Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 59

We had three 'guest games' for Grandma's Saturday morning visit thanks to Friendless' kind offer to let me try some games from his 'for trade' pile.

First up was Hellas from the Kosmos 2-Player series of games. Grandma and I played this while Maddie watched. In this game players compete for control of cities in ancient Greece. The first player to control ten cities is the winner. For the first two turns each player draws a terrain tile and places it according to the placement rules. For those first two turns you get to add an army to the city and a navy to the water part of the tile. On each turn after that you choose one of three possible options - 'Burst of Strength' which allows you to build up troops and gain God cards (which give special advantages), 'Voyage' which allows you to find new land and cities, or 'Attack' which allows you to attempt to take control of your opponent's existing cities.

Fighting for control of ancient Greece

There are 3 decks of God cards (representing Zeus, Ares and Poseidon) that you may draw from if you choose the 'Burst of Strength' option on your turn. We didn't take the time to familiarise ourselves with the text on the God cards prior to playing so we didn't have any knowledge of any subtleties there may have been with the card combination or strategies in general - we just took what we got and tried to make the most of it.

From the start Grandma took an exploration strategy (i.e. choosing the 'Voyage' option) which paid off for her by revealing a tile with a temple on it. This immediately gave her an advantage when choosing the 'Burst of Strength' option because the player with the most temples got an extra action. I had the bad luck when I first took the 'Voyage' option to pick a tile that could not be laid according to the tile placement rule. This effectively meant a missed turn for me.

Grandma continued choosing the 'Voyage' option and luckily picking tiles that could be successfully laid and thus gaining a city a turn. She shot to a two city lead and I quickly became aware that there was little chance of me 'out-Voyaging' her to win the game. I decided to change my strategy and started choosing 'Burst of Strength' to build up armies on adjacent tiles to her closest cities. She then started alternating between 'Voyage' and 'Burst of Strength' and building up her hand of God cards and armies in the process.

There had been no conflict between us whatsoever until a point where she had reached 7 cities and I realised that I needed to attack. To attack over land you only need to match the number of Greeks in your opponent's city; to attack across water you need to have at least one more Greek in the city than your opponent. I had the numbers and was able to use the 'Attack' option on successive turns to reduce her lead. She did counterattack but I maintained my initiative to then overtake her number of cities for the eventual win. Strangely, the God cards that were played during the attacks didn't seem to make that much of a difference (or she just didn't have the cards that could have helped her). I won 10 cities to 9.

Our second game was a Reiner Knizia game - High Society. Maddie joined us for this game so we played 3-player. In this game players are competing to achieve the most points from a combination of luxury items (worth 1-10 points) and recognition cards (which multiply your score). Each round a card is turned over and players bid on it with amounts of money from an initial deck of money cards. Each money card deck is comprised of the same denominations and the same overall monetary total as each other player's deck.

My final scoring hand

To win a bid you just need to bid money and be the last person to pass (however if nobody bids then the last person who would have bid gets the card for free). Bidding continues around with each player having to bid higher than the preceding player to stay in the run for the card. Only the person with the winning bid pays any money; those that pass after their initial bid get all their money back. There are some bad cards however. In these situations players bid money not to win the card and the first person to pass takes it.

The winner of the game is the person with the most high society points. However, the trick is that the person with the lowest amount of remaining money has automatically lost - even if they have the most high society points! So it's a real balancing act in managing both your cash and your high society points. The game also has a variable ending in that it ends immediately when the 4th red-bordered card is drawn. This adds tension to the mix. I ended up winning with 23 points and $29M, Grandma came second with 10 points and $60M, and Maddie, although she had 17 points, was disqualified for only having $24M remaining (the lowest cash of the three of us).

Our final game of the morning was another Knizia-designed game - King of the Beasts Mythological Edition. This is an interesting game where players are initially dealt a hand of 5 cards from a deck containing the following beasts; Dragon, Kraken, Manticore, Gryphon, Unicorn and Fire Salamander. 5 cards are then drawn and laid face up on the table to become the pool.

The Fire Salamander became the King of the Beasts in our game

On a player's turn they must take all the cards of one type of beast from the pool and put them with there remaining hand of cards. They then have the option of melding 2-6 cards from their hand of one type of beast and placing the cards between votes for a beast and face down scoring cards. At least 1 (and no more than 3) cards may be used for either purpose. In effect, what you are doing is using your cards to vote for a beast and the remainder to 'bank' potential scoring points if that beast becomes king.

The first beast to receive 6 votes becomes King of the Beasts. Ties in beast votes are broken by their order on the voting board (the Dragon at the highest and the Fire Salamander at the lowest). Players then check their score piles and receive double points for any cards that match the King of the Beasts and straight points for any cards that match the second and third beasts. Grandma won the game with 11 points, I came second with 10 points and Maddie came third with 1 point (she was trying too hard to make the Unicorn win).

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