Thursday, 12 May 2011

boardgaming in photos

29 Apr 2011. I played a 5-player game of Power Grid on the Japan map (part of the Russia/Japan expansion) at Old Town Kopitiam Cheras. Power Grid is a game I like a lot but I seldom get to play it. So it was good to play again. Sendai is one of the cities badly affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The northern island of Hokkaido and the northern tip of Honshu are moved to an inset. This was the early game. One unique part of the Japan map is a player may start two networks instead of one. However networks must to started in six specific cities, like Tokyo, Sapporo.

Some smaller cities do not have the Phase 1 slot, i.e. you cannot connect to it in Phase 1. This makes things more difficult. Saitama on the right is one such example. It doesn't have the $10 green slot.

Mid game. Power Grid is a game where every dollar counts. Sometimes your plans can be completed ruined because you miscalculated by just $1. That was exactly what happened to me in this game. I should not have played by gut feel during the power plant auctions. Recipe for disaster.

Near game end. In our game everyone was careful in ensuring his power plants had enough capacity to power enough cities. There wasn't much threat of resources getting depleted or oven prices being pushed very high. Money was tight for most of us. Kareem's (red) power plant capacity improvement was a little behind the rest. However he had saved some money, and on one very crucial turn when he managed to catch up, he quickly expanded his network to 15 cities and ended the game, winning decisively.

Game end. Kareem 15, Jeff and Henry 14, me 13, Jimmy 12. I still like Power Grid. I have stopped buying expansions for quite some time, because I simply don't play it often enough. If I play it frequently I would buy all the expansions. Now I only have USA, Germany (base game), France, Italy, Central Europe and Benelux. No China, Korea, Brazil, Spain+Portugal, Japan or Russia.

1 May 2011 (Labour Day). Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers. Michelle's red hut is sitting on a very lucrative network of rivers. So much fish!

Part of the map created after the game ended. The meeples (followers) have been removed.

Box cover. I have the German edition. Bought in Taiwan.

My favourite part of the box cover - a hunter taking a break.

1 May 2011. I played the East expansion to Hansa Teutonica for the first time. It has some different rules. It is supposed to be more balanced and more fine-tuned, but Allen, Han and I are not good enough at this game to be able to appreciate that. Maybe I will write about this in more detail after I play it more. At the moment, I have a lot to learn even from the base game map.

The blue bonus tokens directly printed on the map (on the right) are one of the new features of this expansion. When you establish a trade route at one of these routes, you get to immediately use the special power of these tokens. Note that some cities don't have slots for offices (see the green or yellow/green banners). Only certain bonus tokens allow you establish offices at such cities.

2 May 2011. Castle Ravenloft. Han, Allen and I played the next adventure, scenario 3.

We found the lab, which was our objective, quite early. Later we realised that we had made a blunder when setting up the deck of tiles.

Fighting (and eventually killing) the boss. Afterwards we realised we made yet another blunder, but a minor one - this was not the correct figure to use. Well, at least we did use the correct character card. Castle Ravenloft is simple and fun, and gives enough variety through the encounter card drawing, the monster card drawing, and the dungeon building via tile draws. The only part I don't quite like is you know roughly when you will find your destination. So it feels like the game is throwing monsters at you while you wait for a timer to run out. It doesn't feel like I'm really exploring a dungeon when I roughly know the next tile will likely be or will likely not be my destination.

Money, a Reiner Knizia game, implemented on the iPhone. It was free for a short time so I downloaded it. I've only played a few games, so I don't feel like writing about it in detail. In this game you try to collect as much money as possible, preferably in the same currencies. At game end, you score for currencies where you have exceeded $100, you score bonus points for collecting all three of the $20 notes or $30 notes for any currency, and you also score points for the $10 Chinese coins. In my first game above, I came in dead last playing against 3 AI's.

Every round there are two sets of 4 cards for the players to secretly bid for. When bids are revealed, whoever has the highest bid picks first, and his bid is then placed at the centre, i.e. other players may take this spent set of cards. After everyone has taken cards, whatever is left at the centre is topped up to 4 cards per set from the draw deck in preparation for the next round. So basically when you bid for cards, you need them for two purposes - for bidding in future rounds and for saving some to be your money collection for game end scoring. Sometimes you may need to give up collecting a particular currency halfway through because you need to spend the money, or if there are too many others competing for it.

This iPhone implementation is done very well, artwork and interface are excellent. I'm not so sure about how strong the AI's are. I lost my first game but won the next three. Still, 4 games is a small number to draw any conclusion. Playing on the iPhone is very fast, so I have not really been thinking much about strategies, or trying to track what the AI's are collecting. I guess that's the disadvantage of playing a boardgame / cardgame implemented in electronic form - things move too fast and you don't slow down to smell the roses.

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