Thursday 29 January 2009

gaming in photos

It has been quite some time since I last played Tikal, the previous play being in 2006. So we brought out this old classic. We needed a refresher before starting off.

17 Jan 2009, Tikal. This was near the end of the game. In this game Michelle was lucky with the treasures, while I was very lucky with discovering temples. My tent (natural wood colour) in the middle of the board helped me bring in researchers and place them at valuable temples.

This area used to be dominated by me, because of my conveniently placed tent. But later Michelle made some good moves and wrested away control of many temples, or forced me to be unable to score them.

Close-up of Tikal.

On 24 Jan 2009 I taught Chee Seng to play Agricola. I think he did quite well for his first game. Quite well balanced and no negative scores for any category except empty space. Also he even beat me to having a child.

These were Chee Seng's Occupations and Improvements. Quite nicely suited for baking bread. I spotted an error in his farm afterwards. He had the house goat, and thus should not have been able to place the wild boar in his home in the previous photo.

My farm. I had reserved some space for sheep. However Chee Seng took the 2 sheep on the last round, which I didn't expect, because he already had 6. He said he wanted to score the full 4pts for sheep.

My Occupations and Improvements played. I had a lot of clay because of the Clay Deliveryman and Clay Hut Builder. I actually had the Chief's Daughter Occuption card too, but too bad I didn't have enough actions to play it.

I also taught Chee Seng Dominion, which he also quite liked. We played 2 games, the first with the recommended setup for beginners, and the second with 10 random kingdom cards which were not from the previous game (except we swapped in the moat due to there being some attack cards). We enjoyed the second game much more.

Chee Seng happily having a fun "chain reaction", i.e. playing action cards one after another many times, because previous cards played allow drawing more cards and playing more cards.

Eventually he had 7 action cards played: Market, Village, Village, Cellar, Militia, Militia, Remodel. I was so happy to have my Moat card (the blue one in the foreground) in my hand when he played his first Militia card. Instead of discarding two cards, I got to draw two. But unfortunately he had yet another Militia card, and I couldn't defend against that, so I had to discard down to 3 cards afterall.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Axis & Allies Revised

On 17 Jan 2009 when Han came to play, our main course was Axis & Allies, the 2004 edition, which is also called Axis & Allies Revised. We both planned to buy the Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition which just came out end of last year, and were keen to play it. Since neither of us had it yet, we decided to play the 2004 edition, to at least temporarily quench our thirst. We planned for this session about one month beforehand. That's how keen we were.

Actually I was so anxious for some Axis & Allies action, I asked Simon (who has played many games with me but is in no way a gamer, and has never played anything like Axis & Allies) to play with me when he was in KL, on 2 Jan 2009. We started at 11:30pm, explaining the game took some time, and we finished at 5:30am. It was a good game, but unfortunately I didn't take any photo.

I played the Axis, and Simon the Allies. USA mostly ignored Japan in the Pacific and both UK and US concentrated on preparing to attack Germany. Germany's excursion into Africa was slow but steady. USA only sent forces to Africa once and after that ignored the African theatre to concentrate on Europe.

USSR had some initial successes, but Germany won one big battle, using its big stack to kill off USSR's big stack. I had been careful in the positioning of my German troops, in pushing my infantry forward, and in preserving my tanks as much as possible. That big battle was a big blow to USSR, killing off many Russian tanks, and USSR immediately got on the defensive. Later Germany also took Caucasus, which had the industrial complex, and had been heavily defended throughout most of the game. However this was at the expense of not defending Western Europe and not trying to get it back, allowing an Allied foothold.

Eventually Germany fell to a one-two-punch attack from UK and USA which I had underestimated. I had thought it was too premature for Simon to attack Germany. But the USA forces won, despite only having one tank and one bomber surviving. That was a crushing blow to the Axis. Although USSR was on the verge of falling, it still had enough forces to withstand Germany's last desperate all-out attack. When Berlin fell, the German troops were too far away to take it back. They were all right next to Moscow, and there was a big swath of nothing in Eastern Europe.

Japan, having been left alone in the Pacific theatre, had been expanding aggressively. I tried a one-two-punch attack on Russia, but by then Russia had been reinforced with British fighters, and my attempt was too little too late. I conceded defeat after that last desperate failed attempt. The whole of Africa, Middle East, India, China and almost all of USSR were under Axis control, but Japan will not be able to fight against the combined forces of the 3 Allied countries. It was only a matter of time for USA and UK to take back all those vacant Axis territories.

I still think Kill Russia First is the best strategy for the Axis, and similarly Kill Germany First for the Allies. Not that I'm any expert in Axis & Allies. I may be just unimaginative. Supposedly the Anniversary Edition addresses this problem (assuming this is a problem).

In this game against Simon, my biggest mistake was probably underestimating the attackers approaching Berlin. In fact, the British attack, i.e. the first half of the one-two-punch attack, fared poorly. And I probably should not have allowed D-Day to happen so early. Anyway, good lesson learned, which prepared me for the game against Han two weeks later. I was playing the Axis too, since the last time Han and I played this game in 2005, he played the Axis.

So here's the session report of the game against Han on 17 Jan 2009, with lots of pictures.


Game setup. I like the game setup of Axis & Allies Revised. There are interesting, i.e. tough, decisions for each country. Of course some of the decisions will depend on the outcome of battles in previous players' turns, but I think Round 1 is interesting, and often its outcome will determine the strategy of the players for the rest of the game.

This was Round 1, UK's turn. USSR had taken West Russia, that territory right next to Moscow with Germans on it at the start of the game, and Germany had taken it back. Soviet forces consolidated in Moscow, Causasus and the eastern border near the Japanese. The Germans had used a transport to bring troops from Italy to attack Trans-Jordan. The German submarine in the Atlantic had gone to Canada and had sunk the British transport there. German forces in Algeria moved to Libya, to prepare to attack Egypt. Now the British battleship, with the support of the fighter in Egypt and the fighter in the Indian Ocean, was attacking the German battleship and transport in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. This attack was successful, sinking both German ships, but the British also lost one fighter. The British sub south of Melbourne later attacked the lonely Japanese sub north of New Zealand, but only managed to get itself sunk.

Round 1, end of Japan's turn. The UK fleet on the west coast of UK had moved to the east coast. The UK fleet in the Indian Ocean had moved west. If you watch closely you'll notice that the British bomber is gone. Unfortunately (for Han) it was shot down over Berlin in its maiden strategic bombing mission. UK had built a factory in India, but it was immediately captured by the Japanese, which used the transport off Kwangtung to ship infantry over. Japan really went all out to capture India, including the support of the southern Pacific fleet. In hindsight, UK probably should have defended India more heavily. Japan attacked China, but that battle turned out to be mutual destruction. Well, at least the Flying Tigers (US fighter) were killed. Pearl Harbour happened, no surprises there. Japan built three transports.

Round 2, during UK's turn. USA had invaded the unguarded Algeria. The US infantry in Sinkiang came out to defend China. USA also started to rebuild its Pacific fleet. I think USSR took West Russia again, and then Germany captured in yet again, in the process destroying all Russian tanks. USSR has been very defensive, buying mostly infantry. Germany, which bought mostly infantry in Round 1, now bought mostly a mix of infantry and artillery. My plan was to buy slow moving units early, and then tanks later. Germany had conquered Egypt, leaving Algeria vacant. The Baltic fleet had come out to attack the British fleet (with some air support, of course), and won the battle! That was a bonus for me, because I didn't expect my Baltic fleet to survive. I only wanted to sink the British ships, which would help to delay D-Day. British aircraft were now attacking my Baltic fleet. This later ended as yet another surprise victory for me. He lost many precious fighters. I must have had a pretty good admiral. Han mixed his combat and non-combat moves, so you see his Mediterranean battleship had already moved west to Gibraltar, and his Indian Ocean fleet and Australian transport had already moved towards South Africa.

Round 2, after USA's turn. Japan had conquered China, and also broken through the eastern border of USSR. Now the path to Moscow was cleared. Japan had also conquered Persia, putting some pressure on Caucasus. Japan built 3 tanks in India, preparing to support Germany in executing Kill Russia First. The Indian Ocean fleet moved towards Japan to join forces with the Pacific fleet, because the Americans were threatening. The American troops in Algeria had another bloodless conquest - the vacated Libya. And finally the American fleet (from North Africa and the Atlantic Ocean) sunk my remaining German ships off Norway. UK was getting rather crowded so I put a marker on it and let Han place all the units off board (top left corner). I did the same for the American Pacific fleet which was building up off Los Angeles.

This was the American Pacific fleet being rebuilt. Two battleships, two carriers, one destroyer, one transport and three fighters.

This was where they were on the map.

These are the units in UK, now put off board because the populace was complaining about overcrowding.

The two Japanese fleets were about to merge into one giant fleet, in anticipation of the upcoming showdown with the Americans in the Pacific.

I think this was Round 3 after UK's turn. I can't recall what happened exactly on the Eastern Front. I know USSR attacked the Japanese-occupied Persia and won. Germany was now very close to both Moscow and Caucasus. I left West Russia vacant so that I wouldn't have to spread my forces thin. USSR didn't have land troops that could threaten my fleet of fighters in Belorussia anyway. I now dared to leave Western Europe lightly defended, because I had built a big group of tanks in Germany. I had also built a bomber to support the war on the Eastern Front. Rommel attacked the Americans in Libya and wiped them out, with some air support, of course. I left one infantry to guard Trans-Jordan against the Russians. I was betting the Russians would turn back to defend Caucasus. UK's battleship from the Mediterranean moved to the coast of France, and UK build two transports.

A zoomed out view to show the British ships from the Pacific Theatre still moving slowing to Europe. The Suez Canal wasn't an option since I had conquered Trans-Jordan in Round 1. You need to control both Egypt and Trans-Jordan at the start of your turn to be able to use the canal.

Round 3, after Japan's turn. The Japanese navy had joined forces off the coast of Tokyo. Now I was daring Han to attack me. If he dared to come close I'd probably attack with the support of my airforce.

Zoomed out view, to show that one of the Japanese tanks had blitzed through Sinkiang and was now at the gates of Moscow. The slower moving Japanese infantry and artillery had also conquered Yakut SSR. Actually, this was already USA's turn. The USA fleet off Norway joined forces with the UK fleet off Normandy. The bored US fighter in Algeria thought it would be fun to attack the lonely German fighter in Egypt...

... and got itself shot down. Oops.

I think this was Round 4, after Germany's turn. On USSR's turn, it attacked and conquered Trans-Jordan. It also got Novosibirsk back from the lone Japanese tank, and took the vacant West Russia. Germany tried to take Trans-Jordan back, but retreated back to Egypt when the battle went bad. However on the Eastern Front the battles went well, and both Caucasus and Moscow fell to the Axis. It was a costly victory, almost wiping out the German airforce (only that lone fighter surviving the battle of Caucasus). But the fall of Moscow was a big victory for the Axis. Han conceded defeat. D-Day never happened, and Midway never happened.


I had many lucky rolls in the early game. Han was very unlucky with his bombing runs over Germany. Not only he lost his British bomber on the first bombing run, he also later lost an American bomber, I think on its second bombing mission.

On the Eastern Front Han was mainly defensive, purchasing mostly infantry. He protected the factory in Caucasus well, and I didn't dare to attack until quite late in the game. On the Western Front the build-up for D-Day was too slow. So D-Day never happened.

We actually played with one random national advantage for each country. Russia had harsh winter - declare harsh winter at end of USSR round, and from then until USSR's next turn, Russian infantry defend on 3 instead of 2. Han used this, which made me delay my attack into Moscow by one round. Germany had wolfpack - when a group of 3 submarines attack together, they attack at 3 instead of 2. I never used it. UK had Middle East oil - if a British plane landed in an Allies-controlled Egypt, Trans-Jordan or Persia, it gets a free non-combat move. This was never used. Japan had entrenched defenders - infantry on islands defend at 3 instead of 2. Never used. USA had marines - infantry attack on 2 instead of 1 in the first cycle of an amphibious assault. Never used. Maybe next time we should play with 2 random national advantages instead. Or maybe more.

I definitely benefited from the recent game against Simon, in which I played the Axis too. Han was at a disadvantage because the last time he played was 3+ years ago, also another game with me. And there was a misprint on the UK chart. Fighter cost should be $10, not $12. He used the wrong price for all the Allies for almost the whole game, because the UK chart was the one right in front of him and he referred to it. Well, and the dice gods being on my side didn't help.

One thing about Axis & Allies Revised that I have a very different opinion of compared to other people is the graphics. I actually quite like the graphics. I like the dark map, more so than the 1984 version (lighter coloured), and also more so than the Anniversary Edition (natural coloured). I like the style very much. It has a feeling of doom. I prefer it over the 1984 version because of this. I prefer it over the Anniversary Edition because it is "cleaner". It has a serious tone. The one thing I didn't quite like is the production values. The cardboard pieces are quite thin. They also forgot that 6 and 9 look exactly the same when you don't know which direction to look from. They should have used a full stop or an underline on the army markers for 6 and 9. Well, I have never had to use 6 or 9, so this didn't impact my enjoyment of the game, but it just shows there was an oversight. The fighter cost on the UK sheet is a more serious error (and Han would definitely agree).

I used to read a lot of strategy articles about Axis & Allies, in the days when I played it more frequently with Ricky using the PC game version. That was still the 1984 version, way before the 2004 Revised version came out. Axis & Allies is very much about knowing what to purchase and knowing how to plan ahead. It is about preserving your units (especially so for the Japanese) and maximising your battle odds. It is easy to lose sight of the strategic view and the long term planning, when the game is long and there are many battles to absorb you into the tactical aspects. Naturally there is a fair bit of luck in the game, because of the dice. But I have learnt to not get frustrated with bad die rolls, and instead laugh about them. Before the dice are rolled, I should have done all I could to make the odds as good as possible, and if I haven't done so I should accept the risks of making the attack or the consequences of not preparing enough for the defense.

I just received my copy of Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition. So the next time that we play, it will be this deluxe version!

Friday 23 January 2009

Ghost Stories

Han was in town over the weekend of 17 Jan 2009, and came over for some games. He had just picked up his new game Ghost Stories, so we gave it a go.

Ghost Stories is a cooperative game, where the players are Taoist monks defending a village from an onslaught of ghosts. The big bad ghost Mr Wu Feng is trying to came back from hell to do bad things to humanity (something like that). His minion ghosts are trying to locate his urn which is hidden in the village. The monks have to work together with the villagers to hold the ghosts back. To win the game, they have to defeat all incarnations of Wu Feng that appear during the game. There are many ways to lose. If all the monks get killed, you lose. If a certain number of village tiles get haunted, you lose. If you can't defeat all incarnations of Wu Feng when the ghost card deck runs out, you lose. Sounds like Pandemic doesn't it? One way to win, many ways to lose.

On a player's turn, he first does the "bad stuff" (in the game, called the Yin phase), and then he does the "good stuff" (Yang phase). In the Yin phase, some ghosts already on the board will do bad stuff. Some will move towards the village, threatening to haunt a village tile. Then a new ghost (drawn from the ghost card deck) may appear. Ghosts sometimes do something when they appear, and sometimes they do something every time that they are activated while still in the game, and sometimes they do something when they are exorcised (is this last situation sometimes they give a reward). After this, the active player gets to do something good. He can move, and then either get some help from the villagers, or try to exorcise a ghost or two. Each of the nine village tiles can give some form of benefit to the monks. There is even one tile (the cemetary) where you can bring a dead monk back to life! To exorcise a ghost you need to roll dice and get enough rolls of the right colour matching the ghost's colour and strength. You can make up the shortage by paying Tao tokens of the right colour.

So during the game, ghosts keep appearing and doing bad stuff to you and to the village, and you need to hold them back while trying to stay alive. The ghosts have many different characteristics. Some are easier to defeat, some are harder. Some cause trouble every turn, some only when they appear / go away. Some prevent you from using Tao tokens, which is nasty. You not only need to survive, you also need to prepare for the showdown with Wu Feng. Depending on the difficulty level, there can be one or four incarnations of Wu Feng that you need to defeat.

This is how the game looks like when set up. 9 village tiles randomly arranged in the centre, and four player boards on the four sides. The ghosts appear on the player boards, and some of them get a black figure which will attack the village, e.g. the one on the blue board.

Two Taoist monks confronting a ghost.

The two buddhas still chatting about last night's TV show without realising the ghost sneaking up on them.

Han and I played one 2-player game. Well, actually we played three games, but in the first two we played wrong and restarted. The first one was too easy, because we forgot to do actions for the two neutral boards. The second one was too tough, because we did too much for the two neutral boards. We played that they can add new ghosts to the game. Of course that turned out to be quite a nightmare. Double the number of ghosts were appearing. On our third attempt, we finally played with what was quite close to the correct rules (we later found out we did make some mistakes afterall), and won.

I find the game quite interesting. There are quite many choices - which ghosts to defeat first, where to move, which village tile to make use of, when to use your YinYang tokens and Power tokens. The game is a constantly changing puzzle of how to use your actions and resources most effectively. Sometimes there is some tough prioritisation that you are forced to do. The basic game structure is not complex, but there are many small details (e.g. the powers of each of the nine village tiles, and the unique powers of each monk) which although individually are simple, give you a wide decision tree that can be daunting when you are learning the game. In our first game we have only used a few of the village tiles. I am sure each tile can be very useful if used the right way or at the right time, but in our learning game, we have not yet appreciated all of the nuances. We tend to use the Buddhist temple (get a Buddha figure which can protect a space and instantly kick a new ghost back to hell), the sorcerer's hut (spend Qi, i.e. health, to kill a ghost) and the circle of prayer (discount when fighting ghosts or a particular colour).

As we played, the situation became more and more bleak. The number of active ghosts was growing, and we were starting to fall behind in trying to exorcise them quickly. By the time that Wu Feng finally arrived (11th card from the bottom of the stack), it was actually a relief, because we knew we just needed to defeat him to win, and we could ignore the other ghosts. And that was exactly what we did. It so happened that the incarnation of Wu Feng that we got was the one requiring 5 different Tao tokens. I already had four, and could use my Power token to use the Yellow monk power to get the fifth colour. So I instantly defeated Wu Feng on my next turn. It was actually rather anticlimatic, as if he came to save us from losing the game.

After the game, Han read the rules himself (I was the one who had read it first and I taught the game) and found that we had made at least two mistakes, both of which had made the game easier for us. (1) When using the sorcerer's hut to kill a ghost, we should not have gained the reward for defeating the ghost. (2) The ghosts which haunt village tiles only need to take two steps, not three, to haunt the nearest tile. The second mistake would have made quite a significant difference. So the next time that we play (I definitely want to play again) we probably should stay at Introductory level.

Sunday 11 January 2009

gaming in photos

1 Jan 2009. Michelle and Simon, playing Taj Mahal. I bought the German version a few years ago, at I think USD59, because the English reprint wasn't out yet. Unfortunately I have not played it many times. This is one of Reiner Knizia's classics.

Close-up of the game. Michelle did very well in this game. She ran out of palaces to place. Even by mid game she was already far ahead of us.

2 Jan 2009. Brass, with the 2-player variant. Non playable locations were covered with silver coins. This was at the end of the game. We had flipped the railroads to the canal side, to mark the railroads than had been scored.

Close-up. Hmmm... now that I noticed it, I wonder whether I forgot to score my railroad between Wigan and Bolton.

4 Jan 2009. Michelle and I played Age of Steam. This was the Korean map. The minimum number of players is 3, but since the Korean map seems to be quite tight, we decided to try it with 2. This was the start of the game. Two unique things about Korea is the hills are expensive to build on (+$3), and cities have no colour to determine what coloured cube they can accept. They accept a colour if there is a cube of such colour in them, which is an interesting twist.

Michelle started in the south east, and I started on the west.

Michelle built the two cheap tracks between Seoul, Suwon and Inchon. This is an anomaly of the Korean map. There are no hexes between these 3 cities, but you can put a marker on the circle between these cities as if you are building a track between them. Michelle's move didn't interrupt me much, as I later built another railway between Seoul and Inchon. It did help her deliver some goods though. Other than that, we delevoped our railroad networks quite separately.

Michelle did more urbanisation, and continued to expand northwards along the east coast. Korea turned out to be not as tough as I had imagined. Probably 2 players is not so suitable. You probably still need at least 3.

By now we are starting to build tracks for points and not really for delivering goods. Usually goods production in Age of Steam is a good thing, because it means there are more goods moved to the board for you to deliver. However on the Korean map this can be disruptive to your plans. Sometimes when you have planned to deliver a cube from one end of a long route to the other, a new cube suddenly gets placed in a city in the middle of that route, halfing your profit because then you would be forced to deliver the cube to this city in the middle rather than the originally intended destination.

This was the end of the game. No one wanted to build to Pyongyang in North Korea.

Aerial and "upright" view of the board at end game, for comparison against the starting photo.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Through the Ages error

I find it funny that sometimes after playing a game so many times and thinking that I'm already an expert, I suddenly discover some rule error which I have been playing with from the beginning. Usually they are not too bad. Else it probably won't be so funny, and the game probably won't work well enough to warrant many plays. I just discovered another error I made with Through the Ages. When you have discovered a more efficient form of farming or mining, you are not allowed to "upgrade" two or more blue tokens from older farm/mine technology cards to fewer tokens on the newly played farm/mine technology card. I have always thought that you can do this any time, i.e. you get a good efficiency boost the moment you discover the new technology.

However you can make change, i.e. if you have one blue token representing 2 stone, and you need to pay 1 stone, you can move that blue token down to the Level A mine, so that it now represents 1 stone.

If I have 3 blue tokens on my lowest level farm (each representing 1 food), I should not be allowed to convert them into 1 blue token in my higher level farm (where 1 blue token represents 3 food), thus returning 2 blue tokens to my bank.

I still have no news about the fix pack. My Through the Ages is the 2nd edition (or 1st edition published by FRED), which has the score track error and some non-critical errors on some cards. It is also short of some tokens, but since I have never played with 4 players, I have had no issue. But it would still be nice to receive the fix pack some day.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Ticket To Ride Nordic Countries

I am a Ticket to Ride game series collector. I have Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride Europe, Ticket to Ride Marklin, Ticket to Ride USA 1910 expansion, Ticket to Ride Switzerland, Ticket to Ride the Card Game, and now I have bought Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries too. The only game in the series that I don't have is Ticket to Ride the Dice Game, which I do not intend to get, at least not now. Ticket to Ride was big when it came out in 2004, winning the SdJ award. It was a big hit with many of my friends, and with my wife. I started off quite lukewarm towards it, and only later learned to appreciate its simplicity and to enjoy it for what it is. Each time I bought a new game in the series, I found that I usually liked the newer one more than the previous ones. I liked Marklin because of the additional passengers and goods, but when 1910 came out I liked the better tension for 2 players in the Big Cities variant, and Marklin's game setup felt tedious. When I got Switzerland Michelle and I played quite a lot of it and enjoyed drawing tickets a lot. TTR the Card Game was played a few times, but it didn't attract us back much. Unfortunately, with Nordic Countries, so far I do not see anything very outstanding that will attract us back either.

TTR Nordic Countries was initially only sold in the Nordic Countries, and only later Days of Wonder decided to do a small English version print run for wider distribution. It is a 2-3 player only game, like Switzerland, but unlike Switzerland it is a complete game, not just board and tickets, i.e. it is more expensive. It has ferries like TTR Europe, and tunnels too. Taking locomotives (jokers) don't count as taking 2 cards, like in Switzerland, because their use is restricted similarly (only usable for ferries and tunnels). One nice touch is the snow. There is snow everywhere. The train cards are the same as the original Ticket to Ride, but all the carriages are topped with snow. Good Christmas atmosphere. Even the guy on the cover looks like a version of Santa Claus.

I have played Nordic Countries four times. At least for now I don't see a strong differentiator, a uniqueness yet. I only feel I am playing on a different map, with unfamiliar names. That said, perhaps the value is that it is an additional option when you want to have a map more suitable for 2-3 players. So, probably this is a game only the heavy Ticket to Ride series players need to get. Nothing wrong with it, and I think it is nicely designed. Some people may not like the crazy card drawing in Switzerland. Then Nordic Countries is a more "normal" Ticket to Ride game suitable for 2-3 players. I'm happy to have both in my collection, and Michelle and I will likely play these two more than the other ones which were designed for 2-5 players.

Actually there is one unique thing about Nordic Countries, the long 9-length route to Murmansk. This scores 27 points, which is like completing a very long ticket by itself. Also only for this route, for each train of the right colour that you are short of, you can replace it using four cards of any kind (else getting 9 cards of the same colour would be very very difficult). This is an interesting quirk and adds some tension if the players want to compete to build it. It is indeed quite tempting.

Ticket To Ride Nordic Countries. A photo of the map taken from the east. This was the end of a game. We used the purple and black trains. The third colour it white.

The Murmansk-Lieksa route, needing 9 trains of the same colour (jokers not accepted in this game for such normal routes). However for each card short you can substitute with 4 cards of any type.

Lots of snow. The locomotive (joker) has the tunnel and ferry icons to remind you that you can only use it for such routes.

Some of the ticket cards. Even these have a little Christmas theme (bottom left corner).

Friday 2 January 2009

my 2008

First, some fancy statistics and diagrams. One note on terminology - "plays" mean how many times I have played a certain game, and "games" mean the game itself.

Fives and dimes of 2008, and some other statistics.

The dark blue line (total plays in 2008) uses the right axis. The others use the left axis. Total number of plays decreased in 2006 and 2007, but increased in 2008. Number of distinct games played increases every year regardless, which means I have been able to try more and more different games.

Number of distinct games played, and the breakdown into fives, dimes, others (i.e. played 2 to 4 times), and singles.

Same data, but looking at percentages.

Plays in 2008, with the breakdown of how many are of dimes, fives, etc. In 2005 the most played game was Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper. In 2008 it was Race for the Galaxy. 2004 was Carcassonne, there were many plays of Ticket To Ride in 2005, behind Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper. Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper was also the most played game in 2006. 2007 was a slow year, after my second daughter was born in Dec 2006. Most played game was Gulo Gulo, with my elder daughter.

Percentage view.

Number of plays (in brackets) for games played in 2008:

1. Race for the Galaxy (248)
2. Agricola (35)
3. Blue Moon (28)
4. TTR Switzerland (20)
5. Through the Ages (17)
6. 10 days in Asia (17)
7. Dominion (15)
8. Gulo Gulo (15)
9. Pandemic (12)
10. Carcassonne (11)
11. 10 days in Europe (10)
12. Mamma Mia (9)
13. TTR Card Game (8)
14. Galaxy Trucker (8)
15. Loopin' Louie (8)
16. Blokus 3D (7)
17. Ticket to ride (7)
18. Tribune (6)
19. Princes of Florence (6)
20. Chicken Cha Cha Cha (6)
21. R-Eco (6)
22. Carc Discovery (5)
23. Thebes (5)
24. In the year of the dragon (5)
25. Jambo (5)
26. MR3: Jekyll & Hyde (4)
27. Sticheln (4)
28. Risk Express (4)
29. Sole Mio (4)
30. Brass (4)
31. San Juan (3)
32. Babel (3)
33. 80 days around the world (3)
34. MR4: Al Capone & The Chicago Underworld (3)
35. Ca$h n Gun$ (3)
36. Dou4Di4Zhu3 (3)
37. Blue Moon City (2)
38. Louis XIV (2)
39. Hive (2)
40. Attika (2)
41. Taluva (2)
42. MR1: Jack the Ripper (2)
43. Age of Empires III (2)
44. Die Macher (2)
45. Lord of the Rings (2)
46. Power Grid (2)
47. Hacienda (2)
48. Zooloretto (2)
49. To Court The King (2)
50. Once Upon A Time (2)
51. Blokus Duo (2)
52. TTR Nordic Countries (2)
53. Lost Cities (2)
54. Diamant (2)
55. Glory to Rome (2)
56. Citadels (2)
57. Ivanhoe (1)
58. Pillars of the Earth (1)
59. Notre Dame (1)
60. Mykerinos (1)
61. Catan card game (1)
62. Elasund (1)
63. Felix: the cat in the sack (1)
64. Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage (1)
65. Starcraft (1)
66. En Garde (1)
67. TTR Marklin (1)
68. Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal (1)
69. Railroad Tycoon (1)
70. Beowulf (1)
71. Barbarossa (1)
72. Quo Vadis (1)
73. Shadows Over Camelot (1)
74. Mwahahaha (1)
75. Caylus (1)
76. Coloretto (1)
77. 6 Nimmt (1)
78. Goa (1)
79. Puerto Rico (1)
80. Dawn Under (1)
81. Niagara (1)
82. Thurn und Taxis (1)
83. Conquest of the fallen lands (1)
84. Frank's Zoo (1)
85. Gin Rummy (1)
86. Halli Galli (1)
87. On the Underground (1)
88. Twister (1)
89. Monopoly Here & Now (1)
90. China (1)
91. Caesar & Cleopatra (1)
92. Make You Gunfighters (1)
93. El Capitan (1)
94. Cuba (1)
95. King Arthur the card game (1)
96. Mordred (1)
97. Royal Turf (1)
98. Trendy (1)
99. Circus Flohcati (1)
100. Galactic Emperor (1)
101. Hoity Toity (1)
102. Pickomino (1)
103. Age of Steam (1)
104. Can't Stop (1)
105. Metropolys (1)
106. 300 the boardgame (1)
107. Winds of Plunder (1)
108. Through the Desert (1)
109. Magic the Gathering (1)
110. Hansa (1)

I record my games played religiously, since some time in 2004. I do it in an Excel sheet, and also on Boardgamegeek. There are some games where I even record the scoring breakdown (Race for the Galaxy, Agricola), or I write comments / mini session reports (like Through the Ages). I also record my game purchases - when I bought what, at what price, whether I have played it, what my rating is etc. I looked through these records, and found some interesting things (well, maybe only to me). So here are a lot of random observations, mostly about gaming in 2008.

Favourites - Through the Ages, Race for the Galaxy. And to certain extent Tribune too. Although the number of plays of Through the Ages is much much fewer than Race for the Galaxy, when considering how long the game is and how I need to set time aside for it, I am quite happy to have enjoyed so many games of Through the Ages.

10's - 2008 is the first time I rated a game 10, according to Boardgamegeek ratings. I gave two 10s, to Through the Ages and Race for the Galaxy. Agricola may get a 10. It is a 9.5 now.

Few-plays-doesn't-mean-bad - I only played these very few times, but I enjoyed them a lot and would love to play again. Axis & Allies Guadalcanal, Die Macher, Brass.

Correlation with BGG - I am mostly in sync with BGG. I think Agricola, Through the Ages and Race for the Galaxy should be in the top ten. I like Agricola more than Puerto Rico. Only Dominion I don't think of as highly as other BGGeeks. I have played 15 games. I appreciate some of the strategies, but it doesn't grab me like Agricola or Through the Ages. Admittedly I still don't feel I have a good grasp of it yet. I need to play more.

Other good buys - Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, a December 2007 purchase, was well worth the money. Michelle and I played many exciting games of this. I just bought Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. I wonder whether I'll get to play this as much.

Probably need not have bought - Blokus 3D. This is interesting but I find that I don't really play it a lot. I bought it at The Mind Shop when visiting Melbourne. I often cannot resist the temptation when I visit a game shop overseas. Ticket to Ride Card Game, Carcassonne the Discovery, Mamma Mia, Sole Mio. These were OK. Interesting, at least at first. But after the initial few games, I find that I rarely have the urge to revisit them.

Glad I didn't buy - Power Grid China/Korea. It tempted me, but I already have too many other Power Grid expansions that I am not playing often enough. Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. I actually like it, and I like the Mike Doyle artwork, but Michelle won't play this with me. Han has a copy anyway.

Played out - "out" as in I was starting to get tired of it. 10 Days in Asia, 10 Days in Europe, both were borrowed from Chong Sean. I actually quite like them. They are quite different from other games that I have played, and they give me a type of fun that I have not experienced in other games. But I simply played too much within too short a time. I had initially planned to buy 10 Days in Asia, but now I have decided not yet. This is a good game for new players and casual gamers, but probably not for a hardcore gamer, at least not after 27 plays.

Classics revisited - I played Princes of Florence 6 times in 2008. Despite all being the 2-player variant, I enjoyed myself.

Should play more - Lord of the Rings and its three expansions. I really like this game, but have not been playing it a lot. I think the Friends & Foes expansion really need more than 2 players or it will be too hard. I have played the Sauron expansion with 2 players (supposedly minimum 3), where I played 2 hobbits and Michelle played Sauron. It was too taxing for the hobbit player. So I think it does need 3. The Battlefields expansion should be OK with 2 players. I also should play more of Age of Steam and its expansions, In the Year of the Dragon and Puerto Rico. Come to think of it, I have never played any of the Age of Steam expansions that I own. I quite like In the Year of the Dragon, and especially after the big rule blunder in my recent game, I want to try it again with 4 or 5 players.

Surprised I played that many - Blue Moon. Michelle doesn't like it. Among the plays in 2008, about half were with Han, the other half with Michelle. Since it is always hard to convince Michelle to play it, I thought I didn't play many games. I guess Blue Moon is quite short, so it doesn't feel like I have played a lot. I have all the 8 races, both the Emissaries & Inquisitor expansions, and also the Buka Invasion expansion. That's one very expensive game if I add up how much I had spent. I really want to play more of this, and I continue to bug Michelle to play it.

Nagging suspiscions - Should I be mixing all the decks (E, I, K and Z) when playing Agricola? I checked the rules and the rules do allow this. However there are some disadvantages of "diluting" the cards. There are three roads (Minor Improvements) of different quality. If you build a road and noone else has built another road of better quality, then you score a bonus. Since we have so many cards, the chances of two roads being in play in the same game are very very slim. There's also the Chieftian (Occupation) and the Chieftian's Daughter. The Chieftian's Daughter can be played for free if the Chieftian is in play. The chances of them appearing in the same game are slim. There are more cards which depend on other cards, e.g. those depending on Plough cards. However, right now I just cannot be bothered to sort the cards, and anyway I like the variety. I like to be surprised.

Other non game specific observations:

Gaming group - Han, my only regular opponent other than Michelle for the past few years, moved to another city because of work. However this year Chee Seng introduced two new friends to me, Sui Jye and Jing Yi, who have become regulars at gaming sessions. Before Han left, I had planned to join the Cheras gamers, who play at Oldtown Kopitiam on Friday nights. However after more than half a year of talking about it I still have not gotten around to it. I only dropped by once to say hi to Jeff and Heng.

Games owned - 164 according to BGG. The actual number is probably less. I counted some games which I can play using components from another game.

Games acquired - 24 in 2008. Only one was self-made in 2008. One was free. So 22 paid games. I hope to buy less in 2009, and I hope to play all purchased games at least 5 times in the first year, except for long games (like Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition which is currently on my to-buy list).