Billabong Boardgamers - 19th September, 2000
Present: Donna, Neil, David, Rob, Doug, Debbie, Jalf, Julian, Jack, Craig Steve, Alan, Ashley, Asher, Roger, Andrew (16 - I think that's a record).
With a breathtaking SIXTEEN people at Billabong this week, you would think that everyone would be in on a game without a problem, but by the time I arrived everyone was already playing games with their maximum allotment. Steve was also in the same boat. Fortunately I had brought a two-player game along. We set it up on what I am now dubbing the "Isi table" - a small table suitable for preschoolers to create their works of art with lots of paste and a little cardboard - and I explained the rules to Steve, referring lots to the rulebook because I couldn't remember all the rules clearly.
This is only the second time this small-run game has been played at Billabong, so I'll give a run-down on the mechanics. Some square tiles are laid out in a random grid to form the land of Isi. There are eight black tiles that represent cities, and lots of five other colours representing abstract landscapes (but in my opinion really representing red, orange, yellow, green, blue). There are two cubes of matching colours on each landscape, which can be collected by each player's pawns throughout the game, and then spent to build trade routes (sort of like roads in Settlers) between cities.
On your turn you move your pawn to an adjacent square (jumping over your opponent's pawn to the space on the other side, if you are moving that way - so that both pawns can never occupy the same space), and collect a coloured cube there. Optionally, you can hand in cubes to build trade routes. Then your opponent has a go. The game continues until all cubes of one colour are off the board.
Building trade routes is the way you win the game, because every trade route increases a city's power - marked on the game map by placing cute little houses on the city. The capital is the most powerful city at the end of the game, and players score by counting how many trade routes they have leaving the capital - all other cities are irrelevant.
Trade routes are built by handing in one or more cubes that you have collected in past turns (they are then out of the game). A trade route is made up of one or more segments, each segment joining two orthogonally adjacent tiles on the map; each end of the trade route must be in a city. If you need to build a trade route segment between, say, a red and a yellow tile, you can hand in either a red or a yellow cube. If one of the tiles is black (a city), you must hand in the colour of the other tile, since there are no black cubes. It follows that two adjacent cities can't be directly connected but must follow a more circuitous path.
One little wrinkle is that you have to build a trade route all at once; you can't build a segment this turn and finish the job next turn. This, coupled with the restriction that opposing players can't both build a segment between the same two tiles, means that there is often a rush for the best routes.
The game feels pretty abstract, but not as abstract as most games in that genre. It would really fit right in with the Kosmos two-player range, though I hear that Kosmos deemed the game too expensive for the format.
In the game Steve and I played, two cities became targets for the capital, one completely dominated by me, one by Steve. It came down to which one happened to be ahead at the end of the game. I happily offered Steve lots of advice - and he happily accepted it - since it can be a difficult game to visualize on a first play.
My rating: This underrated game needs to get out more. I don't play it enough to remember rules and strategy, which is a pity because the rules are so simple and the strategy so deep. It also has a fair replay value because the map will be different every time, offering different playing opportunities. I give it a 7, including a bonus mark for great presentation in such a tiny print-run game.
Alan Stewart writes
Alan, Craig, Donna, Neil
A new game for Neil, but familiar to the other three players.
Donna and Neil seemed to be taking most of the tricks in the first hand, but no one changed their 'positive' card. Craig was not taking many tricks, but then got quite a few on the third hand.
I could not take any tricks in the final hand, so ended up playing a fairly 'minimalist' game, though I hadn't intended to. Donna ended up with both the super trumps. At no time were two people collecting the same 'positive' cards. I think only Neil changed his positive card, at the end of the third hand.
A fairly even game, and quite close at the end. Neil was off to a good start for the evening.
TIGRIS AND EUPHRATES
Alan, Craig, Steve
Craig was interested in another game of this, and luckily Steve brought along a set.
After some minor early skirmishing, the game settled down with 3 large kingdoms.
These didn't last as virtually every conflict ended up in dividing kingdoms. Each player played one catastrophe tile. Mine was on one of the four 'blue temple' squares. I was the only one to build a temple, a black/red one, and when I built it I only had 1 black cube. Steve ousted my red leader from this kingdom, but red wasn't a problem for me so it stayed off for the rest of the game. Steve also ousted my black leader, and picked up 5 black cubes through external conflict, but I had to replace it straight away to keep maintaining black production. The battle of the blacks broke the combined kingdom, so Steve's black leader wasn't in the temple kingdom.
Steve and Craig both did a quite clever move with their green leader to pick up a treasure. This involved placing their green leader near an isolated treasure temple, and then using a tile to connect to a nearby large kingdom which also contained a treasure, but no green leader.
Craig was king of the blue in a kingdom, but didn't want to initiate a battle between our blue leaders, in case Steve or I gained a lot of blue from the battle.
For the last 3 rounds all I did was place 1 blue tile, 1 green tile and collect my bonus black cube from the temple, and this was enough to win. I thought the treasures may have decided the game, but that was not the case.
Andrew Harding writes:
Doug, Roger, Ashley, Janet, Andrew
Even after playing this one I don't know what the theme is, except that baseball caps are involved somehow. Quite an interesting mechanism - two of the three suits are up for grabs in each trick, but each player is trying to collect one suit and avoiding the other two. Since three doesn't divide evenly into five, one player got a fairly easy ride in each hand (being the only person collecting a suit). I don't know that I'll be banging down doors demanding to play it again, but it was enjoyable and fairly short - a good filler game.
Doug played solidly, mostly avoiding off suit cards until the last hand and scoring steadily; Roger was unlucky, getting burnt a couple of times (leading a 6 in a suit someone else is collecting shouldn't have resulted in picking up four cards!) Ashley kept turning "this is the worst hand" (at one point she had all three 20's, which impressed me because I had the fourth) into good scores. Janet ended most hands with a large pile of cards and would have probably won if more of them were from one suit. I didn't have much idea about strategy at first and so just threw away cards before going for the suit no one else wanted. This got me thirteen points in the first round, so I kept at it.
Score after 5 hands played:
Asher Kirby writes:
Andrew, Asher, Ashley, Debbie, Doug, Janet, Julian, Rob, Roger.
An introduction to Democrazy's format can be found at the Billabong report from 23/05/00.
This was my second game of Democrazy. It's an amusing party game, with a lot of luck and some very basic strategy. You can't really plan for future moves, given that you have no idea what laws might come in to play later in the game - about all you can do is attempt to work the laws towards maximising your current position. A winning strategy is therefore difficult to come by. In any event, if you're only playing to win, you probably won't enjoy Democrazy very much!
DIE FURSTEN VON FLORENZ
Andrew, Asher, Doug, Janet, Julian.
I had wanted to play this game for quite a while after hearing such great things about it. Requesting to play, I was pleased that there was plenty of takers for a game. I won't go into detail about the mechanics, as these have been discussed previously. I will try to give an outline of the flow of the game.
A number of interesting strategies were employed. Doug and Janet, the only people to have played before, primarily presented personalities to receive Prestige. They both also made good use of Prestige Cards, which came in extremely handy at game end. Julian and I took a while to get into the flow, but eventually got going. My strategy was to present as many personalities as possible, as well as enticing a few away from others. Andrew's was perhaps the most interesting strategy adopted, if only because it was different from everybody else's. Purchasing architects in the auction early in the game, Andrew concentrated on building a megalopolis, with building after building going up in his palazzo. If I remember correctly (there's no guarantee of that, let me assure you!), Andrew ended up with all squares of his palazzo covered by buildings except for three squares unable to be filled, and one lake. With all the three point bonuses for placing buildings, by the half way point of the game Andrew was in the lead. Unfortunately, he could not sustain this progress once his palazzo was full, and fell back to eventually finish last. However, his was an interesting strategy, and I look forward to seeing if he attempts to modify and pursue it in future games.
I managed to take a lead from about turn four or five, and gradually pushed it out. I was about ten points ahead at the end of round five, with Janet and Doug pressing. However, I did not have the Personalities to hold my lead in the last couple of turns, presenting a couple of performances, but of only minimum prestige. I also realised too late that I needed a third freedom to maximise these performances, but of course they were all taken! Not enough forward planning there, I'm afraid.
After the final play of the game, I was three points ahead of Janet, and about eight ahead of Doug. It was at this point that I realised the power of the Prestige Cards in a close finish! Janet played her card(s)? and claimed eight points, putting her five ahead of me. I tried to smile.
I really enjoyed Die Fursten Von Florenz. Because of it's structure you are really able to develop strategies to maximise your score. Other players can certainly affect your performance, but in a restrictive rather than destructive way. Forward planning is essential to make the most necessary purchases at the correct time, but there is enough going on to keep you in the game for a long time. I'm already working on strategies for next time I play, so I figure that's a fair indication of how much I enjoyed this game!
David Coutts writes:
This was Neil, Donna & Jack's first game. I started out strong, but faded at the end. I missed out getting any artefacts on the penultimate turn because I used my magic carpet (unnecessarily, really) in the 3 for 1 gem exchange spot. I could have used it, or the double artefact, in the palace. Donna had really bad luck early in the game, tying 3 times in her token bids and each time missing out due to turn order. She seemed a little put off the game early on, but got back into it as it went along. Jack seemed to enjoy himself, too.
In the end, Neil finished too strongly for the rest of us. Scores (artefacts/scrolls):
Neil - 7 / 1
It's growing on me. David's rating: 8
Roger Smith writes:
Our biggest Billabong turnout to date (16 people) was helped by having three guest players: Jack and Robert, Julian Clarke's boys and Ashley, my partner's niece (it is school holidays here). We relied on some classics:
Everyone had played this before. We played five rounds rather than three to time our finish with that of another table. In the past I had something or a reputation at this game, but tonight saw Jack and David within a point of each other the whole way through. Until next time, Jack is Honey Bear King.
Debbie's suggestion. There's always a temptation to go for an "educational" title when you have a group of younger players :) A new game for Ashley. I've have hardly ever won Expedition, but this proved to be a dream game for me, being dealt three cards within a couple of spaces of the starting point!
My suggestion (one of my personal favourites). Once again a new game for Ashley. This didn't stop her having a great win. For her last play she could have chosen two different tiles (from different sets) either of which would have given her the game.
Craig Macbride writes:
NICHT DIE BOHNE
This is an odd card game in which all players play one card at a time simultaneously. The player who picked up the last card last turn picks up first this turn and then the player whose card was picked goes next, etc. The cards thus collected, which are in suits and include negatives and zeroes as well as numbered cards, are added up at the end of each round.
This game feels like it has less control than games such as Schnaeppchen Jagd and way less than David and Goliath! Heated moments are easy to generate in this game, since you seldom have control over how well you will do, but every so often have control over who else gets shafted. After a calm first round, Alan went all out to wreck David's lead, so David then on played randomly when possible and tried to lose when forced to make actual choices.
Neil's looked like winning of all games he'd played that night, but didn't quite manage it. Knowing that David was trying to lose, I was able to put out some very unattractive cards in the last round, which he therefore chose over the preferable cards which others had played, giving me a good choice of the ones I wanted.
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