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SOG SR: 10/17 in Westford

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  • Josh Bluestein
    We had six people in attendance in Westford last night: Mike, Lowell, Evan, Jeff F, Jeff M and myself. Lowell and Mike were the first to arrive, and we started
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 18, 2005
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      We had six people in attendance in Westford last night: Mike, Lowell,
      Evan, Jeff F, Jeff M and myself.

      Lowell and Mike were the first to arrive, and we started a quick game
      of Familienbande. Evan showed up just as we were getting started so
      we quickly dealt him in as well.

      Familienbande is fun and light, without too much
      control...particularly with four players. That said, there are still
      things you shouldn't do, like set up a triple gene card to be played
      as a fifth-generation descendant. I did that, and as a result Mike
      scored 30 points that he would otherwise not have had, giving him the
      clear victory. Meanwhile, a shortage of lips left me in fifth place
      (yes, behind the color nobody was playing, also.)

      Since we were six at this point but unsure if anyone else was coming,
      we played a few fast six-player games. Jeff M. brought Tutankhamen,
      so we started with that. This is a set collection game. There are 15
      sets of tiles, five different pictures in three different colors, with
      set sizes ranging from 1 to 8. They're all laid out in a long,
      snaking path that ends at a pyramid. On your turn, you can move
      forward (only) along the path as far as you want and take the tile you
      stop on. When all the tiles in a set are claimed or abandoned,
      scoring takes place. First place gets the set size in points, second
      place gets half the set size. Ties are unfriendly -- so two or more
      players tied for first each get half points.

      There are a few special wild and trading tiles, but that's pretty
      much the whole game. It didn't really do much for me...I think the
      endgame is a little weird...I was placed into a kingmaking position
      between Mike and Jeff M. and ended up giving the game to Jeff.
      (Although, to be fair, I didn't fully consider the implications of my
      move until Mike so kindly pointed them out to me. Such is life.)

      Our last six-player game was Lucky Loop. This is another game that
      plays better with fewer players, but it's still quite fun with six
      (just a little on the long side). Lowell managed some very impressive
      flights and was first to finish his free flight plan. Even chose a
      very aggressive free flight plan and successfully completed it. We
      had his score as passing Lowell's, but it struck me later that we
      forgot to cancel Evan's lowest flight plan to make up for it. Still,
      I think his jump in points was high enough that he would have won in
      any case.

      At this point, Lowell headed home and the rest of us played a game of
      Vino. This is the game of buying vineyards and selling wine...in
      order to buy more vineyards. The victory condition is 'most
      vineyards', so it's actually very important that you not lose sight of
      that fact. (Keep that in mind.)

      So, the board is made up of nine regions of Italy, each of which has
      between 3 and 21 vineyards. Additionally, there are five varieties of
      wine, and each region is capable of producing between two and five
      different varieties.

      Gameplay is straightforward: players simultaneously select two
      regions they wish to buy vineyards in, and then all take turns buying
      vineyards. In each region, preference is given to whoever is already
      invested in that region, with preference being given to the player who
      is most invested. Once all invested players have had their chance,
      anyone who wants to buy new vineyards may do so. You do this through
      all nine regions.

      Then, in turn order, each player has a chance to sell wine. The
      amount of wine you can sell is based on the number of vineyards of a
      given variety you control. The amount you sell has positive effects
      (money) and negative effects (drives the price of your variety down
      and other prices up, and you must give up a number of vineyards when
      you sell). Timing your sales and choosing which vineyards to
      surrender can be very important.

      The game offers a partial catch-up mechanism in the form of turn
      order, which gives first go in the following turn to whoever made the
      least money in the previous turn. However, there is no catch-up on
      the matter of buying vineyards, which is of course the whole point of
      the game.

      Our game was pretty closely fought. Each of us made some good initial
      investments, building up good supplies. However, I made some errors
      in choosing where to chase vineyards and as a result ended up having a
      hard time breaking into some of the larger regions -- they all filled
      up before I got a chance to get into them. As a result, I finished
      with a rather disappointing 19 vineyards. Evan was the winner with (I
      believe) 25, with Mike at 24 and Jeff F. at 22. Jeff M. was down at
      14, having made a few significant errors in choosing which vineyards
      to buy and which to surrender.

      At this point, Jeff F. headed home and we decided to play Nexus Ops.
      This is one that I had been interested in trying, as I have an
      unopened copy sitting in my closet. Jeff brought his along, and we
      gave it a try.

      The game is pretty simple, mechanically. All players have the same
      resources to draw on -- they can build Human Guys, Fungoid Guys,
      Crystalline Guys, Spider Guys, Lava Guys and Dragon Guys. (These may
      not be the official names, but they're close enough.) Each creature
      has its own special set of abilities, but most of these are pretty
      easy to handle.

      What you're trying to do is earn victory points. Victory points come
      from Battle Cards (which you get for initiating and winning a combat)
      and Secret Mission Cards (which you get to draw one of at the end of
      each of your turns). Battle Cards are each worth a point, and Secret
      Mission cards are worth between one and four points (I believe), with
      such requirements as "Win a Combat on a Rock Plains (2 points, played
      instead of a Battle Card)", or "Kill a creature in combat with a
      Dragon (1 point)".

      There is also a third set of cards called Energize cards. You get
      Energize cards in two ways:

      1) Every time you lose a combat on another player's turn, you draw an
      Energize card.

      2) There is a monolith in the center of the board. If you control
      the monolith at the end of your turn, you get two Energize cards.

      Energize cards are very useful cards in all sorts of
      situations...bonus movements, bonus creatures, combat advantages,
      etc.

      So that's pretty much the game. You're searching for mines,
      exploiting them for resources, using the resources to build more
      creatures, and using the creatures to go beat up the other players'
      creatures. Combat is very simple, a bunch of dice-rolling.

      It was reasonably fun. As first player, I had the advantage of being
      able to get up on top of the monolith first, and I was able to hold
      that position relatively unchallenged for several turns. The extra
      Energize cards I managed from that were very useful, and in fact I
      managed to win this one. I was spending a lot of time trying to
      satisfy Secret Mission cards, which is good and valuable, but
      eventually I realized that I was better off just initiating several
      unbalanced combats and taking single point cards. Evan made a good
      push in the final round, but he would have needed everything to go
      exactly right for him...which it didn't.

      So I enjoyed the game. I am not sure it's something I'm going to be
      wanting to play all that often...but every now and again is fine. The
      plastic figures are cool. All in all, not bad.

      It did take a while to play -- 2.5 hours, which is a lot more than I
      expected. I hope it would be a lot faster in future plays, though.

      And that was it for the night.

      Josh
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