Cards on the table

The forecasted bad weather didn’t prevent Azriel, Susan and me having a Dominion session. We started with Dominion: Prosperity.

Susan hadn’t tried this set before, and I had limited experience. (That’s my excuse, and I am sticking to it!) Azriel, however, knows the cards intimately, and he leveraged that advantage into a significant win.

With Susan retiring early, Azriel and I continued the Dominion theme by adding in Dominion: Dark Ages. I showed Azriel how not to play the game, while Azriel showed me how to play some key combinations. He won.

For the hat trick, I allowed Azriel to beat me at Hero Realms!

It’s amazing how the time flies when you are gaming. A sure sign of the right type of fun. Thanks Azriel.

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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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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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It’s all in the combination

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To start this week’s session, I was joined by Sheer, and we played 7 Wonders: Duel.

Sheer is quick at assessing the value of card combinations, and he put that to good use in this game, by collecting science cards aplenty, and the resultant bonuses. His focus on that aspect forced me to look elsewhere, and I started off with a military strategy. That – eventually – started eating away his finances, and allowed me to get some decent victory point cards. I came close to knocking him out with a military victory, but he fought back, and the game went the whole way. I was pleased with my play, but (pleasantly) surprised by the win, as I was sure his bonuses would have been too much. Great fun. And each time we play this, I am more impressed by how well it works as a short, sharp, and challenging two player game.

Peleg then joined us, and we played Automobiles. Sheer again got a powerful combination together, and soon looked to be out of reach to me. (I had chosen the opposite of a powerful combination.) But Peleg, with a variation on Sheer’s theme, was keeping in touch, and so made it a bit of a competition. We played three laps, and I was consistently in last place and in danger of being lapped. Peleg  kept up the pressure, right up until the last turn or so, when Sheer pulled ahead to win the race.  Then, to our surprise, we found out that we had played some of the cards without taking the requisite wear. That would have changed things, though it is doubtful if it would have changed the result. It simply whetted our appetite to try this game again, because it is a good variation on the Dominion type game.

Speaking of which, we finished off with a regular Dominion game. Peleg and I went into an early lead, with lots of victory points, while Sheer concentrated on getting the right combination so as to maximize the efficiency of his desk, and throw all the Curse cards at us. It worked. Both Peleg and I were slowed down, and Sheer gradually caught up and exceeded our victory points. Damn!

Thanks to Peleg and Sheer for making the session so enjoyable.

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Shabbat Gaming

Catch up time.

Two Shabbats ago, Susan and I played Dominion; regular, straight up, common or garden, standard Dominion. What a great game it is. We played using the Size Distortion deck of action cards as listed in the rulebook, and had a close game. Susan has a great record at Dominion, and she kept that record going by edging me out by only a few points.

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Fast forward to last Shabbat, when Susan and I were joined by Sarah-Lee as we all played Dominion: Seaside for the first time. The core mechanics are identical, but there are many action cards that have enduring effects. This means you might get a bonus (action or money or whatever) in the turn you play the card, and the next turn. Cute.

We only scratched the surface by trying just one of the recommended sets, but it was another great game. Although Susan won – again! – both Sarah-Lee and I were about one card away from being the winner. Very close, very intense, and a super way to while away a Shabbat afternoon.

 

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The game in Spain

This week I weclomed Amiram, John, and Peleg for a two game session.

We started with Alhambra.

alhambra2Peleg and I had played this before, so I did a quick rules introduction for John and Amiram. Peleg kindly filled in the blanks in Hebrew for Amiram, then off we jolly well went.

Alhambra can be a cruel game. You can see the buildings you want to buy. You can see the money you want to draw. But the players who go before you may take what you want. Damn! It’s one game where advance planning is often scuppered, but it doesn’t slow down play that much.

Amiram and John picked up the game well. But Peleg was the winner with a great start that he built on.  I was well behind until the very last scoring, at which point I just about avoided coming in last place. Just about…

Next up, Dominion.

All except Amiram had played this before, so to speed up things Peleg did the rules explanation while I did the setup, helped by John.

The only attack card was the Bureaucrat, and the only card giving extra actions was the Market. So, it took people a while to build up decent combinations. Most of us tried to accumulate money, and that worked reasonably.

John came close a couple of times with a buying power of 7 (you need 8 for the big VPs) and that really hurt.

Peleg’s combinations never got him enough buying power, though he did try a variety of them.

This is a tricky game for novices, but Amiram did fine, and I think finished in runner up spot.

Unfortunately for everyone else, I did very well with enough luck and money at the right times to grab the big VPs, and I claimed the win.

Thanks to all who came for another fun night.

 

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A grande session

This week, I welcomed John, Peleg, and Sheer to the regular games session.

John was running slightly behind schedule, so Peleg, Sheer, and I played R-Eco. This short, filler game of card management, has hidden depths, and is a great example of simple and effective game design. It’s also easy, fun, and engaging. Although I was the only one who had played it before to any real extent, neither Peleg nor Sheer had any problems. Thirty minutes later, the game was over, Sheer winning by a small margin.

John joined us for a classic encounter of El Grande. I say classic, but I was the only one who had played it before, and that advantage was too big to prevent me winning. However, Peleg gave it a good go, and was pretty damn close.

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El Grande is a game of area control – you get VPs for controlling areas by having the most pieces there – with several great add-ons. For example, you each have a set of cards numbered 1-13 to determine turn order. But you lose each card after you play it, and no player can play the same card as another player in the same round. Getting the right turn order also affects how many pieces you can bring into your starting area. As for taking pieces from your starting area on to the board, that depends on the action card you choose. There are five of these, each with a special action and an allowance of 1-5 pieces to go from your starting area to the board.

There’s also the king piece that determines where you can play pieces, and where you cannot. (Moving the king – done by an action card – is one of the key skills in the game.) And finally, the castille, a wooden tower that scores as an area, and then allows you to send your pieces to one area on the board. Great fun.

Both Sheer and John were soaking up the atmosphere, and getting to grips with the nuances of the system. (Or, to put it another way, they were not always choosing the best scoring moves!) I expect we will play this again, as everyone enjoyed it, and seemed keen to try out a different approach next time around.

After that, we played Dominion. This was a random setup selection that included Militia, Spy, Moat, Market, Village, Library, Council Room, Chapel, and Chancellor (I think) and set up a good, even game.

Sheer got a great Village and Market deck. John and Peleg never seemed to settle on their strategy, and both suffered because some bastard – ie me – played  a lot of Militia.  In the end, my Militia and money strategy paid off, and I was the winner.

With Peleg’s departure, we finished with a three handed game of Take it Easy. Both Sheer and I thought we had done OK, and John was disappointed. Of course, John won… This is another neat filler game. It does not have the depth of others, but is a really fast game, and keeps you involved with every turn.

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Thanks to all who came for making another great games night.

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The dominion, the prince, and the star

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This week’s session began with a quick and intensive three player game of Dominion. John, Yehuda, and I fought over a high value set of Action Cards. However, it was the rather lowly Militia that did the damage, winning the game for John.

Sheer and Tal joined us for a game of Princes of Florence. Yehuda did his usual excellent job of explaining the rules to John and Sheer. Both of them did an excellent job of picking up the key points, and were well in contention save for some understandable errors. Tal seemed to lose her way a bit, possibly because she was still thinking about the work she was doing for a friend, when she should have been maximizing her score! It’s a tricky game to master, but Yehuda has done that, and his ‘come from behind’ approach showed us all how to win. Well done, Yehuda!

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Tal dropped out to check out some music and allow the four guys to get a first shot at Among the Stars. We played the non-aggressive mode, fairly fast, made some mistakes but had some fun. As John and Sheer pointed out, once you build up familiarity with the cards, you will have a better chance of maximizing the score and doing well. Yehuda won, with Sheer and John not that far behind. I was well in last place. It was great to get the first run done and get used to the mechanics. The additions – goals and alien races – should make for an interesting combination. We are sure to play it again.

Thanks to all who came.

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Building a win

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This week’s session saw Susan and I host John, Laurie, Sheer, and Yehuda for a couple of three player games.

At the other side of the table, Yehuda ran a game of Amerigo, then a game of San Juan, both with Laurie and John. I believe he won both. Because I was busy with my own games, I do not have any meaningful recollection of what happened, though it appeared John liked his introduction to both games, and Yehuda was getting tired of both. Clarification is awaited!

On my side of the table, I ran a game of Suburbia, then a game of Dominion, both with Susan and Sheer.

In Suburbia, I beat out the others because I could claim all three public goals and my own goal. As Sheer commented, the goals are very powerful. As I commented, that’s why I think it is a mistake to ignore them.

In Dominion, I beat out the others by going for a money first strategy. That allowed me to be the first to buy VPs, and even although I received a ton of curses (negative VPs), I burned enough away with the Chapel card. Sheer had a very impressive Market based deck, but it just did not generate enough money early enough. Susan seemed to play lost of Spy, Thief, and Witch cards. While these impacted badly on the other players, Susan did not seem able to benefit sufficiently, and struggled to get VPs.

It was good to get in a couple of chunky games, though I was hoping to try out the Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders. Some were not keen on it. This is interesting: no matter how highly rated a game is, there always seem to be players who do not like it and do not want to play it. That’s not a complaint; it’s an observation about there being different strokes for different folks. I wonder what strokes we will get up to next week?

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