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SOG SR x2: 12/27 in Sudbury and 1/3 in Westford

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  • Josh Bluestein
    Two, two, two SRs in one, because I was kinda busy last week, specifically not sitting in front of a computer. We had four people at Rob s on December 27th:
    Message 1 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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      Two, two, two SRs in one, because I was kinda busy last week,
      specifically not sitting in front of a computer.

      We had four people at Rob's on December 27th: Rob, Chris, Arkady and
      myself.

      We played three games: Cloud Nine, Railroad Dice: Deutschland, and
      Fifth Avenue

      Then, last night, we had four people at my house: Rob, Jeff, Mark and
      myself. Last night, we played Category 5 (6 Nimmt!), Krieg und
      Frieden, Die Sieben Siegel and Mausen.

      So, for starters, the first session:

      We started with Cloud 9, a light little push-your-luck game. Everyone
      is in a balloon as it rises higher and higher into the sky. One
      player is the pilot on each round. The pilot rolls a number of dice
      (depending on how high the balloon has risen). Dice can come up
      showing balloons of 1 of four colors, or possibly blank. Once the
      dice are rolled, each player except for the pilot has the opportunity
      to jump out of the balloon and score the balloon's current value. The
      pilot must then play cards from his hand that match the results of the
      dice. If he cannot, then the ballon falls and anyone left in the
      balloon scores no points. If he can, the balloon rises to the next
      level and the next player in clockwise order who is still in the
      balloon becomes the pilot. The first player to reach 50 points wins
      the game.

      This is a fairly enjoyable little game. It's quite fast, pretty
      random...I liked it. You have to be careful when choosing when to
      jump out...if you're facing being pilot next, you may choose to jump
      out just because you don't think you can fly the balloon to the next
      level. So the decisions aren't all immediately obvious and position
      does matter. Still, it's very chaotic and would probably outlive its
      welcome if it took much longer to play. Fortunately, it doesn't...

      Arkady chose to jump at a few very opportune moments and easily
      crossed 50 points first. Nobody else was even close.

      Next up was Railroad Dice: Deutschland. This is an expansion set to
      the original Railroad Dice game that changes the gameplay
      substantially. First of all, the board is now a fixed board rather
      than a slowly-emerging tiled board. Also, stations may only be built
      in specific locations. There is no more stock in the game --
      directorship of companies is now determined by who has transported the
      most passengers for that company...and directorship is less valuable,
      since you don't need to be director to score points (it only counts
      for income now).

      This all sounds very good, as one of the main complaints about the
      original game was that there was a weird fluctuation near the end of the
      game as companies quickly changed hands back and forth until someone
      managed to end the game.

      Unfortunately, it's not the whole story. The expansion is designed to
      put more dice at the disposal of the players, since everyone gets a
      base income of four plus one die for every station a company they are
      director of has built. So more dice earlier means more tracks can be
      built...but it's not really enough. You see, now points are awarded
      when you build a station. And stations can only be built in limited
      locations. The overall result is that this has a chilling effect on
      board expansion -- if you can't build a station, it's rarely to your
      benefit to build track at all. The bonus dice from crossing into an
      unexplored tile are nice, but if you make it easier for someone else
      to build a station, then it's quickly less desirable. Although people
      will build track sometimes...preferably to make the next
      track-builder have to spend more dice or suffer in some other way in
      the process of building their own track.

      I would call the net result disappointing. Which is too bad, because
      I really like some aspects of it. I think I'd really like to see a
      version of the game that combines some of the rules -- company
      ownership and points from the expansion, with station building and the
      variable board setup from the original game.

      I will have to give the game another try at some point, but I felt
      really let down when this game finally ended.

      Rob managed to build a valuable station, propelling him into the
      lead. He then took his income and sat on it, drastically reducing the
      options for other players as they didn't want to end the game by
      exhausting the dice bank. Others tried to effect some sort of
      comeback from there, but no other station locations were close enought
      hat anyone could reach them. So, the game came to an end with the
      adcknowledgement that nobody else could do anything and Rob would be
      able to end the game on his next turn.

      Wanted to like it. Really I did. But even with the weird company
      ownership rules of the original game, I prefer the original.

      Last up we played Fifth Avenue. Chris headed out but then reappeared
      as we were finishing rules explanation and setup, so he got roped into
      it. After all the negative buzz this game has received, I wasn't sure
      what to expect. However, I enjoyed my first playing of it.

      The game has a lot of choices...many things you want to do on your
      turn, only some of which you can actually manage. This sort of
      squeezing appeals to me. I'm not going to get into a detailed
      explanation of the game, but from 50,000 feet it looks something like
      this: you're placing shops and skyscrapers in different locations in
      New York City. Shops get placed more or less by your decision,
      whereas skyscrapers are placed only by the winner of an auction. You
      get points for every different kind of shup that each of your
      skyscrapers is adjacent to...so any individual skysraper in a district
      cuuld be worth as many as 10 points, and there's no actual limit to
      the number of skyscrapers you can place in a single district...except
      that it's really not very easy.

      Our game went relatively smoothly. A lot of shops came out early,
      which made it look like the game might end rather precipitously.
      However, things stabilized a bit and people started accumulating
      points from intermediate scoring and commissioner visits. Arkady
      managed to get ahead in the points and it looked like he was
      well-positioned, so he started trying to end the game while
      invalidating other players' high scoring areas. One does this by
      placing Building Stop markers after winning an auction. Arkady
      managed to nuke my highest-scoring district, and then tried to go on
      to nuke a second one. Fortunately, he was prevented from doing this.
      He still scored well at the end, but the final Central Park scoring,
      in which Arkady had neglected to invest anything, was enough to put me
      over the top. Final scores were very close...something like: Josh
      43, Chris 41, Arkady 38, Rob 34

      Anyway, I liked the game, well enough to play it again at any rate. I
      can see where a lack of understanding of the game mechanics could lead
      someone to make plays that would end the game early, but I'm not sure
      that's a reason to throw the whole thing out. It's
      enjoyable...not a top 10 game of the year of anything, but certainly
      one I'll look forward to trying out again. Chris hated it, but
      readily acknowledges that he may have been predisposed to hate it
      because of all the negative publicity the game has received. He's
      anxious for another shot at it, so people should try to get him into
      more games of it soon!

      That concluded the last Monday night SOG session of 2004.

      Now onto the first Monday night SOG session of 2005!

      Mark had a jones for 6 Nimmt!, and Jeff had brought his copy of
      Category 5, so that's what we opened with. I believe that we have
      successfully cured Mark of his desire to play this game, at least for
      a little while. He received a truly glorious pounding from the
      hurricanes...and I was pleased to record my first ever 6 Nimmt! win!
      OK...small pleasures. But still! Yes, for those wondering, Category
      5 and 6 Nimmt! are the same game. The only difference is that in one
      game you are supposed to play to 66 points, in the other game you're
      supposed to play to 74. I don't even have a preference for the
      artwork of one over the other. If I didn't already own 6 Nimmt!, I'd
      buy Category 5. Since I do, I won't.

      Next, I suggested Krieg und Frieden, because I know Rob has had this
      game sitting on his shelf for several years and has never played it.
      I've played it a few times and, while it's not the best, it's
      reasonably fun.

      Overview: Four types of resources: Knights, Serfs, Riches and
      Barley. Four types of crises: War, Famine, Taxes, Disaster. Each
      disaster values each resource differently...so Knights are good for
      War, but kinda lousy for Famine. Each round, a different crisis is
      put forth and players bid to be the one to solve the problem. The
      winner of the auction gets either a privilege (worth extra resources
      plus a one-time opportunity to change the proposed crisis) or the
      ability to build a piece of the cathedral in the middle of the board.
      We played with a variant that valued all victories slightly higher, so
      privileges were worth 2VP each, and the castle pieces were valued at a
      base of 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4 instead of 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3. The point of
      this was to somewhat diminish the value of the final cathdral piece,
      which is essentially the game-winner. (It didn't really work...)

      There was some ramping up as people figured out the value (necessity)
      of pillaging their neighbors, and as people learned the value of the
      auctions. When it came time for the final round, it was clear that
      the victory was either going to go to Mark or Rob, as they had spare
      privileges to force agenda changes and a good number of resource
      cards. I proposed Famine, Rob vetoed it and forced Jeff to put
      forward Disaster, Mark vetoed it and forced me to put forward
      War...which Rob then won, taking the game. Had Jeff been able to win
      the auction, he could have won the game as well...I was too short on
      points for the victory to push me over, so a win in the last round for
      me would have meant a game win for Mark.

      Anyway, the game went about the way I remember it, possibly a little
      nastier (but I guess that's just a function of the crowd). I enjoyed
      it, but don't really feel like I've missed anything in the couple of
      years it's been since I last played the game. I suspect that this
      game my find its way to my trade pile fairly soon.

      Mark headed out, and we finished up with two fairly quick games: Die
      Sieben Siegel and Mausen. Jeff won Die Sieben Siegel in a
      hotly-contested final round, and I won Mausen, crushing my puny
      opponents with superior play.

      Well, if you can't win the strategic games, might as well win the
      random games, eh?

      That was all for us. Next week will be in Sudbury, looks like...

      Josh
    • Christopher Lockheardt
      Last up we played Fifth Avenue . . . After all the negative buzz this game has received, I wasn t sure what to expect. However, I enjoyed my first playing of
      Message 2 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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        "Last up we played Fifth Avenue . . . After all the
        negative buzz this game has received, I wasn't sure
        what to expect. However, I enjoyed my first playing
        of it . . . Chris hated it, but readily acknowledges
        that he may have been predisposed to hate it because
        of all the negative publicity the game has received."

        I am a sucker for hype. However, I'm more of a sucker
        for winning. I came in second place and still left the
        table with a bad taste in my mouth. Fifth Avenue just
        seems to go out of its way to suck the joy out of
        playing it:

        - Placing businesses beside your buildings increases
        your buildings' value. Thus, in a game of hard
        choices, this action is often the easiest to make. But
        if everyone makes it, the game ends way before its
        supposed to.

        - If the Commissioner is on your block, you can score
        all the points you've been working so hard to set up.
        But you can't move the Commissioner and score the
        block, so you have to move the Commissioner to your
        block and hope that the next player scores it, which,
        of course, often requires that the next player to have
        an equal or greater point potential than you do in
        that block.

        The lessons of the game are, 1) Don't increase the
        value of your buildings because that will end the game
        too early, and 2) Don't bother setting yourself up to
        score unless your neighbor will score more points than
        you will.

        In essence: Don't bother playing!

        Just in case you are still tempted to play despite the
        game's best efforts to dissuade you, it dresses itself
        in a clunky theme and an ugly board.

        Fifth Avenue is the J.D. Salinger of games: clever,
        but completely uninterested in your company.

        In the interest of balanced commentary, I offer this
        counter point from Chris Farrell:

        I cannot recall ever in my history as a gamer seeing
        such a good game being so widely, unfairly,
        unthinkingly, and unjustifiably maligned. No matter
        where I go, I run into people who know that Fifth
        Avenue is not very good; this is particularly
        infuriating because nobody has played it. Well, I have
        news for you: Fifth Avenue is good. It's a classic
        alea game, with many different game elements
        interacting in interesting ways to produce a lot of
        tension; Fifth Avenue certainly wins the award for the
        best turn angst of the year. And the bidding system is
        quite clever. If you like challenging bidding games,
        or El Grande, you really ought to give this one a go.




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      • J C Lawrence
        On Tue, 4 Jan 2005 11:18:03 -0800 (PST) ... Does this mean that players need to aggressively zero-sum optimise their moves for the game to come to life in this
        Message 3 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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          On Tue, 4 Jan 2005 11:18:03 -0800 (PST)
          Christopher Lockheardt <clockheardt@...> wrote:

          > - Placing businesses beside your buildings increases your buildings'
          > value. Thus, in a game of hard choices, this action is often the
          > easiest to make. But if everyone makes it, the game ends way before
          > its supposed to.

          Does this mean that players need to aggressively zero-sum optimise their
          moves for the game to come to life in this regard? ie If the players
          don't fight for relative point maximisation rather than simple personal
          point maximisation, the game falters, badly.

          > - If the Commissioner is on your block, you can score all the points
          > you've been working so hard to set up. But you can't move the
          > Commissioner and score the block, so you have to move the Commissioner
          > to your block and hope that the next player scores it, which, of
          > course, often requires that the next player to have an equal or
          > greater point potential than you do in that block.

          > The lessons of the game are, 1) Don't increase the value of your
          > buildings because that will end the game too early, and 2) Don't
          > bother setting yourself up to score unless your neighbor will score
          > more points than you will.

          This sounds like the necessary approach to succeed by a) collecting a
          host of second-place scores rather than heading for the big payouts for
          yourself, and b) build areas that other players want you to score
          despite the fact that it gives you a tonne of points. Which, if right,
          is rather clever and really enforces some of the nastier aspects of
          differential value calculation.

          --
          J C Lawrence
          ---------(*) Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas.
          claw@... He lived as a devil, eh?
          http://www.kanga.nu/~claw/ Evil is a name of a foeman, as I live.
        • W. Eric Martin
          ... Zzzzzzz-- huh, wha, oh, sorry. With this kind of talk about the game, no wonder Fifth Avenue has never come to life on a big scale. Eric -- W. Eric
          Message 4 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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            J C Lawrence wrote:
            > Does this mean that players need to aggressively zero-sum optimise their
            > moves for the game to come to life in this regard? ie If the players
            > don't fight for relative point maximisation rather than simple personal
            > point maximisation, the game falters, badly.

            Zzzzzzz-- huh, wha, oh, sorry. With this kind of talk about the game, no
            wonder Fifth Avenue has never "come to life" on a big scale.

            Eric

            --
            W. Eric Martin - TwoWriters.net
          • Josh Bluestein
            ... Either that or it s a clarion call to not let JC write promotional marketing literature for anything you want people to actually, um, buy. Not that s he
            Message 5 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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              > From: "W. Eric Martin" <eric@...>
              > J C Lawrence wrote:
              > > Does this mean that players need to aggressively zero-sum optimise their
              > > moves for the game to come to life in this regard? ie If the players
              > > don't fight for relative point maximisation rather than simple personal
              > > point maximisation, the game falters, badly.
              >
              > Zzzzzzz-- huh, wha, oh, sorry. With this kind of talk about the game, no
              > wonder Fifth Avenue has never "come to life" on a big scale.

              Either that or it's a clarion call to not let JC write promotional
              marketing literature for anything you want people to actually, um,
              buy.

              Not that's he necessarily wrong in what he's saying...

              Josh
            • Josh Bluestein
              ... Well, it means that if all you take is a very short-term view of the play of the game, all you get is a very short term. Interestingly, I don t think the
              Message 6 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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                > From: "J C Lawrence" <claw@...>
                > On Tue, 4 Jan 2005 11:18:03 -0800 (PST)
                > Christopher Lockheardt <clockheardt@...> wrote:
                >
                > > - Placing businesses beside your buildings increases your buildings'
                > > value. Thus, in a game of hard choices, this action is often the
                > > easiest to make. But if everyone makes it, the game ends way before
                > > its supposed to.
                >
                > Does this mean that players need to aggressively zero-sum optimise their
                > moves for the game to come to life in this regard? ie If the players
                > don't fight for relative point maximisation rather than simple personal
                > point maximisation, the game falters, badly.

                Well, it means that if all you take is a very short-term view of the
                play of the game, all you get is a very short term. Interestingly, I
                don't think the game actually favors the strategy of putting out lots
                of businesses. In a situation like this I believe that the advantage
                will go to the person who gets in a few good points elsewhere by
                dropping some new buildings or meeting the intermediate scoring
                requirements. Placing lots of businesses quickly does end the game
                fast, but it doesn't *win* the game.

                > > - If the Commissioner is on your block, you can score all the points
                > > you've been working so hard to set up. But you can't move the
                > > Commissioner and score the block, so you have to move the Commissioner
                > > to your block and hope that the next player scores it, which, of
                > > course, often requires that the next player to have an equal or
                > > greater point potential than you do in that block.
                >
                > > The lessons of the game are, 1) Don't increase the value of your
                > > buildings because that will end the game too early, and 2) Don't
                > > bother setting yourself up to score unless your neighbor will score
                > > more points than you will.

                > This sounds like the necessary approach to succeed by a) collecting
                > a host of second-place scores rather than heading for the big
                > payouts for yourself, and b) build areas that other players want you
                > to score despite the fact that it gives you a tonne of points.
                > Which, if right, is rather clever and really enforces some of the
                > nastier aspects of differential value calculation.

                The above paragraph has been officially sanitized. The new version
                follows below:

                "So, dude, the idea is to get other people to make moves that benefit
                you more than your moves benefit them? That's totally AWESOME!!!"

                Your cooperation in this matter is appreciated, citizen.

                Please move along now.
              • Walter Hunt
                ... Sounds like choice two. Of course, that would probably qualify him as a marketing-communications guy, based on what I ve seen. Of course I ve played Fifth
                Message 7 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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                  On Jan 4, 2005, at 3:03 PM, Josh Bluestein wrote:

                  > Either that or it's a clarion call to not let JC write promotional
                  > marketing literature for anything you want people to actually, um,
                  > buy.
                  >
                  > Not that's he necessarily wrong in what he's saying...

                  Sounds like choice two. Of course, that would probably qualify him as a
                  marketing-communications guy, based
                  on what I've seen.

                  Of course I've played Fifth Avenue too, and thought it sucked. Just
                  like the original post - it sucks the life out of you.

                  Walter H. Hunt
                  hotc@...
                  http://www.walterhunt.com/


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Craig Massey
                  ... I had a very similar experience after my first playing of Fifth Avenue. No shortage of groupthink in this game. If you have only played the game once,
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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                    --- Walter Hunt <hotc@...> wrote:

                    >
                    > On Jan 4, 2005, at 3:03 PM, Josh Bluestein wrote:
                    >
                    > > Either that or it's a clarion call to not let JC
                    > write promotional
                    > > marketing literature for anything you want people
                    > to actually, um,
                    > > buy.
                    > >
                    > > Not that's he necessarily wrong in what he's
                    > saying...
                    >
                    > Sounds like choice two. Of course, that would
                    > probably qualify him as a
                    > marketing-communications guy, based
                    > on what I've seen.
                    >
                    > Of course I've played Fifth Avenue too, and thought
                    > it sucked. Just
                    > like the original post - it sucks the life out of
                    > you.

                    I had a very similar experience after my first playing
                    of Fifth Avenue. No shortage of groupthink in this
                    game. If you have only played the game once, give it
                    a second try. Its not going to set the world aflame,
                    but it is not nearly as bad as so many seem to say.

                    Save life sucking hyperbole for things like Tongiaki,
                    JC's post, etc.

                    Craig

                    =====
                    Craig W. Massey
                    cwmassey@...




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                  • tool@panix.com
                    ... I agree the game s not terrible. It s got interlocking systems, there are lots of decisions to be made, and there are subtleties to the gameplay.
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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                      > I had a very similar experience after my first playing
                      > of Fifth Avenue. No shortage of groupthink in this
                      > game. If you have only played the game once, give it
                      > a second try. Its not going to set the world aflame,
                      > but it is not nearly as bad as so many seem to say.
                      >
                      > Save life sucking hyperbole for things like Tongiaki,
                      > JC's post, etc.
                      >

                      I agree the game's not terrible. It's got interlocking systems,
                      there are lots of decisions to be made, and there are subtleties
                      to the gameplay. However, for me it just wasn't much fun - why,
                      I can't say, but it wasn't, despite everything. Other people I
                      have played with have had a similar reaction.

                      --
                      _______________________________________________________________________
                      Dan Blum tool@...
                      "I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't just made it up."
                    • Craig B
                      ... Fifth Avenue is admittedly very very dry as a game. I mostly felt clueless during it. Not my favorite, but far from the worst I ve played. However,
                      Message 10 of 10 , Jan 4, 2005
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                        Craig Massey <cwmassey@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > I had a very similar experience after my first playing
                        > of Fifth Avenue. No shortage of groupthink in this
                        > game. If you have only played the game once, give it
                        > a second try. Its not going to set the world aflame,
                        > but it is not nearly as bad as so many seem to say.
                        >
                        > Save life sucking hyperbole for things like Tongiaki,
                        > JC's post, etc.

                        Fifth Avenue is admittedly very very dry as a game. I mostly felt
                        clueless during it. Not my favorite, but far from the worst I've
                        played.

                        However, Tongiaki was quite good, I think (It's the Tiki island boats
                        game?). If so, I played twice at UG8 and had a great time.



                        =====
                        Craig Brooks
                        Cheapass Demo Monkey / MIB #0411 email: gilby123@...
                        http://www.angelfire.com/ma/gilby123/index.html

                        "Where would we be without the agitators of the
                        world attaching the electrodes of knowledge to the nipples
                        of ignorance?" - John Lithgow, 3rd Rock from the Sun




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