Billabong Report - 16th February, 1999
Present: Roger, Dey, Janet, Doug, Bernie, David, Moray
Doug Adams writes:
Tal der Koenig
Roger, Dey, Janet and myself were first to arrive so we sat down to try this game out. Bernie arrived just as we were about to begin, so we left the game set up and played Ghost Party on another table. We returned later to begin the game.
We all went our separate ways on turn 1 and began construction, however Janet missed the boat on the first auction and was without blocks to begin her pyramids. Dey got adventurous on turn two, gleefully eyeing the three red blocks on my unfinished pyramid, and muscled in for a little block larceny. Janet thought this was a great idea, and by turn three, my magnificent edifice was reduced to nothing. I decided to get my workers out of there!
Roger was busy with some impressive constructions and quite happy to let Dey, Janet and I (I being an innocent victim) rob each other. Janet was on the receiving end of some Dey larceny which, combined with another blockless turn, killed the game for her.
A freak turn saw Roger pick up 20 of the 25 blocks on offer and accelerate the game very quickly. We managed to fit in two more turns allowing some 3 tier pyramids to be completed, but we could see the winner well in advance of the end. The lasted about 65 minutes.
Large, lavish and just a little overpriced is how I'd describe this game. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the game, it plays cleanly with some nice decisions to be made from time to time, but it just lacks a certain something. I very much like the variant where when bidding on the blocks at the beginning of a turn, each player places one chip at a time and it passes around the table - this would make the game 'flow' better, and make it a little more interactive an involved.
Doug's initial rating: 6
We broke this out to fill in some time while waiting for extra gamers to show up. David appeared during the set-up, and Moray followed suit during the first round. We restarted the game as a 7 player and played it through.
While very simple in appearance, this game really isn't too bad, and usually produces lots of laughs. As only myself, Janet and David had played it before, tactics were a little odd but play was tightening up on the third and last round. Bernie was out of the game on round one, picking up -19 out of a possible -20 :) David and Janet, masters that they are, snuck into rooms on the first two rounds and kept the damage to a minimum. However, David's set-up on round three was risky (he had no choice, of course) and a few quick Hugo's on the dice saw him with the dreaded -19. Janet picking up a -7 gave me a chance of the win:
Doug's rating: 5
This has been a big two player hit with Janet and myself, quickly racking up 7 games in as many days. We were dying to try it out with the others. Due to the uneven numbers, we agreed to send four players over to play Die Oster Insel, another game that was screaming "play me", and Mamma Mia, then swap over.
Bernie, Janet and myself went a'pizza making in a three player game. I'll be posting a review onto the reviews page shortly, but basically the object is to clear as many of your 8 pizza order cards from your stock as possible. Pizzas orders require specific combinations of ingredients, and these are played onto a common stack. Ingredients must be played onto the stack, along with (optionally) your pizza orders. When the draw deck is empty, the pizza stack is turned upside down and run through in the order the cards were added. The ingredients are sorted and pizza orders are constructed if the ingredients are present in the sorted piles. Players may add cards from their hand to supplement the sorted ingredients to get the order through. The ingredients are run through three times to form three rounds of play, and most pizza orders cleared wins the game.
This game is fast, very simple and rather addictive!. Janet basically caned us in the first round, nothing going right for me, and Bernie struggling to master the memory aspect and my rather inept description of how to play.
The Easter Island statues were lumbering up the back straight, so we decided to quickly play it again. This time Bernie was a pizza chef of distinction, with Janet struggling. I got a great batch of dough and turned out lots of quality pizza, taking the win from Bernie using cards in hand to break the tie:
Doug's rating: 7 - strong 7 at that, the others when the got to play it seemed to enjoy it and talk of purchasing copies was fluttering around. Feels very much like my early games of Bohnanza, with that "let's play it again" sensation.
Der Oster Insel
The others were playing this while I was playing Mamma Mia. We then swapped games, Janet, Bernie and I going over to play this very striking looking game. I gave the others a quick and dirty crash course in pizza making, then went over to the Easter Island table to find Janet reading the English translation and Bernie reading the German rulebook. Every group must have a German speaking gamer! :)
This was new to all of us, hence the rule reading. The basic theme is four gigantic, hollow, Easter Island statues are racing up the board and back again. The game ends when the first statue finishes, but the winner is the player who owns the heaviest of the first two statues. Heaviest? Huh?
Well, this game is strange. First off, the statues! They stand about 5 inches high, have an opening in the top, and a trapdoor in the base. They are shaped like the famous Easter Island statues, and as the race progresses, they gradually fill up with .... stones. Yes, good old gravel pieces! It is the heaviest statue, via the stones, of the first two that will win the game.
Statues fill up via a deck of cards. A number of these are turned up each turn and players in turn choose one. The card will depict a number of rocks, this is the number of rocks the player can add to their reserve (reminds me of caballeros, this, a Kramer game!), OR the number of stones they can add to any statue.
If they add stones to their own statue, they must move the other statues a number of spaces equal to the number of stones. Or they may add stones to the other statues, and move their own statue. Boy, this simple mechanism burnt my brain and it wasn't obvious to me, until late in the second game, what good and bad play were. Bernie had no such problems, and romped away to two wins in succession.
Scores, postions and stones:
Doug's rating: 7 This is one quirky, and very enjoyable, game! Julian Clarke said he owned this once, and sold it almost immediately as it was very broken. All of us at Billabong didn't see any signs of this, and are keen for another game. David was even talking about stocking it. We speculated that the rule set Julian had was broken or incomplete. Richard V., if you're following this, I'm very happy with it, thanks! :)
David Coutts writes:
This report is supplementary to Doug's report for the same day.
Mole In The Hole
Bernie, Moray & David.
Bernie, Moray and I wanted something quick and light to start off the evening, and we decided on this little gem. We'd all played before, so it was down to the action. Initial placements on the first board were quite dispersed, with nobody cornering part of the board. I noticed more placements designed to limit other players moves this time, too.
I had a great first board, advancing 6 moles to board two, Moray had 3 and Bernie 4. I really thought I was onto a winner, but got cut down to size on board two. I advanced only 3 moles, the others 2 each. It was all to play for on board three, and Bernie proved to be the master advancing both his moles, whilst Moray and I only advanced 1 each.
There was one turn towards the end when my only move was to block Bernie's next winning move, whose next move was to stop Moray's next winning move... these delaying tactics didn't last long and Bernie came out the winner.
David: 6 3 1
David's rating:- 7 (in the light category)
Bernie, David and Moray.
The other table still had at least a half hour to go, so we decided on another short game. Bernie reached for Avalanche, a game he used to play some years back and managed to acquire a copy at the back of some obscure shop (not a games shop). Moray & I had never heard of it, and it looked intriguing!
It's a game which features Red, Yellow & Green marbles. There are 6 marble place-mats, with little holes for the marbles to rest in. These feature the same 3 colours as the marbles, with a mixture of 3 of one colour and 6 of another. These placemats are shuffled face down and dealt 2 each (in a 3-player game) to the players, and then revealed.
The other major component is the marble slide, which stands at 60 degrees (closer to the vertical). The marble slide features 4 or 5 chutes down which the marbles can progress. Along the chutes there are simple mechanical (plastic) switches. If a marble hits the head of a switch then it is caught there. If a second marble hits the head of a switch it will roll over the first marble. If a marble hits the bottom of a switch it will cause the switch to... switch to the adjacent shute.
The shutes and switches are all open to inspection, so in theory it is possible to predict the exact outcome of placing a marble into any one chute.... in theory.
The rules are simple. To win, you must fill all the marble-holes in your 2 placemats and have no left over marbles. Each turn you get to place one marble at a time until you get a "result" - that is, something drops to the bottom of the chutes. It could be 1 marble, or several. Then your turn is over. The first player, on his first turn only, is allowed to place up to 5 marbles only. If you start your turn with marbles that you can't use then you must place them first before drawing new marbles. That's it.
In game one, Bernie was unlucky in that both his mats featured only Red & Yellow. This meant that it was in Moray's and my own interests to place Green marbles. This is what we did. Nevertheless, after a while, we found there was too much Green and had to start mixing it. Moray seemed to struggle to get more than 1 marble to come out of the bottom of the chutes, and lagged behind in game one. Bernie made a good recovery, but I ended the game with Bernie still holding an unusable (for him) Green marble.
David - Green / Red (3 only) / Yellow - Winner
The others still had "half an hour to go", so we played again. This time we each required only 2 colours, which made for a quite different approach. Basically, any 2 players could (for a while) gang up on the 3rd by placing marbles not usable by that player. But you couldn't win that way as eventually the 2 allies would have to play marbles from their other colours (which didn't match), hence causing a new alliance.
This was roughly how the game went, with alliances fluctuating rapidly between the 3 of us. It was a much closer game, which I thought Bernie would win. However, I had one last chance in which I had to get 3 Green marbles exactly to win. Possibly more by luck than judgement, that's what I got.
Bernie - Red / Yellow - 2nd (missing marbles ??, 1 spare yellow)
It's a fun little "action" game. Sometimes the switches switch as expected, so the game is definitely not predictable, which adds to the fun factor.
David's rating:- 6
The others finally finished, and we decided to play Mamma Mia and Easter Island between the 7 of us. First up for me was
Moray, David, Dey, Roger.
We 'd heard a bit about this one from Julian Clarke, who basically was not impressed. Nevertheless, none of us had played before and we thought we'd give a try. After hearing the rules, and looking at the board, it struck me a slightly more sophisticated "Honey Bears". The board is a little boring, but the playing pieces (especially the heads) are excellent.
Dey seemed to make all the early going, and both Dey and myself were very wary of Roger quietly accumulating a mass of stones in his head. Not having counted and remembered who had how many stones in each head added to the spice of the game for me. All 4 four of the outbound stone column bonuses were taken, but it was the inbound stone column bonuses that would decide the game. I took the 5, but Moray (The Dark Horse) took 6, 7 and 8 to win the game easily. It was a close finish for 2nd between Dey and myself (with stones being the decider), and could have gone either way.
Roger 4th position, 29 stones, 4th.
Overall, I think we unanimously agreed that it wasn't too bad a game.
David's rating: 7
Roger, Moray, David, Dey
For me this was the hit of the evening and definitely one I will introduce to my wife who rarely plays games but is truly Epicurean when it comes to food. Not sure if Roger had played before (I don't think so), but it was new to the rest of us.
As you're all familiar with this one I won't go into the mechanics, but I do think it's excellent. Roger got off to a very good start, scoring 2 pizzas before the rest of us could say "Mamma Mia". However, by the end of deck one Dey and I had drawn close. Moray, I think, realised that he hadn't drawn and played enough pizzas. In deck 2 Dey and I pulled ahead, and soon Roger drew level, with Moray still lagging behind.
The last round saw few pizzas scored, with Dey and myself doing just enough to secure a tied victory!
David's Rating: 8
Dey, David & Roger.
Moray had to go, so we were down to 3 with just under half an hour left. Dey didn't have fond memories of High Society, but was prepared to give it another go and she wasn't disappointed. She romped home to victory:-
Dey 23 ($40)
Sorry for the short report here, dinners on the table!