Saturday, November 26
Post-CON catchup report
James was very interested to see what we brought back with us from Dallas. At one of the recent SoCalGamesDays he and I had started (almost) playing Attika, but only made it so far as to get through all the rules and be ready to go before James’s eye was caught by Mark Johnson's son, Sam, setting up the StarWars Attacktics miniatures which brought our game to a screeching halt. We never did get back to Attika that day, but James noted on the way home that he still wanted to try it, so upon seeing it a the CON flea market, I picked it up. James was excited to see me pull it out of my bag when we got home and unpacked and eagerly asked to play the first night he didn’t have homework. We got in a quick game which I ended up winning by building all my buildings. I got lucky on a couple of my draw sequences and crowded James out of some of the territory he was saving around his city tile. James is studying ancient Greece in school right now so he enjoyed the theme more in this playing than the first time I explained the rules to him. He wants a rematch.
My rating: 7 (with two players)
We also walked through a game of Land Unter, just the two of us, with a dummy had for the third player. We only played one hand and James won. I came in third, behind the dummy. Humbling. In Land Unter (aka Turn the Tide) each player gets a hand of 12 cards which have values from 1 to 60 and a rating of 0, 1/2 , or 1 life preservers (difficulty rating. The mid value cards (mid 20s to mid 30s) have full life preservers, the next +/- 10 cards higher and lower have ½ life preserver, and the highest and lowest cards have no life preservers). Each player then gets one life preserver card for each full life preserver from the sum of their hand. There is a second deck of 24 flood-level cards which has cards numbered from 1 to 12 (twice) which are shuffled and two cards are turned face-up. Players then simultaneously play a card from their hand with the player playing the highest card taking the lowest of the 2 face up flood-level cards and the next highest player takes the other card. Then the player with the highest valued floor-level card loses one life preserver card from their stock. Players each set aside the cards played from their hand in individual discard piles. Also, players retain their collected flood-level cards in personal piles so the top card is showing for each player, because in future rounds their card may still be the highest and they would then lose another life preserver. Play continues with 2 new water level cards being turned over and each player simultaneously playing a card from their hand and collecting flood-level cards for highest and second highest value played, then the player with the highest flood-level card showing discards a life preserver. If a player is forced to turn over a life preserver but has none left, they have gone bust and are temporarily out of the game. That player turns over their cards and the new highest flood-level card owner loses a life preserver. This continues until either all 12 hands are played or only two players are left in the game. At this point each player receives one point for each remaining life preserver and eliminated players get –1 point plus the player with the lowest flood level card face up gets a bonus point (both players get the bonus if tied). Players then pass their hand of 12 cards plus their respective life preservers to the player to the left and the game repeats itself until each player has had a turn playing each hand. Whoever plays the collective hands the most effectively is the winner. Now, our play hardly constituted a playing of the game but it allowed us to see how things played out and made us eager to get a real game of it going soon. The aspect of the game which led me to purchase it was the fact that each player played the same hands throughout the course of the game. This seemed like an interesting approach to add information to the game as it progresses and players learn the contents of the other hands through repetition. It seems that this would fill later hands with strategic guessing and second guessing what others would play. I wanted the German version because of the artwork, which I find rather humorous. I’ll report back once we have played a few times and I can comment on how my expectations were met/dashed.
James and I went to the local GamesGathering in La Cañada on the weekend of the 12th. We only attended for the afternoon, yet still got in a number of shorter games. We started with Carcassonne: The City. Now James isn’t a big fan of the Carcassonne series (his favorite it H&G) but he was willing to give it a shot anyway. In comparison to the game Maria and I played earlier, the walls were more contested, with James setting up some scoring sequences which netted him some big points. I ended up with the lead due to the (farmer equivalent ?) scoring at the end of the game. I’m still not impressed enough with this one to pick it up though I want to find what others see in it. If given the chance I’ll play a few more times before passing completely.
Next up we grabbed a copy of Tsuro, which has impressive component artwork. The player pawns are quite nice too (even if they are plastic, they are well formed with an ergonomic tactility about them. The game feels much like Metro, in that you are playing tiles that form movement networks and are trying to be the last man standing on the board by driving your opponents off the edges. Gameplay is simple: draw a tile, select a tile from your hand of 3 and play it to the space ahead of your own pawn, move all pawns to the end of their paths. The rules about the dragon card were very confusing (There are clarifications on the Geek) so I just skipped over them as from what I could gather they weren’t going to apply to a two player game. The decision to be made each turn is rather simple (‘which tile will keep me the most alive’) and is repeated each turn. That said the simplicity of the game is nice for a lighter game, though not one I’d want to play regularly. I got myself worked into a corner late in the game and found myself with no options other than crash and burn. James outlasted me for the win.
We then joined Mark Johnson for a game of the original Entdecker, which I commented on earlier during my BBG.CON blog report. James certainly enjoys this title. I’ve had my eye out for a copy of the original but haven’t purchased yet. During our game, the winner of the Saint Petersburg tournament was announced and was followed by a prize drawing. These GamesGatherings have the best odds for prize draws, it’s great. There were approximately 30 attendees at the event at the time of the drawing with 5 prizes to choose from: Descent: the Dark Ages, Ra, Diamant, Einfach Genial, and Parthenon. When we walked in I spied the table and thought I wouldn’t mind picking up either Diamant or Parthenon, both of which I knew James would like and Reanna would likely go for Diamant. Well, it turns out I was the last lucky winner and Diamant was left just for me. Lucky Day!
James was then eager to get a game of his current favorite Evo onto the table. We found two willing opponents to join in and after a brief explanation of the rules we were off. While, Evo has a theme of dinosaur evolution and migration, the mechanics of the game make it a fairly dry area majority game for some. James however fully enjoys the theme and has developed a winning strategy with this one. His aggressive bidding seems reckless at times, but since he is undefeated, on can hardly challenge his approach, which is partial to the development of horns, feet and egg laying. In the final turn of our game, one of our opponents played an action card that precluded the play of any further action cards that round. I had an action card that granted me two additional mutation (victory) points at the end of the game. We decided since my opponent precluded the playing of any further action cards that round, that I couldn’t play my card, which snatched a come from behind victory from my grasp.
My rating: 7
We finished our day with a game of San Juan. One of our opponents went for the church early and consistently stashed cards into the church for points, The other was clearly going for the Guild Hall, (and did build it in the end) with lots of production buildings giving him the clear win. James got shut out of the big buildings but still scored well, surpassing me in last place. I built the library early and was hoping for better than last with it, but could only come up with the triumphal arch and then only had one statue to support its score. My worst showing in San Juan, but still fun. Scores were 24, 28. 30. 36.
My rating: 8 (still a favorite, despite my play)
Once we got home I opened up Diamant and retrieved the rules from The BoardGameGeek, as the supplied rules are in French German and Italian, but not English (I wonder if this was intentionally done in hopes of selling English distribution rights later?).
Diamnat is a simple, press your luck game in the vein of Can’t Stop and is a big hit with Reanna. Players represent miners collecting gems from 5 different mines. All the miners head into the mine together and work cooperatively to collect gems, dividing them equally among all present and leaving any extra on the ground. Ocassionally dangers are encountered which may stir fear in some of the miners who may opt to escape from the mine (and thoughtfully pick up the gems left behind on the way out) rather than continue mining in the increasingly dangerous conditions. As soon as a single danger strikes twice, all remaining miners are incapacitated and unable to escape the mine with their loot. Only those that sensibly left earlier have anything to show for their days work. After the fifth mine collected gems are tallied and the winner determned. Since winning my copy, this has been the most played game in our home, especially because it is so quick, which means we can get a game or two in on school nights after dinner.
At the beginning of the game, each player is given a mine cart and a wooden miner. The cart is assembled out of very thick cardboard with graphics that make me think of early California orange crates more than mine carts.(The slightly oversized box leaves room for the carts to remain assembled after play.) The deck of cards consists of cards numbered between 1 and 17 (with at least 11 repeated twice. I’ll have to look closer at the rest of the card distribution) and also includes a number of mine disasters (3 of each of 5 types: scorpions, snakes, rock slide, explosion, and poison gas). The numbered cards represent the number of gems discovered in the mine at that location. The deck is shuffled thoroughly and placed face down on the table. Each turn the top card is turned face up and if it is a number card, gems are distributed equally among all players with the remainder being left on the card. Players then simultaneously vote whether they are staying in the mine or running out by a closed fist vote: if the player’s hand contains their miner they are continuing on, it empty they opt to flee to see another day. The fleeing players get to keep all the gems that have been given to them through earlier divisions of the stake, plus these players equally divide amongst themselves and keep any gems picked up on the way out (if only one player flees, they get all the gems to themselves). The other players gems remain outside of their cart and are only added to their cart once they too opt to flee. Fleeing players are out for the remainder of the current mine. The remaining players await the risks of the next card, which is flipped over, either revealing a danger of more gems. The alternating voting then flipping continues until either all miners have fled the mine or two matching dangers are revealed (in which case the remaining players are trapped and lose their loot). Each mine is played out in a similar manner and at the end the winner is the player that has banked the most gems.
Sometimes it is surprising how fast those dangers stack up. In about half our games it seems we have one mine that closes out without revealing any gem cards. The odds seem against this happening though others I am sure are better poised to explain otherwise. Equally surprising are the mines that seem to go on forever. These wild swings of possibilities make for all the momentary angst in deciding ‘should I stay or should I go now.’ True it is very light angst, but fun none the less, especially for my kids, which makes it all the more fun for me!
My Rating: 8, a great filler that even plays great with the kids.
In my next post, I’ll expand upon our recent game session with Rogan and Sue, in which I got caught in a surprise ending at Power Grid and Reanna showed us she could hold her own in Traumfabrik.