Billabong Boardgamers - July 27th, 1999
Present: Janet, Doug, Roger, Craig, Debbie, Tina, David, Alan, Bernie
Alan Stewart writes:
Present: Janet, Debbie, Tina, David, Alan
First time players: Debbie, Tina
This time I was determined to dominate in UP stock, as in the last game I ended up with the least of it.
David started the light blue rail using a wild track card. (He dominated in light blue last game!). Everyone else spent quite a few turns building up their particular line - Alan Black, Debbie Red, Tina Green, Janet - nothing in particular as she had lots of varied stock on the table.
On the first wertung - David and Alan only received 1 payment each, but it was for 1st and 2nd place with their lines. The others received 2 or 3 payments, but there was competition for some lines.
By the second wertung, the UP stock was pretty much all on the table. In the end I overbought this, and ended up with an undeclared stock in my hand. I should have counted the remaining UP stock cards before taking my last one. UP stocks were Alan 8, David 4, Janet 3, Debbie 2, Tina 1 (1 still in my hand, Janet traded one in). These remained the same for all 3 wertung payouts.
Fortunately the game ended rather quickly, with a hefty pile of unplayed stock cards remaining. My Black stock was only 2 cards worth, and was very vulnerable if the game had progressed. By contrast David wasn't likely to lose either of his majorities, and may have been able to pick up more 2nds in a longer game.
It looks like you need to be first or second in UP if it's a short game.
David only had declared stock in 3 lines (light blue, green and UP) but was clear leader in all of them. Alan and Tina had a few 1st/2nd swaps from 1 card played, and Janet seemed to be competing with everyone and was only clear leader in Brown stock.
Alan, David, Janet, Tina, Debbie
Everyone had played this before!
Pretty standard game with some nice giving away of cards early on. Every one kept a keen eye on the number of Garden/Psycho beans out there.
Debbie and Tina weren't used to some of our nicknames for the cards, but if there was any confusion we tried alternative titles until everyone agreed on what trade was being offered. Most players seemed to be down to only 1 or 2 cards each time their turn arrived, so there was a lot of trading. In fact it was unusual for anyone to turn up trade cards and see no interest from the rest of the table.
(Scores: starting with first dealer, and in table order)
Novices: Tina, Debbie
Despite cries of "no pairs of 1s", it didn't stop people getting high scores. The first 2 rounds saw only 1 or 2 'scoring bears', but by the end almost all 4 bears scored each turn. Strangely enough the bear which took an early lead usually won the race.
Tina's score increased each turn, so we were lucky it was only a 5 race game. David was dealt so many wild white cards in the last hand he couldn't play them all before the race was over! Of course the left over ones scored him nothing.
(It's a `tradition' that winners usually write up game reports. Now Janet has thrown away a win in Honeybears and Alan and Janet are tied on 1.5 wins each! Is this a devilish ploy to avoid writing the reports?)
Guess who? Yes, it's the same five players! All new at this game, but Doug claimed it was simple, and it was!
Doug writes: it is a simple Reiner Knizia game for 3-5 players. A deck of 50 cards, numbered 1-50, is shuffled and nine cards dealt to each player. Each turn, a single card from a separate deck of 11 cards is turned up, which will reveal a value from 1 to 9, or one of two zeros. The trick is played to, with the highest and lowest cards played taking the 1-9 red or blue tokens respectively. If a zero is revealed, either red or blue tokens will not be taken on this trick. The object? To balance your red/blue tokens taken over the nine tricks. Pairs of red/blue can be handed in and the lowest score after a number of hands wins. If you score zero on a hand, you may remove your highest score from a previous hand....back to Alan...
A nice filler game, with a bit of hand management and card counting required. If you where willing to take a lot of sticks early on and keep an appropriate very high or low card to win the counterbalancing sticks later in the round, you could usually do okay. Of course the `wild' 0 cards could wreck this strategy. Staying 'on the middle' was risky, as the very last card couild be costly.
The scores reflect that just one bad hand can put you out of contention without hope of catching up. As that can happen on the luck of a card turn, its a bit of a problem.
Still, okay as a 30 minute filler game.
Doug Adams writes
After an enjoyable game of Giganten, we decided to give Klunker it's first playing at Billabong. This game, from the designer who's given us Mamma Mia and Bohnanza, had a bit of expectation hanging off it, given the popularity the other two games have enjoyed at Billabong.
It was an unusual game. Roger read out the rules, while Craig, Bernie and Doug tried to follow along. However the rules didn't seem to flow and we really didn't know what we were doing when we began the game. Perhaps Bernie did...
The theme of the game is each player owns a jeweller shop from which they peddle jewels, store cash, as well as lock valuables away in the hope they will turn to cash. From a hand of six cards, they must/may put jewels into their shop window where they available to for purchase by the other players. Then the players may store jewels into their safe from their hand, the idea being you can cash sets of four-of-a-kind in for cash. The last phase of a turn is to purchase jewellery from other players shop windows, which must go into your safe - so purchases that will aid in the quest for four-of-a-kind are what you are looking for.
Jewels are cashed in from the safe on a 1 jewel for 1 coin basis (flip the jewel card to it's cash side as in Bohnanza to represent cash). So a set of four will turn into four coins in an ideal world, however that it reduced by 1 coin for each other set in the player's safe. Tricky, that.
We blundered through the game, however by the half way point I think the penny was beginning to drop, especially in Bernie's case. Bernie jumped out to an excellent start, with two large conversions of jewels to cash. The subtleties of purchases, or refusing to purchase, became evident as the first refusal to purchase will end the current game turn, and deny players after you the chance to purchase. Nice trade off, that.
For perhaps three quarters of the game Roger was audibly exclaiming he didn't understand what was happening, and it appeared to take half the game before he cashed in a set of jewels. Craig did well, once we cured him of the 'put bought cards in the hand' habit. Bernie, who appeared to have the rules understood from the beginning, played solidly and hence won. Understanding the rules seemed to help, as perhaps it should :)
Doug's rating: 6. I thought it was okay, doesn't have that addictive quality Bohnanza and Mamma Mia has, but I'll happily play it now I've understood the rules.
We more or less played this new game of Doug's at my urging. I had emailed Doug during the day and he obligingly offered to read the rules on the train on his way home. I was anxious to play this as it was the only one of the three SdJ nominees I hadn't tried.
It seemed to take a long time to get through the rules and I found my concentration lapsing on more than one occasion and managed to miss at least one important rule. In fact the game is quite straightforward - it's hard to see how you could go wrong having played once - therefore I'm sure the rules could have been written more succinctly.
The object of the game is to collect and sell oil. Earlier in the turn players choose action cards which let them do several things: move their truck and/or train, move the black train, move all other players trains backwards, gain oil units and collect licences (used to bid for the right to sell oil later in the game). You collect oil by driving your little truck around a square-grided board, past numerous potential rig sites. Some sites you can examine before making a decision to drill, others you will need to take pot luck on. Once you decide to drill, the site is replaced with a little plastic rig, atop a number of markers each representing a unit of crude oil. Each turn you can process one of these units per well, moving the collected oil to storage tanks in one of three oil companies. Oil is moved via your train which runs along the edge of the board. The area of the board your train can service increases as the game goes on. The richest sites are typically the last ones to be mined. If you are processing oil in an area of the board which your train has not yet reached, you'll need to pay other players, or the black train to transport it for you. The black train is sort of a weird turn marker. When it reaches the end of the board, the game is over. Once all oil has been collected in a turn, the stock at the oil companies is sold off at market rates. The right to sell your oil is achieved by winning an auction using the share certificates gathered earlier for bidding.
In this, our first game, Doug consistently put his units in the oil company demanding the highest prices, and controlled his share acquisition and bidding so that he almost always won the auction. This is the key part of the game, in fact you could almost say the rest of the game was secondary to this: it doesn't matter how much oil you are producing if you can't selling it. My strategy was to try to sell lots of oil through the companies that were paying less. That way, I expected, there would be less competition. This worked most of the time. I was greatly aided by Bernie who twice tried to bluff me and ended up paying the penalty. This was pretty much a death blow to Bernie. It is legal to bluff, but if you bluff and "win" an auction, you lose half of your licence cards and auction is held again.
My first impressions were that this wasn't a game I would rush to play again. However, like many good games, I think it just takes a while to grow on you. I have found myself thinking about it over the last week and am now very keen to try again.
Roger's rating: 7 (will probably rise)
Doug writes: Giganten. Wow, what a great looking game, enormous board, lovely components, simple rules that do require a bit of thought when considering your options for the turn. I really enjoyed the auction of the right to sell oil. Perhaps a bit more interaction on the game board would have helped, but still everything seemed to work well. In short, I liked this game a lot more than I thought I was going to. Initial rating: 8.
Janet joined us, and despite Craig's protests, Ra was the choice for the next game. Not surprisingly, it was Doug's methodical and consistent play that saw him come out ahead. I was very surprised to come in second. My basic strategy was to try and avoid the minuses - including the end of game minus for the lowest bidding token score. In fact, I managed to get the end of game bonus. Janet had a simply brilliant last eon. She still had tokens left when the rest of us had exhausted our bids, and the Ra track was several tiles off finishing. She was able to collect a formidable array of tiles, including a full set of monuments and numerous other scoring combinations. This was marred only by the -5 for the lowest bidding token score, and her not so good scores in the first two eons. Craig had a less than brilliant round, scoring 0 in one eon. His opinion of the game has not improved :)
Of my five games of Ra to date, this was my first five-player. The others were a four and two threes. I have to say, as much as I like Ra, I don't think it works all that well with a full complement of players. Four is passable, but I MUCH prefer it with three players. Doug agreed that it seems to work better with fewer players, but enjoyed the five-player much more than I did.
Roger's rating: 7.5 (for 5 player)