July 25, 2009
The n0rmal Friday night group got together on Saturday for a full day of gaming while Merwin had the house to himself. Also attending was Brian and Ian.Neuroshima Hex!
After everyone finished eating their lunch, we started with a couple games of Neuroshima Hex! and tried out the Babel13
expansion. The expansion comes with two new armies: New York and Neojungle. It also includes terrain tiles and various scenarios, but we didn't use those.
We took the two new armies, randomly added two of the original armies, and dealt them out the players. We then formed two two-player teams. As it turned out in both games, New York and Neojungle were never teamed together and I was on the team with New York. It also turned out that my team won both games. This may have been because New York is overpowered and/or Neojungle too weak, especially in the two-on-two format. Neojungle player seemed to have a difficult time building strength and helping to defend his partner. With two teams, you generally want to focus your attacks on one opponent. In both games, the New York team ignored Neojungle and hammered his partner. In a cutthroat, three- or four-player game without teams, the Neojungle should do better. Big City
The start of the game was delayed considerably as the rules were read. The reference cards were in German and so weren't as useful as they could have been (though they did add amusement as Brian and Ian tried to apply their incomplete knowledge of German with Merwin and I adding our terrible pronunciations). The game itself is straight-forward and easy to pick up once you play a few turns. The learning curve comes from memorizing the special placement and scoring rules for the various buildings you can build during your turn (which is where the reference cards would have been helpful).
The game board consists of 8 neighborhoods (only the first 5 of which are out at the beginning) consisting of 8 or 9 city blocks (in a 2x4 or 3x3 grid pattern). There are eight decks of cards, one for each neighborhood. Each numbered card in a deck corresponds to one of the numbered city blocks. To build a building (and get points for it), you must play the cards (typically 1 to 3) corresponding to where you are going to build it. Getting cards of adjacent blocks is necessary to place buildings covering 2 or 3 city blocks; naturally, these buildings score many more points than smaller structures. The decks for the even-numbered neighborhoods (which only have blocks) also contain special cards to build parks and factories. You don't get points for building these; they are used primary for blocking (since you can build them on any city blocks where they fit) though they also add (parks) or subtract (factories) points from buildings placed next to them.
On your turn, you can place any building, but since you must have the right cards, it limits the amount of time you spend thinking about it. It also adds a luck factor which can be very frustrating. One strategy is to only draw cards from a single neighborhood, which maximizes your odds of getting contiguous blocks and building options. You can only draw 2 cards from any neighborhood deck at a time, so it takes a while to build that monopoly. But then, someone can place a park or factory in your neighborhood and really mess with your plans. You can also place street cars (which double the value of buildings placed next to them, but earn no points on their own) to split city blocks and prevent the placement of 2- and 3-block buildings.
On your turn, you will either be placing buildings (and drawing cards to replace those you used) or doing something that earns no points but will block an opponent or enhance your future building scores and opportunities. The latter includes building city hall, placing street cars, park, or factory, or adding a neighborhood (especially useful if you've been drawing cards from a neighborhood deck before it has been placed), City hall doubles the value of buildings placed next to it, but since there are only 4 such blocks, this rarely comes up. However, until city hall is built, you can't build banks, post offices, theaters, churches, or shopping malls and are limited to residential and office blocks. Lastly, if you don't like your cards, you can spend your turn discarding some (which get recycled into the decks) and drawing new ones.
In the first game, Ian and I were way out front, but I managed to squeak past for the win. The second game was much closer; I think the spread from last to first was no more than 6 points.
One point of rules vagueness is whether or not you can see (or ask) the backs of other players' cards. Since the backs of the cards show the neighborhood number, you can see where they might be building. If you had a perfect memory, you could simply remember the decks everyone drew from and not have to ask. We decided that the memory element wasn't something we wanted, so we allowed asking. So, when I saw that Ian not only had the last undeveloped block in sector 5 and several 7 cards, and had just placed the 7 neighborhood, I placed Central Park (1x3) to really screw with his plans.
I also benefited from being able to build a church (with very restrictive building rules) when Brian discarded his "33" (neighborhood 3, block 3) card in favor of drawing more cards for neighborhood 8. I also picked up the factory he discarded and used it for further blocking. Again, I squeaked past for the win.Tonga Bonga
This game reminded us of Manila
because it is essentially a dice-based gambling game. Your best plans can be screwed up by inopportune dice rolls, either by yourself or your opponents. But it also has a strong racing element: you get more money (ducats, in this case) by being the first to visit islands. After visiting four islands, it is a race back to Tonga Bonga and those to make it get a bonus. But it is also a bidding game in which you are offering money to your opponents to put their highest-value dice on your ship. How fast you move is based on the value of dice on your ship. All in all, it is quite a light, clever game with interesting decisions.
After Big City, we broke for dinner. It was pointed out that I had won every game so far. Now, I'm not going to say they were purposely gunning for me (though they did mention the possibility), but I will point out I ended up dead last in Tonga Bonga. However, it was all my fault. As Ian, the winner, pointed out, the rest of us were offering too much money and he was doing just fine with offering minimal amounts. Even though I was the first and only player to make it back to Tonga Bonga, my overhead costs limited my profits. Ian's "low bidding" strategy wouldn't have worked if the die rolls had included more "pukers," which don't get placed on ships. [The six-sided dice are numbered 1-5, with 1 side showing a sailor hanging his head over the side of the ship.] It also wouldn't have worked if another player had also been low-balling. But such is the group-think of a bidding game.
Though enjoyable, it didn't beckon us to play more than once. And since it only handles 3 or 4 players, it's appearance at the game table may be limited.Iliad
Brian won. We didn't even have to play the last round because his lead was that substantial. After we tossed in our cards, it was noted that Ian could have won if he won the round and Brian lost it. But it was too unlikely to happen; besides, Merwin and I had no desire to continue. The game just doesn't click with us and Merwin declared that it was going on this "to trade" pile.
In general, my cards sucked. I had a good starting hand, but wasn't able to win that round. For the rest of the game, I was stuck with elephants, siege engines, and other non-scoring cards. Only in the penultimate round did I get some hefty offense with 3 chariots. Merwin had similar problems and we both ended with scores close to zero compared to Brian's 10 and Ian's 6 (or so).The Red Dragon Inn / The Red Dragon Inn 2
We dealt out 2 characters to each player and we chose 1 to play. Ian got his treasured Eve, the Illusionist. Brian was the Dwarf, Merwin the Wizard, and I the Half-Ogre. Things were looking grim for me at the beginning as I was losing gold fast. But despite Merwin's best efforts, I managed to win a hefty round of gambling and save my ass, so Merwin changed his focus to Ian. Later, Brian won a drinking contest. Unfortunately, the alcohol content sent him to oblivion but not before he won Ian's last gold piece. This left Merwin and I, but I managed to wear him down for the win.
It was a fun ending to a fun day.
Labels: Other Games