Billabong Boardgamers December 2nd, 1997
Present: Julian, Donna, Alan, Darren, Doug, David
Doug Adams writes:
A good turnout tonight for our '2 player games' evening. Janet passed tonight due to a public transport strike today and threatened again tomorrow. Commuting to and from work took 2 hours instead of 30 minutes, and tends to wear you out.
Because we split up into several games over the evening, the reports will be from various authors, depending on which game they participated in.
Die Siedler Kartenspiel
Doug and David lined up for this one. I've been playing this one pretty frequently with Janet ever since it was released 12-18 months ago, and it's become one of our favourite games. We rather like dedicated 2 player games, and are both eagerly awaiting Caesar & Kleopatra which Funagain Games should have shipped to us by now.
The others hadn't played DSK before, but have expressed interest from time to time. David is now stocking this game with Board Not Bored Games and had looked through the infamous "demo copy" (an in joke with our group), so was familiar with the components.
Thus armed with my trusty English translation of the cards, we went into it. It has been my experience with this game that the player who gets the 5th settlement down (and thus the 2 extra terrain cards) has a big advantage with extra resources coming in. David didn't know this, I suspect, so our respective kingdoms looked quite different. I tried to expand out early to pick up extra settlements (along with the knight token as a bonus) while David concentrated on developing his existing settlements.
During the mid game I had 4 settlements down but only had the 4 points as my knight token had disappeared to David. David had expanded by one settlement, but had filled that settlement to capacity as well. It was here that I realized I had been playing the game incorrectly for the past 18 months! David asked me whether it was possible to take back a card into your hand, thus making room for other cards in settlements/towns, and I was checking when I saw a rather important rule. You can only build 2 cards onto a settlement, whereas Janet and I had been building 4 cards for both settlements and towns ever since we received the game! Wow - my flabber was well and truly gasted when I read that.
An on the spot agreement allowed David and I to split the remaining two settlements to be built and David started to pull away. He had every trading fleet down, bar the gold fleet, and thus was holding the Mill token as well as the knight. Towns started to appear, and with them the victory point buildings. Very soon the score was 11-7 in David's favour and it was looking grim for me.
But then it swung back - I got a 5th settlement down and was controlling 3 of the 4 ore cards. I quickly upgraded 2 settlements to towns and played a Smiede (giving knights a +1 to their strength). This with a well played Black Knight gave me back the knight token and the score was suddenly 10-10.
Buildings over the next turn each saw the score reach 11-11, but then David closed out the game by building a knight and reclaiming the knight token. I think we declared the score 12-11 to David, but I suspect it was 12-10 as I'd lost the knight token to David on the final turn.
All in all, excellent stuff and the ideal introductory game. I've known games of this to be total blowouts if one player gets the jump on the other - they just can't be caught.
Euphrat & Tigris
Julian, Alan, Darren, Donna.
Alan was the only one to have played this before, & gave us all a quick run down beforehand, which I don't need to here, as everyone seems to know it. If you don't, other, better scribes, than I, have described it recently.
Two misremembered rules rather changed the game, but one was easily corrected, & the other played right through. 1 - we did not remove leaders when the last temple they were adjacent to were removed/converted into a monument, as they had no temples left - when we discovered the error, we just placed a temple at the next legal opportunity. 2 - we played that the black leader gained the VPs for both colours for a monument, rather than leaders of the appropriate colour, making black leaders the most critical pieces in the game.
The game got off to a very slow start with only Alan having better than a 50% understanding of the mechanisms for advancing our causes. It really is a game that is necessary to have played through the end-game, to have an idea of how to start. However, repeated conflicts, internal & external, solidified the concepts in our minds & more aggressive & positive play ensued.
The first monument was a blue / green, based on blue. Soon a second, green / black, was placed. These soon became part of the same city & controlling that city with the black leader (see above) became critical. I held it for several uninterrupted turns, but was getting very down on black & red. Darren built a red / black monument, but despite several efforts to get in there, only Alan could prise it away from him, & he held it from then on.
By the halfway point there was a city running from end to end of the board, almost centrally, though frequently divided & rejoined during the course of play. The game ended when Julian had a conflict with Donna, who threw in 3 tiles to the battle, Julian threw in 2 & there were only 5 tiles left in the bag. Alan missed out on his turn (*again* as we were given great cause to realise).
The final scores were:
Red Blue Green Black Julian 12* 15 15 13 Alan 11* 12 13 13 Darren 12 8 9* 11 Donna 11* 11* 23! 13
This gave the game to Julian with a lowest faction of 12.
We followed this by splitting the group into 2 pairs, I ended up playing
Donna & Julian
We read the rules (though I had played once before many moons ago), & had several false starts, due to missing a critical rule regarding parrying. Having got the rules sorted, we embarked on a game. I don't think that there is a lot you can say about the game itself. The final result was: Julian 5, Donna 4.
I enjoyed playing the game, & see it as a very useful filler, but don't think I would go out & buy it.
Julian adds: I liked the idea of splitting the group up, which I feel we should do more frequently, as the five/six player games get more play than they necessarily deserve. It also means that more games get played & a choice of which to join is available. With Donna now returned to Melbourne, I would anticipate the numbers increasing to the point where these splits happen frequently, which is a good thing.
Anyway, for my report of part of the session.....
I played Doug at Mole Hill, which he warned was a `very light' game.
The scores for our games were:
Doug One Eleven Three 7
Alan 5 6 9 Five
("Word" score indicates player was the mole first in that game)
With each game we put more thought into it, and the game did seem to get better. Though there were still opportunities for "stuffing up". Going second as the mole you had a definite score to beat, so could tailor your strategy to doing that, rather than maximising a possible score.
We played with a house rule that you couldn't start the mole on a printed square (flower/mole), but if you reached the central mole square you could relocate to a free flower square.
After Donna left, leaving 5 players, Doug, Julian and I played Der Ausreisser.
Doug 1 2 Julian -8 -43 Alan -10 -16
For me this was a game of trying to survive. In fact I picked up my -10 in the first round on the last two card plays, and the final -6 on the last card play in the second round! After being dealt 3 +2 cards in the first round, which I had to return to the deck, I didn't see another one for the rest of the round. In the second round I didn't pick up any 50 cards. Still, Julian had an even worse game.
Well, I finally played my first game of Steve Jackson Games' "Knightmare Chess". This was during our regular Billabong Boardgamers Tuesday session, this time at Julian's house. My opponent was Darren, a semi-regular Billabong gamer, and one of the earliest members.
The game itself comprises 80 unique cards, and the rules. You must provide your own chess set, and markers to denote certain effects caused by the cards. The basic chess rules are in play, with victory going to the player who checkmates their opponent. In your turn you may play a card, and/or make a regular move. Sometimes the card replaces your regular move, sometimes it augments it.
Neither of us was familiar with the game, and we were short on time, so we decided to play the original French variant. Players are dealt 5 cards, and always play from a hand of 5 cards, using one combined draw pile with all cards. With this version you will almost always play a card, OR you can also discard, both on your turn and your opponents turn. Due to the nature of the cards, it is more likely that you will play a card on your turn, and discard on your opponent's turn, but the opposite is possible.
The SJC version looks better, dividing the 80 cards evenly between the 2 players, then using your 150 points to build a deck (cards not selected are out of play). Cards range in value from 10 points to 1 (2?), and so it is unlikely you would be able to play a card each turn (in this case you just make a regular move).
Anyway, our game started with Darren swapping the positions of one of our rooks, then one of our knights (on my left, his right). My response between these moves was to move my trapped knight to any free space on the board. My rook was able to take a pawn in a regular move, then on my next move it took a threatened pawn without moving! Darren's options were limited, and he chose to advance 2 pawns 2 spaces forward at the same time. I was able to use one of my pawns to take backwards, and capture Darren's knight on my back row. The game progressed with my pieces advancing on my left side, slowly capturing pawns and the odd major piece with the loss of only one knight. A couple of times pieces were captured, only to be put back on the board due to one of many cards which cancel an opponents move.
Then I was able to move Darren's surviving rook to it's starting rook space on my right side, followed by boxing it in with a wall (equal to the length of 2 sides of a chess board square), followed by Cursing it (it could now only move 1 or 2 places!). The killer blow was when my surviving knight made it to Darren's back row and then exploded and died, taking out his queen and a bishop. A couple of turns later Darren resigned.
This was a somewhat one-sided affair, Darren starting on the back foot and unable to really get back into the game. This was partly due to the cards, and possibly due to the fact that Darren found the game a little heretical and was uncomfortable in accepting chess in a form so far removed from it's pure form. I had no such qualms, and had great fun. I loved the unpredictable nature of the game, though some of the cards seemed extremely powerful (another reason not to use the original French version, as all cards have "equal" value, whereas with the SJC version each card has it's point value).
I'd play it again, and I'm not a regular chess player.