Archive for October, 2007

Oct 28, 2007: Vikings, thieves and favours, gem hunters, gladiators, Maharajahs and mob bosses.

Venue: Pat’s place.
Present: Brian, Alex, Brad, Jeff, Pat, Nick, Andrew, Lindsay, Paul.
Played: Coda, The Thief of Baghdad, Vikings, Caylus, Diamant, The Thief of Baghdad (again), Colosseum, Vikings (again), Geschenkt, Taj Mahal, Don.

Pictures from two sources tonight: 1. The typical lo-res pics from my Nokia, and 2. The unexpected arrival of Lindsay, normally a Thursday night regular, who has provided some shots of a type rarely found in The Mine Shaft Gap, ie., those that feature people and games. Thanks again, Lindsay.

Coda: A pre- and during pizza warm-up for the first four to arrive.
Jeff won, Brad 2nd, then Alex and Pat.

The Thief of BaghdadThe Thief of Baghdad: Tactiples
I add another new title to the list, courtesy of Nick again, with this Spiel des Jahres nominee. Play is quite simple and elegant as players try to get their thief pawns into various of the six palaces ahead of their opponents. In reference to last week’s dubbing of the pieces in Vikings as “viples”, we chose to call the Thief pieces “thieples” or “Diebles”. I think I prefer “thieples” of these…
For me at least, play was largely opportunistic until right near the end, when all three of us were sitting on 4 treasure chests, just below the threshold for winning. Then some of the tactical twists came into play more frequently. Pat had managed to line up three thieples in the purple palace and had occupied all but one of the guard spots with his guard pawns (”guarples”?). Guard movements by both Nick and me managed to slow him down by perhaps one turn, but the writing was on the wall and he managed to snatch victory, maybe a turn or two ahead of Nick and multiple turns ahead of me.
Thief is one of those games that even reminds me of chess, with its positioning of pieces to slowly build a position on the board and to hinder the aspirations of your opponents. Pat also drew a comparison to Blue Moon City, although suggested the latter was a little richer because of the individual effects of the played cards.
13 mins rules and setup; 53 mins game time.
Results: Pat (blue): 5. Nick (yellow): 4. Paul (green): 4.

VikingsVikings: On the back of last week’s discovery, this title is absolutely the flavour of the moment - apparently Pat’s Thursday group played three times this week too. This session saw the blooding of Jeff and a second go for both Alex and Brian. Without looking at the score track or any other details I picked Alex as the likely winner with his well-populated islands, and importantly, clearly more fishermen than his opponents.
16 mins rules and setup; 57 mins game time.
Results: Alex (brown): 67. Brian (orange): 54. Jeff (white): 50.

CaylusCaylus: I was slightly disappointed that this was broken out on another table after I had committed to Thief of Baghdad, as in all probability I expect it will be some time before I see it surface again in this group. This was made even worse when Brad declared loudly, a mere one minute into the game, “May I make an announcement: Caylus is not my favourite game…”. I was tempted to switch with him from Thief, but stood by my original commitment.
CaylusThere was some discussion of this to be a “speed Caylus” session, and at 90 minutes game time I think this is quite good, although not as fast as apparently the players had hoped. Brad was blamed…
20 mins rules and set up; 90 mins game time.
Results: Andrew (red): 80. Richard (blue): 78. Brad (black): 71.

DiamantDiamant: BoS
A filler while we waited for Caylus to finish. We played the rules dubbed by Pat as the “Balls of Steel” variant. Actually, this is the way we’ve always played. The original rules apparently call for the current gems to be distributed evenly in front of all active players for them to take their own personal pot when they bail on any given round. BoS rules provide the current and common pot of gems to be distributed only to the bailing players on any given round (residues after division stay in the pot). So longer-lasting players are still better placed to pick up a bigger share, but are also more likely (compared to original rules) to finish with less, or even nothing at all.
DiamantThe results here therefore suggest that Pat, the winner, has the most marshmallowy balls, while Nick, with true balls of steel, has nothing to show for them.
2 mins rules and setup; 15 mins game time.
Results: Pat (blue): 17. Alex (yellow): 16. Brian (orange), Paul (brown): 15. Jeff (green): 14. Nick (white): 0.

The Thief of Baghdad (again): Another playing of Nick’s new game to accommodate the unanticipated arrival of Lindsay on an errand, successfully talked into staying for a game or three.
14 mins rules; 39 mins game time.
Results: Nick (yellow): 5. Brian (green): 4. Lindsay (orange): 3.

ColosseumColosseum: Gladiatorial miscalculations
All newbies except me to this one, hence I became defacto game explainer. This is why rules and setup time for this blows out to 50 minutes!
ColosseumUnlike previous games I’ve played of this, the Emperor’s Loge was recognised by all players as a key investment to make as early as possible. Arguably, Alex was the most successful at manipulating the nobles from their dice rolls to maximum effect, mainly for Emperor’s Medals. However, on the last turn Andrew did manage to wind up with three of them in his colosseum (one was left there from the previous turn).
Asset token collection just seems to be vicious - there aren’t enough of them! Also, I found money to be unusually tight this game; perhaps I just bid too much for some of the asset sets early in the game. A consequence of this is that I missed out on a far more valuable program in the last turn because I was short of money. Even still, I had to trade a medal for $6 in order to afford the final batch of assets. I never did check this point in the rules, but presumably if you have less than $8 you are ineligible to bid on new asset tiles, even if you are the last player.
ColosseumPic: The eventual winner surveys his cast.
An outstanding final result for Alex, but I’m just left wondering what epic productions might have been, if not for financial mis- management on the part of my producer…
50 mins rules and setup; 115 mins game time.
Results: Alex (gold): 86. Jeff (purple): 70 (+$90). Paul (green): 70 (+$73). Andrew (red): 63.

Vikings

Vikings (again): Second and final game of this one for the night, and unless my notes are very wrong, an unusually long one at 90 minutes. All high scores too - did you guys play a few extra turns?!
20 mins rules; 90 mins game time.
Results: Richard (orange): 84. Pat (white): 77. Brad (black): 76.

Geschenkt: A between-games filler for the Thieves.
About 20 mins. Nick won, over Lindsay and Brian.

Taj MahalTaj Mahal: This was an unexpected choice, and presumably made because of its conspicuous and convenient location on Pat’s game shelf. There seemed to be some vibe about TM not being that great a game, despite Pat’s observation that this was probably the best game by Reiner K. themed in India and called Taj Mahal (ie., of all games within that genre).
8 mins rules rehash and setup; 65 mins game time.
Results: Richard (red): 52. Brad (beige): 40. Brian (brown): 36. Lindsay (grey): 32. Pat (blue): 29.

DonDonDon: Something simple and light to finish off the evening. Bid on cards to make sets, but avoid bids that end with any of the digits in your existing sets (or pay a penalty and lose your bid), and try to avoid large bids that end in digits monopolised by other players (or your entire bid goes straight into their pocket).
A very strange game of timing and calculation. Jeff wins on a tie-breaker with greatest district value sum.
7 mins rules and setup; 33 mins game time.
Results: Jeff: 12. Pat: 12. Brad: 8. Alex, Paul: 7.

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Oct 21, 2007: Notre Dame and Norsemen, characters, kings and corsairs

Venue: Brian’s place.
Present: Brian, Alex, Brad, Pat, Andrew, Neil M., Paul.
Played: Coda, Notre Dame, Dungeoneer, Vikings, John Silver, Vikings (again), To Court the King, Corsari.

RWC is all over for another four years, with South Africa predictably (as from three weeks ago) the ones to take home the Webb Ellis trophy. Gratifying at least to see Argentina again whack France and claim the bronze. It will be intesesting to see whether this represents the peak for the Pumas of current times, or if they can build on this to become an elite and consistent rugby nation…
Anyway, off the field and onto the tabletop. Pics again from the lo-res Nokia.

CodaCoda: Something light and quick for the non-dinner eaters. This was another one of Alex’s variants in which the rules of initial setup order are tweaked somehow to make the game just that bit more challenging.
Time not recorded. Pat won, Alex 2nd, then Brad.

Notre DameNotre Dame: Rats
Here was another new game to me that I’d been looking forward to playing for some time, so I was glad when Pat had finally scored this in a mail order. Immediate impressions were of the artwork - unique and aesthetically appealing, even if I had glimpsed this before on Brettspielwelt before (without playing). No doubt the board arrangement has been commented on before numerous times, but it only occurred to me much later how original this is and clever to find a set of configurations for the carriage token placements to work for 3,4 and 5 players.
Notre DameAt first the range of character cards and the diversity of actions in each of the neighbourhoods was a little overwhelming, but actually the latter are visually self-explanatory once you’ve had a brief description, and the former you don’t have to worry about until they’re drawn (and even then they’re simple enough to grasp).
Notre DameI thought I’d gotten off to a good start and a good strategy by going for the cubes build-up, with just enough cash to pick up one or two spots in Notre Dame for the first trimester, and indeed this seemed to pay off well. Brian went strongly on the cart option, and was scooping good hauls by jumping between the intersections of the board. Pat also went for cubes build-up, and the sector that reduces the cumulative impact of rats. Apparently a good investment - the rats really started to bite in the second trimester. This was ok for as long as they impacted all of us approximately the same. But by the middle of the third I was consistently more overrun by rats than my opponents, who had apparently found better card combinations than me. I got trapped in a “futile cycling” loop a few times, whenever the “0 rats guy” card appeared. I’d then have to make a gold to buy the option, creating high opportunity cost situations for myself - an interesting dilemma.
By the end of the game I was surprised to find I was so far behind the others in vps, obviously an indication that more practise, and rat trapping, is required.
21 mins rules and setup; 52 mins game time.
Results: Pat (blue): 48. Brian (red): 44. Paul (green): 36.

DungeoneerDungeoneer: This was played over on the other table, and to me resembled a dungeon trek laid out like AH’s Betrayal at the House on the Hill with little stand-up paper figures moving around laid-out cards.
DungeoneerApparently Andrew was doing a little too well, so the other players ganged up to have him the first eliminated. This despite the fact he held the Maiden in Distress card.
22 mins rules; 132 mins game time.
Results: Brad won as Bitch Elf Queen, Alex the Paladdin second, Neil the rogue halfling was beaten up by his own assassin, and Andrew, as described, was cut down in his prime.

VikingsVikings: New explorations
Another new game of Pat’s that he was quite enthusiastic about, but one that I had no pre-conceptions of (unlike Notre Dame). Cowboys, was my first reaction to the little wooden figures, until Pat pointed out that the distinctive head shape was supposed to represent the cliched horned Viking helmet. We started calling them “Veeples”, or “Viples”.
VikingsThis game turned out to have one of the most original combinations of features that I’ve seen in a long time. The rondel-like selection of tiles and viples combinations works very nicely. But then the tableau of island tile placement is intriguing - I’m not sure I’ve seen that type of tile placement mechanism before in a game.
I got off to a poor start in our game, and I don’t recall now whether that was just bad luck with the very early choices of viples and tiles, or bad decision-making (probably the latter), but I was soon sliding backwards on the points/extra money track. The raider threats I was forced to take were significantly holding back my income and points gains compared to opponents Pat and Brian, so in the following turn, at great expense, I dug deeper still to snag the only warrior viple (ie., black ship-repeller) available for the round. This, as they say, stopped the rot, but I was now a long way behind on the score track. But by the last turn, immediately before the final big scoring, I was back up within 5 points or so of the others. This wasn’t enough, however, and by the time all of the special bonuses were distributed (like 10 points for the most boatsmen, etc.), I was well and truly stomped.
VikingsI can see Vikings will provide lots of game hours exploring the possibilities with its unique combination of features - there’s a lot more to be uncovered here.
20 mins rules and set up; 51 mins game time.
Results: Pat (white): 65. Brian (brown): 54. Paul (orange): 39.

John Silver: Another new card game in Pat’s collection, and yet another exploiting the ubiquitous theme of pirates. This was played on the other table, and I gather from reactions that the overall reception was luke-warm.
15 mins rules and setup; 16 mins game time.
Results: Andrew: 29. Pat: 16. Neil M: 15. Brian: 8.

VikingsVikings (again): Brad and Alex wanted another game, but not too long, before they called it a night. While Pat was occupied with John Silver, I offered to dive in to Vikings again given the apparent interest in this.
VikingsThe start played out quite differently to our first game, which produced 4 or 5 yellow goldsmith viples and maybe 4 raiding ships in the first round. This one produced a single goldsmith (grabbed by Brad) and only one or two ships in the first round. Despite this, and perhaps with the benefit of experience, I was better able to manage my cash flow this game. The others were playing competently too, although Alex seemed to be headed down a strange path with his investment in blue fisherman (along with a bonus tile to support these).
For most of this game I actually thought my Viking world was panning out fairly well, with good income each turn and reasonable scoring on the alternate rounds, and I thought that Brad was the one to beat. I was right about this, but Alex’s relative showing was well under-estimated, by all three of us I think (ie., including Alex).
VikingsThe fishermen were a wise investment after all, and in hindsight as Al’s blue viple count grew throughout the game I was growing increasingly uneasy about my own, although not enough to act on it in time. Of course, with his special tile, Al scored well on the fishermen count, while I went backwards 10 points and Brad 11. This was a pressure not so strongly felt in the first game and therefore propably under-appreciated in our second! To re-iterate an earlier point, I expect there are plenty more subtleties to be discovered in Vikings.
24 mins rules; 62 mins game time.
Results: Alex (white): 60. Brad (brown): 46. Paul (orange): 43.

To Court the King

To Court the King: Just a time-filler for Pat and Brian while Alex, Brad and I carried on with Vikings. Pat was coy about his win, claiming the game was the real winner.
Some support apparently for this game being good for two…

CorsariCorsari: A late-night for the host and the two of us with the furthest to travel home. I’m really enjoying this game with three - so much so that I went and ordered a discounted copy (along with a bunch of other stuff) from the ADAMspielt closing-down sale recently.
I always think I’m in with a chance in Corsari, right up to the last hand. But Pat was far more successful overall and set sail four times in six hands. Second position was close, but with Brian claiming this by a single point it cemented my position at absolute bottom of the table for the evening: Four games played tonight, all with 3 players, and I came in last in every single one… (not that that matters, of course).
8 mins rules; 50 mins game time.
Results (lower is better): Pat: 53. Brian: 77. Paul: 78.

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Oct 14, 2007: Canals, critters, crime and craziness

Venue: Pat’s place.
Present: Brian, Alex, Brad, Jeff, Nick, Pat, Richard, Paul.
Played: Canal Mania, Primordial Soup, Three of a Crime, Quao, Santiago, Nexus Ops, Attribute.

South Africa are facing England in the Rugby World Cup final on the weekend, while France and Argentina face off again for 3rd place glory. Curiously, both of these matches are ‘replays’ of ealier pool games, something that I suspect hasn’t happened before in the brief history of the RWC.
Anyway, preamble - who needs it? On to the board games. Pics by the way are again from the lo-res Nokia. Sorry.

Canal ManiaCanal ManiaCanal Mania: The first game for the evening featuring canals, this was played on the other table. In what was obviously a close contest, Richard grabbed a marginal victory only after applying the second-order tiebreak.
24 mins rules and setup; 83 mins game time
Results: Richard (black): 69+. Nick (green): 69. Pat (white): 57. Brian (red): 49.

Primordial SoupPrimordial Soup: Chicken Noodle Soup
Given the participants in this session, this turned out to be perhaps the most peaceful game of Ursuppe imaginable. Sure, there was plenty of death, but the majority of this was as a result of starvation and not directly aggressive acts. It was not until about two-thirds into the game that the first Struggle for Survival gene was acquired (by Brad). Not that I was tracking its use, but I think that it was applied no more than twice for the rest of the game. While Alex and Jeff acquired Defense and Escape respectively, in an effort to deter Brad’s sharp teeth, these didn’t really seem to be needed by the end.
Primordial SoupWhile Jeff was becoming quickly familiar with the game principles and applying a standard but effective genetic strategy, Alex took some liberty to experiment with something different. For the first few turns he opted not to reproduce, hold onto his BPs and spend these instead on cards and the radiation balance. This strategy, in theory at least, also put extra feeding pressure on the rest of us: fewer yellow critters meant fewer yellow cubes for the rest of us to feed on. In fact, this aspect of the strategy proved to be partly successful in certain areas on the board, which were eventually brought back into some balance with a burst of food whenever someone died of starvation. Unfortunately, Al’s strategy came unstuck on the second or third turn, when the new gene-radiation threshold was a punishing 6, forcing him to discard a gene as well as lose some BPs. Despite closing the gap significantly towards the end, he still trailed for the rest of the game.
Primordial SoupI opted for a variation on a previously-successful strategy, and went from Movement I to Movement II within the first two game turns. Brad’s later acquisition of Division Rate made me nervous, and as soon as I was able I scooped up the remaining one. Thereafter it was a matter of getting new critters onto the board as fast as possible to counter starvation deaths and the threat of Brad’s Struggle. Despite being overtaken by Jeff at about mid-game, my combination was sufficient to regain the lead in time for the run to the finish.
10 mins rules and setup; 110 mins game time.
Results and game end genes: Paul (blue): 43; Movement II, Div Rate, Speed, Intelligence. Jeff (green): 40; Speed, Movement I, Escape. Brad (red): 39; Struggle, Div Rate, Intelligence. Al (yellow): 36. Movement I, Spores, X-Ray Protection, Defense, Persistence.
For the record, we played the house rule variant that forbids Streamlining.

Three of a Crime: A new filler brought by Nick. I didn’t play, but the character drawings on the cards looked cool.
3 mins rules; 13 mins game time.
Results: Pat: won. Nick, Richard and Brian also played.

Quao: You’re quidding…
Weird party game basically about depleting your hand, frequently involving some silly pronouncement, animal noise, etc., on each card play. The silliness ramps up when Quao kicks in. Quao receives another rule known only to them (and to the player who eventually inherits the job in the next round), and they may apply this rule at their discretion to force other players to pick up cards. Players are then left to guess the secret rule(s) and avoid violating them to stay in the game.
Example: I had a BullyQ played on me that required I say “that will be your mum calling, ____” (or similar) any time a phone rang. Richard, knowing one of Pat’s secret Quao rules, buzzed Brian’s phone on the quiet, requiring me to announce that Brian’s mum was calling. Pat then imposed a penalty on me, which I eventually surmised must have been about saying someone else’s name out loud… The harder one to pick was the necessity to say “It’s good to be Quao”, any time a card was played on you.
Yes, funny stuff indeed. Far funnier, though, for the players on the knowing side of the Quao rules. We broke more rules by playing with seven people (1 more than the written limit), and by the time the last round rolled up, only 3 starting cards each - by this stage I think everyone had seen enough. I quan only see this getting played again on a special oquasion and in the presence of excessive volumes of alquohol.
11 mins rules and set up; 39 mins game time.
Results: Brad won. Jeff, Paul, Brian, Alex, Richard and Pat also present, with the latter three getting one turn each as Quao.

Nexus OpsNexus Ops

Nexus Ops: Hoopy translucent critters battling it out on the other games table.
13 mins rules and setup; 61 mins game time.
Results: Alex: 12. Brad: 7 or 8. Jeff: ~5.

SantiagoSantiagoSantiago: This was the second game of the night to feature canals, and a truly tricky one to play well. Pat dominated retention of the canal builder position for much of the game, and although it was wrested from him a few times he held it long enough to scoop significant wadges of cash from everyone else. I felt more comfortable trying to position for big points-scoring farm tiles, but due to some tricky and unexpected switches of canal placements, this was a relatively unsuccessful strategy as reflected in the score tallies. The final tie between Pat and Richard was amusing.
18 mins rules; 55 mins game time.
Results: Pat (white): 136. Richard (purple): 136. Brian (grey): 96. Paul (black): 89.

AttributeAttribute: Fast-food packaging
This was the second game of the night to feature crazy card plays. I recall the first time we played this there was some confusion with the rules, in particular with when you can take a scoring card and when you don’t. The same confusion arose again tonight, and although I think we had it right by the end I’m not totally sure we were all scoring the same way throughout (should be: a score card if no-one snaps your red, a score card if you take someone else’s green, and a score loss if no-one takes your green - right?)
Getting the right cards to match someone else’s topic call was a challenge, and I frequently had good opposites based on my red or green sheep card - not helpful! Another challenge was picking a good topic to match your cards on your turn - not easy under pressure. My call of “fast-food packaging” to sit with “durable” and a red sheep card remained notorious until the end of the game.
5 mins rules; 25 mins game time.
Results: Richard: 15. Paul: 11. Brian: 8. Brad: 6. Alex, Pat, Jeff: 3.

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Oct 7, 2007: Wallabies, cars and cards, gemstones, patterns, power and pizzas (and pumas)

Venue: Richard’s place.
Present: Brian, Steve, Alex, Brad, Pat, Richard, Paul.
Played: Die Heisse Schlacht, Street Illegal, Qwirkle, Power Grid, Dragon Land, Olé!, Mamma Mia.

Those who know me know that I’m not big on watching sport, although last summer I did keep up with some cricket, in particular the Ashes test series. Apart from this there is the occasional tennis (when Australians are playing), and rugby league State of Origin and grand finals. But the only sport I get really excited about is international rugby, again really only when Australia is playing, and I’ve waited for four years to see the Wallabies contest for the World Cup.
So it is with much dismay that I watched them get knocked out of the competition by England at quarter-final stage on Saturday night. I was still in denial the next day, hoping that someone would wake me from a bad dream and tell me it wasn’t true. But it was and it is, and so my hopes for the Wallabies now turn to the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup for 2008. In the meantime, I’m still interested in the results of the current tournament, although now I’ll be barracking for the underdog upsetters, Argentina. Admittedly, a win for them against South Africa in the semi is a long-shot. But then, probably no-one except themselves expected they could beat home-town favourites France in the opening match…
Go the Pumas!

To the less physically-demanding games then, and tonight I report the results of no fewer than four ‘new’ games (new to me, that is), as well as a few ‘oldies’. Pics tonight are from the old Nokia only, hence the low quality.

Die Heisse Schlacht: All about dinner, during dinner. The other guys played this while Richard, Brian and I munched away on chicken tikka and lamb korma.
Time not recorded.
Results: Steve: 36. Alex: 15. Pat: 12. Brad: 11.

Street IllegalStreet Illegal: Contention
A spruced-up, English language version of Fette Autos, apparently with a few rules changes. In some off-line discussion since playing this, it seems that maybe the rules differences were not so significant, and in fact we may have been playing Fette Autos slightly wrong in the past. The main issue seems to be about the “cost” to execute more than one overtake in a given turn. Anyway, although there are a few clever mechanics, I’ve never been a huge fan of the original.
Street IllegalBecause we played with seven player cars tonight, there were no “old pros” (non- player cars) in the race. Hence the player in first position at the start of the race (Alex) was in a more advantageous position. As pointed out by Pat, players in the middle of the pack had to spend more chips on average than those in first and last positions, because in addition to fending off would-be attackers from behind they would also have to spend if they were to advance their position.
I was able to make one successful challenge on Alex, but only held the lead for a single turn until he out-chipped me on the next. I was relying on a flood of chips to prepare myself for the last turn, but I read the road signs wrong. From my upside-down position I mis-read a down-hill sign for an uphill one, and had no retort once I’d fended off Brian from behind.
Street IllegalSo finishing positions were very close to starting positions. Another observation from Pat is that even though the graphics and visuals are better, the game design is not an improvement (in fact, the opposite) over Fette Autos - but this was based on the assumption that in FA a player was not required to adjust their speed down in order to execute a second overtake in a given turn.
Brad’s summary of the whole game was simpler: “Funny, but crap.”
Alex has suggested that we give this a few more playings and maybe consider a few house-rule tweaks along the way. I’m rather ambivalent, which means I won’t offer, but also won’t veto…
22 mins rules; 64 mins game time.
Results: Al (Lavender): 1st. Paul (Shogun): 2nd. Brian (Dynamo): 3rd. Then in order: Pat (Krome), Richard (Moonlight), Steve (Johnny B), Brad (Scarlet).

QwirkleQwirkleQwirkle:
A family abstract game picked up on special recently by Richard. It consists of wooden tiles each showing one of six different shapes in one of six different colours. From their hand of six, each player turn involves placement of one or more tiles to create orthogonal rows and columns comprising a pattern of all one shape or all one colour, with no repeats. Score more points by building onto bigger lines, and earn a bonus by completing a Qwirkle - a valid row of six unique tiles. Simple, and “accessible” in the context of family games. But I clearly need more practice.
4 mins rules; 43 mins game time.
Results: Pat: 92. Richard: 87. Alex: 78. Paul: 71.

Power GridPower Grid:
Played by the guys at the other end of the table. At one point I glanced over and told Brian that he was screwed - from his cornered position on the map, it certainly looked that way to me.
Appropriately, Brian ignored my assessment and went on to win despite a late and close challenge from Steve. Best perhaps that I keep such premature judgements to myself in the future…
13 mins rules and set up; 102 mins game time.
Results: Brian (green): 17 powered cities (+$78 cash). Steve (red): 17 (+23). Brad (blue): 11.

Dragon LandDragon Land:
A Knizia spotted previously in Pat’s collection and pre-requested by Richard, apparently suggested as a good choice for playing by kids. Move your pieces around the board, collect gemstones, dragon eggs, and special power tiles, and win by having the most value in collected gemstone sets at the end. Three of us came to have identical second-place scores - I dont know if this is common and expected or just an unusual coincidence.
Dragon LandThe game works ok, but is not overly compelling. “Neat, but soul-less”, is how Pat sums it up. As to suitability for kids, sure, but probably not younger than the recomended 9 years. This is for various reasons, not the least of which is the easily-overlooked need to collect a little rubber ring for each piece to make it’s gemstone colour count in your scoring.
20 mins rules, setup, and coffee; 27 mins game time.
Results: Richard: 40. Alex, Pat and Paul: 34.

Ole!Olé!: Ola
This is one of the more original card game concepts I’ve seen in a while. Play is simple, and actually quite unoriginal: Play a card from your hand onto the pile if either the number or the suit is higher ranked than the previous top card. If both number and suit are higher, you get to play another card, the objective being to deplete. The first person to do so scores zero for the round, while everyone else scores the aggregate face value of their remaining cards.
Ole!The largest loser for the round begins the next, and this is where the innovation comes in. After examining their own cards, that player chooses which direction they want the suit ranks to run - yellow-green-blue-red, or red-blue-green-yellow. This is indicated by rotating the top and bottom edges of the card, which shows the same value, but in the context of the different suit rank order. The back of the cards also indicates whether red or yellow is the highest ranking suit (ie., red or yellow up).
So all pretty simple in principle, but this looks like yet another new card game that will take my brain some time to get around. While I grasped the theory well enough, I just couldn’t string together the plays to optimise my score. Some more practice required, but I could easily imagine this one turning up on the games table more often.
8 mins rules; 44 mins game time with one round of dealing per player.
Results (lower is better): Richard: 42. Brian: 58. Pat: 70. Alex: 76. Paul: 89.

Mamma Mia:
Something simple and quick to finish the evening with. My pizza oven got a good run through in the first round, turning out three pizzas and baking faster than anyone else’s. In the second round orders dried up for me while the other chefs caught up. The third round saw a return to previous productivity, with a close finish - the tie being broken by ingredients left over.
31 mins.
Results: Paul (brown): 6 (+5 cards). Pat (purple): 6 (+3). Richard (red): 5. Alex (yellow): 4. Brian (green): 2.

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The Mine Shaft Gap Turns Two

As tMSG turns two years old this week, another opportunity presents itself for some reflection on the past year.
Here are some stats, along with some comparisons with the previous 12 months:
Total posts: 68 (last year: 63)
Total no. game plays reported*: 362 (last year: 248)
Total no. unique games played*: 210 (last year: 160)
No. unique players: 32^ (last year: 21)
Approx. no. game hours*: 271 (last year: 227)
(ie., if you laid end-to-end all the games played (and recorded) in the last year, it would add up to 11.3 days continuous {last year: 9.5}. But, only 72% of all games logged had the time recorded, so extrapolating the average would give 375 hours, or 15.6 days, for the 362 games reported.)
Additional amount of time spent separately in rules explanation and game setup*: 34.5 hours (rules explan time was recorded only for 40% of all games {last year: 13%}. A dodgy extrapolation would therefore suggest the true, actual amount of time spent in rules explanation and game setup would therefore have been up to 85 hours.)
Total number of individual gaming experiences: 1504 (last year: 1020)
(ie., one gaming experience is one person playing one game. A 4p game is therefore 4 individual gaming experiences.)

(* Note that these data are from recorded game sessions only, with the vast majority having me in attendance. There are obviously many more game plays of the group in this time that have not been captured.)
(^ Although 32 separate players were identified, 13 of these were one-off game sessions only, implying 19 “regulars”. Of course a “regular” in this case is not necessarily someone who plays most weeks, but rather someone who has joined us on at least two separate gaming occasions throughout the year!)

This time last year I also reported that the number of page requests per week was around 1100. This turned out to be an exaggeration, almost certainly skewed by my own time on the site carrying out edits and other maintenance. Earlier this year I added some Google Analytics tracking code to get more reliable data on site traffic, and this has also allowed me to filter out my own impact on the site. Over the past month the true average no. site visits per day has been 10.8, with an average of 1.65 pages per visit (ie., 536 pageviews).
Over the past nine months, the average has been 9.5 visits per day, with 46.4% from Australia, 31.9% from North America, and 16.3% from Europe. It’s also been fascinating to see repeat visits from over 40 different countries, like Hungary, Singapore, India, Brazil, and even Peru.

I’ve also added a few extra site features this year, including the little sparkline charts that summarise game results (I even hacked the code myself to get the colours to work!), polls in the sidebar (although this hasn’t turned out to be particularly popular), and the Games Chatter section featuring current feeds from over a dozen game-related sites and blogs.

I also introduced advertising, with the expectation that I might be able to offset some of my hosting costs. The ads remain because based on the data I see and the way the Google Ads system works, this could still happen. At the current rate it will take until mid 2012 before I see any cash, but that will cover probably nearly half of my hosting costs over that period!

On more gaming-related highlights for the past year, three come to mind. The first is the addition of new “members” to our extended group, namely Neil F., Neil M., Euhan and Jeff, as well as having Nick join us on a more regular basis on the north side at least.
The second was ConTrail 07 - our 2nd “annual” weekend of woodfire smoke and boardgaming freedom.
Third was the Australian Games Expo - another huge gaming weekend off-site - this time in Albury. So many highlights here: Lots of new games to try and acquire, and meeting people like the Z-Man, Albury gaming locals like Neil T., and the Melbourne crowd comprising Melissa, Fraser, Giles and many others. I hope to catch them all again in ‘08.

As I’ve said before, there is never any guarantee of future posts. But then, it’s not the writing about games that’s important. It’s all about the games themselves and the spirit in which they’re played.

boardgameart.com

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