Die Händler (1st)
Don Pepe (22nd)
Knock Out (8th)
Liars' Dice (1st & 15th)
Mamma Mia (15th)
Nicht die Bohne (22nd)
Rheinländer (8th & 15th & 22nd)
Robin Hood (29th)
6 Nimmt! (15th)
Starbase Jeff (8th)
Wettsreit der Baumeister (15th)
Over to Garry:
Just 3 players this week, although Trev did put in an appearance to see what we were playing, discovered we were only half way through a 2 hour game, and so left us to it. The game in question was Die Händler, another of this year's big box releases, but one which Rio Grande did not produce an English version of. They may have missed out because this is quite an interesting and involved gamers' game.
The game is set in 15th century Europe and players are merchants aiming to amass the most prestige by profitable trading of various commodities. The basic mechanism is to buy goods and store them in your warehouse in one of six major European trading centres. Then you ship them to one of the other 5 centres, trying to force the price of your goods up before they arrive at the destination and you sell them. Having derived some profit you must exchange some of this to maintain your prestige and possibly improve it.
There are 6 phases each game turn. Phase one is buying goods. Phase two is loading your goods onto one of three transport wagons. Ownership of the wagons is auctioned, with the owner getting to load goods free and to charge whatever the other players will pay to load theirs. Phase three is the movement of the wagons, which is influenced by all players. There is also a horseback 'Courier' that players can get to meet wagons for Influence Cards, which offer various benefits. Phase four is for adjusting the price of the commodities, each of which steadily increases in price until it 'crashes'. Phase five is selling goods on wagons that arrive in cities on the turn, with bonuses for goods that are 'exotic' to that city. Phase six is for players to pay to maintain or raise their prestige. Paying to maintain is expensive, but the cost of raising it increases as the game progresses. At the end of the game, the winner is the player with the highest prestige rating.
This is quite a deep game. There is quite a lot going on and it is difficult on the first playing to spot some of the subtleties. The balance didn't seem quite right with 3 players and some of the special action cards (of which each player gets 2) seem more powerful than others. For instance, only two cards allow the Courier (Jim) to be moved and only one of these ended up in play. The owner of the card found it easy to pick up Influence Cards and these proved to be crucial in determining the winner. However, it is a very good game which I will want to play again soon with 4 players. Of the 2 major Wolfgang Kramer games this year (I don't count Evergreen as a major), I have to say I prefer it to Tikal as there is much less down-time, waiting for others to make their move. Result: MH, SO, GL
After a pretty complex 2 hour affair, we finished off with one of our standard fillers, Liar's Dice. Soggy again proved what a fine judge of character he is, enough said. 3 games combined result: GL, MH, SO.
Five players this week, although I'm told there was a brief visit, before I got there, by someone who had dropped in to give us a look over, presumably to see if it was worth coming back to play sometime. Well, the first people he met were Chris and Steve, so lets hope that hasn't put him off for good...
I was a little late and the others were about to start a game of Starbase Jeff when I turned up - a four player game. Showing the true depth of their comradeship, they agreed to let me watch while they carried on anyway. This is another game from Cheapass games, and is the second game of James Ernest's Tile-laying Trilogy :-). Each player has a set of identical cards showing parts of a space station, shuffled and placed face down, from which s/he draws a card each turn and attempts to add it to the growing space station on the table. Most cards cost something to place, although you gain cash for ending branches of the station and for other players having to connect to your cards. We didn't get to see how the game developed, because it ended on Chris's third turn, when he placed two end-caps, finishing the station, getting a bonus, and winning the game. I'd hardly got sat down to watch! I would like to give it another chance to develop, as I'm sure there must be more of a game than that - maybe you just have to keep an eye on how many end-caps players are accumulating and make sure that there are always more branches. Anyway, just in case he thinks I'm not giving his victories enough attention, I'd like to re-state that CHRIS WON. Result: CD, SO, GC, GL. (Did you notice who won?)
Then on to the main business of the night. Chris had get a copy of Rheinländer for his birthday and we were all keen to try it out. This is one of the latest games from Reiner Knizia and also represents Hasbro dipping a toe in the gamers' market. The game comes from a long line descended from Acquire and, I'm told, via Big Boss to which it is most closely related. The board shows a section of the river Rhine divided into numbered areas, although because of the twists of the river and a couple of islands, these areas may border other areas than just the next higher and lower numbers. Each player had five cards, numbered like the areas on the board. By playing a card, you can place one of your knights in that area, on either bank or, sometimes, in the river itself joining the opposite banks with a bridge. One or more knights next to each other form a duchy and if you have a majority of your knights in the duchy, you control it and show this by placing one of your Duke figures on it. There are also cities, castles and churches which can fall within a duchy and make it more valuable - controlling the most churches is particularly useful as it give you the power to swap other players' knights for your own. When two duchies touch each other's borders, they merge, with the ousted Duke getting a compensatory payout. The main element that has been added to this incarnation is 'reinforcement'. This allows you to use your cards to expand an existing duchy rather than just play on the named area, allowing more control and planning of your strategy. This is also couple with the fact that, although there is only one of each numbered card, they are all regularly shuffled back into the draw pile. The game was a great hit, and one that has gone on my 'buy list'. It is very easy to plan ahead during other players' turns - and to adapt to the ever-changing situation. Like many good games, there are a number of things you want to do each turn, but you don't find yourself agonising over the choices. We finished the game in about an hour of non-stop action and I think everyone had enjoyed it - what a good choice it would have been for Spiel des Jahre... It also ended in a tie. Chris didn't do so well, claiming "Square 6 lost me that game!", but that didn't matter because he had won where it counted - at Starbase Jeff. Result: GC+TC, GL, SO, CD.
We ended by following that age-old club tradition - choosing a game that will take three times more than the available time left. The game in question was Knock Out, which has a boxing theme, and is a sort of Phantoms of the Ice/PowerPlay with betting thrown in. Each player has two boxers and a hand of fight cards. Each turn, you choose someone else's boxer to challenge and select four of your fight cards. All players then have a chance to bet on the outcome, after which the bout begins. The two protagonists each play cards simultaneously, with the higher winning each time (except that 1 beats 5). The loser is moved towards the 'knock-out' space and the first to reach it loses the bout. We didn't really have enough time for the game to get flowing, and I found it difficult to bet on the fights I wasn't involved in. It also rewards card-counting, which I've never been any good at, so all in all I didn't do very well and I think I prefer Phantoms of the Ice. Most of the others felt that the betting added to the game, however, so perhaps I just need to give it more time. It didn't help that I backed Steve heavily in the last fight he had against Geoff, while everyone else seemed to be backing Geoff, who won... Anyway, Chris didn't do much better than me - but at least he had won at Starbase Jeff.
Next week, I'll be a little late as I'm going on the compulsory family outing to see the new Star Wars film. By the way, it's worth noting that Chris won a game this week, despite believing that "K.O." is German for "triple the amount".
I turned up a bit late this week, coming straight from taking the family to see The Phantom Menace - Chris reckoned I was speeding as a result. Anyway, I was pleased to see that we had eight players, the highest turnout for a while.
They were already in two groups when I turned up, but the group of three were only short way into their second game of Wettsreit der Baumeister where you bid for buildings (usully ones you can't see) and add them to your growing town - or else spend your time sabotaging the weakest town - or else be too afraid to build because of potential sobotage - etc. Some buildings earn money, some strengthen against sabotage and some, like churches, just add points. Some buildings cannot be added to certain towns - for example, a town can only have one town hall, and the end towers must match. Basically, the largest and most balanced town at the end wins the game. It's a good game, although I feel the rule that you can only sabotage the weakest town could perhaps do with a little tweaking. Result 1: GC, SO, GL. Result 2: GL, SO, GC.
At the other table, Chris was just finishing explaining Rheinländer to the others, so I joined in with them. You'll see a description of the game under last week's entry. This time I decided I should concentrate my efforts on getting control of the Archbishop to see if I could get any insight into whether it is too powerful. As it turned out, I wasn't even fought very hard for it, but it still didn't do me that good. Okay, so I came joint first, but it didn't give me the overwhelming power that I thought an unopposed Archbishop would. On the other hand it did, but so late in the game that there was hardly enough time to get any points-scoring duchies together. I guess I'd have to put that down as "Game Balance 1, Trev 0". It is an excellent game so far. Result: SG+TC, CD, MH, BH.
Meantime, of course, the others had finished their game and were also playing Rheinländer, which they conspired to finish at about the same time, allowing the two groups to reform. Result: GL, SO, GC.
I joined the group that were keen to give Starbase Jeff another go after its rather quick debut last week. Geoff refused to play any game that couldn't spell his name properly. This time we conspired to keep the game going longer - although it tended to be by each player mostly concentrating on not letting the next player win. Luckily, the cards had got played in such a way as to make this possible. I think as we went on, tactics became clearer to us but it, nevertheless, seemed to boil down into a scissors-paper-stone kind of affair, each player trying to choose the card that would catch the others on the hop while guarding their own back. Whoever completed the starbase would gain the pot of cash and win the game, so all other means of making cash were a bit secondary. All in all, I don't think the game can work well without some tweaking - perhaps it would help if payments to other players for connecting to their sections were made from the pot, so keeping its size down. As it was, it was me who managed to complete the station by playing a less predictable card - but it could easily have been any one of the players, rather like a lottery. Result: TC, GL, CD, SO.
We ended up with a round of Liars' Dice, in which, as often seems to happen, I was doing fine until there were only two of us left, at which point I took a nose-dive. Result: SO, TC, CD, GL.
The others, meanwhile, had started with Mamma Mia. Result: MH, SG, GC, BH. They had then rounded off with 6 Nimmt!. Result: GC, BH, SG, MH.
I am hoping to get down to Manorcon in Birmingham for at least one day during the weekend. Apart from that, see you next week.
This week I turned up in some pain just two hours after having fallen out of a tree onto paving, landing mainly on my ribs. This is perhaps the natural conclusion of the fact that over the past few weeks I have been taking advantage of my jobless status to tackle the jungle that used to be my garden. In this case I was up a ladder pruning a magnolia when the branch that the ladder was resting on gave way suddenly. It was not, as Garry claimed, a result of me misunderstanding the rules of tree-felling or, as Chris added, having an incorrect translation of those same rules!
Anyway, there were five of us and we started off with a game of Don Pepe, the new game of gangster 'competition' from Parker. The game is quite light and over fairly quickly, particularly with trigger-happy players. Soggy demonstrated to all, particularly Garry, that you should never trust a gangster by allying with him to kill me off and then turning on him when the opportunity arose. It ended up with Soggy and me, with one gangster left each, playing a game of cat and mouse around the table trying to get in position to kill each other. I won simply because he ran out of move cards before I did, leaving him as a sitting duck. Actually, surviving to the end isn't the main aim of the game, but there had been such concentration on killing each other that there was a reasonable amount of cash left on the table after all the competition was out. Result: TC, MH, GL, SO, CD.
For the third week in succession, we then had a game of Rheinländer. I again tried my tactic from last week, that of securing the archbishop card as early as possible and defending it while trying to attack the other players' positions. It was much less successful this week, showing the hazards of passing up the high scoring duchies for those with churches in if you don't then get the cards that enable you to take over other players' duchies. Instead, Garry and Chris battled out for the top spot and finished just one point apart. As a tribute to the game, we are all still enjoying it as much as we did at first playing. Result: GL, CD, TC, MH, SO.
We ended up by starting game of Nicht die Bohne, the new card game from the Tycoon co-designer, Horst-Reiner Rösner. Although we only had time for one of three hands, it was enough to get everyone quite interested, although Soggy felt a bit hard done by, having been forced to take a lot of 'minus' cards towards the end, crippling his score. Anyway, as it is one of those games where the three hands are intended to balance out the bad or good luck of a single hand, I won't include the result in the stats. Result of one hand: MH, TC, CD, GL, SO.
By the way, I did get down to ManorCon for a couple of days. Thanks to everyone who played with me there. I'll try to write up a bit of it when I get the chance.
On the way out to the car park, still in pain from my fall, Chris pointed out to me that he had injured himself in a bad fall some years ago. He described it as "being dropped from a great height" by the people attending with him on "a management team-building exercise". The image of the others deciding that a good way of team-building would be to drop Chris from a great height brought tears to my eyes - it hurts to laugh when you've had a bad fall. Seriously though, Chris showed lot of concern, for which I am grateful. Unlike someone else I spoke to the next day who, on being told that the actual fall was all over so quickly it was hard to be sure exactly what happened, replied that this was odd because whenever she had dreamed about falling, it had always happened so slowly... Some statements are hard to reply to.
Took Dan along this week and turned up a bit late to find five others about to start a game of Ra (five players max). Garry turned up about then as well, so the three of us formed our own group while the others got on with it.
We started with Robin Hood - appropriate for Nottingham. This is a fairly simple rummy type card game that I borrowed from Chris to try out and see if it is worth buying. Each player draws one or two face up cards each turn and tries to form three-card melds that allow him/her to keep the highest card as a points value or to steal one of the cards that someone else has collected - you are meant to be outlaws after all. There are various methods of protecting your booty from further theft and each colour is secured once you have three cards of that type. We got this rule wrong and allowed cards to be stolen at any time, resulting in me getting a 26 point swing in my score when we prematurely ended the game because the others had finished Ra. The result at that point was: GL, DH, TC.
Meanwhile, Ra had been a bit of a nightmare for Steve, who only managed to score 5 points... Result: SO, MH, CD, LN, SG.
So we reformed into two groups of four. My group played Elfenland, last year's Spiel des Jahre winner and an excellent game that I hadn't played for a while. Chris hadn't played it at all, but he had played Elfenroads, which was the precursor to it, so it didn't take too long to explain. Result: TC, CD, DH+LN.
Meanwhile, the others played this year's Spiel des Jahre winner, the more long-winded Tikal. I guess I'll have to try this a few more times, given its obvious popularity, but I really can't see it playing very quickly at this club... Result: GL, MH, SG, SO.