Billabong Boardgamers October 13th, 1998
Present: Alan, Julian W., Doug, Julian C., David, Dey, Roger, Donna, JanetPrevious session report
Doug Adams writes:
Billabong is entering a golden period with ten players last week and now nine this week. Having so many players gives us a lot more options on mixing and matching, and some of our more neglected four player games can come off the shelf - although not tonight!
With Janet an hour away, and Donna not in sight yet, we split into two groups. I'll report from Alan's kitchen table, where conditions were cramped but the party atmosphere was high. European games with a certain element of Twister thrown in for good measure :)
Wettstreit der Baumeister
David, Roger and myself lined up to try this game again. I'd played it at Roger and Dey's a couple of weeks ago, and was keen to try it again, this time with a firm grasp on the rules about bonuses.
This game certainly played differently from the last one. This time the game ended with one stack being depleted, with the other hardly touched. The early game saw us all involved in a game of chicken, not wanting to lay tiles on the table and become an instant target for any saboteurs. Roger blinked, or had to blink when he reached a hand size of five cards, and I promptly bombed him to earn some nice income.
David was bidding wisely and accumulating a fist full of tiles, mainly right corner towers, though, which meant he'd be suffering at the end of the game when they were deducted. My inexperience showed as I picked up a '6' and a '7' value town hall, effectively locking it into my hand as the others wouldn't sabotage that.
The first half of the game was very tight, but then David's early gatehouses paid off, with all that extra income. He was guaranteed at least 5 gold per turn which gave him a lot of buying power. This more than made up for the tiles in his hand, and it was David in a canter.
After the game finished, Roger read out the variants presented in the translation, and I immediately liked the one about the saboteurs able to be played on anyone, at anytime. The rules as written just don't seem to work quite right. I wouldn't say it was broken, but the ability to hit anyone, rolling over the number of shields to blow something up, seems better and would offer a more balanced game. But what do I know, two games in, when there are variants galore out there!
Our full complement of players was here at this time, and the game of Members Only had finished in the lounge, so we mixed around. Janet, David, Donna and Alan ended up in the lounge for the Mindsports Olympiad (i.e.. they played Euphrat for the rest of the night) while the kitchen gamers snuggled up in the cramped kitchen for a game of Expedition.
Dey, Roger, Julian W., Julian C. and myself lined up for this one. This was another new game for Dey and Roger - not sure what they think about being bombarded by all these games. I tried to cover the rules as best as I could, remembering the rather important one about -1 for each unplayed card and chip at the end of the game a few turns in.
The red expedition started off by plunging into Asia with a flurry of travel vouchers. Roger and Dey were struggling a little to locate their destinations, understandable given the tiny icons scattered over the map. Dey missed the expedition passing through one of her destinations, Mycenae, but started to pick up the nuances of the special moves and vouchers by the half way point.
Julian C. and Dey seemed to be making the best progress, using the face up public research missions to good effect. I started out on a very conservative strategy, with the object of saving my vouchers until later in the game when the others had dried up. It sort of worked, but I was forced to start spending earlier than I would have liked as Julian C.'s pile of completed destinations was growing alarmingly.
Thanks to Dey asking everybody how many cards they still had, it was fairly obvious that it was out of Julian C. or myself. Roger and Julian W. were struggling, while Dey was still holding a few cards.
A luck loop on the blue expedition saw me restart it in Africa to knock me down to one destination to go (really lucky, actually, as blue finished before I got another turn). On what turned out to be my last play of the game, I was two arrows away from my final destination (hidden). Julian C. had a chip on the board very close to where my final destination was. I looked at the other expedition closely, then tried a bit of deception by deciding in exasperation to just plonk the arrow down on the expedition heading at Julian's chip.
Roger's turn he umm'd and ahh'd over whether to hand the game to Julian (by leaving that expedition alone) or move the other active expedition. In his thought process he even said aloud "why would Doug have done that?", but he decided he couldn't give Julian a chip and moved that expedition away from Julian's site, and directly onto my site which was what I was playing for all along. Card down, game over. It is only this morning that I remember any player who still had a turn in hand should have had another play. Apologies, 'bongers!
A good game, played quite quickly which leads me to believe it's better with five, rather than the six we usually play with.
News from lounge was that they were playing *another* game of Euphrat & Tigris. Way too high-brow for us rowdy kitchen gamers, and as we didn't want to make it easy on Dey and Roger, we threw another new game at them. Medici.
This is a game that took me three or four playings to get the hang of what is a good bid, what is a good buy, etc. I still haven't won a game of it yet, so perhaps the lesson continues. Certainly, Roger and Dey were looking a bit stunned as Julian C. told them about the scoring system...could this be my first win? Heh, heh, heh.
My basic strategy is try for medium to good cards in two colours. Not easy, and patience is a virtue. The payoff is you should be earning some good cash in the total bonus, and the commodity bonuses should also kick in as well. Of course, someone can rumble you and deliberately keep flipping cards to ruin your plans. This is a strategy Dey picked up on very early, thwarting plans more than once.
After round one Dey was about 15 ahead of myself, with the others bunched up further back. Julian made a big move on round two, sweeping around the board to nearly catch Roger, who admitted he was a bit spaced out and having trouble absorbing this one.
On round three, Julian C. was a mile ahead of Dey and Julian W., with myself a little further back. Round three was quite tense, and by the end of the round there was not enough cards for everyone to fill their ship. Dey, Roger and the two Julian's played it very cagey, and when the last card was flipped up, alone, it was the '10'! Talk about scripted!
Dey declared that Julian C. was not getting it, as Roger put in a bid for '34' for it, at which Dey jumped it '35'. Julian C. let it go, as that amount was overbid by about 10, I suspect. Dey's last bid had taken herself out of the game. This was as tense a game of Medici as I've seen.
With the clock showing 10:20pm and the high-brow crew still silently playing through Euphrat & Tigris, the party in the kitchen reached for this light Knizia closer.
I'd played this once before, several months back, and really enjoyed it. It's a card game, lightly themed on medieval knights jousting at various tournaments. The object is to win four of the five suits (coloured) tournaments on offer, by presenting the highest total hand in that colour.
Play is passed around the table. Any number of cards in the current tournament colour may be played in front of you, the only provision is it must tally higher than the previous play. This continues until everyone has dropped out (voluntarily, or otherwise) and there is one winner.
There's a strong resource management element here as well, as if you pass and drop out of a tournament, you are entitled to draw a new card - very important to keep the hand topped up. However, if you win the tournament, you do not get a card, and must lead to the next tournament.
This neat little twist ensures it's very hard (although possible) to win the four required tournaments in a row and take the game. You usually have to back out at some point and build the hand back up.
There are also two wild cards, 7's and 10's. You may play any number of 7's in a tournament, but you may only play one 10 card and if you lose that joust you must hand back a tournament win chip. Not good!
The game went over very well, we were all in a pretty stupid mood by this time, having virtually sat on each others lap for three hours, and Dey's infectious giggle is a rival for Donna's hilarious harridan-like cackle. We played three games in 40 minutes.
Scores (chips taken):
That finished a really fun night in the kitchen. Over to Alan with the lounge report....
Alan Stewart writes:
Julian W, Julian C, Dey and Alan played MEMBERS ONLY in the lounge room.
After all my bets paid off in the first heat, I was eager to end the game as quickly as possible. I think only 2 out of 16 bets didn't pay off in the first round!
Of course the others realised this, and so played accordingly. When I saw my "game finishing" bet wasn't going to pay off (it would have placed one of my pieces into the only unoccupied scoring region) I just went for extra points in heat 2. I lost one piece, but picked up points on all the others, and outscored everyone else that round!
Despite only having 2 betting pieces to everyone else's replenished 5 in the last round (heat 4?), it was all basically over, and in fact four successful bets occurred in the "empty" column in the last round. Despite Dey going from 0 to 15 points in the last round, it wasn't enough.
Euphrat & Tigris
Janet and Donna had now arrived.
Despite suggestions that the 9 players could easily split into games of EUPHRATES & TIGRIS and EL GRANDE, not many people seemed keen on an El Grande, claiming it was too soon after playing it Sunday. Sigh.
Anyway, onto EUPHRATES & TIGRIS
Present Alan Donna, David, Janet (turn order).
Everyone seemed to be building thier own little kingdoms. I built a green/black monument early on, and managed to maintain my black leader in control of it for the rest of the game. But Donna quickly ousted my green leader from the kingdom, and kept control.
David had been playing lots of red tiles on the far side of the board (he later admitted his first draw was 6 red tiles!). He also seemed to be grabbing a few treasures as the game progressed.
Janet built a monument, and I built a second one on what turned out to be the final turn. I then linked two kingdoms, fought and won a blue battle (the colour I was weakest in), won a red battle (but miscalculated as the red temples supporting Janet's green leader weren't removed and the kingdoms stayed linked), won the black battle, but lost the green battle, letting Janet take the treasure and end the game.
I ended up in control of 3 monuments, but only got 3 points out of it (blue, red and black) as the other half colours were all green which Janet still controlled.
David could have ended the game on his last turn, by taking a treasure, but the result would have been pretty much the same. This was one game where I got a good tile mix, survived a couple of attacks, and only attacked right near the end when it was pretty clear I could win in the particular colour I needed.
Unlike the next game.....
Donna suggested we play another game of E&T, so after a coffee break we agreed.
This time Donna and David did a deal in one corner of the board and Donna built a monument very early on with David receiving black points and Donna blue.
All I could do was place what tiles I drew to get a few points. I didn't see a red tile until drawing on my fourth turn, and then had to use them to survive an internal attack! My black leader was killed off five times through the course of the game, and I was very short of black for most of the game. Meanwhile David had cashed in for a 5 token in three different colours when my maximum score was still 3. It looked like Donna or David were going to win. they seemed to have the production rolling in, getting 2 or 3 VPs per turn, while Janet and I were getting only 1 or 2.
Ironically no further monuments were built, and at the end I was getting the black VP income, and Janet the blue, from the original monument.
The game ended when David could not replenish his hand from an exhausted tile bag.
Most unusually for me, I had claimed no treasures! Though the scores indicated that I'd got the VP balance right, I just hadn't got enough of them.
Janet: 6, 7, 8, 8
David's low score was in green, as he just didn't draw many of those tiles, and that 5 contained 3 treasures!
A much closer result than I was anticipating.
Two very different games, and varying strategies played in each. It looks like just sitting off to the side in your own kingdom doesn't work, as the board is just too small. Plus whoever draws a lot of red tiles has an advantage as they can move their leader and initiate an internal conflict and probably win.