The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

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Some recent thoughts

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I played the actual Shades of Tezla light and darkness scenario. I don’t like the new orc/monster/dragon tokens scattered into the base game (because they make the variability much higher) but in a scenario designed for them, it was fine. But the rulebook font is so small that basically the TaoLing has to read everything for me now. (It was tough to read even when I bought it….)

Played another game of Race: Xeno Invasion (cards only). I should play more Race. Ditto Baseball Highlights:2045.

Apparently Favor of the Pharoah was a gift at a recent game convention, because many locals now have a copy, so I played it a few more times. I think its an improvement over To Court the King, but the setup is a pain.

Reading many new bridge books. Most are on card play, but I did buy Five Card Majors the Scanian Way, and it has many new ideas and a definite philosophy. (‘Scanian’ approximates ‘Scandanavian,’ possibly meaning mainly Swedish. I think.)

Hank and I use transfer bids in competition (transfer advances and after takeout doubles); the Scanians have more including over 1C without competition, which has some proponents in ACBL land and I would play when playing Standard, if any partner wanted to. Scanian also includes switch bids: oftentimes hearts means clubs and vice versa, especially in competition.

There are parts that are likely not legal in ACBL-land (like Multi-) … actually I stared at the new ACBL regs and Multi seems to be legal by the rules but not by the commentary. Also putting 18-19 balanced into the 2C opening. But even if you strip it down to legal, building a system to allow more judgement and multiple ways to bid the same shape and strength (depending on how the HCP are distributed) is intriguing. Also fun are fit jumps (jumps showing the suit bid and a fit with opener’s suit). Of course this is likely for interest only to serious tournament players, and even then most won’t care.

Written by taogaming

November 2, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Good God, Man, Revisited

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After nearly two years, I’ve finally played John Company in my home town.

It was a six player game, and ended on a Mutiny at turn three (the earliest possible moment). And my last game (at the Gathering) was a T3 mutiny. It seems …. surprisingly common. You don’t have any officers (or guns, really) to prepare for a roll and the revolt event isn’t a roll, just a “buh-bye” so when it hits that region is gone baby gone. Of the four players who had never played before, only the TaoLing expressed any desire to repeat the experience.  (Again we missed an early sail roll and then had one of the three presidencies close, which starts the death spiral right away).

And after another T3 mutiny, I’m not sure I disagree. I have the vague feeling that we’re doing something wrong, but I can’t put my finger on it. And certainly I cannot argue with the belief that that John Company’s randomness is too much. You don’t control when your family members retire … too soon and you don’t have enough money, too late and you can’t buy VPs before the game ends. And the fact that failing in disgrace may be preferable to not retiring at all is … odd. I wouldn’t say ahistorical, but odd.

Is this too much simulation, not enough game? I wouldn’t go that far, yet.

Written by taogaming

October 23, 2019 at 7:24 pm

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Irish Gauge

Played this at game night and this strikes me as a good entry in the Chicago Express (etc) line — clean design with no rough edges. The random (but highly structured and easy to grasp) way of calculating dividends might give this huge replayability. From my (single) play this clearly has the same implicit collusion angle that Chicago Express does, but also some guide rails that help newer players (which I appreciated). Anyway, I’m not going to rush out and buy this, but I’m glad to have played it and would play again. Also this had a good aesthetic, will above the norm for a cube-train game (which it is).

Rating — Suggest.

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September 30, 2019 at 7:22 pm

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Forty-Five

Another slow-and-steady game joins the list.

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September 16, 2019 at 7:27 pm

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A few thoughts on recent games

Timechase — I remember when Mu und Mehr came out and discussing it with Jeff Goldsmith (who is still a much better bridge player than I am, but hopefully less so than two decades ago) and his comment was basically “Trumps don’t work.” Unpacking that, it was too easy to void yourself of a suit and too many trumps. Timechase has a great idea …. you play to a trick. The losers earn gems, and you can use gems to go back to a prior trick and play another card (changing the winner), you earn gems by playing low on a trick and some every turn (less for each prior trick you won).

And it doesn’t work. The leader has a huge advantage, and if you have to follow suit, that’s it. But worse, if the last trick was won by the ace of spades and you still have any spades, you can’t win it! You can also go back to “Trick zero” which just sets trumps (if you are alone). A hell of an idea, that doesn’t work. It would be better if there rotating trumps (for example, you could beat the ace of spades with the duece through four of clubs, which just changes the suit). I spent a game following suit for 2 tricks, jumped back in time to a suit I was now void in, trumped it, and then had no good options. (Trump had changed again and … even assuming I had any … I would have to follow suit and lose to any prior trick). I’m assuming this is better with less (we played with five) but at best I’m indifferent and this is borderline avoid, but I’ll likely try once more with 3-4 players.

Got in another game of 1889 — one thing that playing various other new 18xx (like ’46) is that I’m more enthusiastic about games that do not reward “hyper fast ROI at all costs and figure out how to rescue your train buys later.”(Which is not to say that ’46 doesn’t reward it, but it is not the sum total of the game). That being said, ’89 is fast and clean. I played an interesting game where I solved my long term problem by dumping my companies while they still had 3s and 4s while Diesels were a long way away and being a minority investor in safe lines. I’d had such an early jump that I was able to (barely) out score people with more shares than me at the end. Still enthusiastic, but I’d prefer a few other titles (including revisiting ’70) that are floating around the city. Also I heard City of Big Shoulders has qualities between 18xx and Arkwright, which is intriguing.

 

Played Power Grid — Northern Europe Map. Fine, and I like the idea that you adjust the deck based on which regions are in play, which gives some simple variety. The ‘no nukes’ rule seemed a bit weak, since you just had to have a non-nuke at all (as far as we could tell), but this was a fine variant map. Still playing Power Grid, so enthusiastic.

Had a decent game of Wingspan with not much Eggs, and may have won if I remembered you can substitute food 2:1. I focused on getting a lot of tuck+egg powers on the water (draw cards) row, and a few leeches on other people’s lay eggs. The fact remains that I’ve seen huge wins on engines built on the egg row and possible wins on other rows when nobody really thrashes Eggs. I guess that means you just need to grab certain birds ASAP. I’m considering raising my rating but right now I’m indifferent-plus.

Written by taogaming

September 13, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Labor Day Gaming

Tried Northern Pacific — A minimalist (Winsome?) where you either drive a route inevitably towards Seattle or invest in a city by placing a cube (and many players can be in the same city, but each player has one “large” cube worth double). When a city is hit, all the cubes pay out by being returned (with a bonus). But if you get bypassed your cubes are locked. At the end of each round, you get points for each cube you have left. Cubes left on the board are a (bad) tiebreak. So, implicit collusion and a bit of zugzwang. (Since you are compelled to make a move on your turn and cubes are tight). Interesting idea, didn’t love it, but its fast and I’d play again. Indifferent.

Got in a few games of Caylus Magna Carta, the rare ‘card version’ I prefer to the original (because its faster and the individual decks means that there is much more variety between games — players can’t always play buildings in a groupthink order). Suggest, still.

Another game of Quacks of Quedlinberg. A local has the (verrah nice) acrylic (?) pieces. I’m not a huge bling-out-your-game guy, but I may start it for a few games I love. Growing on me, a little.  The Taoling wants me to get this, I think. Indifferent plus.

(Speaking of blinging — I invested in quite a few card sleeves for Mage Knight which was a good idea — the card sleeves have worn out! That’s what 400 games will do).

Played a few more 1846 (and some others played the 1867(?) Canada game today). I’ve won all of these, but in the last game I really botched the opening. I took  the Port and CWI (? chicago token) and then opened B&O, but I parred it too high which meant I had to buy the first 3 instead of a two and a three and — adding insult to injury I had to go first in OR2 and was a build short of connecting into the NYC’s network, so I had a pitiful run. However, the owner of the Illinois Central got greedy and tried to dig into multiple Chicago spaces and that let me quickly steal/finish an E-W run through Detroit, and in the (long) brown phase I was running four, four and five train (the latter getting the EW bonus) for too many ORs. I’m really enjoying the 18xx Renaissance here. (It helps that a few locals are snapping up many different titles).

I didn’t play in that other one because I was playing at the bridge club. Here’s an odd suit combination:

Q8xx in dummy opposite ATx. Playing in 3NT with plentiful entries I lead low from the queen (planning on hooking the T) when 2nd hand played the king quickly. I won this (naturally) and then spent a lot of time looking at how to endplay the other hand to force them to lead a diamond presumably from their presumably remaining J9xx. I did consider if 2nd hand had done something tricky or just bizarre, but she was a new-ish player, so played for a stiff.

Nope — second hand high from K9 doubleton. If I read that I pick up the suit for three tricks and no losers (leading the Ten to smother the nine) but I just played for the stiff king. Frustrating.

At least I was playing in a deliberate pace and not just automatically. I gave several hands detailed consideration. Possibly even correct thought. A decent chunk of my analysis is — “which line gives my opponents more options to make mistakes” but honestly that’s a big part of the game at a local club.

Written by taogaming

September 2, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea

Nope. What he said. My thoughts further down the chain.

But I did get to play 1846, so I got that going for me, which is nice. I won (with a commissioner’s asterisk), and I really need to to play that more. It still seems like Grand Trunk for earlier ROI is the Royal Road in this game, but our meta doesn’t have many cross purchases to remove shares from the treasury. (The asterisk is really small, because I got the mail company for $60, which was a surprise and I think a big mistake by the others. But I’d drafted two of the “no purchase” cards and really neither other op could easily afford it).

Written by taogaming

August 20, 2019 at 4:53 pm