Billabong Boardgamers - 29th August, 2000
Present: Tina, Debbie, Alan, Steve, Janet, Doug, Roger, Asher, Andrew, Mark
Doug Adams writes:
We welcomed two new members tonight, Mark and Andrew. The webpage strikes again :)
EUPHRAT & TIGRIS
Steve, Janet, Doug
With Steve's wait for his pre-ordered Mayfair edition of this game reaching epic proportions, we broke out the German edition to nurse him through another week. Debbie was the fourth player, but broke off when Andrew and Mark arrived.
I don't recall playing this with three players before, and it worked very well. My early games had followed a strategy of "head down, collect points" which basically meant avoid conflict. I wonder why I never won?
I'm coming around to the idea that in order to be competitive in this game you have to be bellicose - throw you weight around, mix it up, rake in the points :)
However, we didn't begin that way. In the early game we settled down into our own individual kingdoms and were content to gather points for a few turns, then the infamous blue monument appeared in "Doug's Kingdom". Steve moved in, Doug attempted an eviction which failed, and things settled down again.
Janet was content following her usual "treasure" strategy, and soon came within the range of the now large Doug/Steve kingdom. Eventually they collided and Doug came off well. Janet had constructed a monument and the kingdom stuck, covering most of one end of the board. Any leader there was in a position of extreme power when it came to external conflicts.
The game again settled down before Doug swaggered in again and tried to evict Janet's and Steve's leaders from this large kingdom. Janet had been using a LOT of red tiles elsewhere, so Doug thought she may be dry and she was. At the end of the turn when Doug quietly announced monument points of "one red, one green, one blue, one black" the cries of "get him!!!" could be heard.
But the game went on and settled down again. Doug had lost a leader from the large kingdom, but was content to rake in three monument points per turn and make mischief elsewhere. Janet and Steve also had monument income, and it was uncertain who was actually leading.
Towards the end of the game Doug merged the large kingdom with a tiny kingdom supporting four leaders in the centre of the board. Winning the red, black and blue battles raked in nice points for Doug, before losing green. The game was winding down, and a couple of turns of tile dumping quickly finished it off.
The aggressive strategy paid off - if I hadn't kicked off that last battle against the tiny kingdom, the game would have been Steve's. A very good game, with lots of strategies and tactics employed. A clear 9, excellent.
Roger, Asher, Janet, Doug
Janet and Asher were the new dwarves on the block tonight, and picked up the mechanics easily. Roger went out to a large lead early, while Janet once she worked out you needed to commit a silver dwarf to complete a contract began racing through contracts. Doug took three turns to work out he wasn't playing Euphat any longer and finally completed a contract on turn 3.
The game then proceeded to tighten nicely, with every player either taking or closing in on the lead. There was a lot more shadow dwarf action in this game, but the majority of them were used to rotate contracts to higher values.
Roger then jumped out 150 points clear courtesy of a great sell turn, and the notorious 120 contract. Although we got close to him as the contracts began to run out, he tipped 600 and (surprisingly) the game ended immediately with others still to play.
This is becoming one of my favourite new games this year. Nicely balanced, no sure fire strategy, lots of options. I was a bit worried about the 120 contracts being too powerful, but a couple of shadow dwarfs can suddenly turn that into 60!! Good game - solid 8.
Asher, Janet, Doug, Roger
A closer for the evening and a new game for Asher, who really didn't need the rules explained as he and Janet wiped the floor with us. I found it very difficult to get in on the game as my trade offers just weren't hitting, and I got desperate towards the end just to get some points on the table. Asher, despite leading, seemed to have a fist full of cards and the right trade offers and counter offers, and raked up the points. Janet came storming home to tie.
Doug's rating: 7
Steve Gardner writes:
MYSTERY RUMMY (JACK THE RIPPER)
I was so involved in the Tigris game that I didn't notice everyone else jockeying for position in the meta-game of "what game shall we play next?" When T&E finally ended, all the positions in Aladdin's Dragons and Silberswerg were spoken for. So for the first time at Billabong, I found myself playing a two-hander: Tina introduced me to Mystery Rummy.
This is a Rummy variant with some interesting twists: a specialised deck with six suits and various other kinds of cards, cards that enable you to look through the discard pile, double points for the suit with the most cards played, some chances to steal cards from your opponent - in short, enough spice to keeps things chaotic and interesting.
We played a practice hand to bed the rules down, in which Tina successfully executed the apparently rare strategy of playing the "Ripper Escapes" card (or is it the "Commissioner Resigns" card? I can't remember...) with all five Victim cards already in play. Had we scored the practice hand, it would have 35-0 to Tina. But Tina generously let it go, and we started the game in earnest.
The first hand was quite a long one, and I seemed to have the more valuable melds, taking a 12 point lead. The second hand followed a similar pattern, although this time the scoring was closer. After two hands, I was leading 73-54.
In the third hand - disaster. Trying to emulate Tina's effort in the practice hand, I learned the hard way the danger inherent in such a strategy: get caught with the Ripper Escapes card in your hand at the end and it's -2 for each Victim card in play, -8 in this case. Added to this, Tina had a melding bonanza. Scoring for this round was 42-16 to Tina, the biggest individual score for the game, but not quite enough to win outright. Scores after three hands: 96-89. Play is to 100, so the fourth hand would definitely be the last. I would need to win the hand by 8 points or more to take the game.
I was lucky to collect three of the rare Letters for a 9-point meld and a promising start. Tina had a couple of good melds of her own to keep things tight. I used a couple of Scenes to extract Evidence cards I needed for melds from the discard pile, and saw how I could go out. I muffed it though: as soon as I had discarded my last card and declared the hand over, I realized that the last card, if played, would give me the bonus points for longest meld - and probably the game. Tina graciously let me replay it properly, and I pipped her at the post.
Rating: a 6. Compares favourably to Rage - there are enough new ideas here to make the game an interesting variant of the original.
Alan, Mark, Steve, Andrew
Still stinging from my last (and worst ever) game of Ra some weeks earlier (in which I scored 1, -7, and 6 in the three epochs for a grand total of 10), I had to talk myself into playing this while Silberswerg wrapped up.
I began with the 5-9-10 suns, and I think these call for a flexible approach which I often find difficult. The strategies seem clearer to me with the high or low suns. I evidently waited too long to get into the bidding, for the epoch ended suddenly. I had traded my 5 for an 11 and one miserable Nile I didn't have a flood for. No Pharaohs, no Civs, nada. For the second game in a row I had registered -7 points points in an epoch - the lowest possible score.
The saving grace was that the short epoch meant relatively low scores for the others, too. Mark, however, had collected six different Monuments in the first epoch! He seemed a cinch to collect all eight by the end. Mentally, I had him picked as the likely winner.
In the longer second epoch, patience was this time a virtue. Still no Pharaohs (so, -2 again), but this time a God, two Gold, four Floods/Niles, and - luckily! - four Civilizations for a total of 20. Andrew took the Pharaoh bonus and I suspect that Alan took the lead with plenty of Floods/Niles. But Mark's Monuments - seven by now - still looked ominous.
I started the third epoch with 2-4-13. Suddenly, I was in my comfort zone again. The game developed a pattern: Andrew, Alan and Mark would draw a tile, and I would invoke Ra. The tiles were attractive, and Mark, who had low suns, couldn't resist. He went out early, but without the complete set of eight Monuments. Andrew waited awhile longer, but eventually he was forced out, too, with still half the epoch remaining. That left Alan (with just the 12 left), and I to play cat and mouse. I swapped the 2 for the 8 and six good tiles, then the 4 for the 2 and another good bunch. Alan bided his time. But when two Obelisks appeared to add to the two Alan already had, I invoked Ra and Alan couldn't resist. I managed to fill the Auction track before swapping the 13 for the 12. Those eight tiles included my third and fourth Civs, Gold, a God, and more Niles - a bonanza, enough for 24 points. (Still scored -2 for Pharaohs, though!) Andrew took the sun bonus from Alan.
When the points were tallied, I had emerged the clear winner with 47. I was so surprised I thought I must have taken the wrong scoring tablets. Is it really possible to win at Ra after scoring -7 in one epoch? And taking the Pharaoh penalty in all three epochs? And can there really be such a thing as a Civilization strategy, in addition to the more familiar Monument, Pharaoh and Flood/Nile strategies?
The answers are apparently 'yes', 'yes', and 'if you're very very lucky', respectively.
Debbie Pickett writes:
WEB OF POWER
Debbie, Mark, Andrew
Just as I was about to get settled in to a nice game of E____t & T____s (I'll be nice to Steve and not mention the game's name while his copy is on its way from Mayfair by express pigeon), a couple of brand new faces walked in the door. Ok, they were attached to heads and the heads were attached to bodies, and the bodies legs, but *those* certainly walked through the door. Anyway . . Mark and Andrew introduced themselves as being from northern suburbs - always the wild yonder for little ol' south-eastern-sprawl me - and that they had in fact played all the good games already: El Grande, Settlers, Medici. All but one, I pointed out, and gleefully grabbed Web of Power to break their spirits with.
Boy, was I wrong. The end of the game came and Andrew came a shocking fifteen points ahead of me, and had almost doubled poor Mark's score! Andrew scored it big with alliances, netting links between France and ALL its neighbours England, Aragon, Lothringen, Italy and Burgundy! Ow! And I thought I did well with the alliances over in the east part of the board, scoring four.
I think this game can be a little less even with three players than what seems to be for me the customary five participants. Certainly, Andrew did benefit from Mark not being aggressive enough with his advisors and opening up some nice scoring opportunities (which didn't get around the table for me to take advantage of). Still, I construe my drubbing as a nod to Andrew, who figured out the game's strategy in his first game. Well done!
My rating: I still love this game, even though I can't figure it out to save myself. An 8.
Alan, Asher, Tina, Roger
As usual, when Tina wins something, I have to make up some report to go with it, even if I wasn't involved in the game. This time, however, because I was getting thrashed at Web of Power, I didn't look a lot at this game being played at the next table; as a result, my report is going to be fairly short. Here goes:
The box is blue. Or maybe red.
My rating: This game is great, totally fabulous. It should have won the Spiel des Jahres four years running. No, five years running. This game should run for the US Presidency. I give this game the rating of i, though it may become more real once it has stood up to a first playing.
Alan, Asher, Tina, Roger
All I have is some final scores, from players' memory: Alan 0 Asher 10 Tina 10 Roger 6ish
My rating: At least I've played this one. I give it a 5: would prefer to play something else, if it's on offer.
APPLES TO APPLES
Andrew, Mark, Debbie, Tina, Roger, Asher, Alan
While waiting the customary "20 minutes" for Euphrat the game Steve et al were playing to finish, I cornered Roger into suggesting Apples to Apples as a filler.
We played until the first player reached five cards, or The Other Game finished ("20 minutes", they said). Twenty minutes later, when Andrew had scored his fifth green apple card, we were told that that there were still about "20 minutes" to go. I wonder if they were playing at all . . .
Final scores: Andrew 5, Debbie 3, Alan 3, Roger 3 (including the infamous "Feminine = Doing the Dishes" victory), Mark 2, Tina 1, Asher 1.
My rating: At least 8 for me, this game always makes me laugh uncontrollably. Just stop me when I start snorting.
Alan, Debbie, Andrew, Mark
With the waiting list to play Silberzwerg still in the order of five weeks, I was lumped in with the other have-nots and eventually joined in with Alan's suggestion of Aladdin's Dragons. This was a first time for everyone but me, though Alan had played Keydom before.
I don't remember details of the game, but I remember rarely bothering with the city in the middle of the board and mostly just ferrying treasures straight from the caves to the palace. I think all of us made critical errors during the game; fortunately mine didn't cost me too much, and one round I picked up three of the four artefacts on offer. Andrew came in for a close second, and Alan - despite his lack of luck in resolving ties (start camel was always to his left when it mattered) - was a close third. Only Mark seemed to struggle with getting artefacts, but picked up towards the end.
My rating: This one gets a 7 - I enjoy playing it and frequently suggest it myself. In my opinion, slightly more fun to play than Keydom, but it's hard to compare them since they are really quite different games.