Billabong Boardgamers October 6th, 1998
Present: Julian, Alan, Dey, Roger, Janet, Doug, Donna, Julian W., Joe
Doug Adams writes:A huge night tonight, with nine gamers in attendance at the smallest venue! Luckily some portable chairs arrived with Julian W. and his brother, Joe, so we all got a seat. Heaps of games, lots of fun, and best of all, I get a week off writing the report. Take it away, Roger and Julian C.
Julian Clarke writes:
Well, we had the biggest turnout of regulars so far, 9, and it was in the smallest venue - my house. As it happened Roger was at the kitchen table all evening, and I was at the coffee table.
Settlers of Catan
Donna, Alan, Janet, Julian C. played Settlers.
Somehow Donna and Janet got all the rolls, and managed to roll numbers when the robber was sitting on our numbers. They were building settlements, then cities, and all I could manage was card after card, getting the largest army. We were convinced that Janet was pretty much home, but then Donna took longest road from her, and declared.
Donna: 1 City, 4 Settlements, Longest Road, 3 VP Cards = 10
Make of that what you will.
I don't know how many of you know this game, but I'm fairly sure that it's most. Well, I've never played a game which ended up with 11 single nation tables! Only 13 seats were filled at the bar too!
It just seemed that everyone had something useful to do, on most goes. The final scores, which were pretty high by my reckoning, were:
Auf Heller Und Pfenig
Fairly standard game to most eyes. There was more glee at managing to stitch people up than usual. In fact there was a lot more controversial moves which raised smiles rather than complaint throughout!
Roger Smith writes:
This was only my seventh session with the Billabongers, so I feel suitably humbled by the honour, and the slightest bit intimidated by the responsibility, thrust upon me.
Games played at The White Table
First game on the white table at Julian C's place, and a newbie for Dey and myself. Each player has a set of seven identical cards (numbered 1-5 + two special cards) which they use to move their piece a corresponding number of spaces around a spiral track, picking up stones as they go. The object is to pick up brown stones while avoiding blue stones. The former are worth one point each, but the negative value of the latter increase by one point for each you collect. (As an example, in the second game Doug ended up with six blues stones, their respective values -1, -2, -3, -4, -5 and -6, giving a whopping penalty of -21 to his score.) In the first game I managed to accumulate 7 brown stones, but was forced on to 4 blue stones, resulting in a negative score. Dey did better, avoiding picking up any blue stones. Doug's convincing win served as a tutorial for Dey and myself: in the next game we were able to turn the tables on him.
This game is apparently a close relative of Elefanten Parade, a game which Dey, obsessed as she is with elephants, is keen to play. For me this was the game of the night: fast, simple and lots of opportunity for tactics.
Roger's rating: 8.
JUMBO GRAND PRIX
This is a nifty little Reiner Knizia card game where players compete to build the best car. The race is scored by drawing the same number of cards as there are players, from a deck numbered 1-20. The best car (first place) gets the highest card, the second best, the next highest, and so on. When these cards run out the game is over. Cars are built from numbered cards (1-7) representing their component parts: wheels, body, engine and driver. If the first three of these cards have the same number you get a score of 21 (plus the value of the driver card); if all four are the same, 28. Otherwise you score the face values of the cards. This reminded me of putting together a cast in Show Manager: the more "pure" your car is the more you score. By discarding one card and picking up two (from the deck or other players' discards) you gradually increase your hand to eight cards, at which point you must play a car using four of these. You retain the remaining four cards for the next race. The trick is to plan ahead and perhaps be prepared to sacrifice a good placing in the current race for a potentially better score in the next race.
Like most games, this was a new one for Dey and myself, but by following Doug's example we managed not to disgrace ourselves. A high proportion of "perfect" cars were played. Doug observed (and I concur), that it would be interesting to try a five player game.
Roger's rating: 7.
Julian W 24
Julian W and his brother Joe had arrived, so we tackled another Reiner Knizia: one that I've been wanting to play for a while. This was also a new game for Dey and Joe. The object is to progress your senators through a series of rooms to the Senate. Each player has eight plastic "senators" (which look more like giant cacti in my opinion). The rooms are different sizes, holding from 1-5 senators. Senators can only leave a room by being voted out. If you can't win a vote outright, you must negotiate with the other senators in the room. Typical results of this negotiation are the paying of bribes and "favours for favours". Moving between rooms also gives you the laurel tokens used as revenue. The game ends when all five spaces in the Senate room are full.
With the exception of Dey, we all managed to get senators into the Senate fairly early. Dey was on the verge of entering when Julian W agreed to help vote a second senator of mine in, ending the game. This turned out to be the correct tactic for me as I didn't have anywhere near enough laurels to win, but was able to achieve second place. Although Dey had the most laurels, she didn't make it to the senate, therefore Julian W was the winner.
Overall, this game left me a bit cold. I appreciated its cleverness, but found it just a bit dry. The bargaining/diplomacy didn't seem to add a fun element to the game (as it does in, for example, Settlers, Bohnanza or even Civilization).
Roger's rating 6.
Doug elected to sit out a game, so we raided Julian C's collection for a four-player. Manhattan was a new game for all of us, so Doug was called back to explain the rules. After minimal debate we went for a "straight" game (i.e., no rampaging monsters)!
The game is played in four rounds. Each player places pieces of skyscrapers in cities around the world. Each city is represented by a 3x3 grid. You have a hand of four cards that control where on the grid you can place pieces. You gain points for each skyscraper you own, each city you have majority of buildings in, and for owning the tallest building. Where it gets nasty is that you can cap an opponents' building with one of your pieces, making you the new owner.
I managed to get off to a convincing lead which I held throughout the game. In the fourth and final round the others put up a concerted effort to stop me, but they had left it at least a turn too late. Dey and Joe tied up lots of pieces in the competition for the tallest building, with Joe managing to score the bonus for this in every round. My successful strategy was based on majorities, accomplished with low buildings, and selective capping. I'd like to try this game again as I think I had a bit of a dream run with the cards. There wasn't a single occasion when I thought "I wish I had an x card". I was always able to make a good move. From the moans around me, I realise this wasn't necessarily the case for the others.
Roger's rating: 7
We played one round of this as a filler before going home. I'd need to play it more to discuss it in any depth, but it seemed like good harmless fun, akin to, but not as wacky as, Fluxx. I fluked a victory by passing a murderer to Joe on my left and then arresting him. Poor Joe had only two cards, both murderers, which he was preparing to throw down on his turn and claim victory.