|Mark Johnson has just published a series of recordings, giving his thoughts on various aspects of gaming and games he has played recently. There is an interesting outline of various play-by-web sites as well as his views on a few older games I’ve not played in a while, particularly Evergreen and Karawane. I hope he keeps recording these because I really enjoyed listening to them. Check it out at: Boardgames to Go.|
Players: John, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry
This week, we nearly ended up with seven players, which is an awkward number unless you split into two groups. Although Ian rang to say he wasn’t able to make it, John and I had sorted out a number of games that you could play with 7 or more. First up was this old game by Stefan Dorra about gambling dens and crooked cops. This was subsequently republished as Hickhack im Gackelwack in a slightly streamlined version. Razzia is set around six gamling dens and each round money is placed at each location for people to walk away with. Similar to Adel Verpflichtet, from which it is surely derived, players play a card face down and then reveal them simultaneously. The cards are either gamblers or policemen valued between 1 and 6. Solitary gamblers at a location take all the money they find there but, if more than one is present, a deal may be struck to split the spoils or aduel ensues. Policemen at the same location as one or more gamblers confiscate the money, with multiple policemen going through the same deal/duel process as the gamblers as necessary. Solitary policemen at a location go away empty-handed. Eac game turn proceeds in the same way until all the money has been won from the gambling dens. Whoever has accumulated the most cash wins. This is a very straightforward and fun game. The duels can be a good laugh especially if someone’s die-rolling skills are lacking and it doesn’t outlast its welcome at about 30 minutes game time. It is not, however, a deep, strategic game and some will not like it for that. Phil’s die rolling could do with some practice, which meant whenever someone had to propose a deal with him, it was a safe bet that being greedy was the best course because Phil would inevitably roll a 1 or a 2. In the end, I was surprised to find I had the most money to secure the win.
Result: Garry 375, John 330, Phil 275, Mark G 270, Mark K 250, Nige 190
Ratings: Garry 6, John 6, Phil 5, Mark G 6, Mark K 5, Nige 4
Players: John, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry
Next up was Masterpiece which I have not played in years. Nige has very fond memories of this and astounded us with his recollection of all the character names. This is a game about buying and selling works of art for a profit (hopefully). Players pieces move around the game board on the roll of a die and each space dictates what you do on that turn. These options range from collecting a sum of money from the bank (which Nige seemed very adept at doing), to buying a painting for a fixed sum of money from the bank or another player, to auctioning off a new painting or one owned by yourself, to selling a painting to the bank. Each painting has a concealed true worth, which only becomes known once you acquire the painting. Hopefully, you’ll find you paid less for it than its worth or you can persuade someone else to buy it to give you a profit or cut your loss. As the paintings circulate around the tables, the more you get to know or deduce about the paintings. The game ends once all the paintings in the bank have been sold or auctioned off, at which stage the true values of the paintings are converted to cash and whoever has the most money wins. Early in the game, no-one has any idea what the true values of most paintings are, so the auctions are a shot in the dark. Once paintings are changing hands for the second time, you are helped by the fact that the first owner is unlikely to let a painting be sold on for much less than its true worth and will push up the auction price and this is a nice mechanism particularly if you build in the possibility of out-bluffing others in the auction. Towards the end there was a battle royal over the Â£1m painting (there is only one) and Mark G managed to wrest it from Mark K and force him to accept a loss of about £300k. Nige, however, showed us all that he has a bit of the Lovejoy in him and emerged with a pretty comfortable win. What cannot go without mention though is the diabolical tactics of various players to gain a profit. Book-keeping is clearly not a strong-point in our club because all of us (I think) managed to try and swindle the bank at some stage in the game – albeit most of us claimed it to be unknowingly. However, John was the banker and the number of times we caught him putting money destined for the bank into his own stash suggests he is not as ‘Honest John’ as he would like us to believe. His ideas on making change for other players defied belief as he gratefully accepted a Â£1m note from Mark G and gave him two Â£50k notes in exchange. This blemish on his character will not be forgotten for many moons around these parts.
Result: Nige 3.7m, John 3.05m (probably incl. 100k-220k from the bank), Mark G 2.9m, Garry 2.5m, Phil 2.4m, Mark K 2.05m
Ratings: Nige 6, John 6, Mark G 8, Garry 5, Phil 5, Mark K 4
Players: John, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry
We just had time for one more game and both John and I had dug out Bang! so we decided to give it a second outing. The first time we played, I upset Sheriff Nige the Good by claiming a joint win as fellow outlaw (the Bad) to Mark K (the Ugly), even though I’d spent the latter stages of the game in Boot Hill. Even though it is 2 years since that game, the spectre of that fateful day returned as Sheriff Nige tried to clean up the town again. First turn, Nige shoots me, Mark G shoots me, I look for the target painted on my forehead. I manage to survive a few more rounds but failing to pick up a single Miss card meant my days were numbered. Oh well, Boot Hill was a familiar sight. Mark K was again an outlaw but this time a lot more dangerous as he thought he had mastered the use of dynamite. Fuse lit, he passed it onto Sheriff Nige. When Mark found it coming all the way round the table back to him, he must have heard my warning from beyond the grave to watch out as he panicked and it exploded in his face. He did manage to get rid of that cotton-pickin’ deputy Mark G before he bit the dust. Renegade Phil was next to fall which just left (Dis)honest John and Nige in the final showdown. Sadly for John, there is no money in this game for him to embezzle so Nige succeeded in blowing him away to give a win for the good guys. Hugely entertaining as it was last time, Phil was the only one who hadn’t played before and enjoyed it a lot.
Result: Sheriff Nige the Good, Dishonest John, Phil ‘im full o’ lead, Mark K the Ugly, Cotton-pickin’ Mark G, Garry the Unlucky
Ratings: Phil 7, others already rated
Players: Ian, John, Mark G, Mark K, Garry
Last time we played this was with just three players and we all enjoyed it very much. This time, we had five players and the game took quite a bit longer to complete, which reduced the enjoyment a bit. It was still good and I think the way the river moves is very clever. The current seemed a bit stronger on this occasion and it was certainly tougher to land your gems. Also with five players, there was much more likelihood of gems getting stolen from your boat. We had a few boats lost over the falls, including Mark K early on. Ian looked to be in a good position as did John at one stage. However, Mark K eventually timed a surge up river just right to steal two gems and nobody could stop him from landing them on the next turn.
Result: Mark K = winner
Ratings: Mark K 6, Ian 6, Others already rated
Ticket To Ride
Players: Ian, John, Mark G, Mark K, Garry
Another outing for last year’s Spiel des Jahres winner and I remain very impressed with this and will be interested to see how Ticket To Ride Europe changes things (Yes, Mark, apart from playing on a map of Europe!). This time, I kept two destination tickets which looked very easy to complete. My plan was to get them well on the way to completion and then go for some extra tickets. Things didn’t work out that way as one of my destination cities got completely surrounded by other players routes. Hmm! A guaranteed minus 8 points. I also stood no chance of competing for longest route as Ian, John and Mark G were trading blows in that contest. So I went for just completing 15 point routes and it nearly worked. However, I made the mistake of not blocking Mark K when I had an opportunity to do so. Serves me right then that he managed to beat me by a single point. However, things were extremely close between Ian, John, Mark K and myself. However, Mark K was able to claim his second win of the evening.
Result: Mark K 89, Garry 88, Ian 85, John 82, Mark G 61
Ratings: Ian 8, Others already rated
Players: Mark G, Nige, Mark K, Garry
I have been meaning to play this new game by Richard Breese ever since I got back from Essen but, each time I’ve tried going through the rules, I’ve hit some kind of mental block and got terribly confused. Eventually, however, I got the majority of it figured out and decided the best thing to do was go through the rule book in detail together with the game set up. This meant quite a while was spent understanding the rules before we got down to play. Once we started, the game took a bit under two hours, which seemed ok to me. Reef Encounter is set on four rocks under the ocean. Players collect polyp tiles and play them in groups to form corals. These corals can then be expanded and, when sufficiently large, can be removed to feed your parrot fish (who likes to eat lots of coral along with the shrimps that settle on them). At the end of the game, all the polyp tiles your parrot fish has eaten get valued and the person whose parrot fish has consumed the highest value of polyp tiles wins. The value of the polyp tiles is determined by the battle for supremacy between the different types of coral. Space on the rocks is limited and, as corals expand, spaces occupied by weaker coral can be taken over by an expanding stronger coral, providing the weaker coral is not protected by a shrimp. The relative strength of the corals is shown on a display at the side of the board and this can change as the game progresses. However, players can also lock down a relationship between a pair of corals and this adds to the value of the stronger coral at the end of the game. The more of these relationships that are in the favour of corals you are feeding to your parrot fish the better. The game ends in a number of ways but normally by all ten coral relationships having been locked down or by one player’s parrot fish having been fed for a fourth time. There is lots to think about in this game but, although I understand why I had difficulty with the rules, it is not too complex. Nige was very single-minded in his approach to the game. He tried to lock down the orange coral’s superiority as often as he could and get orange polyps into his parrot fish. It nearly worked but the rest of us eventually slowed orange’s advance. I managed to establish 2 corals on the same rock and give myself room to expand one of these while protecting it from potential attack with the other. This enabled me to give my parrot fish a feast of white polyps. Mark K seemed to be building some nice positions and I felt the sooner the game ended, the better my chances. I was uncertain whether Nige’s orange was too strong but opted anyway to lock down the final coral relationship in white’s favour and end the game the next turn, taking a chunk out of Mark G’s orange coral at the same time. This just gave me enough to win but it was very close and everyone was in with a chance. Although there were some nice ideas in the game and we did, generally, enjoy it, we felt there was a bit of downtime between turns with little opportunity to assess what your best move would be until it came round to you again. This brought the ratings down just a shade but we may have to try again to see whether this changes now we know what’s going on a bit better. Result: Garry 18, Nige 16, Mark K 15, Mark G 14 Ratings: Garry 7, Nige 7, Mark K 7, Mark G 5 <strong>Gracias</strong> Players: Mark G, Nige, Mark K, Garry We just had time for a short card game so decided on this new release from Alan Moon and Richard Borg and published by Ravensburger. The game is played over a number of scoring rounds. The rules say 3 but we played 4 to match the number of players involved. In each round, there are a number of sub-rounds equal to the number of players. Cards are laid out in groups of three, two face up and one face down, with the number of groups equal to the number of players. On his turn, the player takes a group of three cards, examines the face down card and keeps this together with one of the face up cards. He then passes the remaining face up card to any of his opponents. Once everyone has selected a group, the next sub-round starts with new cards being dealt and the player to the left of the previous start player selecting the first group of three. Once the round is finished, scoring takes place. Each group of five or more cards in a particular colour is separated out and is worth 1 point. The player with the most cards remaining in each colour then has to discard those cards and then every card remaining on the table is worth 1 point each. Whoever has accumulated the most points after the final round is the winner. This is very simple and very quick. The choices are straightforward but the best play is not obvious due to the face-down cards people have collected. I quite liked it but it sits alongside a lot of other fillers I am quite happy to play at the end of an evening. Nige had a poor start but scored 11 points in the third round to share the lead with Mark K at that stage. The fourth round couldn’t separate them so they had to settle for a shared win. Nige was happy with that as he is looking for any wins he can muster at the moment.
Result: Nige=Mark K 20, Mark G=Garry 16
Ratings: Nige 5, Mark K 6, Mark G 6, Garry 6
Players: Mark K, Nige, Chris, Garry
Amazonas is the latest game to be released by Stefan Dorra and is published by Kosmos. The game is set on a map of the Amazon basin and players are attempting to travel from village to village to set up research stations on five types of research project. You also have a secret goal of reaching four particular villages dotted around the map. Points are awarded during the game for setting up a research station on each of the five projects and at the end of the game for those projects where you have set up research stations in at least three villages. If you have not visited your four secret destinations, you lose three VPs for each village you missed. The game lasts 18 rounds and at the beginning of each round a special event card is revealed. Some of these have positive and some negative effects for the current round. Players then simultaneously select an income card for the round (there are 7 of these and you play a different one each round, only getting all the cards back after rounds 7 and 14). The income number also dictates turn order. Once these are revealed, players collect their income and have the opportunity to spend this to build research stations in turn order. The first research station in a village is cheaper to build than subsequent ones and each village is only able to support 2 or 3 stations. Turn order can, therefore, be quite important in preserving cash, especially as cash is very tight. Often, all you can do is collect income without building and there aren’t that many turns to achieve all you would like to achieve. In our game, we thought 18 turns would take some while to complete but the game flew by, taking us just about an hour. We were all wary of our destination cards and tended to spread ourselves across the map pretty quickly. I made the mistake of placing my initial village between two of my secret destinations and then not linking into them straight away. Consequently, others got in there before me and meant it cost me more than would otherwise have been the case. There is also a dilemna between concentrating on one or two project types to boost income during the game and establishing a presence in all five projects. Mark K and Nige both went down the specialised route and this worked well for them. Chris managed to block both me and Mark K at key times and this meant Mark K only managed to connect to his final secret location on his very last turn. This proved crucial and gave him the victory. We all enjoyed this, Nige especially, as it is quite tactical but turns are short and there is very little downtime. Good stuff.
Result: Mark K 14, Nige 11, Garry 8, Chris 8
Ratings: Mark K 7, Nige 8, Garry 7, Chris 6
King Arthur – Das Kartenspiel
Players: Mark K, Nige, Garry
King Arthur – the card game is a new release by Reiner Knizia and Ravensburger and is about knights of the round table going on various quests. Basically, you are collecting knight cards of particular colours in order to defeat and collect enemy cards which, in turn, can be combined with other enemy cards to satisfy the conditions for completing one of the 13 available quest cards. The advanced version of the game, which we played, adds a couple of twists in determining when enemy cards become available for use on the quests, but it remains a fairly easy game to explain and play. Once all but one of the quests has been completed, the game ends and players receive points for the quest and enemy cards they have collected. Most points wins. This was a fairly light game with pretty obvious choices to be made. Watching what enemy cards other people are collecting is important to make sure they are not going to complete the quest you are working on before you do. The luck in drawing “double” and “Merlin” cards also plays a part in helping you achieve your goals but, as it is clearly aimed as a simple family game, it didn’t seem overpowering. Mark K managed his hand the best to come out with the victory. We all thought the game to be ok for what it is meant to be and the theme is nice, but it is not going to set the world alight.
Result: Mark K 55, Garry 47, Nige 42
Ratings: Mark K 6, Garry 6, Nige 6
Players: Mark K, Nige, Garry
Finally, I managed to get to try out Fairy Tale, a game by Japanese company Yuhodo and designed by Satoshi Nakamura. This is an interesting game of drafting and playing cards over four rounds. In each round, players are dealt a hand of 5 cards. They select one card to keep and pass the remainder to the player on their left. That player selects a card and returns three to the original player. This is repeated but with the player on the right and the final card is kept by the original player. From the five cards collected, players choose one simultaneously and these are revealed with any actions specified on the card being implemented immediately. This is repeated twice further, with the two unplayed cards then being discarded. Cards played stay in front of you but through the card actions may end up face-up or face-down by the end of the game. After the fourth round, face down cards at that point do not score and face up ones are totalled to give your score, highest score wins. This is an interesting game where you try to accumulate combinations of cards that give high scores, while messing with other players’ plans. The difficulty we had was with the card explanations, which I managed to print off in such small type-face that Nige couldn’t read much of it – it’s his age, you know. The cards have icons which help to decrypt the meaning but it did take a little while to work it all out. That said, by the end of the game we had just about got it sussed so it shouldn’t present a problem in future. Choosing what to keep and what to pass on was interesting. On one occasion, I had to keep a card that was of no use to me merely because it would have made a huge difference to Nige’s score. However, you can afford to do this because, of the five cards you pick, you only get to play 3 of them, so 2 spoilers is ok. Having overcome the icon problems, I quite liked this and would like to try it with a full compliment of five players so all the cards are used. It is pretty quick once you get into the game and is a bit different to a lot of games we play at the end of an evening. Oh, and I won so that brought the evening to a nice close (although Nige might not agree).
Result: Garry 50, Mark K=Nige 45
Ratings: Garry 7, Mark K 6, Nige 7