May 19, 2011
Not my favorite game but others including David, our host, really like it so have played a reasonable amount of The Resistance lately, which is a new Werewolf style game but much shorter, with some real information to go on, and where I feel I can play fairly effectively on either side without lying. Last night we played two 7 player games, the first time playing with this many, and not using the special cards as we had two new players. David warned us and it seems absolutely correct that the bad guys have a huge advantage with 7. There are 4 good guys and 3 bad guys and 3 failed mission wins for the bad guys. Thus even if every time a mission fails you can perfectly figure out who failed it, which is by no means always possible, you can still lose as each bad guy can fail one mission. Well, I was a bad guy in our first mission and really it went horribly for the good guys. They didn't realize who any of the 3 of us bad guys were and the special fourth mission which with 7 players needs 2 people to fail it caused the end. Thus would have been super-easy for us to fail the 5th mission as it has 4 people and only takes one failure.
Anyway, the reason I am posting was our second game. I was on the good side. The first mission sent Melissa and I out and Melissa killed it. I normally think this is bad strategy for the bad guys but with 7 it may be fine. Even if people figure her out, there are still two more bad guys and two failures needed. I do think most people pretty quickly realized I was on the good side. I didn't say this, as I have a policy of not, but did later end up doing a bunch of thinking out loud that I would not have done as the bad guys - would have felt too close to lying to me. Anyway, I now knew one bad guy but still two more. In mission two David, Karl, and Dave were sent - I voted for this happening after some thought because it didn't include Melissa. Not surprisingly though, with 3 new people of the 5 I didn't know the loyalty of, the mission failed. This is where the game got interesting for me and why I am posting this. I was the next leader and basically felt the situation was nearly impossible. I knew Melissa was bad. I figured ONE of David, Karl, and Dave were bad - could be two with one sandbagging but probably unlikely. And then has to be one of Bill and Matt who haven't gone on a mission. I need to RIGHT NOW figure out two people other than me who are good or basically we are screwed. We'll need to figure out the last good person too by the last mission but can wait on that. Well, I decided that I didn't trust Matt and chose Bill; often have a pretty good read on Matt and decided I had to just go with it. Also decided that I trusted my read that Dave was good too. I thought David was the bad guy but was less sure of that. Anyway, these were all guesses/intuition based on very limited information but I had no choice but to go with them unless someone I thought was good convinced me they had a better read - couple of weeks ago I went with Karl's read in a situation where I had no idea and Karl seemed confident - turned out I was right that Karl was good but Karl was wrong but still felt better than random which would have been my choice. Now became interesting though as the vote went 4-3 against the mission with only the 3 of us on the mission supporting it. This actually really strengthened my belief that I had picked right however, with Karl just for some reason voting against it. I brought up the vote against and Karl mentioned, quite accurately, that he almost always votes no, regardless of side he is on. I had the impression he would reverse that vote if we did the same group again though so with Dave being the next leader, I pointedly reminded him he could send the same group and he did and both Karl and Matt (to sandbag but too late) changed their votes and the mission succeeded. We also then won the last two missions, adding Karl in, but this third mission really decided everything. The combination of me making good reads and then Dave trusting me and my read enough to go for the same mission when the vote failed the first time were both huge and fun; who knows, though - maybe I was just lucky.
April 18, 2011
Played this new Friedemann Friese card game on Saturday and I think it is the best new Card Game (as distinct from "Game Played with Cards" like RftG or Dominion or many others) I have played since Tichu. Only played twice but I am pretty sure it will hold up. Initial rating probably an 8.5.
April 15, 2011
A Crushing Defeat - Ubongo Card Game (and why RR regins supreme)
Played Matt last night two player in the new Ubongo card game and got absolutely crushed, losing all 6 rounds by an ever increasing margin of victory. This is almost certainly the worst I've lost at a pure skill game in many years. I was competitive really in only one of the 6 rounds. The way the game works is that each player gets 9 cards with a 3x2 pattern of symbols on each. They must arrange 7 (no benefit at all for doing more) of their cards into a single group such that wherever two cards join, exactly two symbols must match (and no symbols must mismatch).
Anyway, though, the game doesn't work at all as a game, but might be amusing to play as a solitaire puzzle for some. The better player will basically always win but more significantly the worse player(s) will never finish a board as the moment one player finishes the round ends. I still think Ricochet Robot is by far the best of the competitive puzzle games, both because some of the puzzles are quite interesting but also because the timer gives the lesser players a chance to also find at least a solution, and maybe the best one. They are also always shown at the end of the round the best solution found, which helps to teach them to be better next time very naturally. Even when the game was first released and I was playing some naturals who were far better than me, I still really enjoyed playing as well as I could and seeing the solutions they found. Unfortunately, while many more competitive puzzle games have been released since, almost all of them really fall down in some area of play as far as making the game work for both strong and weak players in the same game. Like even in the regular Ubongos, once you solve a puzzle you have nothing to do - in RR you have a solution but maybe can find a better one and for the super-simple ones you can just abort the timer once everyone finds the path.
I wish I played RR much more often but not that many people like it despite its advantages. Did get to play half a game on Wednesday though after finishing a game of High Frontier, which is a game that deserves its own post really - I enjoyed it but am amazed anyone was willing to publish it given its nature - in our game two of the four players dropped out halfway through to start the RR game. This almost never happens and yet I thought was completely understandable in this game for them to do - in a hopeless position after an hour or whatever of play with the game only like 40% over. And their troubles were despite a very strong rules explanation - the game is just too confusing and too unforgiving of small mistakes or misunderstandings.
October 22, 2010
WoW: 100k DPS
Only of any interest (or comprehension) at all to World of Warcraft players but on a ICC trash pull last night my fire mage hit over 100K dps for a while and ended the small fight (whelps - just one group oddly, before Sindy) at 53k dps. Was of course burning cooldowns but wasn't watching meters when several people started exclaiming over the numbers I was doing. Fun moment.
June 10, 2010
Jeopardy! last night (discussion of one particular random question)
This is about just one particular random question and shouldn't spoil watching the episode for anyone.
On Jeopardy! yesterday there was a question about the title of the first Harry Potter book, referring to it being translated into another language. TheDan answered "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" and was given credit. Although not surprised they gave him credit, I have to feel this answer is wrong. I can't imagine the translator didn't work from the original source, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", and not the Americanized (a change I hated by the way) title (or text).
June 03, 2010
Simultaneously taught 10 people Tichu just before running a small tournament this weekend. Had known I would be teaching but figured would be more like 3-4 people so although I had printed some cheat sheets, I could have prepared better if had realized this would be the situation. Pretty much the first people I ever taught where I was not immediately playing at least a few hands with right after which changes things somewhat. Still, went quite well and I paired all of the inexperienced teams against a team with at least some experience in the first round. This made it harder for them to win but also made it much more likely that they would end up playing the game correctly, which I thought the more important goal. Was nice to see one pair which lost in the first round of the tournament immediately play two more games.
M & I ended up winning in the final but only because I had upped the ending score for the SF to 1250 and Final to 1500. If had been to 1000, we would have lost, and to a pair who the only time they had played before was a game or two a year ago.
October 16, 2009
Lore Sjoberg comes out as a gamer
Great article in Wired by Lore Sjoberg on categorizing games. Pretty damn accurate. Found via DougO.
August 13, 2009
WoW - Guild ending
Well, my guild in World of Warcraft is done as a raiding entity. One thing led to another causing us to not raid a fair number of nights and pretty quickly turned into a death-spiral. Not sure whether I'll switch guilds (and possibly servers) and keep raiding or quit the game/turn very casual. We had existed since MC days so a pretty long and successful run.
July 21, 2009
First Games session at House
Jeff was in town from LA prior to the Bridge Nationals and so I at kind of the last minute invited him to stay at my place Sunday night and invited a bunch of people over for gaming during the day. Was fun and despite almost everyone being a 'maybe' we always had enough to play and about a dozen people stopped by, although a few just to get the house tour while nearby. I'm not currently well set up for having too many people at once (not enough chairs main issue) but for small groups works nicely.
Also think my decision to have one bookcase of A+ games downstairs in the main space was the right call. Not overwhelming as the shelves of games have been in my prior places but also not hiding all the games away in the upstairs walk-in closet room. Will also I think get those games played a bunch as they are the most in view which is great since they are mostly chosen to be there because are my favorite games - a few are there for somewhat different reasons like Carcassonne (gateway/popularity), Shear Panic (the bits!), and Elfenroads (grail type of game).
April 01, 2009
Close to exactly 3 years ago, Tom Vasel wrote a negative review of one of my favorite two-player games, Greg Lam's Knockabout. Tom basically claimed the game was all luck, a not that surprising (albeit not accurate) claim of an abstract game that involves rolling dice much of the time. I strongly disagreed with him.
Well, recently David Dyer implemented an online version of Knockabout at www.boardspace.net and decided to run a tournament of the game. The tournament was 16 players in a single elimination format but playing best of 5, 5, 7 and 9 games in the four rounds to even out the luck elements there are in the game. Well, the tournament ended last night and I won with an overall record of 16 wins and 4 losses (played 1 extra fun game with one opponent which is why it is 16 and not 15), and that against some quite good opponents. Now, I think this 80% win rate was definitely lucky and all and wouldn't have expected to do nearly that well but still, I really do think this tournament pretty much proves my point in regard to the disagreement above.
Thanks to Greg Lam for designing the game (and providing prizes for the tournament), David Dyer for implementing it and running the tournament, and Doug Orleans for pointing out the tournament to me. Also, of course thanks to all my opponents for some very fun plays of this great game.
Crossposted to my blog and to BoardGameGeek.
March 04, 2009
Tichu Game - kind of amazing
Played a Tichu game over the weekend that had a pretty amazing first 6 hands. In ALL of these hands, our opponents had the Dragon AND Phoenix (a less than 1 in 4000 chance). In addition they always had at least 1 ace and as many as all four (wrote it down but now misplaced but think their ace count was something like 4,3,1,2,1,2). What was the score after these 6 hands of them having all the cards (and by the way, there were not bombs or crazy good combinations on our side)? 500-500 Sadly, we ended up losing this game after this (and we definitely had the skill advantage in the game) but crazy first set of hands.
February 13, 2009
BrettSpielWelt - Dominion
Have been playing on BSW a fair bit this week. Dominion really is the perfect game for BSW, really short, lots of players so easy to find/start a game fast, and tons of time savings from shuffling. I do have a couple of minor quibbles with the interface. First, I'd really like a 'Virtual Provinces'/Even number of turns option. Second, they shouldn't always put the little green arrow move on button in the one place. I played a Throne Room'd Adventurer in one game in a deck where I had very little money, so was just blasting through the 'next' button and ended up ending my turn without buying anything when I think I had enough for a Province and a Duchy.
Last night I had a pretty amazing 2-player game. The deck was a great one with no attack cards but Bureaucrat and with Chapel, Village, Throne Room, Market, Council Room all included. I had an early lucky turn where I got 13 money and had 4 buys and used it to buy 3 Villages and a Throne Room rather than a Province/Duchy. These purchases ended up sending my deck into overdrive, and I later had turns with 22 Money and then 25 Money, all with multiple buys. On the last, I bought 3 Provinces in a single turn, which is definitely a first for me. We both Chapeled all of our Estates and the scored ended up being 36-12, entirely on Provinces.
Got in one fun Tichu game with Brian too, which we won pretty easily despite some fairly major booboos. He passed me an Ace on a hand where I gave him a King so I confidently led the 1 and called an Ace. Well, turns out he passed me an Ace from a great hand so not surprisingly was hit by it. Then, in a later hand, on a bad timing issue, my right-hand opponent led pair of Kings and I was last to play and played pair of Aces. Brian ended up bombing my Aces, as he didn't see in time I had played and didn't want the Kings to win. BTW, my login is AaronDF so feel free to add me to your watchlist.
January 27, 2009
Race for the Galaxy: Contact Specialist
Contact Specialist does not work on Alien Worlds!!!
This post is purely an effort to try to ingrain the above in my head. I don't know why, but I get this wrong almost all the time, including last night and another game not that long ago. I have a really good memory in general for game rules (albeit not for much else unfortunately) but this one thing, in a game I play a lot, I just always forget. I'd probably post a note on my copy of the card if I regularly played with my own set, but I don't so wouldn't do any good.
December 03, 2008
Had a really nice time again at BGG.Con 2008. Thanks to Derk and Aldie and all their helpers for putting it together. Highlights for me were probably trying and beating Tom Lehmmann (Race for the Galaxy designer) at a prototype of the second expansion 51-50 (and we had to count my score like 4 times to be sure of it - had 3 6s that were all very high scoring and a bit tricky to count - they were like 32 of my 51 points) (chatted, played and really enjoyed a bunch of other stuff with Tom as well) and another great Puzzle Hunt by Aaron Weissblum and Dave Arnott which our team won in a very tight finish as we found the bonus puzzle to avoid losing the tiebreaker to another very strong team that otherwise scored the same as us and finished a bit earlier. Also got to play a bunch of fun games of Tichu with lots of people and thanks to Marty for grabbing me for a game of Titan with experienced players on the new Valley Games board. Thinking I will offer to teach (but not play) people in one of my regular groups the new version too to see if they might like it this next Tuesday - if reading this and interested, let me know.
None of the brand new games I played rise to my buying level (generally an 8+ of 10 rating) but still enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, Space Alert, Le Havre, Oregon (which isn't new but played for first time and is closest to being a buy for me), and Carcassonee: A New World (despite some serious rules questions in a simple game - C- for rules). However, front on expansions is better. I will definitely buy the Galaxy Trucker and St Petersburg expansions and of course the Race 2nd expansion when it comes out.
750 people is definitely getting to be kind of too much though, not that I actually want them to restrict the numbers more. There were a bunch of friends I didn't get to play anything with and a couple of people who I only know from the Internet that I wanted to meet and realized after I got there that I really just had no way to arrange it - will exchange cells or something next year. Was nice to at least meet/talk briefly to Jonathan on the shuttle there and thanks to Chris and Jim for the beer at the Dallas airport before I rushed off to sit on my plane for 1.5 hours before getting taken off and put on another plane. Hotel a bit of a jinx for me too as I left my iPhone charger there - realized that while sitting on the broken plane and called hotel and have it back now - pretty cool too that can use the iPhone to Google the hotel number and all to call them about it. Anyway, fun trip.
November 17, 2008
WoW: Beat Kil'jaeden and now WotLK
Quick World of Warcraft catch-up post. Last Monday, three days before the expansion came out, we beat the final boss of the game on our last pull of the night (and almost certainly our last chance to beat Kil'jaeden before the expansion). Although Sunwell was massively nerfed, Kil'jaeden was still a quite difficult fight. Now playing the expansion and my mage is up to 74. The first level 80 was a French Warlock who grinded a particular set of mobs the entire way to 80, playing for 27 hours straight after release and having a non-partied healer heal him for those 27 hours and gain 0 experience.
Amazingly, this time beating the game (with 3 days left), was much more time than the last time we did it when we killed Nefarion and then new content was released the next day. Even more amazing, nearly 3 years later, around 15 of the 25 people in on that earlier kill are still playing in our same guild today (although some after long breaks and some on different main characters).
October 30, 2008
Tribune and The Gathering Storm - first impressions
Played the Race for the Galaxy expansion yesterday and definitely found it a good and interesting expansion. All the new cards seem generally good (and the Green windfall world will probably be my new favorite for a multiplayer game) and the goal tokens (4 3VP first to X goals, 2 5VP longest road style goals) seem interesting too and for those who mistakenly think the game is multiplayer solitaire, this definitely helps to dispel that. My only immediate concern is that the central goals make getting off to a bad start a harder problem to overcome and the bigger deck also creates a greater chance of a string of bad cards (for your strategy). In both games last night, one player got absolutely crushed, scoring like half of the player a position above them and a third of the winner's score. Interestingly, one of those players was me despite my being the one to end the game with 12 cards using Improved Logistics twice but still having an absolutely horrible score, but keeping the game going would have only made things even worse for me.
Related to the above, Tom (designer of Race) had highly recommended Tribune to me a while back so when I saw it on Felix's shelf I requested it and people were kind enough to agree to play and teach it. I thought the game was quite good but did have a couple of issues with it. First, we played a 5 player game and I went last. Getting late choices for the first 3 turns (game went 5 turns [which I gather is unusual] but the early ones seem much more important to me for various reasons) seemed to not nearly be offset by only a few extra money. I also had a poor hand (like never got a leader the whole game or think I even could have gotten one except so late and of a color where the existing group was so strong that would have been useless) and ended up being unable to take over any faction in Turn 1 and only one on Turn 2. This is just luck but it felt like very important luck in such a short game and I don't feel even in hindsight that there was really anything I could do about it. Also, like every time I took over a faction, the next turn it was immediately taken away while two factions that were taken on the first turn were then kept for nearly the entire game despite no Chariot defense of either. Again, just luck but how does one catch up in this game at all? I am sure I didn't play great in various respects but still, I kind of felt doomed from the beginning given the early luck. Definitely interested in trying this again though. Doubt I would ever buy it but worth exploring some more.
October 01, 2008
Games Last Night: Gulo Gulo & Barbu, also BGG.Con
There was already a game of Gulo Gulo (my #1 recommendation for a kids game to buy - fun for both adults and kids and fairly self-balancing by kids' small fingers making up for their weaker strategy) going when I arrived at D&M's last night. Ella, at 3 years old, won that which was great, followed by a 6 player game I joined. I got the first chance to go for the 5 end tiles and got lucky and found the purple tile you can win with (and also had a fresh bowl of eggs). This was all good. However, the purple eggs were SERIOUSLY buried - couldn't see one at all and the other was at the bottom of the bowl and I am not at all adept at this kind of dexterity element. However, despite my poor technique and sort of bashing around lots of eggs I somehow miraculously managed to retrieve the winning purple egg. Anyway, for anyone looking for a game to play with even VERY your kids, this really is my very first recommendation by a pretty big margin.
We then played a fun game of Barbu where I played well but also got quite lucky pretty much throughout. Led the game after like the 3rd hand, had a positive score throughout, and won by like 300 points. Probably the best Barby game I will ever have, and against three experienced and skilled players.
Oh, also I am again going to BGG.Con this year in November and have a room but no roommate at the moment. If you are going and interested in sharing (and don't snore), let me know. Arriving Thursday and leaving Sunday and if you also have a room reserved, we can just cancel one of them.
September 16, 2008
WoW: Downed Illidan
I almost never mention it here but still playing World of Warcraft and eventful week for my guild - I became an officer (one of the leaders) of the guild and last night we downed Illidan for the first time. Hopefully we'll kill a Sunwell boss or three before the expansion but my main goals for before it comes out are complete. I also got a Beta-key for the expansion but haven't really done anything with it and probably won't beyond just looking around and maybe screwing around with a Death Knight for a bit.
Crazy time at work too with both my boss and the director of our group having had surgery in the last days but seems all has gone well and my thoughts are with them.
July 09, 2008
Race for the Galaxy Night
Games last night for me turned into 7 games of 2 player Race for the Galaxy with Melissa which was quite fun and I won 4-3. Think I am getting better at the 2p game lately and in several of the games did manage a full-on produce-consume strategy which I am generally not good at.
Anyway, what caused me to mention the games was one amazing game where Melissa beat me 63-62 (and I would have had the tiebreaker). Huge scores and massively different strategies. Melissa had all the VP chits plus a bunch more (like 31 total) and two excellent 6s including the one with a bonus on VP chits. I had a Military/Trade League strategy with 4 6s, 3 of them scoring 10+ points (Military one, Rebel Military one, 6s one). I had absolutely no consume ability (if I had I would have won by consuming my 1 Alien production world good) but huge points for the Rebel worlds and 6 developments and lots of cards from the Trade League and Alien world. Melissa was also getting lots of cards during the Produce phase so both of us were just cruising on the points. So, anyway, 125 vps combined in a 2p game I thought pretty impressive.
ps. I know some of the names for the 6s but not all of them so not bothering to use the names - think they are clearer anyway with the functionality description than the names.
July 08, 2008
Time's Up Question - Board2Pieces
I really like Ted Alspach's Board2Pieces strip but the one this week brought up an interesting question. Leo is trying to clue "Jean-luc Picard"'s name to his partner but when he doesn't know it he tries to get him to get the name "Gene". This is such a mispronunciation of the actual name that I am not sure I would accept it. On the other hand, the game is meant to be playable by people who don't know the names and if Leo doesn't know his name either (although in the strip he does know of the person) it would be a completely reasonable mistake so I guess one would have to take it. Still I would never think to clue Picard's name using "Gene" at all.
November 20, 2007
I'll talk about the games I played below - other stuff first.
I went to the first BGG.Con in 2005 but missed last year's event due to work craziness. It is quite amazing the growth in the event in two years. In 2005 I think there were like 150-200 people while this year there were over 600! In some ways this was of course good, but the event didn't feel as 'intimate' to me and many people seemed a bit more cliqueish this year, playing again and again with mostly the same opponents. Still, was a great event and Aldie and Vickie and Derk and all the others did a great job (and this event was a ton more work to run I think than most other gaming events I've gone to for a variety of reasons) - I in fact almost never saw Derk or Aldie play a game, which is unfortunate.
My only suggestions for the future would be to have a central meeting spot for people looking for a game and also a different meeting spot for people to go out to meals. A spot where people meet on the hour to form groups to go out in (like 6, 7, 8pm and maybe 12 and 1 for lunch) was suggested on BGG and I think that an excellent idea, particularly since there were almost no places to eat other than the hotel itself and a Denny's within walking distance. There wouldn't need to be any coordination from the organizers for this other than just designating spots and letting people know about them.
Thanks to all the people I played with, new (Chris, Yehuda, Jonathan, Jim, Snowden) and old (David, Peter, Dave, Greg, Anthony, Joe, Kathy and Geoff, Ted) and lots of others I am forgetting or just only got like a single game in with. I had fun at every single game I played, even the few poor ones or which we had the rules to somewhat wrong.
I also ended up losing my carryon bag on the way back on the hotel shuttle to the airport which was an annoyance (and thanks very much David for your help with trying to deal with it) but nothing irreplacable in it and not really a huge deal in the end, just basically makes the trip somewhat more expensive. I HIGHLY recommend to everyone that when getting on a shuttle or whatever to make sure to actually see your bad loaded, regardless of what the driver says. I have always hated not doing this but from now on I am just not going to put up with it.
One last thing before I talk about the games I played: Tichu. I was simply amazed at the Tichu presence. Tons of people (not including me) were wearing Tichu shirts and even more Tichu games were played (I at points wandering around saw 5 simultaneous games being played). It might have even been THE most played game at the event, despite being 16 years old (although not really known of in the US since I and others discovered it in 2000)! Maybe Agricola or Galaxy Trucker was played more but I am not at all sure of that. I would absolutely bet that Tichu was played at least five times as much as any other game at least a year old. Just incredible. Like at BGG 05 there was a lot of Tichu played but mostly at night and I knew like 75% of the people playing. This year there was a ton more played all the time and I probably only knew like 10-20% of the people playing. I think given this I will have to offer (if nobody else does) to run a tournament next year although worry about how long it will take for those who do well during a fairly short event.
For the new games played, I've stolen category names directly from Chris's event report since seem pretty perfect.
Games to Purchase (or Games I'm Thrilled I Already Purchased!)
Aaron and Dave's Treasure Hunt - well I can't buy it but was absolutely excellent and our team (admittedly kind of overloaded) managed to solve all 26 puzzles with 3 minutes left which seems just the epitome of perfect timing on the part of Aaron and Dave. All excellent puzzles and the running around having to find/borrow/beg/whatever the objects was a nice gimmick. Thanks to Snowden for joining us at the last minute and doing so much running back and forth to his 11th floor room to get stuff. I also very much enjoyed the poker tournament even though I went out pretty early, calling a hand that was exactly what I thought it might be and dominated me but that is one problem with playing against some very inexperienced players, in that it is hard to really know what they would play.
Neuroshima Hex - excellent light wargame that was somehow totally off my radar, even though I think I actually did read Frank Branham's Boardgamenews review a while back. Just great, especially as a 4p partnership game. By far the most wonderful surprise game for me.
Galaxy Trucker - talked about this a bit ago but continued to really like it. Games at BGG were mostly played with a very generous timing rule (and the game I had played before was played with a really MEAN timing rule) which changes the game quite a bit but fun either way (I preferred the MEAN rule). The actual timing rule in the box is in between these two. I do think players who are only a little bit better will end up winning a lot more but even when your ship is getting blown apart, the game feels fun I think. Wouldn't want to play this every week but great for every few months.
Race for the Galaxy - preordered a while ago and also talked about before but remains excellent. I have now played or watched like 5 games of the released game and never saw more than like 10-15 TOTAL VP chips given out. Does it need the expansion cards to build a serious VP chip engine? My natural strategy is a settle/develop one anyway but surprised nobody managed an at all successful consume strategy.
Games I Hope To Play Again But Will Not Purchase
Kingsburg - Interesting dice/economic game. However, rolling low is just plain bad and I do wish the balance of positions was a bit better - having people 90% of the time just put all their dice together on the biggest spot they could is less interesting than spreading them out.
Through the Ages - This took a very long time as David is generally slow and I also kept rethinking my moves as this is a very complex game with a lot to consider. I would prefer it in a way if it went much faster but that might also lead to major mistakes which I wouldn't like so not sure quite how to deal with this. I made a major memory mistake at the end to let David beat me by a lot but I think he would have won by a small amount regardless so no big deal and probably therefore I was right to take the chance. David immediately after played another guy 1.5 more games which I was quite impressed by - something like 14 hours straight of TtA!
Brass - Thanks to Jim for an excellent job teaching and a generous offer (which we refused) to restart when he got way ahead early. I actually almost caught up once I had a better handle on the game and definitely enjoyed it.
Agricola - I didn't like this as much as many others. Good game but a bit too solitaire and the sets of cards people start with are bound to be not very well balanced, which is an excellent means of getting variety but somewhat unfair and unlike in a game like Cosmic Encounter the other players really can't react to a good card set to balance it.
Palce Gefluster - A cool hand management game but marred by the fact that most hands someone loses rather than wins and a poor scoring system. Peter actually liked the game better when got towards the end and people had asymmetric positions but I liked it worse as it seemed to very much limit my options and require me to take poor chances. Still, very cool mechanisms.
Kakerlakensalat - A fun game where you have to not say the wrong words. Two of us tied as we both made no mistakes while the other two piled up cards but was fun for all of us. Wouldn't have much staying power at all though.
It's Alive - Basically an auction version of Zirkus Flohcatti and (re)themed around building Frankenstein-like monsters. Works fine and nice mechanics although the luck of the draw is pretty important. One player won with ease and I was honestly not quite sure how though. He seemed to have both more and generally better pieces than anyone else and I am not sure how he managed it.
Felix Filou - Kind of a Geschenkt style light game. A bit too random but fun. I was sorry I didn't get to play any games with Friedemann.
Chicago Poker - Finally got in a game with Greg who grabbed me for this. Fun game of fighting a bunch of simultaneous fights via poker hands and some bluffing (cards are sometimes placed up and sometimes down, much like the bluffing in Sternen Himmel) and nice and quick.
Games I Don't Expect To Play Again
Before the Wind - We had the rules wrong but I don't think I would like it that much even played correctly.
Medievalia - I again think we had the rules somewhat wrong but regardless I think the game has problems.
Also played but not at all new
Tichu, Black Vienna, PitchCar, Yinsh, Knockabout, On the Underground
November 07, 2007
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage - Valley Games edition
Well, my friend's copy of the new Hannibal edition finally arrived and I watched them play parts of a game yesterday and looked it over. It honestly looks incredibly similar to the original version with a few minor graphical changes (for the better for the most part) but the rules are apparently straight 2nd edition and really the whole game feels almost like a straight re-release.
The puzzle board seemed to work fine. Locations on the map now have their name on both sides of the hex, so readable from either side of the table. There is a minor typo on the mountain attrition roll modifiers on the board (should be an unmodified roll for Alps and -2 for normal mountains) but not a big deal.
Anyway, I am very happy to see this - it is too bad (to me at least) that they are making more significant, at least graphical, changes to Titan. I don't really need a new copy of Hannibal but might decide to buy one just to support them doing re-releases the way I like.
November 06, 2007
Essen 07 Releases
Got to play a number of the Essen 07 Releases over the weekend and enjoyed almost all of them.
The one I had been most looking forward to was Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy which I had played and really enjoyed a couple of times in prototype with Tom at David's house. The released version looks great and was really fun to play and all three of us quite enjoyed it. Still, the learning curve for the icons is definitely going to be a factor for brand new players and I hope people stick with it because I expect they will be easy to remember after a couple of games. I still really like San Juan and don't think this will replace it for me although will probably play this one more. Both are 8+ and definite buys for me.
The game I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed was Galaxy Trucker, which is kind of a timed puzzle game of ship building (similar to Factory Fun in this phase but major differences too) followed by a semi-random adventure game, where you will do better in the second part based on how well you did the puzzle aspect. I thought the whole thing quite cool and will likely buy this. My only concern is that the person with a ship that is only a small amount better may end up doing significantly better in the adventure phase as the other person takes more damage in an escalating way. Anyway, fun and pretty and my kind of game.
Gipsy King is an area placement game where one is constantly making the choice of putting down more pieces vs. important pieces (quantity or quality) and works quite well but I just didn't find it that exciting.
Cash & Guns: Yakuza without the special powers felt pretty much just like the regular game, although I was one of the Yakuza and they seem just plain weaker than the regular characters so kind of think one should use the special powers to try to balance this back a bit. Despite this, our Yakuza team won. Its a good party game but just not really my thing. The team aspect of Yakuza (we had 3 teams of 3) did help some for me and made decisions a bit more interesting.
Amyitis is the new Ystari game (makers of Caylus) and feels like it will appeal to the people who like Caylus. The fact that you can do a fair amount with only 2 different action types I found impressive and good. However, this feels like it is a style of game which I don't like very much (Caylus is also in this category) where the game often feels more painful than fun as you have a plan and then the guy in front of you takes the thing you need (not in a 'take that' way - just that he also wants it) and so you are constantly having to adjust to bad things happening. So the game certainly works very well and may be popular but just isn't my thing.
Cheeky Monkey is an animal-themed game similar to Zirkus Flohcatti but with tons of stealing of animals from the other players. I thought the level of stealing, at least with 6 players, was just too much and almost totally random but still enjoyed the one play.
Master of the Rules feels like a trick-taking game but isn't. Has a lot in common with Was Sticht? in that people on each round are going for different goals and that you can, if your memory is a lot better than mine, know the cards in other players hands. I would happily play this again but probably won't try to buy it, although I think Matt and some others in his group would like it so might try to pick up a copy for him.
There was one abstract game vaguely similar to Ricochet Robot that we played that I didn't like but I think maybe we had a rule or two wrong and I am not sure of the exact name but was only dud of the day.
Oh, I also played the new 1960: Making of the President last week with David and quite enjoyed it. Does feel much like Twilight Struggle but somewhat simpler and significantly shorter. I like both and would play either but probably won't buy either so rating around 7.
October 22, 2007
BGG.con next month
Anyone going to BoardgameGeek.Con next month? Also, if you are going and don't happen to have a roommate set (and don't smoke/snore), want to share a room? I have a room reserved for Thurs-Sat nights at the con rate. I'll find someone on the site if nobody reading here is applicable but figured might as well mention it here first and also curious if anyone reading this is going.
September 13, 2007
Hunting Party - Interesting game
I played the recent game Hunting Party on Tuesday which I liked pretty well although it is certainly not for everyone. A bizarre thing, though, happened in the game. A situation came up which seemed to completely knock me out of a game where players do NOT get eliminated. I had put myself intentionally in a bad situation because it seemed worth the gain and I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to get out of after I took advantage of the good points it had. However, I hadn't been paying close enough attention and Doug had a power (and could not possibly lose it) where he could negate anything I did to try to get out of this situation. As such, I actually walked away from the game to watch another game thinking I was just in a completely stuck situation. The others offered to do something to fix it but I was ok with being out of the game, given the chance I had taken and that I hadn't paid enough attention to Doug's hero's power. Oddly enough, after going away for like 10 minutes I came back and more closely looked at my cards and discovered that amazingly I had a card that worked together with one of my characters to give me a way out of my problem. I therefore rejoined the game and actually pretty quickly won. Totally bizarre and I am sure first time such a thing ever happened to me in any game.
Doug and I then played a couple of games of the great Knockabout.
August 08, 2007
Games: Notre Dame
Played Notre Dame last night for the first time and actually played a 3 and a 5 player game. Have to say that I was quite surprised at how much I liked it. This may not actually be so true but it seemed like there really were a bunch of viable paths to at least do well, and hopefully win. I won both games doing quite different things in each. I am intentionally not going to read any strategies for the game as am worried it might ruin the 'lots of reasonable strategies' I see right now in the game. Initial rating (which could definitely change): 8. If this holds up, I'll buy it later.
Also played Vikings (Wikinger) and If Wishes Were Fishes for the first time recently and reasonably liked both of them. Vikings of course has more strategy to it and is probably just below my buying threshold. Kind of felt in Fishes that was bound by the card draws. Winner won by a lot and certainly can't say I think he did anything particularly brilliant to deserve it - however, also didn't do anything bad. Free boat as start player certainly didn't hurt him. Worms are cute and I even more liked the art for each fish (Swordfish holding a sword and such). Probably a buy for more casual gamers or if playing with kids a lot.
Still haven't played the released version of Phoenicia (played a prototype many years ago). There were copies at WBC but selling for $50 and figured I could get it for like 30-35 (just checked - Boulder has it for $30) online if willing to wait a bit. Hopefully I'll get a chance to play it this weekend.
March 21, 2007
This Flash game/puzzle, Desktop Tower Defense, is excellent and immediately addictive. If you don't have a bunch of time on your hands, I recommend you NOT check it out. Link from Kottke.
December 14, 2006
Played last week on Cthulhia's wonderful baked gingerbread Carcassonne set. Since I lost, a few of my Meeples had to pay the price - Yum!
November 13, 2006
Went to DougO's birthday gaming party Friday and Saturday and played a bunch of games and had a really good time.
Played Indonesia again and it just continues to hold up as a great game to me. All three of the other players were new and I think they all quite liked it too, despite my leading pretty much the whole time, particularly in the midgame. I generally prefer to be a goods producer in this game rather than a shipper, primarily because I dislike the element that often happens where a producer gets to choose which shipping player to give his money to (particularly as I am often doing well so am unlikely to get chosen very much). However, in this game I got a shipping line as the last available company in Era A and then someone merged it and I ended up buying the combined line, but pretty inexpensively. The interesting part, however, was on a later turn a player proposed a merger of a 2 ship line and a 1 ship line. I didn't own either of these but realized that buying them would give me a basic monopoly on shipping (6th/last line actually wasn't even owned yet) and I had the most money at the time so decided to seriously bid for it and ended up winning it. With this monopoly (which I had never seen before to this extent), I was able to really screw around with things and force people to do a large amount of long-distance shipping, and yet still often not be able to expand their companies. The other players should have done a SiapFaji merger to diversify the goods (and reduce their number) but didn't for an extra turn or so and I ended up making quite a mint off the ships. I had also forgot to mention to the other players (until the last turn which is the only time I have ever seen it done) the ability to upgrade someone else's hull capacity (I was keeping mine at 1). Not sure it really would have been in anyone's interest to do this at the cost of their own R&D (it would have helped them but also helped me and I think it wouldn't have been worth it for them - I was close to doing it myself and seems like if it is nearly worth it for me almost can't be worth it for them) but one player said he would have done it so I certainly am sorry for forgetting to mention it. I did at the end of the game misjudge the ending (ended a turn earlier than I expected due to tons of slots being opened by mergers) which cost me a ton of potential last turn money but I still won pretty comfortably.
As I mentioned in my post about Leonardo last week, this capacity in a game for drastic change (here going from a goods producer and minor shipper to having no goods and being a monopoly shipper) I just love, as long as it is not done in a chaotic fashion. The Merger rule in Indonesia, whether it happens a lot (as in this game) or only a little, is certainly the best rule in the game and turns what could be a pretty dry economic game into a bit of a roller coaster, in a great way.
November 01, 2006
Essential German Games
At games last night, David & Melissa had just bought St Petersburg and I was surprised at David not having it already, given how complete his collection is. I noted that I thought it would probably make the top 10 of my list of Essential German Games and Melissa asked what else would be on my list.
So, today, I decided to actually make that list and see where it ended up and such. This list of course has some similarities to The One Hundred although I only went back and looked at that after I made my list. There is a pretty big difference in methodology of the two lists, however. That list was a composite of subjective preferences of a bunch of people really knowledgable about German games. This list is meant to be my as objective as I can opinion of the zeitgeist of the German games players. Also my list is meant to be more about starting assembling a "collection" of games and not about individually particularly liking game A or game B.
Anyway, here it is. The gaps indicate I think there is a bigger distance between the two games above and below than in instances without gaps. List ended up somewhat randomly being 23 games.
The Essential German Games to start a games collection
Ticket to Ride
Euphrat & Tigris
Princes of Florence
Lord of the Rings
Age of Steam
Magic: the Gathering
The ones I am least sure of on this list, for different reasons, are Tichu (hard to distance my subjective love of it), Caylus, and Ingenious (too new, particularly Caylus).
Games: Diamant and Leonardo
Diamant was interesting last night. Played two games, one 4 player and one 7. I was in the mine till the end all 10 rounds, mostly having horrible luck and in fact only coming out with gems once in the whole time. However, the one time I came out I came out with 50 which was enough to win - by far the biggest payout from a single run I have seen. In the second game, not only did I score 0 but two other players did as well and the winning score was like 14, by far the lowest winning score I have ever seen.
Also played the new Leonardo da Vinci for the first time last night and probably played the worst game of any German style game I have played in like 5 years. I made horrendous mistake after horrendous mistake, some bad play, some forgetting rules I knew, some just not paying enough attention. Amazingly, after all that I somehow ended up 2nd. Anyway, the game definitely is much more interesting than most German games, and is going to require at least one more play to really judge. It has been compared a bunch to Caylus but I really don't know why - it has much more in common with Aladdin's Dragons. I also do think it has some pretty innovative mechanisms, particularly the favors at the beginning of the game which make nearly as much difference as initial placements in Settlers, and the way workers are either working in the lab or going out and acquiring resources. However, I also have some troubles with the game. I think many of the decisions you make may end up being more frustrating than fun, as is pretty common in area majority games. Secondly, tracking the materials and therefore what inventions other people are aiming for is quite imporant and also quite difficult to do. I think I would prefer playing with open resources, but closed invention plans - for example giving players cards from 1-5 which they put under their workshop, instead of the actual resources, that indicate they are working on the invention in that slot on the board. Finally, I think the game is massively prone to opening move analysis and I am sure this is going to be done very soon, and is important because it is also a standard ramping up economic game with no leader penalties so getting off to a good start is vital. So, a very interesting new game (the most interesting I've played since Indonesia last November), but I am not sure whether it will be a fun game in the long run. Check it out for yourself. Given my questions about the game, I am holding off on rating it.
Thinking about this game in bed last night (always a very good sign), I realized that one of the things it really lacks (as does Caylus and in truth most German games), and that I think is really important to me in games but only consciously realized this last night, is it has no room for the dramatic play, a play that majorly changes the overall game dynamic. Euphrat & Tigris, for example, is the ultimate German game in this respect with their constantly being the possibilities for internal conflicts, disasters, and the huge impacts sometimes of external conflicts. Even if these don't actually happen all that often, the game is made vastly more exciting to me because of their potential. My favorite standard war game, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage has the same constant dramatic potential in campaign sea moves and daring moves like crossing the mountains. Tichu, my favorite game of all, hugely has this as well mainly because of the breadth of different card groups one can play - allowing one to do things like calling Tichu when an opponent has only 1 card left and such. I think in fact almost all of my very favorite games have this element. Maybe I'll go through the whole list of my top 10-20 looking for the dramatic at some point.
September 15, 2006
International Gamers Awards announced
The International Gamers Awards were announced today and went to Caylus (multi-player) and Twilight Struggle (2-player), the latter of which I need to play. What was exciting, however, was that Caylus (the 3rd ranked game overall on BoardGameGeek) barely won in a tiebreaker over the very small release Jenseits von Theben, which some of the IGA committee had not even had a chance to play or it might have won. I'm not a fan of either game, honestly, thinking Caylus feels long and procedural and analyzable in a bad way and Jenseits has too much luck and not interesting enough choices to make up for it, but think it would have been really cool if Jenseits/David had beated Caylus/Goliath. I personally was of course rooting for Indonesia which did get 2 of the 18 first place votes but went no further.
Oh, I also have played a bunch of new games in the last couple of weeks. The best of them were Blokus Trigon (triangular version of Blokus which makes it much harder to figure spatially), Aton (neat and quick 2 player), and Canal Mania (which is a very well done game but probably too much control of what other player in the game to help when you have to help someone else to help yourself). Only Blokus merits the 8+ rating which is my normal buy threshold although the others are close.
September 05, 2006
At trivia last week, they had one really great question which our team missed but hit ourselves over the head afterwards as in retrospect it was sort of obvious (but hard to think of). Maybe my favorite pub trivia question ever asked. Here it is (modified slightly after some research to be more correct).
Sweden won its first Olympic Gold medal in 1900. What sport was it in? This sport was only in the Olympics up until 1920 and to win, Sweden had to go backwards.
August 30, 2006
This is the new civ-lite Martin Wallace game and I have to say it actually did feel kind of like Civilization, but with a bunch of stuff taken out that I think is what makes Civilization good. After the rules were explained, the entire game seemed pretty clear to me how it would go and it really did do just that - the only time I was at all surprised was when boats were introduced and the options they give for expansion particuarly to the first person to have them. There just didn't seem much of real interest to me in this game, however. In addition, if everyone were playing as fast as me I am sure the game could have been half the time. Many turns I knew exactly what I would do for the whole turn from the very start unless someone did something to change that plan which rarely happened. The other major problem I had with the game was the usual multi-player war game issue of "let you and him fight". I basically entirely tried to avoid combat except on the 2nd to last turn when my neighbor had no cards and I had a hand full of military leaders so could with impunity attack three different places of his on the same action phase, which really screwed him and helped me a bit but can't say I really liked doing it and would have hated to be on his end of it (although really by then it was a 2player game anyway between David and I which David ended up winning by 1 point [and he was readily able to calculate in advance that would be the result]). Just not enough going on or enough interesting decisions to want to play again. Rating 6/10.
August 08, 2006
World Boardgaming Championships
Took my usual vacation to the WBC in Lancaster, PA. Had better luck with the hotel room, partly because Rick came down early for the pre-con and was abel to grab us a better room. Michael and I did a horrible job navigating both ways, missing a total of 3 major turns, one of them by almost 2 hours. Probably didn't cost us a ton of time but felt pretty dumb.
I played fewer non-Titan tournament games than usual. A lot of the Euro games really feel so much the same and so luck dominated that even if I were to win the tournament, I'd barely feel much of an accomplishment so don't bother with too much of an effort to make or play in semis. Battle Line was the only one I played at all seriously and got to the semifinal, only to lose to an incredibly lucky player who I am pretty certain I was significantly better than. He got 6 straight flushes (5 of them natural) and I think the other 3 were Trips which was the best board I've ever seen. I with perfect play could only possibly have gotten 1 straight flush. Even so, it seemed I had a shot until the very end when he seemed to go on a run of "play perfect card, draw perfect card" to win 3-4 fights.
In the Titan tournament, I got to the semis in multiplayer pretty easily but then had no luck at all and basically just hung around to take 2nd but never with any real shot at winning. Was still a strange and interesting game, however, with Kyle probably leading initially until he caused a couple of really bad battles for him and then David P. leading for most of the game until Kevin also got 'port and had the better Titan stack and won the game (and went on to win the final). In the 2p tournament I got to the quarterfinals relatively easily and then had a game where I was totally dominant on the masterboard but had horrible luck in the two battles and lost my Titan and the game to two Cyclops swings (6 6s in 18 dice) but I could have avoided this 6% possibility and really should have, my only major mistake of the week.
Over the years, I have been training up a bunch of the Titan players in Tichu and this year it has really started to pay off. Didn't need to teach a single person from scratch and yet had 8 or so people happy to play a bunch and played at least 7 full games and a bunch of partial games and had a really fun time with it. I am thinking next year of making an announcment on Consim in advance of a semi-regular Tichu game in the nights as there are lots of other Tichu players at the convention who might like to have a regular place to congregate and play.
June 29, 2006
World Poker Tour Season 4 Final
The best player almost certainly won in Joe, but I was unbelievably impressed by the poise and generally excellent play of amateur David Matthew. He seemed barely intimated by the moment and the competition at all. He did do pretty well at hitting flops and did make a few colossal blunders (the all-in before Joe specified his raise amount of course being the worst of them [although would be interesting to try that as a bluff of incredible strength]) but still, he overall just played amazingly well.
May 11, 2006
Google's Da Vinci Code puzzle Quest
I also while travelling finished the Da Vinci Code puzzle Quest which Google and Sony are doing to promote the movie and which is headed up by Wei-Hwa Huang. The puzzles were all very easy but I found it fun and worth doing. However, it seems like there was a pretty major screwup yesterday at just after 1pm as tons of people suddenly (but 100% predictable of course) bashed on their (Sony's I think for the final thing) servers and I am not 100% certain my entry (finished puzzle at about 1:05) got timestamped correctly. This was a pretty major mistake to make and I hope they are able to reconstruct things fairly.
I am actually even quite looking forward to the movie as the cast of it is an unbelievably strong one. Tom Hanks (Castaway), Audrey Tauto (Amelie) and Jean Reno (The Professional) have probably given three of the top 20 performances I've seen in a decade, not to mention Ian McKellan, Alfred Molina and Paul Bettany, and director Ron Howard certainly knows how to put together a good movie. The book was certainly mediocre but the movie may be much better.
Board2Pieces Boardgame Comic
Almost all of these have been quite funny, but I found today's one to be particularly good, but you will only get it if you have played the boardgame Ra by Reiner Knizia.
April 12, 2006
A Tale of Aces
For Greg Nikolic's probable last night at David and Melissa's game night, we played Poker and had 16 players at two tables to start ($1 entry per person split 10-4-2 among top 3 players). I for the most part had terrible cards and was down to 130 (people started with 200) with only 5 players left and blinds at 15-30 in the big blind. Would seem a good time to make a stand until the betting went 100-call-call-smallblindfold-me. With this large a bet AND two calls, I would need a monster to call and joked about being a great time for Aces when I looked down to find AA and made the obvious all-in 30 raise which all 3 called. The Aces held up so I more than quadrupled up from 130 to 535 and moved from short stack to comfortable 3rd where I ended up.
On the night Jeremy was mister aces, getting AA I think 5 times! I actully got them twice and they were two of only 3 pairs I had the entire night (third pair was TT). Not only did Aces play a huge part in my one big hand, I think they were involved in at least 3 hands where players were knocked out (including me by one of Jeremy's string). Another interesting thing that happened was after we got down to 10 players and 1 table, the next 4 people went out in pairs - so straight from 10 to 8 and then 8 to 6.
We also presented Greg with a card letting him know we were buying him a nice Crokinole board so he can play in Florida. This was my idea but tons of people contributed (ended up with 20 people in on it) after just one email to the group. Coordinating it went amazingly easily and I think its a great (and incredibly deserved) gift for Greg.
March 08, 2006
Fury of Dracula (long)
In the long running debate on whether one can review or rate a game effectively after a single play, I am strongly in the affirmative. This comes from long experience of rating a game after one play and very rarely having that rating ever move more than 1 point away and uncommonly even that much. Fury of Dracula seems to be a rare exception. I have played the new version twice in the last week or so. The first time I really liked the game, finding it to have lots of luck but also interesting decisions and of course tons of atmosphere and probably would have given the game an 8. This week I played again and the game just dragged on and on such that I was no longer even really caring about whether we won and just wanting it to end. Greg finally suggested we resign and I heartily seconded the proposal. By this time, David did have a big lead and probably would have won but certainly not a sure thing but I just didn't care anymore - probably would now rate around a 6 although I, on the good side, found myself continuing to think about strategy in the game long after the game (although more Dracula's strategy than the hunters who seem largely bound to just follow the tides of luck).
In addition to the length and extreme randomness, the game also has the trouble that the Hunters MUST be extremely coordinated to stand a chance and this requires group-decision making on moves and results in the most experienced player (me in this case) controlling the game too much. In this particular instance of the game, this was made even worse as two people had not played before and David started the game without explaining almost any of the rules to them, figuring they could pick them up from us as they went. This sort of works but leaves them a bit in the dark about being able to sensibly contribute to some discussions cause they don't know how everything works and don't know the deck composition.
David, as Dracula, has also in both cases made illegal moves. The first game we enforced the very harsh penalty in the game for this and it really hurt him. The second game we let him switch cards around so it was legal, as it was a mistake that didn't really affect anything. My character also almost died as I (and others too) didn't understand the rest rule and thought doing it necessitated staying in place and decided this wasn't worth it. Since it just necessitates giving up getting cards, it is much less costly and I should have been doing it much more (I was taking 1 damage almost every single turn of the game from David's ally - always directed against me).
Oh, finally, on BGG there is a combat chart which the game really should have come with and I highly recommend printing at least two copies to have available when playing. Without it, combat is almost shooting in the dark.
February 27, 2006
St Petersburg Mistress Revisited
Discussed this before but have been playing this a number of times again recently due to the expansion. Also, I had planned to try to not play again with possible Mistresses (of Ceremonies) on turn 1 but the expansion has changed my mind a bit on it. Some of the expansion cards are also very unbalanced so tweaks for better balance seem less sensible when playing with them. I would still prefer to change the rule but don't feel as strongly about it when using the expansion.
However, I played two games on Thursday and in both games there were first turn Mistresses and the player who got it won. In the first game, there were 3 experienced players and a a newbie (call them ABCD with B being the newbie and A had first Orange choice in round 1). Only two blues were taken as C decided not to open a space for himself and so I as D had to follow suit. Thus only two orange cards came out - an advantage for A but as long as they weren't great not too big a deal. However, a Mistress and a Black Market came out so it turned out that not only did A get a Mistress but he was the ONLY player to get an Orange at all in round 1 - an incredible start and one I don't think I have ever seen before. He made a significant mistake on the last turn that made the game close but still won, leading the whole way.
In the second game, I not only got a Mistress on T1 but an Observatory on T2 (only one that came up) and won the game running away, ending up ahead by like 25 points. Also had a funny moment on the last turn. We were in the Green phase and someone asked about the go 1st card (expansion card in Upgrades deck) and Matt said it hadn't come up yet and was thus useless. I commented that no, that wasn't necessarily true. I in theory could use my Obs to take an upgrade card in the Blue phase, get this card, and then use it in the Upgrade phase (was already going first in Orange phase). Amazingly, this is exactly what I did and what happened and let me get an 8th noble using a Black Market and upgrade it by being able to go first and grab the only Orange upgrade. Would have won easily without it but was pretty amusing.
February 22, 2006
Finally got my own copy of Indonesia ($75 ordered from Germany) and played it again last night. I continue to really like it but I don't think any of the other four players were fans unfortunately which made it somewhat less fun for me, too. The very poor graphic design of the board got somewhat in the way for some people; I also really don't like it but don't find it interferes with either my play or enjoyment of the game. People were even talking about calling an end to the game a turn or two early which would have totally ruined it and felt like a total waste of several hours. Fortunately we did finish the game and was a very close finish too. I may try again at David's with a different set of players or else figure I'll get to play once in a while at Joe's or at a con. It really is a great game for the right set of people.
We also had a couple of rules questions which I sent off to the designer and will hopefully get an answer. The game really does need a FAQ which has been promised but not yet delivered.
January 31, 2006
World of Warcraft - Nefarion Defeated!
My guild downed Nefarion last night, two weeks after we first got to him. With him down, we have now beaten all the main content (still haven't killed a couple of the outdoor dragons) the game has to offer. Oh, make that had as literally today on our server a new set of major raid dungeons open.
First kills of all the main guys has been my primary goal in the game for a very long time. With the main part of it done, I'm not sure whether or not my interest will stay at the same level - will partly depend on how AQ is. For some gearing up is a major goal but not so much for me as Mages are just not that gear dependent and it just won't make that big a difference. If I were a Warrior (and do have a 60 Warrior who I am trying to play more but he has only blues), I'd want gear much more as for them it makes a MUCH larger differnce in their effectiveness. A blue'd 60 Mage is probably like 60% as effective as a Mage with almost all Epics but a similar Warrior (MainTanking a 40 man raid) is probably only like 25% as effective and against top-end content just won't be able to cut it.
Interestingly, although this was only our first Nef kill, I expect that he will now be going down every week. Except for a week over the holidays maybe (when I wasn't playing so am not really sure), I believe every single week our guild has always gotten at least as far as we did the previous week, which I actually find kind of amazing and a real accomplishment - once we have beaten a guy once people start really believing it can be done and it is.
Now that I've fought all the main bosses, I do think Vael is the toughest. Not really at all sure what is second. Razorgore took forever to learn but now we beat him easily. Broodlord also took a while until we learned a trick that made him much easier. Ragnaros was always pretty much all about gear and fire resist (gear and potions) so was quite hard for a while but once we were geared up enough was not a problem. Majordomo is a tricky encounter too which I actually learned with my old guild and then brought over our strategy to this guild and thus really helped them along. Chromagnus has been a chump so far but we haven't yet had a bad set of breaths.
I think my first Onyxia kill remains my raiding highlight in the game and that fight I still really love, followed by Broodlord's Gauntlet and now the Nefarion fight.
November 18, 2005
The One Hundred is Complete
The One Hundred list is complete and I think serves as a great German games recommendation list. Turned out that 12 of my 15 entries made the list (although I only voted for 2 of the top 10 - Tichu and E&T) which is about average (unlike what I said in my previous post - just wasn't thinking straight). The only game I voted for which I am surprised didn't make the list is Black Vienna which of course isn't that well known but among those who do know it is highly regarded and I would definitely have thought it would be on the list. Was I the only one who voted for it? Did Joe and others let me down? He's going to release some more stats later so I'll probably get to see. I'm of course particularly happy with Tichu's #10 slot (on my list and the BGG list it is around #40), helped along of course by my first place vote. Probably will encourage a bunch more people to learn it.
The highest rated game I have not played is #51 Go and I also haven't played #65 History of the World, #68 Ave Caesar (have played the similar auto racing game), and #90 Dune. I kind of have no interest in History of the World but would be happy to fill in the other holes at some point.
Thanks to Mark and Snoop for the list!
November 08, 2005
The One Hundred
The combination of Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson are posting The One Hundred, another Top 100 games list, but this one fairly different. First, ratings only come from a set of 65 'experts' (me included) and each person only submitted a top 15 list so every game is in somebody's (and hopefully several somebodies) top 15. I'm enjoying it and the comments are interesting. As of today, 41-100 have been posted.
You can also read snarky comments on the list at Brian Bankler's Tao of Gaming. Having contributed, I'll avoid those but have been pretty happy with the list so far. I wonder how many of my 15 will make the full list (apparently 300 games were named by somebody so the average person will only get 5 but I think I'll be much higher). San Marco and Capitol are probably the only two so far that I really think don't deserve to be on there. For me personally, my 100th favorite game is rated a 7.5 I note which makes sense since I own only a little more than 100 games and my general rating number at which I want to buy a game is 8.
My own comments I probably would have written a bit differently for this format but had mostly already written for something else and didn't bother to change. With this format, I would have been more inclined to only note the positives - after all every game I listed I do think is a great game.
BGG.Con Games Played
New games to me played (in order of rating) at BoardGameGeek.Con this past week. Surprisingly, I played no actually bad games (or at least don't remember them - lost my list and had to reconstruct it). Games are listed by highest rated first. The only two I am inclined to buy are the first two, which are unfortunately 60 Euros and immediately sold out at Essen, respectively, so I'll see. If anyone has a suggestion on getting either, let me know.
Indonesia - 8.5 - This is the newest release from Splotter (Roads & Boats, Antiquity, etc...) and I think by far the best so far. It is still a bit fiddly but not nearly so much as their other games and the elements left are all important - it really feels like they put a lot of effort into removing unnecessary complexity. The upgrade track, merger mechanism and forced shipping rule are all absolutely excellent. The only thing really lacking in this game is the graphic design of the board, where the artist went too far with script and curvy lines, but we found it didn't really detract from the actual game. Also, on the plus side was the very smart decision to use both cardboard chits (for 1s and 5s) and paper money (for higher denominations) as the 5 counters make shipping payments much easier to track and the paper money makes the larger sums hidden and more space efficient. Kudos again to the upgrade track where all the different upgrades seem really well balanced and the track rewards neither specialization nor diversity, allowing players to pursue very different strategies and hopefully all be competitive. This game is quite long (say 3 hours) but with lots of interesting decisions and I was never bored. One of the players in our game was already in another game of this the next day I saw him and I was kind of envying him. 60 Euros is outrageously expensive (although the components are nice) but I will still probably buy it. Definitely the game I am most looking forward to playing again. Still it is long and complex enough that I can see my rating shifting up or down by a full point depending on how future plays go. As with other Splotter games, this is a game for the analytical types - one player in a game of this I watched just didn't get the game at all and was just frustrated the entire time and wanting the game to end so definitely not for everybody.
Shear Panic - 8 - The pieces in this are unbelievably cute and absolutely do seem to come straight out of Aardman Animation (the Wallace & Gromit studio). Looking at them, one expects a very light game but that isn't at all what one gets. This is in reality a multi-player abstract with intricate and changing scoring systems throughout and a lot to think about as you try to guess what other players will do and carefully look at their boards to see what they can do. I really enjoyed this and the sheep really are the best bits in any game I have seen in years. Surprisingly, the other elements of the game (score track and player action sheets) seem to be just laminated laser prints or something but who cares with these amazing sheep?! Apparently this was only like $15-20 at Essen and if I was there I would have bought a bunch of copies but no surprise at all it sold out - hopefully it will be reprinted or I can get a copy some other way.
E&T cardgame - 7.5 - The rules are very similar to the boardgame but the play isn't nearly as much and I don't think there is room for nearly as interesting plays to happen. Also, the scores both times I played were too low and too close such that very small changes could have had any other player win - I don't think this one has nearly as much room for skillful play. Also, of course it doesn't look nearly as nice as the gorgeous Doris board.
Caylus - 7 - This game got played a ton, due to the early hype and that there was one woman at the convention actually being paid to teach it to people (apparently taught it to 12 groups and this is a 2-3 hour game). Many really liked it but I wasn't one of them. It is slow, actions are too unbalanced, going first is too much of an advantage, the provost moves are too powerful and unpredictable (and how much negotiation you play with will make a big
difference) and there are endgame kingmaker problems. In our game, 3 different people could have won depending on if the game had ended when it did or a turn earlier or later and this was largely in the control of the uninvolved players. There is no way I can see this keeping its current BGG rank. I'll play again I'm sure but will not be suggesting this one.
Havoc - 6.5 - I was taught this by KC Humphrey, the designer, and we played a short version of it and I enjoyed it a fair bit. However, I must admit to being quite annoyed at the very unintuitive second tiebreaker, particularly after pretty nicely playing a very risky strategy of having to win both final battles and succeeding to get into the tie. The second tiebreaker, however, turned out to be fewest cards (troops) in hand which makes absolutely no sense to me (KC said it was to reward "efficiency"). If at the end of a war, two kings remain and one has significantly greater troop strength, which do you think would get better terms in a peace deal? This also led to the ridiculous situation of the other player throwing away troops in a totally losing battle just to get them out of his hand for the tiebreaker - utterly ridiculous IMO. Reverse this tiebreaker, KC.
Lucca Citta - 6 - Reminded me quite a bit of Palazzo. The mechanism of using the shields to determine turn order but then spending them to build the building works quite well but basically the result seems like it will be pretty random.
Ark - 6 - New Doris & Frank game. Cute as usual but not as cute as many of their other games. The luck of the draw/flip of the player before you may play a bit too much of a role as does the advantage gained by the player on your left using lots of action chips. In our game, I also found the Shy animals exceedingly difficult to play and got stuck with 3 of them in my hand at the end.
September 12, 2005
A bunch of new games
Played a bunch of games new to me over the weekend and several were good or interesting enough to mention.
The best game I played was the new release in the Kosmos 2-player series Jambo, which I only played once but might be my favorite 2-player game (caveat needed because I really like Rosenkonig played with the not-included Texas rules for a 4-player partnership game) in the series. The decisions in the game are very interesting and really nice artwork to go along with that. A couple of people there have already played it in the short time its been released like 40-50 times and it is not a super-short game. Definite buy and initial rating of 8.5.
Second best was Ars Mysteriorum which is the first Alan Ernstein game I've liked. It is basically an economic game with players as alchemists learning alchemical recipes. It uses a blind card placement mechanic to acquire resources similar to that in Aladdin's Dragons but somehow here it seemed to work better and rarely did one get an amount significantly different than one expected to. The recipes chart was also interesting where some recipes pay out much better early while others pay out poorly in the early game (but are also a bit cheaper to acquire) but can give a big bonus at the end. I ended up going for the latter group and amazingly won the endgame bonus in the top 3 of 5 categories in a 4 player game to let me run away with the game at the end. I probably won't make an effort to get this one (and it is rare) but would definitely happily play again - 7.5.
The only other of the new games that I'd have any interest in playing again is the new Hasbro Avalon Hill game Nexus Ops which is a light wargame. Players get income to buy units which they use to take over more income-producing spaces and to kill other players and gain victory points. Has some of the usual multi-player wargame problems but the reward for winning battles helps. In our game Brian got a lucky turn order enabling him to take the Monolith first and then got lucky (as well as taking advantage of the Energize cards rewarded for being first to the Monolith) to beat me when I attacked. This basically took me out of the game and then Matt decided to fight with the 4th player in the game rather than attacking Brian, basically letting Brian just cruise to victory by controlling the monolith the whole game. Rating 6. The components of this one are very nice and apparently it is currently available for $16 somewhere online which is an excellent deal but I don't want to own it.
On the poor side of games were Bedlam, a mediocre Pit variant, and the very random and just not very interesting die-rolling game Lucky Loop. Neither are worth playing again.
The final game which I hadn't played before was the very odd dexterity game Polarity which involves placing magnetic pieces on a board in a manner so that, because of magnetic repulsion a piece is leaning but not touching into another piece (follow the link to see a picture - hard to explain). I not at all surprisingly was terrible at this game and got absolutely crushed by Brian who I don't think made any mistakes.
Ended the night with the excellent The Great Dalmutti and quite good old Dirk Henn game Spekulation
August 18, 2005
Quick entry that I should have written a while back. Played lots of games, particularly Titan and did great in the early rounds of almost every game I played, making the Semis in I think every game I played except for Atlantic Storm (well and didn't really make it in Euphrat & Tigris but qualified anyway as an alternate) but then had terrible luck in the semis, losing every single one of them except for the 2-Player Titan one where I lost in the finals. Since this was my team game and my best result, that part was nice.
I thus won no overall events despite there being a full two days of Wednesday and Thursday where I won every single game I played (including 4 games of 2P Titan and 2 of 4P Titan and several initial rounds of things). David desJardins ended up winning both Titan events, the first time anyone has done that in the same year, although his getting into and then winning in the multiplayer event was quite strange (won a random rolloff after a mutual in the semi and then was adjudicated the best position in the final and won a roll based on that adjudication - there were still 3 players in the final but in a major first they requested that we adjudicate the result as it was 1:30 AM and people needed to catch flights, not to mention that 2 of the 3 people had been playing Titan for more than 16 hours straight).
In our 2player game final game, we ended up in a major battle early that somewhat favored me (we think) but was very difficult as it was my Titan and his Angel and had a number of tricky points to it. The first engagement round went poorly for me as I rolled low and, even more significantly, David rolled a bit high killing a piece I really hoped would survive the round. He then went on to kill my Unicorn with just rangestrikes (was 2 wounded from 1st round - 2/3 of a hit high) in a devastating 1 in 16 shot, forcing me to engage in a really risky fashion with my Titan. I did this but made a mistake that might have been costly (hard to tell) and rolled well now but still got killed.
Oh, I have also decided that the Mistress of Ceremonies in St Petersburg _needs_ to be fixed or at least not availble on the 1st turn. I have for a long time contended that a good player who gets a 1st turn Mistress would have an incredibly hard time losing and this tournament confirmed this. In one opening game, I got a T1 Mistress and ran away with the game, including beating a strong player who won her other two heats. In the semifinal, Tom (the GM) got a T1 Mistress and we kept it close but just too much of an advantage and then Arthur won the tournament with a T1 Mistress in the final. I think either the cost must be changed or, if one comes up on turn 1, it should just be put back in the deck and reshuffled.
I didn't like the new hotel very much but it is a bit closer, has some more space, and food options are improved. May stay at a neighboring hotel next year depending on things.
It was really nice to see everyone, particularly Bruno, Alan, David and David, Michael, Rich, Marty and others and very sad that Dave couldn't make it due to a medical issue at the last minute.
June 20, 2005
Interview with Richard Garfield
The latest in Tom Vasel's interview series is an absolutely excellent one with Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic and RoboRally among others. I found his comments extremely interesting and sense something of a kindred soul gaming wise in him.
June 09, 2005
World Poker Tour - Bay 101 Shooting Stars
I was really annoyed with this episode as I thought the very worst player at the table won as he got lucky time after time, the most notable being the hand where he could only win on runner-runner 7s and got them - a 249:1 shot against. Gus I thought played by far the best and made some absolutely amazing (and correct) calls only to have the odds go against him several times. Danny Nguyen, the winner, has to be given credit for aggressive play but it was basically uncontrolled aggression and only worked for him due to his wild luck.
April 15, 2005
Gaming interview of me
Tom Vasel, prolific game reviewer and interviewer, interviewed me by email a couple of weeks ago and posted the result this week. He interviewed me mainly because of my efforst on the Internet Top 100 Games List and we talked about that but also about a number of other things, some of them expected by me and others surprising but led to by his questions. Pretty interesting experience and I'm happy with the result.
March 30, 2005
The other game we played last night was Cranium, the very popular modern party game sold at Starbucks and other mass-market chains. I had never played and was interested to give it a shot. The game is a team-based party game where clues are divided into four categories and each team sometimes has a choice of category and sometimes is forced into a particular one. The categories are 1) Trivia/General Knowledge 2) Word knowledge/Word Puzzles 3) Performance (charades/singing/humming) and 4) Creativity (drawing, clay sculpting). One thing that is different than most party games is that someone on a team that is bad at a particular thing like drawing never has to do it as, while the category is often forced upon the team, the person on the team doing the action is always a choice of the team. I could therefore avoid ever having to do the Performance clues which I am terrible at and focus on the Word clues. I actually thought the game was quite fun and a really nice mix of different types of questions/activities so you would never get bored of doing a particular activity as can happen in most party games. The only real negative I found was the randomness of the die-rolling movement system where in theory one team could have to answer something like 9 times as many questions as the other team. Realistically, this level of discrepancy would never happen but I don't think it that unlikely that a team, at least till they got into the final phase of the game, could have to answer twice as many questions as another team. The final phase, which I liked much better, is more like Trivial Pursuit where you have to answer one question in each of the four categories and then a final question in the category the other teams think will be hardest for you.
Recommended and because of the ability to choose which teammate performs which action, I think this game will go over well with a wider variety of people than pretty much any other party game I can think of, particularly if each team has 3 or more people. This allows one person to give and one to guess in a category where the third person on the team doesn't know a single thing about it (and of course that person will still be a guesser in case he surprises himself with an answer).
Games: Return of the Heroes
This is a pretty interesting game where players take the role of Fantasy characters wandering around a board fighting monsters, completing quests, and gaining experience and treasure until one is strong enough to defeat the 'big bad' and, if able to do so, win the game. I thought the game was pretty fun and actually had some real decisions to be made and I would definitely play it again. However, it has a couple of major negatives. First, the characters seem very unbalanced. The Wizard has so little health as to be almost unplayable (and Magic combat isn't a very good specialty). The Dwarf is so slow that his health/money advantage just really can't compensate unless a market comes out early and he can significantly up his speed. Of the other three characters, I have the feeling that the Fighter has a significant advantage. Melee combat seemed to me to be applicable to far more enemies than was Magic or Ranged combat and so he had a big edge. The second problem is that the game has a very large 'rich get richer' issue with basically nothing at all to penalize the leader. I am often opposed to leader-penalization rules but this game I think needs at least a mild one.
In our game, the Fighter was way ahead almost throughout but he decided to make himself basically invincible before going for the win rather than going for it a bit sooner with a 95%+ chance to win. This unwisely gave me a shot to go after the win at a much lower strength level but still with a real chance (probably like 25% overall but it got to the point where I had about an 80% chance to win but blew the rolls). When I failed, he waltzed in the next turn and made mincemeat of the boss for the win. Fun game and very strong theme but with issues.
March 09, 2005
Poker - Too much luck?
The luck factor in poker, particularly small No-Limit Hold' Em tournaments, has really gotten to me of late. I am not by any means a great player but the last two little (like $1-5 entry) tournaments I've played in, I've made great reads and put in my money in both cases with a significant advantage only to have the cards kill me. Last night, the big bet was on the turn with only 1 card to come and I was a bit more than a 2-1 favorite and would have knocked out two people and had a massive chip lead, and instead was running on fumes when the odds went wrong. Given that this is one's whole tournament, it just seems so harsh. I play a lot of games and they all have luck, but in most it either isn't nearly as strong, much more spread out, or it at least is at better odds. In Poker, 2-1 is _excellent_ odds while in Titan you can often manage to get 9-1 or even better odds.
December 20, 2004
Hillarious Session Report
This Amun-Re session report is hillarious, probably funny even if you haven't played the game.
December 06, 2004
World of Warcraft MMORPG
On Thursday I somewhat impulse bought World of Warcraft, the new MMORPG from Blizzard who put out Warcraft, Starcraft and the Diablos all of which I have really liked. DII is my favorite computer game of all time. This one also had some great reviews and I decided to give it a try, my first MMORPG, despite being leery of monthly fees (game costs $50 and the monthly fee after the first month is $13-$15 depending on how many months at a time you buy).
The graphics are gorgeous (4 gigs of data to install it) and, surprisingly, the game is totally playable over my dialup connection. I have immediately gotten addicted but I am not sure that will last. The gameplay, quests, items, etc... all seem very well done although there are almost too many commands, skills, etc... Money is also incredibly tight. Having a more experienced player help out by sending cash would definitely be a big help to a newbie. Anyway, I may be playing this a lot over the next weeks and will see if it holds up. If anyone who reads this is playing WoW, let me know.
November 12, 2004
Went over to Cthulhia's yesterday, taking advantage of the day off, and chatted about games and puzzles before playing a few games, including two new to me, with her and DougO who was also there. While we chatted, Cthulhia worked on her Pysansky project (very pretty wax painted egg shells).
The first game we played was Snap which really should be called Snap Dragon as the game is all about connecting domino like tiles (2x1 shape that is) with Dragon graphics of body segments, tails and heads in three colors. The tiles are neat in that they only snap together when the colors of the dragons match correctly so the physical game components nicely enforce the rule of keeping dragon colors matching. The game is somewhat too tactical and defensive so not too many big dragons are made but it is pretty enough that I may still buy a copy and try to think of variants to improve the gameplay a bit.
Later, we played the newly released Sid Sackson game Buy Word which is basically a multiplayer solitaire version of Scrabble. Despite the solitaire aspect, I still quite enjoyed it. The only real negative was the downtime while others were trying to make words but you weren't ready to yet, but we managed to parallelize this a bit more than the game called for, which was good. This game really encourages making very long words (and also using lots of rare letters), which can be as long as 14 letters in the most extreme case. I drew a lot of the high-scoring letters and made the word "Muzzles" to score a very large number of points and carry me to the win.
We finished with a game of Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers which is a fine game but I significantly prefer the basic game with the two main early expansions (Expansion and Builders & Traders).
October 18, 2004
Games Weekend at Matt's
Went Friday and Saturday to Matt's semiannual TrashCon gaming weekend and had a very good time. Played tons of Tichu (and I think won every game except the one where my partner was a relative newbie [and he did quite well given his experience - thought for a long time on several obvious plays but then did the right thing]) and Crokinole (where Rob and I lost like 4 of 5 against Greg and Bill on Matt's cheap Amazon board which was surprising but Bill has gotten much better than he used to be - also every game was pretty close except our one win which was a one round 110-0 drubbing).
I also ran a small $5 buy-in poker tournament using my new chips from CostCo (excellent buy at $60 for 500 chips [12 cents a chip] and a pretty nice aluminum case with a couple of Bicycle decks and some Craps dice). Lost half my stack on like the 3rd hand of the game to Alex's pocket aces when I had top pair - I had a bad feeling about this hand but couldn't bring myself to fold it. I then staged a pretty incredible recovery from down to 65 (out of a starting 1000) by tripling up twice. Unfortunately, I was then knocked out on a hand when I had top pair of Aces with a bad kicker and called Alec down to the river, worried he had an Ace and a better kicker. Turned out he only had KJ and I was way ahead the whole way until he hit a 10 on the river to make Broadway and knock me out but the great majority of the money went in while I had a huge lead and he had only 4 outs so I certainly didn't do anything wrong here. Brian and Kim ended up splitting at the end.
The final major event was Rob's Haste Worte trivia game which my team finally won for the first time, after being second many times. We had a strong team with everyone heavily contributing answers and me being mainly responsible for the bidding. I think I did a nice job, until the very last bid where I misjudged the leading team and thought they would bid at least 8 and make it and we were 4 behind so I thought we had to bid 12. Unfortunately, they only bid 4 and the team in 2nd only bid 5 so we only needed to have bid 9 to win which would have been easy. Also, the 4th team made the worst possible spoiler bid for us of 12 and I was sure we were screwed. However, amazingly we were able to make our 12 reading last, but down to the dregs of our answers - great job guys on thinking of obscure breakfast cereals. Of course, for the first time, there was no prize for the winning team ;( (not that I actually care but others on the team might have). I thought the categories this time were pretty good, with no nightmare issues like the Olympics one last year. No categories I was personally really good at but thats ok. My personal favorite category was the '"Fictional Drinks" one which turned out to be surprisingly large but we couldn't think of that many and probably also underbid it by 1 due to a misunderstanding I had with Rob over the handicap he was imposing that round on the leading teams. The game was slow as always but I at least still found it quite enjoyable. As it is the reading of the lists that takes forever, I think a wise thing would be for many people to play a game on the side or read or something while only the team readers (and anyone else interested) is there for the reading - this would also probably speed things up as the peanut gallery effect would be reduced.
Thanks, Matt, and Happy Brithday!
August 13, 2004
Small NYT puzzle hunt
There is a small and not too difficult puzzle hunt by the New York Times online. Ten puzzles and then a final Meta.
August 10, 2004
World Boardgaming Championships AAR
Its something of a tradition after the WBC to write an After Action Report (AAR) so I figured I would do one here. There is going to be some gaming minutiae that will only be understood by those who know the games so apologies about that (and the extreme length) in advance for those who don't know the games or care.
I drove down on Tuesday with Marty and Mark (who I was rooming with since Michael couldn't make it again this year) who were kind enough to pick me up at my place on their way down from New Hampshire. We took Michael's western route and both ways the trip from/to my house was about 8.5 hours, including a lunch and gas stop. We then checked in to the hotel and I watched a game of Tichu and said hello to lots of people there until the events started in the evening. Unfortunately, nothing I really cared about was going on that evening but I played in a runaway (not by me) game of Atlantic Storm and I think later Ra which I won.
The Titan tournaments started Wednesday morning and I began trying to defend my 2 Player win of last year. I got of to a great start beating Sean McCulloch on great dice on turn 3 (after going first) with Wlo Wlo attack. Nothing he could have done about it and obviously not an interesting game but an easy advance. My 2nd round game ended up getting delayed a bunch until David dJ and I played after dinner (which he was nice enough to treat me to at the expensive hotel restaurant). I made a memory mistake leading to a bad attack and then also rolled poorly to leave him strong enough to kill my Titan stack on a 6 which he promptly did - a major mistake on my part which I was made to pay for in the worst way and David went on to win the tournament. I am not nearly as good at the memory part of this game as most of the other top players but this was a horrible error early in a 2p game where there just isn't that much to track.
In other events I managed to qualify for the later rounds of Star Wars: Queen's Gambit (in an excellent game with Phil Rennert that was by far the closest of this I have ever played), Ra and Medici but ended up not playing in any of them due to time constraints (mostly from the very long Titan events). In Alhambra, I qualifed for the semis and played in them but got very unlucky with a horrible initial money deal of 7-8-9 Yellow (and never even got to use any of these in an exact purchase the whole game). However, despite this I was fully in contention until I made a massive blunder, effectively costing me two entire turns later in the game. Two properties with no walls were available for exact cost but unfortunately they couldn't fit in my palace. However, I was in a position to overpay for another property which I could then place first and afterwards (but on the same turn) fit in the others and really open up my palace again. Unfortunately, I made an idiotic blunder and overpaid for the Fourth property (a better color but the wrong wall configuration to allow in the exact buys) so I had to put the exact buys in my Reserve - a total disaster. I still managed a solid second but would have had an excellent change to win if not for this blunder. This 4player game also featured an incredible number of ties at the end including 2 3-way ties - many more ties than I have ever seen.
Other interesting games were the late night Liar's Dice tournament which I just made it into and went against Chuck (thanks for the delicious cherries that were all I ate this day) and Rick among others. Despite carefully not sitting next to him, Chuck made a bluff early on that painfully cost me 3 dice. Rick was greatly favored by having a newbie on his left who seemed unwilling to challenge almost anything, and by rolling incredibly lucky dice at the end. Despite my early loss of dice, it came down to Rick with 3 and Chuck and I each with 1 but for his last 3 rolls Rick rolled 3s of a kind and won easily. I went out last with a challenge I knew would lose but no possible raise.
In the Battle Line tournament, I drew the co-GM (and excellent player and all-time AvalonCon/WBC plaque winner) Bruce Reiff in my 4 player pod. Not surprisingly, we both won breakthroughs against our first two opponents (me despite terrible cards and Bruce in one game with so good cards at the start that he had basically won after the opening deal) and faced each other for the chance to advance. In this game, I had much better cards than before (although probably only a little better than Bruce's this game) and quickly won two neighboring central flags. I then decided to play an early Traitor for the win unless Bruce had the right Tactics card (one of two possible saves) to respond. Unfortunately, he did and from that point things went badly for me. First off, I didn't pay enough attention and let him draw the last Tactics card giving him a big edge. I also twice had difficult decisions over where to play a certain card and after making a choice immediately drew a card to make it the wrong choice - Doh! I perhaps should have played Scout at one of these points but I find the card weak and didn't want to be in a position of not being able to play a Tactics. Still, with Bruce's advantage in # of Tactics cards, this was probably a very bad decision and I should have overcome my anti-Scout prejudice. Anyway, with all of these things and Bruce drawing a bunch of important Troop cards, he won at the end with a 5-4 win even without needing to utilize his Tactics card advantage.
The multi-player Titan tournament, which is the tournament I care most about and which I haven't won in all 8 tries here (and 3 elsewhere) became something of a comedy of the absurd for me. I started off the tournament in a game where I was by far the most experienced player and ended up being in a significantly leading position (only due to one player not taking advantage of absolutely incredible rolls to run away with the game as he 100% should have) but then made an attack of Ttn13 Angx2 Ran Cycx3 (Archangel call) against Giax2 Ang Wbex2 in the Tundra. I (and all the experienced players I talked to later) thought this attack was a slam dunk but somehow (absolutely shockingly to me) he managed to get a mutual out of it (did require some lucky dice from him but nothing really outrageous). After the battle, I decided it had just been a terrible mistake but before the battle I just couldn't fathom it being so bad. Anyway, after this incredibly painful loss, I managed to do horrible in the preliminary round (which allows you to play 6 games and then takes the 16 best overall finishers) with a mere 2nd and three 3rds and two 4ths. This was massively worse than my results in any other Titan tournament where usually I will get 2 wins in 4 games or so. Amazinlgy, the attendance this year for Titan was very poor and this horrible showing put me 18th in the ordering. In most events, this would give me a good chance to advance as some people don't show up but that is rarely the case in Titan. The event takes enough effort that usually all 16 players always show up. However, this year there were two people who Bruno thought might not show up so I decided to show up in the morning and hope. By the 9 AM start time, unfortunately for me both of these people had showed up but one other (the eventual winner of the game I blew earlier, as it happened) and the 17th player (first alternate before me) had not. However, I thought at least one of them would so when Eric came down to get me for the Ra semi-final which I was also in I decided to bail on my chance at Titan and play Ra. Unfortunately (at the time), when I arried for Ra, the GM gruffly told me I was out (which I thought really mean and inappropriate given the situation but didn't want to debate so simply left). When I returned to the Titan room (now expecting to miss both semis) however, nobody else had shown up so I began to hope again. At 9:13 (with Bruno calling things at 9:15), incredibly Eric returned to tell me the Ra GM had screwed up and I was back in but by this point I decided to stay and hope and watched the clock till 9:15 when I finally sat down to play (turned out the missing person had gotten some sort of short-term stomach thing but was fine by later in the evening).
I got lucky to score a bunch of early points in my semi-final when quite new and very young player Teddy made an unwise split and bad roll and I caught him for almost 200 points. The game then to a degree turned Kyle's way as he killed Phil but he then made a (IMO unwise) attack on me that just barely resulted in giving me 2 Angels and Teleport at 401 points (he had mistakenly thought it was a few less points) despite his rolling much better than me in the battle but not quite good enough. This attack also opened up a 1 in 3 attack on his Titan and I immediately rolled a 6 and made the 4 on 3 attack (with Angel call). I managed to find an acceptable setup but Kyle moved in and rolled an amazing 15 hits (all on skill 4) when he rated for about 10 giving him a serious chance in the battle. However, I rolled average (just enough to get my Angel in) when I needed it and engaged him and took him out (with very good rolls at this point) without my Titan even being involved to take the win. I was very glad to be past Kyle's lucky dice (and excellent batteboard play).
In fact my semi-final game ended hours before the others but in the end it would be my friend and teammate Dave Finberg (for whom this was his team game), Russ (from Seattle) and Joe in the final after an excellent (and reviving) steak dinner with Bruno, Chuck and the Seattle guys. The game was in flux when Russ's Titan stack made an optional attack on Dave's Angel stack. Unfortunately, Russ fought the battle (which he should win but at significant cost) in an incredibly too risky fashion and Dave won the battle with ease and his stack was actually better than it started and with a ton of points. This move really should have virtually ended the game in Dave's favor and I was pretty much demoralized. However, Dave then a few turns later attacked 7 on 5 with his Titan stack against Joe's Angel stack in the Marsh. Joe took maximum advantage of the terrain and a bunch of one-off rolls by Dave to completely strip Dave's Titan to Ttn10 (Ang for the battle). Two turns later, he then caught Dave's Titan with his Titan stack and won the battle comfortably at the loss of one of his two Behemoths. I thought this attack was a good move but the end result did leave Joe somewhat behind me in stacks and recruiting, both of us with about 200 points. I then focused almost all my efforts on trapping Joe and did succeed at preventing him recruiting but he managed to get upstairs and seemed likely to escape. However, after he rolled a 2 I rolled a great 6 enabling me to block his Titan's only route down in the Hills with a 7 stack he likely couldn't beat and my Titan stack in the perfect spot 2 behind to kill him if he came down on a 1 or managed to beat my 7 stack (which wasn't likely). He rolled a 5 or so on his next turn and decided (wisely I think) to come down and make the Hills attack (after miraculously _winning_ an irrelevant Gar Gar against Gar Cyc in the Woods attack). He was Ttn8 Ang Beh Ranx2 Tro (no Ang call) attacking Angx2 Beh Gua Cycx3 and definitely needed to get lucky to win and didn't. Luck was pretty average and this definitely favored me and I finally took the multiplayer Titan plaque. There also turned out to be a reporter for the Towson Times there who had been talking to Don, Bruno and Jay and then interviewed Dave, Joe and I at the end of the game and promised me a copy of the article. He was a very nice guy and Bruno did a great job of taking him around and explaining things. The funny thing about this tournament is that I won no more than my share of games (two out of the eight I played) and so despite winning the tournament, my rating in the game (which is very high) will assuredly drop by quite a bit (not that I care).
I also probably played at least as many open-gaming games as I did tournament games throughout the week, mostly with the Titan crew and had a great time with these. I played liked 10 Tichu games (with some 15 different players, none of whom I had to teach from scratch amazingly) with the Titan group but also with Rich Z, Snoop, Chuck, Bob, Tom and others. Also taught and/or played St Petersburg, San Juan and Power Grid in open gaming. I thought I was pretty good at San Juan but got my butt kicked (despite no obvious mistakes I am sure of) in the heat of this I played, coming in last (two players did have opening Prefactures). Either I am not as good as I think or I got an unlucky draw of opponents or there really is more luck in this than I thought (like I couldn't draw any building above a 4 for the second half of the game).
The game dominating open gaming this year was Texas Hold 'em no-limit tournament poker. I didn't manage to play at all myself but it was getting played every night, at least in one case in a 3+ table tournament of like 30 people. I think the standard scheme was a $5 buy-in and I heard no objections to this. Other very popular open games were St Petersburg, Tichu (even when I wasn't in it), and Power Grid.
In the course of the week, I also had an early political discussion (it seemed the vast majority of attendees were anti-Bush) and a Lord of the Rings movies discussion. Not surprisingly, these strategy gamers agreed with me that the military maneuvers in Return of the King were utterly idiotic in the movie.
Thanks to David, Alan, Chuck, Bruno and the Seattle Titan guys (missed you, Andy) for excellent dinners and conversation. Thanks to Mark and Marty for driving (with out of the way door to door service for me) and conversation. Thanks to Eric with his very generous help over the Ra semi fiasco. Thanks to all the GMs but particularly the incredibly generous Bruno for time out to run their games, teach players, spread the word of the con and so much more.
July 23, 2004
Tichu last night
Played a couple of games of Tichu last night at Matt's and the second one was pretty crazy and painful. After winning the first game (different players), the second game ended up being Nate and I against Kim and Pete. Unfortunately, lots of crazy things happened and decisions which might have been a normally good choice kept going wrong for us. Early on I stopped Pete's Grand but probably should have overcalled it and didn't and then soon after I conservatively didn't call a Tichu I would probably make. I also stopped a Tichu of Kim's when I noticed a straight flush bomb in my hand halfway through the hand and after, without paying attention, playing a Queen that was luckily not the Red one I needed for the bomb. I can't remember how long its been since I had a bomb and didn't notice it but I guess I was very tired and out of it last night.
Shortly thereafter was a crazy hand where Kim called Tichu and Nate overcalled her and yet I had TWO chances to go out first with nothing either of them could do about it. Unfortunately, I decided to hope Nate was right to overcall and passed up both my chances to give him a shot and the end result was that Kim made HER Tichu. The key problem point on this hand was when Kim led a 9 card straight (leaving her with 2 cards) and Nate was playing next and agonized for forever before playing a 9 card straight which included a bomb in it (which Nate hadn't noticed - Doh!) and the Phoenix. This was extremely painful as I could have beaten the straight with ease (it was in fact a perfect lead into my hand) and that Kim didn't have a pair anyway so Nate could have just passed and probably gone out when she led a single even if I didn't beat the straight.
A couple of hands later Kim called Grand and I went into the pass with 4666999QQQKKKA (FOUR Triples) and decided to pass 49A with the idea that I'd be more likely to get passed a 6 to me and that with the Queens and Kings the height of the other Trips wasn't that imporant. Amazingly, though, Kim and Pete had Full Houses of 8s over AND 7s over respectively and I would have ended up stopping the Grand if I had just kept the 9 and passed the 6. I also made a questionable decision to with KKK3 play a King and then Kim immediately after led TTT and I couldn't beat it.
Finally, on the last hand of the game I called a risky Grand but then ended up with enough that I should be able to make it. Pete then even led a perfect-length for me 7 card straight right into me. However, he turned out to have a pat hand of AA Full House (incl. the Phoenix) for his remaining cards and there was nothing I could do about him going out when I led a a second single. Worst of all, Kim then turned out to have a bomb and to go out 2nd to end the game with a blast. Very painful game but also shows whats so good about Tichu - many, many interesting non-obvious decisions even after over 500 games lifetime.
June 30, 2004
Bluff and Crokinole
Ended up playing only two different games last night but had a really good time with both of them. We started off with Bluff and it came down to 3 of us all with 1 die left (largely due to a bunch of exact bids) before I and then Matt exited giving Greg the win. I exited in a situation where no move I could make could save me as the highest possible bid had already been made when it came to me. We also had a case at the start where a 19 bid was challenged (obviously after much showing and rerolling) and there ended up being like 21 (of 30) I think.
Greg, Alex, Matt and I then switched to Crokinole with the plan being to play 1 game and then see. However, for various reasons we ended up playing FOUR straight games with Greg (with whom I had my regular $1 wager on each game) and Alex taking the 1st and 4th and Matt and I taking the middle two games. Greg and I then decided to play a final mano-a-mano game to end the night which turned out to be an epic battle and probably my favorite playing ever. Both of us were consistently shooting well with only a couple big blunders over the entire course of the contest which went something like 15 rounds (or 180 discs shot each) as neither of us could gain a big edge ever and so only like 5 or 10 points were scored most rounds. Finally, in the last game with the score 80 to 80 and me having a puck off (scoring 20) I had a final free shot. If I sank it, I would guarantee the win but if I didn't I would probably only end up scoring like 5 points as Greg would boot it and score 15. The pressure was on but I dropped it in and Greg conceded as his last shot couldn't do enough to save him. Great game!
June 29, 2004
Link: Origins Review
Very interesting Origins review by Greg Costikyan, who's often interesting blog I read. Some things were making me think I should have gone to Origins but this report certainly doesn't encourage me. It really is amazing just how badly the Origins Awards are handled - mostly bad games nominated in bad and nonsensical categories and apparently they don't even credit the game designers - lame and tacky in the extreme. If I had known that Knizia would be there, however, it definitely would have helped encourage me to go. I'll see how I feel about things next year. Apparently CABS runs a Titan tournament too which is at least a bit of incentive although I doubt the level of play is anywhere near that at WBC.
Matt's regular TrashCon party was over the weekend and I made it on Friday evening and Saturday. I had a nice time with the board games and a bunch of close Tichu games with comeback wins but the party games (Celebrities on Friday evening and Rob's Haste Worte game on Saturday) I didn't think went great. This turns out to be a quite long commentary about why; sorry about that.
For Celebrities, the same problems as usual come up: 1) The game result is almost completely determined by the random team selction - I got two partners who knew very little and we did poorly every round as expected. 2) The 'theme decks' people put in do NOT help the game. Jerry put in 6 baseball players and it isn't much fun trying to distinguish between them. People also put in obscure people that almost nobody has ever heard of (and not uncommonly make it worse by getting their names wrong) so that drawing these people is a disaster and hugely benefits the person who put it in since he is the only person in the game with any real chance of guessing it. 3) The crowd at this event has a few people who really want to engage in petty rule arguments that drive 90% of the people absolutely crazy and unfortunately as I know the game best I often get drawn into these arguments despite my hate for them. This time I at least avoided that. I think with this group a moderator with total authority is the only solution to this. The difference between the quick, laid back, no rules arguments game of this (well, Time's Up) the prior week in Atlanta and this was like night and day - the Atlanata play I'd rate a 9 and this one like a 4.
Rob's Haste Worte game unfortunately also had some issues, some of which were problems Rob could avoid and others probably not. First off, for every category Rob needs to be really clear about the rules, particularly the IMHO stupid rule about shared words between answers eliminating ALL of those answers. I would suggest just tossing this rule but Rob does the worst thing of all and sometimes applies it and sometimes doesn't. I understand why he does this but if he is going to do this, he needs to be incredibly clear when announcing the category what the ruling on this issue for this category will be. He also needs to be incredibly clear how specific answers must be and then consistently apply that ruling; both of these things turned out to be a huge issue for the Olympic Events category. Another issue is that he needs to have arranged all the possible answers into a listing where he can check answers incredibly quickly as the answering part of the game massively slows the game down. For the Olympics question, he claimed at first the USA didn't win a medal in Sydney in the Decathlon which I knew was wrong but despite an objection, he didn't find this and fix it until several teams later. Eliminating the duplicate word rule would also speed this up. He also needs to accept answers not on his list if a large group of people on multiple teams agree they are a legitimate answer - with a good category this shouldn't be any issue as he should have a definitive list. In a 150+ minute game, teams spent like 24 minutes thinking of answers and this just won't do.
I was personally also pretty annoyed with my team over the bidding. On the very first answer I, who was definitely the most experienced at the game and who best understood the bidding scheme, told them that we should go 4 as we would definitely get it but 5 would be quite risky (and this is an all or nothing game). They decided to go 5 and we got only 4 (and would have trivially gotten 4 if we had bid that as would have gone much earlier). However, having messed this one up, they then wanted to be conservative which is the wrong approach as we are now in last place and need to catch up. I was fortunately able to convince enough people to make a reasonable bid most times although sometimes had to guarantee in advance we would make it (which was always correct, although sometimes very close). However, when it came to the WorldCon Guests of Honor question, a question which I was almost certainly the most knowledgable person in the room about, a majority of the team refused to bid more than 3 when I had no doubts whatever about 4 and felt we could go 5 with little risk. We of course made our 3. However, after ALL teams had scored their points, I looked at Rob's list and it turned out we had 5 more answers nobody had said so we could have gone 8, not that even I wanted to do that.
June 09, 2004
Played Attika for the first time face-to-face 2 player and as I expected I really enjoyed it that way (I had played a few times on BrettSpielWelt and enjoyed it but the inability to see the gestalt of the game at once I found really annoying and made me make quite a few mistakes). The multiplayer game, although it hasn't happened yet in my plays, has too much potential for problems due to one player threatening a connection victory and then the other players doing a mix of not noticing, not reasonably being able to respond, choosing not to respond either to let the person have a chance to win or hope someone else does something about it. Even the possibility of this happening hurts the game. With 2 players, there's none of that. If your opponent threatens a connection, you either do something about it or give him a chance to win.
However, I am also convinced that with the basic rules, in a 2 player game the first player has a significant advantage. I think the 2nd player needs to get at least one more extra card (start with 6) and possibly even two more extra cards. We played last night with one more extra and I felt I had the advantage going first and the disadvantage second. Jung was just learning the game and played well but I still had a fair advantage in the first game. The second game was much closer and also much more vicious (as I expect the 2 player game generally will be with good players) with lots of blocking plays but I managed the win in the end. Jung would have been one or two turns behind if he hadn't tried (unsuccessfully) to block me on his last move.
The extra viciousness of the game in 2 player is probably a small negative for me but not as negative as the multi-player aspects of that version. With multiple players, you will generally not want to make a move which hurts someone else if it also hurts you. In 2 player, that move is a good one as long as it hurts you less and this leads to a much more aggressive style of play with tiles constantly next to each other over a long border.
Anyway, excellent game which as a 2 player game I can recommend to the right people unreservedly. The multiple player game is also very good but only if played with a certain style of play where players see connection threats and try to block them in a rational way, not forcing another player to fall on his sword to stop a connection (an action which such a player should in no way feel obligated to do even if the person will 100% win the game if he thinks he will almost certainly lose even if he makes the block, given the very high cost).
June 08, 2004
Goa to St Petersburg and Pounce
Played three games which were new to me last night and all of them were excellent. In fact I may very well have to buy all three. I probably only buy like 1 in 10 or less of games I play so to go 3 for 3 is pretty incredible (and probably the first time it has happened in many years at least).
The first game is brand new and is called St Petersburg. It is a money management game with an interesting mechanism where the only effect players have on each other is to buy things up so that the others can't get them, but this turns out to be highly significant. I made a few mistakes and got very unlucky at the end or otherwise would have probably had a very close second and perhaps even won.
The second game played, Pounce, is an older one which I have heard recommended but hadn't had a chance to play but now there is a new edition which Sean brought. Each player in the game is either one of several Mice or the single Cat (a role which moves around) trying to catch the Mice. It is basically a reaction game all about quick reflexes based on reading a couple of dice and taking the appropriate action depending on the roll. I don't have very good reflexes so didn't expect to be very good at it, not that with this kind of a game that matters that much as long as one has fun with it, but surprisingly I was quite good. As a Mouse, there were 3 of the 5 of us reasonably equal and two very slow, ineffective mice. However, as the Cat, I was vicious to the Mice, much more effective than anyone else for some reason. Most Cats would take maybe 8 or so attacks to catch all but one of the mice which is the end condition for a 'round' with the one uncaught Mouse becoming the new Cat. I was able to catch all, or all but one of them, usually in 3 attacks or less and at least once in just 1 attack. Anyway, I thought it was very fun and am sure I wouldn't play very much but could have a really good time when I do and it only costs $12. I asked Sean to pick me up a copy from the store he got it at.
Finally, we played Goa, another brand new game which was quite long (2.5 hours or so) but very good. It has a lot in common with the good game Industrial Waste in that it is mostly multi-player solitaire except for the auctions and it also shares a number of specific mechanisms. However, both the solitaire game and the auctions are much more interesting here. The only thing that bothered me at all about the game was that the scores were incredibly close at the end, so close that it seemed pretty random who won. However, I think all the players were quite skilled gamers so that may be fine. I definitely could have improved some things I did and there were a number of different strategies to take, all of which seemed viable, as opposed to Industrial Waste where the maximum innovation/quickly reduce waste/produce and sell a lot combination is almost certainly the only good one. Sure, that is three elements to balance but here there is much more going on to think about. I couldn't even consider what others were doing as my own board demanded all my attention, at least in this first game.
I will probably give all of these ratings of 8 +/- .5 for now. I am sure I'll get a chance to play St Petersburg and Goa several times again soon and I'll see how they hold up to repeated play. I really have no worries about Goa but St Petersburg might lose its luster a bit depending on things.
May 25, 2004
It was amazing last night now close 3 of the 5 games I played were. I lost by one point at San Juan and 1 point also (based on the very last action of the whole game by the 3rd place player [an obviously good move for him, the kingmaker effect was just a side-effect]) at Princes of Florence and won on a tiebreaker at Ticket to Ride as I scored far less than all the other players on the board but far more in tickets, the first time I have really played a ticket strategy. Also played and won at Attika and Tutanchamun, both of which I quite like.
May 05, 2004
Games last night
Games last night were fun but what was odd is that every game I played in was a complete blowout as I won hugely at Alhambra, winning by like 40 while the others were within a few points of each other. Then Greg won by 10 (a similar percentage margin) at San Juan with an immediate Prefacture and then an almost optimal building order after that. Finally, new player Bart won by a big margin at Ticket to Ride as Mark and Greg got totally ruined (their overall scores were both near 0 - Greg was actually negative!) by negative play by each other and me and I just didn't do enough to get enough points to have a chance to win unless all three of the others missed tickets.
April 07, 2004
Ticket to Ride
Played this new game last night and I largely agreed with Peter's review of it in the Game Report. In our game, the initial ticket draw largely dominated the game. David got LA-Miami as a ticket which is a beautiful run if you can complete it as it uses 3 6-long routes (and 1 2) and thus scores 47 for the route placements and 20 for the ticket at a a cost of something like 14 turns (10 turns to draw the 20 cards and four to place the routes). This is a huge score per-turn (almost 5) average and once he succeeded at it he largely had the win in hand, especially since he was well on his way to longest total route as well. He even ended up just barely lapping another player.
I, OTOH, had 3 very poor tickets which had no segments at all in common and only one of them used a 6-long route. I did my best with them and completed them but not for nearly as many points (or nearly as long an overall route) as David. The Tickets are worth enough that ignoring them is really not an option but if your route is composed of nothing but short segments (as it was for one player who played almost all 2 long segments), you just can't score enough points. Playing a route composed of 2-long segments scores something like 2 points a turn overall compared to the amazing 5 David was scoring. Alternatively, you blow off your ticket and go for 6's and score 4 points a turn average but then MINUS the ticket cost so proably like 3 points a turn. This is better than the all short segments scheme but not close to the long segments with ticket plan.
I'll try this again but really think the game may be dominated by the initial ticket deal. Blocking is also pretty random and often costly to the person doing it for no certain benefit. Even if it works, it often helps against one player and hurts against the others.
March 31, 2004
Hamburglary crime wave in America
I played the pretty new game Odds'R last night, which was surprisingly a pretty good game but one moment of the game last night was absolutely hillarious, having several of us laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes. I recommend the game for those into party games and who like wagering but are willing to put up with the very high luck level.
The review I link to does a nice job of describing it but I'll give a quick overview here. We played with 3 teams of 2 and the game is a trivia party game where all the questions are about odds and likelihood of events with 3 possible multiple choice answers. The game has a ton of luck in moving around the board and particularly a Free Parking like lottery system which gives a massive reward with no skill whatsoever. The innovative thing about the game is that the team(s) not answering a question get to bet on whether they think the active team will get the question right and can bet as much money as they want. The active team also bets but must bet to try to get the question right and are limited in how much they can bet. Thus, it could be your turn and a question could come up which I am certain you know the answer for but how much should I bet that you will be right? I could bet all my money but then you would only bet the minimum amount and intentionally get the question wrong so I have to be careful. On the other hand, if I think you really have no idea about the question, it isn't unreasonable to bet almost all my money on your being wrong as 2/3 of the time I will double it when you get the question wrong (this is also particularly true since the bizarre lottery scheme gives me a chance to get all my money back even if I'm wrong and you get the question right). I really enjoyed the betting on others scheme and it was also interesting how you could sometimes make guesses about what the question answer is based on how the other teams predicted whether you would be right. If the other teams all said they thought you would get the question wrong, well then probably it isn't the obvious answer and is some sort of trick question - quite interesting information to have in making a guess.
Ok, on to the particular hillarious incident. It turns out that, while all questions have three multiple choice answers, in some cases the third answer is a joke (like a question late in the game was In what Olympic sport has the greatest distance record been set? A) Hammer Throw, B) Discus, C) Dwarf Tossing) so as to effectively make it a 50% question rather than 33%. Other game shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? also commonly have a final choice joke answer for a couple of the early questions.
The first such question we had was: McCrime of the '90s: What crime had more occurences of in the 90's? A) Larceny, B) Burglarly, C) Hamburglary. Also, remember that 4 of us (the teams not answering the question) had already seen the answer and made bets on whether the active team would get it right (I think we bet for and the other team bet against but am not certain of their bet). Well, the active team was David (our host) and Alex, who was a very nice guy there for only his second time. Alex seriously though the answer was Hamburglary (presumably the stealing of hamburgers like in the ancient McDonalds add by the Hamburglar character) and his main argument was "Why would they put it in it wasn't right?". David realized it was a joke but Alex kept defending it and wanting to go with it for something like 5 minutes. This sent the rest of us into hysterical laughter as we couldn't believe someone would actually want to guess this and defend it vociferously. Despite our laughter which should have been a dead giveaway that the answer was not Hamburglary, Alex persisted in pushing for it. Finally, David convinced him it was probably a joke and they got the answer right (Larceny). I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did over this debate. Alex of course got some good natured joshing about this for the rest of the night but I'm going to make a point of not bringing it up in future as it might otherwise become a sore point.
ps. Another nice feature of the game is the plastic poker chips used for money. Not nearly as nice as Clay chips but so much better than paper money. Kudos for this choice to Eagle Games.
March 18, 2004
TrashCon at Matt's
Crazily, I went out almost immediately upon my return Saturday night to Matt's for games, particularly Rob's Haste Worte, and laundry ;) I had a good team for the HW game and really enjoyed the game, which we probably should have won but barely lost on the tiebreaker question. We knew more answers but bid slightly too high. It is a bit of an odd game in design but does work pretty well in practice. Played Tichu afterwards till 1AM in a very close game which we barely won. I avoided the Celebrities game due to the debates that happened the last time and think I am going to stick to that plan for the future unless we make some changes. With other groups, I'll happily keep playing this excellent game.
March 01, 2004
Phantom Menace - Queen's Gambit
I happened to accidentally tape (and later watch) the ending of Star Wars: A Phantom Menace last night which I hadn't seen since it came out. I was reminded and amazed at how good a job the game Star Wars: Queen's Gambit does of simulating the final battles and really bringing out the experience with all the cool pieces and multiple battles. Really fun game and really good representation!
December 11, 2003
Well, the second episode of Celebrity Poker was even worse than the first one with again a ton of luck and a bad player winning. Several of the players had basically never played Hold 'em before. This may be off the list.
On the other hand, the World Poker Tour had the first new episode in a long time, not the start of the season but a special invitational 'Ladies' Night' event with six of the best women players in the world. This game was really well played and although a surprising pair ended up on top, they played very well and had the luck. The back and forth ending was particularly amazing as the cards entirely favored one and then the other. This was probably my second favorite WPT episode after the amazing second Gus win one.
October 27, 2003
Played a bunch of games Saturday at Doug's and then C&C's, finishing the night off winning a small No-Limit Hold'em Poker tournament which was nice since I really don't think I am that good at this.
Also played Crokinole, Zendo, Alhambra, two really close games of Tichu and three games of Blokus, all excellent games. I decided to definitely go ahead and buy Blokus which has very cool bits as well as being an excellent game. I am still unsure whether to bother buying Alhambra given I already have it's predecssor, Stimmt So!
September 02, 2003
Went to games days and parties every day of the long weekend and had a really nice time at Joe's, Andy's and Rob's. The only memorable new game I played was Killer Bunnies which was memorable in a very bad way - horribly bad game in all respects.
I also tried a quick 'teach' of square dancing at Andy's and plan to go to the introductory MIT class tonight although I have no idea if I will continue with it, even if I really like it, due to the bad evening and other issues.
July 28, 2003
Games before WBC
Went to MIT SGS for the first time in a while on Friday and, walking in, didn't recognize almost anybody which was pretty amazing and great that there are a bunch of new people. Turned out, though, that a bunch of friends were downstairs having a beer so I went and joined them, seeing several people which I hadn't seen in a while. We then went back up to the War Room and played two good games of Euphrat & Tigris.
Yesterday, Brian came over and we played Titan, Star Wars: Queen's Gambit and Battle Line, all games I really like and all games which I may be playing this coming week at the World Boardgaming Championships in Maryland and I needed the practice.
July 22, 2003
Games: Outpost and Merchant of Venus
Played both of these great but older ('92 and '88 respectively) games on Saturday. In both cases, I wish I had more chances to play them but most of the people I play with have some antipathy towards longer games. These two both have some other issues as well in that Outpost has terrible components and is rightly nicknamed "Math in Space" and Merchants has a ton of little chits which German gamers aren't that used to. Both are still highly recommended however.
July 18, 2003
Games: The Golden Deuce and Game Design
Played The Golden Deuce last night which is another game based on the traditional Chinese game Zheng Fen and relatives, as are Tichu and Gang of Four and others. The game isn't terrible but nor is it good. The main innovations it has are a board which is used for scoring but adds absolutely nothing to the game and is a bit confusing as to how it works and the very bad idea that when a player passes he draws another card. This later change causes one to be unable to reasonably plan how to play a hand as your cards will change as the hand progresses. Overall, the game is mediocre and I'll probably give it a 5.
What is interesting about all of these games is how well they show how tricky game design is. Both this one and Gang of Four are very similar to Tichu but the small (but very important) differences of Tichu make it a much better game (and I mean orders of magnitude better). The Devil is in the Details. I've never wanted to design games myself and don't think I have the creativity for it but the details are something I am quite good at, or at least in realizing where they are wrong even if I don't know how to fix them.
July 16, 2003
The Economic side of Online Games
Julian Dibbell is a professional write turned professional Ultima Online player and is chronicling the experience in his blog - Play Money. The blog is fascinating and Dibbell is an excellent writer for this (he has also written a book on MUDs (or a Moo actually) called My Tiny Life). A particular post I would recommend is this one on the tax implications of all of this, even for the people who are just players and not in it at all for the economic stuff.
Before taking to it himself, Dibbell also wrote an article for Wired on the Ultima economy.
For myself, I was playing a lot of Diablo II online a while back and did make one purchase (around $20) and one sale (around $50 and my only eBay sale ever) for real money. After I stopped playing, I unwisely let my characters die out with all their stuff due to inactivity at a loss of probably a few hundred dollars in value.
Games: Blowout Tichu game
I think last night's Tichu game was the biggest blowout game I have ever seen. We played 5 hands and the score was 1200 to -300 with Melissa and I winning. We had 2 one-twos, three Tichus, one Grand and on average ALL the card points in the three hands they were counted (95, 100, and 105 I believe) while they missed a Grand (in the one hand we didn't call a Tichu) and missed an overcalled Tichu. Pretty amazing but of course it was by far mostly just lucky cards.
July 09, 2003
Kingmaker in Ad Acta
I played the game Ad Acta last night for the first time. It is a pretty interesting game with the unusual theme of being bueracrats shuffling files around and trying the get the right file processed at the right time. Unfortunately, this game for me was completely ruined at the end by a kingmaker situation (where a player who can't win or even improve his own positions decides who among the other players will win). There were three of us and two of us were very close at the end while the third person was basically out of it. He had one more file to process but it would have gained him very little to do so and he decided instead to spend the last two turns entirely working against me. The result was the score was something like 26-24-20 (he had the 20) whereas otherwise it would have been something like 30-26-20. He took the attitude that this improved his relative (percentage scoring) while I in his situation would have figured I can't affect my position in the game so I will do the best I can for myself (trying to process the last file to get to like 22) or at least not interfere with the two players in contention. Either is a reasonable choice to make, but from my perspective I felt like I played well for 90% of the game only to have it become a 2-1 game for the last 10% and leave me no chance to win and this was demoralizing as it made me feel the first 90% of the game was pointless.
I may not play this game again despite liking the first part, worried this will be a common occurence. Maybe, though, it wouldn't happen in the four player version.
June 15, 2003
Went to Matt's games party, TrashCon, Friday and Saturday. Played lots of Tichu and a few other things including Rob's trivia game. Nice time. Not quite as many people as recently, probably due to it being Father's Day weekend, but still a very good crowd.
June 10, 2003
Poker: Fifth Street
Just read a cool article last night from Harper's by a writer who made it to the final table of the 2000 World Series of Poker main event, no-limit hold 'em. He has also written it in book form in Positively Fifth Street which I will probably get out from the library at some point but this apparently also includes a bunch of non-poker stuff which I am unlikely to be interested in. I highly recommend the article as an excellent write-up of one person's view of tournament poker at the highest level. Thanks, Peter and Dave.
May 29, 2003
World Poker Tour in LA
I've been watching the World Poker Tour for a while on the Travel Channel and its been quite interesting but last night's episode at the Commerce Casino was definitely the best I've seen. I am not surprised that Gus won for a second time (I didn't see the first one) as his aggression clearly had the other players terrified, even very good players like Andy Bloch. Having watched Gus bet and showdown terrible hands, clearly trying to later set up traps, the other players seemed terrified of betting into him and thus possibly walking into a trap. Interestingly, Gus even seemed to benefit from being in early position, totally against the norm, as it allowed him to dictate the play and nobody was daring to raise him, even when he checked. I could never play anything like his style but it seemed damn effective last night. His bluffs also successfully bought him a bunch of calls of bigger bets later, just as he wanted. He really did get screwed in the hand where the player getting kicked out hit QQ on the Turn and announced it, causing Daniel to bail when otherwise Gus might have taken him for a bunch and still went on to win. Well played, Gus.
May 28, 2003
This is a game which in theory I quite like but there often seem to be problems in playing it. The basic idea of the game is that players make little clay sculptures which the other players then try to guess what they are which is a very neat idea. Unfortunately, I think the scoring system is quite problematic and encourages various behaviors which are not helpful to the game. I therefore take the principal that I will do my best but I will ignore the scoring system as far as trying to 'game the system'. Others, however, are not bound by this and do things like misorienting a figure during the early stages when guesses of it would cost them points and then reorienting it correctly when guesses start to result in positive points which to me is just plain not cool. Also, people seem to have a lot of trouble answering the simplest questions, either to be intentionally misleading or to be incredibly pedantic. Last night, a person made a 'dolphin' sculpture and was asked 'Does this animal [we already knew it was an animal] mostly live in the water?' He answered 'No' because it always lives in the water and was not trying to screw around, but just being ridiculously pedantic. The last time I played, someone made a 'pencil' and was asked 'Is this object used for writing?' and answered 'it can be' to intentionally confuse people when 'Yes' was assuredly the only reasonable answer (all unspecified questions are assumed in this game to have a 'predominantly' modifier on them).
There was also a funny and sad thing in that one person had made a shape that looked much like a 'bullet' but two of us guessed that and it was wrong. We later learned it was made mostly of metal, was found in a home but not a kitchen, and was around 1-2 inches long. In addition, three of us had 3 letters for it: I knew it was B*RY and two others knew it was BAT* and yet it remained unguessed. I finally figured out it was a battery but by then (5 minutes late) was out of guessing cubes and couldn't guess that and win. I don't know why we all had so much trouble with it.
May 27, 2003
Memorial Day Gaming
Played games at two different locations yesterday. First up was Mare Nostrum which was very pretty and had some neat elements but the diplomacy factor was just too high for me and I think there are a few other difficulties as well. I won with the Pyramids sudden-death victory which also significantly shortened the game.
I then played Amun-Re and made quite a few mistakes, definitely my worst played game of this. I surpirisingly came back to be only a few points off the lead as I played an 'all or nothing' strategy at the end which paid off.
At Nick's, I taught two people Carcassonne and enjoyed it more than usual. We then played Celebrities but I realize more and more that I vastly prefer to play with the set names of Time's Up, particularly since one person I regularly play with consistently puts in names that basically none of the other players have ever heard of. This is both no fun for the other players and a significant advantage for his team as he is the only person who could reasonably figure out these names. We regularly throw out more than half the names he puts in after the first round (often by a 6-2 or 7-1 vote as well) but the damage is done and, despite strenuous objections and his names being thrown out, he keeps doing this. Unfortunately for me, pretty much everyone else prefers Celebrities. In addition, as usual the winning team was quite predictable from the beginning (although with a different randomizing, it could have been a complete blowout). This is not a big deal to me for this game but certainly isn't a good thing. I finally ended the evening with two games of Tichu during which I got terrible cards (no Tichu calls by me in either game which may be a record) and we lost both pretty convincingly with very little we could have done about it. I love this game but once players are all of a certain skill level, it does get to be pretty random, based on which team gets the cards.
May 22, 2003
This whole thing is pretty bizarre. A week ago Sunday, I had a bunch of games in my car to be taken to MIT SGS and a neighbor of mine noticed them and put a note on my car with his email address and noting that he also played German games at his house. I emailed him back and he turns out to literally be my next door-neighbor. Apparently we have both been to at least one even together but that event had 100+ people and I didn't recognize him when we met last night. Interestingly, I din't recognize any of his group. I guess this just goes to show that there are a lot of German gamers in the Boston area!
Well, turns out they play at his house every other week on Wednesday so I went last night and had a nice time. I will probably start going semi-regularly on these every-other Wednesdays.
Played You're Bluffing/Kuhhandel last night for the first time. Bluff trading game of a type I am not a big fan of but I liked this one pretty well. I got blasted in two trades but in most of the others did pretty well and won.
We then closed with Wizard which I used to play all the time and now only rarely but I still really like it. I made every bid in a 6 player game but only ended up 3rd even though I was the only one to do this. I don't think I have ever before seen that happen. There were two reasons for this I think. One was that I just didn't have good cards and so made very low bids and one player kept getting incredible cards so beat me despite missing at least two bids as he was often bidding 3 to my 0 the rest of the time. The other is that I think in general a few more bids than I am used to were made as players weren't quite as nasty as my regular Wizard group used to be. Well played game, however.
May 21, 2003
Game: Balloon Cup
Finally played this last night and liked it much better than I expected. This is the first published game designed by Stephen Glenn, who is a friend of mine and all-around nice guy. However, he and I for the most part like somewhat different games and I thought this one would be too light for me. However, it turns out to, at least on first play, be much deeper than I expected, even heavily encouraging card-counting. The object of the game is to get 3 of the 5 available trophies and I kept hearing that the game always ended 3-2 which suggested to me that it was likely pretty random and just a matter of who got lucky to get the last one. I now think that the 3-2 outcomes, while likely very common, are due to quite a bit of skill in choosing the right battles, taking the right chances and of course some card luck. Recommended after one play. Initial rating: 7.5 and I will definitely buy it. Congratulations, Stephen!
May 06, 2003
Games: Mystery of the Abbey
I just sent this to a couple of games mailing lists but figured to also post it here.
Kudos to Bruno's Mystery of the Abbey site
I just want to express admiration for Bruno Faidutti's web site supporting the new release of Murder in the Abbey (now called Mystery of the Abbey) at http://faidutti.free.fr/jeux/mystere/mystere.html This is probably the best web site by a designer supporting his game I have ever seen. I hope others follow suit in the future!
He provides great information on the history of the game, the graphic design (I also much prefer the Delval cover design), a few FAQ answers, and my favorite of all, the 'Tactical Hints' page at
http://faidutti.free.fr/jeux/mystere/mysteremoines.html .html This is kind of a strategy guide but from the perspective of four different monks with very different personalities and plans. In my first game of the original where I was totally lost, I won playing the "Novice Severin" strategy ;) :
Freshly settled in the Abbey, Novice Severin still carries with him the enthusiasm and naive demeanor of his youth. Watching his brethren with bemused benevolence; he finds it hard to believe that a murder was committed in so sacred a place. Trusting in the judgment of others and his lucky star, he's eager to help and is often the first to run to Chapter Hall.
Try to guess what the other players are thinking, what they are looking for, taking the risk of following them onto wrong leads. Make revelations early and often (assume the culprit is bearded the minute you?ve crossed out more shaved monks, for instance) and do not hesitate to accuse monks that others seem to suspect ? even if you have no proof of your own.
Kudos to Bruno!
ps. I also quite recommend the game although it won't be for everyone as it is a chaotic deduction game which is almost an oxymoron but very well done. I don't yet have my copy of the new version in hand but will soon.
Games: Amun-Re, Ikarus and Cubus
Played the newest Knizia, Amun-Re, over the weekend at Joe's. As usual with Knizia, the number of elements and scoring methods is very large but they are each pretty straightforward. I made a mistake at the beginning and paid the most for what was one of the less good provinces. Still, I managed to recover and only lost by virtue of having 2 dollars less than the winner in what turned out to be a very close game. I definitely like this one the most of the bunch of new stuff I have played recently (New England, Queen's Necklace, ?) and have decided to give it an initial 8 which is also generally my buy point (and I will order it in the next few days). Hopefully it will not lose its luster on further plays. I'd, as usual, be surprised if my rating ever drifts more than a point.
I also played several other games that were new to me. Ikarus was a competitive puzzle solving game but, like Flickwerk, IMHO just doesn't work as a game. The person best at it basically wins every card and others don't stand a chance unless they start taking random shots or other tricks and those things just aren't any fun to me. After two cards, I realized this one really wasn't for me. Brian crushed everyone with 16 while Joe was 2nd with 5. Ricochet Robot remains for me by far the best of these types of games as it isn't just about simple speed and the minute after a solution is found lets other players still find the solution and enjoy the game even if they don't win the chip.
Cubus, a 1986 Reinhold Wittig game, was utterly unique as a puzzle game of stacking abstract boxes, all of which are viewed from a single angle as composites of 2D pieces representing a box left side, right side and top. Boxes which you can't see but which must be there for the boxes you do see to be held up are assumed to be there and one is trying to increase the number of boxes which either are there or must be there. Sound confusing? It is!!! An extreme brain burner puzzle game of spatial visualization. I just didn't really get it and am not 100% I would after a bunch more games. The components also left a lot to be desired as there were only 3 types of pieces but the design was so poor it was unclear which was which. Still, while I may never play again, a very interesting game and a very good group to play it with, all of us semi-grasping it and to a large degree working together to make the best moves and better grasp the game.
April 07, 2003
Played Acquire on Friday in a very unhappy game. I think this was the first time I have played with 3 and wonder if what happened is a common experience with this number. I was pretty well positioned in a lot of the
mergable chains after the initial buying period (before the first merger). However, the first chains merged were the only ones I had nothing in and after that no mergers happened for a good while, during which time the other two players spent their bonus money to make it so my position was much worse. In addition, I only drew one at all useful merger tile really the whole game and could only get 2nd place out of it. I was thus way behind and had no way to catch up but had to sit around for the rest of the game. In addition, my turns, even when buying stock, always took seconds (as I had planned my purchases in advance) while one player was extremely slow, taking probably 3-5 minutes per turn. All in all, this was excruciating and I took to going over to watch another game between turns which isn't that appropriate but I had nothing to do and time between turns was way long. The one chain which I had a full majority in and which started the game as the most central of all the chains ended up being the 3rd to last merger. For a large portion of the game, this two tile chain (with 6 neighboring spots) had 5 merge points.
Very unenjoyable game and I wonder if Acquire regularly has this problem with 3? If players were playing quickly, it wouldn't have been that big a deal but at the pace of the slow player, sitting around was excruciating.
April 04, 2003
New Tichu players
Played Tichu last night with two new players. J, who was my partner, had read the rules and stuff on my site and is a bridge player so grasped things more easily and enjoyed it and played another game or two right afterwards which is nice. It is quite nice for me to have someone who read my stuff before play although I think the Strategy Guide is much more useful to players who have already played a few games, or at least that is certainly how it was intended. My hope is that it can take a player who has played 3-5 times or so and then, if she carefully reads it and tries to apply it in practice, bootstrap her over a large part of the learning curve. I am not sure how many people really do this, however.
Oh, also, I feel confirmed in my belief that Trumpet is an almost entirely random game and hope that my second play of it was also my last.