Saturday 27 December 2014

boardgaming in photos: Japan night

I visited Japan on a family holiday in November. Since I am a big fan of Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, I seriously considered visiting the battlefield of Sekigahara. However it was rather out of the way, and there didn't seem to be a lot to see, so I eventually decided against it. When I was in Hakone, I came across clan mon (family crest) T-shirts of both Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu at a souvenir shop. They are the protagonists in the game Sekigahara, and the first thing that came to my mind was I must buy these two T-shirts. My regular kaki (opponent) for Sekigahara is Allen, so my plan was to get both of us one T-shirt each, and we were going to play the game wearing these T-shirts. It would be perfect! Until I realised a few days later that it wouldn't be. In my haste, I had bought the wrong T-shirt. The Tokugawa T-shirt which I thought I had bought was actually an Oda T-shirt. There was no Tokugawa T-shirt at the shop, and somehow I mistook the Oda T-shirt as the Tokugawa one. Gosh stupid stupid stupid. Oda Nobunaga was a famous warlord of the same period, and he was an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu. However he died long before the Battle of Sekigahara. My familiarity with that period of history, in addition to my excitement, made me confuse them.

5 Dec 2014. My Oda T-shirt.

I gave Allen the (correct) Ishida T-shirt, so he must play Ishida.

The Tokugawa player wearing an Oda T-shirt. *facepalm*

I love this game, but never had much luck winning it. This time I finally managed a win. Allen joked that I must have learnt some tricks from my recent trip. Our game was quite a balanced back-and-forth with neither side gaining any clear upper hand. My Tokugawa army in the east marched up the central Nakasendo highway to besiege and eventually capture the Ueda castle. Slowly, but steadily. My army in the west had some initial successes in battle, but the western part of the board was Allen's territory, and I was soon beaten back by Allen's larger forces. He captured more and more castles and resource centres in the west. In the second half of the game, I managed to catch Ishida in a weak position. Allen had sent him to the front line to fight. He did win a few battles. I caught him at a moment when his forces were depleted, and Allen hadn't been able to withdraw him or reinforce him yet. So Ishida fell in battle, and Tokugawa won the day.

This was one particular battle near the eastern edge of the board. The Date clan supported my Tokugawa side (black), while Allen's Ishida side (gold) was supported by the Uesugi clan. Things didn't look good for me. The Date had been losing battles, and didn't look like it could hold back the Uesugi. I would likely need to send in some Tokugawa troops from Edo soon to hold this front. The Uesugi launched an attack on my Date army. It was a 5-block vs 2-block battle. I only had the card to deploy one of my blocks, the 2-strength Date block. Allen deployed his Uesugi daimyo (clan leader) for free, and also played a double-mon (double-crest) card to deploy two 3-strength Uesugi blocks. I could not deploy anymore, but I did have a loyalty challenge card. I thought why not. I had nothing to lose. To my surprise, Allen did not have any more Uesugi card. The loyalty challenge worked, and both his 3-strength Uesugi blocks turned traitor. He wasn't able to deploy any of his two remaining blocks. The tables turned, from a 10-vs-2 loss to a 9-vs-1 victory. Allen lost two blocks, and his Uesugi clan leader barely escaped with his life. Both my blocks lived.

This was just a temporary respite. I still only had two blocks in the area to his three. However eventually it didn't matter, because Ishida Mitsunari himself soon died in battle.

After Sekigahara, we did Samurai, the Reiner Knizia classic, which is also one of Allen's favourite games. Now he's a guru at this, and I was no match at all despite my best efforts.

It was only the two of us, so we only played the island of Honshu. With more players, Kyushu, Shikoku and Hokkaido would come into play, expanding the play area. It's a very clever design.

After that we did Genji. Allen had played before, but had forgotten the rules. We struggled with the rulebook a bit before managing to get the game going. These are two of the princesses in the game.

Genji is about charming princesses with your poetry. A complete poem needs to have an upper half and a lower half, like in this photo.

Game during play.

14 Nov 2014. This is the Kickstarter version of Town Center. When Allen pulled this out, we realised we were both very rusty. The game has some unusual rules, and it took us some time to refresh our memories. I had played quite many solo games before, and I got tired of the solo game because there seemed to be just one general formula to follow. However now this Kickstarter edition comes with different maps and may give some new life to the solo game. The new maps like London, Manhattan and Hong Kong have different shapes and special rules.

13 Dec 2014. Han often visits Kuala Lumpur, but Allen, him and I don't always manage to get together to play. We used to be the Midah Trio when Han lived in KL. On Han's recent trip, we managed to get together, and we planned to play Maria, a 3-player game which Allen was very keen to play again. When we all got to Allen's place, we found that we didn't have a copy of the game. Han had thought Allen had a copy, and Allen had thought Han was bringing his copy. Oops. Next time I guess. We played Historia instead, and also Glass Road (photo above).

Han was new to Glass Road so we played one game using just the basic buildings, and then a second game using only the advanced buildings. I found that when we played the advanced buildings, my game became much more solitairish, because it was a challenge for me to try to figure out how to make use of the buildings. The building powers were complicated. Much effort was required to make them work for me. So I didn't pay a lot of attention to Han or Allen's boards. Surprisingly all three of us scored higher in the second game. I guess good work does get rewarded.

I think in Glass Road it is easy to slip into a multiplayer solitaire mode. You can't directly interfere with your opponent's board. You can't steal your opponent's resources. Sometimes you may be aiming for the same building, but when you are not, you tend not to bother too much with your opponents' strategies. However I find that the card selection is very important. In the best case scenario, you pick three cards which only you have chosen, and two cards which you get to follow others' leads. That's a total of 8 actions, two each for the "you-only" cards, and one each for the "follow others" cards. In the worst case scenario, you pick three cards which others manage to follow, and two others which you are unable to follow others. That's a total of only 3 actions. 8 actions per round and 3 actions per round are a huge difference.

That Mansion near the upper left scores 2VP per orthogonally adjacent grove, so I have been working hard planting trees.

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