July 3, 2005

The Game Ranch Roundup for July 2, 2005

by Susan Rozmiarek

First off, I guess I need to explain how we came up with the name, The Game Ranch, for our new house. Yes, it’s a very silly, cheesy name, but it fits. We live in Texas and I just love to play up the “cowboy” image. We moved to a rural neighborhood of homes on a bit of acreage, in a city called Liberty Hill. We have 4.3 acres ourselves, kind of a little “ranchette.” The name of our neighborhood is Sundance Ranch and our street is Palomino Place. Doesn’t this just scream “hokey Texas stereotype?” So, I just had to pick a cheesy name for this game blog. “The Game Ranch” has a double meaning as well. While our house is stuffed with games of the board variety, the outdoors is filled with game of the wildlife variety. We see deer every day. I think they outnumber the people here. There are numerous rabbits and, although I haven’t seen any myself, there are wild turkeys as well. This is in addition to all the exotic pets that people seem to like keeping around here. A miniature donkey and a llama live behind us. So, The Game Ranch just seems to fit. I hope to add equally hokey fonts and graphics to this page when I get the time.

Anyhow, to take this back to the topic at hand, Ed and I decided to host a little games day here to test the waters now that we’ve gotten a little more settled in. We picked July 4th weekend because it’s when we had the time, but knowing full well that many of the regulars would not be able to attend. We almost had to cancel due to a lack of response. Much to our surprise, the RSVPs started rolling in at an alarming rate at the last minute. We didn’t think so many would be willing to drive out this far (it’s really not *that* far) and we started to have new people come out of the woodwork. We topped out at a total of 13 adults and 3 children, as one couple couldn’t make it. Five of these attendees had never been to one of our game days/nights. Three of these we had only met for the first time last week at Mike’s house and one we had never met in person. I’m relieved to say that they are all very nice and a pleasure to game with. It takes guts to go to a perfect stranger’s house and play games and I hope they found us as friendly as we found them to be. Now, on to the games played!

Around the World in 80 Days

First up for me was this Spiele des Jahres contender. I’d played it once and really enjoyed it, despite having gotten a few rules wrong. We’d messed up the rules for the inspector, penalizing people before they had a chance to move away. We played with the bonus chips face down, instead of face up and I think we scored players whose journey went over 80 days incorrectly. This time we got everything right, I think, and it only improved the game.

Rhonda came out of the gate at a blazing speed and remained ahead of the pack for most of the game. I tried to hold back and fight Adam and Mark for the last-to-a-location bonus chips, but I finally gave up. I was able to collect some great cards and gain some ground, eventually catching up to Rhonda and competing with her for the first-to-get-to-a-location bonus chips. Rhonda chose the action that gave her a coin often and always had plenty of money to re-roll or buy cards. I usually selected the best card available, but a few times I grabbed the starting player special action, regardless of the card there, so I could choose the best possible card the next round. Adam used the inspector in quite a clever way, placing him ahead of Rhonda and me, slowing us down or forcing us to take a penalty. By collecting some nice doubles, I was able to zoom in to London first in under 80 days. Poor Mark was the most efficient traveler, but was unable to complete the race in time and so came in last

Results: Susan 72, Adam 76, Rhonda 84, John 94, Mark 58 (didn’t finish)

I really like this game, although it is rather light. It falls into the same category as Ticket to Ride and Amazonas for me. The fact that it plays in under an hour and is easy to teach to newbies ensures that it will always be easy to get to the table.

John, Mark, Rhonda, Susan and Adam, start off with Around the World in 80 Days.


I was determined to play this today, as I needed to get one more playing of the game in order to write a review of it. I also hadn’t played it yet with the rules clarification from Mayfair for the Native Tokens. So, when Rhonda and Lauren expressed interest in playing, I immediately jumped on the chance. This was a good test of the game too, as both Rhonda and Lauren are casual gamers, the type of players that I think are a good target for a game like Amazonas.

I was the starting player, and immediately chose the very desirable Rosaria as my starting location. Rhonda and Lauren chose nearby Morena and Atalapo. This was good, because it ensured that no one player would be alone in that area and able to quickly snatch up all the low cost locations that are concentrated there. I’d seen that happen in other games where players weren’t aware of the potential for this to happen. I did feel kind of bad though, because I’d played the game several times and had a strong advantage. I was more familiar with the event deck and was able to remember what hadn’t come up yet. I also better understood how to plan my card-playing strategy based on what specimens I hoped to acquire in the near future and what events might possibly come up to affect my strategy. Thus, I was able to take and keep a strong lead. Nonetheless, both Rhonda and Lauren played well and said they really enjoyed the game.

Results: Susan 14, Rhonda/Lauren 10

Susan teaches Rhonda and Lauren Amazonas.


This game got some positive buzz and was pretty cheap, so we included it in a game order when it came out. Ed got to play it and absolutely detested the game. He refused to play it again and immediately suggested we unload it on a prize table as soon as we got the opportunity. Now, he is not fond of the simultaneous action selection mechanism and I am. Plus, it got some positive comments from a few of the other players in his game, so I didn’t listen to him. Well, for a change, I wish I had. Yuck.

The game has six pirate ships that are sailing on the board, a map of the Caribbean islands. Players are trying to sail the ships to various ports, pick up treasure and sail it to one of their own ports. Each player has seven bidding tiles numbered from -1 to five. Each round, they secretly assign one to each ship and save the seventh for a tiebreaker. One by one, all the players’ tiles for each ship are revealed. The player who bid the highest for that ship gets to move it that number of spaces minus a space for each -1 tile played. After the ship is moved, the tiles for the next ship are revealed, and the same thing happens. Ships can steal tiles or trade tiles from other ships as they move by. I guess this allows for some clever moves, but it also makes it harder to plan as well. There were always several ships that were possible choices of more than one player, so it seemed just a guessing game as to which one people would choose. And if you guessed poorly, you might find yourself watching the entire round and doing nothing. This happened to me at least once and was very frustrating. The game was just too chaotic and not much fun. I doubt we will be keeping this one much longer.

Results: Mark 41, Francesca 28, Susan 18, Peter 14

Caribbean, the game may not be very good, but the pieces are neat.

The Gothic Game

I was both surprised and pleased when Mark suggested that we play this. I love the game, but only really figured I could convince people to play it on Halloween. It’s got several things going against it. It’s a roll-and-move elimination game with a busy, gaudy board that will make you want to tear your eyes out, and it has a set of rules with as many holes as a golf course. Despite all this, the game is simply a HOOT to play. I consider it a party game. It handles up to eight players, takes very little brain effort, and generates constant laughs. I love writing up session reports for it. They practically write themselves. The game can drag sometimes, but this time the length was perfect, at least for the players who survived for a bit!

The eight of us timidly entered the Westgate and headed for the South Courtyard. We got off to a slow start because I remembered a movement rule incorrectly, but we figured it out after a few rounds of play. I started the game off slowly, encountering a monk who offered me a chalice of mulled wine. This put me to sleep for two turns. I never have been able to hold my liquor. Upon wakening, I started making my way toward the Trophy Room via the battlements to hopefully pick up a weapon. It was slow going for me as I often had to double back to avoid the crumbling stone that would send me into the moat. This was not a bad thing, however, because I was avoiding the rest of players and the castle, unlike the others.

Adam got trussed up by an overzealous cook and sent to the Kitchen. He spent some time wandering between there and the Bedroom. Tim and Francesca took their chances in the Den, where Tim had the misfortune of encountering an Insatiable Leech. This nasty thing sucked stamina from him every turn. He then gambled with the devil and lost, and was near death. A fast-moving snake finished him off and he had the honor of being the first victim of the deadly castle.

Meanwhile, Peter was caught standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had sewage from the lavatory dumped on his head. He started making his way across the castle to the Torture Chamber with the rest of us trying to avoid his foul stench. Ed, in the meanwhile, was also on his way to the Chamber to use a bottle of elixir that was given to him by The Witch. When he was near the chamber, he encountered a limping Peter, who had had his leg sawn off by Inquisitioners. It must have made him pretty crabby, because he foisted a Poisonous Spider onto Ed, killing him instantly!

While all this was going on, I encountered Francesca outside of the den, where she was recovering from being bitten by a Sleepy Asp. Using my psychic Power of Adjacency, I sent her plummeting to her death through the Oubliette. As she was suffering her awful fate, Mark was on his way to the Torture Chamber where he too, encountered Peter stumbling along. This time it was Peter who met his death at the hands of a fellow player when Mark handed him a decaying Hand in a Box. Mark then went on to the Chamber where he was tortured on The Rack and then finished off in The Iron Maiden.

This just left two players struggling to survive – Adam and me. As I left the Trophy Room, an Abyssinian Skewer in hand, I stepped on crumbling masonry and was dumped into the poisonous moat. I crawled out on my next turn, only to find myself in Dracula’s Vault! His bite doomed me to six turns as a vampire, wandering the halls of the castle looking for victims. With my new vampire powers of moving through the dark corridors quickly, I was able to chase down Adam outside the Servant’s Bedroom and kill him for the win.

Tim, Susan, Adam, Mark, Francesca, Peter and Ed try to survive the longest in The Gothic Game.

Susan the vampire drains the life force from Adam, thus winning The Gothic Game.


With time for one more game and six players free to play, we chose Bohnanza after my son Kevin suggested it. Betty hadn’t played it before, and this game is a must try for any fan of German-style games. We all got into the spirit of bean farming and the trading was fierce and brutal. In the end, Kevin proved to be the best farmer, with Betty in second. We old-timers got beaten by a kid and a newbie! As always, the game was fun. This one is definitely now a classic.

Results: Kevin 14, Betty 12, Susan 11, Mary/Francesca 9, Peter 7

The first game day at The Game Ranch was a rousing success and we hope to have many more. Hopefully, all the “townies” didn’t find the drive out here to the country to be all that bad. I must admit, I was a bit nervous playing host to such a crowd with so many new people, but it turned out great. I hope everyone had a good time and will come back again.

Other games played: Funkenschlag, St. Petersburg, Victory & Honor, Carabande, Australia, Viva Pamplona!, Coloretto, Alhambra

Francesca takes her Carabande turn as Kevin just wishes his dad would stop taking pictures.

After clearing off the Carabande setup, Jeff, Peter, Betty, Francesca and Ed try out Australia.

New guy John takes on Adam and Mark in Funkenschlag.

Ed, Adam, Tim and Mark finish the night off with Victory & Honor.

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

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at July 3, 2005 7:57 PM

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