December 27, 2006

Participants: Jon, Adam, Elijah, Zack, Rachel A

Snow fell in Jerusalem. Not in any great quantity, but even a few flurries are enough to create panic on the roads and send people running to and fro. This havoc caused a number of people to have to skip the game club this evening. We had also been hoping for Nadine to return, but she had just come back from California, so we excuse her.


Jon, Elijah

I had an idea for another prototype which sounded good on paper; I wanted to test the basic mechanics. It didn't work out so well. Back to the drawing board, again.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Zack+, Adam

Adam lost as dark to Elijah's light. It was only his second play, so he is also excused. I'm just in an excusing mood, I guess.


Zack 103, Elijah 93, Adam 89, Jon 81

Or something like that.

This is the last of the new games I got for Hanukkah. It looked like a really good game and I was eager to try it out. It is by Wolfgang Kramer, of El Grande fame. This is obvious when you get to the scoring, as he always seems to use the same scoring mechanism (area control, ties push everyone down a level).

My first impressions with the game were very good, with one major exception.

The games is 2 to 6 players, which is great. Of course, a lot of games are supposedly 2 to 6 players, but 5 or 6 players means 4 hours of pain while 2 players means some other pretend version of the game entirely. We played with 4 players, so we can't really know.

The game is essentially an area control game. There are twelve areas on the board, 2 each of 6 types. Each player starts off as a race that is restricted from some areas, able to move in others, spontaneously generate in others, and actually kill in others. During the game you can upgrade your abilities in each type of area, so that an area you were formerly forbidden to enter you could then migrate into, and then generate, and so on.

You start off with a number of meeples on the board. Each round you get to do two actions and auction off a third. This last mechanic was transparently added to give people something to do during other player's turns because otherwise there is no other interaction on other player's turns. Luckily, unless you've never played before, or you're playing with high-AP players, most turns will move fairly quickly.

The actions you can do on your turn are based on selecting cards from a hand of 10 cards. These include: do something in one of the areas (what you can in an area do is based on your race/progression chart), upgrade your progression chart, acquire one of the bonus cards, or play some other card that has text on it. After your turn, you draw back up to ten cards. You are rarely unable to do just about anything you want (which is probably not good).

If you are the one to place the last meeple in a previously uncompleted area, you score some points. The fourth, eighth, and last time this happens, there is a general scoring across the entire board based on area control, but which also includes: most meeples on the board, most progression, most bonus cards, and most cash. I like the additional scoring possibilities as it adds greatly to the possible strategies that you can try.

If someone runs out of meeples to place, the game also ends with a final grand scoring.

That's the bulk of the rules. Not having access to an area is tough, and having "migrate" only access is also pretty tough, because you have to have someone near an area to start with in order to migrate into it. Strangely, to breed in an area you don't need anyone nearby - spontaneous generation, apparently. And the same for attacking, which you can only do if the area is already full. When you attack, you simply remove one of the enemy meeples from the game and replace it with yours.

The results is a lively, interesting game that is area-control, but more than that. Some intense fighting for areas, and the care you have to use to figure out if someone is going to end the game or get to a scoring round, or if you should, make for fun play. Because you are dependent on what others do, however, with six people the game will probably be unmanageable.

Problems: There is one overriding horrible problem with the game, from my first play experience, and that is the bonus cards. These cards are hugely beneficial, but that's not the problem. If the one you want isn't available you take it from the opponent who has the highest score who has one; that's not a game problem, but it is a conceptual problem, because it makes no sense. If I want to acquire intelligence, I take it from you and you're no longer intelligent? Huh?

But that's still not the worst of it. The big big problem with it is that two of the cards: Intelligence and Agression, give you free actions, and you can use these free actions on the turn that you acquire them. Since you always replenish your hand back up to 10 cards at the end of your turn, anyway, this means that it is essentially a free action to take this card from an opponent. Which means that it is a no-brainer that is always done every round by every player and continues to be done until some unlucky chap runs out of cards that let him steal the bonus card. Boy, is that a bad mechanic.

The question, assuming that we played correctly, is how to fix it. For my part, I would be happy to dispense with the Intelligence and Aggresion cards altogether. I think that they're simply bad cards. I would, instead, provide some other cards in their place so that the entire bonus card mechanic doesn't need to be scrapped.

A second problem, which may not really be a problem, is the essential tit-for-tat game play. I kill one your yours, you kill one of mine, I kill one of yours, .... etc. back and forth without any real progress. This doesn't give the game much of a progressive feel, more like a continuing stasis feel, like what I felt about Nexus Ops.

Thirdly, and similarly, since there are 6 small territories and 6 large territories, the small ones are all filled almost immediately, rushing past the first major scoring, and then the rest of the game goes slowly since no one wants to make it easy for someone else to fill any of the large areas.

Lastly, the cad that let's you draw money seems a bit overpowered, but I am reserving judgment on it.

What is good about the game definitely outweighs this, after one play. Although this is an area control game, points come from all different directions and finding the right strategy is a good struggle. Although in my element, I did not get any sort of grasp about how to proceed until the last third of the game. Which is why I caught up from down 50 points going into the last scoring to only down 30.

I very much look forward to trying it again.

In our game, I was Snake, Adam Crocodile, Zack Mammoth, and Elijah Human. That put Adam and me in general proximity to start with. I quickly dominated a small desert and kept it the entire game, and then adapted my way into the mountains in order to chase Zack who was clearly winning even early on. Adam and Elijah were stuck more in the middle, competing for second place.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 64, Jon 63, Adam 61

Adam insisted on playing with the regular set of buildings, so the only changes we made were the increased utility for Hospice. We had planned to switch the costs of University and Factory as well, but both Adam and I forgot about that when we bought them.

Rachel started off with strong shipping and decided to follow through on that with massive shipping, acquiring Hospice and eventually Custom's House and not much else. I had a monopoly on Tobacco for most of the game (Rachel and Adam both had coffee), so was able to trade it a few times and also block off the large boat. Meanwhile, both Adam and I acquired Factory and Harbor. Adam had the earlier Factory and then coffee and so managed to acquire three large buildings by the end of the game, leaving me to buy Wharf. Between my Harbor and Wharf, I was also making a nice killing on shipping.

By game end, Rachel only had two more shipping points than me (36 to 34) as her last shipping netted her about 6 or 7 (plus CH), while netting me something like 15. But her CH trumped my City Hall, and she ended 1 VP ahead of me. Adam's buildings were great, of course, but he only had 22 shipping points. Still, a very close finish in the end.

December 20, 2006

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Dylan, Ben, Adam, Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

Hanukkah game night, so attendance was light. Zack and Nadine are out of the country, and Binyamin brought his too young children.

I had unwrapped a few new games for the holiday, so we got to play them.


Dylan, Ben, Tikva Shira: 4, Jon, Adam, Saarya, Zvi Yehuda, Ben

Saboteur is a card game of dwarves versus saboteurs, where all players are playing cards digging from the mine shaft to the hidden treasure. Each round, you either play a new tunnel area, play a special card, or discard a card, and then you draw another.

I got this game after Shadows Over Camelot proved to be a hit with our group (even though it's not really my cup of tea). This game seemed like SoC lite, and looked like a viable filler game for up to 10 people. Bang! had not proved as successful.

Reading through the rules, I was forced to add 'and Mille Bornes' to 'like SoC' to the description. You play paths (tunnel cards with various different entrances, entrances, and blockages) to achieve the goal. But only if you are not stuck with a broken wheelbarrow, broken lamp, or broken pickaxe, which you can fix with the appropriate fixed item (like flat tires and spare tires in Mille Bornes).

N+1 cards are mixed, of which about a third are saboteurs and the rest dwarves. The number of saboteurs dealt in each round may vary by one. The dwarves have to create a tunnel that reaches the goal, while the saboteurs have to play cards to prevent this from happening. Path cards may only be played if you have not been 'brokened' by another played. Keep going until the deck runs out.

The secrecy of who is supposed to be whom is pretty much destroyed after one round of card play; the saboteurs out themselves very quickly. And it is a tough game for the dwarves to succeed, if the number of saboteurs is on the higher side.

In our game, the saboteurs won all three rounds. However, this was due to there being the higher amount of saboteurs in all three rounds, as well as Zvi Yehuda misunderstanding the card the role he was given in round two and playing like a saboteur, even though he was a dwarf!

Once players got the hang of what to play, each player's move was fairly quick. After the deck was exhausted, and we were supposed to play out the remaining cards, we typically found that there was no point as there was no way for the dwarves to win at that point.

Children of Fire: board game

Saarya 10, Dylan 8, Jon 7, Adam 4

CoF:bg is a neat blind-bidding/area control game where you are trying to collect influence counters in order to move four figures in the directions that you want their lives to take. Your opponents are working with or against you, depending on which figure is being moved.

I bought this lovely game on Tom Vasel's recommendation, and it looked to me like it was going to be a lite version of Ys, a game I think is nice but over the top in complexity. This game looked like all the good parts of that game without all the complexity. And I was right.

Essentially, you get to play three cards each round vying for control of a) the counters in four sections, or b) a fifth section that controls turn order, or c) in front of you in order to move four figures in either of two directions (for which you need counters collected from a previous round). You can only place one card in any location each round, and three cards total per round, so you have to choose carefully. The cards are numbered, and placed face down, but can be turned up to use their special ability, if any.

Each player has secret objectives to move the four figures in certain directions and in a certain order, and the game ends when their fates have been decided. You also gain points by "swaying the masses' which means trading in one counter of each color for a white counter.

So it is a simple blind bidding game with enough twists and a simple theme to be a quite lovely game. Each player's cards are slightly different, but the decks seemed balanced.

In our game, Adam successfully hid his intentions from all of us as to which way he was trying to move one of the figures. In the last round, both Saarya and I passed on moving the figure so as to trade out counters in for "masses" victory points, figuring that Adam would move him the direction we wanted anyway. But he ended up moving him the exact opposite direction from what we wanted.

Adam collected so many counters during the game that we ran out of common ones to replenish the board between rounds. This was not good for him, because he should have been trading these in for "masses" points, and he ended the game with a barrel full of useless counters.

We ran into a few rules problems. One was what to do when you run out of counters for the replenishment - we ruled to use substitutes, but one could just as easily rule that no counters get placed. Another was a special ability that removed one counter; how does that applie to two counters spent on moving a secondary figure one space. After removing one counter, does he move half a space? Lastly, it seems at least possible that the game will never terminate.

I'll have to find out about these issues, and I look forward to trying this again.

Power Grid

Binaymin, Ben, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

This was Ben's first game, and I heard him complaining that he lost due to not having had the rules explained properly. I don't know who won.


Dylan/Saarya 670, Jon/Adam 330

This really is a nice game, although so is team Hearts. It delivers almost as much fun as Bridge with almost none of the pain. Still, Bridge is more deep, no question.

In our game, Tichu was called four times out of five. In round three, I called it and failed. But in round four, I called Grand Tichu and succeeded, to make up for it. By the end of round four, we were pretty much tied. We had one more hand, and Saarya called Tichu, and both of them managed to go out before we could.

We have the idea of the game down, although I did learn that it is better to call Tichu with pairs and triples than to call with straights, since it's harder to get in with straights.

December 13, 2006

Participants: Jon, Dylan, Binyamin, Rivka, Eyal, Dovid, Nadine, Zack, Adam, Shlomi, Josh, Idit, David

Many people brought a partner with them to game night, in some sense or another. Binyamin brought his wife Rivka, Josh brought his friend Idit, Adam brought his roommate Shlomi. A new guy Eyal came, and he brought a friend, too - Dovid. I'll call him Dovid to distinguish from David K.

Zack picked up a copy of The Menorah Game. Gili was absent this week, probably with tests. Elijah is on play practice, and both Nadine and Zack are off to the US for a while.

Settlers of Catan

David 10, Eyal, Dovid

I was late with my dinner, again, so while waiting for me, David played Settlers with the new guys Eyal and Dovid, which is one of the games that they already knew. David apparently came back from a losing position to win the game.

Lost Cities

Jon+, Dylan

To tell the truth, I wasn't expecting much from the game as I had played it before and been unimpressed. But everyone on BGG keeps singing it so many praises, that I thought I would get a copy and maybe some of the other players in the group would like it as a filler game. I tried it again and remained unimpressed. But I have no objection to playing it as a mindless filler.

And not the least because the entire came can be played with any other five suited deck of cards. Get rid of the freakin' board.

I managed to score positive points in four out of five tracks, and I didn't play on the last one. Dylan scored negative on two tracks and positive on one.

Cosmic Encounter

Zack+, Nadine, Adam

A little shuffling back and forth until we decided what to play. They played with several hidden powers and God knows what else. They seemed to have a good time, anyway.


Idit 81, Jon 74, Dylan 73, Josh 65, Shlomi 60

I still love this game, no let up in sight. I introduced the game to all the other players and they all enjoyed it, too. The game was played pretty viciously, with fields getting blocked and extra bids placed just to entice the waterbearer into doing harm to others.

In our game, the fields, with minor exception, were not large. Josh managed the largest field, 7 cubes on 8 tiles, but had almost nothing else. Meanwhile, Idit and Dylan had 5 or 7 cubes on a 6 tile field, as well as other smaller fields.

Everything I tried to do during the game got thwarted. I saw that there was no way I could compete in the fields. By the third to last round, I realized that the field scoring would not be very high, so I collected some money from the other players. In the end, it was a good boost, but not enough.

I was second to last in field scoring, but as you can see, came in second place, anyway.


Binyamin+, Rivka

Binyamin taught this to Rivka.

Quo Vadis

Binyamin+, Rivka, David, Dovid, Eyal

All players managed to score at the end of the game, which doesn't always happen in five player.

Power Grid

Eyal 13, Binaymin, Rivka, Dovid

They played on the East and Central parts of the US, which is the cheap area of the map. First time play for some of them.


Jon/David 300, Shlomi/Dylan 100

I taught them all this game. I can see how the game can get addictive, but really it is not as deep as Bridge, and much more lucky.

In the first round, I went out first and my partner followed. In the second round, Dylan called Tichu and went out first, helped with an 8 card straight. I went out second, however. In the end, they had 0 points in tricks while we had 100, so we tied the round.

Modern Art

Nadine 620, Adam 489, Zack 380

Adam has been hankering to play this game again for a long time and he finally found some victims to play with him.

(Lo) Ra

Nadine, Adam, Zack

Nadine taught this to Adam and Zack for a round or two, but then Zack had to go. This is Nadine's biblically themed version or Ra.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Dylan+

They drafted and played with the same cards we've been using for the last few times. There may also have been a fourth game.

Tigris and Euphrates

Shlomi 10, Jon 8, Adam 5, Nadine 5

This is and was a fun game, as always, although Shlomi seemed to have trouble grasping the rules (as he also did for Tichu).

Unlike many other instances of this game in four players, the kingdoms were very multi-cultural, almost all of them having four leaders right at the start from three different kingdoms. Tresures got taken early; I took them and then moved my green leader away from conflicts. In this way, I progresses very nicely in all colors.

There were few conflicts, but astonishingly enough for four players there were eventually four monuments. These were all helping me, primarily. And I thought the win was going to be relatively painless.

Unfortunately for me, Nadine decided to pick a fight that she couldn't win in order to end the game and collect the last treasure. In doing so, she gave massive amounts of points in three colors to Shlomi, who went from a meek 6 points to a studly 10 points as a results of this. Grrr. Kingmaking at its finest.

December 06, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Tal, David K, Zack, Adam, Binyamin, Gilad, Gili

Gilad from Modiin managed to drop by for a game; this was only the second time he managed to make it. Josh dropped by to pick up a game he ordered but wasn't able to stay. Gili also dropped by to pick up a few Menorah games, but was only able to stay for a light game; she is in the middle of some sort of exam period.

Both Gilad and Binyamin brought games that I hadn't played and wanted to play, but I couldn't play all of them.


David 41, Zack 32, Tal 23, Nadine 18

Tal taught this game with my help. They all seemed to enjoy it well enough.

The game has a down side. Unlike games where the game is supposed to get tense and build up to something near the end, this game just sort of peters out for the last third.


Adam 87+, Bainyamin 75+, Jon 63+

I had played Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, but never the original. I finally got my chance. We also played with the tiles from the Princess and the Dragon but we ignored the rules for them.

I had trouble on my first play identifying the Cloisters from other buildings and at least once I simply ignored it when I placed it on the board.

Compared with the scoring in H&G, I'm not too keen on the Carcassonne scoring model. The Cloister scoring is kind of silly, and there is not enough scoring from the fields at the end of the game. I made the mistake of going for some field bonuses but they turned out to be nothing to write home about.

It could just be that I'm used to one thing and presented with another.


Nadine 68, Gilad 65, David 60

This is one of those games that I was looking forward to playing but didn't get a chance to. The components looked suspiciously like those of Ys. Nadine liked this game, however.


Zack+, Binaymin, Jon, Adam

This was another new game for us. It is supposed to have won some awards, but it came off as yet another middle mechanical Euro-game. I'm supposing that the awards are because this was one of the earlier ones and thus set the stage for all the others. But it is certainly not one of the best.

For one thing, once you're behind, you're likely going to stay behind. For another, there is almost no interaction, although there is some in the route placement. For another, there are some irrelevant mechanics, such as secret tiles, as well as irrelevant components.

For another, the majority of the game is spent planning and planning, only to have to sit and plan and plan again once somebody places a tile. It's designed for AP. I just wanted to play casual and quickly got bored waiting for others. And for another, if you don't pick the cards that everyone else is picking, you're likely screwed.

The game is based around the idea of traveling salesman, by the way. In our game, I started off right down the middle of the board, the net result of which is that the rest of my pickups were on either side of the board from each other and therefore going to be highly inefficient to collect. Zack managed to do a clean sweep of one half the board and was easily able to maintain this lead for the last two turns.

For Sale

Tal, Zack, Gili

The only game that Gili had time for.


Adam, Jon, Binyamin, Zack

Adam, Nadine, Binyamin, Zack

We have taken to this game as a nice filler for four.

Quo Vadis

Adam, Binyamin, Nadine, Zack

This was Nadine's first game of this. I didn't see the results.

Magic: the Gathering

David+. Jon

As usual, David and I got in a hand of this, and as usual I lost despite David thinking he had the worse deck. We're still playing with the new cards that I got on Games Day.

November 29, 2006

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Zack, Nadine, Adam, Rachel, Binyamin, Tal

I started taking notes but then lost my piece of paper. Tonight's game night showed more signs of difficulties in finding games that multiple people all agree to play. Not only does everyone have a list of games that they won't play (or, won't play this time because they played it last time), they also have trouble negotiating compromises, often trying to convince fellow players, futilely, to play the game that they want to play. Or, refusing to commit to play any game until it is known what all the games being played are.

In the end, we devolved into playing some two-players games. Which is kind of ridiculous. I have to come up with a solution for this.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 56, Nadine 50, Jon 49

Rachel didn't get to play last time, and she had to go at 8:00, so she insisted on playing this as three-player at the start of the evening. Any more players and the game would take too long.

We played with a few odd buildings, but nothing extravagant. I could see early on that I was losing the shipping race, which resulted in me actually thinking the longest on my turns than my opponents. There was nothing I could do to catch up, however, since both Nadine and Rachel were happily feeding into each other's shipping.

And that's despite having a coffee monopoly. We played with the building "Farmer's Market", which is 1/1 and lets you take an additional plantation from the remaining face up plantations at the end of the Settler phase (you don't get if none remain). It's a poor man's Hacienda and it doesn't work half as well (although it's strong in 2-player).

For Sale

Zack+++++, Tal+, Elijah

They played six games, five of which Zack won.

Colossal Arena

Zack 15, Adam 14, Binyamin 11, Jon 4, Elijah 4

This was my first multi-player game of this, and while better than two-player, my opinion of the overly tight scoring range remains. There are simply not enough ways to score and the scoring range results in too much swing for the skill involved. If the scores went to 50 or so, and there were some other ways to score points, the game would be much better.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Elijah++, Zack+

They played three games, and Elijah won two.


Binaymin+, Adam

Jon+, Binyamin

Nadine+++++, Adam

I thought this would be a perfect game for Adam, but he managed to lose six straight games, five of them to Nadine, who I thought would NOT do well with this game. Adam claims that he kept trying to do defensive plays and there is no viable defensive strategy, which means that the game is simply a race game.

I will have to play him to see what he's talking about.


Binyamin 140+, Jon 120+

That's one hundred and forty something to one hundred and twenty something. We didn't record the exact score. Two-player Caylus is much more tolerable, even though there is still too much calculation at the end game. On Binyamin's last two turns, he had hundreds of options available to him; all of which would result in beat me, anyway, but it was hard for him to see that.

Secret Sevens

Elijah, Zack

They played this card game after LotR, while others were involved in their own two-player games. I don't know the rules.


Zack+, Adam (M), Binyamin, Elijah

Zack guessed this right after everyone got it.


Adam++, Nadine

Adam essentially taught this to Nadine who played without any handicap. She agreed to play with one next time.

The Menorah Game

Nadine++, Tal

Elijah, Zack

I have no further information on the games.

Children of Fire RPG

Adam, Zack, Nadine

They spent some more time creating their characters.

Elijah will now be gone for a while, and Gili will be back next week. Maybe we can finally start roleplaying, since we seem to be burned out on board games.

November 22, 2006

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Adam, Nadine, Binyamin, Rivka, Gili

A small group tonight. But we ended way way way way way too late.


Jon 113, Rivka 96, Binyamin 75, Gili 60

Nautilus is a beautiful looking game with deep sea colors reminiscient of Nexus Ops. It is both a tile laying game, a resource management game, and an exploration game. In the end, however, it is a racing game. The theme is about building an exploratory sub-sea station, placing your guys into each module (think Carcassonne), and launching subs to explore and collect sunken treasures and curiosities.

The object of the game is to have the most victory points, which is roughly the product of the number of modules upon which you've placed your guys times the number of treasure chips you have collected from the board. You also add your leftover cash, but it seems unlikely that anyone is going to have much leftover, or even if they did, that it will swing the score.

Like Princes of Florence, cash is extremely tight. Unlike PoF, however, it is hard to get any back. In a four player game, each player starts with 45 cash, but you ideally need about 60 during the game. The only way to get cash is a) for others to land on the tiles you placed and pay you, but that only gives you 1 cash, once per tile per player, and you are just as often going to have to give it back to another players when you land on theirs; and b) collect one of the nine sunken treasure chips, for which you collect 2 to 4 cash depending on if you have progressed in the treasure collecting track (think Goa).

You have fifteen guys to place on tiles and five progression tracks that go from 0 to 4. You progress on a track for placing a guy on the right tile, and once placed it can't be moved. So you will have to forgo at least some of the track progression. But that doesn't matter much.

For each track, you score either 0, 1, or 3 points, 1 if you've reached space 2 on the track, and 3 if you've reached space 4 first and no one else reached space 5, or space 5 first (think Cities and Knights of Catan). Only one person can get the 3 points on each track. But it's not too hard to get to at least 1 on each track, so the odds are very likely that you will be scoring either 5, 7, or 9 for your track progression multiplier. Once in a while you may have to forgo one of the tracks. Suffice to say, the person with the highest score on the progression tracks is going to win, barring extremely bad luck with his discoveries.

The treasure chips are placed face down on specific locations on the board, so you don't have to figure out where they are. They generally yield either 0, 1, or 2 points with which to multiply against your progression track score), or they yield treasure which provides cash. At the end of the game, you can use remaining cash to bump up half of your treasures one point each. Each person is randomly assigned as to which two out of four basic treasures he will be able to so bump up at the beginning of the game. The net result of this is that you need to keep some cash in reserve for the end of the game, and roughly half of what you collect won't be bumpable, so you would prefer to recover the ones that are better for you.

Two mechanics are added to assist you with this. The first one is that the lowest valued treasures allow you to look at some of the face down tresures on the board, but only if you've progressed in the "look at face down treasures" track. The other is that you can spend one cash before moving any sub to look at the face down treasures within your sonar range, typically the nearest 2, 3, or 4 treasures. After a single round of the game, and having not used the sonar ability even once, I decided that this is a collosal waste of resources, as the precious cash that you use just to look at the nearest treasures is better off being used to place more guys on the modules. The odds are very high that you will get something valuable regardless of what you pick up, and all you will have done is thrown out the money which is one less you have to bump up treasures at the end of the game, anyway. That was my impression, anyway.

There are three methods of annoying other players: a) placing modules far away from their guys, so that they have to take a long time to walk their guys over to them (and in fact, may not be able to), b) taking treasures before they can, and c) progressing in the chart and taking the 3 points for that track before they can. Other than that, it's just a matter of counting action points.

I have to say, I don't ever recall playing a game where I really wished for more explosions and combat. Adding a few undersea mines would boost the value of sonar greatly. And adding some missiles and a sixth track for missile/defense ability would made for a much for tense, interactive, and adventurous game. You sometimes wonder if Euro-designers believe that they can't add this as it would violate some unwritten rule.

In my opinion, the game is very nice and should generally play very quickly. The calculations are light, and like any other game with a score based on a product, a square number is the goal you're aiming for. But my fellow players, especially Binyamin and Rivka, were ponderously slow. The game took 3 and a 1/2 hours, of which I used about 10 minutes of it.

The last round saw me stealing the three point chip for one of the tracks from Gili who was poised to take it; one of my treasures was "move any sub an additional three spaces" which is what I needed to land at a module and take it before she could get there.

Cosmic Encounter

Nadine+ (Loser/Cavalry), Elijah (Laser/Berserker), Adam (Siren/Will)

These guys played with passing powers and ten or so comets, as well as the Laser and Loser powers, and then complained to me afterwards that the game felt kind of random.

Nadine adds:

There was a lot of luck, usually you win some battles, lose others. With Loser, which Elijah passed to me, I was able to win almost everytime. Laser didn't help Elijah much, because I was lucky with my cards - Most of the game I had only one or two Challenge cards, and my last draw was a 40 and 4 Compromises. By picking so few Challenge cards, I also ended up with tons of Flares and Edicts. So on the last round I could play an Edict banning cards that round, Elijah wanted to block my Loser. The round before I would have won, but Elijah played a Flare that made me lose the battle. The Comets had very little effect. It's easier to lose powers in a three-player game because the same systems get attacked more.


Adam+, Elijah

Adam took the time to teach Elijah how to play Go on a 9x9 board. He spotted him 9 stones, as well.


Adam 137K, Nadine 130K, Elijah 102K

They played this vicious negotiation game. I doubt it works as well with 3 players, but it was also probably less vicious.

Nadine adds:

It's not particulary vicious, it's just that you know that agreements may not stick. It depends a lot on the players decision-making about who to help or hurt when, with some tile strategy. Paying bribes doesn't guarantee anything and you lose the money even if you don't get the deal. So it rewards players who convince other people to pay them the most. It might work a little better if it was open auction, rather than bid only once.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 54, Jon 49, Rivka 48, Adam 46, Binaymin 38

At 11:00, Rachel was almost going to play a 4 player game of PR with us, but Binyamin and Rivka wanted to join also rather than play something on the side with me. 5 players would have been too long for Rachel, so she wisely bowed out. Rivka took her spot, and we played 5 player anyway. I hope never to do this again, as 5 player PR is long enough, but Binyamin, Rivka, and also Adam, were again so slow as to try my patience. I was a little snarly, I admit, especially since I have more experience with the game then they do, and especially since it was the first time they were playing with some of my expansion buildings.

Some notable expansion buildings we played with include:

Assembly Line instead of Small Market.

Prospector's Cabin: 5/2. Allows you to either a) collect an addiitional 1 GP if you collect 1 GP from a privilege (Trader and Prospector), or b) collect 1 GP instead of using a privilege. I have tried to use this building before with only Prospector giving the additional bonus, and always found it to be too weak. This time I played with it and I killed with it. Everyone was convinced that it is broken, although I notice that no one else bought the other one. After all is said and done, it is not really broken.

A few things I did with it: take a corn plantation and a gold piece during Settler; take a useless phase with a gold on it, such as trader when I had no goods to trade, and still collect a gold piece; take a Prospector for 3 gold pieces a few times.

All in all, I gained an additional GP about 6 or 7 times in the first ten rounds of the game; I don't know if that is more than I would have gotten from Large Market, but somehow it seemed more annoying to the other players, because it is just so flexible. I ended up losing the game enyway, so that should say something. And it was because I didn't have enough money.

Large General Workhouse: 8/3, 2 circles. Counts as production circles for any type of good. So, along with manned matching plantations, allow you to prodcue anything. You choose each time you produce.

1RBuilderRivka, Adam, and Binyamin are still exploring the game. Initially, Nadine and I tried to point out better or worse moves, especially if what they were about to do would greatly help one of us, but I decided early on that they should just play, as it was late, too long to explain some of the long range impacts of their moves, and it is better to let people work things out on their own, anyway.

There was no corn in the opening batch of plantations, and all 4 Small Indigo plants were bought here. I bought Small Sugar.

ASettlerHe was going to take Mayor, which wasn't a bad idea since he had an indigo and a Small Indigo Plant, but he ended up taking this instead, since he likes quarries. Binyamin started on tobacco, and Nadine started on coffee. The next set of plantations again didn't have any corn.
BMayorBinyamin now had indigo running.
2AMayorI now had sugar working, Nadine still had corn, and everyone else had indigo.
BCraftsman+This is where I gave up trying to give advice this game, as this move clearly helped me. Binaymin didn't see why.
JTrader+I sell sugar, netting 4 GP.
RSettlerBinyamin gets his 2nd tobacco. Finally some corns come out.
3BBuilder+Binyamin buys Tobacco. I buy Prospector's Cabin, without realizing its potential, yet.
ASettlerAdam takes a corn, but Binyamin takes another tobacco. He says he doesn't like corn, much. I take my second corn.
4JTrader+I use my Prospector's Cabin to net 2 GP on an otherwise useless phase.
NBuilderNadine builds Large General Workhouse. She has running indigo, and is about to have running tobacco and coffee, now. One of the things about LGW is it allows people to still produce tobacco and coffee, even after the standard production buildings are out.
BSettlerBinyamin takes a quarry, and I take a coffee, I think. By the end of the game, I have 4 running corns, sugar, and coffee.
5NCraftsman++This gives Binyamin tobacco, and Nadine tobacco and coffee.
ACaptain++In theory, Binyamin could have been forced to ship his tobacco, but Binaymin wanted to do that, and Adam didn't want him to do that, so Adam instead shipped his sugar.
BTraderBinaymin trades tobacco, Nadine trades coffee.
JSettlerI take a corn and a gold piece for forgoing a quarry.
6RBuilder+Rivka buys tobacco; both she and Binaymin produce three tobaccos each. Binyamin and Nadine both buy Discretionary Hold (or Nadine buys it next round). I buy coffee.
JSettlerAgain I take a corn and a GP. I now have 4 corns. Nadine is producing indigo, tobacco, and coffee. Rivka is producing tobacco, sugar, and indigo. Adam has indigo, corn, and sugar, and will soon have coffee. Binaymin has tobacco, sugar, and indigo.
7ABuilderAdam now builds coffee. He actually has room to produce three coffees with Assembly Line.
BMayorI'm happy to get colonists, because my corns need filling.
JTrader+I take the gold again, with nothing to trade.
RCraftsman+Setting me up to trade coffee.
JTraderI trade coffee, Nadine trades tobacco.
ASettler+Both Rivka and Adam have or had Haciendas going, and Binaymin got a Construction Hut at some point.
9JBuilder+I build Wharf.
BTraderBinaymin trades tobacco, and the Trading House is full and emptied.
RCaptain++At this point I'm shipping 5 corns on my wharf each Captin, ot blocking a boat. However, others are shipping a lot of tobacco, sugar, and other things, so I'm inching ahead in shipping points, but my building is still weak. However, aside from the one big building I buy, I never buy anything else for the rest of the game. And I buy the wrong building, Cathedral (think Guild Hall), rather than Custom's House which I should have bought. I guess I figured I was going to have another chance, but I didn't.
ABuilderAdam builds Factory, Binaymin builds Wharf.
11RSettler++The plantations are pretty much already all gone.
JProspector+I now have enough for my big building.
12ABuilder+Adam builds Harbor, I build Cathedral.
BProspector+He takes it, not wanting me to get three more GPs.
JCraftsmanWhich I didn't care about, anyway, or so I thought.
NTraderNadine has enough for a big building, now.
RCaptainRivka's shipping was not too shabby, I knew, but mine was still better.
13BTraderBinyamin hopes to get a big building, but never does. Rivka and Adam both eventually take one, and Nadine takes a second.
NBuilderShe takes Fairgrounds, which is worth 7 for her once she takes a quarry.
14JCaptain+The victory points are now down to 8.
ABuilderAdam takes Fortress, Nadine takes Custom's House, Rivka takes City Hall. Or something like that.
RCaptainEnding the victory points.
ABuilderEnding the meaningful phase choices.
Final scores:

Nadine: 24S + 19B + 11b = 54
Jon: 31S + 14B + 4b = 49
Rivka: 25S + 17B + 6b = 48
Adam: 22S + 19B + 5b = 46
Binyamin: 24S + 14B + 0b = 38

Nadine adds:

Rivka got her big building in round 13. Her selection of Trader in round 14 is what enabled me to build the second big building, making up for Binyamin's Craft in front of you in the second round - she traded sugar and I traded Coffee, I was last but no one else could trade. Rivka did buy two more small buildings, which helped with City Hall. Adam took Customs House, I had Fortress which only gave 4 points.

I didn't have a Quarry til the end and never used it, the first time I've done that. I mainly took Workhouse due to bad plantations choices so I had both Coffee and Tobacco early on. Which I usually wouldn't do, but it ended up being handy with the Workhouse.

We should have reminded Binyamin that he would be better off with a big building instead of Wharf near the end of the game because he had Discretionary Hold, but he wanted to buy a building, and it's harder to remember all this at 1 am. 5-player is always fun and interesting, a very different game than 3 or 4-player.

And then I kicked them all out, at 1:20 am.

November 15, 2006

Participants: Jon, Adam, David, Shevi, Elijah, Rosie, Dylan, Zack, Gili, Ilan, Binaymin, Itamar, Nadine, Alan

Prior to this evening there was a lot of discussion about restarting with roleplaying. Despite numerous messages back and forth, at the end nobody was sure what was happening, who was playing what, or who was DMing.

Some only wanted to play Chidren of Fire, which was my suggestion. Some only wanted to play D&D. Some were open to one or the other, but preferred one over the other. And all of us were hoping to avoid too many players in one group like we had last time, but no one wanted to sit out.

In the end, I told everyone to go work it out on their own without involving me. It took a few repetitions of this, but in the end that's what happened. We ended with a group of five for each game, with Adam willing to DM CoF and Ilan willing to DM D&D.


Jon+, Adam

After trying this game last week and not enjoying it, I thought about a possible rule change that would make the game more interesting. Its problem is that every game plays exactly the same, because the moment someone makes a three letter word, it's game over. I changed the rules so that the game continues until all of the spaces are filled. Forming a three letter word is 1 point, a four letter word is 2 points, and a five letter word is 4 points.

The reason this makes the game better is that you are now free to experiment in giving away a three letter word in exchange for forming something equivalent or better in return. This removes the paralyzingly repetitive nature of the original game.

It still wasn't a rip-roaring good time, but it was playable. I won after scoring for the word "duh", which Adam contended wasn't really a word (everyone else disagreed).

The Menorah Game

Elijah+, Shevi, Rosie

They played the advanced version of the game. Shevi claimed that she had been playing all last week and won every time.

Children of Fire

Adam, Dylan, Jon, Zack, Nadine

Finally I am close to getting this out onto the table, and I don't have to DM it, either. We didn't actually play this week, but Adam helped the players set up characters.

AD&D, 2nd ed

Ilan, Gili, Binyamin, Itamar, Alan

Looks like I'm not the only one who prefers 2nd edition over 3rd. These guys not only set up characters, despite only having one version of the manual, and online at that, but actually began a campaign that Ilan made up on the spot. They killed a few kobolds, I hear.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon

I was keen to play this, and David was just as happy to oblige. We drafted from the cards that Nate had brought me on games Day, and the cards were completely new to both of us. It made drafting last a while. Since the cards were all from the same block, we were able to draft some nifty decks with lots of synergystic effects, something we don't usually get from random drafting. So the decks were both more powerful and more fun to play than usual.

I thought I had a nice deck, but David squeaked out two wins, both times after being reduced to 2 points.

Dylan also took some time to teach Adam how to play.


David 83, Jon 77, Adam 68, Nadine 66

As usual, the game is just 10 to 20 percent longer than it should be. Especially with heavy planners/thinkers like us. This time even I took a long time to make some of my turns.

David, as everyone else, made the occasional mess-ups, not the least of which was due to not remembering the rules about when the castle scores. Even so, he still won, but only owing to his abundance of left-over items.

Winner's Circle

Shevi 2350, Zack 1500, Rosie 1500, Elijah 830

This game didn't run so smoothly, as Rosie had some difficulties in figuring out how to use the mechanics best for her and ended up just doing what Elijah said, which annoyed the other two players.

Somehow they made it through and apparently the non-colluding players won, anyway.

For Sale

Rosie 62, Dylan 60, Elijah 52, Zack 49

Dylan 66, Elijah 64, Zack 60, Rosie 38

Zcak 73, Dylan 71, Elijah 66, Rosie 46

They needed something light and comprehensible, and this satisfied all involved.

Apparently, in the time between creating a character for CoF and this game, Dylan was waiting for a game to open up. I hadn't realized that or I would have played a game with him simultaneous with my Caylus game, which only required attention on my turn.


Jon+, Dylan

I made up for it by playing a game of Hive with him during the final stages of Caylus. This was my second play, and I very much enjoyed it. I especially think that Adam will like it.

I beetled his queen early on, and slowly and methodically cornered him a piece at a time, although he bravely tried to stop this from happening. I think he may have missed an earlier opportunity to aggressively attack my queen in the process.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Elijah+, Zack+

They each swapped a victory. I don't know which side played what.

November 08, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Adam, Ben, David K, Shevi, Josh, Idit, Binyamin, Zack, Tal

Josh was able to come and he brought with him Idit, a nice young woman. Tal had stayed home today from school, so she was also around for game night.

We began the game group by playtesting four games that were sent to me by On the Spot Games. For a full review of the games, see my blog.


Jon, Nadine, Adam

We tried this two-player and three-player. Nadine didn't think the game was at all fun. I thought it was poor.

Letter Hold 'Em

Nadine, Jon, Adam, Zack

The game rules suggested that we use this letter-enhanced poker deck to play Texas Hold 'Em, but we played standard Five Card Stud. That may be why it wasn't spectacular. We deemed it ok for those who like both word games and poker.


Jon, Nadine, Adam, Zack

This is a straight party game, where you have to guess what every one else will choose. But since every one else is doing the same, no one is really choosing anything other than what other people would choose. Which doesn't appear to work. It could be salvaged by changing the mechanic to choosing what the active player would choose.

Zero In

Jon, Nadine, Gili, Adam, Zack, David

This is a straight party game which appears to work. It's major problem is only that the game play is ended once the cards have all been used up.


Ben 50, David 49, Nadine 45, Adam 41

This was Ben's first play. Ben was nowhere near getting any blue buildings, but had strong castle play and ended the game before others could outbuild him. The game took four hours.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Gili 15, Tal, Shevi

For some reason they played to 15 points instead of 13. Worse, Gili was already so far ahead that the others had no chance during the extended part of the game, anyway. Gili ended the game shortly before Shevi was able to collect her second metropolis. The game took two and a half hours.

Cosmic Encounter

Idit/Pacifist+, Josh/Mesmer+, Jon/Disease, Zack/Virus, Binyamin/Insect

I introduced Idit to the game, and this was Josh's second game. So I deliberately cut down to only one power. I also eliminated reverse cones (excepting the Solar Wind edict), comets, lucre, moons, and special hexes, which I don't like playing with, anyway.

Idit could have jointly won with me instead, or she could have won singly if she had known that Josh had no edicts to throw at her. I discovered that I am missing the Disease power card from my game :-( . Luckily, I remembered how the power works (even the specifics of the Mayfair power). Zack's Virus was neatly countered by three of the other powers.

Binyamin/Prophet/Judge+, Jon/Loser/?, Idit/Boomerang/Demon, Josh/Mind/Ghost, Zack/Connoisseur/Vulch

In this game we played with three hidden powers, of which you were able to reveal any two during the game. Binyamin's two powers ensured him a constant stream of bases and pernicious ones at that. Zack and Idit had most of their pieces in the warp for most of the game, until they were able to draw and play Warp Break once each. My other power was Sorcerer, but I wasn't able to reveal and play it before the game ended.

On my last turn, I would have won the game but I failed my fourth base challenge by a single point. My fifth base would have been a cakewalk, as I could still call upset with Loser and my only challenge card was a compromise. Or I could have forgone calling upset and simply revealed my Sorcerer, switching a compromise to my opponent. Either way, I never got the chance before the game ended.

November 01, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Binyamin, Rivka, David K, Shevi, Bracha, Adam, Nadine, Gili, Zack, Dylan

David brought his daughter Shevi who brought a friend, Bracha. Apparently David has turned Shevi on to gaming who has turned some of her friends on. They are both lovely young women and quite giggly as teenage girls are apt to be. At one point they had to excuse themselves for a while to get over a joint laughing fit.

Binyamin's wife Rivka also returned. And this was Brendan's last visit to the club. He has been in Israel for several months and now returns to Thailand to be with his wife. I sent him away with a parting gift from the club, a Hebrew/English copy of Slamwich.


Brendan++, Gili+

While buying Slamwich, I also picked up this game based solely on its reputation on BGG. My version is the pretty version with the Bakelite pieces. I didn't get to play, but these two played three games. Brendan indicated that he liked it well enough and would play again.


Adam+, Jon

Meanwhile, I opened with a game of Go with Adam. Both of us are now devotees of the game. Adam is the stronger player, probably because he actually reads about or studies the game, whereas I haven't committed to that, yet.

We played on an 11x11 board. Two weeks ago I took my Pente board and drew concentric squares in different colors so that we would have defined areas on which to play as we increased our playing levels. The result was mixed; the board area is ready to go, but you have to remember that the border is defined by the blue lines, and not the black lines drawn within that.

I played first. I actually started pretty well, but then made two mistakes that cost me two areas. I also fought over an area that I probably could have won, but I am not strong enough and didn't see the solution. In the end, I resigned.

King's Gate

David 27, Nadine 21, Rivka 18, Binaymin 17

Binyamin introduced this as an opener game, intending to play three players and be finished in a half an hour. Nadine joined them before the game started. Binyamin didn't count on both David and Nadine, who seem to prefer to "solve" games rather than play them. Every turn, they both treid to map out every possible remaining move until the end of the game, or so I hear. It ended up taking about three hours. They still seem to have had some fun.

Nadine adds:

David and I didn't try to map out every possible move, or plan beyond one turn, though we were discussing strategy because we were trying to figure out how to play a new game. The only lengthening part was at the end. I was choosing the last placement location, and I picked the one which was most likely to give me the most points. Binyamin complained that I was giving David the game, because that position gave David lots of points as opposed to Binyamin, they were both ahead and in contention to win. So after playing out that spot, which gave me second place, we went back and played out the other spot, to demonstrate for Binyamin and everyone that it wasn't as good of a spot for me, which was the case. David still would have won, but I wouldn't have come in second, and Binyamin would have done better. It's a tricky game, but you don't really have control because other players have too many ways to attack you when you can't respond. I prefer games where what I do feels like it matters more. David did a good job catching on quickly to key aspects for winning. We all blocked Binyamin more because he was ahead early, I guess to David's benefit.

Settlers of Catan

Zack 10, Shevi 4, Bracha 3

This pathetic scoring was due to Zack starting on all numbers 4 through 10, and a good assortment of all resources.


Shevi 86, Gili 73, Zack 54, Bracha 30

It's definitely a beautiful looking game. I think I may try it next time.

San Marco

Dylan 68, Adam 61, Brendan 57, Jon 54

This is usually my game, but I ended up with the short end of the stick here. Brendan and Adam took an opening lead, I briefly had a nice position on the board, but not long enough to score anything with it, and then Dylan took over and booted everyone else off the board. This was his first play.

Taj Mahal

Binyamin 45*, Gili 40, David 32, Rivka 29, Nadine 22

The usual discussion about which game to play ended up with this. Time was also short, and this was deemed the shortest of the choice games available.

Binyamin has played the game a number of times but has always inadventantly played it wrong, thinking that you could play either one or two of any card each turn. As a result, a number of times in the first round he played multiple cards with the same color backing in a single play. It took a few rounds for the others to realize what it was that was going wrong.

By that time, they were faced with either continuing or starting over without enough time. They continued, but the end score has therefore been recorded merely for posterity's sake.

Nadine adds:

Binyamin only got away with playing wrong once - he put down two green cards with 2 and 1 elephant. Since it could easily have been one green card and one white card, and might have been if he had understood the value of white cards and picked them, it seemed not so critical. And it offset the slight handicap he had from having selected and planned cards based on the wrong rules. He did a good job with connections and won due to that. Gili almost caught up at the end. I was way behind from the beginning after getting nothing from 2 long battles with David and Gili. I collected 10 matching cards to score at the end, but it wasn't close to enough. Playing with 5 is tough.

Cosmic Encounter

Adam+, Brendan, Dylan, Zack

They played multiple powers, with at least a few comets, and probably too many flares.

The Menorah Game

Jon+, Bracha, Shevi

Shevi 52, Bracha 41, Jon 40

Shevi 58, Bracha 41

Shevi 51, Bracha 43, Jon 37

Shevi 53, Bracha 37

And maybe a few other games that I missed. I introduced this to Bracha; Shevi apparently plays this "every week" at home with David and her friends. David taught her the rules. Apparently they were an early version of the rules because I had to correct her a half a dozen times and get her up to speed with the latest rules.

Bracha fell in love with the game, and Shevi also expressed love for it. Such nachas. *sniff*.

This was Shevi's first time at the advanced game (only the first play was the basic game) and after some initial trepidation, she also took to it and said that it was even better.

And now I have six new orders for the game. I think I will have to either get the damn thing produced or make more mockups.

Farewell, Brendan. May the road rise to meet you and may the wind be always at your back.

October 25, 2006

Participants: Jon, Genya, Dylan, Zack, Max, Sergei, Jack, Nadine, Adam, Binaymin, Tyson, Rebecca

Tyson and Rebecca made their first appearance at the game club after attending Games Day. Max, who first came last week, brought with him Jack and Sergei. Dylan brought along Genya again, but Genya doesn't really like complicated games, so she probably won't be returning as a regular.

Behind the scenes, we are discussing various plans for reintroducing RPGs into the games group again once a month.

I was a little under the weather and called the day a little short. I called the end for 10:30. People finished up and were out by 11:00.

For Sale

Jon 79, Dylan 77, Genya 66

With just Dylan and Genya, I brought this out as a quick opener. They actually remembered it from the last time Genya was here, which may have been the last time we played it, too. Anyway, it was certainly quick.


Genya/Dylan 8, Jon/Zack 18

Zack then showed up and I needed another quick filler. Zack loved our game of team Hearts last time, and Dylan and Genya needed to be taught it (so says I). We managed one hand before others arrived. Zack forgot my little rule about my generally passing him diamonds and he passed me three diamonds right back.

Power Grid

Jon 15, Dylan 14+15, Nadine 14+2, Sergei 14+0, Max 12+33, Genya 12+1

Despite our resolution not to play this with six players again, that's what it ended up becoming. We started with four. Then Max joined us and we settled on five. Sergei showed up after the first round of plants had been auctioned, and joining either game would have been difficult so we snuck him into ours. It's a testament to his playing that he did as well as he did without ever getting a full explanation of the rules.

Max had wanted to play this to see if it was as good as its reputation on BGG, and with six players it isn't. Too much downtime while others calculate their moves.

In our game, I decided to actually jump forward in cities rather than hang back as I usually do, and I won. This was partially because unlike in other six player PG games, people bought very little fuel - almost no stocking up, so fuel prices remained low and fuel plants were diverse. Even at the end of the game, coal, garbage, and nukes were sold in the $1 range.

Also, the bidding on plants was healthy so I was able to get the size of plants I needed when I needed them. Nadine tried to catch up, by I outbid her enough. I think people tend to undervalue the right plant at the right time. I probably should have been outbid more. The game easily progressed from stage one to two to three, so we also never got stuck with a lack of building locations.

Big City

Adam 84, Jack 70, Binyamin 56, Zack 52

I was hoping to play this instead of Power Grid but it didn't work out. I have no info about the game except that Zack liked it.

Adam adds:

In Big City you score points by playing cards that represent city plots, and building a building on those plots. Larger buildings (taking up multiple adjacent plots) and buildings which must be in more specific locations score more points.

There are a number of different types of buildings, each with their own rules for where they can be placed and what bonuses they get, which was a bit complicated to keep track of in the first game, but would probably get easier with replaying it. I found that the strategy was a bit shallow, and overshadowed by the luck of the draw. There is only one card for each plot in the game, so if you hold the card for a certain plot, your opponents are somewhat limited as to what they can do to block you. The only real options are extending the light rail so that it goes across where you want to put a double or triple building, or placing a park or factory over the plot (since those don't require cards for specific plots to play). There is a variant which we did not play with where you can negotiate and trade cards, which would probably improve the game greatly.

On the plus side (depending on your perspective), with the light rail doubling up onto itself and things like two cinemas sprouting up right next to each other, a factory next to a park, etc., it does a decent job of simulating real-life cities.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jack 9, Zack 7, Adam 6

Adam taught the game to these two. Nobody used their disaster tiles and the game ended with the tiles running out.


Rebecca 94, Tyson 92, Binyamin 91

Binyamin taught the game to these two. They appeared to like it. So far both Ys and Caylus are just a bit too gimmicky for me, although I enjoy playing them.

October 18, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Adam, Zack, Binyamin, Michael, Elijah, Rosie, Max, Dylan

Elijah came with his father Michael and younger sister Rosie. Max is a new guy. Max is a Russian born who speaks some Hebrew and less English, but we managed to get along, and he had a good enough time to promise to return and bring some friends with him.

As often is the case, a lot of good will took some time overcoming the particular taste of each participant about which game to play.

Cosmic Encounter

Jon+, Zack+, Nadine, Michael, Elijah

Even without moons, comets, and lucre, two powers for each player proved to be too much, too soon, for some of the newer players. I had to spend a lot of time each round carefully explaining the round order and time resolution rules. And, like in any Cosmic game, even I had trouble figuring out certain rules, like if you can play a card in response to a Plague before you have to toss it, when you are the main player and the Plaguer is not.

Zack played Pentaform (Phantom, Assassin, Subversive, Anti-Matter, Oracle) and Vulch, Elijah played Reincarnator and Terrorist, I played Aristocrat and Grief, Nadine played Siren and Reserve, and Michael played Doppleganger and Laser.

Zack barely used his Pentaform power, but he did use the Vulch nicely. One anomoly that happened was when I used a flare that lets me swap four tokens with another player. Zack had only two tokens left on his sun. I chose my four from the warp, and Zack chose the two from his sun along with two others. Two of my tokens therefore ended up out of the game on his sun.

Elijah's Terrorist proved to be influential, although Nadine thought that it made the game a bit more random than necessary. I enjoyed my initial hand full of flares, but it didn't last long. Nadine Sirened well enough but never used her Reserve. Micahel's Doppleganger was a potent adversary for an Aristocrat, but he never actually used it on me because he thought it would be too difficult to decide. He eventually hand zapped me, however. Meanwhile, his Laser was a potentially potent adversary for the Oracle.

The game ended with a joint win for Zack and me. We both had four bases going in to a challenge of Nadine attacking Michael. We both defended Michael, and then Zack used a Solar Wind to flip over the cone, giving us both base five. Don't try to correct me on this one; we play with a number of house rules, including that the Solar Wind card can be played at any time, since it is a fairly useless card, otherwise.

Colossal Arena

Binaymin 17, Max 17, Adam 16, Gili 11, Rosie 8

I had wanted to try this one out with five players, but I didn't get a chance. The game ended in a tie, which enhances my feeling that the scoring range opportunities simply aren't diverse enough in the game.

Taj Mahal

Jon 49, Dylan 41, Zack 34, Michael 32, Elijah 22

This was a first play for Dylan, and close to first play for Michael and Zack. Elijah, although he knows better, always plays hell bent on winning every round at all costs. I got lucky in one round against Zack, and then very lucky in the eleventh round, pulling in ten points worth of commodity bonuses. That clinched the victory for me, as Dylan was working on connections and doing a fine job of it, pulling in nine points on the last round.

Quo Vadis

Binyamin 20, Rosie 15, Max 13, Gili 12, Adam 0 (16)

Binyamin realized that Adam was his closest competitor and worked to ensure that Adam wouldn't score in the end.


Adam (M), Binaymin+, Gili, Rosie, Max

Apparently, Binaymin figured out the rule too quickly.

Martian Chess

Binyamin, Adam, Rosie, Max

Not only don't I know the results of this game, I don't know the rules of this game. The rules can be found online and the game is played with Icehouse pieces.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, Binyamin

I pulled out the new cards that Nate had brought me on Games Day and gave thirty green cards to Binyamin and thirty red cards to myself, after winnowing out the cards that depended on certain colors or the presence of artifacts. I added lands and we played.

Binaymin is still learning, so there was some discussion, but he pretty much gets it by now. He ended up with a lot of mana producers and big creatures, but only one of them made it out. I fended off that one while I put out a 6/5 flyer and pummeled him, finishing him off with some direct damage.

The Menorah Game

Zack+, Adam, Max

First play for Max, who really enjoyed it. For the first game they played the basic game.

Adam 52, Zack 39, Max 36

And for the second game they played the advanced game, which Zack prefers, as do I and Binyamin. I find that a simple 5 point bonus for completing your menorah seems to be sufficient. It needs more playtesting, still.


Rosie, Binyamin, Adam, Max

The card game of Tarot is some sort of trick-taking game.


Zack/Michael 18, Elijah/Jon 34

They all knew how to play Hearts, and we had a few minutes left until they had to go, so I introduced them to team Hearts. Zack particularly enjoyed the variant.

Odds and Evens

Michael+++, Elijah

Michael insists on my reporting this "game", as it was the only complete games that he won. We're talking about the game where each player chooses whether to stick out one or two fingers.

October 9, 2006

Games Day, Sukkot 2006

It was a good games day, with good weather out in the sukkahs and a record number of attendees. Everyone appeared to have a good time, and the most regrests were from not being able to play with everyone or to play every game.

Dramtis Personae:

Notes from Games Day: It went from about 10 am until 11 pm. We used my own big sukkah, and then spilled into our neighbor's sukkah (called the Gold level membership sukkah), and then onto matresses on the floor outside the sukkahs when we ran out of chairs. I announced the schedule at the beginning of the day: "I'm playing Magic with David. The rest of you can do what you want." Two games of Rochester Draft, followed by a 5 player game of color magic ended up taking five hours, without feeling like more than two.

The longest game was Runebound, however, which went for seven hours while players gave it more or less attention. We introduced a number of people to Puerto Rico, and I played a new game: Nexus Ops. Some of us had considered planning an RPG session, but it never happened. And once again, we didn't manage to get to Die Macher or Shogun.

We had a full quorum for the daily afternoon prayers (Mincha). We made a large burger order, and got and paid for all of it before we noticed that my burger was missing. It took the store another hour and a half to re-send my missing meal. Dew began falling in the evening, making everything wet.

We also received 283 NIS in donation for new games. Those of you who donated can now make suggestions for a game order.

Amun Re

David 45, Saarya 39+, Tyson 39-, Yitzchak 35, Rebecca 27

Binyamin+, Yitzchak, Zvi Yehuda, Ben, Guy

Yitzchak brought his copy of the game.


David 2090, Ben 1840, Nadine 1150, Jon 690

We played a twelve game round-robin: I partnered with David for four hands, and then with Nadine for four hands, and then with Ben for four hands. Each set had vulnerability: none, dealer, dealer, all. Scoring was duplicate style.

We did a lot of table talk, as David only plays once a year or so, and Nadine is still fairly new. Ben is an expert, and I'm ok, although you wouldn't know it from the scoring. I don't play enough to eliminate those silly mistakes that I keep making. I overbid once or twice, and misplayed once. Nadine played well; David got most of the points and played most of the hands.

El Grande

Guy 90, Dylan 89, Ben 87, Binyamin 80. Nate 74

Ben says that he worked hard to get in position to take the king on the final round and then ended up passing on him after all.


Jon, Shevi

Adam, Shevi

When I heard that David had neglected to teach Shevi Go, I made it my business to do so. She enjoyed it very well, and she was happy to play a game that really made her think (her words, not mine). I gave her a two stone advantage, and she won 41 to 40. Adam gave her a two stone advantage, and he beat her by a lot, which either means that Adam is a better player that I am (which is true), or I gave better advice during the game.

Adam adds:

Shevi and I played one game of go, and then I showed her a few tesuji (tactics). We played 9x9, as it was her second game, and she took a two-stone handicap, though she should have taken three or four. The score was I believe 50 to 31 Chinese style and about 20 to -1 Japanese style (we counted both ways). I am by no means a competent player, but I'm starting to get a feel for some of the positions, though there are still a lot of obvious things I miss only to notice them a couple of turns later. I pointed out when Shevi was making very obvious mistakes, but I wasn't analyzing her position closely to show her what I thought the best move would be. I do remember that there was one point late in the game where I recommended that she shore up territory in her lower right corner, which was the only part of the board without fairly well-defined boundaries. She played elsewhere, and I extended my territory in that area, which probably cost her about seven or eight points.


Josh+, Brendan, Zack, Pinchas

I didn't see this one.

Brendan adds:

Another go at Binyamin's tile exploration/despoilation of Mesoamerica. Enjoyed it, but we have to settle on one of the two rules translations Binyamin has, staple the pages in order and edit them into a better format. A few things are still not completely clear or hard to find: if you have to swap goods for others as part of an adventure (instead of simply giving them up) does that count as your goods acquisition for the turn, or is it part of movement? When you buy treasure with 2 fish in some adventure tiles, is that part of movement, part of acquisition of items or what?

In other words timing is all important and this needs to be settled.

Fun game, I'd play it again. It even managed to be carried across the roof halfway through the game when dusk fell: portability is an unrecognised asset!


Brendan 162, Zvi Yehuda 155, Binyamin 131, Dylan 82, Adam 78

I didn't see this one, but Binyamin came out of it complaining that the game doesn't teach good morals. The object of the game, as in Diplomacy, is to lie, take money offered by another player, and then break your side of the bargain. He just can't see any redeeming value in playing it. Actually, that's kind of why I don't play Diplomacy.

Adam adds:

This game is definitely vicious, which is what I like about it. It strongly encourages you to backstab the partners you have deals with. I had only played a 3-player game before this, and the intrigue that develops with 5 players is definitely more intricate and interesting (the game is definitely worthy of its name). It's basically pure negotiation, but instead of negotiating on a price and then exchanging something, you give a bribe, which you lose whether your bribee honors the deal you had or not. Thus the logic of the game is quite different from a typical auction or negotiation game (and like I said is vicious). Also, in the early part of the game there's plenty of opportunity to retaliate against someone who doesn't honor your deals with him, but closer to the end retaliation is either not possible or less compelling, and the negotiations become quite dicey. I like negotiation and auction games, and this game is actually thrilling in its way, but it's definitely not for everybody.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon

And that was even though both of us thought that I had drafted the better deck. We both keep forgetting which edition of the rules by which to play.

Ben (R), Binyamin (G), Nate (W), David (U), Jon (B)

Binyamin is a new player, and Nate was very rusty. Ben and I were both fairly mana screwed to start with, while Binyamin and Nate were pulling out great rows of cards, offense and defense. Before going down, I managed to get out a Crypt Rats and blow most of everything away.

I ended up still alive, however. Long enough to cast a 3/1 shadow creature. I wandered away for a short while and came back to find that Ben had managed to blow away almost everything that I hadn't. My shadow guy was still around. I had a choice of playing correctly and saving my mana for a Broken Visage (with which to kill two creatures) or go for style; naturally I chose the latter. I cast Feast of the Unicorn on my shadow, making him 7/1 and unblockable. My opponents decided to take me out right then and there. Oh well.

Ben and Binyamin won on a tie. In the end, I spent the first five hours on these Magic games, and I still don't know how they took that long, as they didn't feel that long.


Saarya 92, Zack 73, Shevi 66, Nadine 52

I didn't see the game going on, but it looked pretty.

Nexus Ops

Josh+, Jon, Alan, Nadine

This is a relatively new game, and it was a first play for all of us. Nate brought it to Games Day.

It is a relatively quick and simple war game with several Eurogame elements. Essentially, there are four parts to every round: buy and place troop on your starting positions, move pieces one space each, fight anything in the same hex as you, receive income for each mine you control.

Combat is your simple "roll a d6" and compare to your unit type's ability to kill. Better units not only kill on lower numbers, but also roll first in combat. Adding to the complexity of the game, each player is dealt a "secret mission" card at the end of each round that gives them bonus points for occupying something or killing something or with something. And you can also get bonus action cards for losing a battle or for occupying the center hex.

The game has pretty, translucent pieces, although some of them are hard to distinguish from the others. There is some sort of thematic story involved, but it didn't marry that well with the mechanics.

The game has going for it that it has different avenues to success, and that it will most likely be a relatively short battle, as you simply play until twelve points. The pieces are balanced, and money is tight. The game seems to flow well, turn to turn. It has against it the method that the secret mission cards are distributed; once per round, at the end of your round.

Aside from making no thematic sense, this almost completely robs the game of certain strategic elements and introduces some senseless luck. I kind of understand the reason that they did it: it's so that you can build us missions and then score a lot at once, giving the game a kind of narrative flow. However, it would be much better to auction off the missions, lay them out and let the first player to complete them take them, or any other method that gives advanced planning to the game.

Aa a result, the game is just a flow of battles, back and forth. As a war game, it's not my type of game; I'm not drawn into rolling dice to see who wins battles. But if you're into that sort of thing, or you want a hybrid Euro/wargame, it is a very good game for that.

In our game, we started out discovering all the mines, and then flowed back and forth in our little battles. Josh got to the center hex and occupied it for most of the game, which gave him enough action cards to dominate his way to victory. It also helped him having made an alliance with Alan at once point, allowing him to leave one front unguarded.

Princes of Florence

Michael 55, Saarya 50+, Jon/Gili 50-, Nate 47, David 38

I started this, and then also joined a Puerto Rico game at the same time. I left when Gili showed up to take my place. I left her 400 Fl before round three to acquire a Forest, but Saarya managed to prevent her from getting it. David managed a first turn Jester for only 900 Fl, while I acquired a first turn Recruiter for 800 Fl. Apparently, David wasn't able to turn this into a victory.

Puerto Rico

Tyson, 60+, Rebecca, Yitzchak, Adam

This was Tyson and Rebecca's first game of PR, and Tyson seems to have done very well. They loved the game, I hear.

Adam adds:

I had both a large and small market and a coffee monopoly for a good part of the game (it worked for me last time I played), so for a few turns everyone ganged up on me to force me to ship it, which gave me a coffee boat instead, though it wasn't enough to win. Tyson cleaned up with about six corns and a wharf, raking in the victory points despite being unable to get a large building (both Rebecca and I had two).

Erez 44, Nadine 41, Rachel 39

And this was Erez's first game of PR, and he also loved it, enough to play another. Apparently, Erez got a coffee monopoly which they forced him to ship rather than trade. The result was simply that shipping got completely stuck the entire game. Very few shipping points were handed out, which is a good thing, because Nadine forgot to only included 75 shipping points and had dumped all 122 into the game.

Jon 52+3, Rachel 52+1, Nadine 50, Erez 48

A very close game, as you can see. In this game, I left the PoF game and switched seats before the game began, giving me third position - first corn - to Rachel's second position. She wasn't happy about this, and spent the entire game trying to thwart me, hoping that it would let her take first place in the process. To that end, she blocked boats I needed, took plantations I wanted after I bought the production building, and so on. I beat her anyway, but only on the tie.

The game:

E: Settler. I take a second corn, and continue to take only corn until I have four corns. Then I switch to trying for cash in tobacco and then sugar. I end up with some early shipping leads, sometimes gaining 8 shipping point for each Captain in the early stages of the game. While I know the lead will erode, that's still nothing to sneeze at. Nadine takes coffee and ends up with the coffee monopoly.
R: Mayor. We weren't playing with Small Market, and Rachel wanted to prevent me from producing three corns on the first turn.
J:Prospector. I have no interest in any buildings at this point. I am looking towards Large General Warehouse, an eight cost production building that can produce any type of goods. I never get it, however.

E:Settler. Erez takes a second quarry. I take a third corn.

N:Builder. Nadine builds Coffee. I build Small Warehouse, I think.
R:Craftsman. To sell sugar, I believe.

N:Trader. Nadine trades corn, Rachel trades sugar.
E:Settler. That's three Settlers. He takes sugar, I think. I get a fourth corn.
J:Craftsman. I want to see how far this shipping thing can go.

E:Mayor. And now I have a manned Small Warehouse, too. Everyone thought that I would prefer Discretionary Hold (allows you to store three of any sort of barrel, and also allows you to ship one additional barrel on to any full ships, costs 6), but a) I was still saving the money for buying something that could give me a better income, and b) I knew very well that Rachel was going to try to ensure that there were not too many full ships, so as to hinder my corn shipping.

R:Builder++. She builds Factory. I build Tobacco. I have no tobacco plantations, but there are two up in the draw. Of course, Rachel ensures that I don't get any of them.
J:Captain. Either this one or the last one gave me 8 shipping points.
N:Craftsman. For coffee.
E:Settler. Number four. He and Rachel both take tobacco. I take sugar.

J:Builder. Prospector had a coin on it, but I needed the sugar building sooner, rather than later.
N:Captain. They're trying to bloack the boats, but with my Small Warehouse, and the fact that they are producing enough to full the boats anyway, it doesn't slow me down much. The only thing it does is reduce income from their Factories.

E:Settler. Number five. He takes his third quarry.
R:Captain. Boats are left blocked against corn this round, but they empty again on the next Captain.

R:Builder. I don't remember what, but she eventually gets Discretionary Hold, Custom's House (again, to thwart me, plus she ships a lot, too). Nadine and Erez get Harbors. I get Fortress, Nadine gets one large building, and Erez gets two.

J:Trader. I traded tobacco last, and now sugar.
E:Settler. Number six. I think he gets a fourth quarry.


J:Captain. Another eight points to everyone else's 1 or 2.


E:Settler. Number seven.

J:Builder. Everyone has an unfilled large building at this point.

R:Captain. Victory points run out.
J:Prospector. I now have 2 coins and a barrel to Rachel's no coins and a barrel. Which is how I end up winning.

Final scores:
N:26S + 18B + 6Bo = 50
E:16S + 20B + 12Bo = 48
R:28S + 17B + 7Bo = 52 + 1
J:36S + 11B + 5Bo = 52 + 3


Binyamin, Elijah, Zvi Yehuda, Brendan, Michael, Adam

This game was 7 hours long, a record for longest game played at the club. Players apparently left midgame or wandered off occasionally, although Michael, Elijah, and Zvi Yehuda remained faithful for the duration. Michael won with a magic sword, or so I hear.

Adam adds:

It's a board-game version of a role-playing game, where you wander around, fight monsters, gain experience, and buy stuff. Unfortunately not very compelling with what seemed to be minimal strategy (mostly just roll and move, roll and fight). I was playing other games at the same time, and if I had been paying attention, a bit more strategy may have emerged by attacking the other players, but it's probably not worth it. It also took an incredibly long time (about six hours), though with a few players not paying much attention and doing other things at the same time.

Brendan adds:

Not sure why this took so long. I generally did my turns quickly I thought. But highly repetitive play-nature. With 3 or maybe 4 I think it would be fun, especially with a group that all speaks one language, so can table-talk the theme up a bit to overcome the general lack of interaction. Binyamin needs to paint his minis too, the slacker!


Richard+, Shevi, Adam, Zack, Brendan

Richard returned, having not played since playing Settlers last year, and he wins. He was happy.

Adam adds:

Not too much to say about it. A good game, not too much heavy calculation (I don't bother with keeping an exact tally of the score).

Brendan adds:

Good game! Simple to set up, explain and play. Not too long. Decent decision making involved. I like it.

Settlers of Catan

Saarya 10, Shevi close, Josh

Shevi was apparently close to winning, and Saarya stole her Longest Road or Largest Army, or somesuch.

Shadows Over Camelot

Nate(T)+, Elijah, Guy, Zack, Gili, Michael, Saarya, Erez

Erez took over for somebody midway. There were a lot of noisy accusations flying around, and Michael knew that Nate was the traitor, but no one let him accuse him, for some reason.

Ticket to Ride

Nate 166, Guy 106

Played as an opener between themselves, as they waited for others to finish games.


Adam, Elijah, Zack, Josh, Dylan, Brendan

They played four games, with Adam, Dylan, Zack, and then Brendan taking turns as master. Zack guessed once, Dylan once, and Adam twice. All of them really like the game.

Adam adds:

Continually engaging, and much more fun than you would think from the description of it. After a few more rounds it will be interesting to get some more complicated rules. The rules stayed quite simple, but are still enough of a challenge to guess. There are a lot more possible types of rules that we haven't tried yet (no one has stacked the pieces yet, for example).

Brendan adds:

You have to have some limit on the possible rules though, and make these known, as there are way too many possibilities otherwise that it becomes impossible without an infinite supply of pieces. "Mastermind" and "Queeries and Theories" have this by limiting the number of colours that can be used. "Zendo" has no specific limits, so I think it's important for players to settle on some before hand. Otherwise with nested logical statements it would get impossible.

October 4, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Adam, Binyamin, Saarya, Gili

The decision to hold tonight's game night was made at the last minute (I was considering cancelling it due to next week's Games Day), so attendance was light. That, or Sukkot was coming up.


*Adam, Nadine, Saarya, Gili+

Adam bought a few packs of Icehouse pieces, so he brought them over to play the most popular Icehouse game, Zendo. Zendo is an induction game similar to Mastermind and Queries and Theories.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it, which surprised me, as I thought it would be too complicated or at least too low-key for the group.

*Gili, Adam, Nadine, Saarya, Binyamin, Jon+

Enough so that they wanted to play again. I figured out the rule without too much dificulty, as I was the last to go and had eight previous figures from which to work.

Bernini Mysterie

Binaymin+, Jon

This is a trivial themeless game that, like Quarto, looks like it should be easily solvable. Or at least, provably broken in favor of first or second player, or forced into a tie.

Basically, each player has eight pieces of his color, and players take turns either placing a piece onto the playing area or another piece, or taking the top piece from a stack and moving it onto the playing area or onto another stack. Stacks can grow no higher than three pieces. The first player to have five pieces/stacks on the board with his color on top wins. You can't move the last piece just moved.

As Binyamin pointed out, it seems fairly trivial, with reasonably good play on both sides, to get into an infinite loop where neither player can win. If someone can disprove that, we're all ears.

Power Grid

Adam 15 + 50, Nadine 15 + 35, Binaymin 15 + 2, Jon 14, Saarya 13, Gili 12

We all thought this would be too long with six players, and we were right. It's not only because we broke once to go have a l'chaim with th downstairs neighbors and another time to return a lost puppy. It's not only that a slow player takes time while you have nothing to do. It's that your attention wanders during this time, so that someone then has to remind you that it's your turn again, and then bring you back up to speed on what happened since.

In our game, we played Germany, and Adam decided to block off the central Eastern region, making for wide north and south areas, but a cramped narrow passage on the west. I decided to start in Essen, just for the geekiness. I was immediately completely surrounded on the first turn by Binyamin on my East and Adam on my West.

We all bought very diverse fuel plants, which resulted in no particular fuel shortages during the game. Nadine got to six cities first, and I made the mistake of buying a cheap plant just to improve my capacity slightly while the plants market was stuck. The result helped other people more than myself, as new plants came down and the third phase started before I was ready. Note to self: patience is a virtue in this game. But when the game drags out for a long time, it's hard to play that way.

In the end, the game devolved into constant calculations and recalculations, to the point where people simply handed me their cities and money and said, "Here. You're quicker at this." Which kind of reflects badly on the game. Furthermore, the game may not be exactly decided by the last few rounds, but those who have no chance certainly are, and it is a pain to play at that point. And the final result coming down to a three way tie decided by money is anticlimactic. I think I have to lower my rating for the game, at least when playing six players.

Colossal Arena

Binyamin+, Gili

One of my new games, Binaymin very much wanted to play it, and did so with Gili during the Power Grid game downtime. I didn't see how it went.


Jon+, Adam

I taught this to Adam. Despite liking the game very much the first time that I played, a second playing revealed some apparent faults with the game. The major one being that it looks like, with reasonable play on both sides, the game gets into an infinite state of never ending. Maybe I missed a rule somewhere.

September 27, 2006

Participants: Jon, David K, Sheffie, Ben, Brendan, Binyamin, Zack, Nadine, Gili

David brought one of his daughters, Sheffie, who is around sixteen years old.

Quo Vadis

Binyamin 18, David 16, Brendan 12, Zack 10, Jon 0 (15)

I had played this three and four players, and very much wanted to try it with five players.

After two moves, the board seemed to me to be already pretty clogged. I was all set to complain that the game didn't work with five players, since I had to pass two turns doing nothing but moving Caesar. Only when it came around again to my next turn did I notice that I had completely missed one of the available paths on the board, and I hadn't actually been stuck at all.

My misplay set me back. Zack got two senators in before either David or I had gotten any, and he was seated before me, so I ended up being shut out. My overall impression was therefore quite good. A very nice game with five players.


Nadine 58, Ben 58, Gili 57, Sheffie 57

First play for Ben and Sheffie, and Ben didn't appear to be too impressed. Not that he hated it, or anything. Everyone was surprised at the close finish.


I will leave out the names of the players here, other than to say that the game started with some people and Brendan. The game ended prematurely when Brendan could not continue due to religious objections to Christian symbology having been purposely scribbled over on the game pieces. For more information, see
my blog entry.

As far as the game goes, it is a thinly-themed Euro-abstract game, like so many others. Simple, pastoral. Also, like so many others, the theme elements of the board served in part to confuse the actual gameplay areas, so that it was not immediately obvious which castles or churches belonged to which areas at a simple glance.

Cosmic Encounter

Brendan+, Jon, Zack/Binyamin

Despite some people saying that I shouldn't play my new copy of CE and should sell it instead, I was hankering to play at least one game with it. It ended up being a three player game, which works fine for most powers. Four is probably optimum, five already starting to get unwieldy.

I was the Doppleganger/Clone, which I thought was a pretty neat combo and not forbidden by the rules. Brendan was the Laser/Pentaform(Macro, Serpent, Delegator, Demon, Crystal), and Zack was the Reserves/Vulch. Brendan's Laser wasn't much use against me when I only had a single challenge card, and I usually had a good one which then I kept. On the other hand, he managed to force a compromise into my hand, leading to situations where he was blindly choosing between a 30 and a comp for my defense. Harrowing.

Meanwhile, I spent much of my game trying to Hand Zap Zack's horde of Edicts. Each time I zapped, he would unzap or edict zap, then he would collect the hand zap, and then I would dopple it out of his hand again and try again next round. I think it never occured to him to simply leave the spent hand zap in the discard pile.

The game progressed nicely and evenly, which made for an excellent experience. I was pretty sure that I would win at one point, but I failed my challenge for base five by a few points, and Brendan eventually secured the win on his own.

Princes of Florence

Ben 71, Gili 68, Nadine 64

Another staggeringly close game. I was under the impression that Ben didn't like auction games, but apparently he is growing in to them. Readers should know that he is essentially running a weekly game group in his settlement at this point, Kochav Hashachar.

I suggested to them that they play with rules changes for three players: only two each buildings and freedoms, and bidding on the landscapes as a single category.

Magic: the Gathering

David K+, Binyamin+

David loves to play Magic, and we usually get a chance to play each other. This time he instead got a chance to teach Binyamin. Benny had heard the rules before, but not actually played a full game face to face. So David build them each some simple black/red decks and helped him through his first two games.

Settlers of Catan

David, Sheffie, Zack

Zack left the Cosmic game early to join in this game, as it was his favorite, and Binyamin took over in the Cosmic game for the last round or two. I have no further information.

David adds:

Zack took something like 10 development cards, but got very unlucky in that all but two were soldiers. Shevy pulled ahead to an early substantial lead, and at 7 or 8 points we stopped trading with her. This together with some ill timed rolls of 7 held her back for *WAY* too long. Even so she finally won the game, though Zack came close. The die rolls seemed to be badly against me, so I didn't get far.


Jon, Brendan, Binyamin

We tried to get a game of this in before Brendan had to leave, but we only made it halfway through. This was my first play, and after Rheinl?nder, I was beginning to get a little jaded at yet another thinly themed Euro-abstract game.

And again, the game has some strange useless drop shadows on the board, as well as a poorly constructed score-keeping mechanism.


Ben, Binaymin, Nadine, Jon/David

I was allegedly playing this, but also helping my wife set up a new computer.

This game continues to grow in popularity at the club. David/I had a nice run of some good hands.

September 20, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Nadine, Zack, Elijah, Rosie, Ari, Binaymin, Adam, Gili

Rosie is Elijah's younger sister.

The Menorah Game

Rosie 55, Jon 49, Zack, Elijah

I decided to try the advanced version of the game, which I created back at the same time as the basic version. I've played the basic version hundreds of times, but the advanced version only once before.

It is definitely a more challenging and less lucky game. For all of you who have copies of the game, I tried it with a bonus of only five points for completing your board, and that seemed to work fine. I may have written 10 points in the rules I gave out; try it with five and see which works better.

I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the game has held up over time. This was the first play for Rosie and Zack, and Elijah's first play of the advanced version. They all enjoyed it, although Elijah said that he was used to the basic version. Rosie completed her board and won.


Ari+, Nadine

A filler game. Ari won three rings to two.


Brendan+, Adam

I tried this relatively new abstract game once and wasn't impressed. Adam and Benny had a nice game of it. Adam says that strategies are still being discovered for the game.

Cosmic Encounter

Zack+, Binyamin, Elijah, Adam, Ari, Brendan

First plays for Zack and Ari. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play. Unfortunate for two reasons: 1) I love the game, and 2) I would have insisted that a less chaotic version of the game was played for the first time players. Ari wasn't overly impressed, and that was partly because too much chaos was allowed in the game.

First I stopped them from throwing in the entire flare deck. I didn't get to stop them throwing in every comet and asteroid (or whatever the name of those other destiny pile cards), nor prevent them from using double powers.

Some of the powers in the game: Filth, Crystal, Fungus, Plant, Wrack, Vacumn, Sting. Zack ended up winning because Binyamin kept inviting everyone to ally. No one noticed that Zack had four bases when Benny invited him, and he simply sailed in for the fifth base.

El Grande

Nadine 132, Jon 128, Rosie, Gili

Nadine has a long history with winning this game, and she did it again, although I gave her some competition. By midgame, she was obviously winning. Through concerted effort we ganged up on her, which allowed me to actually tie her coming up to the last scoring round, but she still was able to pull ahead in the end.

This was a long, long game, as first Nadine took ages and ages to think through her turns, and then Gili did. It was also Rosie's first play, so we had to explain the rules and occasionally give advice.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Elijah, Zack

Elijah taught Zack how to play this. I have no further info.


Jon, Elijah

I started this two-player with Elijah, but we only got to the fourth battle before he had to go.

San Juan

Rosie/Jon 40, Nadine 39, Gili 27

Rosie and Elijah had to leave, so I took over for Rosie's position in the early stages of the game. It was a tough battle, and both Nadine and I pulled what we needed quite often. I had Library, but opted for Councelor on a few occasions when I could also have taken Prospector, forgoing the bonus card for the chance of getting what I needed. This worked once.

Gili had 8 cards under a Chapel at the end of the game, as well as a Palace.


Ari 45, Binaymin 34, Adam 27, Brendan 26

This was a new game for everyone except Binyamin, who had brought it. They seemed to enjoy it. I didn't see much, except that it was an area control game and had what was probably the worst designed scoring mechanism that I've ever seen.

L'shana Tova Tichatev V'techatem.

September 13, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nate, Yitzchak, Nadine, Adam, Binyamin, Gili, Zack, Tal, Ari

Elijah has started work on another play, so will not be available for most sessions for the forseeable future. Nate brought his copy of Reef Encounter.

Reef Encounter

Gili 34, Binyamin 29, Nate 23, Nadine 23

I was interested in playing this, but I was also interested in replaying Santiago. Nadine was also eager to play this. I heard some strange sentences coming from their direction during the game, such as "my squid eats you algae," but that is not much better than the ones coming from our game of Santiago, "I place my peas to block your bananas."

The game was really long, more than three hours, and there is literally nothing to do on someone else's turn, since you can't plan. Either the game is flawed, or the players thought way too much.

Nadine adds:

I was disappointed, most likely because I had read about the game and it sounded very good. It's not different from many Euro-games that I've played recently, which all seem pretty reactive. There is no opportunity to really plan a strategy. In Reef, there's no point in planning or thinking in between turns. Your turn is interesting and there is a lot to think about at the time, including future moves, but the options still seem pretty limited - you find your one best mov based on what's available. I don't know if my reaction is based on playing games only once; it's possible that more familiarity would make the game more interesting, but it doesn't seem like it. I do like the colors and theme of Reef, but that's not enough of course.

Earlier comments from Nadine indicated that she liked the game.


Adam 96, Yitzchak 91, Jon 80, Zack 78, Ari 67

I continue to absolutely love this game, which is so elegant and so full of possibility. And that's even though I lost.

I discovered two mistakes with the rules that I had been playing, which I corrected this game. One, that if you pass, you place one less cube on your tile. This is a good rule. Two, that only one person can place their bonus water at the end of a round. This rule doesn't work as well, and I prefer to drop it unless someone can tell me why it exists.

Taj Mahal

Yitzchak 62, Ari 57, Zack, Tal

Yitzchak taught all of them how to play the game (only Tal had played once before) and then proceeded to wipe the floor with them.

Go (11x11)

Adam, Jon+

Adam suggested this, and I was more than happy to play. After around fifty games of 9x9, I felt that I was ready to graduate to the 11x11 board. Adam asked to play with Japanese scoring rules, which I was not very familiar with.

What a great game. This is the game you want to have if you are stuck on a desert island. How many other games do you think that you can play for twenty years, every day, and not get bored of?

Adam is the better player. In the first game, he had a superior position and lost only by letting one careless stone slip through his hand right before the game ended. Even after that gave me a dozen spaces, I won by a few spaces, but less than the bonus given to the second player.

The second game was less dramatic. I fought hard in some areas, but I made a foolish play in the middle of the board, which I kind of knew as I was playing it, but didn't convince myself not to do it. He ended up winning by 12 spaces, not including his bonus.

The Menorah Game

Binyamin 49, Nate 39, Gili 37, Ari 35

Gili and Nate needed something short to play before leaving, and this filled the gap. Binyamin insisted on playing with the advanced version of the rules (count the values on your candles), as he said that it made the game less luck dependent. He also won.


Adam+, Jon

With a little more time, I taught Adam how to play Dvonn. Dvonn is really an excellent game, and doesn't get played as much as Yinsh does, but should. I had reasonable control, but somehow it slipped through my hands by the end of the game.


Jon, Adam, Ari, Binyamin

We played a few hands of this. Ari was my partner. It's been a while since I played. I should probably work my way back into playing it more often again. It's still the ultimate card game.

September 06, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Yitzchak, Binyamin, Rivka, Gili, Zack, Ari, Rachal A, Adam, Nadine

A welcome back to Nadine from her U.S. trip. Elijah brought Zack with him, a friend. Ari, a former neighbor of mine from Beit Shemesh, also returned, having come once or twice before. And Rivka is Binyamin's wife.

Queries and Theories

Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Yitzchak

This is an old induction game from Wiff-n-Poof. They produce expensive, educational games that teach logic and computer theory. In this case, the game consists of tubes of plastic disks in various colors and a sixty page rule book. The book talks about natural language, basic sentence and substitution, and provides several games to play.

The basic game is for one player to invent a "language", and for the other players to guess the language by constructing sentences and then being told if the sentences are included in the language or not. The level of difficulty in the game is varied by limiting either the number of different colored chips that are allowed in the language (tokens) and/or the number of different rules that the language can have.

This is pretty much like Zendo (but predates it). The more players playing, the easier it is to get to the right answer, because you can look at the sentences constructed by the other players as well as your own.

In our game, I created a language with one basic sentence, one substitution rule, and three tokens. The basic sentence was "123", and the substitution rule was "2->321".

Yitzchak dropped out after two guesses, moving on to another game. Brendan tried to guess the language on turn 7 or so, but errored. Elijah continued until the end without being able to formulate a valid guess. Only Brendan seemed to like it, and he sat down to read more of the rule book later in the evening.

Puerto Rico

Adam 53, Rachel 52, Yitzchak 50, Nadine 43

Adam beat Rachel by one point; Nadine was still jet-lagged, and so was playing at a disadvantage, or so I heard.

Nadine adds:

I think my mistakes were more due to not having played in over a month, but jet lag's always a good excuse.

Yitzchak might have won if he had bought a big building earlier, instead Rachel grabbed it as her second building. He had 4 indigo plantations so would have scored at least 8. I had one big building, Adam 2. There was little corn the whole game, I never produced it. Adam and Rachel both had Factories and Coffee, Adam was sitting behind Rachel but had Large and Small Market, Yitzchak had a Wharf. Adam had no storage, and benefited from advice to buy production buildings rather than Const. Hut after he already had one Quarry.

Louis XIV

Binyamin 49, Gili 47, Rivka 40, Jon 40

The first of my two major losses this evening, as well as teh first of Binyamin's seemingly inscrutable wins. I thought I was doing pretty well for the first two rounds; I had more missions than any other player. Then I stalled out, and Binyamin ended up surpassing me in missions.

I actually find this game to be rather inelegant. Too many substitution and clean up rules designed to correct elements of the game that don't work. The influence markers are the exception, as they work rather well.

Settlers of Catan

Zack, Elijah, Brendan

I don't know the results of this game. Elijah came to me at one point and asked if he was allowed to build more than 15 roads, as he had just picked a Road Building development card.

Tigris and Euphrates

Yitzchak 9, Ari 8, Nadine 6, Adam 4

Ari came during the Louis game and watched me for a while. Then he joined this game when it started. It was his first play. I think they all had a good game.

Nadine adds:

Yitzchak developed a powerful kingdom and didn't lose conflicts, and initiated a lot that he won. Most conflicts were between Adam and Yitzchak, one against me at the end. Ari did very well.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Zack(Jon)+, Elijah-

Elijah played white and taught Zack how to play this. Zack had to leave before the game ended. I found that I had a man in Mordor, a man in the Shire, and the Flying Nazgul, while Elijah only had Frodo. I moved my man out of Mordor, and then hit with the Nazgul. When he finally made it to the space next to my man out of Mordor, he was unable to retreat sideways from my Nazgul attack.

Princes of Florence

Binyamin 47, Rivka 46, Jon 45, Elijah 37, Gili 36

Binyamin had played only once, and this was first play for Rivka. Once again I thought that I played fairly well and should have won, and once again I don't know how Binyamin won. Or how Rivka scored so well.

Binyamin bought two early Jesters, but paid 1300 each for them, which should have killed him. I got my two Jesters for 1300 total, and had only played one work before using them. He ended up getting a cheap Recruiter later, as did I. Both of us picked uninteresting Prestige cards. My two together were worth 10, while his was only 3. One of the things he did do was get a lot of "best work" awards.

Elijah had to leave during the last round, so we finished playing for him. Both he and Gili ended up with one work that they couldn't play.


Nadine, Adam, Ari, Brendan

First plays for Brendan. Several hands were played for over an hour. This game appears to be gaining in popularity in the club.

August 30, 2006

Participants: Jon, Tal, Brendan, Yitzchak, Adam, Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Dylan, David K

And we're back in my house for games night, which is most comfortable, if only because I don't have to lug a selection of my games around to other people's houses.

Origins of World War I

David+, Jon, Brendan, Adam, Yitzchak

Brendan proposed this game a few weeks ago and we finally were able to give it a try. I approached the game with some trepidation, for several reasons.

The basic idea: each player gets a number of tokens to place into areas on the board, no more than five per area in a round except for his own country's area. Once per round, a player can challenge another player's influence in one area, which results in one or both of them removing pieces. At the end of the game, each player gains points based on having ten or more tokens in certain areas (each player has different objectives) or by limiting other player's achievements. High score wins.

First of all, our game group had rejected playing Origins of World War II several months ago because the game box had Nazi symbology on it. This game, Origins of World War I, is a predecessor of that game and was published in Sid Sackson's excellent A Gamut of Games. We had to come up with the components ourselves (thanks, Brendan).

Secondly, the game is at least thirty years old. Most elderly games are not my style. It is also a pure negotiation game with a die rolling chart to resolve conflicts. All of which don't particularly appeal to me. Nevertheless, the game also doesn't have that much "combat" (the combat is really clashes of political influence), and the main mechanic is really area control, which I guess you could say about most war games, actually.

In the end, I'm always willing to try new things. So how did it go?

The superficial answer is that I was pretty bored for most of the game. There are supposed to be negotiations going on. That is how you are supposed to maximize efforts and ensure efficient resource utilization. Instead, I played it like a strategy game, with little negotiating.

I took full advantage of the "only one attack per turn" mechanic, and spread out to multiple areas, forcing people to be unable to attack me everywhere at once without ganging up. I also played a lot more for limiting other player's advancement, rather than looking for my own, since the net point differential in doing so was more advantageous to me.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that Britain's main objective was to ensure that nobody else gained too many points. David, as Britain, was easily going to be able to achive this objective unless people focused on preventing this. Unfortunately, everyone else's main objectivs are stated in such a way as to make them think that they have to take out Germany (which was me). I kept telling them that attacking me wasn't going to help, it would only let David win, but to little avail.

Eventually I allied with Russia (Brendan), but we weren't able to rack up enough points to challenge Britain.

As far as I my personal opinion goes, it seems to me that the strength of the game is in much deeper and stronger negotiation. Furthermore, players have to be more aware of Britain's strengths so that they can team up and ensure limiting his point gains. A few more games may have to be played in order to achieve this.

So I think it is probably a reasonably good game for those that like this sort of thing. On the other hand, the game allows you to gang up on other players without much hope for that player to respond, has a boring die rolling conflict resolution system, is unbalanced (which is not such a problem if players gang up effectively), and resolves to kingmaking at the end.

Brendan adds:

I liked Origins, but think it needs some work on the combat table. A 3:2 column would be good. But overall better than Diplomacy: much quicker, more than just negotiation, and more historical, with asymmetric victory conditions. ... It's fun if you get into the silly accents. Maybe everyone should wear an appropriate national hat?


Tal played with Binyamin and Tikva Shira, as they showed up while we were in the middle of our OOWWI game. Tal always plays to get a straight flush for the last battle, but the other two were not cooperative, and they simply never played the last card that she needed for it. Meanwhile, the last two rounds of the game were nothing but straight flushes from all players, except for Tal on the last round.

At least at one point there were no cards left to draft from, and Tikva Shira was forced to call Havoc. She also ended up winning the game.

San Juan

Yitzchak, Dylan, Tal

Yitzchak only had an hour left to play, and he is a San Juan nut, so he roped these guys into playing before he left.

Quo Vadis

Binyamin+, Brendan, Adam, Tikva Shira

I picked this up at a recent board game event and quite like it. It is also a negotation game, but more interesting, quicker, and Eurogamey than OOWWI. Binyamin was the only one who had played this before. Apparently, he learned from my previous wins against him and went on to a crushing victory in this game. They played with the expansion tokens, which I have not yet played with.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon++, David

David and I love to draft, so we always try to make time for it. In this draft, David was placed into the very unusual position of taking white cards. He almost never ever plays white, but that's just how it turned out. He claims that that is why I beat him in both games. I think it has more to do with the solid large damage and creatures I drafted in both green and red. Neither of us had any mana problems in either game, despite both playing two colors with a splash of a third.

After the first game, we broke to play Shadows Over Camelot, and then returned to play the second game after it was done.

Shadows Over Camelot

David, Jon, Brendan, Adam, Binaymin, Tikva Shira, Dylan

Neither David nor Dylan had played this, and I suspected that David would like it, so dragged him away after the first Magic game to play. I told them that they really needed almost no instructions on how to play. I taught them the rules in about three minutes, and then filled in the details as the game went on.

With seven players, it was almost inevitable that there would be a traitor, and usually it is Adam or Brendan that gets it. Amazingly enough, none of us were traitor. Still, the mechanic that made it likely that one of us might have been made for a crucial element in keeping the game interesting.

It is very hard to win the game, even without a traitor. David said at one point, when many catapults were arrayed against us and cards and causalties were mounting up, that he didn't think that we were doing very well. I told him that we were doing quite well, actually; this amount of damage was normal.

With some fancy footwork, we got the grail quickly and then beat off the Picts. I took out the Black Knight and Adam took out Lancelot. With six white swords, and the traitor still not revealed, the best course of action was then to take the grail while holding the catapults at bay.

We got the grail with a concerted effort, giving us nine white swords. Now the best way to win was to simply let the black swords fill in the rest of the slots before the catapults won. That is actually a rather strange twist in the mechanics. We ended up upping the number of swords we would lose due to the Saxons in order to end the game. We lost to the Saxons, the game ended, and we won.

I still think the game is generally rather dull, but I enjoyed this one.

August 23, 2006

Participants: Jon, Gili, Ben (not my brother), Binyamin, Zvi Yehuda, Tikva Shira, Ofek, Michael, Elijah, Rose, Brendan, Adam

Ofek is Gili's daughter. Elijah and Rose are Michael's kids; Elijah is a regular, of course, and Michael comes occasionally, but this was Rose's first time. Tikva Shira and Zvi Yehuda are Binyamin's kids.

We played at Gili's house this week, my house still being unavailable, and wanting to give Ginat, Nadine's daughter, a rest from the game group. Ben is Gili's upstairs neighbor, who was curious as to the fact that we were playing games. I invited him down to see what it is all about.

At first he thought I was trying to sell him games, and then he was surprised to hear that these weren't party games or quick games, and that we played them seriously. He agreed to a short game, and from what I had brought over, I selected San Juan.

I'm going to mess up this session report, because I didn't take any notes. Adam very much wanted to play Origins of World War I, but it was hard to get the right number of people playing acceptable games at the right times, and it didn't work out.

San Juan

Yitzchak 42, Jon 33, Adam 32, Ben 20

This may not have been the best first choice. Ben didn't appear to be unintelligent, but he didn't seem to make the transition into the game world in any way. No matter how many times I told him the rules, he couldn't remember what he was supposed to do at any time. He never read the buildings that he built, and he built constantly without any plan. I guess that the reality of games and his expectation about what games were supposed to be just didn't connect.

Yitzchak built an early Library which I scorned in four player. He got as much use of it as I did with my Poor House. But he won, and by a large margin, so who am I to say that this was because I couldn't pull a six point building to save my life until the last round?

Winner's Circle

Brendan, Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda, Ofek

Played as a filler. Binyamin couldn't believe that I would buy this, as it's not a heavy strategy game.


Gili, Michael, Elijah, Rose

Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda, Ofek

Played early as an opener, and then later as a closer.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Jon+, Gili, Yitzchak, Adam

I taught this to Adam and Yitzchak. In the last game of Settlers, Adam won by placing his settlements on the 11 and 3 and then rolling nothing but 11's and 3's the whole game. This time he was on the 8, 4, and 10. I promised to quit the game if nothing but 8's, 4's, and 10's were rolled in the first several rounds. They were, but I didn't quit, anyway.

Adam took an early lead, but then the dice rolls evened out a bit. The game proceeded in a more balanced fashion, helped out by our embargo of Adam in the early game.

I eventually won by taking a second metropolis and pulling the merchant card. It was a surprise all around, because I don't think anyone but me was actually counting the points until I won.

By Hook or By Crook

Michael+, Elijah, Rose, Brendan, Ofek

Michael had the largest collection and was one spot away from winning. He realized that he could force a win by playing the detective, because even if someone else got to the finish line before he did, he would still win with the largest collection. And he couldn't risk someone stealing his works. The game ended fairly closely.

Modern Art

Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

Adam 465, Jon 420, Gili 421, Brendan

I honestly no longer remember who played in the first game; I'm just guessing. In the second game, I thought that I was playing pretty well for once, but Adam won again, anyway.


Jon, Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

I also played some hands of this at the same time that I was finishing up my game of Modern Art.

August 16, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Gili, Ofek, Adam, Yitzchak, Dylan, Saarya, Elijah

Another week at Nadine's house, while Nadine is away and my house is rented out. Dylan had come a few times previously along with Genya, who had come a few times with my brother Ben. Dylan hadn't come regularly because he had had a conflict on Wed evenings, but the conflict is now over.


Brendan, Yitzchak, Jon

Yitzchak always wants to play San Juan as an opener, but I was a little tired of it, and Brendan doesn't really like it. So we played one round of this, which I lost. I had nine hearts to the Ace-King, but Yitzchak had the other four.

Brendan and I also tried to start an El Caballero game while we were waiting for Gili to show up, but she came during the first round, so we abandoned it.

Tigris and Euphrates

Adam 7, Yitzchak 5, Dylan 4, Elijah 2

Adam expalined this to Dylan while I piped in with some annoying notes during his explanation (it irks me when someone refers to the leaders as "kings"). They seem to have enjoyed the game. One thing that bothers me is that the disaster tiles don't do enough to clarify that a kingdom is split into two parts. The game would probably play better with more color contrast between the pieces and board, as Mike Doyle suggests on his blog.

By Hook or By Crook

Brendan, Gili, Jon

We started this hoping Ofek would join us, but she decided just to watch. A shame, because I don't really like the game.

Brendan started off with a complete exhibit, while I had two "B"s and two "F"s. The entire rock-paper-scissors mechanic is boring for me, and Brendan won with almost no effort. Brendan, on the other hand, really likes it, because of the chaos.

Winner's Circle

Jon 1550, Saarya 1450, Brendan, Gili, Ofek

This is one of the few games that Ofek know and likes, so we played it. Saarya showed up right as we were starting and he joined in. He wasn't overly enthusiastic about it. I like it better than By Hook or By Crook; it's enjoyable, but more of a toy than a game.

After the first round, we decided to cut the game short to only two rounds.

Modern Art

Adam+, Brendan, Elijah, Dylan

Adam and Brendan were both keen to play this, while I prefer to play it only once in a while. It is a bit repetitive to me, and the strategy and tactics don't vary enough from game to game.


Jon 129, Gili 123

Meanwhile, since it looked like we would only have two players, I suggested Caylus, since with two reasonable fast players, the game at least moves fairly quickly. It sure looked to both of us as if I was marginally winning during the game with my tactics, but Gili only ended up a few points behind me. That is probably because I gave her about twenty points in building usage fees.

So building usage does add up, but not quite enough. I built both more big buildings, and more castle segments, netting more favors. We also helped each other occasionally, pointing out mistakes that we were about to make.


Yitzchak 29, Saarya 21

Saarya taught this to Yitzchak, who didn't have enough time for a longer game. They didn't fight at least two of the battles, including battle number eight. The rules don't indicate what happens if battle number eight doesn't happen. I told them to just pick two cards each and proceed to battle nine. According to the rules, you are supposed to do what the card says only if the battle is fought.

Settlers of Catan

Adam 10, Jon 9, Dylan 7, Elijah 5

More scrounging around to find a game with which to end the evening resulted in this one.

Ore and Brick were both scarce. I started off monopolizing the ore. Adam placed his initial settlements on pathetic numbers, and then proceeded to win because the most common numbers rolled throughout the game were 3 and 11, just what he needed. Argh!

I got some quick cities, and then stalled when Dylan kept placing the robber on my ore hex. Adam surpassed me, and Dylan also worked his way up, until it was actually a close game for the three of us. Dylan was about to get Largest Army.

I had one of those little sweet moments where I traded all of my ore away to everyone else and then played a Monopoly card.

August 09, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Brendan, Gili, Ofek, Adam

Tonight was the first of three weeks at Nadine's house, as my house has been rented out. It was also the last week before Nadine's trip to the states for three weeks. I will be staying at her house.

Owing to this confusion, perhaps, we had a lighter than usual game night. Or perhaps it's just because it is summer.


Gili+, Brendan, Jon, Nadine

Brendan arrived after me and tortured me by wanting to play this game until the others arrived. Gili showed up in the middle of the game and sat down. She was given a card and was forced to play it. Then Brendan went and was forced to play his, which resulted in Gili winning. How exciting.

Winner's Circle

Brendan+, Gili, Ofek, Jon, Nadine

I have mixed opinions about this, but it is an ok game for a light luck game. When you have choices of several horses to move, there is some skill involved. When you only have one or two horses to move, it is pretty automatic.

We played one round, and Brendan was ahead. Then we decided to start a real game.

Power Grid

Brendan 14, Gili 13+, Jon 13-, Nadine 11+, Ofek 11-, Adam 10

Adam called as we were setting up, so I played his moves for the first two rounds until he arrived. This was Ofek's first attempt to play the game, but it was long and too hard for her (she is 8 years old?), and she drifted away towards the end of the game, and Gili had to play her final moves for her.

The game was really long and slow even for our standards. The primary problem was six players, which meant more downtime and more complex calculations. Add to that Nadine's very methodical math analysis, and Gili having to explain the options each round to Ofek, and we were all a little bored by the end of it. Even though the game "situation" itself was pretty interesting and would have been exciting had it gone faster.

We played on the American map without the East Coast. Brendan took the entire west coast and essentially played solo the entire game. Despite the higher connections, he managed a win.

We were all fighting around the three central and southeast areas, but even with the crowding, none of us paid the same high connection fees that Brendan did. His price savings came from always building in the first positions in any city, while we had to build into second and third positions.

Meanwhile, Brendan spent a lot of time looking at another game that Nadine had in her closet.

July 30, 2006

Participants: Jon, Adam, Binyamin, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda, Elijah, Nadine, Yitzchak

Game day was on Sunday this week, owing to Tish'a Ba'av being on Wed night/Thursday. The schedule adjustment made for lighter attendance. Next week we will be back to Wed evening, but it will be at Nadine's house.

Tikva Shira and Zvi Yehuda are two of Binyamin's children, and they don't speak or understand much English.

Shadows Over Camelot

Adam+, Binyamin/Zvi Yehuda, Tikva Shira, Elijah, Nadine

I was thinking of abbreviating this as SoC, but that acronym is already in use. Adam played the traitor, again, and won, again. They had eight white swords on the table. Without uncovering the traitor, they needed one more to ensure a majority. The game ended with twelve siege engines however.

San Juan

Yitzchak 44, Jon 36

Yizchak, Jon

Elijah+, Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

Yitzchak showed up and we tried to figure out what to play. A number of people wanted to play Shadows Over Camelot, and Binyamin had to play with his two kids in order to translate. I'm not a huge fan of Shadows anyway, so Yitzchak and I played San Juan.

Yitchak declined the opening build (I built Quarry), but then returned on round two with Library. The only way to combat Library is to continuously take Builder or Prospector, to ensure that the Library user can't get both. It definately slowed him down, but it also slowed me down.

We built almost identical buildings throughout the game, but in the end he pulled up two big buildings to my one, and they were better ones.

We started another one which ended when the Shadows game finally ended. In this game, I made one change and declared that the Archive's ability was to draw three additional cards during Councelor. I started the game by building one, and in the few rounds that we played, it seemed about balanced.

Later in the evening, when the three kids needed something to play, Elijah convinced the other two to play this, which was a really bad idea, seeing as the other two kids don't read English. They kept having to ask Binyamin what the card texts said. They are really bright kids, however, and could remember what the cards did as they played.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon (B)+, Yitzchak (W)

I introduced Yitzchak to this game as we were still waiting for Shadows to end (between San Juan games). I played black, and while Yitzchak's pieces got lucky - Gimli killed the Orcs, Legolas killed the Nazgul - I eventually had him cornered where Frodo either had to walk into me or let me walk into him when he couldn't retreat. There was a way out for him, but he didn't see it.


Nadine 57, Binaymin 49, Zvi Yehuda 47, Yitzchak 44

Binyamin introduced this game to Nadine and Yitzchak. It apparently involved area control in order to increase your odds of winning an area, as well as set collection. The mechanic involved placing a large black disk with a small hole over all of the cubes in one region and shaking them up until one cube comes out. That cube is the winner. It's a little like the Wallenstein tower idea.

Unfortunately, the way that you shake the black disk probably has a strong influence on what comes out. Add to that the basic random nature of this mechanic, and Yitzchak didn't like it, and I wouldn't either, I suspect.

Power Grid

Jon+, Tikva Shira, Adam, Elijah

This one was a bit of a cake walk for me. We played on Germany minus the south. I ended up with the cheapest region in the beginning and no one else even contested me for it. By the time stage 2 rolled around, I was ahead in cities, power capacity, and cash.

We ended the game a round or two from the end. It is possible that Tikva Shira could have overtaken me at the last, but only with all three of them cooperating against me. Also, Tikva Shira let me get a final power plant that she shouldn't have; otherwise, she played very well.

Tigris and Euphrates

Adam 7, Nadine 5/6, Binyamin 5/5, Jon 4

I really like this game, but it doesn't come our more because other people in the group have never been enthusiastic about it. Tonight's game was an excellent game, and served to make both Adam and Binyamin promise to want to play more. Nadine also enjoyed it, although she still claims not to have a full grasp on what she's doing.

This game was the first game in a long time that I actually had to sit and think for some time on what to do, not once, but repeatedly. It was that complicated.

Everyone else was convinced that I was winning owing to two lucky defences I enjoyed early one, but I knew that I was very shy in black cubes (I only had two). After using my two black tiles, I was up to four, but still far from winning. Meanwhile, Adam was pulling in red and green due to a monument.

No disaster tiles were played, even though the kingdoms stretched and twisted around each other. At several times during the game, people wanted to merge three kingdoms at once, or play leaders to merge two kingdoms, both of which could not be done.

In the end, I saw one possibility of gaining extra black quickly, by externally attacking Adam in black. I was up 5 to 2, but he pulled out three black tiles. Net gain was five blacks for him, giving him the game, and squashing any possibility of my winning. The game ended when the tiles ran out before I could even get another turn.


Tikva Shira, Zvi Yehuda

As embarrassing as it is to report this, the kids played this at the end of the evening while we were wrapping up T&E.

July 26, 2006

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Tal, Gili, Ofek, Elijah, Yitzchak, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Binyamin, Zvi Yehuda, Adam

Nadine was noticeably absent this week. Also, as this was Rachel's last night in Israel before heading off to Canada, she requested that the game night end a little early, which it almost did.

Empire Builder

Brendan ~250, Jon ~150, Guy ~50

Brendan is a train game enthusiast, especially if the game is played on accurate terrain. I had bought this game used, but hadn't had a chance to play it, as I understood that it is a bit long and it requires writing, which makes it impossible to play on shabbat.

Elijah was going to play with us, but he was persuaded to play with Gili and Ofek when they showed up.

When we opened the game, we couldn't find any crayons, but I scrounged some up. We set up and were on our way, hoping that the game wouldn't take too long.

Here's the good news: it didn't take too long. In fact, we finished in about an hour and change, an hour and a half tops.

Here's the bad news: The game is phenomenally boring. Talk about your multiplayer solitaire. It may be that with more players there is some kind of competition for goods and track routing, but there sure isn't in three players. On the other hand, more players is supposed to slow the game down to a crawl.

You can't help but notice how this game predates Euro gaming. It's like the designers came up with one good concept but then neglected to make the game actually interesting. However! And this is a big however. This essential underlying mechanic actually works well, and so the game is simply ripe for changing into something enjoyable. It seems almost trivial to add some variations to make the game work, such as:

Now I have to go find out what variants exist, and which are any good. Also bad was the whole crayon thing. While I admit that it has a primal coolness factor, you are constantly having to fight with the materials, rubbing out mistaken lines, redrawing accidentally rubbed or smudged lines, and so on. And, of coure, you can't play on shabbat. Tracks would definitely work better.

In our game, nothing happened, except that Brendan had more going on on the west coast then we did, so he delivered more lucrative deliveries. We decided to end when he was at 200 with two more big deliveries on the way.

Age of Steam

Saarya 52, Binyamin 51, Adam 33, Zvi Yehuda 31, Nate 4

Meanwhile, a better train game was going on, although it lasted twice as long as ours. This was Saarya's first game, and I simply assumed that he would win, which he did, even though he didn't know the correct scoring rules until the game was over.

Winner's Circle

Tal 2400, Gili 1100, Elijah 900, Yitzchak 650, Ofek 600

Tal is in love with the game, and taught the others. Yitzchak didn't like it, as he has apparently outgrown games with high luck elements.

Taj Mahal

Elijah 66, Yitzchak 45, Gili 38, Ofek 20

Yitzchak and Elijah had the most experience in this one. I think this was Elijah's first win for this game.


Jon 146, Guy 111, Brendan 103

I taught both of them. I should have warned them that the treasures can be lucrative. I ended up with much too large a set too early, which easily gave me the game. Brendan apparently is also playing a game of this on line, and either the rules he learned there are incorrect, or he was playing without having read all of the rules. Still, they both played very well, treasures aside.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Nate++, Elijah

Elijah+, Guy

I didn't see these, although they attracted some spectators at the end of the evening. Binyamin had been hoping to play a few hands of Bridge, but I had to send everyone home.

Next time!

July 19, 2006

Participants: Jon, Tal, Brendan, Zeke, Nadine, Gili, David K, Nate, Yitzchak, Binyamin, Itamar, Elijah, Adam

We started game night early for two events: David K came early to play Magic with me, and Binyamin made plans to play Twilight Imperium III with other brave and hearty souls, so he came early to set up.

At the start of the evening, we had the usual discussions as to what to play, when Yitzchak showed up with my spanking new copy of Winner's Circle.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon

We did the usual Rochester drafting of random cards from my collection. I didn't think that I was doing too badly, but apparently I had. I had an easy Blue pick, but then had to add both White and Green. David also ended up with three colors - Green, Red, Black - and even splashed some other colors, owing to having three sources of multi-colored mana production.

Well, I saw quickly enough that I was in trouble, with no cards of any sort that were worth very much. In the second game, David had a card that let him sacrifice his creatures to look through my hand and force me to discard cards. He used it once and realized, as I had told him, that it was a waste of his time to use it, since I had nothing worth him forcing to discard.

Twilight Imperium III

Binaymin, Yitzchak, Elijah, Itamar, Adam

I didn't see how this went, but there was a lot of negotiation going on and not much seems to have happened otherwise. After four hours, from 7:00 until 11:00, they had barely spread out from their home bases, and were only halfway done. By which time they had to end the game. Consensus was that Binyamin and Yitzchak were in the lead.

For all that, they all looked like they enjoyed the experience.

Winner's Circle

Nadine 22, Tal 19, Brendan 13, Zeke 9

I wanted to play this, but agreed to play something else when other players came and needed another player. My understanding is that the game is more on the lightness scale of Settlers than the heavy scale we have been playing lately, such as Caylus. I expected Brendan to like it.

Brendan and Tal loved it, and Nadine and Zeke both enjoyed it, although Nadine wasn't overly enthusiastic about the repetitive nature of the mechanics. The horses are cool, however. I didn't notice any color problems with them, as has been reported.


Jon+, David and Ofek tied for second, Gili close behind

This is the game of Caylus that made me realize how the game is more work than fun. There is so much disconnect between the actions and the rewards, it is laborious to get there. I don't know. I would play again, but I wouldn't enthusiastically suggest it. There is also a lot of downtime as you wait for others to make their decisions, and I find that my own decisions are not that deep or difficult.

I began with the building track in favors, which served me well, as there was a lot of competition for the building actions on the buildings. David really overdid the income track, ending with tons of money and cubes. Ofek tried a strong VP track, and had some success.

The play of the day was on the last round. I was sitting with one green building. I had enough cubes for two blue buildings, but it looked like I could only buy one. I had three favors coming to me, but could only use the building track only twice owing to phase restrictions. However, I managed to secure the building that lets me build an additional green building, which meant that I would be able to build my two blue buildings after all.

Meanwhile, David had enough cubes for several dozen blue buildings, and had two green buildings. He had secured the Provost moving building, but was going to go right before me on the bridge. He had no chance to build either blue buildings this round, because he had no markers on a blue-building building, and no progression on the building track. When it came his chance to move the provost, he had to decide between moving the provost forward a few spaces, which would end the game, or moving it backwards a few spaces, which would wreck two of his markers on the buildings!

Truthfully, wrecking his markers was the right move. But if he could manage it, the best alternative was for him to have the provost land exactly where it was and gain the best of both: extend the game one more round and also utilize his buildings. But he was worried about my ability to move the provost after him on the bridge.

He agonized about this for several minutes, finally leaving the provost where it was. Unfortunately for him, both Gili and Ofek moved the provost two spaces forward, and there was nothing he could do to move it back.

Only then did I point out to him what was in plain sight: I hade no money whatsoever, and couldn't move the provost even if I had wanted to. Of course, as soon as I said that, I also realized that having left myself with no money, I couldn't buy the green building that I needed to end with two blue buildings.

Anyway, this ended more painfully for David then for me. He lost the chance to build a blue building or potentially two if he could have found a way, and I lost one. But I had more houses in the castle anyway and ended the game about twenty points in front of him. There was no way he could really have caught up.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon+, Nate

Nate had been planning to play TI3, but wasn't able to make it until around 7:45, by which time the other players had started long since. Winner's Circle would be over soon, so he had to wait. I played this with him while I was also playing Caylus, which shows how much attention I really needed to play Caylus.

Gandalf did his usual damage. I discovered that it is always more worthwhile to attack as white, rather than to be attacked, except for Frodo. In the end, we had gotten our cards back and it came down to his three remaining pieces versus my three. Galdalf was in Mordor and of no use, and the Troll was already in the Shire. I had Sam and Frodo left, and he had the Witch King and Balrog.

Sam had to move forward, and Nate attacked him with the Witch King. If I killed the Witch King, he can't win, since Frodo had a free walk. If I didn't, he would end up winning by one move - the number of steps remanining for him to get both pieces to the Shire versus the number of steps remaining for me to get Frodo to Mordor.

Nate was considering his card when I thoughtlessly threw my Noble Sacrifice face up rather than face down. I had forgotten that he still had the card that can cancel any text card that I play. Nate said however that he was not considering playing that card, and would have played the 5 probably. So he gave me the win.


Brendan/David 94, Nate 94, Nadine 83, Tal 82, Zeke 67

Nate was able to join this game after Winner's Circle. I love this game but was still playing Caylus. When Caylus ended, Gili had to go with Ofek, and Brendan wanted a ride. He left an open position which I would have taken, but the game rules are so simple that I insisted that David take over even though he had never played before. It was round 8 out of 9 and Brendan had left David a really good position.

David took to it soon enough and began explaining how the bidding system was like a Chinese auction and much discussion ensued. At the end, although David was able to score well, he was unable to prevent Nate from also obtaining his own large scoring position. It came down to the money, and it was a complete tie.

(Lo) Ra

Jon 55, Nadine 37, David 34

With little time left, we sprung yet another new game on David, Ra - or Nadine's Jewish reworking thereof. Nadine started out nicely ahead, but both David and I had more tribes (monuments). I was able to make better bidding choices with my experience, and I ended with a nice set of tribes in the end. I even ended with most money. David could have, but he followed Nadine's advice for a play that could have worked out but didn't.

Like many other Knizia games, there is a whole lot more luck in Ra than there first appears, which is a bit of a negative.

July 12, 2006

Participants: Jon, Tal, Saarya, Adam, Elijah, Gili, Ofek, Nate, Guy, Nadine, Binyamin, Tikva-Shira, Rachel A

Two regulars brought their kids along to the game group this evening. Binyamin brought Tikva-Shira, now a seasoned player at Binyamin's house. TS has come before on at least one evening, and a Games Day. Gili brought her daughter Ofek. This was her first time, although Gili has played Settlers with her mother at her house.

The Menorah Game

Tal+, Adam, Nadine, Elijah

Tal begins her winning streak this evening with a win at this game. I was going to play, but people kept arriving so I got up for Adam to sit down.


Ofek 38, Gili 35, Tal 34

Tal 33, Elijah 32, Guy 19

We needed a simpler game for Ofek to play, and Tal is always up for a game of this. Tal lost the first game, as you can see, but she won the second game later in the evening. As usual, she saves up for straight flushes to take the last two battles.

New England

Jon 33, Elijah 29, Nadine 26, Adam 25

Only Adam had played this before, so we were able to approach the game unburdened by any understanding of strategy or prior opinion.

Overall, the game is fairly enjoyable once you get into the swing of things, and the mechanics work smoothly. It's not exactly a thrilling game, but I would certainly play it again.

New England feels like it's got a lot of clutter in it, even though the play is fairly elegant. It's kind of like marrying the simplicity of Santiago with the plant arranging in Power Grid. It all kind of works, but it feels like another few weeks of development could have pared it down just a bit better.

As an example, the player's choice at the start of each round as to how many cards vs tiles come out isn't a bad mechanism, but it doesn't feel like it's really necessary. It doesn't add enough to the game to warrant its inclusion. Another example is the poor choice of color and identity recognition. It is difficult at a glance to determine who owns what field and how many of each thing each person has. Another: you are not allowed to count the remaining tiles in the bag, but almost all of the non-remaining tiles are on the board; anyone with sense can just waste time counting them each round for a fairly close accounting.

As a side note, I have never seen a theme so divorced from the mechanics of a game. Even Through the Desert feels like it has a more coherent marriage of theme to mechanics. Trying to arrange three plots in a particular shape is the height of abstract game play.

In our game, Adam started off doing things that didn't seem to make much sense to us. We all figured out that extra income was a good idea, just like it is in every other game. However, he took a barn and a scoring tile very early and he paid a lot of money. This turned out to be a hindrance for him, as we spent no great amount of effort making it difficult for him to fulfill the scoring tile. He eventually got it scored, but it wasn't worth the effort to do so, in the end.

By the time it was done, I had more pilgrims than he did, and I scored four 6 point bonuses of my own. I ended with 4 pilgrims, 4 6-point tiles, one barn, and the bonus for most pilgrims. Elijah was using his ship here and there, but he was mostly bored with the game and sorry that we wouldn't let him quit to play Shadows Over Camelot.

Nadine seemed to like it, but only as a second tier game.

By Hook or By Crook

Binyamin+, Nate, Guy, Saarya, Tikva-Shira

I don't know why so many people enjoy this game more than one or two times, but there you go.

Settlers of Catan

Tal+, Gili, Ofek

Another game played, familiar to all participants.

Shadows Over Camelot

Nate, Guy, Saarya, Binaymin, Tikva-Shira

The good guys actually won the game. Tikva-Shira was the traitor, but she didn't want to be, so she just played straight.


Tal+, Gili, Ofek

Another game played, familiar to all participants.

Puerto Rico

Jon 64, Nadine 53, Rachel 52, Adam 48

We hadn't played this at the game group in a while, so I thought it would be nice to give it a go, as I'm always ready to play it. It also allowed us to include Rachel. I called her upsairs from where she was working on her thesis, and she seemed happy to come up.

Unfortunately, she hadn't joined our group for a while, and was unaware as to how loud it had become. She ended up regretting coming up, partly due to the nouse, partly due to wanting to finish her writing, and partly due to her making a mistake in the play.

This was only Adam's second game. I generally stayed out of giving him any advice, as he's a smart fellow, but I threw in something once, only after he had just received some self-serving (although reasonable) advice from one of the other players.

I had a coffee monopoly the entire game. Rachel mistakenly let me get a coffee boat on the big boat which severely restricted Adam and Rachel's Harbors for the rest of the game. Rachel had assumed that I would ship my three indigo rather than my one coffee. However, I am never unhappy to toss out barrels for a greater good.

Nadine had the other Factory and then a later wharf, with four or five corns going. Against a wharf and two harbors, I was gradually losing the VP race, even with the coffee boat. I managed to get two big buildings however, and then the game ended.

Power Grid

Saarya+, Tikva-Shira, Binyamin, Nate

I was called over for the very last round to take over for Nate when he had to go, only to find that he had three power plants each valued 3. That is a Bad Thing in PG, since you can only buy one power plant each round. An upgrade from a 3 to a 6 is only a net increase of 3. That means that any power plant that I bought would only boost me 3 production. Someone with 6, 5, and 1, on the other hand, could go straight from 12 to 17 after buying a 6 power plant.

Moral: don't get yourself a bunch of middling power plants.

For some reason, they decided to cut the game down to only 14 cities, too. They played on the Eastern U.S.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Guy, Elijah

They played this two-player game at the end of the evening, because they didn't want to lose any more games to Tal, says Tal.


Nadine, Adam, Elijah, Tal, Binaymin, Tikva-Shira

These guys wrapped up the evening playing some games of bridge. This is becoming a habit, I believe.

July 05, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, David K, Nadine, Tal, Saarya, Ben, Gilad, Adam, Gili, Nate, Elijah, Baruch, Yitzchak H, T'chelet, Binyamin

Sixteen people, nice crowd. And it all went pretty well, I think. Some notables: Yitzchak Handel is a good friend who moved back to the states some time ago. He came with his seven year old daughter T'chelet. Gilad part runs the monthly game group at 'Freak' in Tel Aviv and another monthly one in his house in Modiin. He has come before, and he came this time partly to retrieve his Traders of Genoa and buy Alhambra from me.

I borrowed some chairs and a table from my downstairs neighbor in anticipation of the large crowd.

Seargent Major

David, Nadine, Tal

Some sort of trick taking card game played as an opener.


Ben, Nadine, Gilad, Binyamin

Also played as an opener.

By Hook or By Crook

Brendan+, Elijah, Baruch, Adam

Brendan loves games like this, and grabbed these guys into playing. I think they all enjoyed it. It was the first game I saw where more than one person made it over the finish line. Brendan and Elijah actually tied, and Brendan broke the tie with his collection size.

Cosmic Encounter

Binyamin (Silencer, Doppleganger)+, Saarya (Filth, Vulch), Adam (Zombie, Mirror), Elijah (Warpish, Grudge), Brendan (Wrack, Chronos)

Brendan and Binyamin were both especially keen to play this again. The original power picks included Schizoid, Insect, and Plant, all of which variously say not to play with the others, so they rechose.

Without guidance from experienced players, they ended up doing some interesting things. They played with all of the comets and asteroids, which makes for a lot of chaos. They played with three quarters of the flare deck; however, the deck wasn't mixed well, so most of the flares were bunched up lower in the deck and they didn't see many of them.

There were several rule misunderstandings, and the usual complaining that "if I had known that the rule meant that, I wouldn't have done this" sort of thing. That's Cosmic for you.

Quote of the evening came from Brendan, who, in answer to Elijah's "I don't understand Filth" said "You will when you're older".

Power Grid

David 16, Gilad 15+. Jon 15-, Nadine 13, Baruch

Although this was long, and although too much calculation was made about things like which plants are still left in the deck, which I feel is against the spirit of the game, it was still a good game experience. It's a funny game, with a lot of little inelegant rules that serve to make the game play itself work well.

We started with five players, but Baruch had to leave early. That is a difficult thing to accomodate in a game like this, but we managed. We took out three plants, moved Gilad's city connections to equivalent locations in another area and walled off an area from the board. The replenishment and victory conditions also changed. Somehow it all worked.

Gilad was on the far side of the US west coast, while the rest of us were central or south. As far as I can tell, as long as you have access to seven early cities, it is worthwhile to be on the central or east coast, even if you end up competing for space.

Nadine was powering with a lot of garbage at one point. I had the only nuclear at some point, but abandoned it and ended up with all coal. This was problematic, as Nadine was ahead of me and able to buy out all of the coal that I needed. At the end, I upgraded to only 15 capacity, because any bigger plant required coal and there was no way that I could to acquire it.

David, meanwhile was using a mixture of the three major fuels, and was easily able to secure the win at the end.

Oh Hell

Tal, Gili

Played as a filler.

Settlers of Catan

Ben+, Tal, Gili, Nate

Nate had never played this before, if you can believe that. Tal pulled ahead early to 8 points, which prompted everyone to gang up on her. Which makes sense, although they neglected to notice Ben until he was at 9 points himself, after which it was too late to block him.


Yitzchak, T'chelet

Introduced to them as a filler. I didn't see who won.


Nate 31, Tal 20, Ben 15, Gili 12, Yitzchak 11, T'chelet 8

They needed a game for six that was easy enough for T'chelet to play, so Havoc. Tal did her usual saving up for the last few battles, but it wasn't enough to win the game. She kept pulling cards all of one color. Everyone else eventually caught onto which color she was looking for.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon

Early in the evening I set up a stack for drafting while others played filler games. Then David and I drafted while others played bridge. At the end of the evening, after Power Grid, David and I finally got to play our drafted decks. This was the first time in a while that the draft included my rares mixed back in. I didn't recognize many of the cards.

I knew I was in trouble because I had an almost complete color division and not enough damage sources in any three colors. The most I could wrack up was 11 creatures, either in black/blue/white or black/blue/green. I lost one game with each, although the second one (BUG) was slightly better.

June 28, 2006

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Baruch, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Adam, Gili, Nadine, Binyamin, Josh, Yitzchak, Michael, Anna, Ben

Largerer and largerer we get. And odder game selections.

This week's set of games are showing more crossover appeal. We played some card games and also attempted to play a party game.

Michael and Anna are Elijah's parents, who came owing to my saying that I hoped to try some party games in the evening. However, I didn't actually organize this to happen, which was my bad. But with so many people around, I tried to flow people into different games. Baruch is an American son of friends of the Elijah family here in Israel for the summer.

Ben returned and brought Cosmic with him. Ben has also been playing Bridge online with Binyamin, apparently.


Elijah, Baruch

Arriving early, Elijah tried to teach this to Baruch, but he forgot some rules and I'm not sure how it ended.

After this, everyone showed up at once, and we split into three main games.


Baruch 88, Jon 79, Nate 66, Adam 66, Gili 65

Let me just start out by saying: I love this game. It is so elegant, the rules appear to be something that were simply carved away, rather than having to be created. The whole rule book is just there to clarify and provide examples for the game. And the game just works so neatly, tense enough to have meaningful decisions, not so tense that you end up with AP or feel frustrated like in Caylus, rewards good play, a bit of luck via randomness, and still gives most players a chance throughout the game. Yummy.

If there is one negative thing to say about the game, it is a theoretical issue with the game play. There is no progressive scoring track during the game, but everyone's positions are out in the open on the board if you take the time to exactly count them. The "correct" way to play the game is probably to sit and recount all of the scores every round by adding up all of the regions on the board. On the other hand, the gentlemanly thing to do is not to do this but to glance at the board and estimate the relative positions.

To satisfy both types of players, there should really be an optional scorepad provided for those that want to play "correctly". This will avoid the downtime that these players would take on each of their turns. This is not necessary in an estimating only game, however, which is how we played it.

During the game I remarked how a valid strategy might simply be to not bid or bribe at all during the game, thereby earning a lot of cash, which are equal to victory points. I decided that I might do that next game. In the meantime, that is what Baruch did in this game, earning him the victory. Adam ended with even more money, but a much weaker board position.

Meanwhile, I managed to score the best region scores on the board, although Gili tried to block me a few times. She didn't try hard enough, however, and I could still outbid her for the rights to place the tiles that I needed. Nate played a middle position strategy, with middle success.


Binaymin, Yitzchak, Guy, Elijah

This was Binyamin's first game of Amun-Re, and he enjoyed it. I didn't get the final scores. Midgame scores had Elijah and Yitzchak tied at 15 and slightly leading Binyamin at 13, but only because Binyamin misunderstood one of the scoring cards, resulting in a 6 points and 10 gold loss. Happens to all of us; the cards could have been printed clearer.

Cosmic Encounter

Nadine (Chronos/Symbiote)+, Ben (Parasite/Assassin), Brendan (Vacumn/Filth), Josh (Insect/Oracle)

Josh found himself with a big target painted on his head by having the Insect in a game with the Filth in it. Everyone was afraid he would Insect the Filth after sharing bases with other players.

But it was the Insect to the Vacumn that caused the biggest upset in the game. "Kamikaze" Brendan and "Stubborn" Josh finally faced each other, double compromised, and failed to reach a deal. Each one then promptly lost three to the warp, and make each other lose three to the warp, and so on, until both had 18 pieces in the warp and were out of the game.

Nadine then waltzed in and won the game, despite Ben's attempts to stop her.

Elijah (Reserve), Adam (Mind), Guy (Busybody), Nate (Symbiote), Gili (Assassin)

After the first game, I taught the others who had been waiting to play. This was the first game for Adam, Gili, and Nate, and second game for Guy and Elijah. Gili was afraid that it was too late to learn a new game, but she managed to pick it up. The mechanics are actually pretty simple, and each card and power just does what it says, so you don't have to memorize them. Anyway, winning is almost secondary to playing CE. I don't know who won, or if anyone won before they had to finish.

Beyond Balderdash

Jon, Brendan, Michael, Anna

Anna and Michael came to try some lighter games. We tried to play this and got through one round before I had to go teach Cosmic. By the time I came back they were playing cards, so we never finished. It is certainly cute, but it requires a bit of writing and energy to keep it going. And it really doesn't seem all that much better than just playing with a dictionary or encyclopedia.


Ben, Binyamin, Michael, Nadine

Hands were played, but I don't know the results. Rachel walked in while we were playing Hearts and Bridge and couldn't believe it.


Jon (14) + Brendan (22), Josh (14) + Anna (80)

Not just Hearts, but team Hearts, a far superior game - not as good as Bridge, but quite good.

In team Hearts, all card passes go to your opposite teammate. Shooting the moon must still be by a player, not a team. You win when one of your opponents goes over 100 (lowest score, otherwise).

We taught Anna how to play Hearts. She started to pick it up ok, considering this was her first trick-taking game ever. In the meantime, Brendan was having trouble adjusting to playing cooperatively with a teammate. He almost toasted us a few times. I had two hands that were close but not close enough for shooting the moon. One of them was fairly safe anyway, but in the other one I was that close to getting 25 and luckily exited when the correct opponent won my last exit and couldn't immediately return my long suit.

I ended up tossing the queen to Anna at least three times.

June 21, 2006

Participants: Nadine, Brendan, Elijah, Gili, Adam, Jon, Binyamin, Itamar, Michal

I was indisposed for the earlier part of the evening, so Nadine volunteered to host game night in her house. My indisposal freed up at 8:00 and I arrived just as they were ready to start the main game.

But first, let's hear from the others:

Nadine writes:

So at the beginning Brendan and I played Fluxx, then Elijah and then Gili joined. Brendan won.

We played Scotland Yard for a few rounds but with only 3 detectives, even though you're supposed to have 5, Elijah was Mr. X. He did a pretty good job avoiding us, he took taxis the whole time. We stopped when everyone else arrived, conceding to Elijah.

I don't have any info on New England. Our game [Goldland] was another concession, as you know.

We played Fluxx for a while, then they kept playing and I played bridge with Adam, Itamar and Binyamin. Itamar and I bid 3 spades, made 4 but 3 was the right bid. Itamar did a good job with a finesse. Next hand Binyamin and Adam were trying to bid a slam but stopped at 5 clubs, which was the right bid. Itamar had 2 stopper aces.

Brendan adds:

For those that missed it, a great night was had at Nadine's last night.

I arrived early, due to the neighbouring cemetery being locked....

We began with Nadine teaching me Fluxx, which I had seen mentioned in a list on Board Game Geek that very afternoon, but knew nothing about. It's basically a card version of Nomic, and a fun party game.

Gili, Nadine and I then tried to hunt down Elijah in Scotland Yard, but due to some missing pieces, 3 detectives are not enough to surround Mr X and Elijah was having fun toying with us, and proved impossible to catch.

"Ben's Boys" (and Michal) turned up at this point, and we settled into two games

Once the others arrived Jon, Nadine, Gili, Elijah and I played Goldland which is an exploration-tile game a bit like (Slap-and-)Tikal. We got a few rules wrong for various reasons (Benjamin had two differing translations into English, and some rules are not explicit: bring back SPI-format rules!!) But I thought it was a fun game, if not particularly deep. A party and tile version of "Source of the Nile".

Jon was not so impressed, partly due to our misinterpretations of a couple of rules that affected him, and partly because some of us took a while to play our turns. This is one game at least where you should get a pretty good idea of what you will do while everyone else has their turns. But our play did drag somewhat leading to big downtime.

I headed straight for the temple to loot it (as one does in archaeological exploration games) and played tiles to impeded the others in their progress. The others seemed to want just to explore locally rather than head for the temple. With 5 players this makes for a slow game, as the game ends either when everyone has visited the temple and looted an amulet, or when the gold runs out (gold is gained each turn by everyone who has visited the temple). As I was the only one who was receiving gold, with 12 gold in the temple reservoir, one per turn going to me, the game would end only 12 turns after my temple visit, which basically meant a fight for adventure tokens by camp building, trying to out-camp each other (!!) on the various adventure tiles. This seems too drawn out. If at least one of the others had visited the temple too, then the gold disappears quicker leading to a faster, more interesting finish.

Jon did comment at the beginning of the game that the rules did not seem to push people in a certain direction, so that the game could be interminable. But if players fully understand the victory conditions, no breakaway leader should result, and the game should be quicker and tighter. So despite the teething problems, I liked it, and would like to play again. Thanks for bringing it Ben!

Meanwhile on the other side of Gotham City... Ben, Michal, Itamar and Adam played New England, which I didn't follow...

Goldland finishing before New England, my side of the table played Fluxx. Jon "don't Fluxx with me" Berlinger doesn't appear to like the randomness, and sat out. It is a random silly game, but a lot of fun too, and a nice way to end an evening. Once we had a basic idea of most of the cards, play is fast and fun. I think Gili won two and Elijah won one too (does anyone else know that silly rhyme?).

New England had by this time ended and a Bridge tournament was begun when the rest of us headed home shortly before midnight.

A fun, social night in a new venue with pizza... thanks Nadine!

Now if I can only encourage Jon to flop out Cosmic next week... or Twister...


One of the things I like about gaming groups is when you sit back during someone else's turn on your game, and overhear someone on another board say something, which your ears receive completely out of context. It leads to some surreal and hilarious quotes...

Overheard on a Settlers board: "You're just a brick tease!"

Overheard line from a real-life chemist playing an unknown game: "what's water for?"

From an American wargame playtesting session "What about the Belgian ferocity rule?"

Goldland lines from last night:

Nadine's eternal quest: "Where can I get another gun?"

And proving, Crocodile-Dundee-like, that she prefers her firepower man-sized: "That's not a gun... this is a gun!"

Elijah in Fluxx: "You give me the toaster and I'll give you dreams"

Gili, perhaps a little too enthusiastically: "Give me love! Give me love!"

Brendan to Elijah, basso profundo: "Give me the brain...."

and in Chef-from-South-Park mode (or Barry White-like): "Give me loooove."

Jon adds:

Goldland feels like yet another fiddly Eurogame. We played in highly less-than-ideal conditions, with a full five players, a lot of rules problems, and way too much thinking and interruptions. There is no activity during other player's turns, but you should reasonably be able to figure out what you are doing during other player's turns unless they steal the treasure you intend to get (like Gili kept doing to me).

While the game can get boring if a runaway leader occurs, as it did for us, I see no reason why it should necessarily occur most of the time. Therefore, I suspect that I would like the game better next time, but really, only with quicker play.

In the meantime, the game has this strange problem that there is not necessarily any defined end to the game unless someone reaches the treasure chest at the end, but which the game does not force you to eventually reach. I suppose the same could also be said about Settlers of Catan. Furthermore, it is sometimes hard to determine who should possess the adventure tiles, since you have to remember not only which squares go with which tiles, but count the tents on similarly colored tiles around the board and also remember who placed them in which order. And the symbology on the board is confusing, cryptic, and not consistent. And the game mechanics involve that four tiered trading mechanism where you have to trade A for B, B for C, and C for D, which is the definition of fiddly.

The theme is sort of present, but much of it makes little thematic sense. In this area, it is simply and clearly less of a game than Tikal. In fact, in all senses it is less of a game than Tikal. However, that doesn't mean that it is a bad game, just not an inspiring one.

Adam adds:

New England

Score: Adam 37, Itamar 32, Michal 31, Benny 28

It's a nice game, based on developing territory and getting victory points. The basic idea is to buy items in turn with which you extend your territory and develop it. Developed territory and other structures (settlers, ships, and barns) give victory points at the end of the game, and you get extra victory points for having the most colonists, ships, o barns. The player who buys first has to pay more for each item he buys.

In our game, I was able to gain a monopoly in settlers in the first few rounds, which lasted toward the middle of the game, because settler cards were somewhat scarce in the beginning, and I had a settler advantage throughout the game. Settlers are the money source, so I had a large advantage in money, which by the middle of the game I was able to turn into a point advantage, even when I had to pay relatively high prices for territory and development cards. Towards the end of the game it turned into a game of blocking me as the leader, and on the last turn Itamar bought two development cards which I could use but he couldn't, worth 12 points, though it turns out that wasn't necessary for me to win. All in all, the game is light and easy to understand, not overly complex, with straightforward mechanics, and fun to play.

Binyamin adds

I can add that the rules [to New England] are a little unclear, and we missed 2 rules both important - you are not allowed to buy more then 2 things per turn (we played unlimited), and the first player should change every turn in order (we played that the player who takes the highest token is first next turn). The tactics where not so clear so we all fiddled around. I tried to fight Adam a bit over the settlers (the money source) but he was lucky to be first when the settlers flipped and he could buy. The next time Itamar or Michal were before him but didn?t buy them, so he got ahead in money. We also couldn?t see the advantege in barns and ships so they were almost not bought in the start .

June 14, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Elijah, Nadine, Adam, Binyamin, Nitzan

Welcome back Brendan from his few months of research abroad. And goodbye to Mace and Shachar who are leaving this week. They were hoping to come, but couldn't make it after all. We were hoping to play D&D, but I couldn't find the time to do my DM work, so I think D&D is on temporary hold until such time as someone else takes over as DM, or I have more time.

Lift Off

Brendan, Nadine, Adam, Elijah

Brendan brought back with him this little sci-fi card game. It is a little unusual, being a real-time simultaneous movement game, like Spit (or Speed or Blink), so very chaotic. They didn't get to complete the game, and Elijah appeared to not understand the rules. The game ended when the main games started.

Shadows Over Camelot

Brendan+, Nate, Guy, Adam, Elijah

Brendan requested this, and we all know that he requested it because he really wanted to play the traitor. Amazingly enough, that's what he picked. Game over due to siege engines. I suspect that Brendan will probably never lose as traitor.


Binyaimn 88, Nadine 86, Jon 82, Nitzan 68

Binyamin requested to play this, another from his recent massive game purchases. Ys was the first game by the same company that produced Caylus, and it shows. Think .... Alladin's Dragons mechanics on a Caylus board.

Ys is a blind bidding game, with at least seven different scoring tracks (there are more, actually). Each of these tracks pays off to first through fourth place, and the value of four of the tracks are themselves fluctuating through player bidding.

Improving yourself on any track generally gains you between 3 to 6 points. Each bid you place essentially gives you benefits on several tracks in different combinations; of course, your opponents are doing the same, That makes it hard to see what is really gained with each placement, and hard to plan with the blind bidding.

Still, like Alladin's Dragons and Caylus, the main mechanic is to earn the benefits of locations through a series of placing markers, which places are then resolved in a particular order. The vast number of tracks, cubes, and other things changing hands is deliberately used to make the game hard to figure out.

And again, I quite enjoyed it, because I like the conflicting choices, and I like area control games, which I seem to get easily enough. There were no strategic problems for me in this game. It pretty much came down to tactics, which, owing to not understanding one rule on the first round of the game, I flubbed, and therefore lost the game. It didn't help that I lost a lot of blind bidding wars by one piece, which was basically a matter of luck.

Binaymin took control of a lot of the interim scoring mechanisms, which gained him a huge interim lead in favor of the end scoring. He ended up winning despite all of our massive end scoring, even after making a slight mistake near the end of the game which cost him a point or two. The end was pretty close, as you can see from the final scores.

Most of the bidding ended up being between Nadine and me, as we competed for similar areas and used similar tactics (even choosing similar bidding numbers all too often and humorously), and between Binyamin and Nitzan who did the same.

Nadine didn't particularly care for it. I groaned when I heard the rules explanation, as it was so derivative and similar to so many other Eurogames, it was a joke. Yeah it is a good game, and I will choose it over other similar games, but really. Something entirely new would be nice.

Modern Art

Adam 524, Elijah 336, Nate 324, Brendan 306, Guy 260

As you can see, Adam basically toasted everyone else, who apparently bid far too much for their own items.


Binaymin, Elijah, Nadine, Adam, Jon

I was feeling brained out, and didn't want to learn a new game (New England). I suggested Hearts, and we played two rounds with five players, which I lost gloriously with 23 points in the first, and 22 in the second. Binyamin is not fond of Hearts, saying that it is 100% luck. Nadine and I disagree.


Jon, Adam, Binyamin, Elijah/Nadine

We then tried to teach Elijah Bridge, but it was either too late or too much for him, or we didn't do a good job of it. He stayed for one hand and had to leave. We played another two hands and then called it a night. Adam and I played and went down twice.

June 07, 2006

Participants: Jon, Rachel, Elijah, Nate, Guy, Nadine, David K, Binyamin, Adam, Gili, Itamar, Yonatan, Oshrit, Mace, Shahar

I think this was a record attendance for us, which only serves to prove that I need to buy some more chairs and another bridge table. When the crowd gets over ten people, I begin to find it hard to be the "coordinator" of everyone else's gaming; I have to just pick a game and let everyone else pick theirs, although I can offer some suggestions.

A big crowd is good, but it's also a bit noisy. If we get any bigger, we are going to have to find a bigger place to play.


Jon 89, Nadine 87, David 86, Rachel

So I was rude enough to grab David, who has only been coming rarely to game night, and drag him to a game of Caylus. I also grabbed Rachel, who said that she was willing to give Caylus one more chance, and Nadine, even though she had been planning on playing something else. Binyamin also wanted to play, but since I had selfishly given up the role of explaining games to all the other players, Binyamin took this upon himself. I completely forgot about him by the time he was done, and we had already started. Oops.

Complicating this were the few stragglers who came after 7:00 pm, as well as the fact that the first round or two of Caylus was constant interruptions before we finally settled down and it picked up some speed. Rachel was dying to leave the game during those rounds, but when we picked up a little speed, got more into it.

However, by the time the third hour rolled in, she was totally bored and complaining. There is a limit to the amount of time that someone is willing to invest in a game, and this depends on the type of game, the quality of the game, and the type of person. For me, Die Macher exceeded the limit by a good hour or so. For Rachel, I think Caylus exceed the limit by about an hour and a half. It took three and a half hours, and she probably could have enjoyed it only for two.

David and Nadine both think it's good, but too long. Only I am happy with it, but since everyone else isn't, the only way it is going to continue to see play is 2-player, or with a shorter variant. I may try the variant I came up with last time at some point.

I ignored the first castle building altogether, and concentrated on setting up the building path that I would need. I guess that simply by concentrating on a building path that I did pretty well, but as you can see the scores were really very close. David earned many favors, and both he and Nadine were generally swimming in cubes and cash.

The first scoring occurred a little early, and I was behind in actual vp's. By the second scoring, I was in the middle, but set up with two green buildings, while the others had only one. I ended up building three blue ones, and a few gray ones for good measure when I couldn't build any of the remaining blue ones. Nadine built the massive 25 point blue building, while David ended up with two blue buildings as well, including the one with 2 favors.

Even tracking the vp's is fiddly, since you have to remember, every time someone puts a worker on a building, who gets a vp. Probably I was off here or there, so the final scores shouldn't be considered accurate. If ever there was a need for a game to be played with electronic assistance, this is it.


Elijah 201, Nate 169, Guy 167

I suggested this one as good for three players. Nate and Guy were new to the game, and Elijah had played once before, I believe.

Power Grid

Binaymin 15+, Adam 15-, Oshrit 14++, Gili 14+, Yonatan 14, Itamar 14-

A close game, and from the looks of it, a tough game. They played on Germany, with only 5 provinces. My first game was also six players, and I loved it, although I think we played on 6 provinces.

Binyamin adds:

The game started with a lot of struggling over the plants. They were sold for high prices, some for too high, and this went on most of the game, except for those lucky last bidders who had a nice plant flip over.

The high prices made the city building a little slow for some of us. Gili got the 4 plant for 7, Itamar the 5 plant for 8 or 9. Adam then got the 3 plant, Yonatan the 6, Oshrit the 8 plant for 10, and I got 10 plant for 14.

6-player is a very crowded board in only 5 regions, and with the German map, prices are mostly average. Gili and Oshrit went to the cheap north cities, Itamar was alone in the east, while Adam, Yonatan, and I were on the cheap west side. Adam was first builder in the first round and picked his location. Gili went for the north. Itamar decided to go solo for the east and hoped not to get blocked. This worked for me in the last game but not for him in this game. He did never get to the cheap part of the board, but got to buy some more cities for 10 and 15 then most of us did.

Oshrit joined Gili. Adam was trying to convince everyone to go in different directions (away from him) so that no one would get blocked. All the others didn?t want to give up the cheap connections. Yonatan bought west and south of him, and I, the last builder, blocked him to the west and north. So he was blocked from both sides with his 1 city.

I bought 2 cities and Yonatan also bought 2. I think Gili, Itamar, and Oshrit didn?t buy 2. Owing to some miscalculations, I was the only one powering 2 cities. From my little experience in a 5 -6 player game, it's not good at all to be first builder. You usally choose a cheap area and then get blocked from all sides. I prefer 3rd or 4th place.

The second round of building was also very tense. Almost everyone bought. Oshrit was always thinking about getting as many cities as fast as possible, and from second round on had the most cities for almost all of the game. Gili was after her. It cost her a lot with the plants as she always had to pick first and had to change a lot of plants. In the second round Itamar took the 11 - 2 nuke. I think it was a mistake, as nukes were too expensive to be efficient. He also helped the others, by getting the 12 and 13 down.

Yonatan was very exited with the 13, and he got it for 15. I couldn?t resist the temptation of the 12, so I got it for 15, which made it impossible to buid any more cities. Oshrit got some other 2 capacity plant, and I think Adam bought the 7. I don?t remember what Gili bought. Somehow, goods were available throughout the game, and mostly not so high priced. I am not sure why. Maybe people bought a lot of plants, and didn?t have the money to stack goods. But coal and oil where very cheap.

I couldn?t afford to buy goods and cities. I was last for buying, so I bought goods which might have been a mistake, as I got stuck with 2 cities for the next 2 rounds and got blocked. Luckily for me, Adam and Yonatan went south and Oshrit and Gili were fighting it the north. Oshrit and Gili bought 2 cities each, and so did everyone else except for me.

From this point on, Gili and Oshrit always had the most cities. But actually, this wasn?t so bad for me, as I was last bidding and first buying for the next few rounds, which came out good. Believe it or not, most people still were buying plants on the third round. I was a bit amazed over it but Oshrit kept planning ahead saying she needs to be able to power more cities. Yonathan folowed her lead and Gili was competing with her, so it was a bit tense. They fought over the 18 and 22. Oshrit got 1 and Gili got the second, for 23 and 24.

Yonatan went for the 2 garbage/4 cities. I don?t remember the number. Itamar passed to Adam. I am not sure and I was amazed to stay last with the 30 coming down, 6 cities for 3 garbage. I couldn?t resist it and bought again, wasting all of my money again. I had a bad experience one game in not buying a 6 plant earlier and then I lost the game, so I guess I didn?t want that to happen again.

Yonathan was pretty annoyed that I took away his garbage monopoly. Everyone bought cities, Gili and Oshrit got ahead, and only I had 2 cities again. But at least I got very cheap goods and didn't get blocked.

The next round, people were still buying plants. I passed as I had 10 capacity already and only 2 cities. But Oshrit bought the 3 green. Itamar bought the 3 nuke, and Gili landed on a 4 hybrid or 5 oil - she bought one this round and one later, I'm not sure which. Adam also got a 5 or 4 I think this round.

I at last could buy 3 cities for not much but Oshrit and Gili raced ahead to second phase. People were still buying plants - Oshrit already had to throw one out. She got a 4 hybrid. She was saving a lot of money from not buying goods as she had capacity for 5 green cities. She later bought the green 4 also. That gave her a lot of cash.

I got a 5 for 2 coal and Gili got the hybrid or the 5 oil. Adam also bought a 5 plant and Yonatan bought the 3 for 1 oil. I have no idea why. Oshrit jumped to 8-9 cities all in the north and north east. Itamar went south, and so did Adam and Yonatan, who were also buying quickly.

I was in the center, going a bit north and in the west. Adam did a lot of maneuvering with city building and from the second phase and on was last in cities and first in the marketplace, while I was second. This came in very handy for him and almost cost me the game. When Adam bought 7 garbage plant, I couldn?t compete, as I already had 6, 5, and 2 plants, and 8 cities. He now had 7, 5, and a 4. He played very efficient with the plants, buying very little. That?s why he almost won, I think.

I made another stupid mistake buying garbage when I didn't need it and then couldn't afford a city. This almost cost me the game. Oshrit was buying again, a 6 this time. She had 14 - 4 hybrid, 6 oil, and 4 green. Ahe bought the 4 green for 37 changing the 3 green - a big mistake in my opinion. Yonatan bought the 6 nuke and got rid of the 13.

Itamar also bought a 6 coal the next round. We were afraid the game would be over if Oshrit could buy 3 cities and win. Luckily, she couldn?t, as she had wasted all her money on plants. Yonatan fought with me over the 5 green and got it for 48. He threw out his 4 garbage, keeping the 3 oil. Gili took the 35 - 5 cities, and I got the 50. With the 50, I had now 17 cities in power 6, 6, 5. That was game for me. They tried to block me in garbage - Adam had 7, 3, and had bought 6, but I had 3 garbage from before and hadn?t used them. I now had the 6 green and the 5 coal with 4 pieces. I bought only 2 coal for 4 as I bought second and no one could block me.

Everyone had 11 cities, and I had only 9, when Oshrit couldn?t buy 3 cities, only 2. Adam and I were very relieved as it was clear to us that the race was now between the two of us. Oshrit, Yonatan, and Itamar didn?t see it, yet. They where still saying that Oshrit will win with 14 cities next round. Gili was still hoping to do something. It was clear to me from the money flow and position that it was between Adam and me, and from his look he knew it too.

I made a mistake that almost cost me the game, buying 2 cities and staying behind Adam in turn order. I could have bought only 1, staying with 10 cities and getting only 97 instead of 105. I guess I thought that it?s a waste, as I had the 6 green plant. So still adam bought cities before me. If I had gone first, maybe I could have blocked 1 city from him. Then it would have been 15 for me and 14 for him and not a money tie, as it came out.

Everyone bought cities, going to 14, and only Gili was getting that Adam and I were going for 15. No one else could compete, as they could only power 14. Adam bought 4 cities and got to 15, and then they knew that it was between him and me. I also bought 4 cities. I was missing only $3 for another city - I had 23, but I needed 26. My wasted goods were at fault. I didn?t know how much money Adam had left. Lucky me, no one could block in the north. Everyone else was in the south. Gili and Oshrit couldn?t block me, as they already had all their cities, and itamar and Yonathan were not going to pay 80 or 90 for 1 city just to block me and let Adam win, so I got 4 cities for a 100 - very cheap.

Adam then showed that he had $7 left, so I won. He then figured that if he hadn't bought the unnecessary goods, including a nuke for 8, he would have had 15, enough to buy anoter city, that amazingly was still free and with free connections. That?s why I said that it almost cost me the game, because if I had been before him, I could have blocked him, making sure that he wouldn't get the cheap cities.

Oshrit was left with 87. If she had bought another plant for 35 and goods for 7 - no one but her needed any goods in the last round - she still could have afforded 1 more city and would have ended in second place. We did explain about 3 or 4 times that at the end of the game people can buy more than 14 cities and win. She thought about it but was so sure that she could win anyway and didn?t think Adam or me would buy 4 cities, so she decided not to take the chance.

So it was a long, tense game at parts. We all enjoyed a lot of calculating. Oshrit did really well for a first game, and in fact her first ever playing of something other than Monopoly. I think Adam played the most effiecient game and maybe deserved to win, but in this game, a lot like Caylus, it comes down to little mistakes. I forgot to buy 1 more good last turn and then payed a lot the next turn. I should have bought 1 less. I forgot 1 city. I bought 1 too much or miscalculated $1 or bid a few too many or too little on a plant. So I feel a lot that 1 little mistake is going to cost you the game, but as everyone makes mistakes, it usally it evens out, I guess.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Nate+, Elijah- / Nate+, Elijah- / Guy+, Nate-

Nate beat Elijah firat playing black, and then playing white. In the last game, Guy played black to beat Nate.


Mace+++++, Shahar / Mace 31, Elijah 20, Shahar 10

Mace and Shahar were two of the stragglers, so they ended up playing a few games of Havoc as new players. Apparently they player five games and Mace won all of them. Then Elijah joined them for a game at the end and Mace won that one, too.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon++, David+

Love this game, but so rarely get to play it. Only when David shows up, usually. And David usually whomps me. This time we didn't have time for a full 90 card Rochester draft, so we simply split 120 cards and constructed.

We both built Black and Green. I splashed a little White - also a rare occurrence. I added three white cards that gave all my creatures +0/+1, which I though would be pretty good for the usual standoff games we get in sealed. My deck definitely proved to be superior, and it helped that I pretty much pulled balanced mana every game.

Next week will be Mace and Shahar's last week before they head off to Australia for a year. Also the exact date of the game night is still in question. More on the mailing list.

May 31, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Danielle, Binyamin, Itamar, Yonatan, Elijah, Nate, Guy, Gili, Adam, Yitzchak

My good old regular game group, and a few others. Danielle is a friend of Nadine's son. Why she came, but Nadine's son didn't, is a mystery. And Yonatan is a friend of Itamar. Both appeared to have enjoyed themselves, but I didn't get to play with them.


Nadine, Jon, Danielle

Since I had been playing around with card games during the week, and I know that Nadine enjoys Bridge, I took this out as a filler opener. It turned out that we had much less time than usual for an opener this week, so we only played one hand, which Nadine lost soundly. She bid 70 and made 50.

Power Grid

Binyamin 17+, Elijah 17-, Guy 16+, Jon 16-

We played on Germany's map, in the north and west regions. The regions were chosen by virtue of us playing on a small table and my needing the larger southern parts of the board to place the bank and my power plants and house store.

We started off easily enough, with me taking the 4 plant. Guy took hybrid 5, Elijah took triple coal 8, and Binyamin took single oil 9. Elijah started with heavy coal requirements. He eventually converted to all nuclear.

Binyamin tried to remain hybrid. He was in "first" place for most of the game. On the second round of auctions, the 13 was up for bid, and the 21 was waiting on the wings. I really wanted the 21, but I didn't want to let Guy take the 13 so easily. Unfortunately, he let me have it for 14. Then and there, I knew that I had lost. I couldn't afford that building, and I could see the progression of money flowing away from me for the rest of the game. And so it was. Right up to the very end of the game, even though I played efficiently, I knew I was lost. It ended up being close, but not enough.

Guy got the 21. We three competed on the west and north of the board, with me in the north, Elijah in the south, and Guy getting squeezed in the middle. Binyamin had the southeast all to himself, so his later game was into the cheaper territory.

I got into garbage at a good time. Guy contested me for it for a round or two but them switched out again.

We ended up with two rounds of both phase 2 and phase 3, which is unusual for our games. At the end, Guy had power capacity, but was behind in buildings, and could only build to 16 cities. Elijah was roughly balanced, while Binyamin had cities early on, and only needed to catch up in capacity. He did so on the second to last round, and didn't even need to buy a plant in the last round. I was extremely efficient, powering and building 16 cities, but, as I said, just enough behind from the second round. I lost 3rd place to Guy by $1.

The endgame proved to be lots of counting and math.


Adam, Nadine, Gili, Nate

This was Nadine's second play, and she recognized that familiarity with the game flow begins to make the game feel somewhat less fiddly. The question remains as to whether it is still "fun" for all that. Adam reports that at least once during the game he made a "revenge" play on Gili for moving the provost away from his building the previous round.

I noticed that they had built buildings all the way up to the very end of the road. Lots of gray building, green buildings, and at the end a few blue ones.

Taj Mahal

Yitzchak 58, Yonatan 33, Itamar 28, Danielle 28

Obviously, experience with the game is a big help here. The other players were all first time players.

Shadows Over Camelot

Binyamin, Nadine, Jon, Guy, Adam, Itamar, Gili, Elijah

Let's see how this worked: Binyamin, Jon, Guy, Itamar, and Elijah started the game. Before the first move, Adam joined just as Caylus was finishing. As the first turn started, I got up to let Nadine take my place. Gili then joined. Then I took over Guy's place when he had to go. And then Elijah had to go a little later. The game still played smoothly.

My game group seems to love the game. The mental challenge in this game has nothing to do with the actual battles, rather with the decision as to what good action to take, and a little less so as to what bad action to allow.

We did a fairly good amount of cooperation, to the point that I honestly had no idea who the traitor was. It's a perfectly good strategy to just play straight as the traitor; the odds are that we won't survive anyway. In our game we did pretty well, and managed to get 7 white sword on the table. We needed to get black swords onto the table in order to finish the game before the catapults could.

Of course, we also had to either unmask the traitor, if there was one, or get two more white swords on as buffer. Unfortunately, owing to the way the swords were squished together on the table, I miscounted the number of black swords already up there. I thought we still had enough time to get more white swords on, but we didn't. We got a white sword on by defeating the Picts, and then someone said that we had 8 white swords and 4 black swords, so the game was over. Oh.

Of course, Adam then reveals himself to be the traitor, flips 2 swords, and we all die. Well done. I'm sure he must have actully been worried that we were pretty close to winning, but he kept his cool.

May 24, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Binyamin, Itamar, Isaaci, Nate, Guy, Adam, Gili, Ben

My brother Ben came again after a long absense. I requested and he brought Cosmic Encounter, a game that many others had been wanting to play for a while. Ben says that he may be able to come again on a regular basis, which would be nice.

Itamar's brother, Isaaci, came for the last part of the evening. I left my notes home again, so this report will be incomplete again.

Last week we started with an impasse of too many people wanting to play Caylus. This week we had too many people wanting to play Cosmic. In fact, although I had Caylus set up, we ended up not playing it because the ones who couldn't play Cosmic also couldn't stay long, which meant Caylus was out.


Guy++, Nate

These two started with two games of Dvonn.

San Juan

Binyamin, Itamar, Nadine, Elijah

And these guys started with a game of San Juan. They continued to play San Juan while we were discussing what to play next. When we finally decided, they ended the game early, with some opinion believing that Binyamin was ahead. Itamar was less sure about it.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben+, Binyamin+, Itamar+, Elijah+, Nate-

A four way win against Nate, who could have won earlier in the game if he had been willing to invite someone else along for a dual win. He opted to go alone, resulting in defeat during that battle, and ultimate defeat in the war.

Elijah was Fungus, Nate was Plant, Ben was Ghost, Binyamin wa Sniveler, and Itamar was Clone. Binyamin was originally not expecting much because he had played the game online. I assured him that the Mayfair complete version face-to-face was going to be much wilder. And it was; I recall hearing Itamar say something like "This is wild!" at some point during the game.

Binyamin seemed pretty tickled about his Sniveler power. I saw him try to use it once. He thought that everyone else had 4 bases while he had only 3, but it turned out that the moment before he was about to snivel, he himself had destroyed Nate's fourth base through some means, so he outsmarted himself.

Shadows Over Camelot

Jon, Gili, Adam, Guy, Nadine

We all lost. There were lots of possible traitorous actions going on during the game, and many futile quests attempted and lack of coordination. We managed to gain Excalibur, only for the knight who gained it (Gili) to die young. The grail quest was coming close to killing us; first Nadine and then Guy and then I worked hard at reversing the process.

I singlehandedly defeated the Saxons once. Guy lost to a quest a round before finishing it. Other than that, each round a siege engine would come up and someone would fight against it. It seems like the siege engines are just a losing battle. Near the end of the game, nearly every card is a siege engine, and you can only get rid of at most one per turn, so the best you can do is hold stead while everything else crumbles around you.

We all succumbed to the dark forces after Morgan was flipped over. Each knight lost a hit point, which killed the remaining four knights all at once. It turned out, though we had used only 6 cards for the 5 knights, that none of us were traitors.

While the traitorous aspect of the game is nice, the rest of the game is kind of "eh" in my opinion. I also didn't like the early player elimination forced on Gili. We considered allowing her to come back in as a new knight, but I wasn't sure that that was permitted.


Nadine+, Jon, Adam, Gili, Guy, Isaaci

We played a game and a half of this while waiting for Cosmic to finish. With six players, I gave out 9 stones to each person and removed only 7 cards from the deck.

Settlers of Catan

Ben 10, Adam, Gili, Yitzchak

We needed a relatively quick game to end, so I suggested this. Some people haven't played it a thousand times, yet. Ben won by stealing the longest road and building a settlement.

Thurn and Taxis

Binyamin 25, Itamar 24, Jon 23, Nadine 18

This was my first play, and we needed to play quickly. Therefore I proposed that we play without any speaking and that no one explain the rules to me before we start. I was intending to play without even knowing the rules (other than how a turn works), but I ended up scanning the rulebook and receiving a few comments during the game.

For the most part we did play more quickly than usual. There was a bit less game talk than usual, too. But there was still a lot of thinking about what card to take when none of them would be of any value. Kind of like hoping that the longer you stare at the cards, the more likely that suddenly one of them will make more sense than the others to take.

In this, the game has a serious drawback, since the entire interaction is based on other people taking the cards you need (like Alhambra). You can't plan on having access to that particular card by the time your turn comes back to you. However, after a bit of familiarity with the board, you can know which cards you need by the time it comes back to your turn. If they are there, great. If not, throw them out and try again, or pick from the deck if you need to use the extra action for something else.

Thurn and Taxis is another light, basically fun, but apparently shallow game, on par with Web of Power, with the card drawing mechanics of Ticket to Ride. There is just about no tension, except when someone takes the card you wanted. Don't worry, it will come back up again in the deck, anyway.

At least it doesn't appear to be broken. There may be more depth to the game than there first appears. But in our game, despite the fact that I was the new player, my turns were mostly done without much thinking at all. Pick, play, done.

I played an early three route just to get the feel for what would happen, and then I played a 7 length all gray set of cards. It was hard for me to remember that an N length route didn't mean that I would play N houses; only some of them would be placed. A little strange.

I don't know. Someone won, but it didn't seem to matter much, or have much to do with better play. Next time I play, maybe I will find that some strategy is better than some other strategy, which will add some tension.

May 17, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Nate, Guy, Binyamin, Itamar, Nitzan, Adam, Gili, Rachel, Yitzchak

Oh no, I left my notes at home! Maybe I'll correct the specifics of this report later. In the meantime, we seem to have stabilized into a pretty regular crowd, which is nice.

Elijah, Nate, Guy, and Yitzchak always have to leave by 10:00, which is a factor in determining what games they, and we, can play. There is occasionally some variance to this. Tonight, Yitzchak left after his first game at 8:30, while Elijah managed to stay until 11:00.

We had a little standoff as seven people wanted to play Caylus, and it took a little time before we could convince some people to play something else. You guys who missed out this week can play next week. Only, I don't think it is wise for anyone who has to leave at 10:00 to play unless all players are quick, since Caylus is pretty long. More about that later.


Yitzchak, Elijah

Yitzchak's first time, I have no information as to who won.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Nate, Guy

This was the first time for both of them. I believe that Nate took the white side. Again, I have no information, but Nate came to ask me if the Orcs kill Frodo before he can use his escape, to which I said yes, so I have the feeling that black won. (The black ability happens before the white ability.)

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak 52+, Rachel 52-, Nadine 48

Rachel was around to play, which means a Puerto Rico game. They swapped in a few buildings, such as Library and Discretionary Hold. If they would have asked me, I would have warned against Library in a two or three player game, but they didn't, and it turned out ok.

Nadine had a fairly early Wharf, so I hear. Rachel used her Discretionary Hold to good effect. Nadine can add more to this.

Rachel 54, Nadine 50

A two-player game played after the three-player one, Rachel again does well with the Discretionary Hold, despite Nadine having the Library. Nadine says that she didn't play well, however, and that if Rachel had been playing her position then Rachel still would have won.

El Caballero

Binyamin 67, Itamar, Nate, Nitzan

This was the consolation game for not playing Caylus. In any case, it was a new game for all of them, so they wanted to try it at least once. They were not expecting much after my lackluster review. I didn't say it was bad, just not on par with El Grande.

The result was something like that, although I think even a little less than my own feelings. However, let me point out that they played this game for two and a half hours, and every single move was not only examined, but advised. The style of play was one of mutual continuous cooperation, which would have driven me crazy. It was very noisy.

Also, I gave them a very quick rules overview to start, but neglected a number of rules, such as the one where you may not add the same number of caballeros as anyone else already has in a land region, and the one where you can voluntarily remove your caballero card, and a few others.

Binyamin's last play was a choice between gaining six points for himself or blocking eighteen points from Itamar. He chose the latter, but it turns out that he would have won, anyway.


Jon 58, Adam 54, Elijah 51, Gili 43, Guy

Guy had to leave a few rounds before the end. One of the good things about Caylus is that someone leaving doesn't necessarily stop the game for everyone else, although it sure makes securing the items and houses that you want easier.

Caylus is brilliantly tense and painful. The vast majority of this pain comes during the building selection phase, with the remainder of the game simply coloring around this part. The whole thing simply works, and it works well. Being as this is my second play, I was able to not only follow the game with much more ease, but I was also able to teach the game fairly easily as well, which gave the new players (all but Guy) an advantage that I didn't have the first time that I played.

Unlike Puerto Rico, each building does not have to be explained before play begins. Unlike a lot of other games, no single dramatic action can throw you out of contention. But repeated bad play will definitely hurt. It almost solves that paradoxical problem between better play being rewarded vs new players having a chance.

The game is constantly involving, and it does that without resorting to an auction, although the selection phase could be considered an auction to some extent.

However, it does have its problems.

The first problem is kind of a philosophical one. The essential side-effect of the selection phase is that of analysis paralaysis. In some games, you can sit and over-analyze without any good reason to do so. More thinking about things that you can't control, such as possible picks from the deck or what your opponent's will do after your turn is over and you can no longer respond, is generally a case of diminishing returns. Think to a certain level and then get on with it.

In Caylus, however, in addition to what your opponents are going to do, you have the real problem of keeping track of everything on the board and in order. More thinking, or I should say more methodical thinking, will serve you well.

Before every single selection, you need to methodically go over in your head the cost of the items that you want to do, the number you have, and the result of each building as it will produce what you need in specific order. Failing to do that will result in many cries of "Oh, damn, I forgot that I wouldn't be able to do that because I first needed this."

Perhaps this will become second nature to the better players as they learn the game, and then this problem will disappear. Right now it seems to be a detraction from the game. Pain is good up until a point, and then you wonder why you're playing a game that seems more to be about who forgets the least rather than who forsees the most.

I experienced a similar type of pain playing Die Macher, and if I had to compare Caylus to any other game, I would probably choose Die Macher.

The second problem is the jockeying for position of the provost. It's not that there is really a problem with this, it's just not my favorite mechanic; actually, I don't really like it much at all. Furthermore, in many games as the game progresses the provost starts well after the buildings end and this phase just isn't going to happen at all. For the most part, this jockeying will happen only at the beginning of the game where it is least wanted, because it contributes to vastly slowing the game down.

Having said that, in this particular game this mechanic does add a lot to the game. The tense problem of selecting building near the edge of the board, and the necessity of wasting a selection in choosing the provost movement building, are interesting.

Furthermore, an abstract analysis of what is the optimal play for the provost is also interesting. Most of us played or payed for the provost to move to where we wanted it. After only one game, it is clear that this is shortsighted thinking. It is not painful for people to spend one coin to move the provost, which will wreck your plans. Yet everyone seems to hope that this won't happen!

Two coins is already the pain point for other people. By spending one, you make it generally not worthwhile for someone else to move it, unless two of them conspire. And no one is going to bother using three coins, and if they do, they have lost as much or more than they cost you, so who cares?

The third problem is the Gate, which is really a very underpowered building. While useful in a few rare cases, such as wanting to go last in the castle, or being able to convince someone to place nearer the provost and still leave you room to move there, these occurences are too rare to warrant the building.

A far more useful, yet still balanced, building would be one that places its worker after the provost has moved. You still sacrifice all of the better buildings, but at least you have a better chance of obtaining something with him. I've only played 1.75 games now, but I think I will try this variant the next time we play.

Another problem which I mentioned last time is the overuse of colors, confusing back and forth of the game board, overstacking of pieces, and so on. There's not much I can do about it until Mike Doyle makes a better board, so we'll skip this.

The last problem is the length of the game. The game is so nicely balanced, that I don't think that I can figure out a shorter version after only these few playings, but it would behoove someone to try.

If you need a shorter version, however, my tentative initial thoughts would be to eliminate the first castle portion of the game. Randomly select the player order and give out cash as it says in the book. Place n+1 number of brown tiles randomly on the board. Each player, working from the last player backwards, has the option of doing one of the following: place a house on a brown building, take five VP, move two favor markers, or take 2 gold. Each player does this once, and then do it again two more times, for three complete rounds.

This roughly simulates the first portion of the game. Naturally, this will have to be playtested and rebalanced as necessary.

On to the game.

Last time we played, we all fought over the castle. No green or blue buildings were built, and only one gray one. This time I was determined to follow the building route and basically ignore the castle, although I dumped one into the first part just for appearance's sake. I ended up building three blue buildings, which, with my castle losses, was just enough to keep me in first place. Timing here, like everywhere else, is critical, because you don't want to lose the income from the green buildings until you have to.

Elijah was the castle king, and he racked up multiple favors whenever possible, with 7 houses in the last part of the castle. Elijah was the last one of any of us to try to screw people up by jockeying the provost, after he spent his last coin to prevent me from using a building, which prevented him from using his own building for which needed that coin, which prevented him from building in the castle, which not only lost him the points but the favor. After that he felt it was safer just to pass on the provost.

Adam played a weaker game of catch-up to my buildings, but never got to build any blue ones. He earned many victory points from my using his buildings, however.

Every single turn, you could hear people going, "Oops, damn, I forgot about that". Everyone of us overlooked what we needed, when we needed it, several times during the game. Aside from the pain I mentioned before, this was a fairly unique experience for us. Usually, if Binyamin is playing, he will tell you what you overlooked. And if Nadine is playing, she will insist that we roll everything back so that the players can replay it. Without either of them, we were left to suffer our misfortunes.

Gili also played the castle route, with less success.

Thurn and Taxis

Nadine 20+, Binyamin 20-, Itamar 10

The latest game from Andreas Sayfarth of Puerto Rico fame is a much calmer and simpler game, with much less player interaction than PR. The interaction level looked closer to that of San Juan, where the most you could do is take something before someone else gets it.

The mechanics are reminiscient of Ticket to Ride, but the play is more similar to Web of Power. Nadine says that it ends up better than both of them, which is nice to hear, since neither of those games appeal to me very much. It didn't look that exciting from my perspective, but I didn't get to play, so my judgement will have to wait.

May 10, 2006

Participants: Jon, Binyamin, Itamar, Elijah, Nadine, Adam, Gili, Nitzan, Yitzchak

Apparently I was the only one disappointed with last week's RPG session, as everyone else seemed to have had a good time.

Tonight was a quiet night for the game club, except for the arrival of two new games: Caylus and El Caballero. Together with shipping and tax, they came out to a bit more than I was hoping to spend, about $40 each.

I offset the loss by selling Domaine to Binyamin for $30. My family and the group found Domaine to be ok but not particularly thrilling. Binaymin and his family liked it considerably better.

Caylus was on the playlist, but first some introductory games were played, which took considerably more time than expected, once again proving that we are a very slow play group.

(Lo) Ra

Nadine 39, Binyamin 35, Itamar 28, Elijah 14

Lo Ra is Nadine's Biblically themed version of Ra. Aside from the theme changes, it plays almost identically, only changing the monument collection to be the twelve tribes, and adding another bonus tile. This was the first play for all except Nadine.

I was eating dinner, so I didn't follow the game. Elijah started off strong with a diversity of animals, while neither Binyamin nor Itamar had any. Binyamin started a massive tribe collection, however. By the end of the game it was worth 20 points, which helped him make a big surge forward, but not quote enough for first place.

The game was really decided by Nadine having the highest cash value at the end.


Jon+, Adam

I introduced Adam to this abstract. Having played twice now, I can definitively say that the hidden color mechanism is silly in a two- player game, and probably in a three- or four-player game as well. Also, in a two-player game, the primary object appears to be to be the one taking the bonus chips.

Other than that, bunch your opponent's pieces together, except when you can form a five color group. And that's about it, really. It doesn't seem that deep a game right now.

Taj Mahal

Yitzchak 53, Gili 43, Nitzan 37, Adam 35

Yitzchak couldn't stay for a full Caylus session, and Nitzan was too new a player to be thrust into a game like that. So Adam and Gili joined them for a shorter and more straightforward game. I made the mistake of forgetting that Elijah would also have to go early. He should have played, too. Instead he had to leave Caylus mid-game.

Nitzan said that this game was less easy to understand than Power Grid from last time, since the special abilities of the different colors are all different. Perhaps there was also some confusion about the rules, as there often is for a new player.

We have a bit of a crazy game group, however, that always wants to roll back games to ensure that everyone gets their fair play, if a play might have been influenced by a misunderstaning in the rules. While I can understand this for a trivial or very recent action, it can't always be done without causing chaos. In this case, Nitzan misplayed his cards due to confusion over the Orange color-switching bonus card and everyone was trying to figure out how to roll back a few rounds of bidding. Just suck it up. It's only a game.

Apparently I am alone in this sentiment. This rolling back is one of the reasons that our group is so slow. On the other side, we also deliberate a lot before playing, even when there is no real information on which to deliberate. It is a natural act in trying to "not overlook" something, where sometimes the chief mechanic of a game is simply to include enough bits and choices that a player is bound to overlook one of them. It's one thing to deliberate to ensure that you haven't overlooked something, and another to deliberate on future events that can't be predicted. Since there is often no way to know the difference, we think a lot. There's something wrong with this, but I don't know how to fix it.

It could be that if we allowed less takebacks that our games would just have more deliberations. Either way, the combination of the two can take a long time.


Jon, Binyamin, Itamar, Nadine, Elijah

Which brings us to Caylus, where "too many bits and choices" seems to be one its main features.

The summary: you have to gain the most victory points, which you do by building houses in the castle or building buildings, with some minor victory points coming from others "using" your buildings more than you use theirs. Buildings are divided into several types, each type of which has to be built before the next type can be built, with some exceptions. Initial buildings produce goods or allow you to build the next type of building. Later ones produce money or victory points or more goods.

Each turn you collect income, place your meeples on buildings that you want to use that round (only one person can use any building each round), negotiate the position of a marker that will exclude some buildings from functioning this round, collect your rewards from the buildings, and build other buildings or build houses in the castle. Scoring the castle happens three times, after which the game ends.

Other games have just a few mechanics. Caylus seems to have taken just about all of them and rolled them into a sprawling collection. It's got every mechanic I can think of except trading: auction, negotation, resource production, set collection, variable turn order, and so on.

While other games have a natural progression from "establish your source of income" to "collect your victory points", Caylus has paths that require three, four or five steps in order to do this. First you have to get these goods, and then buy this building, and then get these goods, and then buy this building, and then use that to get these goods, and then buy this building, and then you get a few victory points. And, no, I'm not exaggerating. And there are not only two paths, but multiple paths to do this.

While other games provide a means to establish a source of income at the beginning of the game, this game doesn't provide that until midgame or even later. The last few rounds then breeze by, while the vast portion of the game is getting to that stage.

For that reason, the game starts off much slower than other games and takes longer.

Now what do I think of all of this? I think it is great. But I can understand that it just goes right over the limit for people who don't think that "too many bits to keep track of" is a good mechanic. It annoys me as well. Ten different color meeples, and a multi-colored board, a road that meanders several times across the board so you can't easily tell coming from going. And the progression along the road goes: second part of the road, third part of the road, first part of road (castle), in that order.

Not to mention two different player order tracks, and four different favor progression tracks, all of which are half invisible during the game because your pieces sit right on top of the paths and on top of each other obscuring their benefits, rather than next to the paths so that you can still see what you will be getting this round. Bad game board design. It would have been far better to produce individual boards for some of these things, especially the favor track, instead of having stacks of marker disks falling over and hiding the tracks.

Well, those are the good and bad parts to the game. You can't tell from all of this, but I really enjoyed it. It was thoroughly compex and looked well balanced to start with. As usual, there are way to many things to do; not only can you not do everything, you can't even do one thing during a single round, as it takes a few rounds to collect enough to do anything at the start of the game. This was a hard concept to wrap around for some of our slower players. And exhibited some rude hastening comments or eyeball-rolling from some of our quicker players.

In our game, most of the second, third and fourth sets of buildings were ignored, and we all did most of our victory points in the castle. Aside from the very first round, we also did almost no marker positioning in order to block buildings from functioning. Maybe it is our group and we are not nasty, or maybe it is just not worth it in a five player game to expend energy hurting one other person rather than moving ahead, or maybe none of us every earned enough income to make this feasable. This step in the round may as well have been dropped.

There was also one "building" in the game that didn't appear to have any use, the Gate, which allows you to store a meeple during the "auction" phase and then move it at the end of the auction to any remaining unoccupied building. The theory is that it allows you to hide your plan and also place it where you end up needing it most. But in practice, all of the good buildings were occupied at the end of the auction anyway. It might have been more useful if it happened after the marker negotiation, so that it ensures that your meeple doesn't go to waste, but that's not the way it works.

Elijah had to leave in the middle, and it was possible to continue playing without him, which is a good feature. We still had to end the game without finishing it. I was somewhat ahead as was Itamar, but it was all around too hard to tell what would happen by the end of the game.

Settlers of Catan

Gili+, Adam

As Yitzchak and Nitzan both had to leave after Taj Mahal, and the rest of us were nowhere near done with Caylus, Gili introduced Adam to Settlers of Catan. 2-player is a phenomenally bad way to introduce someone to the game, in my opinion, because the luck element of the dice is only controlled by the ability to trade resources, and there is very little trading in a 2-player game. I have been derelict. Hopefully we will be able to introduce him (and Nitzan) to real Settlers in the future.

Until next time.

May 03, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Josh, Mace, Shahar, Gili, Ilan, Elijah, Binyamin, Adam, Saarya

This was a "motzei Yom Haazmaut" game session (post Independence Day) which meant that I was home from work before it. We had a small BBQ before the game crew arrived.

Unfortunatley, the AD&D session did not go very well in my humble opinion, and this was entirely my fault. I only had a sketchy idea as to the encounters that the party was supposed to face next. I really needed to develop down to a whole lot more detail. I failed to do this, and the result was some vague and impromtu mess-making on my part.

Without proper leadership, the players can't get into their roles, and when combined with the large size of the party, which also makes this difficult, it doesn't work out. Furthermore, I didn't generate new characters for the party members who died last time before gaming started, which resulted in both lost time and sketchy character material. And lastly, we had to start off with three separate parties moving about before they all found each other again, which was also a logistical mess, and even so, could have been handled much better.

So, sorry to all involved. I will take up the discussion further on the mailing list.

AD&D 2nd edition

Ilan played Brendan's character, while Brendan is away.

Adam's, Brendan's, and Nadine's characters wandered about the side of the ravine for a bit more in the dark. Brendan's char, being the only one with infravision, led the way. They decided to stop by the side of the ravine and have Brendan's char climb down to fill the water skins.

Without any trouble, he climbed down. When he threw a pebble into the water to see if anything reacted, the surface of the water formed into a huge fist and smashed at his head, just missing him, but denting the solid rock wall behind him. He only had to see this happen twice before he decided that this would not be a good place to fill the water skins, so he shimmied back up. They began walking away from the resevoir.

Meanwhile, Elijah's new character was a Paladin, running away from his father's estates with three slaves that he freed (Shahar's, Binyamin's, and Gili's new characters). They had been wandering south for a few days trying to reach the border betwen the human occupied lands and the demi-human lands to the south.

These two parties intercepted each other in the dark, and after much hesitation and threats, decided to join forces and continue south together.

Mace's character, who had last jumped off the cliff into the ravine, climbed to his feet in his armor and decided to trace the water back into and under the mountain, rather than continue towards the resevoir. Under the mountain, he met a mysterious cat, and then had a short fight with some cayotes. The cat then led him outside onto the side of the mountain, where mace's char could now see that it was colored shockingly blue. The cat seemed to have some strange appearing and disappearing qualities, and took an awful lot of cat baths.

Mace's char eventually stumbled upon the remaining party, and all were united. They slept by the side of the main road, whereupon they observed during the course of the day a few patrols, the first of which hurried off to the fort with half the patrol and a rider from the fort Later towards evening, while the party was hunting food, a few other riders ran towads the fort, and an aerial patrol circled around for a while.

Mace and Shahar fought some more catyotes while hunting, but they turned out o be rabid. Mace suffered a nasty scratch that did not appear to be infected.

Mace and his armor seemed to make a lot of noise, but not enough to attract attention from the patrols. Also, despite the fact that he claimed to have seen an electric blue cat, the so-described cat was nowhere to be seen by the other characters.

Under cover of night, they crossed the border into the demi-human territory, past the red border marker flags, with Brendan's character leading. He was set upon by some small lizard like humanoids, who ran off both when the rest of the party approached, and when a heavily armed group of Elves and Orcs appeared, both shooing off the humanoids and demanding the surrender of the party's weapons. With some argument (both Mace's and Adam's characters did not surrender their weapons easily), they complied, and are now marching towards the demi-human town of Hope, known to human's as Scum's Point.

Josh did a good job of co=DMing with me, playing the encounters well and helping keep the narrative on track.

Shadows Over Camleot

Jon, Adam, Saarya, Nadine, Binyamin, Josh

I had played this once three player in New York, and thought it was ok. I thought the group might like it better, but not a lot, because the mechanics are pretty simple. However, six players is better than three, and the idea of a cooperative game along with the traitor was quite enjoyable for the group, and they ended up liking it very much. We didn't have time to end the game, but we had succeeded in ousting Nadine as the traitor.

We got very close to solving the grail, but managed to get stuck at the last moment, because we had to keep going back to Camelot to get rid of the siege engines. We successfully fought the Knight guy (not the small Black Knight, the one who flips over to becomes the Dragon). Excalibur kept going back and forth.

Our assesment was that the best strategy for the Traitor is to go fight the big Knight guy, both because it is hard to do, takes at least six or even rounds, and, when abandoned, results in no gain whatsoever for the good guys. But it looks like you're doing something, meanwhile.

Being as this was a fairly new experience for all of us, we probably gave out too much information from our hands to each other, but hopefully we will do better next time.

Apr 26, 2006

Participants: Jon, Yitzchak, Nadine, Adam, Nitzan, Mace, Shachar, Elijah, Binyamin, Itamar, Gili

Again, a nice full night. And again, I was running a little late and was still eating when people arrived. And again, I seriously need to buy another bridge table. Gili and I played Cribbage while leaning on, or sitting on, the kitchen counter.

Nitzan is a new arrival who learned about the group from the Tapuz Hebrew board game forum. His previous experience was only Risk and so on. We threw him headfirst into Power Grid, and he enjoyed it.

San Juan

Shachar 35, Elijah 31, Mace 27

Jon 45, Elijah 31

Mace is always only able to stay for an hour, so Elijah and I taught him how to play San Juan. I thought I did pretty well, but apparently he somehow got the idea that the game ended when someone had twelve production buildings, rather than twelve buildings. He had a slew of them by midgame when he finally learned the truth. He ended up not winning, but he did manage to get a Guild Hall by the end of the game which evened it up.

Later in the evening I played with Elijah. He went for a strong production strategy while I went violet, seeing as that's what I pulled in my opening cards. I still find the game fun to play, but it's gotten to be pretty much brainless play for me. I have to play the cards that I get, but I can easily play this game and play something else at the same time.

I built (in order): Carpenter, Quarry, Silver, Library, Prefecture, Hero, Silver, Victory Column, Triumphal Arch, Palace, Statue.

Elijah: Coffee, Quarry, Triumphal Arch (a little early for that, IMHO), Victory Column, Statue, Guild Hall, Silver

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Itamar, Binyamin

Elijah+, Jon

Binyamin taught Itamar. When I looked over, I saw three white pieces on the dark side with a clear path into Mordor, so I kind of figured that Itamar was going to win.

Later in the evening, I played black against Elijah. Every one of our battles was a mutual destruction, until we each had three pieces left. One of mine was the Flying Nazgul, but that wasn't enough to stop Frodo who could pass safely under the mountains. He then sidestepped all of my attacks and marched into Mordor.

So two wins for white, tonight.


Gili 121, Jon 101

As mentioned, we played on the kitchen counter until the first San Juan game was finished. Gili got a lot of good luck with the flipped up cards.

Power Grid

Nitzan 13, Adam 12, Nadine 12, Yitzchak 7

As I said, this was not only Nitzan's first play, but Nitzan's first Eurogame, and he maked a good show, with advice from his fellow players, of course. I didn't see the game, but it ended the round that the Stage 3 card came out, a very common occurence. They played on the U.S. map without the north or central east coast. Nitzan started with the 4 power plant and a good position on the south east.

It was also first play for Yitzchak.


Binyamin 25, Itamar 17, Shahar 9

A game brought over by Binyamin, I probably would have enjoyed playing this, but I also wanted to play the other game and needed to teach it, too. So I didn't see what happened.


Jon 7+, Gili 7-, Elijah 5

I hadn't had a chance to get this out enough, because some of the other players don't like the victory conditions. I also believed that this part of the game is a minor problem. After playing again, I will boost this to being a minor-to-medium problem.

I don't feel that it is anywhere near the debilitating unplayable problem like the one in Saint Petersburg. I still really like the game. But, the game just hurts by having a poor ending. It is simply too easy for the game to be decided midgame. People have to go through the motions when they have no way to win.

So much else of the game is so good, however, I can forgive it. But I will start looking for a way to fix it; something like points for houses, architect location and role selected, and palace patterns, or something.

In our game, I took control of most of the left of the board by spending a lot of cash, and then began reordering the scoring rounds. I was afraid when I had to pass two rounds without building a palace, but the other players also had to skip two rounds. By the time I went into the last strech with my income secure, Gili was very close but not close enough, since I was going to win the last round and win on the tie conditions. Elijah had to lose another two locations, so was out of the running, after we stole his role and rearranged the scoring out from under him.

Louis XIV

Binyamin 35, Itamar 34, Adam 34, Nadine 32

Played near the end of the evening, and therefore only three rounds were played. That means that one player never had to go first in the bidding. This was the first play for both Itamar and Adam. Binyamin liked it enough to borrow it.


Shahar+, Binyamin

This was played as a quick filler. It was rather silly to do this, since Binyamin is effectively color blind.

Right now, next week is scheduled to be AD&D. It will be the evening of/after Yom Haatzmaut.

Apr 16, 2006

Games Day

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Tal, Binyamin, Tikva, Zvi, Shani, Shachar, Yitzchak, Adam, Nadine, Shlomi, Zeke, Eli, Sofia, Gili, David K, Nate, Guy, Itai

Pictures can be found here.

Once again we held a glorious Games Day. Like last time, we had 20 participants. Unlike last time, this one was held inside my apartment rather than in the sukkahs on the roof. Twenty people is a good crowd, but is marred by the fact that it can get loud.

Thanks to Nadine, we had an extra table, and we used the couch for extra seating space, but it was definitely a mite crowded. Next time I think I will move it to the scouts building. The biggest advantage of having it in my house is that that's where the games are.

Binyamin brought numerous games with him, as well. People brought some snacks and others brought some money to cover my snacks. I bought a lot of drinks and also ended up serving up a lot of food, including a kilo of matzah, fruits, spreads, and so on. Around dinner time, we tried to find a place open for Passover that also delivers, but no one answered the phone. I went out to find one myself. I found some, but they were crowded, would have taken a long time to prepare the food, were serving small portions and were charging a lot of money. So I decided to just buy some hamburgers at a super and make them at home myself.

Some new faces, as well:

- Itai heard about the group from the Tapuz forums (actually, asked about it on the Tapuz forums, so heard about it from somewhere else). He came and played WoW, but I didn't get to see him much.

- Shachar's mother Shani came to spend time with Shachar; usually Mace comes to play with him. Shani and Mace are both old friends of my wife, and are recently divorced.

- Eli and Sofia are Anagram players. They came while other games were going on and played Anagrams while waiting. When we finally finished our games about half an hour later, they already decided to go, but promised to come back. They seem nice enough.

- Shlomi came once before. He is the game playing son of some non-gamer friends of ours in Beit Shemesh.

We didn't play a party game, although I wanted to play Beyond Balderdash. Not enough native English speakers. Also, people asked for Cosmic Encounter, but my brother didn't make it, and he has the game.

Here's what we played.


Saarya 53, Nadine 37, Yitzchak 34, Adam 31

Midgame scores: Yitzchak 21, Nadine 19, Saarya 10, Adam 6. According to Nadine, Saarya had an incredible number of pyramids in the second half.

Saarya adds: My 12 pyramids formed 4 sets, effectively scoring double, and I took the highest pyramid on both sides of the river. I acquired these mainly by paying 15 and 21 in the bidding on provinces with 3 pyramids each.


Eli+, Sofia

Eli and Sofia played this game while waiting for another game to end. It looked like a clear win for Eli from where I was sitting.


Nadine, Shlomi, Jon, Adam

We usually play a few hands on game days towards the end of the evening. Shlomi had at least one 17 point hand with 8 spades headed by the ace through queen.

Nadine adds: Fun and instructive games with multiple people assisting with bidding and play. Quote: "You mean I really have to plan my whole game at the beginning?"

Carcassonne: Princess & the Dragon

Guy 192, Tikva 100

I didn't see much of this game. I don't even know what the difference is between this game and regular Carcassonne.


Nate+, Guy

This was the first game played, while I was still helping Tal with her math homework. I taught the rules and the basic concept of what happens when you move a piece.


Jon 24, Tal 20, Saarya 16, David K 14, Nadine 13

A flexible game. Tal plays a strategy of trying to collect a straight flush in order to win the last round. She also usually wins the second to last round. This works as long as she doesn't give up too much in the meantime, she doesn't let the same person take second place in both battles 8 and 9, and she actually pulls the straight flush.

We played without battles 3 and 6 in order to speed things up (this was the game for which Eli and Sofia were waiting to finish). The first battle was skipped since no one called Havoc. David then won the second and I took the fourth battle. Nadine took Agincourt and Saarya and I split the next one. That left only two battles. I scored third in battle 8 and second in battle 9, which was enough for first place. Tal ended up second place winning both last battles.

People kept forgetting the rule about having to draft from the face up cards once the pool was full, including Nadine, me, Saarya, and then Nadine again.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David K

David's main interest in coming was to play Magic, and I was also looking forward to it, having not played since the last time he came. I had two possible sets of cards prepared: 5 sets of 24 cards in each color, or a collection of cards picked up from Neutral Ground that had been left by someone. I also had the two unopened packs of Ravinca boosters that I got by selling a few cards. Understand that, for me, unopened packs of Magic cards are rare and wondrous treasures that I don't have access to very often.

We decided to Rochester draft the picked up cards, and then supplement them with a booster pack each. In that order. Turns out that the best cards were from the boosters. Also turns out that between the packs I had at least two duplicated cards. Is that normal?

I very rarely win even a single game against David, probably because I'm very aggressive. In the first game, I lost due to David getting a nice combo (big creature, card that adds +1 counter, goes to graveyard, and can be retrieved each round) while I pulled mostly Mana.

In the second game I pulled only 3 mana for all but the last few rounds, yet still managed a win, by playing more conservatively and getting lucky. It was pretty dramatic. When I finally got my last mana, I was able to cast big creatures and achieve a surrender from David.

In the last game, things went pretty normal, yet I still managed to win. I may have had the better deck. I made progress by emptying my hand and then casting my Ravinca rare which let me set aside my hand during each of his turns in exchange for drawing an additional card every round. I thought his rare was better (forgot what it is), but I guess mine was, ultimately.

David adds: My rare was indeed better than yours (Enchant Creature: At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, place a token creature under your control which is an exact copy of the enchanted creature), but you had a disenchant (no complaints there, it was a draft choice of yours).

He played Black, Blue, Green, while I played Red, Green, White. Lots of gold cards. I had a number of cards with Convoke, which lets me cast them by tapping my creatures for mana.

Modern Art

Saarya 460, David K 385, Jon 334, Nadine 306, Tal 253

This was the first meaty game we played, and I was interested in having David K play it, as it seemed to me that it would be his type of game. I was right.

However, he did experience agony on two counts (but good agony): the first was his trying to convince people throughout the game to stop competing with each other for buying paintings, in that the seller was making more out of it than the buyers. A losing battle. That's what auctions are all about, after all.

The second was that Saarya kept playing once around auctions, and David was on his left, which always basically excluded him from winning. To add insult to injury, Saarya played a double auction without the pair, forcing David to play the pair or give up his turn, effectively. But then Tal did the same thing for Nadine, so he didn't really lose out.

Not a single Karl Glitter was played during the game, and all rounds had either only two or three artists played, which means no valueless paintings.

Oh Hell

Jon 44, Tal 33, Nadine 32, Adam -2

Wrapping up the evening when the brains are tired, I taught this to all but Tal. Adam started off strong, but then couldn't make any headway. Tal started off weak, but then gained ground steadily. Nadine played conservatively, but too much, so that Tal overtook her.

Power Grid

Jon 14, Guy 13+, Saarya 13-, David K 11, Shlomi

Saarya 20, David K 19

Another game I thought David K would love and he did. So much so that he played an additional two-player game with Saarya which was supposed to be even better than our multi-player game. He even expressed hope in buying a copy.

We played on the America map without the Southeast. We all congregated near the Northeast, but Guy had the worst of it in the corner, only getting to four cities before he was locked in and had to pay a huge price to jump across the board. I was at five cities in the same area, and a shorter leap gave me six, which is all I needed anyway until phase two. After that I just raced across Guy's area and another area in the other direction.

David was again getting locked out of where he needed to go. Saarya bought an early garbage, but two other garbage plants were bought and garbage was getting run out of the market, which hurt.

In phase 2, Guy could already have ended the game, but he would have lost to me if he did. Phase 3 flipped up during the next auction and we all knew the game was going to end. I managed to acquire 14 capacity to Guy's 13. While Shlomi had also reached 14 capacity, he was way behind in cities. That made it an easy victory for me, as I already had all the goods I needed going to the last turn and the board was wide open for me to build in phase 3.

I only bought 4 plants during the game: 4 (2 coals/1 city), 26 (2 oils/ 5 cities), 20 (3 coals/5 cities), and 33 (Green/4 cities) in that order. (numbers may be wrong, but capacity is correct). I wanted a better plant for the last round, but other people bankrupted themselves to prevent me from getting one. Which made no difference, as it turns out.

Saarya adds: I played a second game of with David after the first, in which David learned the rules. The game was very enjoyable, being very close. If the game would have gone on one more round, I probably would have won, but there might have been a tie, according to a later mock-replay, open handed.

Saint Petersburg

Binyamin 102, Zvi 92, Tikva 70

Binyamin wanted something light to close with. It went on a little longer than it should have, but not too bad. I taught them all how to play this, and I also explained why I can't stand the game due to its deep and horrible flaws. It usually takes a few games before they become really apparent, but Binyamin could already see the problems after the first game. It plays ok the first few times, so they enjoyed it.

San Juan

Shachar 33, Yitzchak 32, Shani 31, Adam 27

Shani played this first, so she didn't mind so much. She doesn't really enjoy gaming too much, so this was the last game that she actually enjoyed, aside from Set.

I didn't see what happened.


Shani, Shachar, Tal

When your brain burns out on the more mathematical games, these type of games make good mental cleaners.

Settlers of Catan

Shachar 10, Tal 6, Shani/Shlomi 3

Shlomi arrived and took over for the not really interested Shani. I have no more info.

Settlers of the Stone Age

Tikva 10, Nadine 5, Shachar 4, Shani/Zeke 0

This time Zeke arrived and took over for Shani. This was a new game for the participants, except for Tikva. It looked complicated like Starfarers. I had played enough to not want to learn any new complicated games by this time, so I begged off.

Nadine adds: Tikva maintained her early lead due to being the only experienced player. One of the game's flaws - the desert tiles - slowed the game down significantly, as to a lesser extent did our learning the game while playing. Shachar also played very well despite his lack of experience.

Ticket to Ride

Shani 108, Tal 93, Shachar 84

OK, this time I wasn't even playing, and all the players found this game to be lackluster. So it's not just me. Funny how this works in groups, isn't it?

Twilight Imperium III

Binyamin, Gili, Nate, Tikva, Adam

I was actually planning to play this, but by the time it was ready to start I knew that I couldn't handle a long game and still manage the game group at the same time, without my brain imploding. I guess I'm just not up to long games anymore, especially ones with direct conflict of any kind, even in a peripheral way. I'm still willing to try it sometime; it just has to be the right time.

I didn't hear anything about this one, either. It went about 4 hours including rules explanation, and stopped only because they set a time limit. Of course, the second playing would be faster, one presumes.

Gili adds: Twilight Imperium III was much more complicated than WoW. This game takes a lot of thinking about what you want to do and how to do it. I was exhausted when I started playing so it might affect my judgement. I like this game less because you plan and plan and then the other players take your plans down to the nothing....I'm not sure I will invest as much time in one game another time.

Yitzchak adds: The game has its attractions but I would estimate a complete game (unrushed or time-limited) would take close to 9 hours!

I might play it again if progress could be recorded somehow and continued on successive jergames meetings. We would have finished a game of Samurai Swords! (I'm pretty sure ;)

Nate adds: Binyamin explained the basic flow of the game to me, Gili, Adam and Yitzhak and at about 5:15 we started playing. We agreed to finish the game at 9:45. I'm not sure what each player concentrated on during the game because there is so much going on, but here are few things I saw.

Binyamin and Adam both had a lot of money (which helps get technologies and build units), Yitzhak gained a lot of actions cards (which helps 'cheat' the game and benefits you in a lot of ways) and I tried to build the most technologies I could (which gave me at end of the game my only 2 points). At start there were mostly building and moving. We'll spread to the planets that were near us to get more money certain benefits. Binyamin had to spread his forces far a way from his home base because there were no planets near him.

Me and Gili got really close and I guess that if we had completed the game there would have been a lot of fighting going on. Luckily for me 2/3 public quests were about having technologies (which I had a lot of) while the other third was to get the star in the middle so half of the game was struggling over there to see who could control it. We couldn't finish even half of the game in 3.5 hours (4 including rules explanation) so at the end the scores were: Binyamin and Yitzhak with 4 points me with 2 points. I'm not sure on what position Adam and Gili were, I think that Adam was on 3 and Gili on 1 but I'm not sure, I might be wrong. Anyway I enjoyed a lot and I hope very much I could play it again.

World of Warcraft

Binyamin, Itai, Gili, Guy, Nate, Tikva/Zvi

I wasn't expecting this as one of the first game to be played but it was. Like TI3, a very long and complex game, which is just more than I'm willing to play under such circumstances, unless I had previously played.

Gili adds: I enjoyed very much WOW mainly because of the group I was in. We had a lot of laughs. As for the game - it's not very complicated. You get creatures you have to kill in order to get money and ex. as well as creatures that block your way so you have to kill them but don't get anything for them.The goal of this game is for your group to defeat first the big monster. As always I would have played the game differently next time because there wasn't enough action (I didn't lose a single life point the entire game). My group always fought together so it was easy to kill the monsters but maybe we were lucky... Anyway this game has a disadvantage about the moves you can do each turn and it takes a lot of time between turns. I would like to play it again.

All involved enjoyed it, I hear. No further information.


Shachar+, Shani

A diversion while waiting for another game to finish.

And so another games day came and went. Thanks to all for participating, and see you next time.

Apr 05, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Binyamin, Saarya, Adam, Gili, Elijah, Shachar, Mace

Elijah spent a little time at the beginning of the session creating a new character for the AD&D game. A new player and he wants to be an Illusionist. Hoo boy.

Mace could only stay for the first game and return later, since he has a conflict on Wed evenings. Shachar met Elijah; was this the first time? Whatever, they seemed to hit it off very well, being about the same age (10). Unfortunately, that also meant that they were not very focussed on the game they were playing, or it could be that the game (Primordial Soup) was just too long and dry for them.


Nadine+, Jon

Jon, Nadine, Binyamin

This game was sent to me by its creator in order to review. It is a simple abstract where you move a piece and then place a piece. You can move up onto a piece each time you move, and your object is to move up to the third level. In order to prevent others from moving up, you can block accessible third level spots from other players by capping them with domes, assuming you are close enough to reach an abutting spot.

I will provide a longer description in a review, but that's bout it. The game also comes with some nifty role cards, ala Cosmic Encounter. It works nicely and elegently as a two-player game, both with and without the role cards. However, it has serious problems as a three- player game.

In the first game, Nadine said that she though the game was good, but that it wasn't her type of game. She wanted to quit close to the beginning convinced that I would win. With a little coaxing, she continued. I thought that I had her in a position where I could force a win, but she managed to find the perfect move to snatch victory away from me and secure the win for herself. Ah well.

The second game was abandoned after finding ourselves in a king-making position.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Saarya, Adam

I didn't see what happened, although at midgame it looked like Saarya, playing white, didn't have much of a chance.

The Menorah Game

Mace+, Shachar, Elijah, Gili

Mace had observed the game, but not played. They all seemed to enjoy it.

Power Grid

Binyamin 13, Jon 12, Nadine 12, Adam 12

Played on request by Binyamin, who has seen it but not played it. His comment was that it was a nice game but a bit too long.

We played on the East coast of the US. Binyamin started in central US, which was the west area of the board, while the three of us started on the East coastline. Everyone else bought too many plants, too soon. They got ahead in production , but then slowed down while I calmly caught up, buying cities slowly.

My second plant was 21, Hybrid 2->4. I was content with that for a while. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to buy too many "4" plants, as I eventually found myself with three 4 city plants. While others had a 5 plant and some 2s or 3s. I ended up in that position because the power plants were coming very slowly, and I really needed the upgrades as I would otherwise have been losing the cash race.

The problem is that when a 6 plant becomes available, my purchasing it only increases my output by 2, while anyone else gains 3 or 4 out of it after tossing a dinky plant.

Binyamin made a mistake building in an off-limit area of the board at one point, and we had to rewind a bit, which threw him off; he won anyway, as you see.

Step three was coming slowly, and the board was literally stuck with none of us having place to build to 17 cities. It finally arrived. The maximum production anyone had, however, was only 13 cities. Adam could theoretiacally power 13 cities, but only because he spent way too much money on the final production plant to do it, and he couldn't build to more than 12 cities.

I misplayed and should have won. I had enough money to contest Binyamin for a power plant that would let me upgrade my plants to power 13 cities, but I was keeping money to build more cities when I already had 14 cities. So I let him outbid me. I was hoping that a bigger plant would come down for me to bid on, but a dinky plant came out instead, and I lost the opportunity.

Nadine was also stuck at only 12 power capacity. Binyamin was able to end the game and power 13, while Adam could only build 12 cities, and Nadine and I could only power 12 cities.

Primordial Soup

Gili+, Saarya, Shachar, Elijah

First play for all but Gili. It was a long game, and seemed chaotic as the players got up and ran around a lot. It also had to end just before they could finish the game, but Gili was way in front and there is no way to catch the leader, really.


Binyamin, Nadine, Adam, Mace

These guys gamely tried to pay a few rounds of bridge before game night ended. Apparently some refreshers were needed for the bidding, however, so they didn't get to play more than a hand or two.

No game night next week. Hag Sameyach.

Mar 29, 2006

Participants: Jon, Charlie, Nate, Guy, Yitzchak, Binyamin, Nadine, Gili

Charlie is Charlie Kersten, otherwise known as Kartafilos on BGG. He contacted me last week and said that he would be in Israel for two weeks and was there a game group available? So he came tonight, and hopefully will come again next week. Charlie is an experienced gamer, and a nice person, so it was a pleasure to have him over.

The political comment of the evening was when I read aloud from the computer screen that "the new parliment will have 24 members, 14 of which had spent time in Israeli jails", and everyone thought I was talking about the new Israeli government. I was talking about the new Hamas govermnment. The fact that people could have confused them at this announcment is somewhat amusing.

Binyamin came over early to set up Twilight Imperium 3. He was hoping to play a few rounds in order for us to get the idea of how the game plays, in order to prepare for playing the whole game on Games Day. B has several of these long games that include many complex parts and direct player conflict that he wants to play, so I sympathize with him. They are not really for our general group, however.

My expectation was only that he would set it up, explain the rules, and run through a sample round, which would take 45 minutes, but his was that we would play through several rounds for an hour and a half or two hours. Unfortunately, that would have killed the evening for several people who could only stay until 10:00.

Fortunately, the rules for TI3 are not really that difficult. It is only the choices and strategies that are complex. The basic rules explanation, aside from how conflicts are resolved, is fairly quick:

You each start with different races ala Cosmic Encounter, and you set up the board like Settlers of Catan in a particular way (how is not relevant). Each player's race determines lots of things, like his ship capabilities, special powers, and so on.

Each round you: A) pick roles like Puerto Rico, B) do actions like Goa, and C) play mission cards like Louis XIV. The roles determine player order, like El Grande. The mission cards give you victory points, and the game ends when someone gets ten points. There are some other ways to get points, and some other ways to end the game.

The types of actions you can perform are: A) your role action; and then everyone else can pay a token to do the secondary action listed on the role; this actions is mandatory; B) a move action, which may result in space conflict or planetary conflict; and C) a swapping move action, where you move ships between two bordering hexes you control.

Each round you also get tokens you can allocate into three piles: A) number of ships you can have in one area, B) number of move actions you can take, and C) I forget. The number depends on your race and the planets you control.

That's it, really.

Like Puerto Rico, there is more to know, but it is all details. Lots of things give you action cards that give you abilities that affect the basic activities. Other things turn over other cards like political cards that resolve and affect people. And so on. Exactly what these do and how strong they are is not really relevant. Your goal is to fulfill the mission cards and get ten points, and all of the rest you can figure out once you start playing. Take a look at a few sample cards in each pile to get the idea of what they do and start playing.

So saying, we put the game away and played something else. The truth is that I hate hate hate dice based combat. I even didn't like Wallenstein's cube tower combat, although its redeeming factor is that it is a single action, and therefore quick. I just don't enjoy gambling, and that's what luck based combat resolution is. I don't care that you can reduce or increase your odds of winning, even by a factor of ten. It's just not interesting to me to then complete the mechanic by actually rolling the die/throwing the cubes. If my odds of winning are ten to one, I want to win. It is not exciting to me to lose, and neither is it satisfying to win. I won when I made the right strategic decisions. I don't want to win or lose by luck.

But so saying that, I actually liked Wallenstein, because so much of the game was not combat resolution. It didn't all come down to combat resolution. So while the combat reduced my enjoyment of the game, there was still a whole lot to enjoy. I think the same is true of TI3, as it looks like a whole lot of the game can be played by ignoring most of the combat, altogether.

We will see.

San Juan

Charlie 28, Guy 19, Nate 16

I started this game with Nate and Guy while Binyamin was still setting up TI3. Charlie walked in at the end of the first round, and I let him take over this for me while I went to join the TI3 explanation.

This was the first game for Nate and Guy, so no surprise that they lost. The scores were really low, as you can see, as only Charlie ended with a six pointer.

Princes of Florence

Yitzchak 68, Charlie 64, Guy 52, Nate 50

Played by request, and another first for Nate and Guy who did pretty well. Playing four player apparently threw Charlie off a little. Unlike five and three player, I don't have to make any changes to the rules for four players. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.


Nadine 41, Jon 39, Binyamin 29, Gili 27

Another game Binyamin brought over, this game is entirely abstract in the way that Torres is. In fact, it plays a lot like Torres, without Torres's 3-d aspect. My snap judgement is that it is a good game, but a lesser cousin of Torres.

The idea: you start the game with castle pieces in four colors, four "castle ownership blocks" in your own color, and a bunch of sheds, people, and walls. The board starts as an empty grid except for four towers at the corners and one people somewhere in the middle. Each castle color has a point value between 1 and 4, and each corner has a point value between 1 and 4. The object of the game is to score the most points. How?

Each player places two items on his or her turn. You can only place castle pieces next to castle pieces of the same color until someone decided to cap it with their ownership piece, after which someone starts the new castle of that color elsewhere and the same rule then applies. You can place sheds next to castle pieces of claimed or unclaimed castles. You can't place castle pieces or sheds such that they touch another castle orthogonally or diagonally (so as not to "block the road"). You can only claim one castle of each color.

You place walls extending out from the tower, so long as the walls don't meet walls extending from another tower. You place poeple extending the line of people from either end until you can't place a people without it touching two other people, at which point you may start a new people line somewhere else. You must keep playing as long as you have pieces, even if it doesn't help you. That's it.

Scores: 1 point for each castle piece or shed in your claimed castles. 1 point for each people or wall orthoginally next to your castle pieces or sheds. The castle bonus for having the largest size castle in a certain color (first to reach that size wins it). The tower bonus for the last to connect a castle to a wall extending from the tower.

The wierd mechanism of the game is that everyone is contributing to the growing castles until one player claims it. At which point the players stast a new cstle of that color. You can only claim one castle in a particular color, however. The new castle may conceivably grow larger than the one you already claimed, or it might be placed in such a way that it can never grow by more than one or two pieces due to constraining castles surrounding it.

I'm not terribly thrilled with the mechanism, I must say. I like the constrained part, but it is too easy for someone to give the player on his or her left a nifty castle to claim before it ever gets back to you. On the other hand, this probably works well as a two player game.

The other bad part of the game is the complete lack of a scoring track. Even if you only used it at the end of the game, it is still necessary. As it is, people who actually want to play well will just have to sit and count the scores each round, slowing down the game. A good mechanic to add would have had some hidden scoring mechanism, such as a point factor on the bottom of your ownership block which affects the scoring of the castle. That way no one could gain from counting the scores every round.

So it is a good game, but not a great game. Binyamin feels differently. I enjoyed Santiago more.

In our game, I played castles on one side of the board, which gave me control over the tower bonus there. I also set up a neat mechanism for stealing the people to my side of the board; Binyamin managed to block it and take the people to his side, but it turns out that he played incorrectly, resulting in him and Nadine getting several people point bonuses that should have come to me.

Binyamin saved his ownership pieces until very late, hoping we would be forced to build him a nice castle before he claimed it, but I placed a shed to limit the possible size of the tower that could be built in the remaining free area, which resulted in no particular gain for him. Nadine could have scored a bit more than him by claiming a castle before he did and then starting the last castle of that color in a dead location, but she wasn't familiar enough with the rules to do that.

Nadine adds:

In Medina, I didn't figure out that I should take the 2 castle and block Binyamin from building a bigger one, but when he limited me to 1, it was next to a fence so I think I got 2 points anyway. What mattered more than that castle was being able to go last to get the last connection point. It's a good game, it seemed like there was a lot of luck but that may be due to lack of experience.

San Marco

Binyamin, Nadine, Gili

Last time we played this, Binyamin was so slow that it was painful for me. Now Binaymin has progressed to being a quicker player (or so I hear from him) and found it to be painful to play with new players who were slow. Gili and Nadine had played only once before; it is the type of game that offers too many choices for their way of thinking (?). Whatever the reason, all three of them were in pain by the middle of the game, until I suggested that they just stop, which they all happily did. They were at the end of the second round, so they scored and Binyamin and Nadine were tied.

Nadine adds:

There is too much time in San Marco with nothing to do. Unless you're dividing or selecting cards, there's no point in planning or assessing positions, which doesn't take long and the board changes all the time in any case. And I don't like that who selects first in 3-player is random rather than by rotation. And there are too many negative moves. El Grande is much more interesting, because often when you displace pieces, you have to find places on the board for them, instead of just taking them off the board. (Except in the expansion without our fix to prevent too many negative moves.)

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Gili, Binyamin

To complicate San Marco even more, Gili and Binyamin played this whenever they were waiting for Nadine to split the cards.


Jon 45, Charlie 51, Nate 74, Guy 75

Charlie 10, Jon 20, Guy 21, Nate 24

Nate and Guy had only a few minutes to play. I couldn't find my Geschenkt mockup, so I quickly made another one. First plays for them, as usual. In the first game they had some confusion as to the rules. Still a great game.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 7/7/9/10, Charlie 7/7/7/8

A record setting short game for our group, we played this in twenty minutes. We so rarely get to play it, that I took it out as a 2-player game with someone who I thought would enjoy it. It was fun, but quick as I said.

Treasures went very quickly, with Chalie starting in the middle and taking the two treasures in the center bottom within a few rounds. I started where the rivers meet, and I was gaining a very nice color balance. Charlie hit me with an external conflict which netted him some points in two colors and removed my leaders. However, I placed them right back where they were and booted one of his with a successful internal conflict.

Then a quick disaster left him no more leaders. He started on the other side of the board while I built a monument. I had no reds, but luckily he didn't attack me with internal conflicts. My four treasures at the end of the game were all used in red to make 7 red points. I guess Charlie thought that his earlier external conflict had netted him an advantage, but he didn't count on the points my monument was producing.

The game ended suddenly, and the scores were close, as you can see.

The Menorah Game

Gili+, Charlie

The final game of the evening for them, I didn't see how this went. It was, of course, Charlie's first play. Binyamin wasn't intrested in playing, so we played ...

Go (9x9)

Jon 46, Binyamin 35

I taught Binyamin, not the rules, exactly, but the basic strategies. I don't get to play this much, and I'm still not very good, but I think I might be ready to move up to the 11x11 board. Binyamin started the game. We were pretty much divided down the middle, diagonally, so I won with the little points of contention in the middle.

Great game.

Mar 22, 2006

Participants: Jon, Josh, Brendan, Itamar, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili, Ilan, Elijah, Adam, Mace, Shachar

Today's main event was our second session of D&D. Once again we had a large crowd, too large for real comfort. This time I received the assistance of Josh as assistant GM. This helped somewhat, if not totally. Josh's input was also welcome in building various world viewpoints, as well as handling the NPCs.

Josh stepped into the scene we left off from last time, which, after looking at the situation, he declared to look rather grim for the party. He was convinced that they would all be wiped out. I assured him that it was still possible for the party to escape without much damage, and that player characters can always surprise you.

It turns out that I was right, at least partially. Half of the party got killed. Those that got away chose prudence as the better part of valor. Nevertheless, those that got killed acted, for the most part, with heroism and valor. Even though they ultimately perished, they bought freedom for their party members (not that that was strictly necessary, but it sounds nice). They also played with color and ingenuity, again, for the most part.

In the end, although we played for only two and a half hours and covered only eight rounds, I enjoyed the experience, and everyone got to do something most of the time. At least until they were killed.

Cast of characters:

Round 0: The Setup

We last left our party as follows: they had killed the mage Jervis, a dark character who liked to experiment with his spells on captured slaves. They had also killed two guards who were outside the slave building, one female, and one male (who was drunk and unconscious during the entire battle, but had previously shot at them).

The list of equipment that they had acquired can be found at the above link, but included: a diamond ring with a twisted wire band, a bird- like healing lizard with 7 feathers left, 22 books including a spell- book, a scroll of some sort of acid spray/cloud, three sets of robes, a few short swords, a staff, two sets of chain mail 3/5 of the way taken off the two guards (5 rounds to remove and 5 rounds to put on), a lantern, oil, daggers, pouches, skins, and some other odds and ends.

During round 0, the party healed Garbado who was hovering at death's door, by using up another feather. Garbado instantly felt not only completely well, but better than ever (well, at least since the last feather he took). They also distributed the equipment to various people.

They had just heard a door slam open from across the fortress, approximately eight rounds after the alarm was first raised, and three rounds since they defeated the guards and mage.

Round 1: Escape from the slave house

Basically, everyone except for Dirk decided to run out of the building. Kalbald and Leo both attempted to hide in shadows. Graily ran towards the nearest gate. Calron ran towards the bridge over the gorge, which is the other direction and towards the coming guard. The others ran towards the horses. Dirk remained behind to continue stripping the armor off of one of the guards; only one round to go after this round!

They found the gate had a wooden bar on it and also had a lock in the door. The horse area had a fence post ringed around it, and a small stable. It was easy to jump over or under the fence. All of the horses were unbridled and unsaddled. Torches were lit at either gate, over the bridge, and near the outhouse. Near each gate was a ladder going up to a small walkway over the gate. The walls and gate were made of thick wood and were twelve feet high. See the above link for a layout of the fortress. The moon was half full, waning.

By the end of the round, one guard had reached the party's end of the bridge, and three more were seen to be coming out of the other buildings. The guard was wearing chain mail and wielding a long sword.

Round 2: First blood

Character by character:

Kalbald moved to the other end of the horse area, and continued to hide in shadows.

Seaorin declared that he was protecting the horse area, by readying to attack any guards that came near.

Gladys went up to a horse and, with her Druid like skills, made friends with it.

Baladin and Shalamar both went to the stables and found saddles amd bridles.

Graily climbed up the ladder and found a torch. He noticed on the way up that the lock in the gate was metal, but was unable to tell if it was locked or not.

Garbado fiercely ran towards the guard at the bridge.

Leo ran to the gate, climbed up the bar and flipped up onto the ledge, just as Graily met him on the top of the ladder.

Dirk finished stripping off the armor, and readied to begin putting the armor on.

Calron tried to grapple with the guard on the edge of the bridge, but was kept at bay by the guard's superior reach with a long sword. The guard sliced him.

Meanwhile, the next three guards arrived at the end of the bridge. One looked and acted like a commander, and another was carrying a bow. Three more guards were seen to be exiting the guard's quarters. The commander's name was Duluth, as you heard that name shouted a few times.

Round 3: Saddles and arrows and armor, oh my

Kalbald skulked around in the shadows, edging toward the gate.

Seaorin charged the guards on the bridge and was met halfway by an arrow followed by a guard. He swung, but his sword passed cleanly over the guard's head. The guard swung at him and missed.

Gladys went up to the stable to check around for what else might be there. She found various supplies.

Baladin and Shalamar both began saddling mounts. Shalamar's horse in particular was very friendly towards him.

Graily took the torch and ran back down the ladder, heading in the direction of the horses.

Garbado attacked the guards at the bridge, but his blows rang on their chain mail. In return, he received some heavy blows.

Leo jumped over onto the other side of the wall and began heading right around the fortress, in the direction of the resevoir.

Dirk was putting on armor; only 4 rounds to go!

Calron again tried to grapple with the guard but was kept at bay. The guard and the commander both sliced at him.

Two more guards were seen to be coming out of the buildings, as the three ones that came out last round moved forward. Another one of them had a bow. The commander gave orders, and the men under him seemed to be well disciplined, and capable of performing their duties with minimal instruction. In other words, intelligent. In addition, they all wielded long swords and bows. They definitely knew what they were doing with their weapons, and received double strikes this round.

Round 4: Men down

Kalbald climbed the ladder near the gate.

Seaorin swung and missed, while the guard he was fighting inflicted heavy damage. He was no longer feeling well.

Gladys picked up some items, such as skins and so on, and headed towards the gate.

Baladin and Shalamar continued putting saddles on their horses. Shalamar's horse continued to lick him.

Graily charged the remaining horses and tried to startle them into stampeding by waving her torch at them. The horses whinnied nervously and backed away from her torach.

Garbado continued to swing at the guards, who connected with him and took him down. He sprawled out, bleeding heavily. Other guards did the same to Calron.

Leo was now moving away from the fort following the cliff around the resevoir.

Dirk was putting on armor, only 3 rounds to go!

Arrows whizzed around. Swords rang out in the air. The smell of blood became pervasive. The captain shouted out, "Yield! Lay down your waepons and surrender!"

Round 5: Warning shots

Leo heard Kalbald land outside the gate and slowed down for him to catch up, as they continued to make their way around the resevoir.

Seaorin lowered, but did not drop, his weapon. The guard near him pressed his sword to Seaorin's throat.

Gladys reached the gate and began climbing the ladder, but recoiled as two shots were shot right above her.

Baladin stopped saddling his horse, and instead retrieved the acid scroll from his pouch and opened it in his hands.

Shalamar finished saddling his horse.

Graily continued to wave the torch around in an effort to stampede the horses, but the horses were not bolting. She did received two arrows in her side, however.

Dirk got the breastplate on, and had only to put on the leggings and helmet.

Meanwhile, the captain and two guards began marching toward the horse area, telling the slaves to surrender. One of the guards maintained a watch on Seaorin, and another headed to the slave building to see what had become of the guards and the mage. The two archers remained on the bridge.

Round 6: We don't know the meaning of the word 'surrender'

Leo and Kalbald were out. Garbado and Calron were down.

I must have miscounted somewhere, because Dirk had convinced himself that he would be able to be taken for one of the guards in the semi-darkness. He brazenly charged out of the slave house only to come face to face with a guard. The guard was surprised, especially when Dirk ran him through in a single stroke. The guard went down.

Baladin began casting his spell, and found himself the receipient of four arrows. Three hit him and interupted his scroll, which fizzled.

Gladys climbed unnoticed up to the top of the ledge and threw herself over the wall, landing painfully on her butt. The lizard-bird she had with her gleeped.

Seaorin went into a great tumble, surprising the guard who slashed at him but missed. Seaorin missed in return.

Shalamar mounted his horse and charged the gate. He tried to get the horse to spin around and batter down the gate with his feet, but the horse got confused and simply turned in a circle.

Graily tried one more time to stampede the horses, but they were having none of it.

Round 7: The noble charge

Five left standing in the keep. Gladys in her wisdom figured out which way Leo and Kalbald would have gone and began trailing after them. Kalbald wanted to keep running, but Leo slowed down enough for her to catch up.

Baladin tried to convince the guards that he was really Jervis, while taking out his dagger and fighting, but was cut down by a guard who closed with him.

Dirk clashed with the commander. The commander's blows rang off of Dirk's armor.

Seaorin continued to tumble and tussle with his guard, to no effect on either side.

Graily threw his torch at the approaching guard and ran toward the gate.

Meanwhile, Shalamar took the reins of his horse, turned his back on the gate, and snarled. With bravery and determination on his brow, he sent his horse pawing in the air and charged right at the commander. With thundering hooves, his horse plowed straight down the path. He wielded his staff and struck at the commander with a mighty blow that missed its target. The commander swiped back at him and also failed to connect. With great proficiency, Shalamar swung his staff one more time. Unfortunately, the other end of the staff got stuck in his crotch, which unseated him and sent him flying off of the horse, while the horse thundered on without him in the direction of the bridge. He landed bruisingly.

The archers on the bridge ran for cover.

Round 8: The great leap

Graily was cut down by a guard.

The commander made a wild swing to grab the horse, and managed to divert him from barreling down on the archers. One of them had already dropped his bow and dived, however.

The remaining three party members made a bold and daring leap for the ravine. Seaorin tumbled and lept for the ravine. He dodged arrows and made it in, but owing to how damaged he was already, tumbled right into the walls and died before landing in the water sixty feet below.

Shalamar also leaped for the cliff. He avoided the walls, but impaled himself on rocks in the water below, dying instantly.

Dirk ran for the cliff while another blow glanced off his armor and leaped. He avoided both the walls and the rocks, and landed safely in the water ... fully armored. His breath was knocked out of him and he suffered internal bleeding. However, due to a miraculous freak of luck, he landed in a deep pool of water right near the bank and managed to pull himself, exhausted onto the bank where he now lies, chest heaving and sore, barely alive, but alive.

And so we leave them. Four living player characters. They are missing the ring and the spellbook, which was lost with Baladin. They have the lizard-bird, Patrus, with six feathers remaining, plus some skins, clothes and weapons, and whatever else they took. Dirk has his sword and armor and some provisions as well.

Everyone got to play, which was good. Binyamin and Itamar felt that the encounter was way too hard for them. It's not that they were first level characters, it's that they were new D&D players, and therefore were just trying to figure out what types of things they could or could not do during a melee round. Binyamin says that they were expecting to be fully equipped characters and have their first meeting be something trivial, like a few Orcs, so that they could get the idea of how the system works before facing something as difficult as this.

Experience for the living characters:

Leo: Sensibly ran straight to the gate, but abandoned his fellow characters. He waited for the other escapees to catch up. Climbed a wall. He earns 370 x.p.

Kalbald: tried to hide in shadows, mostly unsuccessfully. Escaped by following Leo out of the gate and abandonding his fellow characters, too. He earns 380 x.p.

Gladys: petted a horse, gathered provisions, and escaped over the wall with Patrus. She earns 420 x.p.

Dirk: Put on armor and killed a guard. Fought the leader and another guard and leaped into a sixty foot ravine, and survived. He earns 720 x.p.

That's the lot. Anyone interested in rolling up a new character for next time, let me know.


Binaymin+, Brendan

They played while I wasn't watching. All I saw was them finishing up in the northeast corner of the board.

The Menorah Game

Ilan+, Jon, Adam, Gili

Amazing that we still have new people who haven't played this yet. We needed a game for four that would take about half and hour, so I suggested this.

I thought I was doing poorly with money, but ok with candles. I also noticed that Ilan was doing well with money. It turns out that I was right.

I tried adding the rule that you can buy an N+1 card out of the discard pile for N, but it didn't change much. I may change it to 1/2 the cost of the card you are buying, rounded up, to see if it changes anything.

Aladdin's Dragons

Binyamin+, Itamar, Adam, Jon

We still had a bit more than an hour, but didn't get to finish this, as the rules explanation took about twenty minutes. This was the first playing for all but Binyamin. The game was designed by Richard Breese, but plays very much like a Knizia game.

The game board is a track of auctions. Players lay bidding chips face down in any location until all chips are placed, and then the auctions are resolved one by one. The results of previous auctions may affect the outcome of coming auctions, like Louis XIV. After all auctions are resolved, do it again and again, until all tiles in the final four auctions of the track have been successfully won. The player with the most tiles wins.

If you like this type of blind bidding with limited bidding chips, it is a great game. I like it, although it's not super fantastic after one play, just enjoyable. Not very thematic. As I said, I didn't get to play the whole game, only most of it.

Mar 15, 2006

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Brendan, Binyamin, Gili, Nate, Guy, Adam, Rachel A

Game night was pushed back to 7:30 following Shushan Purim. We had lots of goodies on the counter, and nobody arrived drunk. Rachel may have acted a little drunk, but that's just her usual personality.

I had some games set up in advance, since Guy and Nate had requested El Grande. As I was expecting about ten people, I set up Amun Re and El Grande. Rachel wanted to play Puerto Rico, as usual, but she would have to wait until one of the other games was done first.

A few people came still wearing the remnants of their costumes. Gili was wearing a black funky wig, and when Adam walked in, he didn't recognize her and introduced himself. Nadine had her Mexican hat with tassles.

Both Rachel and I were coughing it up, probably to everyone else's disgust. I am on the way out of a cold, Rachel on the way in, or possibly just passing through.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Binyamin+, Jon

Opened as a filler while waiting for the others to arrive. Binyamin played white. I hunted down a lot of his pieces, and he gave back almost as well. The biggest lost for black is losing the Nazgul, since it is the only piece that can move backwards. Without it, once Frodo gets past your blockers the game is over like Fox and Sheep.

Meanwhile, I have been doing some grand devestation with Gandalf when I play white, so I concentrated on ensuring that he was killed early. The endgame came down to my having three even blockers, including the Troll, Balrog, and Witch King, while Binyamin had Sam, Frodo and somebody irrelevant. I took out the irrelevant, bringing us both down to 1 card. My pieces were lined up in the mountains, the Balrog in Moriah, the Troll in "the Mountains", and the Witch King in Isengard. Call it spaces 2, 3, and 1. The last Mountain pass was space 4. Now both of his would have to move forward from the central space and have to attack either my Balrog in 2 or my Troll in 3.

Unfortunately for me, I knew how he could win, but he didn't. He kept saying how there was no chance, and I kept saying, "so play or resign", seeing as how everyone else was waiting for us to finish before they could play. Bin does take a long time thinking, however. Part of this was because he forgot how the Troll works, having played only once before.

Sam marched forward and got eaten by the Troll. I moved my Witch King forward. I couldn't attack, because he would just sidestep and move around, so I needed him to attack in the mountains, where he couldn't dodge. However, now that he had all of his cards back, the solution was easy enough, assuming he could find it, which he did. He attacked the Troll with Frodo and then retreated back to the other space. Now he could either move forward around me to space 4, or wait for me to attack him with his Troll, dodge, and then move forward to my vacated space 3, anyway.


Nadine+, Brendan

Meanwhile, another waiting game was played. Nadine is not thrilled with these abstracts, but at least they are quick and somewhat interesting.

Amun Re

Jon 47, Gili 39, Brendan 39, Adam 38

This was first game for Brendan and Adam, and maybe third? fourth? for Gili. I was not at all convinced that I had any chance of winning all the way through to the last scoring, when the scoring took me completely by surprise. Surely if I had taken the time out to actually count scores during the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds this would not have been a surprise, but, with the exception of the Catan series, I never do that. I suspect that my victory had more to do with playing with newcomers who didn't have a feel for what would bring in the most vp's rather than to anything I did right. As in other Knizia games, the things that actually give victory points can easily be forgotten in the chase for acquiring money and position.

In the first epoch, one camel province appeared in the first round and the water was at 3, but then sank to 2 for the rest of the epoch. At the end of the epoch, Adam was at 20, with the rest of us trailing at 14 or 15. Strangely enough, we fought for most pyramids on one side of the Nile and neglected the other side. We then discovered by accident that we had a three way tie.

In the next epoch, water levels were negative for the first two rounds, which suited me as I now had the camel provinces. I picked up a third one on the last round, and suddenly the water level rose to 3. That destroyed my income, but helped my temples, and it made Adam a very wealthy man as just one of his provinces had nine farmers and a +1 bonus card.

I concentrated on three sets of pyramids in all provinces, while the others built more pyramids in only one province, each ending with only two sets. Once again we neglectd one side of the board. Brendan had one side of the Nile with 6 pyramids, while I ended up taking the other side with only 3.

El Grande

Nadine 70, Saarya 64, Nate 60, Binyamin 54, Guy 32

This was a first game for all but Nadine and Saarya. Binyamin immediately saw how the game had similarities to San Marco, although Manaraja has even more overlap.

We finished our Amun Re game in two hours, and Nate and Guy had to go, so in the middle of turn 6 they decided to wrap the game up after that turn.

Apples 2 Apples

Rachel, Gili, Adam, Brendan, Jon

Brendan has weird taste in games, so he took this off the shelf for us to play while waiting for the last few minutes of El Grande to wrap up. Rachel joined, but seemed more interested in discussing inappropriate topics than playing.

Puerto Rico

Gili 56, Rachel 52, Nadine 36

The estrogen club reformed for a late game of Puerto Rico. This is the club that used to consist of Rachel, Nadine and Sharon, before Sharon moved on to the U.S. Although no one can replace Sharon, Gili is a welcome new member.

I was told to note the following: The final scores are a result of Nadine taking Craftsman in the last round. If she had instead taken Mayor, the scores would have been: Rachel 56, Gili 52, Nadine 37.

Modern Art

Adam 474, Binyamin 438, Brendan 432, Jon 424

We needed a game for an hour. Once again I underestimated how long a game takes in our group, as this lasted almost two hours. It turned out to be a closer game than we expected, although we all knew that Adam seemed to be winning. He was the most aggressive bidder throughout the game.

Some other games we didn't play, but will play the next time we play boardgames, were Tigris and Euphrates (Brendan hasn't played), and Clans. Again I wasn't up to learning a new game, although I do want to play Clans.

Next week is roleplaying again.

Mar 08, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Shachar, Nate, Guy, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili, Adam, Josh, Yitzchak, Elijah

As I mentioned last week, with great attendance like this I need to think about getting more chairs and another table or finding a larger place to hold the game night. We managed to play our two main games at the same table, but it was loud.

Nate and Guy returned and look like they may become regular members, although they can only stay until 9:30 pm or so. Yitzchak also returned; once again I didn't get to play with him. Elijah had indicated that he wouldn't be coming, but then he showed up late. I played some games with him while I was in the middle of the main game. After that he tried to organize a few games, but didn't succeed before he had to go. He wanted to play Geschenkt but I couldn't find the cards. Probably a good reason to own the official game rather than play with a mock up.

Aside from the problem with Elijah, game selection this evening turned out to be relatively easy.

The Menorah Game

Shachar+, Nate, Guy, Jon

Mace stayed long enough after dropping off Shachar to assist him with some hints during this game. It didn't seem to me like he was getting it, but he ended up winning, so what do I know? This was the first play for all of them, and some onlookers who had showed up later also expressed interest either in playing it (since they hadn't, yet) or playing it again.

One of the game's good features is that it's rare that you pull ahead with a decisive lead, since the money tends to even out. You're constantly scrambling for money, even at the end game; if you're not, it means that you're scrambling for cards. Only if you pull a series of low cards one after the other do you gain an advantage. Two people have complained about that advantage. I have a possible solution for it that involves the soldiers. Maybe I'll try it next time.

Guy was also the second one to note that the game might be improved by lowering the cost to grab a card out of the discard pile. He suggested half the price, which I think is too low; I think it would make the price too easy, and I want there to be a need for excess cash. Otherwise the game loses a certain amount of tension. However, I think lowering the cost by one might work.

Nate and Guy both complimented me on the game. Thanks. Not that anyone wants to publish it. Sniff.

By the way, I finally have another game that is close to being ready to test. Actually it's more like a game system. We'll see.

Davinci Code

Binyamin, Nadine, Gili, Adam

Binyamin brought this quick game over and they played it as a filler while we finished the Menorah Game. The game is also known as Coda. Some sort of simple deduction game that looks like it plays like Go Fish. I have no further information.

Age of Steam

Adam 46, Binyamin 45, Gili 29, Jon 23, Brendan 22, Josh 13

Ah, Age of Steam. An excellent, excellent game. But long, especially for our group. We started explaining the rules at 7:00. That took 45 minutes. Then we played for 4 hours, until almost 11:45. Some of that was first time players and rules lookups. Some of that was our players; usually I'm the quick one, but even I had to think some things through for a few minutes. Not that it did me any good.

Still, I just love this type of game, and this particular game. One of its great things is that you don't hit a comfortable point during the game and then just play out the rest. Even toward the end of the game you are scrambling around for resources. That makes it constantly engaging. Arguably, it is noticeable that some players have much better chance of winning than other players by the last few rounds.

The game is very tight, economically. There are too many things to do that need money, and not enough money coming in. I tried to examine the money problem. Like other games, a certain "rule of squares" applies here. That is, you have (in a six player game) 12 runs to make. Each of those runs can be spent in upgrading your train so that the run can go one more link. If you don't do any upgrades, you can (in theory) make 12 runs that pay off 1 point each. If you upgrade 11 times, you can make 1 run that pays off 12 points. The rule of squares says that you should upgrade 6 times and make 6 runs paying off 36 points.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work, for many reasons. While you are planning this, other people are stealing your tracks, stealing your goods, upgrading for free, and so on. You have to make some runs early on in order to pay off your shares. Then when it comes to running your train, you end up running on other people's tracks and giving them the income. And so on. What a headache!

Which isn't to say that the game is perfect. My few complaints: I'm not enamored with the good restocking system. I don't like the push back on the scoring track mechanism; actually it makes the game better, but it's inelegant and doesn't make much sense. And the last round of the game has a few issues, such as useless roles and so on, like Power Grid. It's like the game development went only so far and then stopped.

Anyhoo ...

In our game, Binyamin took an early lead and seemed to be winning, but Adam crept up and seemed to be a strong contender. Around turn 4 (out of 6) I took quick stock of the board and realized that Adam was marginally in the lead. Meanwhile, in the back ranks, my train was too small, but I was at least somewhat ahead of the rest of the trailing pack as far as having less debt and more rails.

Gili and I were conservative in our shares. Binyamin and Josh did a lot of Urbanization, while Brendan and I concentrated on first mover. Another great aspect of the game is the various paths to victory, and it's really true in this game. Adam won by taking Locomotive 4 times. I had the opportunity once and failed to take it, which was one of my major errors.

Brendan adds:

Age of Steam is "18xx Light". Which is good, cos I think 18xx is far too long/complex/not focused on track building/not geographic enough.

"Age of Steam" has one problem that really annoys me though: it costs me VP to urbanise on the last turn. That makes no sense. All game you try to urbanise, and then on the last turn it is disadvantageous to develop a city you connect to (especially one you have a monopoly on). So much for investing in your network or developing the country. Let the peasant squat in their hovels.. no urban planning for you!

With goods production, maybe instead of randomly drawing 2 cubes and deciding which city to put them on, how about randomly rolling the city, then deciding what goods it will get?

Puerto Rico

Guy 55, Shachar 46, Nate 46, Nadine 43, Yitzchak 39

This was first game for the three kids, and it looks like they did pretty well. I'm sure that they had a lot of first-time-player help from Nadine and Yitzchak, as I heard a narrative coming from that side of the table (as well as an offer to let them figure it out on their own, at one point).

Sounds like they had a good time, anyway.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon W+/W+/B+, Elijah B/B/W

I played this while also playing Age of Steam since Elijah had come in in the middle of the main games. These were the first plays for him. I've found that, like many games, part of the key to winning is to concentrate on the victory conditions and not get distracted by fighting irrelevant battles.


Nadine+, Shachar

Nadine and Shachar played a game before Nadine had to leave, and while we were still going with Age of Steam.


Jon+, Shachar

And we also played this, again while Age of Steam was still rolling along. After this game, Shachar fell asleep until it was time to go home.

Mar 01, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Nadine, Zeke, Elijah, Michael, Adam, Yitzchak, Binyamin, Itamar, Gili

A hopping night at the JSGC. If this continues, which would be great, I have to start thinking about more chairs and tables, or a new location.

Nate and Guy are first time visitors who contacted me over BGG. When their mother dropped them off she seemed very surprised that this game club was populated mostly by grown-ups. Perhaps she was looking for a "chug" for her kids (one was hers, the other was a friend, I gathered).

They couldn't stay very long, but they seemed to enjoy themselves.

Also returned after a very long hiatus was Yitzchak. I didn't get to play with him, but I was glad to see him. Zeke also came back after a few weeks absence. And Michael, Elijah's father, got to stay and play for the first time in a while.

Of course, since I didn't know about all of these people in advance (just some of them), there was the usual confusion about who was playing what and in how many groups. Binyamin wanted to start Age of Steam when it looked like there would only be three of us, which I nixed; Gili came in late and it could have worked. Instead, we ended up playing Santiago, which I didn't realize, until reading the rules, also really needs more than three. So we were saved by Gili's arrival, after all.


Nate (shark) 6, Guy 6. Brendan 0

Guy (shark) 6, Brendan 3, Nate 3

Brendan had sent me a magazine that he writes every month. The magazine details a long travellogue, and also contains several pages of updates of games being played by actual snail mail, this being one of them.

I still don't see much point in it. The shark can basically choose who to pick on, and then the other players get a free ride. Once the shark is on you, there is not much hope of shaking him off. Anyway, they seemed to enjoy it.

Brendan adds:

Silly, but fun. see my zine for a postal game, where 3 games are played simultaneously, to enable everyone to play the shark, and so even it all out.


Michael, Elijah

I know only that Michael demonstrated to Elijah how to play this game.

Power Grid

Brendan+, Guy/Jon, Nate/Gili, Nadine

I didn't see this one until the boys had to leave. By then it was the last turn, so Gili and I did what we could to take over the last positions. There was not much we could do to stop both Brendan and Nadine. I had a choice of whose fuel to buy out to prevent one of them from winning.

I chose to buy out Nadine's fuel, since Brendan still had an extra city to buy, which meant that it was conceivable that he wouldn't win this round, which would give me a shot at winning the following round. Unfortunately for me, he was able to finish the game, after all.

Brendan adds:

The 2 newbies were really good. They seemed way ahead of me at first, and knew what they were doing. Maybe Nadine explained the rules well. I'm impressed.

Princes of Florence

Yitzchak 57, Michael 54, Adam 50, Zeke 42, Elijah 41

I heard rumors both that this game had its boring moments and that this game was really exciting, especially at the end. Let's see what we have here in the notes. Looks like chicken scratches. Elijah had two prestige cards, both of which he couldn't use. Zeke had three Builders. This was the first time playing for Adam. Michael had six works. And Yitzchak won after a revoked chapeleplacement (that's what it looks like). Don't know what it means, but it sounds exciting. They seemed to enjoy themselves, at least.


Binyamin 91, Jon 88, Gili 81, Itamar 67

As noted above, we could have played Age of Steam. Maybe next time.

This was a game I was interested in learning solely by its high ranking on BGG. It turns out to be a very elegant and excellent game, at least for first playing. "Elegant" is not used lightly; the game has simple mechanisms leading to highly interesting choices. The basic idea is that each round you get to lay tiles on the board with 0-2 of your pieces on the tile. Some negotiation then determines where the next water pipe is going. All tiles next to water pipes (including from previous rounds) don't lose any pieces, and all others do. At the end of the game, you score the number of pieces times the number of like tiles under or adjacent to your pieces. So two pieces on a red tile that also abuts 3 other red tiles scores you 8 points. That's pretty much it.

Like Torres, you have to be mindful of the square-scoring incentive. But there are no cards here to get in the way. The tension comes from not only what you give up or gain by choosing a tile or negotiating for a waterway, but also what you give or take from the other players in doing so. Lots of nice choices.

It had some slight weaknesses. I wasn't thrilled with each player automatically gaining 3 money each round, which made money a little too easy to come by. And the ability to offer a dumb choice for the water chooser just so that the chooser doesn't have to spend money to have a good choice (and therefore won't pick someone else's bribe) is kind of annoying.

I am definitely looking forward to trying again. I feel like I was doing everything wrong in the first game until about mid-game. Just about. I still did pretty well. Binyamin had locked up the most number of pieces on this huge potato field. His point count was nigh unassailable, although I came pretty close. Meanwhile, Gili was amassing a lot of points in her hand just by conserving money, which almost worked. Itamar is not a fan of auction games.

Binyamin got his 63 from potatoes and almost nothing else; it was still enough to beat my 27 from potatoes and 24 from peas.

Tigris and Euphrates

Binyamin 6, Adam 5, Itamar 4

I told them they would have to leave by 11:30 when they started this game close to 10:00. Amazingly enough they finished, by concentrating on the treasures.

And this was both Adam's and Itamar's first plays, and I had to teach them, which takes a good twenty minutes. Nadine decided to watch the game.

Railway Rivals

Jon 197, Gili 140, Brendan 110

Also with not much time, Brendan brought out a copy of this game. While I can usually not handle more than one new game at a time (BGG.con being the exception), I thought it looked like fun and I like rail games. I didn't like the rules when he told me there were dice involved in racing, but I figured what the hey? Can't hurt to try.

In this game, a player rolls a die and then each player draws with a colored pencil that many connections on a big map. After all the cities are connected, or close to all the cities, racing begins. Two cards are drawn from a deck, and the players decide to race between the two cities or not. You can race on your own roads for free, or on other player's roads by paying $1 for each segment. Winner of the race gets $20, second gets $10. You can also declare that you are joining together with another player and each split the prize.

Doing the math, you can see that a fair number of the races are not even contested, because they happen to be between cities where it it only worthwhile for one person to race. Racing is by roling the dice, otherwise. Since it is cheaper to go on your own roads, you may end up travelling different length paths. Efficient track building to the most number of cities is key to victory.

I found it to be better than I expected. I love connecting cities (with the exception of TransAmerica, which was so easy that it was insipid). and the racing luck element is ... well, it's still not my idea of fun, really, but we used an "averaging die 2/3/3/4/4/5" which evened it out a bit. I would prefer some sort of just-shy-of-deterministic card play/point allocation system.

Brendan didn't have all of the rules in front of him, so he kept pulling out new rules to throw at us while we were playing (ptttthhhhht!). We didn't quite end the game, but we had to finish the evening. I was ahead in money.

A few problems: Gili's starting position was poorly chosen (by the map designer), since after the second 2 was rolled at the beginning of the game she was already stuck while we were free to continue building. Her position wasn't compensated in any way to make up for that problem. We let her pay her way across the rivers to get out of her startup position (which you otherwise can't do until later in the game). And Brendan said that we would start racing when almost all cities are connected, instead of all, so as to prevent stalling near the end of that phase. And the die change, as noted above.

Brendan adds:

Remember, this game is still highly played almost 20 years after it won Spiel des Jahres. That says something.

It's simple, fun, and there are hundreds of maps available (a number designed by me, like my tokyo region map). Some are designed by knowledgeable gamers, some by people just overlaying a grid on a map (there is an awful Mexico map designed by someone who thought altitude= mountainous terrain, forgetting that Mexico is mainly high plateau, so he has made two coastal strips and the centre of Mexico is solid mountains. It makes for an interesting diversion, but is not a sensible map of Mexico, as it does not allow realistic railway net building) . Thus start positions may not be balanced. Given that there is a large postal playing community for this game, many maps are designed for postal play, which irons out some of the problems you identify with the face to face game.

But for me, the point is to learn the geography of an area. Thus in the maps I design, the 'special runs' and choice of cities to include on the map are based on research into the economic and railway geography of the area. My series of Australian state maps thus include runs to mine locations etc.

You may have noted that the cities are numbered 11 to 16, 21 to 26 etc up to 66, with 6 special runs.

In postal play, each 'decade' thus contains 6 numbers, and each decade will have one race from one of its numbers to a number in each of th other decades.

Thus the 10s decade will have one race to each of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, and one to the Specials.

There are 12 rounds: 6 building, 6 racing.

Each building round you get 3 die rolls to build, and all builds in each round are simultaneous.

In racing rounds, each city comes up once in rounds 7-9 and once in rounds 10-12 (so twice overall).

Coupled with the decade groupings above, this ensures an even spread of aces all over the board, and no really short ones between two close cities that only one player has joined efficiently.

Each racing round, 7 races are offered, but each player can only enter 4. (and can then build a decreasing amount of track each turn by paying for it out of their hands: do you build to connect, in the hope of later payoff, or save your money).

So here is a choice as to whether to enter races you can race for free, or ones you can monopolise, or try to compete with others to peg them back.

Also, races winnings can be played as in ftf: $20,$10, nil or via "bus boss scoring" whereby winnings are determined by the number of entrants.

1 player: $3-
2 $20/$10
3  $15, $9, $6
Thus entering a race even with little chance of winning can at least peg back the winner, whereas not entering, gives him a higher win.

There is also an economic race variant, where you submit a tender. It costs you $1 per hex to enter a race, and an e3xtra $1 to pay a rival to use his track. You then 'tender' for the race. The higher the tender, the bigger your profit, but only the two lowest tenders will win, irrespective of distance. So you have to play off a low bid in order to win the tender, vs profit level.

Postal games always use an average die.

In face to face games, we an play that we reroll all ones in building, and every second two, for example, to remove the problem Gili faced at the start,.

Having not played this map before, i didn't notice the problem . Perhaps we should have started with a roll of at least 4...

See the Ukraine game in my zine for an example of postal play.

A nice coloured map makes for a more aesthetic game too. But I only have my postal play b/w maps with me here, not my coloured original or own-designed maps (coloured, laminated and played on with OHP pens or crayons).

Feb 22, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Mace, Shachar, Gili, Ilan, Adam, Nadine, Itamar, Binyamin

This game session was different than any of the previous ones. The last several weeks I had been preparing a campaign world in response to the requests of the other players to run a D&D style roleplaying session. The last two weeks the players have been preparing characters.

Mace is a very old friend of my wife's who is in Israel for a year, and by coincidence came to his first session on this evening. He brought his son Shachar. Gili brought her husband Ilan just for the roleplaying.

AD&D 2nd Edition

I already knew that the number of players was starting to grow a bit large, but by the time I realized how large it had grown it was too late. Ten people were coming to play, not including me, and not including two more people who were intending to come but couldn't make it tonight: Josh, and David Klein (who probably won't be making it to most game nights in the near future, due to work load).

That is entirely too many people to manage. Each person has to be integrated and have something to do. Each player is trying to talk at the same time. Just listening to what each person wants to do during a round of combat takes a few minutes. For sanity's sake, and for the enjoyment of all involved, a campaign should realy be limited to six players, max.

As I expected, but even worse than I had remembered, combat was long. A few rounds of combat basically ended the remainder of the evening. Pathetic first level characters only hit once every few rounds and the cramped conditions made it all the more difficult for the characters to maneuver. One thing I will say is that I am much happier that I tried to do this in 2e instead of 3e. In 2e, if a player wants to run back and hand a staff to someone else who is running forwards, he says, "I run back and hand the staff to this guy, who is running forwards." In 3e, you have to check init segments, standard actions, move actions, free actions, attacks of opportunities, and so forth ad nauseum. Blech. Leave the timing to the DM.

Despite the number of players, the session was still pretty enjoyable. Occasionally some of the players were a little bored when they couldn't reah combat or had nothing else to do.

Player Types

My main objective was to play this game as "ROLE playing", and not "ROLL playing" or "RULE playing". Players usually fall into one of these three camps, and shaking them out of it is like herding cats.

ROLE players are there for the story. They range from the melodramatic players who talk in accents, play characters with faults, talk in character, and so forth, to those who just want to get into the history of the story, solve the puzzles and fulfill the missions. This went ok until the combat started, at which point we lost most character personality. A lot of this was my fault, since I should have maintained a rigid descriptive narrative of what was going on, rather than calling players by their names and just saying "roll to hit" and so on.

ROLL players are the guys who min-max their characters. They want to roll dice and kill creatures, and they want to know that they have +15 to hit and +45 damage, preferably swinging 7 attacks every 2 rounds. These guys will rattle off numbers to you. They will measure exact distances, sculpt spells to include only their enemies and exclude their comrades during combat, and so on. My first objective was to thrwart these players, but only to a point. I still had to provide an opportunity for them to whack things with a plus or two, or they would get bored. To handle this, I mentally added or subtracted environmental bonuses and penalties each round, making the exact number of what the player needed to hit indeterminate. Furthermore, I didn't use minis to mark player locations, so that the players wouldn't start measuring distances during combat, moving their pieces and then subtly moving them back when they wanted to influence me by logic. This was only partially successful, as the exact idea of what was really happening during combat became confused. Which is how it should be. I've also ruled that spell area of effects are going to be slightly variable.

RULE players are the ones who have memorized all the rules to the books and question everything you say or point out how it is not fitting in to the description of the book. If you run something different from what is in the book, they will simply not get it. "An Orc! It's evil." "Why do you think it's evil." "Orcs are evil. That's what it says in the book." "Maybe this is not an evil Orc." "No, Orcs are evil." And so on. I warned everyone several times that just about nothing I do is going to be from the book, but it still didn't help with these guys (well, just one guy, actually). These guys are funny, because you can watch them throw away +5 Holy Avenger swords by simply changing the description of the sword to something that they don't recognize and throwing an Undetectable Aura spell on it. They won't even bother to examine it further, because they "know" already that it is junk. My philosophy is to just stare them down and repeat what I said a few times.


The players had created the following:

The characters were instructed to assign proficiencies, weapon and non-weapon, and to have a personality, but not to have any character background or equipment. The only info I gave them about the world was that it was a wilderness adventure with political intrigue.

It's tough assigning weapon proficiencies when you don't know what weapons are available in the world, and also tough to figure out some of the non-weapon proficiencies, such as "ancient lenguages", with no character background. But they managed.

Some rules I also added: Fighters could specialize and double specialize. Clerics needed to eventually talk to me about their spells when we get to a relevant part of the game. Mages needed spell books and could specialize also. Because they are so pathetic, I gave them Detect Magic and Read Magic at will, for free. Thieves had to distribute their sixty percentage points.

Before starting the game, I gave them one more warning: the beginning of this adventure would be grim and they may feel like I ganged up on them and debilitated their characters too much. They should hang on, because they will be able to get out of their predicament whole and sound in a little while. I said this to prevent them from throwing coke bottles and dice at me after I started them in the game.

I make fun of the players a little here, but the truth is that I have more information than they do, so I can't really expect them to always do the thing that seems obvious to me. But I can't help myself.

The Game: The Starting Point

The first sensation they have is darkness; not absolute darkness, but the darkness of closed eyelids against a bright light. The next sensation is pain, and heat. And no memory.

Yeah, the old "no memory" start, but it can still be used effectively. This is only the second campaign in which I've used it.

The explanation continues: All humans have clothes and a single weapon of their choice. That's it. All non-humans are naked, whipped, and damaged down to three hit points.

All characters remember their own names and a basic idea about their own skills. The two humans feel that the other human is familiar to them, but they don't recognize the non-humans. Similarly, the non-humans feel a recognition of the other non-humans, but not the humans.

They find themselves outside in the noon-day late summer heat. They are thirsty. The environment is steppes - dry ground, withered grass, very sparse shade, about a half a mile to the nearest tree. To the south (some of them had direction sense) the steppes continue. To both the southeast and southwest on the horizon they can make out something red and small, not moving. To the north and northwest they can see the land change to hills and somewhat more vegetation, eventually.

Their stomachs hurt, but Kalbald, Seaorin, and Baldarin's stomachs hurt them more than the others. These three are also slightly nauseous, and they feel something stuck in their throats. They can't see anything looking down the throat.

And oh, yes, lying on the ground near their feet are a few more non-human bodies. Most are just killed due to damage, but one is burnt to a crisp. Near his/her body (probably Elven) is a small winged body, also burned to a crisp.

The players took stock and introduced themselves. They dug around looking for something buried but didn't find anything. They examined the bodies and didn't find anything. Some wanted to continue digging for a half an hour or more, but Leo decided to start walking to the nearest tree, which was also in the direction of the hills. The others followed.

The tree turned out to be a ten foot Juniper bush. Thorny, and able to provide shade only if they hacked off the lower branches. The branches were not much use as weapons. Graily wanted to climb the tree to have a look around, but it was not able to support his weight.

Dirk wanted to know if he could make a bow and arrows out of the branches since he has the Bowyer/Fletcher skill.

I stare at Mace. "Uh, given a few weeks of time, no."

The Game: The Company of Humans

By 2:00 pm, and even thirstier, they came within sight of a road going from east-northeast to west-southwest. The road served as a division between the hills and the steppes. In other words, they have been walking from the steppes in the direction of the hills approximately north-northwest, directly perpendicular to the road. The road was very straight, and even cut through hills and filled up dips when necessary. Visibility was about two miles in either direction, a little less northwards into the hills. There was little cover near the road, except an odd bush or two.

As they approached the road, they heard something coming from the east. Kalbald decided to hide behind a bush, the others also realized they were not decent (no clothes). They crossed the road to the north side, argued for a bit. The sound turned out to be a company of humans, including at least two riding, one on a horse, and one on something else.

The party continued to discuss what to do. When the company was within one mile of them, they noticed it had about twenty armed humans marching quickly in formation. The humans were wearing heralds over chain mail. Baldarin, who has heraldry, thought the crest looked familiar, but couldn't quite place the picture. It showed a human figure with a beaming face and uplifted fist.

The non-humans decided to lie down on the side of the road in a non- threatening sleep-like state, while the two humans with charismas of 16 and 18 greeted the humans. The armed company began to run when they were close to the party. Eighteen figures surrounded the two humans, and two were sent to stand over the non-humans. All were armed with drawn weapons. All also had bows. The two riders were riding a horse and a lion. The horseman got off and approached Gladys. He appeared to be a commander of some sort.

Nadine rolled a 2 for reaction adjustment. Sometimes even a good Charisma won't help you!

"Who are you?" barked the commander. "What are you doing here with this filthy lot of escaped slaves? Are you flithy slave freeers?" He spat. "Answer me!"

Glady tried to explain that they woke up with no knowledge of how they got there and so on.

"Liars!" he yelled. "Grab her!" She is grabbed. "Tell the truth or I will cut off your hand! Who is your Lord? Where are you from? What are you doing with these slaves?" A soldier moved his sword to her wrist.

Gladys said that she couln't answer any differently, and what could she say that would help.

"Cut off her hand!" ordered the commander. And off came Glady's hand. Nadine looked shocked. She fell screaming in the dirt. The soldiers wrapped a cloth around her stump.

The commander turned on Leo "What about you? Tell me the truth! Where are you from? Who is your Lord?"

Leo fell on his knees and begged for mercy. The soldiers batted him on the back and head. The commander shouted, calling his soldiers by name, and was responded to by name from his soldiers. The commander ordered all the characters to be tied up, and pressed the soldiers that they had to reach Poxnard's still today and continue on eastwards. Kalbald tried to hide behind his bush but was spotted. Dirk successfully pretended to be unconscious. He was tied up, and his body thrown on the horse. The human characters were double-guarded with drawn weapons. The march continued to the west.

The Game: Poxnard's

A few miles of marching and the company came to a fork in the road. Sometime during this march they had seen something winging overhead, but it was too far away to see properly. During this time, the characters had considered trying to escape, but decided against it. At the fork, the main road continued, and a less paved road split off to the right, due west. A hill rose between the two roads. A sign at the fork read "Poxnard's Resevoir and Lookout". They took the fork.

The vegetation increased considerably and the road eventually turned north until it turned west again right into a small fort, about 100 yards around in a circle. Off to their right (north) the land fell away in a cliff down to water, although they could see it rising again on the other side not too far off. To their left was a hill. Ahead the road went right through the fort. A door to the fort opened.

The company travelled into the fort. There were buildings on the right and left. Ahead, the road crossed a bridge over a ravine. The drop to the ravine was about sixty feet. The walls went up to the ravine on either side, and continued on the other side to complete the fort. The road continued on the other side of the ravine to go out the fort through another door. Within the fort on the other side of the ravine, to the right was another building, and to the left was a stables and a fenced in area with horses running around.

        -----....------ --Wall
Slaves--|-XX \../ X X-|--Houses
House   |     ||      |
        |____ ||  X X-|--Houses
        |  X \||   X  |
Stable--|-   |||      |---Wall

The commander of the fort came out to talk to the commander of the patrol. They greeted each other by name, talked about schedules and time and how they had to press onwards. They started to argue but nobody asked me any particular details about the argument, so I need not repeat them here. The characters were lead to the slave house. The slave house was a 60 by 30 foot building with barred windows on all sides. The entrance was through a door seven feet in from the right side along one of the wide sides. The door pulled out. Inside the door was a five by ten room with a desk on the far side, a chest, bookcases, and so on. Opposite the door was another door leading into a room that occupied the remaining area of the building.

They filed through the small room into the main room that stank with straw and worse on the floor. They were left tied up and the door to the small room was pushed back and locked. The house was made of strong wood, the door was solid, the bars were made of metal. It was about 6:30 pm and getting dark. The moon was coming out and it's a clear night.

The commanders argued again outside. One of them yelled that they must continue on their patrols or Aimee will be displeased. Again, since nobody told me that they cared to listen to the rest of the argument, the rest of the argument wasn't overheard. Eventually the patrol marched off.

The players listened politely when I said that the argument was going with raised voices, but didn't seem interested in trying to hear any more than that. I did mention that the campaign contains political intrigue, didn't I?

The Game: The Slave House

The players quickly untied themselves but tried to make it look like they were still tied up. Every time they made noise, one of the two guards yelled at them to shut up. One guard was at the window on the same wall as the outside door, and the other was at the window on the side of the house you reached if you continued past the door and turned left around the house (also overlooking the resevoir).

Let's see if I can remember all of the wierd things they did here ...

Baldarin tried to talk to a guard and tell them the non-humans were fighting with the humans, but got his face spit upon.

Garbado called out that he hates humans, and got an arrow shot at him. The arrow broke, but the party kept the arrow head. The guards started arguing after that and then it quieted down.

Kalbald tried ventriloquism to get the guards to argue some more, without success.

Dirk tried to use the arrow head to gouge a hole around one of the bars by the window, intending to pull the bars out with the rope.

Lots of other things that mostly brought attention upon them from the guards, who kept yelling at them to shut up.

By this time, Kalbald, Seaorin, and Baldarin were feeling very sick. Around 9:00 or 9:30, all three threw up. Before they could even say that they searched the vomit, I told them that something blue and gem- like was visible in Baldarin's, green in Kalbald's, and purple in Seaorin's. the light was low, and infravision only detects heat, not full sight (I had to say that many times during the course of the evening) but they could see these easily enough.

Baldarin eventually detected that they were magical. They finally touched them. As they were touched, the blue one flashed and turned into a scroll tube, the green one into a small creature that looked like a small dragon, but with bluish black feathers (all but around twenty of the feathers were missing), and the purple one into a ring. By the light of the moon, they could see that the ring was very beautiful, with a diamond, and a twisted wire band.

And no, you don't have enough light to appraise the value. Sheesh.

They opened the tube and found it to be in Orcish, which noone could read. The thieves tried to read it, but only Kalbald had any success, and just partial. Holding it up to a window, it read as follows:

To my faithful friends, ...

It is with a ... heart that I write this ..., ... it will only be read if our ... indeed come about. I have ... this letter in Baldarin's throat as the only means ... that it will ... should you have failed your mission and fallen into ... hands, as I have forseen.

... friends ..., ... citizens and ..., and not the least I, your friend these many years, grieve that it has ... ... in the end. I can only hope that there is a chance ... ... foul ... in some way, although undoubtedly not ... .

If you have ..., it is ... to that which I warned you: Kalbald's and Seaorin's feud has ... your efforts ... . The many and ... you have each ... against the other were finally ... to your common cause. I will not repeat these ... here; I can only hope that whatever ... is ... upon you at least erases them from your memory. I ... you now, as I did before, to seek ... is possible and, let the past lie.

If you have survived, I can only hope that you are still on this Aerth. If you are, please look for me. Seek out the ... Winmyr within my country; she will tell you ... . I have hidden my ring, Ilsonidir, within Searoin as I hid this letter. Use it as ... of your identity. I have also ... a few other items to aid you if you have survived:

Patrus had been hidden within Kalbald's ... . I'm sure I do not have to tell you to use him ... . I would be ... to see him ... to me.

I have ... your spellbooks and magic equipment and ... them all within Tempest's ... . After you have ... them, invoke my name to restore them to their ... . Note Baldarin that I have added a few spells that you may need as a gift to you. ... . I have copied an ... of spells in return, ... .

... you have been sent beyond my lifespan, I fear to leave any ... ..., but so be it. This is my only hope of surviving to ... should you return. After ... I will hide ... the location of the Wanestone, should I recover it before ... can. It is your only hope of returning to you what has been lost: ... , your land, your very selves, ... .

For your own survival, I ... that you will be able to put aside your ... and find it ... . I fear that if one of you fails, you will likely all fail.

... .

Your friend,
Queen of Aeronwir

P.S. Please drop and stand back from this ... after reading this postscript.

Kalbald dropped the letter, and Dirk made a valiant attempt to place the letter on the bars he had been sawing before five seconds passed, but he didn't make it. It flashed and burned up into nothingness.

Now they spent more time discussing the contents. Binyamin complained that he couldn't understand what I said since I spoke in English. They tried to figure out who Tempest was, and tried calling the gaurd by the name "Tempest", who told them to shut up. Brendan took this to mean that the guard's name was Tempest and should be recruited to their side.

Patrus, they figured, is the little reptile/bird thing who was crawling over Kalbald's head and chirping "Meep! Meep!". Much discussion. Eventually they plucked out one of his feathers. It came out with a black drop hanging off the end. Much discussion. Use it to drip on the bars? Spread on your hands? Kalbald put it on his hands and it tingled and smelled ok. He touched his tongue to it and it made him feel nice. He licked it up and was totally cured and never felt better. In fact, he felt like he was even more healthy than normal by some amount.

"How much?" "More." "But how many hit points?" "More." "But what should he write for hit points?" "More." But how do we kow how many hit points he has?" "More." "But ..." (repeat for two minutes)

All players except Leo took a feather and were healed up, and Gladys even had a new hand pop out!

"What do we do with the hand that was cut off?" "You don't have it." "But we took the hand." "No you didn't." "But surely we would have taken the hand." "You didn't." "Didn't we take the hand?" "No." "But ..."

David Klein doesn't like it when I add these "rescue the newbie" deus ex machina mechanisms, like a magic healing lizard bird. But many of these are totally new players, and I wanted them to have a reasonable start. It also fits the plot, nicely.

Around 10:00 pm, the door opened (inwards, no space to hide behind it) and they saw a figure in the door. He began casting a spell. Dirk tried to move silently and hide in shadows behind the wall around the corner from the door. The spell was cast and a cloud of acid enveloped the area around the goblin who screamed and then dropped dead. The mage mumbled to himself and closed the door. Dirk tried to throw a rope around the Mage before he could retreat (!!!) and missed by enough distance that he didn't give himself away to the enemy for no particular purpose.

About this point I told the group: "The railroading is done. You're on your own now." It wasn't quite true that I had been railroading them. They could have gone in any direction after waking up, and they could have avoided the patrol, if they tried. I was ready for other contingencies. But they pretty much did what I expected them to, and that was good, because it produced the most dramatic results.

Around midnight, our brave heroes went into action.

The Game: The Battle

Garbado and Seaorin rushed the door. Seaorin bounced, but Garbado broke through. The Mage was sitting at his desk and turned around, surprised. One of the guards outside jumped up.

Garbado, Dirk, and Calron jumped on the Mage, while Seaorin went to the far door. The room was already crowded, now. Graily tried to slip around the bookcases.

Dirk and Calron tried to subdue the Mage while Garbado was just bashing him. The Mage bashed back pretty well.

"But he's a Mage." "He hit." "But he's weak, he's a Mage." "He hit." "Isn't he weak?" "He hit." "Whoever heard of a Mage that can hit?" "He hit." "He must be a high level Mage if he can hit." "He hit." ...

They eventually took him down. Meanwhile, Seaorin went from the door to the chest and ripped open the lock. He found clothes, soap, sewing stuff, and a scroll tube. Baldarin detected magic around the room (he couldn't get the bookshelves because they were behind the door) and saw only something in the chest. When Seaorin picked up the scroll tube, Baldarin asked to have it thrown to him. Seaorin threw fine, Baldarin dropped it, and then picked it up. It turned out to be some sort of acid jet spell.

Seaorin then got dressed, He also found various books on the shelves, some with titles, some with picures on the spines, some clearly about history, botany, races, and so on.

Meanwhile, Kalbald tried to talk to the guard outside the window again, calling him "Tempest". The guard stabbed him with a sword, tried again and hit the bars and then ran to the door, shouting "Help! Alert!". Graily opened the door on him. She fought. Dirk picked up a staff and fought, with no proficiency. He retreated and let Shalamar move up, who had proficiency with staff. Seaorin tried to throw the soap under the guard's feet, but missed. Graily threw himself at the guards feet and hit, which destabilized her, but didn't knock her down. They eventually killed her, but before Garbado went down (after losing many more hit points than normal). After prompting by the DM, Gladys detected a pulse still with her healing proficiency, and kept him from dying, temporarily. He is now unconscious.

Kalbald sat on the subdued Mage. Garbado tried to open the drawers, but they were locked. Dirk found the keys in the Mage's pocket and handed them to Kalbald who opened the drawers while Dirk tied up the Mage. They eventually stabbed the Mage to death while he was bound up and unconscious. In the drawers, they found gold, scroll tubes, and a forty page book. They passed the tubes and book to Baldarin.

The scrolls all contained business or personal letters. The book looks like a spell book, but doesn't detect magic.

"So it's not a spellbook. Where could the spellbook be?" "Why isn't it a spellbook?" "It doesn't detect magic." "So?" "Spellbooks detect magic. Maybe the spellbook is in another building?" "Who says spellbooks detect magic?" "OK, Try detecting magic again. Any magic on the book?" "No." "See? It's not a spellbook. Spellbooks detect magic."

OK, I'm being a little unfair here. Although they should really ask me before assuming that spellbooks MUST detect magic, I assume that the character would know that no, spellbooks do not necessarily detect magic in this world.

Graily then went out and found the other guard in a drunken stupor. He wailed him on the head with a rock and dragged him back inside, closing the door behind him, but not before they saw the lights on in one of the other buildings. The alert was heard!

The next three rounds were spent getting the chainmail three fifths of the way off of the two guards. Also Balamir spent this time going through the scrolls and starting to read the book-that-looked- like-a-spellbook-but-didn't-detect-magic. The first two pages he couldn't read, but the titles of the next two red "Jervis's acidic spray", and the next two read "Jervis's spell for altering the perception of others with regards to oneself". There are still some other pages with text on them, as yet unread.

Somewhere across the fort, a door slammed open.

And that's where we left off. As I said, sometimes people were bored, but I think everyone got to do something tonight at some point. Here is how I measure it:

Brendan: Kalbald - Tried some interesting things, and was unsuccessful with his thieving skills. Read some Orcish. First tasted Patrus blood and found the gold. He earns 440 x.p.

Elijah: Garbado - Knocked open a door and fought bravely. If he survives, he earns 440 x.p.

Shachar: Shalamar - Fought bravely and well with his staff. He earns 410 x.p.

Mace: Dirk - Subdued the Mage. Fought a guard with a non-proficient weapon. Provided some ideas. Foolishly tried to attack the Mage in the doorway. Earns 420 x.p.

Gili: Graily - Wanted to climb a tree, faced one guard and knocked out another. Earns 440 x.p.

Ilan: Calron - Fought the Mage, and found the Mage's keys. Earns 430 x.p.

Adam: Leo - Began walking towards the hills. Prudently surrendered in the face of danger. Provided some good ideas. Earns 420 x.p.

Nadine: Gladys - Bravely faced a patrol and failed a chrisma check. Lost a hand and regained it. Applied healing skill, but only at the DM's prompting. Earns 410 x.p.

Itamar: Seorin - Failed to open a door. Opened and checked out a chest and shelves. Found a magic item. Dressed himself. Earns 410 x.p.

Binyamin: Baldarin - Tried to use Heraldry. Detected some magic. Determined a scroll. Feels capable of understanding some of what is written in some of the books. Earns 420 x.p.

That's the lot. Here's the loot:

125 s.p. 50 g.p. Two sets of chainmail and shields on bodies. Three sets of robes and five sets of other clothing, including hats and boots. Three pouches. Tinder and flint, Three daggers and scabbards. Two short swords and scabbards. Soap. Scroll tubes with personal letters. Twenty two books. Oil lamp and spare oil. Keys. Broken chest and desk. Bucket. Staff. Six water/wine skins, three with water and one with wine. A scroll with an acid stream spell. Lengths of rope. A lizard/bird with seven feathers. A diamond ring with a twisted wire band. Bell. Paper. Chalk. Sewing Kit. Small dirty towel.

Now we need to discuss where we go from here.

San Marco

Jon 50+, Adam 40+, Binyamin 40+

I thought we still had some time, so we played this. However, Binyamin found it hard to make decisions here, so the game took a really long time. For some reason, this game just clicks with me.

Not that this will help yo much, but Binyamin pretty much stuck to the right side of the board, Adam to the left, and I took second place in both halves.

Feb 15, 2006

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Nadine, Josh, Adam, Rachel

A number of people couldn't make it, some because of the threat of a snowstorm which never materialized. Nevertheless, we had a very nice evening playing two solid games.

We also had a newcomer, Adam, whose previous game experience was pre-Euro. Adam got thrown straight into the thick of complex Eurogames and did quite well. I think he enjoyed it and will return.

Power Grid

Nadine 16, Jon 15, Josh 14, Elijah 10, Adam 9

It seems my lot in life to come in second place in this game, and Nadine's to win. I always feel I'm doing ok and then a few rounds before the game ends I realize that I can't catch up, either in plants or cities.

Elijah, Josh, and Adam were the new players (Elijah had played once, actually) and bought too many middling plants. By the end of the game they were sorely shy in production capacity. Meanwhile, I thought I did ok buying only two small plants and then a large one. Unfortunately I wasn't able to secure the remaining large ones. I managed to get to 15 production by the last turn buying only the biggest plants.

But Nadine was already at 16, and had little problem building to 16 cities to end the game. Nadine started out with lots of coal plants. We were all so sure that coal would run out that we avoided it, so it didn't run out. Elijah had some Green plants going, and Adam and Josh were first for garbage. Adam then switched to all nukes and was the only nuke user, buying three nukes for $6 each round.

We all enjoyed it very much, and even managed to finish before Elijah had to go.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 56, Jon 53, Adam 53, Nadine 49, Josh 44

Rachel was around, and despite my misgivings about subjecting Adam to yet another complex game, we played Puerto Rico. Still a great game after thousands of plays. However, Nadine, Rachel, and I were giving out so much advice that I had to start calling us on it and insisting that the new guys be allowed to make their own mistakes.

For all that they did darn well. Things change in five player enough that buildings usually not worth much are possibly useful. Wharves were built, the Trading Post (the only building change I used) helped Josh a lot, as did Large Indigo for Rachel.

Adam was running coffee in front of Nadine, Rachel was running sugar in front of me, and I was running tobacco in front of Josh. We all ended with a large building. Adam had coffee, Factory and Wharf, Nadine had Factory and Guild Hall, Rachel had Harbor and Small Warehouse, as did I, and Josh had Wharf and Trading Post.

The goods were running out all over the place, which I think is a good part of the game, and something rarely seen outside of five player games. Nadine ended up having to end the game either by letting Rachel ship six indigo or me ship 5 corn. The former prevented both of us from shipping twice, so was the better move, but ended up making the difference between Rachel or me winning.

Again, Adam seemed to have a good time. So we hope to see him again. Next week will be some roleplaying.

Feb 08, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Binyamin, Gili, Elijah, Nadine

Tonight was a very unusual night in that it was the first night of preparation for our eventual role-playing sessions. To that end, we spent the first 45 minutes running over the rules and concept of role-playing and creating characters.

AD&D 2nd edition

Here is the email I sent describing the rules:

OK, I think we will be using 2e rules, basically. I would prefer to use my own system (link to it on my blog), but maybe some other time.

However, I will be cutting a lot of the rules out of the system, some of them because I don't like them, and some of them due to the nature of the campaign you will be playing.

The campaign will start two weeks from this Wed night. We will play one evening and see how it goes. If the majority want to continue, we will continue again three weeks after that. I don't want to cause problems with the board game group.

Here are the basic changes you can expect:


You are all starting at 1st level with exactly 1 experience point.

All players have stats as follows: 18, 16, 14, 13, 12, 10. You may arrange these stats however you like. There will be no changes to these stats, period. However, if you prefer to roll for stats, you may roll in front of me sometime during the next two weeks at the club. The rolling method will be: 5d6, drop the lowest two dice. Roll six times, arrange as you like. If you choose to roll, you cannot use the default numbers. If you don't like the results, try to remember that this is a ROLEplaying game, not a ROLLplaying game, and the fun you derive from the game is not how often you succeed in your rolls.

Racial changes can apply to your stats, but no stat can be raised higher than 18, period. That includes fighter strength. I am not playing with percentile Strength. 18 is the limit.

All limitations in the stats apply. Non-fighters do not get Con bonus higher than +2. I will be checking your carrying capacity. You have to record your languages, allowable number of spells, and so forth. Charisma will only be used for reaction rolls. If your party meets a group of people, your reaction roll will be based on the median Charisma score of your party.

I will not be playing with alignments or any alignment oriented abilities or spells.

However, do consider the personality of your character. I expect characters full of personality. DO NOT bother with any other character background or equipment. These will be supplied.

I am playing with proficiencies and weapon specialization. Non-combat proficiencies are also required. I suggest you align them to what may be a grand wilderness adventure in a land with plenty of political intrigue (circa 13th century equivalent in technology). Please don't try to use any science or other anachronistic solutions to various problems.


All magic users can cast Detect Magic and Read Magic at will. There are no spell components. Spellbooks will be required when appropriate, however. Information about how to copy spells and use spellbooks and so on will be given during the adventure.

All spells have a casting length of one round, unless they specify that they take more than one round to cast. Spell area of effect is approximate and may vary from time to time. You cannot sculpt a spell, not only because the power of a spell varies, but because people move around. Just tell me approximately where you are centering it.

Ask me about illusions if you plan on using them. As a note, Phantasamal Force cannot create the illusion of sound, smell, or heat, and therefore will not work very well for creatures, fires, or virtually anything else that moves unless it appears to be in the distance.


Clerics gain the ability to swap out spells for a heal spell, like 3e. You do not have to specify a religion for your character.


Rounds are an indeterminate length that is not specified, but the usual sorts of things can be accomplished: an attack, a spell, some movement, retrieving an item from your backpack, and so on.

- All players inform me what they intend to do during the round.

- Spellcasters begin casting spells.

- Your party rolls for initiative vs your opponents.

- Non-spellcasters on either side do what they said. Players with shorter actions or weapon speeds of 4 or less always go first. Players with weapon speeds of 8 or more always go last.

- Spells go off.


WIll be awarded for encounters (fought or unfought), traps, puzzles, unusual treasures, and general situation management. Individuals may gain more xp than others. Expect about 400 xp/night under normal circumstances.

More when I think about it. Please send me full details of your character, including name, stats, race, physical description, plusses, saving throws, THACO, proficiencies, abilities, and so on, if you can. Anyone who hasn't done this before can do it with me during one of the next two weeks.

And some followup questions:

> Also I wanted to know what races are you using and what other classes other > then mages?

Races in 2nd player handbook. (Human, Elf, 1/2 Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling)

Classes in 2nd player handbook. (Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Mage, Rogue, Bard).

> Also do you play whit multi class characters? May be it would be easier to > start whit something simpler then a mage and then add it later? And do I > understand right that mages are very limited and not so useful in your > world?

Multiclassing (simultaneous classes) in 2e is only for non-humans. You can multiclass if you like. Dual-classing (one class, and then the next class) in 2e is for humans only, and not recommended. (3e made dual-classing absurdly simple and is one of the reasons that I hate it).

> What class would you recommend as well fitted to your campaign, bard? > Ranger? Druid? I would prefer a class whit magic but if it has no roll in > your world I better give it up on the start and not get frustrated all the > campaign that I don't have what to do.

Any. Magic will have a strong roll in the world, but is MUCH harder to come by in 2e than in 3e, and even more so in my campaign. All of the other classes are similarly crippled in 2e compared to 3e, by the way. My campaign will have combat, but there will be a lot of other things to do. And, if you are so lucky enough as to acquire any spells that can be used in combat, you will have something to do during combat, as well.

Everyone took the prerolled stats, except Gili. She rolled and came up with stats pretty similar (slightly worse) but hey, at least they were different.

Gili created Graily, a male Elven cleric.

Elijah created Slingfoot, a male Halfling fighter.

Brendan created Kalbald the Insidious, a male Dwarven thief.

Nadine created a currently nameless and sexless Human druid.

Binyamin created a male Half-Elven mage.

Quite a mix. I can't wait to see the rest of the characters. As of now, I anticipate at least the addition of David Klein, Itamar, Ilan (Gili's husband), Josh, and possibly Ben and/or others.

Next week we will continue creating characters, and the week after we will play. Maybe not the whole evening, but most of it. It depends how it goes. In the meantime, if you want to create your character at home, feel free to do so. You can roll for hit points, minimum 1/2 rounded up.

Ticket to Ride

Elijah 121, Nadine 89, Gili 83, Brendan 63

In the meantime, Binyamin keeps bringing new games every week. This is one of them. I had already played TtR:Europe, and Binyamin wanted to play Goa, which I won't play with 3, so these 4 played here.

As you can see, it was kind of a landslide for Elijah as he got the really long routes and longest path, as well. First game and all, and people weren't mean enough to block him. Also, he got lucky getting those routes. This type of luck can be mitigated by having players draw N and keep N-1 cards. You just have to find the best N.


Binyamin 46, Jon 42

I'm famously not a bit fan of Goa, but it works best with 2 in my opinion. So I agreed to play with Binyamin. The auctions worked very well. In a 2 player game, about half of the auctions are bought by the owner, which just never happens in 3 or 4 players. That made money a critical part of the game.

I did a lot of expeditions, and Binyamin took control of the money, enough to really do damage in the auctions. The last round of the game he got the flag and both tiles, each of which was 2 actions. He and I were sitting just a few points from each other, and he was trying to remember if he needed to take money to steal most points for money at the end of the game or to try for points elsewhere. He chose correctly, taking the money and swinging a victory because of it.

I still don't like the game that much. It is so mechanical and the theme is just invisible, which I don't feel with other games of this sort, like El Grande, Puerto Rico, and Tigris and Euphrates. Also, I refused to play with most of the luck elements: no flipping cards, just add four to your colony attempt (if we had played card flipping, I would have loathed the game); and drawing two cards, discard one. Another change I make in 2 player is leaving the middle tile empty when filling the board, so that the starting player can go there if they want. The "flip an extra card" expedition card becomes "add two colonists".

San Marco

Elijah/Jon 70, Brendan 56, Nadine 48, Gili 44

TtR is much shorter than Goa, so they started another game that Binyamin brought. He wasn't too happy about it, as he had wanted to play, too, but I thought they could probably get it done before we finished Goa anyway.

Elijah had to leave before the last third of the game. He was second place by ten points, and only a few points ahead of Nadine in third place. Gili trailed by a wide margin. By this time we had finished Goa, so while Binyamin went over his character, I took over for Elijah.

For some reason this game just clicks with me. It didn't hurt that Nadine and Gili were first time players and didn't know all of the rules, like scoring an additional time when the game ends. Still, they concentrated too much on interim scoring leaving me a lot of the control cards. I ended with 8 points from the gray numbers, and a lot of first places, having hammered at Brendan as much as possible in favor of Gili. Nadine had also been hammering at Brendan. That left me free to scoot ahead in the final scoring.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon+, Binyamin

Without enough time and players to play San Marco again, I taught Binyamin to play this light game. I played dark for the first time. I finally have all of the rules correct (like the Nazgul can only attack a space with a single character). We traded foes back and forth in the middle, with a number of close numerical battles won by a single point.

Then I saw a hole in Binyamin's flank. The Nazgul hit the space just outside the Shire, the Balrog left the mountains and retreated sideways around his opponent, and then the Dark Riders went all the way from Mordor to the Shire in a single attack. Since Aragon was already dead, there was nothing left to stop me from walzing into the Shire within three more turns, while Mordor was still defended by the Witch King and Saruman. First time I saw a win that way.

Until next week.

Feb 01, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Binyamin, Itamar, Michal, Gili, Nadine

We're still working our way through our new games, and now Binyamin is bringing over new games from his immense new shipment of 13 games. So, lots of new stuff to get through.

In the meantime, I had intended to begin this session as the first in our roleplaying sessions in response to our member's requests. I was trying to move away from the old D&D system, which is the only system that I've played, and which I'm pretty sick of (mostly because of 3e). So I proposed a new system that is a blend of Children of Fire and some simple d6 skill checks only to have it nixed by the members who want to play straight D&D. They agreed to go 1e, at least. Owing to a number of scheduling problems, we may be able to begin rolling up characters but won't be able to start playing for a while, yet.

I also tried to explain Magic to my members, most of whom have never played. However, Brendan, who is the only one who has played, was totally uninterested. And I was still eager to try some of the newer games. So, although I set up some decks, explained the rules, and went through a round or two, we put the cards aside after that and went back to board games. Maybe some other time.

Lor of the Rings:the Confrontation


I set this up for my first arrival, having received it back from Saarya, who had borrowed it. As usual, I played White; I haven't played black, yet. Brendan was playing his first game, which was as good an excuse as any after I won. I was very lucky to kill the Orcs with Gimli and the Nazgul with Legolas, both of which had never happened for me before. Brendan was eventually down to two pieces, and Frodo was able to quietly slip into Mordor.


Jon+, Nadine, Brendan, Binyamin

After reading the rules, this looked like a really good game, so I was eager to try it out. The rest of the game group wanted to play either this or Power Grid, so that worked out.

I didn't notice after only reading the rules, but one of the main mechanics in the game is blind move selection ala El Grande castillo. Each round is a repetition of selecting the two action sets that you will be performing this coming round. Unless you are going first, there is a small amount of chaos that may affect your move, but the chaos level is fairly low, and the major possible changes are that you'll end up with more money than you expected or lose a barely significant village space.

The other major mechanics are area control, role selection, and route selection. Each round you can build houses, either to affect control in an area or claim tollbooths on the routes, or build palaces also to exert control, or take houses from the provinces to your court (oops, that's El Grande again), or take some money, or change the order of area scoring, or trade roles with another player or the bank. The roles provide turn order as well as special abilities, such as paying less for a palace or travelling for free. The game is won by the first player to get seven palaces, or, if two get seven palaces, by the person with the most money. The game is also limited to ten rounds, max.

In a few words, I loved it. It is a really excellent game, with tough choices, limited actions, and continuous racing around the board. Like other great games, there are a lot of things that you have to do to establish your base, but only one of them counts towards winning the game, namely your palaces. There are many many paths to victories, either by trying to rule a few areas with high payoff, or multiple areas with lesser payoffs, or by controlling routes, altering scoring order, and so on.

Binyamin didn't like that only palaces count for scoring, as he thinks that games should be more like "Knizia" with multiple scoring opportunities. Nadine was concerned that a clear early game success, which has minor (medium in Nadine's opinion) luck, is indicative of who will win at the end. I disagree, of course, and seeing as this was only our first game, I hope to see this proved in future games.

A wierd annoyance I experienced was my fellow players trying to prove that "this" person is winning near the end of the game, so that there is no point in finishing the game. This happened here and also in Power Grid, and often happens in other games. While this is true in some games, it is also true that games are often too close to call so precisely, and especially in the first playing of a comlex game, even if it looks like someone will win, there can be upsets.

Nadine writes:

There wasn't anything we could do to block Jon from winning once he was so far ahead on money, but Maharaja isn't necessarily as uneven as we think, and experience should help. But it just seems not fun. Maybe because 3 people lose every round, and even if you win you're still getting behind in money almost every round.

[More below ...]

We played without the seventh role. We started off playing with the variant of giving a player +1 influence in the city that matched their role, but I think we forgot that rule as the game progressed. Unlike the other players, I spent more of the first few turns establishing paths to the midgame scoring cities and placing my influence in these cities. As a result, the other players handed me wads of cash after the first turn travelling on my routes and losing the areas in which I was already leading. This cash at the beginning then allowed me to play palaces every round while still getting back the money by winning the areas. It also helped to have the "pay less for palaces" role for several turns.

Nevertheless, the game came down to the wire as Nadine was also winning a lot of areas and had just as many palaces built as I had. Only through some last turn maneuvering and some luck was I able to pull off a victory on the tie.

Brendan also built some excellent route connections, especially the oft overlooked ring-road. However, he was a turn behind in cash and palaces, and so out of the running. Binyamin was in a similar situation, but he had more area control and less route control, so was paying out to other players to travel around.

Like Primoridial Soup, there may be a bit of a runaway winner situation, but, like Primoridial Soup, that may have more to do with the fact that people didn't begin to gang up on me until it was too late. With more experience, the games should be tighter.

Power Grid

Gili 17, Elijah/Jon 16, Michal 15, Itamar 14

Great enthusiasm for this game contiunes. Gili wanted to play again, and, as the only experienced player, managed a clean victory. Elijah had to leave close to the end of the game, so I played his last two rounds.

Elijah's position wasn't great with only middle-sized plants. I held back on my last cities in the second to last round, and then bought a 7 city plant and built to 17 cities. This wasn't enough to beat Gili. My combined plant outage was only 16, and hers was 17, and she went into the last round only needing to build 3 cities.


Jon+, Nadine, Brendan, Binyamin

Nadine+, Jon, Brendan, Binyamin

This was brought by Binyamin, and was the first time we actually played with the real game, as opposed to a mock-up. Brendan was confused about the rules in the first game and thought all runs were cancelled altogether, so ended up buying almost every card.

Oops. I explained the rules again and we played again. This time Nadine eked out a victory over me by a few points.


Brendan 50, Binyamin 46, Itamar 38, Nadine 34

Binyamin loves to play new game after new game. At 11:00 pm I decided that I had enough of new games for now, so the four of them went and learned this. Nadine said that she liked it a lot. Actually, I rarely hear her say how much she liked a new game, so I will have to check it out.

Nadine writes:

Clans is a very good game, but spatial which I'm not good at. Anyway, you feel like you have control if you think enough, as opposed to Maharaja. You also feel like you have control in Power Grid, you're making decisions which have a direct effect. In Maharaja, you don't really know what effect your action selection decisions will have; the other games are better because it's more fun to make decisions that will be carried out rather than gambling each round.

It's nice to have so many new games to try out - even Maharaja.....

Settlers of Catan

Jon+, Gili, Michal

I proposed this as a simple and quick game to clear out my head. Gili still likes to play it, and Michal never had, which clinched the deal.

The board was pretty bad, with little ore (10,12,2) and bricks on (6,6,8). Michal and I started off on the ore 10, but her second settlement wasn't as good as mine, owing to the different mix of resources we needed.

Gili took Longest Road and reached five settlements soon enough, but had no ore. I got a few 10's rolled, so I built cities quickly, working to my usual "four cities and two other points" strategy. I had three cities when I started buying devel cards, but only got one soldier, a road building, a year of plenty and a vp. Not a good mix. However, the last rolls gave me four bricks and four woods, so I built six roads and swiped Longest Road to win. Michal said that she liked the game. I'm surprised that she hasn't played it more considering that she hangs out with Itamar and Binyamin.


Brendan 13, Binyamin 13, Itamar 9

In a last gasp before the end of the night, these guys played Bohnanza. I had traded away my copy a long time ago (I consider it more of a kids game), but Binyamin had bought the German version. They were supposed to remove the Cocoa beans in three-player, but couldn't find them with the German words, until it transpired that the Cocoa beans were from an expansion that wasn't included.

Otherwise, I didn't follow the game.

Jan 25, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Nadine, David K, Gili, Itamar

This evening we had a chance to look over some of our new game acquisitions. Turns out that Binyamin is ordering even more games: 13 more games from Germany, including Age of Steam, San Marco, and a slew of other games I am looking forward to playing more of.

We also held some group discussions and it turns out that a whole group of people want to play RPGs, having never played them, including D&D; I won't play 3e, but I am willing to make something. Others have never played Magic, and want to learn that. I don't know how we will be able to accomodate all that and not scare away the board gamers, but we'll give it a try.


Brendan (shark) 6, David 3, Nadine 3, Jon 0, Elijah 0

While waiting for numbers 6 and 7 we tried another game brought by Brendan. In this game, one player plays the shark and the other the four swimmers who have to reach shore. Played on a hexagonal board with impassable reefs and safe bouys, each round consists of the shark player secretly writing to which hex he intends to travel (up to four spaces), followed by the players moving up to two spaces each. If the shark ends up next to a player, the player loses a leg: three losses and you're out. If the shark lands on the player, the player is out immediately.

A few other fancy spaces allow you to roll dice for special events, like tides or scrape your leg, but that's about it. It is kind of a problematic game, because the shark goes after one person, leaving the other three basically safe to swim to shore, unless one of them has bad luck, which one did. So two of the players got to shore without having done anything. I was attacked and found it fun to try to second guess Brendan as to where he thought I was going, but one mistake and you're toast. Elijah had bad luck and got a leg cut off, which ended his game, after the other two were already on shore.

Eh. Not as good as Billabong.

Louis XIV

David 56, Binyamin 41, Elijah 40

We had too many to play Power Grid for six, so three had to play something else. This was Binyamin's first game, and Elijah's second or third. Elijah had some good luck with the missions, but not enough.

Power Grid

Nadine 17, Jon 16, Gili 15, Brendan 14

This game turned out quite good. For a while it looked like Nadine was really going to take it, but we all managed to catch up pretty close by the penultimate round, with me looking like a favorite. Naturally I was in first, so I lost out to all the city buiding spots I needed. I lost for want of $2 when the last power plant I wanted was bid up just a smidge too high for me to afford along with everything I needed to power it as well as my last cities.

I started with the 4 plant, for which I payed 8. Gili took 5, Nadine 7, and Brendan 8. Bredan and Nadine ended up tossing 3 plants during the game while Gili and I tossed only 2, which shows you how that doesn't seem to matter much. Brendan had pretty much the only Garbage facility going. The nukes didn't show up until very late, and I was running either clean or efficient for a long time. I kept my original 4 plant until the penultimate round (which was cutting it close, since Nadine almost ended the game on me, but didn't have enough money to buy her last buildings).

Nadine brought stage 2 in while we all had only 5 cities; Until the final round, she always had many more cities than the capacity to supply them. She finally upped to exactly 17 capacity in the last round. Brendan also had that capacity, but not enough cities. I also did, but was one shy of the money to buy my 17th city.

It is a long game; we took 3.5 hours, which is not much longer that other games we play, but still. We all had a lot of calculating to do; Nadine seemed to like the game despite that.


Itamar 215, David 208, Binyamin

David taught B and I how to play on his new American version of the game. The English cards don't have any text on them at all. Binyamin didn't seem to like it too much (but this may be because he didn't fare so well in the scoring).

Puerto Rico

Jon 73, Nadine 59

We played a 2 player game with the usual expansion buildings. Nadine had never played 2 player, much to my surprise. I kept notes about all the actions, but I'm not sure they are that important. Generally speaking, I opened with Settler/corn, which I think may be stronger than quarry in my version of the 2-player game. Bear in mind that the corn player has already been crippled by not having Small Market in the game and by the addition of Small Fashion District (trade indigo at +2, a 2 cost building). I ended up with corn, indigo, and coffee (monopoly) and a very early Factory, followed by Large Business, Wharf, and then 2 big buildings. I held my own as far as shipping points goes.

Nadine had sugar, but otherwise took a number of early captains. This gave her an early vp lead, but she fell behind in buying power. She eventually got Tobacco, Discretionary Hold, and 2 big buildings.

Jan 18, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Josh, Binyamin, Gili, Zeke, Elijah, Itamar, Michal

Back to feast. A nice crowd of players this evening. Not anything like the thirty or so that you get on a typical Dallas evening; maybe someday. It is a joy to see happy people playing games, talking, sharing an experience.

I think we are perhaps too friendly, sometimes. Everyone giving so much advice makes for a feel-good experience, but it does have its downsides: people take long turns; everyone's play styles become predictable and similar; and the games become luckier, because everyone makes moves out of nearly perfect information.

Anyway, welcome back Elijah who was gone for several months while he was involved in a play (Tom Sawyer musical). I saw it, since Elijah kindly provided me with a complimentary pair of tickets. He was great; every time I saw him on stage, he gave a great flourish or grin and I had to end up smiling.

Welcome also to Michal, sister of Itamar. For some reason, Michal's English is much better than Itamar's, or (more likely) Itamar takes pains to hide his English prowess behind a thicker accent.

Binyamin brought a few games over, some of which we played this evening. He is a real enthusiast, and is working on acquiring a lot of games right now, as well as trying to start a number of game projects in his community and in Jerusalem.

Aside from the games below, I briefly started explaining Magic: the Gathering to Nadine before other people came. Apparently, a number of people are interested in learning how to play, so we will schedule that in sometime. We also briefly started explaining Ra with the intention of playing it as a quick filler, but the other game we were waiting for finished earlier than expected, so we quit in favor of a more substantial game.


Josh 14, Jon 11, Binyamin 9, Nadine 7

Michal 11, Itamar 10

I was happy and surprised when I saw this new game from Reiner Knizia already translated and showing up in stores in Israel. A new game, and a supposedly good one at that, already on Israel's shelves, and in the normal toy stores, to boot. If you want to buy it here, it is called Hiburim and it is a reasonable price of 165 NIS which is about $35.

Binyamin brought it over and it is every bit as good as Blokus, another recent tile-laying game. There are many differences, of course. We are talking Knizia, here. That means that everyone is playing is all the colors at once and your score is your progress in your lowest color. For convenience, each color is also associated with a unique shape.

Each player has a hand of six domino-like tiles. Each tile is built from two attached hexagons, and each hexagon has one of the six colors on it. Unlike dominoes, however, you can place the tile anywhere you want on the hexagonal grid board. Each time you play, you score as follows: for each side of the piece played, count the number of other tiles with the same color in an uninterrupted straight line radiating out from that side of the tile. The lines radiate in five directions from the hexagonal side of your piece, not counting the side attached to the other half of your tile. Score that many points in that color.

A simple illustration clarifies this easily, of course.

There are two special rules: If you find yourself with no tiles of the color as your least color, you may exchange all of your tiles and draw back up to six, instead of just drawing back up to six as usual. And if you reach 18 in a color, then anytime you play a tile which scores points in that color, you don't get the points in that color (18 is the max) but instead you get to place an additional tile. You can play all six tiles in one round this way, if you are so lucky.

That last one is incredibly important, and it is worth you while to get to 18 as soon as possible in at least one color. Odds being what they are, you then will likely always be able to play at least three tiles a round instead of just one.

Update: I took a gander at BGG and it looks like we played with a major rule wrong. The rules seem to indicate that you get the bonus tile only once when reaching 18, and not endlessly each time you play more points in the color. I think this makes more sense. I will have to verify.

The game ends when there is no legal space left to play, or someone gets to 18 in all of his or her colors.

The obvious question is: how much is luck, and how much is tactics (there is no strategy here, other than "get to 18 in a color as soon as possible")? And the answer is: I can't tell from one play, but I think there may be a lot less luck than appears. For one thing, because you can play wherever you want, you can carefully play to block lines of color that you no longer need but others do. Also, having a hand of 6 tiles is a great mitigation; it would be much different if you just picked a tile from the pool each round.

However, as usual in games like this, with equally matched players, the luck becomes more pronounced rather than less pronounced as the game continues and you are waiting for that specific piece or handful of pieces. The first one to draw it then gains a huge advantage. Also, the one to control the final positions on the board also has a huge advantage, and it is not clear to me how much control one has over this. Obviously more in two-player than in four-player.

Update: I took a gander at BGG and discovered that it is common for new players to play "nice", resulting in high scores. Once we start playing more cutthroat, blocking lines of tiles and so on, it should become more tense. I'm trying to figure out how you can block others effectively (as opposed to just generally) without having to sacrifice your point scoring in the process.

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed my first playing and look forward to playing again. In our game, I was first to get to 18 in a color, quickly followed by Josh. Even though we were both now playing three tiles per round compared to one by the other players, we technically weren't winning yet, because our lowest colors were still on par with them. Therefore, the person who would play the last tile would decide who won and that was Josh. Who won.

Later in the evening, Itamar and Michal showed up and they played this 2-player while waiting for another game to open up. I believe they enjoyed it.


Zeke+, Elijah

Zeke and Elijah appeared while we were playing Ingenious. Zeke may have played Yinsh once but didn't remember the rules, and Elijah hadn't played any new games. I think they both enjoyed it. I had been waiting to see Zeke and Elijah play (being our two youngest members), but I didn't hear anything about their experience other than normal game sounds.


Jon, Gili

Gili came in the middle of both of these games, so I split my attention between Ingenious and a game of Cribbage with her (and the telephone and ordering food for them and answering the door and so on). We didn't finish the game, but she was ahead by a reasonable margin when we stopped.

San Juan

Gili 37, Elijah 33, Zeke 20

Instead, after the Yinsh game was over, but the Ingenious game was still going on, Gili joined these two for a San Juan game. I didn't catch any notes from the game other than the scores. They ended at about the time we finished Ingenious.

Cities & Knights of Catan

Jon 13, Gili 12, Zeke 7

The usual shuffling around of game requests and dequests (a new word). Binyamin is always keen on trying new games, especially the ones he brought. And Entdecker is one that I, and others, were interested in trying at least once, being a Teuber game, after all. However, not all of us could play, so us leftovers played Cities and Knights as my suggestion for a 3-player game.

I thought I was going pretty well this game, with some nice early positions and a turn 4 aqueduct. I built an early city just to lose it when I didn't have a knight. Gili kept pace with me regarding victory points throughout the game, and was even slightly ahead all the way to 11 points. However, her points were ephemeral, and included Longest Road and the Merchant. Mine were all solid cities, settlements, and a metropolis on the last level. She also gained aqueduct by turn 7 or 8.

I also had some nice early green cards, such as both Alchemists, as well as the guy who switches numbers (great with an aqueduct).

Eventually both Gili and Zeke each also gained a metropolis. On the last round of the game, Zeke stole Gili's Longest Road, and then I immediately stole it myself to win the game.

The dice rolls were strangely flat, instead of bell-curve. 2 rolled once, 11 twice, and 12 not at all, but the rest all rolled 4 or 5 times each, except 4, 7, and 9 each of which rolled 6 times.


Nadine 66, Binyamin 63, Josh 59

It certainly looked like a big version of Oceania from where I was sitting, although I'm sure that most people would say that Oceania is just a little version of Entdecker. Nadine said that she rather liked it and she built a lot of little islands. Binyamin thought it was a nice game. All of them said that there were some rules issues; some of which took them most of the game to figure out, and some of which they still don't know, such as whether you can block islands and how the islands get filled in, exactly.

Josh raised the issue of the ending points being too much of a swing. Apparently you reveal some tiles which are worth either 5, 10, or 15 points, and that's what you score. I hadn't even played the game, but I suggested that they try playing with these point stacks face up, so that you know what the next one will be worth. Then you can decide how much effort to expend going for them. They liked this idea. However, they then said that maybe it is not as lucky as they said, since apparently some of the people know how much the tiles are worth and the fact that they expend effort in going for them should clue in the other people. Or something like that.


Itamar+, Michal, Jon, Gili

Entdecker was still going on, C&K was finished, and so was Ingenious. I decided to give Attika a go again, even though I really didn't like it the last time I played it two-player. When I played it, it just seemed totally brainless. Trivial to stop people from connecting temples, trivial to drop buildings on the board, and no interesting choices.

I'm glad I gave it another try 4-player, as this game, while not exactly thrilling, was ok. The other three certainly liked it. I was amazed to see both Michal and Itamar in hot contention to connect temples. Gili blocked Michal, but there was not much we could do to stop Itamar - well, actually we probably could have done better to stop him, but we weren't doing it very efficiently.

A well-deserved victory.

Modern Art

Josh 405, Itamar 392, Binyamin 382, Nadine/Michal 340, Jon 320

I was ready to call it quits, but everyone else was up for another game. I thought Modern Art could accommodate six of us and be quick, but it turned out to be only for five players (even though my copy has six player screens) and to take an hour and a half. Nadine joined up with Michal.

This was another game where everyone played everyone else's turn: "Ok now you should play this artist with this type of auction and now you should bid this amount" and so on. Argh. Please let's not do that.

Modern Art is a very neat and elegant auction game. I think it is more fun than Ra or Traumfabrik. However, the double auction cards are really a problem. They are vastly superior to the other cards. If you don't have any, you will lose. I didn't have any.

In a five player game, deciding what to bid is entirely dependent on who is auctioning the item. If it is your RHO, it is more valuable to you, because you can then play another by the same artist. If it is your LHO, it is not so valuable, because the other three players are going to play other artists if you win it (and probably doubles), making your purchase lose value.

As I said, I fared rather poorly. Itamar seemed to spend entirely too much on paintings but did very well anyway as people spent just as much buying them from him when he auctioned. Nevertheless, Josh's victory took everyone by surprise, including Josh.

And that was that.

Jan 11, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Josh, Batya, Rachel A

A slow night. Nadine showed up at 6:30, and Josh and Batya came at about 7:00. J & B could only stay for two hours. It must be off week for everyone else.


Jon+, Nadine

Nadine requested to play this, but then she complained that trying to figure out the right moves was making her head hurt. She seemed pretty tired, actually. She started the game with most of her pieces in the corners while mine were all two spaces away from each other in the middle. I started weaving patterns while her pieces jumped to the center to disrupt them. I was able to stave her off enough to form a five in a row. One down.

Nadine then gained a four in a row with her ring poised on one end to make the fifth. I jumped her piece at the other end, and she moved her ring one space down recreating four again. I crossed again the other direction, and she did it again. We worked our way down until she hit the end of the board, both of us having 4 in a row on that line.

Eventually, owing to her ring now being left hanging at the end of the board, I had enough free play to form a second five in a row. Two down.

At this point, Nadine decided her head hurt too much to finish the game, so she formed a five in a row at the expense of letting me get my third one just so the game would finish. Oof.


Jon+, Nadine

Nadine said that she likes Scrabble, so we tried this quicker version. Unfortunately, once again it was not her type of game, since it is a quick shout out pattern matching game with a whole lot of variables. We quit when Josh and Batya arrived.

Tigris and Euphrates

Josh 5/5/7/7, Nadine 4/4/5/5, Batya 2/3/3/6, Jon 1/2/3/3

I was given leeway to pick a four player game that was strategic and fairly abstract. We don't get to play this much, so I hoped it would go over well with Batya, who had never played before.

This time I found myself on the losing end of a game that I had selected. And when I say losing, I mean losing. I had a grand total of two red cubes and one blue cube for a good portion of the game, and the blue cube was only gained when another player placed a tile in a kingdom that held my blue leader. My single point at the end was gained in the last round.

Everyone else started with a King/red tile except for me. I started by placing my red and green leaders into two kingdoms that already had two available double red spaces. I was feeling pretty clever about myself, but it turned out that I placed the wrong leaders in the wrong kingdoms. Josh had occupied the central space, while Nadine had started with the upper right and Batya on the upper left. My green went into Nadine's starting position and my red into Josh's.

Another problem was that I didn't have the right tiles to make any other color points, so I needed to start some internal conflicts to place my leaders into useful positions. I should never do that with only a three tile advantage; I always lose. The two times that I didn't lose - once by succeeding in the conflict, and once by dropping a disaster tile - I lost what I gained the very next turn through return conflicts.

Most of this nonsense was happening between Josh and myself, with Josh ending up the victor and raking in points as a result. In the meantime, Batya and Nadine were happily raking in their own points and spreading towards the center. Eventually the major conflict happened, which knocked my remaining leaders off the board and in which Josh ultimately triumphed.

The game ended with the last treasure being taken relatively quickly by Nadine.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 55, Jon 46, Nadine 41

Since Josh and Batya had to go, Nadine was also going to go unless Rachel wanted to play PR, which she did. I ended up the corn player with high hopes of winning.

Our changes:

1RachelSettlerR:quarry, N:coffee, J:coffee. Lots of coffees out.
NadineBuilderN:Sm indigo, J:Assembly Line, R:Sm Indigo. Lack of Sm Market and presence of Sm Fasion District really slows down the third player.
3JonMayor+I don't have anything I want to buy, so I decide to try pushing the other players into thinking they have a colonist shortage.
RachelBuilder+R:Hospice, N:pass, J:Sm Sugar. R moves a colonist onto Hospice.
NadineSettler+N:corn, J:sugar, R:tobacco. Nadine is forced to choose between quarry, corn, and denying me my sugar. I end up with a sugar monopoly for much of the game, and Rachel ends up with a tobacco monopoly for much of the game.
4RachelMayorR is feeling the lack of colonists.
NadineCraftsman+N misses that I'm producing sugar.
5NadineCaptain++But she gets some VPs out of it.
JonBuilder+J:Coffee, R:Sm Fashion District, N:Coffee.
RachelSettler+R:quarry, N:coffee, J:tobacco. I figure I might try to bust R's tobacco monopoly at some point.
6JonMayor+My spaces are more important than theri spaces. Still, taking Mayor a lot is not typically the way to win.
RachelBuilderR:Tobacco, N:Assembly Line, J:pass. Neither of us use the Assembly Line, since it is not always easy to use.
NadineCraftsman+Hoping R will trade, allowing N to trade her coffee.
7RachelCaptain++But she doesn't. I force a coffee boat.
NadineSettler+N:corn, J:coffee, R:tobacco. N is building up her corn. R has two quarries. I am straddling the middle.
JonTrader++No trade.
JonBuilder+J:Lg Market, R:pass, N:Sm Warehouse. Arguably, I should have bought Discretionary Hold, but I wanted to solidify my cash. I could also have bought Tobacco.
RachelCraftsman+Let's me trade.
9JonTrader+I trade coffee, R trades tobacco.
NadineSettler+N:quarry, J:corn, R:corn.
10RachelBuilder+R:Lg Business, N:pass, J:Discretionary Hold. DH is a nice building, more versatile than Wharf, if not as raw at pumping out VPs. But it's cheaper.
JonTraderI trade sugar for 5.
11NadineSettler+N:corn, J:sugar, R:sugar.
RachelCraftsman++Into my trade again.
12JonCaptain++But I don't really need the money as much as locking up a sugar boat.
RachelBuilder+R:Fairgrounds, N:pass, J:Tobacco. R has made a tobacco boat.
NadineTrader+N trades her coffee.
13RachelBuilderR:Lg Sugar, N:Trading Post, J:pass. R will try to finish the game with building. It's a little late for N's trading post, but she gets to use it at least once.
JonTraderI trade coffee for 7.
14NadineCraftsman++N is producing lots of corn, but the boats are locked against her.
JonBuilderJ:Cathedral, R:Lg Indigo, N:pass.
RachelSettler++R:quarry, N:corn, J:coffee.
RachelCaptain++The boats empty now, unblocking for Nadine to ship next time.
NadineBuilderN:Customs House, J:City Hall, R:Fortress.
16RachelMayor++For Fortress.
NadineCaptainN ships buckets of corn.
JonSettler+Nothing else is appealing.
17NadineCaptain+N and R ship a corn.
JonCraftsman++I forget that R can end the game, but I probably didn't have anything else to do anyway, and it gives me more goods and cash.
RachelBuilder+R:Coffee, N:Lg Indigo, J:Sm Fashion District.


Jon: ship 12 + build 21 + bonus 13 = 46
Rachel: ship 17 + build 25 + bonus 13 = 55
Nadine: ship 22 + build 14 + bonus 5 = 41

Hope to see more of you next week.

Jan 04, 2006

Participants: Jon, David K, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili, Josh, Elan, Itamar, Shlomo

David K returns after his first daughter's wedding. Shlomo drops in while on one of his occasional trips to Israel.

One of the biggest issues on game night is coordinating game start and end times that can accomodate players arriving late and leaving early. The best arrangement has all players finishing games at the same time so that the next set of games can mix up the play groups.

The biggest issue is finding games that everyone is willing to play, which is easiest when you can mix up the play groups, which we managed to do this evening. It worked for the first transition, from filler games to first games. It should have worked from first games to second games, too, since both main groups finished about the same time. Unfortunately, it was too late for some of the players to start a new game so they just left. A shame, as it would have been nice for all of us to get in two main games.

San Juan

David 29+2, Binyamin 29+1, Nadine 21

I was still eating when they arrived, so I handed them this game as a filler. David won on the tie, as you can see. Binyamin was hoping that the tie would be decided based on goods on production buildings, which would have given him the victory.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon+, Gili

I took white again, as I had the vast experience of two games under my belt and Gili had none. White is certainly difficult and demoralizing to play, since the bulk of your activity is to wait for your opponent to bring his forces out of Mordor, evade whenever possible, and when not, sacrifice. Everyone mentioned how the game incredibly gives you a feel for the story with barely any components, and now I see why.

I finally figured out how to play Pippin, although it didn't work out well for me this time. I couldn't understand how retreating did any good if the bad guy could just move forward and attack you anyway. Now I relize that you have to retreat into a space shared with one of your compatriots so that they will have to battle both. Of course. As an aside, it seems like you should be able to double team against an opponent if you are both in the same space, rather than fighting one at a time.

On Spielfrieks I called this a really short wargame and I stick to that assessment. Piece to piece confrontation and elimination, area control, comparison mechanics, direct movement, terrain negotiation, troop movement. That's a wargame as far as I am concerned.

The first attack of the game was my Pippin attacking a Warg. Pippin retreated into a space with Gandalf, and then the Warg attacked and Gandalf fell. That was quick. The rest of the White pieces fell one by one, taking a few black ones with them, most notably the Nazgul and the Riders.

We made it all the way through the cards until only Frodo remained, which is when I got the cards back. A lot of evasive action later and I found myself with a clear path to Mordor. None of Gili's pieces could attack me from where they were, and they were still too far from the Shire. So I slipped in for a surprise victory for the white forces.

My opinion of the game went up a notch.

Primordial Soup

Josh 47, Gili 37, Elan/Itamar 35

Elan couldn't stay past 10, but Itamar showed up at about 9:30 and took over for him about three quarters of the way through the game. None of them had played before, although Josh had almost played, once. I'm sure they got a few genes wrong, but they all enjoyed it. Of note, Gili bought Speed early in the game and didn't manage to roll a single success from it the entire game.

Princes of Florence

Binyamin 69, David 62, Jon 62, Nadine 51

We haven't played this for a while. Our first choice was whether to play with the "last profession remains unbought but is flipped over and may be recruited" rule with which we play five player (essential). In four player it doesn't seem to be quite as necessary, since, between the extra professions you can buy and the Recruiting cards, buying a profession every chance you get is not such a no-brainer. And, even though we played with this rule, the professions weren't bought out immediately.

Still, David collected lots of professions and recruiters. I found the game just as hard as the five player version. Even though "better" stuff was more generally available during the auction, I always wanted more things. I couldn't even see how I was going to do any of it, until I acquired a late game Jester. Meanwhile, Binyamin on his very first time playing had already figured out what he was going to to by turn three or four, did it, and won. Nadine ended up with the most builders, but somehow didn't build that many buildings. She did steal the forest that I needed on the last round, costing me 4 or 5 points.

PlayerRound 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Round 6Round 7Final
DavidRecruiter: 400
Recruiter: 500
Bell Maker: 10/0
Jester: 1000
Jester: 1000
Cartographer: 14/0
Lake: 200
Mathematician: 17/8
Park: 200
Botanist: 21/10
Goldsmith: 17/7
Jester: 500
?: 19/9
?: 33/16
NadineBuilder: 700
Park: 200
Forest: 200
Builder: 400
Theologian: 15/2
Builder: 200
Physician: 15/7
Jester: 600
Dramatist: 17/8
Forest: 300
?: 17/8
?: 19/9
JonForest: 200
Jester: 1100
Recruiter: 400
Jurist: 17/0
Prestige: 200
Organ Maker: 18/5
Jester: 600
Physician: 17/6
Forest: 200
Philosopher: 16/8
Lake: 200
Pharmacist: 17/8
Composer: 26/13
BinyaminJester: 1100
Poet: 8/0
Forest: 300
Builder: 400
Profession cards gone. Goldsmith flipped up.
Lake: 200
Astromoner: 17/0
Recruiter: 300
Bell Maker: 18/9
Prestige: 600
Watch Maker: ?/?
Prestige: 600
Choreographer: 18/9
Painter: 18/9

Taj Mahal

Shlomo 51, Itamar 40, Jon 38, Binyamin 30

First game for Shlomo and Itamar, second game for Binyamin. Shlomo started out quite slowly and then rocketed ahead with good connections. I concentrated on commodities, but, as usual, when someone else is fighting with you for them tooth and nail it loses its luster as a strategy. Even though Itamar had a reasonable collection which was second to mine, Binyamin was the one who fought with me for them, sinking up both to last place. He got the worst of it since I was better prepared for the battles, but I had to struggle to keep pace with Itamar from then on. Meanwhile, Shlomo toasted me in rounds nine and ten and that was basically game.

A fiercely fought battle and a win for Shlomo.