November 2, 2005

The Game Ranch Roundup for Sunday, October 16

by Ed Rozmiarek

Time to dust off the web site and post some content. Our gaming opportunities have been a little lacking during the last month. However, we were able to hold a weekend game day a couple Sundays ago and got in some good games. We were even able go to Markís Thursday night game session later in the week and got in a couple more games.

At our Sunday gameday, we had the pleasure of welcoming two new people to the Game Ranch. The first was Brian Bankler, author of the Tao of Gaming web site. Brian had recently moved the San Antonio and he and his family made the 90+ minute drive up to Austin. While Brian gamed, his wife took their kids and visited friends in town. Apparently, Brianís wife is also a gamer and will be trying to join us for games in the future.

The other new person was Paul. Paul lives on the west side of Austin and just decided to show up. He had been lurking on our Yahoo group and his schedule worked out that he could show up. Paul has not been gaming long and all of the games he played were new to him. However, he was a quick learner and held his own. Both Brian and Paul were nice additions to the group and hope they can return to the group for the future sessions.

On to the gamesÖ


Starting off with a quick game of Ubongo. 9 year old Shea helps his mom out with the puzzle.
With the first few people showing up, we decided to play a quick opener while we waited for the others we were expecting. Mike had brought his copy of Ubongo so we pulled it out. I had only played it once at Gulf Games and had enjoyed it. We had just the right number and everyone had played so we could just jump right in. I really do enjoy this little puzzle game but the gem scoring does lack something. I donít think there is much benefit winning the puzzle race and getting first choice. Many times what you need just isnít there. I would like to try the variant of placing N+1 sets of two gems out each round (N being the number of players) and then being able to pick one set in the order of player finish each round. The funniest thing in this game is when Shea, our 9 year old math wiz, started watching and was soon hooked. In fact, he pretty much took over Susanís board since Shea could solve the puzzles faster than Susan. Mike was able edge me out for the win with Shea/Susan next and then Adam.

Pig Pile

Mark's lone pig calls in the reinforcements.
Mark showed up during Ubongo and Kevin wanted to play a game so with six, and still needing to wait for a couple people, we pulled out Pig Pile. Now Pig Pile is a game I should not like since it can be so random, but it is just light fun. The cards in your slop pile can really hose you or help you, but if everyone keeps up the right, light mood, itís a decent game. And of course, how can you not like the plastic pigs?

We got through three rounds before the remaining gamers showed. We decided to call it a game then to mingle, eat some very nice BBQ Marty brought and get to the meatier games. Kevin proved to be the pig master going out first two of the three rounds and gathering seven pigs for his efforts.


Adam, Brain Bankler, new guy Paul, Marty and Ed try out the new version of Rheinländer.
We had ten people and settled into two groups of five. One group decided to play Conquest of the Empire. The rest of us, Brian, Marty, Adam, Paul and I, decided to play shorter games and were able to get in five games while the other table fought for world domination. After a quick scan of the games, my suggestion of the new version of Rheinländer was accepted and we settled down to build duchies along the Rhein river. I had only played the original version of Rheinländer once and that was about five years ago (way back in my ďinfancyĒ of Eurogaming). I remember liking it, but I liked just about anything back then. After hearing the positive buzz on the new version, we decided to pick it up recently.

After going through the rules and jumping into the game, it was pretty obvious that Marty and Brian had played the old version. They knew how to set up their duchies and protect them. I thought I kind of knew what to do but was either fighting on too many fronts or just didnít get the cards I needed, and I ended up the game with only one duke on the board. In the end, Brian was able to keep several of his dukes on the board and pull out the win with Marty coming in second. I had a pitiful showing and ended up pulling up the rear. What was pretty funny is that we finished up just as the other table was completing the rules to Conquest.


Adam trashs Frankenstein and in the process picks up the "Worst Picture" honor.
Five people and we just played one Knizia game, might as well pull out another, right. So, out came Traumfabrik, yet another European Hasbro game that didnít have an English version until the recently announced Überplay version. I have heard about Überplay changing the tiles to have characterizations of more modern actors for the new version. I think the original version with the older, classic actors in the classic movies will work better. (Although, I have used the English paste ups to get make reading the movie names easier on everyone.) In fact, the classic movie tie in showed up in our game as Adam's version of Frankenstein took home the worst picture with its no-name, hack of a director, bad camera work and crummy music. I was able to go for quality over quantity, getting only a few movies made, but scoring high on all three. I almost had the best overall picture until Adam was able to pip my green movie by one. But the money I was able to hoard the last round gave me the edge over Adam for the win.


When youíre on a roll, go with it, so next up was another Knizia game. In fact, another auction game as well. I think everyone had played Ra except Paul, and since his head had not exploded due to new rule overload, the rules were covered and off we went. After my last game where I got burned by only getting a single lot during the first round, I was a little more aggressive in bidding during the first round. It worked ok as I actually scored positive points in the first two rounds, as in contention for most Pharaohs and several Nile tiles. However, I was behind in having a decent collection of monuments. I thought I was going to catch up some during the third round. The Ra tiles came out fast and people started bailing out. I thought I would risk it and not buy anything, hoping to get a couple big lots. However, with over 30 tiles left in the bag, the last Ra came out, ending the game. We were a little shocked that it ended with some many tiles left. When we dumped the tile bag, there were Ra tiles left in the bag! A quick count confirmed there was just enough Ra tiles for a single five player round. I know the first round Ra tiles were removed from the game. We can assume that the Ra tiles from the second round went back into the back by mistake. So, this game goes down with a big asterisk.

Call My Bluff

Adam had time for one more short game so out came the dice and cups for Call My Bluff. The gods of luck were on my side today. The only dice I lost were because of exact calls by other players. The game came down to myself with 3 dice and Adam with 2. For the first showdown I had to push the call to four 5ís, and in doing so, I locked 2 dice (a star and a 5) and rerolled my other die. Adam called with one 5. When I lifted my cup, there was a 5 showing. Like I said, the gods of luck were on my side. Up 3 dice to 1, I was able to push the bet on last round and knock Adam out for the win.


Adam left leaving four (Ed, Marty, Brian and Paul) to try out Kreta.
With Adam leaving we were down to four. I suggested the newish Stefan Dorra game Kreta, as I was eager to try it again after playing it during our last game day. The others were up for it. Although Paul was about at brain overload with all of the new rules and as it turns out, he had never played an area control game before. This game must also go down with an asterisk beside the results as I messed up one of the rules. In Kreta, there are 11 region cards laid out that control scoring during the game. These cards are supposed to be laid out face down, except the first two. I set up the game with all 11 cards face up. Oops. In thinking about it afterwards, I donít think it affected the game play too much. It did give us too much information about the potential scoring regions. But I think that just made it a little more gamery. This card setup is one of those things that will stick in my mind and I will probably not mess up again.

Kreta board.
I have really enjoyed my two playings of Kreta. Yes, it is yet-another-area-control game. However, the varied and limited resources available the players, the use of the cards to control what options are available and the ability for the players to control when scoring happens provides a nice variation on the theme. Itís too bad that this game is not available at many of the US online game stores. There is just a very little German on the action cards and there are some good English rules on the BoardgameGeek. I think this game would do well with the gamer crowd if it were more widely available.

Note: We did play with the scoring variant I had heard about. With this variant, you can only play your scoring card if you have played at least the same number of cards as there are players behind you on the score track. For example, in a four player game, the first place player must play at least three cards before he can cause a scoring. However the last place player may score right away after the previous scoring. I like this variant as it allow the players behind to have more control over the timing of the next scoring.

Kupferkessel Co (2X)

Brian and Paul needed to leave after Kreta and the Conquest of the Empire game was still going on. So after a quick bite to eat, Marty and I decided to play a two player game. After throwing out several suggestions, we settled on Kupferkessel Co. I had not played it for a long time and amazingly, Marty had never played it. It was nice to pull it out again as I had forgotten what a nice little game it was. It plays quickly (about 15 to 20 minutes a game), is fairly easy to explain, has a nice mix of mechanisms and just enough direct player interaction to not make it feel like mutual solitaire.

After going through the rules, Marty and I were able to get through two games before the Conquest game was over. I took the first as it was a learning game for Marty. And Marty was a quick learner indeed as he took the second game handily.

Other games played: Conquest of the Empire
As I mentioned earlier, Susan, Mark, Mike, John and Kevin played Conquest of the Empire. You can check out Mikeís write-up on his blog.

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

Posted by Ed Rozmiarek at November 2, 2005 2:59 PM

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