Billabong Boardgamers - 16th November 1998
Schocko & Co.
Roger requested a game of this underplayed business game. I'd always had it in the "too long for Billabong" category, and more of a weekend game. However, we had willing players in Alan and Julian, while I made up the four with Roger.
This is a very good business/resource management game. The theme here, fitting rather well, is chocolate production. You run a company up against the other player's companies -you must compete for the world cocoa supply, turn that cocoa into chocolate, then get the best price for that chocolate. On the home front you need to employ (i.e.. pay) your staff of workers (who turn cocoa into chocolate), salesmen (who sell your chocolate via contract), secretaries (who process the contracts) and bookkeepers (who close the contract). You do not receive any cash for chocolate sold until the bookkeepers have close the contract. It's a nicely balanced mix of problems.
This game saw three rookies up against myself, who with the vast experience of one game (and that was a two player game) was looked upon as the chocolate deity. Hah! Play went along quite smoothly for the first three turns, with two loans going out to Julian and myself, but on turn four the world imploded for Roger.
First he was struck by those infamous chocolate terrorists (on turn 2). On turn four he couldn't get his total supply of chocolate sold, so had several bars in storage. The turn event saw that he had to pay 5000 per block in storage which drove him bankrupt.
So....what happens? We couldn't see anything in the rules that said he was out of the game, could borrow money (which should happen at the end of a turn, etc). By consensus we agreed that Roger could take out a loan backdated to the previous turn, meaning he was paying interest again this turn. The very nearly sent him bankrupt again, in fact, I think it did when it came around to salary time early on turn five.
But there was an obvious problem - my gut feeling is we had a player eliminated from the game, but nobody likes that. Does any one have a ruling on what happens here?
Early on turn five, Julian suddenly realised he couldn't pay salaries (these managers, I don't know!) and was in financial strife. Julian and I (via the optional 'peek at the event card' rule) knew that there was going to be no cocoa on the board next turn, and planned accordingly. Trouble was I had no funds to purchase cocoa in the vast amounts I wanted, while the others, flush with cash, purchased with abandon.
Turn 6 was a dry turn at Doug & Co. - with only a couple of contracts to be cleared and nothing in stock it was all I could do to sack everybody bar a secretary, worker and bookkeeper to get some capital back. I sold a share in at 83000 and decided to strike big on turn 7 and 8.
By this stage of the game, Alan looked like the clear leader. I was clear with some cash, and a certificate (like a bond that appreciates rapidly through the game), Julian was getting by, while Roger was gradually clearing his debt. No, it was Alan looking the goods, and casually asking whether the number of certificates left in stock was a limit -uh, not a good sign.
Turn's 7 and 8 were big for me (which I should have been doing on turns 2 and 3 via loans). I bought in lots of staff, a stack of cocoa went on the world market after the lean times the month before and factories were bulging with chocolate. Of course, this drove the contract prices right down as players were desperate to try and sell off their chocolate. It was very tense as we all had to judge which meetings we wanted to attend, and try and get the most money for the chocolate AND still pick up the contract before another player undercut.
Alan making the best of what I assume is some fairly ordinary scores, but I have nothing to compare that to. In my next game I will certainly be taking out loans on the first turn or three as that money invested should come back home in chocolate sales and certificates.
One thing I really liked about the game were the way the prices climbed and dipped for both cocoa and chocolate, with a very evident trend. I was very impressed with this game, and would like to try the 12 turn version, perhaps on a weekend afternoon.
Doug's rating: 8
David, Janet, Dey and Donna had been playing shorter games all evening, with David to report. Our game of Schoko took about 150 minutes for 8 turns (with down time for coffees). We turned out For Sale as a quick closer.
David Coutts writes:
Well, it's been an awful long time since I've contributed a session report. Lesson: never let work interfere with enjoying life!
Last week I played the longish, but enjoyable, Svea Rike. So, this week, I wanted to avoid long games (see Doug's Schoko & Co report) and grabbed Doug's copy of Basari tosee who would play.
Janet, Dey and I took Basari to the kitchen. Not having played before, I asked Janet to explain the game to me. Then Donna arrived, so Janet & Dey gave the abridged version of the explanation to her and we were off.
In round one it was all Janet & Dey, with Donna & I way, way behind. Dey explained to me one nightmare game of Basari that she had where, after movement, she always chose the same option (from a choice of 3) as someone else. This was exactly the game I was experiencing! It was only well into round two that I broke this jinx, and began to enjoy the game. Dey closed round one and round two, and passed Janet to take the lead. In round two I managed two majorities and also passed Janet, just.
The game has some enjoyable mechanics, in particular the bargaining of gems when two players choose the same option (dice / score / take gems), each trying to gain either the use of the selected option or a decent offer from their opponent. How frustrating it is, however, when you are one of three players to select the same option - you all miss out. And when you are alone in your choice, and the other three all lose out, then how clever(...lucky) you feel!
Onto round three, and as the round was due to end Donna and Janet had piles of blue and red gems. I had the green majority, but was worried that Janet might have to trade with Dey. Janet had 3 greens that would allow Dey to tie with me on 8 greens.... I didn't need to worry. Dey and both selected "score", Donna & Janet "take gems". Dey offered me 5 green which I couldn't refuse - if I counter-offered more then I would lose my only majority (I only had 1 yellow and 2 reds apart from my green).
I closed the round, scoring 10, and gained the green majority. for another 10. Dey didn't score for majorities but she'd already done more than enough to win. Janet and Donna split the rest of the spoils but it didn't change the result:-
Dey - 91
David's Rating: 7
This was my second attempt at this truly excellent game, Donna's first, Dey's third (I think) and Janet's millionth (roughly).
The early game saw a concentration around Kyoto? (the city with one of each piece) by Janet, Dey and I. Donna, concentrated most of her efforts on the large end-island which she slowly turned a nice shade of green. "Is this the right/wrong thing to do?", she asked. We didn't know, was all we could say...
I tried to adopt a strategy (foolish me) of concentrating on rice-paddies and buddas, ignoring high hats. Later in the game I found I couldn't avoid taking some high-hats, and ended up with a completely even distribution. So much for my strategy! I also wasn't paying enough attention to what the other players had taken, either... I had the distinct feeling of losing and I wasn't sure who was winning! Donna's "isolationist" strategy was intriguing me - I wanted to know if it would work!
Last week, when I played Samurai, I won. I'd even convinced myself that I knew what I was doing! Hmmm.
Anyway, enough people have already given their excellent reviews and comments on the game, so I'll stop there and give the result (R - Rice Paddy, H - High Hat, B - Buddha):-
Janet - 5R, 3H, 3B - (Rice Paddy majority, 6 others)
The game ended when we ran out of Buddhas, with 1 Rice Paddy and 1 High Hat left (and 2pieces off map due to ties)
Well played Janet, and well done Donna (and the isolationist strategy).
David's Rating: 9
Durch Die Wueste
Donna had to leave, so after a brief discussion we decided to continue with another Reiner Knizia game (how does that man do it?). This is another great game, visually stunning, and plays in under an hour!
We'd all played this before, so it was Set It Up... and Play.
Janet dominated her edge of the map with the green caravan, swamping my own and curtailing Dey's green caravan too. Janet gained a fair bit of territory , though Dey picked up a little. I I thought I had the blue caravan all sown up, gaining 15 territory along one edge, but again Dey was there picking up territory on the opposite edge and the majority (15 to 14!). I did manage to gain the white majority and 6 or so territory from it in the centre of the board. I'm not a hundred percent sure who got the other 2 majorities (I think one each to Dey & Janet), but I do know that territory won it for Dey (she got about 35)...
Dey - 115
David's Rating: 8
And so on to another Reiner Knizia game - a game of incredible skill, subtlety, charm, sophistication....OK, OK, so I won this fluffy but fun game.
Roger has the Billabong title of Honey Bear King, but Roger wasn't playing.... time to usurp the throne!
Round 1 saw Dey charge Yellow Bear nose-first into the cave for the six point bonus. There were no bears in the negative so we all scored and it was all to play for...
Round 2 saw a disaster for Dey as I finished the round (scoring the 6 bonus) with her Blue & Green bears still in the negative and not enough in Red & Yellow to pull up positive ( -2 on balance, I think), so she scored zero.
Round 3 saw me already with a handsome lead, with good ol' grizzly Green bear rampaging home (under Janet's and my influence) for me to take the final 6 bonus.
Apart from the obvious strategies of using wild cards early (to avoid using scoring cards), only breaking a pair of 1's if your bear is in the negative and it's nearly game over (to avoid getting the 5 x score "bonus" for a pair on the minus 1 spaces), playing cards for losing bears in the hope that somebody else puts your favourite bear within your reach of the cave and the 6 bonus for ending a round (you have been saving a '2' card, right?)..... well, apart from those obvious strategies .... um... are there any subtle ones? Mind reading would help...
Nevertheless, win or lose it's over quickly and makes a great entree or dessert after the main course (or main courses, for greedy games players such as us!).
Move over Roger, the true Honey Bear King has entered the building!
David - 15 / 26 / 29 = 70
(The colours of the bears used in this report have been changed to protect the innocent!)
David's Rating: 7 (but a great filler - did I mention that?)