March 5, 2004

Session Report for February 26, 2004

by Susan Rozmiarek

Tonight we ended up playing games that provided plenty of opportunities to smack each other. Being mean feels pretty darn good sometimes!


Bonobo Beach

It was another trip to the beach, this time with a full table of four. I had only played this game with two and thought it suffered from too little competition on the board. Well, with four, there definitely was competition, and plenty of evil tile placements. The game is decent filler, but doesn’t really “wow” me. The most interesting decision is when and where to commit your markers. After that, it boils down to drawing tiles, placing the positive ones where they can help you, and hosing your opponents with the negative ones. Pleasant enough, but for a similar game, I still prefer Auf Heller und Pfennig.

Results: Susan 43, Mike 33, Mark 27, Doug 16

Mike, Doug, Mark and Susan warm up with a trip to Bonobo Beach.


Next up was this enjoyable, abstract placement game. As usual, it was a quick race to the middle and then play proceeded much slower. You always have to watch your back in this game because as you’re sneaking into someone else’s territory on the board, there is inevitably someone else sneaking in your back door threatening yours.

Great game, with tough decisions because there are usually several places you want to lay pieces. Towards the end things are more deterministic and it becomes an exercise in efficiency as you try to place your remaining pieces as best you can on the full board. Newbie Mike trounced us by achieving the maximum score, playing all his pieces with the last one being the smallest for the bonus 20 points.

Results: Mike 20, Mark –9, Doug –17, Susan –27

Shea (blue shirt) offers Susan "advice" in Blokus while Doug makes his move and Mike looks on.

Blokus from a weird angle.

Nicht die Bohne

With the arrival of Rick, we decided to play a hand of this wicked trick-taking game while waiting for Ed. This is a game of groupthink that works best if table talk is curtailed. We allow some, such as telling someone to “do the right thing” but without being too specific. Obviously, in the one hand that we played, nobody did the right thing for me.

Results: Mark, 63, Mike 57, Rick 40, Doug 30, Susan15

Next up the evil card game Nicht die Bohne!.

Ave Caesar

We now had the ever-awkward number of six players to deal with, but not to fear, as we had a new offering fresh off the Gulf Games prize table. We’d always balked at the high prices that this long OOP game fetches and had never had the opportunity to try it, either. We were thrilled to now have a copy.

This game is a rather over produced, light racing game, but I’m not complaining. The molded plastic chariots and coins are fantastic and the board is huge which really helps make the theme come alive. And this game is dripping with theme.

Movement of the chariots is card-driven. Players each have a deck of identical cards, depicting numbers from one to six. Players hold a hand of three cards drawn from their deck. On a player’s turn, he must play a card and move his chariot the exact number of spaces as the number on the card. If he can’t, because someone is blocking his path, he misses his turn. The challenge comes from the fact that the total of all a player’s cards is just enough to complete a three lap race with a few spaces to spare IF you choose the shortest route. And why wouldn’t you? Because somebody may be blocking you, forcing you to choose a longer route. Yes, this game is another evil one, all about hosing the other players while carefully managing your own movement. And with a few bottlenecks on the course, it is easy to be mean. There are also some other neat things, like having to pull over and yell, “Ave Caesar!” while tossing him a coin in tribute once during the race. (We enforced this to the letter!). Players get points based on the order of finish and whoever has the most after four races wins. The game went a little long and was peppered with much cursing, but it was a hoot. There’s a lot of luck, but it’s definitely a worthy edition to our collection. I’m hoping to try out some of the many variants in the near future that are included in the rules translation.

Results: Ed 17, Susan 12, Mike 10, Mark/Doug 9, Rick 4

Rick, Mike, Doug and Shea contemplate Ave Caesar.

The 5/6 player board for Ave Caesar. The other side has the 3/4 player board.

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

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at March 5, 2004 5:07 PM

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