Thursday, September 30, 2004

Magic League Final Thoughts

I have just realised that I haven’t brought you up to date with how my league excursion ended. Well, the league lasts 4 weeks. I played 5 matches 1st and 2nd weeks, 2 matches on the 3rd week and to be honest no matches on the 4th week. Why? you might ask. Well, at the time I can go on MTGO, which is in the morning, there seemed to be only 5 or 6 players in the league room. And all these players were in the top 20 or so. Now, I have read on the forums that the top players hang around waiting for scrubs to appear so they can smash their heads in. Well that certainly appeared to be the case here. You could argue that I’m making excuses here, but what’s the point of getting the crap kicked out of you every game. I will probably not be playing in another league. The cards have helped my collection and I can use some of them in some of my decks so it wasn’t a complete loss. I think I finished up around 180 out of 256 so I was not the only one not to play games, I think some people didn’t even play one game!!

I had a couple of foil rares which I traded and got some nice playable cards. I would rather play in the casual rooms and get a decent game. Well, the next expansion, The Champions of Kamigawa is released online on October 25th. Some nice looking cards and interesting new mechanics so I will probably get a few of those.

Til next time!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tuesday 28th September - Ticket To Ride

Strange one tonight, we was playing at my place and it was Richard’s choice. Last week he indicated that it would probably be Settlers/The Great Wall. I arrived home a tad late because my early train was cancelled. Steve was already waiting on the doorstep and Garry and Richard turned up shortly after. One drawback, Richard had completely forgotten it was his choice and hadn’t brought the game! Doh! I had diligently read the rules during the day and was ready for the off. Ah well! So a quick look at my collection and Richard chose Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride. A good game, not too heavy or too long. Here again is a quick overview courtesy of the geek:

With elegantly simple gameplay, Ticket to Ride can be learned in 3 minutes, while providing players with intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn. Players collect cards of various types of train cars they then use to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who fulfill Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route.

“The rules are simple enough to write on a train ticket – each turn you either draw more cards, claim a route or get additional Destination Tickets”, says Ticket to Ride author, Alan R. Moon. “The tension comes from being forced to balance greed – adding more cards to your hand; and fear – losing a critical route to a competitor.”

So the whistle blows and off we go. My initial draw of tickets were pretty easy but the points total was low. So I decided to take some tickets early. Well after a few turns anyway. I got a few routes down and took an early lead. Richard and Steve I think at one stage had half the train deck in their hands. Loads of cards!!! I completed my tickets pretty early and took some tickets, luckily one of them was half complete so I took that one. As opposed to the last game where nobody took any extra tickets at all, everybody in this game took more tickets. As we neared the endgame, Richard had a coast to coast connection and Steve was lagging in last place. But as I say had a handful of cards. Steve came with a late burst and quickly caught up. At the end we decided to turn our tickets over one at a time round the table. Richard came out a pretty easy winner completing 5 tickets. Actually everybody managed to complete their tickets so no negative points. Steve got the longest train for 10 points which pulled him up to second and Garry beat me to third by one point. A good game. The scores are points before tickets, then individual ticket scores.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Richard* 68+17+22+8+9+11 = 135, Steve 59+10(longest train)+20+12+7+8 = 116, Garry 69+11+13+12+8 = 113, Colin 65+16+13+9+9 = 112

Rating (0-10)
Colin 8

There is a new board and a card expansion coming out at Essen in October. Here is a description of the card expansion from the geek:

The Ticket to Ride: Mystery Train Expansion
This adds some cards to the Ticket deck. These additions aren't actual tickets, though. Instead, they are special cards that allow you to get bonus points at the end of the game, with the exception of one card that allows you to, in lieu of a turn, look through the entire deck of tickets and take any card you want.

One card lets you double the value of any ticket that you make (only for cards worth 10 or less), one gives you bonus points for making a cross-country route, one gives you bonus points for a west coast route and one gives you bonus points for connecting to the most cities.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tuesday 21st September - Carcassonne/Hunters & Gathers - Ark of the Covenant

Attendees tonight were Neil, Steve, Natalie, Richard and myself, ready to go huntin’ and fishin’ in prehistoric times. This game is one of many variants of Carcassonne and is one of the best I think. Here is a brief description courtesy of Boardgamegeek.

A Carcassonne Variant set in the Stone Age. Players build a prehistoric landscape with tiles depicting forests, rivers, lakes and grasslands. They then send out members of their tribe to hunt, gather and fish. In other words, place their pawns in the best positions to score points.
Most of the mechanics are familiar from the original Carcassonne, but some new things are added to spice things up.

I managed to get my fishing hut on a system with good development potential, unfortunately I couldn’t keep it to myself and Richard muscled in so in the end we shared the points. One large meadow evolved with myself Natalie, Richard and myself contesting. I just couldn’t get my third hunter in so Richard and I shared the points with two hunters each. You don’t have many meeples, only 5, so you have to be careful how many you tie up in meadows otherwise you could be meepleless and restrict your scoring opportunities in the forests and rivers. Anyway in the end Richard came away a convincing winner. Obviously well endowed with considerable hunting and fishing skills.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Neil* 77, Natalie 62, Steve 79, Richard 94, Colin 62

The Ark of the Covenant
Natalie decided to sit this one out so Neil, Steve, Richard and myself carried on preaching the gospel. Again a brief description from the Geek.

A new game based on Carcassonne, Ark of the Covenant has players vie for control of cities, roads, flocks, and temples by using the tiles to create the dynamic play area and by placing followers on the tiles.
New features compared to Carcassonne include oasis along roads which award 1 additional point to that road for each oasis, a one-time use "prophet" for each player which doubles the value of a completed city for that player, a simplified field scoring with each sheep in the field adding 2 points and each wolf subtracting 2 points, and a new scoring mechanism for temples. Additionally, players can forgo the placement of a follower on the board to move the Ark around the tiles and award 1 point to the owner of each follower it passes.

Well basically Neil ended up founding Jerusalem and I ended helping the Romans build roads, lots of roads. Very straight roads with not even many oasis on them! And if I wasn’t doing that my meeples seemed to be shepherds. Not a city segment for at least 3/4 of the game. Doh! Understandably founding Jerusalem is quite a feat and as Neil was the only one in it, and with a prophet it gave him a game winning 52, yes that’s 52, points. Ending up 26 points in front of Steve in second.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Neil* 101, Steve 75, Colin 73, Richard 71

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tuesday 14th - Die Neuen Entdecker

Tonights game was my choice and I have been looking forward to playing The Merchants of Amsterdam again for some time. I have played it a couple of times before and really liked it. So I brushed up on the rules on the train home and was all set. It was going to be Steve, Garry, Richard and myself participating. But, fate plays a hand again and a text message from Richard stuck at work knocks my trading venture on the head. A bidding game with only 3 is not so much fun, so to plan B. A 4 player game will play better with 3 of us so out comes Die Nueun Entdecker, an exploring game from Klaus Teuber. Here is a brief description courtesy of Boardgamegeek.

Essentially the same game as Entdecker, the game still starts with a blank game board that represents an unexplored sea. Tiles are drawn and placed on squares on the board. As the tiles are placed islands develop on the board and players pay to place settlements, bases, or scouts on these islands in an effort to become the most powerful discoverer of all. Completed islands yield victory points to all who have invested in exploration on an island, but of course the most points go to the player who has established the strongest presence. This updated version adds a larger board, fees to enter from all but one edge of the board, a different income system, new bonus waterfall tiles, the ability to draw (for a price) from open stacks of tiles, and most of all an entirely new area of the board that represents scouts exploring jungles on the islands in search of exotic plants (this is the bonus discovery chip system revamped), among other changes.

Steve and I had played before but it was new game for Garry. Steve ran through the rules, which I needed too, it was a while since I last played. Then we were off. The board has a few tiles already laid to start off with, including 3 bonus island tiles, two 5 pointers and a 10 pointer. Quickly Garry and I established a presence on these while Steve went off and did his own thing. I got into trouble moneywise early on and had to keep rolling because I was less than 4 money. This took a while to get out of all the while keeping Steve and Garry nicely funded. Steve took advantage of the rule that says if a tile is closed in it automatically gets filled. Garnering some small islands. Eventually the board started to fill and I was lagging well behind, Steve was in front with Garry solidly in second. I had quite a few scouts in the jungle investigating the flora and fauna in the native huts hoping for some late points. The last island gradually grew to a monster with Garry having the biggest presence due to his village.

I had got out of the poverty hole and gambled on being able to get my village in there as well which would give me, hopefully, the majority. I also had two forts on it. Well, when the game ended with that island being completed I did indeed have the majority which gave me a healthy 40 points. This moved me into he lead. As the scouts were moved into the jungle I was still hoping that the points I got there would take me over the finishing line. But I ended up only winning one hut and tieing for about 3 others, unfortunately not having the closest scout. So in the end Steve won by quite a healthy margin but the game was pretty close up to the end.

It’s one of the games I enjoy and Garry said he liked it as well and was glad he had a copy, he might even play it now!

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Colin* 77, Steve 89, Garry 61

Rating (0-10)
Colin 7.5

Monday, September 13, 2004

Computer bug solved and Magic League update

Well, first a bit about the Magic online league that I am playing in. Opened my 2nd week booster, Darksteel, and found there wasn’t really one card that stood out that could help my present deck configuration. The rare was Darkstell Collosus, a monster at 11/11 and indestructible to boot. But at a cc of 11 it’s never gonna hit the table. I decided to ditch the black and go blue with 4 nice creatures. Because I had my friend Neil coming round on Sunday to try and squash the 15 minute lag bug and we was out Saturday, I only got to play 2 matches. One against a guy in 16th and the other one was in the 70s I think. Anyway lost both, one to a Spikeshot Goblin with a Cranial Plating attached. Ouch!

Anyway enough of that, now that 15 minute lag. Well, Neil ran Adware and Norton Disk Doctor and a couple of other things. Found the odd problem but not one that could be causing the lag. Might as well install SP2 says Neil, might make a difference. Duly installed SP2, touch wood, with no problems. Recognised my ZoneAlarm firewall and automatically turned off the Windows firewall. So far so good, rebooted and ......... bother, lag still there. So call up task manager and monitor CPU usage as we connect to net. As soon as you try to load a page, whoosh the CPU usage goes ballistic, 100%. Ah, look at that process, that’s the little b*&%!r. Terminate process and bang, straight in. Look in the services window and try to identify the one that’s causing the trouble, narrow it down to 2 possibles. Try to connect again....lag.... terminate process.....straight in, and one of the services has disappeared. The culprit identified. Disable it from the services window. Reboot and go through the procedure, connect, load a page and wham, instanteous display.

Well Neil, cracked it for me but not sure what the process is, something to do with DNS I think, Neil is going to investigate and try to find out what it is. At the moment nothing is not working without it, soooo fingers crossed. Problem solved. Thanks Neil!!!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tuesday 7th September - Age of Steam/Ireland

I must say from the outset that Age of Steam is not one of my favourite games,this opinion is not shared by the other players in my group, most them enjoy every opportunity to play. The maths do my head in and I cannot see the most productive routes to build from the off. That being said, I quite enjoyed this version of the game. Maybe because I got a reasonable build in early,it didn’t progress much but I didn’t come last which is my usual position when we play this. Garry, Neil, Richard and myself were the budding rail tycoons. This version of the game has several rules variations to the basicgame. Namely, no urbanisation, this becomes de-urbanisation!! This option lets you remove a block from the board. Obviously an opponent stuffing tactic. Also there are water links between England, Wales and Scotland. These links represent the only outlet for blue, red and yellow blocks. They cost $6 to build and you may only build one per turn. Presumably so that one player cannot have a monopoly of these links. There are also brown hexes, these start out with 2 or 3 blocks but do not produce any more. The locomotive action has also been changed. When you take the locomotive you are able to upgrade your loco twice but forfeit both move actions.

I think that as goods have so few outlets it is necessary to built long networks and upgrade your train to be able to transport the blocks over them. So when to upgrade or forfeit 2 moves and take the loco action become a vital decision. Richard and Neil both had large locos, and at the end were transporting over long routes. Neil had a 6 loco, and Richard had a 5. Garry and myself were trailing behind. My train never got above 3 and although I had lots of transportable blocks available it was never enough. Money is tight right up until the end and Garry was struggling, even going back 1 space on the income track. Usually that is my trick!! Richard got stuffed by the de-urbanisation twice and Neil once. I think this made for some nice re-thinking for those two.

Overall I think that I liked the Irish map better than some of the others, probably because it is smaller and it’s easier to see what is going on.

Final Scores (*denotes starting player)
Colin* 58, Neil 99, Garry 43, Richard 96

Rating (0-10)
Colin 7

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Magic Online League Week Two

Week 2 of my excursion into league play. Opened my Mirrodin booster, not bad but only three cards that will really help my deck. Icy Manipulator, Irradiate and Mindslaver. Icy is always good, irradiate is OK but depends on you having artifacts already in play and Mindslave is cool. Giving you control over target players next turn. I had posted my card pool on the Magic online forum and got a couple of responses to help build the deck. I went with black/white with a splash of red.
Well, I played my five matches and ........ lost every one!! The first week I was losing 0-2, this week I improved to losing 1-2. The way the league works you press the play button and you are paired with someone who has also pressed the play button. I think it tries to pair you with someone who has similar results to you but if there is nobody waiting like that you get anybody. Apparently players hang around until there are only weak players waiting and then press play now. Well, I havent got time to frig around like that so I just press play and see what happens.

As luck would have it I seem to get good players matched against me. I know that I am a mediocre player at best but shucks|!! One in the top ten I get for a second week running. Oh well, it’s only a bit of fun for me and a way of increasing my card collection. It is a bit disappointing though. Any way the minute I decide to play a tiebreaker match I win 2-0. Doh!! You have to laugh.

Week 3 next and I can add a Darksteel booster.

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

My First MTGO League experience

Having played nothing but casual since joining MTGO I thought that I would like to have a go in a league environment. Mirrodin block sounded good as I knew those cards better. So signed up for a league that had started little more than an hour before, 16 players out of the maximum 256 signed on. For anybody that doesn’t know what a league involves here are the basics. You have to purchase a Mirrodin Tournament pack and 1 Darksteel and 1 5th Dawn booster. From these cards you construct a deck of minimum 40 cards. You can add extra lands for free.

The league runs for 4 weeks, each week you are allowed to play 5 matches for points, 1 for a loss and 2 for a win. After you have played your 5 matches for that week you can play for tiebreaker points. Each win gives you 1 TB point. At the start of each subsequent week you have the chance to purchase another booster to improve your card pool. 2nd week Mirrodin, 3rd week Darksteel and 4th week 5th Dawn. Well, do I need some improvement! The cards I got were pretty average. Some white flyers, a couple of decent equipment, a shatter and a shrapnel blast. Not much creature removal to speak of apart from that.

Match 1
Lose 0-2 – I am sure that I have built the deck wrong, too many colours and not focussed enough.

Match 2
Lose 0-2 – Persevered with the deck, that was a mistake, another drubbing.

Match 3
Lose 0-2 – Tweaked the deck a bit, didn’t a scrap of difference another loss.

Before match 4 I thought it’s time for a radical makeover. Changed to 2 colours, red and white, put all the flyers in that I had. And all the red removal, mostly for artifacts.

Match 4
Going much better, then in the first game lost the connection. Doh! That counts as a loss as I couldn’t get it back in the time limit (5 mins I think).

Match 5
Win 2-0. Hurray! A win at last. That Slith Ascendent with the bonesplitter comes good.

OK, now having the deck something like reasonable I played a couple of TB games. What do you know, played 3 won 2. So a little too late I think. Now there are the maximum 256 players signed up and the first 2 guys I played are both in the top 10. :(

So waiting for next week to see if the booster makes a significant difference, could do with some creature removal.

To be continued.

Tuesday 31st August - Puerto Rico

This time we played that classic 5 player game, Puerto Rico, attendees for this one were, Natalie, Steve, Neil, Garry and myself. The seating order always seems to be a factor in this game so we always determine random seating. For tonight this was, Garry (starting player), Natalie, Steve, Neil and myself. As usual It always pays to notice what the player on your right is collecting because they will be able to trade, ship and so on before you. Neil sitting to my right was going into the Corn market bigtime. The corn strategy has been tried before in our games and is a bit of a gamble, but Neil got it right as you will see. Garry seemed to diversify going Indigo, Sugar and Tobacco, Natalie was mainly Coffee and Indigo and Steve was Tobacco and quarries, lots of quarries. I started with a bit of Corn but with Neil on my right cornering the market I decided not to go that route collecting Sugar and Coffee. I was to Garry’s right so could get rid of my sugar before him and was far enough away from Nat so the Coffee should be OK.

In the end the game was extremely close, the only player not to buy a 10 building was Neil, everybody else had one each. Both Steve and Garry were having to throw stuff off the dock not having a warehouse early on. I got an Office which enabled me to sell my Coffee more easily. Neil got the Wharf which enabled him to ship shedloads of corn, which of course was his strategy. A very close game which the results will show.

Final Scores (C = chips, B=Buildings, Bo=Bonuses)
Garry 28c, 14b, 7bo = 49VP, Natalie 16c, 22b, 12bo =50VP, Steve 13c, 16b, 6bo = 35VP, Neil 42c, 10b, 0bo = 52VP, Colin 28c, 15b, 7bo = 50VP

Rating (0-10)
Colin 9