Prosperity Gaming

Last week’s session was a five person spot of prosperity gaming: Azriel and Rosalynn brought Dominion: Prosperity, and – along with Peleg and Sheer – we played two games of this fine Dominion expansion. The expansion is, as you would expect from the title, one that focuses on money, wealth, and the generation of those key assets. It’s a shame this expansion is out of print, as it was fun to play, and merits further attention.

As for the two games, I won the first – using the recommended “Beginner” mix of cards – and Sheer won the second – using a more interactive recommended set. One potential downside of Prosperity is that there are a few attack cards, but bugger all I could see that would work as an effective defense. Perhaps the Watchtower card – which allows you to draw till your hand is at six cards – is the best tool in the box for defense.

Afterwards, we moved on to Reibach and Co, which all of us had played before except for Azriel. I explained the rules, but must have done a bad job, as he really struggled and did not get much of a score. However, Azriel did say he wanted to play it again, so it cannot all have been bad. Sheer, Peleg, and I managed to mess up each other’s scores so well that Rosalynn skipped into first place in the last scoring round. Yeah for Rosalynn!

Another fun night. You cannot ask for better than that.

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A night with Andreas

Last week’s session saw Azriel, Rosalynn, Sheer, and me have a night of two games by Andreas Seyfarth. Both are classics, of some age, but still endure.

First up was the meaty challenge that is Puerto Rico. To give you an idea of how seriously some people play this, the Puerto Rico sessions at the World Boardgame Championships used to record the players’ moves. Frightening. I don’t think any of us are likely to be in the finals of that event for a while. Anyway, off we jolly well went, and had an engrossing game that ended – surprisingly – in two ways.

The first, and biggest, surprise was that I won. The second surprise was that Sheer later confessed he hated the game. I should have taken the hint when he asked for several rules explanations, though he had played it many times. He really must hate it to have so emptied his excellent gamer’s brain of the Puerto Rico basics. I promise, Sheer, we won’t play that one again! Rosalynn and Azriel had decent scores, but just couldn’t get enough points to claim the win.

Second was Andreas very cut down card game version of Puerto Rico, San Juan. Funnily enough, Sheer likes this game, and he did pretty well. Unfortunately for him, Rosalynn did better, and claimed a memorable win. It was memorable for me, because I so badly played the opening rounds that I was doomed to finish last from then, and knew it. But I smiled sweetly as we played and played and played until we got to the end. Azriel’s got a good handle on the game, but he just lost out to Sheer for the second place. I was so far back, I should have finished fifth…

Despite the San Jaun disaster, I had a great night with Andreas’ games. Thanks to Sheer for playing Puerto Rico, and to everyone for coming along.

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Five Players, Four Laps


Azriel, Peleg, Rosalynn, and Sheer came long this week, and we decided to change things a little by playing a longer version – four laps instead of two – of Automobiles. The rules recommended five laps, and I am glad I was able to cut that down by agreement, as for me the game dragged. Primarily this was because I played it badly. Sheer, on the other hand, played it quite well, and was the eventual winner.

In this card management game (that cleverly uses wooden blocks as the cards) the key is to get the right balance in your deck. For example, I had too many cards in my deck, so struggled to get to the few good cards I needed. That having been said, there was one turn when Sheer was completely stumped and could not move – something I will return to – and was at risk of losing. At that point, Rosalynn and Peleg were mounting a real challenge. (By then, I had already been lapped.) However, poor Peleg and Rosalyyn could not maintain the challenge when it mattered most. Azriel brought on a little burst near the end, but it was too little, too late. Well done Sheer.

Now, that thing I wanted to mention. To move on the board, you need to have the right color of cube (card, if you will) or you are stuck. Sheer might have been only stuck once, but it happened to others, and I suffered so badly. In other card management games, it is rare that there are turns when you can do nothing. Here, it can and does happen often. I suspect my criticism derives more from my poor planning and play – and I have actually won a game of Automobiles – but the game is not one of my favorites. Never mind.

Azriel and Rosalynn retired for the night, leaving Peleg, Sheer, and I to have a quick game of Dominion. Sheer went for an all out Witch card strategy. Peleg and I were far too kind and ignored that, allowing him to clobber us with Curse cards. Both Peleg and I were first to grab the key victory point cards, but our decks slowed down with the accumulation of curses, and Sheer ran out the winner. I hate the Witch card!

Despite playing Automobiles, it was still a fun night. That’s the real beauty of gaming.

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ASL Catchup

It has been so long since I tried to post any ASL experiences I have quite forgotten many scenarios I have played. But, the last few I have some recollection of are as follows:

Command Schenke

Josh’s Germans attacking my defending Russians.

The victory conditions are simple enough: no unbroken Russians in the fortified building.

The setup conditions forces the Russian player to have some of his forces within easy enough range of the German offensive line, and so the Russian cannot simply hide away in the fortified building and surrounding area, and wait. There has to be some attempt at a delaying force.

Of course, if the Russians lose too many troops in that outer defense, they are doomed. Well, for that part of the game, I couldn’t really complain. I did lose some squads, but also chewed up some Germans and put their timetable under threat.

Eventually, however, it all came down to the last turn, and the last three Russian defenders. Could the Germans win? I said “Yes” and Josh said “No” so you can probably guess quite easily that Josh was wrong. It was a bit sad, because as I looked at the last turn, I could see exactly how his deadly flamethrower survivor (one had broken) and a couple of killer stacks (good leaders and assault engineers) would move and kill. And so it proved to be. The game could have gone either way on the last two close combat die rolls, but Josh got the kills he needed, and so on the last roll of the last turn he had won.

It was infuriating, but great excitement.

Josh had tied up one of my flank guards with a close combat, and that unit spent the last three or four close combats outside the fortified building, doing no good at all. However, in fairness, another Russian squad that had broken early, did manage to rally and get back in to the fortified building. Indeed, if there was a noticeable weakness in the Soviet at start forces, it was leadership. I needed the -1 leader with the HMG in the fortified building, and I swapped the other for a commissar. Where was I going to put him? In the fortified building. That meant all the outer defenders were dead, or pretty much dead, as soon as they broke. The fact I only got one back out of the six I was forced to setup up front says it all. That may hint I where my tactics were wrong: perhaps I should have retreated the outer defenders instead of mixing it up with the attackers? However, they did some damage, so I am unsure.

Throughout the game, Josh gave me several sniper opportunities of which only one (a pinning result) came to anything. He had one sniper and it also got a pin result.

Great stuff, but next time I would like to be on the winning side against Josh!

Bedburg Bite

A Canadian attacker against a German defender with mines and a chunky tank reinforcement. I played as the defender against Ran and diced my way to victory. I played as the attacker against josh and my attack was bloodily, and all too easily, repulsed.

I definitely seem to do better as the defender. So, I clearly need to play more as the attacker…

(There have been others, but they are forgotten.)

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On The Table Catchup

There will be trouble ahead…

I am miles behind in gaming stuff, so I will do a quick run through of the wargames I have been playing recently (and not so recently), hopefully getting me up to date. Continue reading

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The Magnificent Seven

This week we were seven. (You would never have guessed, if I hadn’t told you, would you?) Azriel, Nechemiah, Laurie, Peleg, Rosalynn, and Sheer were in attendance, with Nechemiah slightly delayed by an over long commute that seemed to go on and on. So we started with six and a game of the excellent 7 Wonders.

It is a different game – still very much enjoyable – with that number, but I always take too long to adopt to the change in pace and scoring opportunities. Unsurprisingly, I was in contention right from the start – for the wooden spoon. I won it, easily. Peleg (who dislikes the game, but bravely plays it without complaint) beat me by a fair bit. Rosalynn (64 points), Laurie (66 points), and Azriel (68 points) were right up there, but just could not keep up with Sheer’s pace, and he won (78 points) with a combination of a big military and big guild score. Rosalynn deserved some kind of consolation, as she scored a whopping 54 points just from the science cards. Wow.

After that, Nechemiah joined in, and we split four and three. Nechemiah, Rosalynn, Sheer, and Peleg played the classic Acquire. Sheer won that. They followed it up with R-Eco, with Rosalynn getting her revenge.

The pack is about to be broken by Mr Blue and Mr Blue.

Meantime, Laurie, Azriel, and I played the newcomer Flamme Rouge, a light bike racing game with cool cards and pieces, giving each player two riders to get round the track. Laurie won that. However, although the game only awards a win to first past the post, using a house scoring system, Azriel would have tied for most points over the first four finishing. My racers were fifth and sixth…

Susan made us into a foursome, and then we played Dominion which I managed to win, so some consolation.

Another terrific night.

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A Grand Start

Azriel, Laurie, Rosalynn, and Sheer joined me in our last session.

We started with El Grande, a classic area control game. Everyone had played it before, but wanted a rules refresher. Then, off we went.

In the very first round, Sheer took advantage of an excellent opportunity by grabbing the first place action, and scoring 20+ points. The rest of us struggled to get to close to double figures…

From then on, we were all playing catch up. Slowly, but surely, we did catch up. (Well, some of us…) It appeared that one of the side effects of Sheer getting such an early, obvious and large lead, was that the other players – not just me! – were happy to use every reasonable opportunity to do him damage and cut away at his score. Azriel and Laurie were doing OK, but seemed to miss out on decent scoring chances. There is an element of luck in the game, and here it did appear as if they suffered from a dose or two of bad luck. Meantime, Rosalynn and I were the closest contenders, and a right thrilling finish it was. With the last score of the last area in the last round, I found myself as the winner by a point or two from Rosalnn and Sheer. An epic struggle. Based on that, if I ever get the chance to grab a big early lead, I won’t!

We then moved on to R-Eco, a card management game that I either do brilliantly well in, or badly. That night it was my turn to do badly. Laurie wasn’t doing too badly, but Azreil, Rosalynn, and I were definitely struggling. It was no surprise that Sheer won. The rest of us were pretty close to one another in our low scores.

After the others had departed claiming a need to go to bed, Sheer and I played 7 Wonders: Duel. That streak of luck that can seemingly turn a game came my way, as I collected lots of resources and lots of victory points. I was crushing Sheer. Of course, the inevitable happened, and with about half a dozen more cards to go to the end of the game, Sheer picked up enough science cards to claim a scientific victory. I was robbed! Great play by Sheer.

Thanks to all who came for making another great night.

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BKOA Games Night

Saved for another occasion

With the help of Peleg and Sheer, I hosted a games night for Beit Knesset Ohel Ari. I had no idea what the response would be, and while I would always prefer more people to come along and play games, those who did come appeared to have a good time. (I am open to correction, folks…)

“This is a game of survival!”

We started things rolling with The Walking Dead to get everyone into the mood. After counting up the bullets we had one survivor: Helena. A fine win to start the session.

After that we split into smaller groups.

Splendid action with Splendor

Sheer hosted Shelley and Stuart and Rosalynn. He led them through one game of Splendor (won by Rosalynn) and then Reibach and Co (won by Sheer).

This was a well fought game

Peleg hosted Emma, Naomi, Azriel, and Nechamia. He led his merry crew through Ticket to Ride Europe. Although Peleg won on points, we awarded the win to Naomi because it felt right. Emma picked up a prize for – I think – trying to complete the longest route in a five player game of Ticket to Ride, a tough, tough challenge.

Decisions, decisions

Meantime, I hosted Richard, Laurie, and Helena. At this table we played Alhambra. We had a bonus because Richard was able to give us some of the secret Jewish history of the real Alhambra. Absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately, I won according to the rules of the game, but I awarded the prize to Laurie.

Some happy prizewinners

That was it. Good fun (I hope) and a chance to spread the word: playing games is great!

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Lee vs Grant

After Clash of Giants: Civil War, I continued on the ACW theme with Lee vs Grant. This is a Joe Balkoski game, originally published in 1988 by Victory Games, about the 1864 Wilderness Campaign. Game scales are turns of five days, hexes of two miles across, and each strength point representing 2,500 men.

The game uses an interactive initiative system where the active player chooses a leader and, shocking for its time, rolls one or two dice to determine movement allowance. Leaders have ratings that influence the movement result, so better units do actually move faster – most of the time! The actual fighting men can become disorganized if you push them too much – force march them, or suffer adverse results in battle – so part of the campaign challenge is managing your resources, knowing when to conserve them, and when to push them to their limit. The decision about whether to fight a battle is also key, and rarely straightforward.

This Lee also has an important mission

The game comes with a batch of basic game scenarios, all of which I played – they are all shortish, taking around an hour or two at most – before moving on to the advanced game and the campaign game. There is only one scenario really, but you can choose to try for the three, six or nine turn version, with the victory points suitable adjusted.

I very much enjoyed going back to this game. In short, it was fun. It also inspired me to do some reading about the topic, including a quick run through the material I have and a scout around to see what else might be worth buying.

This game is significant because it gave birth to Joe Balkoski’s Great Campaigns of the Civil War series. The series uses a heavily adapted set of rules – with a higher level of complexity – and a change in scale to turns of one day, hexes of one mile, and steps of 1,000 men per strength point. I recently played Battle above the Clouds, and it was interesting to look back at this core design and see how much simpler it was. Balkoski was involved in the GCACW series, but it is now I think in the hands of Ed Beach.

While I am going to try more of the GCACW series, one of the core design decisions that puzzles me is the switch away from leaders affecting movement allowances. In GCACW, all Union infantry leaders, for example, roll 1d6 for movement, and all CSA infantry leaders roll 1d6+1 for movement. So ‘bad’ CSA leaders become good movers, and ‘good’ Union leaders become bad movers, so to speak. Because the GCACW games are more complex anyway, that simplification seems strange to me.

Confusion in the Wilderness Campaign

Anyway, returning to Lee vs Grant, I finished up playing the short three turn Campaign game. I did that twice, trying out different strategies, and had one minor victory for each side. I shied away from the longer campaign games, not because of the length, but because of the rules load, as much of the advanced rules only really come into play with the longer campaign games.

Offline, a correspondent complained about a certain designer who removed any fun from his games. Balkoski could never be accused of that. No doubt enthusiasts will say the GCACW is wonderful, but there’s more than enough to digest, learn, and enjoy in Lee vs Grant. Great fun, indeed.

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