We had a large crowd at my place on Monday night. In attendance were:
Mark, Jeff M., Don, Rob, Mike, Evan, Airelle, and Lowell, with special
guest stars of Paul, Craig and Ed. Oh yeah, and me.
We started out by presenting Mark with a copy of Settlers 3D that a
bunch of SOGgites had teamed up and given him as a gift. Mark was
suitably impressed, and Mark, Craig, Lowell and Don sat down for a
game of Cities & Knights using the new set.
We were still expecting more people to show, so we opted for a short
filler while waiting. We had Mike, Jeff, Paul, Evan, Rob, and myself.
I pulled out Shit, which is a little Adlung game about hand management
and blind bidding. The deck is made up of 50 cards numbered 1-10 in
five colors. The colors are arranged in a circle, so you can count
1-10 in red, then 1-10 in yellow, etc, all the way back to the
original color. Everyone picks and plays a card simultaneously. You
can choose between playing a number card or playing your Shit card,
which allows you to draw a new card (the only way to get new cards
into your hand). The person who plays the card that is closest
(counting clockwise around) to the current card showing on the discard
pile scores points based on the difference. So if a Red 2 is showing,
a Red 3 would score 1 point automatically, while a Red 1 would score
49 points, but only if everyone else had played a Shit! card. The
game is pretty light filler, somewhat amusing, but it doesn't really
work with 6 players. We also had one guy who decided to do almost
nothing but draw cards, so he ended up holding half of the deck in his
hand by the time we called it. I think that this combined with having
six players made the game not work as well as it could have. Still,
it's not bad, and a fairly easy ruleset. We called it once we had
enough players to do other things.
Airelle showed up and so we sent Evan, Paul and Rob went upstairs to
play Das Ende von Triumvirats, while Mike, Jeff, Airelle and I played
Siena is...well, an interesting game. Let me get the first issue out
of the way right away: It is a very pretty game, based as it is on a
mural in the Italian city of Siena. Let me get the second issue out
of the way as well: This is the worst-designed game from a graphical
and usability standpoint that I have ever seen. The board has almost
no helpful text or icons on it, the cards are all picture-based (which
you can get used to fairly quickly), and the spaces on the board that
you can move to are poorly-connected to their locations on the mural,
and in general the rules connecting one thing to the other are full of
That said, how does the game play? It's OK, I guess. The game
essentially has three phases which you need to play through. Each
player gets to spend time as a peasant, a merchant and eventually a
banker. While a peasant, you can produce and sell wine, olives, and
corn, all for the purpose of earning money. While a merchant, you can
produce and sell spices and cloth and also go on business trips, with
substantially better earning potential. However, you also get the
opportunity to forego some of your money in favor of drawing Senesi
cards, which are victory points (ranging from 1-4 points each). Once
you're a banker, you spend move about the city and things get more
complicated. You have the opportunity to auction off artists (worth
1-8 VPs), build parts of the Tower of Siena (2-7 VPs per floor), and
make a one-time donation to the church in order to draw two last
Senesi cards. There are also hazards, like the beggar Calabrino and
the Inn which is full of courtesans.
The game seems to mostly be about wealth management. The person with
the lowest amount of wealth has a significant advantage in the game,
as they get to pick cards from the card draft first. So pacing
yourself is important.
At the right moment, you make ther jump to bankerhood and then your
money totals matter less...but still you need to be able to win the
auctions for artists.
The jump to becoming a banker is further complicated by the fact that
players can keep dumping courtesans into the Inn even when there are
no bankers in play yet. This means you can have some 6-8 courtesans
in the Inn, and whoever hits the Inn first has to pay all of them off
at 10 florins per courtesan. This to me is a significant chilling
effect on the progress of the game.
In our game, Mike ended up taking both of the 'skip the inn' cards
near the beginning of the game, and then Mike and Jeff took turns
dumping courtesans into the inn. Mike because he had two free passes,
and Jeff because he was following some logical path that is entirely
unlike our earth logic. As it turned out, I was confused by the
graphics of the game and ended up being forced into the inn first,
which effectively killed me for the game. Mike, having the advantage
of a couple of free rounds as a banker, had several levels of the
tower built and ended up with...almost the highest score. Well, sort
of. We miscounted the bonuses for most and least cash, and Airelle
had the highest total although in fact she should have been two points
lower becasue she had the least cash. Whoops.
In any case, the game took a while to play (2.5 hours), and the
gameplay itself was somewhat interesting. I'd probably try it again,
although I can't say that I'm champing at the bit over it. It doesn't
seem to me that it has all that much going on that we haven't seen in
other games, and I suspect that if this game had been released without
the interesting hook of being based on a beautiful piece of artwork it
would have sunk without a trace.
After we finished Siena, and the Settlers 3D crowd had finished, Don,
Mark, Lowell and Airelle all headed home for the night. That left Ed,
Paul and Evan still playing Kaivai. (Triumvirat having ended, Rob
having gone home, and Ed having arrived...) We estimated that they
had 30-45 minutes left, so I suggested The Nacho Incident.
This game is based on the theory that the reason there is no good
Mexican food in Canada is that the Mounties are systematically
arresting anyone attempting to bring quality food into the country.
It has a few different moving parts, but for the most part the
mechanics are very straightforward.
Each player has a hand of smugglers, with several attributes: Skill
(a number from 1 to 9), cost (a number from 1 to 4, high skill means
high cost), and province (one of Alberta, Quebec, Ontario or
Saskatchewan). Each province has a demand card, which shows four
ingredients that that province is willing to pay for. Everyone
simultaneously chooses and plays a smuggler card, and then players
take turns, from the most skillful smuggler to the least, in going to
the area of their choice. Most skillful gets first pick, but also
attracts a mountie who will arrest their smugglers.
So you're working on two different areas: the first is the immediate
payoff for delivering ingredients, and the second is the end-of-round
scoring, as all of your smugglers open cantinas when they get to
Canada, and there's a bonus for the player with the best cantinas in
The game seems to have a lot less randomness in it than the previous
Eight Foot Llama games, but there's no hiding the fact that this is
still a light game with some strategy but a good dose of luck. That
said, I found it to be fairly fun. Money (the victory condition)
seemed to remain fairly close during the course of the game, but I
managed to win because I took province bonuses in three of the four
provinces in the final round. (This was due to the fact that I earned
no bonuses in round 2, and attracted the attention of very few
Mounties during the course of the game.)
One I would be happy to play again.
Paul, Craig and Ed went home at this point, and someone suggested
Caylus. A great game, but possibly the wrong choice for a game to
start at 12:30AM.
So it was Mike, Evan, Paul and myself playing Caylus. I squandered my
first turn advantage by allowing Mike to screw me out of a building.
Memo to self: Trusting Mike to be nice in a game is, well, a bad
investment of trust.
I managed to do pretty well for my second time out, though. I
finished in second place, well behind Mike and his 25-point prestige
building, but still I felt a lot better about the result than I did
after my first play. There are definitely a lot of different
strategies that you can follow in this game...I look forward to
playing it again.
Next week (tomorrow, at this point) will be...somewhere else, as I
won't be hosting or attending. SOG on December 19th will be in