solo victories while CCWS and Andy split the third? Or did Nolann split with both his opponents in separate games while winning the third by himself? If the latter, then Nolann actually won all three games, jointly or individually, but if the former he only won twice. The international Finito! power rankings hang in the balance, so in the future I must insist on more accurate scorekeeping from CBBS members.
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7. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:27]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 9:10pm
End time: 11:40pm


With the first reconfig finally upon us, Andy decided to blow wide open any hope of a second by playing the weighty Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization on Table Three. Andy insisted it could be played in an hour with the proper scenario, but perhaps he chose an improper one, as the game lasted two and a half hours. To be fair, one must really work at it to get a game like this to the table, and a bit of shoehorning on a Game Night is an acceptable way to go about this. But Tim does wish that he could, on occasion, get in on one of these shoehorn games (Dungeon Lords is another recent example).


Jim won with 54 points, while Andy had 51 and Counterclockwise Scott and Nolann each had 49.

It seems like building civilizations should lead to a grander outcome than just a mere recitation of point totals, but your humble reporter can only use the resources available to him at the time this session report was constructed. Perhaps one of the principals would be so kind as to fill in the details.
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8. Board Game: Samarkand: Routes to Riches [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1257]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 9:15pm
End time: 9:50pm


Meanwhile, a much more reasonable First Reconfig game was underway on Table One, where Tim, Nyck, Scott, and Bryan were playing Samarkand: Routes to Riches.


All of our previous games of this were with five players, so it was interesting seeing the changes with four. Connections were a little harder to come by, and while no family seemed to run out of money, there were more single-owner families than with more players, so at least it was more likely to happen. The extra card (hand limit of seven, rather than six) was harder to make use of - we still only bought into three or four families each, so we didn't have any more card draws, we just got to keep one extra card.

Tim started out with two goods cards in the center of the board, so his plan was to buy into the blue and pink families and connect both of them in, hopefully finding some more central goods with the card draws. The problem with this plan is that both blue and pink cost 6 dirhams to connect to, and you only start with 10 - so it meant spending an extra turn connecting blue to red to get the 3 dirhams needed to buy into pink. While he eventually got both pink and blue onto three of his goods cards, he never made another connection; when he ended up with two dead cards at the end he couldn't make up the difference, and ended in third place with 45 points.

Bryan was much more successful with his central family, buying into pink and then brown (which together cost 10 dirhams, and thus allow synergistic camel building a turn earlier); meanwhile Scott was focusing on the north with the Black, White, and Yellow families. Both made good use of connecting their two families together, and Bryan managed to score many more points with pink connections than Tim. In the end Bryan was able to make the first connection for Purple, ending the game and securing his victory with 56 points, while Scott had to settle for second with 47. Bryan had the edge on Scott with card points and on Tim with connection points (and money), which goes to show you can't really neglect either aspect if you want to win. Nyck got trapped in the northwest corner and was unable to make full use of his oranges before the game ended, and he finished with 30 points.
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9. Board Game: Mystery Express [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1441]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 10:00pm
End time: 12:00mid


Obviously, Samarkand: Routes to Riches was going to finish hours before Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization could even hope to be done, so it was time to bring out another one of Tim's more recent acquisitions, Mystery Express. The detectives on this journey of the damned were once again Tim, Nyck, Scott, and Bryan.


This is a deduction game in a similar vein as Mystery of the Abbey, where the actions you can take to gain information and deduce the elements of the crime are informed by the theme. So you have a certain number of hours each leg of the trip to wander around the train doing things which make other people show you (and, perhaps, each other) their cards. The clever bit is that there are two cards of each type in the game, while only one of each is taken out of the game at the start. Thus, simply because you see a motive card of "Jealousy" doesn't mean that "Jealousy" wasn't the motive - instead, you have to see both "Jealousy" cards in the same turn to really rule it out.

The problem is that the game moves pretty slowly; the lack of actual words on the board don't help, as you are constantly referring back to your cheat sheet to try and remember the kinds of things you can do, and there is a not insignificant amount of downtime as everybody tried to figure out what kinds of things they can do that will show them what they need to know. The same problem happens in Mystery of the Abbey, where useful questions are hard to formulate.

I, for one, only made any progress on the first turn (before the passengers show up, so most of the original cards were shown to somebody) and the last. Those middle turns were merely frustrating, as I kept seeing the same cards (of suspects I'd ruled out in turn one) over and over again. Obviously, a better strategy for rooting out information would probably come with additional plays, but the game did seem to drag on without much progress being made.

Also, the mechanism for finding the time of the crime is not deductive at all, but purely an exercise in memory, with the timing controlled by whoever the start player was at the time. This is also a pretty frustrating mechanism, and needs to be controlled a bit more. For example, on the second time phase Tim had already figured out it happened at midnight (that was the one card he focused on the first round), so he called "pass" very quickly; unfortunately, on the last phase he called it before even the previous cards had been picked up by everybody, which wasn't really fair. So it's a kind of wonky mechanism, and you have to make sure that everybody isn't being disadvantaged mechanically just because of where they are sitting at the table or where their neighbor put their cards or whatever.

The final turn gave Tim the motive and the perp, and he had already figured out the time, so he correctly guessed three elements. Bryan also had three (I think at least one was different than Tim's), but he had three correct guesses on his telegram while Tim only had two, so Bryan was the winner. Scott got two elements right, and Nyck got confused at some point and got zero elements right.
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10. Board Game: Flix Mix [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:4361]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 11:50pm
End time: 11:59pm


Ridiculously, Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization finished fifteen minutes before Mystery Express, so a quick game of Flix Mix was played over on Table Two. No pictures were taken, which really is a shame, because the final tableau is always mesmorizing - but the real-time nature of the play means the staff photographer often misses the opportunity to take a meaningful picture.

Andy won all the rounds, earning zero points, while Counterclockwise Scott and Nolann both finished with 7 and Jim ended with 11.
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11. Board Game: The Castle of the Devil [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1733]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 12:15am
End time: 12:50am


We had eight gamers staying with varying degrees of reluctance, so instead of playing something noncontroversial like 6 nimmt!, we blew the roof off the place with a rowdy game of The Castle of the Devil. The Order and/or Brotherhood consisted of Tim, Counterclockwise Scott, Nyck, Jim, Scott, Nolann, Bryan, and Andy.


This is always a tough game to subject new players to, as it is disconcerting to have to support or defend against "attacks" amongst the other players on the basis of absolutely no information at all. So such attacks, which form the majority of the game, oddly always take a while to resolve, even though there is no way to know which side to support. I think the early parts of the game should always be spent trying to either learn as much as you can or making sure somebody learns something; even if you are helping an opponent learn something useful, at least you might be able to use that fact against him later. So, you should always accept a bag in trade, and usually should accept most trades; at one point Tim even accepted a trade of a monacle, which allowed Scott to look at his organization cards. There are probably times where being tricky is worth doing, but I don't think the most of the CBBS plays at that level, yet.

At any rate, it once again became clear that Nyck was the focal point of this game, just like he was the the last time we played. Tim has always argued that even if you don't know much in this game, you may be able to learn who does know something, and if he is on your team, you can support him without ever really being in the know about anything else. As Tim was on Nyck's team, this seemed like another case of that, so when he stumbled across a Goblet he traded it right away to Nyck, as it was more important to the team that Nyck know where it was.

...at least, that was the idea. Unfortunately, while it was true that Nyck now had all three goblets in his hand, he also had the item that allowed him to declare sole victory if he also had a combination of three goblets and keys. Tim's goblet was the final one he needed, so he was able to hang his devoted teammates out to dry and win the game by himself on his next turn. Tim was quite nonplussed about this, as he didn't know that item even existed.

Opinions on this game were split at the table; some felt it was all about luck, or that it is too easy to be a completely meaningless player in how the game turns out, while others think it's kind of interesting figuring out ways to find out who your teammates are and how to communicate with them. There is no doubt that finding the right equipment to declare victory is mostly a matter of good fortune, but I think those who dismiss this game as pointless are missing some subtle ways one can help one's side...at least until you get bushwacked by a teammate like Nyck. Hmmph.
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12. Board Game: Shadow Hunters [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:726]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 0100
End time: 0125


In reaction to the varied opinions about The Castle of the Devil, we decided to play point/counterpoint and run a game of the similar-yet-different Shadow Hunters. We had lost Bryan, so the denizens of this mysterious town were Tim, Counterclockwise Scott, Nyck, Jim, Scott, Nolann, and Andy.

This was one of those games where everybody took their time before they started attacking; this works to the benefit of collectors like Bob, but Tim (as Charles, who wants people to die) was not so pleased.

But when four players found themselves at the cemetery, and Jim went there on his turn, there was only one possible outcome: Jim found the machine gun, and killed three players (CCWS, Nyck and Nolann) in one blast, forcing Andy to reveal himself as Daniel. But that didn't matter, as Jim then revealed as the Wight, which meant he got to take three more turns; he needed just one to find his way to the Weird Woods and give Scott (as Ellen, the only remaining hunter) a fatal two points of damage to win the game. (Nyck, as the ironically named Undying, also gets a posthumous victory).

This is obviously not as subtle a game as The Castle of the Devil, and there are those in the CBBS who think there is no game here at all. I do not agree completely with that, although it is clear that good card draws and friendly dice are pretty important. Much like The Castle of the Devil, there are players who never accomplish much in this game; even worse, they often are eliminated and have nothing to do until the game ends. Fortunately, it doesn't take long for that to happen once people start dying, and both games are more about the experience then they are about making strong strategic moves.
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13. Board Game: Take it to the Limit! [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:2897]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 1:30am
End time: 2:30am


We had six players left, and the middle of the night is when decisions that are not always rational are made, so Tim brought out Take it to the Limit!, which he had not yet had a chance to get to the table in the year he has owned it. Sticking around for the finale were Andy, Nyck, Scott, Nolann, and Jim.


The normal ("Nexus") board of this game is pretty easy to explain - just keep your tiles right side up, and try and connect as many edges with continuous lines, scoring N times the line value if you do. The bonus tiles add a little complication, and there was some minor confusion about the sun/moon tiles (your longest complete row of just suns or just moons scores you 10 times N points), but after a few turns the main board is easy to get.

It's the scrapyard that causes the most grief when splaining this game. It's a neat idea, and both allows you to dump tiles that could hurt you and forces you to consider another aspect of the game while placing tiles - but the scoring rules are quite confusing. You must score 60 points on your scrapyard to avoid a 60pt penalty - BUT you are much more restricted in how you score. You can use EITHER the three best rows OR two silver bonus tiles OR one gold tile; all of these things score normally (so you need all three lines through the gold tile to be complete to use it to avoid the penalty), but you CANNOT combine them. So one silver bonus does you no good - you can't combine the 40 points from that with 20 points from lines to reach 60.

At 1:30am, that rule is really hard to explain properly.

Another thing that's hard to do at 2:30am in the morning is add up hundreds of points from many different scoring sources. I prefer to count up, individually, my points from 1s, 2s, 3s, ... up to 12s, then add in bonus tiles and then suns/moons. It still requires some multiplication and then adding a column of up to 14 numbers, but what can you do.


The evidence is all in the above picture, but, according to our calculations, Tim won with 503 points, Scott earned 429, Nyck had 344, Nolan got 330, Jim finished with 257, and Andy landed with 223.

Andy thought the game had too much luck, and that having everybody use the same tiles was an odd mechanic that could lead to people duplicating each others plays. I've only played twice, so I don't know how often the latter happens - it might be best to just have nobody look at each others boards for the first few turns, after which it won't matter anymore. There is also no doubt that there is a lot of luck in the tiles that come out - the 1,6,10 tile we drew near the very end allowed me to complete a 4 tile 10 row, a five tile 6 row, and get the full silver bonus, for a gain of 90 points, which was a sizable chunk of my final score. Most of the decisions you have to make concern which lines to give up on and which to keep playing for, and those who guess right are going to do a lot better than those who guess wrong. But I don't think it's meant to be a strategic tour de force; it's mostly just a solitaire puzzle game played multiplayer, and as such everybody has to use the same tiles or the whole idea of the game changes.
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14. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:3720] [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:69]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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It was a successful evening of snacking, as all of the available foodstuffs were almost finished off - leaving just enough for Tim to enjoy during the following day's World Cup games. We had a few new flavors available, including Sweet Onion and New York Cheddar Kettle chips, and Ginger-Os (basically Oreos made with ginger snaps) that were surprisingly tasty. We also combined the Digestive Health Mix with the Antioxidant Mix; the result was something that actually increased your life span with every handful.

Of course we had some traditional snacks, too, including those brownie things from Winco, the chocolate enrobed minidonuts, the vanilla-cinnamon pretzels, the sour Warhead candies, the Pretzel and Peanut Butter M&Ms, some swedish fish, and, of course, the Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos.

However, the lack of non-lemon minutemaid light ade flavors has reached the level of a catastrophe; accordingly, the CBBS is considering asking the President to declare the Official CBBS Gaming Basement a disaster area, which will free up some FEMA money to track down the source of the problem. Could it be that Minutemaid has actually discontinued the other flavors? One shudders to think it.

Nevertheless, between the light lemonade, the Fresca, a handful of those weird vitamin water things, and good old fashioned ice water, we somehow managed to avoid dying of thirst. One fears we shall not be so lucky in the future.
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