Billabong Boardgamers
 

Billabong Boardgamers - 28th December, 1999

Present: Doug, Debbie, Tina, Donna, Craig, David, Alan, Bernie, Julian C., Jack, Karen

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

Last one for the year, see you all next year!

FRANK'S ZOO

Despite not being all that impressed by this game last week, I read through the team rules and thought it was worth trying again with those rules. David wanted to try it, so we sat down for a seven player team game.

During the first hand Craig, Karen, Jack and Julian appeared, so Debbie and Bernie left at the end of the hand to join them, leaving us with five players to finish off the game. Using the team rules, the game seems to work much better, with added tactics such as the swapping of cards with your partner, the "asking for help" rules, and the scoring options triggered by hedgehogs and lions. In short, I found the game twice as good this week compared to last week.

My only concern is that it seems to take 2 or 3 hands to reach the required 19 points for a win, which imparts a sort of "it's over just as it was getting interesting" sensation. Perhaps 29 points would make for a more rewarding game?

In the end we played two games.

Game 1
Donna: 19
Tina: 19
David: 13
Alan: 13
Doug: 11 Morale - don't play with partners who score zero! :)

Game 2
Doug: 22
David: 17
Tina: 15
Donna: 11
Alan: 8

Doug's rating: 6, up from 3.

KING OF THE ELVES

After playing a four player game earlier in the week that was saturated by thieves, logs and sea monsters, I tweaked the deck down to four of each type of hindrance card for game two. David, Alan and Donna were new to this game, but have been playing Elfenroads since it was released in the early 90's - none of the game's concepts were foreign to them.

We played with two vital rules incorrect (my fault, I'd totally missed it in the rulebook) - I never realised you could place villages in other player's realms (quite an oversight!), and we missed the rule where if you declare "no village" you must discard a card after you've claimed your village from the draw pile.

The game flows along nicely once all players are up to speed on the rules. To keep the game moving, I think it is vital that the "draw 3, discard 4" action doesn't stop the game. The player invoking that action allows play to continue, then they discard four at the beginning of their next action. If we didn't allow that, I think we may still be playing it!

The planning aspect was certainly interesting in our game. A few players were playing "chicken", waiting for other players to play villages to draw out the logs and robbers on those sites, before committing a village themselves. Several times we saw the "remove a village" action, which costs gold to invoke, when it became pointless to keep it in front of you.

Donna blatantly exploited the rules oversight when declaring "no village" in that you must discard a card - she constantly used a combination of "draw 3/discard 4" and "no village" actions (thus gaining the lost card again) to construct a good hand. Good luck to her, but I'll be reading rules closely next time!

Our game saw Alan and David leap out to the front with strong opening turns. Doug and Tina stayed in their castles on turn 1 and completed laps on turn 2 with the larger hand. The "oohs" and "aahs" from the others were muted down when it was pointed out that this was over two turns!

The latter rounds saw the battle between David and Alan escalate, with Tina grabbing some nice gold (48) on turn 3 that busted our bank (why not more gold in the box?) David was beginning to struggle with an awful hand on turn 4, but hoarded enough cards to pick up 48 on the final turn. Alan had a poor final turn, scoring 8.

The planning phase of the final turn took forever to complete - at least 30 minutes. I think with the rules correct, this should be a little quicker in future games!

Scores:
Doug: 115
Alan: 104
Tina: 103
David: 92
Donna: 90

Doug's rating: I really don't know. I love bits of it, other bits leave me slightly cold. I'm going to have to play it a few more times, with rules correct, before committing myself to a rating :)

HONG KONG

With river boats churning up the Mississippi in an epic race on the other table, and several Elfen princes leaving, Tina was looking lonely. Seeing this as an ideal time to finally try out Hong Kong, I pounced, and in her shock she said "yes".

This is a very abstract Reiner Knizia two player game, lending a little bit to Manhattan. Each player begins with 30 wooden blocks, which are positioned onto a 5x5 grid depicting central Hong Kong. The theme here is we are trying to control a majority of the buildings we construct from our blocks, control depicted by whoever owns the top block of a building.

Game play is simply place a block. You have a limited number of fast-growth blocks that allow you to immediately place a second block. If you play a roof shaped block, you stop growth on that building. Buildings cannot be any more than five blocks high.

To take an opponents building you must have a building orthogonally adjacent that is at least as tall as the new building. So having a tall central building is valuable, and you can get a bit of a snowball effect going across the board, taking over buildings. However, if a building appears vulnerable to takeover, you can simply pop a roof on it, locking it in as yours for the rest of the game.

Our game was very much a learning experience, with Doug taking it 13 to 9 (you count controlled buildings at the end of the game).

Doug's rating: 6 - another light Knizia 2 player, similar in depth to Revolution, Stonehenge, etc. Nothing really wrong with them, a nice diversion, but as Tina said after - "there are better games out there".

Debbie Pickett writes:

UNION PACIFIC

Craig, Karen, Julian, Bernie, Debbie, Jack

Julian and his son Jack arrived, followed shortly by Craig and his friend Karen (who I thought I heard was visiting from Seattle, USA). Bernie and I split off from the table playing Frank's Zoo - neither of us was incredibly impressed with that one - meaning we had to find a six-player game. Fortunately Union Pacific was handy, and we got underway. I tried to explain the rules but did a horrible job at it; thankfully, Julian and Jack had played Airlines before, which was enough for them to get the idea. Karen got some helpful coaching from Craig.

We played with the "second-edition variant" on obtaining UP shares; even so, the UP shares went very quickly and were all on the table by the second dividend payout. No railway got severely boxed in, and the green cancer of El Paso & Rio Grande spread its way all the way around the coast despite all efforts of the four players who weren't going to get payouts for it.

The third dividend card was almost at the bottom of the deck, and when it was finally drawn there were four identical shares in the draw pool, so they were replaced by four more cards, which unearthed the fourth dividend card one from the bottom. Again, owning a stack of UP shares was what helped the top players get their positions.

Final scores (in $millions):
Julian 107
Craig 102
Debbie 98
Karen 83
Bernie 79
Jack 70

My rating: I still give this game a 7, partly because it is quite fast for a turn-based game, even with six players.

MISSISSIPPI QUEEN

Craig, Karen, Julian, Bernie, Debbie, Jack

We then tried another oldie, a six-player Mississippi Queen (using the Black Rose expansion). Julian was first to pick up a passenger, and as perceived leader got bumped a number of times. Craig, Karen and I escaped into the lead and had little trouble getting passengers. A fortuitous turn in the river gave Craig a head start onto the last river tile, which was enough to give him a comfortable win. Karen and I came in so close that it was practically a tie, and only the sight of Bernie coming in to the finish fast kept it from coming a dodgem-boat contest. Jack was doing well but a sudden dearth of passengers in the last three tiles meant he had to go back and get his second passenger from an upstream tile. Julian never recovered from the earlier assults and came in fifth, ahead of Jack.

Final placings:
Craig, Debbie, Karen, Bernie, Julian, Jack.

My rating: This is much better with more players. I give it a six, provided there are enough players to keep it interesting.

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