Saturday, 4 May 2013

boardgaming in photos

Blast from the past! My first game of Axis & Allies, in 1997, in St Charles, a town near Chicago. I was in the US for a company-provided training. I was very excited to find the game in a hobby store in St Charles. This is the 1985 Milton Bradley edition.

My opponent was my roommate, Puneet Karla from India. I've completely lost touch with him now. Look at that concentration!

29 Mar 2013. I brought Java to OTK ( Between this and its better known brother in the Mask series Tikal, I think I like Java better. I feel Tikal has a significant luck element (tiles you draw, treasures you find). Maybe the problem is I often play Tikal as a two-player game, and in two-player games the luck element has a bigger impact. With three or four players, at least the trailing players can gang up on any leader who has a lucky break.

I enjoy the 3D spatial element of Java. Nowadays many newer Eurogames have no spatial element at all. In Java, the players have much freedom to build the play area. In every game the board can develop very differently. There may not be many ways to score points, but within these ways, the players have many possibilities to explore - many ways to create and split cities, many ways to ensure your people are at the top positions in cities, and many ways to block opponents.

After Java, we played Goa, another older game. This one has no spatial element at all. This is a development game. The main scoring criteria is your various abilities, and during the game you use your abilities to execute actions which help you improve your abilities. There's a feedback loop thing going on here.

The player boards. One of the areas I decided to focus on was colonisation, the rightmost vertical track on the development board at the bottom. At this point I had reached the highest level. In the plantation board at the top, I already had three colonies in the second row, with one last one to go.

The round markers are placed by the players to indicate which tiles will be auctioned off and by whom. When you auction off a tile to another player, he pays you. You can buy it yourself, but you'd be paying to the bank then. These tiles on the central game board are mostly plantations, resources and special abilities.

One funny thing happened in this game. I had forgotten an important rule and only realised it near game end. I didn't tell the others until after the game. When you take a plantation, it comes fully loaded with spices. You don't need to take a produce action to fill it up. I had forgotten about this, and throughout the game we took empty plantations. I had inadvertently created an ironman version of the game. After the game ended and I told the rest this mistake, their reaction was: wouldn't that make the game too easy? Oooh... we have some hardcore tough guy gamers here.

5 Apr 2013. We played El Grande at OTK. This is a pre-2000 game. I recently read an old article by Michael Barnes saying that 2000 was the year that German games became Eurogames and everything went downhill from there. I don't agree with every detail in the article, but I do agree with some of the observations. Some newer games tend to be unnecessarily convoluted, without really adding much or even any strategic depth. Player interaction is sacrificed. Games become solitairish efficiency exercises. El Grande is not a game I particularly fancy, because I'm not a big fan of area majority games. However I think it is clean, crisp, direct and sometimes even brutal. I sometimes miss the simplicity and clarity of these older German games.

That province of Old Castile near the centre was hotly contested. And then someone (probably me - green) plonked down the scoring tile that modified the VP value from 6-4-2 to 4-0-0. This means now only the top player will score 4VP. The rest get nothing.

This disc is for secretly deciding where to assign your men who are stationed at the castle. During a scoring round, there is a castle scoring where players score points depending on the number of men they have in the castle, and after that they secretly send their men to one province, which can alter the scoring in that province. There is a bit of double-guessing here.

It was a close game, with final scores ranging from 103 to 108. I came in dead last.

The Princes of Florence, according to that article by Michael Barnes, is the culprit of Eurogames going downhill starting in 2000. It is the beginning of the "multiplayer solitaire" games. But I like this game very much. I think the player interaction in the auctions are important and should not be belittled. I can see why player choices diminish towards game end, but I don't think it's a problem. I see it as players needing to plan carefully in the first half of the game, and in the second half they are mostly executing what they have planned and seeing their strategy come to fruition, with just minor tweaks and few deviations, and only when an opportunity presents itself.

I was the only one who had played before, and I thought I would win handily. My complacency cost me the game. I had underestimated the strength of Prestige Cards. At game end, Ivan's two Prestige Cards allowed him to overtake me to claim first place.

7 Apr 2013. Chen Rui and Michelle. We had a family boardgame session. Four of us played Ticket to Ride: Team Asia. I have played the Legendary Asia side of this expansion, but this was the first time I played the Team Asia side. The children have learned to play Ticket to Ride (the base game) on the iPad, so I thought they should be ready for this team variant.

Chen Rui and Michelle played red. Shee Yun and I played green. In the team variant, members of the same team keep their tickets, cards and trains separate, and may not share information. However there is a shared card rack where they can place tickets and cards. They try to use this to communicate their intentions and help each other. E.g. it's always good to place a joker in the shared card rack, in case your teammate needs it more desperately than you do.

Getting to Kathmandu is not easy. You need to play one yellow card or three white cards, and then draw six cards from the draw deck. If any are yellow (or white), or are jokers, you need to play more cards to claim the route.

Box cover.

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