Monday, May 26, 2008

Game Night

May 17, 2008
Took me a little while to get around to this session report, but oh well. I had a few guys over to play a few games. Mike Garrett (MG) and his buddy Mike Linder (ML) stopped by, as did my friend John Davis from work. We started out playing a couple of quick games of Bobbin' Bumblebee - which is essentially a Loopin Louie clone (they even rip off the stupid spelling by not spelling out -ing instead using ng' ). The Mikes and I played one game with my wife before John got over (in a rare moment, Mike G was early). We started another game with John, which I had to cut short to chase my dog around the neighborhood after he escaped our yard. I had never played this nor the original, but I can see how its a semi-interesting kids game. Is this one I need to play with adults? Probably not. Don't get me wrong - there is some skill involved, but there are other short dexterity games I'd rather drag out.
After finding my dog, we settled down to play In The Year of the Dragon. I wanted to try grabbing the double dragon note to start the game, and both ML and I did so. However, I picked persons first and didn't choose very intelligently and then ended up playing LAST in nearly every round of the game. Our game was interrupted briefly as john had to run home to help his wife with their infant twins, but when we resumed, it looked as if it would be between ML and I. Unfortunately for me, ML was able to steal away the 6 points for fireworks (while the rest of us got NADA) in the last fireworks event which was all he needed to best my by 4 points. This game is really great, and I'd like to understand the strategies a little better. However, I think this one is going to play out a lot like Puerto Rico in that the starting choices will drive the game, and players familiar with it will get into a rut. As long as there is no computer game, I won't know this for a while, so I'll try and enjoy the game until then.
As I had mentioned, John had to leave briefly, so I thought this would be a good time to try out Big Three - a card game I've been reading about on Mark Hamzy's blog. Its most easily described as a three-player Tichu game, pitting one player against the other two. Its a pretty good three player game that is fast enough to almost be filler while waiting for a 4th player. There is no true ending so to speak, but I think I'd play again with each player having 20 points to start and ending when one player loses all their points. MG was leading in points after 3-4 hands when we stopped IIRC.
So, after our ItYotD game (that is annoying to type no matter what), we decided to play Race For the Galaxy something we had all played before. My enthusiasm for this game is waning a bit. As was typical, I got no synergy going with my cards early while MG did and after he'd played his third card I was already screwed. I hope the expansions offer some new playability to this game, but I'm not gung-ho like I was when this came out. Now, there is nothing wrong with this game (and it is still better than San Juan), but I think I'd really like to try out Glory to Rome because of the interactions between the players.
We then moved onto Wabash Cannonball. I have a love hate relationship with this game. I love it, but it is never good to me. It probably has something to do with playing with Mike Garrett, as we have played this together so often we just screw each other out the gate. This time, I was on the receiving end of most of that and I knew I was done before the first payout. STUPID GAME! I have started this game with nearly every company - the starting company seems to matter very little. The real action is what happens the first handful of actions. It is very easy to screw or be screwed right away. I think the biggest problem I've had thus far is that MG and I are usually the only two with experience, so we hose each other and the other players don't know enough to get in on the action, so one of us comes away pretty clean or we end up letting someone else get out in front of us. BAH!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Got an email from Bobby Warren asking Mike Gingold, Jason Maxwell and I if we were interested in trying out Patrician via the Michael Schacht website (which uses the MaBiWeb interface). I hadn't even heard of the game before, so grabbed the rules and read through them (they were short). Basically, a bit of an area control game with a couple of twists. Our first game out I played a bit randomly, but was in good position at the end of the game only to finish a distant 2nd having lost points. Having learned a few lessons and understanding a bit more, I started a second game as a rematch and completely changed my approach. The second time, I played almost exclusively to get the cards I wanted, and concentrated less on the actual areas I was trying to get. In the end, that seemed to pay off with my just edging out Bobby for the win.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

April 2008 Game of the Month

This month, the game of the month came down to two choices for me - one great game I finally got to put through its paces, and another that has now hit 20 plays on the year for me. I decided to give the nod to the Splotter beauty - Indonesia. Besides introducing us to Siap Faji, Indonesia is a really great economic/planning game. Its a game that plays out differently depending entirely on player choices. City locations, company growth and even player/company abilities earned through "research" will all conspire to make a fairly different experience each playing. The game itself isn't overly complicated to teach or learn, though understanding how all the moving parts will interact takes a little bit of playing. It is a bit on the long side and even with a group that knows what its doing, it still probably takes some time, as the game is fiddly - there is a lot to keep track of as players move their goods and earn money each turn during the operations phase.
As far as the game itself - the map is good sized, beautiful yet muted and is a pretty accurate representation of Indonesia - maybe too good, as some areas on the map are a bit tiny and even with the tiny goods chits, its easy to have a hard time figuring out where pieces reside on the board. I replaced the nice but far too large glass stones for cities with smaller ones to help with this issue. The chits are small, but are seriously the best tool for the job they play in the game - other bits would have been a hassle I think. I think they could have done something different with the ships, but that's a pretty minor quibble. Overall, the game and rules are pretty decent (though this game still is a bit pricey for what you get, but nothing you can do about that since its still an import).
I didn't even go into game play, but at its core, its a stock manipulation game with company mergers and such. Its a really good game with some interesting mechanics and I look forward to getting it to the table again (though I hope to do so with experienced players as inexperienced players could get steamrolled).


John Davis stopped over for a mid-week gaming break last night. Having roughly and hour or so, I pulled out Notre Dame for the two of us to run through. having played before I had a slight advantage, though John picked up the essence of the game fast enough. Unfortunately for him, he got stagnated a bit in the middle of the game, running out of money and cubes. Recognizing that was going to happen to me, I had managed to grab a big chunk of cubes and cash to make it through the rest of the game. We each hit Notre Dame once, but I had managed to fill up my park fairly early and the bonus VPs push me out ahead at the end of the game by about 10 points. I'd really like to see this with three or four players, but its ok with two. After a second playing, I think I still prefer In the Year of the Dragon.