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Session Report: BLAH III, August 2

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  • AndAgainMA@aol.com
    BLAH III: August 2, 2000 Present: Alison, David, Craig, Tamara, Andrew (host, and your humble scribe). Played: Taj Mahal, Union Pacific, Fluxx. We missed
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 2, 2000
      BLAH III: August 2, 2000

      Present: Alison, David, Craig, Tamara, Andrew (host, and your humble scribe).

      Played: Taj Mahal, Union Pacific, Fluxx.

      We missed Jonathan, a founder member of BLAH who had a chess engagement this
      Wednesday. We were glad to welcome Craig to what we hope will be his first of
      many Wednesday evenings with us. Alison and David provided fine games and
      clear explanations of them. And we were delighted that Tamara was healthy
      enough to return to the gaming table. She thanked those present for having
      signed her "Get Well" card, and I'm sure she'd want me to pass on those
      thanks to those who signed at SSG on Saturday, but weren't at BLAH III. As
      you will see, her return to the table was a victorious one.

      Taj Mahal

      This highly-rated Knizia game has been near the top of my list to learn for
      some time now. Knowing that it is Alison's favorite game, I asked her to
      bring it along. She did, it was the first game out, and I was not
      disappointed with it. Looking back, I am disappointed with the way I played
      it, but that is entirely my fault.

      I started wisely enough, withdrawing from competition for the first of the
      twelve provinces in order to improve my hand. But, To quote Greg Schloesser
      quoting Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold
      'em!" and I didn't until the game was more than half over. I got into a few
      bidding wars in which I had enough elephants to be dangerous, but not enough
      to win. Tamara benefited greatly from this. She had learned well from her one
      previous game of Taj, and quickly became the leader of a strung-out field.

      Could Craig catch her? This question remained open, at least to me, until the
      very end. Then we saw that Tamara had a good finishing hand (that is, one
      with a long suit) and thus was able to hold on for the win.

      As for me, I never really established momentum in any of the point-scoring
      elements of the game. I can understand what Tamara said after her first play
      of Taj Mahal: ok, now I get it, and I want to play again.

      And I certainly do want to play again. This is a fascinating combination of
      card play and board play. As I have come to expect from Knizia, every turn
      reminds me that "Saying yes to one thing is saying no to another." In fact,
      that may well be the single sentence that best summarizes the games played at
      BLAH III.

      Score: Tamara 38, Craig 35, Alison 32, Andrew 26, David 19.

      Ratings: Tamara 9, Craig 10, Alison 10, Andrew 8.5, David 6.5.

      Union Pacific

      At the same time that I asked Alison to bring Taj, I also asked her to bring
      Union Pacific. I knew it was another of her favorites. I knew that David
      rates it highly (compared with anything but Robo Rally), so adding it to the
      game pile increased the chances that he would join us again. And, it was yet
      another game that I wanted to learn.

      Again, this is a game of hard choices. Build track for a railroad, or invest
      in one or two railroads? You can't build and invest in the same turn. If you
      build, you will be helping other players who invest in the railroad you
      extend. If you invest, you miss opportunities, including the opportunity to
      enhance your investment.

      There is a lot of "luck of the draw" in this game. Yet David was winning from
      the start, and had a crushing lead at the end, so I credit him with a
      skill-driven victory. He beat me for major shareholder in the Union Pacific
      railroad. He scored well from coming second to me in ownership of the red
      railroad, which I spent many of my turns building up.

      One of the things I like about this Alan Moon game involves luck, or at least
      chance. You cannot be sure when scores will be counted. Do you play it safe
      and invest in a railroad or two now? Or do you extend a railroad in which you
      hope you will still have a point-scoring stake when scoring time arrives? It
      was probably due to this element of luck that I finished behind only one of
      the five players (David, of course).
      Score: David 122, Andrew 90, Craig 82, Alison 79, Tamara 72.
      Ratings: David 9, Andrew 8, Craig 7, Alison 10, Tamara 6.5.


      At around 10:15, Craig headed home, I organized more refreshments, and the
      other three agreed on Fluxx. It was a good choice of closing game. This is a
      chaotic card game: even the rules are in flux. There are cards that change
      the rules, cards that change the victory condition… and then there are the
      really chaotic cards! When I looked at the box and saw that the game was
      designed by someone called (Andrew) Looney, I thought that it was only

      David won the first hand, due, he was honest enough to admit, to the luck of
      the draw. But when he won the second and third hands, it was clear that luck
      was not the only factor at work. Congratulations to David on following his
      Union Pacific win with three consecutive victorious hands of Fluxx.

      We decided to have one last hand, partly because that would mean that we had
      all dealt one hand, partly (all right, mainly) so that someone other than
      David would win a hand. And destiny made it so. A wildly improbably sequence
      of events led to a win by Alison.

      Score: David won three hands, Alison won one hand.

      Ratings: David 7, Alison 8.5, Tamara 6.5, Andrew 8.

      It bears pointing out that Tamara loved the game, and seemed determined to
      buy it, while we were playing, but gave it a less than stellar rating after
      she went winless in four hands. I, on the other hand, nobly gave this
      volatile game the high rating it deserves, even though I didn't win a hand.

      Midnight Musings

      The session finished at about the same time as BLAH I and II, shy of the
      witching hour, but by less than half an hour.
      As the above results show, only Craig and I went winless, and Craig had the
      excuse that he had to head home after Union Pacific. I'd like to think that
      my winless state was due to my generosity as a host, rather than to my
      incompetence as a gamer, but I can't be sure of that.

      I'll post a revised version of this report on my web site within the next few
      days. Please feel free to send comments, corrections, etc.
    • Dave Bernazzani
      ... Great report Andrew. We ll yet convert Craig to a UP fan! hehehe... Really it s a game with lots of luck in the draw of stocks and track - but there is
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 4, 2000
        AndAgainMA@... wrote:

        >BLAH III: August 2, 2000
        >Present: Alison, David, Craig, Tamara, Andrew (host, and your humble scribe).

        Great report Andrew. We'll yet convert Craig to a UP fan!
        hehehe... Really it's a game with lots of luck in the draw of
        stocks and track - but there is quite a bit you can do in the
        meantime to plan within the framework of the game and maximize
        your chances to win. Yes, you need some good cards, but during
        the game you will get opportunities to advance under your own
        power of choices. A very fine game!

        Dave Bernazzani
        http://www.gis.net/~dber (South Shore Gamers)
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