Friday, 19 October 2012

boardgaming in photos

22 Sep 2012. This is the Mayfair Games version of Automobile, with different artwork and components from the Treefrog version that I own. I taught the game to 4 newbies. I did rather poorly and came a quite distant third. I was the only player who didn't need to take a loan, but now I realise that's probably a bad sign - I was not doing enough business!

23 Sep 2012. A vicious 2P game of Carcassonne (with some expansions). Michelle and I had many meeples, because the Abbey and Mayor expansion added some special meeples, but we used them up quickly because many of them got locked up in incomplete features.

Michelle managed to complete that big city at the centre, which gave her a lot of points.

24 Sep 2012. A solo game of Town Center which I started with a blueprint in mind and mostly managed to build the city according to the blueprint. I scored 90pts, which is a Level 8 achievement out of 10 levels. The highest level is 100pts or more. After this game, my interest in solo play dropped significantly, because it feels like I have solved the puzzle. I wonder whether this will impact my enjoyment of the multi-player game.

26 Sep 2012. Le Havre on the iOS against Han and Allen. I lost by 3 points! I had many buildings (that row in the centre). I focused on buildings in this particular game.

30 Sep 2012. I downloaded the latest version of Triple A, a free software that lets you play various Axis & Allies-like games. I played two games against the AI's, playing the Axis in Axis & Allies Europe 1940 (AAE40) and then the Allies in Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 (AAP40). The AI's are rather weak unfortunately, so I recommend only playing against your human friends. At first I thought the AI's appear weak in AAE40 because I played the Axis and thus had the initiative. Afterwards I played AAP40 as the Allies, and the AI did much worse as the Axis. How can Japan be not spending money on transports in AAP40? Did I set up the AI's wrong?

This is a screenshot of a combat resolution. This was the fall of France in Axis & Allies Europe 1940.

In North Africa, Egypt fell easily to the Italians because the Allies vacated it! What the...? Italy is dark brown, UK is light brown, France is blue. Sicily was captured by the UK, but I (as Italy) was taking it back.

This screenshot shows the game interface, with a minimap on the top right, and action details in the lower right section. The Soviet Union amassed troops at Novgorod. My Germans were steadily marching east. I even vacated Normandy and Holland. The Allies had no transports in the Atlantic to threaten me with an amphibious assault.

Germans assaulting Moscow.

USA had built up an impressive fleet containing 15 destroyers, which were now parked in the English Channel. The USA fleet had no fighters (on carriers) to defend itself. I attacked it with my smaller German fleet supported by a big air force. I had captured Scotland, but the time was not yet right to launch an attack on England (and London).

The final attack on London. I had transports shipping troops over, and also had units coming down from Scotland.

This is AAP40. I only took one screenshot of this game against the AI. This was the USA fleet attacking Japan.

3 Oct 2012. Ascension on iOS. Han had six (!!!) constructs in play (that number 6 in a circle at the top centre). Constructs are cards that you keep on the table (as opposed to being discarded to your personal discard deck) which give benefits every round. Needless to say I was quite happy to be able to defeat the Sea Tyrant (the highlighted card on the right) which forced him to discard all but one construct.

6 Oct 2012. I have been wanting to buy myself a copy of Antiquity since I first played it in Dec 2011. I have been trying to find a copy at a not-too-unreasonable price. The game was out of print for some time, but was back in print last year. However I still could not find a copy at a reasonable price. The publisher Splotter was planning to update their website to support game purchases in early 2012. It was only in Sep 2012 that they managed to launch the new website. I didn't hesitate long. I ordered a copy. The total cost (including shipping) was the highest I have ever paid for a boardgame (that I know of). I have heard a number of horror stories about how Splotter doesn't shrink-wrap their games and doesn't pack their games well when shipping them. So I was a little worried. However the game arrived in a good condition. The game was shrink-wrapped. There was protective foam. There was a little damage to a corner of the shipping box but no damage to the game box itself.

Upon opening the box, this was what I saw. Half the components had come off the sprues. I think the sprues are originally much larger than the box, with the large terrain tiles being the centre part. So when the game is being packed, a sprue is taken apart - the terrain tiles are separated, and the left and right thirds of the sprue become two separate sprues that can fit in the box. There are many many many small components. Thankfully only a few of them were damaged (bent, or pressed from one side), and the damaged ones were generic pieces, not those one-per-player building tiles. Overall I am very pleased.

14 Oct 2012. I managed to convince my wife Michelle to play Antiquity with me. In the past few years she has not been keen about boardgames, especially learning new ones. I persuaded her that it was a bit like Through the Ages (which we used to play a lot), so at least I set her expectations that it was going to be a long game.

This was my first city. I had built my houses in a way to leave space for my cathedral (top left).

There is no green player colour, so I picked black. Usually my second choice is white, but no white here either. The city in the foreground was my first city. I had just built my second city, in the background, and it was approaching Michelle's area.

I bought these three plastic boxes, which could store most of the non player-specific game pieces. I only needed that small tin box to store the Cart Shop and Store pieces. I put player-specific pieces in ziplock bags, one bag per player. That means one set of buildings are in each bag.

Near the end of the game. We made a number of rule blunders, but it wouldn't have changed the result. Michelle picked the patron saint San Christofori which let her store an unlimited number of goods, and her victory condition was to collect 3 goods in each of 8 types (food and luxury). I decided to try the greatest patron saint Santa Maria, which gave me the benefits of all the other four saints, but required me to fulfill two different conditions to win. I really floundered in this game, expanding and growing, but never quite focusing on an end goal. It might be my own poor showing, but I think picking Santa Maria is the hardest way to win. Although I have played the game before, this time I underestimated the time pressure caused by the ever increasing famine level. I had the nice buildings that removed graves, reduced pollution and cleaned pollution, but eventually the famine level got so high that I couldn't avoid graves. I realise in Antiquity you actually never get off the slippery slope. You never reach a breakeven point and stay there. Even if you get to a safe position, it is only temporary. You need to race against time to end the game before all hell breaks loose.

The best thing that came out of this game is Michelle is willing to play again. Woohoo!

I had not yet started using my third city at all.

One thing that I think went very well in this session was how I taught Michelle the game. She cannot stand long (or even medium) game rules explanations. She prefers to just get going and figure out how things work along the way. I, on the other hand, tend to prefer to cover everything important before starting a game. It's the "I did tell you about this rule" mentality. This time, in order to minimise her suffering throughout the game (the game mechanism is punishing enough), I just went through the 10 phases of a round quickly, explained a few basic buildings, and then we started playing. I didn't describe 90% of the buildings, and didn't even describe the patron saints. That information is available on the player mat, albeit in a summarised form. During the game, under appropriate situations, I gave her pointers on what buildings she might want to consider. She also checked out the player mat herself during play, figuring things out herself and asking questions (as opposed me feeding her information). This worked out really well. She explored the game herself, at her own pace.

I realise this learn-as-you-play approach works very well. My gamer friends and I often joke about any first game being just a learning game, as in those who lost can justify the loss and the victory of the winner doesn't count. Now I realise the learning game concept (the real one, not the joke version) can be very effective in teaching a game and making sure everyone has fun. I recently applied this successfully teaching Thebes to my 7-year-old daughter. It was unplanned and the success surprised me.

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