Friday, July 30, 2004

Finally decided to go Broadband

After using a dial-up connection to access the internet for 4 or 5 years I have finally decided to take the plunge to go broadband. I kept going over my limit on my number of hours and paying extra so I thought I might as well bite the bullet and pay for broadband. Also my other half has recently taken an interest in using the internet so increased usage is a definitely possibility. Anyway which ISP? Which speed of connection? The latter is admittedly limited by my budget. After reading several magazines and surfing info on the net I have decided to go with Pipex. Their Extreme 250 seemed to suit my pocket and give a reasonable gain in speed, 5x dial-up.

So far their service has been excellent, emails informing me of the progress of my order and an order tracker on their website that you can look at. Ordered on a Sunday, email arrived telling me the line should be ready on the week friday. Modem arrived on Thursday, installation looks fairly straightforward. Hope that’s not famous last words!! Anyway all ready to go just waiting for dear old BT now.

Certain concerns expressed by other persons in the household, eg. the missus, that I would be spending all my time playing MTGO are completely unfounded by the way. :0)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Tuesday July 27th - Ticket to Ride

Attendees for an outing of this year’s Spiele de Jahre winner were: Steve, Garry, Neil, Natalie, Colin.
I only found out that it was my choice when I checked my emails in the morning, so not having a game with me I had a quick think of what everybody else had a copy of. Ah, Ticket to Ride, that sounds good, I know Garry has a copy so a rapid email to get him to bring his copy along and we’re all set.
The most experienced traveller we decided was Steve who had been to Melbourne. So he started, I had 3 reasonable tickets and decided to keep all three. I got a couple of good routes in early and took an early lead. Garry was steadily collecting train cards and did’nt get on the score track for a while. But then, Bam, a hefty 6 trainer and 15 points and he was off. Natalie got blocked off a couple of times and consequently found it difficult to complete her tickets. The game proved to be very close and before you know it somebody is down to one or two cars and you only have one turn left. Surprisingly nobody took any extra tickets in this game, concentrating I think after completing their tickets to just grabbing the biggest routes they could.
The final score was extremely close with Garry and Neil tieing for the lead and both having two completed tickets, the win went to Garry with the longest completed train.

Final Scores
*Steve 96 Garry 109 Neil 109 Natalie 77 Colin 98 (*Starting Player)

Ratings (0-10)
Colin 8.5

That only took just over the hour so with some time left we decided to give the Ark of the Covenant a quick run.
I think this is the simplest of all the Carcassonne variants, to encourage more family play perhaps. Anyway, A few large cities started to grow and I couldn’t seem to get in any of them. The Ark was moving fairly regularly garnering a steady stream of points for everybody. A couple of large fields emerged, luckily I managed to get in one of them. Garry scored a couple of temples and had an easy win. I only had one meeple on the board at the final scoring, but the points I made during the game surprisingly gave me second spot.

Final Scores
*Garry 80 Steve 57 Natalie 56 Colin 62 Neil 57 (*Starting Player)

Ratings (0-10)
Colin 6.5

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

MTGO - Fifth Dawn

OK, the new expansion for MTGO appeared last week. The release events seem to have gone off reasonably well. They had to put a user cap on for a while but the servers seemed to cope OK. At least we didn’t get the major crashes that happened when Darksteel came online. I have just purchased 2 boosters and 22 tickets. It’s not the same as tearing real boosters open and feverishly seeing what rare you’ve got though.

And tickets, well, they are a sort of online currency. You use them to pay the entry fee for leagues, drafts and the like. But also use them to buy cards in the marketplace and trading post. I like to get tix (as they are known) and then just get the cards I want for specific deck ideas. I find my pocket doesn’t suffer so much that way. And I get a couple of reasonable decks to play in the casual rooms.

Haven’t had a chance to log on to see what my 2 boosters contain, crap I expect. But that’s part of the lure of the game as the manufacturers know full well. I will let you know how my first experiences with Fifth Dawn fair shortly.

Also at times of these new releases I do wish I had broadband. To download the Fifth Dawn images and associated updates for the MTGO client took me almost 90 mins. When I first installed MTGO the downloads took 6-7 HOURS!! So broadband would be a godsend.

Tuesday 20th July - Java

Java is the middle game in a 3 game series, Tikal, Java and Mexica by the designers Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer.

Attendees last night were Garry, Steve and myself. Only Steve had played the game before and confessed that it was one of his favourites. Garry and I concluded that we were in for a tonking!

Steve ran through the rules and outlined a few starting strategies for us to get us going. You have 6 action points to spend each turn and it is not enough!! Basically the water tiles (cisterns) were quickly placed breaking up the board into interesting shapes. Then it is a case of placing tiles, triples which are in a common pool, doubles and singles which each player has a limited number of. Building villages and founding palaces garner points. If you have the right cards you can then hold a festival and get some more points.

Steve cunningly left the ploy of enlarging the village to a 10, building a palace and then splitting it up and building another palace in the offshoot until actual play. Sneaky I say. This game makes you really think and could easily develop into analysis paralysis. Fortunately our game didn’t and progressed along quite quickly. The game ends when the last triple tile is placed and if you don’t keep an eye on them you find that their are only a few left.

In the last few turns you are trying to get your men to the highest position in each village because at the end of the game the highest in each village scores the value of that village. The last player to place the final triple tile ends the game. He then scores his men in each village and the other players have a final turn and score their men. Both Garry and myself where under the impression that the final scoring would be at the end after each player had taken their final turn which in my case definitely would have made a difference. Yes, I know I came last but that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it. ;-)

Final Scores
Steve 120 Garry 93 *Colin 92 *Starting Player

Ratings for Java (0-10)
Colin 8 Steve 10 Garry ?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Tuesday 13th July - Alhambra

Todays game is Alhambra, the theme is building a palace around your central fountain. The game is deck driven and the scoring cards are shuffled into the deck and appear at random intervals during game. This gives you three scoring phases, the two cards and end game. Seating arrangement tonight is Neil/Steve/Colin/Richard/Natalie. Not sure if this has any significance like Puerto Rico but I thought I would mention it. We managed to get 2 games in, playing time just over 60 mins each. Anyway on to the games.

1st Scoring - Neil ?, *Steve ?, Colin 0, Richard 0, Natalie ?. (*Starting player)
Unfortunately I forgot to note the scores. Doh! All I know is that Richard and I scored zero points in this phase.
The scoring card came out really early on and both Richard and I had’nt built any buildings at all.

2nd Scoring - Neil 25, Steve 25, Colin 19, Richard 23, *Natalie 43.
Wow, Natalie with a huge advantage at this point. Richard had a handful of cards and complained that Natalie was able, with only 2 or 3 cards to buy her buildings for the exact amount. The large wall Natalie was able to score was evidence of this lucky, er, sorry skilful play.

Final Scoring - Neil 64, Steve 83, Colin 58, Richard 77, Natalie 92.
After the second scoring buildings were steadily bought by all players, well except by me, couldn’t seem to get the colours/shapes I needed. This may have been because after the game Steve informed me that he was noting what colour of cards I was taking and endeavouring to take the same so he could buy the tiles before me. Sneaky I say. A convincing win for Natalie. The longest wall/road longest anything tactic pays off for Natalie yet again.

1st Scoring - Neil 11, Steve 10, Colin 5, Richard 0, *Natalie 12. (*Starting player)
As you can see Richard and I still got off to a shaky start. I at least had a couple of buildings. Natalie again had a good wall. With some excellent exact purchases again.

2nd Scoring - Neil 30, Steve 46, Colin 30, Richard 29, Natalie 30.
Scores fairly even here except for Steve who has pulled out a healthy lead. Richard made a large leap from 0 to hero, no sorry, 29 points actually.

Final Scoring - Neil 76, Steve 93, Colin 76, Richard 78, Natalie 82.
Well, as you can see Steve made exactly 10 more points than he did in the first game for the win and Natalie made exactly 10 points less than the first game to come second. Steve had the good fortune to be holding most money in the right colour to get the last purple building putting him in first in that colour garnering him a large 21 points and putting me into second place in that colour. Doh!

Ratings for Alhambra
Colin 6, Steve 6, Neil pass, Natalie 8.5, Richard ?
Neil is not fond of numerical rating systems and declined to rate.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Magic The Gathering - Cool Game or Cash Cow?

Around 1994 I became interested in a game called Magic: The Gathering. As everyone knows, or almost everyone in gaming circles, MTG became a huge hit and single cards from early print runs sold for hundreds of pounds. If only I had bought shedloads of those first runs. I remember seeing displays in the game shops and wondering what this strange new game was. Doh! Anyway from 1994 to 1999 I collected folders full of cards and played the game quite seriously, entering a few tournaments and pre-releases. Soon though the player base in my area dwindled and the cards seemed to be getting stale. A new expansion every 3 months became very expensive as well. So my gaming opportunities and the depth of my pocket became considerably smaller.

Now my paper cards gather dust in my folders and a new phenomon has appeared. The internet! Now this may have been unlucky or lucky depending on how you look at it. Surfing quietly minding my own business I happened upon the old Wizards of the Coast website that I had bookmarked. Ah well, I’ll have a look and see if anything has changed much. Seems the same nothing changed.....hang on, what’s this link..... magic online. Like the sucker I am I thought I’ll just have a look and see what this is all about. That was six months or so ago. Now I have a collection of about 550 digital cards, yes digital cards!! The online game has a lot going for it. Players to play against 24/7, drafts, leagues and tournaments too. The graphic interface is superb and the software handles all the rules, counters and score keeping. On the downside they have had problems with the servers crashing and plenty of bugs with new releases. The digital equivalent of paper comes out about a month after the paper release. Also the digital cards cost the same as paper. And you are only leasing the right to use the images, you don’t actually own the cards!!

Why am I still playing, quite simply because MTG is a good game and the convenience of being able to play when I want is great. I have played hundreds of games in the casual player rooms and have only had two bad experiences. They went straight on my blocked list. Oh yes, you can block players if they are whiners, whingers, bad sports or cheats. Then you never see them again in the playing rooms, chat rooms or anywhere. They’ve gone for good. Likewise if you have a good game with someone, interesting cards, nice chat in-game or such you can add them to your buddy list and you get a dialogue box up when you log on to tell which of your buddies is logged at the time.

I will write more about my MTGO experiences if anything of note occurs. Hopefully when Fifth Dawn, the new expansion that is released this week, hits the servers they will stay up and running. We wait with baited breath.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Steve’s Rating System

Further to Steve’s email about the rating system, here are his values. Hopefully people will take these into consideration when basing their evaluation of a game played.


T - A 'Top 10' game. Not limited to 10 games, but includes all the games that are or have ever been in a player's top 10, or that were ever considered for inclusion.

L - Love/Like. Basically these are all the games that you might consider suggesting if it's your choice, although probably not counting those that you might suggest simply because you haven't played them for years, or because thay have nostalgia value.

S - So-So. All the other games that you don't object to playing.

G - Groan. These are games that you don't actively hate, but that cause your heart to sink if you find you have to play them (games in this category for me include History Of The World, Formula Motor Racing, and Diplomacy (because I can't help thinking how many German games I could play in the same time)).

H - Hate. Games you will try to avoid playing and, if you do have to play them, you will try to make them end quickly, eg. by deliberately going bankrupt.

N - Games you have never played.

What I'm coming to is, it would be helpful if the ratings we give to games under Colin's system were directly related to those in my system, so I suggest the following mapping:
H = 0 - 2.5
G = 3 - 4.5
S = 5 - 6.5
L = 7 - 8.5
T = 9 - 10

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Comments enabled

OK, after Natalie pointed out that comments could not be posted I have gone into settings and guess what? Comments have to be enabled. So please add any thoughts you have on the games we played the blogg or anything really.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Tuesday 6th July - Santiago

Attendees at last nights session were, Natalie, Neil, Steve, Garry and myself. The game on the table, Santiago. I had played only once before and I think Steve had played a couple of times. First play for Garry, Nat and Neil. I had read through the rules on the train heading home to refresh my memory. This gave me an idea of the mechanisms of the game but no idea what the best strategy to pursue was. Anyway, after Steve had run through the rules and we had established that Neil was to be the first Water Carrier off we went. Steve grabbed the overseer on the first turn but after that he changed hands fairly regularly. A fairly large sugar cane field developed which unfortunately I did not have a presence on. I did get on a reasonable pea field with Nat though. As the game developed the bidding became fairly high for the best tiles, and quite a decent chilli field appeared which I managed to get 7 men on. The only time I had the Water Carrier was on the last turn which ensured that I could get the last tile in chilli field irrigated, worth 7 points to me. In the end the scores were quite close. Steve had a theory about this game and after a couple of ‘that wasn’t supposed to happen’ comments I think perhaps his theory needs a rethink.

Final Scores
Neil* 54
Natalie 65
Garry 64
Colin 73
Steve 65
*denotes starting player

Game Ratings (0-10)
Colin 7.5 Steve 9 Natalie 6 Neil pass Richard 7.5
Neil declined to rate and Richard who didn’t play this time but has played it several times before chipped in his rating.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Billygames tonight

Another tuesday, another Billygames session. Hopefully Garry will be able to come tonight, what with a hectic work schedule and hols he has’nt been able to make it for a while. Should have been his pick but he’s swopped with Steve so we can play Santiago. Apparently Steve’s writing a strategy article and wants to test his theory, should be interesting. Random play I think to see if his theory can cope. He! He! Anyway we may be six so Neil has offered to sit out. Santiago only plays five. I have played only once at Richard’s and cant remember the rules, so will try to have a read through before we start. Tomorrow I will post a report and results.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Game Session 3.7.04

Steve, Richard and Jo arrived just before 12 noon and after introductions, Jo had’nt met Tina, and chat we started our session about 12.30.

First up was Saint Petersburg, I had the Rio Grande version. None of us had played before so we all knew as much as each other about the strategy necessary. Jo was the start player and quickly built up a good buildings collection and garnered good VPs from them all game. Money seemed tight for all at the start I concentrated on getting a good worker base to up my income level. Richard didn’t have more than 3/4 workers for a lot of the game. I don’t think there was much strategy going on as this was a first play, anyway at the end I had 100 ruples left but not a lot of VPs.....erm, I think I will need to rethink my game plan next time.

Final Scores:
Jo 127*
Steve 108
Richard 98
Colin 93
*denotes start player

Game Rating (0-10)
Colin 7.5 Jo 9 Steve 7

Goa is a game that I have read lots about on Boardgame Geek. But the analysis of the auction system has baffled me more than enlightened me! So I did my own thing and hoped it was’nt drastically wrong. There are many roads to victory in this game and Steve seems to favour the expedition card route and Jo followed him down this avenue. I went for colonist development early to get those colonies going, although this didn’t quite work out as you will see. Richard seemed to be developing his tracks fairly evenly. To be fair Steve romped away with this game, developing 2 tracks to the 10 pt level and having all 4 colonies plus those expedition cards to give a very good score of 51. The rest of us all tied for second spot maybe more by luck than judgement. I never got any tracks to 10pts, fatal I think if you have hopes of winning. And I only got the last colony because I drew an expedition card that let me harvest colonists instead of spice. I got it on my last action. Richard was also struggling for that last colony and got his also as his last action. A couple of things to note was that Steve only had one extra action card the whole game (the only time he had he flag), ne never took the money action at all and only bought his own tile in the auction once. Good game.

Final Scores Boards(B) Colonies(C) Bonus(Bo) Expedition cards(Ex) Money(M) Total(T)
Steve 30B 10C 3Bo 8Ex -M 51T
Colin* 21B 10C 5Bo 1Ex -M 37T
Jo 16B 10C -Bo 11Ex -M 37T
Richard 23B 10C 1Bo -Ex 3M 37T

Game Rating (0-10)
Colin 9 Jo 8 Steve 9.5

By the way this game took quite a long time and we had to break with 2 rounds to go for refreshment. The interval gave us time to review the game board so far and re-evaluate our strategy if necessary. Not really anything we could do as Steve had almost won the game by now!!

This trick taking card game by Stefan Dorra finished of the day. I picked this game up in a game shop in Bad Ischl, Austria when I could’nt find the game I really wanted. Anyway its not a bad closer. Again it was the first play for everyone, so not too sure what the best plays were. The usefulness of the saboteur was debated but Jo could’nt resist and grabbed it to find out if he could scupper everyone’s plans. Richard also dabbled with him (the saboteur that is, not Jo), and they both seemed to have some success keeping their negative points down. Steve on the other hand had a strategy implosion and gathered minus points very easily much to his disgust. Bit of fun anyway.

Final Scores after 4 hands
Colin -9
Richard -14
Jo -14
Steve* -17

Game Rating (0-10)
Colin 6.5 Jo 6 Steve 6

All in all a very enjoyable day which came a close about 8.30. Must do it again soon.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Tomorrows a games day!

02/07/04 - Well, I suppose this blog is just to keep a record of my thoughts and results of boardgames I have bought, played and liked or disliked. Tomorrow I have a few friends coming over to try out a couple of new 4 player games. Saint Petersburg, which I have only played with my other half, and Goa which I have played twice. Goa is a deep thinking game that has many paths to victory. I shall try a different strategy tommorow. The colonists and spice route didnt quite work last time so I shall maybe try expedition cards and colonists this time. I know Steve wants to play Santiago to test his theory for the strategy article he is writing so that’s on the agenda as well. Our session will start around noon and probably go on until about 8ish. Session report to follow hopefully.