We met at Jon Woodward's house in Medford last Thursday night: Jon,
Tracy, Lowell and myself.
While waiting for everyone to show, Jon & I played a partial game of
Girl Genius: The Works. This has become a fast favorite of mine,
partially since it's pretty easy to play, short, and portable. When
we ended, Jon was leading by a substantial margin, but you know how
these things work out.
We then proceeded to play a game of The Settlers of Catan (vanilla),
as Tracy had never played it before. The game went pretty well -- the
board was a relatively easy setup, and I managed to pull the win out
in spite of having serious brick access problems. Three cities,
longest road, largest army. I spent a lot of the early game watching
everyone else build roads and settlements, but once the cities got
going it went a lot better for me. Jon was not far behind in score,
until I took the longest road for the final 2 points.
Then Fresh Fish hit the table. This is the Plenary Games rerelease.
The theme is fairly simple -- you're laying out buildings on a grid,
and trying to do so in such a way that the four outlets you will
eventually get to place (a game store, a fish store, a gas station,
and a nuclear waste depot) have the shortest paths to the four supply
centers (harbor, game factory, oil refinery, nuclear power plant) that
are the starting pieces on the board.
The basic mechanic is pretty simple -- reserve a space or draw a tile
and build it on a given space. The tile supply is divided about 50-50
between null buildings (buildings that have no function and can be
isolated from the rest of the board) and outlets (which always have to
connect to the road network). Outlets don't get placed immediately --
an auction has to be held for each one among the players who don't
already have an outlet of that type on the board.
The tricky part of this game is dealing with expropriations -- when a
space is claimed for road building. The underlying rule of the game
is that all unbuilt plots and road segments must be connected -- you
can never have an isolated road or unbuilt plot. This ensures that
the final board layout has a single, fully connected road network.
The implementation of this is that whenever building on a plot would
result in two separate chunks of plot/road, that segment is
automatically converted to a street. This resulted in a moderate
amount of headache for all of us first-timers, but by the end of the
game we had figured it out, mostly.
A player's final score is the sum of the distances from their outlets
to the supply centers, subtracting any leftover money. (There is a
popular variant which suggests using money only as a tiebreaker, as it
encourages players to compete more in the auctions -- I think I'll
give that a try next time.) Lowest score wins.
Tracy dominated this game, largely by staying out of all the auctions
until she was able to buy all of her outlets for practically free.
Combined with reasonable placement, her score of 12-13=-1 was
substantially ahead of me in second place (13-0=13). Both Jon and
Lowell got screwed on outlet placement, and ended up taking at least
one maximal path, with scores in the 20s.
We did have one significant glitch where we allowed an outlet to
become isolated, but it was very late in the game and even the maximum
penalty applied to Tracy for this would still have put her in the
This game was not, however, particularly well-received by all. The
expropriation rules caused headache, and some didn't care for the look
and feel of the game. I enjoyed it and am anxious to try it again,
but the feeling was not entirely universal (although I wasn't alone,
Final game of the night was a quick game of 6 Nimmt! This is
basically a numbers game. Each player gets dealt a hand of 10 cards,
and four cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. (The
deck is composed of 104 cards, numbered 1 to 104, each with a number
of bull heads pictured on them. The object of the game is to end up
taking the smallest number of bull heads.)
Each player simultaneously selects a card and reveals it, and then
starting with the lowest-numbered card, cards are placed in one of the
four stacks -- a given card is placed on the stack with the highest
number such that that number is still lower than the number on the
card. So, when placing a 25 with stacks of 12, 17, 34 and 100, the 25
would go on the 17 stack.
Players take cards in one of two ways: If a card can't be placed
because it's lower than the numbers of all the stacks, the player
picks a stack and takes it, replacing the stack with their card. And,
if a player ends up playing the 6th card into a stack, they take the
previous 5. I've mostly played this game with larger numbers of
people, and I had assumed that there would be somewhat less pain in a
game with fewer players. This appears to not be the case. It's a lot
of fun, strong luck component, and sometimes you just have to sit back
and take the pain...
Jon ended up winning this game, as two bad rounds drove me from second
place into last. Jon had a score in the 20s, Lowell and Tracy were
around 60, and I went over 70.