Billabong Boardgamers - 1st August, 2000
Present: Doug, David, Torben, Debbie, Steve, Janet, Alan, Joe
David Coutts writes:
Gettysburg, Day 3, Pickett's Charge.
Well, here we were again, only this time with the roles reversed. Doug opened the proceedings with some long range fire from the centre, having advanced a couple of units. He also advanced on both flanks, whilst I brought up additional units in the centre, and occupied defensive terrain on both of the Union flanks.
Before I knew it, General Adams was up 5 men to nothing before I scored my first hit. Time to hit back. Well, first I actually retreated one infantry unit in the centre which had been reduced to just the flag figure. There was a nervous moment for me as this unit moved back from the fence line, but was still in range of 2 Reb units. They missed, and I later pulled him back to the woods in the rear.
Like I said, time to hit back. I had way too many cards for the left flank, so I decided to risk an advance and take a shot at the 2 advancing infantry there. I was successful, causing 2 casualties on one and the other to retreat back to the start line (but out of range). In the centre, General Armistead and his Rebel infantry unit were also reteated back to the start line, but just within range of a lone Union artillery unit (1 dice).
On the Union right General Adams had advanced Pettigrew's men, and they just kept coming. From memory the Confederacy were first to score a flag and it was down to Pettigrew, who also caused a couple of recently advanced Union units to retreat back (with light casualties).
A Force March card brought the Union infantry back into position, followed by a Leadership card to bring up the General. The Leadership card also caused light Confederate casualties in the centre. I repeatedly ordered our artillery to attack Armistead and his men and eventually this paid off, resulting in 2 flags for the Union as Armistead tucked tail and ran.
After a slow start by the Union, more Reb infantry were retreated off the map (this time on our left flank), and another was eliminated. 4-1 in flags to the Union and the Confederate right flank had ceased to exist.
General Pettigrew was again causing more Union casualties on the Union right flank, so I ordered units forward to support our defence there.
I think it was an infantry unit from the centre attempting to shore up the Confederate right flank which became the 5th victim of a vigorous Union attack there. 5-1.
Finally, Pettigrew had run out of steam, and the infantry unit that he was stacked with became the 6th flag for the Union.
Game over, and 28 (David) to 21 (Doug) the final score - a 5 point gain on the night.
Doug and I shook hands at the conclusion of a well contested and most enjoyable match-play mini-campaign. We'll probably give it a rest for a while, though Doug has agreed to try out a scenario I'm designing using the figures from Samurai Swords. Stay tuned.
Doug adds: Not surprisingly, my strategy was driven by the cards I drew. My plan was to pepper David with my artillery from my side of the board, mainly from the centre sector. It worked okay early on, and David suffered some early attrition and units were retreated to safety.
However from that point on I seemed to draw nothing but left flank cards, the sector where my brittle 3 figure infantry units were held. Holding 4 of them, I decided to begin the advance. David beat me in this sector last week by forcing my Union boys to virtually retreat off the board via flag results. I was hoping to do the same, and despite some early success, weight of Union numbers saw them through.
I made a hideous blunder - I had a general/infantry stack on the back row with a clear line of sight through to a Union battery at range 5. David was peppering it for a flag result (retreat) to gain two flags, while I bit my nails trying to draw a centre sector card to rectify the situation. When I finally did, I used it on another unit, and sure enough David quickly rolled his retreat result and I lost two flags. I have only myself to blame for my whuppin'.
I did win the mini-campaign as the Confederates 13-12, but went down 28-21 over the course of the campaign. I think the difference was David used his generals very well to take advantage of those leadership cards, and looked after his endangered units a lot better than I did - retreating them to safety, etc.
I can recommend the campaign game as a lot of fun. BC is my most played game this year (12 games) and will probably stay there. I'd now like to try the "Jackson" campaign AH recently released, perhaps against a different opponent ;-)
David, Alan, Steve & Janet.
This was Steve's first ever game of Members Only, though the rest of us had played it quite a bit. It's yet another of Reiner Knizia's very thinly themed games which works absolutely brilliantly. The basic idea is to become members of an exclusive Gentleman's Club (Janet didn't seem to mind) in Britain. You do this by betting on absurd things like the number of royal scandals in the paper this month, or the weather, etc Hmm - it really is a bit thin...
Anyway, players are dealt 9 cards from the deck and given a set of betting tokens (4 normal, 1 risk bet, 1 double value). The board shows the scoring tracks for the 5 suits (Hats, Big Ben, Newspapers, Cups of Tea and Umbrellas). The board also displays a betting track for each suit (5 or more, 6 or more, 7 or more, 8 or more on one side - 4 or less, 3 or less, 2 or less and 1 or less on the other side Each suit has 11 normal cards, and 2 "No!" cards which remove 1 normal card from the betting track when played.
Two cards are dealt next to their respective betting tracks, and then a round of risk betting occurs. This allows players to place one betting token (normal or double) with their risk token. The risk token doubles normal tokens and triples the double token. It's called a risk bet because you have very little information to go on, and you don't have to do it.
In the subsequent rounds, players may place a bet and must then play 2 cards next to their betting tracks. The number of cards played so far for each betting track is visible to all players.
Once you are down to 3 cards you may not place a bet, and you must discard (face-down) 1 of your 3 cards. Then you play the remaining 2 cards.
Then all the bets placed in previous rounds are scored, allowing for the doubling effects of risk tokens and double tokens. The least risky bets (4 or less, 5 or more) are worth 1 point and the most risky bets (1 or less, 8 or more) are worth 5. The other values are 2 and 3 (there is no bet that scores a basic 4 points).
If you get your bet right (the number of cards played for a suit matches your bet), you get your betting token back. If you end up with 1 or no betting tokens, you get them all back.
The game ends when each of the 5 scoring tracks has at least one player with a minimum of 5 points. Any score less than 5 is therefore (rather frustrating this...) ignored. Also, you can only score a maximum of 10 points per track. Steve scored 16 (he used his risk token on his double on the 8 or more, plus another minor bet) for Big Ben after he was already on 5 points (wasting 11 points). He realised his mistake, but later actually bet on Big Ben again after he was on 10. I'm quite sure he'd never repeat either mistake again.
If the game has not ended after the first hand of 9 cards is played out as above, then another 9 cards are dealt to each player and off you go again.
A standard game tactic, if you've scored something like 3 points so far, is to subsequently bet on both sides (hedge your bet) - for example, a risk bet on 5 or more (1 point doubled to 2) and a double token on 4 or less (1 points doubled to 2). This gets you over the 5 point margin, guaranteeing those points score. Of course, you also lose one betting token (both bets can't be right!), and the other players may prevent your bet placement ( I forgot to mention that each betting space can only have 1 betting token, and perhaps a risk token, on it).
It's a fairly quick and easy game - 1 hour, with limited options each time you have your go. It's also a game that really works well.
David's rating: A solid 7.
Doug Adams writes:
OHNE FURCHT UND ADEL
Game 1: Debbie, Tina, Torben, Doug
The much talked about Citadells finally made its way to Melbourne and hit the table for the first time at a Billabong. This is a very nifty little game where you are attempting to construct valuable buildings, while at the same time trying to second guess your opponents.
The rules are simple, take two gold or take one building card, optionally build a building, next turn please! However, it is the eight characters, and the way they interact with the simple mechanics, which create all the fun.
Game one saw Tina (sitting on Doug's left) typically claim the king leaving Doug a choice of two cards for the majority of the game. Usually these two cards were the Assassin and the Thief - a great way to make friends with your gaming partners. Doug unwittingly formed a close friendship with Debbie, robbing her twice (netting 5 or 6 gold) and murdering her once. My feeble attempts to blame it on coincidence, which it was, were met with a single minded pursuit to murder Doug at least once. That she did. Torben wasn't saying much, amassing wealth, constructing buildings, and winning the game.
Torben: 32 (+7: first to 8, all colours)
Game 2: David, Alan, Steve, Doug
Doug thought it best to avoid Debbie and remained on the OFuA table to teach David, Alan and Steve. This game is a pleasure to teach - it's so simple! This was a much more intense game, with a several assassinations, robberies, pillages by the mercenary, etc - which all resulted in David seeking vengeance on each player.
Alan was concentrating on building one construction in each of the colour groups. Steve was choosing the King every turn early on before he realised he was getting murdered and robbed rather often! Steve telegraphed the next move by passing the king on and holding the assassin - nobody took the king as we suspected he may be a bit of a hot potato! Sure enough Steve proudly announced he was murdering the King, who was face down in the centre of the table. :)
David went out to an early lead in buildings, which Doug trimmed back with the Soldier. Doug tried something different from game one, and concentrated on building valuable buildings, rather than cheap vulnerable ones. One of these was the Magic School, which is a boon as it could change colour at will for gold bonus purposes. Two or three times during the game Doug used the Merchant to amass 5+ gold in a turn to build still more valuable buildings, basically mimicking Torben in game one.
Doug was king late in the game on seven buildings, claimed the assassin on turn eight to ensure he'd go first and build his eighth building, and hence finished the game at the end of that round.
Doug: 32 (+4: first to 8)
Doug's rating: 8, great little game, love to try it with five or six players.
David writes: My problem is I've been reading too much Game Theory lately (see 6 Billion website links page) where the most successful strategy is often the Tit-For-Tat strategy (depending upon what other strategies are being used). This says that you always punish transgressions against you with an equal level of aggression (and no more). There are more sophisticated Tit-For-Tat strategies such as Forgiving Tit-For-Tat (allow one transgression, then punish the next etc) and Random Tit-For-Tat (randomly punish transgressions against you - possibly the most successful long-term strategy of all). I'd recommend "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins and "The Origins Of Virtue" by Matt Ridley for some interesting interpretations of how Game Theory (which is a branch of mathematics) applies to real-life.
At some point I intend to write a little article on Game Theory, which might start something like ..."I have a theory that it is mine. My theory is that mathematicians that use Game Theory don't know anything about games, and game players and designers don't know anything about Game Theory. Books on Game Theory are full of excellent ideas which could be used in games, and yet nobody (not even Reiner Knizia, a Doctor of Mathematics!) has designed a single decent game using Game Theory principles." and so on...
Anyway, whilst I fully intended to seek revenge on each player (I was hit 3 turns in a row, once by each other player, in case you didn't hear my cry of despair), I found that the game doesn't really let you do it. It's very difficult to target people because you don't know which character they will be. Quite frustrating for the control-freak...
This is fine (though I prefer a little more control), and it didn't put me off the game. I like it - nice production, simple rules, good theme.
APPLES TO APPLES
Torben, Tina, Debbie, Janet
I played a very outgoing game of Vinci tonight. This was due to starting with the Field General and Fortification in my first civilization. On entering the board, I attacked Tina rather than the neutral colour as the costs were similar and it reduced an active player's pieces.
I was fortunate in that I managed to keep my one civilization for over half the game, still having a few pieces in decline at the end. Scoring an average of around 10 each turn was enough not to be last, but not enough to be the leading player - an advantage in this game!
When my second civilization came onto the board, I managed to score 19 in one turn moving me up close to the lead with Tina. As Tina was leading for most of the game, her civilizations were continually attacked. As my score advanced towards the end of the game, I was lucky not to be attacked. Torben was leading at the start of the game was attacked accordingly, by Debbie and myself.
Scoring during the game was very close in the early stages, spreading out in the mid game, before closing up again nearing the end.
Steve Gardner writes:
Alan, Doug, Steve, David
I hadn't played Ra for quite a few weeks, so as we set the game up I expressed my satisfaction at playing this beautiful little game once again. David agreed, but added that sometimes you can just have a complete bummer when playing Ra. I must have been paying insufficient attention, because I completely missed the glint of prophecy in his eye as he said it...
This was about the shortest game of Ra I can ever recall. There must have been at least 30 tiles still in the bag when it was over, and I just got completely crucified by the short epochs. In the middle epoch, I actually managed the rare distinction of scoring the minimum possible score for an epoch, -7, (-5 for no Civs, -2 Pharoah penalty, no other scores.)
I'm afraid that at a distance of nearly a week I'm a bit hazy on the rest of the details. I know that Alan did very well in monuments and scored 27 in the third epoch, but had to give the sun bonus to Doug. In such a low scoring game though, 27 was a lot of points. This was the first time I have ever seen a winning score below 40.