Wednesday, May 31

My Games Wishlist

My birthday is coming up soon (it's a round number :-) ), so I've been thinking about what games I'd like to add to my collection. I've listed them in alphabetical order:

Antiquity - I've heard good things about this fairly expensive board game, mainly from Mikko Saari's GameBlog. Its recent reprint means that I might be able to get a copy cheaper than the current exorbitant offerings on ebay.

Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals Expansion - One of the two Carcassonne expansions I played recently. Of the two, I think it's the one I prefer, but due to playing both at the same time I'm not sure which is which.

Carcassonne: Traders & Builders Expansion - The other Carcassonne expansion I recently played - not so convinced about this one - but it does come with a nice tile-shuffling bag.

Powergrid - Tim recommended this to me a long time ago (he was also the guy who recommended Carcassonne to me even longer ago), so that counts for a lot. It's also in the top 5 on BGG.

Ticket To Ride - A late arrival (I played it for the first time on the weekend), but I instantly loved this game. It's so simple, and yet still provides plenty of strategy. It's easy to see why this has sold over 500,000 copies in the two years since its release.

Tigris & Euphrates - Reiner Knizia has designed a staggering number of games, and lots of them are highly thought of. The only one I've got (Lord of the Rings) I really enjoy. Tigris & Euphrates is supposed to be one of his best and it remains in the Top 5 on BGG despite being released 9 years ago.

Tuesday, May 30

Ticket To Ride

A few week's ago the boys came down for a weekend and Mal brought with him a copy of Ticket to Ride, I was interested to play it as I'd heard lots about it, and yet it didn't get a look in as we ended up playing Carcassonne, Border Reivers and Caylus. Mal came down again this weekend, so I asked him to bring TtR down again in the hope we'd get a chance to play it. He did and we did. So here's a short review/session report after only a couple of plays.

Ticket to Ride is the first game I've played by celebrated games designer Alan R. Moon. I've heard lots of good things about it (especially the new TtR Europe and TtR Marklin editions). First impressions are very good, the box design is attractive, and has a slightly League of Extraordinary Gentlemen feel about the artwork, so it evokes the right time frame (turn of the century) nicely. The board too is visually interesting, the cards are well done (the use of both a colour and a symbol to differentiate between different types is good - especially for the colour blind). The pieces look like carriages, even if they feel a little cheap and plasticy. Plus, it has the 'Spiel des Jahres' winner badge on the box - which is always a good recommendation.

Mal explained the rules to me, which took a remarkably short amount of time, and then we settled down for a couple of games. We only played a couple of 2-player games, so I don't know if the rules vary for more players, but as a 2-player I thought it was excellent. The aim is to connect American cities with your carriages. The board consists of a network of cities with tracks between them, only one player can claim each track (although some tracks are double - and in a game with more players both tracks can be claimed, although in our 2-players game we could just claim either of them). The longer the track (they range from one to six), the more points you get, so it pays to claim the longer tracks; however, to claim a track you need the appropriate number of carriage cards of the correct colour. There are 'wild' carriage cards which can be used as any colour, and several of the routes are grey and can be claimed by carriages of any colour - although they still have to be all the same.

In addition, each player starts with some route cards, which specify two cities and a number of points, if you can connect those two cities with your carriages then you get that number of points at the end of the game, however if you can't then you lose that number of points. You begin the game with three route cards (though you can discard one of them), and you really need to make sure that you only hang on to routes you can complete.

The game proper consists of each player in turn taking one of three actions:

  • Picking up two new carriage cards, either from the five face-up cards, or a random one from the top of the deck
  • Picking up three new route cards, and discarding up to two of them
  • Claiming a track between two cities by discarding the appropriate number of carriage cards of the correct colour and placing your carriages on it

Play continues until one player has two or less carriages left, at which point the scores are calculated. There's 10 point available for the longest continuous route, and you add (or subtract if you failed to complete them) the points for the route cards you collected to the points you gained for claiming the tracks.

It's a very simple game to play, however there is still plenty of strategy to be had, as you need to get the routes before your opponents do; try to scupper you opponents routes and balance the drawing of route cards, carriage cards and claiming routes. There's a fair amount of tension as you amass the carriage cards you need to claim vital routes, all the while hoping your opponents won't beat you to them. Do you claim some spurious routes to distract your opponents from your real targets? Or would that waste valuable carriage cards?

The only thing I'll say against it is the 'veneer' nature of the theme. A cursory read of the box reveals a theme about a prize race: $1 million to the first person to visit every American city, in the vein of Phileas Fogg. But you don't have to visit every city to win the game, and the game would work just as well as freight routes between star systems as it does rail routes between American cities. Still, that's a minor niggle.

I loved the game (so much so that it has immediately appeared on my wishlist), it was a very simple, elegant game, and, as is the case with many of the Eurogames, fairly quick to play. I give it an 8.

Mal and I played two games, in the first one we both took about 5 route cards, and got all of them, Mal got the longest road and beat me by 6 points. In the second game Mal had a fairly long route, and then claimed a track near that one. I was lucky enough to have the carriage cards to claim the track between his two routes and I took it, hoping it would scupper him - and it did! I'd taken two fairly ambitious route cards at the beginning, and I managed to claim them towards the end of the game. At that point rather than risk getting some route cards I might not complete I just claimed long tracks where I could. When the game finished Mal revealed the route I'd stuffed for him, it would have been worth 17 points so he effectively lost 34 points from his score. I won that one in the end with a fairly hefty margin.

Sunday, May 28

Games Night

Last night we had some friends round for games. There were only five of us in the end (lots of people were away for the Bank Holiday weekend). We started the night with a 3-player game of Carcassonne while we waited for the others to arrive. Strangely, my almost legendary inability to win a multi-player game of Carcassonne deserted me and I won the first game - despite the presence of Roman, who is a very competent gamer.

Once Karen and Jochen arrived we settled down to a 5-player game of Puerto Rico. I based my strategy on shipping to the new world, but I was outclassed in terms of production by almost everyone else. Still, I got off to a good start, managing to utilise the Craftsman and the Captain in the first two turns in such a way that I was the only person to benefit. I was strapped for cash for most of the game (I had only 1 coin in the final five turns), so I didn't get many buildings. Still, despite all this I managed to come second, behind The Wife. Who was delighted to have won the game. Really delighted :-) It was a really close field, with the spread of scores between 39 and 45. I guess one of the good things about Puerto Rico is that everybody thinks they are in with a chance of winning - which keeps everyone interested.

We finished up with a few games of Carcassonne, as it was getting late and people were getting tired. We played two 5-player games, and then a 4-player game without The Wife, and again I managed to do surprisingly well. I won the first of the three, and came joint first with Karen in the second. Not quite sure why, I wasn't trying a new tactic or anything (although I did try to concentrate more on building lots of small cities in the field I was farming). I came down to earth with a bump in the final four-player game though, I came last by a fairly hefty margin, which was nicely won by Jochen.

All in all a great night's gaming. Plus I learnt the meaning of Funkenschlag (the German title for the game Power Grid), and got to practise my Deutsch a little.

Saturday, May 27

Ninja Galaxy Has Arrived

I went to the post office this morning to collect my review copy of Ninja Galaxy. It had been delivered earlier in the week, but I wasn't around.

First impressions are that the production quality is high - the pieces are of good quality and attractive (I especially like the ninja figures and the see-through dice). The box, rules and board artwork are technically good (even if they are not to everybody's taste - they are very colourful, with a cartoon flavour). The game arrived a little damaged (it had been posted in a Jiffy-bag) but nothing too serious, just a slightly dented box.

I've not had a chance to read the rules yet, or play a game so I'll post again once I have.

Thursday, May 25

Border Reivers Tiles Completed

Well, it's taken me a long time, but I've finally finished both sides of the tiles for Border Reivers. I had to start again a while ago due to working at the wrong resolution initially. I've got some feedback from BGG, printed them out at my parents, made some changes and finally incorporated the hills too.

I've now started on the design for the cards, hopefully this will go a little smoother, now that I know the resolution (and the cards design is simpler too).

Tuesday, May 23

Technorati

I was interested today to see who is linking to this blog, as I'm getting more hits now than I used to. I used Technorati to do a search to see who was linking to me and was surprised to find a link to this site on Yehuda's blog.

That was a nice surprise, Yehuda's fairly well known in the games world (he also blogs on Gone Gaming), and was chosen as Geek of the Week on BGG this week. It's only fair to reciprocate :-). If you're interested in blogging on the subject of gaming (in Israel in particular) check his site out - it's an interesting read.

Monday, May 22

Carcassonne Expansions

What a bizarre, yet fantastic weekend. How many times have you sat watching a heavily-prostheticised Finnish metal band win the Eurovision song contest with a room full of drunken metal fans, while a man in top-hat and tails bounces past on a spacehopper? It was a first for me too! It was Tim's birthday weekend, and in between the copious beer and champagne we managed to get a shed-load of Carcassonne games in. Despite the presence of Munchkin (and all its expansions), two copies of Citadels, Puerto Rico and Border Reivers, only Carcassonne got a look in.

I played in a bunch of 4-player games, a 3-player game and a 2-player game. As usual, my Carcassonne ability held up in the 2-player (I won that one), but I didn't win the others. I don't know why I fair so badly in multi-player games, but I almost never win them, I usually tend to come second or a fairly close third. I rarely get lamped, but I almost never win. Strange that I do so much better in the 2-player games.

Almost all the games I played were with the basic game plus the Traders & Builders and the Inns & Cathedrals. It was the first time I'd played either, and seeing as we played them both simultaneously I can't really differentiate between them. So I'll comment on them as a gestalt-entity. They introduce several new mechanics:

  • The bully - an extra large meeple who counts as double.
  • Resource tiles - city tiles which yield a resource to the player who finishes a city, regardless of whether they have any meeples in it.
  • Inns - A tile which doubles the points for a road if completed, and makes it worthless if unfinished
  • Cathedrals - A four-sided city tile which makes the city tiles scores as three points rather than two if finished, and nothing if unfinished.
  • The Builder - A meeple you can add to a city or road you control. Once placed, if you add to that city or road you may draw a second tile.
  • The Pig - A pig-shaped meeple that when added to a farm you control makes adjacent cities score 5 instead of 4 points at the end of the game.
  • A cloth bag - for shuffling the tiles.

I enjoyed all of the new mechanics, probably the resource tiles the most, I certainly made the most use of them. The bully was also good fun, and simple enough to use. Inns added an interesting new dimension to road-building, making them worth a lot more, however, you really need to complete each of the roads you get a meeple on. Cathedrals were used mostly as a scuppering plan - pick an opponent's city that's looking like it's worth a fortune, and place a cathedral in it. Everyone will now gang up to ensure that city is never completed. I also made pretty good use of the builder, but forgot the pig in every game. Which just leaves the cloth bag - a thing of beauty, it's so much easier than shuffling the tiles after every game.

Both of the expansions come with extra tiles, and this was where I was not so enamoured of the expansions. The new tiles seemed to lead to improbably-shaped cities and lots of tiny farms. This really altered the balance of the game, as the farms were far less open and it was much harder to muscle in on an opponent's big farm.

I'm not totally convinced about the expansions, I did really enjoy the new mechanics but I'm not so convinced about the new tiles. I probably would need to play the expansions a few more times to get a better feeling for them, but for the moment I'm tempted to play the new rules without some of the new tiles...

Tuesday, May 16

Jack's Top 5: Number 3

It describes itself as 'An Epic Board Game of Galactic Conquest, Politics and Trade' and the emphasis is definitely on Epic - the box measures 59cm x 30cm x 10 cm an weighs an absolute ton. It's Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition by Christian T. Petersen (herein after referred to as Twiglet for the sake of brevity).

First impressions? It's Fantasy Flight Games at their best, it's huge, has hundreds of detailed plastic pieces and lavishly illustrated box, tiles and player mats. It has 10 races (though only six can play) and vast action and political card decks ensuring that you never play the same game twice. The rules are also clearly explained and well illustrated, but the sheer breadth of them means you're bound to miss some rules the first few times you play.

That's the good, so what's the bad? Well, you've got to be prepared to give up a day to play this one, I've played many games, the shortest of which was a 3-player, with players who had all played yesterday, that came in at an impressive 2.5 hours, the longest game (a 5-player with several newbies) was curtailed after 10 and a half hours. Yes, 10! It's one of those games where you know it would go much faster if you all could remember the rules, sadly it takes so long to play that you can only play it every few months, by which time everyone has forgotten them again. We also struggle to fit all the pieces onto our 5' x 3' table - this game takes up a lot of space. Still, even for all that I love Twiglet.

It's not only epic in terms of box size, the rules read like all you favourite games rolled into one ├╝ber-game, it has a variable turn structure (very similar to Citadels), a modular hex board, surprise action cards, politics and voting, combat, claiming territory and victory objectives. The rules also include 5 'game options' which allow you to tweak the rules slightly, like very simple expansions.

The modular board consists of a number of hexagonal tiles (between 28 and 37 depending upon the number of players) which each feature either a star system containing 1 or 2 planets and possibly a wormhole entrance which connects to another tile on the board, a nebula (limits movement, good defensively), a supernova (totally impassable), an asteroid belt (cannot be moved into or through initially), or a player's home system featuring 1 to 3 planets. Planets provide resources (used for building ships and buying technology) and influence (used to vote on laws and elections). When you use a planet's resources or influence you exhaust the planet and it cannot be used again until it has been refreshed at the end of the turn. The game also features trade goods, which you receive for bilateral trade agreements between players - these can be used interchangeably with the resources provided by planets.

Play begins with each player in turn taking one (or two, depending upon the number of players) strategy cards. These strategies each have a 'primary' ability available to the player who chooses it, and a secondary ability, available to all the other players at a small cost. The choice of strategy determines the running order of the subsequent turn (much like Citadels) so you can get the jump on an opponent by choosing a lower-numbered strategy. There are eight strategies:

  1. Initiative (primary: none but you don't have to pay for other player's secondary strategies and you get to move first and choose strategy first next time; secondary: none)
  2. Diplomacy (primary: choose a player - you cannot attack each other this turn; secondary: you may refresh half your planets allowing you to use their resources or influence again)
  3. Political (primary: resolve a political agenda and rig the political card deck; secondary: you may draw an action card (surprise tactic)
  4. Logistics (primary: gain 4 command counters (needed to expand you fleet, play other players secondary strategies and move, build & attack); secondary: spend influence to gain command counters)
  5. Trade (primary: negotiate new trade agreements, then earn trade goods from your trade agreements (+3) or break everyone's trade agreements; secondary: you may earn trade goods from your trade agreements)
  6. Warfare (primary: you may deactivate a system you have already moved into or built in, allowing you to move further or build more; secondary: you may move some of your units into an adjacent empty tile)
  7. Technology (primary: gain a technology of your choice; secondary: you may pay 8 resources (or trade goods) to gain a technology of your choice)
  8. Imperial (primary: gain 2 VPs and reveal a public objective; secondary: you may build in a system regardless of whether or not it is already activated)

The main bulk of the turn then consists of players taking it in turns to either: play the primary ability of their strategy card and then let the others play the secondary; activate a system to move into it, attack another player, capture planets and/or build reinforcements there; activate two systems to swap forces between them or pass. This phase continues until all players have passed. To activate a system you need to place one of your limited supply of command counters in it, and once activated you may not move units into or out of that system. This means you have to think careful about the order in which you activate your systems and your command counters limit the number of systems you can activate in any one turn. Command counters are also required to perform the secondary ability on the majority of the strategies, so they really are very important - you will find yourself often hoping to get the Logisitics strategy to replenish your supply of command counters.

At the end of each turn you get to refresh your planets, receive an action card (very useful surprises that can really scupper an opponent's plans), claim any of the public objectives you have met for some VPs, or your secret objective for more VPs and return the strategy card you chose. The turn then begins again. The game is won when a player gets 10 VPs, most of the early public objectives are worth one, and most of the secret objectives are worth two, however, just playing the Imperial strategy card gives you 2 VPs, so the game is almost always won by the player who chose it the most. There has been a lot of complaining on BGG about how the Imperial strategy card breaks the game since if you don't take it every chance you get, you will get beaten by someone who does. However, I'm lucky enough to play it with a bunch of people who don't all rush to the Initiative and Imperial strategies, we play the game and try to win through a variety of strategies - that's not to say they never get chosen, just not always.

There are several different units each with their own model and strengths and weaknesses, and combats can be fought in space and on the various planets. Each race has its own special abilities which will affect your style of place, some of them are strengths others are weaknesses, and since there are 10 races and you determine your race randomly, the game will be different every time you play.

It is not the most original game, either in mechanics (the designer freely admits he was influenced by several other games in a Designer's Notes section in the rule book) or in theme (anyone fancy trying to find a synonym for 'War Sun'? The large, spherical and most deadly unit?), but it is a well crafted and beautifully presented game. The length of the game is perhaps a bit excessive (the box claims 4-6 hours, but it certainly takes longer than that if you haven't played it for a while) but I love it none-the-less. Rumour has it that an expansion is forthcoming which will increase it up to 8 players! For which you will require a small country to act as a table and you'll need to start early to finish a game within the day. Overall, I give this an eight, though I'd be tempted for a little higher if it was a slightly shorter game.

Thursday, May 11

Jack's Top 5: Number 4

I'll probably repeat this Top 5 exercise in a few months time once I've had a chance to play more games, I would imagine this one will be upwardly mobile during that time as it is phenomenally popular on BGG and I've only played it three times, so I'm not fully up to speed on it yet. So without further ado:

Caylus by William Attia is fairly heavy strategy game, themed around the building of a castle. Players compete as foremen, each trying to gain the most credit for the castle's construction. Initial impressions were not that favourable: an awful box illustration and nigh-impenetrable rules, however the board design is quite clever with an integrated scoreboard, and a track ordered in activation order, and as ever with the Eurogames the pieces are lovely little stained wooden numbers.

Once the game gets underway, players take it in turns to place workers in buildings to gain resources or other benefits. Only one worker may be placed in each building (with a couple of exceptions) each turn, so turn order is important. Fortunately, one of the buildings allows you to move up the turn order by placing a worker in it. Each player only has six workers, and placing a worker costs money (starting at one dernier, but rapidly increasing as players pass), so your options are limited in three dimensions, as other players fill the other buildings, you run out of money and you run out of workers.

After the every player has passed you each get to move the Provost, a mechanism which allows to to disable the more advanced buildings. Moving the Provost costs one dernier per square, moving him forward makes more buildings accessible, moving him back disables buildings instead. Players try to place the Provost in a location where they can activate all the buildings they have workers in, while denying as many of their opponents as possible. In addition, simply moving the Provost forward will speed the end of the game, while moving him back can delay it - allowing players an opportunity to end the game at the time most opportune for themselves.

Once each player has had a chance to move the Provost, the buildings are activated in order, and each player gains the resources or other benefit from the buildings they had workers in. The order is important, as I've already fallen foul of it a couple of times, placing workers to perform an action, safe in the knowledge that I've placed other workers to gain the requisite resources, only to realise later that the action worker is activated before the resource worker has collected the necessary goods. There are buildings to let you build other buildings, gain resources, trade resources for cash, gain cash, trade cash for resources, change the turn order and several others. The options throughout the game are manifold, leading to plenty of interesting strategising. Buildings come in several types, wooden(basic), stone (more advanced), residential (earn you cash) and prestige (contribute significantly towards winning the game). Each time you build a building you get a small VP bonus, and every time another player places a worker in one of your buildings you get a further VP, so buildings are a potentially winning strategy.

After building activation, all those players who placed a worker in the castle get to deliver batches of goods to the castle building site, contributing towards one of the three stages of the castle. Each batch must consist of three different goods, and you may deliver as many batches as you have goods. Batches earn you a significant number of VPs (5, 4 and 3 respectively for the three stages of the castle), and in addition, the player who delivered the most batches this turn gains a Royal Favour (more on these in a minute). When each section of the castle is complete, players may gain additional favours if they have delivered enough batches to that section, or lose VPs if they have delivered none.

The Royal Favours mentioned above come in four flavours: Cash, VPs, Resources and Building. Every time you gain a favour you may increment your marker along your choice of one of the four tracks, with successive favours on a track giving a larger reward, encouraging players to specialise on one or two tracks. The favours are a nice mechanism which allow players to choose their reward for building the castle. Short on cash? Gain money favours. Getting creamed on the scoreboard? Gain VPs.

From the three games I've played (two 4-player games and a 2-player game) it is clear that Caylus is a very good, and very complex game. There are still whole realms of the game I've yet to experience, and rules which I've failed to get right, but there are so many options and strategies that the game certainly appeals to me and offers plenty of replayability. I can easily see this becoming a favourite as time goes on. With limited experience I give Caylus a solid 8 on the BGG scale.

Wednesday, May 10

Jack's Top 5: Number 5

As promised earlier, I'm going to review my current five favourite games. This list will probably surprise a lot of the more hardcore readers, as I really haven't played a lot of games. Every time I try to get to my local games group something comes up - so I'm limited to my collection and those of my friends. Having said that, I think the games in my top five are excellent, and stand a good chance of remaining there as I get to know more games.

Coming in at number five, the game which has sold 10 million copies over the last 11 years (according to SpielBoy including expansions and variants): The Settlers of Catan. Or The Kettlers of Satan, as Tim insists on referring to it. :-)

I've only played the basic version of Settlers, although I have heard from a wealth of sources that the expansions (especially The Knights and Castles of Catan) really bring something to the game. Settlers was one of the first 'German-style' or Eurogames to really score big and it's easy to see why.

Players interact throughout the game, reducing the amount of 'downtime' while you wait for the other players to complete their turns. Each player's turn begins with a die roll to determine which territories will produce goods this turn. Any player with a town or city on the corner of those territories gain those resources - so right from the very start multiple players get involved. The active player gets to propose trades with other players, leading invariably to the age old 'I've got wood for your sheep' joke, and then they get to spend resources on roads, towns, cities or cards.

The aim of the game is to earn 10 VPs through building towns (1) and cities (2), maintaining the longest road (2) and the largest army (2). In addition, some of the cards give you the ability to gain VPs too. Once a player has built a town or city those points are theirs for ever, however the largest army and longest road points can be stolen if another player out-does them in that arena.

Strategy enters the game right from the off, as players have to chose the locations of their initial towns. You place towns on the corners between two or three territories, and aim to get access to all the resources in the game through your towns. Each territory also has a number associated with it, which determines how often the resources are produced. Since the resources are produced when the territory's number is rolled on 2D6, you want territories with numbers near to 7. However, throughout the game players get to place the 'Robber' on a territory, stealing resources from an adjacent player, and stopping that territory from producing until the Robber is moved again. So you don't want to chose territories with numbers too near 7 as you can bet that those will be the most robbed, and hence least productive, territories throughout the game. Further strategies include going for the longest road or largest army, intentionally blocking another player's longest road attempt and building cities to increase your income.

In summary then, Settlers is a great game, undoubtably. It's fantastically successful, and it's easy to see why: continuous player involvement, fairly short game time, a wealth of options at every stage and plenty of strategising opportunities. In terms of production, the version I've got is so-so, the box has an average illustration, the cards and tiles are alright and there's no insert to organise the pieces within the box. However, the rules are very well explained, and the wooden pieces are beautiful. In addition, there are lots of 'play hints' strewn across the pieces themselves - from dots and colour cues on the number counters showing their relative production frequency, to the way the resource cards tie in with the tile design for the tiles that produce them. Also, the cost of purchases on the little 'shopping list' cards that every player gets, make the game easier to pick up and learn. Overall, I give it 8/10 on the BGG scale.

Monday, May 8

Citadels & Carcassonne

I was down visiting my parents and the in-laws last weekend, and on Saturday night we got a five player game of Citadels in, followed by a few games of Carcassonne.

I've not played Citadels in a good few months, so it was interesting to come back to it. There are definitely some things about it that I really like, I love that the person who finished the game gets a bonus but doesn't necessarily win. I love that the turn order is based on the role you chose, rather than your seating position. However, there are some things I don't like. While the roles that target a character rather than a player are definitely fun to play for the person who chose them, trying to second guess the target player's choice, they aren't so much fun for the player who gets hit by accident when they guess wrong. As a result you tend to end up going for the mediocre roles (i.e. not the Merchant or the Architect) as you don't want to be targeted by the Assassin or the Thief either intentionally or accidently.

Maybe I'm just bitter because the Warlord destroyed my Castle in the first turn, and I was assassinated in the second turn. After which I struggled to get back in the game. I didn't play an aggressive game (I don't think I chose the Assassin or the Thief once), so my combination of a fairly defensive strategy and my fear of the high-risk roles obviously didn't work out for me. In the end Suzy won with 25 points, and Matt, Jan and I came joint second with 22.

After that I played three games of Carcassonne. Just plain old vanilla Carcassonne, not even using the River expansion that ships with it. In the first game Matt won when Suzy joined up her second farmer with one of mine, shutting me out of the farming points I needed to sneak past him. Matt and I then played two 2-player games. Matt had won the first game without doing any farming (just some mammoth cities), so he stuck with that strategy while I farmed for England. In a 2-player game I think the farmers will always win the day, as proved to be the case in those games. Still, the more I play it (as you can tell, I'm playing it a lot at the moment) the more I like it, and I've had it several years now.

I also spent a decent amount of time on the weekend working out some Border Reiver ideas with my Dad (who's an artist and designer), trying out some of the feedback I got from BGG and pounding his colour printer until it ran out of ink :-). I've taken on board several of the BGG suggestions and will have new artwork available soon.

Wednesday, May 3

New Border Reivers Tiles Design

As I mentioned a while ago I had to redo the tiles design I had started for Border Reivers increasing the resolution for better printing results. I took advantage of the opportunity to write a small program to accurately place the overlay elements, and since then I have been working on improving the drawing side of things.

You can see the latest version over on the Border Reivers Design Page. Still not quite finished, but it's definitely getting there.

I'm currently soliciting feedback, so if you've got any comments now's the time to make them before it goes to the printers :-)

Monday, May 1

2-Player Caylus

After a hard afternoon on the allotment, The Wife and I tried a 2-player game of Caylus. Since we'd both played it a couple of times before, we were off to a flying start. I tried to concentrate on building the castle, and getting favours - which I used to gain money. I was fairly flush for most of the game as a result. The Wife managed to match me batch-for-batch delivering to the castle however, and she too raked in the favours. She went down the building track and due to an error in rules comprehension was royally rewarded. She also built a lot more buildings than me, and was reward for that too.

We didn't use the provost much, but even so, with only two players the game was over quite quickly (about an hour and a half). I'd spent the last four or so turns stock-piling gold and stone to get a prestige building, however, in the last turn I realised that if I didn't delivery some batches instead The Wife would, building an unassailable lead. It turns out the lead was unassailable anyway, she beat me 105 to 95.

As a 2-player Caylus was good fun, and much quicker than as a 4/5-player game. It retained the majority of its manoeuvring, only the turn order is simplified out. I think I'm enjoying it more with every play, but I've yet to understand it well enough to win a game :-/.

On The Wife's recommendation I'm going to do some reviews rather than session reports over the next few days. My current top 5 games reviewed in reverse order - number 5 counting down to number 1.