Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 66

It was a cool, rainy morning; perfect weather for some board gaming! My mother (Grandma to our kids) had popped over for her regular Saturday morning visit and after showing her my recent game additions from the math trade we decided to grab my 6 year old daughter, Maddie, for a game of Metro.

Metro is 2 - 6 player tile-laying game of connecting train lines in late 19th century Paris. I was instantly taken with the appearance of the game. I found it very visually appealing; the beautiful bright coloured wooden subway cars and the graphic representations of the stations around the edge of the board were lovely to look at. But pretty components do not make a great game by themselves.

Maddie has just placed a tile in Metro

In Metro players compete to achieve the longest tracks. A player's track commences at a station matching their colour but may finish at any other station on the board. Each tile that a track passes through is worth 1 point. Tiles may be scored more than once if your track passes back over that same tile. If your track ends at a station in the middle of the board you score double points for your track.

When Maddie found out there was a station by the name of Madeleine she had to choose the corresponding colour of yellow (even though her name is spelt Madeline). Grandma chose orange and I chose blue.

This game has a similar feeling to Carcassonne (which was my first introduction to tile-laying games) but I was surprised to find that Metro pre-dated Carcassonne by 3 years (Metro was published in 1997 whereas Carcassonne was published in 2000).

Both myself and Grandma enjoyed the challenge of attempting to created the longest routes while trying to block the tracks of the other players. Maddie got a bit bored half-way through. Final scores were myself (Wayne) 82, Maddie 50 and Grandma 49.

Maddie chose the next game - Labyrinth. This is a firm family favourite which has graced the table many times over the last couple of years. We gave Maddie an edge by allowing her to look at her top three cards. She went on to win with 8 points, myself 2nd with 5 points and Grandma 3rd with 4 points. I think we'll reduce the number of cards Maddie is allowed to look at to two next time.

The maze of Labyrinth

Our final game of the morning was another I'd swapped for in the recent Australian math trade - Tutankhamen. This is a simple set-collecting game for 2 - 6 players which may take longer to set up than to play! Maddie decided to sit this one out so Grandma and I set up for a 2-player game.

The long winding trail of ancient Egyptian artifacts

In a 2-player game each player has 32 coins. The winner is the first player to use up their coins by 'paying' Tutankhamen by placing the coins into a slot in the back of the plastic pyramid. Coins may be 'paid' by collecting sets of identical tiles. Sets of tiles are scored when the last tile of a set has been collected or passed over by both players. Each set is worth an amount equivalent to the number on each tile of that set. If a player has the most of a set when it is scored then they get the full points. The player with the next highest scores half the total set value. Players after that score nothing. If there is a tie for most numbers of a set then those players receive half the total value of the set.

The trick is that you can move any number of spaces forward to take an artifact but you cannot move backwards. This means you have to constantly assess the worth of tiles both to yourself, and to your opponents, in front of you along the track.

The pyramid and artifact tiles

In our first game I tried to collect the majority of tiles in the high value sets. Grandma went for the mid-range values. Because there are a higher number of tiles in the higher value sets they take longer to score. Thus I found Grandma was able to offload a lot of coins before my sets were completed. She also made good use of the Pharaoh 'wild' tiles and gold bag tiles (which allow you to take a tile from another player). Grandma won the first game with me still left with 20 out of my original 32 coins.

We played a second game with me changing my strategy. I watched what tiles she was taking and always tried to grab at least one of those tiles while trying to prevent her from gaining any of the sets I was collecting. I won but it was a close game with Grandma only having 1 coin left.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Math Trade Games!

Well it certainly feels like Xmas with all of my games from the recent math trade starting to roll in. This morning I met Friendless to receive some more games. This time it was Die Mauer, Tutankhamen and Metro. These were all from BGG user gmcnish.

You may remember a courier company had tried to deliver a satchel to me last Friday and I'd arranged for it to be redelivered on Monday. Well I called them this morning to see why they hadn't redelivered it yesterday as they'd promised. They apologised for not delivering it and made a commitment to redeliver it to me today. Sure enough, the package was waiting for me when I arrived home from work. I was very excited to find it contained Tigris & Euphrates from BGG user nnf1.

Today's haul!

I've found this math trade to be a lot of fun so far. But the fun doesn't end here. I still have three more games to receive.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Math Trade Games Update

I met Friendless in the city for a coffee and a handover of a couple of games for me from the recent math trade. The reason Friendless is getting the games is because he volunteered to be our Queensland central postage point for interstate deliveries. This time it was San Juan from BGG user Tyndal and Dungeonquest from BGG user mr_lunch. Tyndal and mr_lunch are fellow Aussie gamers from the state of South Australia.

San Juan and Dungeonquest

When I arrived home I fully expected to have a parcel waiting for me. This was the one a courier company had not delivered on Friday because I wasn't home at the time. I'd rung the courier company on Friday evening and they'd promised to redeliver it on Monday. I tried calling them this afternoon but by the time I rang their office they were shut. I'm hoping it will now come tomorrow.

On a brighter note I received an email from Friendless this evening that some of my other games had arrived today. He'll be able to drop off Metro, Die Mauer and Tutankhamen to me tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 65

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and six year old daughter (AKA Maddie). Maddie chose our first game which was my home-made copy of Diamant.

Maddie always likes to set up the laminated colour page which represents the camp in front of the five caves. She chose the purple pawn, Grandma chose red and I chose green. Maddie grabbed the pawns and then allocated them to the tents on the board. Maddie got the biggest tent, Grandma was given the next biggest, and with an evil chuckle she allocated Daddy (me) to the smallest, crappiest tent on the board.

I was banished to the smallest tent by Maddie. At least she didn't give me the hammock...

Of course all this has nothing to do with the game whatsoever and was just a bit of pre-game fun and roleplaying. The board is more for show and isn't really necessary as the game is all about the playing of the cards.

I tried playing fairly conservatively. By round three I was tied on points with Maddie with Grandma languishing far behind. On the fourth round I had the opportunity to head back to camp after two warning cards had been revealed and with five rubies to collect. Unfortunately, Grandma also decided to go back at the same time so I my potential gain of 5 rubies was reduced to only 2 due to having to share. Maddie was left alone to explore further into the cave. The next card she turned over was a 15 point card. She wisely headed back to camp to gain a clear lead.

Fourth cave with 3 rubies and one warning card displayed

The fifth and final cave was a bit of an anti-climax with two warning cards of the same colour being drawn fairly close in succession. Maddie won the game with 30 points, myself in 2nd place with 14 points and Grandma 3rd with only 4 points.

Our next game was the Da Vinci Code Game, although I prefer to call it my its original title Coda.

Me about to lose my final two black tiles

This is a great little deduction game and Maddie is getting to be quite good at it. In previous games I've assisted her now and again on how to deduce what tiles may be where and to use the information available to her from what she can see and hear. Sometimes you can get clues from questions other players may ask.

We played two games. Grandma won the first and Maddie won the second.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Math Trade Update

Well, my trades from the recent Australian Math Trade are starting to roll in. Earlier this week Wings of War - Burning Drachens arrived from BGG user earthboot. Not long after that King Me! arrived from BGG user Mark_Owen_Reich.

King Me! and Wings of War - Burning Drachens have arrived!

I came home this afternoon to find a card from a courier company in my letterbox advising they'd tried to deliver an interstate parcel but unfortunately nobody was home. I phoned them and they'll re-deliver it on Monday. I suspect it will be Tigris & Euphrates from BGG user nnf1 but will have to wait to find out.

This evening I also received an email from BGG user Friendless advising that a box from Adelaide, South Australia, had arrived. My San Juan and Dungeonquest were part of the lot and he'll be bringing them in to work to give to me on Monday.

It's all happening.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Great Boxing Afternoon

I went over to Friendless' house this arvo to help him with boxing up all the games from Queensland BGGers ready to be sent interstate as part of the recent Australian board game Math Trade.

When I arrived there were already board games in three large piles to be sent to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. I added my games to the piles and then we got stuck into the packing.

Trying to fit games of various dimensions into the ready-made Australia Post mailing boxes was almost a puzzle in itself. We succeeded in packing the majority of games into pre-made boxes with plenty of packing beads for protection.

All was fine until we got to the games we were sending to Adelaide. My massive HeroQuest and Mikey's large Tannhauser just wouldn't fit into any of the mailing boxes we had. Luckily I'd brought over some flattened large cardboard boxes and a Stanley knife. A few slashes here and a few bends there and we soon had a custom-made box for these larger games.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos but Friendless has posted some on his blog here.

Oh yeah, I was also entertained with some cool magic tricks by Friendless' son, Harley22. Thanks Harley!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 64

My 6 year old daughter Maddie had a play date with a friend of hers mid-morning so was too excited and pre-occupied to play any games. So that left my mother (AKA Grandma) and I to play some 2-player games together.

Grandma's request for our first game was Battle Line. This is a great little card game where players battle over nine 'flags' along the line of battle of two mighty ancient armies. Each player attempts to play a winning combination of cards similar to poker hands at the point of each 'flag'. There are also special cards which affect the outcome of 'flag' battles but we usually play without them.

Game 1 - photo taken from my side. Victory!

The first player to achieve a 'breakthrough' of three adjacent flags wins the game. The other victory condition is an 'envelopment' where one player achieves a total of five flags. In our first game I achieved a 'breakthrough' on my right flank to win the game 4 flags to zero.

Game 2 - photo taken from my side. Defeat!

Our second game was a bit tougher for me. I really felt the angst of where to lay my cards virtually every turn. And the tension was high as I waited for those cards which would complete some risky (yet brilliant) moves. Alas, Grandma went on to achieve both a 'breakthrough' and an 'envelopment' on the same turn to win the game five flags to three. It was a great game.

I chose Cartagena as our next game. I really enjoy this game of pirates trying to escape a prison to make their way to waiting boat. I made a point to warn Grandma at the beginning of the game not to let her last pirates fall behind. It's just too hard to catch up if the other player's last pirate is too far in front. Regardless, of this advice, her last pirates did linger and they paid the price. I made it to the boat with all six of my pirates and set sail with only one of hers aboard.

I was green and Grandma was yellow. I won 6 to 1.

We wanted to see how the pirates fared after they'd escaped from the prison so we pulled out Cartagena II as our next game. This is sort of the 'sequel' to Cartagena and plays a little different. Instead of gaining cards for moving your own pirates backwards, you gain cards in Cartagena II by moving your opponent's pirates forwards. I'm still trying to work out the strategy in this game as there is a fine line between hindering and helping which must be understood.

I was green and Grandma was yellow. She won 6 to 4.

I fell behind at a point on the first island. By the time Grandma had all six of her pirates on the second island I still had two on the first. I then wasted precious actions trying to get these guys on the boat and then on to the second island. I then ended up running out of cards at a point near the end which meant I had no chance whatsoever of winning. Collecting cards for the home run is vital and I now understand the importance of the gold-bordered cards which force a player to discard their card total down to seven. The way we played we never had more than seven cards when a gold-bordered card was played. I'm looking forward to our next game where I'll try a different strategy.

Our last game of the morning was YINSH. It's been ages since I've played any of my GIPF Project games so it was a pleasure to take this one off the bookshelf and get it on to the table for a couple of games.

I was black and Grandma was white.

We played two games and I won both, 3 rings to 1 in each game.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Math trade results!

Well, the first BGG Australian math trade results have been posted! I had 20 game lots up for trade and ended up trading 10 of them so that's a 50% success rate (which is higher than I expected!). And the other good news is that three of my games can be given directly to local Brisbane gamers thus saving on postage. As we only traded for games we wanted I'm obviously very happy with the results.

Here's how I went (all images from BoardGameGeek):

My Hare and Tortoise + Schnipp Schnapp + Rally traded for Wings of War - Burning Drachens - I'm a big Blue Max fan and doubted I could find a more enjoyable game in this genre but the WWI aircraft combat game Wings of War has been getting a lot of favourable reviews. This is the third instalment of the Wings of War collection, Burning Drachens, and has rules for solo play. I have my own WWI aircraft miniatures to use with the cards that come with this game. Looking forward to trying this.

My HeroQuest traded for San Juan - I've played San Juan only twice before but it didn't initially grab me. However, it does have a lot of good reviews and my geekbuddies rate it highly. I suspected that I had not fully explored the potential of this game so that's the reason I put it fairly high on my want list. I'm sure the reason for not being overly impressed in these first couple of games was due to my unfamiliarity with the card combinations. I'm pleased that I'll now have the opportunity to more fully explore this card game which is based on the number one rated board game on BGG, Puerto Rico.

My Sumo! traded for Dungeonquest - This copy was missing some tiles but I purposely listed it on my want list simply because I needed to replace a couple of components on my own copy and didn't want to trade one of my better games for it. As it was incomplete I suspected no one else would be interested. Yes, I already have a copy of Dungeonquest but the combat tiles are colour scans I had to create when they were missing from second-hand copy I bought several years ago. It was also missing one of the plastic life markers so I'll be able to replace that as well.

My Terrace traded for King Me! - This looks like a fun bluffing/deduction game that can take from 2 - 6 players.

My huge Car Wars lot traded for Um Reifenbreite - The winner of the 1992 Spiel Des Jahres award and a game I've had on my wishlist for years! I'd always considered trying to get a copy from Germany but the high cost of postage put me off. I like racing games and this is apparently one of the finest. Can't wait to get this.

My Midway traded for Die Mauer + Tutankhamen - Two interesting fillers which can each take up to six players.

My Circus Maximus traded for Tigris & Euphrates (in shrink) - I was very pleased with this trade result. Although I've only played one game of T&E (and didn't really know what I was doing) I recognise the gaming goodness of this Knizia-designed classic which is ranked number 4 on BGG. I've rated this game a 6 (out of 10) from my initial play but I want to understand this game, play it, appreciate it, and rank it as it deserves. Now I'll have my chance.

My Balloon Cup traded for Metro - This 2-6 player tile-laying game looks very interesting.

My Loopin' Louie traded for Clash of the Gladiators - I've read a lot of historical books on gladiators and the Roman games so I couldn't resist this one. I'm not sure it's one of the best games but it's a Knizia so it can't be too bad.

My Star Wars: Star Warriors traded for Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers - I like Carcassonne and this one looks like it may be fun to try as a different Carc flavour.

All in all I'm very pleased with the results of my first math trade.

The games I also wanted but missed out on were: Space Hulk, Battlelore, Tikal, Ticket To Ride: Europe, Mystery of the Abbey, Palazzo, Clans, Ra, Jambo, Attika, Elfenland, Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes, High Society, Tongiaki, Kahuna, Saboteur, Aton, Elk Fest and Formula Motor Racing. Still, there was no way I would have got them all and I've VERY happy with what I did get!

Now, I'm off to arrange for my games to be posted to their lucky recipients.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Out with the old!

I currently have a small wishlist of games I want to purchase. As I'm endeavouring to make my hobby as 'cost neutral' to my family as possible I try to fund it from the sale of games I've bought over the years and no longer want (these are usually items I purchased pre-kids and in some cases, pre-wife).

It's also my 10 year wedding anniversary next month and I'd like to make a little extra cash to take my wife away for a weekend while we leave our kids with their Nanny & Pop.

So I'm auctioning off some stuff on eBay (all links lead to the actual auctions). Indulge me as I reminisce about some games...

HEROQUEST - This is a spare set I have. I've got several more and one day I'll play this with my daughters when they're older.

RISK The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition - My wife picked this up at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago for only $7. Although I'm a fan of Lord of the Rings I can't see this game getting any play time around here.

TALISMAN 2nd Ed with TALISMAN TIMESCAPE Expansion - I was lucky to pick this up at a garage sale when we were holidaying on the Sunshine Coast about five years ago. The 2nd edition box was complete with the accompanying components of the Timescape expansion. I couldn't believe it! Only $5! I still have a spare 2nd edition Talisman which I'll keep to play with the girls when they're older. As for the Timescape expansion, I've never played it, but for me the science-fiction setting/characters don't sit well with the fantasy experience of normal Talisman.

- I bought this new when it was first released. My younger brother and some friends and I had played the original 1st edition Talisman by itself many, many times. By the time I'd introduced this expansion we'd moved on to AD&D and it didn't get much play. I seem to remember you could take a shortcut through the dungeon to the Crown of Command area but it was deadly going.

TALISMAN CITY Expansion - This was another expansion I bought when it came out. While it offered more variety, I always felt the City was a bit of a waste of time. More expansions just slow down an already lengthy game.

TALISMAN THE ADVENTURE Expansion - Probably the best expansion for the 1st and 2nd editions of Talisman in my opinion. It adds alternate ending cards including the deadly Void card as well as the character sheet so you could place your character card and all your collected treasures and items neatly in one spot. I have a spare copy of this (minus the box) so that's going into my spare 2nd edition box.

TALISMAN EXPANSION SET Expansion - More character, adventure and spell cards and I reckon the second best expansion for Talisman. I also have a spare (boxless) copy of this which I'm keeping in my spare 2nd edition box.

Now we get on to a bunch of AD&D expansion sets that I purchased during my roleplaying days (my period of roleplaying was roughly 1983 to 1995). The majority of these boxed sets were bought on special from a mail order game company during the late 80's and early 90's. Although I'd discovered girls at this point I was still buying roleplaying material but, due to spending more time with my girlfriends and less with my gaming buddies, these items ended up sitting on the shelf unplayed and unread.


THE HORDE Forgotten Realms AD&D Campaign Setting

MAZTICA Forgotten Realms AD&D Campaign Setting

MENZOBERRANZAN Drow City Forgotten Realms


ELMINSTER'S ECOLOGIES Appendix 1 Forgotten Realms

ELMINSTER'S ECOLOGIES Appendix 2 Forgotten Realms





All of these names bring back memories of another time in my life. A time of excitement and adventure that I look back on now with fondness. I had plans to journey through these imaginary realms with my friends but that time is now in the past. We've all got married, started families and drifted apart. It's taken many years, but I now realise my roleplaying days are behind me.

So out with the old I say! Onto eBay they go to fund new games and new adventures!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 63

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and my 6 year old daughter (AKA Maddie). As it was the day before Mother's Day (and we wouldn't be seeing her tomorrow), Grandma received a lovely hand-made card from Maddie, and a book The Ultimate Guide to Winning Scrabble and a bouquet of white Oriental Lillies from the rest of us. Grandma plays Scrabble with her neighbour a couple of times a week so I'm sure the book will come in handy.

Our first game of the morning was The Downfall of Pompeii. Maddie sat this one out so it was just Grandma and I. In the first half of the game we placed our people into the buildings of Pompeii. Of the six Omen cards drawn, Grandma drew 4 to my 2 which meant I had 4 people in the volcano to her 2 going into the second part of the game.

In a 2-player game the second AD79 card is shuffled in with the last 15 cards in the draw deck. That means it can appear any time from the 16th last card to the very last card of the deck. The variability in the timing of the appearance of this card determines how many people can be placed in the city before Mt Vesuvius erupts and they all start fleeing.

A view of Pompeii after the second AD79 card is drawn. I'm black and Grandma is red.

I was falling behind Grandma in placing people into the city but had managed to get three people into the number 3 building and was just about to play a 3 building card which would allow me to place another person plus an extra three relatives on my next turn. Alas, Grandma drew the second AD79 card and I was unable to get those extra 4 people on to the board. It turned out the second AD79 card was the 13th card from the bottom of the deck and therefore this was an unusual game where both of us did not have as many people on the board as we normally do.

At this point Grandma had 15 people on the board to my 13. As there were less people on the board there were less deaths from lava tile placement. At the end each of us only lost 1 person each to lava. Try as I might I just could not draw the right lava tiles to kill or block off exits to hinder Grandma. She went on to win the game 14 to 12.

The final board where you can see the people who have safely exited the city

Our second game of the morning was a first play of Flip Flap Flop which my wife picked up at a garage sale for a couple of bucks a year or so ago. This is a card game made in Holland and published by Jumbo. It's a kids game for 2-4 players and contains 48 illustrated cards depicting a cartoon character. There are 8 sets of 6 similar cards with each face having minor differences. The object of the game is to have the most cards when the last card has been played. Each turn players reveal the top card of their deck face up on the table. The first player to spot three of the same cards yells out "Flip Flap Flop!" and takes the three cards as points face down in a pile in front of them. A player can also yell out "Flip Flap!" if they see two matching cards but then they must place those cards face up in front of them and those cards may be stolen later in the game by another player if they see the third matching card of the set on the table. An incorrect call will mean the player must still play a card on their following turn but they aren't allowed to claim any cards.

Minor differences of some of the cards

We played two games of which I won both. I was expecting more from this game. I guess I was expecting something like Set but it's more like an advanced version of Snap. Overall, it was a big Flip Flap FLOP!

Our final game of the morning was an old family favourite - Gulo Gulo. I was the first to reach the pile of tiles containing Gulo Junior. Unfortunately I fluffed a pick at a green egg which was the 3rd tile of the five tile stack and set off the alarm. Grandma was too far behind to get to the remaining stack on her turn which left Maddie 'Nimble-Fingers' in a prime position to win the game. And win the game she did finding Gulo Junior on the last tile with an easy pick of a purple egg.

Gulo Junior! Where are you!?!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

First Australian Math Trade

Recently, a fellow Australian BoardGameGeek user, sbszine, organised a boardgame math trade. There have been some localised Australian math trades before, but this was the first national math trade open to any BGG user residing in Australia. He also organised the first national (that I'm aware of) New Zealand math trade at the same time.

So what's a math trade? A math trade is boardgame trade between a whole bunch of people at the same time, using an algorithm to decide who should send their game to whom. Because of the algorithm used, you can only get a game you prefer over what you started with. The worst that can happen is that you may just keep your original game.

Here is a link to the Geeklist listing all the games users have put up for trade. 51 Australian BGG users signed up and there are well over 600 games up for trade (576 entries but there are lots of multiple game lots).

I've put some of my games up for trade. As I've never participated in a math trade before I'm not too sure of what to expect. I'm not overly positive of getting what I want though. I'll post again when I hear the results.

The games I've listed. Dross - or not? Who knows, someone may be interested...

Worst case scenario is that after the math trade my remaining games will get listed on eBay and I'll use the cash to buy the games I want.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 62

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 6 year old daughter (AKA Maddie). After a week or so of feeling ill I actually felt a bit better this morning. I'm still not 100% but I'm over the worst of it.

It was just Grandma and myself for the first game. As it had only arrived yesterday, Cartagena II was given the honour of our first game of the morning. Grandma took yellow and I took green.

So, after escaping from the prison in the original Cartagena, our intrepid pirates are trying to make their way to their hidden pirate island town - the Pirate's Nest. To do so they must make their way through the jungle of the small first island to a waiting boat. They then must row across to the larger second island and traverse more jungle before they can enter the safety of Pirate's Nest. The first player to have all their pirates enter the town and raise the Jolly Roger wins the game. It sort of feels like an episode of Survivor.

The first island - everyone make your way to the boat!

For those that have played the original Cartagena there is a familiar feeling. The wooden playing pieces and the boat tile are exactly the same as in the original. Also like the original there is a deck of 105 cards made up 7 suits of 15 cards each. Instead of making your way through a tunnel, in this game you are making your way along jungle paths littered with symbols matching those on the cards. Like in the original you play a card to move one of your pirates to the next unoccupied matching symbol space on the board. However, it's here where the similarities end.

In the original game to gain more movement cards you had to move one of your own pirates back to the previous occupied space and you would gain a card for each pirate on that space (either 1 or 2 cards). In Cartagena II the way you gain more movement cards is by moving your opponent's pirates forward to the next occupied space and gaining a card for each pirate on that space (either 1 or 2 cards). This is an interesting mechanism because it forces you to assist your opponents. The trick is to try not to help your opponents too much.

The boat docks at the larger second island. The Pirate's Nest is at the far end of the island.

Some more interesting things include the boat between the islands, the gold-bordered cards which, when played, force those with over 7 cards in their hand to discard down to 7, and the raising of the Jolly Roger to win the game.

Our game was very close due to having to assist each other to gain movement cards and I guess our unfamiliarity with the strategy. Grandma actually got all of her pirates to the Pirate's Nest first. Unfortunately for her, however, she had no action left over to hoist the Jolly Roger. On my turn I used my first 2 actions to move my last two pirates into the Pirate's nest and then raised the Jolly Roger with my last action to win the game. Overall, this was an exciting game which I rate as high as the original Cartagena and I'm looking forward to more plays to explore the strategy further.

Our second game was a two-player game of The Downfall of Pompeii. By the time the second AD79 card had been drawn I'd had 4 Omen cards drawn to Grandma's 2. I also had more people in the city with 27 compared to Grandma's 24. I ended up winning with 17 people escaped to Grandma's 14. The final tally of people in the volcano was me 12 and Grandma 14. This was the 5th time we've played this game and it's becoming a firm favourite.

The final result - I was black and Grandma was red.

Maddie joined us for our final game of the morning - the cool little Da Vinci Code - The Game (AKA Coda). We decided to play three games with each of us taking it in turn to go first. Maddie actually won our first game! I think Grandma and I were too busy concentrating on guessing each other's tiles that we ignored Maddie (too our detriment). I won the second game and then came from behind to win the last as well.

Box and contents

Another satisfying gaming session with three generations of our family.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ahoy! Pirates off the starboard bow!

Just a quick entry. I've been off work for the last couple of days with a nasty cold and feeling sorry for myself. I was cheered up somewhat when an Australia Post courier dropped off Cartagena II - The Pirate's Nest at my door around 8.00am. This was the game I won on eBay last Sunday.

The item was well packed

I excitedly ripped off the shrinkwrap. A quick scan of the game contents confirmed all the components were present. I'm looking forward to playing it. However, the way I'm feeling at the moment I may have to cancel our normal family gaming session tomorrow morning. I'll see how I feel this evening...

Full of piratey goodness!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

St. Andrew's Cross Spider

In mid-March this spider took up residence under our front porch. It could have picked a more scenic location but I guess it chose the spot because it was well sheltered from the weather. I was instantly drawn to the colourful body of the spider and the unusual cross pattern it created at the centre of its web.

Note the cross pattern of the web

Luckily Maddie had a book on Australian spiders that had somehow (?) made its way into her collection of Bratz, Dr Seuss and other kiddie books. We were able to confirm that this was an Argiope aetherea, more commonly known in Australia as a St. Andrew's Cross Spider, a harmless garden spider. In North America, similar spiders are commonly known as "black and yellow garden spiders" or "writing spiders". In England and Europe spiders of this genus are known as "wasp spiders".

The egg sac

We noticed that behind the web was suspended what we believed to be an egg sac. Apparently, these egg sacs can contain between 400 to 1,400 eggs. I decided to check the egg sac every day to see if any spiders hatched.

New arrivals!

Sure enough, about 2 weeks later in early April, I awoke early one morning to find a mass of baby spiders surrounding the egg sac. By this time the mother had disappeared.

Aren't they cute? Click on the picture for a larger image.

It was lucky that I took this picture when I did because by that evening all the baby spiders had gone. Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to see some of them and their striking web designs around our garden when they have matured.