June 25, 2004

Memorial Day Gaming

by Susan Rozmiarek

At our house, a holiday from work means a long day of gaming with lots of food. LOTS of food. I’ve never seen so much good food. Thanks to everyone who contributed!


Winds of Plunder

I’ve seen this being played a few times at conventions, but the timing has never allowed me to get in one of those games. Ed has played it a few times now, and likes it quite a bit. So much so, that he preordered it from GMT Games. With a very nice prototype copy of the game ours to play for a short time, I made it a priority to get it to the table.

Ed wrote up the following summary of the gameplay on a r.g.b. post awhile back:

“The game is played over nine rounds. Each round you sail your pirate ship to one of the 12 ports of call thought out the Caribbean divided evenly into four north/south zones. Each port has a treasure token that gives you 2 to 5 victory points as well as other goods (extra crew, weapons, provisions or a treasure map).

The neat mechanism in the game is the wind that controls where you can sail your ship. Each round the players vote on the wind direction (N, S, E, W) and the wind strength. The direction that receives the most votes wins and controls the movement of the ships that round. If the wind blows north or south, you must move within the zone in the wind direction or go east or west by one zone but still traveling in the direction of the wind (i.e. southwest). However, the east/west trade winds are stronger and if they are blowing, you must move 1 or 2 zones in the direction of the wind (although you can move anywhere within the destination zone). Players vote with wind cubes to control the wind. Each player starts with ten cubes and can buy more each round by using one or more action points.

Each turn players also get three action points. These are used to buy action cards, play action cards and buy more wind cubes. There are a variety of special actions you get to perform with the action cards, such as stealing wind cubes, limiting another player to only two actions, getting extra provisions, taking a second turn (only if in last place and by burning a crew), etc.

Players score victory points in several ways. The main way is by sailing to the ports. Players can get bonus VPs by collecting treasure maps and then visiting the ports with the treasure. You also get victory points at the end of the game for the provisions, crew and weapons you have collected during the game. These three items also have other uses during the game. Having the most provisions scores you a bonus victory point at the start of your turn. Having the most crew gets you an extra action each turn. For weapons, if you arrive at a port with another ship there and you have more weapons then the other ship, you may board that ship. If you board a ship, you may trade supplies or steal 2 victory points. Also at the end of the game, leftover wind cubes score you victory points (1 VP for each 3 cubes)”.

I spent the early part of the game fleeing from the very aggressive Pirate Doug. He acquired some advanced weaponry early in the game and was plundering anyone within striking distance, usually me. After getting a few zones away from this menace, I was able to make some progress, although I still came in last. Part of problem, I think, was I diversified a bit too much. I think concentrating in just a few areas may be the way to go.

I definitely agree with Ed’s assessment of the game. The pirate theme fits very well. The multiple ways to score victory points along with the unique wind mechanism make this a very solid, enjoyable Euro-style game. There were a few complaints of downtime during our game, but overall this wasn’t a problem and our game took a reasonable 90 minutes. Hopefully, this game will get the orders it needs to be published.

Results: Doug 65, Jon 61, Mark 53, Susan 50

Starting the day with a demo copy of Winds of Plunder, currently on GMT Games P500 list.

While a loud and vicious game of Chinatown was in progress at the other table, I settled for a more peaceful game of bribery and growing crops. Thank goodness. The simmering resentments and desires for revenge from Chinatown carried over into the following games for the rest of the day!


This is one of my very favorite releases from the last year. Yet again, someone has come up with a new twist on auctions and tile-laying to make a game that is full of tough, tense decisions. The subtleties of the once around auction phase are interesting with the lowest bidder getting last pick of the tiles, but control of the irrigation that round and possibly money from bribes. Sometimes where to place a tile is obvious, but other times you have to consider where the current overseer would be more likely to irrigate and whether or not you’ll have another player adding to your bribe to help him make up his mind.

I missed out on a big, well-watered pepper plantation, which hurt my score. Fortunately, my respectable crop of bananas at least placed me in the middle of the pack.

Results: Ed 73, Mark 64, Susan 63, Adam 58, Jeff S. 43

Just before the ninth and final round of Santiago.

Next on the table was Favoriten, which Roxana had been requesting for a few weeks


This is often compared with Royal Turf because both are horse racing games with betting. In addition, in both games none of the horses belong to individual players and are moved each round with die rolls. However, the way in which bets are placed makes the two games feel different. In Royal Turf, bets are placed before the race and are hidden. As such, it is more a game of bluffing. In Favoriten, you place your bets openly during the race, with earlier bets getting more points should that horse place. Thus, it feels like more of a game of “chicken,” not wanting to commit to a horse to early, but wanting to grab the higher potential payout for the horse before someone else does. I consider both games pretty decent fillers for occasional play. I really like the funky art of Favoriten.

Being the lone or almost lone bettor on a horse is not a good position to be in, as the other players are going to use their low dice rolls to move that horse. I made that fatal error twice in this game and my score shows it. It’s a good thing I stay away from the real track, as I’d probably lose my shirt betting on long shots!

Results: Adam 140, Mark 130, Ed 106, Susan 96, Roxana 60

After dinner, Adam, Mark, Susan, Roxana and Ed play the ponies with Favoriten.

Early on in a Favoriten race.

Next up was another filler, Coloretto. There’s not too much more I can say about this game other than that our group is still enjoying its simple play with its light decisions and hosage opportunities

Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier

The fluffiness continued with this game of dice rolling, dice rolling, and more dice rolling. We’ve had this hard-to-find game, beloved by my son, for awhile, but I’d never played it. The bits are over-the-top, with plastic dinosaurs and riders on a colorful board with a volcano in the center. Players play cards on their turn to activate a certain type of dinosaur and those dinosaurs use the number on the card to either move or as an attack bonus. Combat is resolved with dice rolls, with the number of dice depending on the dinosaur type. Also if you have any, little red lava balls can be dropped into the volcano to re-roll dice, but only if the ball comes out the bottom. The game ends when one player is eliminated and the player with the most dinosaurs left on the board is the winner.

The rectangular board and the corner starting positions encouraged much of the early fighting to be between the closer neighbors on each end. Ed and I slugged it out while Clan Mike and Clan Mark waged a bloody war on the other side. Combat heavily favors the attacker, which makes it possible for a wimpy, little velociraptor with a good attack bonus to take out a mighty t-rex. There are some other nasty cards that can be played, including the Extinction Card. This depicts one of the dinosaur types and a die is rolled for every dinosaur of that type on the board. A roll of “0” is an instant kill. I lost at least two dinosaurs this way. Thanks, Mark.

Mike, cursing the Dice Boot, was the first one eliminated. I went out next, followed by Ed, leaving Mark victorious.

This is the kind of game that brings out the little boy in you, the one that used to stage massive battles with little plastic figures when he was a wee tyke. Unfortunately, I’m lacking the little boy in me, so I had to pretend, but it was fun for at least one playing.

Boys with their toys... Ed, Mike and Mark play with their Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier dinos.

Mike's green army faces down Mark's blue army.

Under Cover

We ended the day with this old, classic bluffing game. I’ve never tried the newer version with the action cards and have no real desire to do so. The simplicity of the older version works just fine for me.

I did a pretty good job of bluffing this time with everyone sure that I was either the green or the purple agent. I was actually the gray agent, and had a lot of fun whining when people gave green or purple the shaft.

Results: Mike 42, Susan 39, Mark 21, Ed 18, Adam 9

The older Under Cover board.

The definition of chunky, wooden bits.

Other games played today: Igel Ärgern, Power Grid, Attika, Chinatown, Ticket To Ride, Fresh Fish, Puerto Rico

Adam, Mike and Ed start off the day with a three player game of Power Grid.

Igel Ärgern, a classic lighter game with many, many variations.

Mike's happy to be playing Ticket to Ride again. This time with Jeff, Doug, Jon and Rhonda.

Adam, Doug, Roxana and Jon play Attika.

Overheard at the table:

Chinatown: “Did you take your medicine today?” (Said in an irritated voice)
Winds of Plunder: “Don’t touch my booty!”
Igel Ärgern: “Are you doping me?”
Die Schlaht der Dinosaurier: “Fear my balls!” “Velociraptor – tastes like chicken.”

This wrapped up a long, tiring, but thoroughly enjoyable day of games and socializing. And eating. Did I mention all the food? Next holiday – July 4th!

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

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at June 25, 2004 3:35 PM

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