Saturday 29 October 2011


Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

When Tobago first came out many predicted it would win the Spiel des Jahres. It didn't. I don't think it even made the shortlist. But still, it is a good family game, and it has very good-looking components. Tobago is a game about treasure hunting on a mysterious island. Players put together clues to determine the locations of buried treasure. Once a location is determined, the first player to reach that spot can raise the treasure, which will then be split among those who had contributed towards finding it. The game ends when the deck of treasure cards run out, and players sum up the coins on their treasure cards to determine the winner.

The key mechanism in the game is how players construct the treasure map by playing clue cards on one of the four treasures being hunted. Clue cards are restrictions which narrow down the possible locations of the treasures, e.g. a clue card may state that the treasure is within two spaces of a river, or that the treasure is not in a forest, or the treasure is next to the ocean. Every player has a hand of such clue cards, and he can choose to play one on his turn. Each contribution entitles the contributor to a share when the treasure is raised. When the treasure is raised, every contributor draws and looks at a number of treasure cards according to his number of contributions (raising the treasure is treated as one contribution too). All these cards, plus one extra card which noone has seen, are then shuffled, and the loot splitting begins. The shuffled treasure cards are revealed one by one. Each treasure card is offered to one contributor after another, priority being given to those who contributed most recently, until it is accepted, and that contributor removes his contribution marker. Treasure cards have 2 to 6 coins, so when presented with this take-it-or-pass-it-on decision, you need to decide whether to be contented with the card offered, or to hope for a better one later.

The four piles of cubes represent the four possible treasures that can be found. The clue cards played narrow down the possible locations of the treasure. When the number of possible locations are few enough, the cubes are marked on the board to make it easier for the players to quickly see these remaining possible locations. A player marker is placed on each clue card when it is played. Looking at the 3rd column, the clue cards mean: within two spaces of a hut, next to a beach, not next to a river, next to a hut, within two spaces of a statue, and in the largest mountain range.

One twist is the curse cards. If one turns up during loot splitting, the loot splitting ends prematurely and all contributors who are still waiting to claim treasures are penalised by having to discard their highest valued treasure card. Those who had contributed and had already collected their share of the loot do not suffer from this penalty, so some people may settle for less because of the fear of curse cards. One way to protect yourself from curse cards is to pick up amulets. These mysteriously appear every time a treasure is raised. They can be used for other purposes too, e.g. taking an extra action.

Amulets (that one in the foreground) wash up to shore where the mysterious statues are facing every time a treasure is raised. The statues then rotate to face a different direction.

Every player has a jeep (called an ATV - All Terrain Vehicle - in the game), and to raise a treasure or to collect an amulet you need to drive to the right spot to do so. Every turn you are normally either piecing together treasure maps to narrow down possible locations, or driving your jeep around the island to where the treasures or amulets are.

The game ends when the treasure deck runs out. You total up your treasure cards to see who wins.

The Play

I played a full four-player game with Allen, Dennis and Heng. Both Allen and Dennis had played before, but only online. Dennis confidently declared this a 30-minute filler. It turned out to be a one-hour (or so) game. Playing on the computer made things much faster because the computer handles all the rules details. In fact Dennis and Allen realised that they didn't really know the rules, since when they played, the computer did all the hard work of determining legal placements and movements. Heng and I were both new to the game.

Most of the time we were adding clue cards to one of the four treasures, trying to contribute as much as we could, so that we could share the treasure when it was raised. Some treasures took many cards to determine their final location, some just four or five. Due to the game rules, the more clues required, the bigger the treasure. It was always good to have a monopoly or near-monopoly of a treasure, because it meant you'd see a large number of treasure cards when it came to loot splitting. As we played clue cards, we tried to narrow down the locations to where our jeeps were, to give ourselves better chances of raising the treasures. I found that the cards that you draw can restrict your choices quite a fair bit, so the option of spending a turn to discard all cards and redraw is important. There are quite a number of things you can do. Play clues to "book a seat" to share treasures, go digging, go collecting amulets, and use the amulets in various ways.

The game board is made of three pieces, each of which are double-sided, and thus provide different setups.

Cubes mark the possible locations of treasures.

My cards were not very good, and I didn't manage to contribute to as many treasure maps as I wanted. However I was luckier than average when it came to loot splitting. The fear of the curse cards played an important role. All of us were cautious and remembered to pick up amulets just in case. Eventually most of us were indeed struck by a curse, and all had an amulet to ward it off, except for Dennis, who had unfortunately gambled on not getting hit, and had spent his amulet on something else.

The end game was quite exciting for us. At any one time there are always four possible treasures to be discovered. Towards game end when the treasure card deck is running low, you'll know there will only be one of two more treasures that can be dug up before the deck is exhausted. This is when things get interesting, when players race to "complete" the treasures that they have bigger stakes in.

When our game ended, Heng the first timer and non-rule-reader-and-teacher (which would be me) won the game at 35pts, 5pts ahead of the second place. He had contributed much to the treasure maps and thus had many treasure cards.

The Thoughts

Tobago is very much a family game, but probably not for completely-non-gamer families. It's far from as accessible as Ticket to Ride is, but I can see why most gamers feel it is simple. It is simple, to gamers. Components are excellent. Gameplay is interesting and refreshing. There is a fair bit of luck in the game, but you do feel like you can always do something to improve your position. There are opportunities for clever play, and that is satisfying. It gives you a little light mental exercise.

I didn't expect Tobago to be something I'd be a fan of. I was keen to try it to see whether it's something I can buy for my 6-year old daughter. Now that I have played it, I think it's a little beyond her. Maybe one or two years more.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Friday 28 October 2011

concise reference sheets v14

I reached a milestone of having done 200 concise reference sheets. Visit this link to download the latest set. Updates are as follows.

  1. 51st State (new)
  2. Cavum (new)
  3. Commands and Colors Napoleonics (new)
  4. De Vulgari Eloquentia (new)
  5. Evolution (new)
  6. First Train to Nuremberg (corrected)
  7. Great Fire of London 1666 (new)
  8. Illuminati (new)
  9. Labyrinth: the War on Terror (corrected)
  10. Manoeuvre (new)
  11. Maori (new)
  12. Maria (new)
  13. Nightfall (& Martial Law expansion) (new)
  14. Pacific Typhoon (new)
  15. Shipyard (corrected)
  16. Tinners’ Trail (corrected)
  17. Tobago (new)

Thursday 27 October 2011

Pacific Typhoon

Plays: 5Px1.

The Game

Pacific Typhoon is a card game using the Pacific War during World War II as the setting. The players do not belong to the Japanese side or the Allied side, and instead every round they can pick which side they want to be on. At the start of a round the start player (which rotates) reveals two battle cards and chooses one to be fought over. Then every player has one chance to play force cards to participate in the battle on one side or the other. Force cards contribute strength, and the side with the higher strength total wins the battle. The battle card itself and the force cards of the losing side become the spoils of war. They are distributed among the players of the winning side by the player who contributed the most strength. What's interesting is this player is only required to distribute the number of cards as evenly as possible, regardless of the point value of the cards. E.g. if I have five spoils cards of values 5, 4, 2, 1, 1 that I need to split among 3 players, I'd probably give myself 5+4, and give the others 2 and 1+1.

The game can involve much negotiation, cooperation, bluffing and even betrayal. Players can persuade one another to work together to be on the winning side. They can gang up on the leader. Since noone is tied to being on the Japanese or the Allied side, it's pretty much every man for himself, and alliances will likely be shifting all the time.

The above is the high-level overview. Going into details, there are rules around card characteristics and restrictions on playing cards. When the start player of a round picks a battle card, he decides whether to fight a day or night battle, whether to fight an air, surface, submarine or combined battle. These restrict the force cards that can be played that round. Every battle card has a year of battle, which also restricts the force cards that can be played. Normally each player can only play one force card, but there are some special force cards - bonus cards and event cards - which are not limited. They have various special abilities. Some basic force cards also have special abilities, e.g. being able to immediately destroy another force card, or getting double strength when fighting a particular battle. All these details are based on historical events, so the game does have many historical details.

The game ends when the battle card deck runs out. The player with the most points on the spoils cards captured wins.

There are many variants that come with the game, e.g. a variant where players belong to one specific side of the war, and one where battles are resolved following the historical timeline. I have not tried these variants.

The Play

I did a 5-player game, since this game seems to be best with 5 or 6. Han, Allen, Wan, Shan and I played. I found that the start player's choice of battle can give himself much advantage, especially when the restriction is high and he has just the right card to play, or when he has a very powerful card or card combination that meets the battle type he declares. However, there is also a disadvantage because playing your force card(s) first means you are already committed and others can decide how they want to play based on the force cards already committed on the table. This means that the last player of the round has the biggest advantage in terms of having information available to him, and can often decide the outcome of the battle.

From the early game I jumped into a big lead, and somehow despite the others working together to stop me, I continued to lead. My early victories let me increase my hand size, so I had more flexibility. I also drew good cards, and I was lucky with my die rolls. Some cards require die rolls, but not many. I was quite amazed at my lucky streak. I thought I'd have to bribe and cajole to get some of my opponents to help me or at least victimise me less, however my cards were so good that a few big wins put me even further in the lead.

We didn't manage to finish the game. We played about half the battle deck. It was enough to understand the game. Initially the restrictions and symbols took a while to internalise.

Game in progress. In each round there will be a battle card in the centre, and each player can play a card(s) to fight for it. So far three players have sided the Japanese (red) and only one the Allied (blue). The fifth player has played a white event card and has not yet committed to any side.

The spoils of war that I have won. The top three are battle cards which are kept face up. Force cards won and kept face down in a stack. The numbers in the yellow circles are the victory points. The full green card and half green card icons are resource icons, which increases your hand size. I have a full resource and two half resources, which means my hand size is increased by two.

The Thoughts

Despite the many details and restrictions surrounding the card play, all of which are relevant to the Pacific War theme, the game didn't feel like refighting the war at all. It is a numbers game, trying to squeeze out as much strength as you can from your cards and thus winning spoils which are worth victory points. I think this is the first time I see so much historical flavour in a game (the photos, the specific rules, the ships and planes represented, the events represented) and yet the feeling of the gameplay is nothing like the setting. I get a strong feeling of "pasted-on theme", but I don't believe this is a mechanism-before-theme game. Too many individual rules are directly related to the theme.

I see Pacific Typhoon as a card game good for 4 to 6 players who like some negotiation, some bluffing, and shifting alliances. In fact, for each battle there is probably more competition among the players on the winning side trying to be the top contributor. In each round it can feel like there is one winning player as opposed to one winning side with multiple players, unless the players on the winning side negotiate and agree on the spoils distribution beforehand. The historical elements are a nice touch and is quite educational, just don't expect to feel like you're fighting a war much. You'll feel more like some diety nudging the battle outcomes one way or the other.

Game mechanism-wise I don't find the game outstanding, but if you enjoy the Pacific War theme, you will like the rich details here.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Washington's War

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Washington's War is a game about the War of Independence of USA. It is a redesign of We the People, the first Card Driven Game (CDG), which preceded the well-known Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. This is a 2-player-only wargame, with one side playing the British and the other the Americans. To win, you need to eliminate all enemy armies, or control a certain number of states when the game ends. The game is played over a number of years, and game end is variable and may even change from time to time, depending on the card draw. So players need to be on their toes and need to be prepared in case the game ends sooner (or later) than expected.

One round in the game corresponds to one year. Both players draw cards and then take turns playing them. You play cards to recruit troops, to activate generals (move them and possibly attack enemies), to boost your strength during battles, to place political control markers on the board, and to trigger events on the cards. Unlike Twilight Struggle, where every card has an event and an ops value, here a card is either an ops card or an event card. I had thought this would make things much less interesting, but it turned out to be not so at all.

Both sides have a number of generals with different abilities. The American generals are much easier to activate. Some can be activated by any ops card, some can be activated by value 2 or 3 ops cards. In contrast the British generals are much harder to activate, needing value 2 or 3 ops cards, and even only value 3 ops cards. However, all American generals suffer from winter attrition because many soldiers go home for winter, except for Washington who can keep his troops if he is in winter quarters (fortresses). The British don't suffer from winter attrition as long as they find winter quarters, and if they are in the south where winters are gentler, no attrition at all. The Americans can raise troops quite freely and have two opportunities to do so every round. The British only have one chance to bring in reinforcements every round, and they follow a pre-set schedule, generally alternating between big and small numbers. Also the British reinforcements can only land at a port.

Battles are quick and simple and only take a few die rolls. Both sides calculate their strengths, which depends on a number of factors, e.g. number of troops, ability of general, battle cards played, and control of the state where the battle is taking place, which are then added to their respective die rolls. Washington has a special ability of adding +2 strength if he attacks just before winter, i.e. using the last card in the American player's hand. Once the victor is decided, regardless of the final strength difference, the loser will lose one to three units, depending on a die roll, and the winner will lose none or just one unit, also depending on a die roll.

Ultimately, generals, armies and battles are but a means to an end, which is political control of the states. It is relatively easy to place political control markers on empty spaces, but quite hard to flip over those already placed to your side. You will need the presence of an army to be able to flip them. The 13 states have different numbers of cities, some as many as eleven, some as few as two or three, even some with just one. This is an interesting aspect to plan around. There are rules which remove isolated political markers, e.g. those completely surrounded by enemy markers and not supported by any friendly army. This is another consideration to take note of and to make use of.

As part of the game setup, the American and British armies are already right next to each other and ready for battle. The American generals are in blue, and the British in red.

This is the start of the game. Most cities do not have political control markers yet. Square cities are fortresses, which are important for wintering. Round ones are just regular cities.

The Play

Han played the Americans and I played the British. I had quite a good hand in the first round, allowing me to mobilise my British armies quite easily. Unfortunately that made me underestimate the difficulty in mobilising my armies. In subsequent rounds, I gradually found myself stuck with little mobility. I hadn't planned for that. The British should be planning for few but big moves, unlike the Americans who can engage in guerilla warfare. I had some early victories, but soon Han was winning battle after battle, making good use of Washington's strength, mobility and pre-winter attack power. Things on the battle front looked bleak, so I decided to give up on that front and just be defensive. I had a strong general squatting with ten units on a city which is the only city of a state. At least that guaranteed one state on my side. Only at that point I started spending more effort on political control. I couldn't do much with my generals and armies anyway. It was then I realised the importance of the political aspect. That was the real objective of the game.

Han didn't have American generals in the south, but I had one British general there. So I started placing more and more political markers there. Han had more generals in the north, and spent effort on using them to flip existing markers to his side. This was a slower process because his generals would need to move onto my markers first before he could flip them. Gradually he tried to secure the northern states to try to cut me off. If he could secure the port cities, it would be difficult for me to directly send in reinforcements.

Unfortunately we did not have enough time to finish the game. We had played about 80% through. Han had won many battles and controlled more states than I did at that point. I wasn't too far behind. If I could reach 6 states (I think I had 5 at the time) and hold on to them until game end, I would win. A rematch is in order. The game will be much quicker now that we are more familiar with it.

Towards the later part of the game, many cities had political control markers. Han and I had two armies facing off each other at the centre, neither daring to attack because it would be very risky. I had one army in the south (left side of this photo) working on converting American political markers to British ones, and Han had an army in the north doing the opposite.

The top left number on the general is the activation number, the smaller the better, i.e. easier to activate. The top right number is the leadership value, which increases army strength during battles. The number in the circle is mobility, which determines the ease of interception and retreat.

The Thoughts

Washington's War is a relatively simple wargame, but it is still a wargame, so there is a fair bit of details in the rules, like how generals can intercept, and the various factors in calculating battle strength. The big picture is not hard to grasp, and the game is smooth to play once you get past the initial hump and can see the big picture. The two sides are quite asymmetrical, which is interesting. There is much historical flavour in the game, which makes it fun and thematic. The cards that you draw do restrict what you can do, more so than say Twilight Struggle where cards have more uses. Depending on what you draw, you need to plan out how you can make the most out of them in the current round.

I enjoy the two layers in the game - the armies and battles, and political control. The game reminds me a lot of Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage which also has these two layers.

I wonder when I will play my copy of Wilderness War (also a CDG), which I bought about 8 years ago and still have not played.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Sunday 23 October 2011


Recently I discovered that this blog has been blocked at work. All this while I had no problems accessing any Blogspot websites from the office (not that I browse blogs at work all the time *ahem*), so this was unexpected. So this means my blog is popular enough to catch the attention of the firewall guys right? Ooh... *stride proudly feeling important*

Normal view.

Connecting from work.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Maria rematches, iPhone Civilization Revolution

2 Oct 2011. Maria. This was the second game that I played with Han and Allen, this time Han was France, Allen was Prussia / Pragmatic Army and I was Austria. This is a photo of me using my hussar unit (thin white disc) to disrupt the supply of the Bavarian (orange) army.

In the early game Han and Allen declared a temporary truce between France and Pragmatic Army, which allowed the Pragmatic Army to build up, and also allowed France to focus on attacking me (Austria). Things didn't look good for me. There were many times during battles that I played cards in such a way that allowed me to retreat while taking minor losses. In hindsight, maybe I should have simply avoided those battles in the first place. Small losses do add up. I spent many cards on events, which also made me weaker in battle. I did manage to make Saxony neutral. It was initially an ally of Prussia, and was attacking me from the north. Later it even became my ally, and started threatening Prussia.

Prussia (Allen, blue) advanced steadily from the north, and my general (white) advanced to engage. Prussia did not capture these Silesian fortresses as quickly as the first game that we played, but I am not sure whether it was a good idea for me to engage so early. I eventually paid heavily for this decision. I lost my armies one after another, being defeated by Prussia, France and Bavaria, eventually losing all five armies on the main (Bohemian) map. I had almost become a non-factor. It was up to Han and Allen to see who was quicker in capturing enough of my fortresses to win. However, I still harboured a little hope. In this game we were mostly aggressive in capturing opponents' fortresses, so that we could place our victory markers. We didn't put much effort into recapturing our own fortresses to remove our opponents' victory markers. So I still had most of my victory markers on the board, and only had a few more to place to win, despite the shortage of generals and being very defenseless. My general on the French map could still capture fortresses, and the Saxon army was on my side by that time. I just needed two more fortresses or major victories in battle.

At the border between France (red) and Netherlands (grey). By this time the truce between France and the Pragmatic Army had expired, and Allen (Pragmatic Army, grey) was well prepared to start his offensive into France. Austria (white, me) was allied to the Pragmatic Army and they couldn't attack each other, but they could race to capture French fortresses.

My last general (white) on the Bohemian map before he too was defeated. One good thing he did was to destroy the French and Bavarian supply trains (red and orange cubes). This slowed down the French and Bavarian armies somewhat. Eventually it was Han who managed to beat Allen in conquering enough Austrian fortresses to win the game. A victory for France.

Family portrait of Losers (with a capital L) - the Austrian generals.

Allen, Han and I later did a third game of Maria, this time with Allen playing Austria, Han playing Prussia + Pragmatic Army, and me playing France. This was so that each of us had the opportunity to try all three factions. However this third game ended so abruptly that I didn't manage to take any photo. We were all cautious in the early game, accumulating cards and not battling much. As France I quickly grabbed a few Austrian fortresses. Every round France was first to take actions so there is an advantage if France is close in the race against other nations to place all victory markers. In the first round of the second year, i.e. 4th of 12 rounds, my single Bavarian army engaged an Austrian army and won a major victory, eliminating it. I was lucky to have some big cards (an 8 and a 10) in hand. I killed 7 units, which let me place two victory markers in the recent victory slots. Then in the same round I attacked and captured more Austrian fortresses on the western map, and placed my remaining victory markers. The Austrian general on the western map was out of position and could not protect the fortresses. So France won again, a surprisingly swift victory (even to me). Han was all ready to launch a major offensive, having accumulated many cards for his Pragmatic Army.

Later we realised that we had misplayed a rule. The Pragmatic Army general could protect Austrian fortresses, so I should not have captured those last few fortresses even though the Austrian general was too far away to protect them. The outcome of the game might have been very different. Things were just about to get interesting. We vowed to have a rematch with the same player configuration.

14 Oct 2011. Civilization Revolution on the iPhone. I have been a fan of the Sid Meier's Civilization computer games since Civ II. I recently bought the iPhone app for USD0.99. Unfortunately only the Chinese version is available in Malaysia. I have no idea why the English version is not available here. The game is much simplified compared to Civ V, the latest version in the PC game series (I think it is closer to Civ IV). However still it is quite fun to play.

The screenshot above is the victory screen from my first game as Rome. I won a cultural victory, by having 20 great people or wonders, and then building the United Nations wonder.

My second game as Greece (green). I was very cultured at this point, and my borders were pushing against two English (red) cities. Eventually both of them decided to overthrow English rule and join my civilisation.

This iPhone game reminds me of the boardgame version of Sid Meier's Civilization published by Fantasy Flight Games, which I also like. Some things are simplified compared to the PC game, but gameplay is still interesting.

I won my first two games comfortably, and decided to go for the hardest difficulty level. It turned out to be too difficult for me. The AI's seemed to be able to produce tons of units, and all of them kept declaring war on me. Eventually I gave up after losing 3 of my 6 cities, and the attackers still wouldn't stop coming. I switched to the second hardest level, and found the right challenge for myself. Some AI's did better than me; not all AI's were aggressive all the time. I had to work hard for the win, and had to switch strategy too.

I got all the way up to the modern age. I was the Indians (brown). The Romans (purple) were my neighbours and built a super city out of Rome with many wonders of the world and great people. They had so much culture they almost made my border city flip to join their civilisation. See how their border was pushing against my city. I couldn't keep up in technology, in wonders or in great people, and eventually had to attempt an economic win.

The Indian economic victory. The Chinese translation was obviously done from English and some were done rather directly and awkwardly. They should have just rephrased some of the sentences completely.

Buy Maria from Noble Knight Games. Status (at time of this post): in stock

Monday 17 October 2011

revisiting the 2009 games eagerness ranking

In Nov 2010 I ranked games published in 2009 that I have played based on how eager I am to play them. It was a fun exercise and I planned to make this an annual thing, around the end of the year, assessing games published in the previous year, i.e. giving myself about a year to experience as many games published in the year being assessed as possible. As I prepared to write about the 2010 games, I realised that it was interesting (at least for me) to look at what I wrote for 2009. There are some games which I feel a little differently about now. There are some games which I hadn't been able to play and assess last year, but I have now played six of them and can rank them. So here's revisiting the 2009 games. Major changes and additions are underlined and in italics.

    Keen to play

  1. Automobile - Tight and thematic. There seems to be not many things you can do, but every decision is important in this game.
  2. Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 - Have only played half a game. Japan seems overpowered at the moment, even without attacking in Round 1. There is a variant where Japan is not allowed to attack (except China) in Round 1, to balance the game. Need to play again. I still have not managed to play this again. The designer has been working on improving the rules and game setup, and is up to version ALPHA 3 now. I have not yet played with any of these improved versions.
  3. Hansa Teutonica - Very interactive. Simple actions, but a wide-range of strategies. The many scoring options can be overwhelming.
  4. Endeavor - Quick, and you have the feeling you are just a few actions short of executing your perfect strategy. Some say a bit too polished and too streamlined, but I don't think it was overdone. I like it so much that I'm actually proud I could resist buying it. Umm... I have now bought the game
  5. Factory Manager - Previously undecided. Now I'm keen to play it again because I still feel I have not explored it enough.
  6. Shipyard - A pleasant surprise. I had expected something overly complicated, and the rondel mechanism itself isn't something I drool over. It turned out to be a nice build-things-and-feel-proud game, and the rondel mechanism just fades into the background. It's a seamless part of the game, but it is not the game.

    Automobile, still my favourite among the 2009 batch.

    Axis & Allies Pacific 1940. I've always liked the Axis & Allies series but I never get enough plays of them.

    Happy to play

  7. Cyclades - Clean, streamlined, multi-player conflict game. Feels like The Settlers of Catan in complexity.
  8. Maria - Previously not listed. A game designed for 3. Much historical flavour. Battles are few but crucial, with much positioning and planning before engaging.
  9. Power Struggle - The corporate politics theme did not annoy as I feared. In fact it helps to tie the many moving parts together.
  10. Chaos in the Old World - Previously not listed. I'm happy to play, but I insist on the full 4-player game.
  11. Roll Through the Ages - I really should play this more. I'll probably like it more if I play it more. There are many different techs and combinations of techs that I haven't explored. And this is a short game. This has gone up a little. Despite being short, there is some strategy, and you do need to pay attention to what your opponents are doing.
  12. Bonnie & Clyde - 5th in the Mystery Rummy series, which I've always enjoyed. I don't think any rummy game can ever replace Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper as my favourite rummy game, but Bonnie & Clyde is quite decent, and unique too.
  13. Campaign Manager 2008 - Thematic card game for 2 players. Normal game (i.e. with card drafting) is much better than the beginner's game.
  14. At the Gates of Loyang - Not bad as a 2P game. I've only played with two (against my wife), but I can imagine how it can drag with more. This has dropped from Keen category to Happy category. It feels too much like a solitaire puzzle.
  15. Dungeon Lords - Given such a complex game, the double-guessing part turned me off a little.
  16. Summoner Wars - Well-balanced battle game.
  17. Stronghold - Previously not listed. Quite thematic and tense. I don't have a good grasp of the game yet, despite having played it twice.
  18. Jaipur - Previously not listed. Quick and clever 2P card game with interesting decisions and tricky plays.
  19. Vasco Da Gama - I think I missed the big picture in my first play, and was too tactical. Pang won decisively by one big move which he had planned for for some time, and none of us saw it coming (or at least didn't really try to stop him).


  20. Waterloo - The combat resolution is a little convoluted and takes time to digest. I will have to relearn it when I play again because I've forgotten it all by now. Dropped from Happy to Lukewarm. Over the past year there have been more other war / battle games that I'd rather play.
  21. Carson City - Construct buildings, earn money, fight when necessary / profitable, then plan to convert what you build into victory points. Didn't feel very new or different, despite the gunfight mechanism.
  22. Macao - it felt JASE (Just Another Soulless Euro) to me (sorry), despite the never-seen-before windrose mechanism. There are multiple paths to victory, but they feel like mechanisms looking for a theme, and the mechanisms aren't very interesting to me.
  23. Homesteaders - 10 rounds of auctions, but there is a lot of thought you need to put into every auction decision - which tile to bid for, how much to bid for, when to pass etc. It's a lot about getting good combinations of buildings.
  24. Dominion: Intrigue - Previously not listed. This is more or less my general keenness to play the Dominion family of games.
  25. BoardGameGeek Game - It's mostly about collecting sets. Although it's fun to see so many boardgames and elements of boardgames in one single game, the gameplay didn't really grab me.
  26. Middle Earth Quest - The game is fine, and I did enjoy my play. It's only the genre that deters me. I'm not very into the fantasy theme or Role Playing Games-like boardgames.
  27. Ra the dice game - Nothing wrong. Just unnecessary. Because Ra is better.
  28. Rabbit Hunt - It was a pleasant surprise when I first played it. It certainly is quite unique. You need to keep a poker face as you hide your rabbits, and you need to try to read your opponents. I'm not sure why my enthusiasm dropped very quickly. Maybe I just don't like games with bluffing, although mechanism-wise I think the game concept is interesting.
  29. Greed Incorporated - I'm biased by my very poor performance in the only game that I played. This game is brutal. Boohoo... I'm scarred for life... Now that I have played 18XX games, this game is not as scary as before. But I'm still uncomfortable with how brutal and unforgiving it can be. Every round only two awards are given, so even if you are only $1 behind 2nd place, you get nothing. I'm uncomfortable with the winner gets everything, losers get nothing approach, which I guess matches the theme well. You can easily fall into a downward spiral and have no hope of winning. At least in 18XX games I feel that I am continuously earning money and jostling for the win (unless I have made a very bad move or have been victim of a particularly ingenious attack).

I'm still not yet cured of my phobia of Greed Incorporated.

Other more popular 2009 games that I still have not played. Additional comments underlined and in italics.

  1. Steam - I'm happy enough with Age of Steam (Keen To Play), so trying Steam is low priority.
  2. Small World - I've played Vinci, and it'd be a Happy To Play. No real urge to try Small World.
  3. Imperial 2030 - Have not tried the original Imperial either.
  4. Warhammer: Invasion
  5. Claustrophobia - likely not my cup of tea.
  6. Space Hulk (3rd edition) - I've played 1st edition with Han a few times. This would be a low Keen To Play or high Happy To Play game.
  7. Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! Kursk 1943
  8. Egizia
  9. Thunderstone - I'm contented with Dominion being the only deck-building game I play. Well, now I have tried Resident Evil, which I found just okay, and Nightfall, which I found quite different from Dominion.
  10. Tales of the Arabian Nights - I think of this as a much older release. I have played it. It's very different, and eagerness to play will depend very much on who I'm playing with. At the moment, I'm probably Lukewarm, but I hope when my children are older we can play this together.
  11. Railways of the World - I have played Railroad Tycoon. I think it's quite similar to Age of Steam. I'm happy enough with Age of Steam. I actually prefer the more spartan artwork of Age of Steam.
  12. Tobago - interested to try at least once.
  13. Mr. Jack in New York - Played the original Mr Jack and thought it was just okay.
  14. Rise of Empires
  15. Finca
  16. Last Train to Wensleydale - I have now played First Train to Nuremberg, which contains this game. However I did play the Nuremberg side of the board, so this should count as a 2010 game. But I'll say this was a pleasant surprise. Quite tempted to buy. Quirky train game where you are making some quick money and then trying to sell off unprofitable parts of your rail network. Tight economics with four different currencies to manage.
  17. Richard III: The Wars of the Roses - No big urge to try this since I have Hammer of the Scots. I hear it's cleaner, more streamlined. I don't mind some of the rough edges in Hammer of the Scots, and enjoy the very asymmetrical sides.
  18. Peloponnes
  19. Maori - interested to try. Ordered, still waiting.
  20. Axis & Allies Spring 1942 - I wonder how much quicker this is compared to Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50). If it is significantly shorter, I may actually prefer to play it over AA50. It uses the new concepts introduced in AA50, which had improved the game.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

The Kids of Carcassonne

Plays: 3Px1, 4Px1, 3Px2.

It was by chance that I happened to play The Kids of Carcassonne. Nowadays I don't actively seek out new children's games to play with my daughters (who are 6 and 4). They already have many games at home, and I have also starting teaching them "grown-up games". Some of these grown-up games need to be simplified, some even need rules to be reinvented, but they are able to play some simpler games using the grown-up rules. We were at OTK when I saw a copy of The Kids of Carcassonne lying around. I have heard of it before but never read up about it. I took a look at the rules. They seemed easy enough. Since we were waiting anyway, I asked Michelle and the children to sit down for a game. I liked the game instantly and decided to get one.

The Game

Similar to Carcassonne, The Kids of Carcassonne has no board. Instead, every turn you draw a square tile and add it to the playing area, thus building a mosaic. Your tile must connect to an existing tile. One difference from Carcassonne is that every edge of a tile has a road, so any edge of a tile can connect to any edge of any other tile. I road extending from the edge may run to another edge, or may reach a dead end. Some roads have children on them, wearing one of the four player colours. If you lay a tile such that a road is terminated at both ends, that road is completed, and players can now place their pawns (of matching colours) onto the children on that road. This means it is possible to place your pawn even on other players' turns. It depends on the road being completed. The objective of the game is to place all 8 of your pawns.

The artwork is nice. Only the roads and the children are relevant to gameplay. The buildings, trees, animals and ponds are only decorations.

The Play

The rules are simple and gameplay is quick - about 10 to 15 minutes. Despite being much simplified, there is still some strategy. You need to think about how to increase the chances of completing roads with your children (children in your colour), and also need to try not to help others do so. There are some opportunities for cooperation. E.g. if you add your child to a road which already has children belonging to another player, then both of you can work together to complete the road. Also you can add an opponent's child to a road with your children, to intice him to help you to complete the road.

The rules are simple so the game can be played quickly. Since all edges can match up, there is no need to worry about how to fit the tiles. Younger children may not fully grasp the strategies, but they can still enjoy the game. They may not see the best locations to place their tiles and the best ways to orientate the tiles, but they can still place the tiles easily, and they will still enjoy placing their pawns whenever a road is completed.

It may not be apparent in this photo. The tiles are actually much bigger (and also thicker) than Carcassonne tiles.

The Thoughts

I like that The Kids of Carcassonne still retains some strategy, especially the cooperation part, despite being much simplified. I am impressed. It still retains the Carcassonne feel. This is not a mindless luck-based game. It's not something that an adult gamers group would find interesting, not even as a filler, but it's a game that adults can enjoy playing with children. It works with children of different skill levels, and it encourages thinking and interaction.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Tuesday 11 October 2011


Plays: 5Px1.

Many OTK old-timers are fans of 18XX games, and recently the Weiqi Boardgamers have been very much into it too. I have always been a little reluctant to try this family of games, because stock-holding games have never been quite my thing. I had one painful experience with Greed Incorporated (well, it's probably more my fault than that of the game). Chicago Express is clever but ultimately didn't quite click with me. I enjoyed Gheos well enough, but probably more for the timing aspect and the dramatic changes. The stock-holding aspect is not that big an element. I guess I've always felt uncomfortable about the two layers of play in stock-holding games. You are invested in some entities (train companies, nations, etc), but they are not really yours. You are using them to help you win, and you need to isolate how well players are doing and how well entities are doing. You can't get too attached to the entities, especially in games where ownership is very fluid. I am comfortable with Age of Steam, because you own your own train company. There is no stock-holding element.

The recent flurry of activities triggered me to decide to finally give 18XX a try, at least to satisfy my curiousity of whether I'd like it.

The Game

18TN is a game about the development of train companies in Tennessee. Like all 18XX games, players are investors starting with an amount of money. They start train companies by investing in them. Train companies lay tracks, buy trains, build stations and operate routes to earn money. Earnings can be paid to investors as dividends, or retained for future expansion. This is decided by the president, i.e. the biggest shareholder. During the game shares can be bought and sold, and company presidencies (I am reluctant to use the term "ownerships") can change.

There is a fixed number of train companies that be started, and they have pre-determined starting locations. This makes every 18XX game unique. As more and more advanced trains are bought, older trains become obsolete and must be discarded. So train companies need to be on their toes and need to be prepared to buy new, more advanced trains. Newer trains can run longer routes, thus earning more money. As more advanced trains become available, more advanced track tiles also become available, allowing more routes on the board, giving more space for building stations, and also increasing the income of routes. Stations are used to lock a city for a company, guaranteeing the company access to that city. If a city is fully occupied by stations of other companies, your company will not be able to run a route past that city.

Each train company needs to work hard to expand to earn money for its shareholders. It needs to work hard even to continue to exist. Obsoleted trains can severely set back a company.

From the player's perspective, the end goal is simply to be the richest. This is basically cash on hand plus share value at game end. The game ends when the bank runs out of money. It can also end if one player bankrupts. The player needs to always remember that the ultimate goal is to make money, from dividends, and also from having high share values for the shares being held. Many things impact the share price. It increases whenever the company pays dividends, and decreases whenever the company retains its earnings. If the shares are fully subscribed (i.e. none in the open market and none still with the underwriting bank), the price will go up. If anyone sells shares, the price drops for each share sold (ouch!). The price does not go up when shares are bought though.

The upper part is for marking share prices. Various actions in the game cause the positions of the markers to move. Moving up or right are good (price goes up), and moving down or left are bad. If the share price hits the yellow or green zones, things will be so bad that some restrictions related to share holding will be lifted.

The lower half is just for marking the dividends paid per share. The Open Market section on the right is just for placing shares that have been sold by players to the open market. They are available to be purchased by other players.

The company sheet. I was the largest shareholder of GM&O, so I was the president and I held this company sheet, which meant I was responsible for running the company. Each company has a number of tokens (GM&O had two left at this point) which can be used to build a station in a city. Stations secure the company's access to the city, and also block other companies from running routes past that city, unless they have their own station. At this moment GM&O owned two Level-2 trains. That table on the lower right is a convenient reference for rules that apply for different stages of the game. From left to right: (1) The phase colour indicates what coloured tiles can be placed on the board. The more advanced tiles have more station slots, give more income, have more branches and links, allowing more complex and more profitable networks. (2) Train limit is how many trains a company can own. (3) Train cost. (4) Number of trains of that level in the game. (5) What trains become obsolete.

From a player perspective (as opposed to that of a company), this is what I owned. I had cash, a private company (lower left) which was purchased in the early game, shares certificates in the GM&O company. The marker in the top right is just a start player marker for the next share round. It goes to the earliest player who passed in the previous share round. It is often important to manipulate who holds this marker. It can make a big difference.

There are some tricky manoeuvres in the game. I think in my first game I have been mostly learning from the sharks how not to lose disastrously as opposed to learning how to win. The sharks have been talking about Hot Sun all the time, a codeword for something very bad happening in 18XX games, but none were willing to elaborate further prior to the game. As we played and I witnessed one nasty thing after another happening, I asked, "So this is Hot Sun?", and I kept getting replies like "Not yet", "Not even close". One bad thing is your business partner dumping the shares of your company, sending the share price tumbling. It is a slow uphill battle to increase share price, and a sudden big drop is always painful to watch. But that's not Hot Sun. Another bad thing is trains getting obsoleted and the company not having any trains to operate. The company is forced to purchase a train, and if it doesn't have enough funds, the president must top up from his own wallet. A little unthematic here maybe? Aren't these limited liability companies? But this is still not Hot Sun. Yet another bad thing is one player who owns two companies does some hanky-panky with them, selling soon-obsolete trains from one to the other at high prices, then dumping all his shares in that about-to-be-ruined company, and then forcing you, the second biggest shareholder, to become president. There is a limit to the number of shares that can be sold to the open market, so you can't even sell your shares in order to "disown" the company. Soon, the trains become obsolete, and the company does not have enough funds to buy a new train, and you have to top up from your own bank account. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Hot Sun. I'm just thankful I didn't have to experience it first-hand in my first game.

The Play

We did a 5-player game, Jeff, Henry, Heng, Ang and I, and I was the only newbie to 18XX games. The game took more than 3 hours, excluding rules explanation, and this is an introductory 18XX game suitable for teaching new players. I was quite conservative and didn't game the share-holding aspect much, mostly because I didn't know how to. But I watched others dumping shares to raise cash to start new companies, and I watched how share prices were sent tumbling by mass selling. I mostly focused on one company, GM&O, and played it like it was "my" company (i.e. like how I would play Age of Steam). I did buy some shares of "other's" companies, mostly L&N which appeared safest to me (i.e. Henry the president at the time didn't seem to intend to ruin it - he seemed more trustworthy than the other company presidents), and also some I&C (after I felt more sure Jeff wasn't going to ruin it either). I think in this first game I have been focusing on not losing spectacularly rather than trying to look for efficient ways to earn more money. That's how it is swimming with the sharks.

There was some cooperation in the game, e.g. companies building and upgrading tracks which benefited both. Given that it was a 5-player game, often at least 2 players need to pool money together to get a company started.

And then there was the Hot Sun manoeuvre. It was pulled by Jeff on Ang. I think Heng did warn Ang about it, but at the time Ang was heavily invested in both companies that Jeff was president of. Ang was expecting Jeff to ruin the other one, but since Jeff controlled both companies, he could do whatever hanky-panky he wanted with them. Thus my first sighting of Hot Sun.

Everyone was careful about train obsolesence, and none were hurt too badly (well, except for the Hot Sunned Ang). The train companies had been retaining earnings in preparation for buying those new expensive trains that would soon become available.

Unfortunately I couldn't stay till game end and had to leave about 2:15 hrs into the game. At that time the most advanced trains had appeared and we were entering the game end stage. It was a pity I couldn't witness the end game. The final positions were Jeff, Heng, me, Henry, Ang. So I survived OK I guess. Here's Jeff's perspective of the game (up to game end). You need to scroll down to the middle of the page.

In the early game, two companies were started, GM&O in the south west, and L&N in the north. The starting cities of each company are marked on the board. That little table on the lower right is for marking the par values of the shares, i.e. at what values the shares started.

Two more companies had started, IC in the north west, which was enjoying some tracks already built by GM&O, and TC in the centre, making good use of tracks built by L&N. Green tiles had become available now that we had advanced in technology.

All six companies were operating now. The newest companies, NCSL and SR both started in the south east quadrant. The two initial isolated networks now connected. Brown tiles had become available.

This was the time that I had to leave. NCSL was the company that Jeff Hotsunned Ang with, and its share price was in the green zone. L&N was in the yellow zone, because it had been withholding earnings to prepare for trains becoming obsolete and for having to buy new (and very expensive) trains. The Level-8 in the centre is the most advanced train in this game. Many shares had been sold to the open market at this point.

Ang, Heng, Henry and Jeff. They all take the game quite seriously, including seating order. We drew cards to determine seating order. This reminds me of hardcore Puerto Rico players. But then, did Jeff win because his turn was just after mine (the newbie)? And Ang lost because he was before me? *spooky X-Files music*

I understand the rules now, but am still not familiar with all the strategies, in particular the ways to game with the share holdings, and also generally how to be efficient in making money. Now that I have experienced my first 18XX game, I am definitely keen to explore the system more. The stock holding aspect was not as scary as I had worried about. The company operations part of the game is interesting, but it would not have been able to stand on its own. The stock holding aspect is an integral part of the game.

The Thoughts

I like the game for sure, but I'm not certain yet whether I will love it. This is not a simple game, and some actions have many implications that you need to consider. I like this depth. You need to be constantly on your toes and watch out for dangers. You need to plan ahead. You need to make wise investments that bring the most profit. That means analysing the board and the potentials of the companies. You need to watch your opponents - which companies they are invested in, how their cash flow is. There are times to cooperate, and times to abandon your business partners.

I don't have a strong grasp yet on how to make money efficiently. This is a game that seems easy to lose and hard to win. The game is long compared to typical Eurogames, and I hear the short 18XX games are 3-hour games, and the long ones can take more than 8 hours. I like how there can be dramatic twists in the game, and how you can plan for such big moves. The game is fully open information, so over-analysis can drag the game.

Monday 3 October 2011

Labyrinth: The War on Terror

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

This is one game that Han has deposited at my place for quite some time. It's a 2-player only game, but we usually have three. Allen couldn't make it to one of our recent sessions, so we brought out Labyrinth.

Labyrinth is about the ongoing war on terror, a topic rarely seen in games. One player plays USA, the other Muslim extremists. There are rules for solo gaming, with the player controlling USA. This is a card-driven game (CDG), where players play cards as events or to do stuff on the board. There are a few ways for both sides to win. Generally USA wants Muslim countries to have good governance, and the jihadist wants them to have poor governance, even Islamist rule. The jihadist also wins by nuking USA (OK, technically it's called resolving a Weapon of Mass Destruction plot in USA). USA can also win by eliminating all terrorist cells.

The things that both sides can do are very different. USA can try to ally with Muslim countries and then try to improve their governance by fighting the war of ideas. It can deploy troops to destroy terrorist cells, even to overthrow Islamist governments. The jihadist can recruit cells, attempt to have cells travel, attempt plots, start jihads to worsen governance and even establish Islamist rule.

The game board. The green countries are the Muslim countries that USA and the jihadists are trying to influence. The government type of these countries can change during the game. Blue and yellow countries are those with good and fair governance respectively. Do you agree?

The cards. Some have USA events, some have jihadist events, some have neutral events.

Every non-Muslim country has a posture, hard or soft, in the fight against the jihadists, with a tendency towards soft. USA's posture and whether it aligns with the world posture impacts many events and actions. This is something USA must manage. USA also needs to manage its prestige. High prestige makes convincing others easier. Prestige can be lost when USA forcefully overthrows a government, and also when bad things happen in a country despite the US troops present. This is another aspect USA must manage. A third thing to manage is troops on the board. The more there are, the fewer cards USA will draw. So it's important to use troops efficiently.

The jihadist needs to manage funding level, mostly by trying to resolve plots in rich countries, thus gaining supporters. Every turn funding will drop, so the jihadist needs to be diligent. Funding determines the number of cells that can be recruited.

USA seems to have more things to worry about. However some of the USA actions are deterministic, as opposed to the jihadist actions, most of which depend on die rolls. An unlucky jihadist may waste many cards for nothing.

The game has a thick deck of cards. Players agree beforehand whether to play through it once, twice or three times. If no instant win is achieved by then, the tiebreaker is that USA win only if the resources controlled by Muslim countries with good governance is more than double of that controlled by Islamist rule countries.

The Play

Han and I set aside 4 hours for our first game. Having played Twilight Struggle, I thought we'd be able to play through two runs of the deck. Han was more conservative, and he was right. We only did one run. Despite also being a CDG, the mechanisms in this game are very different and we had to refer to the rules many times.

We played the scenario which starts right after 911. One of the first things I did as USA was to overthrow the Taliban government in Afghanistan. It was the only Islamist rule country, and such countries damage US prestige. I encouraged some good governance in the middle east. However, once I overthrew the Taliban, my prestige dropped to rock bottom due to poor die rolls. I had to spend a lot of effort to bring it back up, so that I could continue my war of ideas effectively.

In the early game I quickly overthrew the Islamist government (i.e. the Taliban) in Afghanistan, but sending 6 troops.

For Han, life was tough as the jihadist. Many things depended on die rolls, so it was hard to get things done. He tried to get as many countries tested as possible. Being tested is the concept where a Muslim country's governance or a non-Muslim country's posture is randomly decided when it is first involved in the war on terror, e.g. when cells travel there. There is a 66% chance to get soft posture (my USA posture was hard) or poor governance, so Han made use of that. Many of the Muslim countries were found to have poor governance. Overall world posture fluctuated but eventually leaned towards hard, helped by event cards.

I played a lot of whack-a-mole with Han. Wherever he recruited cells, I sent in troops to stamp them out. They were hard to fully eliminate though. I kept doing this because having a hard posture meant I gained prestige whenever I disrupted cells.

I planned to work towards high prestige, and then work on getting a few resource-rich countries to good governance to win instantly, or at least by tiebreaker. Unfortunately one critical card played by Han ruined my plans. One formerly good-governance country (which would have made improving governance of its neighbours easier) dropped to poor governance, and set me back severely. Han had also been meticulously planning major jihads. At first I thwarted some by sending troops, but later I focused my effort on improving governance in middle-east instead. Eventually a major jihad in Central Asia succeeded, creating an Islamist state. It later spread to Afghanistan. Time ran out for me (i.e. deck exhausted). I was too far away from reaching enough good-governance resources, and it was too late to try to overthrow both the Islamist regimes, especially when my troops were tied up in Iraq after the WMD incident. Han the jihadist won the game.

The Gulf States used to have good governance, and I had hoped to use that as a launch pad for my campaigning for good governance in the Middle East. Unfortunately one critical card play by Han made the governance poor, ruining my plans.

Han tried to initiate a major jihad in Somalia, which needed terrorist cells to be more than US troops by five. I sent troops here to stop him.

Central Asia was an ally. The governance marker, although Poor, was on the leftmost space. Now Han triggered a major jihad, attempting to overthrow the government. All the terrorist cells were turned face-up to show the moon and star, which meant they were now active.

The major jihad succeeded, making Central Asia an Islamist rule region and also an enemy of USA.

After the success in Central Asia, the jihadists moved to Afghanistan. There was no risk in traveling since it was only next door. In other situations, there was a risk of the cells being caught and eliminated when trying to travel.

Afghanistan was now under Islamist rule too. In Iraq, I had just invaded and overthrown the government, using WMD as the pretext (or due to suspected WMD, depending on your view), so I had many troops stationed there.

Game end.

These tracks are for tracking how close both sides are to the instant win conditions. Yellow for USA, green for jihadist, purple for solo play.

The Thoughts

This is quite a detailed game portraying the war on terror. The rules are unusual and take time to get used to. Like Twilight Struggle, using your opponent's card for ops points triggers his event. However, many events depend on certain conditions, so you are not as frequently forced to trigger your opponent's events.

The game is a constant struggle for both sides. It is simply hard to get things done. You need to plan and focus on following through to get things done. You need patience and perseverance. I think the game portrays the difficulties faced by USA and by the jihadists well. It is interesting to see recent world events in a game. Note that the perspective of the game is mostly from that of the western world. Some may not fully agree with that world view.

I like how asymmetrical the two sides are. I also like seeing real-life events unfolding in the game. The game is a little complex, so it's not for everyone. It takes some effort and time investment to learn and to play. There is much dice-rolling, so be prepared for the luck factor. I didn't feel it was too severe.

I recently became an affiliate of Noble Knight Games. Let's see how this works out. Here's a link to their product page, but at the moment they are out of stock.

Saturday 1 October 2011

boardgaming in photos

18 Sep 2011. Taluva is one game that I have always liked, but it doesn't get much play unfortunately. I recently pulled this out and played a series of games with Michelle. Each game is quick so we played three games per sitting.

The Two Towers.

7 Sep 2011. It had been some time since I last played this computer version of Race for the Galaxy by Keldon. It was fun to bring it out again to play some quick games againt the AI's. I may have won by a mile in this particular game, but my winning odds against the AI's are pretty mediocre. And that's why it's fun. I need to be on my toes.

18 Sep 2011. Glory to Rome. I have played it twice before, but it was a long time ago. I only remember I felt quite neutral about the game. Now that I've played again, I feel I have a better grasp and I think I like it more. Not as much as Innovation (same designer), but I definitely don't mind playing again and exploring further.

In this particular game I started with focusing on boosting my clientele. I had a building that let me recruit 2 more than my influence. I did quite well in the early game in getting things done, simply because I had many people. However later Allen caught up by having a powerful building that boosted the Legion action. He robbed my people and gained lots of materials. Eventually he beat us by a big margin. I think filling up the vault is the most important part of the game, and I have been neglecting it.

23 Sep 2011. In the Year of the Dragon played at OTK Cheras. Stefan Feld who designed this game has many fans, but there are only a few of his games that I truly like, the other one being Notre Dame. I think the problem I have with his designs is they are "too Euro", which is not really a problem. It is a matter of personal taste. Maybe I have a soft spot for In the Year of the Dragon because I'm Chinese (although I wasn't born in the Year of the Dragon).

This game is all about planning for surviving disasters. It can be a very painful game. Lots of bad things will happen throughout the year, and you have to recruit people and take actions to help you survive. The main competition among the players is in the action selection - it's like a single-worker worker placement game. Turn order is important, so that you can pick the action you want without paying money (and money is tight).

Everyone gets the same set of 11 character cards, one each in the 9 types of workers, and 2 jokers. I played this with Dennis (new to the game) and Allen. Allen suffered very badly during the first drought in the early game and his momentum was severely set back. He never quite caught up. This was due to being behind in turn order. I focused on fighting for turn order, and kept initiative most of the game, so life was easier for me. Dennis used his two joker cards to employ scholars, and if he took the Book action he would earn 9pts!! (which is a lot, because I use two exclamation marks). For the last few rounds I kept taking the action card group containing the Book action simply to deny him. I couldn't completely block him, because whenever he could afford it, he'd pay to take the Book action. Thankfully it was enough to keep me in the lead to win the game.

25 Sep 2011. On the Underground, a game I bought mostly because my wife used to live and study in London. This game is about building the London Underground network. During the game a passenger travels around London, and you get points whenever he takes your underground line. You also get points for completing loops, and for connecting to specific types of stations.

My previous play was 3.5 years ago.

This an upside-down view, i.e. a view from the north. There is a reference table in the top left corner of this photo showing what you do on your turn and how you score points.

Michelle's lines are those with lighter colours - orange, red, yellow, pink. Mine are the darker colours - black, green, blue, grey. That big pawn on the right is the passenger.

Game end. My black line and Michelle's yellow line created loops in the city centre. Loops are good. They score 1pt per station enclosed within.