Billabong Boardgamers

Billabong Boardgamers January 26th, 1999

Present: Alan, David C., Doug, Bernie, Moray, Liz, David M., Greg

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

The Billabong Boardgamers celebrated Australia Day with some fine German games :) Great to see the return of some new members. Dey and Roger were at a concert, while Janet was on early shift at the Australian Open the next morning so decided to get some sleep instead.

6 Nimmt

David C., Alan and Doug began with a quick filler game of 6 Nimmt. Everything went Doug's way (I'd love to put it down to skill, but alas I cannot make my mind up about this game!). Half way through our game, Bernie walked in with a copy of this game. He started up a game with Moray and Liz when they appeared.

Doug: 10
Alan: 59
David: 76

Durch die Wueste

I introduced David M., Greg and Bernie to this Knizia gem, it's just so easy to teach and they were all playing like masters in 10 minutes. It appeared to be a very closely fought game, highlighted by not many enclosed areas and a desperate grab for the 5 point oasis tiles.

Bernie: 67
Doug: 61
Greg: 48
David M.: 47

Die Maulfwurf Company

Bernie bought this along (he has what sounds like an interesting collection - he wants to build a giant Carabande track next week!). I hope I have the spelling correct here, which I think is the same game as "Mole in the Hole" which I have seen around the shops but not touched. The reason I hadn't touched it was I thought it was more of a children's game, but there is quite a bit going for this game! You must skilfully navigate a fleet of moles across a Chinese checkers like board based on a number tile you randomly turn up each turn (from a pool of 6 tiles). You must move the full distance if at all possible with the aim being to land your moles in the limited number of holes punched in the game board.

Why? Well, when all the holes are filled with moles, the board is lifted up and any moles not in holes are removed, along with the board - revealing a second board complete with mole holes underneath. It all starts again, like a game of musical chairs as you jockey a decreasing number of moles into the decreasing number of holes. The winner is the player who gets their mole into the one single hole on the last board.

I found the game quite easy to learn with a certain amount of skill in blocking tactics and balancing the odds of what number tiles you still had to turn up. Oh, and I won too, so it had to be good ;-)

Bernie writes

First of all, just to avoid confusion... "Company" is not a German word. But some German games designers seem to like to call their games by (partially) English names (other examples are "Nobody is perfect", which is the German version of Balderdash, and "Activity", which is a nice mix between Charade, Pictionary and Taboo. Oh, and of course my newest acquisition, "Visionary").

Doug has already written his impression of this game, so I won't go into details. However, explaining it to 4 new players in the course of the evening, it became clear that this is another of those "very simple rules, but lot of depth" kind of games. We played this twice, and although the lead changed a number of times, the outcome was the same both times --- Moray ended up on the golden shovel (which is the last piece, located underneath the last hole). This was a bit surprising, as he did so after missing a couple of opportunities in earlier layers. This shows up one characteristic of this game: There is a fair amount of equalization going on, so that an early lead (or whatever the opposite of lead is called in English) will often diminish with time. The game supports up to 4 players, and I'd like to play a 4 player game sometime....

6 Nimmt (6 takes) I played this with Moray and Liz. Both had played before, but weren't really familiar with the game. Liz had a lot of bad luck, and also made some rather risky moves (like putting out a 25 to go on a 19, which was the 4th card of a pile), and ended up making an impressive 81 bullheads in just three hands. We played a minor variation of the usual rules --- we only used the cards 1 to 34; This means that in a 3 player game, _all_ the numbers are actually in the game. This takes away a lot of the luck factor of the usual way (where you might have Liz's 25, and don't dare to put it on, only to find out later that 20,21,22,23 and 24 weren't even in the game at all). Having played this game dozens of times by now, I slowly start seeing some ways to actually play with strategy, probably aided by that rule change. Moray and I both ended up with virtually no bullheads, with me having a tiny advantage (7 vs 9 at the end of the three hands).

Manhattan same players as before. We had all played this one before, but none more than once. In my case, that once was at least 5 years ago, too (and was on New Year's morning, after a looooong party ;-). So we all had to go through the rules again. In the early rounds, I managed to gain a bit of a lead over Moray and Liz, who were head-to-head all the time. At the end of round 3 or 4, however, Liz suddenly established her own little skyscraper empire, left Moray in the dust and started gaining on me. In the end, it all came down to the last turn of the last round (a bit like a SL vs England one day match), and I was fortunate enough to be able to wrestle control of one neighbourhood from Liz (who had the unenviable task of going first). It then was up to Moray to place his last token, and (being the nice guy that he is --- at least for _that_ token) he decided to play for his own benefit rather than for that of Liz. This meant that I narrowly held on to my lead (by three points), with Liz coming second and Moray a (slightly distant) third. Moray could have created a tie between Liz and me, though, and if there had been one more round, Liz would certainly have won.

Alan writes


Alan, David C, Doug, Greg, David M (First time played for Greg and David M)

This was a "requested before hand game" and one I'd been wanting to play at Billabong for a while.

The initial set-up saw my Grandee in Baskenland, and I think the King in Neukastilien. Other grandees were Doug - Sevilla, Greg - Aragon, David M - Katalonia and David C - Valencia.

As one of the initial cards on offer was `score all five regions', I played my 13 power card during the first round. I then chose this card, placed 3 caballeros on the board in Aragon, and scored the 5 regions. This gave me 12 points, Greg 4 points and David C 7 points.

Past experience has shown that getting the points on the board in El Grande can be a winning strategy. Sure you're a target, but it's possible to weather the storm.

David C played his 1 power card in an early round, but got it back again through an action card. He seemed to have the best managed yard throughout the course of the game.

As usual my yard ran very short of caballeros, but I was also choosing action cards which allowed me to place more caballeros on the board than I had in my yard. 4 times out of the 9 rounds, from memory.

I don't think I did anything wrong in this game, even if some actions may have seemed strange to the other players. In turn 8 (maybe turn 7) a diabolical action card had turned up for me. It was the `each player chooses a region from which all his caballeros are returned to his provinces'. At this stage I had caballeros in 3 provinces - Galicien 4, Aragon - 5, Altkastilien - 7. There was no way I wanted that card played while I was in that position. I played a 10 power card, and managed to go first. Others were gearing up for later rounds. I moved the 1 caballero into my yard, and that was all I had to place on the board! However, I took the `Move the king' action card, moved the King to Sevilla and placed my 1 caballero in Granada. When the dreaded card was eventually selected and activated, I removed that 1 caballero. Disaster avoided.

David M selected both `Veto' cards, but wasn't sure when to use them. We hadn't set an `advise/don't advise' house rule so the other players weren't sure what to say. In the end we let him play the `veto', but then advised as why perhaps he should have played it differently, or perhaps mentioned that an action just completed should have been vetoed. On one turn I wanted to move 4 of David M's caballeros from one region (giving me 2 more points there) into another region (giving him overall 4 more points) but he `vetoed' it. As I was giving him more points I was hoping he'd let it pass, but he decided to veto it, as was his right. As he was in 4th or 5th place at the time, I didn't mind offering him the extra points. My then planned movement of one of my caballeros to temporarily gain 4 points couldn't proceed.

Later on, turn 9 I think, David C moved the King into Valencia where his Grandee was and he had the majority. David M should have vetoed this, as not only did it protect a lot of points for David, coming 2nd or 3rd at the time, it opened up Katolonien for Doug to add more caballeros and take domination away from David M, who had his Grandee there. We'll put that one down to experience, and a learning the game lesson.

In the last turn, I played my 12 power card thinking I would be going second. I'd miscounted the played 13 cards, as there were actually none left to play!

After Turn 3 I was 14 points ahead, so my get the points on the board plan was working. At the end of Round 6 my lead had decreased to 7.

Final scores: Alan, David C -7, Doug -18, David M -24, Greg -38

Midway through the game, when I had caballeros in only 3 regions and had been forcibly evicted from my homeland, I though Doug was a threat. He was present in all regions except 2 (from memory), and gaining points in each of the regions he occupied, even if they were only seconds or thirds. At one point he said "I stuffed up", but didn't elaborate on what he'd done wrong. Maybe he'll comment on this report and explain.

I made good use of the castle, and in fact both David C and myself picked up 7 points from our paraballeros in Round 9. Mind landed in Baskenland to a warm welcome from my Grandee, and David's took him from 4th to dominating Neukastilien. David also did a great job of defending Valencia as I think he was the only one who scored the bonus for his Grandee in each scoring turn, not to mention claiming it from a few action cards.

I hope Greg and David M enjoyed their first game, and will play it again. El Grande remains one of the two games I give a `10' rating to.

(The spell checker hated most of the region names, but didn't object to caballero, Valencia, Sevilla, Aragon and Granada.).


Alan, David C, Moray and Liz (First time played for Liz and Moray)

This was the first time I have played this game with 4 players, and the decisions on which tile to play were diabolical. There were quite a few times when 3 people chose the same tile, but none where all four did. Combined two and two plays were also fairly common.

I couldn't believe the number of times when I was the only player on a 7 space, and so went for the score tile, and someone else did as well!

Unfortunately I was employing a strategy which tried to get points on the board, but it left me with very few jewels, zero in fact at one stage, so no power to negotiate if I played a similar tile to someone else. It was virtually impossible to play an unopposed tile. I think I managed it twice in the last round.

There were also two turns where two people scored the ten point bonus for completing a lap on the same turn. This hadn't happened in the previous three player game I'd played.

After the first turn Moray was about 10 points ahead of the rest of the field who were within one point of each other.

At the end of round two, Alan and Moray were ahead, with David and Liz trailing, but David and Moray had the best bank of jewels going into the last round.

The final round saw some spirited trading, with David offering 6 red at one stage, which was a fair trade as they weren't going to score him anything, and he wanted the points if Moray took the trade.

In the end I got the 10 point bonus for lapping the board, and Moray got all four bonuses for most jewels, but tied for two of them with Liz (yellow and green I think).

Final scores:
Moray 97
David 75
Alan 74
Liz 66

The `points on the board' strategy obviously doesn't work with this game, as you need jewels to negotiate and work toward end game bonuses. The "second guessing" what other people might do is nerve wracking, but sometimes you do get it right!


Alan, David, Moray, Liz (First time played for Moray and Liz)

After the random pick for start, Liz played first, followed by Alan, David and Moray.

Everyone targeted spots between 2 and 3 point oases and one space away from palm trees. Moray seemed to have his own little empire on one side of the board, and I deliberately placed two camels in corners to prevent Liz and Moray enclosing a huge area. Unfortunately Moray placed his same coloured camel two spaces away from one of these, the lime one, preventing me from reaching the nearby palm tree, but that was his choice to play. It looked like David was trying for an enclosed space around the central cliffs, and he was welcome to it as the nearby area was a real desert with a few 1 point oases and no nearby camel leaders.

Initial camel placements saw most players going for contested 2 or 3 point oases (ie, they were between two opposing players' camels) or gaining palm tree points. Moray went for an enclosed area along the side of the board he'd claimed, using the blue/grey camels. Liz was racing from palm tree to palm tree, hitting oases along the way, also using blue/grey camels.

Meanwhile, I enclosed an area in one corner and then proceeded to get as many quick points from 2 and 3 oases, plus palm trees as possible as I'd seen what was probably going to happen. I also kept an eye on two of my camel trains - purple and lime - as with only 4 camels in each train, they were still the longest in those colours!

With Moray choosing 2 of the last four blue/grey camels, and then Liz taking the final two the game was over quickly, with lots of camels left in the other colours!

Final scores:
Alan 63 (included 3 camel train bonuses - lime 4, purple 4, orange 8 - this last one unexpectedly beat David's train of 7, I hadn't been watching this one, it was the one I used to enclose an area and it happened to be longest. Enclosed area 8 points [from memory]).
Moray 51 (1 camel train bonus - blue/grey - his 14 beat Liz's 13. Enclosed area 9 [from memory, may be in error])
David 42 (1 camel train bonus - lemon - something like 11 to 3 or 4 as the next longest. I think David may have been trying to enclose an area with this train, but the game ended too soon)
Liz 37 [Enclosed area 1, from memory.]

My first victory at this game. I think in this case I paid a lot more attention to the board and what was happening, and kept an eye on the lime and purple placements to ensure my trains always remained the longest. I'm still not sure of how important enclosing areas is, as the game can be over before you complete an area and the points are more easily picked up from oases and palm trees. I guess it's a balance of gauging the game length and whether others are enclosing areas. It's easy to miss out on a palm tree, you can't assume they'll be there later, and I was blocked from one I should have taken earlier. I hope Liz and Moray enjoyed their first game, and will play it agin.

(To save frustrated readers and messages enquiring - the other game I give a `10' to is Settlers of Catan.)

David Coutts writes

In the Durch Die Wuste report, Alan wrote:-

With Moray choosing 2 of the last four blue/grey camels, and then Liz taking the final two the game was over quickly, with lots of camels left in the other colours!


David 42 (1 camel train bonus - lemon - something like 11 to 3 or 4 as the next longest. I think David may have been trying to enclose an area with this train, but the game ended too soon)

David writes:- I thought about this afterwards and concluded:- I was SO focussed on enclosing my area with lemon camels that I missed completely that the game was about to end because the blue/grey camels were about to run out! It was a complete surprise! Ending it when she did, Liz handed the game to Alan with 3 camel train bonuses (all of which were within grasp of at least one player). Still, credit to Alan for being the only player focusing properly on how to actually WIN!

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