Billabong Boardgamers - 11th April, 2000
Present: Tina, Debbie, David, Alan, Doug, Janet, Steve, Craig, Julian, Jack, Robert
Doug Adams writes:
Welcome to newcomer, Steven Gardner!
With people walking in the door at an alarming rate, the usual game of musical chairs began. In such cases, my tactic is to sit in a corner and await offers :)
A very simple new game from Reiner Knizia. The theme is hunting down vampires via collecting and melding six sets of vampire cards. The card art is impressive, the game considerably less so!
Vampires come in six suits, and there is a foundation card for each suit on the table (an appropriately themed vampire haunt that could have been lifted from Stoker's novel). Players are dealt four cards each and play begins. On your turn you may:
Vampire hunts are simply melding at least 3 cards from a suit to the table. Melds can be augmented with the strangely named "somewhere" cards, which are wild.
That is essentially the game. It ends when the draw pile is empty or a player has melded all six suits of vampires. You score up your melds, but first calculate who has the weakest score in each suit (that will score zero points).
This is light fare, but no turkey. It slots into that comfortable Knizia zone occupied by Katzenjammer Blues, Circus Flohcati, Money, and so on. An okay game to bring out once in a while, and easy enough for the kids to pick up. Our game ended when Doug melded all six vampires - there were no melds on the table that reverted to a score of zero (I think this would happen more in 3/4 player games), so every vampire counted.
A quick count of the vampire heads on the melded cards (each card has 1 or 2 vampire heads on them - i.e.. points):
Doug's rating: 5. Fury of Dracula is still THE vampire game for me. :-)
This is an interesting game themed on tracking down Dinosaur eggs. It is a card game that is part trick-taking, part...something else! The trick can last several rounds via the play of special cards that force the trick to continue. The booty at the end of the trick is dinosaur eggs, which occur in five or six colours. Your score at the end of the game is performed colour by colour, and each colour is worth the square of the number of cards of that colour(!).
I readily admit I didn't understand this game the only other time I'd played it, but Tina explained the rules clearly and that reinforced the scraps I'd remembered from last time, several months back. I found this to be a very enjoyable game, where judging your run for eggs is vital, depending on how strong your hand is, what's on offer, and what the current major and turkey trumps are.
Steve, having a ball in his opening night at Billabong, seemed intent on opening an Egg Emporium considering the alarming amount of eggs that he was picking up early. This was usually at the expense of Janet - it went something like "Tina ending the round, Doug playing next realises he has no hope and draws cards, Janet plays her strongest card, Steve plays same card (which is higher), then Tina closes with same card again (higher again)". A pattern soon emerged that Tina and Steve were picking up good early eggs, which Doug and Janet were getting scraps. Steve, continuing to pick up the odd egg throughout the game, won in a canter.
Doug's rating: 7 ... fun game, should play again before I forget it all!
A game with a chequered past at Billabong. We played it about 3 years ago and David had a horrendous experience, and it was condemned to oblivion almost by default. However, I always had a soft spot for this game, and was keen to try it again when it was suggested.
There is a nifty idea or two in here. You are participating in a rally season (a good theme!). You have to concentrate on three things during the game:
Unfortunately, the pips are dice points. Each turn you roll a dice and budget your pips as you see fit. If you roll a 6 (I wish!) the game "clock" ticks another beat towards rally or service time, and cars really have to hustle across the board to make it for the rally (this is when VP's are banked).
Anybody spot the flaw? Doug, who was playing in the role of "David Coutts, Billabonger", put on a brilliant display of acting and averaged probably 1.3 on the dice over 20 odd rolls. There is no way you can win here, and the other cars disappeared of to the rally and service points leaving Doug behind in a trail of Australian dust, or Kenyan Sand, or Indonesian mud, or wherever this rally was!
To be fair, the game at least attempts to balance out poor rolls. On a '1', you may steal livery from another player, and on a '2' you may force a livery trade on another player, but this doesn't compensate the lack of points to move or maintain your car. I must go back and read the report from 3 years ago, but now I have a nagging suspicion a house rule of rolling two dice and choosing one to use as your roll was mooted last time (and you do get two dice in the box, uh oh!).
Unfortunately, the game is flawed as it stands - with so many nifty ideas here, and the fact that it does try to balance out bad luck, perhaps there is a rule we have must missed in the translation? A shame....
Scores: Game abandoned due to bad die rolling and lack of time :)
Doug's rating: best not.
Alan Stewart writes:
Tina, Alan, Craig, Robert
A first time play for Robert. Despite the fact that she was often the first player "bid out" in each round, Tina managed a win. Craig said it was his worst Ra ever. Craig drew the 13 sun initially, but didn't actually play it until the 3rd epoch! The way the tiles came out was even more bizarre than usual. Just when you were considering invoking Ra a negative tile would appear. No one claimed the 3 different civilisation bonus, and there were a few low scoring rounds where players just concentrated on not going negative. Tina claimed the bonus for 1 of each monument type, while Alan claimed a bonus for having 4 of one monument. But buying the last lot of monuments for that bonus cost Alan the sun bonus, and he had to pass 5 points to Tina. Craig could have got the sun bonus, but the game was over before he used his last sun, and it was only in post-game analysis that it was revealed he could have picked up the 5 points.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
Alan, Robert, Tina, Craig
Another new game for Robert. Only 1 hand played while waiting for another game to finish.
Robert, Alan, Debbie, Craig
Robert learns another game.
A close fought game, played surprisingly quickly. Craig leapt to an early lead picking up 4 different treasures on the first round. From then on there was quite a bit of cancelling and players struggling to keep what they had. Despite playing quite negatively against other players, Craig managed to hold on for the win. An interesting game, and a great filler.
Alan, David, Steven, Craig
This time Steven was learning a new game.
Only 5 hands were played, due to time constraints. David was the dealer for 2 of those, and as no dealer managed to discard a goal during the game, he was out of luck. Mind you, when he was hoping to play a low trick goal, his first card chosen one round, a green 1, turned out to be the highest trump that hand!
LOST CITIES (FOUR PLAYER)
Alan/David: 24 - 33 + 15 = 5
As usual in Lost Cities, both sides seemed to start too many expeditions (though David and I managed to score -33 on the second round from only 2 or 3 expeditions, due to multiplier cards not paying off) and the hand was over before you really wanted it to be. There was very little discarding, and sometimes your partner didn't have any useful add-ons, and you only had 1 or 2, so didn't feel like passing them across. For next time, it might help if the players read the tips available for 4 player games.
A score sans report:
Steve Gardner writes:
EUPHRAT & TIGRIS
A long-anticipated evening for me: my first night with the Bongers! I had a great time, thanks to all for the warm welcome.
Doug, Debbie, Janet, Steve
I've been dying to play this since I first read about it on the net a few months ago. I'd read the rules already, so after a quick refresher from Debbie, we were off. Initially, play seemed to go surprisingly quickly. Perhaps I'm used to those agonising early decisions in Settlers. The early play was pacific with each player mostly concentrating on their own kingdoms. Debbie got in early with the blue/green Monument. I played conservatively, and tried to figure out how the others were thinking about their situations, mostly by encouraging them to kibitz extensively for my benefit. I also asked for, and received, lots of helpful advice. But I felt like a weak swimmer who suddenly finds that a current has swept them a kilometre from shore: you can't see the bottom anymore, but you know it's deep, deep, deep. The middle game was sharper. Janet and Doug seemed to play the most aggressively, but they mostly attacked each other. After Doug won temporary control of two Monuments in a turn, collecting about 6 VPs in the process, Debbie suddenly became very concerned that Doug was running away with the game. I benefited from this: Debbie twice used me to bludgeon Doug by orchestrating conflicts between us, both times handing me substantial VPs in my weakest areas. I had no idea who was winning, but no-one was more surprised than me when at the end of the game, we revealed our VPs to find that I'd won easily. A combination of beginners' luck (i.e., Go Easy On The New Kid), and good advice getting me over the line.
Euphrat & Tigris lives up to expectations. I have only the dimmest notions of how to play this, but I can't wait to try it again. Anzac Day, anyone?
Steve: 11 11 11 12
Jack Clark writes:
At Billabong last week Julian (dad), David and I played Chinatown. It was close right through the end. I got good luck all through the game, but the old people beat me in the end. The final scores were
It was my first game of Chinatown so I was pleased with the result. I had two major businesses to put on the board basically the whole game that I only just managed to put down in the last round after a lot of land trading. Where as David got his large business down early and finished it 2-4 rounds later. In all I very much enjoyed myself.