RE: [trivalleygamers] Roll Call - 29 December
- I will be there.
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
If anyone needs directions, please respond off-list and I will make
sure you get a copy.
Yahoo! Groups Links
- --- In email@example.com, "Richard Pardoe" <RPardoe@p...> wrote:
> Speaking of boxes, who is interested opening some game boxes thisI'll be there, with a small collection of new games.
> 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?
- 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:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
> 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
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
It introduces a more free-wheeling auction format. It's something to
consider. Still, I enjoyed it the way we played.