November 5th, 2012

mini me + poo

FANGing again


Very simple and quick route game - you all start at the edge of the board and play tiles with more or less complicated paths on them, then go to the end of the path you are on. When you go off the edge of the board, you lose.

Lost one, won one.

Aqua Romana

Less simple and longer route game. You start several aquaducts from a reservoir. Each turn, you get play a new tile (via a neat mechanism involving what's moving around the edge of the board), then go to the end.. When an aquaduct is finished, either because it's got to the edge of the board or because it can't go any further, you score at least as many points as its length in tiles. The first four to finish get a bonus, but there can only be one (or sometimes two) aquaduct scoring any particular number of points. So if the first one to finish is seven tiles long, it will score seven points, but the next length seven one to finish will score eight (or nine, if eight is also occupied, or ten, if...) points. It's all neat stuff.

Third out of four, because I didn't manage my building properly.


A Reiner Knizia game I hadn't played. You're one of a number of people carving out duchies along the Rhine. There are 120-odd land spaces, and 50-something numbered river ones, usually with two adjacent land spaces, one either side. There are also some towns (if your duchy has them, you get a couple of extra points), castles (an extra man for control of the duchy) and cathedrals (if you have more than anyone else, you get to be nastier). You have five cards in your hand, numbered one to fifty-whatever, and in your turn you play one and can either play in a land space adjacent to the relevant river space or, if those are all full, in the river OR add a neighbour to one of your existing pieces provided that space isn't next to anyone else's pieces. Once two or more pieces are next to each other, that's a duchy, and whoever has more pieces in it than anyone else controls it.

There are some other tweaks (like barriers which effectively block spaces), and you get points if someone does a hostile takeover of your duchy via joining up and outnumbering you, but it's more luck than skill.

I had a disaster with this one, finishing a bad fourth out of four. What I didn't like about it was that the start is too luck dependent - whoever is first in any section, typically because they did well in the draw for who goes first, will very probably win it - while there's often nothing you can do towards the end.

His games normally have a very strong zugswang element - you'd like to be able to do nothing, but you can't - and there's none of that here. I suggested it would be better with some better mechanism for who goes first: lowest numbered card, for example, so there's an element of skill and judgement amongst all the luck.

There was another one, but I cannot remember which it was... ah, Small World. It's a Euro-gamed version of the old Ancient Conquests and its sequel: you control a succession of armies who invade the map, beating up whoever's there, settle down, and get invaded in turn. (See also Britannia and its Indian-based sequel, plus History of the World etc.)

What distinguishes it from the earlier versions is that this is fantasy rather than an historically themed game, and the mechanism for generating the armies is neat: there are 'noun' tiles (humans, orcs, dwarves etc) and 'adjective' tiles (pillaging, nomadic, etc) and by putting them together randomly, each game has a different set. When it's your turn to get a new army, you can have one for free or pay points to get one further down the queue. Anyone picking the ones you skipped gets the points.

Erm, third of five, I think, in a close game. I made a mistake in forgetting someone's adjective power could capture one of my areas despite being heavily fortified. I like it, but I think the earlier implementations of the basic idea are better...

Oops, there was another other one, Keythedral. You're building a cathedral, but this is one of a series of games by the same designer which all start with 'Key', and the name Cathedral was already taken anyway.

What is needed to build any stage is not known until the previous level is finished. The early ones (worth 4 or 6 points) will probably need wood and stone, while the later ones (worth 10 or 12 points) will probably need gold and stained glass. You get things like wood, stone, and water from fields, so the very first thing you do is lay out some field tiles and the cottages which your workers will live in and harvest from adjacent fields. You'd like to both have a monopoly over a field (i.e. no-one else next to it) and be next to as many fields as possible (because there will soon be more workers than fields, so not everyone is going to be able to harvest. Mess this bit up, and you will be stuffed later.

Then a turn goes something like.. the first player picks which cottages will harvest first. They're numbered 1-5, so if they pick 3, starting with the first player, everyone's #3 worker goes into an unoccupied field if possible. Then the second player picks the second cottage and goes first for it, etc. With four players, the first player gets to go first with the fifth cottage too. Then - theoretically in first-last order, but it never mattered because the stock never ran out - everyone gets the resources for the fields they occupy. Then, again in first-last order, everyone takes turns to do one thing until everyone has passed. These things include using resources to build the cathedral; or swap resources for other resources (any two cheap things gets one cheap thing, but it takes four cheap things to get one gold etc); upgrade cottages to houses (costs wood and stone, but you now have two workers, so every time that number dwelling is called, you could get two workers out collecting stuff); or building fences (costs wood, and stops people coming out of one dwelling into one field); or breaking them (costs wine); or pass; or pay a point to buy a law card. These allow you to change the rules in your favour once and can be distinctly powerful or almost pointless, and once you've bought one in a round, you have to pass for the rest of the round.

Phew. Once that's done, the second player will get to choose who is first next time. Or they can sell that right - round the table, each player can make one bid of a number of resources (higher than any previous bid). The second player can either take that bribe or reject it.. in which case they have to pay the highest bidder exactly the same amount. In practice, the person with the choice will always chose themselves, and this is another reason why it's good strategy to be first on the first turn: you get the last bid.

Because this was everyone's first time playing it, we followed the suggestion in the rules of playing with the law cards face up. This alters their value considerably - a card you know is worth nothing (to you) or quite a bit, not one point. By using them, and the bribes, I went first for all but one turn, so one of the problems with the game was emphasised: the last player in any round is often stuffed because they tend to harvest the least resources. What the game needs is some compensation for being last.

I came second and I enjoyed it, but it's not quite there because of that imbalance. It is better than many 'collect resources, build stuff' games though.

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