August 10, 2007

Some Recent Gaming

by Susan Rozmiarek

Yes, I'm still writing up my Gulf Games reports albeit at a crawl. Writing at the computer takes me away from my important duties as chef, chauffeur, maid and general personal assistant to my kids and we certainly can't have that. Heaven forbid they dock my pay or something!

Sarcasm aside, I'm interrupting my GG reports to mention a few noteworthy games that I played recently.


This is the new, lavish version of Jenseits von Theben, a hard-to-find limited run that I've never even seen much less played. This edition is beautiful, with custom bags for each of the digging sites and wonderful art. Mark brought his copy to the Friday Meetup group. I've heard many reports about how fabulous the original was, torturing those of us who had no chance of finding a copy but we have been vindicated. I'm not sure how the new version differs in game play, but it is indeed fabulous. It is very simple and thematic, making it easy to explain. The board is a map with dotted routes connecting cities and the archeological sites. (Cue Indiana Jones music. You can just picture his plane traveling across those dotted lines). You send your meeple around to the cities conducting research and listening for rumors. This is done by buying cards from a display that list the city in which they can be bought. When you go to an archeological site, you "dig" for artifacts by blindly drawing chits from the appropriate bag. The bag also contains a lot of "dirt" chips that are worthless so there is a fair bit of luck involved but it fits the theme beautifully. The number of chips you draw depends on how many research points you have for that site and how much time you want to spend. A neat little wheel charts this out for you. Time in weeks is the commodity that you spend in this game to move between places, purchase cards (research and things like shovels and cars that do special things) and to dig for artifacts. In a four player game, you have exactly two years before the game ends. There is a track around the outside of the board to track the players' weeks. A very cool mechanism is that turns are taken in the order starting with the player who is last on the weeks track. So, players may actually take more than one turn in a row. The downside is that if you take a really "big" turn, you may jump so far on the track that it may be a long while before the other players catch up and you get to go again. There are several different ways to score victory points. With the managing of resources (weeks) and the route planning, Thebes is right up my alley. Both the theme and mechanisms feel new and fresh to me and games that I can say that about are becoming increasingly rare.

The Meetup photos, including Thebes, are here.

Next up is the highlight from a game day we hosted at our house this past Saturday.

Empire Builder

Oh, how I do love those crayon rail games. I could take six months off and play nothing but these lovely, lovely route-building and delivery games. Just think of all the geography that I'd learn! Alas, I have discovered them too late as they are considered too long, too boring, and too outdated by most in my gaming crowd. Fortunately, Helen is a long-time fan and pimps them at every opportunity. We finally found a taker in Brian, who is new to our group. How sad is it that I had never actually played the original Empire Builder, a game at the top of my New Year Resolution list. (I need to do a post on my progress with that list soon). And oh, what it joy it was to actually play on familiar geography without all the hunting and searching for cities I'd never heard of (Russia was a nightmare). I even had a good idea of where commodities might be found without looking them up. Helen, who has played this map like a bajillion times won easily but I was a mere 50 mil behind her with a loaded train on its way to fulfill a few juicy contracts. We played with the house rule of building and then moving so that players had a turn cycle to study newly drawn contracts which speeds the game up. Sure, it still took us the entire afternoon to play, but with three other tables of games going on, I'd just amble over to watch another between turns. I'm looking forward to the upcoming China Rails and I really, really need to get a copy Eurorails. Helen may try to set up something regular during a weekday to play rail games. I am hoping that she can get something going since that is when my family is safely tucked away at work or school and I can neglect my responsibilities without being observed. Heh, heh.

Ed and I also played a very close and vicious game of Ta Yü with Kevin Nunn and his wife Debra who were visiting Austin for the weekend for their anniversary. We were thrilled that they were willing to take the time to come over for the afternoon. I had never played Ta Yü with partners and it was fun, perhaps even better than Ingenious. Kevin and I barely beat Ed and Debra.

The couples split up with Kevin and Susan taking on Debra in Ed in a very nasty game of Ta YĆ¼.

I closed out the evening with a game of Ra in which I sucked as usual. I always panic and jump out of the epoch too soon. Paul whipped us soundly after being the last in an epoch and pulling an entire array of tiles without a single disaster or Ra tile, the lucky bum!

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at August 10, 2007 5:10 PM


Pleased to see you got to play Thebes. I agree with what you say entirely, and it just remains one of my favourite games. I don't play it a lot, but when I do play I am reminded how good it is. At the moment I am still using the original, but am looking forward to getting the Queen version.

Thanks for keeping this blog active - really enjoy it.


Posted by: Mike Siggins on August 29, 2007 7:14 AM
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