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SOG 'N The Hood SR: Belmont, 7/5

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  • Josh Bluestein
    Thanks to Mark for hosting. SOG this week took place in darkest Belmont, once again putting the lie to the S in SOG. Ah well. In attendance were Lewis
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2004
      Thanks to Mark for hosting. SOG this week took place in darkest
      Belmont, once again putting the lie to the 'S' in SOG. Ah well.

      In attendance were Lewis (long time no see), Jeff (long time see),
      Mark (insert appropriate snide comment here), and myself. Susan even
      joined Mark and Lewis for a game at the beginning of the evening.

      When I arrived, Jeff was watching Lewis, Mark and Susan finish a game
      of Alhambra. Mark appeared to be in the lead, no doubt having taken
      cruel advantage of his wife's trusting nature. In any case, I tried
      to offer my advice to Susan but most of it was pretty bad. In the
      end, Lewis won but the scores were very tight -- all within a 10-point
      range, the closest I've seen for a game of Alhambra. Ultimately, Mark
      had first place in several buildings, but was last in the rest, and
      the lack of secondary scoring opportunities cost him the win.

      Susan retired to eat dinner and the rest of us sat down to play
      Hansa. This was the first time for Lewis, Mark and Jeff, but the game
      is really quite simple to play so everyone was able to jump in. Mark
      and Lewis both managed to collect and sell some valuable goods
      markers, so I tried to diversify by setting up lots of market stalls
      in various cities. It turned out not to be enough, as Mark was able
      to win with a good score of 42. (He was also in position to end the
      game, as the final player, which prevented others from playing any
      sort of catchup.) Lewis had 37, I had 36, and Jeff was not far behind.

      Next up was Santiago, another new one for Mark, Jeff and Lewis. This
      is a great game that Phil Alberg introduced me to at UG7, and I was
      happy to play it again. Players bid New England-style for the right
      to buy and place plantation tiles, and then they attempt to bribe the
      canal overseer (one of the players, the one who bid the lowest in the
      auction for tiles) to place canals. Plantations adjacent to a canal
      are irrigated and worth points at the end of the game, plantations not
      adjacent to canals slowly dry up and turn into desert. You score for
      groupings of tiles, multiplying your workers by the number of tiles in
      a group. (So if you have five workers on a group of six potato
      plantations, your payout at the game end is 30 Escudos.)

      This game has a lot of opportunities for screwing your opponents, by
      placing plantations to block groupings, bribing the canal builder to
      build the canal in a location that's advantageous to you but
      disadvantageous to others...and finally, you have to balance the fact
      that your score includes whatever cash you have at the end of the
      game. Potential for nastiness, and in this case I erred in the final
      round, bidding a reasonable amount of money for a tile that I should
      have realized was never going to be irrigated. Ah well. In the end,
      Mark won by playing a very conservative strategy, bidding low, taking
      the overseer a lot, and amassing a formidable cash reserve. His
      plantation payouts were fairly small, but he had something like 40-50
      cash before payouts, for a final score of 104. I had little cash
      leftover and was only able to manage a score of 95. Had I played the
      last round differently, it might still not have been enough to catch
      Mark, but it would have been closer. Lewis and Jeff were both in the
      70-80 range. I really like this game -- I think the canal building
      mechanism is very cool, and the nastiness is cutting without seeming
      vindictive...although maybe we're just too nice.

      Lewis headed home, and left Jeff, Mark and I to play Der
      Flaschenteufel, another weird trick-taking card game. The deck is
      made up of 36 cards numbered 1-37 (excluding 19) in three colors. Red
      tends to be high, blue is more middling, and yellow are the lowest
      cards. The idea of the game is this: The bottle (trump number) starts
      at 19 (all cards below that number are trump). You must follow suit
      if you can. If nobody plays a card lower than the bottle number, then
      the highest card wins (regardless of color). If someone plays a card
      lower than the bottle number, then the highest trump wins and becomes
      the new bottle number. The person playing that card also takes the
      bottle. At the end of the hand, you score points for the cards you
      took (between 1 and 6 per card), unless you're stuck holding the
      bottle, in which case you get no points and actually lose points based
      on cards that are discarded to a special trick at the beginning of the
      game. We played to 100 points, which was actually kind of short, but
      enough for us to get a feel for the game. (The rules suggest playing
      to 500, but that seemed like it would make for a long game.) Jeff
      ended up taking the bottle in each of the first three rounds, which
      left Mark and me to battle it out. I got stuck with the bottle in the
      final round, giving Mark the win as he passed 100 easily. This one is
      fun -- not sure what the ideal score to play to is...after playing
      through a few hands a goal of 500 doesn't seem too far-fetched, but
      some experimentation may be required.

      Next up was Iglu Iglu. This is a tile-removal game with a lot of
      chaos in it. You control three Inuit markers on a melting ice floe.
      Each turn you must choose a tile that will melt -- each tile has an
      event associated with it. Examples are Fish, replacing the tile with
      some number of fish markers, or Pack Ice, which doesn't melt and gets
      a fox counter. The goal is twofold -- to hunt the various animals
      (fish, foxes, and polar bears) and to occupy the biggest islands when
      the board has been reduced to its smallest possible size. There are
      also a bunch of red-bordered evnts which can be held by the player who
      draws them and used at an opportune moment. In our game, Mark was
      fortunate to get a lot of red-bordered tiles, and also that other
      peoples' attempts to stop him mostly dropped a bunch of fish around
      him. He hunted a huge number of animals for a great final score. I
      suffered, partially because we allowed an illegal move that hurt me to
      take place, but in general that just seemed to be the way of the
      evening. Final scores: Mark 36, Jeff: 32, Josh: 18. This game was
      fun, but definitely light and chaotic enough to not be taken too
      seriously. I enjoy the tile-removal aspect as a nice alternative to
      all of the tile-laying games. Generally fun.

      It was getting late at this point, so Jeff decided to head home. Mark
      had a bargain-bin abstract game that he wanted to try out, called
      Turnaround. This is played on an 8x8 grid, with 32 playing pieces.
      Each piece is identical -- on one side are two paths that cross in the
      middle, on the other side are two turns. Net result, each tile has a
      path going out of each of the four sides. One player plays Offense,
      and goes first. The other player plays Defense. The goal of the
      Offense is to lay tiles such that one side of the board has a path
      that leads to its opposite side. The goal of Defense is to prevent
      this (obviosuly). Paths are followed without right-angle turns, so
      when you reach an intersection you can only go straight ahead. This
      makes it relatively tough to set up a path. It turns out that this is
      not a bad little game. Takes 10 minutes (or less) to play, presents
      some interesting choices (at first glance, anyway), and appears to be
      fairly well-matched for a game with asymmetrical goals. We each took
      one turn as Offense. I managed to successfully Defend against Mark,
      and managed to successfully Offend as well. Cute. Not something I'll
      clamor to play frequently, but it's simple and it doesn't suck...

      And that was all for us. Next week, SOG will be trying to reclaim the
      Suburbs again, as I'll be hosting in Westford.

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