Saturday, April 02, 2005

Game Night – 25 March 2005

Javy was around for this session, an occurrence that’s been in far short supply these days. It was good to have him aboard. Also joining us for the first time was George’s sister Mira. Always nice to have someone new to indoctrinate into the hobby!

With the personages assembled, I took the opportunity to haul Frog and George’s criminally underplayed copy of Pueblo off their shelf. Javy, George and I enjoy this game, and Nix wanted to try it after watching the game last Thursday. We elected to not use the always-entertaining Sacred Burial Grounds with two people new to the game. George signed up as Mira’s adviser, and play began.

Pueblo [4P]

I was feeling creative, so I attempted an unusual tactic. I had played a colored block near a corner, and that spot had some space left, enough to accommodate a couple more blocks. I decided to “waste” my next neutral block, leaving me space to cover my colored block with another of my own colored blocks, in an attempt to stay grounded as long as possible.

Not only was it a bad idea, but my timing was off and the other three players gleefully pounded that corner of mine with the Shaman. The old coot thwacked me with sixteen points of Shame in the first four turns of the game, making my task very difficult indeed.

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It didn’t help that the other players were handling the game very well. Javy, who holds the record for worst Pueblo score EVER (it was something like 108 Shame, if I recall correctly), was doing very well. The sisters were pristine at this point, and Nix only had 4.

I managed to hold off any more damage until the Shaman came around, building into the cracks and creases that the others were leaving. It wasn’t much. This was the toughest game of Pueblo I’d played yet. After a couple more turns the score was 10-5-10-19, with Javy leading. The Shaman eventually made his way all around again to Rick’s Folly, and the other builders (damn them) stuck me with another 7 Shame. Aaaaah! At the end of the main building proper, Javy was leading the way.

Pueblo – Scores before Final Inspection
George/Mira – 18
Javy – 9
Nix – 19
Rick – 26

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My only consolation was that other than Rick’s Folly, the rest of my building blocks were decently hidden. There were spots here and there, but I’d hopefully make up some ground. Shows you what I know about this game.

Pueblo – Final Scores
George/Mira – 38
Javy – 26
Nix – 36
Rick – 44

So Javy finally wins one, and a very nice win at that, while I lose my first game of Pueblo ever, coming in dead last. I hate this game, and I can’t wait to play again. It’s brilliant. But next time, we play with the Sacred Burial Grounds, hmmm? Stupid old coot hasn’t heard the last of THIS Master Builder.

Pueblo took less than an hour. Since Javy couldn’t stay a lot longer, we pulled his second most favorite game, Puerto Rico, off the shelf for a quick 5P game.

Puerto Rico [5P]

Seating: Nix, Rick, George, Javy, Frog

Ahhhh… second seat. Oh well. This installment of our ongoing Puerto Rico Wars wasn’t good for me. Not only did I get second seat, but my initial cash crop investment in Tobacco was headed off by both Frog and George, forcing me to switch strategies. In a fit of insanity, I took the Settler three times in the next five turns, piling up a bunch of quarries. Nix, who had invested early in a construction hut and a hacienda, made the most of it and ended up with four quarries himself. Of course, the other three people had all the goods. If we misplayed this, we’d get whacked with the shipping stick and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Nix eventually compiled all five goods via the hacienda, and got a factory out early courtesy of his quarries. I took a harbor, as did George who had the only other quarry. Javy built an office to leverage his coffee plantations. Frog was already shipping a lot early via corn, and ended up investing in a wharf to keep that going. It became a race, Nix and I attempting to build out as fast as possible while shipping a bit, and the others trying to get as many goods out as possible before the game ended.

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The pivotal play came in what turned out to be the next to last turn. Frog had the opportunity to end the game via slave exhaustion (due no doubt to my settler frenzy and building boom) but chose not to, trying to get one more shipping round off on Nix. Nix had a strong position, having built both the residence (good) I had the fortress, and Javy had the Guild Hall. In the final turn, Javy took the Mayor early, to prevent any large buildings built that turn from getting manned. Nix built city hall, Javy and I built hospices, which eliMirated all the buildings that Frog could afford. With one final round of shipping done, the scores were tallied…

Puerto Rico – Final Scores (Shipping+City+Bonus):
Nix: 7+22+7 = 36
Rick: 11+19+5 = 35
Javy: 17+17+6=40
Frog: 26+13+0=39
George: 20+14+0=34

If Frog had gotten a hospice, he would have won. If he had ended the game the turn earlier, he also would have won. Nix wasn’t in the running after all, due to pathetic shipping. Javy took the win with a nice, balanced approach. Great game, the best we’ve played in quite a while. I still prefer 4P to 5P PR, but sometimes 5P produces really good, tight, nerve-wracking games.

Javy took off after the game, and we settled down for some dinner. Mikko joined us at this point. When the plates were taken care of and the huge tub of Blue Bunny was put away for the next week, we turned to some lighter games.

Falling [6P]

Nix took on the task of teaching the group James Ernest’s Falling, a really fun real-time game. Having played before, I was at an advantage, moving the Hits and Splits off of me to the newbies while stockpiling the Skips and Extras. As usual, the game didn’t last long, and we all hit the ground. I hit the ground last, giving me the “win”.

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We played a second game, and this time Frog got the win. He hated the game though, so we chose a more traditional game next.

Mamma Mia [5P]

Nix again took on the task of teaching the game to Mira, who was the only one who was new to the game. I’ve got a really crappy memory, so when I play Mamma Mia I resort to hand management and short-term recall of what the last two players threw in. If a lot of recipes go into the deck, I’m usually screwed. As was the case here. Lots of recipes into the oven, really bad luck with the ingredients in hand, and the result is predictable:

Mamma Mia – First Round Scores:
Frog – 3
Rick – 0
Mira – 2
George – 2
Mikko – 3

The second round was no better for me, and Mikko lost his timing, resulting in him having no recipes played into the oven. Man, if there’s a recipe for sucking at Mamma Mia, that’s it.  However, I still had no complete recipes, so who am I to talk?

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Mamma Mia – Second Round Scores:
Frog – 4
Rick – 0
Mira – 3
George – 3
Mikko – 3

To end the second round, only mushrooms were left in the oven. Six of them. Mikko had drawn the Mamma Mia card, so he took advantage and converted his Minimale. I ws next, so there was just enough of the Shrooms for me to complete my own Minimale. That avoided the shutout! Actually, I did ok in the last round, making up some ground. We couldn’t beat Frog though, since he had a good memory and was actually trying to remember everything that went into the over.

Mamma Mia – Final Scores:
Frog – 6
Rick – 4 (all in the last round!)
Mira – 4
George – 3
Mikko – 3

That took around 45 minutes, so we launched into another filler, this time a bit more stupid. Boy, we didn’t know the half of it.

Give Me the Brain [6P]

This is one of Nix’s and Tala’s favorite fillers. It’s got a fun theme, but the mechanisms of this game are fairly unstable, as this game demonstrated.

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Nix explained the game for around five minutes. Ok, no problem (I had played before). So, we deal the cards. Then we bid. Nix wins the bid. He takes the brain. He plays Work Sucks, discarding his whole hand and drawing four new cards. He also fails the skill roll for Work Sucks, dropping the brain. We bid again. Nix wins control of the brain again (remember he dropped it so the 1-4 cards are 31s for him). He plays a one-hand brain job. He fails the skill roll, dropping the brain again. We bid again, and he wins yet again. He plays his last job. Game over.

Give Me the Brain
Winner – Nix, with no one else getting to do anything

I seriously doubt that we’re going to see Give Me the Brain again anytime soon. Sorry Tala.

In an effort to actually play a game where people got to do stuff before it was over, I brought out Bohnanza, which I had stuck in my bag for some reason that I no longer remember. It’s been a while since we played the bean game, and a lot of the folks at the table had never played (I think it was just me, Frog and Mikko that had played before).

Bohnanza [6P]

I actually find Bohnanza inoffensive, pleasant and just a bit boring. It’s better if everyone plays fast. Good thing that people caught on pretty fast, and the game proceeded briskly. People were harvesting beans a bit too early though, and more people bought the third bean fields than I would have expected.

I was in a color mood, nursing red, black-eyed and blue beans for most of the game, but made four gold from a nice full wax bean plantation. As is usual I don’t buy the third bean field. Nix compiled an impressive coffee plantation, perhaps leftovers from that Puerto Rico game. Mikko was in the running with green beans and chili beans.

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There was a decent amount of donations since people had different plantations (six is probably the best number of players for Bohnanza), and the trading was brisk.

Bohnanza – Final Scores:
Frog – 7
George – 8
Mira – 6
Nix – 11 (4 cards)
Mikko – 11 (3 cards)
Rick – 7

Ooh, nice tiebreaker win by Nix. Bohnanza will never be a favorite of mine due to its languid pace and a tendency for players to lose focus, but at least it goes quickly. God forbid we ever add any expansions into this game. It’ll see some action a couple of times a year maybe, when we need a change of pace, or there are lots of newbies.

George took Mira home, so Frog and Mikko paired up to play the A Game of Thrones CCG. I pulled out its sister, the Call of Cthulhu CCG to play with Nix. He had the Mythos, I had the Investigators.

The Call of Cthulhu CCG [2P]

I had a pretty decent draw, expanding to four domains and drawing the Miskatonic Library early. This allowed me to get the tomes from the deck, giving an additional way to put early points on the stories. As usual, the Mythos deck was slow out of the gate, but was spitting out resources. My humans did well early, even getting some help from a Government Task Force while investigating certain rumors.

That was until some calamity occurred at the investigation site, and all hands working on that story were lost. (Nix played The Great Old One Rises – ouch). The Mythos deck had enough resources by then to bring in a couple of Shoggoths to augment the two cultists. I took a shotgun to the cultist named Tim, preventing him from murdering any more scholars and cops, but it was too late. The cultists eventually succeeded in summoning The King in Yellow, and with the Mythos ahead two stories to one, it was a lost cause.

I’m considering removing The Great Old One Rises from the Mythos deck, as it has the potential to completely ruin the day of the investigators. Maybe in a few more plays, if it keeps being the gamebreaker.

George had returned by then, so we played one more game as a closer.

Paris Paris [3P]

We’ve been enjoying Paris Paris a lot lately, having played it around six times in the last two weeks. It’s a perfect mediumweight game, requiring a bit of thought and planning, some spatial visualization, and it’s got just a bit of luck at the end. Not bad, it’s the best Michael Schacht game I’ve played.

The game was pretty even early on, with all three of us jockeying for business sites at the intersections. I had the blue special tour tile, but was struggling to maintain a position there due to the tile draws, so I had to diversify as best as I could. Nix was doing very well, spreading out and getting great results from the small tours due to great timing. With five stacks to go, the scores were very close 18-18-17, with George behind by just a tick. The grand tour display was full though, so several grand tours culMirated the main part of the game.

Paris Paris – Scores before Special Tours:
George – 32
Nix – 39
Rick – 36

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We revealed our special tour tiles, and I got hosed. Not only was I unable to get a foothold in my own blue line, the other two lines I was into heavily, green and orange, were not going to have special tours. Ouch.

Paris Paris – Scores after Special Tours:
George – 50
Nix – 61
Rick – 43

We doubted that the bag bonus would help George catch Nix, and it turned out that Nix and I were tied with 5 houses in the bag, with George having 4. Nix wins.

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