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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-05-19

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  • brosiuse
    MVGA meets Thursday nights at 7pm in the Masonic Hall in Holliston, on Route 16 just east of the center of town. Turn north on Church Place (which is more a
    Message 1 of 2 , May 30, 2005
      MVGA meets Thursday nights at 7pm in the
      Masonic Hall in Holliston, on Route 16 just
      east of the center of town. Turn north on
      Church Place (which is more a driveway than
      a street) to find parking.

      We welcome visitors. We'll even
      waive the $3.00 fee for your first visit.

      Roll call:
      Paul H., Walt, Eric, Dan, Evan, Rich

      (Paul H., Walt)

      Paul and Walt arrived at MVGA well before
      7pm. Walt was proudly toting a stack of
      TBA annuals. He publishes an annual for
      the tabletop baseball league he's been
      playing in for two decades, and it's
      a lot of work.

      The 2 early birds kicked off the
      evening's entertainment with a game of
      Jambo, a 2-player game that Walt has
      been playing a lot of recently. Walt's
      wife and daughter enjoy Jambo; it's
      always good when your family wants to
      play a game.

      Jambo's theme is trading in the African
      jungle ("Jambo" means "hello" in Swahili.)
      You each have a hand of cards, a supply
      of gold, and a large market stand that
      holds up to six goods. You may take
      five actions each turn. With an action,
      you draw a card, or you use a card and
      apply the effects. You may play some
      cards to the table, where you may use
      them each turn. Cards allow you to obtain
      or sell goods or additional cards. The
      game ends when one player reaches 60 in
      gold, after which the opponent gets one
      more turn to match or beat the total.

      This game started off slowly. Both players invested in small
      market stands. Each small market stand holds three extra
      goods. Walt built the first small market stand for six gold,
      Paul built one of his own for three, and Walt built another
      for three more. The first small market stand costs six, but
      once the technology is rolled out, any additional small market
      stands (for either player) cost only three. Small market stands
      give much more flexibility in goods management, but the cost
      is substantial. It's common to see each player hoping the other
      will pay six gold to break the ice.

      Once the market stand investments had been made, Paul and Walt
      began earning money rapidly, buying goods and selling them for
      nice profits. Jambo includes various animal cards that allow
      you to tweak the game to your advantage, but in this game the
      main focus was on commerce. Walt wrapped the game up with a
      solid payout to win.

      Final scores: Walt 69, Paul 57.

      Eric's rating: 5. Jambo plays smoothly, and it's attractive
      to wide range of players. My wife also enjoys it. It's not
      the kind of game that most appeals to me, but I'm happy to
      play it if someone else wants to give it a try.

      (Eric, Dan, Evan)

      Three more players arrived at the Masonic Hall right at our normal
      starting time of 7pm. Paul and Walt were still playing Jambo, so
      we played a game of Geschenkt while we waited to see who else might
      arrive. Geschenkt is a "filler" with a simple but clever premise.

      The game includes a deck of 33 cards, numbered 3 to 35, and 11 chips
      for each player. The cards are shuffled, nine are set aside face
      down, and the other 24 are used for the game. The starting player
      turns over a card and either puts a chip on it or takes the card
      together with any chips already on it. The next player faces the
      same choice; play goes around the table with each player adding a
      chip until someone decides to take the card. You can't take too
      many cards, because the winner is the person whose cards at the
      end add up to the lowest total. On the other hand, your 11 chips
      run out quickly, so you must take your share of cards to replenish
      your supply. Once you take a card, you turn over the next card,
      either put a chip on it or take the card, and play proceeds around
      the table as before. The game ends when all 24 cards have found
      homes. Any chips left in your hand are subtracted from your total.

      There's one additional wrinkle that provides the "hook." When you
      add up the totals on your cards, you may ignore any card if you
      also have the card whose number is one less. For example, if you
      have the 14 and the 15, you count the 14 but not the 15. If you
      have the 14, 15, 16 and 17, you count only the 14. This means
      some cards cost you nothing to take, and others actually reduce
      your sum (if you have the 15, the 14 actually saves you 1.) It's
      even better if you can fill a gap: if you own the 14 and 16 for
      a total of 30, the 15 will reduce your total by 16!)

      It might appear that you could just take cards one after another
      to take full advantage of runs, but the nine cards removed from
      the deck will work against you. For example, a player who already
      has the 16 could cheerfully snap up the 14, planning to take the
      15 when it appears, but there's no guarantee that the 15 is in play.

      In this game, Dan proved to be the master. He took the 21 and built
      a run of four cards around it, scooping up chips each time that Eric
      and Evan had played to avoid being stuck with the cards. Evan was
      the most stubborn, taking only six cards to nine each for Dan and
      Eric, but it cost him in chips, and he was forced to take some high
      cards. Eric ended with the most chips, but he didn't take nearly as
      much advantage of runs as Dan did, leaving Dan as the clear winner.

      Final scores:

      Dan_ 44 - 13 = 31 ... 9-10-11, 15-16, 20-21-22-23
      Eric 66 - 17 = 49 ... 3, 5-6, 12-13, 17, 29-30-31
      Evan 64 - _3 = 61 ... 7, 24-25, 33-34-35

      Eric's rating: 6. Geschenkt is a clever game and a good filler,
      but I feel as though I have little control and few tough decisions.
      I never feel a strong desire to play Geschenkt, though I'll join in
      cheerfully enough if someone else wants to play.

      (Paul H., Walt, Rich)

      Rich arrived just as Jambo and Geschenkt were finishing, giving us 6
      gamers. We agreed to begin with two 3-player games as Walt made it
      clear that he did NOT want to play another 6-player game of Power
      Grid. Eric had a copy of Samarkand that Dan and Evan volunteered to
      play, while Paul, Walt and Rich settled on Ticket to Ride Europe.

      In the original Ticket to Ride there's a lot of angst as you worry
      whether you'll be able to connect your tickets before someone else
      blocks your path. The angst is especially acute in a 3-player game
      because only one link can be built between any pair of cities, even
      if the map shows two available links. Ticket to Ride Europe gives
      you three stations that can make up for a missing link, allowing you
      to connect tickets at a cost (you spend a turn, one or more cards,
      and 4 VP.)

      This game was relatively friendly, as the players received tickets
      that allowed them to stay out of each others' way. Rich had the
      Edinburg-Athens ticket, Walt was in for a trip to Spain, and Paul
      concentrated his building in the east. Rich was forced to use one
      station to connect Wien to Budapest, but the other two had no need
      for stations. Rich's hopes for a long route were ruined by the gap
      east of Wien (a station cannot help you with a long route,) and
      Walt built a network with many forks, so it seemed clear that Paul
      would take the 10 VP for longest route.

      Rich ended the game, the scores were rechecked (a good thing, as
      all three scores had counting errors,) and the tickets were revealed
      for final scoring. Every single ticket was connected, and it was an
      unusually close game, but Rich had 50 VP for tickets vs. only 40 VP
      for Paul and Walt, and this together with Rich's more extensive
      building made the difference.

      Final scores: Rich 134, Paul H. 125, Walt 114.

      Eric's rating: 7. Ticket to Ride Europe is a fine successor to the
      SdJ-winning Ticket to Ride, but I enjoy the original version more, as
      I like a game with tension. For others who prefer a more relaxed
      setting, Ticket to Ride Europe may be a better choice.

      (Eric, Dan, Evan)

      Eric's game bin contained a copy of Samarkand, a Sid Sackson game
      about trading in the deserts of the Middle East. If you like the
      color yellow, you'll like the board, which displays cities, oases
      and desert camps in an array of squares. Players move their tokens
      from space to space, buying and selling goods cards in an attempt
      to reach $500. In general, your turn consists of a move followed
      by an action. Movement is governed by arrows; with two exceptions
      your move will be from the square on which you begin to an adjacent
      square. Each player begins with $200 and a hand of goods cards,
      and you place your token on a square of your choice.

      If your move ends on an oasis, you buy goods: you may buy 1 card
      for $5 or 4 cards for $20 to $30 (depending on how centrally the
      oasis is located.) If your move ends on a city, you sell goods;
      each city buys either of two types of good (for two of the four
      cities, one option is to sell a set of goods all different from
      each other.) Payoffs increase as the size of the set increase, and
      are higher for the rarer goods. If your move ends on a nomad camp,
      you must first demonstrate desert etiquette by donating a goods
      card of your choice, placing it in the cards supply area for that
      nomad camp. After you have made your donation, you may trade as
      many cards as you wish with that camp on a one-for-one basis.

      Nomad camps provide an exception to the rule that you may only
      move to an adjacent square. If you move to a nomad camp and make
      your donation, you may decline to trade and move immediately to
      a newly-adjacent square, following the arrows. In some areas of
      the board, it's possible to move up to three spaces through the
      desert by donating twice and continuing to move.

      Because nomads live a mobile lifestyle, they must avoid being
      burdened with too many goods. As a result, each nomad camp is
      marked with a capacity of 4, 5 or 6 goods cards. If you arrive
      at a nomad camp that is at capacity, you do not donate a card.
      Instead, you receive all the cards at the camp for the bargain
      price of $10 (after which two new cards are dealt to the camp.)
      You can often make juicy profits if you can take advantage of
      these "fire sale" opportunities, but they only arise as other
      players make donations.

      The game includes a die, but the die is rolled only by players
      who are in difficulty, or who want to gamble near the end. You
      pay to roll the die and move the number of spaces shown: 1, 2,
      3, 4, 5 or -1 (!)

      Evan was selected as first player, and we all placed our tokens
      on the board. Dan started near Evan, and as it turned out, Dan
      followed Evan around for a while. This turned out to be quite
      a disadvantage for Dan, because Evan made two sales that caused
      gluts in commodities Dan was hoping to sell, reducing the prices
      Dan received. Evan started off with a nice set of camels, the
      second most valuable commodity. Eric sold a smaller set of
      diamonds, the most valuable commodity, but the size of a set
      makes a bigger difference than the value and Evan was out to a
      lead. Evan managed to move quickly, selling smaller lots, and
      it wasn't long before he announced a sale that put him exactly
      at $500 for the victory.

      Final scores: Evan $500, Eric $285, Dan $205.

      Eric's rating: 8. We played this game a lot when our children
      were younger; my son learned addition so he could keep up with
      his older sister in Samarkand. Play flows smoothly, as you'd
      expect in a game designed by Sid Sackson, and turns move quickly
      so there's minimal down time. We play with a variant (you could
      argue it's a rules interpretation) in which you discard goods
      sold into a discard pile which is only re-shuffled when the draw
      pile runs out. This reduces the amount of shuffling you need to
      do and adds some extra suspense.

      (Paul H., Walt, Eric, Dan, Evan, Rich)

      When we have 6 players at MVGA, we like to play at least one
      6-player game just to prove we're all here. This week we decided
      to play Citadels, a Bruno Faidutti game that contains some of the
      chaos Bruno's games are famous for, but less than you'll see in
      many of his other games. (You can just picture a game company
      mogul in a smoke-filled room shouting "I need more chaos! Get me
      Bruno Faidutti!)

      Citadels at it's core is a simple game. Each turn you get two
      gold or a card to add to your hand. You then have a chance to
      build one building for the price shown on the card in gold. The
      game ends when someone builds an eighth building and your score
      is the total value of the buildings you have built. Simple and
      not very interesting...except for the roles players play. At
      the start of each round, a small collection of "role" cards is
      passed around the table, and each player secretly chooses one.
      These roles determine the order of play for the round. They also
      confer special powers upon the players who hold them. For
      example, the Assassin gets to kill another player (but must name
      the role, not the player, so it's hard to know who you're
      targeting.) The King gets first choice of roles (of course) and
      also gets an extra gold for each royal building, such as a palace.

      We began by selecting Eric as the first King. The first round was
      more or less uneventful, but then the chaos began. Although the
      Assassin and the Thief target roles, not players, Eric and Paul
      wound up being hit several times each. We play the kinder, gentler
      Assassin variant which awards the victim life insurance proceeds in
      the amount of two gold pieces, even though he didn't get a turn.
      Despite this, Eric and Paul sank far behind the field, missing
      builds because they were dead or broke. Evan was an early leader,
      but we managed to drag him back a bit by taking the Magician and
      trading hands with him (it's always fun trading someone your hand
      when you have no cards.) This provided Rich with the opportunity
      to get ahead in buildings and he soon built his eighth building to
      end it. Rich got a 4 VP bonus for being first to eight while
      Rich, Evan, Walt and Paul each got a 3 VP bonus for having at
      least one building in each of the five colors.

      Final scores: Rich 30, Evan 27, Walt 23, Dan 20, Paul 19, Eric 18.

      Eric's rating: 9. There's guessing in this game, but it is by no
      means a guessing game. Each role choice has different implications
      and you need to consider not only how the roles will affect you, but
      also how others will view their own interests. You sometime turn
      down a role that appears to be best because you fear being the
      obvious target for the Assassin or Thief. The problem is that your
      opponents may guess that's what you'll do and target the less-obvious
      role. If you want to enjoy Citadels you need to realize that at
      times you'll suffer largely as a result of chance; if you're
      determined to enjoy yourself anyway, you're less likely to be

      (Walt, Eric, Dan, Evan, Rich)

      Walt recently purchased a copy of this Alan Ernstein design. This
      was the second or third week that Walt had brought the game out, and
      it seemed to be time to reward his persistence by playing the game.
      Alan Ernstein has designed a half dozen games; the best known is
      Tahuantinsuyu, a game on the development of the Incan Empire which
      I enjoyed quite a bit the one time I played. Paul had to leave,
      since it was now past 10pm, and Ars Mysteriorum accommodates 3 to 5
      players, so it was a good time to try it.

      Ars Mysteriorum could be described as a 3-dimensional bingo game
      in which players accumulate items that are placed on a 5 by 3 player
      mat. Some items score VPs all by themselves, but the really big
      VPs come from getting multiples of the same item, or from filling
      up several squares in the same row or column. VPs are awarded each
      turn. In the early turns players have only a few items and get only
      a few VPs, but by the end they are amassing VPs more quickly. There
      is also a special endgame bonus for the player who gets the most
      items in each of the five columns, with the largest bonus (16 VPs)
      coming from the "aromatics" column, which tends to award fewer VPs
      during the game.

      Each turn has a number of phases, in which you bid for turn order,
      obtain commodity chips, and acquire items. You have a set of six
      cards numbered 1 to 6 that you use in blind bidding. You use one
      card to bid for turn order and the others to obtain chips. In our
      game, Evan and Walt tended to bid higher for turn order (thus
      gaining tie-breaking privileges) while Dan and Eric tended to bid
      lower (preserving higher cards.) The chips are awarded by means of
      a clever allocation process, after which you move your purchasing
      agent (in turn order) to one of five tents that sell items. It is
      more costly to move to a tent that already has several agents
      waiting, and if you are late in the turn order, you may find that
      both of the two items available are gone, so it pays to be flexible
      about which tent you want to visit.

      As a rule, you obtain one item each turn, though it's possible to
      get two---or none. You can buy two items if you have a special
      action card that allows you to do so, and you may be unable to buy
      an item if things go very poorly for you on a particular turn.
      Dan suffered one or two zero-item turns, dropping him far behind
      the pack. Eric, on the other hand, was randomly dealt a special
      card allowing a double purchase in the initial deal and got a one-
      item lead on the pack with the resulting extra VPs each turn.

      Later in the game, two more of the extra-valuable cards came up,
      but the later cards are distributed in turn order, so you must bid
      to obtain them. Evan and Rich each took one of these cards, and
      Evan in particular got a stack of several aromatics, but no one
      could quite catch Eric after he got out to a wide lead early.

      Final scores:

      Eric 123 with 4 for most Gems and 5 for most Semi-Precious (tie)
      Evan 112 with 16 for most Aromatics
      Walt 101 with 3 for most Precious Metals
      Rich 96 with 6 for most Dyes and 5 for most Semi-Precious (tie)
      Dan 71

      Eric's rating: 5. Ars Mysteriorum is well-constructed, and the
      components fit the theme very well. On the other hand, it seems
      at this point that the number of cards you buy is such a critical
      element that missing a purchase is crippling and getting an extra
      purchase is a huge boon. I felt that my victory in this game was
      mainly due to a fortunate deal during the set-up. Further play
      may prove that balance is a lot better than I've suggested, but
      at this point I'm not sure what serves to offset this effect.

      Eric Brosius
    • J C Lawrence
      On Tue, 31 May 2005 01:35:31 -0000 ... We have come to prefer the version where the 10, 20, and 30 are among the nine cards removed. Those three known holes
      Message 2 of 2 , May 30, 2005
        On Tue, 31 May 2005 01:35:31 -0000
        brosiuse <public.brosius@...> wrote:

        > It might appear that you could just take cards one after another to
        > take full advantage of runs, but the nine cards removed from the deck
        > will work against you.

        We have come to prefer the version where the 10, 20, and 30 are among
        the nine cards removed. Those three known holes in the set make certain
        cards, like the 19 and 21, particularly delicious.

        J C Lawrence They said, "You have a blue guitar,
        ---------(*) You do not play things as they are."
        claw@... The man replied, "Things as they are
        http://www.kanga.nu/~claw/ Are changed upon the blue guitar."
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