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