9th Dec - Le Havre again

After Sundays 5 hour slog I was keen to try a short game of Le Havre with less players. Our Tuesday group was down to 3 players this week, so it was an ideal chance to give it another go whilst it was still fresh. Lance joined us for the first time this week, we met him at our hotel in Essen and as he just lives up the road he came down for a visit.

Richard and I gave Lance a rules intro and we got started. It certainly played a lot better with 3 and the short version of the game shouldn't be seen as an inferior version. With a few pointers, Lance, who hadn't played before, did remarkably well.

I still have some issues with it, the poor rules being one of them. Also once there are a lot of buildings in play it gives the players a lot of options and because of that it does make things very difficult to thwart other players. Also there are a lot of buildings (cards) and to play the game well you really need to know what they do, there is no way you can pick this up easily, you need to play the game several times.

There is a good game in there somewhere, hopefully with a few more plays it will reveal itself (I have my fingers crossed)

Richard 136, Garry 133, Lance 130

7th Dec - Le Havre

Richard decided to give Le Havre a go on Sunday evening. We knew it was going to be a long game with 5 players so we made an early-ish start. In Le Havre you collect resources at the harbour and use these to build buildings and ships which enable you to grow your wealth and feed your workers.

One thing I must mention is the fact that the rule book is probably one of the worst that I've ever read, a lot of the important litte rules are in really funny places, some of the them are listed in the components listing on the front of the booklet and last night I found something in very small text on the board. Very strange. I need to go through everything again and make a list of easily missed rules and how to set things up for the long and short games for different numbers of players.

One thing we paid no attention to was the comment that the 5 player game should only be played by experienced players, to hell with that! 3 of us had played once before so we decided to play the 5 player long game. Well it took us over 5 hours to play, I had no idea what I was doing and after a while I realised that I'd made several strategic errors and had to wait hours for the game to churn it's way to the end.

It is a good game, but I would really recomend that you start with just a few players and the short game.

Jo 136, Richard 136, Mike 132, Steve 118, Garry 83

2nd Dec - Agricola

We're all still enjoying Agricola a lot. Not much to say about it other than we all realy like it and it's our most played game of the year so far, no one has really got into Dominion yet and I've still not played it. Interesting game in that most people weren't building fences until the very end - hmm...

Matt 34, Steve 31, Richard 25, Garry 24

25th Nov - Vikings

Just 3 of us this week and we Decided on Vikings. We've played this several times before and really liked it.

After a brief recap we were off, it's been a little while since I'd played so I made a few mistakes at the beginning and nearly ran out of money a couple of times. It didn't take too long to play so we had time for another go, the scores were a bit tighter this time around.

Steve 98, Matt 77, Garry 55
Matt 61, Steve 60, Garry 58

18th Nov - Steel Driver and Colloretto

Matt was back with us this week and I decided on Steel Driver. Richard and I had played once before in the Hotel in Essen. Yes it's another train game with shares etc. but it plays nice and quick, even with a rules explanation we finished earlier than we normally do.

Very Simply you bid for control of rail companies, once one share from each of the six companies has been auctioned then you start building railways. But the money that was spent on purchasing the controlling stake is the money that was used to build with, so if you if you managed to get a bargain and bought a company cheap you'll find that you'll have no money to buy track. Definately need to play this a few times to get the hang of it.

Richard 1410, Steve 1270, Garry 1210, Matt 1090

As Steel Driver ended a bit early we had a quick game of Coloretto. Great fun, I tended to push my luck a bit too far and came a magnificent last.

Richard 33, Steve 28, Matt 25, Garry 18

8th November - Pasteboard & Plastic

First up, to get the brain cells moving was Wind River. It's a nice easy game to learn with only a few rules but don't let that fool you, it can get very tricky towards the end at one point all of us had 4 0r 5 tepees near the end of the board but by the end of the game we only managed 1 or 2.

This is a great little game and is turning into on of my favorites from this years Essen.

Garry 2, Alistair 2, Gary 1, Tim 1

Next I joined Steve and Richard for another new Essen Game, Martin Wallace's After the Flood. It took us a while to get through the rules but when the game started playing it didn't seem as complicated as the rules made it out to be.

Once you know what you're doing the game moves fairly fast and the combat is simple and good fun. At the end of a round all the soldiers are taken off the board and the combat begins afresh with different armies, so if you suffer a catastrophic defeat at the start of the game it's not the end of the world. It took us nearly 4 hours to play this but a good hour was spent trying to sort out the rules and a lot of time was spent looking things up whilst we were playing, it would probably take a mush less time once you got the hang of it.

Richard 123, Steve 105, 92

After a very short break we decided to try the new Bezier games Age of Steam map Vermont. The map is mostly made up of mountains (eek!) We all thought we'd probably go bankrupt within a few turns but there are a few extra rules that allow for a cash injection in the game which takes the pain away.

We started in differnt parts of the board but soon started twisting our track around each other and fighting for blocks. I really stuggled to get my locomotive upgraded, something that is always my weak point, next time maybe.

Richard 97, Howard 89, Steve 78, Garry 68

4th Nov - TTR Nordic and 'The Catapult'

Richards choice tonight and a couple of new Essen purchases. The first was Ticket to Ride: Nordic countries. This is a new map for the great Ticket to Ride series of games that plays only 3 players, there are a few rule changes from the basic set but not much. We'd not played TTR for a while and had forgotten what a great game it is.

Richard 120, Steve 88, Garry 75

We finished with time for something else so decided to have a go at Carcassonne - The Catapult. This is yet another expansion for Carcassonne but adds a level of frivolity by allowing you to flick cardboard counters at the board.


At first I thought the whole idea was an expansion too far, however we all had a great laugh and the catapult makes a realy nice cartoon boing sound.

Garry 74, Steve 67, Richard 74

28th October - Chicago Express & Wind River

First Tuesday after Essen so a lot to choose from. We started with Chicago Express which is the Queen Games reprint of Wabash Cannonball, it looks really nice with a proper board and pieces much better than the original. The game play is exactly the same, which is a good thing. Steve triggered the game end conditions and we were all caught a bit by surprise (except Steve obviously).

The board at the end of the game

It's a really good game, the money flows from the bank to the players and the railroad companies in a very interesting way. I think we'll need to play it several times to get the hang of it.

Richard 69, Steve 57, Jo 53, Garry 47

Then time for a game of Wind River. The idea is to move as many tipis (wigwams) across the finish line at one end of the board.

The rules are really easy to learn, and it looks very nice, there is a bit of analysis paralysis and kingmakering towards the end but not enough to spoil the fun. Very enjoyable.

Richard 4, Garry 3, Steve 2, Jo 2

26th October - Just back from Essen

Got back from Essen late last night.

October 18th - Saturday at Garry's

There were 5 of us for a full day of games. We started with a couple of games of 6 Nimmt to get warmed up, arrgh! maths first thing on a Saturday morning!

Richard 0, Neil 6, Steve 7, Garry 28, Aga 32
Aga 7, Neil 10, Garry 10, Richard 12, Steve 22

Then the first meaty game of the day, Age of Steam of the basic map with 2 first time players (Neil and Aga). Theis is a hard game to play well the first time out, but they didn't play too bad (lots of brain hurts tho')

Steve 80, Richard 74, Garry 51, Neil 28, Aga 25

After a bite to eat time for one more game, Pillars of the Earth with the 5/6 player expansion. I've only played this once before and really enjoyed it - must play it more.

Richard 52, Neil 49, Steve, 48, Aga 45, Garry 43

October 7th - Age of Steam

One of our favorites, Age of Steam. It was a first for me, the first time I'd played on the same map more than once. It was also the first time that Matt had played it, so he had a lot to learn (you could see his head throbbing at one point!).

Richard 106, Garry 91, Matt 77, Steve 41

Richards Report:
Interesting game last night...

As Garry implies I think Matt, as most people do this first time they play, found the game a bit of brain burner - though I am sure he we will do better next time - he had by half way through the game realised the importance of increasing his train size!!

Steve on the other hand had a bit of a nightmare of game - basically we had a turn when we both realised that control of urbanising the blue city was essential - as it could be used to block out our long distance routes - though I only realised halfway through the bidding process that I could place it to block Steve's routes - rather than just prevent it being used to block my own route!!

Basically we bid until we ran out of cash - unfortunately for Steve I had more money - and he had to be content with taking first build in order to redirect his 'Stubs' and therefore not have his route blocked by the urbanisation ...

... unfortunately Steve had forgotten that he didn't have any money left to build/redirect his track - which in turn meant that he lost control of the stubs - DOH!!

And just to rub salt in his wounds as I was building next I picked up control of his now un-owned stubs by connecting them together - I don't think I have seen anyone's position take such a drastic turn for the worse because of a single mistake in a game of Age of Steam before!!

Because I had being paying most attention to track building and urbanisation conflict that had been going on between Steve and myself I hadn't really been paying much attention to Garry (With whom I did not have much track/cube conflict with) - so I did come as little bit of a shock when he suddenly said 'And I'll deliver this cube for Six!' - What!- Hey! - How!! - were the thoughts that went through my mind as it hadn't even registered with me that he had expanded his train to a 6!!

With Garry shipping for 6 and myself for 5 he managed to close the gap in the income track over the final few turns - basically at the end of the game we were on the game space!!

Fortunately I had issued 2 fewer shares and had built more track (Mostly thanks to picking up Steve's uncontrolled stubs) - so I did come out the winner!!

What I can't believe is that I don't think that we haven't play Age if Steam for almost a year - it is just such a good game - and is just something that I can just never imagine refusing too play!!

30th September - Agricola

Three player Agricola this week. At the end of the game we made a note of the cards that each player was dealt, the idea is that we'll play again with the same cards but rotate the hands so that each player gets one go at each hand, I'll let you know how it works out.

Richard 40, Steve 38, Garry 32

23rd September - Age of Empires III

There were 6 of us tonight, we went over to Neil and Aga's and had a go at Age of Empires III. I must admit I'd never paid much attention to this game before as I didn't like the look of the game, it has loads of plastic figures, and, being American I thought it would involve lots of die rolling and luck. Well I was very wrong and it's much more 'Euro' in it's mechanisms. I did struggle with it though, as I couldn't work out how everything meshed together until I'd made a load of mistakes and came woefully last.

Steve 109, Aga 105, Richard 104, Neil 97, Matt 81, Garry 47

16th September - Cuba

I'm really behind with my reports so I'll be brief. Tonight Matt joined us, he's recently moved to the area and found us via the 'geek. Tonight we played Cuba, it was the first time that Matt had played so we had a quick run through of the rules and got cracking. Matt seemed to pick it pretty well and ended up winning, well done that Man!

Matt 73, Richard 72, Garry 66, Steve 64

Time for a quick game of Geshenkt before we called it a day.

Garry 40, Richard 43, Matt 49, Steve 69 (low scores win)

9th September - 5 player Agricola

Another game of Agricola, this time with 5 players. You probably know all about Agricola by now so I won't go into anymore details about how it works. This was the first time I'd played with 5 players and the first thing I noticed was how difficult it was to get the resources you wanted as there was so much demand for them. In fact at the beginning of the game I don't think I saw anything stay on the board until the next round.

The game was noticeable for two things, first Aga managed to fill all the spaces on her farm, despite resources being hard to acquire. But strangest of all was Steve's winning farm, he ended the game with 8 stone huts, 5 family members, a sheep, a boar and a stable. Due to the cards he had which enabled him to build huts cheaply he just focused on that. Despite all the minus point for missing items it was still a decisive victory.

Steve's 8 stone hut farm

Steve 35, Richard 32, Aga 31, Garry 30, Neil 28

26th August - Stone Age

This is the 2nd playing of Stone Age for us, the first time I didn't have the time to write much about it as I was really busy with work, I'm still busy but I'll try and write more than a few sentences.

Stone age is a worker placement game, each player starts with 5 meeples and can send them out to gather resources (food, wood, clay, stone & gold) or stay in the village area to farm, make tools or have babies. Victory points are gained for building huts with the resources that you've gathered or you can buy cards which will give you various items straight away (resources, tools, VPs etc) and also bonus paoits at the end of the game. These cards are not to be overlooked as it is possible to score a lot of points with them.

When you've sent you meeple out to gather resourses the amount you bring home is govened by the roll of the dice. You roll 1 dice for each man, so, if you have 4 men in the woods you roll 4 dice, total them up and divide by 3 (which is the value of wood), with gold you divide by 6. As you can see getting gold is a lot harder that wood. You can improve you die rolls but getting some tools and adding their value once you've thrown the dice, thus increasing your chances of getting what you're after.

Obviously with the dice makes things a bit random, but the tools will give you a bit of help if you need it. The huts can come up in a random order just like the cards, but overall the game works really well. It's not a heavyweight gamer's game but it never claims to be, it is however good fun and it's really nice to look at as well.

The first time we played we didn't realise quite how much the cards added to your score at the end of the game, this time around things were a bit different (tho' I still lost).

Jo 178, Steve 167, Richard 147, Garry 131

I've since played this twice with Sally, this is quite rare as she dosn't normally like playing games much, either finding them either a bit too simple and boring or complicated and dull. Stone Age seems to have hit the sweet spot (I'll see if she fancies Agricola next week!)

19th August - Tinners' Trail

Steve's report of Tinner's Trail
The first of the four rounds in TT is by far the most critical in determining who will win, assuming the commodity prices and cube distributions do not go crazy. One reason for this is that the person who buys the first mine will go first getting the improvements, which will give him the pick of them (ie. the adit), and also possibly more of them. Consequently, the start player is in a quandary. If he puts the best mine up for auction, the bidding is bound to be intense, and he might end up paying over the odds, or letting someone else have it cheap (this assumes that no-one really knows what any mine is worth). If he puts up a less attractive mine and lets someone else have it so that there is less competition for the best mine, he won’t get the adit. What to do?

The strategy that I tried in both games was, basically, as follows:

First, I put two reasonable looking mines up for sale at 1, and dropped out of the bidding early, so that Richard and Garry got one each, leaving them with less money than me (fortunately they bid each other up, and spent 7 or 8 on each mine).

Next, I took the steam pump and removed a water from the best mine. This meant I was still last on the time track, so I then took the adit and used it to improve the best mine even more. In this way, I stole the best improvements from the players who would normally have expected to get them (and had for this reason perhaps paid a little over the odds for their mines), whilst still being able to guarantee that I would get the best mine for myself (because I had most money).

It might seem that, by developing the mine before purchasing it, I would be forced to pay more for it than if I had bought it first, because the other players would be les worried about having it ‘dumped’ on them, but I calculated that the other players were unlikely to bid me up to the limit of their money because, if they did, I might let them have the mine and then they would be unable to do any mining and thus have no money going into the next round – v.bad.

This element of my plan worked pretty much as I hoped. However, in both games I got caught out by being forced to take my ninth action before Garry, which allowed him to get a key mine for 1. I won the first game despite this, having managed to buy two adjacent mines in the first round but still get the adit (due to an error by Richard, who was the start player), but in the second game, the mine that Garry acquired was one that I had pre-developed, and I was unable to recover from the blow.

It will be interesting to see if my strategy stands the test of time, against players who are prepared for it. However, I suspect that my play in future first rounds will be geared more towards making sure that I am the player who gets the ‘free’ mine after everyone else has used their ninth action.

Richard’s chances were, as usual in TT, scuppered by the random commodity pricing. Garry and I discussed this piece of lazy design on the way home, and here are some of our ideas:

- Every time a mine is sold, the commodity prices change in some way that is related to the mix of tin and copper in the new mine (market expectations).

- Players get more actions, but selling cubes becomes an action, and prices change depending on what is sold (or on what remains unsold in the players’ yards?).

- Players sell their cubes at the time they mine them, with price modifiers determined by the improvements they have. The restriction on improvements per mine could be lifted with this one.

- Roll for one commodity price only. The other is then fixed by a rule that says the sum of the prices must be a constant. Perhaps the value of this constant could be affected by the level of investment on the investment table?

Game 1 Steve 108, Garry 87, Richard 72

Game 2 Garry 75, Steve 57, Richard 55

We had some time to spare so we had a few games of Hol's Der Geier. Steve and I managed to lay identical cards at least 2 or 3 times per hand (normally when trying to avoid the minus cards) thus forcing Richard to pick up loads of bad cards even though he'd played a really good card - what a laugh!

Score after 3 hands: Garry 60, Steve 47, Richard 11

12th August - Stone Age

I'm really behind with my blogging at the moment and I don't have much time to write about Stone Age, the new Hans im Gluck game. But we'll be playing it again in 2 weeks time (which is tonight as I'm writing this 2 weeks late, err... anyway) so I'll write a bit more about it then. Basically we thought it was alright but need a few more games to make up our minds.

ugg! me win!

Steve 138, Richard 111, Jo 103, Garry 78

5th August - Tinners' Trail

No Agricola this week, Tinners' Trail instead. I've covered the game before here so I won't go into any more detail on how it works. We got the board set up and we had a fair amount of water on the board before we started. Steve then started the auctioning off nearly all the mines at the begining of the game, in fact I think I even managed to pick up a reasonable mine for £3. Steve decided to buy an undeveloped piece of land and roll the dice to see what sort of resources it would have, unfortunately the dice were not his friends and he ended up with the worst result that was possible.

eeek! That's 4 water!

In the end Richard managed to take the win by a large margin.

Richard 136, Jo 82, Garry 74, Steve 55

We still had some time left so we plumped for a quick game of Hey that's my Fish. This is a great little game where you have to grab the best selection of fish whilst removing the hexagonal icebergs. After a bit of jockying for position I managed a rare win in a very close game.

Grown men playing with little wooden penguins

Garry 28, Steve 27, Richard 26, Jo 14

29th July - You'll never guess - Agricola!

We played Agricola again! I think I've played this game more times than any other in recent years, it really is that good. There's not much more to write about it really, we played a 4 player game and I came last (I'll have to start practising with the 1 player game).

Jo 39 ,Steve 38, Richard 32, Garry 29
updated due to poor handwriting (sorry Steve)

27th July - Games at friends

I don't normally blog all the games I play, sticking mostly to the more 'gamer' games that we play on a Tuesday night. This weekend we stayed with friends, and I've decided to do a brief write up on the games we played. Paul is very keen on playing games, often saying that Monopoly (so good that it's ranked number 4637 in the board game geek rankings) is his favourite game. After introducing him to several heavier games I was surprised at how well he picked them up (well he beat me every time). This weekend I decided I'd teach him to play Agricola.

We played the family version as the full blown game with the cards can be a bit over whelming the first time out. The weather was glorious so we set up on the patio table, poured some cold drinks and got stuck in.

The end is in sight - I have a bad feeling about this

Coming up to the first harvest and disaster strikes!!! Somehow I 'd completely forgotten about gathering enough food for my 2 family members, I had to pick up a begging card, -3 points, oh the shame! I blame this mistake on making sure that Paul knew all the rules correctly (that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.) I was down 3 points but I've played the game 10 times in the last 2 weeks so I should be able to claw some points back before the end of the game.

Can you guess the result?

Things didn't go too well (for me) and I knew that it was going to be close. I added up the score and I'd lost by 1 point - aarrrgghhh! I have to blame it on something, err... I wasn't wearing my lucky socks (do I have any?), the sun was in my eyes, I'd been slipped a micky finn, I'd... oh arse...

1 point, just 1 point!

Paul 34, Garry 33

After dinner and a fair few glasses of wine we first of all had a crack at Felix the Cat in the Hat. It must have been the wine or the relaxed company bit it never got going so it went back in the box and we got Pickomino out instead. This was much more fun (especially when you've had a few), rolling dice to see how may worms you could grab off a barbecue. Despite Sally telling everyone that she was really unlucky with the dice she took the win by a wide margin.

mmm... worms, Sally's winning hand

I can't remember all the scores but everyone pointed out that I'd come last.

The next day before we came home we had a couple of games of Zooloretto. I hadn't played the game before but it wasn't to complicated so after a quick explanation we started playing. I didn't do to well at this either and ended up with a few to many animals in my shed at the end of the game.

Paul 22, Natalie, 22, Garry 17, Sally 16

Now that we'd got the hang of it we decided on one more game, right, this time I was going to be a bit more carefull with the tiles I picked up. Well I think everyone had the same idea and I played a pretty poor game (coming last, as it was pointed out to me)

Paul 27, Sally 24, Natalie 15, Garry 14

22nd July - Yet more Agricola

Well there's not a lot more I can say about Agricola, this is my 10th game in a little over 2 weeks which must be some kind of record. Tonight we played with the complex deck (K), Richard seemed to have got the hang of his cards and was laying them out left right and centre at the beginning of the game. The rest of us were struggling a bit, Steve missed a couple of crackers in his hand, most of my Minor Improvements needed me to have played a lot of Occupation cards but the Occupation cards were a bit lack lustre.

This weeks featured Agricola player is Jo

It wasn't quite as close scoring wise this time around, Richard took an easy win, making the most of his cards.

Richard 43, Jo 34, Garry 31, Steve 26

19th July - Agricola (again)

As you can probably tell we're all pretty smitten with Agricola. So much so that I got an email asking if I fancied a game on Saturday night over a Richards. Our group normally meets up on a Tuesday evening with the occasional Saturday daytime, but we all really wanted to give Agricola another couple of plays. This time we decided to use the cards as we were fairly up to speed with the family game. We plumped for the I deck and ploughed in (get it?). After a short while we had reviewed the cards and started playing, I must say that the cards really add to the game, they obviously add a bit of randomness but not as much as I thought and we all started to adjust our strategies as we decided what to do with the cards. At the end we all thought that we'd not done very well but in fact it was a very close finish.

Garry 39, Richard 38, Jo 36, Steve 30

As it was Saturday and no-one had to get up for work the next day we decided to play again. We're starting to get the hang of things now and the scores are getting closer and closer. Jo won despite saying that he thought that Agricola was one of those games that he would never win.

Jo 40, Steve 37, Richard 36, Garry 34

Agricola is an excellent game and the cards just make it even better. Tonight's 2 games were great fun and I can't recommend it enough. I've played it 9 times over the course of the last 2 weeks which is unusal for me. I've upped my rating on the 'geek to a 10 so that puts it alongside Puerto Rico and Caylus for me.

15th July - Agricola

Another chance to give Agricola a go. We're still playing the family version, just making sure that we get the hang of things before we break out the cards.

Richard should eat more vegetables

There's not a lot to say really, we've played this a few times now and still really like it. If you're reading this blog then you'll know all about it, it is as good as they say.

Steve 33, Garry 20, Richard 20

12th July - Pasteboard & Plastic 6

Another P&P, it's a great day (if you like that kind of thing) Basically a bunch of people playing games in a scout hut all day. I got there just after 10am and after a chat and a rummage through the 2nd hand games stall Mike, Debs, Luke and I started a game of Tinner' Trail. I covered this before just recently and it's a very good game, I was teaching it to 3 new players so it kept me on my toes making sure that I'd correctly remembered the rules. It seemed to go down very well and Debs played a very interesting tatic of auctioning off most of the Mines one after the other at the start of the game. At first I thought I'd got a couple of mines for a good price, but as more and more mines came up for sale the price was dropping lower and lower and people were running out of cash, except Debs of course who managed to get a set of mines very cheaply.

The sell pasties option was also used quite a lot as well, so this made for a very different game from my last playing, still very enjoyable (even tho I came last)

Mike 97 (won on the tie break), Luke 97, Debs 73 , Garry 63

After Tinners' Trail we had a break for lunch and the Mike (who had only brought unplayed games with him) said he had a game called Venesia which he wanted to try. To be honest it wasn't very good and I didn't enjoy the game at all, I didn't record the scores and I didn't take a picture. So here's a quote from BBG's Derk Solko.

"In a word, this game is crap."

Well that's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back.

After that I sat down with Richard, Steve and Jo and started to learn the rules to Tribune. This was doing very well at last years Essen fair but as it had quite a lot of German text on the cards none of use played it. Well now there was an English version and very good it is too, it uses a worker placement mechanisim (which seems very popular at the moment) to gain cards which you them play in sets to take control of different factions in Rome. It all looked very good with lots of Roman theme but all I could think about was Frankie Howard in Up Pompei.

It was a good game and I want to play it again. My only slight reservation is the fact that it can be difficult to see who's winning until the last moment, but if we play again I'm sure it'll be a bit easier to keep tabs on what's going on.

Steve 5, Richard 3, Garry 3

July 8th - Agricola

Well what else were we going to play today other than Agricola? I'd played a few solo games over the weekend and I was looking forward to having a proper multiplayer game. Jo was gong to be about an hour late so I taught Richard to play and we started a 2 player game. All was going fairly well until around 2/3 of the way through when I realised that I'd mucked up the order of the Action cards which totally skewed the game (doh!). We finished the game even though we'd played it wrong as it was a good learning experience.

Richard 45, Garry 30

Get orrf moi laaand!!

Once Jo had arrived we started on a proper 3 player game making sure that we played it correctly. We played the 'family' version of the game, which is still very involving and not a stripped down simple version. You start with an empty farm and 2 family members, using worker placement you have to grow your farm by fencing in pastures, ploughing fields, planting grain and vegetables and having babies etc etc. and whilst doing this you have to make sure that everyone has enough to eat. It's not as easy as you think and you have to plan carefully for the next harvest to make sure that you have enough food. The way the scoring works at the end of the game means that you need to create a farm with a bit of everything in as if you leave out anything it scores you minus points.

An excellent game and I'm really looking forward to trying the full version with all the cards. And I won something for a change!

Garry 38, Jo 32, Richard 25

4th July - Agricola arrives!!!!

It's finally here! after months of waiting the English version of Agricola was delivered this morning. Looks like I'm in for an interesting weekend. What do you think the chances are of me getting any work done today are?

wh hooo! Animeeples

1st July - Spiel der Turme and Figaro

Steve's choice this week and as Richard and I had both forgotton to bring the games that Steve had asked for he chose Spiel der Turme to start with. We've played it several time's since I started this blog so you can easily find out what we think of it. I started out with a simple strategy of trying to jump on as many pieces as I could, that way I figured I had more pieses on the board and there fore more choice and more chances. This is true up to a point, I also became more of a target.

Things were going pretty well when Steve and I suddenly noticed that Richard was only 2 moves away from winning, how did we let that happen! We managed to delay the inevitable and tried to best position ourselves for the point scoring but we couldn't stop Richard.

Richard 22, Steve 12, Garry 9

We had some time left so we had a quick game of Figaro. It's a simple card game where you play cards in front of the players (yourself or others) and the first person to get 6 points in front of them has to pick up all the cards, at the end of the round the person with the largest amount of cards picks up a piece of cardboard road, the road peices are different lenghts and after three rounds the player with the shortest road wins. There is a funny rule in the last round where the winner has to swap one of their road pieces with the ones about to be awarded, this is a typical Reiner Knizia twist (the designer). It was quite good fun with lots of 'take that, no you take that' going on. In the end Richard managed to win by a nose (and dumping nearly every card on me in the final round).

Interestingly the purple 3 card had a picture of Reiner Knizia on it which was a little weird, I'd never seen that sort of thing before, we all recognised him but wondered what non 'geeks would have made of it.

Richard - shortest road, Garry and Steve - joint longest road

28th June - 4 games at Garry's

My other half was away for a week so we had a chance to play for a full day. After coffee, danish pastries and croissants (yum) we started with a game of Wabash Cannonball. This is one of the Winsome games from last years Essen, There are 4 railroads and each player gets the chance to buy shares in these companies via an auction. The money raised is used by the company to build track, which is controlled by the player with the most shares. There are also a few other things you can do to enhance the value of the company as your network snakes west. At the end of each round a dividend is paid to the owners of the shares based on the value of each company, the winner is the person with the most cash.
None of us really knew what we were doing and we only started to 'get it' about half way through. It's a really clever game and I liked it a lot, if only the production quality was a bit better, it's a typical Winsome home DTP effort (or lack of effort) I think I'll have to have a bash at making a decent board.

Richard 77, Steve 48, Jo 45, Garry 34

Next was Ice Flow which Steve had bought at the UK Games Expo. It's a very nicely produce game about crossing the Baring Strait from Alaska to Russia. You have 3 men and ou have to make your way via the icebergs making sure you avoid the polar bears along the way.

I must admit that with 4 players I did feel as though it was a bit chaotic, mind you this was only my first play so now that I know how it works the next few games may be different.

Richard won

After a bite to eat we had a go at Pandemic, I'd not played before but it wasn't too difficult to learn and as it's a co-operative game it was easy to pick things up as we went along. It's quite a well themed game and it brought back memories of the TV show 'Survivors' that I watched back in the 70s.

Make sure you wash your hands before playing

Pandemic is a co-operative game which means that your are not playing against each other but against the game system, there is no winner or loser you all win or lose against the game. I'd not played this type of game before and it does feel a little odd as we had a little discussion about what we should do before each turn. Luckily our group is quite well balanced but if you were playing with a control freak or a very bossy person I could imagine it wouldn't be much fun. Over all I enjoyed it but I wold need to play a few more time before I made up my mind. It's also plays single player as well which might be good for when you can't find any opponents.

We started off OK and seemed to start getting things under control and even managed to cure a few diseases but unfortunately the Italians succumbed to the fatal blue cubeitis so we all lost.

We all failed.

Finally we played Oregon. This is a Hans im Gluck game released at last years Essen. I did play it during the show and thought 'meh' but the others assured me that it was a good game.

I forgot to take a photo so here's a postcard from Oregon

It uses cards to drive the placement of of meeples and various buildings on a squared grid. I started off OK and was even in the lead at one point but a duff run of cards meant I ended up having to put a lot of pieces in the far corner and I dropped behind. Not a bad game but I still think it's a bit 'meh'.

Jo 81, Steve 71, Richard 66, Garry 49

17th June - Cuba

Another shot at Cuba this week. There were only 3 of us this time and as we knew how to play it didn't take so long. Richard seemed to hit on a winning strategy with the Dam and Golf Course and then making sure that he got the Water Subsidy thus gaining a lot of VPs, Steve and I tried to stop him but he always managed to have more cash when it came to the votes at the end of each round.
Water water everywhere...

I tried to keep a flow of VPs coming in with the large hotel but it wasn't enough. Next time we'll have to keep an eye out to make sure that someone doesn't get the same chance as Richard.

Richard 74, Steve 68, Garry 60

3th June - Tinners' Trail & TtR card game

Steve and Richard went to the UK Games Expro this weekend and came back with a pile of new games. It was Richards choice and he choose Tinner's Trail I was really pleased as of all the games I'd read about in reviews of the Expro it was the one I was most interested in. Tinner's Trail is a new Martin Wallace game and is part of the Treefrog line of games. The Treefrog games have all wooden components (tree - wood, see what he's done there) .

It's a game of Cornish tin mining and the goal is to extract as much tin and copper as possible, sell it for cash and use the cash to spend on external investments which are victory points. The game is set over 4 turns and each turn is divided into 10 days. On your turn you can choose from a variety action some of which take more days than others, so you take and action and move your marker along the days track, the turn order is constantly changing from turn to turn as the rear most marker denotes who's turn is next.
The mines are bought at auction and you need to plan your purchases carefully, this part of the game reminded me of the auctions in Power Grid, time it right and you can pick a bargain, get it wrong and everyone will bid the price up. The cost of extracting the tin and copper is determined by the amount of water in your mine. the more water, the more expensive it is. You can remove the amout of water your mines by adding things like a port or a train, some of these will also help neighbouring mines so you have to plan your mine purchases carefully. I've never been a big fan of some of Martin Wallace's games but this is lighter and less fiddly than his normal fare, there's still a lot going on and you have to keep your wits about you.

As none of us had played it before we weren't too sure of the best strategies I managed to get all 6 of my mines on the board by the 3rd turn and by the end of the game had extracted all the ore, I was quite pleased with this, I also spent as much as I could afford on VPs early in the game when you can buy more for your money. This seems to have worked quite well for me as I managed a rare win. Now that we've got the hang of it things may be very different the next time we play.

Garry 113, Steve 101, Richard, 93

With a bit of time left over we had a go at the Ticket to Ride Card Game. It's hardly surprising that this is a card game version of the popular board game, I had high hopes for this as in general I've liked most of Alan Moon's designs. The card play is similar to the board game where you can choose any 2 exposed cards or take them blind from the face down stack. You also have a set of destination cards to choose from the same way as the board game, these card have several coloured dots on which correspond to the colours of the train cards. Whare the game differs is that you can play a set of card face up on the table in front of you, 3 different coloured cards or as many as you like of a single colour stacked on top of each other. The next player can play the same colour as you unless he can play more is which case all of yours end up in the discard pile.

At the begining of your next turn if you have any cards left in front of you you take one card of each colour and place them face down. At the end of the game these cards are matched against the destination tickets in your hand and points are scored. I thought it worked quite well with one exception, Once you've placed the won cards down in front of you you're not allowed to look at them again so you need a pretty good memory, after a short while I'd completely forgotten what cards I'd won and felt lost, I just wanted the game to end . Richard and Steve (who had played at the weekend) both said that it takes a bit of getting used too. hmmm... I'm not sure about this one and I'm not fussed if I don't play it again.

Steve 128, Richard 110, Garry 26

27th May - Cuba

Another chance to cross an Essen '07 purchase off the list of unplayed games. Cuba is a beautifully produced game by Eggertspeil, also avaible in English from Rio Grande. Like a lot of games the idea is to get as many victory points as possible and of course there's more than one way of doing this.

Look at all the lovely bits!

Each player has their own board where they can store resources and products and also build a variety of buildings. When you construct a building you cover over a field that is producing reources so you have to balance what you build with what you cover over. You also buy goods at market, ship items for VPs in the harbour and influence new laws governing tax and market conditions, there's a lot going on and of course you can't do everything you'd like to. Basically you're building a victory point engine, and choosing the best combination of buildings and resources etc. will gain you the most VPs.

As this was the first time we'd played (with the exception of Jo) it took us a while to get through the rules and get going, none of us really knew what the best strategy would be so we just flew by the seat of our pants, well I did. I had a go a producing rum, Jo set up a golfing resort and I can't remember what Steve and Richard did (no doubt they'll chime in later). The game ends after 6 rounds so you have to plan what you want to do carefully, it can be difficult to recover from a bad mistake.

Several people have commented on the 'geek that it's like a bit of Puerto Rico, and bit of Caylus, a bit of Pillars of the Earth and a few others as well. I can see their point but don't ALL games borrow something from others along the way. A really good game, and I look forward to working out some of the strategies.

I think I may have lost the final scores

20th May - Power Grid

5 players this week. It was my choice so decided to cross another Essen '07 purchase off the list of unplayed games, it was the turn of the new Power Gird power plant cards. We were also playing on the Central European map.

It was quite a tight game with everyone ending up very close to each other at the end of the game. Aga also helped us with our pronunciation of Polish placenames as well. I brought the game to a close by building my 15th city, I would have liked to have had a couple of more turns but the game was going to finish anyway and if I had held back I would have ended up miles behind.

Richard 16, Neil 15, Steve 15, Garry 15, Aga 14 (cash was a tie-breaker)

13th May - Puerto Rico

This week and old classic, Puerto Rico. Now I'm not about to describe this game to you because if you're reading this blog the chances are that you know all about Puerto rico, it's been number one on the boardgamegeek website for as long as I can remember.

It's been at least a year since I played this game and I was a bit rusty, there were a few things that I wanted to do that I left too close to the end, and of course the end came about too quickly. Watching Steve and Richard I kinda figured that Richard was out in front and Steve and I were fairly close to taking 2nd place. Well I was wrong, somehow Steve had carefully managed to stash away more VPs than we'd thought, and of course I ended up in last place again. Puerto Rico is an excellent game and is number 1 deservedly so, I really need to play it more often.

Steve 56, Richard 45, Garry 42

We had some time left over so had a few hands of Flaschentufel. This is a really neat trick taking game where you try to avoid the lowest card in the pack. If you end up with it in you hand you score minus points (eekk!).

Steve and Richard had both played it a week previously and I was a bit rusty (well this is my excuse). After 2 hands I had managed to avoid the 1 card so became and instant target for the last round.

Steve 56, Richard 54, Garry 40

29th April - Hamburgum

Of all the purchases from Essen 2007 Hamburgum is the one that I'm most pleased with so far (but I've still got a few unplayed games left, notably Cuba). The basic idea is to to build the 6 Cathedrals in 17th Century Hamburg (or London if you turn the board over). As you build you gain victory points and the winner when the last Cathedral is built is the player with the most victory points. You just can't steam in and start building things, first you need to produce goods, which you sell for money, which you use to buy building materials, which you use to build the cathedrals step by step, which gain you varing amounts of VPs and there are more that one way to gain VPs which keeps things interesting.

Another thing that I like is that a players' turn consists of only 1 action which shouldn't take too long, so the game can move at a reasonably brisk pace. There also seems plenty of time to interact with the other players, so rather than just concentrating on making the most of your position, you can spend a few turns blocking what other people want to do without mucking up your master plan.

Steve and I decided to try this and see how it worked as a 2 player game and we were very pleased with the outcome. It was pretty neck and neck for most of the game but towards the end I made a decision that there would probably be a bit of a struggle in the shipyard to flush the opponents ships down the Thames so I go myself stocked up with plenty of wood but it never came to be and Steve beat me buy a large margin.

All in all an excellent game, and it works well for 2 players.

Steve 130ish, Garry 110ish

8th April - Race for the Galaxy

Richard bought Race for the Galaxy in Essen and none of us had had the chance to play it. I was really looking forward to it as the reports on the geek suggested that it was an excellent game with people remarking that they liked it so much that they had to play it five times in a row. Basically you collect cards from the centre pile and collect the best ones for scoring at the end of the game, it's quite similar to San Juan, which is not a bad thing. But I had a load of problems with this game. First of all the rules seem overly fiddly and it took us quite a while to run through it all, you get a large cardboard aide-memoir with all the icons and symbols etc to help you understand the cards, even so there were a few cards that popped up with symbols that I couldn't find anywhere. Also the symbols are a bit on the small side and although I could read mine OK trying to make out Jo's cards across the table and upside down was almost impossible.

What does the yellow circle with a red line round it and an arrow pointing left
with a pink planet in the background and a spaceship landing with
2 aliens and a robot with a raygun and a blue number mean again?

So despite the lengthy rules explanation and the barley legible graphics (the pictures were nice tho) we ploughed on. This is where I had the biggest problem, interaction, or lack of it. Now I don't mind games with a low level of interaction (Thurn and Taxis for example) but this took things to a new low, normally with a game with low interaction you at least get the feeling that there is a group of you in the same room crowded around the same board, but with RftG we were just sitting there doing our own thing, the only interaction I can remember was when I asked Steve to pass the biscuits. Much was made of the simultaneous actions at the start of a turn, but as we all had a full set of the same choices each turn it hardly mattered. The rest of the time we spent optimising out cards and looking up the icons to see what we were meant to be doing.

As you can probably tell I wasn't keen on the game and completely lost interest towards the end (along with the will to live) this is the first time I have EVER been bored playing a game. People on the geek have said that it would take a few plays to 'get it' but to be honest I'd rather have gum surgery than play again.

Jo 43, Steve 39, Richard 30, Garry 18

1st April - In the Year of the Dragon

Steve has written the report for In the Year of the Dragon

This game has some similarities to Caylus, in that you select an action to take in each round (but only one!), and ‘build’ people (but only one each round) who help you to perform actions in later rounds. The actions either give you VPs or provide resources for use in future rounds. So far, so familiar. The catch is that a special event occurs at the end of each of the last 10 of the 12 rounds, in response to which the players must mobilise their accumulated people and/or resources in order to gain a reward or avoid a penalty. These events cannot be ignored if you are to stand a chance of winning, and thus become an added factor to be considered when planning the sequence of your actions and purchases.

Each event occurs twice, in a random but pre-determined order. We ended up with the two droughts as the first and last events, so I decided to take the hit for the first one in order to build up my treasury to give me more flexibility; I also tried to stay ahead on the turn order track, in the hope of being able to make the others pay for the actions they needed to take. Garry’s initial strategy turned out to be a damp squib (his fireworks display was less impressive than mine), so he switched to maximising his returns from the VP action. Richard’s plan was to go for the people who provide ‘free’ VPs (ie. without requiring the VP action to be taken), and to keep as many people alive as possible, since they are worth 2VPs each at the end. This put him at the back on both the scoring track and the turn order track for most of the game, but he came through strongly in the final scoring to finish just one point behind me, whilst Garry was still burying his corpses.

There are plenty of twists in the rules to keep you on your toes, but since everyone has his own tile display, interaction is limited. In many games this would be addressed by encouraging players to take the tiles that others need (eg. Agricola?), but I found that it was difficult enough just keeping your own head above water, without worrying about how others might be faring. In addition, there didn’t seem to be a serious shortage of tiles of the different types (and yes, we did remove some, as per the rules for 3 players). Perhaps it would be better if the players were vying for space in a single palace? Or perhaps there could be an Evo style auction for the action tile groups? If you’re after the ultimate in China based games, you might be better off waiting for Confucius, which I saw being playtested at Baycon recently (it seems to have around 20 different actions to choose from, all with their own rules, so I’m expecting it to be renamed Confusus), but until then, YotD’s game of find-the-winning-strategy should keep the puzzle addicts happy for a few evenings at least.

Steve 97, Richard 96, Garry 83

25th March - Carcassonne on a PC

Well this week Steve and I took a break from playing board games and decided to try the Carcassonne PC game. Steve had got the game a few days previous and had already played over 40 games! He's set up a four player game, us and 2 'bots'. It's a good interpretation of the board game and if you know how to play the original you should have no problem playing the computer game.

A laptop yesterday

The 2 bots played to a high standard and I came last, but I have reservations about playing computer versions of board games. I work at a PC all day so playing a computer game is a bit like a busman's holiday. I like playing board games because of the social interaction, I like taking on a human opponent and the bits are nice. But the computer game doesn't have any of that, I've played it a couple of times on my own since (with the skill level set lower so I stood a chance of beating it), the thing is I love computers I build my own, read magazines and really enjoy working on them, but I found it an empty experience, I'd rather have read a book. I must be feeling extra grumpy today.

I didn't record the score but I lost

11th March - Rails of Europe

Rails of Europe is the long waited for expansion for Railroad Tycoon. You get a new map, thankfully not as big as the original, and some cards. Play is pretty much the same as Railroad Tycoon with a few exceptions, there are some 'Major Routes' marked on the board and you get points if you are the first to complete the route. Richard and Steve started of in the middle of the map and were fighting amounst themselves for most of the game, they almost seemd to have forgotton about me and I manages to create a large network running from the south of Spain and Portugal all the way up to Amsterdam and Berlin.

The End of the game was fairly close and I managed a win by 2 points. Overall we all like the game and in my opinion it's a much better map that the American one, things are much tighter in Europe and there is a lot of player interaction even with 3 players, it's still not as tight as Age of Steam though. If you own the original game I would thoroughly recommend that you buy this expansion.

Garry 110, Richard 108, Steve 86

1st March - Pasteboard and Plastic

It's been ages since I've updated this blog so I guess I've fulfilled the half hearted part of my remit. Any way I' skim over some of the games we've played in the last month or so in an effort to catch up. Pasteboard and Plastic is a games day held in the Scout hut in Saltdean just outside of Brighton. It start's early and runs fairly late so people can come and go as they want. I arrived at 10am and started a game of Vikings, I've covered Vikings in another posting but it's a much overlooked game The three people who I taught it to had never played before but all enjoyed it.

Pete 60, Garry 33, Adrian 28, Chris 26

We come from the land of Ice and snow...

Next up was a quick couple of games of Felix: The cat in the sack. This was a big hit at Essen, it's fairly light and a good amount of luck is involved but it was very cheap (9 euros), plays quickly and makes a good filler.

Each player plays a card on the table, one card is turned over and then the playes start bidding for them, If a player drops out he takes a some coins and turns the next card over so the remaining players have a better idea of what they're bidding on. So lots of fun and we had a good laugh playing it. I'm looking forward to playing it with my non game playing friends.

Gary 56, Pete 43, Garry 25, Steve 25
Tom 63, Steve 28, Helen 24, Garry 13

After a quick sarnie Steve and I had a couple of games of Karo, I obviously wasn't concentrating as I lost 2-0. Then Tony joined us for a game of Spiel der Turme. This the 3rd time I've played this in the last few months and it gets better each time, I don't think I'd rush out and buy a copy but its an enjoyable multiplayer abstract.Once again I left it too late to start moving my towers into the scoring squares and came on last.

Tony and Steve playing Spiel der Turm
Steve 24, Tony 8, Garry 3

My final game of the day was Dungeonville a Zman game about exploring Dungeons hmmm... I wasn't sure about this, It has the same push your luck element as Diamant but the mechanism seems overly complicated, so you can make as many optimised plays as you like then it will all fall apart on the luck of the draw, not one for me.

Mike 7 Richard 6, Garry 7