Session Report – 19 July 2011

We were at Abraham and Sara’s place this week, for a great night of fast gaming and breaking. Sorry; I got them the wrong way round. It was, of course, a night of fast breaking (the Seventeenth of Tammuz fast) and gaming. What’s more, we had a terrific attendance, an abundance of female gamers, and another guest reporter. How cool is that? Thanks to everyone who came, and to host and hostess Avraham and Sara. Without further ado, here’s Laurie’s report first:

Laurie’s Report

At my table, a majority of the players were women, a first for the Raanana gaming group.

Avraham had set up Ticket to Ride USA, the Mega Game, and introduced the rules to Sheli and Shiran, first timers. Shortly after we started playing, Avraham moved to the other table and his hand was taken over by his wife Sara. I (Laurie) was the fourth player.

Sheli and Shiran immediately started laying tracks. They didn’t just complete short routes; by the end of the game Sheli had racked up several six-car routes. Shiran, meanwhile, was in a heated contention for the longest-route card. As tracks could be built in parallel, and Sheli and Shiran were working with three destination cards each, this game session lacked competition over specific routes. Laurie laid a three-car route that blocked Shiran from the longest route. The game ended with Sara just three cards short of completing her longest route, San Francisco to Washington, so she took a hit of 21 points. She, nonetheless, shared the most-completed routes bonus with Laurie, each completing four destination cards. Laurie gained the longest-route card and won the game with 128 points. Sheli posted 110 points. Shiran and Sara vied for third place with 102 and 98 points each.

Next up: Pirates! Sheli, Shiran, Sara and Laurie played Jamaica.

We raced colorful ship tokens around the most sumptuously illustrated board imaginable. In every turn, we collected and shed tokens for food, gold doubloons and gunpowder, depending on the cost of the space we landed on. A few key rules eluded us in the first few rounds, at which point it became clear that all four players use the single dice roll of that round’s Captain to determine what each player can do. Many, many rounds with low dice rolls gave this game session the aura of a snail’s race.

Battles, when players land on the same space, were few and far in between, but provided the main interaction between players. Sara pitched ten gunpowder tokens at Sheli’s seven, only to have her strategy backfire as Sheli thew the exploding dice roll which grants instant victory. Sheli robbed a large stash of Sara’s gold.

There were some interesting strategies in this session. Throughout the game, Sara depleted her resources so she had to move backwards. That led her to several treasures she happily scooped up. Alas, Sara’s treasures were cursed, so they gave her only negative points at game end. Sheli proved herself to be the pirate queen, ending the game with 17 gold dubloons. She attacked Laurie near the end of the game and won with the exploding dice roll. At first she wanted to rob all of Laurie’s six doubloons, but she changed her mind to gift Laurie with a cursed treasure that brought her down with four negative points. Laurie had managed to land three treasures and ran with a high dice roll that led her straight to the last space on the board which was worth 15 points. Laurie won with 30 points and Sheli took second with 21 points. Shiran paid seven doubloons to land on his final space on the board, ending up with six points altogether. While Sara had three points at game end, her guidance in how to play the game got all the rest of us through the minutia of nearly two hours of first-time play.

All four players enjoyed both games and look forward to playing them and many others in Avraham and Sara’s collection in the future. Thanks for hosting us for a great night!

Report from the Other Table

Asaf, Peleg, Avraham and I played Alien Frontiers and then Ticket to Ride USA.

Alien Frontiers is a neat dice rolling game where you have to allocate your dice and generate resources and powers in combinations that give you colonies. What do colonies get you? Points. What do points get you? Victory! It’s a clever game, where the designer has worked very hard to take away the idea that the best ‘roller’ of dice will win. There is an element of luck – arguably that is what gives it some bite – but there’s a lot of good old fashioned resource planning, blocking moves and combinations of powers. It may be because there’s so much to grasp that the youngest player, Peleg, won! He timed his bid for the front just right and despite a great blocking move by someone – ok, me – it wasn’t enough. Well played Peleg.

Then Avraham gave us a lesson in how to play Ticket to Ride USA. We used the 1910 expansion cards and the game is certainly different. Avraham’s massive bundle of tickets gave him a monster score. He won by about 60 or 70 points. Peleg was second and Asaf and I were way behind.

Fast Breaking

I was fasting and, according to the last email I had from our Rabbi, the fast was to end at 8.06pm. I took my meal with me as I did not want to impose on Avraham and Sara. Then Avraham told me that he understood the fast was going out at 8.24pm. So, I had to wait an extra 20 minutes, almost. As any faster will tell you, the last minutes of a fast go extremely slowly. Well, normally that’s true. But as I was playing games, I didn’t notice nearly as much. I think I’ll plan another games night for the next fast…