Sunday 31 May 2015

boardgaming in photos: Sekigahara, Antiquity, Glory to Rome

3 May 2015. I finally managed to play my copy of this Black Box Edition of Glory to Rome. This was a gift from Allen. It would be a shame to not get this beautiful version played. I much prefer this artwork over the original. The cards themselves are actually a little flimsy though. I probably should sleeve them, but if I do, they wouldn't fit into the nice box insert that comes with the game.

I convinced my wife Michelle to play this with me, saying it's a little like Race for the Galaxy. When I taught her the game, I was reminded of how difficult it could be to learn this game. Even Michelle felt a little embarrassed when she asked me the same question a third time. I felt a little guilty for having led her to believe it would not be hard to learn. Thankfully she persevered and we played quite a few games. I think now she is more comfortable with the rules and she will still be willing to play in future. I think Glory to Rome can be a good spouse game. It is probably better with 3 players, but 2 is fine too.

4 May 2015. It had been a while since Michelle and I played Antiquity, so she needed a rules refresher. When we play, she always picks the Saint Cristofori, who gives her infinite storage capacity, and whose winning condition is to stockpile three each of the eight types of food and luxury goods in the game. I, on the other hand, like to try all saints. She wins more often than I do because she has specialised and she has learned to play Saint Cristofori well. I more often lose because I am mostly flailing trying to work out my strategies. However I enjoy the exploration and the challenge.

In this particular game I wanted to try San Giorgio. The winning condition was to completely overlap another player's area of influence with your own. Unfortunately my planning was poor, and I later changed my mind and went for the same saint as Michelle. That didn't work out well. I wasn't well prepared for that either, and in the end Michelle won quite comfortably.

In this photo I (yellow) had built my second city. Michelle (red) had planned to stick to just one city, but later had to go for a second one because she wanted to build a Market (which allows you to trade for goods you don't have) and her first city was full.

I like Antiquity a lot, yet sometimes I wonder how big the strategy space really is. It's a tough game and you need to work hard to even survive. In order to survive, there are many things you can't do. You can't be wasteful. You cannot not do things which help you survive. You don't have the luxury to tinker and see what works. The game can feel restrictive. Then there are the various saints and their unique winning conditions. Once you pick a saint, you need to make sure you stick to a strategy that utilises his power and most efficiently pushes you towards victory. In fact you probably want to decide on which saint to go for even before you build your cathedral, so that you already work towards your goal much earlier. The game is a stressful race against time because the famine level increases every round. You need to reach victory before the world goes to hell. Sometimes I wonder whether Antiquity is mostly about figuring out the best ways to play each of the saints, and once you've figured that out, these broad strategies don't change very much from game to game. Still, being able to figure them all out will already require many plays, so the game will already have given you your money's worth.

One thing that others have complained about is the low player interaction. I don't find that a problem. Indeed you won't be able to interfere with many of your opponents' actions, and it can feel like a swim-in-your-own-lane race game. However there is player interaction, and sometimes it can greatly impact the outcome of a game. Some player interactions are very direct, e.g. when you are fighting for land.

10 Days in Asia is something quite different from other games. I can't think of anything quite like it, other than the other games in the series. It's refreshing to bring it to the table once in a while. It was Shee Yun who suggested it this time. The game teaches some geography, and that's certainly a handy excuse, if you need one. I bought the Asia version because I live in Asia.

8 May 2015. was closed this day, so I asked some of the regulars whether they wanted to play at my place instead. Only Dith could make it, so I suggested Sekigahara, one of my favourite games, which he hadn't tried before. I let him play Tokugawa (black) while I played Ishida (yellow), because I think Tokugawa is slightly easier to play.

Dith aggressively went for the resource locations. Controlling more of these brings more troops into the reserve box at the start of every round. I focused more on grabbing castles. More castles means drawing one more card every round. I sat at the northern edge of the board, so left is east and right is west. I (yellow - Ishida) dominated the west very early in the game. In the early game I had the right cards which allowed me to make some swift attacks. This was bad news for Dith. I captured his Fukushima recruitment centre and held it securely, which prevented him from mustering new troops at this centre for the rest of the game. This more or less made all his Fukushima cards useless.

In the east (left), the war between the Date clan (Tokugawa faction, black) and the Uesugi clan (Ishida faction, yellow) was long and hard, and had some surprising twists. I didn't draw many Uesugi cards, and could not fight very effectively. I kept reinforcing, hoping blocks from other clans would be able to help the Uesugi clan. Dith probably didn't have very good card draws for Date in the early game either. We just danced around each other and hollered. Around mid game, he marched a Maeda army from the northern coast (foreground in the photo) all the way to the east (left), and then launched a coordinated attack together with his Date army. That was a huge battle, and a meticulously planned one. Dith had even planned for the possibility that I would play a Loyalty Challenge. Unfortunately (for him), he had misunderstood that each player's deck contained only one Loyalty Challenge card. When I taught the game, I had forgotten to mention how many there were. So he was caught by surprise when my first Loyalty Challenge failed, but later on I played a second Loyalty Challenge card. It was because of this Loyalty Challenge that he lost the battle. It was a costly defeat.

This photo was taken soon after this major battle. I (yellow) had a stronger presence in the area, and had even sent out one block to capture undefended resource locations. Later on Dith launched another major offensive, and this time I could not push him back. I lost the east.

This was the final siege of the Uesugi clan castle.

After controlling the east (left), Dith organised his troops to march west. I had enjoyed superiority throughout most of the game, but now I found that Dith was poised to make some simultaneous attacks, and I had to tread carefully to stop him from grabbing enough castles and resource locations to win the game. I was leading in points, but he only needed to win two battles to turn things around. I was weak at the northern coast (foreground), and I expected the Maeda castle I was controlling would fall. So I gave that up, and focused on other areas. Dith had a large army approaching along the southern coast (far side). I had to prepare to meet him in one last climactic battle.

I was quite strong in this area, but my forces were slightly scattered. It would be costly to try to merge them. I'd have to spend cards. So I decided to group them into two armies. The first would face Dith's Tokugawa army. If I lost the battle, the backup army would counterattack. It was the last round, and Dith and I had our last grand battle. I managed to beat him back, and that secured my ultimate victory, 14VP vs 13VP. Tokugawa Ieyasu himself narrowly escaped death on the battlefield.

After our game we had a discussion about how impossible it seemed for Tokugawa to win by capturing Osaka. The western area is the homeground of the Ishida faction, and also there are many Mori troops sitting in Osaka. I still can't imagine how a Tokugawa player can pull this off. However if I consider the likelihood of winning by victory points, then I think the Tokugawa player has a slight advantage. His recruitment centres are more evenly spread out, while three of the Ishida player's four recruitment centres are clumped together near the western edge.

10 May 2015. Michelle and I did 2P Goa. She beat me 40VP vs 39VP. Just one point!

Saturday 23 May 2015

Labour Day gaming: Hoity Toity, Attika, Ark

In Malaysia we had a long Labour Day weekend 1 - 4 May 2015. Labour day was on Friday, and Wesak Day on Monday. Michelle and I decided to have a family boardgame day. We revisited some games which we hadn't played for quite a while, and I also introduced some new games to the kids.

At the Gates of Loyang. I am lukewarm but Michelle likes it, but if she suggests to play, I'm more than happy to oblige. I'm not a big fan of this particular design from Uwe Rosenberg because I see it as a logistical exercise of coordinating supply and demand, ideally maximising supply and then optimising demand (unmet demand results in penalty).

These three are my regular customers, i.e. I have signed contracts to deliver vegetables to them for four consecutive rounds. Unkept promises can result in a penalty.

In our game Michelle forgot to open a new field in two rounds, resulting in a shortage in fields. The mistake probably happened around mid game, but we only discovered it in the late game. It was too late to fix. Needless to say, she didn't win.

This is a German version of Attika which I bought in Taiwan around 2004. I don't know German, so it is slightly inconvenient. I need to refer to the player board more often. In Attika your objective is to be the first to construct all 30 of your buildings (the round tokens). However there is an instant win condition, which is to connect two temples using your chain of buildings. Based on the current board situation in this photo, the connection victory is not possible. I (green) would need to add a terrain tile at the upper left in order to join up my separate territories. Michelle (red) would need to add a terrain tile at the lower left to reach that temple on the left.

This is the player board and also a reference sheet. It tells you how the buildings related to one another - which building when constructed next to another can be constructed for free. I use the blue player's components to mark the buildings I have already constructed.

Michelle managed a connection victory using her streets (strasse) to reach the temple on the left. This is so easy feat. Connection victories are difficult because they are normally easy to defend against. The tricky part is how much effort you are willing to spend on defense because it could mean sacrificing efficiency in constructing all your buildings as quickly as possible.

This is the main board of Power Grid: Factory Manager. It has the Power Grid brand slapped on it, but is a wholly independent game. Not an expansion, not a variant. It is quite a compact game. Not short, or simple, but compact. There are only five rounds. There aren't really that many decisions to make. However most of these decisions are important. That's what I mean by compact. You need to understand the game reasonably well to understand the implications in order to make sound decisions.

I played a 2-player game with Michelle, and around mid game an interesting situation arose. We had made all three of the best storage solutions tiles available to be purchased. I was start player, and I had good cashflow. I could afford to buy two of these tiles, which would boost my storage capacity to the max, and I would not need to worry about it for the rest of the game. I could also choose to buy only the best tile among the three, which would still give me a very strong boost, but I would not hit the max. The challenge was deciding whether I would need that additional storage capacity towards game end. If I could not boost my production capacity to match my maxed out storage capacity, that storage capacity would be wasted. If I spent my money on two storage solutions, that would mean less money for other machinery. So I decided to buy only one storage solution. Michelle took the plunge and bought both.

I had better cashflow throughout the game. However when we reached the last round, I found my growth hampered by my storage capacity. It was too late for regret. Michelle's income surpassed me in the last round, and because the profit in the last round was doubled, she managed to amass just enough wealth to beat me. I should have been bolder and made that investment in mid game. I had let the opportunity pass me by.

Chen Rui (8) playing Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld. The 4-player partnership game is great fun. The card rack she is using is from Ticket To Ride: Asia.

This is Hoity Toity, a.k.a. Adel Verpflichtet, a.k.a. By Hook or by Crook. I had not played this for a very long time. Michelle had played it before, but had forgotten all the rules. It was as good as playing for the first time. I find it a very good family game. It definitely deserves the Spiel des Jahres award. The pace is brisk, actions are simple, there is no down time, and everyone feels involved all the time. It is a joy to play.

Like rock-paper-scissors, this is a game about guessing your opponents' intentions. Everyone makes decisions simultaneously, and then reveals them together. Every round, you can decide to go to the auction house or to the exhibition hall. Among those who have decided to go to the auction house, you secretly decide whether you will bid for an artifact, or you will try to steal the money paid in the transaction. If more than one player wants to buy an artifact, naturally the highest bidder wins the auction and gets the artifact. If there is only one player trying to steal money, he succeeds. That is, of course, subject to someone having bought an artifact that round.

Among the players who have decided to go to the exhibition hall, there are then three options, which they also pick simultaneously. Players can exhibit their artifacts, and those with the most impressive sets score points. They can try to steal artifacts, provided that someone else is exhibiting so there are artifacts to steal in the first place. They can try to arrest thieves to score points, which is of course subject to thieves being present.

The outcomes of your decisions very much depend on what others are doing. Player interaction is high.

These are my artifacts. When putting up an exhibition, you must display at least three artifacts, and there can be no gaps in the alphabets. The alphabets run from A to F. The middle alphabets like C and D are often more hotly contested because you need them to link up the others. I only have one D artifact. I need to be careful not to lose it to thieves, because it would break my nice big collection of artifacts into two smaller and much weaker sets.

This is Ark, a game about helping Noah load his ark before the flood starts. This looks like a children's game but it is not simple at all. There are many restrictions when you load animals. Carnivores cannot share a cabin with other animals smaller than them. Herbivores cannot share a cabin with provisions (vegetables). The total weight on the port and starboard halves of the ark must not be too much off balance. Animals from specific climates must be stored in rooms of the appropriate climate. After our game Michelle said she needed to take a nap to recover.

Even the children looked very serious when playing.

Sunday 17 May 2015


I recently played quite a few games of Ticket to Ride and other games in the series with my family, both the physical copies and the electronic versions on tablets and smartphones. I find that I enjoy the physical versions more, which puzzles me. They take longer to play. You need to spend time setting up and shuffling cards. You struggle with the many cards you need to hold in your hand. You need to manually count who has the longest chain of trains. The electronic versions are implemented very well, and a game can be played very quickly. The only problem we had was connectivity problems. Sometimes when playing with four devices, one of them takes a long time to connect to the game, or sometimes the connection drops. That can be frustrating, and I get impatient even more easily because the digital version plays very quickly, making any downtime feel even more unbearable.

Ticket To Ride

My rational mind tells me playing the digital version is no different from playing the physical version. Information-wise they are exactly the same. The rules are the same. Playing the digital version should be better, because the computer takes away all the tedious parts of the physical game, leaving you with the key decisions to make. The digital version should distill the game down to its best parts, its essence.

The problem I have with the digital version (which others may not have) is probably that it makes the game experience too fleeting. Being more efficient does not equate having more fun. You don't slow down to smell the roses or enjoy the scenery along the way. With a physical game, you can touch; you can see real, 3D objects; you can smell too, if that's your thing. They make the experience real. You are doing something with your hands, manipulating physical objects, interacting with real physics. There is the chink of those tiny train carriages clashing. There is more toil, but that's part of the fun, or at least something that makes you think you are having more fun. I have read a theory about why we love our children, and it may be applicable here. The theory says that we love our children very much because we have invested a lot of time and effort on them. This irks me a little, as I'm a parent myself. However there may be some truth in it. Maybe part of what makes me like Paths of Glory is how much brainpower it takes to play and how many counters you need to push around the board. Maybe the fiddliness of Indonesia is part of its charm, although we don't admit it or we complain about it.


Sunday 10 May 2015


Plays: 4Px1.

Alchemists is one of the hottest games at the 2014 Essen game fair, so it feels redundant to be describing what the game is like, since many others have already written about it. I'm tempted to skip the overview and jump straight to my thoughts, but that feels incomplete. So hopefully this doesn't bore you.

The Game

Alchemists is classified as a deduction game. You are professors of alchemy at a university in a fantasy world, and you are competing to discover the alchemical properties of eight ingredients. You perform experiments, and from the results of these experiments, you try to deduce what the alchemical components are. Let's start with a lesson on basic alchemy.

Every ingredient has three alchemical components, red, green and blue. A component is either large or small. It is either positive or negative. To determine what kind of potion you produce when mixing two ingredients, you need to find the component with a matching sign, where it is large in one ingredient but small in the other. All four pairs of ingredients above will produce the negative blue potion - the insanity potion.

Everyone starts the game knowing nothing about any of the eight ingredients. The alchemical components of the ingredients are randomised every game. The game is played over six rounds, and it uses a worker placement mechanism for players to select and execute actions. You forage for ingredients at the forest, you make potions to test on students, you test them on yourself, you try to sell them to visiting adventurers, you publish theories, you debunk theories, you transmute ingredients into gold coins. Testing potions, selling them to adventurers, and debunking theories are actions which will give you information. You need a smartphone app for these. Mixing potions require spending two ingredients from your hand. Your opponents won't see what you are mixing, but you have to announce what potion is produced. Debunking a theory does not consume any ingredient. You challenge a component of a specific colour of a specific published theory, and the app will tell you whether the sign of that component is indeed wrong.

Behind the player screen. The triangular area with many round holes is your experiment results grid. I have placed a negative red marker at the intersection of mushroom and fern, which means mixing these two ingredients produces poison.

This piece of paper with an 8x8 grid is for you to take notes. I have put crosses next to the combinations which I know are impossible, based on the information I know so far.

The smartphone app uses your phone camera to detect the two ingredients you are trying to mix. Press "Confirm" and the result will be displayed.

This is a small player board which you put in front of your player screen. You put tokens here to remind others of the types of potions you have produced. The box on the left is for your grants. Whenever you get a grant, put it here. Each grant is worth 2VP at game end.

There are several ways to score points, and most of them are related to publishing and debunking theories. You gain reputation each time you publish (reputation points are converted to victory points during final scoring). Every round, the alchemists with the most theories gain reputation. During conferences, you gain or lose reputation depending on how much publishing you've done. At game end, the app announces the alchemical properties of all ingredients. For each correct theory, you gain points. For each wrong theory, you lose points. This final revelation makes up a significant chunk of overall scores. There is one special type of theory, which I call the caveat theory. When you publish this type of theory, you secretly put a caveat in the appendix saying that you're actually unsure about one of the three components. If the theory is later found to be wrong only for that specific component, you don't lose face because hey you had stated a caveat albeit in small print. However if the theory is later found to be correct afterall, you don't gain points either. There is value in publishing such caveat theories because: you do gain reputation up front, you may gain more reputation every round if you are most-published, you may win grants from the university, and of course, you look good at conferences. Another thing to consider is such caveat theories may help to mislead your opponents.

This is the theory board. There are eight ingredients for which you can publish theories, or endorse others' theories. When you publish a new theory, you place your seal (face-down so that your opponents won't know whether you're doing a normal theory or a caveat theory) next to an ingredient, and you place an alchemical components tile next to it, claiming that the ingredient has this specific combination. In this photo, Ivan (yellow) has published a theory on red scorpion and I (green) have published one on Korean ginseng.

One other important way to score points is the artifacts, which you need to pay cold hard cash for. Only a subset of artifacts are in play in each game. They are powerful and are usually very much worth fighting for. Money is usually tight. You can transmute ingredients into gold coins, but that's an inefficient use of actions. If you publish enough theories to win grants, that's some extra cash for you, but there's much time and effort required too. I think the best approach is to sell potions to wandering adventurers. A different adventurer comes to town every round and each adventurer wants to buy different types of potions. You need to compete for turn order specifically to sell potions to the adventurers. If you know how to make the potions the adventurers want, selling potions can be a lucrative business. If you don't, you can claim that you do and then use them as guinea pigs. You can gain new information this way, just that your customer may not pay you if give them ox-tail soup instead of the elixir of wisdom they asked for.

This section of the board is where adventurers come to buy potions. When you sell a potion, you need to provide a guarantee certificate. A high guarantee like "full satisfaction or your money back" allows you to earn as much as $4. At the other extreme you can go for "there's definitely something in the flask". Even that's worth $1. The adventurer will try your potion first (yes, even the insanity potion - maybe he tries it on his cat) before deciding whether to pay you. He pays only if the product meets or exceeds the guarantee level.

A rather dodgy guy - all he wants are poisons.

After the last round ends, all alchemical properties of all eight ingredients are revealed for the final scoring. The highest scorer wins.

The Play

I did a 4-player game, the highest player count, with Ivan, KC and Ainul. Ivan was the only one who had played before, but I had read the rules beforehand.

I played in a conservative, prim and proper manner. I kept to information that I am 100% certain of, and didn't dare to rely on the various other small hints or partial information I could gather throughout the game, e.g. who had been collecting which ingredients, who had managed to produce which potions. I guess it was partly because I was still learning the ropes so too much information would have overwhelmed me. After I get more familiar with the game system, it should be easier for me to deduce more useful information from these other tit bits of data surfacing throughout the game. I was always short of money, and because of that I often tested potions on myself, as opposed to getting my students to do it for their love of science. Every round (i.e. every semester) there is a new eager student happy to test potions for the professors, but once he gets a bad experience tasting some nasty poison, he will charge a $1 fee for the service rendered. I couldn't really afford that, and I didn't want to gamble on whether my other colleagues would be producing good or harmless potions, so I had to get my hands (well, mouth) dirty. Unfortunately, the ingredients I chose to research turned out to produce mostly poisons, which mean I poisoned myself quite many times. Sometimes I half paralysed myself (I became last in turn order for the next round). Sometimes I gave myself diarrhea (one fewer action cube next round). It was not pretty, but it was all for science!

I didn't manage to sell potions to adventurers. Not even once. The early visitors wanted to buy medication and boosters, but I could only make poisons. I was being Honest Abe so I hadn't thought about selling them snake oil and experimenting on them. Anyhow it is risky and also difficult to make money when you are uncertain what you're cooking.

Ainul and Ivan were much more successful in the potions business, and they had plenty of cash. They bought many artifacts, which were an important source of victory points.

This was the only artifact I managed to buy. The VP value is in the top right corner. This printing press allowed me to publish theories for free, since I didn't need to commission a printing house.

Ivan and I published more papers, which allowed us to increase our reputations. KC made a misstep somewhere along his chain of deductions, which was disastrous for him. In Alchemists one wrong step can trigger a chain reaction, screwing up whole swaths of calculations. Once when he tried to sell a potion, his customer found that the content was something completely different from what was advertised and guaranteed. KC not only didn't make a dime from the transaction, he was also publicly humiliated right in the middle of Petaling Street (he lost reputation). That was painful.

The board is busy and looks intimidating, but once you go through the rules, you will find that it is practical and all those icons are handy reminders.

That table with the four beakers is the turn order table. At the start of a round everyone takes turns placing his beaker on a spot and claiming the rewards shown next to it. The positions of the beakers then determine turn order for the round.

The Thoughts

Alchemists has all the trademarks of Czech Games Edition games. It is designed by first-time-published designer Matus Kotry, but if I hadn't known that, you could have easily convinced me that it was designed by Vlaada Chvatil. The game reminds me of Vlaada Chvatil's games like Dungeon Lords and Dungeon Petz. They have a unique hook, and the various game mechanisms are built around this core idea. None of the mechanisms are groundbreaking. They are not christened fancy names like deck-building or bag-building or worker placement. The mechanisms support the central ideas, and this makes the games consistent and immersive.

There is one thing in Alchemists that bugs me. In the early game when I didn't yet know the alchemical components of any ingredient fully, I was already under pressure to publish theories. Conferences were coming, and I needed grant money, and I didn't want to lose out in the reputation race among published professors. So I published caveat theories. By doing this I mitigated the risk of getting one of the components wrong, and I could still achieve most of the things I needed to achieve. In the game I played, two of my early caveat theories turned out to be correct. However, since they were caveat theories, I would not score points for them at game end. There was no way I could replace them with normal theories. They were correct and nobody could debunk them. I realised that whenever I decided to go with caveat theories, I was taking a risk that if I turned out to be right, I would be sacrificing the opportunity to score points at game end. This was the price to pay to publish early while reducing risk. You can't have everything. Of course I could have tried my luck and just published normal theories, but that would really be gambling. Well, unless I could make use of other hints picked up from other players' actions, and turn it from a 50-50 gamble to an educated guess.

I think if I play more, I will get better at collecting, sorting out and making use of information revealed from other players' actions. In my first game, I dared not rely on such information much since there was much uncertainty. Even if someone had been collecting lots of toads, and had made a green potion, I could not be absolutely certain he did use the toads for that green potion. My gut feel is that in this game you need to learn to make use of indirect and incomplete information. This is not a simple, clean and clear-cut deduction game.

I can't say for sure whether Alchemists is a game that can be played on a regular basis. It is unique and unusual. My guess is you probably wouldn't play this week in and week out for long. However I think it is very suitable as a game to put in a regular rotation, taken out to play once in a while. It is very different from most games so it will always be refreshing to revisit. You won't have a problem of "naaah, it's a bit samey".

The right panel on the inside of the player screen is a summary of how you score points at game end.

I have done six experiments, thus six tokens.

This was the theory board at game end. Only five of eight ingredients had theories published.

Sunday 3 May 2015

boardgaming in photos: TTR Switzerland, Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld, Brass

19 Apr 2015. The Switzerland map is my favourite version of Ticket To Ride. It's for 2 or 3 players only. In this version you can draw many tickets, and it is entirely possible to complete all of those you keep. This is what makes the game exciting. It is feasible to gamble and hope to draw tickets which you have already completed, or which can be completed without too much additional risk. This is a game where you often reach for the ticket deck and say in your heart, "Yes I feel lucky today!". Another thing which makes the game exciting is the area around Zurich. It is often congested and you can easily get blocked or be forced to reroute.

Michelle's tickets. Completing 11 tickets is not unusual in TTR Switzerland. I stick some cards under others so that I can cover the score circles which I should ignore when totaling her points.

The country-as-destination concept is one of the special features in TTR Switzerland. In this ticket card above, one of your destinations must be in France. The other one can be in either one of the three other neighbouring countries. There are multiple routes which lead into each one of Switzerland's neighbouring countries, so you are rarely blocked off completely. In this card above, you only score one of the three point values, depending on which country you manage to reach. Naturally you will go for the highest number you can achieve.

This is Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld. The children saw Michelle and I play, and requested to join. So I taught them how to play. We played the partnership rules, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more fun than the 2P game. In the partnership game, it is easier to collect all cards of a colour (which gives you bonus points), because there are two players working together in each team. Also the draw deck gets exhausted more frequently, which means towards the late game you know most cards are out, and the question is whose hands they are in.

The children are new to rummy games, and do some things completely beyond our expectations. Once Chen Rui (8) picked up a card which Shee Yun (10) had discarded. Michelle and I automatically assumed she had now collected the third card of a colour, so she could play a meld. To our surprise, she didn't play any meld. She was planning to collect that colour one by one! I was on the other team, and I was the next player. I had two cards of that colour in my hand. I played an Agent Meeting card to rob both of her cards of that colour, so that I would have enough for a meld, and I could play it. I felt a little bad for having taken advantage of her inexperience.

24 Apr 2015. Brass by Martin Wallace. One of his best works. It had been quite a while and I was definitely a little rusty. It was my first time playing this as a 4-player game, and I think 4P is the best player count. I built my first factory, a cotton factory, in Blackburn. That was not a good idea. I made a mistake and thought I could build a canal to Preston, then build a port there, and then sell cotton using both cotton factory and port. I didn't realise there was no canal connection between Blackburn and Preston. Oops indeed. Eventually I had to build two canals to get to Liverpool, to build my port there. Allen (red) was rather rusty too. He built his first cotton factory in Bolton, but there was no canal connection to Blackburn or to Wigan. He too had to build two canals to reach Warrington & Runcorn, where he could build then a port. We were both the chemistry dog internet meme - I have no idea what I'm doing, not much better than Leaf (purple), who was new to the game. Jeff (yellow) was the only one who had an idea of what he was doing.

Jeff's (yellow) first cotton factory was built in Colne, just next to Yorkshire at the north eastern corner, which had a port. So he could start selling cotton earlier than the rest of us. Leaf (purple) had started with a coal mine in Oldham, which was not exactly a good idea, since coal wasn't in high demand yet. Allen joked that this was the famous Oldham Opening, but I bet at the time he wasn't sure whether that was a good or bad move either. We were just fooling around pretending to be experts and imagining there were famous standard moves like in chess.

We were now in the second half, the railroad era. Canals were now replaced with railroads. In the southeast Jeff (yellow) had built quite a few coal mines, which did good business and gave him a solid income. He had timed the construction of a few coal mines and iron mines very well, when the market (those two rows of black coal and orange icon cubes) was depleted. He could sell his newly mined coal and iron to earn some quick cash, and he was able to flip his mine tiles quickly to turn them into money-making businesses. All these happened in the first few rounds of the second half, and I knew then that the rest of us would not be able to catch up. We should have worked together to stop him, but we had enough trouble managing our own businesses.

In Brass, scoring is only done twice. We were in the second half, so these are scores from the first half. The hat markers are the score markers. Scores from the first half are about one fifth to one fourth of the total scores, so they are not a good indicator of how well the players are doing. The income levels, i.e. the round discs, are good indicators. Jeff (yellow) was now far ahead of us, and was making more money than us every round. Strong cashflow is very important in this game.