Billabong Boardgamers - November 23th, 1999
Present: Doug, Janet, Pat, Roger, Greg, Craig Mac.
Doug Adams writes:
It was great to finally meet up with Pat Brennan, who attended tonight. Pat games up Sydney with Richard Vickery's group, and admitted to that he got into German games after stumbling across the Billabong WebPages while working in New Zealand. Our plans to conquer are slowly taking shape ;)
APPLES TO APPLES
With just five players sitting around, we decided to play a few hands of Apples to Apples while waiting for the masses to show up. The "mass" ended up being Craig, who showed up well into the evening.
Apples to Apples was a new game to Pat. Scoring was pretty close, apart from poor Greg who liked to sit back and ponder his move before selecting a red apple card. In the end Janet picked up the 8th apple for a win.
It looked like being just five gamers at this stage (what must Pat think?), and as all Pat's requests were for four player games we were a bit lost. In the end we grabbed something new, Andromeda.
Roger, Doug and Janet had played this a few days before, and we all rather enjoyed it. As a light family game it works quite well, but there are a couple of mechanisms in the game that will appeal to the hardened gamer.
Here's some descriptions I typed up the other day - saves me doing it again!
Not too bad, very different, doesn't really feel like any other game I can readily name. The object is to collect points via claiming trading stations on seven planets, claiming wild cards, being advanced in technology and finally, for having lots of stations on earth.
You need sets of planet cards to do anything in this game. Sets get you onto a planet, and from there more sets will give you chances at getting a trading station on that planet (the stations are worth the points, not simply having a presence on the planet). Sets also let you advance along the spaceship and technology tracks (these advances give you more power and flexibility in the game).
Each turn you are dealt back up to your hand limit (from 9 to 13 depending on your ship level). You may cash in one of your two precious transport cards to move two stations from earth to any of 7 planets, or move ALL stations from any of the planets back to earth.
Then a neat trading phase occurs where the start player plays, one at a time to which each player must respond to each card, planet cards that are up for trade. The other players cannot match the start players cards, and a bit of Res Publica appears here as you try and guess what the other players need and offer it up. The start player must take a set from another player, the others may take up their cards or trade with any remaining player. I liked this - it worked for me.
Then come the action rounds - the starting player gets three actions, the other players get two actions. Actions include:
Cashing in "pure" sets (no wild cards) allows you to claim a wild card - these can be used for melding into subsequent sets, or held to the end of the game and used for victory points.
The trading post action is going to divide gamers (just a prediction!). The number of attempts a player gets is equal to the number of cards in the set halved and rounded down. The player covers all player's stations on a planet with some device (akin to the cloud in Ab Die Post) and whirls it around. One station will pop out the gap in the device, and if it's yours then you get a trading station (some big points in the bag). If it's another player's, then that goes back to earth and you get another attempt providing you have some attempts left. Very random, but you maximise your luck through your card play - more in a set, more chances. Wait a bit to build up a set, someone may trump in and take the juice 14 trading post off your by blind luck!
The game ends when three planets each have all their trading post slots (3) taken.
Our game saw Pat jump out to a big lead by forming the first two or three trading stations on planets. Doug was concentrating on building hand size (rockets) and powers (technology) and the others followed suit. Doug's strategy was to try and get to the vital "round up" ability quickly, hopefully earning a few wild cards along the way, then cashing all that in for extra chances on trading station attempts.
It kind of worked out that way, but your strategy (if there is any!) is very much driven by how well you come out of the trading phase. If you do not get some good stuff, you are forced to waste actions picking up new cards off the deck.
Our game closed up towards the end, and a goods odds trading station attempt by Greg didn't happen for him (poor Greg had terrible luck with the "cloud") and the surprisingly went an extra turn. Doug had a couple of attempts on the Purple planet, and the "Jupiter" like planet that would have netted an extra 10 points, but neither "hit", and Pat took the game.
I'm giving this a 7. Some will loathe it, but for some reason it appeals to me.
One of Pat's requested games - we got one in for him! Pat has been looking for a copy of this, but boy, we cured him of that! A new game to Pat and Craig (Greg had to leave), and we warned both newbies several times that there was no point planning anything, just get set for a chaotic ride!
And initially, that didn't eventuate. For the first two ages, Sweden prospered. Despite being thumped by Prussia in our first war (which cowardly Craig didn't fight in), Sweden easily won her next two or three wars and every fief on the board that could be owned was owned.
Strategies were basically commercial from Roger, commercial from Pat, land ownership from Doug and Craig (who we noticed was buying all the fiefs that didn't have troops!), and a mixed strategy from Janet.
On the last stretch it indeed looked like we would finally score status points that the rulebook hints are possible in the game (usually 2 status points wins with us!). However, with a few turns to go we were brutally beaten in a war with Russia, losing the Finnish fiefs along with Estonia from the game. That hit Doug hard, who was suddenly down to 1 fief. One war later and Doug was fief-less, and the others were starting to struggle as well.
With two turns to go, the event cards began flying around the table, hitting players left, right and centre. Craig went from owning half the fiefs in the game to owning 3 in the last two turns. Doug had a palace burnt down, in short it was hit and be hit.
The final straw was the final turn when Doug played "Winds of War" right after his action phase to shut the other players out for the turn - much to the displeasure of Craig!
Roger: 5 (mainly through merchants and cultural personalities)
I think I may have played my last game of this. I certainly enjoyed playing it, but it always seems to break down in the final few turns. There definitely needs to be some sort of "1 event card per turn" rule. At least we saved Pat some money :)
That ended a quiet, but enjoyable, evening.