Holiday gaming

Apart from solitaire wargaming, and another ASL lesson from Ran, I did manage some euro style gaming in the enforced break running from the wedding to the end of the chagim.

I introduced Steven Gladstone to Star Realms and 7 Wonders: Duel. I also introduced Susan to these same games, and we shared a couple of nights of pleasant boardgaming, and a few victories apiece over Sukkot.

A bit of a barren period for gaming that was, but all perfectly understandable in the circumstances.

Three in a row

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It must have been Sheer’s birthday this week.

First, I let him beat me at Star Realms.

Then, John, Laurie, Yehuda, and I let him beat all of us at Hansa Teutonica.

Then we repeated the feat by letting him crush us at 7 Wonders, with a record breaking score.

Happy birthday, Sheer! And if it wasn’t your birthday, happy unbirthday!

Now, in a bit more detail:

Star Realms – a quick and accessible deckbuilding card game that came down to the wire. Sheer wiped me out only one turn ahead of when I would have been able to do the same to him. Whatever luck element is easily dwarfed by the engrossing, rapid, and easy nature of the game.

Hansa Teutonica – a variant on the worker placement type of game, the early focus typically revolves around the fight for getting an increased number of actions per turn. So, I thought I would be radical and try a strategy that did not involve any extra actions. It didn’t work. John, a newcomer to the game, picked it up very quickly. I could see him paying close attention to what other people were doing as he tried out his own approach. I expect him to be a threat the next time we play this. Laurie and Yehuda looked to be in a good place, but Sheer just blew them away. He got the extra actions early and ruthlessly exploited them to build up his lead.

7 Wonders – a relatively quick and accessible game of card management: what to keep, what not to keep, and when to gamble on favorable cards turning up in the future. Sheer’s winning strategy ran across different sources of victory points whereas other players were stuck in one or two areas. For example, lots of people were into the red (military) stuff. I had hoped to be into green (science) but just did not have the right resources. Yehuda’s strategy fell apart thus proving there is an element of luck in the game, and when it bites you, it can be deadly! John and Laurie held their own, but never threatened. So, Sheer got his third win of the night.

Thanks to all who came.

Taking it really easy [updated]

endeavor

Sheer and I kicked off this week’s session with a friendly game of Star Realms. (Friendly meaning I let him win…) It was a close match with both of us down to about 10 points of Authority (life) before he struck his dastardly killer blow. As I said, it was a friendly game…

Moving rapidly on…we started our main game when Laurie and Yehuda arrived. Previously, we had been playing a lot of Amerigo. In this week’s session we switched games, but kept with the discovery theme by playing Endeavor.

This is a worker placement game with the usual central challenge: too many things that you want to do, and too few workers (or actions) to get them done.

My black pieces had been attacked, but a few survivors held on.

My black pieces had been attacked, but a few survivors held on.

Unusually for me, I had paid attention to previous winning strategies used in the game by Yehuda and others. That stood me in good stead as I slowly, but steadily, built up my score.

Yehuda, surprisingly, seemed to lose his way mid game. He claimed it was because I had attacked him, but I only took one card from him. OK, maybe two… His strategy was to focus on buildings, and I thought it meant he had less flexibility. He thought otherwise, but I don’t expect him to repeat the strategy.

Yehuda's board, just before the final round. Good, but not good enough.

Yehuda’s board, just before the final round. Good, but not good enough.

I’m not sure what Laurie’s strategy was, except to stab me in the back to no good effect. Usually such loses throw me off track, but I avoided cheap shots at revenge and stuck to my plan. In the end, I think Lori scored well enough on cards, but elsewhere rather lost out.

My board lacked decent buildings.

My board lacked decent buildings.

Well, if I had been paying attention, Sheer had gone one better and taken notes. His strategy was to steal, I mean take, as many bonus chits as he could. He was very focused and easily squeezed the rest of us out. Pretty soon, his position was very strong, and he reinforced it. In the end, he won by ten points ahead of me. Yehuda and Laurie fought for the bottom two places with Laurie claiming the wooden spoon.

We finished the session with a couple of rounds of the simple and fun Take it Easy. [Updated] Sheer and I won one apiece. Yehuda and I won one apiece.

Another good night. Thanks to all who came.

From the suburbs to outer space

Do you wanna live in my town?

Do you wanna live in my town?

Suburbia had another outing at this week’s session, with Yehuda coaching Ken, Laurie, and Susan on how to play. It’s not a difficult game, mechanically, but the consequences and impacts of each tile played can take a while to assimilate. And, if players think about it, this can result in analysis paralysis. From my nearby perch, I did see one or two instances of this, but not too many. And the two hour playing time (including explanations) was reasonable for a mostly first time outing.

The action heated up near the end, with enough verbal and visual evidence available to confirm people were enjoying themselves – a mix of joy, frustration, and post game talk of “If only…”  while thinking up strategies for the next game. It looked like it was a good gameing experience and all were willing to give it another go. (And I still have the expansion, unwrapped.) Oh, and Ken won. Well done, Ken.

A card, a card! My kingdom for a card!

A card, a card! My kingdom for a card!

Meanwhile Peleg and I completed a couple of games of Netrunner. He was the Runner and I was the Corporation. We were both a bit rules rusty, but eventually got into our stride.

Who shuffled these?

Who shuffled these?

After that, Peleg and I still had time for me to introduce him to Star Realms. I did a good job because he got his revenge for his losses in Netrunner, by absolutely squashing me! Well done, Peleg.

My kingdom for a point. Or two.

A quiet pre Rosh Hashanah session, started off with Yehudah and me introducing Sheer to Hansa Teutonica. Yehuda did his usual excellent job of explaining the rules, and off we went.

Blue is the color

Blue is the color

Like many of these games, a first timer is going to struggle to compete effectively with those who have experienced the game before. And so it proved, though Sheer did better than most, and probably enjoyed more the fact that he damaged my efforts to get the win.

A quiet part of the board

A quiet part of the board

I secured the multiple actions I needed, and several times benefited from a good action tile draw. But I should have been more aggressive towards the other players and that probably cost me the game. I lost out by a single measly point and probably would have won had I been paying more attention. I was too busy enjoying the game.

Next we moved on to Dominion: Intrigue, where my early draw of the Swindler caused Yehuda to moan, and Sheer to celebrate. Although I had a decent enough hand, I lost out to Sheer’s winning combinations.

Yehuda departed to meet his grocery delivery, and Sheer and I played Star Realms. I did such a good job of teaching this, that Sheer crushed me. Great fun. Accessible, light, but with room for thoughtful play. And fast.

That’s it for this year. Here’s to more and better gaming in the new year.

Shanah Tovah!

Susan’s winning Shabbat

On Friday night, after a couple of day’s practice with the Star Realms app, I tried the game out for the first time with a live opponent – Susan. It was Susan’s first encounter with the game, but I was not surprised she picked it up, as she is a dab hand at Dominion. It came down to a single turn, but Susan managed to beat me with a great card combination, and that was the end of that.

On Shabbat afternoon, Chain, Peleg, and Yehuda joined us. We played Hansa Teutonica – a first time out for Chaim and Susan – and unsurprisingly Yehuda won. However, I was only a couple of points behind, so was well pleased. It was a tight game. Even Peleg, who probably hates the game, scored well. Chaim was doing well enough, but just lost out through not having maximized his scoring opportunities.

We finished with Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition. Yehuda scored well with the passengers but had low scoring tickets. Susan had a reasonable spread and won the game by a single point from me – despite my almost 80 points of completed tickets. Damn! Noteably, everyone completed all their tickets despite a crowded board.

Definitely a winning Shabbat for Susan.

Incoming

Star Realms is the latest addition to my collection.

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This is a deck-building game with a spaceship combat theme, designed by Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, and published by White Wizard Games.

The designers are well known within the card game world, and originally produced this as a Kickstarter project. It sort of flew under the radar, meaning it was produced and sold out quickly without much of a fuss. Then reports of the game play filtered through, and that created a demand for a game no longer in print. (The buzz may have been helped by the fact that supporters of the Kickstarter project got an electronic version.) It did not take too long for the designers to remedy that state of affairs, and now the game is widely available.

Out of the box, it’s not immediately apparent what makes this so appealing. You get 128 cards allowing a two player game. You also get two rules sheets. Then, you begin to understand some of the popularity. One rule sheet – that’s two small sides of paper – contains the complete game rules. Wow. This is a highly playable and accessible game. (The other sheet has multi-player rules for games of 3 or more players.) It’s also fast with playing times of twenty to thirty minutes reported as the norm!

Game play seems to be similar to Dominion, but with some neat twists. For example, you can play all your cards and there are no victory point cards to slow down your deck.

As another example, your goal is not only to buy better cards for your deck, but to score damage against your enemy. Both players start with, essentially, 50 points of life. When you get down to zero or less, you are out. You can track this with paper and pen, or use the cards provided.

Also, instead of you being able to see all the cards available to buy, in Star Realms there is only a limited selection for you and your opponent. So, do you concentrate on buying the cards that are good for you, or do you try and buy the cards that would be best for your enemy.

Another interesting feature, is that each of the ship or base cards available to buy belongs to one of four factions: The Trade Federation, The Blobs, The Star Empire or The Machine Cult. Each has their own style, but you can mix and match acquisitions as you choose.

Finally, you can turn this into a multi-player game by having more than one starter deck. (That’s why I bought a couple.)

I have not yet had any serious playing experience with the game, but am looking forward to trying it out.

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