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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It’s all alchemy

alchemy-sanjuan-splendor

This week’s session saw us run through three different games in the one night.

First up, Azriel, Roslynn, and Sheer came long for a couple of games of Dominion: Alchemy.  Roslynn won the first, and I think I won the second. I think, but am not sure. Why am I not sure? Because it’s so unusual for me to win a game of Dominion. But I either won it, or dreamed I won it, or have some kind of false memory syndrome. Anyway, two games of Alchemy, and that was that for Azriel and Roslynn who called it a night then.

By that time, Peleg had eventually finished work and joined us. The three of us played one game of San Juan and one game of Splendor.

San Juan was more of a challenge, with Sheer winning (47 points), Peleg second (38 points) and me well back in third (31 points).

Spelndor, however, was a complete blowout. Peleg and I might as well not have been there. Sheer got to the finishing line with 18 or 19 points, and Peleg and I had only 2 or 3 points apiece. A Sheer masterclass. I am still not sure how he did it, but he definitely did it. Well done Sheer.

Thanks to all who came.

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The train version of Dominion

trains

This week, Peleg, Roy, and Sheer joined me for some gaming fun.

First up was Trains, a deck-building game that takes some of the familiar elements from Dominion, and applies a railway theme to it. All the cards are tied in to the theme, and the icing on the cake is that part of your potential for victory points is achieved by laying rail tracks on a map. We found it fast, fun, and a pleasant change from just building up our decks.

trains2

The physical production standards are excellent. The graphics are clear and easy, though we did use a play mat (with a summary of build costs and icon meanings) that I downloaded from BoardGameGeek. It made a big difference, and should have been included.

Sheer and Peleg were better at understanding how the whole thing fitted together, with Roy and I relegated to the ranks of spectators (or should that be passengers?) as they fought for the win. Sheer just nicked it by a couple of points from Peleg.

Next up, the other three of us introduced Roy to San Juan. As he had played Puerto Rico, it was no time at all before he was up and running. My starting hand was a good one, and that set me up for a nice boost that I managed to keep reasonably on course. I knew I was doing well, but Sheer and I had to share the win after a couple of topsy turvy rounds.

Another great night of gaming.

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“Intrigue, intrigue. Will we ever get to out-trigue?”

Sorry about the headline. I was feeling in a stupid mood. I have this damn cough, and it is energy sapping to the point of frustration and beyond. Anyway, can you guess what game we played this week?

dom_advs

Nechemiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer came along, and we played Dominion: Intrigue, San Juan, and Take it Easy.

Dominion: Intrigue

While Nechemiah and Rosalyn await their own copy of Dominion to arrive, they have been keen to get up to speed with the game mechanics. So, both were glad to play, even although this has a completely different set of action cards. They did reasonably well, but were hindered by one or two rookie mistakes. Sheer built himself a great deck, allowing him to play all his cards every turn, and generate enough money. But it was only one buy per turn, and he was a few turns behind. I stuck to a mix of money and simple action cards. I had a decent lead, and although Sheer cut it back, he could not quite catch up.

San Juan

Another popular game, with everyone being familiar with it. We all went our own sweet way in trying to amass the right cards, but Sheer’s combination of 6 point cards was too strong for us all.

Take it Easy

Two quick games of this were the closing action. In one I drew and called the pieces. In the other, Sheer drew and called the pieces. I got lucky and won both games.

Thanks to my three guests for making it another pleasurable gaming evening.

 

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Winning walls

alhambra2

This week’s session saw Nechamiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer join me for two classic games and a heap of fun.

First up was Alhambra, the game where you try and build a structure that has a long wall, and a majority of the different types of building. I was the only one who had played it before, so it was no surprise that by the time the first round of scoring came around (there are three) I was in the lead. At that point, as we used to say back in the Old Land, the penny dropped for the others, and I was demoted to last place. Nechamiah and Rosalynn improved their building decisions, and rapidly upped their score. Unfortunately for them, Sheer was a tad better, and so he was the eventual winner. Everyone liked the game, tending to confirm its status as a classic worthy of repeated play.

Next was San Juan, a smart card management game. Again, I was the only one who had played it before, but that was absolutely no use whatsoever to me, and I finished well out of the reckoning. Rosalynn and Nechamiah did quite well, but winner Sheer did better. The game was well received, with people keen to try it for a second time, having properly assimilated what was required for success. I would expect subsequent games to be closer contests. I might even get a respectable score…

Thanks to the visitors for making my night.

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Building a win

sub1

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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Power to (some of) the people

powergrid

We (Ben, Peleg, Rosalynn, and I) started with a game of San Juan, the cut down card game version of Puerto Rico.

Ben’s early card combination put him into a winning position that none of the rest of us were able to challenge.

With Sheer arriving, we then split into two game groups.

Peleg and I tackled Android: Netrunner, the asymmetric two player living card game of ‘a dystopian future.’ It was more of a training game for Peleg, as I was familiar enough with the game, but it was his first time out.

I took the Runner and he played the Corporation. It was cool for me to try the other side, having only played before as the Corporation. Peleg did a not bad job of holding off my attacks on his servers – I suffered a couple of ambushes that could have been deadly. But a rule misinterpretation by me gave me an edge I should not have had. Ah well. We will fix that for the next time.

The more I play this, the more I like it. It was encouraging that Peleg enjoyed it, and both Ben and Sheer showed a willingness to play it in the future.

Meantime, the remaining players tackled the excellent Power Grid. I was only a distant spectator, but did see the finale when Ben claimed the win just ahead of Rosalynn.

I thought Rosalynn had played it before. She claims otherwise. In that case, her challenge was a fine piece of play, as Ben is no slouch at Power Grid and Sheer has at least one win under his belt. So, well done to Ben for the win, and to Rosalynn for making him work at it.

Thanks to one and all who came. It was a good night.

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How deep is your game?

Dungeons! Dragons! Not! Quite!

Dungeons! Dragons! Not! Quite!

This week’s session started with a five player encounter at Waterdeep – with the Lords of Waterdeep, to be precise – in a game that is labelled as having a connection to the famous role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. There is a loose connection, but the theme is a facade for a neat worker placement game, with some devilish backstabbing and wrecking potential.

You score victory points mainly by completing quests. To complete quests you have to acquire certain resources. Match the demanded resources to those on the the quest card, and you’re done. However, your fellow players can dump a mandatory quest on you – one you must do before any other – and blow you off course. And your fellow players can also trigger Intrigue cards that see you lose those precious resources, or at least enough of them to sabotage your quest completion for another round. Damn and blast!

I had not played it before, thus obviously explaining my last place finish (ahem). I don’t think Rochelle had played it before, but she picked it up better than me, and did quite well. David was a bit of straggler in the first half of the game, but made up for it with a better second half showing. With a decent lucky break, he could have been up there with the winner. Yehuda sauntered along and finished second. Oh, Laurie won ahead of Yehuda. Well done Laurie!

I did wonder about the skill and luck balance. This is not to take anything away from those who did better than me, but the swings of fortune did seem ferocious. For example, in the last round of the game, I had a mandatory quest in my hand. I could have dumped that on any of the other players and forced them to complete a quest for 5 victory points instead of the likely 15-25 they had lined up and ready to go. And there would be nothing they could have done about it. So my play could have determined the winner.

The funny thing is, I don’t think the game needs these negative actions. For me, there’s enough of a gaming challenge to put together the resources to complete quests in an efficient manner.

Yehuda came up with an interesting suggestion of having a house rule that allowed you to pay a monetary penalty instead of forfeiting a resource when triggered by an opponent’s Intrigue card.

The negatives here did not stop me enjoying the game. It is fun. As I remarked to the others, when it had last been played I was doing something else, and I didn’t especially like what I saw. However, it plays a ton better than it looks, and I really quite enjoyed it. I would play it again, warts and all, but would prefer some kind of smooth solution.

We finished with David, Yehuda and I playing San Juan. David rocketed off to  a great start, and was in a position to build his twelfth structure, end the game, and win. However, he dallied just too long and this allowed Yehuda to build some big victory point buildings that gave him the win ahead of David.

Thanks to all who came. A highlight of the week.

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Kick a man when he’s down?

antike

This week’s session started off with a tutorial in how to play San Juan, led by Yehuda. (Yes, he won.) Amir, David, and Ben, watched, learned, played, and got crushed. My excuse? I was helping first timer Amir, and getting the tea ready for latecomer Laurie…

That brings me to the main game of the night: the excellent Antike. There were three highlights of the game.

First, early on, Ben wiped out two of Yehuda’s cities and reduced him to a quivering wreck. Yehuda told Ben about how wrong this was, and he should not be so aggressive. Ben believed him. Ben left Yehuda alone. Yehuda recovered. Yehuda won… From zero to winner. Wow.

Here comes Yellow!

Here comes Yellow!

Here’s this week’s lesson, Ben: when the man is down, kick him. And then kick him again! There’s no room for compassion in time of war!

(And, Yehuda, you owe me for not telling Ben to stick it to you!)

The second highlight was newcomer Amir stabbing me in the back, and claiming one of my good cities, just as I was powering up for the win. Ah well, who wants a non-aggression pact, anyway?

The third highlight was being a part of this game. It went really smoothly, all things considered, and was highly entertaining. David and Laurie played their parts, too. Indeed, although Yehuda won, it was a close game. By my reckoning, if Yehuda had miscalculated, someone else would have won in the same turn as he did.

I don’t have the killer instinct that I cheekily criticized Ben for not having, and shied away from some great backstabbing and winning opportunities. That’s because the game was fun enough as it was. But next time…

Thanks to all who came and made it a good night. I hope you had fun, too.

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Going on tour

sanjuannotredame

This week’s session started with a four handed run at San Juan, followed by a five person shot of Notre Dame, hosted by Yehuda.

San Juan is a card game, beginning as a conversion from the same designer’s highly successful and popular Puerto Rico, but stripped down to its essentials and ending up – as other players commented – more like Race for the Galaxy. Apart from Yehuda, Ben, Laurie, and I played this. I think everyone but Ben had played it before, but it is not difficult to pick up and he had no trouble getting in the swing.

Like many of these games, card knowledge helps you make your choices – because you can never do everything you want. But while I had played the game before, I could not remember much about it. So much was this the case, that I was going on instinct rather than memory. Well, either my instinct is better than my memory, or I was lucky, because I managed to win this. Even if I had not won I would have liked it, and will certainly play it again. There is a fair bit of luck, but it is fast and involving. Good stuff.

David then arrived, and we moved on to Notre Dame. Only Yehuda had played this before, and he leveraged that knowledge to grab an early lead and hold on to it. It’s an interesting design with player actions restricted by cards. Everyone with starts with the same set of cards, but you draft your own actions by passing cards to your left. So, for example, you end up with three cards out of your nine for each round. Of these, you can use two. But one is yours, and two are from two of the other players. So you get the choice of your cards over the course of three rounds, but not the order they come up in. And if they come up in the wrong order, you may find yourself never getting the action choice you want. That having been said, perhaps it’s better thought of as a game where you have to make the best you can with what you are dealt, so to speak.

Laurie got the prize for looking like the worst player at the board, several times, but this truly disguised her firm grasp of the situation, because she was the runner up. David did not like it. Ben and I were OK about it, though he liked the card drafting and I didn’t. I would play it again, but the card drafting was a real turn off for me. It’s not a bad game, but the card drafting doesn’t do anything for me in this context. Did I mention the card drafting?

Thanks to Yehuda for hosting.

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