A nefarious night

[A guest post from Yehuda. Thanks!]

Sheer and I planned to play two player for the evening. Then Tal, back from the US, told me that she would join us for a second game, so we picked the well-loved Nefarious, a game that Sheer had never played. Then my roommate Oren came in and was willing to be roped in for a short game.

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Nefarious is the great game from Donald X. Vaccarino, designer of Dominion, in the same year that he came out with the mediocre game Kingdom Builder. I still find it difficult to understand why the game was ignored and has become hard to find. It is one of the most loved games in my collection. It is perfect as a gateway game, plays quickly, is dirt easy to understand, plays equally well from 2 to 6 players, has funny and cool graphics, plays differently every time you play, and is a perfect combination of luck, light interaction, and resource management.

Sheer loved the game, and he won the first game we played with Oren. Our twists in this game were straightforward: no cash for Research and 6 cash for Work. Tal joined us for the second game and Oren won. Our twists in this game were wackier: you have to pre-select the next invention after you play the last one, and all build effects are doubled.

Oren retired, and Sheer and Tal were up for something meaty, so I taught them Castles of Burgundy, which is both meaty and fiddly. I usually find the game to be confusing, but I must have explained it well enough for Sheer who never seemed confused (and we didn’t even forget the rule about two brown hexes of the same type in the same area). Tal never quite got the hang of it, but did very well anyway. I thought I was winning slightly right up until the final scoring. Sheer loved the game, too. He won by a small margin, with the final scores something like 209 to 202 to 201.

Belated update

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[This is a late update to this post about the week before last’s session. Thanks to Yehuda for doing this guest post.]

Ben, David, and I played Amyitis. This is a game themed about planting the gardens of Babylon, with some odd design choices in the pieces; for example, to plant a garden spot, you remove the brick tile uncovering the planted garden beneath it, rather than placing a garden tile on the spot. These kinds of things make the theme a bit obscured.

David was convinced early on that he wouldn’t like it. In the end he didn’t like it, but perhaps not as much as he initially feared. Ben had a more positive attitude, but he also was happy to see the game over I think. I still like it a lot. Of course, I won, so that may have helped.

The game has a kind of rondel, as well as some progression tracks that only the first few (in our case, two) players who get to it can progress on them. This is not a good mechanic; it’s ok if the last item can only be obtained by one person, but blocking off the entire track is just annoying and it closes off options.

Despite this, the rest of the game is fairly balanced, I think. The VP track didn’t score so well for Ben, but he neglected the other opportunities a bit too much. On the second to last turn, we were all within two points of each other. On the last turn I pulled ahead about 6 points, and remained that way after the final scoring.

We played a rule incorrectly, allowing the planting of the first level without an irrigation cube; thinking back, this may have worked to my advantage, since I started planting early (though the others could have done so as well). We also played with my house rule that allows you to take any action on your turn for a cost of three coins; it once again proved to be a great house rule and I can’t imagine playing the game without it anymore.

David and I played three games of Nefarious afterwards.

Who is the most nefarious of all?

[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Boardgames Group blog, here.]

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Laura, Laurie, Rochelle, Yehuda and I gathered round the table to look in awe at the Pastiche game box, then ignore it while we played other games…

First up was Nefarious, only Yehuda and I having played this before. Everyone else picked it up quickly – though I think Rochelle would have preferred to not only pick it up, but throw it away as well – and play proceeded smoothly. One of the rule twists we drew limited the cash in hand by forcing each player to round down to the nearest 5 coins (if he had 5 or more) at the end of each round. That prolonged the game and possibly also contributed to a reasonably tight finish. Although Yehuda won, at least two of us were one turn away from a better finish. The game did not get a great reception – especially from Rochelle – but I would play it again. It’s dry, but easy, and the rule twists add some sparkle.

Next up was the meaty Age of Industry. Only Laura was new to this. Laurie was intent on trying out a new strategy, despite Yehuda’s best advice. Unfortunately, while the strategy as a lot of fun – how she enjoyed collecting those loan cards! – it didn’t work. Yehuda, true to form, won just head of Laura, Rochelle and me. Again, a tight finish. This time Laura and Rochelle were less than impressed with the game, so it may be a wee while before we see it again. I like it and hate it in equal measure. I cannot play it for toffee, but enjoy watching other people’s strategies.

And then it was time to go home.

That will teach you!

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[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Boardgames Group blog, here.]

Back into action after a few weeks off for various reasons, we had a two table adventure.

Azriel, Ken, Yehuda, and I started on one table with Nefarious. Laura, Laurie, and Rosalyn were drawn into the world of Thunderbore Thunderstone Advance. Without further ado, over to Laurie:

“The glowing swords were handed out upon entrance to the men in the scouting party, alas when they sited the new Thunderstone Advance laid on the table, they quickly begged off to a men-only table for games about science, art and Tichu.

The trio of women gamers dared to battle the dragons and venture into dungeon after dungeon valiantly.

Laurie had played it twice since the game arrived with relatives from the UK last week, and set up the Tower of Contempt scenario, full of fire, for this evening’s game. It was a first play for Laura and Rosalyn, who both caught on and enjoyed the game.

Rosalyn captured a handful of the highest-point monsters and Laura took on monster after monster, round after round. All players spent many a round with this version’s new “prepare” action and to use swords and heroes to best advantage. After 4 hours of rule explanations, conversation and game play, the Thundersone Bearer turned up as the third to last card in the deck. Laurie slayed the most monsters for 68 points and Laura took home 38 points and Rosalyn 34.”

Meantime, in a couple of games of Nefarious – a nifty worker placement and card game by the designer of the addictive Dominion – both Ken and Yehuda claimed a win apiece. The theme is mad scientists and inventions.

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One of the notable aspects of the game is that there is a separate deck of twists (I think they are called) from which 2 are drawn for every game. Each of the twists tweaks the game rules, making each game a different experience and forcing the players to develop new strategies. For example, one twist gave a bonus victory point for each 5 money held. Another penalized each player every time he carried out an “invent” action. It was quick and easy and fun.

After that we went on to Tichu, a classic trick taking card game that I have never played before. It uses a standard deck plus four special cards.

Yehuda showed me how to play. Ken showed me how to win. As Ken and I played as a partnership against Yehuda and Azriel, I was happy about that!

It’s a perfect family game with a high skill factor, and plenty of opportunity for missed opportunities. I definitely want to play that again so I can get some more practice at understanding the special cards.

A good night was had by one and all.