Wednesday, December 13, 2006

12th December - Kampf um Rome

The last session before the festive season for me, next week I shall be really busy so very unlikely to have time for gaming. Anyway tonight we had a full compliment to play Kampf um Rome, the new Settlers of Catan variation. In this game you have a fixed map of the Roman Empire with hidden counters on each city. There are 5 resources, wheat, ore, horses, oxen and gold. Each player has 2 tribes, horsemen and warriors, these start in the NE corner of the board, and basically you move your tribes across the board looting the cities for the counters which give some benefits, gold, resources or development cards but also in most cases cause you to lose a man which weakens your armies. When you have at least counters in three different colours you can start to conquer the cities, when you do this your tribe stops moving and then conquers cities within one arrow away. You have to have an army equal in the strength to the number of watchtowers in the city.

It is an interesting decision when to stop pillaging and when to start conquering. I got the required 3 different colour counters for both my horse tribe and my warrior tribe, I had a development card which let me move anywhere on the board, so I moved my horse tribe to the middle of Spain and started to conquer cities from there. My warriors settled in Gaul and started their expansion there. One interesting thing is that once I had settled I had no gold and the only way I could get any was to do nothing in the build phases and either pick up 2 gold or a resource of my choice. I think I was the first to settle and start conquering, Richard started next, Steve third and Garry seemed to be quite happy to carry on looting!! With rules explanation the game lasted just on 2 hours which was OK. The scores where really close, with Steve just nicking the win.

I must say I enjoyed this Settlers variation a lot more than some of the others I have played. I usually get really useless die rolls and so not a lot of resources, in this game that didn't seem to happen, although I think Richard suffered in this respect a bit. There definitely wasn't as much trading between players in this game and my progress did stall a bit just after I started to conquer cities, you have to place a wagon and tribe member in each city as you conquer them, so you need to keep building them, and I didn't have the correct resources for a couple of turns.

Final Scores (money is the tiebreaker)
Steve 10, Richard 8(2), Garry 8(1), Colin 8 (0)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

5th December - Ur

On the table tonight was one of the games I purchased at Essen this year, Ur, published by What's Your Game? and designed by Paolo Mori. Basically this game consists of 40 double sided tiles and number of cubes for each player. On each side of the tiles is depicted an action, Agriculture, Trade, Politics, Culture and finally War. . The tiles are laid out in a 6 x 6 grid with no tile the same as an adjacent one, and each player starts with a tile in hand. In your turn you are allowed to perform none, one or both of the actions depicted on the tile. If you only perform one action you can put an extra block on a tile you control, if perform none of the actions you can put 2 blocks on tiles you own or 1 block on any free tile. Finally at the end of your turn you exchange your tile for a free tile on the board, this tile cannot have the same pair of actions as the one you hold. Each action allows you to manipulate your blocks in some way or another. The objective is to control as many tiles as you can by the end of the game, you then put all the tiles you control into sets and score points according to the sets you can make up. You can only have a maximum of 5 blocks on a tile, you can also choose to build a ziggurat, there are 5 ziggurats in the game and when the fifth one is built that is one of the ways to end the game. To build a ziggurat you take replace the 5 blocks on a tile you control with the ziggurat and mark it with a block, this takes that tile effectively out of the game and cannot be affected by actions any more. You can only build a maximum of 2 ziggurats per turn. The other way to end the game is if you cannot exchange your tile with a different one from the board.

The Tile Grid

We managed to get in two plays of this game and as with most games the way to play the game becomes a lot clearer second time around. Steve and Richard homed in on the Agriculture tiles in the second game to get a lot of blocks onto the board quickly. The war action is very powerful as you can attack many times using one war action, a fact that Steve and I think Garry didn't realise until halfway through the first game. As the tile each player has is in view you know in advance what actions they are likely to take next turn which can be helpful. You also have to keep an eye on the ziggurats as they can get built quickly and the game is finished before you are ready.

A close up of the tile grid

I enjoyed this game although from my score you can see I did a lot better when I didn't really know what I was doing!!! There are many options available on your turn and as you have only 20 blocks available to you war and ziggurats are necessary to get some blocks back. All in all a game with a bit of meat on it that plays in an hour.

Final Scores - game 1
Richard 30, Steve 27, Colin 27, Garry 17

game 2
Steve 36, Garry 32, Richard 31, Colin 13