Saturday, December 30, 2006

1/1/07 Shogun....

Come and fight in the lands of feudal Japan on the very first day of the new year... after you've played the night away elsewhere.

A few confirmed yesterday: Chad, Jon, Simon, and me of course. Rick dropped out, and so did Ben. There's room for one more. And well, given that anything can happen because it's a holiday, please reconfirm to save you a spot. Dibs for that last spot to whoever asks for it first.

If only one more interested party steps up to the plate (ie there's just enough players for Shogun and no more), I would gladly host given that I haven't since the days before SABG. Snacks and leftover New Years booze will be provided. If there is more people interested in playing games, well I could just as well play this at DL (sans booze sadly).

I'd like to start at 11am to at least have some time for ~2 more games, but 12 noon would work as well. We could play until my wife starts threatening to bend and crease my shiny mint Shogun cards (gasp!).

So RSVP with preferred time (11 or 12noon).

Session Report: Twilight Imperium 3

Four players gathered around the table today to battle for galactic domination in the universe of Twlight Imperim 3: Shattered Empire: Carlos, Chad, Jon, and myself. Al would have played as well, but unfortunately other forces conspired to make him unable to stay for the full expected game length. Jon and Carlos ended up with two of the expansion pack races (lava people and the wolf boys); Chad picked the evil snake women, and I had the fair, noble humans.

We opted to use the full set of new variant strategy cards plus pretty much every bell and whistle in the expansion set. Due to only four players playing we didn't play with the Voice of the Council or simulated early turns. However we did use Distant Suns, artifacts, space mines, shock troops, facilities, race specific tech, the wormhole nexus, tactical retreats, and Custodians of Mecatol Rex. Once our galaxy was constructed, the game was on!

For the first few turns our forces ventured forth into the perilous unknown, with each of us claiming an artifact world and alternately cheering and cursing the distant sun tokens we discovered on the new planets we explored. Around turn 3 or so, I pulled a flank speed action card and zipped an extra space into Mecatol Rex with four carriers loaded to the gills with fighters and marines. After a tough fight with the imperial homeworld guardians, my troopers secured the capital and started digging in. During the fight, one of my troops proved worthy of upgrading to shock trooper status.

Meanwhile the forces of darkness were building on all sides of me. Overlord of the Lava People Carlos moved in with his huge fleet which included two of the massive War Suns (aka Death Stars). Chad and Jon each built every Dreadnought (aka Star Destroyer) they could and were loudly rattling sabers. Luckily, I was able to choose the Diplomacy strategy for the next two turns to keep my enemies at the bargaining table and prevent them from attacking precious Mecatol Rex while I solidified my defenses.

Alas, my efforts to keep peace and love flowing throughout the galaxy finally broke down, and Carlos plowed his entire armada into the Mecatol Rex system. I sounded the alarm, activated defenses, and sent unanswered requests for help to the far corners of the galaxy. Grand Moff Carlos's fleet survived my planetary defensive base fire, blasted through my mine field, then engaged my small but scrappy fleet in a pitched battle in orbit over the planet. My fleet went down in a flash of brilliant fire, but my rag-tag squadrons of colonial Vipers managed to severely damage both of War Suns and kill all but one escort ship. Carlos tried to drop his storm troopers on the planet, first bombarding piles of my peaceful space marines into oblivion. Despite the malestrom from above, my grunts held their ground, and I kept the Earth's flag flying over the planet.

Not for long though.... Chad, never one to miss the chance to backstab a vulnerable opponent (though he was encouraged by Jon and I), launched a second sneak attack into Mecatol Rex! Carlos' wounded fleet with two ailing War Suns, still busy trying to bombard my marines on the ground, wheeled about to face the incoming thread coming through the jump gates. Darth Carlos blasted away whole clouds of Chad's Snake Lady fighters! I tried to add to the fray by firing from the planet as well as making sure my space mines were still a factor. It was all to no avail Chad's evil reptile fleet blew up Carlos' remaining fleet, and we all cheered as two War Suns went super nova! I stopped cheering when Chad's marines dropped down to the planet's surface and killed the last of my brave defenders.

The next few turns found me licking my wounds and launching a small retailatory raid into the now fleet-less Carlos' territory. Opportunistic Jon, with a massive black armada moved towards the center of the board for an epic fight with Chad, gobbling up a few more of Carlos' worlds in the process.

Now that blood had been spilled, everyone seemed determined to build up their war chests for more fighting. Having had my fill of death by high energy plasma bolt, I decided to turtle up for the rest of the game and scarf up victory points through developing the worlds I was still controlling. I produced marines, fighters, and cheap ships like mad, and hoped everyone would leave me alone. Thankfully, my opponents also allowed me to pick the Bureaucracy power two turns in a row, which enabled me to cash in on four objectives in two turns, putting me over the finish line on top!

Alas, I wish I could have waited just one more turn to win, as we were about to have an absolutely massive fight between Jon and Chad for Mecatol Rex! This would have been a ton of fun to watch.

My sincere thanks go to Carlos, Chad, and Jon for spending the day playing one of my most favorite of board games. I am also thankful to FFG for producing such a great expansion set for the game. I think almost everything they added makes the game better (with a few items just adding good flavor). Lastly, I do owe the guys at Dragon's Lair a big thanks for being great hosts for our 7-hour game session.


Wed Dec 28

I arrived a little before 11, and Jeff and Brian were playing LotR:C. For it's length, I enjoy this game. If it were longer, I'd expect more, but it's short, so I'm happy. We played a round of No Thanks, which is a nice filler. Rick showed up and we played something starting with a "Y" that had a really neat dice mechanic. The game combined the pleasure of rolling buckets-o-dice with some actual decisions.

While we finishing the Y-dice game, Jon arrived for his CC:E confrontation with Brian.

Rick, Jeff and I played Reef Encounter and then Goa, both of which are serious brain-burners, but also serious fun IMO. Rick had played RE several times, and so he explain the rules with just a few addenda from me, then the three of us grew and nutured our coral until our parrot fish could gorge themselves. It's neat to see the reefs grow and change, and then suddenly a predator arrives and leaves a huge hole. The ebb and flow of the game is neat.

We turned to Goa, a game (nominally) about Portugese (I think) traders who are developing spice colonies in the Indian Ocean. You found colonies and plantations and develop skills in several tracks. We had a few mistakes, but the general flow of the game was correct. It's a neat game, and it felt close.

Rick, Jeff, and Jon had to leave, so Brian and I broke out BattleLore. It being our first game, we stuck to the historical scenario of Agincourt. We played twice, switching sides. This scenario seems to be pretty unbalanced, with one side having a lot of green (pun intended) archers with short bows while the other side gets elite cavalry. I had thought this was the battle that made the long bow famous, but there's nary a long bow in sight, and the cavalary make a mess of the untrained masses. I enjoyed playing the game, and my pleasure colored my memory. Brian had to remind me the game was lop-sided in each case.

The game was a lot of fun, but I reserve the right to change my mind after more plays. I don't mind if the scenarios aren't exactly balanced, but they should be sorta kinda balanced. "Play both sides" is OK since the game is short and fun, but it still speaks of sloppy scenario design. With so many excellent games vying for my limited play-time, I prefer to see better play-testing and design.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Twilight Imperium 3: Shattered Empire, Saturday, 30 Dec 2006

We're going to play starting at 1000 AM on Saturday at Dragon's Lair. Right now we're up to three players... The more the merrier!

I know it will require careful planning to organize a game of Twilight Imperium 3 (AKA My Precious....) over the holidays, and in fact I myself am not yet ready to suggest a date. However, I thought this would be a good time to at least start a discussion thread about the new expansion and for people to express interest.

So, for starters, here's some good links you might be interested in to learn more about the expansion set:

Recent session report on BGG - Good because they tried most of the bells and whistles

Fantasy Flight Games' Twilight Imperium 3 website - The expansion set rules plus a series of designer's notes articles on the expansion are posted here.

Overall, it seems FFG gave the game the full pimp-my-ride treatment, with tons of chrome added everywhere. In particular the new strategy cards; the conflict-oriented objective deck; race-specific tech; and new races seem particularly cool.

The week after Christmas, in particular, seems like a promising time to schedule an all-day game. Ideally we could get at least a 4-player game going.


Here We Stood Session Report

We all got to Dragon's Lair Bright and Surly. Our Dramatis Personae:
  • Rick (Ottomans)
  • Jon (Hapsburgs)
  • Rob (England)
  • Al (France)
  • Brian (Papacy)
  • Ted (Protestants)
We started with the 1517 scenario with Luther's Thesis. Ted didn't miss a roll (something that seemed to happen fairly often) and the continental powers skirmished around. In the early game Lutheranism swept through Germany, the Pope crawled through Italy, the Ottomans took a bite out of Hungary, and France built lovely Chateaus. Actually, the Hapsburgs, France and England kept bickering about Calais and Antwerp. A less decadent Pope would have paid attention....

By turn four (the traditional turn when any player can win) the Protestants were driving the game. The Schmalkaldic league kicked in, given Luther Germany (and 12 more VPs). By the middle of the turn Ted was over 25, reaching a high water mark of 28. But Rick had "Michael Servetus," one of two cards that can stop another player from winning and extend the game. In the fifth turn Ted threatened an automatic victory (50 protestant spaces), but the Jesuits (and a Pope not distracted by a campaign against Venice) managed to knock him back to 40. The turn ended with a tie between France, a highly piratical Ottoman Empire and the Protestants. The Hapsburgs were a single point behind, with the Pope and England lagging the pack. At this point, we had to call the game due to time, so Ted won (tiebreaker being the player who led in the previous turn).

Now that we've got a critical mass of people who know this, I think we can probably run through the 1532 scenario on a monday night. (In a few weeks, perhaps). I think we'll be able to finish in 3-4 hours (since anyone can win in the first 2-3 turns) and at most we'll probably finish in 6.


Friday Gaming

So ... who is meeting at DL tomorrow? And when?

Also, Jacqui and I will be hosting Friday night (if anyone is interested). That's in addition to our New Year's Eve blowout!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Combat Commander Secrets ... Revealed!

Given that we're playing Here I Stand on the 28th (see the other planning post), that means that I'd like to get up some ComCom on Weds. Or Friday. And the secret to winning at Combat Commander? A good short game.

Anyone interested? Bring your pitching wedge.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Gaming Around XMas

Now that Friday has come and gone (well, some of you are still gaming, but there's the rest of us) -- What plans do people have for Sun/Mon/Tues? I have no idea if the store will be open on Monday (I'll be out of town), but I could meet people Tuesday. I may host Sunday night (check in the comments) if people are interested.

As for gaming between now and Jan 2nd, I'd be up for another large game (Here I Stand, for example). I did get into a PBEM game via ACTS. Once I get the hang of it, perhaps we can run a SABG PBEM or two. (I know others have suggested this before). Ya'll could revive your Twilight Struggle tournament via email.

Or I could play BattleLore and Combat Commander (which I'm anxious to try).


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Descent on Friday, 22 Dec 2006

Okay, here's an official post for Friday's planned gaming. I'll be there at 1000 AM to begin setting up. It will probably take me at least 30 minutes to get all the pieces of the map put together and everything laid out, so others showing up might want to bring a filler game or two to occupy your time while I do my Evil Overlord thing.

My out of the box impression of the Descent expansion is that its amazing! A major feature of the expansion is rebalancing the game by strengthening the Overlord. Now as Overlord I get to do a bit of deck building, swapping out weak cards in my deck with some very nasty ones at the beginning of the game. The degree to which you're allowed to do this depends on the scenario. The expansion also replaced the original beast man and skeleton cards with new patched versions that make them more than just cannon fodder.

FFG also added a ton of new characters, spells, character skills, monsters, traps, etc., etc.... And this is supposed to be the smaller of the two expansions coming out... Wow, these guys know how to do an expansion right!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Session Report

Al, Rob and I got to the store at the crack of dawn to start Here I Stand. Counting setup and tear down, we played for about five and half hours. Rob controlled the French and Turks, Al commanded England and the Protestants, and I was both Holy, Roman and the Emperor. With three players (instead of six) you get plenty of control, but it's somewhat overwhelming. I suspect the full compliment of players shaves 15 minutes or more off of each turn. (I think we did the turns in a bit more than an hour each, with the first turn taking longer).

Despite Talmudic study, I got rules wrong. We didn't figure out how to use the debater / reformer bonuses until after three 0'clock. These are the troops of the reformation, and each individual has a unique character. That makes the Protestant/Papal decisions much more interesting, and removes my criticism that those powers simply push chits around. And there were others. Germany starts under the Hapsburgs, and we completely forgot the Diet of Worms. (Oops. Schoolchildren across America only know the Reformation because of the gross meal everyone ate. OK, that's a lie. They don't know about it at all.)

After three turns both the Papacy and the Hapsburgs stood ahead of the pack, but Rob raised the black flag and scoured the Barbary Coast, picking up VPs and cards, which let him make a desperation Assault on Algiers. The Janissaries prevailed, and Rob squeezed out the win by a single VP.

The game holds my interest [I discussed it on my blog] and I'd like to play again (with more people) before I go back to work. The tournament scenario can probably be done in 3-4 hours, once everyone knows it. And if we can't get up another game, perhaps PBEM.

After that, small easy games were the order of the day. And games with sitting. Short games require short summaries.
  • Tumblin dice -- The luck of shuffleboard with the skill of dice!
  • To Court the King -- I'm glad to finally see this released.
  • Mag Blast -- Pleasantly surprised. Good quick fun. Glorp!
  • King's Gate -- Samurai-esque Knizia game with too much chrome. But fine.
  • Arena Maximus -- De gustibus non est disputandum.
And then I got in a final game of Lord of the Rings -- The Confrontation. They didn't film this version, although I'd pay $8 to see Elijah Wood eaten by a Warg. But that's just me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday, December 18th

While there is a separate post going for players of GMT's Here I Stand, I thought I'd start a fresh one for the normal Monday festivities.

Unfortunately, due to tons of pre-holiday obligations I need to catch up on, I won't be able to make it this evening. I hope others carry on the tradition without me! Hopefully by later in the week I'll get the Grinch off my back and be ready to play.... anyone interested in setting up Friday daytime gaming, please shoot me an e-mail.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Recruit, Arrival Times

I have a potential new member. A guy my wife works with is really into project Gipf, and I think we might be able to convert him to euros eventually. I'm meeting up with him to play Gipf on Mon. He and I both know where DL is and neither is quite sure where the new place is, so we're meeting at DL this time. Since we're both working stiffs, we're meeting at 7.

FWIW, I emailed my cell # to some folks. It's a work phone, and I normally put it far, far away when I'm at home, but on game nights I'll try to remember to have it handy.

[This post was heavily edited. Some comments may no longer make sense.]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Here I Stand

I'd like to play Here I Stand on Monday. It's long, but that's why vacation exists. Start at 10am, play to whenever. Looking at the designers "Tips for new players", I suggest we assign powers in the comments (based on attendance) and play 4 or 5 turns.

Ben has the "Here I Stand in 20 minutes" article scanned. I can forward it around as needed. It's probably best to read the full rules at least once. I don't think I can explain it, and the last time I listened to someone explaining the rules, it took almost 2 hours. It would help if someone else brought a copy of the rules.

In general, I'm free for gaming during the week before Christmas (and potentially the week after), so other long games (on other days) are possible. 7 Ages, anyone?

A "no prize" for captioning the image.

[Rob -- if you need to leave at 4pm, I don't have a problem with letting you play and have someone take over if we need to go a bit longer].

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

12/11 Session Report: Avengers (gradually) Assemble!

I arrived at Dragon's Lair promptly at 5pm to find a 3-player Vinci game quickly wrapping up, with Brian's k-k-k-killer combo of Currency and Militia swamping Rob and Jon. A cry of "Hail Caesar" went up from the crowd, with two automated chariots added to crowd the track. After suffering the ignominy of losing to one of the robochariots in race 2, something finally clicked for Brian, as he just missed winning race 3 (all 1s in the final turn) and then closed the deal by winning race 4 to tie Rob for overall third. All according to plan, though, as I managed to outduel Jon by 2.

The group then split for Antiquity and Marvel Heroes, with myself, Rob, and Jon for the latter. We waited several minutes for Ted to come and be our fourth, but eventually took a bystander named Luke who was all but drooling on the components. I got the Fantastic 4, Rob the Marvel Knights (Spidey, Dr. Strange, Daredevel, Electra), Jon the X-Men, and Luke the Avengers (CapAp, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk).

Including rules explanation, the game ran 3-1/2 hours, or nearly as long as our previous two combined. That's skewed a bit by the fact that Rob missed an auto-win in turn 4 (out of 5), and I chose not to risk what would've been an easy win after that (the dice had burned me too many times), so we had two chances to be spared the hour-long final turn. In the end I again stupidly chose the wrong combat and allowed Luke to sneak past for a two-point win. I'm still not sure how I feel about the game. I like it, but I was never a comic reader, so I don't get into the theme as much as others (*cough*Luke*cough*). Fights are clever, but the decisions usually seem clear, and once multiple heroes start showing up, can go on waaaaaaay too long. The bulk of the strategy appears to be in how you spend your plot points on readying heroes and allies at the beginning of each turn. I enjoy playing it, but I'm feeling a little buyer's remorse.

To reward Simon's patience in watching the second-half of the game, we granted his wish to be repeatedly screwed over in some more Ave Caesar action. Since there were only three of us (Simon, Jon, and me), we each took two chariots, which made for some interesting tandem blocking tactics in race 3, when my chariots started 1-2. Unfortunately the bystander chatter became so oppressive that I missed hailing entirely in race 4 and nobody noticed until I finished. Simon won, and most likely would have anyway had I been forced to stop and hail. But it left me feeling that the more holiday gaming we do in people's homes rather than DL would be a good thing, and I volunteer my own home to that end.

Speaking of holiday gaming, here's how my "games played" list now stands:

Marvel Heroes: 3
Ave Caesar: 2
Battlelore: 0
Doom: 0
Descent: 0
WoW: 0
Combat Commander: 0
Crokinole: 0 (?!?)
Other cool stuff: 0

This must be rectified! I'm guessing this Friday at Jeff's will be the first step; don't miss the post below this one!

Same Gaming, Different Place

Brian and Jacqui are unable to host this week, so Friday Night Gaming will be at Jeff and Amy's house. 7:00 PM as usual. Email if you need directions. LMNOP in the comments.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A long, long time ago. Coming Monday

Antiquity arrived earlier this week, so I'm bringing it Monday. This is another big game by Splotter, who did Indonesia and the ever-popular Broads & Oats. [Item #46]

Antiquity has players building up their cities and gathering resources from the countryside. Each city map (not shown) has a Princes of Florence like layout -- you have to fit your buildings into a grid. Some buildings (like fountains) are single squares. Other buildings are multiple squares of various shapes. The Cathedral is, of course, a cross. And how do you win? Well, that depends on your patron Saint (chosen when you build the cathedral). Some want you to be fruitful, multiply, and get a population of 20. Others want you to explore the world, build buidings, or gather relics. And they help you ... each Saint provides a different blessing. And Santa Maria ... she gives you all the benefits of other saints, but requires two victory conditions.

Another medium-long, low luck game from Splotter.

What else will be there? That depends on you! I suspect a few games of BattleLore may break out ...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

East Front 2

So it finally happened. Jon and I met on Tuesday this week to play this beast (the battle front in the background.... actual active battles set aside in the foreground). What an engrossing game.

We played the Summer of 1943 scenario, which is right about the time when Russia (red starts pushing back the Kraut offense (evil black blocks...Jon).

I focused so much on getting the rules right....the hexside limits, the terrain effects, the weather effects, unit movement, round phases....and getting a good sense of the actual inherent power of each unit type.... that I really ignored formulating a decent strategy. Heck, we didn't even know what the victory conditions were until the actual end of the game, when we realized Jon had achieved a Major Victory (Decisive being the max). But at least we messed up probably just a couple of minor rules. It was a great learning game (bad terrain and weather can be horrible, armor units are sweet in clear terrain, use terrain to your advantage defensively, etc).

All in all, it was an amazing large scale experience of this interesting period of time, in 5hrs of gaming (with 30min just to set up the armies). I hope to play again in the not so distant future (5hrs is doable on a Monday night!), even as it faces distractors like BattleLore, Marvel, WoW expansion, and after 12/18 Combat Commander.

Sunday Sunday...

Anyone up for some gaming on Sunday day? Wife's at work...

The earlier the better. Prefer a wargame, but anything is kewl with me. Could be at chez moi.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gaming Friday

You know the drill by now, RSVP in the comments.

BatteLore Friday

My copy of BatteLore has officially been shipped. Assuming I'll have recovered sufficiently from the bent figures, I'd like to organize a game with someone for this coming Friday during the daytime. Anyone up for it?

BattleLore: Initial Thoughts

Okay, so I've read the 80-page rulebook; unbent all my bent miniatures; stored everything in fresh tackleboxes, and played a couple scenarios solo. Here's my initial thoughts:
  • Components and production quality is magnificent. Probably one of the best produced games of all time.
  • If you don't love Memoir '44 and/or C&C: Ancients, I find it hard to imagine you'd feel any different about BattleLore. The Commands and Colors system is still the main driver behind the game. The game essentially plays in two forms: medieval and fantasy. Medieval is pretty much C&C: Ancients with miniatures instead of blocks and with significantly simplified rules (i.e., no leaders, only a couple unit types, simplified big unit rules, etc.). All the rules about strikebacks, cavalry pursuit, and support/morale are virtually identical to those in Ancients. However, there are only a few medieval scenarios included in the game, so these really just serve as a way to gently ease you into the real game.
  • The real meat of the game that sets it appart as a unique game system is the fantasy/lore mode. This mode adds several different decks of action cards. You earn lore tokens as a consolation to each miss in battle, then you spend the tokens to power up the action cards.
  • The monsters are well done, having their own separate lore pools and power-up abilities. Each seems like it will be fun to play with, though there's only official scenarios for the spider thus far.
  • I'm hesitant to label this game as "Memoir meets Tolkien" or "Caesar takes a wrong turn" as I have only toyed with some pretty basic battles. The advanced scenarios running the system with all the bells and whistles turned on look very cool, and I look forward to working up to these.
Anyone else have first impressions yet?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Game Store: Game-A-Lot

For those of y'all familiar with Purple Cactus Comics, you might remember the store in the front where collectible games like Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh were sold. I used to be a regular there when I played the Legend of the Five Rings ccg and the owner of the store, Cliff, is a buddy of mine. Cliff recently moved Game-A-Lot out of Purple Cactus and has set up his own storefront on the corner of Huebner and Bandera. With the move he's expanding his selection to include Warhammer, other miniature games, and board games. Basically his store is going to cover all facets of gaming (he's even going to have a small arcade in his store). I talked with him on Sunday and he'd be interested in having a board gaming night at his store. His store has quite a lot of open gaming space (I'd say a little more than Dragon's Lair, just without the "private" rooms.). Maybe we could have a second gaming night during the week, like on Wednesday or Thursday?

Fair Play Games

I found this announcement on the site interesting:

!!! IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL FAIR PLAY CUSTOMERS !!!Let me share with you some good news and some bad news. The good news is that our sales this year are 10 times what they were last year. The bad news is that we cannot keep up. Even with many new employees, we keep getting further behind. We are working 24/7 right now to process orders, but it is not enough. As much as we would like to keep taking orders, we have to shut down for a few days to try to get caught up. We know we will lose some business and we are sorry for the inconvenience. We plan on being down for about 3 or 4 days and hopefully open up the ordering again on Friday the 8th or Saturday the 9th. Please forgive us, The Fair Play Team

Ten times the volume of last year! I hope all game merchants, both online and brick-and-mortar, are enjoying similar success.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Found it on YouTube of course.... good episode: 1 , 2 , 3

The next in a long line ...

... of gaming nights will be tomorrow at Dragon's Lair! Requests, pleas and bantering in the comment thread, as always.

And that picture, it's currently for sale dirt cheap along with other stuff. [The price will probably shoot up real soon now, but if it doesn't then someone got a steal]. (Auctions end 8:30 pm sunday).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cold Blooded Lizards Session Report

Last night Amy, Jeff & Simon showed up for gaming. First on the table, Coloretto This is by Michael Schacht, which means short and simple mechanisms. Simon called it a defensive draft. On your turn you can draw a card and add it to a pile, or take a pile. Once you take, you are out (until everyone has taken one). Towards the bottom of the deck there's a "Finish up" card. Once that shows up you just finish the current set of piles and score. Each pile scores using the common triangular formula, but only your best three colors are positive. The rest are negative.

In our game, Simon made a huge comeback in the final round to narrowly edge Amy.

The obvious next step -- big lizards! We pulled out Aladdin's Dragons.
At it's heart, this is a blind-bidding game. Each player has eight chits (numbered 1-9, with no '3'), and takes turn placing the (face down) in various locations in the city. Then you resolve the locations. The caves (where the dragons live) give treasures. Highest value gets the most. In the palace, the highest value earns the right to buy magical artifacts (which win the game), but have to pay treasure equal to the value of their chits. If you play a '4' chit, you have to pay 4 matching treasures. Play a '4' and a '2', you have to pay four of one kind, and two of another. Of course, if someone else played a '7', they win ... at the cost of seven treasures. In between the caves and the palace is the city, where each space does a special action -- buy some spells at the bazaar. Move the turn around around at the camel trader's. Get a few extra treasures swapped around at the money changers. And you have the palace gates. Each turn the guards patrol, and if you don't match their value (1-10), then you get evicted from the palace ... unless you bribe them with treasure equal to the difference.

Additionally, each artifact has a special power, and you can use one artifact per turn (two if you win the artifact space in the city). Everyone starts with a lamp, which you can use to cast spells. The other artifacts are bought in the palace. The key lets you get past the guards, the flying carpet counts as a '3' token. The doubler lets you double one token including your opponents. Come in second in the palace? Double your opponents '5' token and see if he has two sets of five treasures. The Scroll doesn't do anything, but breaks ties at the end. And the counterspell ... counters a spell.

Keep going until all the artifacts are bought, most artifacts wins.

Despite the fact that there are only 6 artifacts per player (and we each start with one), I've never seen this game tied. Jeff ran away last night and never looked back. Typical scores are 7-7-5-5 (or 7-6-6-5). Last night was 9-6-5-4. I personally had three (or was it four?) of my spells countered, and managed to carefully guess tiles to spend 8-13 points of chits for no effect several times. Such is blind bidding for you.

At this point, the sun had set. So everyone scurried home to rest on warm rocks.