Billabong Boardgamers - 6th June, 2000
Present: Janet, Doug, Alan, Steve, Karen, Craig, Torben
Doug Adams writes:
Wonderful to see Torben back this week! Sad to see Karen depart for Seattle until later in the year.
Janet, Craig, Karen, Doug, Steve, Alan
A six player filler before Steve launched us into Cosmic Encounter.
This game was a minor hit a couple of weeks ago but this time seemed to fall slightly flat. I think the chief reason for this was there wasn't a lot of scoring laws that came up, and there wasn't a lot of turnover of chips. For this reason most of the chips in players keeping remained quite static. The end result (the "END" card was turned up very early) was a very flat distribution of scores.
Doug's rating: about a 6
Steve, Janet, Alan
A 3 player game - the most notable thing about this game tonight was that after turn 11, we were all on 41 points each! Janet sat out for three turns during the game in an effort to increase her hand size, in order to be competitive in the rounds she was interested in.
Steve had mentioned earlier that a chief tactic was to look ahead to the rounds you will be start player in, to see what you would have a decent chance to winning by withdrawing first. We all seemed to use this strategy and it worked quite well. I liked it - you were able to plan ahead and work out which networks had a decent chance of linking.
I can't understand why this is not one of the top three finalists for Spiel des Jahres.
Steve writes: Janet gives me too much credit. I had an *idea* to look at which provinces I would be going first in, to see if it was suggestive. But I can't say that personally I made much use of the knowledge. Initially, my plan was network in provinces 2,3,4 and 5 (or something), but it was Alan who ended up building the network there. I had to completely re-assess my game plan about half-way through after what I thought was a disastrous start.
I suspect that there are too many other things going on in the game for statements like "I should always bid strongly when bidding first", or "Bidding last is a good time to withdraw early." to be generally true. On the other hand, Janet says it worked for her. But then Janet seems able to conceive and execute strategies in Taj Mahal that just make my poor brain hurt.
Karen, Craig, Steve, Doug
Finally, after many weeks of waiting, we were about to get into a 6-player game of Cosmic Encounter. However, Torben arrived, and some people thought a 7-player would be too slow, so it ended up a 4-player game.
Cosmic Encounter basically works this way: Each player has 5 planets, initially with 4 tokens on each. Any player who occupies (including sharing) any 5 planets outside their own system wins. Each player has special powers, 2 each in this particular game. Players make attacks on one random system during their turn, and possibly a second attack if the first was successful. The non "active" players may be invited to ally with the attacking and/or defending forces in any combat. Combat is decided by cards played by the active players.
The powers, in the sense that they affected play were like this: Doug had a power that enabled him to make his victims lose tokens from other systems apart from where they came from in combat. Karen had a power allowed her to have twice as many tokens as any other player. Steve had a power that allowed him to remove some other players tokens from the game, and also to gain strength from other people's dead tokens in the Warp. I had a power that allowed me to attack anyone who attacked me, pre-emptively, as well as a power of drawing more cards when my hand ran low. (Usually, you have to wait until you run out of combat cards.)
Things were fairly even. I lost more tokens than most people, due to the extra attacks I was getting. But, I also had more foreign planets. I had a "Flare" card in my hand which allowed me to exchange tokens on any of my planets with those on anyone else's. So, when I managed to invade my 4th foreign planets, I played the flare to swap one of my home planets for a 5th foreign one.
Powers and scores:
Doug writes: Despite an initial misgiving or two that I would be snared into a 3 hour game, I rather enjoyed this. This is a game I've never played, but heard a bit about. Steve's weighty box must have contained every Cosmic Encounter expansion known, but he did cut down the components to our beginners level.
Definitely a game I'd like to play again. I only began to understand the ebb and flow of play as we were finishing.
Steve writes: I actually didn't skip that much. We didn't use lucre (ie money) - I never do, it adds little to the game - and we didn't use Moons. I have developed my own house rules for using the Moons (I don't like the Mayfair moon rules), but I spared you those. Otherwise, all the extra powers were available, as were kickers, reinforcements, and special destiny cards. (I guess we also didn't use the reverse side of the warp with the fan on it, or the system hexes. I never use those either.)
Last night was the first game of CE I've played for several months, and the first since I've been exposed to the many new (to me) games (and, hence, design concepts) I've been playing at Billabong. I think it stood the test fairly well, even if our game ended a little anticlimactically. There were a good mix of powers, plenty of interesting decisions to make, and some examples of fine play.
One result is that I've been confirmed in my long-standing intention to strip down my CE deck to something of more manageable size. Less is more.
Karen writes: As with most games I've played at Billabong, I'd like another chance at it, now that I've played once and seen how it works. I definitely would have played differently had I understood how powerful Flare cards were, for instance (for most of the game, I'd had only one, which prevented any Flare cards from being played -- and I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing).
Fun game. Hope it shows up again when I return to Melbourne.
SETTLERS OF CATAN
Craig, Doug, Karen, Torben
Random set-up proved interesting, as it so often is. In this case, all wheat was clumped together, on 3,4,11 and 12! I got last build, so chose to place a pair of settlements which were close together, not far from the wheat, and both generated wood and brick. Within a couple of turns, I think I had built as much road as all other players combined, making a bee-line past other settlements for the centre of the wheat block, where I built a settlement and not too much later, a city.
After building settlements on the 2:1 wood port and a 3:1 port, it took a short fight for me to regain longest road, grab a VP and win.
Some other scores:
WETTSTREIT DER BAUMEISTER
Alan: 34 - 2 + 20 = 52 (11 gold)
Torben: 108 (majorities in all gems at the end)