Billabong Boardgamers - November 9th, 1999
Present: Alan, Donna, Debbie, Tina, Doug, Janet, Greg, David, Bernie
Debbie Pickett writes:
The Essen feast continues . . . One of David's parcels sent from Germany arrived on the day, so a bunch of new shrink-wrapped games was available for us to play.
APPLES TO APPLES
(lots o' people)
We started with a game of Apples to Apples, to fill in until everyone arrived. This is a neat little party game for four or more players. This is how it works: One player is the judge; this person draws a green card, which features an adjective such as "luscious". (None of the words are very difficult, but even so there are synonyms as well in case your English isn't too great; there are also over 100 of these, so game variety is guaranteed.) Everyone else picks a red card from their hand (usually containing a noun such as "silk", again with a description or definition) and puts the card face down as fast as possible (with more than four players, the last card to be played doesn't qualify for winning; this really speeds things up and makes for frenetic action). The judge then has to sort through the red cards and decide, for example, that between the submitted responses of "silk", "going to the dentist" and "Sean Connery", that Sean Connery matches the green card of "luscious" best. Now the owner of the Sean Connery card is given the green card as a reward. The red cards are discarded, the players replenish their hands, and the next player around the table becomes judge. This continues until a player reaches an agreed number of green cards; that player is the winner.
We played three games of this, one at the start, two after a bunch of people had left, and we had a great time. Some of the responses were absolutely hilarious.
My rating: 8. With over 300 red cards and over 100 green cards, this game isn't going to dull too quickly. It's a great filler, a great opener and a great closer.
Doug, David, Tina, Debbie
After our first game of Apples to Apples, we split into two groups. Having eyed Stephenson's Rocket last week, I grabbed it and demanded that we have a game.
After clearing up the rules trouble that happened last week, the game ran a lot more smoothly. We got underway quickly as we'd all either read the rules or played the game before.
The game began with the purple and grey lines expanding in the north, while orange and yellow battled it out in the south. Eventually the tracks merged down to a huge grey thing in the north, and a huge orange mass of rails in the south. The blue track in East Anglia finally got moving about three turns before the end of the game, and turned out to be the last one running, as the grey and orange lines had merged and been isolated by curving back on itself.
I admit that the scoring was confusing, trying to remember what was based on share holdings and what was based on stations; the game also feels a little thin on sticking to the theme, as practically all Reiner Knizia games do. I felt that the two games this one most closely represented were Durch die Wüste (for the rules regarding placement of tracks/camels) and Euphrat & Tigris (for the scoring, which is where this game gets most of its complexity).
The game turned out to be close, unexpectedly, with David just managing to hang on despite all my attempts. Not that I really knew what I was doing.
My rating: Hard to say just yet. It didn't grow on me quite as quickly as Euphrat & Tigris, but I think it will probably prove better on a second playing. I give it a 6 for the moment.
Bernie, Doug, Debbie, Tina
We shuffled our groups around and looked for something else to play. While I was busy looking in the new-game pile, Tina pulled out our trusty copy of Ra. We quickly got a foursome and started. (We no longer play Ra with five, it just doesn't seem to work as well.)
This was probably the most cutthroat game of Ra I've ever played. There was battling and jostling for every tile. Doug and Tina started out on Monuments early, while Bernie made a landfall discovery of Pharaohs, making it more of a battle for not getting the -2 last-place penalty for the rest of us. By the start of round three I had just four tiles in front of me.
Round three was the decider, and while Tina got out early with a very respectable collection, and Bernie bowed out with a nice little civilization bonus, Doug and I held on like grim death until finally he bought a flood with his 13 sun (getting a 1 sun in return). The Ra track was almost full, so I was fortunate to draw a few good tiles and quickly got myself the 13 and those tiles before the Ra track filled. The final scores showed that there was only one potential tile separating all of us.
My rating: This is still a great game for me, best for three players but also perfectly serviceable for two or four. I think I'll revise my rating and give it an 8.
Quote of the game: Tina: "Raaaaa." Doug: "I am woman, hear me 'Ra!'"
Bernie, Doug, Tina, Debbie
It was now time to try another new game, this one being one of the new games from Hans im Glück from Essen. I instantly noticed the Doris Matthäus artwork. No one can draw horses as beautifully as she can.
Bernie translated the rules for us on the fly - which also goes to show what a simple game this is. There are cards representing seven kinds of luxury goods - mansion, yacht, holiday, jewellery, watch, horse and car - each of which has seven versions worth from $100,000 to $700,000. There is also a bunch of cash worth either $100,000 or $200,000. They are laid out in a seven-column by nine-row grid, a la Was Sticht?. Now, each player takes their influence cards, valued from 1 to 6, and around the table each has an opportunity to place one influence card beside one of the seven columns. This continues five times around the table until each player has one influence card - which is not used this round. Then, each column is resolved from left to right. Each player's influence in that column is summed up, tied values are removed, and the player with the most influence gets the top card in the column, the next-greatest influence earning the next-highest and so on. Then the second column is resolved in the same way, and so on. Untaken cards are left for the next round, and the influence cards are given back to the player.
The catch is that if you get one of the seven luxury items, and you already have one, you have to discard the old one. This is really painful when you have to give up your $700,000 yacht for a $200,000 one because someone got ahead of you on the column for the $600,000 watch you both wanted. Cash you can keep as many as you collect.
After a certain number of rounds (for four players we played four rounds), the game ends, and the player with the most valuable collection wins.
This game is very simple but it has a lot of subtlety to it that is in part governed by what your opponents are wanting. There's no point fighting one opponent for the one thing, because only one of you will get it, and it's too easy to tie your opponent's influence so that neither of you gets it in the end. I clearly didn't do well at the game this time, but I'll come back for more.
My rating: This game felt in many ways to resemble Titan: the Arena. I was *sure* this was a Reiner game. And indeed it is, it's by Reiner Stockhausen. I still reckon it's just Reiner Knizia's new pseudonym . . . I give this game a 6.
Alan Stewart writes:
Players: Bernie, Donna, Alan, Janet, Greg
A new game which arrived in David's parcel from Essen. Translated on the night by Bernie.
It seemed to go okay, but rounds lasted for quite a while (Due to a late discovered rule we'd forgotten).
We kept all the eggs open, so you knew who would be after a particular colour.
Some nasty decisions, and you could kick off an `end the round' sweep, but actually ending it when you wanted was much harder.
The game took about 90 minutes, which included rule reading and learning time, but dragged a bit. If we'd remembered that the "?" card only echoed the number of the previous card, not its symbol (particularly comets) the individual hands would have been shorter.
Filling in time. One hand. A new game for Greg, and also possibly Donna.
Greg and Donna decided to stay for this game. Played with the "special powers" option.
Greg, David and Janet managed to get the payouts from taken over hotel chains, hence the cash flow, and won the game. By the time I managed to merge a chain, it was too late, with small payouts.
The special powers probably sped up the game a little, but can cause wild swings, enabling someone to pick up 14 stock in 2 turns.
David 40 500