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Victory line


[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Gamer blog.]

This week, Laurie, Rochelle, and Yehuda joined Susan and me in a game of Hansa Teutonica. It’s one we had all – apart from Susan – played before, so Yehuda did his usual excellent pre-game performance of explaining the rules.

Hansa Teutonica is a worker placement game where, as Yehuda commented, you have to shape your strategy according to what the other players are doing. That makes it very difficult for a first time player, so for Susan this was all about getting a feel fro the game, rather than competing for victory.

Of course, Yehuda’s experience comes in handy at this type of encounter, and he neatly sidestepped the tit-for-tat maneuvering that Laurie and I were engaged in, in trying to score points. Rochelle, plugging away quietly in the background, turned out to be Yehuda’s closest challenger, but he was definitely the winner. His line of city routes, slowly but surely built up during the game, was – along with the bonus chits he had secured – the difference.

And thus ended the game.

Hansa is one of those games I keep meaning to stick to a strategy while playing, but end up deviating from it on a turn to turn basis because of some temporary challenge or glitch.  Fascinating stuff.


Look to leeward

[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Gamer blog.]

Now there’s an oblique game reference for you. Got it?


This week’s regular session, courtesy of Erez, saw us playing Bora Bora, a Stefan Feld, supercharged, dice and worker placement game.

First, a great big round of applause for Erez. He had prepared well, and taught us – Laurie, Rochelle, and me – the rules of this tricky game, without faltering.

The theme is native development on Bora Bora. Each round you roll three dice. Each player takes it in turn to place his die on an action card. Generally, the higher the die is not always an advantage. It has some nice balancing mechanisms so do not worry if you think you are unlucky at rolling dice. There are lots of ways to win.

There's a lot going on there. But what is going on there?

There’s a lot going on there. But what is going on there?

But what are you trying to do to get victory points? Complete tasks, buy jewelry, build buildings, explore the islands, catch fish, recruit talented men and women, visit the temple, get tattoos, and stuff like that.

On top of that, there are cards from the gods – red, green, blue, and yellow from memory – that let you break the rules or restrictions, as you seek your goal. It is a jam packed game. It’s long, but quite involving.

It is also difficult to work out what is going on, certainly just out of the box. Put it this way: there are six rounds to the game. At the end of the first round, I did not have a clue what was happening. At the end of the second, I had a clue, but just did not understand what it meant. At the end of the third, I could read the clue and understand it. But I still couldn’t see what to do. By the fourth round, it was sort of becoming clear…

Green's player mat. Full of tips on how NOT to play the game. (Ellis' mat!)

Green’s player mat. Full of tips on how NOT to play the game. (Ellis’ mat!)

Erez sacrificed his playing by keeping us on track with the rules. What a gentleman. What a nice guy. What happens to nice guys? Yes, they finish last. Erez was last.

I was nearly as nice. Or, to put it another way, I was truly bad at the game and did not have the excuse that I was explaining the rules. So my score was as low as Erez’s.

The two ladies were much snappier. Despite Rochelle announcing she did not know what was going on, her score was way better than Erez and mine. And, as for Laurie, her score was out of sight. A crushing win for her.

I’m hoping we will get to try this again. I’d like to see if I learned anything from the first playing. And it was fun, though at times it was also hard work. Intriguing.

Thanks, especially to Erez for introducing the game. Another good night of gaming.

How deep is your game?

Dungeons! Dragons! Not! Quite!

Dungeons! Dragons! Not! Quite!

[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Gamer blog]

This week’s session started with a five player encounter at Waterdeep – with the Lords of Waterdeep, to be precise – in a game that is labelled as having a connection to the famous role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. There is a loose connection, but the theme is a facade for a neat worker placement game, with some devilish backstabbing and wrecking potential.

You score victory points mainly by completing quests. To complete quests you have to acquire certain resources. Match the demanded resources to those on the the quest card, and you’re done. However, your fellow players can dump a mandatory quest on you – one you must do before any other – and blow you off course. And your fellow players can also trigger Intrigue cards that see you lose those precious resources, or at least enough of them to sabotage your quest completion for another round. Damn and blast!

I had not played it before, thus obviously explaining my last place finish (ahem). I don’t think Rochelle had played it before, but she picked it up better than me, and did quite well. David was a bit of straggler in the first half of the game, but made up for it with a better second half showing. With a decent lucky break, he could have been up there with the winner. Yehuda sauntered along and finished second. Oh, Laurie won ahead of Yehuda. Well done Laurie!

I did wonder about the skill and luck balance. This is not to take anything away from those who did better than me, but the swings of fortune did seem ferocious. For example, in the last round of the game, I had a mandatory quest in my hand. I could have dumped that on any of the other players and forced them to complete a quest for 5 victory points instead of the likely 15-25 they had lined up and ready to go. And there would be nothing they could have done about it. So my play could have determined the winner.

The funny thing is, I don’t think the game needs these negative actions. For me, there’s enough of a gaming challenge to put together the resources to complete quests in an efficient manner.

Yehuda came up with an interesting suggestion of having a house rule that allowed you to pay a monetary penalty instead of forfeiting a resource when triggered by an opponent’s Intrigue card.

The negatives here did not stop me enjoying the game. It is fun. As I remarked to the others, when it had last been played I was doing something else, and I didn’t especially like what I saw. However, it plays a ton better than it looks, and I really quite enjoyed it. I would play it again, warts and all, but would prefer some kind of smooth solution.

We finished with David, Yehuda and I playing San Juan. David rocketed off to  a great start, and was in a position to build his twelfth structure, end the game, and win. However, he dallied just too long and this allowed Yehuda to build some big victory point buildings that gave him the win ahead of David.

Thanks to all who came. A highlight of the week.

Session report bonus

Here is Yehuda‘s follow up to the earlier session report:

Puerto Rico: both Ben and Amir played well from the start, with only a few moves that I suggested or tried to explain what would happen. I made the mistake – again- of trying to play without a trade good (tobacco or coffee), trying to survive only on Factory and Harbor.

Meanwhile, Amir had a tobacco monopoly and Ben had a coffee monopoly. Both of them had no trouble trading them for much cash and blocking boats at certain points. Amir handed Ben one trade too many, and they both ended up with 2 big buildings to my one. Shipping stalled near the end of the game, which favored the builders. Ben had 52 points, Amir 48, and me 36.

Given Yehuda’s expertise in the game, Ben’s win is noteworthy, as is Amir’s finishing ahead of Yehuda!

Dominion: I bought two early Shanty Towns which did me absolutely no good. Ben’s Moneylenders worked much quicker for him, and he was three Provinces up before I started making any headway. Amir gained 1 Province and I started taking multiple Duchies and finally some Provinces, but couldn’t catch up to Ben (almost). Ben won with 48, I had 43, and Amir had 24 or so.

Thank you, Yehuda.

Bang, bang, bang for Ben


[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Gamer blog.]

After an illness induced absence, it was great to get back to a game session with some of the usual crowd. Before the latecomers staggered in, Amir, Susan, Yehuda and I played a very light, filler game – Formula Motor Racing – which Yehuda doubled on by both hating it and winning it…

With the crew finally assembled, watered, and fed, we split into a threesome (Amir, Ben and Yehuda) playing Puerto Rico and a foursome (David, Laurie, Susan and me) playing Ticket to Ride – Marklin Edition.

All I can tell you about the Puerto Rico game is that Ben – despite totally misunderstanding one of the rules – won. Bang!

That trio moved on to Dominion. Again, being at the far end of the table, my knowledge is limited to that of Ben’s second win. Bang!

The Marklin version of Ticket to Ride has passengers, an extra scoring mechanism. We all developed our own potential scoring routes.

My mistake was going for too many small builds, and allowing Susan to cut me off from Austria. David couldn’t make his mind up about whether to compete with Laurie for the big points available in Berlin. Oh, and he misread one of his tickets. He will really want a second chance to play this. Laurie was doing well, and out in front. She got most of what was on offer in Berlin, and built nice long routes. Laurie was in the lead, and looked good. Susan was her closest competitor.

However, when it came to the final scoring, Susan produced an incredible seven completed tickets for well over a hundred extra points to add to her already hundred plus score. She won by such a huge margin that “won” doesn’t do it justice. She crushed us!

Susan and Yehuda dropped out, leaving Amir, Ben, David, Laurie, and me to finish the night with a game of 7 Wonders.

I started with lots of blue victory points and they kept coming. Amir and David had a good mix, but were both missing a decent Guild card to boost their scores. Laurie, in the last round or two, pulled out a great green and purple combination that served her very well. However, Ben, using his special power to pick one card from the discards, chose one that gave him the win by four. When I reviewed the scores, it was noticeable how close they were. By my reckoning, each of the other players was only one card away from a winning score, so it was a tight, tight, competition. But still, it was also another win for Ben. Bang!

So three wins on the night for Ben, and another for Susan. I am seeking employment as a spectator…

Good stuff, though. I cannot wait for next week.

Two-player Agricola


Yehuda here. Only Laurie was available this week.

We started with Agricola, a game that she wants to play a few more times but claims that I never bring out to the table. I had never played two-player, but it works as well as it does with other numbers of player. I explained the main mechanics and systems of the game again without going into all the details.

Laurie, having not played in a while, struggled through the systems trying to make them work. She gained some good experience, but couldn’t compete with my fuller understanding. Her biggest mistake was in not expanding her family; it saved her in food requirements, but a third guy is critical for the extra actions. I ended the game with no negative points (a first for me, I think).

We then played a lighter game, Nefarious. This is a great game that is dirt simple to understand, and the twists add a lot. Actually, in our case, one of the twists made the game a bit duller: you were not allowed more minions than inventions; this effectively curtailed our minion play during the game. The other twist gave an extra card during research and made you lose one during invention.

Laurie somehow ended up one round ahead of me by mid-game and stayed there. Good job, Laurie.

Lords of Waterdeep


Yehuda here. This is my second attempt at a post, since the last one got lost.

On New Year’s Eve, David, Ben, Rosalyn, and I gathered at my house to play. David and Ben came first, so I started them with Fairy Tale. I left out the “advanced cards”, which makes a somewhat dull game. With three players, it’s hard to collect enough cards for a useful set when there are extra cards in the deck; losing the bonus cards makes that easier, but makes the game duller. I recommend the game for four players, rather than for three.

David either didn’t understand the game or didn’t care to understand the game, and it was only after we started that remembered that he didn’t like drafting. His completed pile wasn’t very useful. Ben and I each tried something different, and in the end he won by a point.

After that I taught them all how to play Lords of Waterdeep. The last time I played (my first game) I won by a fair amount; this time I got the oddball Lord, the one who gives points for buildings instead of quests. It ended up being more worthwhile than I expected. Last game I got 28 bonus points for quests, and this game I got 30 bonus points for buildings.

I took an early lead in the game, in any case, and this led to some take-that moves against me. David caught up significantly, but my bonus points beat him in the end. Ben got the permanent extra dude, but I don’t think it made up for the lost opportunity it took to get him. All of them liked the game enough to say that they would like to play again.