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Session report for Wednesday, Nov 4

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  • Dave Wilson
    Sterling and Rich dropped in on Dave on Wednesday for some three-player gaming action. Actually, Sterling arrived a little early, so we broke out a newish
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2004
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      Sterling and Rich dropped in on Dave on Wednesday for some three-player gaming
      action. Actually, Sterling arrived a little early, so we broke out a newish game to pass
      the time until Rich arrived. Dave chose Familienbande.

      Familienbande is a game about heredity (the name translates to "Family Ties"). Most
      of the game is in the cards, which have pictures of various people and symbols
      indicating which of the five traits they possess: large ears, large lips, curly hair, a
      large nose, or eyeglasses. Each card will have three symbols, but they need not be
      unique: one can have two nose symbols and a lips symbol, for example. Each player
      will draw one of these traits secretly and at random, and their objective will be to
      score the most points for that trait. Three cards are set out in the first generation,
      and players are dealt five cards each, at which point the game begins. On their turn a
      player may do one of three things: do nothing, and draw a card; or marry off one of
      their cards, and draw a card; or play a descendant to a lower generation, and *not*
      draw a card. For a marriage to be valid, there must be one male and one female
      character. For a descendant to be valid, there must be some couple in the preceding
      generation that has among its six trait symbols all three of the descendant's symbols.
      Playing a descendant causes a scoring: Each trait symbol on that descendant scores
      points equal to the generation number. So an eyeglasses symbol in the third
      generation scores three points, while two lips symbols on a descendant in the fourth
      generation would score eight points (2x4). Each generation can hold only one more
      character than the generation preceding it, and there are five generations total. When
      the fifth generation is full (the seventh descendant is placed), the game ends. Each
      player reveals the trait they were championing, and then loses points for any cards
      left in their hand. The trait with the most points by this time is the winner.

      It started pretty even, with all colors getting off the blocks. The eyeglasses did start
      stretching out to an early lead, but both the big nose and the red hair started gaining
      ground. As for the actual people, well, the first generation got married off entirely.
      The fourth generation appeared, though, before the second filled, and in fact the
      second never did -- it was removed by the filling of the third generation. Toward the
      latter stages of the game marriages were hard to come by, because the singles in
      both the third and fourth generations were all males, and apparently we only had
      males in our hands as well. Gradually the fifth generation started being filled in, and
      they sported lots of full lips, curls, and eyeglasses. Apparently big ears were totally
      out of fashion, as they definitely trailed in the scoring. Dave finally finished the game
      by playing the seventh descendant in the fifth generation. At this point eyeglasses
      were doing the best, with 64 points. We then revealed our traits: Dave was those
      eyeglasses, and Sterling was the curls (though Dave thought for most of the game
      that he was the full lips!). Dave's one card in hand lost him one point, and Sterling's
      two cards lost him three points, resulting in this final score: Eyeglasses (Dave): 63,
      Curls (Sterling): 54, Lips: 54, Nose: 39, Ears: 32, and giving Dave the win.

      Rich had arrived by this time, and was watching the last five or ten minutes of the
      game, but once we finished, we set out our nominees for the main course: Einfach
      Genial, Canyon (with the Grand Canyon expansion), and Carcassonne (with the
      Cathars expansion: check out http://www.brettboard.dk/cgi-bin2/
      webdata_game.pl?cgifunction=form&fid=1094216883 for more info). The votes were
      cast, and the winner, 11-8-8, was Einfach Genial.

      Einfach Genial is an abstract game of laying tiles, similar to dominoes. The tiles are
      two hexes stuck together (kind of like non-round figure eights). Each of the hex
      sections have one of six symbols. Players each play one tile on their turn and then
      scores it. To score, start from one of the symbols, count each contiguous matching
      symbol radiating from that symbol, and then do it for the other symbol as well.
      Players maintain scores for each symbol separately, so it's possible to have different
      scores for the blue star and the purple ring. If your score in a color reaches 18, you
      have made a Genial!, and get to play another tile immediately. The game ends when
      no more tiles can be placed on the board, and the winner is the player whose last
      place color has the highest score (for example, a score of 18-18-16-13-12-5 would
      lose to a score of 14-12-12-11-10-8, because 5 is less than 8).

      Sterling started quickly with orange, shooting it quickly to 9 points. On his board,
      that meant that red suffered, as it did on Rich's board. Dave tended to play more
      even scoring, and was the first to have points in all six colors, with his green score
      last. Gradually the board filled in, with Dave scoring well in yellow, and Sterling in
      orange. Interestingly enough, though, the first Genial was in neither of these colors.
      One section of the board expanded greatly in both green and blue, and all three
      players rode it. Sterling first reached 18 in green. Shortly thereafter both Rich and
      Sterling reached 18 in blue. Meanwhile, red and purple were slowly being locked out.
      And as it turned out, these would end up being the last place colors for the players.
      Dave blocked a juicy red portion, denying Rich a chance to advance his sixth place
      score. But Rich returned the favor, by blocking out purple, which was the sixth place
      color for both Dave and Sterling. Finally Dave reached 18 in blue, and was able to use
      his second placement to play the last tile and fill the board. Looking at the final
      scores, we saw that Rich's lowest score was 8 in red. Dave was only able to advance
      his purple 5 spaces. Sterling, however, had reached 9 with his sixth-place purple,
      which meant that he won. Einfach Genial!

      Well, this turned out to be a pretty quick game, so we looked again to our initial vote.
      We added a third game, St. Petersburg, and revoted, and this time the winner was

      Canyon is a melding of a card game with a race game. The card game is an Oh Hell
      variant: five suits numbered 1-10, deal out cards and turn the next one over to
      determine trump, then declare how many tricks you'll take, and then play the hand.
      At the end of the hand, your score determines your token's movement along the
      canyon waterway: you move one space per trick taken, plus a bonus if you took
      exactly as many tricks as you bid. The course goes around a hairpin and then
      through rapids to the finish line. The rapids alter movement some: you only move
      the bonus if you make your bid, and if you miss your bid your only movement is one
      space of drift toward the waterfall! The first player to reach the finish line wins.

      We also added the Grand Canyon expansion, which is a set of eight cards that give
      special powers to the players. We decided to deal three such cards out each hand,
      and have each player choose one for that hand, before dealing and playing. The
      powers include things like pushing other tokens, swapping out two cards for two new
      ones, deciding how many cards will be dealt for that hand, etc.

      The start was unusual. It was an eight card hand, and no one made their bid. Rich
      and Dave both wound up overbidding, as Sterling had lots of trump cards. Sterling,
      being last to bid, wound up underbidding. He still took five tricks, so shot out to an
      early lead. Dave took nothing, and didn't leave the starting line. After this, though,
      things began to normalize some, and Dave and Rich started closing the gap with
      Sterling. In the fourth hand (five cards), Sterling not only missed his bid, but took no
      tricks, meaning he stayed put. Dave managed to move to a spot next to Sterling,
      which wound up trapping Rich behind them. Unfortunately, Rich was scheduled to
      move first next turn, and he'd have nowhere to go!

      In that fifth hand (four cards), Dave made a bid of three, letting him move six spaces,
      and giving him a lead. Sterling made his one, so moved half as far. On the next turn
      Dave moved into the rapids, and was able to put logs in Sterling's way, slowing him
      down some. That also opened up the opportunity for Rich, who roared back, using
      his special ability to push Sterling out of the way and take second.

      On his first turn in the rapids Dave drifted, missing his bid. The second hand saw
      him making his bid and moving two as Rich joined him in the rapids by taking five
      tricks! Next turn, and Dave drifts again, Rich doesn't, and Sterling finally enters the

      On this next turn Dave had the ability to determine how many cards to deal. He was
      also start player, meaning he had to bid first, and lead to the first trick. He set the
      hand to 2, and was able to make a bid of 1 (as was Rich), to set themselves up 1-2
      away from the finish line. The final hand was a one card hand, and Rich had to bid
      first. Now, this can be a precarious position, if you are dealt a low, non-trump card.
      Might someone have a higher card in that suit? Maybe they have trump? Maybe
      not?!? But Rich's decision was made for him. He was dealt a red 10. The trump
      color? Red! That's an easy 1 bid. Everyone else bid 0, and everyone made their bid.
      Dave and Rich both reached the finish line at the same time, and both used up all
      their movement points to do it. So we went to the next tiebreaker: size of bid.
      Rich's 1 bid was bigger than Dave's 0 bid, meaning that Rich had won!

      Wow. We still had time. It had to be quick, but we had time. We brought out five
      possibilities. Three were vetoed quickly, leaving two. We finally ended up going with
      a little game from Adlung-spiele, called Zauberschwert & Drachenei (Magic Sword and
      Dragon Egg)

      In this game the players are wizards competing for powerstones (victory points).
      They do so by competing for two adventures each round. The adventures can be
      monsters, which are defeated by magic points, or spells, or special places. Special
      places confer good things, like artifacts, or magic points, or powerstones, and are
      shared equally by all who go there. If two or more want a spell, an auction occurs,
      with the currency being magic points, and the player willing to pay the most gets the
      spell. The monsters are defeated by a number of magic points specific to that
      monster. If one wizard takes it on, and has the magic points to win, he gets a good
      sized reward, typically of artifacts and/or powerstones. If multiple wizards try to take
      it on, they have two choices: they can agree to fight together, in which case they split
      the magic point cost of the monster (rounding up), and then earn some lesser amount
      of reward. But if even one wizard wants to go it alone, then they must compete for
      the right to take out the monster, via an auction. Again, the currency is magic points,
      and the miniimum bid is the strength of the monster. Artifacts are either one-card or
      two-card items that increase the rewards for defeating specific monsters (matching
      symbols on the artifact cards and the monster cards). When there are no longer
      adventures to make a full slate of two for a round the game ends, and the player with
      the most powerstones wins.

      The game started with Rich taking a spell and Dave and Sterling sharing a monster.
      In fact, in the early game there was a lot of cooperation in taking out the monsters.
      Rich gained a spell to improve his take from visiting the EnergyBall. Dave got a similar
      spell for the Holy Place. Sterling got himself a nice spell, which let him steal one
      magic point from anyone who had more powerstones than him. After the first few
      turns Rich had established a lead in powerstones, and held it for the first half of the
      game, which made him Sterling's preferred target for magicpoint theft.

      More spells came out, and Dave got "Addus", which gave him an extra magic point
      each turn. Powerstone scores stayed static relative to each other as they all increase
      roughly the same amounts. Gradually the artifacts came out: Dave had a bunch of
      one-card artifacts, and later on got out a Magic Sword. Sterling, too, had some one
      card artifacts. Rich wasn't doing as well in artifacts -- presumably related to his
      powerstone lead?

      The late game approached, and the dragons started appearing. Again, Dave did a lot
      of sharing of dragons, attempting to gain powerstones and still not completely
      deplete his magic point totals. It helped that some of those dragons matched his
      artifacts, giving him the extra magic points he'd need. The last energy ball appeared
      on the second-to-last turn, and both Rich and Sterling visited there, while Dave
      instead took on the 10 point dragon alone. He was able to dispatch it, but it left him
      with only 9 magic points for the last turn. Rich and Sterling both had more (12 and
      14, respectively, as I recall), as the last two adventures came out -- an 8 point dragon
      and a 12 point dragon. Dave played on the 12 point dragon, Rich played on the 8,
      and Sterling also played on the 8. Here he forced the auction, the only one all game,
      and outbid Rich for the dragon. It gave him 31 powerstones total at games end. Rich
      had 28. But Dave also had 31! So we went to the tiebreaker for the second time
      tonight. In this game it was remaining magic points. Dave had been unable to defeat
      his dragon, so he retained his 9 magic points, while Sterling had spent nearly all of
      his on the final battle with Rich, leaving him with one point, meaning that by virtue of
      the tiebreaker, Dave had won.

      The game went a little longer than we thought, but we had fun with it and all of the
      games played. Everyone won at least once, and two of them were close enough to
      need the tiebreaker. It was a pretty good session, and I look forward to the next one.
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