Thursday, 3 April 2014

in photos: DVONN, Amun-Re

in photos: DVONN, Amun-Re

16 Mar 2014. I pulled out DVONN and asked Shee Yun (9) whether she wanted to try playing it with the proper rules. When she was a toddler I used to let her play with the pieces. She liked to stack them all up in one huge stack. Now she is old enough to play with the proper rules.

DVONN is one of the games from the GIPF series of abstract games. The most highly regarded one is probably YINSH, which I have tried but do not own. DVONN is simpler. On your turn you move one of your stacks (i.e. any stack topped with your colour) onto another stack, combining them. How far you move (which must be in a straight line) depends on how tall your stack is. A single ring can only stack on top of its immediate neighbour, but a tall stack can jump far away. Usually a tall stack will get stuck and be unable to move, because the play area is in a long shape, and there will be fewer and fewer stacks on the board as the game progresses. The red rings are life rings. You can't move them directly, but you can stack on top of them and move them together with your stack. Any stacks that get isolated from the life rings are removed from the game.

Similar to Cappuccino, you can tell who has won very easily, by combining all your stacks. I (white) didn't win by much, but I did give Shee Yun tips along the way which helped her a little.

21 Mar 2014. I brought Taluva to This is a game I've always liked. And it's beautiful too. I taught three players who were all new to the game. I felt a little guilty because I felt like I was bullying them. Surprisingly I lost the game. I had not expected that the game would end by running out of tiles. I rarely play with 4 players so usually we don't exhaust the tiles. I was about to finish two of my three types of buildings to win the game, but my opponents worked together to stop me. If the game ends by tiles getting used up, the winner is determined by comparing buildings constructed. Sinbad had constructed more than I did, and won the game.

The Reiner Knizia classic Amun-Re. Players bid for provinces in ancient Egypt, farm, and build pyramids. The game is best with five players, and we had five. That means all provinces were in use, three per player. This was near the end of the first half. All provinces have now been claimed. The owner places his marker at a corner of the province.

The bidding mechanism works this way. You must bid an amount on the card. If someone else overbids you, you must remove your stone and then bid on another province. You are not allowed to immediately top him at the same province. Only if you also get overbid at the other province then you can return to fight for the first province again. This means if you are very keen on a particular province, you'd better bid high to deter your opponents.

The provinces have different features. Baharya has four farms, but two of them come with free farmers. The pyramid and the bricks are left over from the first half of the game. When the first epoch ends, the board is cleared except for the pyramids and the bricks. All ownership markers are cleared for the second epoch. That card icon in Baharya means you are allowed to buy one power card during the shopping phase. Some provinces give power cards directly. Some give cash up front. Some give a fixed amount of money during the harvest phase as opposed to a variable amount depending on the Nile inundation.

This was the situation before the end of the game. There were many more pyramids compared to the first epoch.

Near the end of the first epoch, I stole the most pyramids award for both sides of the Nile by praying to the gods. During the shopping phase, we had a few players tying for most pyramids on both sides of the river. However when it came to praying time, I dumped in a lot of money, and the gods gave me some free bricks. Each brick counted as one third of a pyramid, and I was able to give myself a boost to become the sole winner on both banks. That gave me a 10VP lead, which was sufficient to win me the game even though I didn't do particularly well in the second epoch.

These four spaces in the foreground are for marking the Nile inundation level. This level depends on the total amount of money spent by players in praying to the gods. It determines how much each farmer will earn, ranging from $1 to $4.

Amarna only has four fields for farmers, but I had a power card which let me add an extra farmer. That temple here means I got to score points at the end of the epoch, depending on the inundation level.

25 Mar 2014. I played Innovation with Han. He kept getting the special achievements, while I focused on the score achievements. He had a much more advanced civilisation than mine, having many cards, and splaying all of his colours. In contrast, I had fewer cards, and not many of my colours were splayed. I was too busy scoring points and then claiming the score achievements that I sacrificed nation-building. Surprisingly I was able to claim achievements #1 to #6 without once being caught up by Han, and I won the game with my pathetic third world country. Han was out of luck. He didn't get any cards that he could use effectively to steal my points or to boost his own.

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