August 25, 2005

The Game Ranch Roundup for Saturday, August 20

by Ed Rozmiarek

This past Saturday we had a break in our schedule and were able to host our second Saturday game day at our house. Even with a couple of no-shows, we had twelve people and were able to get in several new games and some old favorites. There was much junk food to be had and beverages to be drunk. We hope everyone had a good time because I know Susan and I did. Again we were happy with the way the new house handles that many people. We just need to get another decent sized portable table. A card table just doesn’t cut it for many games.

König Salomons Schatzkammer/King Solomon’s Mine

König Salomons Schatzkammer players
Our group’s most recent Adam Spelt order had arrived earlier in the week and this was the one game we had gone out on a limb to get. Susan had read the description and wanted to give it a try since the play was puzzle like. After we had placed the order, we saw the game being played at Gulf Games and the comments were fairly positive, so we were looking forward to playing it. I roped Mark, Adam, Doug and Mike Ashley-Rollman into playing. (Note: Mike A is currently thought of as “New Mike” as opposed to “Old Mike” – Mike Chapel. “Old Mike” must be getting lost on the way to the new house since he hasn’t made it out to the new place yet.)

The game is played on a 6 by 6 grid. On each grid location is a stack of four tiles each with an artifact printed on it. There are four types of artifacts; treasures (valued 1 to 5), curses (valued 1 to 3), scrolls (no value but four different types) and magic items (four types). The tiles, which are face up, are held in place by a large plastic tray that looks like a cave floor. The object of the game is to collect tiles to score points at the game end. Treasures are worth their face value. A set of the four scrolls are 10 points. There is a majority scoring (first and second place only) for curses and magic items.

König Salomons Schatzkammer board
The game comes with a set of cards that control the players' actions. There are 32 cards, numbered 1 to 32. The cards also have a number of tiles (from 3 to 6) in a certain arrangement. The players get a number of cards (based on the number of players) and some gold coins at the start of the game. Each round, the players select one card and reveal it simultaneously. Players take their turns based on the number on the card they played (lowest first). On their turn, players may excavate a set of tiles in the same layout that is on their card, however, the tiles must be on the same level. Players may spend gold coins or treasures to move tiles in order to set up the set of tiles they want to excavate. If players excavate a curse, they must pay for the tile (face value) in addition to any costs for moving tiles. However, there is a fairly large, 24 point, end game bonus for the first place in curses.

In our game with five people we got five cards to play. I thought I was going to have problems because I got all low numbered cards with my highest card being 14. This is because the lower numbered cards allow you to excavate fewer tiles. However this is offset by going earlier in the round, which turned out to be beneficial. The game play is very puzzle like but with very little to do when it is not your turn. There is little interaction between players except by moving tiles on the board that the players after you may want. However, I liked the game as it did provide some challenges in maximizing your move, the risk of exploring while moving tiles, and the trade off of getting curses (which were expensive) hoping to get the big payoff. Also, the magic items create good tension between collecting them for a decent endgame payoff or using their power during the game to get even better tiles.

I enjoyed the game and managed to end up coming in second (a sign that lower cards aren’t all that bad). Doug was able to use the Samson’s Hair amulet to collect a large number of curses and used that to win the game. I think the game will be better with 3 or 4 players where you get more turns and have less downtime.

Shadows over Camelot

We had 12 people for the second round of games so I figured this was time to pull out Shadows over Camelot, the one “must play” for me that day. Susan and I had played at Gulf Games and were eager to try the game out with the home crowd. We were able to fill it out to seven players fairly easily. Since I had played before and then read the rules, it was fairly easy, but time consuming, to go over the rules for everyone. We dealt out the character cards and then the loyalty cards and got to the task of saving Camelot. We played with only seven loyalty cards, thus guaranteeing a traitor.

Shadows players

More Shadows players

I was very pleased in that the game seems to have gone over very well. There were early calls of “traitor” after just about everyone’s first few turns. Mark quickly went after Lancelot’s armor, marking him for early suspicion. In fact he was the only person who, later in the game, was accused of being the traitor. However, Mark was loyal to the cause. A couple of people suspected me of being the traitor for giving out game play tips (pro-evil and pro-good) but I was never accused.

The Round Table
We were able to complete several early quests without having any fail. Mark was able to retrieve the armor, several people pitched in to complete the Grail quest (after a very long search), I was able to defeat the Black Knight (but just barely) and we fought off the Picts. However, we were running close on the siege engines as they got to 9 or 10 on the board a couple times. We did lose a battle to the Saxons and one joust with the Black Knight that no one fought. The incorrect accusation of Mark added another black sword. So here we are with seven white swords and three black swords on the table. While I was trying to keep Excalibur from the frozen wasteland, several knights were battling the dragon and a couple knights were back at Camelot keeping the siege engines under control. We just needed to defeat the dragon to fill the table with enough swords to hold off the traitor who had not been unmasked. I had my suspicions about who the traitor was but was not sure enough and it was too close for me to make a wrong guess. Everything worked out and the knights defeated the dragon and filled the Round Table with 9 white swords, thus holding off the evil traitor.

And just who was the traitor??? Well, none other than that evil being Susan. Yes, that’s right. Two Shadows games and Susan has been the traitor booth times. A fact she did not like. She now says she will only play Shadows again only if she is not the traitor. Obviously something only a true traitor would say…


After the Shadows game was over we needed to fill some time until the Taj Mahal game on the other table got over. So with seven (actually eight since we pulled Kevin in), we pulled out another game from the recent Adam Spelt order, Diamant. This was my third playing. The first was at Gulf Games where I crashed and burned with flare getting no gems at all (Hi Craig!). Several of the players had played at Mark’s house the previous week so knew the rules, but we still had several new people.

The game was short, random and fun. I’m liking it and I’m glad we picked it up (over-priced production and all). However, there is at least one person from the group who does not want to play it ever again. So it does seem to have an ability for love it or hate it responses. Betty was able to claim the win with Mary a close second.

Trump, Tricks, Game!

Playing Trump, Trick, Game!
We split into three tables with Antiquity starting in one room and Thingamajig in another. I got Doug, John and Mark to agree to try out Trump, Tricks, Game!, a new trick taking game from Phalanx games being distributed by Mayfair. Yet another trick taking game with a twist. We play a lot of card games during lunch at work so I wanted to see if this could break into the rotation. I had actually played the previous week at work but with a different set of people and wanted to get other opinions.

The game is played with a fairly standard deck of cards. Four suits of 13 cards. Each suit has cards numbered 1 to 12 and a special “trump” card. The trump cards are removed from the deck and used to control the trump suit for each hand. The remaining 48 cards make up the play deck. The theme for this one is hunting animals so each suit is a different animal. The middle cards (5 through 9) have animal footprints on the side which will score you points after the first three hands of the game. The set up is fairly easy, shuffle the main desk and deal 12 cards to each player. The four trump cards are shuffled and laid out face up so the players can see the order. The game is played over four hands and each suit will be trump once. The four trump cards control the order of the trump suits so having the cards face up allows the players to see the order of trump suits over the game.

The card play is fairly standard for a trick taking game. Players must follow the lead card and play within suit if possible. If they are void in the lead suit they may throw off any card. The highest trump card played will win the trick, if no trump is played, then the highest card in the lead suit wins. Pretty standard stuff. Here’s where the twists come into play. First off, for the first three hands of the game, each player may only win 3 tricks. Once a player takes three tricks, the cards he plays are no-ops and do not count for taking tricks. He must follow the regular rules for following suit and when he leads his card does not set the lead suit. Why the limit? The cards you take will become your hand for the next round. The cards are not shuffled and dealt out again. So, you are trying to balance getting scoring cards and getting good cards for the next hand.

Speaking of scoring, the first three hands are scored different then the fourth and final hand. After the first three hands, you score points based on number of footprints you take (remember, the 5 – 9 cards). Your score is the number of footprints times the number of different footprints you collect. So this drives a desire to take tricks with footprints in different suits. Since the early tricks tend to be single suited, we found that we were all trying to delay taking tricks to get a mix of suits, hopefully with footprints. The scoring for the final hand is different. After that hand you score based on the number of cards you take with each suit having a different value. Red are worth 4, green 3, yellow 2 and blue 1. So in the third hand of the game, you also start watching what cards you have for the last hand, because for that hand you now want lots of trump.

The game sounds like it has many interesting facets, but so far in play it has not lived up to its potential. People quickly learn to try to avoid early tricks and they tend to hold on to the footprint cards. You really must watch that you try to setup a balanced hand for the next round, but if you are forced to take two tricks of a single suit you get easily get stuck with 7 or 8 cards of the same suit for the next hand. About the only time you want that is getting a lot of trump for the fourth hand. Also, getting a lot of one suit means your chances of getting a decent footprint score is reduced due to the multiplier. In our game, it was fairly even but broke down near the end. During the third round Doug had very low cards from the second hand and did not take any of the first nine trick and therefore just got all of the final 12 cards. Since no one wanted to (or could) play yellow (the trump for the last hand) early, Doug ended up collecting 9 or the 12 trump cards for the last hand, including most of the high ones. This made the last hand a landslide win for Doug, getting 9 of the 12 tricks. The rest of us each got 1 trick. This gave Doug a huge score for the last hand and he went from last to first. I’m still holding off final judgement on this one as it may take a couple more plays to figure out the “correct” card play but I fear others may get turned off by the randomness and seemingly lack control.


Niagara players
The Thingamajig game ended about the same time our card game did so we were able to shuffle again. One half jumped into the new version of Australian Rails while we stayed with lighter fare and pulled out Niagara. I actually haven’t played it in a couple months and several of the others had not played it at all. It was a pretty friendly game where the weather was not used much (never got to +2) and there was only one stolen gem. It was pretty funny in that during the first five turns John (who was sitting to my right) and I played the exact same card and did the same move.

I thought I was falling behind John, Mark and Betty in getting gems, but I was able to pull off getting a pink gem (the one closest to the water fall) and then on the next turn, steal a yellow gem from Mark. I was then able to bring both gems home the next turn and win the game with all five gems. Yes, I was the only one who stole anything during the game and won.

Around the World in 80 Days

Around the World in 80 Days
It had been a long day and the Niagara players decided on another light weight game and pulled out Around the World in 80 Days. A quick review of the rules and the race was on. Betty and Mary got off to fast starts with Betty leading the charge for most of the race. However, they both were playing high cards to do so and quickly spent a large number of days. I tried to keep up and stay within one or two locations of Betty. I was bit early on by bad die rolls one turn when I took the balloon option. The first roll was 6 and I spent my only two gold to re-roll, getting a 5 and 6 in the process. However, Mark and John were able to hang back and get low cards and good balloon trips letting them advance by using few days.

As it ended up Betty was first to London but spent over 80 days. I got there second with exactly 80 while Mary was stalled out in New York by a lack of boat cards. This allowed Mark and Jon to both catch up and pass Mary while they both kept their day totals less then 80. Mark took the win.


With the Australian Rails game over we had seven for one last game and pulled out Bang! since a couple of people had not played it. I included the High Noon expansion to provide some variety and the game timer effect of the High Noon card itself. Betty was the sheriff and quickly got out a horse and rifle and took a pot shot at Doug (with no indication of loyalty from him). The rest of the first round was fairly calm as no one seemed to want to declare their role. Due to the second round High Noon card, that round went counter-clockwise and then the fun started. Mary (who was to Betty’s right) started shooting at Betty. Later in the round Doug shot at Jeff and I used a couple of cards to remove Betty’s horse and barrel. Jeff shot back at Doug and Jon removed Betty’s rifle.

So after the second round it appeared that the outlaws were myself (I was one), Jon and Mary. There was more action the third round but no deaths until we get to Mary. She had played a Volcanic during the previous round and used it to go after Betty. Since Betty had no Missed cards and Mary had ample Bang cards, Mary was able to cut down Betty in a fit of Volcanic rage. The Outlaws win! But Doug had a strange look on his face; he was an outlaw. And so was Jon. I made three, so what was Mary? Turns out she was a Deputy! So the sheriff was taken out by one of her own. The game was a little unsatisfying for the new players, but those of us who had played several times got a kick out of the different ending.

Everything broke up after that. We chatted a bit and everyone went home after 9 and a half hours of gaming. Susan and I hope our schedule works out so we can hold another game day soon.

Other games played: Palazzo, Traumfabrik, Taj Mahal, Antiquity, Thingamajig, Australian Rails

For more pictures from this game day, see our Picture Album.

Posted by Ed Rozmiarek at August 25, 2005 10:30 AM


Sounds like it was a great day. Twelve people!? I'm lucky to pull four every two weeks. I'm waiting for Tempus to be released, so if you happen to get an early copy and test it, I look forward to reading about it.

Posted by: jacob on September 3, 2005 12:27 AM

Hi Ed!

Posted by: Craig on September 21, 2005 10:20 PM

Man, there goes the neighborhood. :-)

Posted by: Ed Rozmiarek on September 22, 2005 7:48 AM
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