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Thinking Out Loud

Monday, June 27, 2005

Game Session Recap for 6/25/05

Got another solid night of gaming in tonight, with 5 players... Tonight's Usual Suspects (and their BoardGameGeek nics) included:
  • Eva Crespo (DeiTass)
  • Alfred Wallace (alfredhw)
  • Jorge Montero (hibikir)
  • Geoff (dunno his last name or if he's on BGG)
  • Jay Little (ynnen)

We got to try a wide variety of games over the course of the night, including 2 games I had never tried before. So by and large a successful night, although I must admit I had some sour grapes over Santiago and Merchants of Amsterdam. Ah well, I never said I was perfect!



Trendy (played 5+ times overall)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1412

Eva: 132
Alfred: 116
Jorge: 141
Geoff: 120
Jay: 118

My rating: 8 (up from 7.5 last time)

The more I play Trendy, the more I like the light, breezy feel of the play. Rounds are quick, the pace is frantic, and everyone feels involved. If you get screwed over too badly, ah well, a new hand is only a few minutes away. I think playing around the table, so everyone is dealer once, and adding a running score for the game is a great way to spend 30 minutes or so. Very fun. Bang! should have this sort of rat-a-tat-tat pace to it.



Pickomino (1st time played)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/15818

Eva: 1
Alfred: 1
Jorge: 10
Geoff: 0
Jay: 7

My rating: 5.5

What an odd, dice-festy game. A few push-your-luck elements, and vaguely familiar of Cosmic Wimpout, but with some additional tweaks. Expect to spend a lot of turns simply passing dice to the person on your left, or having someone else steal a tile you finally got after 4 wasted turns. I'd play again, with booze, and it would fill the beer n' pretzel niche well.



Traum Fabrik (2nd time I've played)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/904

Eva: 51
Alfred: 70
Jorge: 56
Geoff: 51
Jay: 68

My rating: 7.5

Still a very fun bidding game, and with 5 players, felt a bit different than the previous game with four. Came right down to the wire, as I had a movie ready to complete, only needing a director, but failed to win a bid or get a director at a party over the last two turns of the game. Had I been able to get a 0 or 1 star director, I would have been able to seize the 10 pt Worst Movie Award bonus from Alfred... Had I been able to get a higher star director, I would have gotten a minimum of 7 points, which also would have been enough to put me over the top. So a bit frustrating that my only goal for the 2nd half of the game was stymied, but still a tense, exciting bidding game... Also interesting to note that Alfred wrapped up his movies early in the 4th turn, and didn't participate in any more bids -- just sat back to earn money from everyone else's bids, which worked out exceptionally well for him.



Merchants of Amsterdam (1st time played)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/531

Eva: 860
Alfred: 1090
Jorge: 1300
Geoff: 660
Jay: 720

My rating: 6.5

Clever decisions and interesting bid with the clock, but turn order heavily favors those going first. Luck of the draw can also have a significant impact with the timing of the event cards which move the turn marker along the event track. Taking out a loan is crucial, as the game seems to favor the rich getting richer -- they have the money to bid higher on items, gaining and advtange in the actions purchased, which leads to more money to spend on subsequent auctions, etc. Players with very little money can soon find themselves bid out of the game by never having the option to bid on anything, as their maximum bid ceiling is far, far below what anyone else can (and will) bid to keep them bottled up.



Santiago (My 4th play)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/8125

Eva: 59
Alfred: 72
Jorge: 67
Geoff: 77
Jay: 22 (yes, you're reading that right, 22!)

My rating: 8.5 (despite the serious drubbing)

I still love Santiago, and a 5 player game is a wholly different experience than a 4 player game. I did feel a bit sour after the first few turns, and never thought you could feel "out" of a game of Santiago based on the mechanics, but there you have it -- after the 3rd turn, I felt I was already eliminated from the game. Bidding last in the first round, the bidding was evenly 1-4, so I could either pass and get no guys on the board, or bid 5. So I bid 5 on a banana field and placed it next to the well. No one else placed adjacent to me, and the bribing (who was the $1 bid on the player immediately to my left) went to place the stream on the line that benefited all 4 other tile moves. So I spent 5 dollars, and had to either burn by only personal river or lose a guy on the first turn... so I lost a guy.

On the 2nd round, the same bid option came around to me -- pass and grab the overseer or spend $5. So I spent $5, placed my plantation somewhere I thought others would go, but again, all 4 other players padded out a field that the overseer placed with little bribing needed. Now down $10, I had to either spend my only stream and salvage my second plantation, or bide time hoping to get a good move later on. I opted for the latter, and lost 2 more guys. So after 2 rounds, I was down $10, and had only 1 worker on the board, as opposed to 3 or 4 for the other players, who all had substantially more money.

A combination of poor planning on my part, and a feeling that some players opted to exclude me from the beneficial moves, really killed me. I know that at times you have to target someone, but I felt that targeting the player in last place to receive the brunt of the impact for a bad turn was a bit overkill. So from that point on, I tried to play spoiler, and tried to end large fields before they could expand, or snag fields others wanted and put them in untenable places. Well, that didn't really work as well as planned... So a frustrating game, but one in which I learned a lot more about the subtleties and nuances to Santiago.

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