Billabong Boardgamers

Billabong Boardgamers - 5th September, 2000

Present: Tina, Debbie, Alan, David, Steve, Janet, Doug, Roger, Asher, Andrew

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:


Roger, Asher, Doug

A new game for Asher, and my first three player game. It works very well, and encourages some planning. Roger ran out of advisors early in the second round, which allowed Doug to manipulate France and Italy to gain/tie a majority for advisors there. Spain was wide open for similar treatment, but Doug couldn't draw a pair/Spain card to save himself!

We missed the rule requiring two cards of each colour to be removed for a three player game, but caugtht it in the second deck when we realised the board was going to fill. We quickly removed the cards off the bottom, but it was too late - one crowded board!

Roger lead after the first round of scoring, but Asher and Doug ran him down courtesy of advisors. Doug picked up five successful alliances.

Scores (probably lopsided due to the long deck):
Doug: 81
Asher: 62
Roger: 60

Doug's rating: 8

Steve Gardner writes:


Alan, Steve, David, Andrew (in seating order)

"Surprisingly deep for a card game" seems to be the typical response to this intriguing game, in which players compete to build the most valuable citadel. After my second game, though, I find I am unsure just how deep this game really is.

On the one hand, I feel like I "got it" for the first time. A big part of this game is about psychology, figuring out what the other players are likely to be trying to do, on the basis of limited information. I was presented with some interesting decisions, and just about everything I tried came off, so I enjoyed myself. On the other hand, in fact on my left hand side, sat David, who seemed to get the rough end of every pineapple, and who had a miserable time. David was assassinated four times during the game, missing his turn, usually as a result of Andrew or Alan trying to assassinate me, but missing. The fact that they missed me may have been due to skill on my part (in not picking characters that would be obvious targets for the assassin), but the fact that they hit David instead did not seem to be due to any lack of skill on David's part, just bad luck in being on my left. (Maybe what David needed to do was not pick characters that the others would think I would have picked - but that's third order reasoning about intentions - very tricky! Also, David spent the whole game choosing either last or second last, so his choices were very limited in any case.) So it seems that as well as the psychology, there's a generous dollop of luck.

The first time I played this, I spent about half the game as King, and lost. This time, the King stayed on the other side of the table (with Andrew and Alan) for the whole game, and I won. Hmm...on the other hand, Andrew played the King strategy and was not far behind me.

Steve 32 (+4 completing the citadel, +3 one building in each colour)
Andrew 22
Alan 19
David 13

Rating: initially a 7, maybe now down to a 6. Once I got into the lead, there didn't seem to be a lot the others could do to stop me. But we're all still relatively new to the game - there may be strategies we haven't unearthed yet. And I think I was lucky that the Assassin was actually out of play at one or two key moments when it could really have hurt me.


Doug, Roger, Steve, David

Once a year, ten Heroes of some anonymous Northern European kingdom, led by the charismatic Draco, gather for 12 days of feasting at the Round Table. They compete for the favour of Draco by trying to sit closest to his goblet-hand at close of each day's feasting. If they are successful, they are richly rewarded. Those closest to his non-goblet hand, however, are out of favour and must pay accordingly. One Hero, the avaricious Zork, picks the pockets of those he sits next to, and if Zork is out of favour then watch out! When irritated, he steals from the richest player. After 12 days of feasting, the richest player

There are two each of four kinds of Heroes: Goblins, Gnomes, Rogues and Amazons (Amazons?? In Northern Europe? Surely this should have been Valkyries...). Players control two Heroes each (eg, playing purple, I controlled a Goblin and a Rogue. They try to manoeuvre their Heroes into positions of favour at the Round Table by playing cards from the deck, two each day. The cards say things like "Move all the Goblins 3 spaces up or down", "Change Draco's Goblet hand", "Steal 1 Silver from another Player", and so on.

I was tired and testy by the time we began this, and my irritation only grew at the large of number ambiguities in the rules, for which we had only a rough-as-guts translation from the German. Also, the physical mechanics are not very enjoyable: the cards are small and made from cheap cardboard and so sit uncomfortably in the hand. The Round Table in which the Heroes are arrayed gets messed up all the time as they trade positions. Oh well, what can you expect of a 5 DM game?

We only played 8 days instead of 12, as time was short. In the first 4 days, I got completely hammered, being robbed by Zork in 3 rounds, and scoring only one payout for fourth-closest to Draco, for 1 Silver. David and Doug seemed to be doing very well. I did better in the next three days, avoiding Zork, and getting a couple of first placings (4 Silver) and minor placings as well. I'd just been paid 6 Silver for finishing first and third on the 7th day, when I refreshed my hand to three cards and picked up the "The Day Ends". So, I scored another 6 Silver, and that was enough.

Steve 22
David 18
Doug 17
Roger 4

Rating: 4. The game pretty much depends on what cards you get and when you get them - matters which are basically out of your control. Add to that the cheapness of the components and it doesn't add up to a very pleasurable experience. Finally, the rules (or perhaps just our translation of them) really need some more work. I don't think I'll be feasting with Draco again anytime soon.

Debbie Pickett writes:


Debbie, Tina, Doug, Asher, Janet

Owing to a last-minute need for chocolate (and the ensuing trip to a supermarket), Tina and I arrived late at Billabong this week, to find that the seven people present were already immersed in games. Doug, Janet and Asher had just set up their initial camel placements in Through the Desert, and graciously agreed to starting over with a five-player game of same. Five-player is the only way I've ever played this game!

I admit to not having the foggiest idea of strategy for this game. I just know what scores points and what doesn't, and try to score a few points every turn. If I am *really* thinking I'll try and set up for a future turn.

The game ended pretty quickly with three players (Doug, Asher and Tina) going for broke in the chartreuse camel shade, leaving vast tracts of the board unexplored. This served only to help Janet and me: Janet got the biggest salmon-coloured camel train with - count 'em - *four* camels. Sheesh!

The end scores were so unexpected, I demanded a recount.

Final scores:
Debbie 62
Janet 51
Asher 46
Doug 44
Tina 34

My rating: I am about as surprised of this result as Doug is at a win in Medici. I'd better stop while the going is good! I still give this game a 5: Usually willing to play but unlikely to suggest myself.

CODE 777

Janet, Tina, Debbie

With all the men off at the men's tables playing men's games, Tina and Janet suggested a replay of Code 777, which first hit the table last week. I was eager to join in this time and write a proper, informed report, rather than another load of tabloid gush like last time.

For those unfamiliar with the game, it's kind of like Celebrity Head for the numerically enhanced. There are 28 tiles in the game: Green in 1, 6, 6, 6; Yellow in 2, 2, 7, 7; Black in 3, 3, 3, 5; Brown in 4, 4, 4, 4; Red in 5, 5, 5, 5; Pink in 6, 6, 6, 7; and Blue in 7, 7, 7, 7. (There's a table of this so you don't have to memorize it.) Three of the tiles are placed on a rack in front of each player, facing away from the player but in plain view of all opponents. (In a three-player game there is a dummy rack with three numbers visible by all opponents.)

On a player's turn, he or she draws a card from a deck and reads out the question on it. Examples are: Can you see more red numbers or blue numbers? How many racks contain three consecutive digits? Do any racks contain exact duplicates (number and colour)? The player then answers the question, *based on the view he or she has*, that is, viewing all racks except his or her own.

By listening to the answer of a question, you can sometimes deduce something about the invisible tiles in front of you. For example, if you know that there are two racks that satisfy the condition "contains two tiles with the same number but of different colours", and you see the black 5 on someone else's rack, you instantly know that you have two 6 or 7 tiles. As soon as you know what all of your numbers are (colours don't matter, though you can usually figure them out too), you announce your guess and look at your tiles. If you're right, you get a point. Right or wrong, you get three new tiles for your rack - which helps your opponents catch up because they can instantly cross off your three new tiles on their lists. The first player to three correct guesses wins.

It's important in Code 777 to take copious notes of the questions that other players get, because a question which may not help you now may help you in the future once another question is answered. It's also important to not give away information to other players - which is decidedly hard to do if you like to banter at the table.

I found this game fascinating, but I can see that its appeal will probably be short-lived. First off, there are a fixed number of question cards, which somewhat restricts the game and the deduction process. Second, the game is really a four-player game, and the rules for other than four players are a bit of a kludge (such as our dummy hand). The worst problem with the game is true of all such deduction games: there is an optimal strategy. While not strictly a perfect-information game (because each player's own numbers are hidden), logical analysis of the card answers will always yield the maximum information possible - and then the game is simply a matter of who gets which questions. Once I conclude that a game can be solved algorithmically, it becomes a puzzle rather than a game and I lose interest rapidly.

As a game, Code 777 is fascinating - and still fresh enough that I am willing to play it again. There's an anticipation that the next answer will solve the puzzle (akin to the anticipation of rolling the right number in a game of Settlers). Perhaps "puzzle" is a better term for Code 777 after all. In that case it's a challenge for me to do the best I can and to hope for the luck of the draw. The real challenge for me now is to try and actually write an algorithm to play Code 777 optimally. There are probably hours of good hard thinking in there.

We played one game to completion, which I won handsomely (must be beginner's luck), and started a second while another table's game was winding up.

Final scores, game 1 (correct/incorrect guesses)
Debbie 3/0
Tina 1/1
Janet 0/1

Final scores, incomplete game 2
Janet 1/0
Tina 0/0
Debbie 0/1

My rating: I don't know if it qualifies as a game in the sense of the word I usually use, but for its genre I give Code 777 a 7. It's only appropriate. :) And perhaps I lied last time about the US Presidency. Slightly.

Alan Stewart writes:


Alan, Andrew, David, Steve

A first game for Andrew, but he picked it up very quickly. Everyone filed a job in the first turn!

Minor Shadow Dwarf action early on. I used one to prevent David and Steve filling a job, and then Steve prevented me from filling my 120 job at that level. I eventually completed it when it was worth 30, just to avoid the -40 penalty.

David and Steve managed to claim a bonus for a set of 3 matching completed jobs.

The other 120 jobs came up for Andrew, Steve, and a public one, which Andrew completed. David managed to complete the job originally with Steve, as it had become public by this stage of the game.

Steve was coming fourth, but a nice ride on David's 'buy red low, corner the market, sell worth 10' next turn brought him up to second for a while.

Towards the end everyone decided they could make more by buying and selling gems than completing the last job, and in the end that one simply got removed uncompleted.

A 'house ruling' along the way had to be made. We decided that a Shadow Dwarf could do actions, such as remove a miner from player A, then remove a miner from player B. But that c 'cancel Shadow Dwarf action' completed job would only stop 1 of those actions, of both.

Andrew used two of these jobs towards the end to stop Steve removing my Shadow Dwarf, and I was then able to prevent Steve from completing his 120 job.

Andrew 523
Alan 410
David 398
Steve 355


Alan, Andrew, Asher, Janet

Janet had played 1 game before, but it was new to everyone else. I'd asked Roger to bring the game along, as it had been played once before at Billabong.

A very interesting game. There can be a bit of over-analysing, but everyone chipped in with their 2 cents worth, and I don't think anyone minded if they got hosed on a particular turn, as it was all part of the game.

I decided getting dealt only 1 card in a suit is not much help, as it limits your play of tempting cards in that suit.

You need to keep a careful watch on who has what, as a whole pile of cards can be worth 0.

In the end a much closer game than we thought, and I'll play it again as a filler.

Scores round by round
Janet 65 89 99
Andrew -16 14 98
Asher 48 48 86
Alan 26 -9 32

Asher Kirby writes:


Asher, Debbie, Doug, Janet, Roger, Tina

It was a slow day in the forest as the animals gathered for their regular race around the trees. Most of them having trekked for a number of miles Through The Desert, they were eager to get underway...

Tina shot out to an early lead as the start player, jumping on the first lettuce space. (It was mentioned to her after she won the pen-spin that being the first player was an advantage - she was heard to dispute this after the final positions were decided!). Most of the other contestants set off in pursuit of the second lettuce-eating space, while Roger and Asher held back slightly. Eventually Asher was able to position himself on the first lettuce-munching spot, then followed this up by immediately munching 120 carrots and jumping to the next lettuce square, much to Debbie's annoyance (she was later to blame myxomatosis for her DNF). The game continued apace, with Doug, Janet, Tina and eventually Asher pushing for the finish line. Asher finally crossed first. (Roger mentioned at this point that nobody should win this game at their first attempt - I have to admit that my sister owned this game when we were younger!). Roger was storing up carrots and tried to munch his way to the finish line in a burst of glory, but eventually had to slow up a bit, while Debbie was struck a cruel blow when asked by the Hare Deck to have her last move for free after spending 50+ carrots. The finishing order was as follows:

1 - Asher
2 - Doug
3 - Janet
4 - Roger
5 - Tina
DNF - Debbie

Rating - 7.
I found this an interesting and enjoyable game. Plenty of scope for developing some carrot-munching strategies, but not so cut and dried that the actions of other players don't impact your play. I remember playing this with my brother and sisters when we were young, and not liking it very much. I was pleasantly surprised to come back to it after so long and find it amusing and intriguing. My win was primarily due to a couple of nice cards in the Hare Deck.

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