Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tuesday 24th August - Hansa/Favoriten

Well, in this session we managed to play a couple of games, Hansa, the newish offering from Michael Schacht, and Favoriten, a 1989 game involving betting on racehorses. First up was Hansa and participating in this one was Neil, Steve, Garry and myself. Only Steve had played before so first plays for the rest of us. Here is a brief desciption of the game from Boardgamegeek.

Players are merchants of the Hansiatic League. Players take control of the ship and buy and sell goods, establish trading posts, and sail to find new markets. The board is a very simple map of Scandanavia, with arrows from point to point restricting where the boat is able to move. Active player takes control of boat and must pay to move to each new city where he may either buy, sell, or expand. Players wants sets of goods that they can trade for victory points, but also need to expand market presence to generate revenue.

Steve definitely had an advantage having played before, Garry and myself were struggling a bit early on trying to find the best strategy. Neil seemed to grasp the game pretty good and was keeping up with Steve. The action to replenish the goods tiles seemed to fall at my door quite a lot, good play by the others I am sure. Anyway Steve ran out a comfortable winner with Neil and Garry being quite close together and me finishing in a pretty lame last place. Need to play again, I enjoyed the game even though I came last and as it plays in less than hour is sure to hit the table again. Only four player though which could restrict its choice.

Final Scores
Steve 12 City + 36 VP = 48, Garry 10 City + 25 VP = 35, Neil 16 City + 22 VP = 38, Colin 10 City + 17 VP = 27

Rating (0-10)
Colin 7

After our expoits trading in the Baltic Neil sat out and Natalie joined us for a game of Favoriten, a fairly old (1989) game involving betting on 5 horses racing round the track. This game by Walter Müller is fairly light with quite a bit of luck in the dice rolls. But there are decisions to be made and the game rolls along fairly quickly and we played a 3 race series which played in about 40 minutes. Ah, games with dice and a splodge of luck, right up my street then. The turn sequence involves betting on the horses, anyone can bet in anyones turn, rolling the dice and choosing which horse to move. You roll the dice once for each horse and obviously you want the good rolls for the horses that you have bet on and the bad rolls for your rivals. A good deal of banter and such make this game a light but enjoyable romp.

Final Results
Natalie 30+38+44 = 112, Steve 46+40+41 = 127, Garry 28+0+61 = 89, Colin 60+60+41 = 161

Rating (0-10)
Colin 6.5

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Computers - love them or hate them?

I know this blog is primarily about games or games related stuff but I also like tinkering about with computers so I occasionally post bits about them too. My computer, which I have had for about 2 and half years has been pretty well behaved. I do try to keep up with all the safeguards against viruses, spyware and the like. Also I regularly defrag, and clear out the registry of redundant keys and dump old files. But I have had this problem for about, oh, I don’t know must be 4-6 months, whenever I connect to the net and boot up IE it takes like 15, yes 15 minutes to display the first page. After that it’s OK and everything is normal speed. Not life threatening but extremely annoying, especially when I was on dial-up with a limited time contract. Now I am on broadband and I still get the problem. I have tried lots of things to get rid of this annoying problem. Binned off ZoneAlarm, thought that might be causing a problem. Trouble is I can’t remember exactly when it started so it’s difficult to ascertain what software I put on that’s causing the problem. If it is a piece of software.

I have just thought, maybe it’s IE itself, so I installed Firefox, nice browser by the way. Nope, still the same. After my last fruitless tinker session the time lag seems to have come down to 9 minutes. Nearly finished ranting now, lol, but you know what I mean. I really love messing about with my computer and surfing and stuff but now this annoying bug is driving me nuts!! If I manage to eradicate this, I will keep you posted of what it was. I’m sure it will be something stupid and simple, which will make it worse. Gnash! Gnash!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Tuesday 17th August - Seafarers of Catan

I can’t say the Catan series of games are my favourites being well and truly stuffed in a few of them by horrendous dice roles. Of course it could have been my bad choice of initial position for my starting settlements. Anyway on last nights menu was Seafarers of Catan. I have only played this one once before quite a while ago so can’t remember much about it. Attendees for this one were Myself, Steve, Garry and Neil. I went second after Neil so had a chance to get a decent position for my first settlement. The board for Seafarers initial placement is not very big so there’s a good chance you could be treading on somebody else’s toes from the off. I had both of my initial settlements bordering brick tiles and quite close to the brick port so I quickly built a settlement on the port. One of the tiles was a six and that quickly became a target for the robber.

As the game developed those brick tiles did enable me to generate a lot of cards, robber withstanding, Neil sailed across the sea to colonise one of the islands and Garry treked across the desert to establish an outpost there. Steve meanwhile seemed to be lagging behind a little although it was all very close. Both Garry and myself were garnering handfuls of cards and consequently dreading the robber. A couple of times we were caught out and had to discard substantial amounts of resources. Steve was quietly buying development cards and eventually got the army card, Neil had long since captured the longest road and managed to hang on to it throughout the game.

I managed to get to an island and eststablish a colony there and hoped to sail along the coast across to the next island but the pirate soon put paid to that! End game it was very tight with trading almost non-existent with everyone afraid of helping a rival to the win. Then Steve who had been behind a lot of the time managed to build an upgrade and turned over a development card VP to claim the win. Phew!! The final scores reflect the closeness of the game. Which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way.

This variant of Catan and the Stone Age one are definitely my favourites of the range. Garry suprisingly had never played any version of Catan and as this was his first game did really well even though he was in last place.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
*Neil 11, Colin 11, Steve 12, Garry 10

Rating (0-10)
Colin 8.5

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Tuesday August 10th - Stadens Nyckel

After a little discussion we decided that our game tonight would be Stadens Nyckel, a swedish city development game. Here is the description from the Geek.

In this fun but luck-intensive game, players represent noble families trying to build up their neighborhoods and have their family members in high offices at the right times. These goals are aided by cards, which either aid families competing for high office or show buildings that can be placed in the neighborhoods. At the end of each turn an event card takes effect, giving points to officeholders, allowing free building, or causing some other occurrence. Layed out around the board during game setup, these event cards are revealed to allow players to see the upcoming three events. When all the event cards have taken effect, players score points for their neighborhoods and for occupying high offices. The player with the most points takes the day.

Steve had been wanting to play this for some time but the opportunity never seemed to arise, anyway tonight he got his wish. After a rather hesitant stumble through the rules I don’t think anybody really knew what they were doing. So press onward, it will all become clear as we play we thought. Well, sort of, money is tight throughout the game and Richard just kept taking the money, which ultimately payed off in the end as he was a convincing winner. As the description in the geek says, rather luck based. Steve had tried to eliminate some of the luck by writing some house rules, which we didn’t know about until half way through the game. Not one of our favourites and probably not likely to hit the table again, but worth giving it a go.

Final Scores
Neil 10, Richard 15, Natalie 11, Steve 11, Colin 8, Garry 5

Rating (0-10)
Colin 5

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Tuesday 3rd August - Maharaja

As Natalie and Neil couldn’t make it this week we suspended the rota and played the two new games that Steve brought along. First up was Maharaja, I think all of us were eagerly anticipating playing this one. First time anyone had played and the participants were: Steve, Garry, Richard and Colin.
After reading through the rules which took nearly half an hour we was ready for the off. Richard was the starting player and after choosing our starting jobs and placing our first four houses we started picking our two actions on the action disk. A quick word about the jobs, I diligently wrote down what each player chose at the start but as the jobs changed hands nearly every turn I don’t think that made much difference. Here they are for reference anyway. Steve 2 Richard 4 Garry 5 Colin 6. Here is a quick description of what the jobs do. 1. Mogul: moves first and breaks ties, 2. Trader: player gets 1 gold. 3. Sadhu: Outer palaces are worth 2 instead of 1. 4. Wandering Monk: Travel costs are paid by the bank for the player. 5. Builder: Builds or moves an additional house for free. 6. Artisan: Pays only 9 for palaces. Not knowing what initial strategy to pursue I made a crucial blunder by not getting in the first city to be scored which left me low on cash for the early part of the game. As each player takes their two actions in the order of the lowest number on the action card first, by the time you get your two actions the whole board position could have changed quite a lot. Also trying to plan which cities are likely to be scored next is a bit of a lottery as the position of the governor on the track can change rapidly.
Garry got the Sadhu (outer palaces worth 2) early and got a lot of cash from it. This is a powerful job and with it only being number 3 doubly so. Game lasted about 1 hour 40 minutes and seemed to go quite quickly. There is a lot to think about in this game and the strategies will take a couple of plays to emerge fully I think.

Final Scores
Steve 5 palaces + 9 gold, *Richard 5 palaces + 5 gold, Garry 7 palaces, Colin 4 palaces (*starting player)

Game Rating (0-10)
Colin 7.5

Richard had to head off after Maharaja so we decided to squeeze in a quick game of Fish Eats Fish, another Renier Knizia confection.
Each player has a set of plastic fish which move about a board with a grid pattern on it. When two fish are next to each other a fight ensues. Players each have an identical set of cards and plays one card to enhance the fishes score in the battle. There are also octupii?, which nullify the fight, and a shark which is an automatic win. Unless the other player plays the shark too of course. Anyway a nice filler for 25-30 minutes. Garry run away with this one too. His hungry fish gobbling up all the others on the board.

Final Scores
Steve 0, *Garry 14, Colin 9 (*starting player)

Game Rating (0-10)
Colin 6

Another double win for Garry, he puts it down to the two pots of coffee he has before playing!!