Spiel : Boardgames in the UK

29 April 2006

Beer & Pretzels

Filed under: — Garry @ 1:38 pm

Beer & Pretzels 

The next UK game convention is fast approaching. In its 17th year, Beer & Pretzels will be held at Burton Town Hall, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire on the 13th and 14th of May 2006.

Further information can be found on the Spirit Games website here.

26 April 2006

SR: 21st April 2006 - Mykerinos, Mauer Bauer

Filed under: — Garry @ 11:20 am

Mykerinos

Mykerinos

Second week with just four of us, so it was a good opportunity to try out Mykerinos, which is being released in the UK this week. Being published by Caylus publishers, Ystari, I was very interested to see how this one played. Although much shorter and simpler than Caylus, I think Mykerinos is another very good game from Ystari. It was designed by Nicolas Oury, a name I’ve not heard of before.

The game is about archaeologists exploring the sands of Egypt, trying to find treasures to display in the most prestigious places in a museum. The museum has five wings, each looked after by a different patron, and by reserving the best spots for treasures that a particular patron is interested in, you get rewarded more for each exhibit of that kind you acquire by the end of the game.

The game play is pretty simple but has some agonising decisions to make. Each of the four rounds begins with a number of areas being revealed for exploration. Next comes the main part of the game, excavating. On a player’s turn, he can can do one of three things or drop out of the round: place a marker on any one of the available plots in the areas to start an excavation; place two markers to extend an existing excavation; or use the help of a patron for whom he has already secured an exhibit (not possible in the first round). The aim is to have sufficient markers in an area to get some payback for your investment (guaranteed for the two highest investors but may be some pickings left over for others). Markers are very limited and it could well be a good tactic to drop out early to keep back markers for a subsequent round. Once everyone’s placed all the markers they want, each area is tallied and the person with the most markers has a choice of taking one of the two exhibits in the area (some of which also give extra VPs) or reserving a spot in the museum. (The first spot in each wing pays triple for each exhibit of the right type, a second reserved spot will pay 5 times the value.) After four rounds, each exhibit players have acquired is valued according to the spots you have reserved in the museum. Each set of five different exhibits also gains 5 VPs. The total is added to VPs already won during play and, whoever has the most VPs wins.

Mykerinos is quite an elegant design with a fair bit to think about. It’s easy to get stuffed by coming third in a region (as I can testify) as early in the game the 2 higher scorers will tend to take the exhibits, but in the later rounds, players are likely to balance more between taking exhibits and reserving museum spots… And it’s amazing how critical the marker needed to reserve your place in the museum can be… And the last round can be absolutely critical, when more areas are being excavated (six as opposed to four in the first three rounds). In our game, I had the 5x museum spot taken from under my nose twice, which meant I wasn’t going to be in contention. Mark K however worked the last round perfectly to enable him to complete two sets of exhibits. This, together, with scoring well for his 5x museum spot allowed him to grab a well played win. Play time was just over an hour, which felt fine for the weight of the game. We all really enjoyed Mykerinos and I would like to try it again soon to eliminate the bonehead mistakes I made this time. Good stuff again from Ystari, all three of whose games I’ve enjoyed a lot.

Mauer Bauer 

Mauer Bauer

Mauer Bauer is a new game by Leo Colivini and published by Hans im Gluck. It is a game about building walls, towers and buildings to create towns in such a way that you satisfy the conditions laid down on your hand of building project cards. These might, for instance, give you 2Vps for every white tower in the finished town or 1VP for each blue building not inside a completed town. 

Gameplay is pretty simple but there is usually a bit to think about on every turn. First you have to lay a piece of wall anywhere on the board. Then you place towers at each end of the wall and buildings either side of the wall. You roll some dice to indicate what colour tower and buildings have to be placed. If your wall and others previously placed completely enclose an area, a town is formed and scoring occurs. Each player has the option of declaring one or two of their building projects and scores points according to how well they have matched the card’s conditions. You then get to draw one new project (even if you’ve declared two, in which case your hand is reduced for the future). Instead of scoring, you can, however, discard a card and then get to draw 2 new projects. The game ends as soon as the supply of one of walls, towers or buildings is exhausted. Whoever has the most points wins.

The game played quite well but points are very much determined by having the right building projects at the right time. Mark K and I both suffered early on by not having decent cards and, although the person in last place has the option to swap any number of cards in their hand after a scoring, we felt we were always playing catch-up. Of course, it may have been that Mark G and Phil had planned the development of the board better to suit their cards but they consistently seemed to have good-scoring projects to declare. I also suffered through having two black tower projects in a game where nobody seemed to be rolling black towers on the dice. We also thought the game lasted a bit too long at nearly ninety minutes. Maybe we were taking too long in deciding our moves but I don’t think so. Consequently, our ratings were a bit lower than I had expected them to be, as the game seems to have been fairly well received. Maybe our game was a bit of a fluke so I’d like to try the game again. Anyway, Mark G did enough to take a decent lead going into the last few turns and was able to limit the final scoring by closing off a one-space area with the final wall to claim the win.

24 April 2006

BGG Session reports

Filed under: — Garry @ 7:26 pm

I was just looking at my Boardgamegeek profile and noticed that it is 12 months since I last posted a session report for the Shrewsbury Boardgames Club to the Geek. Although posting to BGG is a bit more work every week, I’m not naive enough to think that people flock to this site and so it would just be wasted effort. Lots more people would see the reports if I cross-posted but I wonder if that would make traffic to my two sites dry up, as people would just pick up the reports from BGG.

Then again, with the server problems Aldie’s been having lately, maybe I should be offering to host a few more reports here to cut down the traffic over there :-)

What do you think? Should I bring the club’s session reports up-to-date on the Geek? We do play a fair few of the more recent German releases before many of the American game groups. Then again, maybe my abbreviated game descriptions don’t really compare very well with some of the detailed analysis you can get elsewhere.

20 April 2006

Baycon

Filed under: — Garry @ 12:38 pm

Baycon 2006 

Just in time to remind you about the latest UK boardgame convention. Often billed as the friendliest convention, Baycon 2006 will be held at the Exeter Court Hotel, Kennford, Devon from 1.00pm Thursday 20th April to 3.00pm Sunday 23rd April 2005 (the weekend after Easter).

Further details are available on the Baycon website.

17 April 2006

SR: 14th April 2006 - Blue Moon City, Thurn und Taxis

Filed under: — Garry @ 7:58 pm

Blue Moon City

Blue Moon City

This week, we met at Mark K’s house and, as I’d just received a new order from Germany, I was itching to play a couple of these. With just four of us, I decided we had to get in a game of Blue Moon City, the new Reiner Knizia game from Kosmos. The game is a boardgame cousin of the Blue Moon card game. It uses the same eight races but knowledge of the card game isn’t necessary to enjoy the boardgame. Nige insisted he wanted to play the Mimix and was a bit disappointed when I told him he couldn’t as all players use all the different races.

The theme of the game is about using the services of the different alien races to build the various exotic buildings that make up Blue Moon City. Each building has between 1 and 3 sections that need to be built before it is considered complete. Each section shows a number indicating the colour and value of cards that need to be played to build it. Players use cards from their hand to complete sections of a building and, once all the sections are complete, those who have taken part in building it are rewarded with a combination of dragon scales, cards and crystals, the last of which can be traded in to build a section of the obelisk in the central market place. And pieces of the obelisk are what matter at the end of the day, as the winner is the first person to build a certain number of pieces of the obelisk (4 in a four player game; 7 in a two-player game). Dragon scales yield additional crystals once the supply of scales is exhausted so can be a big benefit if you get enough of them.

I really enjoyed Blue Moon City. The clever part is that once buildings are complete, they add an additional reward to those that help complete an adjacent building. This ensures players compete in the same areas rather than go off and build by themselves in a corner. The semi-random set-up means you need to try and gauge where the critical buildings and the adjacent buildings are and, in our game, Nige took best advantage. I tried to use the dragon scales to gain crystals but it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped and Nige cruised to a fairly easy victory.

The other thing to say is that the game played really fast, which is unusual for our group. We finished within an hour, including rule explanation. I think Blue Moon City is a very nice game of optimising cards in your hand to best advantage. We wondered if the fourth player (me in our game) was at a significant disadvantage, as the earlier players were able to get a foothold in the most lucrative buildings, but I think there are enough decent places to start and you just need to adapt to how people have played before you. Anyway, very good game with a fair bit of replay value due to the random set-up of buildings. One to play again soon.

Thurn und Taxis

Thurn und Taxis

Next up was Thurn und Taxis, designed by Karen and Andreas Seyfarth and published by Hans im Gluck. The game is about building the German postal network and players are trying to establish postal routes to connect cities in the various regions.

The gameplay is pretty simple. On a player’s turn, he draws a card from a choice of six open cards and adds it to his hand. Each card shows one of the various cities through which the routes will travel. He then must play a card to start or extend a postal route that he chooses to work on. Each city card played must be connected to a city card already played for that route. If you cannot play a card to extend your current route, you have to discard that current route and start a new one – not nice. Once you’ve played a card, you can then choose to finalise the route you’re working on, in which case you place markers in certain of the cities used for that route. The more city markers you place the better, as each marker not on the board at the end of the game is deducted from your score. However, you score positive points by building progressively longer routes. You first 3 city route will give you a 3 coach card; each subsequent longer route gives you a better coach card with the 7 coach card being the best, the attainment of which triggers the end of the game. You also gain points by claiming bonus tiles as you place your routes. These are awarded for building longer routes, for having branches in all the cities in a region, and for building at least one city in all regions outside Baiern.

The game feels fairly similar to Ticket To Ride but, in Thurn und Taxis, you have another aspect to think about because each turn you can call on the assistance of one of the four postal officers waiting to help. Each gives a different benefit: one allows you to draw two cards rather than one; one allows you to play two cards instead of one; the third allows you to ditch all six cards available to be drawn and replace them with six new ones; and the final one allows you to upgrade to the next coach card if you are up to two cities short when you build a route (e.g. take the 6 coach card if you play a route connecting only 4 or 5 cities).

This was another game we enjoyed quite a bit. It took a bit longer to play than Blue Moon City but you had a bit more control over the cards you drew so were able to plan better. We all made a fair bit of use of the postal officer that cleared the choice of draw cards. Towards the end of the game, I worked out a very good final route that would allow me to take a 7 coach card and also gain me three bonus tiles, while triggering the end of the game. Although Mark G and Nige were also able to gain their 7 coach cards on the same turn, the bonus tiles gave me enough to ease past Mark G who, up until then had looked in a pretty strong position. I’m not sure how well it will stand up to repeated play but Thurn und Taxis is avery accessible game to get into (pretty much on a par with Ticket To Ride) and it could be a good tip for this year’s Spiel des Jahres.

15 April 2006

Latest game order from Adam Spielt

Filed under: — Garry @ 2:32 pm

Blue Moon City Mykerinos Thurn und Taxis

Just got through my latest order from Germany and am itching to play them. (Actually, played Blue Moon City and Thurn und Taxis last night and they’re really good - session report soon.)

So what did I get? Michael Schacht’s California, Karen & Andreas Seyfarth’s Thurn und Taxis, a Kosmos smuggling game called Hart an der Grenze, Reiner Knizia’s Blue Moon City and Great Wall of China, Leo Colivini’s Mauer Bauer, Stefan Dorra’s Seerauber, Tom Lehman’s Jericho, Uwe Rosenberg’s Bohnkick and Nottingham, and the new Ystari game Mykerinos.

That should keep us going for a while.

12 April 2006

SR: 7th April 2006 - Il Principe, Timbuktu

Filed under: — Garry @ 7:53 pm

Il Principe

Il Principe

I had been expecting there to be six of us this week so had lined up to play Power Grid, but John rang at the last minute to say he was unable to make it, so I quickly changed things to try and get another two games off my unplayed list. The first was Il Principe, designed by Emanuele Ornella and published by Z-Man Games.

Il Principe is about competing princes in Renaissance Italy. The aim is to gain Victory Points by building cities, influencing regions and possessing certain building roles to help the city builders. Players get an income of 5 coins at the start of each turn, together with 4 building cards in a variety of 5 colours. Two of these are kept in hand and 2 are made available for auction. All the cards made available are sorted by colour and all the cards in each colour are auctioned off as a lot. The auction winner takes the cards into his hand and can immediately choose to exchange building cards and pay a building cost to found a city (with each of the 15 cities requiring a different combination of cards). Building the city rewards the founder with a number of VPs and the ability to place a number of influence shields in regions neighbouring the city. Once all the cards have been auctioned, each player in turn has the option of building a city or laying cards of one colour face up in front of him. These join any cards played in previous rounds or used in building cities. Whoever displays the most and second-most cards in each colour controls that colour’s major and minor building roles for the following turn and will receive VPs for any city built during that turn using building cards of the matching colour. The game ends either when all the cities have been built or when the building card deck is exhausted, at which stage final VPs are awarded for control of the regions, most coins, most building cards left in hand and each role card controlled. Most VPs wins.

Money seemed very tight in the game and the result ended up being very close. The game also seemed to go very quickly, which is a good sign. I’m not sure any of us really worked out what the best strategy was and the close finish suggests that the game is fairly well balanced. The final bonuses proved critical with Mark K taking the victory by a single point. We all really enjoyed Il Principe and the quick playing time should mean it sees a fair bit of play. Nige immediately asked Mark to order him a copy so it must have been good.

Timbuktu

Timbuktu

Our second game of the evening was the recently re-released Timbuktu by Dirk Henn and produced by Queen Games. I’m not sure if I played the original Db-Spiele incarnation but, if I did, it must have been soon after it was released and my memory of it has just about gone.

Timbuktu is a game of transporting goods across the desert to Timbuktu by camel train. Each camel starts with an assortment of five different goods and each player controls 5 camels. The game is played over a number of rounds, with each round involving all the camels being moved during the day and then thieves stealing certain goods during the night. During movement, everyone simultaneously chooses which of their camels they wish to move and then players in turn move that camel into the front-most available pitch in one of the five pens. Once all the camels have been moved and safely tied up for the night, the thieves come visiting. Each thief steals two types of goods from two particular pitches in one particular pen. Each player starts the round with the vital information about one of the thieves and as the round progresses can get information about two more thieves. So as the round progresses, players get more information about which pitches are dangerous and which are safe. The camels in the wrong pitches lose the relevant goods and play progresses to the next round. After the final round, each delivered good is worth points equal to the total number of goods in that colour stolen by the thieves and whoever has the most points wins.

We decided part way through not to play all the rounds due to lack of time remaining but it became apparent that it was a two-horse (camel?) race between Phil and me. Gold ended up being the crucial factor and my camels won by a short hump. This was a fairly light deduction and movement-timing game with most of us thinking it was ok, Mark K preferring it a little bit more than most and Nige a little bit less. Nicely produced as you would expect from Queen but perhaps a bit long as a 5-player game. Not sure how it would play with fewer players but it would certainly be shorter due to fewer rounds being played.

11 April 2006

SR: 31 March 2006 - Antike, Igel Argern

Filed under: — Garry @ 11:27 am

Antike

Antike

This week, we had another go at Antike. Last time, we were pretty impressed with the game and the same was true on this occasion. This time, we played on the German side of the board. Mark G pursued the same line as he did previously by building a formidable army but again didn’t take real advantage by attacking some close temples. Mark K and I had a couple of skirmishes over Brittany but the game remained pretty peaceful most of the time. Phil started in North Africa and eventually got his fleet of ships going. John, however, was the man with the plan. He tried to keep himself to himself, built temples on his gold cities and played the advancement table for all it was worth. Once he got to 6 Ancient Personalities, the rest of us wised-up and did our best to thwart any further progress. Nige and Mark K between them stopped him from building a sixth temple, but eventually John was able to sack a temple and gain his final trophy for his first win of the year.

Antike remains a very impressive design. There is still plenty to explore and everyone can approach it in different ways and still feel they have a chance of winning. I’m not sure there is a killer strategy. Excellent stuff.

Igel Argern

Igel Argern

With a bit of time left, I suggested we have a go at Igel Argern. As some had not played before, we opted for the basic game with none of the variant rules added. I’ve not reported on this one before so here’s an outline of play.

The game is about racing hedgehogs down a six lane track. Each player controls 4 hedgehogs and the first to get 3 across the finish line wins. Movement is determined by a standard die roll, the number dictating in which lane a hedgehog moves forward. However, before moving a hedgehog, the player can move one of his own hedgehogs sideways by one lane. Also, if more than one hedgehog is in the same space, they are stacked and hedgehogs lower in the stack are trapped until the higher ones are moved. Normally, you want to move your own pieces forward but sometimes you are forced to move an opponent or might choose to do so because of the tar-pits dotted around the course. A hedgehog landing in a pit is basically stuck until all the hedgehogs behind it have caught up. That’s all there is to it.

There’s not a lot of deep thought needed for this game. Many of the choices are obvious but I find it to be good fun if played in the right spirit. Phil, however, disliked it a lot. Sometimes you have no choices through no fault of your own and Mark K for instance seemed drawn to the tar-pits. The finish was fairly close although Mark G manoeuvred his way into a very strong position and took the win. OK for the occasional play (perhaps when Phil’s not around) but it’s not going to be a regular filler.

 

 

 

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