Billabong Boardgamers

Billabong Boardgamers - June 29th, 1999

Present: Doug, Janet, Roger, Dey, Alan, Donna, Bernie, Julian, Ann-Marie, David, Tina, Debbie, Graeme, Craig, Craig Mc.

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

Well, if I sat at Billabong for four hours with a foolish grin on my face it's because I think we broke our attendance record with 15 showing up, my long-searched-for copy of Extra Blatt is here, AND Counter #5 arrived courtesy of David. However, there were games to be played...


Janet, Doug, Dey and Bernie started up a four player game of this quirky trick taking game. This was new to Bernie, so we explained the quirks:

  • first card led is trumps
  • following suit is not mandatory
  • highest trump gets to choose two cards
  • lowest non-trump gets the rest (in a four player game)
  • the arcane scoring system - the product of your two good suit piles, divided by the sum of your two bad suit piles.

Despite looking bewildered for the first hand, Bernie settled in nicely, however this was Dey's game (she's a bit of a demon in trick taking games), with a great 2nd and 3rd hand. Doug had the single highest score, but that wasn't enough to get him above 3rd place.

Progressive scores:
Dey: 9/37/61 - 73
Bernie: 21/27/39 - 55
Doug: 9/41/45 - 50
Janet: 12/18/35 - 36

Doug's rating: 7, a bit of downtime as each card can be potentially played to a trick, so some thought is required.


Julian, Tina, Janet, Debbie and Doug tackled this new Gold Sieber/Rio Grande release. The rules were explained by Doug, but not very well as Debbie seized the rulebook and seemed to digest them in about 5 minutes. This was a new game to Debbie, Tina and Julian.

The game opened with the initial sprinkling of businesses and residential areas, with Debbie distinguishing herself by catching us on various rules errors having learned the game five minutes earlier. Julian committed himself and built the City Hall, thus opening the game up to all the special buildings. As Doug was playing immediately before Julian, he was praying that nobody would start the streetcar line up before he did as he had the ideal location for a shopping centre. Nobody did, so Doug started the line abutting one of his planned shopping centre lots. Trouble was, although there was the required business, residence and streetcar placed, there was no special building to allow the shopping centre placement, and the lot cards for those potential sites had been claimed. Doug had to be patient...

The five player game certainly felt chaotic, and the lot draw piles seemed to disappear much too quickly to allow any special planning. Both factories and one park appeared quite early in the game to hinder several players, and it appeared to be very much a case of "get what you could".

Janet eventually placed a Post Office on one of the lots next to Doug's proposed shopping centre, and sure enough it was placed on the very next turn to give Doug the lead. What Doug hadn't noticed was that Debbie was planning exactly the same move, and used Doug's shopping centre as a special building to place a shopping centre of her own, to regain the lead. A couple of turns later, a triple residence by Debbie gave her the game.

Debbie: 88
Doug: 67
Julian: 49
Tina: 45
Janet: 44

Doug's rating: 5 - it doesn't work with five players, too random, too chaotic, minimum planning due to the draw piles disappearing so quickly. Perhaps the trading variant would improve the five player game, so perhaps that should be tried. However, the rating is 7 with four players, and 8 with two or three players. Still one of my favourite games from this year, but not a five player game.


First time out at Billabong, with Billabong newbie Craig Mc. joining Alan, Doug, Julian and Ann-Marie for a clipper race around Cape Horn.

This is essentially a tile laying game where you must position wind tiles in such a way that it gives your ship an advantage. The wind tiles have a 'strength' as well as one or more directions on them, and when your ship begins its turn on these tiles, they may move the 'strength' in spaces, in any of the directions indicated. However, the move must end on another wind tile.

The object of the game is to visit either two sailing stations (situated around the board) and sprint across the finish line at San Francisco, or visit three separate sailing stations (one per zone) and win instantly.

There are a couple of special "break the rules" rules - each turn you gain 1 sailing point, and sailing points are valuable - they allow you to:

  • draw extra tiles at the end of your turn
  • ignore the directions on the wind tiles and move to an adjacent tile for three points
  • have another turn for five points
  • you can choose to not move on your turn to gain an extra sailing point.

As this was the first game for everybody, we had the maximum number of players, and were playing a spatial awareness tile laying game, it all added up to the magic word "downtime". Personally, I didn't find the downtime that bad, as I could plot my move along with a few alternatives in case of knobbles, in advance, and managed to take my turn in perhaps 60 seconds. Julian thought the downtime was a real problem, however it appeared that a good portion of that downtime was spent discussing the downtime, and during the first half of the game while we were all learning the rules!

The only problem I could see with the game was the fact that because you could play several tiles on your turn, you could put a lot of effort into hindering your opponents, as well as trying to help yourself along at the same time, therefore the race could degenerate into a struggle with no player making too much progress. However, that didn't really happen, because if you were stuck on a "backwards" tile, you could simply pay three sail points to skip sideways onto a good tile. If the tile you slipped onto had multiple directions leading off it, you could be difficult to stop as you could disguise your planned path to victory.

So what happened....well, Doug in the player 5 position took the red sailing station close to South America, while the other players all tacked, gibed, and whatever else clippers do to reach the green sailing station over near the eastern edge of the board. As all the players were so far away, Doug decided to try and skip around the Cape, into zone 3, pick up a second station token and race for the finish line - expending all his sail points to do so.

Big mistake, as that move put a large sign over Doug saying "Kick me", with Alan audibly painting the sign and Craig doing the kicking in the form of various nasty wind tiles in Doug's path. Doug couldn't do much about it other than accumulate three sail points and try for the sideways skip to search for a way forwards.

Craig appeared to be leading the pack of four players who had progressed into zone 2 and the game was much closer than Alan was claiming - in fact, Craig on claiming his second sailing station token was only a couple of moves away from claiming an instant win on the station in zone 3. Alan was stalking Craig, while Julian and Ann-Marie appeared to be caught in a whirlpool in zone 2.

Doug was still thrashing about with a meagre supply of sail points when Alan and Craig made their bid for victory, by playing strong '3' wind tiles to cut the corner of the Cape and beat it north to the finish line. Doug nobbled Alan, which forced a change in plans to try and win by claiming his third sailing station token. However Craig, in a strong move played wind tiles in such a way that he couldn't be stopped (Question: do you need to land on a wind tile across the finish line? Does it matter?), so it was up to the four other players to try for an instant win before Craig had another turn.

Alan was the only player who had a chance of this, and it all came down to his tile draw. It didn't happen for him, and Craig won the game. Alan seemed to think that this was unfair because Craig had an extra turn over Alan, and Alan could have finished the game with this extra turn. Not sure what to make of that, however my impression is that the many variables of tiles, sail points, etc, would nullify out any bonus gained in having an extra turn.

Craig Mc: 2 stations and across the line
Doug/Julian/Alan/Ann-Marie: 2 stations

Doug's rating: 6, based on last night's game, but I expect it to climb a notch or two. The "downtime" issue that Julian seemed to think was there seemed to disappear - meaning the initial confusion while we were all in zone 1 had disappeared by zones 2/3 as we became accustomed to the rules. I can see that this is a reasonably good game, where you have to hoard good tiles/sailing points, and try to look as inconspicuous as possible before making your bid for victory. I'd certainly play it differently next time, and could see this being a good four player game. Julian certainly didn't like it from about a third of the way in, and I'm not sure about the others.


Players were starting to leave so Alan, Craig Mc. and Doug played a quite game of Mamma Mia to close out the evening. Despite Craig's initial disbelief at the theme, I think he enjoyed the game.

Doug: 6
Craig: 5
Alan: 3

Doug's rating: 8, but it's not one of Alan's favorites! :)


Julian, Craig Mc. and Ann-Marie played Samarkand earlier in the evening, and from what I heard, Julian won comfortably.

David Coutts writes:


It sounds from the previous session reports that this one has had lots of plays, and has generally been well received for a light game.

It was Tina's, Debbie's and my first time so Craig explained the rules to us. We got the idea fairly quickly and launched into the first hand. Before we'd really got going I went out:

Tina 12
Debbie 13
Craig 8
David 30 (my suspect was the Ripper)

The 2nd hand was almost as brief as the first (2 or 3 rounds), and I went out again. Scores for this hand:

Tina -3 (got caught with the Ripper Escapes card)
Debbie 9
Craig 5
David 20 (my suspect was the Ripper again, using the number tie-breaker on the Evidence cards)

In the 3rd hand Tina went out. Scores for this hand:

Tina 22 (suspect was the Ripper)
Debbie 13
Craig 17
David 7 (I'd just discarded the Ripper Escapes card!)

The 4th round took a little longer, and saw Craig pull off the Ripper Escapes victory

Tina 0
Debbie 0
Craig 35
David 0

With Craig in the lead overall from me we played one more round. I went out again, this time with nobody else down on the table! Scores for hand:

Tina -15 Debbie -18 Craig -14 David 27 (Ripper again)

Tina 16
Debbie 17
Craig 51
David 84

I think you're supposed to play to 100 but we'd got the idea enough for a first game, and I think the others were sick of me just going out all the time... It did seem a little luck-based. However, an interesting game on a very dark subject. Well done, nicely produced... a decent filler.

Roger Smith writes:


Alan and Donna/Craig Mc: 101
Roger and Graeme: 76

A new game for Graeme, and one which I had only played two-player with Dey. Alan and Donna corrected a couple of scoring mistakes I'd been making, and we used their house rule of the first three way cards not scoring.

Unfortunately this was a very luck dominated game. The first round being the worst example: Graeme and I had a single disaster card to play and Alan and Donna had all the rest. This, coupled with our inexperience, saw an easy win for Allan and Craig Mc (who had replaced Donna who went to join a game of Mu). Despite our misfortune, I enjoyed the game and would like to play again. I suspect it is one of those games where a single round can be luck dominated but there is still plenty of opportunity for skilful play overall. Alan and Donna provided a few examples of this which I'm keen to try out. The only other observation is that the game seemed to drag a bit (1.5 hours) but this could be due to distractions and inexperience,

Roger's rating: 7


Craig Mc

A new game for Craig Mc and Anne-Marie. Craig set Graeme up for a win, but there was really little else he could do. So I guess I agree with Alan that there is a bit of a king maker aspect to the game. I don't really see this as a problem - it is just part of the game, This remains one of my favourite, albeit least played, Knizia games.

Roger's rating: 8


Debbie: 24
Janet: 24
Graeme: 24
Roger: 14
Tina: 9

A new game for Debbie and Tina (I warned them that Janet has a habit of winning this one). An interesting game, and the first three-way tie I've seen (two-way ties being fairly common). As per normal, there was a bit of confusion during the trading. People forgetting the offer made, forgetting when it was there turn and getting people and civilisation cards mixed up (I plea guilty to all of these), nevertheless an enjoyable game. It IS hard to catch the leader, and this is probably why this game doesn't get pulled out more often.

Roger's rating: 7.5


Roger: 110
Janet: 76
Graeme: 64

MR is certainly flavour of the month at Billabong! A new game for Graeme, his comments throughout reminding me that there is quite a learning curve in one's first game. Janet and I both felt that there had been a particularly good feel to this game, adding support to my argument that three is an ideal number. The other good thing is that it wasn't dominated by Ripper Escapes victories.

Roger's rating: 8

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