January 25, 2004

Session Report for January 22, 2004

by Susan Rozmiarek

With soccer season approaching, we are now back to the familiar conflict between game night and Kevinís practice. For now we have decided to keep the games on Thursday night with Ed and me taking turns missing the first half of the evening to take Kevin to his goalie practice. Ed decided to take him tonight, leaving me to hold down the fort. We had quite a number of people show up on time, and immediately got two tables going.

Mark now has his own shelf on our game shelves where he keeps several of his newer games, hoping to get them to the table. While one group sat down to play Industria, I decided to join Mark, Helen, and Rick to play one of Markís games.

Great Walls

I had never even heard of this game until Mark brought it over. Iím not familiar with its designer, Benjamin Cedarberg. It appears to be a self-published game with a number of similarities to Go. The game comes with small bits of crushed gravel in four different colors. The board is a fairly large vinyl mat with a grid of squares. Players place their rocks on the board, one per square, forming walls to surround territory. Cards determine the number of stones and the configuration in which they are placed. These cards depict 1-5 stones in a wide variety of orientations, which reminds me a lot of the plastic shapes in Blokus. Each player holds a hand of five cards. On his turn he plays one and places the stones as depicted. He then gets to draw a new card. Play continues until everyone passes due to not being able to make a play. Players can opt to discard their entire hand on their turn and draw a new one instead of placing stones. The idea is to completely surround territory with your stones, each surrounded square being a point at the end of the game. Enemy stones that are surrounded during the game are removed from the board. Unlike Go, these are not scored, just removed. Another difference is that the edge of the board itself is not a wall, you must place stones in those spaces to form a wall.

Mark and Rick began the game by staking out corners, while Helen and I both played near the center. We both soon drifted toward our own separate corners though, and the game started becoming a race to see who could surround the biggest corner area first. As we built more towards the middle, we started taking the opportunities to invade each otherís potential territories. I had been the greediest, and had started roping off the largest area. I wasnít able to get it closed off before Rick was able to drop a line of rocks down the edge of the board into it. Then, as the others finished off their corner territories, they began to look for open space where there were still legal plays. Unfortunately, the only spots left were in my yet-to-be-enclosed area where I was still fighting Rick. The game finally ended when the space ran out.

Results: Rick 43, Mark 39, Helen 37, Susan 22

My feelings for the game are rather mixed. Iíve been learning to play Go recently and canít help but compare the two. It feels a lot like Go because they share the same objective, surrounding territories. The fact that stones are played on the squares rather than the intersections as in Go doesnít change the general feel. The big difference is, while Go is entirely devoid of luck, it is very much a factor in Great Walls. While itís easy at first to start your walls, as the game progresses and the board gets crowded, you are often dependent on drawing the right card. I often knew what I wanted to do, but was unable to get the card to do it. This got very frustrating, especially toward the end. The game also seemed rather boring the first half, as we built up our territories. It only got really interesting when we finally started bumping into each other. Perhaps with experience we would play more aggressively early on. Another, more minor quibble, is with the rock bits. This is a very nice idea, but in practice it doesnít quite work. The gravel bits vary in size but are generally much smaller than the squares on the board. It is rather difficult to easily see the continuity of the walls. Glass stones of uniform size would work much better. Also, a few of the colors are hard to distinguish.


Mark and Rick discuss the fine art of building rock walls in Great Walls

The finished Great Walls.

So all in all, Iíd have to say it wasnít a bad game, but not a great one either. Iíd play it again, but really, Iíd rather just play Go instead.

Fabrik der Tršume

Weíve played Ra several times recently, so it was only natural to move on to another Knizia auction favorite. This is probably my favorite of the trilogy that includes Ra and Medici, so I was more than happy to bring it out and explain the rules to Helen and Rick, both new to the game.

After looking over the tiles available the first quarter, I focused my energy on quickly completing Gone with the Wind. This depleted my initial contracts early, causing me to sit out of the bidding for a while, but it paid off handsomely. Not only did it get an award for First Drama produced, it also was the Best Picture, at 15 stars, for the first two quarters. I then worked on producing a ďworstĒ picture, grabbing up poor quality actors that others werenít interested in this early. This gave me first pick at the parties, a privilege I enjoyed at for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, Rick was able to make an even worse picture than mine, but I was able to see it coming before completing mine and I gave it a boost before completion. John and I tied for Best Director at the end, canceling out the award. Helen ended up with the overall Best Picture, but I was able to get at least Best Picture in one of the categories and a total of four movies completed, giving me an easy win.

Results: Susan 90, Helen 63, Rick 55, Jon 54, Mark 50

My, my, will you look at that? Jon has only one contract left in Fabrik der Tršume.

Flaschenteufel

Another outing for this bizarre trick-taking game. Mark and Jon had played it at lunch that day and were itching to play it again while it was fresh. I was feeling much more confident in my understanding of the game, having been given some helpful strategy advice on an online gaming forum. Helen was having a hard time understanding the rules though, so Iím not sure the results are valid. We only played two hands before moving on to an easier game. Just getting a little taste was not nearly enough for me tonight and Iíll be pushing to play it again next week.

Results: Susan 57, Mark 49, Jon 37, Helen Ė19

Trendy

We play this with lightning speed nowadays. Iím starting to get burned out on it, just in time for the new edition coming out. I expect Iíll have to play it a lot more.

Results: Mark 102, Susan 82, Jon 77, Helen 63

Yet ANOTHER game of Trendy.

Guillotine

We decided to squeeze in one more game and Helen suggested this old favorite. Since we had subjected her to a couple of new games with which she was not impressed, we obliged. Noble heads were soon rolling.

Results: Mark 23, Helen 20, Rick 17, Susan 17

This game is purely tactical in nature. You simply play your best action card when it is your turn. Anything can happen in between so there isnít any planning. With a humorous if tasteless theme, it still makes a decent, light filler to end the evening.

Other games played: Industria, Amun Re, Kingís Breakfast

For more pictures from this gaming session and others, see our Gaming Picture Gallery.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at January 25, 2004 11:17 PM

Comments

Hey, I love the new session report format. Great Wall sounds interesting; I'm also learning how to play Go.

Posted by: Chris Brooks on January 25, 2004 11:41 PM

Thanks, Chris. I'm really enjoying this format.

Go is one of my current obsessions. I'm reading a few books on it and I've been playing some 9X9 games against the computer with a little program I got here: http://www.smart-games.com/

I also have played a few games at Little Golem. My user name is SusanRoz if you ever want to play. I'm still pretty lousy!

Posted by: Susan on January 26, 2004 10:18 PM
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