Billabong Boardgamers

Glen Waverley Gamers September 21st 1997

Present: David, Allan, Neil, Doug, Janet, Julian, Jack, Robert, Gay

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

A Sunday meeting for our little group to give Julian's two sons (Jack and Robert) some experience playing games with us elders. It was a long session, running from about 1:15pm through to 9:30pm - possibly the longest sitting playing games I've experienced, and I liked it.

The Settlers Of Catan

Janet and I arrived about 15 minutes late just as the others were completing the set-up for an 8 player Settlers (English edition). Gay was arriving late, so every chair was full. I've only played this game five times now, 3 times as a four player, once as a five player and now this gargantuan 8 player version.

I'm not an experienced Settlers player yet, but I started to get some insight. You *must* get to a port, no question. The past two games I've seen the gurus, Allan and David, deploy their first pieces on ports and I think "what a waste". Not so, because I see now they are securing their 3:1 ports, and their second placement is giving them their starting resources.

I deployed my two starting settlements on what I thought were fairly good points, and they did pay off frequently. Where I broke down was not building straight out to a 3:1 port. I went directly out there in the early game, then eased off as I thought nothing could stop me getting there, and built a city to bump resource production. However, Julian build two or three road segments in quick succession in a longest road bid (he wasn't interested in the port, he just needed space) and he ended up in cutting me off. That doomed my game, and I had to continue to trade 4:1 to get anywhere.

The game was a shootout between Allan, David and Neil, with Allan just taking the prize. Details were:

Allan	10	(4 cities, 2 settlements, won on building a settlement).
Neil	9	(4 cities, 1 settlement)
David	9	(Longest road, 1 turn away from largest army and thus victory)
Doug	8	(2 cities, 3 settlements, 1 VP)
Janet	6
Julian	4
Robert	4
Jack 	3

The game took just on 2 hours, and I'm sure Siedler players could cut it right down to 70-90 minutes.

Enchanted Forest

We split into 2 groups for some entry level games. I ran a game of Enchanted Forest with Allan, Neil and Jack. Light hearted fun, with a few mischievous deck reshuffles thrown in (which you can do if you roll doubles). Neil ended up with 3 cards, from Allan and Doug with 2 each. Jack seemed more interested in watching the other game, and I don't blame him as it was the visually stunning...

Escape From Atlantis

Julian ran a game for David, Janet and Robert. From what I could see it was a lot of fun with some cries of "leave orange alone" coming from David. By the time Atlantis had gone to Davy Jones locker, Janet had 4 survivors, from Julian and David with 2 each, and Robert with 1. Fun game.

At this point Gay had arrived, so we broke out David's copy of...

Ghost Party

I don't think anyone had played this Wolfgang Kramer game (apart from David). It's a simple game where each player takes 2 guests at a mansion who are casually strolling around the place (on a roll of the dice), when suddenly Hugo the ghost appears from the cellar. The game then takes on a 'musical chairs' type aspect where everyone has to find a room to hide in. Hugo moves 33% of the time, and in a 9 player game (it only takes 8 players so we had the unusual spectacle of 2 Escape From Atlantis sea monsters visiting the mansion) he quickly mows down the majority of the guests.

Depending on how quickly you are caught by Hugo, you earn a more negative score, with people in rooms immune, and possibly earning a positive score. At the end of 3 rounds, which didn't take very long at all, the player with the highest score (ie. least negative) wins.

The results were:

Neil -13, Gay -14, David -15 followed by Robert, Julian, Allan, Jack, Doug and Janet. I was equal first on -9 going into the last round but a nice balancing feature is that the tail enders can place first on the next round to maximise their chances. This saw me place last and thus get gobbled by Hugo pretty quickly, which threw me on the -10 and -9 spaces and finished me on -28 !!

After the game we decided that with this many players, Hugo moves too fast (3 spaces) and too often. Neil suggested to only move him 2 spaces, and players who's pieces are 'out' don't roll the dice. This seemed to work much better (Allan may disagree he picked up a cool -14), even though we only played one round, with the points spread being a lot tighter.

The Great Balloon Race

We finished Ghost Party at around 5pm, so a quick Great Balloon Race was set up. I stepped out here, needing a break after trying to move the sea monster in Ghost Party thinking it was the Ghost! The others flew the balloons around Europe and Janet got her balloons across first.

The time was now around 6pm, at which point Julian, Gay and the two boys had to leave. This left Neil, David, Janet, Allan and I for a 5 player game of ...

Air Baron

Janet and I had never played this with 5 before, although we had played a '3 airlines each' version with just the 2 of us. With 5 players I started to see a problem or two, it is very luck based, but you make your own luck in the early purchases, to a certain extent anyway.

I leapt into Fare Wars on the first turn, with $7 to spend, but only took 1 spoke before I lost the die roll. I was going last on turn 2 so I stayed in and managed to take another 3 spokes around the board and things were starting to look up. I scraped a bit of cash together and took San Francisco (Dominate only) to get a 40 market share.

In the meantime Allan was concentrating on the centre, Janet was after the south east, David the east, and Neil ... I don't remember !! Allan bumped his market share to 120 and two event chits went into the cup. Sure enough, Fuel Hike came up pretty quickly which forced me to cut back to pay off a measly $4 !! Allan had to borrow 20 to pay off the Hike cost. I was thus sitting with with no cash and only a few spokes on San Fran while the others were getting a presence all over the place (except maybe Janet who was struggling with cash too).

The game was fast becoming a David-Allan battle, even though Allan had a 20 loan still out. He'd taken Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix, but these are low market share spokes (except for Chicago, but he didn't control it thanks to a jumbo on Janet's Minneapolis). David had meanwhile taken over Washington, Miami and Atlanta and his chits came out pretty much constantly. He bought London and pulled it pretty much straight away for $40. This was the rather nasty luck factor.

This spelt doom for the rest of us. I'd taken out a $20 loan to get some action going, but it didn't get me anywhere. Janet had 2 jumbo crashes that had cost her $8 and $11 respectively. Neil was nursing a $20 loan but had picked up Los Angeles and Detroit.

In the end, David had a fist full of dollars (spaghetti anyone?) and went into Fare Wars to attack New York (which was shared by all of us). All he needed was 2 spokes to take domination of it, which he did easily thanks to a +4 modifier to give him another 60 in market share. Adding cash in hand to his market share of 280 got him handily over the $320 finish line.

The rough results were:

David:	320+	Miami, Washington, Atlanta, New York (half)
Allan: 	280+	(20 loan) Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix
Doug:	86	(10 loan) San Francisco
Neil:	90	(20 loan) Los Angeles
Janet:	42	Houston

The game ran at about 2 hours, was very kind to David (but he made the right moves with his luck) and could have easily been Allan's had the chits run kinder. Allan didn't have many options at the endgame, and could really only pay loan interest. No one had the cash to mount a sustained attack on David.

Janet, Neil and I were effectively out of it for the final 30 minutes, and I found it pretty frustrating, as did Janet. I'm not exactly sure what I could have done better, as we didn't have the cash. Maybe a larger loan ? Not sure. It seemed pretty clear that you *must* get a presence in the chit cup otherwise you're doomed. I guess that's stating the obvious.

At about 8:30 we ignored our rumbling stomaches and went for a quick filler to finish off the evening. Neil dropped out at this point, and we played a quick game of...

Take It Easy

I think this is a newish FX Schmid game. It's an abstract strategy game where each player must play an identical hexagon onto their small 5x5 hex mat. These are hidden from the other players. One player acts as the caller, and he draws his from a face down pile - he announces it to the others, they take the identical piece and everyone plays it on their mats. The idea is to maximise your points score with the placement.

Each hexagon tile has 3 lines on it, one running vertically, and the other two running diagonally, so each hex edge has a line running off it. Each line has a colour coded score, ranging from 1 to 9. To score points you must, through placing the tiles, form a single coloured line from hex map edge to edge. So if you form a line of 3 8's you score 8x3=24.

Points are summed over the 3 line directions and totalled. You play four rounds (each player getting a 'call') and the highest total is the winner. David claims the highest possible score is 307, and you'd have to be very lucky to get that. A couple of 150's were scored in our game.

I found this game very addictive, and it appealed to Janet as well. Small box, quick playing, great filler potential. I may pick it up in the near future. Anyone can play it, the rules take 2 minutes to explain. Great solitaire too - beat your record, that sort of thing. The only downside is there's absolutely no interaction, or maybe there is as you are playing the other players with the identical tile set, yet you can't influence what they do. The interaction isn't a problem, however, as the game is so fast and you're so engrossed in your own hex mat.

I'll have to see if there's a Games Cabinet review - I'd be interested to see if this gets the thumbs up. I'd certainly give it.

The results were: David 612, Allan 490, Janet 476, Doug 454

That saw the end of the day. I went upstairs to David's Board Not Bored Games 'shop' and picked up a copy of Drunter Und Druber, and a couple of decks of Middle Earth. I'm a bit of a Tolkien nut, but have never touched this game. Mike Siggins gives it a pretty good rating, David's into it so there's a little trading potential if it clicks with me. I burnt my eyes out trying to read the tiny 4 point printing in the rulebook on the train this morning !

Thus ended the day! Apologies for the length of this piece.. Corrections, thoughts or criticism from attendees will be welcome!!

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