Two, two, two SRs in one! (SOG World Tour)
- I have been lazy, and y'all are the victims of my laziness. As a
result, you have been deprived of the regular SOG SRs which you no
doubt sift through your mailboxes in search of every Tuesday. Fear
not, gentle reader...while I can't guarantee a regular supply, I can
now provide, at no additional cost, a double SR encompassing the
results of the past two (2) weeks!
On to business.
We had eight people in attendance at Mark Towler's place in Belmont on
Monday, 4/25: Mike, Chris, Rob, Evan, me, Richard, Mark K. and Mark T.
When I arrived, some of the crew were playing Naval War. A silly
little card game about, well, Naval War. I played it once at one of
my first SOGs, and can't say that I have a strong desire to play it
again. Very old-school, but nostalgia factor is definitely there.
We were going to start on Manila with five people (me, Mike, Evan,
Mark, Mark), but then Rob showed up and we decided to switch to 6
Nimmt! This was your pretty standard 6-player 6-Nimmt game, with
lots of screwage. This time, I never even managed to make a play for
first place -- I took scads of points each round, and somehow still
managed to finish third. I believe that Evan was the winner, but it
might have been Rob.
At this point, Chris had arrived, so we split into two groups: Evan,
Mark T and Rob played Manila, which looked very pretty. Mike, Mark K,
Chris and I played Louis XIV, the new influence game from Alea.
The game is set on a board of 12 cards in essentially two concentric
rings. The inner ring has four cards, the outer ring has eight. Each
card reprents a different noble in the court of Louis XIV, and each
one can be influenced to provide you with certain benefits. The game
has sort of an El Grande-like (now popular in other games, Maharaja
etc) staging mechanism, where you have your supply of influence
markers and 'the general supply', which is essentially inaccessible.
The goal of the game is victory points. Most of these are earned
through building cards -- five points per card, where each card gives
you special abilities of varying types (with value dependent on
difficulty of playing them). Cards might give you extra money to use
for bribing nobles, might allow you to recover extra markers from the
general supply, etc. VPs are also earned through taking coats of
arms, which are generally simple VP chits but have a small random
element that can add a couple of points to your score if you're
Basically, each player has a hand of random cards that correspond to
the 12 nobles on the board. On your turn, you play one of your cards
and drop up to three of your markers in a chain starting with the
noble card you played. You can put all three markers on that noble,
or 1 there and two on an adjacent noble, or 1, 1, 1...whatever you
prefer. The nobles have different things that they provide, both
based on who they are, and also based on their 'whim'. (One turn, a
noble might provide a special token to anyone with two markers on that
noble, the next turn they might provide it only to the person with the
most.) This whim is handled by having two-sided cards. Once a noble
fulfills the conditions of one side of the card, it flips over for the
next turn. The various shifting benefits of the nobles are very
important, and it pays to have a good understanding if you want to win
The most directly important favors provided by nobles are tokens.
There are four basic types of tokens as well as a crown token which
can be used as a wildcard. Each VP card costs two tokens to build --
but the easy ones take one specific type and one of any type, up to
the hardest ones which take two identical tokens. What you are
primarily trying to do is earn these tokens -- most of the other
nobles provide some future benefit, like money, marker positioning
for future rounds, Intrigue cards which can give you secret bonus
This can all sound very complicated, but it all takes place in only
four rounds. This gives the game a definite beginning, middle and end
feel, which I think works to its benefit.
As with most influence games, I made my classic error of trying very
hard to win one or two specific items, which pretty much guaranteed me
those items, but also prevented me from having the broad sort of
distribution that one wants in order to really dominate the board.
That said, I felt like I had a feel for the game by the end of it, and
while I didn't win I knew several things that I could do differently
next time and was eager to play it again. Final scores for this game
were: Mark 32, Josh 42, Chris 50, Mike 50, with Mike winning the
I thought this was a very interesting game and am definitely
interested in playing it. I'd like another play first, but this one
is moving pretty quickly onto my Buy list.
Richard showed up at this point and we played a team game of
Hamsterrolle. Richard and I against Chris and Evan. The other guys
played Bamboleo or something like that...
This was my first time playing Hamsterrolle, and it was pretty fun
even though I don't usually go for dexterity games. The game is just
a round wooden wheel with small dividers around the inside. On your
turn, you have to place one of your pieces in the wheel, further
around the wheel than the previous piece, always going in the same
direction. This keeps the wheel turning and eventually pieces will
fall out. If a piece falls out on your turn, you have to take it.
First person out of pieces is the winner. With teams, partners go one
after the other and once one partner is out of pieces he starts laying
the pieces in his partner's hand. Richard and I were able to stick
Evan with a big stack of wooden pieces and then drop our last pieces
on the wheel, taking the victory. Fun, fast...very pretty.
Evan, Mark T, Rob and Mike teamed up to play a Settlers variant,
Cheops I believe.
Chris, Richard and I played Web of Power...Chris's first time
playing. This was something of an asterisk game, as we forgot to
remove the extra cards from the deck so the board was getting awfully
crowded by game end. I was sitting to Chris's left and managed to get
some good plays due to Chris's lack of familiarity with the strategy
of the game. I was on my way to dominating the game when I overplayed
with my final advisor and allowed Richard to recover from his bad
situation. Final scores were not too far different, but Richard was
the winner. I always enjoy Web of Power...happy to play it
Chris went home. Richard and I played Coloretto Amazonas while
waiting for the Settlers game to finish up. This game actually has
very little to do with the original Coloretto, sadly. It does have
very pretty cards, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of game there.
(Although I have to admit that I haven't quite found the game in
Coloretto yet either...) Each player has four rows: purple, brown,
green and blue. The deck is composed of 18 different kinds of animals
(3 brown, 4 purple, 5 blue and 6 green), with five of each animal, and
each player has a hand of three cards. On your turn, you can either
play an animal into one of your rows or offer a card to your
opponent. Your goal is to collect a full set of the animals of one
color, which allows you to score that stack and, if you're lucky, to
claim a bonus card for being the first person to score that color.
Scoring is Coloretto-ish -- 1 for 1, 3 for 2, 6 for 3, etc. The trick
is tht if you play an animal you already have out into your stack, you
have to discard both of them. So, the strategy is to offer your
opponent duplicate cards -- he can refuse them, but in order to do so
must discard a card from an adjoining row. Ultimately, the game seems
to come down to whoever draws the right cards. There's very little
you can do if you can't finish a stack...I was the better card drawer
in this game, trouncing Richard's puny 29 point score with a score in
the high 50s. Sadly, the victory wasn't as sweet as it could have
been...well, who am I kidding? I was happy to win something, even if
it had very little to do with my skill level. :)
Final game of the night was Leapfrog. My first playing. A fun little
race/bluffing game where you have to figure out what your opponents
will be playing...and if you guess right, you can do pretty well.
I hung back at the end, collected tadpoles, and met an ignominious end
in the frying pan of doom in the final race (automatic loss for one
lucky frog). I did enjoy it, although after the first play I didn't
see the patterns very well and didn't have a sense for the game.
That concluded the SOG in Belmont.
Next up was last night, SOG in Westford. We had six people in all:
Chris, Rob, Mike, Evan, Adam and myself. Special props to Adam for
making it to a SOG event all the way from sunny Meriden, NH. Hope we
see more of him around.
We started with Ice Cream, a quick filler game about satisfying ice
cream orders. You start with a limited supply of ice cream cartons,
and then you build up to 12 ice cream cone orders. The goal is to
satisfy the orders, earning one point per scoop served. There are
several things to watch in the course of the game: how cones are
built -- you ideally want to build cones that you're more likely to be
able to fill than your opponents. You do this by stacking the flavors
you have together and hoping nobody drops a flavor you don't have into
the mix. Then, once all the cones are filled up, you start filling
orders and claiming points. On your turn, you must fill an order if
you can fill it exactly, otherwise you have a choice: if you can fill
all but one scoops of an order, you can fill that order and only score
points for the scoops you can serve, or you can draw more ice cream
cartons to try to get more options. There's a timing issue
here...should I grab that cone now for three points or hope to draw
what I need and score four points on my next turn? Will anyone else
be able to take it first?
I liked the game a fair bit. One complaint is that vanilla and
chocolate chip frankly look a bit too similar and it would have been
better if a different color ice cream had been chosen. (What about
Evan was the master ice cream server, followed by Rob, then me and
Chris was here by this point, so we played Typo while waiting for Adam
to show. Typo is best described as 6 Nimmt!: The Word Game. It's
very similar in feel: Deal 12 cards to each player, place four cards
face up on the table as 'seed cards' and then each player
simultaneously selects and plays a card. First round the cards
selected are placed in alphabetical order, second round reverse
alphabetical order. When it's time to place your card, you can drop
it on either the front or end of any row, and then you have to name a
word that begins with the letter sequence you've formed. So if you
add 'A' to 'GN', you would say 'AGNOSTIC'. If you can't place your
card, you have to take the longest row and place your card in its
place, scoring one point for each card you take.
Also, if you claim a word that people don't believe is a word, they
can challenge you. If you lose, you have to take the longest row and
get an additional 2 point penalty for trying to pull a fast one. If
you win, the guy who challenges you gets a similar penalty.
I had an absolutely terrible first round, surpassed in awfulness only
by my second round in which I was cruelly forced to take a penalty
when Chris refused to believe that the word 'beveller' was in fact a
valid word, even when confronted with clear dictionary-based evidence
(although, admittedly, not actually that exact word in the dictionary
we were using). You probably can't tell, but I'm still a little
bitter about it and am carefully plotting a messy revenge.
I believe that Rob was the winner of this one.
Next: Leapfrog again. Adam was here, so we played this one. Rob
clumsily attempted to explain the rules, but it largely degenerated
into a cacophony of conflicting voices and explanations. Strangely,
Rob was a little put out about it...see what I have to deal with
*every* *single* *week*?
I managed to do better in my first two races this time but still ended
up in the frying pan again. Bother. I liked it better after my
second play, but it still isn't on my buy list (fortunately, Rob now
has a copy...).
Now we went for something a little meatier, a game of Medieval
Merchant. This is sort of a networking game, a la Power Grid without
the power plants and the fuel supplies. Players try to earn victory
points by dominating markets in 25 cities, as well as by spreading
their network to occupy as many of the 10 regions of the board as they
can. One of the big choices you have to make during the game is
whether to expand in a city you already occupy or to derive income
from it...you can't do both. Since building new routes is expensive,
money can be very important. The other big choice is where to
expand. You generally get to expand to one new location each turn.
Choosing where to expand to can be hard, as you have to balance your
need for victory points against expansion opportunities.
The game was largely a battle between Adam, Evan and me. Mike, Chris
and Rob didn't seem to be getting the same opportunities in regions
that we had, and as a result their scores were a good bit lower at end
game. The final round of the game saw Evan rack up an impressive
number of points for closing several cities at once, while I was able
to parlay an early big income round into a good chunk of bonus
points. This tied us both at 37 points (I believe). However, Adam
managed to expand to all 10 regions on the board, and the resulting
20-point bonus put him at 39 for the victory. (Evan would have won
the tiebreaker against me, had it come to that.)
Opinions on the game were mixed. I continue to think that this is a
much underrated game that I'm happy to play more often, while Rob
thought it was too chaotic with six and Mike just didn't care for it.
Rob and Chris went home at this point and we closed with another new
game: In the Shadow of the Emperor.
This is another influence-based game, thematically sort of similar to
Louis XIV. The game play is vastly different, though. Whereas Louis
XIV seems to maintain a very dynamic feel, Shadow of the Emperor feels
much more static. In this game, one is playing to earn victory
points, by vying for the roles of Emperor and electors of the seven
districts of the Holy Roman Empire. Nobles, knights, and cities are
placed in districts in order to gain sufficient influence to name an
elector for that district, and the electors then provide votes to
choose the new Emperor.
Interestingly enough, the most points are to be gained by winning
elections in districts. While being Emperor can help with that, it's
certainly not necessary. What it does mean is that the game tends to
encourage rapid turnover of the nobles, which is accelerated by the
fact that your average noble is only good for four turns before they
age themselves out of a job. (Sort of like a more abstract Kremlin,
yes...) Certain special abilities can extend or shorten a given
noble's lifespan, meaning that your position in a region is hard to
Those of you who have read this far may remember my comment about my
failing in Louis XIV, where I chose more strength in fewer positions.
This was also my failing in this game, except that the consequences
were much more drastic here. I had a region locked up for most of the
game, and by and large it provided very little value to me. Had I
diversified a bit more, and gone for winning more elections, I
probably would have done better. Evan got dumped on early, while Mike
secured a few boons from the inexperienced players (me and Adam, but
mostly me). At the end of the game, final scores were: Evan: 17,
Josh: 21, Adam: 23, Mike: 25
My impression of this game was decidedly more mixed than for Louis
XIV. I felt like I was able to see that I was failing to progress,
but didn't see many opportunities to improve my situation.
Ultimately, I do want to play this again now that I have more of a
sense of the game, but I'm not as impressed as I hoped I would be with
That was it for this week and the last.
Next week will be at Chris's new place in Andover. I, sadly, will
probably not be able to attend.