Fomalhaut as a board game player

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

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A new year might well start with boardgames.

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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In somewhat of a reprise of two years ago, Sofia and I again joined our friends in their ”countryside paradise” on New Year’s Day. This time, however, we only stayed one night rather than two. There was also much less snow outside, so no toboggans or other merry snowgames were seen. To be honest I did not even step outside during our visit’s 25 hours. I preferred seven plays of six different games...

We now could test our Christmas presents. As usual Sofia and I had given each other an average board game. Anna, Simon and their family had got one or two games too, and in addition to that we had a number of unplayed games from before.

First play – Camel up (January 1)

This was Sofia’s Christmas present to me. Like last year we hadn’t made any wishlist and nobody had asked the other what one wanted for Christmas, but we never doubted that we would exchange gifts. Games are suitable and Sofia told me afterwards that she was so interested in Camel up that she actually wanted to keep it to herself. I had played it once, a few months ago, and didn’t like it at all. But, as I wrote then, we misunderstood three rules and that is never a good start.

Camel up has two advantages for our group. Firstly it can accomodate up to eight players. Secondly it is so simple that also Samuel, 6 years, can play. (He sees Colt Express as his favourite game and I regard Camel up an easier game.) So, when the pizzas that Sofia and I had fetched as we passed through Ulricehamn on our way to the forest were happily eaten, I introduced Camel up for the adults as well as for three kids. Only poor Hilma, soon 4, was left out, but she looked happy looking after Sofia’s coins.

Now all rules were followed and we headed on. The play went well, although it was surprisingly short. ”Is it over already?” somebody asked when the first camel reached the finish line early in the fifth round or so.

Each player has four things to choose between for their turn. As I had suspected, the kids mostly took pyramide tiles. It’s the easiest thing to do and understandable the most interesting, as it gets the camels going. It is however also the least paying alternative, and therefore not a strategy that leads to victory.

Many players in a row bet for what camel would come in last, while I was the only one to guess the winner. Actually I guessed twice, but that is not bad, as the first to guess right is awarded £8, while an incorrect guess costs only £1. This didn’t help me coming even close to winning. Sofia and Simon proved more wise in this premiere.

Final standings:
Samuel: 12
Simon: 16
Aron: 12
Sofia(+Hilma): 17
Linnea: 9
Anna: 8
Sven: 13

Second play – Mystiska magiker (lit. ”Mysterious Magicians”) (January 1)

Now the kids wanted to play the family’s latest find. ”Mystiska magiker” is a new deductive game (published only in Sweden, I think) where the players choose one of eight magician cards and then ask predetermined questions to deduct the opponents’ cards. A correct guess forces each player to hand the guesser one of their unused cards and the revealed card is also given to the guesser. As soon as a player has lost her last card, she is knocked out of the game and in the end only one player remains.

As a simple game of deduction, aimed for children, I suppose this is an okay game. Unfortunately it includes a die… The players move their pawns along the board’s track, may choose direction after each roll, and thus can end up on one of four alternatives:
1) ask one question
2) ask two questions
3) change their hidden magician card
4) guess another player’s hidden card
Most of the spaces are alternative 1, while only four spaces (out of 40 or so) are the vital guessing spaces. They are placed in two opposite corners, so in our play soon all players were gathered in those corners, in every throw having effectively a 1 chance in 3 to reach a guessing space.

This time young Samuel had troubles concentrating and was knocked out first. This is another big ”wrong” with this game. Who creates a children’s game where the players effectively try to knock each other out?? Is that an efficient way to make them interested in playing games? I don’t think so…

The rest of us lost a card now and then, until we more or less all knew what card the others had. We only had to reach the guessing spots. Some of us did, guessed right and the owner of the revealed card was knocked out. Next throw, next throw, next throw… the player was forced to ask one or two questions of which there was no use, as everybody knew the answer. ”Does you magician have red socks / a pole / white hair. I know the answer already, but I must ask it.” Then somebody else finally got to a guessing spot, guessed right an another was knocked out.

Then – for the first time in the whole game – I got to guess. And won the game. A big success? No, it was pure luck and nothing but luck.

Results:
Samuel (yellow): Fifth
Simon (white): Fourth
Sofia+Aron (blue): Second
Linnea (pink): Third
Sven (green): Won

Third play – Power Grid: Australia (January 1)

When Sofia and I were in Berlin last summer, I had visited a game store in Kreuzberg. This was my first visit to a German game store, and it was also the only time during our trip that we were apart for more than a few minutes (Sofia visited the Turkish Market nearby to buy fabric, where we also gathered for the delight of our first Berliner Currywurst). In the game store I searched in vain for a specific game I wanted to give to Sofia, but left with the solo game ”Freitag” and ”Funkenschlag: Australien / Indischer Subkontinent”: my first and still only Power Grid expansion.

I had brought this expansion to Anna’s and Simon’s in December, but then some of us were too tired to play it and we settled with a less-than-an-hour long Pandemic in stead. Now I longed for Australia and it was finally time.

And ”time” was the word. We started at a quarter to eleven at night, and didn’t finish it until a quarter past one. Two and a half hours for one play of Power Grid? I think the late night caused some Analysis Paralysis on some hands…

Anna got a head start and that continued throughout the game. For most of it, she was one or two cities ahead of Sofia and Simon, while I was another city or two behind them. Another way of stating this: Anna was intelligent and I was stupid. I regarded it clever to start out with a plant that could power two cities rather than one, and bought the coal plant number 8. That was an embarrassing decision. I think I used it once, because then the coal price rose above what I could possibly earn on two more powered cities. *sigh*

Anna, Simon and Sofia invested in uranium mines. It was unusual to see them collecting red cards, as that has been somewhat of my speciality when playing the original versions (Germany/USA). This time I had to use my turns to either buy better power plants or save money for buying cities. That probably was a good decision. When Anna had collected 14 cities, plants for 16 and hundreds of Elektro, I used my last turn to buy cities for all my money, jumping from 10 cities to 14. That handed me the ultimate second place. (Although Simon could easily have equalled me on cities, winning on money, he did not, as he understood he couldn’t win the game.)

This was our fourth regular Power Grid play, but the first where the resources got so expensive that I could save money by not using my plants. Late in the game I had bought an expensive coal plant (31 or 36?), potentially powering 6 (or 7?) cities. During a sudden dip in coal prices I invested in coal for two turns, but didn’t use the last three coals until game’s end, in stead feeling content with powering only 10 cities for a while. That is also a strategy, I suppose.

At the end, the game got two judgements. Sofia, Simon and Anna said:
– It’s always nice to play Power Grid. I like this game.
Sofia said (emphatically):
– I miss the German map. I long to Frankfurt.

Final standings:
Sven (red): 14 (had 14 cities, could power 17, had 2 Elektro)
Anna (blue): 16 (had 17 cities, could power 16, had 67 Elektro)
Simon (black): 13 (had 13 cities, could power 18, had 50 Elektro)
Sofia (yellow): 13 (had 13 cities, could power 17, had 26 Elektro)

Non-interesting note:
We excluded Queensland from the playing area. Sofia started in Perth, creating a monopoly in the southwestern network. Sven started in Adelaide, working northward to Alice Springs. Anna and Simon started in New South Wales and Victoria, where Anna advanced to Tasmania (”bought the island”). After a while all players gathered in the southeastern states. Nobody touched the tiny northwestern network (although Sven repeatedly gazed in that direction).

Fourth play – The Downfall of Pompeii (January 2)

This was my Christmas present for Sofia. I cannot remember exactly how it caught my eyes in the first place. Did I stumble upon a review on BoardGameGeek, written by an author of a review of another game? Was it presented in a list covering cut-price articles on my favourite online retailer Worldofboardgames? No matter why, I immediately felt it would be an excellent gift. There were two reasons for this:
1) It had a nice theme and seemed to have a suitable depth.
2) Its theme has an obvious connection to Italy, the country that has evolved to be Sofia’s second home.

I don’t think ”The Downfall of Pompeii” has been published in Swedish or Scandinavian, so I gave Sofia a version in English. That is a language where her skills are rudimentary, or on some ”average for an average-educated Swede rarely being forced to use it in everyday life”. Therefore I decided to spice it up with rules and a review in Italian (which she speaks almost fluently).

Sofia had read the rules before and on the second morning of the year, I too hasted through them. After the first meal of the day, we put our heads together to explain the rules to Anna and Simon. The rules appeared not too complicated, and they were not. First the city is populated in a straightforward way. After a while the volcano erupts and the population is moved out in an even more straightforward fashion. Playing time is strikingly short for a game of such an average complexity and we got hold of basic strategy from the beginning. (I told the only two pieces of advice I had collected elsewhere: that the more people one place on the board, the more one can save, and the closer to the gates one place them, the sooner they can flee out, but beware as the squares closest to the lava starting tiles are the most dangerous.)

By coincidence, most of the Omen cards showed up close – I think Sofia had 4 or 5 in a row – but that is the only thing worth mentioning. Maybe I was surprised that the game was so low-scoring, as I had previously got the impression that we would get in the region of 30-40 surviving citizens each. (We started with only 25, so that could certainly not be the case.) For some reason Anna finished the first phase with very few people on the board, which would decide the outcome. She had to sit for the last two or three rounds of the second phase without any pawns to move; had she had more in play, she would have cruised to a clear victory.

Final standings:
Anna (blue): 7 (lost 5)
Simon (black): 6 (lost 10)
Sven (red): 8 (lost 7)
Sofia (yellow): 7 (lost 9)

Fifth play – Ticket to Ride: Nederland (January 2)

Breakfast had been late and although we were on the verge of lunch, we decided on a Ticket to Ride. Nederland was chosen over Europe, and it was only the second time I played that version.

Three of the tickets I had drawn originally, stretched from northeast to mid-south. A fourth was a short one in-between, so keeping those seemed reasonable. My first aim was to connect the three southern ends with each other, and create another small network in the north. (That there is no bonus for longest route, makes that basic tactics much easier.)

Crowding arose in the middle of the map, where it seemed as everybody wanted to come through. My friends incessantly took new tickets – lucky them – while I tried to find a way through. Soon only one route was available and I thought I would have to make a detour along the eastern latitude. I collected big quantities of single colours – until I understood that nobody would claim that last route through the clutter. It went to me, and I had finished my original tickets. I grabbed new tickets and could easily keep two, needing only three or four lesser routes.

Having done that, I had four waggons left, as well as three cards. Why wait? I thought, claimed an available, yellow 2-train-route in the south-east and ended the game.

Standings for routes:
Anna (blue): 0 (start) + 50 (routes) = 50 (6 unbuilt waggons)
Simon (black): 1 (start) + 43 (routes) = 44 (11 unbuilt waggons)
Sven (red): 2 (start) + 58 (routes) = 60 (2 unbuilt waggons)
Sofia (yellow): 3 (start) + 54 (routes) = 57 (6 unbuilt waggons)
Aron (green): 4 (start) + 57 (routes) = 61 (7 unbuilt waggons)

Having six tickets felt okay but not more, as the opponents had about that or more. It turned out, though, that my tickets were longer – and I had finished them all. The tight standings for routes thus became extremely stretched out when the tickets were accounted for. Simon and Sofia finished far behind, and Aron also seemed to having lost quite heavily. What finally decided the outcome, was the number of available toll coins on each hand. Two coins more for me and I would have smashed the opposition… Now I came in second, as Anna had collected much more points than I for tickets and coins: with a margin making up the little deficit from routes.

Final standings:
1) Anna (blue): 0 (start) + 50 (routes) + 151 (9 of 9 tickets) + 35 (14 coins) = 236
4) Simon (black): 1 (start) + 43 (routes) + 62 (6 of 7 tickets) + 10 (10 coins) = 116
2) Sven (red): 2 (start) + 58 (routes) + 132 (6 of 6 tickets) + 20 (13 coins) = 212
5) Sofia (yellow): 3 (start) + 54 (routes) + 60 – 34 (4 of 5 tickets) + 10 (10 coins) = 93
3) Aron (green): 4 (start) + 57 (routes) + 81 (5 of 5 tickets) + 55 (15 coins) = 197

Did I mind losing? Not a bit. This was one of the occasions where I was fully satisfied with how I had played and what solutions I had found. Whether I win or lose that type of play is completely irrelevant.

Sixth play – Camel up (January 2)

In a weak moment, I had told about how Hilma and I had played with her dolls during our last stay in July. Now, weeks short of her 4th birthday, she asked me neatly to play with her again and I couldn’t say no… Thus I missed the second play of Camel up. Later I asked how it had gone, and was told that the camels ran even faster than last time. (The dice gave more 3’s now.) They had also gambled a lot more and that felt nice. Who won? It might have been Simon, if my memory is right.

”Let’s play until you go home!” Hilma begged, but I declined. No, I said, I want to play a game with the rest of the family. I went downstairs with Hilma – and they had already brought Shadows over Camelot to the table… At last!!

Seventh play – Shadows over Camelot (January 2)

My relationship to Shadows over Camelot goes like this: Many years ago, when I wished and got Ticket to Ride: Europe for Christmas, a dvd was included in the game. That dvd presented all Days of Wonder games of that time, and as soon as I had watched it twice, I became interested in all of those games. Over the years I have bought Mystery of the Abbey and Gang of Four, and the original Ticket to Ride became a gift to Sofia. All of this was due to that disc. Shadows over Camelot seemed interesting too and has crossed my mind many times since then. I haven’t bought it, though, as it felt rather advanced, was language dependent and had a theme that made me doubt.

Now, this autumn, when I wanted a cooperative game and chose between Pandemic and Shadows over Camelot, I finally decided on buying both. We have played Pandemic four times, but although I brought Camelot to a gaming night before Christmas, we never played it. Until now…

Going through the rules took a while. I had translated all card texts into Swedish, and as in reality only the special white cards must be hidden, the language dependency is not a serious problem. Playing it with Linnea (12) and Aron (10) should be possible, but now only the four adults took part. Sven played Gawain, Simon was Galahad, Sofia was Percival, Anna was Kay. The loyalty cards were not used and thus no traitor included.

Although less complicated than anticipated, the game was much harder than thought. The special black cards made it even worse, and we soon had to include the Mists of Avalon card. Thereafter an extra black sword had to be added after each lost quest. Would that be important? In this game not.

After only a while, we had won against the Picts (1 white sword) and lost to both the Saxons and the Black Knight (4 black swords). The second loss lead to an addition of two extra siege engines. We had forgotten that, immediately rose to 12 siege engines and lost the game. Ouch!

Eighth play – Shadows over Camelot (January 2)

Let’s play again. We had sandwiches for tea, after which we handed in our coat of arms and blindly drew new ones. This time Simon was black Palamedes, Sofia was yellow Galahad, Anna was white Percival, Sven was purple Tristan.

We competed better now. At least a little better… We won Lancelot’s quest and Simon took care of Lancelot’s Armour. That was a very useful tool, as some of the most dangerous cards could effectively be taken out of the game. We also beat the Black Knight and had 2 white swords. Again, however, the boring Mists of Avalon was played and not countered – and we didn’t survive losing the Saxons, Picts, Black Knight. and Dragon quests, as those awarded us 9 black swords. 7 black swords lead do defeat so we were not even close to victory. (At that instance we also had 11 siege engines in front of Camelot…)

– Is it really possible to win this game? somebody asked.

Obviously it is, but how? I had no good ideas, so I had to search for advice online. I did not want to read those advice too thoroughly though, as that would feel like cheating, but I found out that one really has to restrict the moving, as that is like losing a turn. Not necessarily winning the Holy Grail and Excalibur quests was another advice. Staying at the round table to draw cards up to the limit was a third. I suppose it is appropriate to start there.

Darkness had fallen not only in Camelot but also over Redväg’s hundred. Simon had to be at work early next morning, Sofia had to be at work not that early but still. Sven had to prepare a trip to Halmstad, invited to take part in organising a science day for brilliant minded children. Anna was the one to cope with four other children wanting to enjoy the last days of the quickly vanishing Christmas holidays. Thus the hysterical final cleaning and packing followed among weeping kids and pressured grown-ups.

– We have to get together again soon, one of us wished.
– Yes, definitely! the others agreed.

If not for other reasons, we must meet to play Shadows over Camelot again to introduce King Arthur himself to the game. And I wouldn't mind following Sofia to Frankfurt...
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Mon Jan 8, 2018 6:15 pm
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Pandemic, at last

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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A month and a half after the day when I couldn’t buy Pandemic, I had finally got it in my hands and read the rules. Following a choir practice in church on Friday evening, I went to Anna and Simon, was soon joined by Sofia and without asking I brought Pandemic to the table.

Have we ever played the same game three times in a row? I don’t think so and that fact alone shows that Pandemic is a great game.

Play 1

(Note that the names of character roles used in this text, correspond to their Swedish names of the Swedish/Finnish edition, here translated to English. I have understood that coordinator = "dispatcher", doctor = "medic", and engineer = "operations expert". This edition has 7 roles, some reviews and rules here at BGG state only 5.)

First play took about an hour and a half (a qualified guess, but it might well have been more than that). Our roles were engineer (Simon), coordinator (Sofia), quarantine specialist (Sven) and researcher (Anna), and we tried to use them as well as possible. The red area in eastern Asia was a recurring trouble, and outbreaks became numerous. In the end we had found cures for three of the diseases and at the finish line, only waiting for Simon to cure the last, we met the eighth outbreak at the turn before. A loss it was, but so very close to a win that we wanted to play again.

Play 2

”Now we know the game,” we thought. So off we went for a second play. Sofia became a doctor, Sven was still the quarantine specialist, Anna let a risk analyst enter the table, while Simon took the role as the coordinator in a play that lasted for 50 minutes. Doctor and coordinator should be an effective combination, Simon and Sven had discussed a while earlier, especially when they sit next to each other, so this set-up seemed nice.

But what happened? Well, we were successful regarding how to stop the outbreaks. What we didn’t do, however, was to find cures for the diseases. Anna’s red Sydney card was a theme throughout this second play, as that was the only card that somebody with four red cards needed, and similar situations occurred on other hands. Soon the pile of ”player cards” vanished faster than we wished and when I took the last, we had only cured one, single disease. Ouch!

Play 3

”Let’s play a third time!” Sofia exclaimed. ”I’m tired, but it doesn’t matter, I’m free tomorrow.” It was fine for the rest of us too, and we would finish the game in 35-40 minutes. Now Sofia was the researcher, Sven played the coordinator, Anna the risk analyst and Simon the doctor. (Thus the scientist was never seen, in spite of three rounds being played.)

I cannot say with any certainty what we now did differently, but we soon found ourselves in a much better situation than before. We went around the world, extinguishing single fires, but these were widely spread – thus minimizing the risk for chain reactions – except for in Europe, where we soon gathered. We had three research stations, also nicely positioned around the globe, about 120° apart. The station in Moscow was perfect and obviously efficient as many scientific breakthroughs were made there. (I thought for myself about the smallpox virus – I had read a lot about that and other curable real-life diseases last month – which today is kept in only two places: Atlanta and somewhere in Russia, exactly where we had our research stations in this play.)

There were a couple of outbreaks, but not more than we could cope with. We cured the first virus, and the second and the third. In America Sven and Simon finally met to collect some yellow city cards – and in a perfect match of moves, cards and an extra research station Simon smashed the five final cards down. The fourth cure was found, the game was won and there were still wide margins to all three losing conditions. We had mastered the diseases and conquered the game!

It was very late and it was definitely time for Sofia and me to leave. ”Next time we play another game” I said (maybe thinking of Shadows over Camelot, Village or Skogen?), but I could very well imagine playing Pandemic soon again, the question only being if we might make it harder by either using a fifth epidemics card or having our cards on our hands rather than open on the table.

This really is a great game…
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Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:10 pm
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How Neo-Nazis cancelled Pandemic

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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(This post will start with some politics, but read further and I will come to the games… I suppose the start too might be interesting for anybody wanting to learn just a bit about what has been dominating Swedish news for some weeks.)

Last Saturday the Swedish nazi party was to hold a rally in Gothenburg/Göteborg, including a march across the city centre. Many voices were raised against this as it was seen as inappropriate for many reasons: 1) Nazism is horrific. 2) The ideology and its party ought to be banned by law. 3) The rally coincided with Yom Kippur and, moreover, they wanted to march past the local synagogue. 4) They wanted to march past the culturally significant Gothenburg book fair.

A number of counter demonstrations were organized and as it takes only about an hour to travel to Gothenburg, I decided to go there. The main reason was to join one of these protests against the nazis and when being in town, I also planned to buy a game or two at my frequently visited local game store.

I went to Heden, the site of the main counter protest. We were at least ten thousand people of all ages and genders (the nazis were around five hundred, all but a few males). Speeches were held and we spent a couple of sunny hours there on Sweden’s prime amateur football field. But when were the nazis to march past us? Well, we waited, and waited, and finally the police let us walk the main part of the route that was originally fenced off for the nazi march. The police let us pass another cordon and finally I felt that I had carried out my duty. ”We have won” I thought. For some reason the nazis didn’t show up and that must be seen as our main goal.

Having come to that conclusion I left the march route and took another street to the friendly local game store. But hey, what was happening there? Picket vans and mounted police was met with loud bangers and shouting catchwords. The police instructed everybody to leave the area in order and when I had lingered there for a while, I decided to follow the orders and went to the railway station to head home.

Now what had happened was this. The nazi party (with the bombastic name ”Nordic resistance movement”) had walked from a supermarket in nearby Mölndal to another supermarket in Gothenburg, where their march was to start. Having just gathered their forces and walked about ten metres, for some reason they decided to turn and break the protecting barrier organized by the national police. This led to something of a tumult on the spot, where the national nazi leader was arrested for ”violent rioting”. After this the nazis refused to continue until he had been released. Of course he was not and thus they stayed there for four to five hours. The police force’s riot squad built a massive ring of men and vans, and inside of this the nazis held their mass meeting (only heard by police and the most hard-core protesters). In that way the nazis’ proud plans of a march through the city only became, as a Stockholm journalist wrote, ”a humiliating walk between two supermarkets”. It can also be seen as rather amusing that the whole nazi contingent was stopped due to one member shouting ”turn left, turn left”…! That destructive is their absolute willingness to follow authorities.

Unfortunately the supermarket where the nazi rally had ended before it even started, was next to the game store… I had earlier philosophized on this. First I would protest against a terrible political movement, then I would more figuratively save the Earth by curing it from plagues in the Pandemic board game. Now there was no Pandemic, as the nazis had shut down the store where I was to buy the game.

In stead, at Sunday afternoon, our regular group sat down to play other, non-cooperative games. Sofia had asked me to bring Power Grid with the still unplayed Australia expansion, but I didn’t feel like it. The Power Grid card game was there, however, so we brought that to the table.

Power Grid: The card game

My friends had played it before, but for me it was the first time. I found it rather neat and nice. In some ways it was better than the original Power Grid, as one play would only last for one hour and I find two hour needed for original PG to be close to the upper limit of what I like when it comes to gaming. (One hour is actually perfect.)

Game play was pretty straight-forward. I misunderstood how old but unused resources were moved, which made the uranium for my nuclear plants more expensive than I had thought, but that was a minor issue. Worse was that the uranium was so sparse, only 3 (?) cards and that forced me to soon abandon one of my two nuclear plants.

I was also surprised that so many power plants were dismissed from the market – either put back in the box or tucked under the stack. Only few of the high-ranking power plants came back into play during the last round, and I still doubt that the rules actually are meant to be like that.

During the two last rounds it was obvious that Simon was in the winning position. His plants would gain him lots of points, many more than for the rest of us, and during the very last round it seemed impossible for us to stop him, even if we unethically were to join forces.

There was, though, one aspect that I hadn’t thought of. Simon was the number one player, thus buying resources last. At that time the resource he needed was already bought, preventing him from using his three power plants. Simon finished last…

Strange it was that Anna, Sofia, and I all got 23 points. We had to dive into the rules and find the tiebreaker. In principle each Elektro is equivalent to one tenth of a point and it was that very tenth that decided the game. This time to my disadvantage, but that didn’t matter at all. (It would feel much, much worse to lose the next game!)

Final standings:
2) Sven (red): 23 (8 €)
3) Anna (blue): 23 (0 €)
4) Simon (purple): 17 (out of possibly 26)
1) Sofia (yellow): 22+1 (19-10 €)

Ave Caesar

After tea and sandwiches with the kids, I decided on Ave Caesar as a game that at least the oldest children could participate in. (There was also RoboRally but that can wait until next time.)

For the first time we used the 5-6-player side. Linnea didn’t want to play on her own, but took a very active role in her mother’s play so I suppose she will be a separate player during a later session. Anyway, the game started and much to my surprise no player failed to reach Caesar at any of the two races we played. This was in spite of a couple of my fellow participants, much to my joy, taking the inner curve of the first lap’s last bend, thus not being able to hail Caesar on that passage. (That situation is valid for the edition I have; it might be otherwise in other editions but I haven’t checked.)

I felt I played well. I had to pass once or twice, but that’s not strange. Almost no outer, longer curves lost me any steps and still I finished second to last in the first race. How was that possible? Better luck next time, I thought.

The second round started in the same way as the first: with me leaving in a bad position among the last. I was first in player order but had 3-3-3 as my initial cards and that cost me – because I never got to overtake my opponents! Usually I have had fortunate positions, blocked my co-players and sometimes won the game with huge margins. Not this time and once again I was in fourth place. (Aron had taken to many detours and didn’t reach the finish line.)

A pessimistic Sofia had stated that she would lose this game, but she really did not. She actually won, one single point ahead of Simon, with the bunch tying for third with only lower points.

Final standings:
t3) Anna/Linnea (blue): 1 + 3 = 4
1) Sofia (yellow): 6 + 4 = 10
t3) Aron (grey): 4 + 0 = 4
2) Simon/Samuel (brown): 3 + 6 = 9
t3) Sven (red): 2 + 2 = 4

I was a little sad and felt like the matador wanting to fight Ferdinand the Bull. I had looked forward to really display my skill, but of that was nothing. Like Ferdinand being more interested in beautiful flowers than fighting, the Ave Caesar board and cards had taken as their mission to see me fail rather than excel…
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Tue Oct 3, 2017 5:23 pm
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A perfect Rails & Sails – or 6 plays of 5 games in 2 days.

Sven F.
Sweden
Västra Götaland
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August 31 2017

Henrik invited us for a gaming-night. It didn’t become much of a ”night” though, as it ended at a quarter to nine, but then let’s call it a gaming evening in stead. Sofia had her choir and couldn’t come, Kristina was also at work, and Viktoria – well, she never plays anything but one trivia game of hers so I assume that’s why she said no…

But Hanna and I joined in. I brought the standard bag with three Ticket to Ride maps, one two other full boardgames, as well as one tiny filler game. Hanna also brought one or two games in a bag of hers and when we had studied the looks of Henrik’s flat renovation halfway, we sat at the table. For some reason we started with 7 Wonders.

7 Wonders

7 Wonders has a couple of advantages: it has a rather short playing time, it’s not very complicated, one or two of us had played it before, and none of us mind if we lose our first play due to lack of experience.

When I went through the rules, I did a better job than the last time. (Then I hadn’t planned before how this should be done and it became complicated for no reason.) I started with describing the cards, colour by colour, and it wasn’t until after that was done, that I headed on to the gameplay. This was successful. I also told the others that they could specialize in one colour or collect points from many different colours and that there thus were many ways to victory. (I had played it four times before, every time with the same group of 3-4 players.)

The play itself took almost exactly half an hour. Of it there isn’t much to say. Henrik collected a lot of blue cards, Hanna went for the greens, while I took an early lead in the reds. (As Hanna during the game only bought one red shield and Henrik none, I could settle down on three and then turn to other colours.) I also bought three identical green symbols, in the end giving me a well-needed nine-pointer and also – not less important! – stopping Hanna from cashing in more than one complete set of symbols. We all built one level on our wonder and we all got single-figure points here and there.

When the points were tallied at the end, it was obvious that concentrating on blue and green was the right way to go. My red cards gave me maximum point for that colour, but it can never give more than 18 (plus the opponents’ negative points; 3 for each). On the other hand I had time to collect small points of other types, thus losing less than I would have done otherwise…

Final standings:
Henrik (Gizah): 45
Sven (Alexandria): 42
Hanna (Éphesos): 52

Camel Up

Now Hanna decided she wanted to play Camel Cup with us. (It wasn’t until now that I found out the game really is called ”Camel Up”!) She had played it once, with more players, but now we were only three. Unfortunately the rules were misunderstood on three points:
* The rules writer could have highlighted the fact that the starting-player token is to be moved after each leg… Now the same player started each leg, giving him lots of extra points during the first half of the game (that is, until we found the rule…).
* The fact that a camel (or stack of camels) that steps onto a mirage tile is put under the camels (or stack of camels) on the square behind them, was missed. Now they were placed on top of these (for most of the game).
* The fact that the desert tiles are returned to the players after each tile was missed (and I didn’t find out that until the day after).

The game might have funnier, had we followed the rules correctly from the beginning, especially the first and last point above. I have now read two well-written reviews on BGG and obviously the game can be real fun. However, there seems to be a little too much randomness and to few possibilities to really influence how the camels move, thus it’s hard to place early bets with much better odds than 1:5. Maybe betting games just are not what’s best suited for me? Time might tell.

Final standings:
Henrik: 65
Sven: 42
Hanna: 34


September 1 2017

Anna surprised by inviting Sofia and me – as well as her husband – to a gaming evening. I had been at another gaming gathering the day before, but hey! – I can never have enough of playing boardgames.

Three out of four kids were at their grandparents’ and the fourth was also out. Thus we could immediately head on to our games.

Madeira/Santa Cruz
(The game is internationally known as Santa Cruz but the Nordic version is called Madeira.)

Who chose to play Madeira? As the evening unfolded we tried to choose one game each, but often we pretty soon came to an agreement. Madeira had been wished by many, including me.

This time we followed the ”advanced” rules on deciding which player to play which card set. I happened to select first and chose the river set, as it seemed an interesting way to fast advance in-land. The fact that I had gotten the volcano bonus card, made that decision easier. I also got the bonus for birds. During earlier plays the three first players have more or less automatically received the three fish-bonus tiles. Now my inclination was only towards the birds…

I traversed the island, reached the centre of it and claimed three volcano tiles. Then I claimed a fourth, whereupon Simon laughed and played the volcano eruption card… Lost four buildnings I did and 12 points in addition to that. What do do now? Well, I reclaimed a tile where a bird resided and then had to play my volcano bonus…

When the first round ended, three players were very close in the lead, while I was 20 points behind…

Standings after first round:
Sofia (yellow): 57
Sven (red): 38
Simon (green): 59
Anna (blue): 59

Being last, meant I was allowed to pick the second round cards first. I chose Sofia’s: the road card set. Of the three ”bonus cards” (or whatever they are called in English) I kept both fish bonus cards and as I started the second round play, I could begin with the +2 fish tile and immediately thereafter claim the bordering sheep tile, thus maximizing my bonus points (and minimizing the others’). When Anna (who had taken Simon’s card set, including the eruption card) claimed a volcano tile, I decided that the volcano was safe this round and grabbed as many high-scoring tiles as possible.

Slowly I crept closer and the bird tiles gave me lots of points both by themselves and by a bonus card. When we tallied the points, I had nothing to be ashamed of. Simon had collected lots of points on his bonus cards and took a small but clear victory. Sofia and I shared second place but Sofia won it due to her having count her birds first. (The rule for how to move the point tokens to decide ties is strange, as, due to the bird points being count last, it is always the playing order that will be decisive.)

Final standings:
Sofia (yellow): 57 (first round) – 116 (second round) – 125 (5 birds)
Sven (red): 38 (first round) – 108 (second round) – 125 (7 birds)
Simon (green): 59 (first round) – 128 (second round) – 133 (3 birds)
Anna (blue): 59 (first round) – 116 (second round) – 123 (3 birds)

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails (Great Lakes)

Simon wanted to play a Ticket to Ride. I had brought India, Africa and Europa 1912; inhouse were also Märklin, UK/Pennsylvania, Netherlands and standard Europe. But Sofia’s Rails and Sails was chosen.

Somebody suggested the World map, but I said that the game then would last the whole night. That, of course, was something of an exaggeration, but there is half an hour difference between the two R&S versions. So Great Lakes it was.

This was one of the most strange and memorable Ticket to Ride plays ever. I didn’t like my five starting tickets a lot as there was no obvious way of combining them. Milwaukee-Marquette and Marquette-Albany was an obvious combination as I could then build a logical harbour in Marquette. Muskegon-Buffalo, Madison-Port Elgin, South Bend-Syracuse were the other three and ofter a while I decided to keep them all…

The rules suggest the players to keep 27 trains and 23 boats. My tickets went mostly over water so I did the opposite in stead (23 trains and 27 boats). Simon kept 25 of each while Anna and Sofia followed the designer’s tip. (Anna later exchanged three of her trains, while the rest of us used what we had.)

A viable strategy in Ticket to Ride is to connect destinations that are close on the map. In this case Buffalo-Syracuse-Albany was obvious and advancing to Toronto and Port Elgin without much of competition had me feel content with the start.

I went on. Madison-Milwaukee-Muskegon was easy and then I could wait wit the connection to South Bend as there were four different possibilities and nobody seemed interested in interfering with me in that area…

…or in any other area! It was hilarious! Marvellously crazy and extreme! Wherever I wanted – or needed! – to go, nobody else was. Simon took new tickets early and soon I did it too. One was far away but what about Duluth-New York, Duluth-Detroit and Sudbury-New York? I though about it for a while and then kept all three.

And still nobody interfered. Numerous double routes and I could choose colours. Alternatives between one connection and another – I could decide from what train and boat cards I happened to get. Soon I had three boats and six trains left, took a blind draw from the train deck and got exactly what I wanted to (one black waggon and two locomotives). I had built a harbour in Marquette and when I triggered the last two rounds and could close the game by claiming a 7-point route to Detroit and finally my second harbour. Duluth or New York? Due to all jokes concerning Duluth in the Ticket to Ride universe, I decided on that city.

Standings for routes:
Sven (red): 68 (2 waggons left (and 6 cards))
Simon (green): 47 (14 waggons and 4 boats left)
Anna (blue): 75 (2 waggons left)
Sofia (yellow): 63 (4 waggons and 7 boats left)

When we tallied the tickets and finally harbours, it was obvious that my tickets had been by far the best paying. I rushed away from my companions and when Sofia was impressed and surprised (has she too finally learnt that I always lose?), I had to admit my game-lasting luck…

Final standings:
Sven (red): 68 (routes) + 94 (8 of 8 tickets) – 4 (1 unbuilt harbour) + 2x20 (harbours) = 198
Simon (green): 47 (routes) + 69 – 19 (9 of 10 tickets) – 0 (no unbuilt harbour) + 3x20 (harbours) = 157
Anna (blue): 78 (routes) – 3 (exchanged trains) + 39 (5 of 5 tickets) – 4 (1 unbuilt harbour) + 2x20 (2 harbours) = 150
Sofia (yellow): 63 (routes) + 48 (7 of 7 tickets) – 4 (1 unbuilt harbour) + 2x20 (2 harbours) = 147

7 Wonders

Anna’s antipathy against 7 Wonders is well-known but she accepted to play it. ”It’s a short game!.” I encouraged. ”Half an hour at most.”

When we had started, Anna continued sighing. ”I don’t understand.” she said. ”I don’t know what to do.”

But we collected points and money. Green cards went mostly to me, although I lacked one symbol completely (that one went to Anna). Sofia became the conflict master, while Anna and Simon collected lots of resources in addition to yellow cards. Blue cards were split between Anna and Sofia.

When the game had ended and we count our points, we were all equally surprised as Anna somehow had prevailed. May I call her ”the reluctant monarch”? (internal Swedish pun intended)

Simon (Éphesos): -4 (red) + 9 (coins) + 10 (wonder) + 4 (blue) + 15 (yellow) + 0 (purple) + 1 (green) = 35
Anna (Halikarnassós): 4 (red) + 1 (coins) + 0 (wonder) + 20 (blue) + 4 (yellow) + 8 (purple) + 16 (green) = 53
Sofia (Alexandria): 16 (red) + 1 (coins) + 0 (wonder) + 25 (blue) + 0 (yellow) + 6 (purple) + 1 (green) = 49
Sven (Olympía): 8 (red) + 1 (coins) + 0 (wonder) + 0 (blue) + 0 (yellow) + 7 (purple) + 34 (green) = 50

Love Letter

After three games all but Sofia had won, all but Anna had been second, all but Simon third and all but me fourth. What to do about that? Maybe even it out with a fourth play? Someone felt tired (although I have forgotten whom it was) but we decided on finishing with Love Letter.

Sofia took an early lead with two hearts. Had she now won a third, the wanted results would have been realized, as the only tiebreaker is the age of the players. But it’s impossble to lose on purpose in Love Letter, so we all won a number of hearts before we could finish.

Final standings:
Sofia: 3
Sven: 2
Simon: 1
Anna: 2

Home we went, through the dark night and below a clear sky. Had the southern horizon been free, we would have been able to catch the difficult glimpse of Fomalhaut. Now we had to settle with a low-standing moon and dozens of distinguishable constellations.

And rather than going to bed at one o’clock, I read an old diary and remembered a summer many years ago. There I found numerous mentions of Monopoly, Finans, Jorden runt på 80 dagar, Trivial Pursuit and the noble art of Croquet.

Over and out.
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Sat Sep 2, 2017 7:22 pm
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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.
Sweden
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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