Billabong Boardgamers - March 9th, 1999
Present: Liz, Moray, Dey, Roger, Doug, Bernie, Alan, David, Julian, Jarrod
Doug Adams writes:
Another great turnout tonight, with new members (welcome to Jarrod, who found the webpage and came along) making up for those absent.
We had six players keen to play something so we hauled out Medici, the new Rio Grande version that Roger picked up recently. The rules were explained to Bernie, Moray and Liz (Moray and Liz had played before, I suspect) and off we went.
This game is among my very favorites, even though I am certifiably awful at it. That's not entirely fair, as I had been getting better at it. All that went out the window in this game, so I'll just report on what the real players were doing.
This is a Reiner Knizia bidding game, where you are attempting to bid for, and build up a holding of, different types of goods. The object is collect the most valuable holdings, and/or hold a majority in goods types over three rounds. It's not easy knowing when to bid, and how much to bid, as you are paid bonuses at the end of each round, and if you bid too much you lose money, not make it. Not making money is something I was very good at.
In this game Moray appeared to be the cagey one, patiently crouching over his ship card (a nice innovation from the Amigo edition) and making excellent bids. The other four players, in fact, appeared to be all in contention, however it was Moray, Dey and Bernie (who picked up this game very well for a first time player) who appeared to have the upper hand. This is pretty much how the game played out, as Roger, who was also doing well, bid himself out of contention by not realising he wasn't going to reach the top of the tree and that magical 20 bonus spot.
Dey writes about Medici: This was Bernie's first game of Medici, though the game at least looked new to everyone else: Roger had brought along the Rio Grande version for us to try.
It soon became apparent that it was:
Moray got off to an early lead and maintained his distance from the rest of the field for the entire game. Roger seemed to be going to nab second place, but a late run by Liz saw her snatch it from him. There was quite a deal of competition between Liz and Bernie, who were collecting the same resources, and Bernie was a little frustrated by Liz having the later bid on all but his turn as auctioneer. Doug got left behind early and didn't ever seem to have the opportunity to catch up, and I played a fairly middling game.
Doug back again:
If the commodity logs on the board were colour coded to the cards, then it would have been so much better. We were reduced to pointing at the appropriate log on the board when the cards were flipped up, which shouldn't be necessary. Also, the numbers on the cards are nearly invisible from across the table. Lastly, what are those things in the four corners of the scoring track? It looks like something from Monet! :)
When I got home I hauled out my Amigo version to double check - it is just so much clearer, even with the blue/silver card difficulties under bad light. While the Rio Grande version looks beautiful, it's not very good from a playability angle. Sorry, Jay, this is meant to be constructive, not destructive. The game is superb, as always.
Doug's rating: 8
Die Maulwulf Company
Roger and Dey were keen to try this game, so I offered to take them through it. I like this game, as there are some tactics to it, and a little risk analysis. Roger was in the "I don't like it" camp early in the game, thinking it was too similar to Chinese checkers, however he may well have been joking here.
I was in a poor position after round 1, only having two moles survive to the second board, however I managed to keep them both alive down to the last board, and was in an excellent position to achieve the magical "golden shovel". However, an unlucky '4' tile draw destroyed my chance and Roger moved in for the win.
Doug's rating: 6
Dey enjoyed the game, and I think Roger was coming around to it by the end. Dey writes: This was the first time Roger or I had played this game, but we'd heard positive reports from others in the group who had. The game components are quite cute and well produced, as we've come to expect from German games.
In a three player game we each had seven moles (for seven of Doug's brothers) to search for the golden spade. After the first round of play Doug was down four moles, while Roger and I lost two each. Things had evened up at the end of the second round. After a bit of posturing around the single hole on the final level, Roger finally got the right card and took the golden spade.
I liked the game a lot, and agreed with Roger that it was similar to Igel Agern (which I really must buy a copy of soon).
Just when I thought my days of typing "Mississippi" were over, we have to go and play this game again :) We had Alan (not a fan of this game!), David, Jarrod, Moray, Julian and myself running down the river, while Bernie, Liz, Dey and Roger played Master Labyrinth (we could here the brains frying from our table).
We were expecting Greg to arrive around this time so we removed all the new tiles from the Black Rose expansion, as well as any tile that didn't have a dock on it, and just went for it.
The race quickly broke into two parts - Julian, David and Jarrod steaming away at the front, while myself, Alan and Moray went on a bump-a-thon on the second tile. In fact once the concept of "speed" was explained to Moray, his eyes glazed over as he wound the paddle wheel up to "4". I guess he thought islands were something that just happened to someone else!
In our back of the race squabble, Alan and I were bumping each other to try and reach the first pier. Alan made a mistake by bumping me away, but in a direction that allowed me to move BEFORE him on the next turn, giving me first access to the pier and setting him back another turn. This allowed me, one passenger in hand, to burn a little coal and accelerate after the frontrunners.
A turn later David and Jarrod picked up passengers, and they were half a river ahead. However, unusually for this game, the river ran dead straight, after one jink right, and there was a clear path right down one channel of it. This allowed me to easily pick up my second passenger and catch up to the three leaders.
The three leaders were fighting it out for the win, with Jarrod and David being the likely candidates. Unfortunately there was really only one good entry point into the last tile and dock, and David who was in front had an advantage (we were using the speed '1' to finish rules which we find much better). After some careful thought, we all thought David had the win, however the turn order rules came back to haunt David, as he and Jarrod were level on the river, at the same speed, but Jarrod had 2 coal to David's 1 - so Jarrod got to move first and take the win.
The others came in David, Julian, Doug. Alan and Moray agreed to abandon the race.
Alan, David, Bernie, Moray and myself decided to try this supposedly quick Oh Hell variant, while Julian kept Liz, Dey and Roger at bay in Scotland Yard. Jarrod had to leave, but promised to return in two weeks.
This game was new to the other players, I had played it a month or so earlier and enjoyed it as a lighter and much faster form of "Was Sticht". The game is a trick taking game, where the number of cards in each hand varies between 8 and one (!). You assess your hand and declare how many tricks you think you are going to win, based on your cards, trumps for the round, and what the other players have declared.
Now the game gets a little weird. The hand is played out according to normal trick taking rules, and tricks won are compared against your estimate at the end. You now move your canoe across a game board a number of spaces equal to the number of tricks you won, with a bonus if you guessed correctly the number of tricks you were going to win.
The object is to be the first to navigate the canoe to the finishing line at the other end of the board. Blocking tactics appear as you cannot move over other canoes, and the turn order is critical as David found out, being blocked by Alan for several turns, unable to move.
Moray did very well in the early stages, with a great opening hand which saw him re-enact his game of Mississippi Queen and go surging down the river. David and Alan soon caught him up, however, and Bernie along with myself were in touch at the back.
While the game appeared to get silly when the number of tricks in the hand decreased slowly down to 1 card, tactics were still apparent, and the game seemed nicely balanced so that when the crucial end game approached (where you can only move if you guess correctly), the number of tricks was increasing again, allowing a bit more flexibility in your hand.
To be honest, our endgame was a bit of a fizzer, as Moray progressed well into the special end squares while Alan held up the rest of the field at that one space wide area of the river near the end. David could have advanced several times but was blocked due to Alan's inability to move. Bernie and Doug caught up while Alan was stuck. When Alan did eventually move, he was moving last, and effectively shot away from us into the special spaces, with the rest of us again forfeiting movement (due to moving before Alan that round). David was not happy with this aspect of the game.
The game ended on the next round as Moray correctly achieved a 2+ bid to advance three spaces and take the win. Positions were:
Doug's rating: 6 - I like the game as a much faster, lighter, version of Was Sticht, without the heavy "what is tricks" round. While I think Was Sticht is a much better game, it is too long. There is some strategy to Canyon, where positions on the board influence how you'd play a hand out. I can see Canyon being played more than Was Sticht at my place, even though I like both games, simply due to playability.
Get The Goods
A wind-down game at the end of the evening with the same five players. This is a nice set collecting game that works well, with a nice feeling of tension due to the limits on the number of things you can do in a turn, as well as the scoring rounds trigger of the "$" cards.
Our game didn't play out that well, as the first and second scoring rounds were very close together. I suspect the "$" cards weren't shuffled properly from a previous game as several came out in succession. This meant that David and Alan who were sole holders of two sets of stock scored for them twice and basically meant they were going to fight out the win.
Between rounds two and three (the final round) there was a decent interval, but the game still ended with at least a third of the deck remaining. I needed another turn to get some more points, however, I think each player could say this!
Dey Alexander writes:
Players: Bernie, Roger, Liz, Dey
After seeing this game in game shops around town I was keen to try it out. Of the group playing, only Bernie was familiar with the game.
It soon became apparent that Liz and I found the game quite challenging; we both suffer from a distinct lack of spatial awareness, though I was already acutely aware of this after a dreadful game of Iron Horse some months back (I swear I'll never play that game again unless I'm trying to have a nervous breakdown).
Because of our difficulty 'seeing' the game, Liz and I (me mainly) were taking quite a while to play our turns, so there was a lot of downtime during the game. Roger commented early on that he'd missed a couple of his goals, and I missed my first, but managed to get my second.
As is often the case with boardgames, the experienced player does badly and a newbie wins. This game proved no exception, and Liz romped home with a clear winning margin, largely the result of taking the last two markers from the board after playing a magic wand to give her an extra turn.
Players: Julian, Roger, Liz, Dey
A third new game for the night for both Roger and I. The game was new to Liz as well. Julian played Mr X and explained the rules to the eager detectives.
Quite an unusual game, from my perspective, and a little frustrating when I discovered, each time Mr X popped up, that I'd been so close to nabbing him. As Julian commented, I kept doubting my own reasoning, and at one point very early in the game would have could have moved right onto him but talked myself out of the move.
Roger ran out of underground tokens early, then I ran out of buses, and in the end, the team of detectives conceded on move 20 once we realised Mr X was on a bus route north and we'd all run out of buses.
DAVID and GOLIATH
Players: Alan, Jared, David
Welcome to Jared!
(We started this game as a filler while waiting for the six player Medici to finish on the other table.)
It was Jared's first play of this `counter-intuitive?' game. Jared and I seemed to be taking too many cards, while David had only a select few.
At the end of the first round
David 44 Alan 28 Jared 19
Julian Clarke arrived, so we re-started a four player game.
In the initial hand Jared dealt seemed to be playing a `take every possible card' strategy, and it paid off as he was leading after the first deal.
Then Julian tried this tactic, but it didn't pay off. By a coincidence(?), David, the dealer in the second round, won the most points for that round.
You just couldn't count on a clear round of one colour, and it was very hard to judge whether cards were likely to be high or not when leading them.
David again scored the most points in the third round, but a late run by myself secured the win.
The final result was in doubt until the last two tricks!
Alan 28/65/117 - 182
I think this is a better game with 4 players, rather than 3.
Now to try it with 5 or 6!