After several weeks of dealing with Gwen’s work, someone in my household being sick, or me being out of town, I actually had a “normal” schedule for game night this week. That means that Gwen came to Burlington, we picked up Samantha, ate supper together, and then I came to game night. I even got there just a little after 6 o’clock! Unfortunately, most everyone was involved in games already, or wanted to play something that I just wasn’t feeling. So, instead, I sat down to play a solo game of…
While I was still setting up, however, Tom came in and I offered to let him join me. I taught him the game and we got right into things. More than anything, I wanted to make sure that I could feed my people. So that led me to be pretty conservative in taking too many extra people or in overcommitting myself to buildings that required a lot of resources. The big thing with the 2-player game is that it can be absolutely brutal. If you’re short on money, there are only going to be two “real” choices of tiles (since the Conquest row adds 3 to the base price), and if neither of those matches the last land tile you have or the resources you have (or can even generate), then you’re just freakin’ outta luck. And bidding order can be a big two-edged sword as well, because it’s awesome to be able to jump onto that ideal conquest tile first, but the second person always has the chance to outbid on the “regular” tiles (assuming that he, like Tom, has lots of cash).
In the end, the way that the disasters came up (with Decline taking 10 of my luxury resources on the last turn), I didn’t have the food (despite my carefulness in planning and building) to feed all of my people, and both Tom and I found ourselves with only 6 population. Despite losing a tile or two during the game, Tom had still invested in more prestigious tiles, and along with his big bankroll, he managed to rack up more points for the tiebreaker and the win.
It was, actually, Tom’s first win with the Hypermind Boardgamers. So congrats to Tom!
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Tom* 12 (29), Me 12 (25)
Ratings: Tom 7, Me 7
My opinion of Peloponnes is continuing to go up. As I said before, I really need to play it with more than two people, but I’m very happy both with the solo game and the decisions created in the 2-player game. It’s a lot more “resource management” than “civilization building”, but that’s still cool and interesting to me. I also need to play it with the correct rules for supply round timing…
Notre Dame [GeekDo]
Keith (finally returned to us after a month or two of work distractions) and his nephew Kenny then joined Tom and me for a play of our new Game of the Month!, Notre Dame. Kenny hadn’t played many modern boardgames, but he seemed to pick up on the basics of the game pretty quickly. Personally, I was a little worried about coming in last, since I traditionally suck at Notre Dame, and losing twice to Tom, in addition to two new players, actually concerned me.
I started off trying to activate more of my cubes and got into the cathedral. As the game went on, I basically ignored the rat track (as I usually do), and eventually tried to pull of the “move cubes to the Residence (VP scoring building)” strategy. Despite Tom’s continual extra scoring from the Park, I still managed to get enough scoring opportunities from my Residence to get the win.
Time: 53 minutes
Score: Me 52, Tom 42, Kenny (Keith’s Nephew)* 40, Keith* 38
Ratings: Me 8, Tom 8, Kenny (Keith’s Nephew) 7, Keith 8
In addition to additional comments below, let me start by saying, with all sincerity, “I like such a type of games. Thay are so homy!”
I’m really, truly happy that this group is finally giving more attention to the Alea line of games. And more particularly, to Stefan Feld. Obviously, we’ve had back-to-back GotM!‘s from him (Macao and now Notre Dame), and while the mechanics of the games are very different, the feel is pretty similar. There’s always this luck-based obstacle that you have to overcome (the dice in Macao and the card draw in ND), and there’s a threat of some type of “punishment” hanging over your head all the time. You can’t really “plan” too much in advance, because ultimately, you have to tailor your actions to what you draw and what other players pass you. So you have to be flexible, opportunistic, and think on your feet. It’s exhilarating, and with Notre Dame, you even get it in (generally) 35-45 minutes. I hope that I can get in at least one game of this every week here in July.
All the games sort of wrapped up at about that point, and we were all milling about looking for the next thing to do. Several people had mentioned Cyclades at one point or another, and others were eyeing it with gamer-lust, so I just called out “who wants to play Cyclades?” Four hands were up before I finished the sentence, and these with the most hand-raising prowess were able to make it into my game.
I went through the rules since Tom and Britt were new, but you wouldn’t have known that it was Britt’s first time with how well he played. On the first turn, he took Poseidon (relatively cheap) and immediately sailed out to cover two additional trade route markers, thus increasing his income significantly. I went for the early Zeus and bought an extra priest. Michelle (playing, appropriately, the Amazons this time) went after her Apollo strategy, and started building up one of her island to be the treasury of our little corner of the world.
Unlike last week, this game developed a lot more slowly. No one built many buildings at all in the first several turns, and even the military moves were relatively inoculous. Britt was raking in money and attracting attention, but Kenny was being all tricksy in making slow progress to the real goals of the game. It all came to a head when he built his fourth building and turned it into a Metropolis. He also held two Philosophers, and I assumed enough money to buy two more if he were able to get ahold of Athena’s favor. So, in reprising my role as The Obviator, I made sure the whole table knew about it.
As it turned out, I had to delay him myself by outbidding for Athena. We bought enough time for Britt to link up to him with ships and eventually take a huge force across to claim the metropolis for himself. Unfortunately, this left Britt in an incredibly powerful position, and he had enough cash to get Ares and invade my island containing the only other Metropolis in the game (which I had built using Philosophers) on the following turn. I had one chance to stop him, because I won Zeus for the round, and was able to mill through the mythical creatures. What I needed was the Chimera, so that I could grab the Kraken from the discard pile and eat the ships connecting to my island, but I didn’t find it before my money ran out.
Britt taking Kenny’s metropolis…
Britt, therefore, won the game.
Time: 104 minutes
Score: Britt* – Win; Ken, Michelle, Tom* & Me – Lose
Ratings: Britt 8, Ken 8.5, Michelle 8.4, Tom 8, Me 7.5
I actually dropped my rating on this by a half-point from last week. It felt like it dragged on just a little too long, and that its victory conditions may be just a bit too simple. It’s kind of funny, though, because of course, as The Obviator, I intentionally delayed the game. But in a game like this, you really need to do everything you can to win, or the whole thing gets to feeling very arbitrary and pointless.
If we all sit here for an hour or more, and then all of a sudden, someone is allowed to win just because no one wants to bother stoping him, it would just suck. There is an unspoken social contract at play here that everyone play the game in such a way as to win it. It’s almost the same with king-making, which you could almost claim that I did when I rallied against Kenny, thus allowing Britt to win. But in that case, I still felt like I was in the game, and I knew that Kenny was about to end it and win. Britt was, of course, in a very strong position, and I wished that it hadn’t been him that invaded Kenny, but still, I had to deal with the most imminent threat first. Unfortunately, I had to blow out my own income in that attempt, and neither I nor anyone else could do anything to stop Britt when he make his move.
So, is being The Obviator (specifically, one who calls attention to others who are doing well in the game) cool, or does it make me a jerk? That seemed to be an “almost-spoken” discussion around the table during this game, and I wanted to discuss it a little bit as well. First of all, if The Obviator is not actually in the game (i.e. a bystander), then absolutely yes, he is a jerk. ‘Cause if the other people actually playing can’t figure it out, then they didn’t deserve to win anyway. But to me, if I am trying to pursue a path to victory as a player, then it’s just a tactic as legitimate as forming an alliance with another player. Both are just ways to sway or manipulate others to do your will. Whether because you don’t want to spend your own resources or because you’re not in a position to do anything right then, I think that it’s totally alright.
Charles (who was watching the game and was the recipient of my Obviating attention last week) disagreed, but I want to know what y’all think. So, down in the comments, let me know whether it’s jerky behavior or not.
We had a little bit of a shuffle after Cyclades finished up, and ended up with 5 players looking for a game. It had been a few weeks since I’d played Pandemic, so I sort of pushed it a little, and the others agreed to go along with me. We played with both the Mutation and Virulent Strain challenges, and used 5 Epidemic cards.
Things started off very bad for us, when we drew an Epidemic on either the first or second turn, causing an immediate outbreak in our virulent strain color (which was black). Thankfully, I as the Medic was in a good position right after that to clean up some of the mess, and I also used Resilient Population to remove one of the hot-spot black cities from the infection deck.
We caught our breath from there, cured and eradicated red, and got to the business of curing everything else. As the end of the game neared, Kenny (the Archivist) was planning to pick up the last few black cards he needed to cure it (our last disease), but due to one of the virulent strain effects, it was going to require 6 cards rather than five. When we counted up the player deck, we realized that he’d only have one more turn.
We then had a bit of a strategery session. We made a plan that involved the next player curing purple (since we had it still hanging around), someone moving to Kenny’s location to get him one of the cards, and then playing Borrowed Time (+2 actions) on Kenny to let him get to the research station in Chennai, draw its card back from the discard pile (per his power) and play the cure. As the plan was unfolding, however, we realized that we hadn’t accounted for the Government Interference effect from one of the virulent strain epidemics, which makes you treat a disease cube before leaving a city containing the virulent strain. So Borrowed Time was played on someone else to let him clear the way for Kenny. Without the extra actions, however, Kenny was able to get to Chennai and draw the card, but lacked the one extra action to actually develop the cure and win us the game.
And that, my friends, is what makes Pandemic freaking awesome. These moments of living or dying by the slimmest of margins are commonplace, and they are just magical.
Time: 52 minutes
Score: Mutant, Virulent Pandemic – Win; Wretched Humans (Brett, Charles, Josh, Kenny & Me) – Lose
Ratings: Brett 9, Charles 8.5, Josh 8.5, Kenny 9, Me 10
Again, “so homy!”
Zombie Dice [GeekDo]
It wasn’t quite midnight, so we pulled out Zombie Dice for a final play. It’s just a shame, though, that in such a simple game with just one sheet of rules, they still can’t make it clear how to play. We had debated how the whole “footprint” die face worked the first time we played, and in looking back at it again, we’re pretty sure that we did it wrong. So, with the “real” rules, we played again. And sort of like Cloud 9, I think that I preferred our “accidental variant” better.
What we were doing before was to leave all the dice on the table once you rolled them. But you could take more dice out of the cup equal to 3 minus the number of feet you had rolled and roll them as well. And if you ever had three feet, your turn was over and you scored.
The actual rule is that you sperate all your dice (brains to one side, shotgun blasts to the other, and feet in the middle) and then you take out enough dice from the cup and add to the feet to total 3 dice, and roll all three. There are still some nice push-your-luck decisions to make, but they didn’t seem to be quite as interesting as what our variant produced.
Time: 17 minutes
Score: Kenny 13, Josh* 10, Me 9, Brett 5, Charles 3
Ratings: Kenny 7, Josh 7, Me 6, Brett 7, Charles 5
It’s okay, but only as a really quick filler. And you have to be in the mood to talk like zombies (Ughhhhhhhh) and make loud shotgun blast sounds. (KA-BLAM!)
Other Games Played
Score: Chip 18(3), James 18(1), Brett 18(0), Tommy* 15
Ratings: Chip 8, James 8, Brett 7, Tommy 8.5
Time: 26 minutes (for 2 games)
Game 1: Graham 39, Charles* 35, Steven 35, Chris 29
Game 2: Charles 52, Steven 50, Graham 49, Chris 39
Ratings: Charles 8, Graham 8, Steven 9, Chris 8
Time: 62 minutes
Score: Chip* 92, Chris* 81, Matt* 64
Ratings: Chip 7.5, Chris 7.5, Matt 7.5
Score: Chip 65, Kenny 120, Matt* 144, Britt* 156, Michelle 163
Ratings: Chip 8, Kenny 8, Matt 8, Britt 7, Michelle 8
Time: 34 minutes
Score: Graham 63, Chris 61, Steven* 45
Ratings: Graham 9, Chris 9, Steven 8
Time: 20 minutes
Score: Steven* 41+, Graham* 41-, Chris 35
Ratings: Steven 7, Graham 8, Chris 8
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 27 minutes
Score: Chris 76, James 55
Ratings: Chris 10, James 10
Time: 77 minutes
Score: Britt 3, Kenny 2, Matt* 1, Charles 1, Michelle 1
Ratings: Britt 8, Kenny 8, Matt 7, Charles 7.5, Michelle 7.5
Time: 14 minutes
Score: Kenny 13, Graham 10, Steven 6, Michelle 4, Matt* 3, Britt* 3, Chip 1
Ratings: Kenny 7, Graham 5.5, Steven 6, Michelle 7.6, Matt 7, Britt 6, Chip 6.5
* First play for that Person