Billabong Boardgamers - April 27th, 1999
Present: David, Alan, Janet, Doug, Bernie, Dey, Roger, Graeme, Julian C.
Doug Adams writes:
A new Knizia game that I am only just beginning to hear things about, and the word is generally "same weight as Katzenjammer Blues, but better". Alan did a heroic job going through the rules, while the rest of us babbled and only absorbed half of them. Here's what I remember...
It's a set collecting card game, with a drafting element. There are, I think, 80 cards in ten suits, numbered 0-7. You are trying to collect trios of cards of the same rank, but different colours - or you are trying for a "sudden death" win of one card of each rank. I may have this slightly wrong here.
On your turn you turn cards up for all to see. You may stop and take any card, or you turn may be terminated (yar, Arnie in der moofies) if you draw a second card from the same suit. A risk element here, do you keep drawing or cut your losses and take an unwanted card in the hope it will be useful later?
If you have a trio of cards, you may declare them and put them on the table for 10 points in the bank - these cannot be lost. If you hang onto cards for a sudden death win (putting on a Gala Show) then these may be lost via three separate events, several of which are sprinkled through the deck. These are either:
The game ends when someone has claimed a sudden death win (difficult, I think, but again, I'm not sure) or the deck is empty. Points are awarded for trios (10 each) and ...tricky this... the value of the highest ranked card in each suit remaining in your hand. This is kind of clever - if you have three 7's from different suits, you want to keep them in your hand for 21 points, rather than declaring them as a trio for 10...but you may be forced to lose them.
Our first game of this saw us declare trios whenever we could (we didn't get it, basically, until near the end), and we each ended up with four trios each.
Doug's rating: 6 - it has filler potential, but Mamma Mia is king in this department at the moment, at least at our club.
Boy, this is a big game with lots of heft, but at a very good price if reports are anything to go by. The theme here is integrating the countries of Europe into a nice stable Union of countries, where everyone is nice to each other and the flowers just smell so much better. That's the general feel of the game, right throughout the rules, which are very simple but quite procedural.
The players represent a faction of political influence who are trying to convert the countries from the nationalists into the Union. Your influence is represented on the map by lots of little wooden men and women. If you can get lots of them into the countries that count, you will do well.
The game is played over four rounds - each round there may be around 15 countries up for election, the order being randomly determined. Players are given their amount of Euro persons to place on the map, the number given being decided by how many Political Points they current have (divided by 10). The players then position their people on the map in the different countries, as they see fit. Then the fun begins....
...now if any two gaming groups are playing the game the same way, I'll be very surprised, let alone how the designers intended it to be played. We made mistakes (which if we'd reached for the newly arrived Counter #4 next to us, we could have cleared all this up) but we are wiser now and have only one rules issue still being debated.
...the fun being the elections. To bring a country into the Union you need a total number of Euro persons equal to a black number in the country - between 2 and 6, from memory. This is the total of all players, not each player. If there isn't enough, the country avoids Union and it's onto the next election. However, if the country does have enough to convert, then the players negotiate a coalition along these parameters:
Note: the English rules differ from the German rules in terms of the coalition must total the black number in the country as well. Give that the English translation is poor in other areas, we ignored that part of the English rules. For example:
A country with a number of "4" has red, red, green, blue there. As there are four pieces, it can enter the Union, and a legal coalition is red, red, green - blue does not have to be included to make the total four. This is one thing we did right! :)
Winning coalitions earn the parties 1 victory point, and it's these that win the game. The winners also get to reposition one of their Europeans to another country - to be elected, or one that failed an election this round. The countries that enter the Union have a jigsaw puzzle piece positioned on the board to signify entry to the Union. As the board fills up, the effect is very pleasing to the eye.
On turns three and four, war can break out - determined randomly but heavily weighted to the Balkan area - players must commit Euro dudes to stamp it out and earn more VP's, or fail to stamp it out and lose VP's.
The player with the most VP's (kept hidden throughout the game) is the winner at the end of round four.
So, what did we do wrong? Well, first off between Bernie's reading of the German rules, and our reading of the English translation, we could not determine if pieces coming of the board and placed "in front of you" meant they were available next round, in addition to your freebies based on Political Points. We ruled that they were, which a glance at Counter #4 post-game showed us to be wrong - which we had suspected half way through the game anyway. Europe went Euro-blue without any problems whatever.
In our game elections were fairly evenly split, in terms of VP's in round one, apart from Julian (we were playing a six player game - David, Alan, Bernie, Doug, Julian, Janet) who missed out completely. Big countries that failed to enter were Great Britain, Norway and Italy. Alan and David had scored well, bagging Germany between them to leap out on the Political Point track.
Round two saw factional wars break out between the coalitions of David/Alan and Janet/Bernie/Julian. Doug was left out of it as he did fairly well in round 1, so it was three against two. This didn't work out so well as we were playing with far two many pieces each (given the incorrect ruling we were using) with David and Alan's material advantage succeeding. At this point it struck me that this wasn't how the game should be played - Alan and David did very well in round one so why were they agreeing to form coalitions so readily? Surely Julian would be a good partner as he did poorly in round 1? David's justification was that he chose to do it that way, so he was going to - and I guess you can't argue with that logic as he was making sure he was going to come first or second. The downside was there were four others who were very bored for the next 90 minutes.
David writes: That was not my justification. I simply didn't feel that I had to justify not doing a deal because I could see that nobody would. I did offer deals to Julian & Janet - in fact, anyone who would listen - but nobody would. Bernie made it obvious that any deals were out of the question. Julian could the see the sense of what I proposed but realised it only meant more victory points for me. No deals there. Janet was in the wrong place(s) at the wrong time(s). Doug & I did make a deal over France, but it was the last time Doug even ventured an offer. It made perfect sense, therefore, to close the others out, given Alan & I could guarantee 1st & 2nd place. Not entirely my decision, I feel. It was only REALLY obvious that we had screwed the rules up during the third round and, despite the fact that Alan & I had first place to fight over, we agreed that there was no point going on. Despite this, I think the game has potential. We agreed to play again next week with the revised (correct rules).
The wars in round three were minor, with only 12 conflict points to deal with, which Alan, David and Janet earned points for. The game was so farcical at this point that every country but 3 was into the Union by the end of the round, with Alan and David openly agreeing about their placements now, while we could only watch, chipping in for an occasional country that was skipped by the two leaders.
We abandoned the game at that point, as Alan and David could swamp just about every piece into the remaining three countries and win them easily. We didn't bother with scores, but it was noted that Alan/David were on around 20 each, while ther remaining players were on about 6-8 points each.
It was rather disturbing to see 2 players openly defy four players and succeed, but with the correct rules, their allocation of Euro people should be cut drastically back forcing them into other partnerships, and allowing the four other players to influence the game a bit, rather than not at all.
We have agreed to try the game again next week, with the corrected rule set based on Counter #4 and Bernie's discoveries, to pass final judgement. However, if I see any whiff of that 2 defeating 4 problem again, my copy is going unplayed into my trade pile.
One question: the initial allocation of pieces is listed as 2 for a six player game. Do you then get your 2 extra pieces in phase B of the turn for 20 PP's, or is 2 pieces your starting allocation for the turn total? Opinion was divided on this one, and I've emailed Eurogames about it. Interested in your thoughts....
Doug's rating: err...abstention until next week! :)
Julian, David and Doug played this game to close out the evening. There has been a lot of talk about this game in internet circles and we are rather late to it at Billabong. Still, what a little gem of a game! It was very much a learning experience for us, but a few rounds in it started to click and the decisions to be made were deliciously difficult.
The game is in such a state of flux that it is very difficult for me to remember details, but basically Julian was Roses for the entire game, while David started Eagles and went Roses about mid-way through the game, while Doug flip-flopped (my computing background!) between the two. The "board" was slowing going "Rose" by the end of the game (9 rounds) as Doug tried to stem the Rose hoards back.
One feature I noted was how difficult it was to get hold of the Baumeister card to convert my Kontors for points at the end of the game. I made a mental note to start grabbing them from about round 5 but never got the chance! When I was start player it was the face down card!
I'm sorry this report is so wishy-washy - all I can say is grab a copy of this game, it's a keeper.
Doug's rating: 8
David & Goliath
I thought you would have more control over tricks in a three player game, but it really didn't make much difference! There is still a bit of a random element in that other players can play a different colour (out of suit) and still influence a trick. A fun game to finish the evening.
After almost succeeding in sneakily getting Janet to take away the piece of paper the results were noted on.... ... here is the report for the two games of Mamma Mia we played to recover from Europa:
Players: Janet, Alan, Bernie
I seem to recall Alan vowing never to play Mamma Mia again after completing just one pizza in an earlier game --- but being the reasonable person he is, he decided to try again and joined Janet and me (who, AFAICT, both very much like this game) for a nice relaxing bake out. Alan's earlier misery, however, seemed to repeat itself in the early rounds of the first game --- he hardly completed any pizzas, and many a "I hate this game" could be heard being muttered. Janet ran away in the first two rounds, with me coming in in the middle, with slightly-fewer-than-I-hoped-for completed pizzas. However, in the third round, I got some incredibly lucky breaks and somehow managed to complete all my remaining pizzas (4 or 5), much to the dismay of Janet, who missed one (a 15+, I think) early in the round and greeted each new success with increasing despair.
Alan's luck then turned in the second game, in which he took an early lead with 3 pizzas completed in the first round, which was pretty much disastrous for everyone else --- Janet ending up on one, and me on either one or two. Things didn't change much in an altogether uneventful round two. In fact, so little happened in that round that a huge pile of ingredients was left to be carried over into the third round. I was fortunate enough to draw the Mamma Mia card that round (as, in fact, I had in all but two rounds before. Useless statistic for the day: We had two situations where only two cards were left on the draw pile with the MM card still in it), and had loaded up my hand with pizza cards near the end of it. So the third round saw me play a 6 ingredient pizza early on, which for a while was assumed to contain the 5 carried-over salamis --- only to see me play my salami pizza on the next turn (I had picked up two pineapples after my first turn, which combined nicely with the 4 that were carried over). In the early turns of that round, there was a bit of a scramble to get to the 15+ pizzas (after all, there were about 18-20 ingredients on the table to start with), but we had all tried (and failed) in round 2, so we all had it at the bottom of our pizza piles. When Janet and Alan finally got them back into their hands, too many other pizzas had been played, and they seemed to hang on to them for quite a while. I never got mine back into my hand.
When the time came to tally it all up, my using the pineapples for the 6 ingredient pizza surprised and dismayed both Alan and Janet (Janet had pineapple as her "home ingredient", and had not drawn any during round 3). Due to it, Janet was pretty much out of the game, only completing one or two pizzas (and failing on 3). Alan missed a couple, but in the end seemed to profit from a huge number of salamis being played and not claimed (salami being his "home ingredient") and completed a few pizzas that he seemed to already have given up hope on (including, IIRC, his 15+). I got pretty much what I expected, and the game ended up being contested between me and Alan, with me winning on cards in hand.
A rather unusual night at Billabong: one group of six who initially played Europa, then split into two groups of three, and another group of three comprising Dey, myself, and our friend Graeme who lives just around the corner from us. Graeme has been playing a few games with us and has been keen to come along for some time. Ironically, as things worked out, he played with Dey and myself all evening. (If Bernie was writing this report, a description would follow of a complex and involved game with a long German name, cryptic instructions, and everybody losing. I will just say that we MUST ask Eileen at Amaroo how to turn on the heater.)
Nothing new to say about this. Graeme found it fairly lightweight. I'm planning to try and introduce a few people at work to German games using this one.
An excellent three player game. I tried not to spend very heavily, so I wouldn't need to take as many loans, and this seemed to work for me.
This was Graeme's favourite. It was also the first time I've played this one three player. The game got bogged down somewhat as we all ran out of money, and all the white sites were very close to each other. Nobody wanted to be the one who opened things up for the others, so expeditions were being extended away from anything ANYBODY was interested in.