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Subject: My Game Nights (and days) rss

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Marc P
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This thread is to record details of games played. A dialogue box attached to the logging feature would be nicer, but I guess that's never going to happen.

So Entry #1:

2-24-06
Jim and Sonja's house, dinner with Kai and Steffi, Jill and I

After dinner of onion/zucchini quiche and salad, we sampled the brand new Heather Ale. It was quite lively, much more effervescent than their previous brews. Very floral, with a STRONG honey flavor--almost mead-like. While the beers were going down, we set up El Grande. Kai acted as advisor to Steffi.
An early sonderwertung put both Sonja and I at 15 pts, well ahead of the pack. Jill made some critical mistakes due to unfamiliarity with the game and just not paying close enough attention. Steffi was quite aggressive at taking over my home province of Basque, eventually kicking out all of my cabelleros. Jill placed the 4-0-0 chit on Neucastelien early on (Jim's home province), so there wasn't much interest. However, I was able to dump enough cabs in on a "4" sonder to take it over and take a temporary lead. I later removed the 4-0-0, giving me a sweet province, and then used the "6-7" sonder to stay in the hunt. The events of the final turn are lost to memory, but I do recall that Jill used her veto on Sonja's action (Sonja was in the lead, and it was Jill's absolute last chance to use the veto), and that was the difference in the game. I turned the corner on the final evaluation, and Sonja was 2 pts behind. She would have received 3 extra points but for Jill's veto. Steffi came in a close 3rd, and Jill and Jim tied for last.
Kai and Steffi packed it in, and we decided to play For Sale. Everyone was playing cheap, and the first four auctions were won with 4 or 5. Then a 28, 20, 17, 6 combo came out. I paid 8 for the high card, leaving myself with 4. I won the 27 on the next round, leaving me broke. The 6th auction then revealed both the 30 and the 1, and the last revealed the 2. So I had to eat the 1 and the 2, while the 20-30 cards were more or less equally distributed among us all. Sonja racked up in the property sale, scoring 70. Jim had 65, Jill 51, and I had 50.

It was late, we were buzzed (two bottles of wine disappeared somewhere in there), so I broke out my freshly-minted Funkenschlag Atolla Modulis. Short story--the game plays well. The market was not very tempting throughout the game. Sonja snatched a surprise win, building her final 5 cities before Step 3, only powering 12.
 
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Marc P
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Our first game using the Funkenschlag Atolla Modulis download.

The images were downloaded and printed out at work on 20# stock paper using a HP4600 laser color printer. I got 2mm poster board from the local art supply. Paper/posterboard union was achieved using 3M "77" spray and a wooden paper towel holder. The images were sealed and protected with 5 thin coats of Krylon Glossy UV protectant spray. Everything was cut out using a metal ruler, utility knife, and self-healing mat. One finger was sliced open, but no permanent damage was done. I WILL get a mounted cutter if and when I make another copy for a gift. Some of the finished pieces had corners that were a bit loose (which I identified by carefully brushing each corner with the tip of my finger). These were repaired by spraying one end of one of the used razor blades with "77" spray and tucking it under the raised flap. Then, with a paper towel, I squeezed the corner down, wiping away the excess glue.

The game debuted to murmurs of appreciation. The best praise is that we played the game without being distracted by any of the components.

We selected one of the 4p setups from the list in the instructions. I grabbed the indicated atoll tiles and fanned them in my hand. Every player selected one and placed it in turn, in any orientation, with the understanding that we needed to make a 3x3 grid due to space restrictions. Continuing clockwise, neutral tiles were selected to fill in gaps. The counter tiles were turned face down, and counters were placed randomly on all intertile city connections. When we get a bit more sophisticated with our gameplay, I think I'll make two seperate piles of counters so we can intentionally make certain connections cheap and others relatively more expensive, but still choose them from facedown piles.

Our board setup was as follows:
N-4 / D / N-9
C / I / F
G / N-5 / H

An image of the game near the end:




Anyway, it was at about this point that I knocked over a fresh cup of hot tea all over my end of the table. One tile got hit, and I was able to salvage it thanks to Jim's speediness with a towel. The rest of the tea went all over me, so I played with a soaked shirt sleeve and pant leg. This would not be the last time this happened.

I think we lucked into a pretty good board setup. The atoll tiles had a lot of really cheap areas, but there were also some cheap ways to cover a lot of distance on the board. Meaning that there was usually a cheap way and an expensive way. This meant that you were forced to do some defensive building on every turn to block off cheap ways into your region. This kept me broke, and less inclined to take a turn off building to enhance my power plant situation. OTOH, everyone else quickly got up to their 3 plants, and were making more money than me early. The other problem was that I had started with a 3 Oil/2 city plant, which proved to quite expensive to operate, EVEN THOUGH I was in last almost every turn of the game. Thus, the other players were building more cities than me AND improving their power plants. I usually avoid the tastiest regions on the board for starting position, but this is what fell to me, and I felt like I had to protect it. Dumb.

After everyone got to three power plants, the market got sucky. No one wanted to grab anything that wasn't a 4- or 5-city plant. So with the saved money, cities were built more quickly, and we sprinted into Step 2. A few turns later, Sonja made her move, building 5 cities for about 120 Electro to take her to 17, and powering 12. I could power 9 cities, Jim and Jill were at 10 and 11, respectively. It was a pretty quick game.
 
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2/26/06 Our house, with Michael and Paul

It was nice to finally game with Michael after nearly a month. Paul was over for his first time with most of the games. Us three began the festivities with San Marco, which I'd been really wanting to try for awhile. Michael rolled first and placed in each of 1-4. Then I rolled the exact same numbers. Paul rolled two sixes (or fives?), and overlapped with us for the other two spots. So his strategy was to hang onto Castellan, where his large advantage was, and use the Doge whenever it came up. Michael quickly got in for second place, and they left me well behind in the early going. Michael and I battled for San Marco throughout the game--at one point I banished the whole island with an ill-timed six roll; at another, Michael was able to score the 8 all alone. I finally dug in at San Croce, Canneregio, and solidified second in San Polo, San Marco, and the purple region in the South for a final push (famously led by Michael splitting the deck into a free Transfer, a free placement in Castellen, and everything else for 10 to kick off the final phase). That tightened the score up some, but we ended up Michael, Paul, and me.

We moved on at my request to Age of Steam. Michael brought the France/Italy board, and we played France. Both Paul and Michael built into Paris from the west, and then worked their ways south along the western part of the map. I began in Nice and went west, eventually completing a nice little loop that was fairly protected. Michael focused on the locomotive for his action, while Paul oscillated between 1st move and 1st build. I urbanized early and often, placing the lone purple city first, and eventually placing the blue city one link from Paris (which was loaded with blue cubes), but six links from my other blue city (containing 3 blue cubes from early in the game). I never took the lead until the final round, but I build track every round, and stayed busy building in the end game. Plus I always managed to ship at the 5 or 6 level, once my engine was to capacity. I ended up with 25, Michael 23, Paul 22. This was Paul's first game, and he picked it up immediately, leading for much of the game.

We began setting up Euphrat and Tigris when Jill came home from shopping. So after another well-rehearsed rules explanation by Michael, we four played. I was very much kerfuddled by the rules of engagement, and generally what the hell was going on. Most Euros have an early building-up phase, followed by skirmishes for control. Here there was a great deal of folks handing me back my leaders and wiping my buildings off the board. Plus with four people, it seemed almost impossible to string two moves together. Paul, who was on my right, particularly would destroy/render meaningless any move that I had planned out while Michael and Jill were taking their turns. So the game got very tactical for me, and I was getting very frustrated and beginning to sulk--not a proud moment. Adding to the frustration was the fact that all I was drawing were water tiles, so revolutions were out of the question. I know I could have changed them out for fresh picks, but I kept thinking I could use them if I could find the right place to start a war. Anyway, as for the others, Jill seemed to be a red tile magnet, so she was quite aggressive from the get-go. This kept her in contention with Paul, who was quickly building a kingdom of epic proportions in the middle. Jill had a good foothold with her king there, and Michael tried unsuccessfully, twice in one turn, to oust her, but she had the tiles in hand to withstand. After that, Michael and I were in the same boat, sniping in from the periphery. Three monuments were constructed quite close to each other, making it hard to break up the kingdom. Paul directed all of his energies into protecting the Lannisters' hold on the uberkingdom, eventually getting all of his leaders in. Too late, there began a concerted effort with destruction tiles, and I began to score some decent victories and pull off moves over multiple turns, mostly due to Paul's focus on maintaining the integrity of the kingdom. Well before the end, it was obviously futile. Paul scored 15, Jill 9, me 7, and Michael 5 (I think). We were assured by Michael that the game development was unusual. I was impressed by the game, and will definitely try it again. I didn't have much fun playing the game, but that could have been self-inflicted.

We broke off playing for dinner (11:30 pm!). Rice bowls topped with avocado, asparagus, cucumber, sushi ginger, that flaky seaweed/bonita/sesame/MSG powder. Mmmmmm. I pulled out For Sale for dessert. Paul's first game. Much like the last time, the 20-30 cards were all in, as well as the 1 and 2. One of the $15,000 checks was missing and both Voids were in the game. Michael pushed the price up in the early going, but managed to escape paying much, so he was in a great position near the end of the auction phase, and won the final two auctions. The spread of checks was not so favorable to me, and Jill and I split the Voids between us. I can't remember who won, but I think it was Paul (Jill asked him if he won ALL the games that night). I believe the winning score was 65, Jill had 55, and I had 50. Paul seemed a little disturbed by the fast pace of play after a day of deliberation, but it didn't seem to affect his powers of gaming.

Michael went home and I challenged Paul to some lighthearted Piratenbillard. After some initial trouble with whapping his pieces off the board, he settled in and mastered the one-square-hop. This proved to be the difference as my attempts to cover more distance kept resulting in my pieces landing directly in front of his. He captured my last 3 cannonballs for a convincing victory.
 
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Feb. 28, 2006

Amer's with aagg. As usual, I arrived early for a Ham Dunk (prosciutto and salami on an onion roll with mortadello and Honeycup mustard). I brought a bagful of games, but all I wanted to play was Bison. Last time, we played with incorrect rules and I wanted to play the right way at least one more time before it got released. And as the sign on the door indicated that Amer's was closing at 10pm due to spring break, that was all that I would be playing.

So, happily, the Mayfair guys (Will and William) showed up with Bison. They had updated the art somewhat, and moved the canoes and teepees further along the path to production quality. This was disappointing, as the first mockup that I had played had these cool teepees that were cones made with cardstock and a toothpick, subtly shaded with what looked like chalk or crayon, and now they're just cardboard counters. The new tile art was a big step backwards, however, as it was difficult to pick out the birds and fish. Plus the rivers were a slightly different shade of green than the praries. Franz Vohwinkel is apparently working hard on Emira and other projects, and hasn't provided art for Bison yet. I think the type of muted tones that you see on the El Grande board would be perfect, in order to get a sense of the board state at a glance.

I initially sat down with Larry, Seth, and Will, Jr. Halfway through the rules speech an unknown guy who will henceforth be called Hector presented himself and Will allowed him to take his place, and Will just ran the game for us.

I was the start player for season 1. I recruited one Indian, placed my tile, and put 5 Indians on my 3 Bison prairie. This was followed by everyone else placing their first tile and placing 5 Indians on it. For my second action, I selected Move 3 Spaces, and moved as many single Indians as possible onto animal-laden spaces. The player to my right did the same. Then Seth (third player) had nowhere fruitful to move his Indians, but he moved them to neutral areas in anticipation of the board growth in Season 2. Hector moved very little from his starting position, and there was a lot of teepee building and canoe building for the remaining actions, as well as eschewing any action for the free animal. Season two saw the substantial growth of my prairie and river, as well as the start of what would be a nine-bird mountain that Hector and Seth were battling over. I racked up in Season Two, because I didn't need to spend much to accomplish a lot. However, in the 3rd Season, I wasn't very prudent with my riches, and I spent almost everything on my first action (I recruited Indians and bought a 4-teepee to protect my uber-prairie. Everyone was fine with me taking it back, but I thought I'd see how it worked out. I used my remaining actions doing free things, such as Gathering or moving one Indian. But in the 4th Season, I had a dilemna: I could take over a lucrative 7-bird mountain by building a two teepee there, or I could build my 4-teepee that I already paid for and protect my large prairie from a Northern threat by Larry. As it turned out, I needed to do both to win, so being unable to afford to build my 4-Teepee in the 3rd Season cost me any chance. Seth got screwed out of the big mountain, putting him in last place. Hector was the bird king, and Larry controlled most of the remaining bison, and a nice stock of fish.
Hector won with 25, Larry had 23, I had 21, and Seth failed to see the need to count his 4th place points.
 
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3/4/06
Game night at my house with Jill, Sonja, and Jim. We stupidly decided to bottle beer in the late afternoon (our first batch). Of course, everything took four times as long, so we didn't start on dinner until 5:30. Actually, Jill cooked for a change, so I cleaned up the beer equipment and the house like mad, and put out some cheese. We had some aged gouda and Rosenbourg blue with Conundrum. Jim opened up heather ale for dinner, which was butternut squash risotto and asparagus. After stuffing ourselves, I broke out Tikal. It was a first time for all of us. I also broke out the first of two Rieslings. We drink too much sometimes (to be fair, Jill stopped after the beer at dinner).

First off, Tikal is a beautiful game. Nice components, artwork, even the box. Second, it's deceptively deep. We played with the auction variant, but I was the only one who was trying to bid on things. I passed on the first auction, so I got a jungle tile, which I was able to place in the center of the board and drop a base camp onto it. Everyone spent the early part of the game fighting over treasures, while I focused on uncovering temple levels. Since most of the treasure tiles (at least the big ones) get placed in the first half of the game, my plan to get in on the treasures later proved disastrous. The game devolved into a tactical mess after awhile, which I attribute directly to alcohol. It also took about 3 hours to play, as everyone chatted all the way through. My take on the game as a whole? Well, everyone enjoyed it, and we had a great time while we were playing it. The only complaint I had was the length of play, and that was only because I wanted play two meaty games that night. I thought the gameplay was reasonably tied to the theme and was very smooth in practice. The group seemed to enjoy the AP allowance system (this is my first, unless you count Bison, which I don't). No one really had analysis paralysis while we were playing, which is a good sign for future plays. Here's a shot of the final scoring round (Jim was Natural, Jill was Red, Sonja was Yellow, and I was Black)



We finished the night off with dessert from the Jefferson Market (brownie, apple pie, pear-ginger cake thing) and a game of Piratenbillard. Sonja went down in flames, caught in the crossfire, but the biggest loser was Jim who was struck repeatedly by Sonja's mallet throughout the game. I ended up winning.



 
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3/5/06
Woke up with hangover. Uhhhhg.
Michael showed up with bag 'o games at 4:30. We opened with two games of TAMSK. I won the first by a ring, and we tied the second--until one of my timers ran out before any of Michael's. Next, we played Fresh Fish. I had only read a bit about this game on the Geek (like how it's super brain-burny and counter-intuitive). But it was in Michael's collection, and he's quite discriminating, so I was interested. Anyway, I got screwed by the tile draw and had to place a fish market 8 spaces from the dock. I lost 7pts to -2pts, but I was finally getting the hang of it by the end. In our second game, the important placings became clearer, and I actually won -1 to 0.

Next, Michael was kind enough to break out El Cabellero just to show me how it plays. I didn't have the gray matter free to learn another new game, but it has entered my "must play" list, and has moved up on my "acquire this" list. We waited for Jill for awhile, pleasantly chatting about games, then gave up and launched into a 2p. I chose E&T over El Cab because I needed to try it again after my first experience(4p game), and Michael felt that I would have a better chance of seeing the consequences of my actions in the 2p game, since the turn gets bact to you so quickly.
I enjoyed this play, and the game, so much better at the lower scale. I can see that a 3rd player would turn the screws just enough to create the perfect amount of conflict, but decisions were agonizing enough at 2p. I'm having trouble relating the game in this format--I need to take pictures of the board at various stages so I can go back and analyze what happened. A few anecdotes: We both drew green and black tiles early on, and Michael made a concerted effort to get green off of the board, leaving no area with any starter culture of green; the central Southern kingdoms stabbed North early on, creating a fast growing beast; it's helpful to recognize when you have no hope of taking over a leader's position so you can build heavily in vulnerable areas, just getting the cubes you can; also helpful to recognize what cubes your opponent is rich in, so you don't worry about losing wars that involve that color; destruction tiles are best used where your opponent requires two turns to rebuild and connect; in both games, I haven't been much of a red tile guy--at one point I had 5 blue; Michael probably could have won the game if he had started ditching tiles to drain the bag around three turns before the game actually ended--he was strangely passive about this since he should have known that I needed red (which he controlled to ridiculous excess) and I was able to garner the game winning treasure in the last turn. I won 21 to 20, holding 5 treasure.
 
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March 8, 2006

Played at Amer's with the aagg. I went for a simple whitefish salad on an onion roll and my usual S. Pellegrino. I began to play Louis XIV with four others when Mark showed up with his copy under his arm. I offered my seat and waited for others with Eric. Neither of us had brought any dedicated 2p games, which was too bad because no one else showed. Fortunately, I had brought Ra, which scales remarkably well to 2. I couldn't find the official 2p rules in the Uberplay book, so we used the bidding stone distribution on the Super Useful player aid mat and played to the fourth position (one less sun tile than 3p). It's been over a week since then, so I don't remember much about the games, except that Eric won the first game handily with a well-balanced approach, and he owned me in the auctions--absolutely played me like a piano. Everytime in both games that I placed a tile and said to myself "OK, I'll invoke on my next turn," he invoked, forcing my hand. And in the second game, a ridiculous amount of monument tiles came out early (as did flood tiles), so we both were building our stone empires quickly. Eric got the better of me to close out the third epoch--for him, that is. Meaning that he dominated in Nile tiles, pharoahs (by 5), civ tiles, and a massive monument bonus coming his way. Then, playing against the bag, I went on a tear for the ages, eventually eking him out by pulling my last monument tile for the 15 point bonus (on top of the other 10 and 15 pt bonuses). I think the final score was something like 62-58. To his credit, Eric sat and watched this soul-crushing display of luck with good humor and resignation.

Finally, Louis XIV was over, so we said goodbye to Mark and David and sat down with Paul and Stewart for a game of TurfMaster. Stewart had ordered from Germany, and it came in a large, thin box that itself was in a protective white box. The components were displayed beautifully in the insert--a very impressive looking game. We decided to play two laps (races), which was probably a mistake. I had just read a Geeklist started by Sisteray featuring games that have three rounds of the same action for no apparent reason other than game length. As it turns out, there is a perfectly good reason TurfMaster goes three rounds: each player has an identical deck of cards with good cards and useless cards in it, and you draw 10 new cards before each race. So some players (everyone but Paul) had rounds where they had good hands, but these players weren't subsequently hurt by the bad cards in their decks in the final lap. Anyway, I came in 2nd in both races for 60 points, which wasn't enough to beat out Stewart who had a 1st and a 3rd place for 70 points. I tied Eric who had a 1st and a 4th. Paul had a 4th and a 3rd.
 
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Another loooong hiatus, dear Journal, but I pledge to be more constant in the future. Two sessions to report.

First, Jill and I spent Labor Day weekend with Jim and Sonja on their sloop on Lake Erie. We arrived Friday night and decided to stay in the marina until Sunday due to gale warnings. I had packed several games for the weekend in plastic Ziplocs, and we began with Ra. The first epoch was over in no time, and I was the only one to score due to my Pharaoh advantage and gold. However, I had a tough time coming up with monuments. Sonja worked the 1, 2, 3 tiles in the 2nd epoch as well as she could, invoking Ra every time it got to her and forcing others to prevent her from adding to her monument empire. That’s about all I remember of the game, other than it was a low scoring affair.

On Saturday, we played Modern Art, which was entertaining as always. I won by a wide margin, but I have the most experience. The lesson of selling your own stuff for big profits by using double auctions LATE IN THE GAME was, I hope, not lost on anyone. My backup memory, darling Jill, informs me here that actually played 2 games of MA, with Sonja winning game 2. How about that?

We then played For Sale, but it felt very mechanical and “Let’s hurry up and finish this”. Usually we play at least two in a row, but there was little interest. I need a new filler for this group. So we rounded out the night with Once Upon A Time, which Jim and Sonja had never heard of, and Jill and I had only played once (2p). We did a really good job of sticking to a coherent story about a child who was enchanted by a wizard associate of his mother, a queen of a distant land. The boy had been stolen by slave traders, then stolen by a cook, then switched with a woman’s son at (near) birth, as revealed by a seer. The boy was collected by his real mother, but escaped into the wilderness where he encountered his sister, and they made a pact to never go back to the queen. Then they helped the warlock kill some troll, but that was a mistake for some reason. I forgot how it ended. See? Very coherent story line.

Sunday was a sailing day. I promptly got seasick, and was medicated with Bonine. This made me drowsy, and I spent the remainder of the day belowdecks. We made a trip to Pelee Island, had dinner at the winery, and retired for the night. No gaming for sick boy. Monday had me feeling much better, and we had a great sail to South Bass Island for lunch. The winds died utterly in the afternoon, though, and we motored all the way back to Anchor Point, stopping for a swim along the way. These shots show Jim bringing down the mainsail while I snooze on the bow, and Sonja at the helm.




Other than the misery of Saturday afternoon, it was a great trip and we were treated to a wonderful introduction to the sailing life. I also re-learned the wonders of oatmeal (um, porridge) for breakfast.
 
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Last night (a Friday), we were surprised to hear from Jim and Sonja, who had decided not to leave for the boat until Saturday. They arrived around 9pm with cut-up honeydew and vanilla ice cream. After dessert, I cracked open my latest, a honey ale infused with linden blossom. I had set out PR, EG, and Tempus as my preferences. Sonja wanted to give Tempus another go (“Before we forget the rules”) but Jim and Jill voted PR. We used the gatehouse, trading post, small wharf, lighthouse, specialty factory, cloister, and statue from the expansion. In a departure from previous games, there was early scrabbling for tools of the builder. Jill and Jim both built Construction Huts first, so the quarries were sopped up very quickly, and Sonja never got one. I finally got into the shipping game a little, though I did maintain my ability to make money. Jim and Jill were both pursuing a hybrid strategy (they bought the Trading Posts 1,2 right as I was going to build one), while Sonja was shipping exclusively, almost by default due to her disadvantage in building. Jim managed to get one of the large markets, like me, and he had coffee, like Jill, so he was the most successful trader. Add that to his three quarries, and he had no problem building 10-buildings to end the game. And none too soon, as the final score was Jim 43, Jill 43, Me 43, Sonja 40. Jim won on his 4 doubloons and one barrel in the tiebreaker.

Though the game went quickly, we weren’t inclined to set another one up, possibly due to the state of merriment we had achieved. After the Linden Ale, I opened a Rogue Hazelnut Brown, a Fin du Monde, and a Maudite. However, I wordlessly took my Piratenbillard set from its perch and carried it into the living room, and was followed without complaint. This game always makes you into a kid. I had some early luck where Jill and Jim’s shots landed in one-hop distance, and I got some easy captures. Jim was a train wreck, whapping his shots off the board until he had only one ball left. I led the entire game and ended up winning with 7 points (3 captured, one in play). No one made it across the board. I also won the second game, according to Jill, but I don't actually remember a second game.

Jim convinced us to try a dice game that he and Sonja play on the boat called 5,000. You take 6 dice and roll them. 1 is worth 100, 5 is worth 50. Three of a kinds are worth 100x whatever number it is. Three pair is worth 500. So a roll of 1-2-2-2-5-6 is worth 350. You must roll at least 350 to score anything. If you pick up that 6 and roll it again, and get a 5 or a 1, you add to your score, and have the option of picking up all the dice to keep rolling. If you roll the extra dice and get no score, you don’t score for that round. You have to beat the roll of the person before you, unless they busted—then you just have to hit 350. So Jim went on a total tear and trounced the field in the first game. There were two times where I rolled all six dice and got nothing. Perturbed, I demanded another round. This time, I had the early luck, but Jill surged late and snatched it from me.

They cycled home after that, and we went to bed. I should have had a lot more water, though, as my head is not happy right now.
 
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Monday, Sept. 18 Jill and I

We had loaned Carc:H&G to a friend for a long time, and got it back a few weeks ago. We finally broke it out tonight and I really enjoyed it. This was the second designer game we ever bought, way back last spring, and we played the hell out of it back then--probably too much. I forgot that it's actually pretty fun, despite the random draw and only one tile in your hand. Jill kicked it off with a 16 point forest, but I quickly caught up by building a great river system on multiple consecutive draws, followed by Jill springing ahead again. We repeated this Slinky game until the end. I had made and enclosed a pretty nice meadow, and eventually got going in the forest game, but Jill managed to put together a nice 'stealth' meadow (meaning I wasn't paying attention)by stringing a lot of animals along a river. I managed to burn the shrine, using it to place a tiger in one of Jill's meadows. Jill tried to steal my river system, but I plunked down another hut quickly and connected it to my river system and to Jill's hut in a few turns. Neither of us stranded any meeples. In the final accounting, we determined that Jill's ability to finish that first mega-forest was the difference, as those are historically hard to finish. FINAL: Jill 172, Me 159
 
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Tuesday, Sept 19 (Arrrr!) Jim and Sonja's

Jim's dad, Gordon, was in town from Edinburgh. Last visit, we had played Power Grid and Evo, so I brought over PG and TtR:E. After a great dinner of salad and sardine curry, and a great dessert of, well, a combination of apple, oats, cinnamon, and cream that was very good, we set up TtR:E. Gordon seemed to pick up the rules pretty well. I drew Lisbon-Danzig as my long route, and chose to keep that and Kiev-Sochi and Riga-Bucaresti. I have a bad habit of keeping too ambitious a route at the start of the game, and leaving myself with barely enough trains (and time) to finish them. This usually bites me in the ass, as I watch my competitors draw many extra tickets throughout the game. Anyway, Gordon started out in Spain, and promptly clogged up every route through Barcelona, and then went North. Jim started in Zurich and spiderwebbed out from there. Sonja started out in Sochi(!) and built two of the three routes into the city. And Jill responded to Jim's builds by cutting a route north of the Alps. I had planned to build the Danzig-Warszaw link first, but Sonja's move forced me to bust out of Sochi first. I built Sevastapol-Bucaresti to gasps of indignation from Sonja devil and forged north until I had reached Danzig, at which point I was out of cards. Gordon, meanwhile, continued to build like crazy along the west coast, and I began to realize that he was probably done with his tickets and was trying to end the game. So began the frustrating "two off the top" run that eventually gave me just enough cards to get to Lisbon. Gordon had run out of cards at that point, and was drawing every turn with just four trains. Jill and Jim drew tickets on consecutive turns. This all played into my hand, as I was able to build another four route and trigger game end. In the final accounting, Gordon had over 50 in trains, but hadn't completed either of his short routes, so he ended up in the low 60s. Jim was also burned by an incomplete route and had 84. Sonja had some nice routes and scored 98. Jill completed ALL of her little routes and scored 99. I had the longest train bonus, scored 66 off my trains (lots of 4-routes), and completed 38 points in tickets for 114 and a very satisfactory win.

We rounded off the night with 6 Nimmt!. Jim never trailed in the game, while Jill and I fought for last place, picking up an average of 12 points per round. Sonja got in on the loser action as well, and we ended up 67, 69, and 71, with Jim around 35. So not only did he win, but the other 3 of us lost in the same round. All in all, a fun night. Sonja was promised Tempvs for next week's session.
 
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Marc P
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Saturday, Sept 21 at Mustafa (camustafa) and Kathy's house, with Paul (Galvatron). When I arrived, Paul had just gotten there, and Die Macher was on the table. I had spent a few days going over the rules from my copy (unplayed), and had watched the quite well-done hour-long treatment on BGWS(024), so I was ready. That is, I was ready to play this:



However, we actually played this:



So, there was actually a need for a rules explanation, as several aspects of the 1st edition are different. Although, I haven't played the 2nd edition, it seems clear that the changes that were made will turn out to streamline the game significantly, and to make pattern matching more possible. For example, determining the start player is done by auction in 2nd Ed., but in 1st Ed. you assign start to the person with the most votes in the current region. Also, you have these clunky committees in the 1st Ed. for changing your party platform (painfully, in the special committees), whereas there is opportunity for free adjustment in every round in 2nd Ed. We also played one rule wrong, where we placed party meeting cubes out, 4 at a time, until everyone had passed, instead of sticking to a 4 cube per region per turn limit.

Anyway, I learned early lessons about the dangers of schattenkabineting the player to your left, as he or she can just reverse your action with their card. I also learned to save enough money for the opinion poll cards, although I undervalued these cards late in the game, to my peril. Paul jumped out to an early lead (he was to my left), but I stayed just behind him. He was only start player in one round, so I had to deal with him acting after me for most of the game. Add to that, the fact that he was skipping the races I was skipping, and investing where I was investing, and I was sending many glares his way. We finally achieved separation around the fourth round, as he ran into financial trouble for a few rounds.

Kathy managed to dominate the third election relatively unopposed, and she had media control for three straight rounds, so she scored a ridiculous 750 in one election (typical highs are around 400-500). Suddenly, she was a force to be reckoned with. Fortunately, she was also modifying her platform at every opportunity, and we eventually had identical platforms. We formed a friendly coalition in the fifth election to barely beat Mustafa (his run to glory), and I had every intention of forcing a round seven coalition. In the sixth round, I stupidly let Kathy win the opinion poll for the sixth election. She had the highest trend already, but she used the poll to lower my trend to (-1). So in the final round, I forced a coalition with Kathy so she wouldn't form one with Paul. However, this meant that she got an extra media marker in the national pool. In 1st edition, national media markers and party membership are strict multipliers, so I ended up with (~2580 pts X 2 media markers X 22 party members)=~113,000. Kathy had (~1800 pts X 3 media markers X 23 party members)=~124,000. Paul had around 74,000 and Mustafa had around 40,000.

They were really great hosts, and it's nice to have new, fun gamers in town. Paul, unfortunately, will be heading off to Milwaukee very soon, but at least we got to send him off with a great game.
 
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Sunday, 9/24, our house, with Jim, Sonja, and Gordon. Jim, Sonja and Gordon showed up at 5pm with a freshly baked pumpkin pie (the pumpkins are in!) and we all sat down for a growler of linden honey ale to wait for Jill. When she arrived, it was time to dive into my vegetarian chili with cornbread, a much-requested favorite. After some pie and ice cream, Jill headed back to work (briefly) while I filled Gordon in on the rules of Tempus.

We created a very 'lakey' island. In the early going, it was apparent that we all had decent resources around us, and plenty of room, except for Gordon. He was stuck on a single hex with two hill hexes and two grasslands. Sonja had him blocked in from the only connecting tile, and she defended that space vigorously. Still, lake movement offered him a way to expand out, so he spent the whole game making babies like crazy, then moving them to distant shores and planting cities there. He also did well in the progress evaluations involving hills and grasslands. Jim had a nice corner of the board to himself, and he did well with drawing cards. He seemed to never want for Transport or Medicine cards, and he stayed close to the coastline. Sonja was between Jim and Gordon on the West Coast, but more inland. I'm having trouble recalling how her game went, but I do remember that she was a militant force on the island, picking off single tokens here and there. I had the northeastern corner to myself with plenty of resources at hand, and Jill had the southeast, which was largely peninsular. So her options were either to continue south and risk being hemmed in later, or to invade my area.

In the early to mid-game, Jim seemed unstoppable. The combination of Transport and Medicine cards, plus a nice mix of nearby resource hexes meant that he could build key cities while not sacrificing token strength, and be a player in most of the progress battles. Jill kept stranding individual tokens in vulnerable places and Sonja or I would convert or attack them. At one point, Jill was down to the 3-hex minimum.
But I think we both spent too much of our energies directed toward defending our areas when we should have been building cities. I was frustrated by my inability to draw Transport, Sanitation, or Medicine cards, and I spent too many actions drawing cards instead of moving. So, I failed to progress until the fifth era, to much grousing and gnashing of teeth. Yes, I was a whiner again.

As the game progressed into sea travel, Jill, Jim, and Gordon were well-placed to disperse tokens into all available coastal spaces. I hadn't built any cities at that point, and I was still in the "must advance" mode, so I sat stubbornly in my coastal farm space with a stack of four. I knew that I would need to build a few cities in the next round to get tokens off the board, but also that I was missing out on the diaspora. I finally saw the timing calculus of the game. There is a crucial time for city building in the early to mid game. After that, you can repopulate and position for sea travel. Focus on hill hexes, but grab woods if you can. Ignore the 3/5 movement of the trains era because THERE'S NOWHERE TO GO. Lake travel will land you in the mountains, and land travel is typically blocked by other players' tokens. Suffice to say that I was hemmed in by my own devices. Additionally, I couldn't build cities anywhere because I was too focused on advancing to commit movement actions to get a stack to a legal city spot. And by the time I was ready, there was just no way of doing it. Anyways, Jill was the sole recipient of the +3 flight bonus, as Gordon had no hills background cards in his hand of 7.

Final: Jill 24 Jim 20 Gordon 18 Sonja 16 Me 15

So my only complaint with Tempus at this point is that there are a ton of weapons and fortifications cards in the deck. Military action is costly, both in time and cards, and often is not directly helpful. It's frustrating in the early going to watch everyone else plunk down Transport (especially Transport), Medicine, and Sanitation cards, as your civ moves at a snail's pace if you can't match that card play. You have to plan three eras into the future if you don't have good cards, but you don't because you assume that you'll get your share if you keep drawing. However, multiple failed draws mean multiple missed opportunities to move, have babies, etc. I still rate this game an 8; I'll just have to find a way to win (that is, play differently than I did in this game) next time it happens.
 
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Tuesday night, 9/26 at Amer's with the aagg. It was a light night, with only two tables set up when I arrived (around 7:40pm, quite late for me). One table was setting up Plunder, which I heard horrible things about, and the other table had a Settlers setup. I reluctantly plopped down as the fourth in Settlers, which turned out to be a variant that was just getting tried. It was called Ice Age. The board was set up in rows, instead of as a circle (7/8/7/8/7/8). There was a desert tile set up at one corner, and we all had pawns on that hex. Three of the resource hexes were flipped, but with the pip marker face up. As those numbers were rolled, those hexes "thawed" as the ice age ended. So on your turn, you could either move your pawn one space or build. There were no roads, and the first 4 of your five settlements were free to build. The development deck was stripped of all but two Years of Plenty, two Monopoly cards, and maybe 12 Soldiers. We started with a hand of three cards. There was no robber.

OK, so when a 7 was rolled, you roll 2 die again to determine which hex is affected. Then you roll one die to determine which of the two of that number is affected (North or South). Then roll one die to determine the outcome of the disaster. I don't remember all of the results, but 1 or 2 is bad--any settlement you have on that hex is turned on its side, and you have one turn to play a Soldier card to turn it upright. If you can't, you must pay to rebuild it. Cities cannot be rebuilt, but they still produce one resource.

So, no roads was interesting, and moving a pawn gave the game a more dynamic feel. I think the idea was to make the game move faster, and it certainly moved quickly in the beginning. We rolled a metric ton of 7s, though, and setbacks aplenty ensued. I jumped up to nine points first, but got caught with 12 cards (can't help it when you have 3 settlements) on my "final" turn, then got caught again in the next round, then Tom MacGreevy won after my next turn. Also in attendance were Stewart Tame and David Whitcher.

I'm really lukewarm on Settlers. I don't like the kind of tension it creates, where you finish your turn in great shape to win, but the right combination of rolls from the competition can sink you. It's not something they did (from their board position or decision-making); it's something that happened. And I know that the resources you obtain are due to the same fickle roll of the dice, but at least you get to maximize your odds by building on the better numbers. I just don't get as much satisfaction out of this as I do Entdecker or Starship Catan, but at least it's not as tit for tat as the Card Game. I know that it was a seminal game, but I guess you had to be there.
 
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Wednesday, October 4, my house with Michael Webb and Sean Whitaker. This had been planned for months, so I was really looking forward to it, and it didn't disappoint. I took off from work at noon and they arrived around 12:30. Michael brought his big black bag of goodness, as usual. We kicked it off with, what else, Age of Steam-Montreal, Michael's new design. Since it's not done yet, I'll give my capsule review/rating here.

I was most impressed with his new ideas and their integration. Thematically, you're building the Montreal subway, so goods are passengers and the cities are stops. Everyone starts in the same city, which gets production off 1,2,3 Light. In rounds 3, 6, and 9, there are automatic urbanizations as the black cities are placed on the board, representing the Expo, Olympics, and Montmorissey(sp?) developing in history. In fact, there is no urbanization action, but you can choose to urbanize any town that you develop with four or more exits. The board includes a mountainous region that cannot be built on, and a red/blue city whose nearest neighbors are red and blue (nasty). My favorite idea is the use of a neutral player, the government. At the start of every round, a route card is drawn, and the shortest or cheapest path between the stops is built and claimed by the government. Players may use the line as part of their delivery path, with no penalty, although they don't get income from those legs. There is also a great new action, Lease, where a player can garner all income from use of government rail in that round. Finally, shares are limitless, and engines can go to 8. It's a lot of changes to a great base game, but it really works well. The only negative I could point to is that the government builds can slow the game down, considering that you're often replacing a good bit of track with complex crossings and such. But the map works well, especially for 3p. The government provides the space crunch you usually get in a 4p game, and it's done in a rather deterministic fashion. I give it a 9 at this point, without hesitation.



So, the game that we played began with the gov't dropping south across the St. Lawrence. I headed East with my eye on eventually crossing the river to get to black. Sean got all crazy and headed to Blue/Red town, while Michael stabbed North for some easy deliveries. I was pleased to be left on my own for a bit, and spent buttloads of money to build nice, expensive, watery loops. Sean ramped his Crazy Train up quickly, but fell behind in income as he lost points twice during expenses. Michael and I kept at nearly the same level in shares and engine, and we spent a good portion of the midgame happily shipping for 4. As I said, I was mostly segregated, and did all I could to maintain yellow purity in the East, but the red man (Michael)invaded just to stick a very unwelcome red city in an inconvenient location for me, and came back in the late game to take advantage of some prime real estate that I was just about to claim. Michael and I were neck and neck in the last few rounds, but he slowed down in shares a round before I did, and that made all the difference. I made one big mistake (protecting the wrong hex), but I doubt that would have made the difference. So, Michael, then me, then Sean.
I'll cover the Veld Railroads and San Marco games in my next post.
 
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OK, so I never got around to updating this. Suffice to say that Veld Railroads was really interesting, and I'd like to try it again with four people. San Marco only confirmed my burning desire to own it.

Last night, I got to try Klaus Teuber's new design, based on his old design Entdecker. This one is tentatively titled The Something of the Jade Goddess (curse? lands? temple? statue?). It's essentially Carcassonne with a movement phase and a random draw for set collection.

Anyway, here goes with the description:
The goal is to score victory points by collecting fragments of the statue of the Jade Goddess. The fragments are in 4 sections labeled A,B,C,and D, which, when assembled in the logical way, will reveal a small idol. There are enough fragments to build 12 complete statues--4 each of 3 different colors. In each color, there are 2 complete statues made up of fragments that are broken, meaning there are cracks in the piece, and the letter (A, B, C, or D) is white instead of gold. You score 1 VP for each loose fragment in your collection at the end of the game, 6 points for each complete statue that contains a broken fragment, and 9 points for each statue that is totally unbroken. The game begins with a display at the "museum" of 5 random fragments, and there's a way to swap the fragments you collect with the display, one at a time. There's also a way to draw two face down fragments, look at them, and return two face down to the pile.

So the board starts out as a cross shape, made up of squares with the Entdecker dotted lines for navigation. Everyone starts in the middle square with their Jeep (unlike Entdecker, everyone gets their own vehicle). On your turn, you may move your Jeep to any square on the board, according to the rules of navigation: unlimited movement on the black dotted lines, plus one length of yellow dotted line. If your first move is along yellow, you only move one square and then stop. Black lines are through the jungle, while yellow lines run through the areas of ruins where you explore (so an ocean of jungle peppered by islands of ruins). Once you move your Jeep, you draw a tile and attempt to place it adjacent to your Jeep. You only have to match yellow to yellow and black to black. If you cannot place the tile you've drawn, you place it in front of your screen. If you can place it, you must. Tiles which contain ruins may also contain a gold piece and/or an idol piece. When you place a tile, you first move your Jeep onto it, they you may place a worker. Workers come in 3 flavors: value 1 (free), 2 ($1), or 3 ($2). You get the goodies in the ruin when it's completed, so someone else may attach to your ruin and drop workers in. Obviously, having more worker value in the ruin gives you more goodies than anyone else, unless there's only one idol fragment or one coin. Finally, you may decide, for $1 to take a second complete turn immediately.

At any point you may make your way back to the middle square to trade fragments with the museum. Swapping 2 face down tiles costs $1. The endgame goes like this: when the last tile is drawn, players may still play any tiles in front of them or do swaps with the museum. Once three consecutive players have passed (in the 4p game), the game is over.

Impressions: Not bad, not horrible. I liked the way that movement worked, the ability to buy a second consecutive turn, and the chase for idol pieces AND money. I thought that there wasn't enough competition for trading at the museum until the end of the game--there was no pressure to beat the other players to the punch. This could be fixed by making the starting display consist of 5 different, unbroken pieces. One other problem was the level of competition--it was minimal. Everyone with a worker in a ruin got something, and the only way to screw someone was if you came in after they had already built a ruin up and complete it for them, while placing more workers than them. But there's so much board that it's easy to just start your own dig somewhere and try to block access.

We played with 4 people (the game scales from 3-4) and the board felt huge. I would play 5 people on the board as is, perhaps shaving off one column for 4 players, and a column and a row for 3 players.

As a prototype, that is supposed to be at the finishing touches stage, I give it a 6. Give me die Neuen Entdecker instead.
 
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4/14/07
Played my first RPG tonight...Call of Cthulhu! Mustafa did a brilliant job in his first go as gamemaster. He and Kathy did a lot of prep, and provided us three intrepid investigators (me as Carleton Weatherby, III, the dilletante, Theresa as Sheila, the Nurse, and Jonathan as Derk the ex-cop) with plenty of cool documents to keep the authenticity high. I logged this play under "D&D Basic Game", and will change it when and if the promised 'RPG Geek' ever comes about. Jonathan is preparing the text description of the story, which took place in the episode, "The Haunting". I will repost his text here when it's available.
 
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