Monday, April 28, 2008

You are the winning bidder!

I was excited to see the words "You are the winning bidder" at the end of a recent eBay auction for a still-in-shrink-wrap copy of the board game Cartagena II. I really enjoy the original Cartagena and I'd planned to purchase Cartagena II at some point in the future. It works out that, including postage, the total cost was 36% off the RRP.

I haven't bought a game through eBay for ages. I think the last time would have been when I bought my Carrom board for $10 in a local pick up back in November 2006.

I'm very much looking forward to receiving Cartagena II in the mail. Hopefully it will arrive by Friday so we can play it on Saturday.

The box front of Cartagena II

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 61

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and my 6 year old daughter (AKA Maddie).

Our first game was Nobody But Us Chickens. I normally do quite well at this game but this time I was soundly thrashed by both Grandma and Maddie*. As there were three of us we played with the three rounds of nights.

Night 1 - Grandma 15, Me 0, Maddie 9
Night 2 - Grandma 8, Me 4, Maddie 0
Night 3 - Grandma 12, Me 1, Maddie 11

Final scores were Grandma 1st with 35 points, Maddie 2nd with 20 points and myself a distant 3rd with a measly 5 points.

* I must point out that halfway through Night 1 the phone rang. It was one of Maddie's girlfriends from school. We have a walkabout phone so Maddie sat at the table talking to her friend while she played her cards. Now normally I would've had Maddie call her friend back after we'd finished playing, but in this case the game was going to be over fairly quickly and I suspected that Maddie would then be chatting for a while which would mean I'd be able to play a deeper 2-player game with Grandma.

As we finished the Night 1 round Maddie stated that she had to go to the toilet. She then asked if she could take the phone with her so she could continue chatting to her friend. I said no, but she pleaded with me, so I relented, not wanting to cause a drama while her little friend was hanging on the line. Maddie wandered off as Grandma and I got ready for the next round.

Which to choose? Why can't I think straight?

About two minutes later I heard Maddie shouting from the end of the hall "Daddy! Come quick! It's an emergency!" I immediately jumped from my seat and called out to her asking what was the matter.

"I dropped the phone in the toilet!" she cried.

Oh great! I thought, praying that she'd only gone for a wee. I immediately picked up my camera because I wanted to get a photo of the phone in the toilet bowel. That's an image you don't see every day.

I arrived to find Maddie holding the dripping phone in her hand. Scratch one phone, I thought. I gingerly plucked it from her grasp and told her to wash her hands. I pressed the button - nothing. I then gave the phone a quick rinse in the sink and followed up by giving it a rub with a disinfectant wipe. I pressed the button again. Sure enough, it wasn't working. I took the batteries out after giving it a good shake and a wipe dry. I left it to dry out on the table on the outside deck.

I'm sure it wasn't a ploy at metagaming on her part, but for the rest of Nobody But Us Chickens I couldn't think straight and my mind kept returning to an image of our phone in the toilet and the fact that it now wasn't working.

Maddie then went to draw in her room so that left Grandma and I looking for a 2-player game. I chose The Downfall of Pompeii. I really like this game and it's great with two players. Grandma took red and I took black.

In the first part of the game as we were adding followers to the city Grandma drew 5 Omen cards to my 2 which meant by the time we started the second part of the game I had 5 followers in the volcano to her 2.

This was a different session to others I'd played in that it ended up that I ran out of followers to add to the city before the second AD79 card was drawn. In fact, the second AD79 ended up being the last card drawn! At that point in the game I had managed to get 31 followers into the city whereas Grandma had only 29.

The second part of this game was very interesting. Grandma went for the quick scoring by exiting her followers close to the gates so she soon shot to an early lead. I spent my time assessing the chances of potential deaths to my followers based on the draw of the lava tiles and their placement in the vicinity of my followers. I tried to move my followers that were most in danger. This certainly paid off in the end. Grandma could have played a little more cut-throat and I pointed this out to her at a few points in the game.

Nearing the end of the game and Grandma has exited all her red followers while my black followers take a leisurely stroll through the western gates as Vesuvius emits some last, pathetic gasps.

By the time Grandma had exited all her followers I had 15 of mine still within the city walls. However, I'd had a little luck with my drawing of tiles and I'd been able to direct the lava flow away from the gates I was heading for. By that time there was only a handful of lava tiles left in the bag and none could seriously threaten the bulk of my followers in the west of the city.

Final scores were me on 23 (with 13 in the volcano) and Grandma on 19 (with 12 in the volcano). This is a great little game and since I've had it I've raised my BGG rating from an initial 8, to an 8.5, and now a 9.

UPDATE: Days later as I was reading the rules I realised that I'd ended the game prematurely when there were only 3 or so lava tiles left, assuming that as I was the only one with people left in the city they would just make it out alive. Not so, after the last lava tile is drawn anyone left in the city dies. Grandma should have won... I'm sure we played the rule correctly in previous games. I have no idea why I forgot that rule this time (maybe it was because I was still thinking about the phone!).

Our final game of the morning was Battleline. This was our first play of 2008 but the wait was worth it. This is a great game full of tension and it really evokes the feel of an ancient battle line for me. Although some may say it's a dry game of simply playing coloured cards numbered 1 to 10 along a line of nine wooden tokens, for me I can see two lines of ancient armies clashing on the field of battle. It makes me feel like a general, assessing where my army is doing well and where it is faltering, and making the agonising decisions on where to commit my troops.

A green 5 and green 6 to play on the green 4 in the center of the battle field

Grandma is a worthy opponent at this game, however today victory was mine and I ended up achieving a breakthrough in the center to win 3 flags to 1.

UPDATE: I checked the phone the next morning and it wasn't working :(
UPDATE (1 week later): Yep, the phone's definitely cactus...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The IT Crowd

Series 2 of the IT Crowd has started on ABC1 at 9.00pm on Wednesday nights. It's all about the dysfunctional IT department at Reynholm Industries and it's a real laugh.

One thing I noticed in last nights episode "The Return of the Golden Child" was the boardgames on the shelf in their office.

They had Mystery of the Abbey, Ticket to Ride and War on Terror sitting on the shelf behind Moss.

You can see it here at 2.02 in this YouTube video.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rainbow Lorikeet

Back on Saturday 15 March I took the family to Shorncliffe for a lunch of fish & chips by beautiful Moreton Bay. After lunch we stopped in at Moora Park where I took some photos of these gorgeous Rainbow Lorikeets.

They seem to be enjoying the nectar of these flowers

Rainbow Lorikeets are common where I live in Brisbane, Australia. They are a species of Australasian parrot famed for their beautiful plumage and energetic and playful nature. They are not a particularly large bird with heights ranging from 25-30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) in size, with a wingspan of about 17 cm (6.7 in). Their diet consists mainly of pollen and nectar.

We're very lucky to have such beautiful wildlife

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 60

Another Saturday morning of gaming with my 6 year old daughter Maddie and my mother (AKA Grandma).

First up we introduced Grandma to Coda. Maddie had already watched Mummy and Daddy play Coda twice and had also asked to play it 2-player with me yesterday evening. We ended up playing 7 games this morning. I won 5 and Grandma won 2 with Maddie unfortunately not winning any.

Coda - A fun little game of deduction

Maddie chose For Sale as our second game of the morning. This bidding game is an old favourite of ours. Final scores were Grandma 1st with $87K, Maddie 2nd with $62K and myself 3rd with $59K.

Bid on properties and then sell them for the highest price

Maddie again chose the next game. It was Bratz Passion for Fashion. This is basically a roll-and-move game for kids. Grandma ended up coming 1st, Maddie 2nd and myself 3rd.

I was Sasha - yay!

Maddie chose my home-made copy of Diamant for our next game. This is quite an enjoyable push-your-luck style game. Final scores were me 1st with 21 points, Maddie 2nd with 14 and Grandma 3rd with 12.

Grandma and I head back to camp

I suggested our final game of the morning - Der Schwarze Pirat. This is an entertaining dexterity game where you blow your ship around the board with a bellows looking for gold on the many islands. Grandma won with 15 gold, I came 2nd with 12 gold and Maddie came 3rd with 9 gold.

Who will enter the harbour first to claim the 2 gold?

All in all a good morning of gaming.

The Bridge To Asgard

Rainbows are fairly rare in these parts, so it was with much excitement that we saw this beautiful meteorological phenomenon from our back deck this morning. I think this may also have been Georgia's first sighting of a rainbow.

In my childhood I always wished to find the leprechaun's pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. However, in my teens I read a lot of Norse mythology and now the first thing that pops into my mind when I see a rainbow is Bifröst, the bridge leading from Midgard (the realm of mortals) to Asgard, the realm of the gods.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gaming On The Bed

My wife usually goes to local garage sales early on Saturday mornings. Many months ago I had asked her to look out for the game Coda. I knew that it had been re-titled The Da Vinci Code Game when the The Da Vinci Code movie came out and I suspected it would start showing up at garage sales in the future.

On Saturday morning she came home with a near-mint copy of The Da Vinci Code Game which she'd picked up at a garage sale for only $5. Naturally, I was very excited to receive this enjoyable little deduction game.

Anyway, that night, after the kids had been put to bed and as we were getting ready for bed, Deb spied the game sitting on my side of the bed where I had left it ready to read the rules. She suggested we play a game. As we couldn't be bothered going out to the dining room we just decided to play it on the bed. We soon found that it was almost impossible to shuffle tiles on a sheet without knocking them over and seeing the numbers on them.

It was at this point that Maddie wandered into our room to see what we were doing. We quickly enlisted her as our 'Mixing Girl' and she took over the role of shuffling the tiles for us with enthusiasm (as we looked away so we wouldn't see the numbers on the tiles as they were being mixed). We used a couple of hardback books as stable platforms for our code tiles to stand up on.

I won the game and Deb immediately wanted a rematch. I then won the 2nd and 3rd games with Deb winning our 4th and 5th matches. Before we knew it we were playing for best out of seven. I won the final 2 games to win 5 games to 2.

Tonight Deb again suggested we play Coda on our bed. This time it would be a best of five with Maddie once again taking on the role of 'Mixing Girl'. After 4 games we were neck and neck with 2 wins each - the final game would decide it. Maddie was barracking for Mummy to win (she normally barracks for anyone to beat Daddy). Our final game was a close one with me coming from behind to take the win.

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).

Daddy! De Boon! De Boon!

"Daddy! De boon! De boon!" shouted 2 year old Georgia from our back deck early this morning.

My readers who are old enough may remember the television series Fantasy Island from the late '70s and early '80s where the diminutive Tattoo would run up the main bell tower to ring the bell and shout "The plane! The plane!" to announce the arrival of a new set of guests at the beginning of each episode. However, due to the actor's French accent he actually pronounced it, "De plane! De plane!"

Well, that's what came to mind when I heard Georgia shouting out "De boon! De boon!" in an excited voice. Using my inbuilt Toddler Translator I instantly knew she was saying "The balloon! The balloon!" When I walked out on to the back deck I saw her standing there jumping up and down with Maddie and pointing to the sky.

One of two hot-air balloons which floated over our house early this morning

There were two hot-air balloons floating gracefully over our house. This happens occasionally when the wind is blowing in the right direction and they land in nearby parks or sporting fields. Seeing them always reminds me of the time I surprised Deb with a hot-air balloon ride over Brisbane for her 25th birthday. A hot-air balloon flight is such a wonderful experience.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Being Thankful

I've been at home this week spending time with my elder daughter Maddie (aged 6) during her school vacation. During the week the routine of my wife Debbie and our younger daughter Georgia (aged 2) has continued as normal (i.e. Deb has been working and Georgia has been attending daycare).

Maddie left two days ago to spend a couple of nights with her Nanny & Pop, leaving me with some rare time to myself. I've been able to catch up on some of my interests during these child-free days and it's been great.

At 11.15 this morning I received a call from my wife. Our daycare had just called to inform her that Georgia had fallen and hit her head. Apparently Georgia had climbed a plastic fort they had in the play area, had misjudged her balance and fallen off, hitting the back of her head on the ground. The flooring in the play area is a type of AstroTurf so it's not a hard ground but when you hear news like this you fear the worst.

I had our car so I drove to the daycare to pick up Georgie. When I got there she was having lunch with the other toddlers. As soon as she saw me she got up and slowly walked over to me with her arms raised to be picked up. She didn't speak and appeared very subdued and just cuddled me tightly. There was no visible sign of any contusion or external bleeding and her pupils appeared normal. They advised me that they'd applied an ice-pack to Georgia's head for 10 minutes or so after the accident. They said that she hadn't lost consciousness at any point but had had a good cry.

On the way home I stopped by Deb's work to pick her up. At this point Georgia was dozing in her car seat in the back and didn't respond much to Mummy as she got in the car. Deb had planned to pick up Maddie from Nanny & Pop's place and then take Maddie to see Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour this afternoon as they had free tickets.

We arrived home and as I was taking Georgie out of her car seat she vomited all over herself and started crying. The first thing I thought of was that nausea and vomiting are symptoms of concussion. We took her upstairs, stripped her off, and gave her a bath. That seemed to calm her somewhat and after being dried she sipped some water for a while. We gave her some pain medicine and she soon appeared sleepy.

Deb had to leave at this point so I lay down on our bed with Georgia and watched her fall asleep. I watched her for about an hour or so and she was breathing fine. She ended up sleeping for 3 and a half hours and woke up thankfully none the worse for wear for her accident.

Tonight, on the local news, there was a report of a 21 month old toddler, on an excursion to a local playground with his daycare group, who somehow wandered off unnoticed. The carers found him shortly after, face down in a nearby pond. They were unable to resuscitate him. Tragically, there is one family who sent their toddler to daycare today who won't have their precious child with them tonight.

I can't begin to say how thankful I am that both of my children are sleeping soundly in their own beds this evening.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mid-Week Gaming

As any parent with small children understands, the reality is that one's social activities are seriously curtailed. As a parent I accept this but as a gamer it occasionally irks me. So that's why I was so excited to actually get in some gaming with someone other than an immediate family member this week.

Let me set the scene for you. As it was Maddie's (aged 6) school vacation I'd taken a week off work. My wife Deb was at work all week and Georgia (aged 2) was in daycare all week except Wednesday. On Wednesday our kids' Pop & Nanny (my father and step-mother) would visit us and spend the day with Maddie and Georgia before taking Maddie to their house for a couple of nights. On Friday Deb would pick Maddie up in the afternoon from Nanny and Pop's house and take her to see Disney's High School Musical: The Ice Tour (they had free tickets). So this all meant that I would have time to myself during the day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - Oh joy!

I became aware early in the week from a post over at fellow Brisbane gamer and BGG user Friendless' blog, Playing With Myself, that he was having minor surgery early on Monday. Thinking that he may have some days off work to recover I sent him an email asking him if he was up for any gaming. I think the last time we'd gamed together was back in December 2006 when we'd played Commands & Colors: Ancients. I hadn't played C&C: Ancients since then and I was really looking forward to a game. As it turned out we ended up setting a time for midday on Wednesday.

I arrived at his house at the appointed time and had the opportunity to meet his partner (and BGG user) Scrabblette. She had an appointment to go to which left Friendless and I alone to play games.

Friendless already had the C&C: Ancients board set up with the Colline Gate 82BC scenario from the C&C: Ancients Expansion Pack #3 The Roman Civil War. The battle of the Colline Gate was fought in November of 82BC and was the final battle by which Sulla secured control of Rome following the civil war against his rivals. The Samnites, led by Pontius Telesinus attacked Sulla's army at the Colline Gate on the northeastern wall of Rome, and fought all night before being routed.

Although I didn't know the outcome of the historical battle at that time, I chose to play the historical losers - the Samnite army of Pontius. Looking more closely at the setup I could see that Friendless had two leaders (Sulla and Crassus) to my one (Pontius). His Romans were arrayed in front of the walls of Rome with the gate at their backs in the centre. The Romans also appeared to outnumber the Samnites in medium infantry. Not only that but my forces only had 5 command cards to the Roman's 6. The victory condition was 5 banners. This was going to be challenging.

On my first turn I immediately moved Pontius (who was attached to a unit of medium cavalry) from his initial position behind the centre of my lines over to the right flank. I only had one other cavalry unit and that was over on the left. Friendless moved Sulla forward from his position at the gate to where he would be of more use in the centre.

The majority of my forces were Auxilia and some other light troops, with only two Medium Infantry to stiffen the line in the centre. I was fearing the result of a clash of our lines head on as Friendless' forces were slightly more numerous and of better quality than mine. Knowing this I made the decision not to advance my troops but to wait for him to come to me. I then tried to disrupt his line. I sent my Medium Cavalry unit on a feint attack on my left flank but it was then beaten back with losses. What I really wanted him to do was come in range of my missile troops because I'd been sitting on a Darken The Sky card since turn 1. Unfortunately, he was using his turns to position his troops and straighten his line. I didn't get to use my Darken The Sky card until about turn 3 or 4 and not with all the troops I'd wanted.

I had two camps on my rear board edge which were each worth 1 victory banner. I think it was about the middle of the game when Friendless sent forward Crassus and his Medium Cavalry to wipe out my Medium Cavalry on my left flank. After quickly wiping out my cavalry Crassus had a Momentum Advance into my infantry. The only thing between him and my rear left camp was a unit of Auxilia. The attack caused a couple of hits and a retreat so I was then able to retire that wounded unit to the relative safety of the camp.

Friendless had wisely gotten his two leaders into combat and I'd left poor Pontius sitting by his lonesome on my right flank. I'd been saving a couple of right flank cards just for this time. I ordered Pontius and his Medium Cavalry to hit the flank of the Roman left. The charge was successful and destroyed a unit of Auxilia (thanks to them having limited room to retreat due to the walls of Rome). I then was able to use Momentum Advance to have a Bonus Combat which caused some losses to the next unit in line.

My right flank after Pontius lost his cavalry unit but then evaded and counter-attacked with some Auxilia

Meanwhile our lines met and there was a back and forth struggle in the centre. Friendless was taking ground on my left flank while I was pushing forward on my right. In an effort to be smart and cut off the retreat of one of Friendless' units in his rear I inadvertently left Pontius in a vulnerable position. Friendless immediately took advantage of this and surrounded Pontius. His first attack wiped out the Medium Cavalry unit that Pontius was attached to. Pontius survived a Leader Casualty check and then had to evade. However, to evade he had to move through one of Friendless' Auxilia units which then had 3 dice to attack with - any Leader symbol rolled would eliminate Pontius, my one and only Leader.

I held my breath but thankfully for Pontius no purple Leader symbols were rolled. Pontius retired onto an Auxilia unit and then counter-attacked. I think we were sitting at about 3 all at this stage. Another two banners would win the game for either one of us. Friendless only had to destroy my wounded Auxilia unit on the camp to win. I had to destroy two more of Friendless' units.

My brave Auxilia unit holds on in the camp in the bottom left of the picture

I was able to achieve victory in the end by finishing off two Roman units in front of the walls of Rome. I won 5 to 3. It was a very exciting game against a tough opponent. I have to say I love C&C: Ancients. It well deserves the 10 rating I've given it on BoardGameGeek.

After that we decided to take a break from C&C: Ancients and have a go at some other Eurogames. Friendless pulled out Hey! That's My Fish! This is a game I'd been wanting to try for some time. I suspected that it would be a good game to play with my family. I was not disappointed.

I love the title of this game

It's basically an abstract game but with a theme that fits nicely. The board is comprised of hexagonal tiles each with one to three fish pictured on them. Each player has a number of penguins which are allowed to only move in straight lines. When you leave a hex tile you take that tile as scored points which leaves a hole in the board. Penguins are not able to move over other penguins or holes. It became clear that one must not allow oneself to get cut off from the supply of fish. The game plays fairly quick and it looks like it would be fun to play with kids. It was a close game with Friendless winning 49 to 48. I really, really like this game. In fact, so much so that it has now entered the top of my 'must buy' list.

Our next game was the latest from game designer Kris Burm (of the Gipf Project) - Tzaar. Friendless had an Essen pre-release copy of Tzaar which was signed by the designer. I'm a big fan of the Gipf Project games and I could instantly see the goodness of Tzaar. Unfortunately, I'm also aware that it normally takes a couple of plays for me to understand the strategies of these games. Friendless ended up winning in an enjoyable game which made my brain hurt in a good way.


After that we played Fish Eat Fish. In this game players have coloured fish and try to eat other fish to score points. Each player has an exact same deck of cards with different attack values and special abilities. It's basically a game of bluffing your opponent. It was alright but it didn't grab me like Hey! That's My Fish! did at first play. Friendless trounced me 17 to 3.

The bright and colorful components of Fish Eat Fish

Our next game was Trias. In this game players are allocated herds of dinosaurs in a colour. Friendless took yellow and I chose red. The board is comprised of hexagonal land tiles of mountain, steppe and jungle which support 2, 3 and 4 herds of dinosaur respectively. Each turn a player has a certain number of action points which they can spend on moving, having offspring or rescuing herds. The fun mechanic of this game is the mandatory land drift where each turn you must move a land tile away from the centre volcanic region. This replicates the movements of land masses over the millennia. This is quite a cool little game and I can see why Friendless rates it a 10. I ended up winning a close game 6 points to 5 (with a little help from Friendless during the game).

The drifting continents of Trias

As luck would have it Scrabblette arrived home and Friendless was able to persuade her to join us for a last game of Hey! That's My Fish! I'd been that engrossed in our first game that I'd forgotten to take a photo of the setup. And guess what - I was so engrossed in our 3-player game that I again forgot to take a photo! Our 3-player game was as fun, if not more so, than our 2-player game. Scrabblette went on to take the win with 33 points to Friendless and myself each on 32 points.

And so that ended a marvelous afternoon of gaming with Friendless and Scrabblette.

P.S. It never rains but it pours - As if seeing two other Brisbane BGG users wasn't enough, I took Maddie to the local library the day before on Tuesday and happened to bump into another BGG user, Mikey, (who I hadn't seen for over a year) who was there with his kids.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 58

Another Saturday morning of gaming with my 6 year old daughter (AKA Maddie) and mother (AKA Grandma). Today we were able to get onto the table two games which had not been played as yet in 2008.

First up was Carcassonne. Maddie chose red, Grandma yellow and myself green. We played with the Inns & Cathedrals expansion and (for the first time) the River expansion. Rather than tempt boredom in Maddie I chose to teach her as we went rather than explaining the rules to her before we played. As she drew a tile I explained what it was, what meeple placement options she had, and what tile placement options she had.

Maddie pulled the majority of the cloister tiles and was able to either place them in good positions or have them surrounded by other tiles as the game progressed. She also delighted in laying down a cathedral on a city I was building and then later screwing me by expanding it to a point where it was almost impossible to complete.

The final board layout at the point where we are about to score the farms

Grandma placed a couple of farmers fairly early in prime locations and it looked like she would have a monopoly on the majority of cities. I was desperately trying to find a link to a lot of small cities in the middle of the board and it was only late in the game I was able to lay a tile which connected one of my farmers who had previously been in a disconnected outer province.

When we added up the points at the end Maddie was already in a commanding lead. With the scoring of her uncompleted cloisters she shot to an even bigger lead. Grandma and I slowly reduced the gap as we scored uncompleted cities and roads. When it came down to scoring the farms it worked out that Grandma and I shared supply to the bulk of the cities. We slowly inched closer to Maddie's score of 107 by 4 points for each city, with me being only 1 point in front of Grandma. I was lucky at the end, only just taking the win with 114 points, with Maddie 2nd on 107 and Grandma a close 3rd with 105 points.

Maddie chose to sit out the next game we played which was Ingenious. It would be a two-player game between Grandma and I. We'd last played this game on 29 December 2007 so the rules were still fairly fresh in Grandma's memory.

My normal strategy in Ingenious was always to try to maximise my points in my lowest scoring colour without paying too much attention to the other players. However, in this game I made a definite decision to always watch Grandma's lowest colours and looking for ways to block off her access to those colours.

Ingenious - such a cool game

This strategy meant I didn't always maximise my points but as long as my lowest score in a certain colour stayed a point or two in front of her lowest score in that colour then I would win. I noticed that I was able to block her off from orange at a point about two-thirds of the way through the game. I could see I had a higher score in orange than her and that the only way she could win was for her to start laying down orange tiles (which I would then try and further block). She didn't pick up on this until it was too late and I'd won 11 to 9.

I offered Grandma a rematch. In our second game she was wary of being blocked off and the game was more challenging. I was still able to keep her to a lower score than me but it was more difficult. I ended up winning 9 to 7.