Billabong Boardgamers - June 22th, 1999
Present: Doug, Janet, Roger, Dey, Graeme, Alan, Donna, Debbie, Tina, Bernie, Craig
Doug Adams writes:
Well, it was a very pleasant shock that hit Janet and myself when we arrived tonight, 2 minutes late. Seven, yes seven, gamers had already arrived and were actually playing games. Wow! Great to see some new faces.
Janet and I unpacked the game crate and started setting up Samurai, as we knew that Bernie would be arriving in the Bionic Beetle shortly. Sure enough, no sooner had we assembled Japan, Bernie arrived and was roped into Samurai - a new game to him.
This one did not go my way at all, and Bernie appeared to be sharing my predicament as we watched Janet gleefully take piece after piece. From the rough calculations I was performing as we played, I was pretty sure I was out of contention by about the half way mark, and sure enough, I was correct!
Janet wins, as she was the only player with a majority.
Doug's rating: down to 7, not as good as E&T, Sausage, or Reinerknizialander.
MYSTERY RUMMY: JACK THE RIPPER
I was involved in a couple of games of this during the evening. It was proved very popular here at Billabong, and with good reason - it's a great game.
Bernie, Janet and Doug started up a game of this, as the other tables were still playing their games. With the new players there appears to be several cases of "Ripper Escapes" ending the hand, but once they've been burnt by this, it's rare the fifth victim appears. This was a fairly routine game, with Bernie jumping to the lead, then going backwards, and Janet coming through with a high scoring hand to beat Doug across the 100 point mark.
A second game was played later in the evening between Roger, Doug and Craig, filling in time while the regular 10pm Mu finished. We were a bit tired at this stage, and didn't get it finished.
Doug's rating: 8 - I'm not sure of the ideal number of players for this one. Roger thinks it works better with fewer players, but I rather liked the strategies involved in 4 player game. Interesting.
KRIEG & FRIEDEN
A game from Frank Kulkmann that I had been aching to try out. The rules appeared rather daunting but thanks to the efforts of Mr Dagger and Mr Kban a nice clean translation entered into my hands a few hours before game time.
Nice and clean sums this game up very well, I think. It's a surprisingly easy game (to me) to play, not difficult at all. The game essentially is all about managing your hand of cards and using them to full effect.
The object of the game is to score victory points, as princes of the realm, and the player with the highest victory point total at the end of the game becomes King, or rather wins. :) Cards drive the game, you bid with cards, you attack with cards, you build with cards, and so on. Each of the four types of cards has a different "action" function, as well as a value. The value of the card (this is used in bidding) rather cleverly varies depending on the current disaster facing the realm (we rather like trying to put out fire with some barley!).
You do not earn victory points if you don't win the bid to solve the problems - and the rewards will be either privileges or erecting a piece of the cathedral - both earn points but building cathedral bits earns progressively more during the game - and this is where the game breaks down for me.
Farms give you more cards, cards may be spent to upgrade farms to workers huts, workers huts give you more victory points if you build a cathedral piece, and so on. A balanced hand of cards is crucial in this game and from that perspective we didn't play it well.
So what happened? Craig, Donna, Roger and Doug lined up to learn and play. The learning was surprisingly easy, as it is really no more difficult than Siedler. The play was another matter. Craig took the first bid and earned a knight privilege (plus a vp, of course). Doug took the second bid, build a monument piece, and then bid everything he held on the third turn. He won this bid, when all he intended to do was drive the bidding up, as Roger and Donna were hoarding fat hands of cards each. This left Doug with 3 VP's, and a wheat privilege, but no cards - amazingly he wasn't attacked!
Around turn four or five, Donna and Roger went into a bidding war that lasted several rounds, the upshot being that one of them was going to have to back down and lose lot of cards. This was Donna, and I think that 'broke' the game for her from this point onwards.
While Donna and Roger emptied their hands of cards, Craig and Doug were on the rise again, building their hands back up. Craig seemed to rather enjoy the old "Cups/Knights" one-two to burn some huts, and spent a lot of the game doing so. The burning of huts via the playing of knight cards was something I was sure would bruise some feelings, but to the players credit this was all done with a lot of laughter and good natured banter. Not what I was expecting, I'm elated to say, as this is the way I like to play all games.
Doug made his play for a win by building the fifth cathedral piece and taking four points (2 workers huts for 2 more points) for the build. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and going into what was fairly certain to be the final round, the VP's were so evenly split, whoever took the final piece would win the game - exactly the criticism I've heard repeatedly levelled at this game.
Donna play a cathedral agenda card (which would end the game). Craig spent his last privilege to change it, and it was simply a matter of all cards down to see who won - Craig took the 3 victory points, plus a couple of workers points to win the game and leave us all with a "is that it?" feeling.
Thoughts? When I arrived home, I dug out Mike Siggins' report from Essen '98 and looked up his thoughts on Charlemagne - it summarised my thoughts to perfection:
"The game is outstanding, ... and it did have a curiously weak final round resolution. But everything else was impressive."
I love the clean card driven system, the varying card values from turn to turn, and the way the game worked with these cards. Cards didn't simply turn into VP's, you had other things to do, construction, offence, defense, all which needed some careful thinking about.
The players thoughts after the game where interesting. Craig enjoyed it and thought it better than Rhinelander. I thought it as good as Rhinelander, but the endgame worries me. Roger thought it dry, but would play it again. Donna came right out and said she would be happy to not play it again. So it appears to be one of those "love it or hate it" games, which is a shame, as there is some clever stuff inside.
Doug's rating: 8 - end game aside, it's a clever game, and I feel the better player will win it more often than not. One final comment, when playing knights I didn't feel like I was burning huts down - if that is why this was left off the SdJ top 10, then that's a real shame.
Alan Stewart writes:
Welcome to Tina and Debbie!
Debbie, Tina, Alan, Graeme
Alan had played this game once, but it was new to the others. Everyone picked it up easily, and there were some high individual scores, but "complete" setes were fairly scarce.
Debbie 230 - 580 - 850
Dey, Alan, Graeme, Tina
A game new to both Graeme and Tina, but they picked it up quickly. I kept opting for my `win last trick' goal, at the same time someone else with a better trump hand did! No dealer was successful in discarding a goal in this game.
Dey 0, Tina 1, Alan 2, Graeme 2
Dey, Janet, Alan, Graeme
Everyone had played this before, but maybe not too many 4 player games. Dey and Janet started out with a successful bid; then Alan lost a bid - 3 sixes as major trumps , plus 3 off-suit nines wasn't enough when Vice Dey made 3s the minor trumps. Graeme lost a bid, Alan and Graeme won a bid. The next hand saw Alan bid 14 cards, but Janet bid 15 cards, making 7s the major trumps. Alan's call of black as minor trumps ensured he'd win at least one trick, so Janet didn't make her bid, in fact only scoring 38 triangles. Janet then lost another bid, and finally Alan and Janet won the bid to end the game.
Dey 83 - 126 - 140 - 144 - 153 - 179 - 190
Bernie, Janet, Alan, Graeme, Dey
Bernie just lost the opening bid by 1 triangle. Janet and Bernie won the bid, then Alan and Dey won the bid. Janet and Alan lost a big bid, I think this was the hand where Dey made Green the minor trump, and whoever ended up chief was in trouble. Then Alan and Graeme won a bid. In the last hand Bernie and Alan won the bid.
There was some `I've just played a 9, please pick me as partner' bidding during this game.
Bernie writes: *Grin* Of course, Alan's strategy is the complete antithesis of that strategy... When there is no obvious partner out there, picking Alan is often a good choice --- he usually has some goodies hidden away in his hand.
Oh, and of course that black nine he was referring to up there was meant as a "hey, look, I got the nine of what you want to make trumps" in a game where minor trumps looked like being a colour, and Alan had three black cards in front of him and was going to call major --- and then surprised me by choosing a number instead.... Dey called me a prostitute, anyway ;-)
Bernie 3 - 42 - 42 - 95 - 102 - 183
Strangely enough Dey loves playing MU, but usually loses, and wins WAS STICHT. I prefer playing WAS STICHT, though won't say no to a game of MU, but Dey keeps defeating me at that game! Maybe I should choose different goals...
Bernie Meyer writes:
Players: Debbie, Tina and Bernie
A new one to Debbie and Tina, so I went through explaining it. I threw in a fair number of "what seems to have been a good strategy in previous games" kind of hints, and boy was I going to regret that....
Things started typically slow, with everyone just grabbing little dukedoms all over the board. The 30's island once again hosted two players (Bernie and Tina), with the even-numbered opposite bank being controlled by the third (Debbie). After a while, Tina actually managed running out of dukes and had to use one from another colour --- alas, it wasn't to last, in the immediate next turn, I took over one of her 7 mini-dukedoms.
And then things suddenly started to go all wrong for me. Debbie managed to grab the archbishop card (she had done so earlier, but lost it before her next turn as both Tina and I went level). If I remember correctly, I had a little dukedom on areas 51 and 53, with a 3 city in there. So Debbie went and converted my knight on 53, and I was grinningly telling her "well, I can just reinforce over to 49, and you can't, because there is no 55". She looked rather dejected at that realization, and so I did it --- only for Debbie to play the 49 card on her next turn and take my brand new knight away. AARGH. Call her "Ms Poker-face"....
But my worries weren't over. Tina had played a single knight on 54, and had neglected to reinforce it with a second one. So when I drew the 52 card, I gleefully played it, locking in her single knight without any chance of reinforcement, while I had several spaces to reinforce to (50,48 etc). What happens? Tina just happens to have the 50 card, locks in my poor knight, and takes the dukedom. Uh-oh, there was my whole game going down the drain. I guess I had it coming, though.
Once again, the end came as a surprise (as in "what, you have only one tile left? But I still need two turns to complete my insidious plans...."), and the last turn was actually along the lines of "Well, can't do anything useful, so I'll just play any odd card" for all players. Scores were rather higher than usual, as there had been relatively few dukedom-fusions. I think Tina ended up with 6 and Debbie with 5 dukes on the board.
Scores (final, plus held in hand):
Roger Smith writes:
Dey and I had been playing heaps of this two-handed, and had managed a couple of four-handed games with the Billabongers. I found the last four-player game very frustrating - luck seems to play much more of a role. Most of the time I felt powerless to affect the outcome. I was therefore very keen to try it three-handed, as I suspected this might be the optimal number of players. After this game, Dey agrees with me that three players works well. Our one concern now is the Ripper Escapes. I think that unless ALL the players are experienced and playing carefully, the fifth victim inevitably comes out, followed by the Ripper Escapes. The more players the more likely, and the sooner, this will happen. Craig managed to play RE a couple of times to take this game. Can't wait to play Rue Morgue (Doug has a copy) given the feedback that it plays better with four.
Roger's rating: 8
Dey and I have also been playing a few two-player games of EXPRESS. One of the two player rules puzzles me: only playing up to 50 points. As you get 10 points for winning, in nearly every case the game is over in one hand. There is also a "contradiction" in the turntable rules. On p4 it says "use only 2 [turntables] with 3 or 4 players", yet on the second last page it says "with 2 and 3 players, use only two turntable cards". A minor point certainly, but I wonder if anyone has any thoughts?
My third game of this, and second three player. A new game for Craig and Debbie. Considering it takes a round or two to pick up the scoring (and there are only three rounds in the game) they did pretty well. I was able to avoid the negative pitfalls, which hit Debbie badly in the first turn. Both Craig and Debbie relied heavily on monument strategies. The points I gained by diversification in the early eons gave me the victory.
Roger's rating: 8
Roger: 1000 + 510 + 610 = 2120
We needed a filler, and this was the shortest three-player we could find. Debbie had already played this once tonight, and Craig and I had played a couple of times before. Last time I played Alan and Janet tromped all over me. This time I somehow managed to get TWO full sets in the first round - it was all downhill sailing from there!
Roger's rating: 7