Saturday, August 04, 2007

Build me an army worthy of Mordor...Oooh! No, write me a session report instead!

We had a large turnout for gaming this morning. Ben, Jon, Chris, Michael, and Steve joined Amy and I. We got things rolling with a game of 6 Nimmt! During the first hand, Amy's friends Lisa and Tiffany showed up, so we called the 6 Nimmt! game early. I don't recall who was winning at that point, but it certainly wasn't me.

Ben and Steve went down to the Kitchen for Epic BattleLore while Amy, Lisa and Tiffany set up Cartagena on the coffee table. That left Jon, Chris, Michael and myself to play Goa on the main gaming table. The Goa game was fairly standard: Expedition cards are remarkable potent, Michael complained about poor draws (and they were, in fact, poor). I took my first action on autopilot and did the first thing I always do in 2-player Goa which completely hosed my 4-player strategy, and caused me to spend the next two turns trying to repair the damage (yeah, I lost this one). Jon squeaked out a one point win.

Meanwhile on the coffee table, the ladies finished their game of Cartagena, and also finished a game of Tikal. Tikal was a big hit with both Lisa and Tiffany. Lisa had to leave afterwards.

The Epic BattleLore session ended with Ben on the losing end. He proclaimed the scenario to be unbalanced. I'll leave it up to Steve and him to add any details they feel are relevant and to debate the scenario's balance in the comments.

After lunch we split for Arkham Horror (Ben Steve Chris) and Vegas Showdown (Jon Michael Jeff Amy Tiffany). The forces of darkness, or evil, or chaos, or tax collectors, or something ate our valiant heroes while the rest of us were building profitable casinos. Michael spent the first seven turns or so buying Slots. Just Slots. I braced myself for his degenerate strategy to suddenly explode in a shower of points, but it never did. He won a close, down-to-the-wire game. He admitted afterwards that he'd never seen the "All Slots, All the time" strategy win before (so why was he trying it?) but now I guess it has some validity. Despite the lack of hedgehogs, heads were stood upon.

We got in a game of Frank's Zoo while waiting for the Arkham Horror game to finish. Tiffany called it a day at this point but we sent her away with a ton of websites for gaming reference and purchase. Steve also had to depart.

Ben and Chris played some two player stuff in the kitchen while the remaining four of us (Michael Jon Jeff Amy) dove into Barbu, the Epic Trick Taking Game. In Barbu, you play 32 hands, with each player dealing 8 times. When you're the dealer, you have to choose which of the eight rulesets you'll be using for that hand (they're all simple - stuff like: standard trick-taking with each trick being worth 5 points OR standard trick-taking with each trick being worth negative 2 points OR standard trick-taking where the King of Hearts is worth negative 15 points and everything else is zero). Each dealer must choose each ruleset exactly once. It took us just over three hours, but the time flew by.

Most everyone called it quits at that point, but Michael and I split a pair of games of Jambo.

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At 9:11 PM, August 04, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

I was joking about the scenario being unbalanced. Steve's skill vs. mine was the unbalanced part of the game.

I hate losing Arkham. Still, its a rich, meaty game with lots of exciting stuff happening throughout. In the end, we failed to implement our strategy of rolling well with the dice, and so we were devoured.

At 9:42 PM, August 04, 2007, Blogger Carlos said...

Good session report, Jeff. Sounds like this was a hit with everyone and I am sorry to have missed it. I spent the day painting my daughters bedroom.

At 10:25 PM, August 04, 2007, Blogger Chad said...

Gah... so wanted to play Arkham Horror. I woke up this morning, ready to go game, and stuff came up.

At 11:02 PM, August 04, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I was running away with it when we broke the 6 Nimmt game up. Jon's Goa win was on tiebreakers not a 1 point squeaker. Oh you have the most money here get 3 points. Oh now with that three points you are have the win because you have the most money....I call boourns on the double jeopardy tiebreakers there.

The all slots all the time was more a function of the fact that after turn one or two there was always a 5 dollar slot available and it always felt like the optimal play as opposed to my preferred frequent publicity fest. Typically I shy away from slots because they are running 7 or even 9 dollars and at that price I don't feel like they are worth it. I also did throw a a relatively early restaurant and a buffet in there. Definitely a casino designed for the senior crowd. The standing on my head was apparently my anti-recruiting(and much less egregious than Jon's) effort but as Herm Edwards says, you play to win the game, and I felt like that play at that moment gave me the best chance to pull out a win.

Barbu was relatively successful. I think Jeff and Jon enjoyed it, not so sure about Amy who seemed to have a hard time wrapping her head around the play in Last 2 which can be absolutely brutal even if you are on confident footing with the play. It definitely isn't a weekly thing in our group, but I think it could be a planned activity from time to time.

Jambo was fun. I'm really respectful of that little statue thing that lets you make trade goods for 2 dollars. I liked the banana lock situation that came up although I knew like most good things it must come to an end some day.

I did attend the other group briefly although I did show up about 2 hours late and got in very little gaming. News of note:

Saw Blue Moon City being played. Saw Puerto Rico brought I believe by John or Jon (see below). I got into a game of Set which was alright and then a game of Rummicube which was also alright.

I believe I have recruited a new member. His name is John or Jon and he just moved here from Colorado Springs. I linked him to the blog, so Ben you can probably expect an email soon. I think he plans on showing up at the DL on monday so perhaps I have finally completed the elusive dice tower quest. Ted's friend Jim gets the assist though.

At 11:06 PM, August 04, 2007, Blogger Brian said...

Three hours is exactly why I've been disinclined to play Barbu. For that length I could play a session of bridge (almost), or some other game. Tichu is interesting at an hour.

(I spent an hour or so playing it online. Once my original partner got mad and left, I had a pretty good game. Not enough to win, but enough to save face).

At 11:42 PM, August 04, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I understand the concerns about the length but with experienced players things become more streamlined. Even trivial stuff like having 2 decks of cards and predealing when possible saves a significant amount of time.

I used to play about once a week at a friends house. We would show up at about 4, play a game of Barbu, eat dinner, play another game of Barbu, and finish with Big Boggle or Oh hell and I would be home well before 11:30 (about a 45 minute drive for me). Considering that dinner was a relatively leisurely affair with lots of bridge discussion I would clock that in at about an hour with about another hour for the other game. Thats about 4:45 for 2 games. Not perfect and not Tichu for speed but not completely horrible. Even when we played with 5 (basically there was one dealer you were never in on ) we still managed around the same finish times because the out player was always the next dealer and would deal the hands and figure out his or her call while the play of the prior hand was being completed. Plus we had two CPAs scoring with customized score sheets so even that was quick.

And for length, Rubber bridge can be totally agonizing with players (inexperienced) who feel like sacrificing repeatedly to extend the rubber is an excellent idea.

At 12:35 PM, August 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LONNNG post regarding Arkham Horror follows--those not interested in this game specifically may move along. These are not the droids you are looking for.

I want to like this game. I enjoy these FFG heavy-theme/Ameritrash/what-have-you games and had heard good things about Arkham. It certainly has nice...components (and many of them).

With three players, though, the game appears EXTREMELY difficult to win, and it felt like "chase the gate." I felt like we didn't get a chance to experience the "flavor" of the game such as acquire money, shop for items, cast spells, etc.

Every turn, a new gate opens (unless there is a gate there or the location is sealed), which for most of the first half of the game means a new gate opens every turn. A gate usually takes three turns to close: move to the first half of the Other World, move to the second half of the Other World, and move back to Arkham and close the gate.

With three people, this means you need to enter a gate every third turn to keep pace, which means you need to close one gate and move directly to another gate without doing anything else.

Things that help you keep pace with the doom track (essentially the turn counter):

A gate opens where one is already open (doesn't advance the doom track)
Mythos cards that return you to Arkham early (can close a gate in two moves instead of three)
Sealing gates with clue tokens (prevent gates from reopening, which is a small chance given the large number of locations in which gates can open)
Sealing gates with Eldar Signs (prevent gates from reopening AND decrease the doom track by one at the same time)

Things that hurt your chances to keep pace:

Getting "delayed", essentially losing a turn (it's not common but it's not rare either)
Failing on your gate close attempt (have to retry next turn, meaning a lost turn)
Gate bursts, reopening a sealed gate
Getting Lost in Time and Space (you get knocked out of the Other World before finishing exploring the gate, meaning you have to re-enter it and journey through it all over again before you get a chance to close it)
Losing a combat, sending you from your current location to the asylum or hospital and ending your turn there

Overall, maybe these things balance out, but my feeling is there are more things that hurt your ability to keep pace than help, which is frustrating. Even if they are balanced, though, any turns taken gathering clues, shopping, earning money, healing, etc. tilt the balance further towards not keeping pace with the doom track advancing.

Thinking about strategy, two things come to mind. First, when entering a gate, you really need to be ready to seal it first, because I think gates trying to open (and failing) in sealed locations is one of the few ways the players can make up ground with the doom track. This means maybe spending the first few turns gathering clues or earning money and buying Eldar Signs rather than heading to gates with no way to seal them. It just seems like we spun our wheels trying to close them too early--we closed almost all the gates in the game but never made up ground.

Second, maybe we should let a few gates stay open for a while so that there are more monster surges (and no doom track advance) and less new gates (with the doom track advancing each time), with the overall thought that this helps slow down the doom track pace. We seemed to have very little actual difficulty with the monsters (which leaving a few gates open would lead to an increase of)--usually combat or sneaking worked very well. The down side of this, though, is that there is also a maximum number of open gates that you can allow (the Ancient One awakens with the 7th open gate in a 3 player game), so it really is a tight balance. I think we had three to five open most of the time, so there's not a lot of room for error here, either.

Bottom line, the game just felt too "rushed," and I felt so pinned-in by having to chase the gates that I feel like I missed out on most of the fun. I didn't get to explore, or shop, or try many other encounters. It just felt like the doom track overwhelmed the game. Maybe it feels less rushed with four players. I know that more players means more downtime. Maybe adding more investigators per player like the Fury of Dracula multiple-hunters-per-player mechanic (two players with two investigators, three players with one each and a shared fourth investigator) might help, but this option isn't actually discussed in the Arkham rules like it is in the Dracula rules.

I spent a lot of time re-reading the rules today looking to see if there was something I had missed that eased the game up a bit--there isn't. Just a few clarifications on things that didn't affect the game very much but might be points of curiousity for those who played yesterday:

Spending a clue token to reroll rerolls ALL the dice, not just one (unless you start with zero dice, in which case it is one die per clue token spent).

When gate trophies are turned in, they go back to the gate deck instead of being removed from the game, thus decreasing the chance that the gate deck supply will be exhausted (and end the game early). The rules actually say that if gates are running low, you should turn in some gate trophies.

Monsters in Dunwich do not count against the maximum monster limit during monster surges.

Effects that say "in Arkham" apply to Dunwich areas as well.

Thus endeth our sermon.

At 1:42 PM, August 05, 2007, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

I've played Arkahm three times, but some of those games didn't finish.

I read a guy on BGG who said he's never won by closing the gates. Instead he wins by defeating the big baddie. I guess his strategy is to focus primarily on getting stuff and only occasionally close a gate.

At 4:14 PM, August 05, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

I've crushed Arkham Horror in about 50% of the games I've played. In fact, after our last game (with Jeff and Rob), I think Rob felt the game was too easy. Still, a few things to ponder regarding strategy:

1. The gates are more likely to appear in some locations than others. If you remember in our game, the sites in the center of the board received at least a third of the gate openings. If you make a point to seal these, you have a much better chance of getting "free" turns.

2. Re-rolling all dice with a clue vs. one die would be totally huge, but I don't think that is correct. Here is a quote from the rulebook: "Each spent Clue token allows the player to roll one additional die; if the result is a success, it is added to the total from the original roll." Are you seeing something different?

3. Arkham Horror, similar to another cooperative game, Lord of the Rings, can be very difficult. We were playing with three expansions, which didn't make things any easier, though I didn't add in the Herald or all the King in Yellow nastiness from the latest expansion.

4. Playing with four players provides, I think, the highest chance of winning. With five players or more, you pop out two monsters instead of one every time a gate opens. Four players results in more monsters coming out during monster surges, but then you also have one more player to mop them up.

Putting the spent gate trophies back in the gate deck is very nice. Anyway, I'm up for trying it again just about any time.

At 6:25 PM, August 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben, you're right. One clue token = one die.

I read the last page of the FAQ where it says:

Q: How does a re-roll work? Can you re-roll only the skill dice that you have before spending Clue tokens, or can you re-roll all the dice you’ve rolled on a given check, including the extra dice gained from spending Clue tokens?

A: You re-roll all the dice you’ve rolled for the skill check so far, so you can re-roll dice gained from spending Clue tokens as long as you spend your Clue tokens before using your re-roll.

Although it initially sounded like this meant spending one token let you reroll all the dice, this is not exactly the case. What it does seem to mean, however, is that there is a limit to the rerolls you get--limited to one reroll per die originally rolled. Is that how you interpret this?

At 6:22 AM, August 07, 2007, Blogger Ben said...


The rules state, "Each spent Clue token allows the player
to roll one additional die; if the result is a success, it is
added to the total from the original roll;" and, "Spending a Clue token always gives you the
bonus dice that you are entitled to, even if the modifier
has dropped the number of dice you can roll below 0."

The FAQ reference you mentioned is referring to "How does a re-roll work?" Not "How do Clue Tokens work?" Some of the cards require / allow you to re-roll. If this happens, you also get to re-roll any clue dice you've purchased.


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