Die Fürsten von Florenz (4th)
Die Kauflete von Amsterdam (18th)
Kardinal & König (Web of Power) (4th & 18th)
King of the Elves (25th)
La Cittá (25th)
Ohne Furcht und Adel (Citadels) (11th)
Space Beans (11th)
Five again. When I arrived (late) they were nearly finished with another attempt at Kardinal & König (Web of Power) - with the correct rules this time. They seemed to feel that the game was improved a lot by playing correctly as players now had more options available to them. Result: SO, GL, SG, GC.
Next, we had our first try at Die Fürsten von Florenz - the latest offering from the El Grande pairing of Kramer and Uhrlich. Each player has a little board showing their parkland. Onto this can be placed attractions such as parks and lakes or buildings such as laboratories and workshops - there are a whole bunch of nicely drawn tiles in various different shapes representing these so that they can be placed on the small boards. You can also obtain jugglers to entertain and architects to help with the building. Less tangible in reality, but also represented by markers in the game, are freedoms (of religion, speech, etc) which can be obtained for your area. You can also obtain personality cards, each representing some kind of artist, scientist, etc that has been attracted to your 'garden' and you gain points by playing those cards - which represent the personality producing a 'work' (of art, science, etc). The value of the work is increased by having a certain attraction, building and freedom as well as by how many jugglers and how many other personalities are around.
In practical terms, each turn consists of a round of auctions where players can buy features for their gardens, jugglers, architects or long term bonuses - but only one thing each. This is then followed by everyone taking a couple of actions including buying buildings and freedoms, producing a work and gaining shorter term bonuses, before scoring takes place. The points gained for works can be translated into victory points for the game or into money - running out of money is a rather bad thing, but you can't buy back the victory points later. This continues for seven or so turns. The minimum acceptable value of a work increases during the game such that you have to work hard just to keep up with it.
All in all their is a lot of complexity to the game - especially when coming across it for the first time. There is also very little interaction, which leads to a lot of downtime if players are trying to work out their options. This, coupled with the fact that some of us seemed to be much more into socialising than into playing, meant that the game soon started to drag. We also made at least one rules mistake. As it became clear that there was no way we were going to finish - or even get excited - we decided to abandon play before the half-way mark.
Instead, we opted for the altogether lighter option of Vampire. Result: GC+TC, SG, GL, SO.
Six today because I took Dan along. Trouble was, we arrived late again and the others were in a game of Ohne Furcht und Adel (Citadels) by the time we arrived. This is apparently the hot new card game from Bruno Faidutti, where you get to take certain roles with special abilities each turn. I don't know much else about it apart from that the cards are very pretty. Result: SO, GL, SG, MH.
While they were doing that, Dan and I played three games of Schotten-Totten, another two-player game from Reiner Knizia in a similar vein to Lost Cities. This one relies on nine sets (stones in this case) instead of five and each stone is won by whoever can play the best three-card brag hand against it. Although requiring similar tactical play as Lost Cities, it definitely is an interesting variant. Results of three games: TC 2, DH 1.
Finally everyone got together for Space Beans, before I had to take Dan home. Result: SG, GL, DH, TC, MH, SO.
For some reason, I missed tonight, but got the following report on the proceedings from Garry:
Kardinal & Konig (twice).
This is probably my favourite game at the moment, not just because I've done pretty well in the games we've played so far, but because there is lots to think about in 30 minutes of game-time. I've always thought of Medici as one of those games which is over almost before you realise it. The same is true of Durch Die Wuste. But K&K is even quicker.
I like the way that there are various strategies that can be successful. We played twice and I managed to win both games. In the first, the balance of my play towards the end of the first round and most of the second was concentrated on the councillors. This enabled me to score for a number of Council Alliances. In the second game, I tied up the Lothringen council very early on and then ignored the Councillors entirely until the penultimate turn of the second round when I moved in to the Frankreich council to tie for the majority there. Two players immediately announced that they were about to go there ( but "Too late" was the cry!).
Die Kaufleute Von Amsterdam
We played this game a couple of weeks ago and were slightly disappointed by it. At the time, we recognised that we had all been overbidding in the auctions, and the person who had not won a single auction (thereby saving a load of money) won the game. We also had been pressed for time and had missed out on experiencing the very important Hourglass Actions that involve removing commodities, settlements in the colonies and houses from Amsterdam.
This second outing was much more satisfying. The prices at auction were more reasonable, although we were still able to stuff Steve Ogden by tempting him to buy at too high a price. This uses the classic Reiner Knizia tool of wanting to do much more than you are able to on your turn. Getting the balance right between the Commodity Track, Amsterdam and the Colonies is difficult. The monetary bonuses in each of these areas are very attractive if you can get them, but hanging onto them isn't entirely straightforward because of the removal Hourglass Actions towards the end of the game. Losing a 100,000 florin bonus at that stage can be devastating.
This is another strong release to join a number of other very good games this year. My only concern is how long the Auction Clock will survive repeated hammering by players eager to win that crucial auction. The one thing you can guarantee is that, when it does eventually succumb, Steve Ogden will have paid over-the-odds for whatever it was he wanted.
Eight today, including Soggy's two children and a new arrival, Steve King - welcome Steve. Mind you, it wasn't the best choice of a first time because the kids were in a particularly bickering mood, particularly Marianne. It took the best efforts of three of us to get her playing properly.
Anyway, we split into two, with my group - which included Steve and both kids - playing King of the Elves. Once we'd got flowing it went excellently - this game gets better with more playings. Marianne nearly stole the win despite her sullen start. Result: TC, MO, SO, SK, JO.
Meantime, the others were trying La Citta for the first time. This is another of those long, interesting looking games that I'd like to try at some stage. But for the current low down, I'll hand over to Garry:
There have been some really good releases this year and this is up there with the best of them. It is more complex than most and does take some time to get into, but patience is rewarded because there is a really tense and involving game under the surface. During the rules explanation, we kept identifying different games with which there were parallels in this game. There are certainly elements of Settlers in there, but we managed to string together a dozen or so games that this new one has elements of. That said, the comparisons with Snap and Happy Families were perhaps a bit tenuous.
La Citta is about expanding or developing cities to satisfy the citizens resident in your area and tempt citizens from an opponent's city to migrate to yours. Having said that, you then have the problem of keeping your expanded population happy and, importantly, fed. If not, they go elsewhere. At the end of the six rounds of play (years), each citizen living in your city scores a victory point, with a bonus for each city containing at least 1 building in each of 3 types (Culture, Education and Health). But there is a hefty penalty if you are unable to feed any of your population in the last game year.
In our 3 player game, I was amazed at how quickly each player's cities (which are initially well spaced out) become vulnerable to migration to an opponent's city. This is only possible if there are less than 3 hexes between each city, but the way cities can quickly expand means that a "safe" city is rarely safe for long. One of the big decisions you have to make during the game is whether to found a third city (or more). You start with 2 cities but each new city founded gains you 2 additional citizens and new territory from which to expand. However, you now have to balance your actions to maintain 3 cities, not 2, and your opponents cities tend to be stronger and more attractive to your nomadic population.
We all really liked this game. It seems well balanced with plenty of strategic options. The result could have gone to any one of us, but the migrations in the last round proved critical. I knew my 2 main cities were very vulnerable to migration, but concentrated on making sure my population would be fed. I lost citizens to both the other players, but they had not foreseen the need to feed them, and suffered penalty points at the end of the game. I ended up winning by six points. Without the penalties, it would have been much closer. Result: GL, CD, SG.