Spiel : Boardgames in the UK

22 March 2005

Nimrods Blog spotted by The Guardian

Filed under: — Garry @ 10:35 pm

National newspaper, The Guardian, has spotted one of our well-established blogs about boardgames, Nimrods. The article here doesn’t provide us with any useful information other than the link but at least it’s highlighted as a boardgames site so it could help the cause of publicising boardgames in the UK.

Well done Pete Haslehurst for getting himself well and truly in the spotlight.

21 March 2005

Session Report - 18th March 2005

Filed under: — Garry @ 8:23 pm

Manila
Players: Nige, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Garry

A new batch of games from Adam Spielt arrived this week, so I was keen to try a couple of them. The first was Manila by Franz-Benno Delonge and released by Zoch (an English edition to be distributed by Rio Grande is in the pipeline).

The game concerns the shipment of four types of good by boat to the city of Manila. Each player starts with two random shares, secret from the other players, and the value of the shares will increase as more of the good is successfully shipped to Manila. However, the boats are not reliable and often fail to reach port with their cargo. Players hire accomplices, in the hope of earning money through their accomplices’ actions. The accomplices can be deployed in a variety of roles, with payment being determined by the success of that role. Those placed on boats will receive payment if the boat succeeds in reaching port; those working at the port get paid according to how busy the port is; at the shipyard, accomplices will be paid according to the number of boats needing repair; someone in the insurance office will gain or lose depending on how many boats fail to reach port; pilots can affect the likely success of the boats’ journeys but get no other payback; and pirates may be lucky to board or plunder the boats on their voyage.

The game is played over a number of rounds and each round has two main phases, plus some admin at the end of the round. The first phase involves the auctioning of the role of harbour-master for the round. Bidding goes around the table until all but one have dropped out. The harbour master gets four advantages: He can buy one share of a particular good (and the harbour master is the only person ever able to buy any shares, over the intitial two everyone receives at the start of the game). There are three boats available each round and each can only ship one type of good, (so one good is not shipped each round) and the harbour master determines which three will be transported. Thirdly, he gets to determine which boats have the furthest to travel to reach port. Finally he gets to place accomplices first in the second phase. The second phase involves placing accomplices and moving the boats. In turn, each player gets to place an accomplice into a role for the current journey and then the dice are rolled to move the boats towards port. This is done three times, following which the round ends. Accomplices are then paid out depending on whether or not each boat reached port. Then the share price of goods that were successfully shipped to Manila are increased. A new round then begins with another auction of the harbour master role. Rounds continue until one good’s share price has been increased four times, at which stage shares are redeemed and whoever has the most money wins the game.

In our game, Phil started out the strong leader. He was the only person to pick the pirate role for one of his accomplices in the first round and he came out with a huge profit, as a boat worth 30 landed on the pirate space after the third roll of the dice. We all “seemed” to be playing catch-up from then on. Money was very tight with three players taking loans during the game (Mark K took three, I think). Gaining the harbour master role is good but can leave you short of money when deploying your accomplices. Being able to buy a share though, especially early on, can be very lucrative if the share price of that good escalates considerably. Mark K seemed to like the idea of retaining the harbour master role, despite going into debt, as placement of accomplices first tends to be cheaper and gives one the opportunity of pinching the best roles before anyone else. Phil and I, being 2nd and 3rd in turn order behind the harbour master, were reasonably content to let Mark keep paying, while Nige was unhappy that there was no lucrative role left when it came round to the last player (him) placing accomplices. Maybe he should have pushed Mark K harder in the auctions, especially as Mark K would then still have been 2nd in turn order with Nige as harbour master. Eventually, I persuaded Phil to complete a fourth successful voyage for the beige good and end the game (as he looked to be miles ahead). Unfortunately, beige was the only really valuable share and Mark K and I were the ones holding most of these. Mark K’s indebtedness left me able to declare another win for me - much to Nige’s disgust: He would have been very happy for Phil or even Mark K to take the win but, for some reason, he wanted my loss record to be in an upward direction rather than the wins.

We all thought this was a very good, verging on excellent, gambling game. It’s all about playing the odds and whether you want to try for the big gains or play conservatively for small returns. After one playing, the big uncertainty is what the value of the harbour master is. It gives you a fair degree of control but you can still get stuffed by the actions of the pilots and the roll of the dice. Players’ choices are pretty straightforward but judging the best one is not easy. The game took about 80 minutes, but this really depends on the number of successful and unsuccessful voyages there are. Talking to Mark K the next day, we both wondered whether to move our ratings up slightly, as the game was very engaging with people involved all the time. This could see quite a bit of play and definitely needs a repeat playing to try out new things now we know how to play.

Result: Garry 92, Mark K 62, Nige 48, Phil 41, Mark G 25
Ratings: Garry 7, Mark K 7, Nige 7, Phil 8, Mark G 8

Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck (aka Pickomino)
Players: Nige, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Garry

Another brand new Zoch game is this new dice game from Reiner Knizia, which could be described as Can’t Stop with worms. Sixteen domino-like tiles numbered 21 to 36 are laid in the middle of the table. These also each show a number of worms (between 1 and 4) to be won by claiming that tile. At the end of the game, whoever has won the most worms wins.

On a player’s turn, he rolls 8 dice each of which show numbers 1 to 5 and a worm (also worth 5 points) on the sixth side. Having rolled, he has to bank all the dice of one number and can re-roll the remainder. He has to bank a different number (or worm) after each roll and continues either until he can claim a tile or can re-roll no more. If he can claim a tile, either by matching a tile number in the centre or one visible in front of an opponent, he takes it and places it in front of him. If he finishes his turn without claiming a tile, he has to return the last tile he claimed to the middle of the table and remove from the game the highest tile in the centre of the table. It is then the next player’s turn.

In our game, we started off with the opening tile won being passed between players, as they matched the previous player’s total. Mark K failed to score on his first turn but, as he had no tiles at that stage, didn’t lose out because of it. He then succeeded in gaining a tile on every subsequent turn and ran out a fairly easy winner. Nige demonstrated why he is not a fan of dice games by not even troubling the scorer.

There is a lot of dice rolling in the game and although it is quite fun watching sombody’s prize tile being nabbed by another player, the wait between your turns is a bit excessive. Nige went and made a coffee between turns at one stage. The game is clearly aimed as a bit of family fun but I didn’t think it had the elegance of Can’t Stop and wasn’t anything like as enjoyable as Reiner’s Exxtra.

Result: Mark K 11, Mark G 7, Garry 6, Phil 3, Nige 0
Ratings: Mark K 5, Mark G 6, Garry 4, Phil 5, Nige 4

15 March 2005

Session Report: 11 March 2005

Filed under: — Garry @ 7:23 pm

wildlife
Wildlife

Players: Mark K, Ian, Mark G, John, Garry

With five of us this week, I suggested to Mark K that I would like to try Wolfgang Kramer’s Wildlife, a game I’ve not played before for some reason. Mark had played it at Christmas and had enjoyed it so I was keen to see how it measured up.

The game is set in Stone Age times and is about the competition for survival between various species of creature and man. Each player is one such species and they compete to control the various areas on the board. Players hold a hand of cards each of which shows a terrain that action can be taken in or a special action. On a player’s turn, he uses 3 of his cards, 2 for himself and 1 which is auctioned off to the other players for their immediate use, in return for food chips. The areas are coloured according to the type of terrain they represent and contain a number of spaces to show how many creatures can be placed in the area. Each creature has differing abilities in each terrain (e.g. bears can do nothing in the desert, can migrate on the savannah, expand in the mountains and attack in the forests). However, an Adaptation card allows the player to upgrade his ability on one type of terrain, allowing him more freedom of action for the rest of the game. Ability cards give the holder extra .. err .. abilities, but they are limited in number and can be stolen. Text cards give various advantages to the player playing the card (or disadvantages to other players).

Once all the spaces in an area are occupied, the person completing the area receives a number of VPs (3VPs for the earlier areas completed, 5VPs towards the end of the game). Then after the 4th, 8th and (possibly) 11th areas have been completed, all areas are assessed individually and VPs awarded for those with the most of their species present. At the same time, bonus VPs are awarded to those with the largest groups of connected creatures, those whose creatures abilities have advanced the most, those with the most special ability tiles and those with the most food chips. The game ends after the 11th area has been scored or someone has placed all of their creatures onto the board. Most VPs obviously wins.

This was a typical Kramer game, trying to maximise your position from a limited number of actions. There is not a lot you can do between your turns but you do tend to be involved in other people’s auctions so downtime is not too much of a problem. Early on, Ian demonstrated his wargame background by taking an Aggression card. He also kept his herd together well, which allowed him to storm ahead on the major scoring, once the fourth area was completed. He also played a Famine Text Card, which cost Mark G and me some vital VPs, as we were low on Food points. John also kept scoring well by keeping to relatively uncontested areas. Once the eighth area was ready to be completed, the aggression started in earnest, with me retaliating against Ian for an earlier incursion into my territory. I scored well at this second major scoring and took a slim lead. I also looked likely to go out on my next turn with just three creatures left to place. However, it didn’t get round to me again. Ian broke up my herd and then Mark G broke up Ian’s, while finishing the last (11th) area. This reduced Ian’s scoring at the end and allowed Mark K, who had kept up with the pace all the way through to grab the win. Missing out on one final turn was deadly for me and, although I had started at the front of the score track, that didn’t make up for the swing I could have achieved if I had managed the same number of turns as everyone else. Despite this, Mark K played really well and showed that his previous experience of the game was not wasted.

We all enjoyed the game but thought it just went on a little bit too long. It took about 2.5 hours, although Mark K didn’t think it was as late as it turned out to be. Plenty to think about, as usual for a Kramer game, and I’m sure I would play differently on the game’s next outing.

Result: Mark K 79, Ian 78, Garry 68, John 65, Mark G 63
Ratings: Mark K 7, Ian 7, Garry 7, John 7, Mark G 7

12 March 2005

Boardgamegeek on BBC Radio 2

Filed under: — Garry @ 8:57 am

BGG
I was pretty amazed yesterday when my secretary told me that they had been talking about boardgames on BBC radio this last Tuesday afternoon.

It turns out that Steve Wright’s show on BBC Radio 2 had featured Boardgamegeek as its website of the day. Although there was no mention of any of the types of games we love, it did say what a great resource BGG was and, I guess, all publicity is welcome.

The full show is still on the BBC’s listen again service until Tuesday when it will presumably then disappear forever. The website of the day bit is around 2 hours 45 minutes into the show but, for those that want to get straight to the interesting bit, here it is. I’ve kept it low quality to save bandwidth but will see if Aldie wants to put the better version on his site.

9 March 2005

Session Report - 4th March 2005

Filed under: — Garry @ 7:47 pm

Around The World In 80 Days
Six of us gathered at my house this week and we had the pleasure of a new player joining us. Welcome to Ian Morgan. In order to ease Ian in gently, I picked out a few fairly simple games that we’d played recently and I fancied playing again.

Im 80 Tagen Um Die Welt
Players: Mark G, Ian, Nige, Phil, Mark K, Garry

Last time we played this as a three player game and Nige won easily. I still think this was down to his good fortune in drawing low pairs of travel cards at the right time so I was keen to see if his luck would hold out with a full compliment of 6 globetrotters.

We started off pretty well bunched going through Paris but Nige then surged forward to become the first into each new city and gain the bonus token. His luck in playing pairs continued from last time and I suspect he was probably printing them under the table as he needed them. Ian decided to follow the opposite strategy of aiming to be last into each city to gain the other bonus token. He just needed to make sure he didn’t fall too far behind as the game ends at the end of the round in which the fourth player arrives back in London. Anyone still on their travels at that point doesn’t finish.

As Nige was setting a fairly brisk pace on his circumnavigation of the globe, I decided to try and keep in touch, even if it meant spending a couple of extra days here and there to advance to the next city. It soon became obvious though that this strategy just couldn’t keep me in touch with “Mister Pairs”. So I slowed my pace to try and wait for lower cards to appear in my hand but they just kept evading me.

Nige raced into London two full turns before anyone else, using just 69 days. Ian’s hang-back strategy nearly paid off and he would have equalled Nige’s number of days had I not pulled out a grey event card on the final turn (adding a day to everyone’s time). To add insult to my injury, I also failed to finish as my transatlantic transport failed to materialise. So two wins out of two for Nige at this game but, more importantly, a first win for him in 2005. I think everyone enjoyed this one and I’m still keen to keep playing it.

Result: Nige 69, Ian 70, Phil 74, Mark K 78, Mark G 82, Garry - lost at sea
Ratings: Ian 7, Phil 6, Mark K 7, Others already rated

Piranha Pedro
Players: Mark G, Ian, Nige, Phil, Mark K, Garry

Next up was this simple game of out-guessing your opponents that Mark G and I had played before but nobody else had.

With six players, the game is much more chaotic than with three. At least with three you stand a reasonable chance of deducing where Pedro might move. The last to go in a six player game has absolutely no chance of knowing which direction is likely to be safe, although this is compensated for by the fact that somebody else might hit the water before it gets round to your turn. The other difficulty with gamers involved is that the those playing first in the round try to make it as difficult as possible for later players by trying to do the unexpected.

I think this resulted in some concluding that the game was pure luck. However, there is an element of knowing the character of your opponents, trying to follow what direction cards have been played previously and trying to minimise your potential losses when you are playing your card late in the round. My shining talent in these regards allowed me to take the win. We scored by number of piranhas taken (fewest best) and then by number of stones left in hand (most best). Ian was again a close second, tying with me in not taking any piranhas but losing out by having fewer stones in front of him. Mark G, however, clearly had an affection for the fearsome fishies.

Result: Garry 0 piranhas / 21 stones, Ian 0/17, Nige 1/22, Phil 1/21, Mark K 1/19, Mark G 2
Ratings: Ian 5, Nige 4, Phil 6, Mark K 6, Others already rated

Tanz Der Hornochsen
Players: Mark G, Ian, Nige, Phil, Mark K, Garry

We ended with the boardgame version of 6 Nimmt, which we greatly enjoyed last time we played.

In that game, Mark G was mystically drawn to the dung heap and so it was again this time. He was certainly trying hard not to take penalty points but, no matter what he did, he seemed to end up in a cow pat. When we got to the stage of playing two tiles a turn, he deliberated very carefully and then promptly managed to finish two rows in one turn. Very funny! The rest of us stayed pretty close with Phil managing to stay on zero for a long while. However, a couple of unlucky tiles later on proved to be his downfall and this allowed Ian to grab the win.

Both new players rated the game as ok and Mark K and Nige thought last time’s ratings may have been a touch high but I still think this is a very nice game and I would stick by my 8 rating.

Result: Ian 11, Garry 15, Nige 19, Phil 26, Mark K 34, Mark G 60
Ratings: Ian 6, Phil 5, Others already rated

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