Prosperous Gaming

At last the chagim are over, and a return to some sort of routine was possible. So, what better way to celebrate than restarting the regular games sessions? Newcomer Avri joined Azriel, Peleg, Rosalynn, Sheer, and me for some across the board action.

At the faraway end, Avri, Peleg and Sheer played a thrilling game of Automobiles. (At least, it sounded thrilling.) I believe Sheer won, though there were a couple of great runes celebrated by the others in the run up to the finishing line.

Then the terrific trio switched to R-Eco, with Sheer and Avri fighting it out to their mutual destruction, leaving Peleg to survive for the win. He’s a mean recycler is our Peleg!

At my end, Azriel, Rosalynn, and I played Dominion: Prosperity. Azriel won that by a single point. His combination was not that efficient, but did allow him run through his deck virtually every turn, with more than enough money to keep buying victory points. Rosalynn and I seemed to get caught with dud hands jammed up by these same victory point cards, but sadly not enough of them.

Then the same three did a quick game of Splendor. Just as I was about to get my ducks in order (or cards in this case) Rosalynn claimed the win.

They retired, and I joined Avril, Peleg, and Sheer for a closing game of Reibach & Co. The lead went from player to player in the three scoring rounds, but I lucked out the best and managed a win by a couple of points. Luck, of course, played its part. The others refused to agree with me that it was the ultimate game of skill. Spoilsports!

Thanks to all for coming and making the night.

May your games always be good fun.

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!

The Panda, the Jewel, the Potion, and the Artist


So who can guess what games we played this week?

At one end of the table, I explained Takenoko to Azriel, Gillian, and Yoel. Azriel and Gillian picked it up, but poor Yoel was struggling a bit. I tried to help him out, but it was too little, too late, and he still finished last. Gillian won, and at least I have the excuse that my score would have been more of a challenge if I hadn’t done the decent thing by supporting Yoel. But that would be unfair, as Gillian truly trounced us all, so she deserves full credit for the win.

Then I explained Splendor to Azriel, Gillian, and Yoel. This was a perfect example of how some people ‘get’ a particular game, but just cannot ‘get’ another. From struggling in last place, Yoel quickly got into his stride here, and finished first equal with me. It was very tight – a sign of a good game, played well -and Gillian and Azriel were only one or two points behind.

At the other end of the table, Peleg, Rosalynn, Sheer, and Susan played a nice combination of games too. First up was one of my favorites, Dominion: Alchemy. They rattled off three games of that with wins for Susan, Peleg, and Sheer. Susan’s win was notable because they found out afterwards that Sheer had been misinterpreting one or two of the action cards in his favor, but still hadn’t been able to defeat Susan in that round. Well done Susan!

Then, they moved on to a little cracker in the name of Modern Art: The Card Game. Once more they got through three games, with wins for Rosalynn, Peleg, then (in a two player Sheer v Peleg confrontation) Sheer.

We then had a short debate about who would drive Azriel home. I forget who lost and who won, but Azriel did get home safely…

Thanks to all who came for making it a good night of gaming.

It’s all alchemy


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.

And then there were eight

This week, Azriel, Eilat, Nechamiah, Peleg, Roslynn, Roy, and Sheer joined me for a bumper games session.

We split into two groups of four with Roy and Eilat introducing Roslynn and Azriel to Caverna. This is a serious, meaty game, with lots of things to do each turn, and all sorts of linked consequences. I have it, but have never played it, because you need the right people, the right time, and the right setting. Since I was introducing the others to a different game, I missed out on this, and spent some time looking over to Caverna trying to work out what was going on. (This is, of course, me building up one of several excuses from my crap performance in the games I was supposed to be playing.)

I might get a report from the players, but it was clear that Roy and Eilat did a masterful job of explaining the game, as the newcomers seemed engrossed. Further, Azriel proved beyond all shadow of a doubt that he has the killer touch, by producing a masterful performance and winning! Well done, Azriel. (I am so jealous…)


At the other end of the table, I introduced Nechamia, Peleg and Sheer to Isle of Skye. It was a first play for all of us.

This is a tile placement game, with an interesting buy mechanism. Each turn, each player draws three tiles to potentially add to his kingdom. The tiles, in the right combination, generate victory points in different categories. There are four  VP categories (drawn randomly from a selection of 16) which are available to everyone, and operate in different rounds. On top of that, some tiles have victory point generators for different categories. For example, you might get points for connected tiles, or sheep, or cattle, or whisky, and so on.

But, from the three tiles you draw, you must discard one. And you must put a price on the other two (this is done simultaneously by all the players). Then all tiles are revealed (with prices) and each player takes it in turn to buy one tile from any of the other players. So, at the end of the round you may have three tiles to add to your little empire, or two, or one, or none. Guess how often I had none?

In theory, if your tiles are bought you should be OK because you get the money. It may not be enough. I think there is a real skill to setting the price, and I did not master it.

We played twice and each time I beat everyone. To the lowest score that is… Sheer won both games. In the first, Nechamiah and Peleg gave him some serious competition, but in the second he blew us all away, threatening to lap me on the scoring board. Well done, Sheer.

It’s a fun game, and I would gladly play it again. However, I am not sure about the balance. Sheer deserved his win, but he did admit that certain things had gone his way.


Well, the trend continued, with Sheer also winning at Splendor, I did spot some good fortune. To do well in this game, you want to make economical purchases. If you have taken two turns to acquire five tokens, and use all five to get the card you want, that is economical. However, on several occasions I got to the same point but some other player bought the card I wanted before me. That left me with the wrong tokens. I know it happened to the others too, but Sheer magically seemed to avoid this. He quickly built up an engine to generate the tokens he needed, and ran out the winner far ahead of us. Interestingly, Eilat told me that one of her kids used a ‘buy the expensive cards only’ strategy, and that seemed to win always. So, Splendor may need a more critical look the next time we play it. I still like it.

A great night of gaming. Thanks to all who came and made it happen.

Gaming splendor


This week I was joined by Joseph, Peleg, and Sheer for a three game session of friendly competition.

First up was Splendor, a Marc André design published by Space Cowboys. (Ahem.) Each turn you can collect gems, reserve cards, or buy cards. Gems are the currency, so you need to collect them. The cards are what you buy with them. There are twelve cards visible at the start of the game, and you can reserve one for future purchase by taking it in to your hand. (As cards are removed, a new one appears.) This reservation stops an opponent from buying it, but obviously takes up a turn. The cards themselves give gem bonuses, so can be used to supplement the gems you collect. And, there are a small number of extra victory points you can acquire by having the right combination of gem bonuses. Essentially, you need to maximize the return on your action, so it is all about planning, planning, planning. (And not being screwed by your fellow gamers.)

In our first encounter with this game, we all liked it, but Peleg was that bit better at maintaining his focus, and he was a worthy winner. Sheer and Joseph were close, but I wasn’t. This is the type of game where, to do well, you need to concentrate.

It’s an easy game to play, quite quick, and satisfying. Over time it may become too bland if we play it too often, but it seems a perfect filler and stand by.


Next up was another game new to all of us: Samara. This is a Corné van Moorsel design, published by Cwali. It’s a worker placement game. The first twist is that the workers are on a monthly calendar board. Each action takes time, represented by moving the worker the requisite number of months down the calendar. So, the longer the action, the more opportunity for the other players to do multiple actions before it is your turn again. The second twist is that to buy one of the 30 (out of 36) available buildings on the board (all with victory points, some with bonuses, and some with penalties) depends on the prior acquisition of certain tools, and on the row they occupy. There is a row for one, two, three, and four, being the number of workers needed. So, to get something – a tool or a building – that is six months away on row four, means four workers need to start on the same space, and then get moved six months away.

There was a lot of planning and decision making in this modest little game, but it didn’t quite seem to hit the sweet spot. For example, I don’t think any of us were satisfied that the game’s random distribution of the tools worked. Further, the higher up the starting order you are in the first couple of turns, gives an advantage (OK, I was last in turn order; I admit it) that it can be difficult to overcome. Some of the building bonuses seemed too powerful, and the penalties were too penal. It was an enjoyable enough experience, and Joseph warmly deserved his victory. However, I didn’t see enough to guarantee that this will ever get another play. There are some terrific ideas here, but it lacks some final development that might turn it into something more than it is now.

We finished off with a Saboteur dominated game of Dominion: Intrigue. Sheer was the winner in terms of players. However, his victory point score was only half of the number of victory points in the trash pile. So, really, the trash pile won!

Thanks to all who came.