Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Gaming Session Report

Let's face it. This blog is at its best when we have session reports to balance out all the planning posts. Many times, it seems like a lot of us are actually at the sessions, rendering the reports sometimes a bit moot. But Monday, only three people showed up: Brian, Sean, and myself. And perhaps the session is most memorable for what was not played rather than what was played.

Brian and I started with our usual perusal of DL's offerings. They had several new games in, including the new Race for the Galaxy expansion (2 copies) and the new Dominion expansion (2 copies). Brian showed his support for our gaming hosts by buying one copy of RftG. I passed on the second, figuring on getting it another time. Brian grumbled a bit as he bought it, though, realizing that he didn't have any extra card sleeves with him. Playing with some cards in the sleeves and some without makes shuffling more difficult as well as leaves the cards somewhat "marked," since you know the unsleeved cards are probably the new cards. So we realized we wouldn't be able to play it that night. Still, Brian opened his base RftG to add in the extra cards and--surprise! Extra card sleeves. So we started sleeving the cards...28, 29, 30...we ended up being about 10 sleeves short of the 40+ that were needed. Our brief ray of hope was dashed. No Race was to be played, even though we had the cards in our hands.

We started out with two quick games of Target, in which each player has a hand of cards similar to an Uno deck (in that the cards are all numbered and have suits represented mostly by solid colored backgrounds) and tries to lay down sets of cards (like Rummy) that satisfy certain goals listed on goal cards in the center of the table. Goals include things like 3 cards of the same suit, 4 cards in a sequence that includes a 2, or three cards totalling 4 or less. The idea is to be efficient and lay down sets of cards that satisfy two or three goals at the same time, because meeting those goals nets you points listed on the goal cards and keeps your opponent from getting them. You're limited in hand size, so you can't just collect 20 cards and lay them all down. You can draw to a max of 6 and then must discard an unwanted card to get down to 5, so part of the game is figuring out how to meet two or three goals with only five or six cards before your opponent can. Anyway, I'm a sucker for card games of all sorts, so I really liked it. For a quick card game, it's enjoyable.

Sean showed up during our second game, and we told him about the other copy of the RftG expansion available. He went and bought it, and we figured, "Great, we'll play with Sean's unsleeved set and won't run into the problem of some cards sleeved, some not." As we looked forward to our first game of the new expansion, Sean opened his base game...and his base game cards were sleeved as well. And like Brian, he didn't have enough extra sleeves for the new cards (and DL's sleeves didn't match Sean's). Once again, so close, yet so far.

To console ourselves, we glanced at the new O deck for Agricola that I got from Z-Man games this weekend, which is just more of the same crazy stuff, like the Schnitzel Mallet (one extra food and a bonus point when you cook cattle if you have a cooking implement) and the Emergency Housing (a family member gets to sleep in the stable--good times). After amusing ourselves with these for a bit, we moved on to Ticket to Ride, and Sean lapped me on the victory track at the end, getting both victory bonus cards and beating me by over 100 points when all was said and done. Ouch. Lesson for next time: fighting over all of the two car length track in the eastern US while everyone else builds the four and five car tracks in the west and midwest is not a great way to rack up points.

We then got Tribune to the table, a game which I didn't really care for during the first few plays but has grown on me. Most of my games of this seem to end up being very close at the end, as we all met our victory conditions on the same turn. Brian pulled away in points at the end, with his advantage in legions outweighing Sean's and my supplies of laurels. It's a game that's pretty convoluted the first few times you play it (favor with certain factions in Roman society have pretty different effects, and cards are collected through worker placement but using quite a few different mechanics) but I like that it has several paths to victory if you stay attentive. Plus, as Sean remarked, it has one of the most over-produced pieces we've seen in a game, with a three-dimensional cardboard chariot used solely to mark a faction as protected from takeover for one turn. It's the only three-dimensional cardboard piece in the game, and it hardly ever moves. And there's two of them in the box (even though only one is used in the game), in case your dog (or child) gets a hold of one of them or you want to have chariot races or something.

Finally, we wound down with Pickomino, a game in which you want to get worms. (Supposedly you're a chicken farmer and you need the worms to feed your chickens.) You roll dice on your turn, setting aside all dice of a selected rank and rolling again and again until you either choose to stop or bust. If you choose to stop, you can take a domino from the pool in the center of the table that matches or is less than your total or take a domino from an opponent that matches your total exactly. If you don't stop, you bust by being unable to claim any more dice because you've already claimed dice of that rank (for example, you roll a 3 and a 5 but you've already set aside 3's and 5's on earlier rolls) or you don't roll any worms (6's on the dice are replaced by pictures of worms, and you have to have at least one worm in your final dice pool to take any domino) or you can't find a domino to take that satisfies the conditions above. Each bust returns one of your dominoes you claimed on an earlier turn and puts it back in the pool of dominoes in the center of the table and at the same time (usually) removes a domino from the pool in the center of the table and puts it back in the box. The game ends when all the dice are out of the center pool (either players have taken them or they've been returned to the box). You count the worms pictured on the bottom of all of your dominoes for your final score. I managed to roll pretty well (Ben would hate this game) and claim several early dominoes, which Sean and Brian managed to keep stealing from me with surprisingly little shame. At least twice I'd roll a number exactly to take a domino from Sean, and he'd roll exactly the same number (and we're talking on a combination of EIGHT dice here) to steal the domino away from me. In the end, though, I wound up with more worms and fed my chickens the best...or something like that.

But as I mentioned, we were tempted several times by the fickle mistress that is gaming, thinking we were going to get to play some new Race for the Galaxy on several occasions but each time being a few card sleeves short of making it happen. I'd bet good money it'll be ready for next time, though.


At 9:26 AM, July 14, 2009, Blogger seanp said...

Tribune is a LOT tighter with three players than four or five... We all reached our four victory conditions on the same turn. I was working on hedging my bets to be sure I wouldn't be blocked on getting my fourth victory condition -- I realized after the game was over that I should have instead raced for that fourth condition, and also kept a closer eye on points. In larger games it seems like the conditions themselves are the game winning decision... but perhaps we've all gotten better at the game as well.

My secret to doing well at Ticket to Ride is simple : draw good initial cards. The game is much easier when all of your initial routes overlap...

At 12:31 PM, July 14, 2009, Blogger Tiffany said...

I am sad that I missed it. But I must be a good student. And work hard.

Speaking of Agricola -- apparently the expansion they are working out gets rid of the minor improvement deck. And the occupations

"This expansion replaces the minor improvements and the occupations of the base game with a large set of new improvements, and adds a number of new features. Horses are introduced as a new type of animal, and your family members now cost fuel in addition to food. You can get this fuel by chopping down the forests on your farmyard, or by harvesting peat."

I want.

BTW, Chris you are evil. Now I have to buy the Z deck in English and the O deck.

At 7:12 PM, July 14, 2009, Blogger Ben said...

Fantastic session report. Much appreciated!

We need to figure out a way to buy a wholesale case of sleeves.

I wonder if you'll be able to cook the horses...

At 10:45 AM, July 15, 2009, Blogger Jeff said...

If anyone does a mass sleeve order, I'm in.

At 10:46 AM, July 15, 2009, Blogger Jeff said...

That is, sleeves for Dominion/Agricola size cards.


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