May 17, 2004

Session Report for May 13, 2004

by Susan Rozmiarek

I’ve gotten behind on writing session reports lately, but now I’d like to get back on a regular schedule. With summer almost here, I should have more time so this shouldn’t be a problem.



Ed and I played this game at the Gathering and really enjoyed it. Neither of us are fans of party games in general, but this one doesn’t require any type of humiliating performance or knowledge of trivia and/or popular culture. In other words, you can play it without too much danger of looking really stupid. The fact that Ed was willing to play it more than once and suggested buying it says a lot. However, we were concerned that our enjoyment was a result of playing it with people who liked this sort of game and that it would go over like a lead balloon with our own group.

The game comes with a “thingamajig,” a little electronic device that has words stored in it. On your turn, you take it and press a button and it shows you a single random word. You then give a verbal clue as to what the word is. The other players secretly make a guess and write it down. All guesses are revealed simultaneously. Every player who guessed correctly gets a plastic chip. The player giving the clue gets a chip for EACH correct guess EXCEPT in the case of everyone guessing correctly. In that case, he gets nothing. He then passes the thingamajig to the next person. The game ends when the pool of chips is depleted. Whoever has the most chips is the winner. We also used a fun variant in which you could offer up a chip as a bet to double your reward for a correct guess or lose the chip for an incorrect one.

The idea, of course, is to give easy enough clues that most people guess correctly but not so easy that everyone does. The only problem in our game was that my eleven year-old son, Kevin, was playing. He did fairly well, but it was sometimes easy to give a clue that everyone would get but him. For example, Doug’s word was “Washington” and his clue was “what state is Tacoma in?” Oops. Bad example. Surprisingly, several people didn’t get that one! Despite this, most of us had a lot of fun with the game, with the exception of Mark, who kept asking if it was over yet. This is a great game for non-gamers and perfect for a party or family get-together (I guess that’s why it’s a party game?!?) You could even include more people by adding more chips to the game. However, it doesn’t work quite as well with a mix of kids and adults, although with teens it might work.

Results: Ed 20, Doug 16, Susan 15, Mark 13, Jon 12, Rox 11, Kevin 4

Kevin went off to join the other kids playing video games and we were left with six. Doug has been trying to get an older Spiel des Jahres winner, Auf Achse, to the table for awhile, and this seemed like a good time. This game used to be a favorite with our group long ago, but it hadn’t been played for ages. I was curious to see how it well it has stood the test of time against the many, many new games we have played since.

Auf Achse

Auf Achse is a pickup and delivery game. The winner is the player who earns the most money. Players have trucking contracts that they obtain by auction. Each contract indicates a city where a certain amount of cargo can be picked up and the city where it needs to be delivered to, along with the payout the player will receive when he delivers. Players move a chunky rubber truck around the board by a die roll, picking up cargo and delivering it as they reach the appropriate cities. Trucks, however, can only carry a maximum of 6 units of cargo unless the player purchases a trailer, which adds 4 or 6 more to the payload. Thus it becomes a planning game of choosing contracts that complement each other in planning efficient routes. Also to consider is how much to pay for a contract, as the profit margin gets smaller as the price goes up. To add some random chaos to the game, there are spots on the board that require a player to draw an event card. Some of these are good things and some are bad. Further aggravation comes in the form of construction roadblocks. These are placed when a player rolls a one on the die or when a certain event card is drawn.

The game got off to a pretty tame start with Doug being the first to get the money rolling in. I acquired several contracts and bought a trailer early, which allowed me to make a nice double delivery in Berlin. Jon was buying up contracts like crazy for high prices. Ed, on the other hand, stubbornly refused to buy any contract without a high profit margin and spent several turns without any contracts at all. These two strategies at the opposite extremes didn’t seem to work for them. Ed was stung severely by an event card towards the end of the game. He was one spot away from making a delivery and drew a card that required him to go to Munich first. As Munich was close by, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, except two other players were making deliveries in Munich and were both able to grab the spot before Ed could. So, he spent several frustrated turns wandering around the outskirts of Munich, waiting for it to become vacant.

Results: Doug 22,700, Rox 20,200, Susan 18,500, Jon 18,100, Mark 17,100, Ed 10,900

This game is okay and I’d play it again, but some of its luster has definitely worn off. At two hours, it takes a little too long and getting around by rolling a die is a bit tedious at times. There are now much more elegant games of this sort that I’d rather play, such as Logistico.

Jon looks perplexed as Susan checks a rules question during Auf Achse.

Roxana makes her move.

We were now down to five players and decided to try out this trick-taking game from the Mü & More collection. It has a reputation of being very good with five. Because it took awhile to wrap our heads around the rules, we only had time to play a few rounds. All of us were favorably impressed, however, and I’m hoping to play a full game soon. Having to refer to charts is a bit fiddly and distracting, but the mechanisms for choosing the chief and vice were very interesting and have some tricky nuances to explore further.

Other games played were Fire & Ice and IQ-5. IQ-5 was a big hit, with a total of six games played tonight.

Between games, Jon and Doug try out our new copy of IQ 5.

Closing the night with a few hands of Mü.

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

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at May 17, 2004 12:18 PM

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