Aug. 1st, 2010 03:05 pm
Last night a group of us played Revolution, a newish Francis Tresham game about the Eighty Years' War )

Le Havre

Dec. 15th, 2009 10:18 am
Last night's gaming brought us the first half of a game of Le Havre. It has a feel fairly similar to Agricola or Stone Age but felt more straightforward than either to me. It did tend to run long; the box said "100-200 minutes", we were running somewhat slowly, and got maybe halfway through in maybe two hours of playing.

I found the core dynamic of the game pretty easy to get into, which is nice in this sort of game. For doing the usual "first time playing this game" floundering I didn't feel like I had ruined my chances for the mid-to-late game, though since we stopped I also didn't get to find out whether my gamble would actually work. There are several types of resources, and on each player-turn two chits enter an "offering" pool. On your turn you then have the option of either taking all of the resources on offer of a single type or using a single building, with the additional option of spending money to buy a building. You can turn resources into buildings using the building-building building.

The interesting dynamic here is that money-as-cash is worth the same in victory points as value-in-buildings, so spending money to buy you a building doesn't directly help you win the game at all. You can get resources from other players who want to use a building you own, and in some cases owning buildings helps you get more resources from other buildings. Mostly, though, it feels like the way to win the early game is to turn small amounts of resource into valuable buildings.

I'd love to try this again, playing it through to the end. There is a "short game" option, which it looked like really was just a shorter version of the real game with only one or two minor changes (as opposed to the crippled option some other games give you as a "suggested first game"); no idea if that makes the game sufficiently shorter that you don't need to transition from an agriculture to an energy economy. Sadly, weeknight evenings just aren't the time to try to play 4-hour games.
Saturday's traditional games-on-campus mob included both a run of Notre Dame and a game of Stone Age. I enjoyed Stone Age (even if I failed to pick a winning strategy, and for that matter failed to divine what a winning strategy would be), but I definitely picked up that it had the same "bootstrap first, then get victory points" nature that Notre Dame does.

I find playing Notre Dame very straightforward, largely because it has three mega-rounds that correspond loosely to the three phases of the game. In the first round you need to either get all the blocks or all the gold, and ideally you can use the "move three blocks" specialist action to then transfer that to either the park or the hospital. Then in the second round you need to not die of the rat apocalypse, level up the park, and start getting VPs, and in the third round do whatever you need to do short-term to get the most VPs. In the first round you can get away with not sending someone to Notre Dame, but in the third you absolutely must to get your park bonus points if nothing else. There is a very clear distinction to me in between when you need to be in start-up mode and when you need to be in final-sprint mode.

Stone Age at least had the same nature. When do you transition between getting more workers and farms, and trying to mine your way to expensive buildings? Part of my problem, I think, was that my maniacal focus on picking up the green cards meant that I'd skip infrastructure in favor of VPs in the early part of the game. (And another was that the same maniacal focus meant that I'd spend an entire round to get three wood to get a green card, but that wasn't worth as many points as trying to spend the same resources to build a building.) Settlers doesn't really have that nature, because the things that get you VPs are the same things that get you more ability to do stuff. Puerto Rico to some extent does (do I grow new plantations, get people, or ship/sell stuff more VPs/money?) but you can also build up infrastructure on other peoples' turns, and with buildings providing both special powers and VPs there's some overlap in the "builder" action.
We played 1856 yesterday, extremely quickly as these things go -- we started play at noon and finished around 5:15 PM. This is also the first time I've seen the game end by player bankruptcy, but it was a forced diesel train buy and so fairly close to the end of the game.

Let's review the basic sequence of events: government nationalizes major business; stock market crashes; large investors lose their shorts; game over.

This time we failed to pick up that there's a limit of one $100 government loan per company per turn. This doesn't really get in the way of the "use government loans to buy out your private company on the second turn" strategy, but it does make it a lot harder to use loans to do things like buy trains, and it certainly means you can't take out six loans you know you can't repay all at once to force the nationalization issue. My guess is that this means that the jump from "4" trains to diesels (destroying every train that existed before this point) happened a full stock round earlier than it should have, and the dividends that would have gotten paid out there would have helped to save the game.

More thoughts on initial strategy and nationalization )
Apparently I've had the two modules of 1825 for a while but we've never actually gotten to playing with the two of them together. We finally got to that yesterday, and it turned into a reasonable 18xx game (but remember, the kinder, gentler version with no company dumping).

My main criticism especially of unit 1 is that the game start is quite scripted; once you get through the scripted part, the game ends. The other 18xx games also have kind of scripted starts (1835 sticks in my head as having a fixed order of company starts) so this isn't so unusual. And in fact in the combined game there's a couple of companies you're forced to start first, but once we started the London and Northwestern and the Great Western and ran enough turns that people actually had enough capital, things opened up quite a bit. We were forced to stop just after a round where four companies were all floated together, with probably about two full rounds left in the game.

Strategy-wise, [ profile] fideidefensor ran with the L&NW, and [ profile] fredrickegerman ran with the GWR. I wound up on the outside of these but dabbling in other properties that looked profitable, and eventually started a northern railroad to build off of [ profile] desireearmfeldt's network. Somewhat to my surprise, this got me just barely in the lead when the game ended; I think part of that is that, since the L&NW and the GWR are the first two railroads, everybody owns a little bit and it's hard to get a large consolidated position. I also seemed to do okay on not being too invested in railroads focusing on internal improvements at the expense of shareholder value.

Rules bits: maybe it'd be helpful to make up a summary sheet explaining how this game is different from 1830. You can upgrade small cities to large, and fairly promptly, but not downgrade them off the map. You can place two non-adjacent tiles during the build phase, and placing the initial green double-city tile counts as a build for this, but placing a green tile on top of a yellow board space with track is an upgrade. Labeling the chits with the names of the companies (especially the "green", "dark green", "mid green", and "green-but-really-pink" ones) was enormously helpful.
They seem to have reissued Talisman, and so we wound up getting a copy at Your Move Games. (Not entirely clear who "they" is, there's a Games Workshop copyright on the board proper but no other particular mention of GW.) There are a couple of minor differences -- one of the "runes" spaces used to give a +3 to enemies, now all three are +2; you can save up craft-based monster kills for extra craft -- but a couple of the really unbalancing things, like the "always have a spell" wand item, are still around. Mules are explicitly capacity-four, but you can still hose someone by stealing their mule.

Playing with [ profile] narya, twice in two games we wound up in a situation where we got to the end of the game and the only way to win was by duking it out in physical combat, rather than zotting the other person with the Crown of Command. I don't remember that ever happening before (though winning against someone carrying around the Prince or Princess is just a pain). It's not the new game.
Deal the initial cards normally. In addition to the normal contracts, flip up three contract cards, as in a "public contracts" variant. When you fill a contract, take your choice of one of the face-up contract cards and replace it from the deck; if the replacement is an event, resolve the event as usual and draw a new card. If you discard contracts, draw new ones from the face-up cards one at a time, replenishing after each card.

Playtesting )
We did in fact succeed in getting people together for games yesterday. We had five for Die Macher, which I didn't expect to take all day, but we actually got started around 10 or 10:30 and didn't finish until after 4. I took an early lead in the first couple of elections, but [ profile] nuclearpolymer mopped up at the end when her party platform lined up pretty well with the national issues. She won by a good 60 points, with most scores in the 300-330 range but hers over 400. Two rules notes )

After dinner and socializing and watching War on Terror (the board game) we settled in for a 6-player Central Europe Power Grid run. I feel like I wound up a turn behind at the end of the game; the "wind up at the end of the player order so you can buy cities first" trick only works if you're able to buy enough cities to vault ahead on the next turn. I probably bought too many power plants, and was possibly too fixated on Wien's garbage discount (but getting 5 trash plus 1 uranium for only 9 money was a really good deal; but I only got to do it once).

We did wind up with a bit of a weird issue where [ profile] fredrickegerman and I both wanted to play and brought principally longer games (I had Age of Steam and Empire Builder, for example); there was a copy of Puerto Rico, but nothing that really qualified as "short". "Next year."
A coworker dragged me off to a games part at one of his friends' houses last night. This turned out to be a geek circle that also wanted to play geek games, so it all worked out. Their filler game was Ricochet Robots which they played like Set which seemed to work reasonably.

Our main event, though, was Vanished Planet. Earth has unleashed the void and it's slowly spreading across the board; if you collectively do enough quests then you can defeat the void and recover Earth. It was a sound concept and we had fun playing, but the game did drag on a little.

The fundamental issue is that, once you get into the game, you get this giant pile of raw resources every turn. You can refine those into second-level and third-level items. But if what you want is a fourth-level item, and you're missing three first-level resources for it, you need to figure out what single second- or third-level item to try to trade for. And while you're trying to find your pants here everyone else is waiting.

So that ran a little long, but it was good company, and we did manage to win in the end (only sacrificing two of the six homeworlds in the process). Might be worth trying again, or automating somehow. But almost certainly a crowd worth visiting again.
Following up on something [ profile] mistergrumpy asked over Zephyr a while ago...I can't seem to find any useful online errata for Iron Dragon but I've seen/heard/tried mention of a couple of rules variants, and there's one or two things we almost always play differently.

Rules )

And some variants )
1825, Unit 2. Played a 2-player game over break. Just like unit 1 but with a different map and companies. Actually ran pretty reasonably with 2; we wound up, approximately, with the great western rail empire and the great eastern rail empire, of which the east won. One of unit 1's big problems is that the price-banding rules means that the company start order is pretty deterministic; unit 2 has more clumping so this is less of an issue. (That, and we've been playing unit 1 backwards.) Still "the kinder, gentler 18xx". Note: the receivership mechanic ("if nobody wants to run a company, it runs itself") is more useful in the late game for "I start this company then abandon it to get more trains" than "I run this company into the ground then abandon it".

Power Grid. Played last night over New Year's. Wants more than 3, probably. I thought the general mechanics seemed pretty straightforward (definitely easier than Puerto Rico) while still being interesting. Need to buy power plants, fuel for same, and cities to power to get money; then need the money to buy previous things. Win by powering the most cities at end-of-game. Didn't get locked out of the world (not actually possible in a 3-player game) and so got ahead by investing in clean power when fuel was expensive; but then being ahead makes it easy to stay ahead by being able to spend money for nicer power plants later on.
A couple of months ago I wrote about Gold Train, a game-in-a-bag that didn't seem to work so well with two players. [ profile] narya and I played, and the winner seemed to be the person who drew the gold mines first; nothing else really mattered.

Yesterday a larger group of us played a 5-player game. It was much more developed: there were two clear phases, "before the mines run out" (when nobody has any labor because it's all running off into the mines) and "after the mines run out" (when nobody needs labor, so it's really cheap to acquire). With five people it was impossible to hold on to valuable mines for any length of time, since somebody would draw the "explode a mine" token before your turn came up again, with the result that the game ran on forever and people were perpetually cash-starved.

I think the right number of players must be exactly four, but this isn't going to wind up really high on my list any time soon. [ profile] fredrickegerman likened it to Kings & Things, which is probably all-around a better game.
I was dragged to Games People Play against my will! It was terrible! I came away with two small things...

Fjords. A two-player tile-laying game, kind of like Carcassonne with hexes. Each player has four farms which can be laid on the tile just played; it's somewhat more likely that a tile will become unplayable but then you can later play one of the discards instead of drawing. After you run out of tiles, there's a second phase which involves growing fields outwards a tile at a time from your farms, and your total score is the number of fields. Looked and felt like a German game, seemed to work somewhat better than other small Carcassonne variants I've played (in particular Carcassonne: the Castle).

Gold Train. "Game-in-a-bag." Very low production value, which means you need to cut out all of the little cardboard bits yourself (and cut, not punch), and when you're done you have a not-very-attractive cardboard-markers-on-plain-hexes game. (Redoing it with Settlers-style hexes would improve the aesthetics a lot.) Players are exploring a mineral-rich mountainous area; you need to open mines and connect rail to them, but you need labor to build rail and the labor runs off to the mines when they're discovered. Very luck-oriented with two; I reserve judgement until I can play a 4-6-player game, it seems like a lot of the mechanics would work better if the eit could get spread around more.
[ profile] narya, [ profile] fideidefensor, and I experimented with three-player two-train Iron Dragon yesterday. You get two trains sharing one set of tracks, six contracts, three public contracts. We let you trade loads between trains if they were on the same spot, and you can use your movement dots in any order (but if the train that hasn't moved gets eited by the other happens). No "treaty line", so trains moved at normal speed on the southwest panel, and a statement up front that the Rainbow Bridge lasts until the end of the drawing player's next turn (though it didn't come up at all). Winning is normal conditions plus both trains being Iron Dragons.

Bootstrapping quickly seemed key, more so than in the normal game. I'm used to playing crayon rails where I have no money at all and spend money faster than I can get it, until I've finally built out my rail network; if it's not difficult to get $100 every three turns then your limiting factor is the $20/turn spending limit. The swapping loads mechanic got a little use, though it largely caused me to think more than I needed to. Useful strategy seemed to be to put one train on a boat and build rail out in front of the other train. Verdict: somewhat entertaining, speeds the game up a little, wouldn't go out of my way to do it over other options.

I do think we collectively have figured out some of the less obvious routes in the game, though, and maybe we've outgrown some of the crutches that are standard house rules. Building west from Railla to Iron Holm (arms-and-armor land) is sufficiently valuable that you don't need the "trains go fast" incentive to build it, and once you're there, it's only about $20 more to get to Eaglehawk. There are at least five good routes into Octomare that don't involve alpine mountains (two through the Pirate Isles, three north from Ozu-Zarkh), but the permanent Rainbow Bridge means that there's no incentive to build in the Olde World at all. I also think we've largely figured out when boats are a good idea, such that we do occasionally get hit by a boat-related disaster but still do actually build rail.

(And apparently some quarters have a section of communist rail that connects Piggnytz to its port. Who knew?)
I played British Rails with [ profile] narya last night.

Good: having loads on your train to go to both point A and nearby but further point B.

Bad: getting to point A and drawing a "derailment" card causing you to lose your load to point B.

Worse: twice.

Not so bad: only losing by a £150 in the end.

[ profile] narya did succeed moderately at the "run jute from Scotland for the big bucks" plot, her classic in British Rails (for Iron Dragon afficionados, this is kind of like winning the game with dragons from Nordkassel). My contracts kept guiding me towards Plymouth and the southwest, and I did succeed in running three contracts for £80 all on one turn without derailing at all. This was probably the highlight of the game for me. Derailing in Barnstaple being a turn away from getting £30 in Plymouth? Not so good.
After biking on Saturday, I went over to [ profile] desireearmfeldt's for potential gaming, which eventually attracted [ profile] cmouse, [ profile] purplebob, [ profile] nuclearpolymer, and a post-plumber Mr. Armfeldt. We settled on 1830 BC (the 18xx game of Mesopotamian canal-building), and it finally made a little more sense to me. Gory details )
Actually got to relax over the long weekend. This is kind of unique; I seem to spend a lot of Mondays saying "right, I haven't relaxed all weekend". On Saturday, I went into the city without much of a point, but wound up wandering around the South End. The three SW corridor tracks inbound from Back Bay have a three-light-over-two-light type of dwarf signal I hadn't seen before (showing yellow over flashing red, medium approach, on two tracks); this doesn't really match up with the position-light dwarves at South Station, or the two-head tower signals inbound on the Worcester tracks. Visited Filene's, where there was lots of most things at 30-50% off but notable shortages in the shoe and luggage departments.

Sunday my plan was to play my game for a bit (Heritage of Kings: The Settlers), except I realized I was in a no-win situation against the scenario; I'll actually need to play this one again, building up a much huger force before charging in. But then Thor called and told me that there was a model train show at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington. This turned out to be Northeast N-Trak, a localish group that does N-Trak modules, so they had all of their modules set up. Many of them I had seen before at the Amherst model railroad show. Being neither a 6-to-10-year-old or a parent thereof, I was also right in the middle of the age range. They noticed that I was paying attention to them running things and mentioned that I should join; I might. observations )

There was also some gaming. I rode coffee to victory in Puerto Rico! (Though I should have ended the game sooner, and not needed to be mayor to activate a large building.) There was a very close game of, erm, Inca Rails, the bizarrely communist not-actually-a-crayon-rail game (for one, the Incas didn't have trains; it also has oddnesses like the "wilderness road" card that lets two of the four players build roads that don't line up with the map). I still think it's much easier to draw east or west than north or south, since the side players can easily build to both north and south but north and south can't build to each other and there's a lot of value in the game to being connected to cities you didn't necessarily build.

So yeah, that's pretty much a weekend. I didn't do a whole lot of work on my own train (I did a little), I didn't read a whole lot of Quicksilver, but I did get to do enough sitting on my butt and enough socializing to be content with it.


Jan. 9th, 2006 12:25 pm
Is anyone doing neither Mystery Hunt nor Arisia this coming weekend, and is interested in playing a game of some sort? Probably longish, though any of 18xx/crayon rails/Die Macher/SFB sound appealing to me.
I got sucked into a game of Titan over the long weekend. In retrospect, this was a total mistake, since I don't like Titan that much and I would have liked to not have my sleep schedule not totally whacked for the weekend.

But at any rate, I did pretty will on the "play Civilization on the Titan map" plot, not that this really wins the game. And I had brush bunny stacks of doom! I had at least four stacks recruiting gorgons...and my titan stack had two dragons, two unicorns, and a colossus...and I had another stack recruiting unicorns. I've never recruited up to colossi before. Very exciting.

Just one problem. My nearest opponent only had one stack. But it had three hydras in it.

This is a problem, since I can throw gorgon stacks at it, and maybe kill off an angel and a hydra. But my gorgon stack is worth more than a hundred points so he gets a new angel, and if he ever winds up in swamp or desert he gets a new hydra. After three or four hydra stacks, I learned my lesson...but now it's 3 AM. Other opponent goes to bed. We finally have the titan-on-titan battle. I do manage to barely win it, with dragon-titan-angel-angel. But it's 3:30 AM. And the titan-warlock-warlock-warlock stack waiting to crush me, won't, because it's bedtime. Quite past.

And this is how I spent the weekend on far too little sleep, against my better interests. The end.

1825 redux

Nov. 24th, 2005 08:59 am
We wound up playing a three-player game of 1825 again last night. There was one big problem: there are nine certificates in each company, and you probably want to take advantage of every buying turn, so whoever buys the first (spiffy, double-value) director's certificate in a round probably gets the next one too. But beyond that, the game did scale down pretty nicely. Proposed solution for next time: skip every fourth stock turn, so with three players you'd have turns 1 2 3 2 3 1 3 1 2; and then if player 1 gets the first director's certificate player 2 gets the second.

I also felt like the early companies did very well (the LBSC didn't get driven into receivership until it had made a lot of money and I had stripped it of its trains; the SECR was consistently profitable) but the later ones were hard to bootstrap. This dynamic would probably change with more game units: extending the board northwards and lengthening it gives the LNWR much more room.
One unit of 1825 was acquired and played at ET yesterday afternoon. The game as a whole went slower than it might have, since people were doing more socializing than game-playing and there was, I think, too much committee-plottage (four "players" but two of them had two humans each).

At any rate, the online reviews mostly say this is a kinder, gentler 1830, and I pretty much agree with that. To start with, it's shorter; in 2 hours we were at least half done with the game. It's legal to sell the last share of a company, so there's no company dumping as such, and the receivership mechanic is such that after a round or two you wind up with a company with a depressed stock price, good trains, and money in the bank, which is suddenly a very attractive buy. If you pay out dividends, then the amount your stock goes up is proportional to your P/E ratio, so buying cheap stocks is even more attractive. The upshot of this is that some amount of stock churn to wind up holding on to the bargains is much more attractive here than in other 18xx games.

The downside of this is the amount of scripting in the game. Private companies are handed out randomly, have no specials, and determine how much money you start with. The public companies are bought in a mostly-fixed order, and operate in a mostly-fixed order, and don't have too many build options on the map. I suspect these problems mostly plague the game startup, so the first third to half of the game will look pretty similar, but then we stopped just when things started to get interesting.

There was some interest in trying this again. This one, in its current configuration, seems like it might actually go better with fewer players, so a small game at home could work. There are also a nigh-infinite number of expansions, and GPP has many of them, so maybe adding more money would make the game more interesting.

(I was hoping that [ profile] nuclearpolymer would go for a shorter 18xx that doesn't have the "must buy C&O at game start or entire strategy will be ruined" nature of 1830, since she went for 1830 BC, but she just seems to not go for stock market games so much. Alas.)
Had [ profile] gnibbles and another Thetan over last night for some quick gaming. [ profile] gnibbles really wanted to play Citadels but that doesn't go so well with three, so I introduced them to RoboRally instead. They were suitably amused.

This all culminated in an airport run. Lanes need to stop moving around. It's really disconcerting to come out of the Callahan tunnel and say "okay, there used to be a ramp here but it's gone now, and so now it's dark and I'm on a narrow road in a construction zone with only half an idea of what I'm doing". The traffic flow inside the airport proper isn't that great, and I suspect at least some of it is permanent. Similar badness happened around Kenmore Square, where it's never been obvious which lanes go to Beacon Street, which ones don't, and why there's such a backup.
Talked housemate into playing Stellar Conquest last night. This is effectively the Avalon Hill board game version of Master of Orion; no idea if the two are actually connected. It did a good job of holding my attention for eight hours. Almost certainly wanted more than two players.

The game is divided into groups of four "action" turns and one "accounting" turn (my terms, not theirs). I think the big problem with the game is the sheer amount of accounting nitpicking you need to do: I spent about 80% of the accounting turns just trying to figure out the optimal way to move colonists around. Because, see, you can get some number of free colonists for shipping people off-world, and people are good. But you need to pay money for these extra ships, but not colonists, and there suddenly gets to be this horrible arithmetic nightmare. The other consequence of this is that even during the "action" turns you wind up with at least two little stacks of colonists per world, each going somewhere different, and you hope you remembered to send colonists everywhere so that one planet doesn't turn up sad.

I think the game must have been reasonably balanced, and my strategy was off. (Hint: don't buy tech you're not going to use. Hint: think about grabbing mineral-rich worlds early, since 80+ production per turn is worth more than the 4 people you don't get; 1 person == 1 production usually.) Death Stars, in particular, looked "too expensive" to me until they started eating through my fleets and planets.

This is probably worth another try...with four people...on a particularly detail-oriented day...with lots of scratch paper. Or maybe automation.
Attempted a last-minute summoning of the greater ET mobbage for board games yesterday afternoon, and succeeded in at least getting critical mass to play things. We played La Citta again, and I found it much less frustratingly inscrutable. (You're building cities, and many of the city tiles have colored arches on them; each game round four cards are picked, one face up, and at the end all are revealed and people between adjacent cities based on which city has more of the predominant-color arch. The last round I bet heavy on blue and lost, but this is better than having no clue what's going on at all.) We got in a round of Puerto Rico in which I did successfully demonstrate that shipping is an optional part of the game (two VP chits! Count 'em! But three large buildings; I was able to get selling coffee up pretty quickly, and that plus the construction hut got me in a position to build expensive things well before the game was over. But [ profile] narya twitched first on the big buildings, really.) And then we started feeling silly and played Carategena (arr!) and Dungeonquest (mumble bottomless pits mumble).

In the pre-discussion for this it was revealed that there are in fact people who are interested in this sort of thing, are local, and have free time now that they've graduated. Maybe I should try to call a Civilization mob for two weeks hence; or is that just too long for people? [ profile] narya wanted to play Titan but conflicted with a different mob; maybe slightly shorter but intense games (Die Macher, maybe 1830 BC) are in order (and remember, I said shorter, not "short"). Hmm.
I had [ profile] cmouse, [ profile] purplebob, and bf over yesterday for gaming. First we playing a surprisingly quick game of 1856, which everyone appeared to enjoy. Commentary )

We then discovered that bf hadn't played Puerto Rico before, so we taught her that. [ profile] narya fed us a very delicious pot roast. Then, in her words, she "kicked [our] sorry little asses at amoebas"; I never fully got Ursuppe but tried (with moderate but not extreme success) the "spawn cheap amoebas everywhere" strategy, beating the "active movement is fast and free" strategy and losing to the combination of Frugality and Tentacle.

All in all, a good use of a long-weekend day.
Russian Roulette RoboRally, Nietzche Variant: max health is five cards; any damage locks registers, and six hits is death. But, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so heal a point of damage every turn, in addition to whatever you get for shutting down, standing on wrenches, etc.


Mar. 13th, 2005 10:39 pm
Back in high school, I was really into Star Fleet Battles (not that I ever particularly had people to play with). Now that I'm not a hosed little undergrad anymore and know other people who know the game, I asked my parents to ship me all of my bits. UPS received the package on December 6; it hasn't been seen since.

So now my parents got me the Captain's Edition, which is a step up from all of my old stuff. (What? ADB revised the game in the early 90's? Oh, yeah.) I taught one of my housemates the basics of the game. It was fun, if somewhat slow; we were fighting two battle groups against each other, and one of his cruisers was all but totalled in exchange for a little internal damage (right, plus four downed shields, enh) on my dreadnought.

musings on, of all things, the rulebook )
There was a proposal yesterday to try build-your-own-sushi for alums. So we went out to Fish Pier to get, well, fish. (This worked out well: a pound of fish pretty much exactly made maki for four fishatarians.) But the best way to get there was to take the Red Line to South Station, then the Silver Line to the World Trade Center station.

Silver Line: It's a Bus.
Silver Line: Putting the "High-Speed" back in "Mattapan High-Speed Trolley."
Silver Line: Going nowhere slower than ever before.
Silver Line: A bargain at $200 million a station.
Silver Line: Hey, buddy, got a spare $1 billion?
Silver Line: 60 feet of bus all to yourself.
Silver Line: Broken promises since 2002. at any rate, from there we came back to our place, picked up huge swaths of games, and went out to Arlington to play said huge swaths of games. Except that, in the usual spirit of things, only one game out of the two bags (British Rails) actually got played. Won both San Juan (just like in Puerto Rico, it's all about having multiple big buildings) and Ticket to Ride (failed to get screwed out of LA, then drew some very valuable tickets that I was holding the cards to build). (Apparently TtR is pretty brutal with three, since all of the double connections turn into singles.) Was failing to draw appropriate tiles in four hands of Mah-Jongg. Was sleepy. Came home. Went to bed. Woke up to early. Posted to LiveJournal. Yeah.


Feb. 21st, 2005 11:04 pm
Played 1835 on Sunday after the big ET meeting. This proved to be as foolish as it initially sounded (I don't get President's Day off); we started around 4:30 and finished around 2 (AM, yes). It turned out to be a very close game (I was third by under 20 points, at just under 6400; first was 6700). Which isn't bad for not actually having a strategy.

Comparative 18xx )
Lost at hedgehog racing. Very sad.
Spent the weekend of the 25th here ("didn't travel"). Went to have dinner with friends, conversation focused on gender and urinals, of all things. (Also some discussion of the relative unholiness of DaP and LiveJournal.) No games happened but we went back the next day; played Ticket to Ride, San Juan ("Puerto Rico with cards"), and a couple of rounds of Starship Catan. Much better than sitting at home.

UPS still hasn't found the box they so conveniently lost three weeks ago. Go them.

Apparently I only took one day of vacation this year. (I was sure it was two.) I turned that into a magic floating holiday, but since I get two of those, December 30th is now David Day. Mmm, holidays. This is such a dead week at work anyways.
There was a mob playing Titan yesterday. I actually won the first game, but it was a little frustrating: my first two good recruiting stacks got lost in battle (both eliminating other players). So it was down to me and one other player; she had lots of stacks recruiting big creatures, I had a wussy jungle stack and my titan stack (titan, warlock, three lions, and two rangers; with titan teleport, how do you think about splitting that?). I managed to teleport into battle, and started stepping on stacks until I finally rolled a 6 and correctly guessed which stack to drop on to (titan, warlock, ranger, archangel, and two angels).

While the rest of the mob went on to what apparently turned into an all-night-long second game, I played Starship Catan with someone else who doesn't play Titan. This is a two-player game in the universe of Starfarers of Catan, with the major difference that it doesn't suck. Thanks to Games People Play, I now have my own copy.

GPP also thinks that I can contact Rio Grande Games directly to get a new deck of Trans America cards. Which I should probably do. Mutter.
I brought games to ET. They got played. This makes me happy.

My Trans America set is missing two cards (and is awfully worn for the amount I've played it). This makes me sad.

I got to play Age of Steam. This makes me happy.

I have this vague thought of building a game database. Along with name, publisher, author, etc., it could have specs about length, complexity (number of rules) and initial difficulty (how many rules you need to get started). Civilization would have a complexity of maybe 6 but difficulty of 3ish; by the time you've explained all the rules you're through the first three turns. 1830 would have a higher difficulty, since there's the stock/companies/trains/dividend loop. ("The goal of the game is to maximize shareholder value.") I think difficulty <= complexity.


Nov. 21st, 2004 10:46 am
Yesterday we had a very small game mob. First we tried Elfengold, which is an add-on to Elfenland. The fundamental mechanics are unchanged: cities are connected by roads, you can play a transport chit on a road, and then anybody with a corresponding card can use the road, with the goal being to visit all the cities. Elfengold adds a couple of things that make Elvish Pub Crawl actually be interesting: cities have gold values, you get fewer cards, and you bid for the transport chits. Also, there are chits that let you exchange two chits on the board; combined with the roadblock and sea monster chits, this meant that the chit-laying phase tended to start enthusiastic and very quickly move into bitter recriminations. Fun, but would be less hosing with more than three players (board would have more chits, more chits to bid on, potential chat the swapper won't take away something you need even if you didn't buy it).

This was followed up with a game of Kings & Things*. This is another game that has lots of rules but isn't actually that hard. It had an interesting cyclical nature, in that the first player rotates around and has a reasonably large military advantage, so that's when you get to come back from being beaten down. It has some amount of Titan-style dice rolling, but the combats are pretty quick. The chance aspect of it was well-controlled; being ahead was usually an advantage, but it's definitely possible to draw eight Things really needing creatures and not get them.
There's been a cold going around work that I caught. It's not a very consistent cold; the woman who runs the mini-cafeteria downstairs said that people seemed to feel terrible on days one and three, and sure enough, I felt pretty out of it on both Wednesday and Friday. Today I think I'm feeling better, which is good. No plans, so maybe I'll try to get outside (again).

Got dragged biking yesterday. Not the greatest or worst of ideas, I only made it up the Minuteman to the Lexington line before saying "nope, I'm stopping here for 10 minutes then going home", so ten miles, at least. Ran into someone with Presta valves wanting to borrow my bike pump. In theory my pump should work with both kinds of valves and I switched the magic adapter for him, but it didn't seem to be terribly successful.

After ET dinner, a small mob of us went to Somerville to play games. I made the factory strategy work in Puerto Rico finally! (And noticing that the Eschaton was nigh, decided to buy a large building instead of a harbor, but I was ahead by enough points at the end of the game that that didn't actually matter.) Got my ass handed to me in Cities and Nights! (My initial build was on the 8-4 of wood on the wood port, which would have been great if either (a) 8s got rolled or (b) the 8 didn't spend half the game robbered; plus, I got seriously scrod the first time the pirates landed, and produced neither rock nor wheat, so I ended the game with five settlements and only like two slots on the little flip-card, where there were two metropolises out there at game end.) Sick and helpless in game == not good; oh well.
Spent most of the weekend doing ET Rush. New rush is certainly different from old rush. For one thing, the actives don't seem to be as willing to exploit their pool of alumni slave labor; for another, there are noticeable numbers of upperclassmen visiting, which we never had under the old system. The little Go boards are cute. The rush chairs are amused by my Road Rallye posters.

(Oh yeah, played a game of Civilization on Saturday. Played Africa. Expanded very early into Italy to nail down 8 city sites. Would have won if the rest of the game hadn't decided I was the Great Satan and tried to crush me, twice. So it wound up being a very close game (with me in third, but with under 200 points between second and fifth) except that one person quietly sat in the corner and amassed wealth to win by a lot, and one person got hosed by calamities mid-game.)

Read The One-Armed Queen by Jane Yolen. It lacked a lot of the mysticism that made White Jenna and Sister Light, Sister Dark fun. The plot was kind of fractious, the characters not that interesting. The main character's main mood seemed to be "rebellious and moody", and the Jenna character just didn't feel at all like the same Jenna from the earlier books. Oh well.

Also saw Hero last night. It was fun. A very visual movie; good use of colors. (I liked the yellow scene, Emily, the blue.) They were a little more liberal with the Matrix-vision than I might have liked in general (but hey, it's a Jet Li film). Also, I've now seen something besides Rocky Horror in the Harvard Square theater.
I got a smallish mob together to play Ur: 1830 BC (manufacturer's page here, but if you don't have cookies enabled you'll only get Dutch). It's really better described as "inspired by the 18xx system" than "another 1830 variant": instead of companies building rail and operating trains over that rail, the game is about nation-states building canals and irrigating land. The way to win is to own land in a country that successfully pumps water around; owning land that actually gets irrigated is secondary, but if you control a nation-state you can decide how the water flows. The game ends when all of the water in the river is captured. Like 1830, there are five grades of digging crews and waterworks, "1", "2", "3", "4", and "M" (where "M" is infinite, just as diesels in 18xx have infinite range); unlike 1830, our game ended before the first "4" card was bought after some aggressive irrigation, and it didn't seem like the game could have been extended much beyond another round or two. In all, it was a fun game; it has the same problem as 18xx that you need to explain all of the rules before you can start, but it ran a lot quicker (we finished somewhere beyond two hours, the box says 3-4).

Since we kind of expected an 8-hour game, we followed this up with Eurorails. Which went fine, except for the part where I turned in my contracts, drew a derailment that only hit me, and followed this up by turning in my contracts again. The part at the end where I had three contracts from Spain to eastern Europe was nice. But I was half a turn away from only being 50 points behind.

More SFB

Mar. 6th, 2004 09:18 am
15 consecutive disruptor misses. That was kind of impressive. At least our phasers were doing damage. I also saw someone make productive use of a tractor beam ("if I move ship A away from ship B, then the ESG will do plausible damage to one of them instead of half damage to both", which is much better than "if I have two ships in the same hex and one tractors the other then they slow down enough that their turn mode improves so they can turn one hex earlier"). Went far too late, and still didn't finish. At least the Kzinti frigates have lots of power, even if my batteries were perennially running on empty. (Could have done better once I figured out the dice hated us if I had stopped spending reserve power for overloads. :-)
I mentioned on zephyr that I played Star Fleet Battles way back in ancient history, so [ profile] dragonfriek invited me to what's apparently a more-or-less weekly game. We played. My inexperience showed, I think. (A couple of turns happened at just the wrong time and wrong place, and the rule set actually used was more involved than what I was used to.) But I did remember how to play, and in spite of there being committee plot overlaid on the actual game I did enjoy myself.

Around the time we actually finished playing, [ profile] dragonfriek and [ profile] rigel showed up (well, separately). I haven't actually seen [ profile] rigel in quite a while; in fact, I think the last time I talked to her at all was a couple of years ago when Hapgood was running. There was ranting about the modern Guild; I was amused, I think.


Nov. 10th, 2003 01:21 pm
One of my housemates wanted to play Mah-Jongg yesterday, and by a miracle we were all home and awake, so I broke out my set and we played several hands. At the rate we were playing, a full cycle (20ish hands) would have taken four hours or so, I think, which is a while, but we play games that long all the time anyways. Everyone seemed to have fun, even if the person who really wanted to play didn't manage to win a single hand (and also lost at Mississippi Queen and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gathers).

The one mistake I made was trying to score the hands. This involved trying to explain things like the winds. ("Hmm. Set of west winds. That's four points, plus a double." "Why's it a double?" "Well, he's east, and you're sitting opposite him, so you're west." "I have a set of south winds. Is that a double?" "No, you're sitting in the north seat. North and south are backwards from the way you expect. No, really." "You're making this up.") But having gotten that far, special hands weren't that much of a surprise. ("So, if you make a set of four, you draw an extra tile. If you use that extra tile to make another set of four, you get another extra tile. And if you use that extra tile to win...") The game was likened to Mao. Which isn't entirely true; the play is fairly straightforward, and I can explain all of the rules, and we can talk. It's just the scoring that's obscure.


Oct. 27th, 2003 09:08 am
I spent most of the day Saturday playing 1835 with a group of people. This is the sort of game that takes all day to play (we started at 1:30 having decomposed the game from sheets of cardboard and reviewing the rules, and finished around 11:30). It's the same family of game as 1856 and 1830, but the rule differences actually made it interesting to play, since people hadn't figured out all of the strategy beforehand.

I got off to a fairly good start, and was actively laying down smack-down, until the owner of the SX came and placed a token in an inconvenient place. Then nobody wanted to buy my company's stock, and I was kind of stuck. This eventually got turned around and I was certainly in competition for the end game, until same owner dumped one of his other (mostly worthless) companies on me. I think hosage got passed around the table to the left, mostly. :-) I came in a fairly close third ($100 behind second, $400 behind first, out of about $7000 per player).

Gory rule details )
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