Billabong Boardgamers

Glen Waverley Gamers September 23rd September 1997

Present: David, Allan, Ian, Doug, Janet, Julian, Gay, Darren

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

Another strong turnout that enabled us to get two tables going again, and another welcome new face in Ian.

We had 5 players at 7:15 with the other 3 arriving at 8pm, so we broke out the ultimate 5 player filler...

Mississippi Queen

Captain's Doug, Julian, Janet, Allan and David lined up their boats, quickly compared ages to see who went first (don't you love that rule) and were off.

A bit of early bumping saw David moved back to last place, and Allan slightly out of position. Janet had the early lead and headed for the open river just ahead of Julian and Doug. Allan picked up a passenger at the first station and was then bumped. This allowed him to move back in to pick up his second passenger immediately. Never seen that before, and it set Allan up nicely for the rest of the race.

I was holding down third place, no passengers, behind Janet and Julian when David gave me a nasty shunt that put me behind an island facing the wrong direction. I spent 3 turns conserving coal and edging around the island to pick up the passenger there while the others loped ahead.

Allan blew the race open and won by at least 4 turns while the rest of us fought out the minor placings. I was 6 river segments behind fourth place and was getting a bit of lip from Julian - but I had clear, straight river in front of me, and a heap of coal. I wound it up to 6 and passed David to take my second passenger on the second last tile. David bumped me out for second, but I took 3rd thanks to Janet bumping Julian away from the finish line. Julian took fourth and Janet fifth. Great game, and it was a delight to beat Julian after the mid race heckling :)

The race took about 25 minutes - fantastic fun.

We had about 15 minutes before the others arrived, so we talked about the planned GWG website. A large hurdle is the name, as Julian may be moving out of Glen Waverley soon. How can we call ourselves Glen Waverley Gamers ? No good suggestions for a new name could be found, but Janet and I came up with a suggestion on the way home:

"Green Piece Gamers" - in homage to our mentors insistence on taking the green piece in each game he plays.

We had 8 players at this stage so we split into 2 groups for ...


Doug, Janet, Allan and Julian lined up for this new game from GoldSeiber. Janet and I had a learner game a couple of weeks ago to iron out the wrinkles and explained it to the others. A couple of wrinkles arose during game play which I may bring up here.

In the early game Allan, Julian and Janet were competing to found a territory in the same region of the board and in the end each player did manage it, but Janet's was squashed between the others before she could defend it with knights.

Doug was also trying to found territories but seemed to always lose out on the 'build walls' challenges. Allan completed a second territory and had a very large lead. Julian picked up a second territory while Janet was working hard to build a second one to make up for her rather small 2 space territory sandwiched between Allan and Julian. Doug had a territory in the mid game and entered an arms race to stop Allan from moving in.

Allan countered all threats and by the time the king passed on (ie. the game ended) Allan was a clear winner with 65, well ahead of the others who were bunched quite close.

Thoughts ? Well, I enjoyed it, but I suspect our inexperience showed. I didn't make it clear that you could set up *anywhere* on the board and the others didn't realise you could anchor a territory by using the border walls. This led to a bunched setup in the middle of the board, and not many territories being founded during the game. The Power Trial rules as written didn't seem to gel either. I think instead of the offer-counteroffer system, a rapid auction would be better to give the first in turn a better chance of winning. I almost think that is the intent in the rules, yet it doesn't explicitly say so.

Modern Art

David ran a game of Modern Art, much to my anguish as I've been dying to play this game (I own it, never played it) - but I had to run Lowenherz (which I wanted play too - let's get this cloning thing going!). Here is David's report from the game:

"I won".

Just kidding - there may be something to add later. David took the game, but I'm not sure how Ian, Gay or Darren fared in the minor placings.

Viva Pamplona

Doug, Julian, Gay and Janet had two games of this. In the first game Julian described a strategy of a friend of his to move a pawn way out in front of the bull, soaking off bad die rolls, so I tried it and amassed 42 machismo points to take the game by a mile.

It didn't work so well in the second game, thanks to a speedy bull, but Janet managed to be the bravest of the brave and take the second game. I like this one.

Cafe International

While we proved our bravery with the bulls, David, Darren, Allan and Ian put on their waiter's aprons and tried to sit customers at the Cafe. Again David, may supply details but the main detail is that Allan did *not* win which made the rest of us very happy !! Ian took the game with 44 points, from Allan with 42.

David Coutts writes:

A fair turn out this session - David, Julian, Alan, Doug, Janet, Ian (new), Darren, Gay.

The last 3 arrived at about 8.00, so the first 5 played Mississippi Queen on the coffee table. Game report coming from Doug.

Once all 8 were present we split into 2 lots of 4, the coffee table group & the kitchen table group. I was the only permanent member of the coffee table group - hence this report from me.

At the coffee table:-

Modern Art

(Hans Im Gluck version) with David, Gay, Ian & Darren.

For those unfamiliar with the game (designed by Reiner Knizia) , the players represent art dealers dealing in art by 5 different artists. There are 4 auction rounds and the player who has made the most money from buying & selling art is the winner. Art left in the hand at the end is worthless. Modern Art can be played by 2-5 players though I've never played with less than 4. This version of the game (Mayfair did a version but I haven't seen inside the box) is colourful & well produced. The board is small & simple with 5 spaces depicting a piece of art by one of the artists and, below each, 4 small spaces for value tokens. The distribution of cards by the different artists is (from left to right on the board):- Lite Metal 12, Yoko 13, Christin P. 14, Karl Gitter 15, Krypto 16). The money is nice & chunky - players start with $100,000 & 9 randomly dealt art cards. In the 2nd and 3rd rounds players are dealt an extra 4 cards each and none in the 4th round. Unplayed cards are kept between rounds. Players also get a small folded screen in the form of an art dealers shop front - this is to hide your money.

Each round starts with a player auctioning a piece of art (or sometimes 2). You then proceed clockwise around the table, each player in turn selling 1 (sometimes 2) pieces of art. A round ends when there have been 5 pieces of art played for any one artist. The art played to end a round is discarded,  not auctioned. The most popular artist (normally the artist whose art was used to close a round) gets a value token of 30,000 for this round, 2nd most popular 20,000 & 3rd most popular 10,000. In the event of a tie then the artist that is furthest to the left on the board display wins (hence the distribution of cards).

Art is auctioned in one 4 ways (as depicted on the cards), & highest bid wins:- Open auction (seller acts as auctioneer, players shout their bids); Round auction (once around the table, player to the left of the seller starts); Secret auction (players put their bid in their hand and reveal simultaneously); Reserved price (state your asking price, then once around the table & player to the left of the seller starts. First yes gets it). Some cards show a special play symbol and must always be sold with another card by the same artist (using the auction method shown on this 2nd card). If you buy your own art then the money goes to the bank, otherwise the buyer pays the seller. Buying your own art can make it more popular, bumping up its market value, but getting paid by another player usually pays a higher profit. This is such a subtle mechanism that new players often miss the true significance of their actions.

At the end of an auction round (when the 5th card by an artist is played), players receive the market value for the art bought this round. Only the 3 most popular artists this round are worth anything. Art bought by the other 2 artists this round is discarded as worthless. If an artist was also in the top 3 in previous rounds then the value tokens from previous rounds are added to his market value this round. So, by the end of round 4, the maximum market value would be 120,000 (though it is unlikely an artist will be the most popular all 4 times). Then the players receive the market value for each piece of art that they bought this round. These cards are then discarded. It is possible not to have bought any art in a round, but all players will have auctioned some art.

This is such a clever mechanism that new players find it difficult to asses the value of a piece of art and often badly under-bid or over-bid. More experienced players will attempt to convince the others of the potential value of the art that they are auctioning. Judging market value is, itself, a fine art.

Overall I find this game to be a fine contest between experienced players, and wonderfully unpredictable with novices (who knows what they'll do?). Some players love to buy, and make small profits from their purchases. Some buy infrequently, relying on sales instead. The mixture of buyers & sellers in a game will set the pace and nature of each game. Easily playable in under an hour, this one is on my top ten list of all time. The Sumo readership seem to agree - a classic.

In our game the final scores were David 445, Ian 431, Darren (definitely a buyer) 398 & Gay 306. David (me) was the only experienced player and yet both Ian & Darren's scores were very close to mine. Darren closed 3 of the 4 rounds, thus deciding who was the most popular artist each time. Needless to say, Darren always had more of those than anyone else. In none of the rounds did anyone fail to score for one of their purchases ( there was only ever art by 3 of the 5 artists per round). This, in my experience, was unusual. It only takes art by 4 or 5 artists to have been played to guarantee that someone will lose out - much more fun! Everyone enjoyed the game, whilst at that the same time looking at me wondering how I won. I must admit that I played a cagey game, opting for very few purchases. Also, with Darren on my left, I could usually rely on a buyer .... Still, at no time was I confident of victory... and the scores bear me out.

We also played:-

Cafe International

(Mattel) - Alan, Ian, David & Darren.

No time for a review or synopses (Julian?), sorry, I'm late for work! This was one of Julian's games - I like it so much that I've asked him to get me a copy from one of his contacts. Again, it plays easily in under an hour and everyone enjoyed playing it. It's easier to explain that Modern Art, and easier to understand how to win. Alan & I had played once before, but are the more experienced game players. Ian, a self-confessed novice-gamer, paid no attention to our experience and proceeded to beat us. Alan (who had a very good night overall) gave him a good run for his money. Darren, in game terms, had a very heavy night at the bar...

The scores:- Ian 46, Alan, 44, David 29, Darren 1.

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