Thursday, July 26, 2007

July 24th - Hermagor

Richard managed to drive back from Birmingham to make our session this week, so we are four again. Garry's choice and he chose Hermagor, I think the only game he hadn't played from his Essen purchases from last year. Hermagor is a game by Emanuele Ornella, published by several companies, Rio Grande and Mind the Move among them.

Hermagor Board

Basically you are buying products then moving around the map of Hermagor and establishing trading stations and selling them. The board, which is quite a mess, is divided into 3 areas, the map of Hermagor, the marketplace (where the product tiles are bid for) and the production chart which shows how much each product is worth when sold. The game is in 3 phases, first tiles are drawn from a cloth bag and put on the marketplace. There are 3 types of tile, single product which also lets you increase the value of the product if you wish. Double product which doesn't and a few special tiles. Each player has 4 buyers (dobbers) which in turn they place on the tile grid in the spaces between the product tiles this has a cost the most influential spaces costing more, at the end of this the player with the most influence on a tile wins it.

Mid game

In phase 2 the tiles are distributed to the players with the most influence surrounding it. Then there is a payout depending on where your buyers are placed on the marketplace. Then in phase 3 your seller moves around the map establishing trading stations and selling the products that you hold the tile for. Moving along the roads has a cost too, which varies from 2 to 5. You can move and sell, move only or sell only. If you move only, the road tolls are only half. The board is divided into areas and dukedoms, the roads define the areas and rivers define the dukedoms. If you enclose an area with trading stations you can put a dobber on the production chart for a product that is indicated in the area. Basically that is it, you do that for a number of rounds which is determined by the number of playes. At game end you get extra money in several ways. In the dukedom in which you have least trading stations the number of TS is x 3. For each dobber on the production chart you get a points according to the value of the product and the player that has most TS on the main road gets 5 and the player who has the least gets -5. Add up your money and the player with the most is the winner!

Board at game end

Steve was the only one of us to have played before and that was only once. I forgot about the dukedoms completely when choosing my routes so only got 3 points for that whereas Steve got 15. The game is a bit of a brain burner but I enjoyed it and would play it again (and I would remember the dukedoms this time!). The most critical phase is the first, getting the right production tiles for the route you want to follow. I think we all enjoyed it.

Final Scores
Richard 106, Garry 86, Steve 82, Colin 75

Thursday, July 19, 2007

July 17th - Canal Mania 2nd Edition

This week we are back to full complement, Richard managing to finally get to a session. I think we may lose him next week though. Anyway, it was Richard's choice and he chose Canal Mania 2nd Edition. Everyone had played this version of Canal Mania except me, I had played the 1st edition so was keen to know what the differences were. Well the new board has removed a couple of hexes and added a couple of hexes, this happens mainly in the north, and quite a few of them have changed colour from the 1st edition. To reflect this there is a new set of contract cards, which now have 4 squares printed on them with a blob in the relevant square showing with part of the board they are in. There is also new junction contract cards, one per player, these are a value of 2 and must only be used to join 2 cities/towns. Obviously this helps to complete a network for yourself or screw up someone elses network. And finally the boat pieces have been changed to look a bit more like barges!

Getting to grips with the 2nd Edition

One thing we do is to get coloured cubes from another game and as the contracts are turned over mark the start and finish hexes on the board with one on the actual contract card, this gives a much clearer idea of what's going on. Garry started and of course picked the contract I was going to take, but I got Birmingham to Gloucester I think and that wasn't too bad. As it turned out no contracts for the middle section of the board came out that would have enabled me to build an efficient network. They were all north or south....sigh.

Board near the start

The number of points that trigger the end phase in a four player game is 50 and it didn't seem too long before we reached it. Richard, who had lagged a bit behind in the mid game, raced up to 2nd place, Garry and myself who had been near the front in mid game now dropped back as the final goods cubes were shipped.

Board end position

So, do I like the differences, having only played the original twice, and a while ago, it's a bit difficult to decide but I think I do. I like the little junction contracts, gives you a bit more flexibility in your plans. So, the scores were fairly evenly spread over a 14pt range.

Final Scores
Steve 86, Richard 78, Garry 76, Colin 72

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

July 10th - Caylus Magna Carta/Notre Dame

Once again Richard is tied up with work and it was his choice of game, so it was just Garry, Steve and myself to decide what to play. We chose Caylus Magna Carta. We had played Caylus last week so it would be interesting to see how the card game differed from the boardgame. The theme and mechanics are similar to the boardgame although obviously there is no board. Also there are no favours, no bailiff and no scoring track. What there is are cards, workers, resource markers, the provost, and castle building stones.

Garry checking his cards

At the start of the game the peddler card, the pass card and the castle are laid out. A number of pink cards according to the number of players are laid to the left of the peddlar. Each player has his own deck of cards, these are shuffled and the top 3 are drawn, you can ditch these and draw another 3 if they are not to your taste. You can do this once. Then on your turn you can:

1) build a new building by extending the road (paying the appropriate
resources) each card has a VP value which counts at the end of the game
2) pay 1 to draw a new building card
3) discard your hand and draw a fresh hand (with the discard deck being
shuffled for a new draw deck once the draw deck is exhausted)
4) place a worker on one of the existing building cards
5) build one of the common prestige building cards
6) pass

Once everyone has passed, players can in passing order move the provost up to 3 cards at a cost of 1 denier per card, then the buildings are activated up to the card with the provost. Card ownership is denoted by colour and when the card is activated the player with the worker on the card gets his reward, also the owner gets a benefit, either cubes or money. Then comes the castle building phase, each player in passing order can buy castle stones at a cost of 3 resources (1 wood, 1 food, 1 stone), these stones are worth either 4VP, 3VP or 2VP. The highest value stones are bought until they run out. The player who built the most stones (or first to build if a tie) gets a gold cube. Note the gold cubes are like jokers and can substitute for any other resource in this game.

Caylus Magna Carta card layout

The game ends when all the castle building stones are gone. Player with the most VPs is the winner. The game seems to flow really well, although some of the decisions are a bit harder I think. All in all I think we all liked it and it played a lot quicker than the boardgame, so much so that we were able to get in a game of Notre Dame after we finished.

Adding up the points

Final Scores
Garry 32, Steve 30, Colin 25

As I said we had enough time left to play another game and we chose Notre Dame, Steve and myself had played before but Garry hadn't. So Steve ran through the rules for his benefit.

Notre Dame

I really like this game there are several ways to go about winning, I managed to avoid the plague right up until the last round, but I also went for the park and got 4 cubes in it so garnered 2 extra VPs every time I scored VPs. Notre Dame itself also proved to be very lucrative and I managed to scoop the points on my own twice.

Board layout at game end

See June 26th entry for more pics and stuff on Notre Dame.

Final Scores
Colin 59, Steve 48, Garry 41

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 3rd - Caylus

So on our rota it's the week for the BGG top ten and we are down to Caylus. This William Attia designed game was published in 2005 by Ystari Games and won a whole slew of awards in 2005/6. We had played it a few times before and found it a good game if a little long for what it offered. Maybe Caylus Magna Carta will address this problem, Garry has a copy which we haven't played yet, according to BGG the playing has been more than halved. Anyway, with Richard caught up with work in Birmingham again (he really will have to get his priorities right!!!!) it was up to Garry, Steve and myself to do the honours. When Steve and myself arrived at Garry's he had already set up the game and we were ready to go, we just had a brief run through the rules to refresh our memories.

Steve placing a dobber

In this game good planning is essential, otherwise you can decide to build a brown building say, and if you need cubes to build it find that when you get to build it the tile that gets you the cubes you need is after it. Doh! I have done this before but managed to avoid it this time, although Steve did get caught a couple of times. There are many different strategies you can pursue to try and win and this gives the game a complex and many layered feel to it. Going first in each round does give you the edge if you really need a dobber on that tile, and putting a dobber on the tile that lets you pay only 1 denier even if others have passed can be beneficial, Steve went on that first and I thought that would give him a significant advantage so pushed him off and put my own there, the only thing, as I discovered is that it gives you one less dobber to put on other tiles, so maybe that wasn't such a good move.

Other view of the board

Deciding what buildings to build also is quite important, if you can build ones that you know are quite important and other players will use them you can get a steady trickle of VPs from them. If you think building the important ones gives the other players an advantage because they are in play, well somebody will probably build them anyway and you might as well get the VPs from their use. In this game we didn't get to build one blue building before the game ended. In actual fact the end of the game seemed to rush at us and I know I didn't have enought time to do everything I wanted. I think Garry was quite pleased that it did as he had gained quite a substantial lead and in the end Steve and myself weren't able to overhaul him. The scores were very close in the end and the game took just over 2 hours.

Board position at game end

Final Scores
Garry 91, Steve 87, Colin 83