Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pelican Sheep Station

Scrabblette and I spent the last week at Pelican Sheep Station near Goulburn, New South Wales. As even Australians don't know where Goulburn is, it's near Canberra. Goulburn is quite a decent little town - secondhand book stores, internet cafe, all the mod cons. Unlike Canberra.

I clocked up 69 plays while we were there - many children's games and party games, but also a decent number of capital games. I was badly beaten at Goa, Attika, Rheinlander and St Petersburg, but won at Alexandros, On the Underground, Through the Desert, and Unpublished Prototype. In addition I played Crokinole for the first time, and for the fifth time, and with any luck my board will arrive home with CyberKev.

My favourite new game was Crokinole, my favourite old game was Alexandros, my least favourite new game was Dungeon Twister and my least favourite old game was Balloon Cup.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


As mentioned in earlier posts, I've been doing a big clean-up of the game collection. You guys are noticeably NOT volunteering to trade my dross away from me. However, anything half decent is being snapped up, and I've completed some trades this month.

Nexus Ops for Africa - Nexus Ops is a very sweet game- nice bits, very good mechanic for encouraging war without turtling or complete player destruction, and easy enough to play. However even that much player confrontation doesn't really work for me, and I couldn't see myself getting much play out of it. On the other hand, Africa is a decent mid-weight Euro that I quite like, and I've already played 3 times. I think I liked the 2 player games better than 4 players, as with 2 players I expect the screwage (e.g. the kid dumped an antelope where I was about to put a camp for 5 points), and with 4 players I feel picked on.

China for Java - I like Tikal and Torres a lot, and am very interested in trying out the rest of the Mask series. I bought China because I wanted Web of Power, and it turns out that I wanted the theme more than I wanted the game. I'd much rather control Frankreich than Wu. China will be missed by people other than me, but if I can get Web of Power I may be forgiven.

Thurn and Taxis for Ticket to Ride: Marklin - Thurn and Taxis is a beautiful beautiful game, but I could never make any sense of the strategy, and that bugged me. In fact I never came better than third in a game, until I played 2 player when I actually won. So I traded it to the guy I beat... so he can lose at it? On the other hand Ticket to Ride is a game of which my opinion varies from "brilliant" to "boring". It's sort of a good connection game, but it's sort of boring when people block your routes... I can't make up my mind. But the big issue is that Scrabblette likes it. Scrabblette particularly likes the U.S. map (which is why we own TransAmerica as well as TransEuropa), so I will also have to get the base game, and I'll probably get Switzerland as well while I'm at it. I got Marklin as a stop-gap, and because I like the model trains and the 4+ engines.

We're Going Gaming For a Week

But only one week. I think all of these will fit in the car. Visible: Bamboleo, Roads and Boats, Carrom, Dancing Egg Game, BattleLore: Call to Arms, Balloon Cup, Army of Frogs, Tzaar, Die Dolmengotter, Super Scrabble, Primordial Soup.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Word So Weird It Must Be An Australian Animal

"It's OK! I've overstood! It's a Wordy Rappinghood!"

The other day Scrabblette was waching me play Scrabble on-line and saw me play JABIRU and asked "what's that?" This is the only word ever Scrabblette has not been able to tell me the etymology of. It's a type of stork. That suggested to me that many Scrabble players may not know some types of animals that are native to Australia, so I've compiled a list of some of them. I've checked these against SOWPODS, use them in a TWL game at your peril.


NANNYGAI's a pretty good one, isn't it? Your opponent is sure to challenge! By the way if anyone knows where my Tom Toom Club CD is, could they please tell me?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Great Game Reorganisation Continues

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I'm doing a sort-of-major shake-up of the game collection. The point is that I have many more games than I play, and I only want to have a few more games than I play. It occurred to me that if I did get rid of some of the games that I did play and didn't like very much that would be a good thing, but my optimism maintains its stratospheric heights, and a lot of games are staying in case they get better with experience and I get an opponent who likes them, and all that sort of stuff.

The first obvious result has been the reorganisation of the games shelves. I now have one set of shelves for kids and party games, one set of shelves for word and abstract games, and one set of shelves for proper good games. Of course I love the word and abstract games as well, but it's harder to find opponents for them. I'll take photos one day, but if I do it this evening the light won't be good and the photos will be grainy.

I also revised my ratings on BGG. Mostly it was minor, but I did promote a whole lot of 9s to 10s.

Attika - my purchases of Attika, Taluva and Funny Friends last year really made me take notice of Marcel-Andre Casasola-Merkla as a designer. Attika is a very nice combination of (sort of) economic engine and connection game. It plays very nicely with 2 to 4 players.

Domaine - I previously had this at a 10, but I tired of it a little but now I'm hungry to play again. It's bordering on too aggressive for me, but I know that being attacked is a sign of weakness and the game is all about managing your weakness to hold together your domaines long enough to win the game. I much prefer the simple card purchase system over the Lowenherz auction, and I like the geometrical challenge of getting the limited number of fences into the right places.

Hare and Tortoise - It's a serious math nerd game and I'm a serious math nerd. Sometimes it's just frustrating as described in my session report, but I realise now that I should have been using a different strategy and it was my own fault for losing.

Rheinlander - This is now my only 10 I don't own, and I've never even won it - CyberKev has beaten me every time. I really can't grok the scoring system. But I love the way the duchies can expand and threaten each other and sometimes the card you desperately need really does show up. And it's all over in 45 minutes! My plan is for this to be my first purchase of the new year.

St Petersburg - Yes, it's a very strange game, but once you get past the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot stage it's brilliantly tactical. I love the art work, I love the theme, and I love economic engines. That Michael Tummelhofer sure is a smart guy.

Tigris and Euphrates - another sort-of aggressive game, but you just have to realise that the empires are not mine and yours, they are mine and ours. It's a sharing game! I love the connection / disconnection aspects, and the possibility of really great moves.

Tikal - A very thinky game, with connection aspects and the potential for great moves again. Hey, I'm seeing a theme here! It involves a lot of counting, but that's something that sort of comes naturally to me, and my plotting and planning keeps me engaged for the entire game.

Torres - Another game with connection aspects and the potential for great moves. I love the way someone tries to escape onto a really tall tower all by themselves, and maybe with the right action card and a cunning plan you can catch them and take their stuff. The components are stunning, and sometimes I just scatter them on my bed and roll around naked. Oh hang on, no, that's a different game.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Game Room Stocktake

I just did a stocktake using my collection checklist as found at:


If you're on the stats you have one too. Sadly, I found all of the games I thought I owned and seven more. There goes the Friendless metric. *Sigh*.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yes, Agricola Really Is That Good

I spent this evening at CyberKev's house playing the print'n'play version of Agricola. This version is a combination of Melissa's translation and (someone I forget)'s paste-up art, all printed on cyberkev's printer. In case you think that's illegal or immoral or something, cyberkev and I both have preordered it - Zev is getting money out of us anyway! So, onto the game.

Agricola combines the good bits of Puerto Rico, Caylus and Roads and Boats, which is pretty clever because I didn't even realise Caylus HAD any good bits. The good bits of Caylus were that you could put a token on a building to do stuff. In Agricola that bit is translated to "you have a person who goes and does some work". The bad bits of Caylus were building ownership, bailiff / provost backstabbery bullshit and stupid theme about building a cathedral or castle or something that only served to interfere with the rest of your plans. Agricola has none of that crap.

I found the selection of actions to be much more like Puerto Rico (and hence San Juan) where you're just hoping that the other player won't take the action (role) you want to take. Even better, if the scum does take it, there's often a second-best alternative. In our 5 player game the number of available actions seemed to be just enough so that even if you got an action you didn't really want you didn't feel like you were completely doomed, you just had to change plan. That way I remained engaged with the game instead of wishing I was somewhere else.

The similarity with Roads and Boats is in the extremely simple yet effective economic system. In Agricola it's simple - two animals produce a baby, a field produces a fixed amount of produce like a Roads and Boats mine, more family members can do more work. The costs of things were such that I managed to usually buy the things I wanted without wasting turns saving up. The balance of the economic system was pretty sweet in the way that Puerto Rico and Power Grid's fuel system have done before.

We played the family game. As I was first player I started with some wood but was left at the mercy of the other players to show me a strategy to implement with it. I started sheep farming, built some pens and stables, got some more sheep, branched out into boars, had a baby. I felt like I hadn't achieved much but then I built a huge pen which took up most of my land. As the game closed down I tried to maximise points and put in a vege patch and a wheat field. I ended on 29 points due to having no unused fields, and the two winners only had 31. I felt like that was a creditable performance. Furthermore, the game only took 3 hours in a group where even Klunker seems to take an hour.

I'm so excited about this game that when my copy arrives I'll probably play with myself for days... My prediction is that Agricola will reach at least #2 on BGG.