Wow, I can’t believe that this is the third year of Lone Star. More after the cut…
We started out with this very thematic game, Jenseits von Theben. I decided to spend most of the time collecting cards around the cities. I turned out to be pretty well rounded in specific knowledge. And I gathered 5 Kongress cards (triangle point cards). So, I started digging. I was pretty lucky on one dig: out of 4 cards, I received 4 artifacts. Marty was even more lucky than I though. His excessive knowledge in Palestine, his breadth of artifacts dug up from there, and the two showings that he was able to attend won him the game.
The cards dried up during the game. Early on, we had a number of showings (only two of which were attended). However, towards the middle of the game, no conferences showed up at all. So when the cards stopped being attractive, the only thing left to do was dig.
I played a prototype trick-taking card game called Rainbow Trump. There are seven suits (the colors of the rainbow with red being the highest rank and violet being lowest) with values from 1 – 7. Therefore each card has two attributes to it. You are dealt out some amount of cards (in a three player game it was 15) and there are some amount of cards which were not in play but instead used as bonus points (4 for us). Each player chooses a personal trump card by secretly picking a card and facing the desired attribute towards himself (if can be number or color). Which are then revealed. Someone leads a card either as a color or as a number. Standard trick taking rules apply: you must follow what was led, you can sluff or trump otherwise. If multiple people want to trump, then something special happens. The first trump starts to take it, then, a second trump can beat it: if it is a number trump then
if the number is higher, or if it is a color trump, then if the color is higher. If it was overtrumped, then you take the trick and an extra point as recorded by an extra card (so these points could run out during the course of a hand).
One strategy you can use is to attack the base trump. If someone is forced to play the card that they used to show their trump card, then they loose the power of trump. Whatever cards were left which would have been trump are now normal cards. So one strategy is to try and get someone to be forced to play that card. Of course, usually people will pick trump of whatever is their longest suit or number. However, if that person picked blue and displayed the blue 5, then playing other 5’s as a number will get them to play that card.
I always like trick-taking games. And there are many of them out there with unusual twists. For this game, you are forced to now keep track of 7×7 things instead of 7 things. Also, when you try and save walkers of a suit (low cards that are the only ones left), it is hard to try and stop someone else. Normally you will trump in, but if you are out of trump, then chances are that the cards that they will play will be different than cards you can cover. For example, if you hold the 6 of blue, then someone can play the 5 of blue as a number. Which means that the 6 that you hold is considered sluff. Only a 5 of red, orange, yellow, or green will beat that blue. Did you save one of those as well?
We went for a late lunch at Doneraki. Which was supposed to be pretty good. However, by the time we arrived, they stopped serving the buffet. And we had problems with the waiter. It seems that I have bad luck when I eat with Kevin and Debra. 😉
While we were eating, the group decided to play werewolf. But there wasn’t a vote on it because I would have surely have voted against it. Sigh. I wasn’t picked as a werewolf or seer. So I remained quiet and hoped that everyone would leave me alone. We did make a good pick on the first suspected werewolf though. I had a feeling that Brandon was just a little too vocal in his accusations. The next werewolf was harder though. Mary volunteered the fact that she was the seer. So her life was going to be short. She did say that Tim Houston was not a werewolf. Tim then used his logic arguments to get people to vote in a certain order. Tim Burnet and I agreed and we killed off the next werewolf. Phew. Hopefully I won’t have to play that game any time soon…
I have been wanting to play this game for a while now if only for the bits. You are building Cleopatra’s palace. The different pieces are obelisks, sphinxes, walls, door frames, and Cleopatra’s throne. The box is used as part of the building, so at the end of the game, the completed structure looks impressive. Game play is easy. You either collect cards that represent resources (wood, stone, marble, lapis, artisan) or special abilities, OR build a section of the palace and collect money. When 5 of six sections of the palace has been built, the game is over.
Only money counts as victory points at the end of the game. However, there is one mechanism that you have to watch out for. And that is corruption. Some of the more powerful cards, like the double resource cards or the special ability cards, are tainted. If you play them, then you get corruption tokens which are secretly placed inside of a pyramid bank. At the end of the game, you get more corruption tokens if you have cards in your hand that are tainted. The person with the most corruption automatically loses. There can be points in the game where you offer money to remove corruption tokens. However, only the person who offered the most money gets to remove three tokens. The other people get one or more tokens. Painful. And unpredictable. It can happen a lot or a little during the game. In our game, it only happened once.
During the game, the ladies at the table (Mary “Corruption Jones” and Amy) were taking corruption tokens. I knew Amy was going to spend a lot of the money that she earned during the offering. So I went for second place. Amy ended offering 13 dollars which I thought was a lot. As the game progressed, I started taking corruption tokens. And when the game ended, the corruption tokens were surprisingly close (9, 8, 8, and 6). Mike lost and I ended up in first place based on money. If Mike would have taken one less, then only Mary would have won.
Marty brought out this game claiming that it would be quick. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the complete opposite. But I was able to chat and do other stuff during the massive downtime.
Since only myself and Mike were not playing games, Mike suggest that we play Carolus Magnus as a two player game. I like this older Colovini game. It doesn’t really need a them. In fact, I cannot remember what the theme is supposed to be. All you need to know is that it is a majority game. You want majority in some of the five colors. Because if you are first in a color, you can use that color on the board to cast votes for you. And if you have the most votes on an island when the king comes around, then you place your marker(s) on it. If the neighboring islands are also owned by you, then you can merge them into one super island. Once you place all ten of your markers on the board, the game is over.
This game was close. It came down to a dice roll at the end. Could Mike roll the colors that he needed? Yes, he did.
I certainly had fun at this convention. But I am sad that I didn’t get to play Train Raider, Struggle of Empires, or my many other Wallace games that I brought. Kevin was still the nicest person at the con. Amy, the Cookie Pimp, made some wonderful cookies. Imperial was surprisingly the most played game at the con. The hotel was actually pretty good. It had a Tempurpedic mattress, fitted sheets, and free WiFi.
I like this game since it has dice and it has mechanics that mitigate the randomness of the dice. But I have yet to win the game. This game had some new players in it. So it turned out that everyone played with group-think. Which I absolutely hate. Because I seem to loose out on arguing my case or convince others to change their plans and hose someone else. When I hear things like “and you can move the Supervisor here to hurt Mark” and “okay”, I just cringe. It was no surprise that I did not enjoy playing this game…
We played this quick and lightly meaty game as a partnership game. Our team maxed out the orange color first. So I turned to other colors. Unfortunately, red was our Achilles heel and it proved to be our downfall.
This is a new game that I wanted to try. It is a bidding game that uses four currencies for five auctions. You bid on chips that give you actions in three categories: money, victory points, and drawing cards. Also, there are two structures that you must build that will let you score more victory points. If you don’t build the church, then you cannot score past 25 and if you don’t build the cathedral, then you cannot score past 45. So it is imperative that you keep some money to build those structures when you need them.
I like the tiles in this game. They have a great build quality to them. And I like the Tichu-ness of the game play. We played only five rounds (for the number of players). I think that this was too little as it doesn’t offset the luck of the draw. But still, its an alright game.
Next up was Sticheln. With four players, I think it starts pushing into unpredictable territory. It is at its best with three players. And I like the feeling of impending doom that this game gives you. On my hand, I had some poor choices. So I went for the blue suit (10, 8, 5, 3 – I think). I was a bad sign when someone else chose blue as well. Luckily for me, I was able to duck under the tricks on my 10 and 8 card! Phew!
WTF? Is someone drinking biscuits at this convention?
I like this old Knizia game. Part of its charm is the “what if” scenarios that you imagine when you pair up famous actors in old movies. The new re-release is just ugly. They use fake but recognizable parody names. Gah! Anyways, I was surprised that my 19 green movie was able to hold up for the whole game. It got me best picture for two years and best picture overall. At the end I was trying to finish any one of three yellow movies. I just needed one chip each. But it was not to be. Still, I finished in first though.
Since I have been playing 42 at lunch lately, I had to play this tournament. My partner, Brandon, was new to 42 and I tried to teach him all that I knew in the time before it started. He did well though. What was different was the utter lack of variants that we used during the tournament. The two were that you could call doubles as their own suit and that you could call nillo at anytime. You couldn’t lead the low side of a bone or splash or plunge. I think that the nillo at anytime is just too powerful though.
In the first game, I came across an interesting ethical dilemma. Due to the table, I had difficulty shuffling the bones. Sometime, one would flip over. So when someone told me that they had noticed that the 6:5 flipped up and then tracked it during the shuffle, I was not happy. They declared that they were going to take advantage of people messing up. When it happened again, that person would stare like a hawk during the shuffle. Of course, trying to speed up the shuffle was not helping matters. Afterwards, Marty told me a good way to combat that by taking the tile and one other and putting them behind your back. You then swap them or not and replace them on the board.
Oftentimes, I might be able to see someone’s cards during a game. I either don’t look at them or if it is just too obvious, then warn them. Thankfully, our game group does not have this type of person playing at it.
On the second round, one of the opposing teammates called nillo a lot. Like three times. And was set each time. So from my experience, the winning percentage of nillo calls during this tournament was not very good (like 25% or so).
On the third and final round, our score went from 0/3 to 3/4 to 3/6. I never had a hand worth bidding. How sad… Still, it was a blast!
Another year has passed, which brings me to the start of the Lone Star Game Fest. I bypassed the usual Thursday gaming in order to pack and go to bed early. I left at around 6:15 am and drove east on 79. Google maps had me take FM-1660 south when I got to Hutto. But, when I saw the new SR-130 toll road, I was not about to try and find an unfamiliar road in the dark. Besides, the toll road was still at its introductory free price. It linked up to US-290 which I then took down to Houston.
US-290 is interesting because it is a road where you can drive 70. Yet it passes through all these towns. A couple are no stop light towns. They slow you down to 55. At one point I looked up and noticed that I was going north-east. WTF? I thought Houston was south-east of Austin. It was around Burton, TX. A road hiccup, I guess.
I made it in at around 9:15. The drive through Houston was a blight of interstates and big box sprawl. I wonder if there are any houses in Houston because I sure didn’t see any. I had one tense moment when I was in the left lane and realized that I had to be in the right lane immediately to make it to another interstate highway. I just put on my blinker and forced my way over. I think that the frontage roads here train people to just accept that behavior. After all, you are transferring from a three lane, 65 mile per hour road to a three lane, 45 mile per hour road and then making a right turn into a business.
When I got to Mosley road, I pulled into the first Marriott hotel. Which was a mistake. It seems that there are three Marriott hotels that are besides each other. And mine was the third. Go figure.
After I dropped my luggage in the room, I went down to scope out the scene. There was already a table of gamers playing. Kevin was there setting up and he started a game called Desert Bazaar. Which was designed by another gamer, Brian Yu. The rules are simple. But with analyzing gamers it takes a little longer than it should.
The board is a hexagonal map of the desert. Tents are built on that map that hold bazaars. There are four types of bazaars that are color coded red, blue, green, and purple. There are two parts to this game:
Collect materials: Take a card from one of the four supply decks. Roll three dice. The dice have on them the four colors, one blank desert, and one wild color. You can pick one of the four colors and get the number of cards that was rolled on the dice. Optionally, you may set aside one die and re-roll the other two. However, if the color that you picked did not show up on the re-roll, you loose any chance of getting cards.
Build: There are two groups of 4 tiles and you pick one to draw from. The tiles have three
colors that are required to build them. Already built tiles that have ownership markers can
generate the color of the tent pictured on the tile (which means you do not need to play a card
matching that color). As soon as 7 contiguous tiles are placed, then that group scores one
point per ownership marker and the ownership markers are removed from that group. Groups
can never exceed 7 in size. If a tile is placed by itself it scores two points. Otherwise, it will
not score until it reaches 7 in size or only at the end of the game.
I tried out a new strategy by choosing spice as the third player. Sadly, it didn’t work all that well. Also, people kept doing different things than I thought they would.
Unfortunately, players cheated during the game. Player A operates a shipping company and expands it by placing a new ship, I ship rubber to cities, then player C tried to operate a rubber company but they notice that they cannot ship rubber because the city has been occupied already by me. So then player A undoes the ship placement and places it to help player C be able to ship that rubber. Both players have played the game before so that wasn’t an excuse. Sigh.
I just had to try this game out. The company, Fragor Games, made a splash with their second game because it had such nice figures. This game continues that tradition by adding more nice figures. The game play didn’t wow me. And the pieces don’t justify its expensive price. But I had to at least try it once.
John brought out UR. It is a tile collection game where you fight over ownership of the tiles. Tiles have two colors on them (one on each side). The color that is face up determines what action you can perform if you have pieces on the tile. The actions are:
- agriculture – put two tokens on every green tile that has your tokens. Keep your tokens on adjacent tiles and remove tokens on all non-adjacent tiles.
- commerce – put tokens on every purple tile. The number of tokens that you can place is one for adjacent orthogonal enemy owned tiles and one for non-existent adjacent orthogonal spots.
- culture – put one token on adjacent orthogonal tiles that are occupied by you.
- politics – redistribute your tokens where ever you want. There is a limit of five tokens per tile.
- war – attack another tile. Losses are the number of enemy tokens and one extra if the tile is a different color than where you attacked from. You then move tokens into the attacked spot.
You have one tile in your hand that determines your two actions. You can skip an action to add one token to an already existing controlled tile. Or you can skip both actions to put one token on an empty token. After performing your actions, you then pick an empty tile that is different than the one you hold and then replace that tile for the one in your hand. At the end of the game, you score triangle points for different colored tiles that you control.
I started out with Italy again. But this time France did not hose me over by going into to Mediterranean Sea. Consequently, I was able to build Italy up quite well. I also had shares in England (from the start) and Germany. But the people who took those countries over didn’t increase their multipliers. The person who was controlling Russia realized that they could force another Taxation to end the game. Sigh. I tried warning them. But I still scored second place.
Hopefully, this will be a good omen for the year as I played my first game of the year after a wait of only ten hours! (I was not up to staying up late into the morning and also woke up later than usual). So I started off this late start to the morning with an old out-of-print classic called Forum Romanum. The game board is layed out in a seven by seven grid. Each player in a four player game has eight tokens which can only cover 65% of the board when placed. And yet the rows, columns, diagonals, and individual rectangles can only score when the item is full. So, after you are done placing your pieces, you pick up and move the pieces to other areas of the board. This can cause problems for people trying to score an area that they have majority in since it needs to be full before it scores.
Our group really discussed potential moves for everyone and their consequences. And there was deal making as well. So the experience was a little bit diminished for me. Still, it was a cool game with simple rules and a meaty feel.
Fortunately for me, I was able to play another game on my “must play” list. And this game has potential for me after playing it. It has a slightly different feel than the original. The board is much smaller and the shares of ownership have been removed. You are only concerned with trying to connect to all the stations and transport passengers. The dice are still cool. And there are two different kinds of dice in play (although Anye did have three special brown dice that had one different face than the orange ones).
The micro-trivial awards:
- Worst restaurant experience: Chabucas
- Restaurant that I wanted to eat at but didn’t: Golden Palace
- Most friendliest gamer: Kevin Nunn
- Unknown to me game to me that made my must buy list: Forum Romanum
- Cute unknown to me game that I regret not playing: Ark
- Games I wanted to play but didn’t: Die Macher, Il Principe, Struggle of Empires
- Game that I looked forward to playing against experienced players but didn’t play: Tichu
- Game the had the best niggly bit: Forum Romanum wooden coins
- Tournament I wanted to enter but did not (for the worst restaurant experience): 42
- Con that I didn’t know existed until late in the year; was undecided on attending; but, in the end, glad I attended: Lone Star Game Fest
- Thing I’m glad the hotel provided: free Wi-Fi
Well, if I can’t successfully order this game from the developer, I am reduced to playing it at cons when people bring it. I had a hard time trying to get this game started. There wasn’t much interest from the Houston crowd in wanting to play this game. Fortunately, Tim and Mary showed up and wanted to play. So I started to explain the rules. But then Mary bowed out and left. So, we found another new player. So I started to explain the rules. And then the new player said that someone who was not here yet wanted to play. When the other new person showed up, we restarted the rules. Sigh. Needless to say, this took a good chunk of time.
The good news was that I finally was able to finish out the game and see how the entire game works and flows.
After an early dinner, we came back and started this game. I went first, so I tried pushing my luck… too hard… and bombed out. This is not too bad because it is equivalent to going last. The bad thing was that I busted out again. So I was now in catch up mode. At least I was able to take the seven column from someone who was too timid and left their piece one square away from completing it. During the end of the game, the columns three through eight were locked up. This caused us to bomb out early since many rolls of the dice were now bad for us.
I haven’t heard about this third version of the negative bulls game. I have played both card games in the family though. This game has the same feel. You buy tiles (1-99) and try to place them on the board. At the end of each run, there are negative points. Some twists are that there are negative points on some of the spaces running up to the ends. Another twist is that there are “happy cows” which turns a negative score into a positive score.
I didn’t think I would be playing this game at a convention. But, when two people came up to me looking to play a game and I suggested this game and they didn’t object, I played it. Both of them were newbies, and this game takes a little bit of playing before you get your head wrapped around the strategy. In this game, I was dealt the one card five out of six times! And I was able to use it effectively four times.
And here is another game I didn’t think that I would be playing. A new person came up to me to play a game with me courtesy of the social butterfly contest that was being held during the con. So she suggested this game. It is a game that you need to have a very good spacial memory to effectively play it. You choose a piece from a pile of differently shaped pieces. You use this piece to create a flight plan for your witch character on a broom. At some point, you decide to fly. Then you start laying down the pieces and as long as they dont lay over obstacles on the table, you continue flying. If you run out of pieces, you then place your character at the end of the chain and start again. The goal was to run over a cat. And luckily enough, I did for the win.
Today was the first day of what I hope to be the annual Lone Star Game Fest. Marty and I travelled down from Austin at 9am and we arrived at 12pm. After settling in, we jumped right into gaming starting with St. Petersburg. This is a lightweight and somewhat meaty game that hasn’t been spoiled for me by the computer version. As long as I don’t play with someone who has played the computer version many times and knows exactly the winning strategy, I enjoy this game.
This game came down to Aristocrates. And, unfortunately, I had bad luck in trying to get unqiue Aristocrats. Marty had the better luck in this so was able to win the game.
Ah… another playing for me of this game. And after playing it, I still want to play it again. At least until I win it. After that, I don’t know. It is hard for a game to rise above the many others in terms of replayability. And I have questions if this game can do it. It does have some interesting game mechanics. But it does lack in good artwork.
Another playing of Caylus and my oppinion of it remains unchanged. Although I still haven’t changed my strategy at all. So perphaps that is a bad thing? Marty went for the blue victory building and I went for the victory favors. My fatal mistake was not being able to place a piece first on the last round of the game. That cost me winning the favor of the king which cost me five points. Coincidently enough, I lost the game by five points. 😉
Another playing of Lexio. And this time, the tiles hated me. Let me rephrase this: they absolutely hated me. 😉 I payed out everyone on every hand. Unsuprisingly enough, I ended up in last place. Still a good game for me. Although I think that we should play more hands than just five.