Sunday, October 9
Rumis is a 3 dimensional puzzle played on a playing board which defines the boundaries and height limitations for playing stones. The stones are 3D tetris-like pieces. Each player has a common set of 10 stones and the players take turns placing their stones on the board with the objective of maximizing the visibility of their color visible when viewed from above. All stones must be played adjacent to other placed stones and the stones of one color must always be played such that they touch their color. Rogan (blue), Sue (red), and I (green) played the board titled Coricancha, which forms a ziggurat. I played first with an L shaped piece along the midpoint of one edge. Sue mirrored my move on one side and Rogan followed with a similar move on the other. I struggled up the middle of the board and eventually broke free on the far edge and gained some ground for myself, but both Rogan and Sue grabbed corner territories on either side of me. Rogan was more expansionist in his approach, going for the 1 and 2 height limit edges, while Sue staked out her territory and defended it at the edges by building to the height limitations to prevent intruders. In the end, this proved to be a winning strategy, as Sue successfully played all her pieces and maintained a large footprint while Rogan and I were left holding unplayable stones. Final scores: Sue 22 points, Rogan 21-2=19, Jeff 19-1=18.
Jeff: Rumis is a great simple game. The task at hand is simple in concept but one that I still seem to struggle with. I know what I am supposed to do but just can't execute. It plays fast amnd I am always willing to play.
My Rating: 8
Next up was Clocktowers by Allen Moon and Aaron Weissblum, where players compete to build the most clock towers before the cards run out. Towers consist of three components: tower floors, a clock, and a roof, each represented by cards. The tower cards are one or two floors tall and the roofs come in five different colors. Some of the tower floors and clocks are also inhabited by mice or cats, which determine the scoring for completed towers. Card-play is simple: starting with a hand of three cards, players play a card onto an existing tower or start a new one (or discard) and then draw a new card to retain a hand of three cards. The card drawn is from a choice of three face up card stacks: a roof, a clock, or a floor card. A completed tower consists of a number of floors topped with a clock and a colored roof. The first completed tower in each color can only be a one or two floor tower and each subsequent tower built in that color by any player must be one floor higher than the previous. Tower building continues until all cards are played or discarded and the towers are scored. 5 points are awarded for animal free towers, 4 points for towers with cats, 3 points with cast and mice, and 2 points with only mice. Tower heights do not impact scores but do come into play in tie-breaker situations. In our construction efforts, Maria diversified early by starting multiple towers bases with hopes of completing them as needed. Sue and I played a similar game but only had three towers going to Maria's four. Rogan had three towers going, but overbuilt in height which left him waiting to close one tower. Tower floors ran out first and everyone had unfinished towers to try and close as the other piles ran dry. In the final turn Maria Sue and I all had one tower to cap. Mine required Maria to cap her three high tower in blue and for Sue not to follow with her four high in blue. Luckily that is how the cards fell and I completed my final tower and squeaked out the win. In the end our scores were: Jeff 11 with 3 towers (5+3+3), Maria 10 with 3 towers (4+3+3), Sue 8 with 2 towers (5+3), and Rogan 6 with 2 towers (3+3).
Jeff: Clocktowers seems to play best with two or three but even then the successful draw of animal-free cards seems to be key to scoring well. The only real card management to the game is watching and anticipating the roof colors being built to successfully complete your own. Expanding bases and drawing non mouse/cat cards are also notable. As past experiences with fewer players have been more enjoyable, I think we will only pull this one out with three or fewer from now on. Even then it remains a very light game, good for a quick fix.
My Rating: 5 with 4 players, strong 6 with 2.
San Juan is a card game derivation of its predecessor Puerto Rico (a game we should to play again soon as it's been too long). Like Puerto Rico it uses a mechanic of role selection whereby the role selected determines the action all players take on the turn plus it grants a special privilege to the player selecting the role. The twist that San Juan brings to the game is in the way the cards serve multiple functions simultaneously: as the currency, the buildings, the plantation crop, and in the case of the chapel, as victory points. This provides a certain novel efficiency to the game as an object and impact gameplay by inducing (some say limited) hand management angst as to build one building in your hand you have to use some of the other cards in your hand to pay for the one you build (card are both buildings and money) The buildings impart different privileges depending on the role in effect and over time as you build more they begin to shape your strategy as certain roles become more desirable for you due to the added building privileges.
James, a real fan of 2 player San Juan, joined us for this one as Maria had to run out briefly. James and I both built Libraries early, but couldn't build fast enough to catch Rogan who quickly churned out lots of smaller purple buildings which were enhanced by his City Hall. Sue had 4 production building and the Guild Hall plus the quarry and smithy to reduce building costs but also missed a few builds and was behind Rogan as well. James built both the Guild Hall and City Hall, which didn't perform as well together as his purple building count was lowered by his production buildings.
Rogan 20 buildings + 1 Chapel + 10 City Hall = 31
Jeff 24 buildings + 3 Chapel = 27
Sue 18 buildings + 8 Guild Hall = 26
James 13 buildings + 5 City Hall + 8 Guild Hall = 26
Jeff: I really enjoy San Juan and appreciate the multiple roles the cards play in the game. Compared to San Juan, Puerto Rico's colonist management begins to feel a bit fiddly. It scales well from two to four players and at the casual frequency that we play games offers plenty of strategic options in discovering new building combinations that work well together.
My Rating: A solid 8
We then moved on to the Egyptian themed game, Ra by Reiner Knizia. Ra is all auction, but with a few Reiner twists. In Ra players are trying to collect sets of tiles which score varying point values depending on the tile combinations collected. On a player's turn they have the choice of adding a tile to the pot or starting an auction. Tiles are won at auction with each player bidding once (a once-around auction). The bid amount that a player can bid are fixed by the 3 small wooden sun tablets which each player has. These tablets are numbered between 1 and 13 (for four players) and are divided equitably at the beginning of the game. The game begins with the '1' tablet in the 'pot' and the high bidder of the first auction exchanges their winning tablet bid for the '1' (and all subsequent auctions do the same, exchanging the winning tablet for the one in the pot) The beauty of the games comes in how those mechanics interact to create dynamic auction situations in which both the relative value of a single set of tiles and the bid ability of each player varies and must be considered when deciding whether to add to the pot or start an auction. In our game Sue threatened to pull away with an early collection of monuments and a strength in Pharaohs but Rogan crept up and won with 7 different monuments and one 3 of a kind set plus the high sun bonus with 33 sun points. Sue finished 6 different monuments and one 3 of a kind set plus the low sun penalty with 14 sun points, Jeff also received the low sun penalty. Maria and Jeff just couldn't get the monuments needed to stay in the running for the final epoch scoring. The gods were with Rogan as he ran the board and got a full tile set before Ra invoked the end of the round. In the next round Sue and I were left holding the bag as Ra came fast and early leaving each of us with an unused sun tablet. scores: Rogan 37, Sue 34, Jeff 28, Maria 27.
Jeff: Ra is becoming our favorite game (It's the first game that we played two sessions in a row). It plays relatively quickly, presents dynamic bidding situations which turn to raw gambling when playing solo against the Ra tiles, and provides a variety of scoring options, with bid optimizing balanced by luck of the draw ...all beautifully blended together. This game was won by monuments, which are probably important in nearly every win but I think the essence of game is knowing when to call RA to induce an auction.
We capped off the night with a quick game of Wolfgang Kramer's 6 Nimmt republished recently with a hurricane theme as Category 5. Played with a deck of cards numbered from 1 to 104 and starting with a hand of 10 cards players select and simultaneously reveal one card each turn. The cards are each added to one of four rows in numerical rank. Each row has a capacity of 5 cards. If an added card pushes the row to six cards the player that played the offending card takes the previous five cards as negative points. If a card is played with a number lower than the last card in each row, the player may select which row they take in penalty. Play continues until all 10 cards are played, then penalty points (represented as from 1 to 7 hurricane warning flags on each card) are tallies and a new round is begun. Play continues until a player's penalty score exceeds 66 points, at which point the low player wins. Our game went five rounds, with each player having one round in which they collected 20 points or more. Maria and I each had an early round of 0 points. Rogan made a big recovery late in the game with two back to back single digit scores, but it wasn't enough. End of round two scores were: Rogan 42, Sue 26, Jeff 15, Maria 11. Our final scores: Jeff 53, Maria 58, Rogan 62, Sue 71. (We played with the original 6 Nimmt end game scoring of 66 or more. Category 5 officially ends at a score of 74, the wind speed at which a tropical storm becomes a hurricane.)
Jeff: 6 Nimmt is a great quick casual game with repeated mini-dilemmas of which card to play to avoid taking a column. For all its simplicity there doesn't seem to be a winning strategy. In fact, the only constant in 6 Nimmt is that there is no constant winning strategy. It's too chaotic for a consistent strategy, yet always feels like you have some control...but it's only fleeting control. Do you play high or low cards early or both? It depends on the other players. I think it's best with 5 or 6 players, where all rows have the potential to fill on a single turn and there are still enough cards missing to keep you guessing. With many more several rows can switch out in a single turn and things get even more unpredictable, or at least a different kind of unpredictability. I guess I prefer the creeping angst that fewer players provide. That said 4 players is great too.
My Rating: A very strong 7