Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I received my copy of Bus today from the math trade. As you can see, the boards are a little warped. Ok, I've never seen anything like it. Even Lowneherz wasn't this bad. I've read about sticking warped boards in a ziplock with apple slices, stacking books on them, etc. These are so bad, I'd half consider just plain frame mounting them (I have a friend that does that for a living in Phoenix) so they'd be flat. Wow. The listing said the boards were warped, but this is crazy. The boards aren't even thin - which makes getting them back to almost flat even worse. I may have to try and scan them then make new ones :(

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Game Night

"Let me explain something to you, Walsh. This business requires a certain amount of finesse." - Jake Gittes, Chinatown

Well, after many previous haulings, I finally brought out and played Chinatown (and now that the weather is nicer, maybe I can finally finish my payment to Mike Gingold for said game). I was joined by Mike Garrett, Justin Kosec, and another guy hanging out at the Game Shoppe, Mel. So, Chinatown is a negotiation game - fairly simple really. The board is divided into 6 buildings which are divided into areas of 12-15 spaces. Each space has a unique number from 1-85. On each turn, players are dealt a set of cards with lot numbers. They can pick from a subset of these cards and simply claim ownership of that lot. In the next phase, a random assortment of business tiles are given to the players. Then a negotiation phase, then placements of the businesses, and scoring. Businesses score based on their size and "completeness". Then repeat. After 6 rounds, the person with the highest score (money) wins. Pretty simple. During negotiations, everything can be traded - money, space, tiles, whatever. We started playing and after 3 turns, realized that the translated rules were in err, and had to restart (we ran out of tiles). At any rate, I squeaked out a win 171-168-168-126. So, I enjoyed playing the game (not just because I won), but here's my problem with negotiation games of this type - its technically "solvable". Here's what I mean. If you need my one space on the board to finish your business, I can see that you will make and addition [for example] 5000 each turn for the next 4 turns over what you would make without finishing. Meaning that at a minimum (there is possibility for bonuses, but I'll ignore that) giving you the space is worth 20k. Fine - pay me 10k and we're good. And that's what I mean by solvable. A good player is not going to just give up money/points to another player unless the deal is equitable. Since the equality is based in math, the deals (should) be zero sum. Which means - the winner is determined randomly based on the cards that come out and the tiles you get. And that's my biggest gripe with this type of negotiation game (for whatever reason, negotiations in wargames don't feel the same and I like that just fine). Mike says that Traders of Genoa is similar, but the information is a lot harder to track (in part because the game is longer). If anything though, I'm less inclined to play Traders than I was before. Chinatown is about the right length (for me) for this style of game, but is probably a once or twice a year game. **I just read that Z-Man games is producing the English release of this. Sounds like it'll get the nice Z-Man component treatment, but its going to be MSRP of $70!!!
After finishing up Chinatown, I pulled out In the Year of the Dragon. Sadly, it did not get played, as Mel took off, so Mike said he'd teach us how to eat poop - and by that I mean we played Primordial Soup. I had just purchased this, as Justin had called to let me know another local shop was having a 50% off sale. So I pulled it out, Justin set up the board, I started putting together the amoebas and Mike reviewed the rules. The rules are pretty straight forward. The complexity in the game lies in the gene cards, which give you abilities to "break" rules. The combinations that are available are enormous and what you take will depend in part on what the other players are doing. Since we had no clue (other than Mike), I played with my gut and roared out to a big lead. This of course prompted Mike to become "aggressive" and he started eating all my amoebas. Justin played steadily the whole way and managed to win by a couple points (I didn't score well at the end of the game as I couldn't keep my amoebas on the board). Not a bad little game, and I have the expansion, so I can get this to the board with up to 6 players. After playing, I thought maybe the game would be a bit long with 5 or 6, but the scoring is done where you basically ignore the spaces ahead of you where another player sits on the scoring track, so if you have 3 players ahead of you and you score a bunch of points, you "technically" gain 3 bonus points. This leapfrogging probably speeds things up quite a bit with more players.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Justin Sucks at Samurai (or - How I Miscalculated and Still Won)

A few days ago, Mike Garrett, Justin Easley and I started a game of Samurai on MaBiWeb. Justin was pretty aggressive towards the 3-totem city and the 2-totem city next to that, so we mostly left him to that. Mike floundered about most of the game with no clear direction and bad draws (though we all claim our draws sucked). I managed to get a number of pieces, though evenly between the three, and was worried I'd end up with lots of pieces and ZERO majorities. So, towards the end, I pushed to take all the hats. Now, in setting that up, I started looking at the remaining pieces and was pretty sure that Justin would kill us. Then near the very end, I thought we might tie. Sadly, Mike was forced into a king maker position. no matter how he played his last tile (because it would be his last tile), he determined the winner. I placed my last tile such that Mike's "best play" would be the one where he took a piece and thus gave me a piece as well (a hat). I then figured that Justin would end the game and we'd tie. However, I was wrong and won. We ended up with a tie with one majority each. We also tied on other pieces at 6 each. However, that last hat pushed me to a total number of pieces of 11 to Justin's 10. Mike's other move choices would not have netted him any pieces and Justin would have won. If this had been face to face, I think Justin and I would have been ok calling it a draw, but online all you can do is go with what the system tells you. It was a good game, but would have been better if Mike had "been in it".

Monday, April 21, 2008

Couple of Games

April 19, 2008 - Saturday
Mike Garrett came over after playing in a Bridge tourney all day. I pulled out Tumblin Dice since um... Well, it was still out on top of my last box of games. I showed Mike and after something like 9-10 rounds Mike beat me by 4 pts. Frankly, the game is pretty gay with 2 players. This is definitely a 4 (or more if you have lots of same sized/weight dice) player game. So anyway, after that we pulled out Notre Dame, which actually does play two-player. This is similar in many ways to In the Year of the Dragon (or vice versa). There are enough differences of course that they aren't the same game re-themed, but they scratch pretty much the same itch. I think ItYotD is probably the better game, but I'll reserve judgment until I play ND with 4-5 players. At any rate, in this version of the swim against the tide (tide of rats) game, I managed to not hit the max in rats and score ND twice all to myself. Mike lost points a couple of times, but was pulling the scores in with his park from very early on. It ended up being pretty close, but I squeaked out a 4 pt win.


Results from the "Pent-up Need to Trade"-trade are in. Looks like I got a lot of trading done this time. Traded these games:
  • La Strada --> Weapons and Warriors - Pirate Battle (I think this is for my son)
  • Torres --> Hare and Tortoise
  • Age of Steam --> Bus
  • Circus Maximus --> Medieval Merchant

    The lone non-trading game? The Goodnight Moon game. Oh well. I'll probably look to ebay to sell that one. Age of Steam for Bus? Bus is OOP, and even if it wasn't, it'd be at least $75 to order (as closely as I can guess from Splotter's site). I don't feel too bad about that trade. I traded off Circus Maximus for a game that I'm pretty sure will see the table in the future: Medieval Merchant. So I'm ok with these results. I get rid of four games that were extra or not getting played for three games I want and one "toy". Actually not a bad result. I probably only would have been happier if I could have traded AoS for Antiquity, but since I'm moving back to AZ here, I should be able to play Antiquity with Mike G, so my intense need for that game can probably be put on hold for a bit.
  • Friday, April 18, 2008


    Just finished another online game of Mykerinos on MaBiWeb. this match was with Tammy Smolka, Bobby Warren, and Mike Gingold. I'm torn between liking this game and disliking playing it online. Without the continuous flow, I tend to "lose my place" when I'm playing this and I make dumb mistakes. Maybe its just me. At any rate, I was doing ok in this game. Then Bobby left for THE GATHERING. While there, he must have found his mojo, because he roared into the lead of the game, scoring a whopping 22 points in the final round. Final scores: Tammy: 37 - Charles: 45 - Bobby: 49 - Mike: 25

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008


    So, I played a couple more games of Samurai with Justin Easley yesterday on MaBiWeb. He is convinced that the first player has an advantage in 2-player (mostly since I always go first and I always beat him). I had started a game hoping to pass the first turn to let him have the advantage, but you can't "not" play, so I still ended up first. I also took a random hand as a slight handicap (my random starting hand sucked BTW). This turned out to be one of the more interesting games I've played, as I managed to get the TOP SECRET WIN! You see, there is a little known rule (well, at least its not a common occurance, so it stays at the back of lots of player's minds) about ending the game after four pieces have been tied. Most players are too greedy to tie pieces so it doesn't happen often at all. However, in this game, I was able to win one piece out of the 3-totem city and tie the other two. My next turn, I tied another piece, making there 3 tied pieces and with me having two majorities. I vaguely warned Justin that I had just made the game very tense for him, but he did not understand the reference (probably thinking I was talking my normal smack). The next turn I was able to play my swap and my ronin and tie a 4th piece, suddenly ending the game "halfway" through. Justin was stunned (and vowed to use this new found power against another unsuspecting victim). Sorry Justin - I had been waiting and waiting to pull that trick off for a long time now, but I've never seen that many ties before...

    So later that night, Justin pointed me to a new thread that had just popped up! MaBi added a new two-player starting player handicap system. The start player loses their 2-ship. Of course, we had to try it out. We fired up a game, and of course for the first time in about 8 plays, Justin got to go first!. I had again taken a random hand, and if possible, it was worse than the previous game's hand. At any rate, it was a close game - close enough that we finally tied. We'll get a few more of these in and see how much the start player matters with this handicap.

    Saturday, April 12, 2008


    Early GameMid GameEnd Game

    Well, I finally got to play this cool Splotter game. Indonesia is an economics game where players grow good companies and shipping lines. Depending on the success of the companies, the cities around the companies can grow, allowing for more growth and so forth. The key "interesting" feature of this game is the merger mechanism, whereby a player can call for a merge of two companies (his own or otherwise) into a large single entity that anyone can bid for control of. Its a very interesting game that falls into the Age of Steam category of longer brain burner with lots of math - which doesn't make it sound fun, but its pretty good. In all fairness, its probably better than I'm thinking it is, but I've been playing a lot of econ games like this lately and I may have had my fill for a bit. Mike Garrett and I had been wanting to get this in for a few weeks now, so I invited some friends from work over - Steve Wicklund and John Davis. I went over the rules, which really doesn't take all that long. Since none of us had a clue, we jumped in and started playing. I grabbed a rice company, Steve a spice, Mike and John grabbed shipping companies and extra company slots were researched all around. It didn't take long to work out some of the dynamics of the game, and I'm interested to see this game in action again. In our game, the focus was on the individual companies and making cash for your own pile. As a result of this more singular focus, we only had one city ever grow in size until nearly the end of the game. In addition, Mike brought out a rubber company immediately in the B era, and it was in a place such that no growth was likely to happen anywhere. We also didn't have mergers until halfway through the game. Now, in fairness - the game was over after Mike created a Siap Faji (SEE-op fa-GEE) company (and no, it never stops being fun saying that). Because of our lateness is getting merger tech, nobody ever had the ability to merge more than two single companies. Mike's Faji was safe in his hand making money hand over fist. By the end of the game, Mike was so far ahead we had no hope of catching him. I eeked out 2nd place by a hundred or so over John and Steve. Mike had over 1700 (I had 1260). For some fairly simple mechanics and rules, there is a lot going on and a lot to take in. Its really a good game.
    Now, being that this (and most Splotter games) have this notion of being "fiddly" I'll chime in on that. THIS GAME IS FIDDLY. Each shipping/operations phase takes a while to show where goods were delivered and to correctly pay the shipping companies. A calculator is really nice to have, even if you can do math in your head - its just faster as there is a lot of "un-intuitive" math involved (5/13 of 481 anyone?). Its not terrible, but its not fast either. I thought about it a bit, and I just don't see any real way to speed up the process. It is what it is. Also, you must have poker chips. A lot of them. At any rate, this is a pretty fun game overall and one I do want to play again.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    A Week of Samurai

    Justin Easley and I played a series of 5-games over the course of the week (ok, three, but I won 3 of 5 already).

    Game 1: Fought over the 3-totem city right away and after spending a good amount of my 4-tiles, Justin came away with 2 of 3. I managed to work my way back in though and closed him out at the end of the game with a single piece more than he had 1-6-9 to 1-5-9. Super close game that came down to the very last tiles.

    Game 2: Another game that ended closer than the game might have been. For the record - Justin wanted it noted that "I got lucky - again". I did not.

    Game 3: The excuses keep rolling in... We didn't get this game in until late Thursday. We missed playing altogether on Wednesday. Justin again roared out and I came back to smoosh him at the end of the game. He believes that the player who goes first has an advantage. To prove/disprove this, I will let him go first from now on (passing if I actually go first).

    Sunday, April 06, 2008


    This weekend saw a lot of games being played. Friday started out with Justin Easley and I whipping through a quick two-player game of Samurai. I had a good run of tiles and never even used my Ronin. Two days later, Justin got revenge, beating Mike Garrett and I in a three-player match (in which I got completely schooled). Such is Samurai - I can only seem to get on track for one mode and tend to then get killed in the others (number of players).
    Saturday, Steve Wicklund brought his two sons Chance (13) and Jeremy (10) over and another fellow from work, John Davis, joined us for an afternoon game of Descent: Journeys in the Dark. The boys had played, though not defeated the first scenario before. John hadn't played, so I started them on the first one (I being the Overlord). With semi-experienced players and an easy scenario they players didn't have much difficulty. I got a few kills in, but nothing to keep up with their gains. I forget how quick kids are - they remember everything and Steve's boys were very fast at counting - it was like they could tell you all the totals the second the dice stopped moving. Descent is a lot of fun anyway, but it was quiet a bit of fun playing with a couple of players that were VERY into the game. I'd love to show them a bunch of other games I know they'd love, but I'd hazard a guess that they will want to play Descent again if they come back (and that's ok).
    Later that night, Mike Garrett stopped over and we got in a game of BattleLore - Mike being familiar with the basics of the system, prompted me to just start us on the first Lore scenario. Mike got an early lead, but I managed to fight back to make the game 4-5. Mike tried repeatedly to shoot down the last unit he needed for a win, but I lucked out and managed to stay in the game (on the same note, I must have hit his Cavalry with flags EVERYTIME I attacked - including a three flagger). I closed in on his guys to try and tie things up, but Mike finally landed the punch he needed to finish me off 6-4.
    After that, we pulled out a couple of games that I had on my un-played list. The first was Terra Nova. This is an abstract with a very very thin theme tacked on about settling or some crap. Basically, the board is a hex map with different terrain types (could have been patterns, colors, whatever) under the hexes. First you place your meeples on the board (could have been colored stones or any marker). Then you take turns doing 3 things - moving guys and after moving one (or more), placing fences. When an area with 3 or less terrain types is sectioned off, the majority controlling player scores points based on the size of the area, with bonus multipliers for single or double terrain types. Pretty straight forward and nothing special, but I knocked it off the un-played list. Our major complaint? They short you meeples in two colors. If you play two player, you have to be red and yellow. Three players adds blue. You cannot be green unless you play 4-players. That's just retarded. Same thing that Pompeji did and it is still annoying. Anyway, I'm half interested in trying with three players, but won't be sad if I never do. I actually grok'd the game pretty quickly, but wasn't facinated enough to want to play again either (might have been my getting really tired). We finished up the night playing Zertz, which is part of the Gipf series of two-player abstract games. While I didn't hate it, it was not even close to being as good as Yinsh. Having only played two Gipf games (Yinsh and Zertz), I definitely rank Zertz as my second favorite of the series, but feel certain it will not be second after I try any of the others. Its not a bad game, but there wasn't anything special about it (I won too, so it wasn't even that I lost and hated it) It was even behind Terra Nova for abstracts, so there you have it. Thanks to Mike for helping me knock off a couple games.

    Wednesday, April 02, 2008


    Mike Garrett, Justin Easley and I finished up a game of Samurai on MaBiWeb yesterday. After our (Mike and I's) bout of two-player games I thought I'd get another target involved. This time out, I jumped at the three totem city and everyone left me to get it on my own. Mike nailed the island to the South while Justin spread himself out waiting for his opportunity. I managed to suck up a number of pieces, and Mike caught up eventually. Then Mike threw out a 4-rice against the 3-totem city I'd been working on since I didn't have any rice support. However, through clever play on my part (read: luck) I was able to do a swap that hosed Justin and got me a rice to replace the one I'd lose in the big city. At that point I had two majorities to Mike's one. As the game approached the end, Justin and I looked at the board and what was left and we figured that Mike had one move left that could earn him a tie with me. I had to hope he didn't see it, and turned out he just missed it - he swapped the right piece, but threw it in the wrong spot, giving me the ability to close out the game. Final scores (majorities - others - totals:
    Mike: 1 - 4 - 8
    Charles: 1 - 5 - 10
    Justin: 0 - 8 - 8

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008


    I got invited to join a game of Hansa on MaBiWeb. After getting burned out a bit on this last year I had avoided this one, but decided to suck it up and play again. It ended up being a three player game with Rob and Jason Easley, and I was able to jump out to a good lead. Rob caught up quickly enough and I was unable to shake him. I also had one point in the game where probably should have let the game go and take my chances, but didn't and it cost me the game. This is why Hansa doesn't rate higher for me - one person always seems to be on the short end of the stick, and then a nice tight game comes down to luck of the draw on the last stack. If the game was longer, I'd rate it lower, but since this is short, its ok. At any rate, Rob played a decent game and deserved the win - Jason was the guy that got the short end of the stick this time around.