Billabong Boardgamers November 10th, 1998
Present: Alan, Moray, Liz, David, Julian, Janet, Doug, Dey, Roger
Doug Adams writes:
Present: Alan, Moray, Liz, David, Julian, Janet, Doug, Dey, Roger
Eight gamers arrived at Alan all within 30 seconds of each other for an evening of new games. After some initial chat Dey asked "well, are we playing?", so we scattered. I made a grab for Samurai to see who'd follow.
The new Hans Im Glueck game from Essen rattled up 10 plays over the weekend between Janet and I, and we were still hungry for more. The four player version, with all the island pieces in play, is a sight to behold. This is a stunning looking game.
Dey and Julian followed us into the kitchen, while Roger and the others began a game of Svea Rike. Samurai is very easy to play, place some tiles, capture some pieces, see who wins. But winning is the hard part. This game is not a 'fun' game where people chat and banter, it's a game that has long silences as the board is studied for that ideal move.
In our game I decided to play a cautious game, placing tiles in strong positions while the others where dancing around each other at the other end of the board. Given strong positioning, when the others arrived around my pieces, I should be able to knock them off.
A steady trickle of pieces were coming off the board, but I noticed that 3 pieces had been removed due to ties. Alarm bells clanged as I realized one more tie and the game was over, which Dey took full advantage of, thinking she was in a strong position.
Dey was right, just! Examining the results, only Julian and Dey could win the game as they were the only players with majorities (Dey in Rice Fields, Julian in High Helmets). Setting aside the majorities, Dey wins with 2 other captured pieces, to Julian's 1. It is an interesting scoring system, forcing you to concentrate on capturing other pieces.
Julian thought the game was better than Euphrat & Tigris in that you didn't suffer from a bad tile draw, all tile sets being equal. Another game was called for, as apparently they'd just finished setting up Svea Rike in the lounge.
The next game went the distance. I wasn't going to be left out again and decided to mix it up a bit, taking various pieces before deciding which suit I wanted a majority in. Dey was collecting Rice Fields with a passion, so I decided to concentrate on Buddah's. This was close fought, with the 'dirty' being done many times through those insidious figure swap tiles. The game came down to a battle over two High Helmets, and two Rice Fields on the final island. Janet figure swapped to crunch Julian, and place her 4 High Helmet tile, which clobbered me as I was gloating over my like tile! I had the final play, so I drew that final piece, denying both Janet and myself....grumble.
Dey took the game as the only player with a majority, in Rice Fields.
Doug's rating: 9 .. this is going to get a lot of play up to Christmas.
Another new game hot from Essen, although released at Nuremberg in February. I've heard nothing but praise for this game so I was really keen to try it. I loved it! Very clean, but some thought required along with constant monitoring of your position with respect to your opponents. You should be able to predict what each player is going to choose as their turn option, dice, points or gems, and choose your piece accordingly - not so!
In our game, not played well, we were too gem happy early, so that only Janet seemed to be picking them up. Recognising this, I decided on a points strategy, pretty much only choosing dice or points throughout the game, offering up juicy gem offers when I had to barter for the right. It almost worked, but Janet had amassed a huge gem collection throughout the game (getting very indignant when told she had to hand three back for each majority!) and she was always just ahead through rounds two and three. Still, a fine game which may become a favourite 'quick' game. I love the fact there is no down time between turns.
Doug's rating: 7, pushing 8
Bohnanza with La Isla Bohnita
The Svea Rike game was still going, and the players seemed to be enjoying it, so we decided to finish with this new expansion for the Billabong favourite.
I am not sure if this expansion was necessary, and I don't think we got the rules quite right either. The game is played pretty much normally, but you have a bean ship which can hold harvested beans. You can sail your ship out from your harbour (represented by a small playing mat) out to La Isla Bohnita, and pick up harvested beans sitting on the docks of two ports there - Bohnaco and Bohnbay. These beans are dealt off the deck into stacks of five, and you can only take off the top of a stack.
Here we struck problems in the rules with ship movement. We didn't know exactly how much ship movement you could do. The rules talked about visiting both ports on La Isla Bohnita and going back home. Then there was a reference saying "this can be repeated in any order" - did this mean unlimited ship movement, or we could do it again ONCE?
Dey was in the "once" camp, but we decided on unlimited ship movement during a turn which turned the game into a bit of a farce. Second ships were bought and the deck disappeared like a hot knife through butter. No pirate ships were bought (these allow you to sail out and rob other players ships, but apparently robbed beans cannot be mixed with 'clean' beans!).
In the lounge the Svea Rike game had finished, so a game of Samurai was being learnt. I was called up to the lounge to explain a few things, those "7" tiles are in fact "1" tiles instead, etc, Samurai affect all adjacent pieces, etc.
It was getting late, Janet and Dey were just about asleep and I wasn't far behind. I ended the game refreshing the La Isla Bohnita stack:
Dey: 17 (the only player not to buy a second ship)
I did a silly, silly thing. I had a Rote Bean planted in one bean field right through turn one. I gurgled happily over it, the others weren't growing them, so I would be sure to clean up when the other Rote's appeared. Doh! This was one of the bean types that was removed from the game - we'd missed that one and I hadn't spotted it!
Doug's rating of the expansion: 5 - we need the rules issues resolved.
Roger Smith writes:
I am starting to get a bit more cautious about buying games unseen. It's usually easier to pick my purchases after playing a fellow Billabonger's copy. However, none of the Billabongers own Svea Rike, and the more I read about it, the more intrigued I became. As Funagain didn't stock the title, I took the opportunity to start a relationship with Boulder Games, who provided me with an equally excellent level of service.
I prepared for Svea Rike by perusing the rules (available from the Gaming Dumpster) a couple of times. I also made copies of the excellent sequence of play available from the same source. Finally I reordered the Event card translations alphabetically by their Swedish names and corrected four entries that were missing Swedish titles or else had them totally incorrect. Unfortunately, I only made one copy of this last document: BIG mistake.
The game ran fairly smoothly. The only real hitch was translating the event cards. When you have something like eight of them in your hand and you're third in line for the list of translations, it is distracting to say the least. To speed things up, we played a house rule where we did not look at the event card we picked up until after our turn. For the next play I will definitely be putting the cards in plastic sleeves. Does anyone (Greg?) have the translations formatted for such an exercise? Apart from a couple of minor delays locating the correct translation for some of the Resource cards, all else went smoothly. The rules seemed very clear, and the card translations unambiguous.
The first two eras were spent trying out the different activities. In most cases greed got the better of us and we sought those things that would help ourselves, not our country. After losing our first war, we maybe should have been buying Military cards. As it turned out, Good Prince David was the only one who bought one during the whole game. Evil Prince Moray showed us all how NOT to participate in a war, and how to get your event card hand down to a more manageable size by continually attacking your neighbours. David and I pursued commercial interests abroad (in retrospect, we must have been selling arms to our enemies) and soon built up a nice swag. Liz and Alan appeared to have some plans to build up sets of cards and control fiefdoms. Alas, none of this was to be!
Sweden entered the third era already somewhat battered from a series of wars. From here it was all downhill. Unbelievably, every turn in the third era was a war turn. Yes, we had shuffled the cards. Yes, we were reading the correct (blue) text. A count of the cards later revealed that the odds of this happening were astronomical (9 out of 24 cards show war), nevertheless it did. At the end of the game, Sweden was decimated. No one had any fiefs remaining. A sole merchant (Alan's) remained in Poland. The pitifully low status point scores reflect this quite well.
Despite our poor performances, we all enjoyed the game and are looking forward to playing again.
Roger's rating: 8
David: BBBBB RRR HHH - eligible to win - won due to most other figures
Liz and Moray had to leave, so Alan, David and myself eagerly attacked Doug's copy of Samurai. The first part of the game was spent sending emissaries to the kitchen to receive rulings from Doug.
Q: Is it a "1" or a "7" A: "1"
Q: Do you play the token exchange tile on the board or beside the board? A: On
Q: Do you play the figure exchange tile on the board or beside the board? A: Beside
Once we had sorted these out we got down to some serious play. We all felt the game has enormous potential. It will require several plays to even start to get a handle on the strategy. There are so many options and opportunities each turn that it is a fine balancing act to choose the "right" one. Having the same starting hand is a great idea. It is of course interesting (and inevitable) to compare it to Sausage and E&T. I was very happy to see it was shorter than E&T. The latter is a game I like very much, but for me too heavy and long to just play casually. I need to be in an "E&T" mood. Samurai seems to me and ideal mix of the accessibility of Sausage with the challenge of E&T. Final comments: we all loved the elegant and attractive design and artwork, and we all want a copy.
Roger's rating: 8