Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The post formerly known as ""

For no particular reason, things last night were a little ... different.
We were all being a little silly...

Our first game of Carcassonne took a beating for it.

We threw in the "King and Scout" and "Inns and Cathedrals" expansions. Kozure was siting out, but HilzaCanuck (the lovely better half of our very own Shemp Duchamp) joined in. The game was sort of a disaster from the get go. I can't explain it, but between a constant stream of bad jokes and strange tangents we wound up with the most tortured landscape I've ever seen in the game. Almost nothing was finished. To put things in perspective, just before scoring the final endgame points (King/Scout, farmers,etc) the average score was roughly 12! It was sad.

Then, we moved on to ToG. Things got serious real quick.
Whereas our earlier games were characterized by lots of bidding and rash spending, this game was decidely stingy. If a bid made it ALL THE WAY to 20, well that was an event. Entire turns went with only one bid, and offers for 5 or 10 were the rule. In fact, if any player ever got the sense that you actually WANTED a certain action, there was no way in hell you'd get it. I seem to remember that we broke the bank last game.. we did NOT this time.
I started the game with the idea that I would concentrate on delivering messages, but I simply couldn't make it work. I then tried to gather a few Privilege cards for endgame dollars, but again didn't get too far (I managed 5). ToG is a hard game to control, and the more I play it, the more it seems like the kind of game where the player who can make most of the moment will come out on top. Each individual deal is more important than the over reaching strategy. Missing a turn is deadly, and not maximizing your profits as the owner of the tower is even worse.
If there's a sure fire way to win this one, I don't know it! (and my final score, tied for last, shows that pretty clearly)

We closed of with a second game of Carcassonne. This time we added "The Count" expansion to the mix. Where "King and Scout" expansion seemed to steal an idea from Settlers of Catan (Longest Road, Biggest City), "The Count" steals from El Grande. "The Count" expansion adds the City of Carcassonne as the starting point for the game (It is 3 tiles high and 4 tiles wide). A purple marker, the Count, is positioned on one of 4 stations. Whenever a player scores points for another player, without scoring any for him(her)self, that player may place a follower into a location in the city. Later, when something is scored (road, city, cloister or farm), any Meeples in the appropriate section of the city can be "parachuted in" to help win the majority (similarly to the Castillo in El Grande). Another similarity to El Grande: The count prevents any Meeples from entering or leaving the area he is in.
This expansion REALLY changes the feel of the game. Weighing the pros and cons of helping other players in order to put Meeples into the city is not easy. Planning ahead to make sure you won't suddenly be outnumbered by an other player's cavalry is not easy. Farmers, in particular, a very powerful in the city, since they aren't locked to a specific place they are easy toto send to the farms which need them the most (of course, this is easily offset by the danger of losing them all if the Count is in their space at the end of the game). Fun addition, but certainly not a light one. Good for people who want to ratchet up the strategy in the game.

Until next time...

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Orange Bot Twenty

This week we went back to Puerto Rico for a couple of four player games, had three quick rounds of the Formula Motor Racing card game, and chowed down on the trailer park special - WonderBread HotDogs w/ instant MacNCheese!

If there was a theme here, it eluded me. Enlightenment appreciated.

Puerto Rico is a fabulous game, and I was surprised to see that we've only played in on WAGS night once before. Easy was absent from our session this week, so I decided to honour him by busting out the Percieved Standard Easy German Game Strategy in our first round of Puerto Rico.

What is the PSEGGS? Find some way to earn victory points that isn't directly tied to the main purpose of the game, focus on it, and hope no one notices.

Did it work? It did. In our first round, I was able to pile up some money quick, buy three of the large buildings, ship very little, end things by maxing out my village, and still pull out the victory. I'm not too sure what the scores were, but Kozure kept track - hopefully he will jump in on the comments with that info.

In our second round, our Puerto Rico minds were limbered up, and things flowed a lot better, resulting in a closer game. Tili managed to buy 2 large buildings (compared to one each for the rest of us), and it propelled her to a narrow victory, with a very impressive sixty points! I had abandonded the victory points through building strategy, focusing on shipping out diversified crops and earning $$ through a factory. It worked fairly well, but consistantly shipping out goods without benefitting other players was pretty difficult.

What continues to impress me about Puerto Rico is that there are a vast number of different ways to earn your victory points, and it seems that the efficacy of different strategies are very well balanced. Whoever does a good job of developing their plan and sticking to it will (while remaining able to react to other players' actions) be right in the thick of things come the endgame.

Easy, I'm upping my score on this to a 10. THAT'S RIGHT - A 10.

Now, Formula Motor Racing is a fun little game, and Kozure, L, and I blew through three rounds. The interesting thing about this game with three players, is that there are also three unplayed teams in the competition - we refer to them as "'bots", as in a video game. The human players focused on screwing over each other, and at the end of two rounds, the Orange Bot was in first place with Twenty points! In the third round we all took turns punishing the Orange Bot, and Luch was able to bring his total points up to Twenty-One, for a narrow victory over No One, who managed to beat both Kozure and me. The Red cars were our stand in for Easy. They came very, very last.

It was agreed that this game would be BEST played slightly intoxicated. Still good without being intoxicated, but not quite ideal.

To sum up: Very fun night, as we settle into rounds of playing games we are already familiar with.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Things That Happened In Egypt

Last week saw the further adventures of Helmut, McCormick, and Buchanan, as they raced against the calendar, and evil demons, in their quest to save the world, continued from one month previously.

(Further background can be found here)

This month was highlighted by, uh, research. Maybe not the most exciting of sessions, but very, very necessary to our heroes, who were able to make some educated guesses about why they have been running around two continents like mad people. Helmut the genius proved his worth yet again, and fancy driving by both Buchanan and McCormick staved off enemy attackers and threw some wrenches into Fearg O'Brien's evil plans.


Buchanan, Helmut, & McCormick (BHM) decided against taking the artifact back from O'Brien by force, and instead watched O'Brien and his cultists leave at dawn.

Buchanan tailed the cultists across Egypt's Deserted Highway, through a vehicle change, and to a roadblock outside Luxor, more than half a day away from Alexandria.

Meanwhile, H&M poked around the cultist's hideout, sensed that O'Brien may have been dabbling in Necromancy, and hit the University for some research.

As stated above, Helmut discovered lots of arcane arcana, er, stuff. After that, H&M headed along the deserted highway themselves, narrowly escaping a drive-by assault limo, driven by someone who knew our protagonists!

Meanwhile, Buchanan, having disabled two of the cultists three vehicles at a roadblock, chased O'Brien and other into a building. Being extremely lucky, he was able to avoid an ambush in the basement, but in the act of retreating lost his quarry.

Eventually BH&M met up in Luxor, and, in furthering some cockamamie plan, convinced local authorities to allow some of the captured cultists to escape.

Buchanan trailed the cultists, and has O'Brien's presumed HQ under surveilance.

Meanwhile, H&M have travelled to an archeological site outside Karnak, attempting to secure the aid of parapsychologist Prof. S. Aziz in the upcoming confrontation with evil. The meeting went well, but upon leaving, McCormick sensed something...Supernatural Evil!

It's March 15th, 1995, approx. 10:30 PM, and for this group, the clock is ticking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Licensed Architect Game?

jason says:
there should be a 'licenced architect' game
jason says:
with lots of combat
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
get your license and keep it longer than all other players
jason says:
or beat the system
jason says:
lots of intern architect and consultant cards
jason says:
i play 'code consultant'!
jason says:
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
off the hook!
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
HA! acoustician!
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
I play OMB on you!
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
take that!
jason says:
i play b
jason says:
'code reference from hell'
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
worst. game. ever.
jason says:
jason says:
lets not work to hard on it
ÐΛИﻮЄЯ СΛИ ĦΛﻡﻡЄИ ! says:
fine by me.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

2 Games. No Theme.

Here we are, two weeks later (we missed last week due to scheduling conflicts). I hate it when real life intrudes on us!

It was my pick, and I had a hanckerin' for two of my favorites... El Grande and Duel of Ages.

El Grande continues to be right at the top of my list of games. I really enjoy the tension created by the mechanics (bidding, choosing action cards, scoring)... I find myself engaged at all times. There is also a real challenge in improving your position while keeping the leader(s) down. Since you only get one action per turn, and that action is limited by the choices offered by the "Action Cards" (and further by those that are left by the time you get to choose!), it's not nearly as easy to "kill the leader" as it can be in other open scoring games. If I had to find fault with the game, it would be that it can be quite difficult to stop a runaway leader.

In this game, things were quite tight until the third round, at which point Tili rocketed out in the lead. We actually gave a shot at stopping her (we have a tendency to focus more on improving our own position), but it wasn't enough... For the record, I was dead last!

Next up was Duel of Ages. We played a 3 platter board, with 4 players, and 4 characters each. We had the four labyrinths, the Royal Tournament, the Lith Alliance and the Field of Honour in play. I made up two house rules... First, each player gets dealt 5 pieces of equipment to start, then keeps one. Second, if a character dies, it is replaced at the end of that player's next turn. Rather than most characters counting for victory points, the most kills counts.

When played with the expansions, this game can get pretty chaotic. Case in point, of my 4 characters, 3 were decidely wierd. I had a brain with mind control powers, a futuristic creature called Paradox which reverses nearby character's stats, and a humble villager who is very difficult to hit because (arbitrarily, it seems) odd rolls cannot hit him.Paradox and the brain teamed up to take on the Royal Tournament (since the Brain's normally pathetic nearly all black stats were transformed to all white in it's presence). On another occasion, Shemp's Arden Glynn was ambushed and killed by a lethal combination of having his good stats reversed while being fired on by a prety good gun by a pretty good shot (my fourth character, who's name I forget). Probably the worst problem for the opposing team, however, was that their inital advantage of 3 starting henchmen was eventually neutralized by the Brain's mind control. By the end, 3 of their characters had defected to our side!

Still, it was far from a runaway victory. As mentioned above, Shemp and Luch started with 3 henchmen in addition to their starting characters. They quickly pulled ahead in points and we would have had a very difficult time catching up if we hadn't been so succesful killing and mind controlling their characters. We pulled ahead in the final few rounds of the game.

Unfortunately, Shemp was pretty frustrated by the wierd characters. (The scenario where the Brain was succesfully thumping Arden Glynn to a pulp due to reversed stats courtesy of Paradox in particular seemed to bother him). I doubt anyone would argue this is an elegant game. Fiddly rules abound, exceptions aren't rare, and characters do not always appear balanced. I still find it quite fun, though. I think part of it is that events can be more memorable in this game than many others. A clever or unexpected combination of equipment and characters, an unlikely set of rolls whcih gives the underdog a surprise victory, a plan which comes toghether to turn the tables for the losing team, etc, are all things which I enjoy. It sits somewhere between a Eurogame and a role playing game (I don't think anyone would argue that RPGs aren't also fiddly, exception filled and often at the mercy of luck).

The Field of Honour is obviously awkward, though. First of all, the requirement for a weapon of the appropriate skill type means that it is rarely used. Second, the revision to give both characters the same weapon certainly levels the playing field, but also forces such clunky "exceptions"... such as the challenged character is exempt from the weapon's minimum requirements for the Duel. I'm sure the designers came to this decision due to playtesting concerns, but it flies against logic and seems unecessary.

I will say this: Now that I own most of the expansions, I'm happy to play with them. However, if I were to do it again, I probably wouldn't buy them. The two base sets (Worldspanner and Intensity) have enough variety while keeping things more or less "sane".

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

They Blowed Up Real Good!

The theme for this week was explosions – and the happenings of the evening fit the theme. Starting with our explosive meal of chilli and “Caramel Explosion” ice cream, we dove right into Zero!

Having played this game in several different sessions now, we’re finally getting the hang of it. We decided to go with match play, with one element each of a P-40E and a P-40D vs. two elements of Zeroes for the first fight, then switching sides for the second. On one team was Easy and Kozure (IJN), on the other was Shemp and Hapi (USAF). The battle was spread over the skies, with elements pairing off against each other at High and Low altitudes. Eventually both pairs met up at middle altitude, and both sides lost two aircraft each, tying the game.

With Easy and Kozure now sitting in the American planes, the second battle started with both of the Yanks at medium altitude, but the Japanese were spread out at Very High and Low. The four Warhawks dove down on Hapi’s hapless Zekes, Hapi losing one aircraft to Kozure’s fire before managing to climb out of the fight to meet up with Shemp diving from above. In the swirling furball which followed, Shemp first lost an aircraft to a fuel tank explosion, and Hapi lost his second paper kite to another sniper shot fuel tank explosion by Easy.

Shemp managed to stay alive to the end of the fight, but the match was decided… three aircraft down vs. none. In match play, the Kozure/Easy team took the ring.

The second game(s) of the night was the Battle Cry/Memoir ’44 system – both essentially the same system with minor cosmetic tweaks suitable to the time period; both rulesets were designed by Richard Borg. Battle Cry was the earlier offering from the Hasbro/Avalon Hill line in 2000, with Memoir ’44 coming out from Days of Wonder in 2004.

The system used by both games works on a very simple turn order. Play a command card, order the units indicated by the card, move the ordered units, battle with the ordered units, then draw a new card. Each player can have a command/control advantage if he or she has more or less command cards as dictated by the scenario. The board is divided into three sections, the left flank, the right flank and the centre. Command cards refer to those sections or combinations thereof. Some cards allow special effects to occur, and in Memoir ’44, the “Ambush” card allows an “interrupt” of sorts. Movement is simple – three hexes for tanks and cavalry, one hex and battle for infantry (two if they don’t battle in Memoir ’44) and move one or battle for artillery. The generals, unique to Battle Cry, move three hexes. Terrain affects movement in a variety of ways, typically making it impossible to fire after moving into most terrains except hills.

Battling is the simple case of rolling a number of dice, modified by range, and trying to roll the silhouette of the targeted unit. Some results (crossed swords in Battle Cry and a grenade in Memoir ’44) are wild-card hits. Memoir has the addition die-face result of “star” which has a special effect for some cards.

Having played several game sessions on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, my recollection of the battles were hazy, but a few quick e-mails pointed me back in the right direction. I played Easy at Memoir ’44 as the dilatory Germans in the introductory “Pegasus Bridge” scenario and lost 4 flags to 6. Playing as the Union, Shemp crushed Hapi in the First Bull Run scenario in Battle Cry, 6 medals to 2. Everyone seemed to enjoy the games, so I think they’ll make another appearance.

The last game of the evening was the admittedly silly Unexploded Cow. France has too much unexploded ordinance left over from WWII. England has too many cows infected with mad-cow disease. The solution? Start a business using cows to detonate the bombs! Yes, this has to be one of the more politically incorrect games we can play (along with Puerto Rico’s brown “colonists”) but it is fun.

The game is more or less an investment vs. risk system, wherein each player “invests” a portion of his stake every turn (buying various ranks and types of cows), then rolls a die to see if it pays off (they set off a bomb). Strategy enters the game in the form of certain cows with special abilities, and the ability to play cows with negative payoffs into opposing players’ fields. It’s quick and dirty, and the illustrations are fun. We tried two styles: the basic version, where the point value of the city being rescued is random, and the “strategic version”, where the point value of the city increases by one each turn. Strangely, the group preferred the random version, as it seemed to fit the random nature of the game. Hapi won both games, and Shemp finished last. Easy and I switched places, I believe, for second and third place in the two games.

EDIT: The correct sequence was Game 1: Hapi, Kozure, Shemp, Easy; Game 2: Easy, Hapi, Kozure, Shemp

Unexploded Cow is pretty light – almost too light - but it is entertaining, and that’s the key.

All in keeping with the theme, everything blowed up real good.