Billabong Boardgamers

Billabong Boardgamers - May 25th, 1999

Present: Janet, Doug, Dey, Roger, Craig, Bernie, Graeme, Moray

Previous session report

Roger Smith writes:

Our first night with the heater working at Amaroo. A great leap forward!

Doug and Janet arrived, struggling under the weight of all their new games: Tikal, Krieg & Frieden, Rheinlander, Lost Cities and more! Nevertheless Doug's request was to retackle Chinatown. Bernie arrived just before the rules explanation was about to start, so was "dealt" in.


Bernie: 106 000
Roger: 102 000
Craig: 101 000
Doug: 101 000
Moray: 84 000

Two weeks ago Doug and myself managed half a game using the wrong rules before we ran out of time. The first point to make is that if you want to play with the rules as written, you must also download the errata from the Dumpster: Greg's translation uses variant rules. The previous game using these variant rules was too chaotic and erratic for my liking. With the correct rules the game was much better: tighter and more focused:

  • Phase 1: you pick up the number of cards indicated by the large number and discard down to the small number. The plot cards you have left are played immediately.

  • Phase 2, for round 1 you pick up the number of tiles indicated by the large number, in rounds 2-6 you pick up the number of tiles indicated by the small number. These tiles are placed FACE UP in front of you. (This last point was a pickup by Bernie from the German rules - is everyone playing it this way?)

We were amazed that the scores were so close, particularly as we were all using quite different strategies. Craig was not spending money during trading. I was spending very heavily. Doug was somewhere between these extremes. Bernie managed to be the first (and only I think) player to have a complete set of six, and I'd say this swung it for him. Moray didn't manage to get much of a presence on the board. This is one game I'm very keen to play again. I felt it played very well with five players - I know the consensus of the internet forums is that four is the optimum number.

Finally, I'd say that even if you don't think negotiation games are your thing, you should give Chinatown a try. The negotiation is not particularly cut-throat: it is aimed more at helping yourself rather than harming others. More akin to the trading session in Bohnanza than to Diplomacy.

Doug writes: A mini report as I don't have to write the official BBG reports this week. First time with five players, our second game at Billabong. We played the original rules, as we'd unwittingly picked up Greg's variants last week (which were great, btw, we just didn't know they were variants!). The original version differs in that you must discard two of your lot cards, so you cannot trade them from your hand. Also, interestingly, business tiles are open in front of each player, which makes trading much easier - none of this "what are you holding?" questions that plagued us last week. Still a great game, very tight, with less than $10 separating the first four positions. A winner...


Roger: 79
Janet: 75
Craig: 72

We introduced Craig to this new game. I was particularly chuffed to beat Janet, Queen of the Desert (or should that be Queen of the Sausage?) as she has a deservedly fearsome reputation at this game.


Roger: HHHH RRR BB (tie)
Janet: RRRR BBBB H (tie)
Craig: BBBB RR HH (ineligible)

The others were still working their way through the Rheinlander rules so we decided to stick with Herr Knizia. Interesting how much quieter everyone gets when they play this game. The only "game" I know of where this is more noticeable is Take It Easy, and in the latter case it might just be that the players have died. Nothing new to say about strategy. I was chuffed to draw with Janet. Craig was unlucky not to get a majority, but later nominated this as the game of the night for him (I didn't recheck this with him after Mamma Mia).


Doug: 15 + 30 + 16 = 61
Roger: 30 + 17 + 8 = 55

Moray had left, and the others had settled down for a game of Mamma Mia, leaving Doug and myself an opportunity to try one of Reiner's latest. What a great game this is. Fast, interesting, skilful, yet retaining opportunities for taking some reckless chances. But above all a game of control and management. NONE of which is obvious when you read the rules for the first time. It sounds so simple and uninvolving. Prior to the scores you see above, we had a trial hand. I kept saying "I don't get it", then a chance comment of Doug's (along the lines that if you haven't scored at least 20 points in a stack you're going to end up with a negative) suddenly hit home. It was too late in the game to cover all my bases!

I can't really say much about Doug and my strategies in this learning game, but the game abounds in those difficult and contradictory choices that Reiner is famous for. The main decisions seem to be:

  • Play more handshake cards to increase your score - and risk getting a negative score.
  • Hold back on playing number cards in the hope of getting more handshake cards - at the risk of leaving your expedition run too late.
  • Discard a card - at the cost of missing out on playing a card.
  • Specialise in a small number of expeditions that you are sure to get a positive score in - at the risk of your opponent getting a much higher score for taking a few chances on a larger number of expeditions.

I have to say that as a two player I think this knocks the socks off Caesar and Cleopatra - a favourite of mine - and Kahuna doesn't even belong in the same universe. I know everybody else has been saying this, but it is criminal that the latter could be nominated for SdJ and Lost Cities have missed out.

Doug writes: First time out for this one - great little game. I must admit, I was sceptical when I first read the rules, and wondered what all the hype was about. It may be a little over hyped, but it's still a nice little game, and rather addictive. Roger and I played a learner game - a game where various light bulbs were switched on as we realised what was required (no point playing every double card early as you're out of time at the end of the hand...), followed by three close hands. How on earth are you supposed to score 236, the highest possible score! :)

Dey Alexander writes:

Apologies for not having written this report last night because now pretty much all the details have blurred.


Players: Janet, Graeme, Dey

This was Graeme's first exposure to the game and it took a round before the mechanism and object sank in, but when it did, he was insistent on playing it again, and Janet joined in attempting to get me to play another game as the other group were still playing Chinatown.

Dey 20 - 8 = 12
Janet 18 - 12 = 6
Graeme 17 - 15 = 2


Players: Janet, Graeme, Dey

I resisted attempts to have another game of Schnappchen Jagd with the result that we soon decided to move on to Take It Easy (seeing we didn't have to worry about Roger having a fit at the suggestion that he ought to play it). We each took a turn as 'caller' and the game was played over three rounds. Again, this was a new game for Graeme.

Dey 146 + 176 + 139 = 461
Janet 103 + 169 + 64 = 336
Graeme 106 + 138 + 88 = 332


Players: Janet, Graeme, Dey

The others were *still* playing Chinatown, but now seemed sure that they'd finish within 10 minutes or so, so I capitulated to Graeme and Janet's request for a further game of Schnappchen Jagd, on condition that we abandon it as soon as the other group finished their game. As things turned out, we only played a round.

Dey 7 - 11 = -4
Janet 5 - 10 = -5
Graeme 7 - 15 = -8


Players: Doug, Bernie, Moray, Graeme, Dey

Doug had brought along a selection of new games and the one that interested me most was Billabong hero Knizia's new game, Rheinlander. However, we had no English translation, but Bernie kindly accepted the challenge of translating 'on the fly' (I won't provide a summary of the game here because by this time of night I wasn't fully functional and can remember nothing but a snippet, my lack of recall exacerbated by the 26-odd hour delay in writing this report). After a necessarily lengthy introduction to the rules, we finally proceeded to the game. Unfortunately, it wasn't until near the very end that anyone realised what might be going on, and so there was no real 'action' till the last turn or two. My only recollection now is of how similar this game seemed to be to Euphrat and Tigris; both in terms of the context/terminology (euphrates/rhine, dukes/leaders, dukedoms/kingdoms) and mechanism. I'm looking forward to playing another game now that we've had the benefit of the first and realised the parallels between this and E&T. I'm sure the others feel similarly.

Dey 39
Bernie 35
Doug 28
Moray 21
Graeme 11

Doug writes: I shamelessly pushed Bernie into teaching us Rheinlander, and to his credit he went through all 16 pages of rules, translating German into English as he went. Then we started playing, with only 50% of the rules comprehended...

I won't say too much as I'm not totally sure we 'got it', but it was an intriguing mix that had elements of his tile laying games included. Players are trying to amass points via getting dukes onto the board and in control of castles, cities and churches.

Cards are used to place knights onto corresponding numbered spaces. Adjacent knights form a duchy, and a simple majority of knights determine the duke.

When two dukes collide, most knights win, with one duke taking over the other. But... the loser gets paid out in VP's for his losses - basically for the loss of the duchy, any towns, castles or churches.

The game continues until one player has played all their knights (this didn't take long!) and points are summed - both from pay outs and what's left on the board. Dukes left on the board are worth five points, so it's better to get your opponents removed, as they only receive one for that...apart from that there are bonuses for castles, churches and cities.

We found it confusing, but there was a spark there. Connecting two regions reminded me strongly of Euphrat where you provoke a conflict via a tile placement. However, here you see what the result will be - no hidden hand to influence things.

The board is a bit of a nightmare when it comes to determining adjacency, and what knights are in what duchy.


Players: Craig, Bernie, Graeme, Janet, Dey

I can barely remember playing this (it must have been past my bedtime), and obviously still can't, since I left it out of my earlier report. It wasn't until I read Roger's report that I realised something was amiss and went scrambling for the piece of paper that had the results written on it.

Mamma Mia was a new game for Craig (weren't they all?), relatively new to Graeme, while the rest of us are well-versed in the art of slapping together a few olives, chillies, and whatever...

Yet another victory to me . Ho hum.

Dey 6
Bernie 5
Janet 5
Graeme 3
Craig 3

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