Billabong Boardgamers - March 16th, 1999
Present: Moray, Dey, Roger, David, Doug, Bernie, Janet
Doug Adams writes:
Dey, Roger and David were setting up Yucata when Doug, Bernie and Janet arrived, so a quick game of Mamma Mia was on the menu, or rather, games. Moray arrived just as we were about to start, so we dealt him in. Game one was Janet's all the way, who didn't seem to miss on pizza orders. Bernie made a late charge, while Doug and Moray were struggling.
Another game was played as the others were just starting Titan: The Arena. This was much more closely fought, with Janet's excellent skills deserting her, while Doug and Moray fought it out.
Doug's rating: 8 - great game, very popular at the moment. One observation is that we are becoming much more optimistic with playing pizza orders onto the stack. These two games saw the ingredients stack fairly stuffed with orders as players were desperate to try and cash in on a missed pizza from another player. Interesting game and there is definitely skill there.
Titan: The Arena was winding down, so we hurtled through a quick game of this nice filler. The object is to collect stones blessed by good spirits, while avoiding stones possessed by evil spirits - did I mention we are Mayan priests. Obviously one of the more ambitious themes in the hobby, but the game is fine and usually quite tense.
Each player holds a hand of 7 cards (1-5, and two special move cards). On the play of a card, they must advance their stone around a track as many spaces as the number played, and collect any good or bad stones they pass or finish on. Timing is everything, as you want the good stones, while avoiding the bad (see a review and image on the Reviews page).
Doug tried his usual tactic of leaping out to the front and scooping up the early good stones, along with the one bad stone. This usually means he is forced to take the second bad stone as well as everyone else slams on the brakes, and again it happened. Bernie was forced to take the lead and scooped up more bad stones than he would have liked. Janet and Moray played careful games, with Janet taking the red stone at the end without a bad stone to cash in for finishing the game.
Oh dear, oh dear. As we had seven players we thought this would be an ideal time to try out the second (and supposedly superior) edition of Koalition, new to everyone (David, Doug and Janet had played the first edition).
The theme of the game is the election of governments of about 14 nations of a united Europe. Politician cards are played during a round, to resolve the election of one country. Each politician has a value, and these are totalled to determine the number of votes needed to achieve a government. Usually coalitions between political parties have to be formed.
This aspect of the game has changed for the better, in my opinion, from the first edition. Instead of two politician cards being played per country, now the number of cards varies from country to country. It is still two cards for the minor countries, but that increases to four cards for Great Britain, France and Germany. I like this change of pace from election to election.
Another excellent change is the fact that players who contribute cards to an election win now score one point per card. The earlier edition awarded points to only the leaders of parties, while the minor players missed out. Thus players with a poor deal had nothing to do but sit back and help others; I feel the new edition works better in this respect.
Now the problem - the action cards. These are dealt to players from a separate deck to ensure that each player is given an equal number of these powerful cards. The older edition had them shuffled in with the politician cards. I like this 'equal' aspect, but I don't like how they are now used.
What happens now is after a player has played a politician (mandatory) card, they may now optionally play an action card. This triggers a round of action card play, where each player in turn may also play an action card, until everyone has passed in turn. I found this tended to break down the flow of the game as players were unsure whether they were in a "politician" round or an "action" round. Once the action cards were played, nobody was sure who's turn it was to continue the game, and it was all rather clumsy.
This is where I prefer the old edition, which if memory serves me, was simply on your turn you played a card, action or politician. Simple, and it works, as there is no action card round to break the flow of the game. I would like to try the game again with the action card round taken out and simply replaced with either:
It reminded me of 6 player Siedler, where the flow of the game broke down as you had to ask each player whether they wanted to build before passing on to the next turn. Bernie said he disliked that rule in Siedler, and they play a house rule that only the player opposite you has the build opportunity. I'm not sure how that would work in Koalition.
I don't often do this, but I am going to try and rebuild the game based on the best bits of edition 1 and 2 - I feel the underlying mechanics are too good to discard.
So what happened in our game? Well, we waded through Ireland, Finland and Portugal before everyone simply got sick of it - simply from keeping track of the action rounds from what I could observe. A coalition was required in Portugal, but David didn't want to do it as it gave Doug points (who'd done very well in the first two elections). Rules were examined at length to see if the coalition was mandatory (which David didn't want). Bernie examined the German rules and discovered that if a government cannot be formed, the special cards are discarded and the election is resolved again, with players taking their politicians back. Interesting, and I think I like this. However, by this time, Janet, Dey, Roger and Moray had left and had started Mamma Mia! At this point we realised the game was over, and the rules desperately needed tweaking.
Any thoughts on those familiar with both editions of Koalition?
David, Roger, Doug and Janet closed the evening out with one hand of this clever deduction game, based on cards. The idea is you know 2 pieces of that comprises 8 parts. You need to deduct where the other 6 pieces are to have a chance at victory.
An added snag is your identity (one of the pieces) is paired with another identity played by another player. You have to work out who your partner is (it changes every game) and "meet" them alone in order to win.
To meet someone and exchange information you have to meet them alone. If three arrive at the same location, then nothing can be done that turn. Cards are played to determine the location for the turn, but once played are useless until all your five locations cards are played over five turns, and you then get them back.
When you meet someone you must exchange two of the 8 pieces of information, ONE of which must be the truth. So gradually through meeting players you build up a firm picture of who is what identity and what other piece of information they are carrying (it's 2 digits of an 8 digit number).
Things get a little easier if someone you are meeting shows you a piece of information you are carrying - which obviously means that is the other players false lead, and the other piece must be the truth. Once one piece is established, the rest snowballs quickly and it becomes a race to meet up with your partner to win the game.
This requires two turns of meeting alone - the first to confirm the partnership, and the second to win the game by declaring the phone number for the win (or 1 point if you play several games).
In our game David was a jinx, not being able to meet players due to the interference of the "ambassador" - a mysterious figure who turns up in random locations to help, or hinder, the other players. I managed to meet up with Roger successfully early and determined his identity. After meeting Janet twice early, I managed to work out all the information apart from who my partner was! It was either David or Janet. The others all appeared to be ahead of me in the deduction race, when David revealed his identity to me and confirmed that he indeed was my partner.
The next turn allowed us to meet alone to confirm the partnership, which meant that all we needed to do for the win was meet again. However, Roger and Janet had confirmed their partnership on exactly the same turn, and they had a safe meet lined up for the next turn, while David and I could have been thwarted by the ambassador.
Luckily, both pairs managed to meet successfully, and the game was a dead heat. 1 tournament point to each player we assume.
Doug's rating: 7 We are going to try and play a "first to three points" game next week.
Dey Alexander writes:
Players: David, Roger, Dey
Being the first three to arrive, we quickly settled on a game of Yucata. When I first played this game, Doug indicated that he thought it was very much like Elefanten Parade. At that stage, no one in the group owned a copy of the game, but we quickly found one-- motivated by the elephant theme. The games are similar, though I think the strategy in Yucata reveals itself fairly readily after one has played a game or two. I'm still trying to figure out Elefanten Parade (Alan, we have to have a game of this some day soon), but I'm convinced that strategies become somewhat haphazard in a 3- or 4- player game, and easier to manage in a 2-player game. But back to Yucata. Roger and I have probably played this game maybe half a dozen times, and it was obvious from the start that David hadn't played it as recently, or as much. He charged out ahead, collecting lots of brown stones, but unfortunately also taking many of the blues. It wasn't until the middle of the game that he realised he needed to hang back a bit, but by this stage, it was too late to recover. I was forced to take several of the last blue stones, but was also able to get home and take several more brown, and the red, enabling me to discard a blue.
Titan the Arena
Players: David, Roger, Dey
Roger bought this game a while ago, but we hadn't gotten around to playing it. He'd read that the rules were a little unclear, and we wanted to play with someone who'd had some previous experience of the game. Enter David, who patiently explained the rules and acceded to my request to play a trial round.
Apart from the theme, which I found a little off-putting (Roger had his reasons for not playing the game up till now--and I had mine!), I really enjoyed this game. It is apparently a reworking of a Reiner Knizia (it seems that nearly all Billabongers worship Knizia) game with a new theme (the original was the Grand National) and the added element of special powers which each creature has. Stripped of the latter, the mechanism is clearly Knizia, however I think the extra layer adds a bit of spice to the game.
Each of the early rounds was fairly uncontroversial, with the eliminated creature having no backer (though the secret bets had not yet been revealed). Then in round three (or perhaps it was round 4, my memory isn't the best), Roger wiped out a creature that was heavily backed by David. In the final round, Roger used the creature power which allowed him to play two cards, ending the game by wiping out one of his creatures. We all thought he'd made a mistake, until the final scores were tallied...