Colonia - by the designer of Eketorp (cv) and Alhambra. You're in a town, trying to get prestige by buying religious relics. To do that, you send some followers to the town hall on Monday (if there's a vote, you get that many votes, and the more followers there, the more likely it is that you get first dibs on other days). On Tuesday, you send some followers to the market, where six stalls sell four types of
Simple :) except that you don't get the followers back until after the equivalent action next week - so people you send to the town hall on Monday this week won't be available to use again until Tuesday next week, and the supply of followers is tight. And some weeks, you're going to have to send lots of followers there.
There are some other mechanics - like voting on three edicts a week which have various effects - but I was torn between ordering a copy on the spot (each mechanism is very neat, and it looks great) and thinking it was too much effort (too many mechanisms - the multiple currencies aspect nicked from his Alhambra isn't really necessary, for example). Currently, I'd play it again no problem, but have not pressed the buy button.
I blame not wining on the way we weren't playing properly: they'd missed the rule about the number of votes = number of followers at the town hall and were going with one player = one vote, and they got the mechanism for the production of export goods wrong too.
London - Martin Wallace. The Great Fire of London has happened, and over three eras (centuries, more or less), you're going to make the city bigger and better via building stuff and keeping poverty to reasonable levels. Each turn, you can build stuff via playing cards (often getting victory points or other goodies like money or reducing poverty), or use the stuff you've built (often getting victory points or other goodies), or buy more land to build on, or get more cards.
I blame not wining on the way we weren't playing anywhere near properly: they'd missed the OR between those four options and played it as AND. So each turn was four times as busy as it should have been, most of the strategy went, as did the pile of cards and the stock of poor people. I ended up with a minus score through having way too many cards and poor people in my hand at the end.
Given that, it's difficult to judge how good it actually is, but I'm not buying until I've played it properly.
Midnight Party - Wolfgang Kramer, who also done El Grande and Tikal and Torres and lots of other award winners. This is musical chairs on a board, basically. You're some - the number varies according to the number of players - guests walking around a balcony in a stately home. When the friendly house ghost comes up the stairs, you try to dive into a room before you get caught by the ghost. (The sooner you get caught, the worse your score.) There are fewer rooms than guests and each room can only hold one guest...
I've played this loads of times with JA over the years and there's an annual event at ManorCon (at midnight, obviously) playing it. Because of this, I didn't bother bringing my copy. If I only I had known that neither would anyone else...
I blame not wining on the way we weren't playing properly, despite it being a kids game with utterly clear rules. So, they started the ghost on the wrong square, didn't count moving into a room as a 'pip' of the die roll, and when the ghost moves said 'Hugo!' (the name of the ghost) rather than 'Ghost!' :) And with only one copy between fourteen players, it was way, way, way too crowded and totally luck dependent - the maximum is supposed to be seven or eight.
Bausack - One of my very favourite games, but I've never heard of any of the others Klaus Zoch has done. There are various ways of playing, but the best is the most vicious.
You've got a pile of wooden bricks, some nice large flat ones and some very odd irregular shaped ones. You also have ten beans. On your turn, you pick a brick out of the pile. You can say 'I want this one, and I bid n beans for it' (n = any number from zero), an auction results and the highest bidder gets it. Or, and this is the fun bit, pick a nasty piece and pass it to the person on your left. They can either have it for free or pay a bean and pass it to the player on their left. Who has to pay two beans to pass it on... etc. Should everyone pass it on, some of them will be rather poorer, but you have to take it. Your first brick is the only one allowed to touch the table, and everything else has to balance, typically very precariously, on top of something else. Last tower left standing wins.
I blame not... oh, yes, I won the games of this :) Tip: keep a eye on how many beans people have. Once the people on the right have very few beans, typically as a result of you picking really nasty bricks to pass around the table and them having to pay lots to avoid them, then you can guarantee that most nasty bricks will not come to you: they're too poor to pass them on.
King of Tokyo - Richard Garfield, responsible for the Magic the
It's ok as a filler, but as with MtG, there are too many cards and, as with MtG, the result is an unbalanced mess. Get the right cards and you will very probably win. At least you get all the cards rather than having to buy endless booster packs like MtG... oh no, they're doing expansions. The game length is apparently very variable too, which is not good.
I blame not winning on the huge luck factor, but I was close to winning... because of the huge luck factor.
(Unnamed) - a playtest of a game by someone. It's a rummy variant at heart. You've got a set of cards, each with a member of a number of families. Some are in the army or church or are just nobles and some (typically the highest scoring) have no secondary characteristic. You get cards, then make them into sets of the same family / job. There's an interesting bidding mechanism - you use tokens to buy the cards, and you bid for the tokens via secretly selecting a number on a die, everyone reveals, lowest bidders get their tokens first, if there aren't enough for later bidders, they get a minimum of one, and any ties go last plus always only get one. The designer asked if we thought that 'ties lose' was original, and looked disappointed when I told him it's not: see Raj where that's basically the entire (very good) game.
I blame not winning on my strategy being wrong, not helped by the way that the end game is very luck dependant: each person has to be bought with the right colour token and if you have the wrong colour tokens for the cards that are revealed not only do you not get any cards, but there's a penalty for each unspent token = you're stuffed. Possibly the best bit is the way that the highest scoring cards are the hardest to play - you have to play them in family sets because they don't go in job sets.
Eketorp - you're one of several Viking settlements all trying to build walls to make a fortress. You can get four sorts of building material either by getting it from (in increasing value and rarity) the fields (grass), woods (erm, wood), clay pit (erm, clay), or quarry (stone) or by stealing it from someone else... Each turn, the resources in the fields etc are determined then everyone secretly decides what each of their Vikings are going to do: gather, steal or protect. Typically, there are more Vikings after stuff than there is stuff to take, so they have to fight for it. Losers are sent to a hospital where they stay for a number of turns (the worse they lose a fight, the longer they're away for).
This is a favourite - the mechanisms are neat (in fights, you exchange cards, so if you lose a fight, you get a better card for future fights, for example) and there aren't too many of them.
I blame not winning on being the early leader - having to devote more Vikings to protect my lovely walls = there are fewer to go out to get more - and other people were quietly getting more valuable ones.
Acquire - classic Sid Sackson. Pieces get played on a board (you have six pieces, each of which can only go in one square) and when two are directly next to each other, a hotel chain is formed. You can then buy shares in it. When two chains touch, the larger takes over the smaller and the investors in the latter make a pile of money (how much depends on how many shares you have - there are bonuses for having the most or second most - and how big the chain was) or can covert the old shares into new ones. Simple to learn, lots of interaction, excellent.
I won, despite not having played this for ages and playing with people who played it much more often. Must play it again :)
Ticket to Ride Asia - The TtR games are railway themed, but they're a mechanism with a theme on top. You 'build' over printed tracks by playing cards of the right colours and some tracks need extra cards of one sort or another. You get points for doing that, and for completing routes on 'tickets' (cards with a route like Ankara to Delhi - if you can trace a line of your trains between the two, you get a bonus). There are a maximum of two possible direct routes between adjacent cities and, in most TtRs, there's a mechanism ('stations') for being able to use someone else's track between two cities. Not in this one. Oh, and did I mention that there's a penalty for not being able to complete a route you have a ticket for?
Right, I think, get the critical bits of my long route (i.e. the one involving most intermediate cities and the highest bonus) then block what are clearly critical but easy to build links for everyone else's routes (there are only a few ways into India, for example, get those and everyone else with tickets to India loses points).
I blame not winning on being the only one to think like this :) Everyone else was very nice to everyone (including me), and that meant that everyone completed all their tickets and their bonuses were huge in comparison to mine, because they had more tickets.
18xx - Ah, a proper railway game. At one point over the weekend, I saw someone walk by, did a doubletake, and went 'Isn't that Francis fucking Tresham?!' to myself. And, somewhat to my surprise, checking it with Dave Berry, it was. If you're going 'Who is Francis Tresham?', in game circles he's a legend. I haven't seen him in over a decade, possibly two, and one of the reasons he's legendary is that's about the development time he spends on a game.
One of those was Civilization - the computer game 'by' Sid Meier is basically a rip-off of that plus one of the original '4X' ('explore, expand, exploit, exterminate') computer games, Empire (still a personal favourite). As well as nicking the name, it also took the technology tree mechanism that is one of Francis' achievements. (Even if Meier wimped out of including mysticism - attractive for your young civilization, but once you believe in the sky fairies, real science can become harder.) When there was a dispute over the trade mark, MicroProse just bought out Francis' company...
His earlier undoubted masterpiece is 1829. You're an investor in the first UK railway companies. If you have enough shares in one, you get to run it. Track is built by laying tiles, and the company also needs to buy trains. These run between towns generating income which can either be paid out in dividends to share owners (which increase the current value of the shares) or retained to buy more stuff for the company (which decreases the current value of the shares). The supply of tiles and trains is limited, and every so often, more of both become available... and old trains become useless, so you better have some money in the company safe. So you need to juggle competing interests - your personal financial fortune, the fortunes of any companies you run, and the wishes of other share holders in those companies. It's usually in that order of preference :) and if you are running two companies, you can do things like sell the assets of one to another cheaply, then dump the shares of the first.
This was originally published in 1974 and was absolutely ground breaking in many ways. The mechanisms are simple but the game play is deep with lots of interesting decisions to make, there's no luck involved beyond the initial draw for turn order, and... it lasts for at least six hours. Ah. That's its downfall in terms of popularity. But unlike many games that take a third the time, it's actually worth it. Do you want to build and run railways? Yep, it's worth playing just for that. Do you want to play the stock market? Yep, it's worth playing just for that. Combined, it's a magnificent achievement.
After a few years, other '18xx' games were published. The first, in 1986 (that development time!) was 1830 on US railways. This is shorter to play and particularly vicious in terms of its stock market (reflecting the way US rail barons tended to be more interested in ripping off their largely UK-based shareholders than actually building railways). More games followed, often licensed versions from other people, and if you want to do one yourself, it's now quite difficult to find an 18xx date that's not been taken! Each one tends to have its own features. Francis' next was 1853, set in India, which is more of a railway builder's game, for example, while 1835, set in Germany, has a big nationalisation of the railways in the middle.
I don't remember which one I played (I'd not heard of it before) but playing 18xx with Francis!!!
I blame not winning on the game on who I was playing with :)
Space Dealer - a real time strategy game I am prepared to play :) You're a planet, you want some stuff which you're not allowed to supply to yourself (why?), and other planets want exactly the same sort of stuff, but they're not allowed to supply to themselves either. The solution is obvious, produce some stuff by mining it, stick it in a space ship and send it to them, come back with the victory points, repeat... Unfortunately, you can only do so much at once. Some of that is because you need power to do things on your planet and you start with very limited generation capacity, but most of it is because you only have two sand timers...
Ah, yes, almost everything is done by waiting for a sand timer to finish. So to mine something, you turn a sand timer over on your mine, and when it's finished (very roughly a minute later) you can get whatever it is that the mine produces (one of three colours of wooden cube). To move your loaded space ship one space around the board, you turn a sand timer over on the ship, and when it's finished, you get there. Etc. There's a technology tree: upping your tech level gets you better generators, mines, and other goodies. Each step up the tree takes a sand timer, then you can look at the top two cards in a deck for that tech level, pick one, sand timer research that, then sand timer build it.
So it's a good idea, but a look suggests most people think the game as printed is badly broken. There are quality control issues with the timers too: the time it takes for them to finish varies too much. As that's the central mechanism, you could get that right. It's pretty galling to lose because someone else had 33 turns over the course of the game rather than your 30, and beat you to everything because their timer was 'fast'. I'm not sure the theme is right for the game either: supermarket distribution chains may not be as glamorous as space, but that would be a better fit for what's actually going on.
I blame not winning on the game having problems and some of the owner's fixes not being explained properly. So there is an obvious strategy: up tech level, get better generators, up tech level, get better better generators, now get the best (but most power hungry) mines, out produce everyone else. And it works, except that in order to fix the supply and demand issues, they added neutral planets which want (but don't produce) stuff, but - this was the bit that wasn't explained - you only get at most as many victory points for this as you get for supplying player planets. They only mentioned that when I thought I had a stack of points for supplying neutral planets and not much time to ship anything to the other players...
Claim It - there's a six by six board, a pile of counters for each player, some black ones, six white ones (with the digits one to six on) and three dice. In your turn, you roll the three dice. Say you get '1 2 3'. You can place white #3 on the 1,2 or 2,1 spaces, or white #2 on 1,3 or 3,1 etc. If you 'hit' a square for a second time, you get to place a black counter on it. Repeat until you either stop or roll something you cannot use - if you did the first option above and then roll '3 3 3' you are stuffed: square 3,3 may be vacant, but you have already used the white #3 counter. If you stop before something like that happens, you replace all white counters with your colour and, if you placed any blacks, put them under your colour. The next player can land on (and replace, if they stop before busting) your single counters, but not on any with a black counter underneath. Should any of your singles survive and you land on them again in another turn, you get to put a black counter on. So the number of black counters slowly increases. Once someone has so many of them (that number varying according to the number of players) the game ends and the person with the largest connected area wins.
I blame not winning on the game being too luck dependent. As it fills up with secure squares, the number of usable rolls falls dramatically and your turn is often one failed roll = next player. The physical presentation is poor too. I am tempted to do a computer version, which will help with another problem, but ultimately as a 'push your luck' game, this is nowhere near as good as Can't Stop (another Sid Sackson classic) or even Pass the Pigs, come to that.
Pitch Car - great fun dexterity game. You lay out a track, then take turns flicking your token around it with your finger. Go off the track and you lose your go. The only problems are you need a large table (there's a mini version, but the physics aren't as good) and a large wallet: it's appallingly expensive. Fortunately, there were lots of tables and it was someone else's wallet.
I won :)
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