July 7, 2004

Session Report for July 1, 2004

by Susan Rozmiarek

Tonight we welcomed back Bobby Warren from Arizona, in town visiting friends. We must not have frightened him too badly when he paid us a visit last year. He’s not nearly as bad looking or as unsociable as he makes himself out to be. Heck, he even let Ed take his picture and he hardly whined at all. He’s going to have to work much harder if he wants to maintain his online reputation.

It was downright painful deciding which game to play tonight, as a lot of new and shiny stuff hit the table at the same time.

Anno 1503

I got to play this last year at Gulf Games and enjoyed it quite a bit. I haven’t heard much about it since. I guess people are waiting for the English version from Mayfair to hit the shelves, which is soon I think. I’ve heard the game aptly described as “Settlers of Puerto Entdecker.” The “Settlers” similarity comes from the fact that you are rolling a die each turn to acquire a particular resource. Various combinations of resources are then used to build things. The “Entdecker” part is from exploration part of the game that involves moving a ship and exploring islands. The “Puerto” part comes from an added pinch of the game Puerto Rico in the form of specialized buildings that you will be choosing to build during the game.

While these mechanisms hint at other games, Anno 1503 has its own feel to it. It’s essentially a race to fulfill three out of five victory conditions. There are different paths you can choose to take and you have to be able to adapt your strategy to how the game unfolds. It’s pretty solitaire-ish, but that’s no deterrent for me, as I enjoy a healthy mix of different types of games. What is nice is the fact that there is little downtime, as you benefit from the resource rolls of others and there can be a random event that affects you on any player’s turn.

Doug and Bobby were able to grab the Fire Brigade and the Smith buildings before I had a chance, leaving me unprotected from fires and pirates. So, I chose to go the exploration route with my strategy, building the Shipyard to give my ships double actions. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that I needed to build up and keep some cash reserves to protect myself from the pirates and fire as I was struck by them a lot. This caused me to lose any ground I gained. Doug had great luck with the die rolls, as the number that let him choose his resource kept getting rolled. He ended up winning easily, with Bobby fulfilling one of the victory conditions and me struggling at the bottom with none.

Bobby Warren makes his Anno 1503 move.

A close up of the Anno 1503 exploration board.


I got to teach this new favorite filler of mine to Bobby and Doug. See my previous report for a very short description of the game. This time around there was very little bluffing as it quickly became apparent who was trying to score what trait. Bobby and Doug caught on very quickly and the scores ended up being very close. No tiebreaker is mentioned in the rules so Doug and I had to share the victory.

Results: Doug 53, Susan 53, Bobby 52

Bobby, Doug and Susan control the family blood lines in Familienbande

Bridges of Shangri-La

We’ve had this game for a while and I’ve played it at least twice. Ed, however, hadn’t gotten a chance to play it yet and I knew it would be a game he’d really like – no luck, good spatial skills required and lots of planning ahead. Unlike Familienbande, here is the type of dry and abstract game I’d expect from Leo Colovini. The art is just terrible, with a somber, drab board clashing with the bright pastel chits you play onto it. The game though, is quite good, if you like a calculating, mean, brain burning sort of game.

After I refreshed myself with the rules and explained them, we were soon shuffling our students from village to village, giving weaker masters the boot. As I expected, Ed picked up on the tricks pretty quickly. Helen got picked on early and I thought she was out of the running. On the other hand, I thought I was doing pretty well. Then we calculated the final scores and popped my bubble. Sigh. I just really lack the spatial skills to do really well at a game like this. I just can’t “see” the whole board. It’s hard to explain. I do enjoy the challenge, however. I am glad this playing worked well with three players. Sometimes in a confrontational game like this, two players will get into a heated competition while the third quietly runs away with the game, unmolested on another part of the board. We kept our aggression fairly balanced.

Results: Ed 31, Helen 25, Susan 23

Helen, Susan and Ed try to see who can become the most wise while playing The Bridges of Shangri-La.

The Bridges of Shangri-La end game.

Settlers of Catan

For our final game with the last remaining stragglers, we chose one that we could just sit down and play with nary a rules explanation – plain old Settlers of Catan without any fussy expansions or variants. Personally, I like the fussy variants, but I’m always willing to play it plain.

Before playing, we had to get a few arguments out of the way about the proper way to randomly place land tiles and numbers. Once Doug and Helen straightened out the Very Random Mike, who was apparently totally wrong, we were ready to begin. I was fairly happy with my initial placements and was able to make steady progress. This was despite the fact the Helen kept me in a constant state of confusion by calling the ore, “rock, ” and the brick, “clay.” I was able to get settlements and a city on some nice brick producers, a brick port, and the longest road lead by about 5 lengths. Jealous by my success, the other settlers tipped off the robbers to my wealth and I now faced constant pestering by these bandits. Alas, my progress was slowed but I still managed to barely keep the lead.

So there I was on the home stretch with the finish line up ahead, about to get my ninth victory point on my next turn and possibly my tenth when smack! From nowhere Mike pummels me from behind and leaves me eating his dust. He went on a building frenzy and built several roads, snatching my two-point Roadbuilder title right out from under my nose. I think he managed a victory point from something else that turn but in my stunned disbelief at my turn of fortune, I didn’t notice what it was. The game ended and I went from first to last in one fell swoop. I think I still have Mike’s footprint embedded in my back.

Results: Mike 10, Helen 8, Doug 7, Susan 6

Susan, Doug, Mike and Helen pull out the venerable Settlers of Catan.

Other games played: Maharaja (I REALLY wanted to play this one), Samurai, Einfach Genial, Sunken City (arggh! That one, too!), St. Petersburg, Trendy, Wings of War (looked like fun)

Einfach Genial gets yet another play.

Mike gives Sunken City a thumbs up.

Mike, Mark, Adam and Ed build Indian palaces in Maharaja.

Bobby and Mark don their best British accents while dogfighting the Germans (Jon and Ed) in Wings of War.

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

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at July 7, 2004 11:25 PM


hehe...That was a sneaky win. Great card generating spots. I had three VP cards for a while, and a roadbuilding card. The turn before the last a got my three soldiers for largest army. On that last turn I got lucky enough for that last clay to build three road segments, which just edged my road for longest road. So 2 for longest road, 2 for largest army, 3 VP cards, two settlements, and one city, actually had 11 points at the end! But hey I don't feel bad, because I had lost the last 7 games I played, DEAD LAST in six of them... :)

Posted by: Mike C. on July 8, 2004 5:36 PM
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