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RE: [trivalleygamers] Roll Call - 29 December

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  • Sterling
    I will be there. ... From: Richard Pardoe [mailto:RPardoe@pacbell.net] Sent: Sunday, December 26, 2004 4:16 PM To: TriValley Gamers (E-mail) Subject:
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 27, 2004
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      I will be there.

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Richard Pardoe [mailto:RPardoe@...]
      Sent: Sunday, December 26, 2004 4:16 PM
      To: TriValley Gamers (E-mail)
      Subject: [trivalleygamers] Roll Call - 29 December


      Happy Boxing Day to the list.

      Speaking of boxes, who is interested opening some game boxes this
      Wednesday, 29 December? We can try out our latest acquisitions or
      perhaps someone is looking for one last chance to get that final game
      (or games) crossed of the "must play in 2004" list. Who's interested?

      Time: 6:30 pm ~ 9:00 (or so)
      Location: Rich's House in San Ramon

      Please RSVP to the list so we can have a headcount to help decide
      games.
      If anyone needs directions, please respond off-list and I will make
      sure you get a copy.

      Rich





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    • Dave Wilson
      ... I ll be there, with a small collection of new games. Dave Wilson
      Message 2 of 5 , Dec 27, 2004
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        --- In trivalleygamers@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Pardoe" <RPardoe@p...> wrote:
        > Speaking of boxes, who is interested opening some game boxes this
        > Wednesday, 29 December? We can try out our latest acquisitions or
        > perhaps someone is looking for one last chance to get that final game
        > (or games) crossed of the "must play in 2004" list. Who's interested?


        I'll be there, with a small collection of new games.

        Dave Wilson
      • Richard Pardoe
        Lawrence arrived a bit earlier than Dave and Sterling so Rich suggest a quick game of 10 DAYS IN THE USA. No sooner had the rules explanation finished with
        Message 3 of 5 , Dec 30, 2004
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          Lawrence arrived a bit earlier than Dave and Sterling so Rich suggest
          a quick game of 10 DAYS IN THE USA. No sooner had the rules
          explanation finished with Dave and Sterling were both at the door and
          the 2 player game turned into a 4-player game.

          The basic mechanism of this game is very similar to 10 Days in Africa
          which was detailed as part of our June 14 session report:
          http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/trivalleygamers/message/590 The
          only new addition is Alaska and Hawai'i which don't border any other
          state. Instead they are given their own unique colour (purple) and
          may be used to complete a valid air travel leg. In other words, a
          pink state and a pink airplane may connect to Hawai'i or Alaska.
          Leaving the state is a similar air travel leg and need not be the same
          color as the arriving leg.

          With everyone's itinerary hidden, it is hard to take meaningful
          gameplay notes, but several differences are evident in the game
          compared to a 2-player game. The first obvious change is that each
          state has only a single tile and now there are 3 other players
          (instead of just 1) competing for valid states. In addition, the
          face-up discard pile will often be markedly different when play
          returns to a player with 3 discards usually covering up quite a few of
          the desired discards. In a 2-player game, one can discard a tile and
          draw it again in an attempt to move the tile in one's rack. That is
          much more difficult to do with more players.

          Also, with more competition for states, the completed legs are less
          likely to feature adjacent states. Much easier to utilize cars and
          airplanes to connect states than to wait for the 1 perfect tile.
          Tonight's winner was the player most experienced with the 10 Days
          series and that would be Dave. In fact, Dave finished his route
          before the draw pile was exhausted. I was a bit surprised as I had
          thought with 4 players that we might have to go through the draw pile
          at least once. And as indicated earlier, Dave's 10 tiles did feature
          3 airplanes and 1 car to help him travel through his 6 states.

          The game play is certainly different with four compared to two, but on
          the positive side, the game was still over in about 20 minutes. So
          the 10 Days series of games (or more properly, the Rack-O variants)
          continue to serve as a nice quick filler to start a gaming session
          while waiting for others.

          *****

          For selecting our main game of the evening, quite a few recent
          acquisitions came up for vote, and the initial winner was actually the
          oldest of the games suggested: TONGA BONGA (1998). Each player is a
          ship-owner hoping to maximize their profits by sending one's ships to
          visit 4 of the 5 other islands located around Tonga Bonga. The game
          ends when the first ship to visit the 4 other islands returns to Tonga
          Bonga, the winner is not the fastest ship, but the richest player.

          Each turn consists of 4 phases. In the first phase, each player offer
          wages to hire a captain and a first-mate for their ship. They will
          also provide room and board (but no wages) for a cabin boy. In the
          second phase, each player allocates their seamen to the other ships as
          one cannot staff one's own ship. The seamen are dice that are rolled.
          Each play having 3 dice and the pips showing on the die contribute to
          the movement points for the ship that die is assigned to. As a
          result, the maximum possible movement for a ship would be 5 pips for
          the captain, 5 pips for the first-mate, and 5 pips for the cabin boy
          for a total of 15. One would usually want to provide the high pips to
          the ship paying the highest wages. As a wrinkle, the face that should
          contain 6 pips actually contains a sea-sick sailor who doesn't get
          assigned to any ship, so a ship might have a very small movement also.
          So in order to get somewhere quickly, one has to pay more wages, but
          don't forget that it is money (not speed) that determines the winner.
          The dice are assigned to the ship in rank order. After the initial
          die is placed on the captain's space, an equal or higher die will
          replace the previous captain (moving it down to first mate).

          The third phase is actually moving the ships. Movement is over a
          simple rectilinear grid with each square costing 1 point to enter.
          While 2 ships can't end a turn in the same square, it is possible to
          move through another ship for a cost of 3 points. If during movement,
          a ship enters the bay of one of the other 5 islands, the ship's owner
          can place a camp on the island (gaining 25 ducats in return).
          However, for every other camp already on the island, the ship's owner
          must play the other player's 5 ducats. So the first person to settle
          an island makes more money than the subsequent visitors.

          The final phase is to collect the die (and wages assigned to the die).
          The start player shifts one turn around the table the process repeated
          until a ship returns to Tonga Bonga. Any player doing this gets 10
          additional ducats as a reward.

          With the rules explained, the 4 ship's set sail. Rich's first 2 turns
          saw hardly any movement as Rich got a 4 on the first turn and only 2
          dice on the second turn to barely creep close to the nearest Island
          Cocoa. Lawrence has raced out of port to get close to Cocoa on his
          first turn, and then set up camps on both Cocoa and Samboa on his
          second turn. Dave managed to get to Bigboa by his second turn while
          Sterling followed Lawrence to Samboa. Rich's rickety ship continued
          in the 3rd turn as again only 2 dice were offered up for Rich's wages
          while the other ship's managed to get good staff's and decent moves.
          Rich responded by increasing his wages on offer to attract better
          crews. The delay had the start had one advantage as Rich's ship
          sailed practically alone through the islands. The other three players
          all found themselves adjacent to each other trying to reach Mamboa.

          In a bit of creative play, Dave offered a higher salary for his first
          mate than for the captain. His strategy worked as he did have a 5 for
          the captain's slot, and could attract a 4 that would normally have
          been placed on another ship for a decent movement allowance. However
          continuing the strategy for a second turn wasn't as fruitful as a 3
          was placed on the captain's spot (hoping to be moved down by higher
          rolls from other players). Instead, the other players had 1's and 2's
          that could be nicely placed on the first mate (as they did not outrank
          the 3) on Dave's ship for decent wages.

          Sterling had the fastest ship and was paying handsome rewards to get
          the fastest crews. There was some attempt by Rich and Lawrence to
          slow Sterling down by giving him low pips in an effort to buy more
          time to place more camps. After Sterling had placed his last camp, he
          offered 10 ducats for captain and 5 ducats for first mate to get
          sufficient points to return to Tonga Bonga. Rich still had 1 camp to
          place. Lawrence's fast start had slowed down as he had only placed
          one additional camp after his rapid 2 camp deployment. Dave was
          second behind Sterling (I didn't record whether he had his forth camp
          placed prior to the last turn or not). Dave knew he couldn't return
          to Tonga Bonga in time, so offered only minimum wage for his ships - 1
          ducat each for captain and first mate. Sterling sailed into Tonga
          Bonga to gain his 10 ducat advantage. Rich did place his 4th camp,
          but had to pay 5 ducats to each of the other 3 players for a net gain
          of only 10 ducats. When the final wages were collected....Rich had
          104 ducats, Lawrence had 109 ducats, Sterling had 124 ducats, and Dave
          had 129 ducats. So while Sterling was fasted, it was Dave that picks
          up the win by conserving cash right at the end.

          Comments around the table after the game indicated that most enjoyed
          the game. It is a bit of a light dicefest, but does offer some
          interesting balancing mechanisms. Certainly income is gained from
          camps, so getting camps established is necessary to win, but as our
          game has shown, one does not need to be the fastest to accomplish this
          task.

          *****

          With about an hour left, we went for one of Dave's new acquisitions:
          GARTEN-ZWERGE e.V. (The Garden Gnome Society) which was just released
          at Essen of this (soon to be last) year. Each player starts with a
          pair of "lowly" gnomes, one brown and one orange and attempts to breed
          them to higher quality gnomes (red, blue, green, and finally gold).
          The first person to get a gold gnome (or 4000 petals cash) is the
          winner.

          On a player's turn, they must decide how to utilize their gnomes.
          They can be sent to work in the garden to generate 50 petals of
          income. They might be sold for cash with higher value gnomes netting
          more cash. But most often, they will either be offered as a mate for
          breeding (the owner wants cash) or the owner will request a mate (the
          owner wants the offspring gnome and will pay cash). If all this
          sounds like dog-breeding, it is said that this was the original theme
          and the game's mechanics make a lot more sense under that theme.
          Especially as another activity is to enter the dog, err gnome, into a
          competition for cash. Finally, two like coloured gnomes can be
          exchanged for 1 of the next higher colour gnome. At the end of a
          turn, the players must pay 100 petals per gnome for upkeep and
          maintenance.

          Every player starts with identical holdings, so there is a semi-random
          start and the choices become a bit more varied from Turn 2 forwards.
          As an example, in Turn 1, both Rich and Sterling managed to breed red
          gnomes from their orange gnomes while Dave could only throw lower
          quality brown gnome. Lawrence did get a cash infusion by sharing
          first place with an out-of-town gnome in the competition event.

          Sterling seemed to get the good breeding results all game long. He
          rarely, if ever bred a lower colour gnome. For example, in the third
          turn, he managed to breed a blue gnome from his red gnome and then in
          his next turn a green gnome (2 level upgrade) from his red gnome.
          Dave seemed to be keeping pace. When he couldn't get the breeding
          upgrade, he at least would get a similar level gnome and could then
          exchange 2 gnomes for 1 higher gnome. Rich and Lawrence however
          seemed to run into money troubles. Money is tight in the game, but
          perhaps we weren't fairly evaluating the gnome's values in our bidding
          rounds.

          We did make 1 mistake...below the brown gnome there is a lazy gray
          gnome. Lawrence was the unfortunate soul who bred this lazy gnome.
          The gnome does cost 100 petals in maintenance, but can't be utilized
          for any activity as they are very lazy. We did allow the gnome to be
          used as breeding stock. The online rules do indicate that all they
          can do is be sold for 0 petals, no other activity is permitted.

          Sterling was treasurer (lead player) for many rounds as he had the
          highest ranked gnome collection that eventually had 2 blues and 1
          green. As the 2 blues could be converted to 1 green in 1 turn and the
          resulting green combined with the original green to make gold in a
          subsequent turn, Sterling was at most 2 turns from the end. Dave at
          this point had 1 green gnome and went looking for a mate especially as
          the "special event" - the offspring will not be lower than the highest
          colour of the parents was in effect. Breeding the green might get a
          gold gnome, but would be no worse than a green gnome which could be
          converted to gold 1 turn earlier than Sterling's. With Dave on the
          brink of winning, Sterling made a last ditch effort to match Dave. He
          breed his blue and his green gnome. The odds of getting a gold gnome
          are 1/9 for the blue gnome and 1/3 for the green gnome.

          Sterling's breeding success continued as he got the gold gnome from
          the blue (longer odds) gnome. The green gnome yielded another green.
          So in the end, both Dave and Sterling had gold gnomes and the winner
          was determined by the best gnome collection excluding the gold gnomes.
          Sterling's 2 green, 2 blue, and 1 orange gnomes bettered Dave's 3 red
          gnomes as Sterling had the highest level gnome (green). For the
          completeness, Rich ended with 2 blue and 1 orange while Lawrence had 1
          green, 1 blue, and 1 red. Interestingly, the cash on hand showed that
          the leaders (Dave/Sterling) were cash poor (Dave with 100 petals,
          Sterling with 200 petals) while the followers (Rich/Lawrence) were
          cash rich (Rich with 1300 petals, Lawrence with 2000 petals). For the
          game's situation, Dave/Sterling did the right thing by converting
          their cash into breeding opportunities and chances for the gold
          gnomes. While Rich/Lawrence struggled with cash early in the game,
          they probably let their breeding stock go too cheaply gaining some
          cash, but not enough to get close to the alternative victory condition
          of 4000 petals. So as a learning game, I wonder if we undervalued
          the gnome breeding value a bit. Repeated playings might change the
          perceived value of breeding stock.

          The game did play a bit longer than expected with rules explanation,
          but another factor perhaps is that offspring gnomes and competitions
          are held by drawing a card (or cards) from a designated stack of 9
          cards. If multiple players are breeding red gnomes, the red stack
          must be shuffled after each draw to keep the odds consistent. This
          constant shuffling of decks does add a bit to the gameplay. We
          wondered if the 10 sided die (with 0 counting for re-rolls) and a
          look-up table could serve the same function and be just a bit easier
          on game play.

          As can be surmised there is a fair bit of luck involved in the game.
          The results of competitions and of breeding are all luck driven. Not
          mentioned above is that there is a bidding aspect to the game also
          when offering/requesting a mate. When offering one's gnome for stud
          service, the owner will blind bid a reserve price and the players will
          offer a price they will pay for the gnome. The winner of this auction
          is the player bidding the most above the reserved price gets the gnome
          to partner with one of his while giving the original player cash.
          When requesting a mate, the bidding process is a bit reversed. The
          owner will bid a maximal price. The winner of this auction is the
          player offering the least amount of cash under the maximal price.

          One thing we did not do (but which the rules do allow) is to
          offer/request a mate with stipulations such as looking for at least a
          red cap gnome or that the winning player's next gnome must enter a
          competition. This might change some of the dynamic of the game as
          this might make bids a bit more or less valuable depending on the
          stipulations.

          In the end, this is an interesting game with that plays relatively
          quickly. It can accomodate up to 6 people which makes it a nice
          addition for larger groups looking for a quick game that is a bit on
          the lighter side.
        • David Wilson
          On Thursday, December 30, 2004, at 12:39 AM, Richard Pardoe wrote: (regarding 10 Days in the USA...) ... Not only that, but two of those planes went to and
          Message 4 of 5 , Dec 30, 2004
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            On Thursday, December 30, 2004, at 12:39 AM, Richard Pardoe wrote:
            (regarding 10 Days in the USA...)
            > And as indicated earlier, Dave's 10 tiles did
            > feature
            > 3 airplanes and 1 car to help him travel through his 6 states.

            Not only that, but two of those planes went to and from Alaska. I do
            think one of the keys of the game is to set yourself up with as many
            "outs" (to borrow a poker term) as possible. When I drew my winning
            tile, I was set up so that I could win if I drew Montana, Nebraska,
            Minnesota (all green states bordering South Dakota) or a blue plane (to
            get from Alaska to Wyoming, which I had next to the South Dakota tile).
            Now, that's not always easy, but sometimes you have to try something
            else to make it work.

            (regarding Tonga Bonga...)
            > So while Sterling was fasted, it was Dave
            > that picks
            > up the win by conserving cash right at the end.

            I had only placed three camps when Sterling reached Tonga Bonga and
            ended the game. And you're right, deciding that I couldn't make it,
            and trying to spend the minimum to sail that round was a big bonus for
            me, netting me 18 ducats, if I recall correctly. It was nice to
            discover that winning the race wasn't a guarantee of winning the game;
            I wonder now, if winning the race might make it harder to win the game?

            (regarding Garden Gnome Society...)
            > One thing we did not do (but which the rules do allow) is to
            > offer/request a mate with stipulations such as looking for at least a
            > red cap gnome or that the winning player's next gnome must enter a
            > competition. This might change some of the dynamic of the game as
            > this might make bids a bit more or less valuable depending on the
            > stipulations.

            Once again, I explain only 90% of the game. Sigh. Sorry, gang. And I
            apologize as well about the gray gnome snafu. Anyway, yes, it did
            strike me as a game with a lot of randomness, but the odds are
            constant, so at least you understand that and can make decisions based
            on that. Also, it's not so long a game that dealing with probabilities
            becomes annoying (compare this with Killer Bunnies and the Quest for
            the Magic Carrot, for instance, which can become a long, take-that kind
            of a game that ends on a random draw). As for the blind bidding for
            stud services, there *is* a variant published in PDF format on the
            publisher's website:
            http://argentum-verlag.de/download/GartenzwergeFreiesBietenEnglisch.pdf

            It introduces a more free-wheeling auction format. It's something to
            consider. Still, I enjoyed it the way we played.
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