Billabong Boardgamers - June 15th, 1999
Present: Dey, Roger, Janet, Doug, Craig, Donna, Alan, Bernie, David, Moray
Doug Adams writes:
A new game to Dey and Donna, who played with Doug and Bernie. Both Dey and Donna picked up the mechanisms a lot faster than I did in my first game and played very well. Dey took the game thanks to a large collection of Nile and Flood tiles that paid off well during the second and third epochs.
After the first games of the evening broke up there was a bit of reshuffling. We had five players struggling to agree on a game so I asked if anyone was up for a Lost Cities (a two player game). Dey immediately said "yes" and I felt a twinge of anxiety. Roger had informed me that Dey was very good at this game, and now was my chance to find out.
The answer? Yes, she's ruthless, outscoring me on 5 of the six hands we played. I'm not exactly sure how she did it, a better sense of timing a hand, I guess. Sigh.
Doug's rating: down from 9 to 1, and I have a pith helmet for sale :) Just kidding, it's an 8 for me. Has that elusive "just one more hand" quality.
With 10 gamers here tonight there was a lot of mixing and matching. A Mu had started up on one table so we decided to try our first four player game of Big City, with Roger, Craig, Janet and Doug lining up. I had only played this game with two players previously so I was very interested in how this four player game panned out.
Happily (well, for me) it appeared to work well. All the interesting decision and risk taking aspects are there, but heightened as you have three players to potentially mess you around before you can implement your grand plans! This was reinforced even more as we played with the single streetcar line rule, which seemed to make a better game.
Another surprise for me in the four player game was how obvious the other player moves were not! Mike Siggins talks of neon arrows pointing to danger spots that just cry out for a park or factory, however in this game I saw no glowing neon. I was so involved in trying to pace our my turns for maximum return that I wasn't watching my opponents and was was horrified when Roger plonked down an early shopping centre for 30 points. That was what I wanted to do! You can bet I got my shopping centre (the last one in the set) down very quickly, before somebody else took it off me!
Janet, I think, was having a frustrating time, having pulled both parks and one of the factories. The parks are tricky to place, as only one lot in the park can be on the outskirts of the city, so they do appear to be as powerful as I first thought. Still, in placing those three pieces, Janet wreaked a bit of havoc on the rest of us.
Mid way through the game the scoring had split in two, with Roger and Doug out in front and holding a sizeable lead over Janet and Craig. The worrying thing was Roger being 15 points in front of Doug, thanks to a nice triple residence placed early in the game.
Late in the game the other players finally run out of cards leaving Doug holding four cards by himself. 21 points were required to pass Roger, so down went a single business/outskirts for 2 points, then a double business/park/centre/streetcar for 16 points, and finally a single business on the outskirts next to a factory for a measly point. Roger wins by 2 points, wargh! I was banking on a post office being available but failed to notice they had all gone. Those extra four points would have been handy....
I liked the game with four players, however Janet seemed to think it didn't work as well. I DID get a shopping centre down, while Janet wasted three turns playing parks/factories which scored her nothing and didn't appear to impact Doug or Roger too much. Take the 30 points off Doug and Roger for their shopping centres and you have a close game. I'd like to play it a few more times with different numbers to get a feel for how it works, but after three games of Big City I can't see Metropolis being played too much from now on, and it may hit the trade pile. Of course it looks fantastic, and we took a couple of digital camera images of the game that hopefully will go onto the webpage.
Doug's rating: 8
MYSTERY RUMMY #1 - JACK THE RIPPER
While the game of Mu was still going strong, we decided to spend the final hour learning how to play this recent arrival. This is a rummy card game with a few wrinkles. Players play detectives who are trying to build a case against six suspects in order to identify and capture Jack the Ripper.
A little bit of history - Jack the Ripper was a sick individual who committed at least five murders in London's East End in the late 19th century. He was never caught. The nature of the crime, and the fact that he wasn't identified has been a source of fascination for over 100 years, with many many books been written on the subject.
Embracing this delightful theme(!), the players play a rummy game in order to score points. The first player to 100 points wins the game, and it may take several hands to achieve this score.
The quality of the package is excellent - the box designed to resemble a book, and looks very attractive. The 60+ cards are also very good, plastic coated, with clear bold colours down the left hand edge so it's very easy to see what you are holding during game play. The woodcut style images on the cards, as well as the explanatory text, all add to the game. The only think I didn't like was the similarity in colours between Chapman and Jill the Ripper under poor light, but I'm just picking nits - this is a classy game.
Each hand, 8 cards are dealt to each player. The cards come in three flavours - magnifying glass cards, which are typically evidence colour coded by suspect, and there are six suspects; gavel cards, which are broken down into crime scenes, victims, alibis, etc; lastly, around five special cards.
Play is fairly routine Rummy, but with some restrictions. Your melds of cards consist of Evidence melds that are made up of a single colour (ie. a suspect), however you cannot meld evidence until there is a victim in play. Not much point gathering evidence if there is no crime committed! Once the victim is down, the melds of evidence start to appear. Each meld will have a point total and it's the suspect with the highest point total (ie. more evidence on the table) that is currently the 'favourite' to be Jack the Ripper.
Other players may play evidence cards in front of themselves if there is evidence for that suspect on the table. Each evidence suit has a suspect card, as well as an alibi card, both which can only appear after an evidence meld has been started for that suspect. The suspect card adds a huge four points of evidence to that suspect's total, while the alibi card means that suspect cannot be Jack the Ripper - and it remains in place until the next alibi card appears.
Game play consists of draw a card from the draw pile (the "Case File") or the face up discard pile ("Scotland Yard"), optionally play 1 gavel card and any number of evidence cards, then discard onto Scotland Yard. You go out by discarding your last card. Once a player is out, then Jack the Ripper is determined by the suspect with the largest point total on the table, with a clever seeding number breaking ties (Montague Druitt, who is generally thought to have been the Ripper, is top seed in this game). Any points a player has for the Ripper are doubled - and there you have it, you want to catch the Ripper to earn bonus points, so you have to watch the other suspects, hoard alibi cards, and make your move by going out when things look good for you (if of course you can go out). One of the best aspects for me is you are not penalised for holding meldable cards in your hand, which for strategy reasons you may not have wanted to play - an excellent rule.
There are a few other rules for victims, scenes and the special cards. A notable rule that throws chaos into the game is the "Ripper Escapes" card, which can be played at any time from the moment the fifth victim comes into play. The player of this card earns a huge 35 points, while the other players earn zero. It's an interesting rule that players have to be very aware of when playing victim cards.
Roger, Janet, Craig and Doug played in our game and it was very much a learning experience for all of us. Janet and Doug had played a few two player games but were still picking up the finer points of play, and the game certainly had a different feel with four players rather than two players. The second hand saw victims appear left, right and centre, and when Craig played the fifth victim, Janet swooped in with the Ripper Escapes card to claim 35 points (why wouldn't she?).
As we were playing our last hand for the night, Roger spotted the "Vote" rule, which Doug had forgotten to explain. Once per hand any player may announce a vote for that hand, and each player may write down the name of the suspect they think is the Ripper. At the end of the hand any correct answers earn that player 10 points. It's a fascinating rule that throws a bit more chaos into the game, and it's a pity we missed it. There's always next week....
Hand by hand:
Hopefully we'll play a full game next week. Doug's rating: 8
Roger Smith writes:
One quick round while we were waiting for others to turn up. My victory seemed to be directly related to having the most cards. Maybe one can apply some Schnšppchen Jagd strategy here? The low scorers left their runs a bit late and didn't get three stacks.
Roger's rating: 7
A new game for Craig and Alan and second time for Janet and myself. Alan and Janet collected several complete (500 point) currency sets over the three rounds while I struggled to get my bonuses. This was a MUCH higher scoring game than the introductory attempt we had on the weekend. This is a great little filler. I agree with Doug that it is a step above some of Reiner's card games. Much better than Katzenjammer Blues and Zirkus Flohcahti, for example.
Roger's rating: 7.5
A new game for Alan and David. Craig and I have played this three times now. The first of these was a very successful 5-player game and the second a four player which fell flat. This game was very close in feel to the first. Heaps of trading, although not as much money changed hands. Moray and David were able to acquire complete "6" businesses. The comment was made (by Alan and David I think) that you're likely to win if you get one of these. I'm not sure this is the case. I think the problem might have been that there wasn't much calculation going on as to how much the trades were worth. Moray and David probably should have been forced to pay heaps more than they did to establish these business (I am just as guilty here of helping them). Alan and David both returned positive comments on the game and Craig agreed with me that the feel of the first game was recaptured. I'm keen to try this again with four players, given that reports on here have indicated that is the optimum number. Perhaps this may only be the case if using the free-for-all trading variant rules?
Roger's rating: 8.5