Fomalhaut as a board game player

Just a couple of notes concerning me and games...

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Spending Earth Hour night according to modern fashion

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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Tori

For those knowing me well, it would probably be obviuos that I would be interested in a game set during the 1952 Olympic Games in Finland’s capital (called Helsingfors in one of the country’s two domestic languages, Helsinki in the other). Thus, when I found Tori at my favourite retailer’s, I bought it and couldn’t take my eyes from it.

Last Saturday (25 March) Anna and Simon had taken a weekend off from their children and spent one evening with Sofia and me. Tori was the first game to play.

”It is now the summer of 1952. We are at Salutorget in Helsingfors, the Olympics is soon to start and we have travelled from different parts of the country to sell our goods on the city square. We sell white ice-cream, yellow lemonade, green vegetables, blue fish, red flowers and purple… well, not purple souvenirs, but the souvenir stands are purple.”

So I started and we chose what historical provinces to represent. The rules were set out and we started playing, with Sofia first (as the Norwegian rules state that the player having last been to Finland goes first!).

Sofia: Savolax
Anna: Satakunda
Simon: Tavastland
Sven: Österbotten

(I choose on purpose to use the Swedish names of the provinces. That is not due to bad knowledge of how words for Finland’s geographical features should be used in an English context, but because the Swedish-speaking population of Finland right now needs all support it can have.)

This was one of the strangest plays I have ever been part of. The game was fine. Our strategies were fine. My play was… well, as one might think of when it comes to a novice playing a game only known from its rules.

Thus it started off well. I concentrated on claiming the majority cards for purple and combined it with one or two lower colours. Then, however, there was always a blue customer on my purple entrance spot and nobody wanted to sell fish. Not only once, or for one or two rounds, but always!

My tactics, or my ability to change strategy throughout the game, was probably weaker than I would have needed, because my points became fewer and fewer. I lacked the cards I needed, I had too many cards of the wrong type and overshot the hand limit, the purple silver card was lost, the purple gold card was lost, all other majority cards were also lost…

After 65 minutes of play, feeling desperate and only wanting the game to end, I bought the fifth and last yellow lemonade expansion piece. That gave me one single point for equaling the lemonade majority and ended the game.

All players’ points were now tallied. In front of Simon was a bunch of cards, while Sofia and Anna were not far from the same amount. The two bonus cards (for obtaining a set number of expansions in certain areas or of certain colours), were also checked. Sofia was asked by somebody whether she had fulfilled one of them, answering
– Er… yeah, of course, why not? That was fundamental.
– Well, I answered, I did not complete my area card…

That bad it was, and the final standing was as follows:

Sofia (Savolax): 13
Anna (Satakunda): 15
Simon (Tavastland): 16
Sven (Österbotten): 4

It felt as if my eyes were black. I don’t mind losing a game if I have done a lot right but an opponent having done it… righter? And if I have played wrong? Fine, I’ll do it better next time. But this… I had longed for a play of this game and then the result was a complete fiasco – une débâcle à la meilleure or the like.

However, a minute later Anna stated:
– Now I want to play this again, when I know what it is about.

That was nice. We didn’t play it again this evening, but now I suppose we will try it again. And I will play quite differently…

Love letter

This was the night of the Earth Hour, and as we approached the time set for that universal happening, Sofia lit candles and whispered to me that she wanted to play Love Letter. (That sounds strange, I see when I read it, but I let it stand as written!)

Yes, I had thought something similar, as Love Letter is a rather simple game, with few but big cards, easily seen also in poor lighting. So when we had gone through the eight types of cards we soon had started – and after 20 minutes or so it was finished, long before the Earth hour was over.

Usually I don’t like elimination games, as sooner or later somebody has lost and must watch the others play without taking part. Here, of course, it’s different, as the elimination only lasts for a minute and then next round starts. Love letter is easy, simple, basic and just cute, so I kind of like it although it doesn’t fulfil any of my true wishes for a game. A nice pastime it is!

But – when we played this game two years ago, a player won when she had her fourth token. Now, according to this copy’s rules for a 4-player-game, only three tokens were needed to win. I wonder where that change came from. I will try to convince us all of following the older rules next time…

Final result:
Sofia: 3
Sven: 2
Anna: 0
Simon: 0

Saboteur

Anna and Simon had bought Saboteur at a retailer in Göteborg/Gothenburg the same day and Simon had read the rules on the bus home. Another card game but completely different and it sure qualified as a board game, as the card forms a board after a while.

However, this play was hampered by us misunderstanding the rules on a vital point. Also the strategy was misunderstood, or at least ”not found” within our brains during play. The game ought to be played this way:
1) If the miners (maybe led by the saboteur) reaches a wrong goal card, play isn’t interrupted, but continues until the right goal card is reached (or the players run out of cards).
2) The miners (non-saboteurs) are supposed to work together and not put different stop-cards in front of each other only because it’s fun to do it.

While we had not understood these basics, the game instead went like this.
First round: we easily got to the correct goal card and nobody was a saboteur. The four gold cards distributed turned out to be single gold so we were all tied on 1 point.
Second round: the saboteur got us to the wrong goal card, where the round ended and the saboteur got 4 points, now leading on 5.
Third round: the saboteur got us to the wrong goal card, where the round ended and the saboteur got 4 points, thus sharing the win with the previous saboteur on 5 points.

This is a game that will be much funnier next time, when we play it correctly.

Final result:
Sofia: 5
Simon: 5
Sven: 1
Anna: 1

It wasn’t very late when we had finished Saboteur, but 1) Sofia was supposed to work quite early next morning, 2) we would lose one hour of sleep due to the agony-inducing invention of so called ”daylight saving time”, and 3) I had promised to do the dishes. That took longer time than playing Love letter and Saboteur, so I too was rather tired when we split up and left…

*


What to play next? Well, I think all three games from this night are in our good books so we might start from there. There will also very most likely be a surprise for my fellow gamers, but I cannot say anything about that here, as they sometimes read my posts….
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Tue Apr 4, 2017 1:52 pm
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Two short plays of little games

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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A few weeks ago I placed an order at the Swedish online retailer Worldofboardgames. I have used them some times before, as both supply and prices are good (at least as far as I can tell) and I have found the deliveries without any faults. Now they had a number of special offers for mostly less know games but also some that I have often seen mentioned at Boardgamegeek. For me it led to an appealing box of ten different games and expansions. Yammi!

Yesterday I joined Sofia after the Friday fika, having in my rucksack brought two small boxes…

Patchwork

We decided to try Patchwork. It is a cute little game and it was particularly interesting as none of us had played it, read about it or thought about strategy or tactics. The rules were easy though, so we simply tried our best. I started by taking a strange piece and put it close to the centre of one side and then built my fabric from left to right. Sofia began at a corner and slowly advanced towards the opposite one. (This might have been the reason for me much later gaining the 7x7 bonus tile.)

I took two of the first single patches, which led to an elegant solution in a complicated corner. Sofia took the other three and elegantly solved one troublesome part of her web. I had been afraid of having a patchwork with many holes, but that didn’t happen.

What did happen, however, was that I concentrated on making an aesthetically appealing patchwork, building it as were it a tetris game of my youth, while Sofia collected buttons. More than once I was almost out of buttons – Sofia had tens of them and every time we passed a button receiving spot, Sofias patches were rewarding. She finally had 17 button symbols while I had 13, but that difference was enhanced due to her having gotten them much, much earlier than me…

I won the bonus tile in my second to last round and that felt nice. Then Sofia crossed the finish line with 9 unbuilt squares in her lower-left corner in addition to 36 regular buttons. I had a final move to do, bought a 5-square patch and ended with 12 unbuilt squares, 22 buttons and the 7-point-bonus. Ouch!

Final result:
Sven (green): 22 – 12 x 2 + 7 = 5
Sofia (yellow): 36 – 9 x 2 = 18

Love Letter

Two years ago I had donated a copy of Love Letter to two friends of us, but apart from that single, dark January evening, we had never played it again. Sofia had requested it (or mentioned it in a friendly voice) and as it is a rather cheap game, I had now included it in my order.

We went through the cards, what they do and how they might be used. Then we played a 2-player-game: first to 5 hearts win.

Well, the game is a gem and it was nice playing it but we both appreciated it more with 4 players. Some rounds ended in the very beginning, some continued longer but we never emptied the draw pile.

Final standings:
Sven: 3
Sofia: 5

There will probably be more plays next weekend. Of Love Letter maybe, but also Tori, anther recent buy that is so beautiful and with a theme that from many perspectives is so nice that I really, really long to play it. Rather than just watching the game box daily…
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Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:31 pm
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Waffles and games

Sven F.
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Västra Götaland
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When we were invited to Anna and Simon for the N:th time (and N approaches infinity), Sofia and I decided to, for once, answer for the food. We chose to make Swedish crisp waffles with jam and typically un-Swedish vegetables and non-meat mince (during Lent one should minimize the meat, I think the reason was). *

There were many waffles and when we all were full, young Samuel could take two more and thus nothing was saved for breakfast. Then Samuel and his little sister were put in front of a nice film, while their older siblings and the four grown-ups played Colt Express.

*) Why is it so, that I cannot start a sentence ”We chose to […]” without mentally continuing it ”We chose to go to the moon.”? Strange, indeed…

Colt Express

It was again a nice play and I think the game deserves its Spiel des Jahres win. Not at all deep, but there are strategic choices during each round. Having last month lost partly due to not shooting enough, I initially decided to take part in the quest for being the most frequent shooter. However, it became obvious that Aron had the same goal and when he mentioned that loud (and also was 2-3 shots ahead of me), I chose to collect money in stead. (Aron actually emptied his gun, thus winning the bonus with a margon of at least 2 shots.)

A second money bag was added during this play, and I got one of them. To win with money only, one must have a lot of money and my §1750 was not enough. It made me tie with Aron for second place though, as he in addition to his §1000 bonus got, like myself, one ruby and one §250 wallet. The other §1000 suitcase I think went to Linnea, but she didn’t get anything else, thus this time switching positions with Aron and ending up last (at the first play they finished the other way around).

Simon won this play by not concentrating on any of the §1000 prices. In stead he stole many gems and smaller money for a combined value of §2150.

Final standings:
6) Linnea (red): 1000+0 = 1000
4) Anna (white): 1300
2) Sven (purple): 1000+500+250 = 1750
1) Simon (blue): 3x500+400+250 = 2150
2) Aron (black): 1000+500+250 = 1750
5) Sofia (green): 1150

Sofia grumbled about once again playing last. In a 6-player game with 5 rounds, the sixth player never leads a round. (That might be negative but is it in reality?)

Like our first play, this ended with some of the players being away from the gaming table (previously known as ”kitchen table”) and I am not sure everybody went to bed actually knowing the result. This is obviously a game were the play itself is central – the final result is less important.

Power Grid

When the children had left, the four of us all agreed on trying Power Grid again. This time we knew a bit more on how the game plays and we did not buy as many power stations. During our first play, Stage 2 had only last halv a turn while Stage 3 lasted until all power stations were sold and/or gone removed from the game. Now I think the game took more of a normal course.

We had chosen the American side of the board, but I don’t think there was any big difference to playing Germany. Somebody remarked that there were more short distances in (eastern) America, but did it really affect gameplay? I’m not sure. However, Anna, having started in the Midwest, had hardly no competition early on, probably due to us avoiding the expensive connections there, while Simon and I (and soon Sofia) clashed at the east coast and ”Mideast”.

Getting power stations to provide for the necessary 17 cities was rather easy, but approaching the end of the game we all struggled to buy the cities. Thus money became the critical issue. When we finally reached to 17 cities I had power stations to support 19 cities but… well, I finished last due to money shortage. Maybe that was why I lost. Had I had bought too good stations? Actually it was rather frustrating not to find a simple reason to losing – usually I can see what I did wrong and looking for revenge. ”Next time I will play better, do this in stead of that and thus being victorious!” (It works sometimes but for certain not always!)

Final standings:
2) Anna (blue): 17 cities (could power 18)
4) Sven (red): 16 cities (could power 19)
1) Simon (purple): 18 cities
3) Sofia (yellow): 17 cities

That was all for now. Next time it will be something else. New games, I presume?
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Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:20 am
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Unboxing Christmas’ game shelves additions

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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Having not met since two weeks before Christmas, we tried to get the quartet together again. First Anna and Simon were away, then I traveled to some relatives and finally Sofia was busy with work or something else. Finally, however, we could get together on January 7.

Since last time I had on Christmas Eve been given Colt Express by sister A, and Power Grid by Sofia. During ”Middle Days” (literal translation from an old Swedish expression for the days between Christmas and New Year, as well as New Year and Epiphany) I had opened them both and thoroughly studied the Power Grid rules. I seemed to be an extraordinary game and I had found myself almost depserately looking forward to play.

During the same time Anna had her birthday and had from Simon gotten Stone Age. Their family had played it many times, with their children taking an active part. It was obvious they liked it and wanted to introduce it to the rest of our little group.

Power Grid (January 7)

So, having eaten a lasagne we decided on starting with Power Grid. The box said it would take two hours to finish it, but I supposed it would be somewhat longer the first time. Could it have taken 15-20 minutes to present the rules and basic concept? Something like that…

We choose more or less our usual colours and headed on, using the four southern districts of the Germany map.

First, it went rather slow. In every round we bought one power plant each, slowly built our networks and advanced on the city scale. Two cities became three or four, continuing to six and seven. Wow – here comes Stage 2!

And then came Stage 3. We didn’t even fulfil one whole turn at Stage 2. The reason might be that we had bought that many power plants – maybe we should have restricted ourselves, not buying more than necessary? More frequent passing would probably be more advantageous during another play.

Our networks quickly became bigger when we had reached the second line of the city count. That is, thinking ”Oh, we’ve played for hours and still only reached 7 of the 17 cities we need – this will take forever!” was plain wrong. From 10 we expanded to 14 and from 14 to 17.

”Anna is in the golden position” I said during one of the last turns. By then, we had three power plants each and the rest had left the game, meaning we were stuck with what we had. Counting the number of cities that those plants could provide with electricity, Sofia, Simon and Sven all had 17, while Anna’s could possibly furnish 18.

But first we must get those cities. The networks grew rapidly when all money could go to cities rather than new plants, so after almost three hours (including start-up), both Sven (west-south) and Sofia (central-east) bought their 17th cities.

According to the rules, there is not unusual that a player reaches 17 cities but cannot power them all. That, however, was not at all relevant for us. At least during this first play, we simply didn’t buy more cities until we had use for them.

An interesting difference, was that Sven had invested in two oil burning plants and one nuclear power plant, while Sofia burnt waste, had an energy-rich solar/wind plant and rounded off with the fusion power plant. The difference in environmental policy couldn’t be clearer!

And maybe that was the reason for the final outcome. Sven had to buy a couple of fuel tokens each round, while Sofia was almost free from that, thus saving some money. Vital money for this play…!

Final standings:
2) Sven (red): 17 powered cities (36 €)
1) Sofia (yellow): 17 powered cities (80 €)
3) Anna (blue): 15 powered cities
4) Simon (purple): 14 powered cities

Final verdict then? Wow, I really want to play this again. What a game – with so many interesting decisions, combined with an appealing theme.

Stone Age (January 7)

Next in line was Stone Age. I had only seen the box but had neither studied its rules, nor remembered any reviews. As soon as Simon and Anna started going through the rules, a single word (or two?) came up in my mind. ”Worker placement”. I haven’t played many games with that mechanic, maybe only Carcassonne (and that failed experiment with Dominant Species, which I mentioned a year ago). Stone Age must be a rather perfect example and thus a game completely different from our other frequently used games.

So, the general gameplay was gone through and seemed simple enough, but how do you win the game? Where do the points come from? That we asked, and having heard that the hut points were so small that they don’t decide the winner, and having gotten some sort of instructions on the cards’ green halves, Simon told us to just play, collect cards and then count points at the end.

That we did. We placed our pawns, collected our pawns and resources, got some cards and bought some huts. The play went on and it was really straight-forward. Great!

Then the game ended and points were counted.

Provisional standings:
Simon (green): 43
Anna (blue): 50
Sven (red): 114
Sofia (yellow): 73

Wow, I lead! That is, I was ahead on huts points and some other small bonuses. But, that was not what would decide the game’s outcome, Simon had said.

I had a couple of cards, of some different types. Mostly, however, I had collected green cards, all in all six of them. Could they be worth something? Oh, yes, they could – and all of a sudden I had won!

Final standings:
2) Simon (green): 143
4) Anna (blue): 102
1) Sven (red): 166
3) Sofia (yellow): 113

After this play I spent a day or two, discussing with myself possible strategies and how to think during a later session, as it really was an inspiring play of an interesting game.

Stone Age (February 5)

Four weeks after having played two of our three ”new arrivals”, we gathered again. This time on a Sunday afternoon, when we all had been to churches, worked or were of other reasons tired. But Simon had cooked salmon and potatoes and after half an hour or so of relaxing on the couch, playing with the three-year old’s toy farm or whatever we chose to do, we were ready for a replay of Stone Age.

This time I had a strategy: collect lots of points from hut cards. I had learnt from the first play, that those points could well count for the majority of the total points. So, off I went…

I took an early lead, extended it but was a little worried due to the fact that the others narrowed that gap later. Simon in particular managed to collect about 40 points on one single hut, by using expensive resources en masse.

Provisional standings:
Simon (green): 86 (5 huts)
Sofia (yellow): 95 (6 huts)
Anna (blue): 94 (5 huts)
Sven (red): 125 (9 huts)

The other fact that I had learnt during our first play, was that the green cards could potentally give many points, if I could manage to get many different. Two or three were easy to collect – and then no new cards were available. Only one or two were possible to buy, but they were identical to cards I already had. In the end that gave me only three green cards. I sighed… In stead I happened to collect ”points for each meeple” cards, thus giving me an incentive to increase my red tribe (which lead to a constant food shortage; once I had to let my people eat wood to survive…).

When we counted all points during endgame, I took notes: category by category. Those notes, however, are very incomplete and either did I make an outright error or did we move a pawn one point wrong. The order between players, were probably right, though.

Final standings:
3) Simon (green): 86 (5 huts) + 25 (5 green cards) + 0 + 4 x 5 + 8 x 3 + 0 = 154
4) Sofia (yellow): 95 (6 huts) + 9 (3 green cards) + 4 x 6 + 0 = 141
1) Anna (blue): 94 (5 huts) + 25 (5 green cards) + 2 x 7 + 3 x 5 + 7 x 6 + 2 = 192
2) Sven (red): 125 (9 huts) + 9 (3 green cards) + 2 x 4 + 0 + 9 x 4 + 0 + 3 = 181

Colt Express (February 5)

Five hours after Sofia’s and my arrival, we had eaten lunch and dinner but only played one game. Now, however, when the two youngest hade gone to bed, we were keen on playing my second Christmas present. Colt Express is a game that I had read about somewhere and noted in my mobile phone. Thus, when one of my sisters called me in December, I had mentioned it. I was a little worried, as I had added a question mark after the game, indicating that I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted the game or had to look it up more carefully before I got it. Maybe the train theme was the only reason it had caught my interest?

Few games need so much preparation to be played. All six waggons and the locomotive had to be physically built. Some fluff were also in the box, but for what reason? Was the game mainly aimed towards children? In addition to that, there were lots of cards, of which some seemed unnecessary (station cards, somebody?). But okay, I had read the rules twice, learnt them and taught them to an unvisible audience, so now we had to playtest.

Since the game is for 2-6 players, aged 10 and up, Simon and I agreed that we would welcome Linnéa (11) and Aron (9) as independent players. We set at the table, put the train diagonally across it, and I went through the rules.

They might seem complicated, but as I started with the meaning of each card and thereafter added the fact that they were to be played several rounds before they were to be executed, I think the rules seemed fairly easy to understand.
– Like programming robots in RoboRally! Sofia exclaimed insightfully.
The turn cards were the last to go through. The kids asked intelligent questions and had no more trouble than any other understanding the rules and basic gameplay. That was great and paved the way towards a fun play.

And fun it was. I don’t hesitate to say that it was tremendously fun! In fact, according to my interpretations of facial expressions and laughter, it was one of the most extraordinary plays I’ve been part of. I’ll mention but one example: Anna had played a ”shot” card and when the card was executed, she yelled ”No! I must shoot one of my children!” I suppose the laughs are still echoing across the room.

We ran – or let our bandits run – along the train. Up and down, some were shot by the sheriff twice in a row, some tried to steal money or jewels from empty waggons, some walked around and got nothing done. Many smiles and sighs and encouraging words followed – and after less than an hour the game ended.

My own strategy was to get hold of as much money as possible, including the thousand dollar suitcase. This got me into a peculiar situation, where I climbed down from the roof, hit Sofia out of the locomotive, made her lose the suitcase and grabbed it myself. During the next round I took for granted that she would come back to take it from me, but that didn’t happen so instead I spent the last turn foolishly hitting invisible people, running past wondering bandits but not shooting.

The bonus for having shot the most was shared between three players, all having shot three times: Linnea, Anna and Sofia. This proved important, as it lifted Anna and Linnea to the top, and Sofia from last to fourth.

Final standings:
3) Sven (white/Ghost): 2250 (1000 + 2 x 500 + 250)
2) Linnea (green/Cheyenne): 3050 (2 x 500 + 1050 + 1000)
1) Anna (blue/Doc): 3500 (1000 + 1500 + 1000)
6) Aron (red/Tuco): 800
5) Simon (black/Django): 900
4) Sofia (purple/Belle): 1000 (0 + 1000)

Of course (I say to those who have played Colt Express), it isn’t a particularly deep game. There are a lot of meaningful decisions, so it isn’t too shallow either, but compared to Power Grid and Stone Age, I suppose Colt Express is less of a strategy game and more of a family oriented gateway boardgame. That is, exactly the kind of games that I like.

However, that said, I still definitely long for another play of Power Grid.
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Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:46 am
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Gaming night with four happy winners

Sven F.
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Västra Götaland
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After a lively conversation in our private chat, where game after game was wished, I brought six games to our group's meeting.

We started with Ave Caesar, a game that we had only played once and while I then had gotten the impression that we weren't too impressed with it, it had been mentioned a couple of times lately. The play this second time went smooth and I think we all more or less liked it, so it might well be more plays of Ave Caesar in the future.

We played three rounds and interesting was that on three occasions players scored zero points. In the first round it happened to Anna, who was twice stopped from reaching the emperor's passage. Regularly we all tried to get there on the first lap, but one or two failed to enter, due to somebody being in the way, somebody voluntarily blocking it or the player herself not having the cards to reach it (the last happened at least me once). Being blocked on both first AND second lap, however, only happened Anna in the first round.

In the second round Anna and Sofia had taken the outer lap in too many curves, meaning their cards weren't enough and they stopped short before the finish line. That was an interesting destiny, that had me trying to force people out there in the third round. I managed to do it a couple of times, but not enough to have anybody fail to reach the goal.

When we tallied the points after three rounds, Simon, Sofia and I were very close. Sofia had won twice, but scoring 0 the third meant Simon won the game with a single point.

First round (white course, clockwise)
Anna (blue): 0
Simon (green): 4
Sofia (yellow): 6
Sven (red): 3

First round (blue course, clockwise)
Sven (red): 4
Anna (blue): 0
Simon (green): 6
Sofia (yellow): 0

Third round (white course, counter-clockwise)
Sofia (yellow): 6
Sven (red): 4
Anna (blue): 2
Simon (green): 3

Final standings:
Anna (blue): 0+0+2=2
Simon (green): 4+6+3=13
Sofia (yellow): 6+0+6=12
Sven (red): 3+4+4=11

------------------------

Sofia had talked a lot about Robo Rally, a game that our group had only played once before. Now we tried it again and actually had time to do it twice in a row.

First play was a four-flag race on the Chop shop board. We placed one flag each and started off. As this edition specifies, the starting board must be used but I'm not very fond of it, as it gives some players large advantages due to their starting position. I think the original version, with the "ghost robots" starting from the same position, was better. (However I haven't played that since the last millennium, when I as a student in Kiruna played the game with a couple of friends, so I might have forgotten its pros and cons...)

I won this play rather easily, reaching the fourth flag long before anybody was at the third and if I remember it correctly most didn't even come to flag 2...

We then tried the "Death trap", a 3-flag course proposed by the designer and played on the Island board. Again I took the lead and was first to the second flag. Then it went wrong, however, and having the wrong cards for moving to flag 3 right away – there is a way to do it in only two phases – my robot took a long detour, leading to conveyor belt misery and finally death in a pit. In the meantime Anna had rushed through the course and won the game. It was an interesting course and I wouldn't mind playing it again.

------------------------

What is a gaming night without a Ticket to Ride play? This time it was Heart of Africa, for us supposedly the second play on this map.

I started with four tickets, all stretching along the eastern coast from Addis Abeba to Cape Town. That had my fellow players laughing a lot as I collected mountain terrain cards as soon as they came up. With having to build a lot of long routes, including the long ferry to Madagascar, the white/black/grey terrain cards suited me very well.

The game also started well for everybody. We didn't go into any dangerous clashes anywhere, concentrating on completely different parts of the map. This changed a bit closer to the end of course, but I don't think we blocked each other a lot anyway.

Sofia and I ran away pointwise, ending 30 points ahead of Anna and Simon. That was partially due to us having doubled our scored many times, partially due to Sofia's impressive ending conditions. No waggons left, no terrain cards left and only one single train card. The rest of us had both waggons and cards left, which is not ideal.

So we went to tickets. Sofia had 4 high-scoring ones, getting her to almost 200 points. I also had 4 tickets, but only two of them were worth more than 7-8 points, so I ended far below Sofia. Then came Anna, who had failed 3 of her 6 tickets (one failure due to having misread the city name on the board) and thus finishing last. Simon, finally, had no less than 7 tickets and a rather widespread network, which got him close to Sofia's points total. Adding bonus for most tickets... and Sofia sighed of relief for a winning margin of only 3 points.

Final standings:
Sofia (yellow): 117 (routes) + 75 (4 of 4 tickets) = 192
Sven (red): 114 (routes) + 48 (4 of 4 tickets) = 162
Anna (purple): 86 (routes) + 40 - 23 (3 of 6 tickets) = 103
Simon (black) 81 (routes) + 98 (7 of 7 tickets) +10 (bonus) = 189

The evening had started with a tasteful salad and continued with a delicious cake and tea and some odd crisps. Add four rather nice kids into the mix, and fact that our four plays ended with one win each for us. Such is the recipe for a successful evening.
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Wed Jul 13, 2016 11:51 am
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Twice around Gotland

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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Yesterday it was the Swedish national day / Day of the Swedish Flag, and as the main Swedish tradition for that day is not to celebrate it, I had been at home until late afternoon. (Most Swedes, by the way, have more important and eventful traditions at the graduation day / school breaking-up that also occur these days, and midsummer two weeks later.) Now I had nothing else to do and as I suspected Sofia had neither, I grabbed my two most easily-packed TtR maps with their destination tickets and rolled over to her side of the neighbourhood. We talked a bit, had some homemade miniature hamburgers with a lot of goodies, ending the evening with two plays on the miniature Gotland map (an unpublished fan expansion map).

I have mentioned it before, that it uses only 20 waggons per player and for the two of us each play now took about 15 minutes. The two plays were identical not only when it came to the playing time, but also the result and (almost) scores.

First play:

I started with Visby–Katthammarsvik (5) and Roma–Ronehamn (5), two fairly combineable tickets, and kept also Fårö–Lärbro (3) as a means to get closer to the bonus for most tickets. Sofia also kept all three: the neat Bläse–Fårösund (5) in the north and the long north-western Fårösund–Klintehamn (9), combined with the little Västerhejde–Roma (3).

Later I went for new tickets, and chose Klintehamn–Hemse (5) and Visby–Burgsvik (8). I hesitated somewhat, as Sofia had many train cards in her hand and could possibly go out rather fast. This was a great failure for me as precisely that happened. I had only completed two of my starting tickets and when I only had two turns after having taken the new tickets, I had to minimize my losses, finishing off at least one of the tickets, the largest one.

Sofia had taken a big lead for routes, with two 5’s and two 4’s along the coast. I had, in spite of starting the game, only been able to use 14 of 20 waggons and when I lost points for two of my tickets and Sofia only for one tiny one, the winning margin was huge.

Longest route: Sofia (18 of 20 built). Sven (9 of 14 built).

Sven (red): 18 (routes) + 6 (3 of 5 tickets) + 8 (bonus for most tickets) = 32
Sofia (yellow): 36 (routes) + 11 (tickets) + 8 (bonus for longest route) = 55

Second play:

This time I started with Visby–Lärbro (4) and Tingstäde–Baltikum (4). That was built fast and I grabbed a third ticket: Fårösund–Klintehamn (9). Sofia had Gotska Sandön–Slite (10) and Lärbro–Ronehamn (5), soon to be joined by Visby–Katthammarsvik (5).

This time Sofia followed the eastern coast, while I tried to go more inland, with a short sea journey towards Balticum (Sweden and Balticum are both ”neighbouring countries” on this map). I had counted my waggons and they were enough for finishing my network, but when I understood Sofia needed Roma–Katthammarsvik, I couldn’t help blocking her. It lost us both some points, but the final result would have been the same: another huge win for Sofia…

Longest route: Sofia (14 of 20 built). Sven (10 of 18 built).

Sofia (yellow): 29 (routes) + 10 (2 of 3 tickets) + 8 (shared bonus for most tickets) + 8 (bonus for longest route) = 55
Sven (red): 23 (routes) - 1 (2 of 3 tickets) + 8 (shared bonus for most tickets) = 30

- - - - - - - - - - -

These two plays taught me that on this map the coastal lines, the longer ferries in the east and north-west, might be too powerful. When you play with only 20 waggons, somebody claiming three or more longer routes are close to finishing the whole game, probably long before a player with more tickets and shorter lines has been allowed to complete their tickets.

Maybe the bonus for ”most tickets” should be worth more than 8 points (12-15?), and maybe there shouldn’t be any bonus at all for ”longest continuous route”.

I might not re-work the Gotland map, but for future projects it will be interesting knowledge.
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Tue Jun 7, 2016 12:56 pm
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The perfect gift

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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When Sofia and I first became friends ten years ago, we soon found that we both liked playing games. The first years had the occasional plays of Monopoly and Chess, but our gaming sessions escalated when my sisters had given me Ticket to Ride: Europe for Christmas. That was a game that suited us perfectly and not only did it introduce me to modern board games, but it also gave me an interest in railways: their history and traffic.

Five years and 365 days after we first met, it was Sofia’s birthday again, and I got the idea of making her a custom Ticket to Ride map, covering the province where she grew up: Östergötland. I had designed a TtR map before and was working with another, but differing from those was the fact that this time I regarded it more of a piece of art. The map could of course be played but it should also let Sofia remember the old days. Some of the tickets mimicked certain road trips we had done, others how she and her family had moved and travelled in the past.
Sofia played the map with me a couple of times and also with other gaming friends here in our city, but the best response came when she brought it to her parents. “Wow!” they said, played it and even kept it, to play with their own friends. For them the historical accuracy was important, as they could remember some of the long gone narrow gauge railways and I suppose they had visited every single mentioned town and village on the map.

Then Sofia told me, some months ago, that her mother wished she had her own copy. I’m not sure if it was the mother or Sofia or even myself, that combined that wish with the mother’s upcoming 70th birthday, but I soon decided that I wanted to give her her own Ticket to Ride: Östergötland.

Now I could easily have opened the files on my computer and printed another copy. It would have cost me very little time and even less money, but the gift turned out to be a project that lasted the whole winter, with two months’ work (that is, most of my spare time for that period – I actually have a job to go to five days a week, and I follow almost every World Cup race in skiing, but many hours did I spend on a Birthday Present to my friend’s mother!).

First I decided to change some tickets. The plays I had been part of or had got references from, had shown a certain part of the map becoming extremely congested, so I decided to remove some tickets from that area, replacing them with others. That took some time, deeply analyzing the pattern of existing tickets as well as trying to remove some and adding others.

Then I decided to add some flavour. I was discussing with myself if four important churches could be shown in the map’s corners. I also usually add, in a small font, the names of important places (so that they can be represented in spite of not being railway junctions or ferry ports); when I did that now, however, I soon sat with dozens of such names within only a square decimeter (= 16 sq in?) of the map. How to handle that...

…well, I could make another map, covering only that area, the plain around Lake Tåkern! I thought.

Said and done, I brought a couple of maps from my desk and shelves (I like maps, if that wasn’t obvious already), found one with a suitable scale, covered it with a thin paper and started to make a sketch. Historical railways would be the base – in one of the books I also found another railway, never heard of before – and they would be completed by ferries and fictional railways. Almost every parish of the area could be included as a junction and off I went.

I searched the web, found a free map service that suited me well (or maybe I had it bookmarked already in my browser – I like maps, etc…), used my skills in Microsoft Word and the free “Paint” and after a few days I had a map ready.



(In different threads I find that people use expensive design software, but I can assure you: when you understand what you can do with Paint and Word and any web browser, they are fully enough for wonderful work.)
Then came the tickets. I made a greyscale print of the map, laid it on the floor and listed possible tickets. For each ticket, I placed trains along the shortest path (one train per route) between its ends, and after a while I had 40 tickets, which was enough. In the hypothetical case that all tickets were to be claimed, each route would now be used more or less equally often.



In addition to this base version “Around Lake Tåkern” (Sw: Tåkern runt), I also decided that I wanted a “Big Cities” version. I called this “The Plain’s Metropolises” (Sw: Slättens metropoler), which gave some joy, as some of the metropolises have only a few hundred inhabitants…

In the end I would have 61 tickets: 40 for the base version and 41 for the variant with some overlap. To find an easy way of distinguishing the tickets, I added one or two pictures in the tickets’ corners: Vadstena Castle for the Metropolises; a view of Lake Tåkern and Mount Omberg for the base version.

The “Ticket to Ride: Tåkern runt” now being completed, the mentioned pictures, both being photos taken by me, gave me my next idea. I wanted to make the tickets of the Östergötland map more personal, giving them some extra flavour. Why couldn’t I add some imagery there? Well, I could. I included one or two pictures on them too. Every photo was taken by me, all but a few were taken at or close to the ticket’s end points. In this way I could include the receiver’s family, a specific ice cream from a trip we all remember, the tent in which I stay when I visit them every summer, the house where they lived for a decade, the church they often go to… Railway stations, the Norrköping tram, Sweden’s only dual gauge track (in a neighbouring county but this map includes county-to-county tickets inspired by the official Märklin and Switzerland maps), even a steam train and heritage railcars – the family could spend an hour or two investigating the tickets with a magnifying glass in their hands.



How was this all to be packed? When I gave Sofia the Östergötland expansion, I had colour printed the map, used adhesive tape all over the back of the map’s eight or nine parts, so that it was playable and foldable but not very elegant. The tickets (front and back, placed in one common card sleeve) were placed in a small box, after which both map and ticket box was placed in a larger box.

Now I got a larger box but didn’t find any small ones. “Make your own!” the friends told me a Friday afternoon. So, having a tuckbox pdf from BGG as a model, I spent two hours in front of the tv (showing downhill skiing from Kvitfjell or Ga-Pa, I think), measuring card sizes with a caliper and carving out tuckboxes from two designed paper sheets, then using white glue to finish three, rather pretty card boxes.

The best, however, was still to come. The board itself… The two maps had identical sizes and I divided each into eight parts. They had the same size, save for one pixel. Earlier I had bought a 100 cm x 80 cm cardboard and from that I cut eight panels, of the same length and width as the map parts.



These I taped together, having before thoroughly studied how an official, double-sided Ticket to Ride map was constructed, because I wanted my board to be foldable.





Then it was time to fasten the maps to the board.



I used a semi-permanent spray glue and that was perfect, because for one of the maps I found tiny irregularities, places where the train spaces or locality names didn’t fit perfectly – and I wanted it to be perfect. So I had to remove all the map, then doing it all over again. But my! – wasn’t it exactly the way I wanted it to!!







It was only to put it in the box…



…add two rule sets at the bottom and a gift card on top of it, folding the whole thing in gift wrapping paper and hoping my friend’s mother would be as joyful as I was when I created it.



On Maundy Thursday the birthday present was handed over (in my absence) and I got a phone call from the donee. She was very happy with it, especially the fact that I had done a second map. Two days later it was followed by a text message: “The more I consider my new game, the more I understand what a huge work you have done!”
The same day, Easter Eve that is, the game’s B side was premiered, it turned out to be playable with no obvious flaws, the new owner had tears in her eyes (it was reported) – and I was once again fully content.



Sofia was a little jealous of her mother, but I had gone off to other projects…

*
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Wed May 4, 2016 8:42 pm
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Hanna the hobbit surprises

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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Friday night, traditional café afternoon is going towards its end. I have let down my regular fika friends to meet an old student from years ago. Now, however, I enter Divine Presse Café.

There they are, eight or so, everybody in a good mood and suddenly Hanna hands me a big package.
– It’s my birthday on Sunday so I have a gift for you.

Oh, I remember! A year ago she introduced a birthday celebration tradition inspired by the hobbits: giving her friends gifts on her own birthday. Thus last January I had a cute little Lego steam locomotive but now she handed me a larger sized carton wrapped in Christmas paper with painted snow-covered spruces and little brownies.

Et voilà – Ticket to Ride United Kingdom!

It was a marvellous gift. I had had plans to buy it for myself, but as two other friends got it in December, I had postponed that decision. Now… wow! – but how could I not feel embarrassed about getting presents for her birthday?!

I gave Hanna a hug and trusted her mouth and heart when she said that giving these presents is a much appreciated joy for herself.

So, I’m even more looking forward to being able to play this map collection number 5 again. There have been two plays yet, one on each of the maps. I should be most tempted by the UK map – going to Scotland and Ireland could never be wrong – but for some reason the Pennsylvania map right now is more enticing. Might be because of its long, sweeping routes, its more obvious set collection strategy, the fascinating game mechanics of shares, or something else.

Many possibilities to play? So it should be, were only everybody in our group healthy and sound. (But hopefully they will be, soon…)
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Sat Jan 23, 2016 7:33 pm
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Takenoko, 7 Wonders and original TtR revisited

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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Last week had started well, with memories of two quick and very nice plays of Ticket to Ride at Sofia’s the Sunday before. (They are as ususal discussed in the Games Played section.)

It also continued nice, when on Saturday Anna and Simon invited us for another gaming night, so at eight o’clock I took my grey bicycle to join them. The bike had been repaired on Friday, ran like never before, but when I took another route than ususal and was lost among unknown streets it was Orion and Polaris that showed me the right way (which was the first time ever the stars led me – a wonderful experience in itself!).

I had brought four games, Sofia another three or four, so we were well equipped for the evening. As the oldest children were still awake, we decided on their favourite: Takenoko, where they joined the same adult player as in the woods two weeks ago.

Takenoko

It’s not much to say about this play, but we found an ambigious rule decision. When the weather dice was thrown and resulted in sunny weather (= 3 different actions of the available 5 can be done rather than the usual 2), we were not sure on whether the player had to decide on the three actions at the same time, or if the extra action could be taken first, before the two small tokens were placed on the other two actions.

Anyway I threw sunny weather all the time, but not one single question mark (= choose weather freely) or whatever the weather is called where I can get one of the improvement tokens. That made one or two of my goals more or less impossible to reach, but I still felt content, as a failed goal doesn’t give any negative points.

It took a while to start completing goal cards, but at a certain point of the play, they started ticking. (The pile of red cards actually was exhausted a turn or two before endgame, probably as we all thought those cards were the easiest to complete.)

The rules state that a the final turn starts when a player reaches a certain number of completed goal cards (four 4 players that number is 7). A goal cards is shown as completed at the player’s own turn and some cards really must be shown when they are completed, as the ”board” changes during play and a goal that is completed during one turn might well not be it during the next.

For the panda goal cards, however, the situation is different. If a panda card is completed on one turn, it is by definition on the next. There is also no way for the other players to see your cards and thus a completed panda card can be saved until the last turn when the player can say ”look, here is my 7th completed card, and by the way, here is the 8th (and 9th, etc)”. Actually that was exactly what I did, thus completing 8 goals…

For the third time in a row I got the emperor card, awarding me 2 bonus points. With my 8 goal cards I was sure I had the victory in my hands, but when the points were counted, Anna and I both got 36. Then, how to decide a tie? We looked in the rules… and found that points from panda cards were the decider. Ouch, I thought, I don’t have many panda cards. Actually only the single one I got from the start…

And that was it. Anna and Linnéa could celebrate a common victory. Fun for them – and I didn’t mourn either. ☺

Final standings:
Anna and Linnéa 36 (4+5=9)
Simon 22
Sofia and Aron 25
Sven 36+ (4)

7 Wonders

Anna and Simon watched the children go to bed, Sofia wrote text messages, while I felt dizzy and had three glasses of water. Maybe it was this dizziness that made me forget the rules for 7 Wonders and, more important, completely lost my usual competence in describing rules. As the readers of this blog might remember, she had missed our last game due to the youngest’s unwillingness to go to sleep two weeks ago, so now she had to be taught the game.

Simon and Sofia did their best, but neither they nor myself remembered the strategies for the game. The only thing that had really caught, was that the green cards had given me a win in the first game.

So we played. Not as fast as last time and actually not as fun – maybe because we were more tired due to a hard week’s work and on some hands a day in the ski tracks – so I would regard this play as something of another test.

It’s quite fun to compare the results of this game to the last one. Some similarities are to be seen: Simon collected red cards and some blue while Sven went for the green and some blue. Sofia and Anna both ”split their investments”, gaining a couple of points from each colour.

Simon’s analysis was spot on: our strategy of concentrating the forces was advantageous. In the end the deciding factor actually was that Anna and Sofia bought resources from me during the last turn. Going into that I had no money, which forced me to give up both card, thus gaining 3 coins. 3 more coins from my co-players gave me the victory point that proved decisive.

Final standings:
Anna (Halikarnassós): 5 (red) + 4 (coins) + 0 (Wonder) + 5 (blue) + 6 (orange) + 12 (purple) + 4 (green) = 36
Simon (Olympía): 17 (red) + 8 (coins) + 10 (Wonder) + 13 (blue) + 7 (orange) + 0 (purple) + 0 (green) = 55
Sofia (Babylon): 7 (red) + 0 (coins) + 3 (Wonder) + 8 (blue) + 2 (orange) + 5 (purple) + 10 (green) = 35
Sven (Alexandria): -5 (red) + 2 (coins) + 0 (Wonder) + 31 (blue) + 0 (orange) + 0 (purple) + 28 (green) = 56

Ticket to Ride

”I want to play a Ticket to Ride,” Anna said and as Sofia had brought the original version we tried that one. Simon had never played it and probably Anna neither, and they were as I adored by the cute, small cards. We had a little discussion on what tickets were to be used (Sofia had brought the 1910 expansion too), but decided on playing the very original.

Many years ago this map was a gift from me, and soon after that Sofia started playing Ticket to Ride electronically. This made her something of an expert, especially of the American map, and during one period she won every time we played it. That was before I began logging all plays on BGG, so it’s not reflected in the ”played games” section.

I got starting tickets in the east, from Canada to Atlanta and Miami. Before I had even claimed one route (or had I one or two?), I took new tickets. Now I kept all three, as they fit nicely on the western continent, which was still more or less abandoned.

The centre part of the map became crowded, and mid way through the game, I noted there was only one connection left between east and west. Good for me then, that I had no need to join my two growing networks.

I decided on building my western network towards Phoenix along the coast and there I made a mistake. When Simon claimed San Francisco–Los Angeles, I immediately took the same route. In the next turn he of course continued to Phoenix and I was shut off.

A little drama was then created when I took the little route east from Phoenix to El Paso and Anna claimed Los Angeles–El Paso. Simon seemed desperate and that would be definite a few turns later when it turned out he had long tickets from Los Angeles, thus losing lots of points.

Yes, the end came soon. Sofia played wisely and finished it off with a couple of long routes across the map. 43 of her trains were joined in a long string: from the east to Vancouver and Seattle and back eastwards. Only an important 1 train to Portland and a completely unimportant 1 train played in the last turn, were outside of the pattern.

Simon had taken tickets twice, I had done it once, Anna once or twice. Sofia had not taken any new tickets but this day that was enough. The tickets were also big and well matched and that led to a clear victory. I failed one ticket and 11 points but Simon’s fate was worse, failing two tickets worth in all 38 points and ending one lap behind Sofia…

Final standings:
Sofia (yellow): 83 (routes) + 50 (3 tickets of 3) + 10 (bonus) = 143
Sven (red): 63 (routes) + 23 (4 tickets of 5) = 86
Anna (blue): 58 (routes) + 20 (4 tickets of 6) = 78
Simon (black): 46 (routes) - 3 (6 tickets of 8) = 43

It was a little after midnight and we decided that was enough, so I mounted my Crescent Grey, Sofia her Honda Blue and we both went home. Next day we all praised the decision not to stay for a round of Gang of Four, as Anna woke up ill and had needed every minute of sleep. Poor her! we thought.

But that would soon be forgotten, as then came a terrible, fearful, horrifying Monday…
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Tue Jan 19, 2016 8:07 pm
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Hysteric gaming weekend

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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Anna sent me a text message: ”We’re going to our countryside paradise for the weekend. We would appreciate if Sofia and you joined us. Playing games and being in the nature. The house lies nice and high with forests, pastures etc.”

Neither Sofia nor I had any other plans so we arrived there at half past eight on New Year’s Day. 46 hours later we had played lots and lots of games… For me it became eight plays of seven different games. While I took a walk in the forest, photographing a historical tri-point and enjoying the snow 300 metres above sea level (extremely high for being southern Sweden), the companions played some other games, many of which included the children too. The same happened when I studied rules for 7 Wonders, so it really was a crazy gaming weekend for all eight of us.

First play – Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania (Jan 1)

It was time for a premier of the other side of the last Map expansion (in December we played the United Kingdom side, a play which I like always wrote about in the Played games section).

The play was fairly undramatic, with only a few clashes between players competing for identical or similar routes. The standings for routes thus became rather close.

Standings for routes:
Sofia (yellow): 75
Anna (blue): 68
Simon (black): 72
Sven (red): 70

As is very common in our TtR plays, I was the one who triggered the end, giving some sighs from my co-players. I had also noticed that I had used 45 cards for my 45 train carriages, with neither trains nor cards to spare. Ideal it was…

Then it was time to reveal our tickets. We have an unwritten rule, that the player who triggers the end also starts revealing his/her tickets (then proceeding clockwise). Now, though, Simon immediately started with his, breaking the principle for no obvious reason. I didn’t complain, however, as it’s nice to overtake the others from a position far behind. But…

…Simons tickets never ended. It was one ticket of 20 points or so, followed by another, and another, and… Simon had in all 14 tickets, of which only two tiny ones were failed. Some sort of perfect route from the center-left across the board through Harrisburg and then up along the right side, had given him completed tickets for free when he took new ones during the game. We had all done that, but nobody was even close to that successful. 131 points for tickets only and including the 15 points bonus for most completed tickets Simon now reached above 200 points – wow!

Standings for routes, tickets and bonus:
Sofia (yellow): 75 + 36 (5 of 7) = 111
Anna (blue): 68 + 54 (8 of 10) = 122
Simon (black): 72 + 131 (12 of 14) + 15 = 218
Sven (red): 70 + 88 (8 of 8) = 158

Points for shares remained, but everybody now knew who would win and those points were only added for academic reason, and to find out what the total sum of points would be. Interesting it might be that we all got 54-64 points for shares, which is fairly even. Just a coincidence or will it be a fact during further plays too?

Simon’s 276 points was by far a TtR record for our group. Two of us were lapped and for me it was hard to be satisfied with a second place, being 54 points from victory…

Final standings:
Sofia (yellow): 75 (routes) + 36 (5 of 7 tickets) + 57 (shares) = 168
Anna (blue): 68 (routes) + 54 (8 of 10 tickets) + 54 (shares) = 176
Simon (black): 72 (routes) + 131 (12 of 14 tickets) + 15 (bonus) + 58 (shares) = 276
Sven (red): 70 (routes) + 88 (8 of 8 tickets) + 64 (shares) = 222

Second play – Dominion (Jan 1)

We decided on trying one of the proposed sets of Kingdom cards. We drew lots and the decision thus fell on ”Size distortion” (why such a name?).

It wasn’t the funniest play we’ve had, so we were rather content when Simon finished the game by buying the last Cellar card (Village and Duchy had been emptied some turns before).

One reason for not liking the play very much, was that we never managed to accumulate many silvers and golds. The money was small, and the Thief cards made us lose the few silver cards to our competitors. Luck is always present in most games, but here it was more important than otherwise. We also missed cards like Mine and Remodel, while Gardens was a fresh and interesting newcomer to us.

Final standings:
Simon 27
Sven 29
Sofia 26
Anna 16

That was the first day of the year and of the weekend and we all went to bed…

Third play – Batavia (Jan 2)

Anna’s and Simon’s children had watched the game pile and at least the three oldest (age 10, 8 and 4) had some wishes for games to be played. For some reason the 10 year old wanted to try Batavia, and on the second day we saw her joining her mum for an unbeatable team. The children’s father cooked and watched the two youngest and off we went on three hands.

This was the first time when we didn’t follow the proposed order for the hexagons but rather placed them according the official ruling – making piles of 5 where each pile had the five different countries represented.

Games are strange. We are all intelligent people, we all play games and by now we all have the same knowledge of the games’ rules and tactics. Still there are games where some exel, while others have huge troubles. For me Batavia is one of the latter…

I got my cards, moved my pawn, placed my ”treasure chests” – and was outnumbered for most of the traded goods. Sofia (joined by young Aron) on the other hand got the correct countries to trade for points and didn’t waste more than one of the investments on a goods she didn’t get points for.

Maybe I should start boycotting Batavia, as Sofia has done with chess, Stratego and K2, where she after some losses said ”never again!”.

Final standings:
Sofia and Aron (yellow): 68
Anna and Linnea (purple): 51
Sven (red): 43

Fourth play – Takenoko (Jan 2)

Time for another brand new game! But which one would it be?

Sofia and I had given each other a game for Christmas: she gave me 7 Wonders (which she had fallen in love with some years ago and since then asked me to buy for her) and I gave her Takenoko (which seemed nice to me).

We had both brought our new games with us and planned to study the rules. Thus I tried to study 7 Wonders, but the soon-to-be 2 year old preferred having me playing other games, like dressing a doll and throwing glistening balls, thus upholding me from advanced card games…

Sofia had better luck and introduced us to Takenoko. Simon, being a professional cook, was still busy with making food for 8 people, so again we were only three parts.

I had anticipated Takenoko to be a nice little game and wasn’t disappointed. The cute, pink inlay was a gem in its own right and the little panda and gardener mini-figures also had us all astonished by the game’s sheer looks.

During the early phases we built a lot of hexes but later on new goal cards became more interesting, as well as moving the panda and gardener. After a while goals started to be reached for us, one after the other, and finally I finished my eighth and ninth in one turn, thus ending the game.

I’m not sure why I won with such a big margin, but after the huge losses in two of the earlier three games, having only won a game that was pretty dull, it was a nice surprise to win this!

Final standings:
Sven: 38 +
Anna and Linnea: 22
Sofia: 24

Fifth play – 7 Wonders (Jan 2)

I took a walk in the snow and then settled in my bedroom, reading the rules for 7 Wonders. After a while the bunch sent the 4 year old up to me, finding out if I might have fallen asleep – they hadn’t seen me for an hour or so…

They had played Stax and maybe some children’s games, but now I was ready to introduce 7 Wonders. It felt complicated but turned out to be much easier than that.

Having the day before wondered how on Earth the manufacturer of Dominion can claim it takes 30 minutes to play a game that for us takes closer to an hour and a half, we were afraid this game’s 30 minutes would also be much more. It wasn’t, however, and the first play took us 40-45 minutes or so.

Usually when we meet for a gaming evening, we play when the children have gone to bed. The younger ones sleep well, while the older might refuse to follow their parents’ bedtime recommendations… This time, however, it was the youngest who didn’t want to sleep, and unfortunately this led to her mother having to sit over this play, although she could follow part of it, thus being prepared for playing it on a later occasion.

We chose different strategies, mostly based on the resources we happened to collect during the first age.

Sven (Gizah) felt unlucky with the choices of resources, as papyrus and textiles wasn’t suitable for winning military conflicts, collecting money or building orange and purple cards. They did fit for the green science cards though, where many were built for free as part of chains, and with use of money two levels of the Wonder were also built.
Sofia (Olympía) got a few high-scoring blue and purple cards, was fairly average on most colours but collected many coins from the orange marketplace and both trading posts. Two levels of the Wonder were also completed.
Simon (Alexandria) got many conflict points, medium amounts of blue, orange and purple cards, but didn’t build on his Wonder.
Anna (Éphesos) didn’t play.

During the third age it became obvious for me that I had no competitors for the green cards. I could cash in one after another, and as I had gotten buildings like School and Library earlier, I could take the new ones for free. Simon collected more red conflict cards and I felt as the worst military strategist ever.

At endgame, we tallied our points and Sofia said two or three times that it was unfair that the science symbols of the green cards could be counted twice. It’s understandable, because as I had 9 green cards, with symbols relation 2/3/4, points rushed into my account and in a pretty close race, I won narrowly.

Final standings:
Sven (Gizah): -4 (red) + 1 (coins) + 8 (Wonder) + 3 (blue) + 0 (orange) + 0 (purple) + 43 (green) = 51
Sofia (Olympía): 7 (red) + 6 (coins) + 3 (Wonder) + 18 (blue) + 2 (orange) + 13 (purple) + 0 (green) = 49
Simon (Alexandria): 13 (red) + 2 (coins) + 0 (Wonder) + 13 (blue) + 8 (orange) + 9 (purple) + 0 (green) = 45

This was fun; I hope we can play it again soon.

Sixth play – Takenoko (Jan 2)

When young Hilma finally was asleep, we could play another game. Having been busy with other affairs before, Simon was keen on trying Takenoko. That was fine with us, so we brought this light (in multiple meanings) game forward again.

Again it was me who finished the game. The other players sat with unfinished goal cards, but unlike Ticket to Ride (which has its similiarities to Takenoko), failed missions don’t give any negative points, and Anna’s completed cards turned out to be worth more than my. Thus Anna’s first win during this weekend.

Final standings:
Sven 29 +
Sofia 22
Anna 32
Simon 23

Seventh play – Mystery of the Abbey (Jan 3)

Sunday was the day when we were all leaving the ”paradise” in the woods. The house was cleaned, a hot dog barbecue was held under the clear sky at the 3 o’clock sunset, accompanied by sleds, snow angels, and minus ten degrees. And two more plays were squeezed in.

(Anna and Linnea had played a two player Takenoko, while Sofia and Aron had experienced Stax; but as I wasn’t part of any of those games they don’t qualify for this blog.)

I have always liked Mystery of the Abbey, but not everybody else do, so it was nice to hear one or two of my companions now asking specifically for it. One of the older kids joined her mother, and another miss Sofia, but I’m not sure that it was an advantage for them, having to hush the children not to reveal any secrets…

The play was rather fast, and included some interesting situations, as when Sofia got to see my hand through a Bibliotheca card, and Anna later got a similar advantage relative to Simon (who via a Scriptorium card volunteered for this fate: a strange but interesting strategy).

During the fourth mass card I was on my way to the Capitulum to claim the culprit was a Benedictine, but then Sofia went straight into my cell and I had to catch her red-handed, only to find she had a Scriptorium card to save her…

Going into the sixth card, I had only two suspects left on my sheet: Benedictine brother Berengar and Templar novice Thomas. The other 22 monks I had crossed out not on chance but being pretty sure I was right. Nobody had made any revelations but now I decided to risk it all, by entering the Capitulum on a 50/50 mission.

Maybe it was rather a 60/40 mission, because I had written more notes on Brother Berengar, discussing the odds for Sofia having it and knew it was a 2/3 chance Simon had it. Novice Thomas though, I knew nothing about. Anna hadn’t seen him, but I knew nothing more of that card’s fate. So, boldly I made an accusation against novice Thomas…

The others looked through their hands, nobody finding the card. Neither did I during an extra check, so we brought the hidden card into the daylight, and yes, I was correct.

Final standings:
Anna and Linnea (blue): 0
Sven (red): 4
Simon (green): 0
Sofia and Aron (yellow): 0

Eighth play – Gang of four (Jan 3)

Once upon a time it happened, I’ve been told, that one of Anna’s and Simon’s children one morning asked ”Were Sofia and Sven here yesterday? ’Cause you seemed to be in such a good mood.” Now Anna told the children that the game we usually play when they laugh the most, is Gang of Four.

We had played it six times before, with two wins for me, one each for Anna, Sofia, and Simon, while one game was tied between me and Simon. Still Sofia said after the fourth hand ”Sven, you have neer lost this game, have you?”. The Swedish saying ”Memory is selective” was obviously true.

The fourth hand was disastrous for me. Going into it, we all had 11 points or less, and my hand was a nice one, including a wonderful straight flush that I could have played early but decided to save. Then, suddenly, Anna, having 9 cards left, played a Gang of four, followed by a 5 card combination. I had 14 cards left… Ouch!

The game lasted 10 hands and although I won the last 4, that was of no use as I had already accumulated 75 points. (Anna won three hands, Simon two, Sofia one) The very last hand made me a little proud though, as it saw Simon being stuck with 15 cards, Anna with 10, and Sofia with 7. It pushed both Simon and Sofia above 100 points and gave me the second place, but 75 points was not good enough when Anna stayed on 39.

Final standings:
Anna -- Sven -- Simon -- Sofia
0 ------- 1 ------- 7 ------- 6
2 ------- 6 ------- 7 ------- 8
6 ------- 11 ----- 7 ------- 11
6 ------- 67 ----- 27 ----- 31
6 ------- 73 ----- 43 ----- 35
8 ------- 75 ----- 47 ----- 35
9 ------- 75 ----- 63 ----- 37
15 ----- 75 ----- 65 ----- 55
19 ----- 75 ----- 81 ----- 94
39 ----- 75 ----- 141 --- 101

*


By that time, the clock had reached a time where the children were tired and their mood chaotic. So, we decided to call it a day, have dinner, clean the kitchen and carry our bags out. The crazy gaming days had come to an end and I could go home to sum them up. Writing a blog post was a good thing to do. Combining it with watching the recordings of the past days’ Tour de Ski races was an even better…
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Mon Jan 4, 2016 10:59 pm
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