May 2001

May 30, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
Savannah Café: Ed, Mark, Jon, Andrew
I got the lunchtime gang to try this out today. I was eager to see if I had wasted my money on this or if it played better with more than two. I am happy to say that it definitely plays better with more than two. We had four players racing their African animals to the watering hole today.

After a quick overview of the rules, we jumped right in. After a couple of lion and hippo cards, Andrew's gazelle was the first to jump out and risk a race for the end. He was of course, pounced on and eaten right away. It was nice to see the balance work in a multi-player game as opposed to the two player game. After another gazelle was eaten, people shied away from moving them out for fear of the lions.

Jon's lion made an attempt to win and was one four movement card away winning but was roared back by Mark's hippo. I was able to get a good string of hippo movement cards and my hippo slowly made his way down the track, eventually reaching the last space, needing only one more card to win. The others thought that this was the most obvious way to win and were trying to get hippo cards to catch up. Meanwhile, the lions slowly made their way down the track so it was safe to move the gazelles out, which Andrew and Mark did. In fact, Andrew had collected two gazelle movement cards and was able to move into a position to win with one additional gazelle card. I my lion was in position to pounce on Andrew's gazelle, I had the cards but I needed two turns to do it. After I used the first one, Andrew drew another gazelle movement card from the recently reshuffled deck and was able to win.

This was a much more pleasant experience than the two player games I had played over the weekend. I think it is possible for all three animals to win the race, given the right card mix. Definitely a nice light race game with some decent strategy elements thrown in.

Results: Andrew, Ed, Jon, Mark

Hornochsen!: Ed, Mark, Jon, Andrew
With enough time to get in a second game, we broke out this cousin to 6 Nimmt which Mark had brought. We all like 6 Nimmt and have played it multiple times and was interested in this spin on the same basic mechanism. This game provided many of the same feelings of impending doom and screwing your neighbor that makes 6 Nimmt great.

Since this was our first game and no one really knew if there was a strategy, people were dumping their negative cards early on. As a result, most of the piles collected at least one, sometimes two, red cards. It was obvious that there was going to be a couple piles that you did not want to pick up, the ones with 5 or more negative points.

I did not pick up any piles of cards until near the end. Not that I didn't want to, but every time a decent pile was close to being completed and I had the right card to pick it up, someone else would get it before me. With about 5 cards left to play, I was holding several that were going to force me to get many negative points. Things turned around for me as Mark was forced to make plays that picked up the bad piles and left me openings to pick up two positive piles on my last two turns. I finished the game with the fewest cards but only one was negative. As it turned out, that was enough to pull out the victory.

A very nice game that feels a lot like 6 Nimmt, but it is different enough to not be repetitive. I will have to pick this one up on my next game order.

Results: Ed 14, Jon 10, Mark 0, Andrew -8

May 26, 2001:
Savannah Café: Ed, Susan
We stopped by one of our local game stores Friday night and picked up this new Eurogames release. We were eager to try it out today after finishing our yard and house work. The rules are very short and easy to understand so we jumped right in. Unfortunately, we were a little underwhelmed with the game.

The first game was over in about five minutes as I drew the three movement cards for the gazelle over my first four turns. This allowed me to win without much a challenge from Susan. We decided that it was most likely a fluke and reshuffled the cards and started over.

The second game was a bit longer but we still did not make it through the card deck (there are only 27 cards) before Susan had gotten all three of the gazelle movement cards and was able to duplicate my victory. Again, we thought that this was a little strange in that there are only three cards that move the gazelle and in both games one person ended up getting all three. So, since the second game was less than 10 minutes, we decided to play another one.

The third game had a much better card distribution and therefore neither one of us was able to take a quick victory. We actually saw more interaction between the animals in the race with my lion actually catching Susan's gazelle once and sending it back to the start. We actually made it through the deck of cards once and saw our hippos actually making progress down the race track. In the end however, this game ended like the first two with Susan's gazelle making it to the café before I could.

Overall, I was not very pleased with the way the game played with two players. I will need to play again with at least three, preferably four, players before passing judgement. With more players, I don't think it will be so easy for the gazelle to win as much. I'm not usually one to tinker with games, but I think this might need some adjustments to the two player game. I was thinking of removing one of the three gazelle movement cards to reduce the chance of an easy gazelle victory.

Game 1: Ed, Susan
Game 2: Susan, Ed
Game 3: Susan, Ed

Kontor: Ed, Susan
Saturday night we pulled out another game that has not seen much action in our household. I know that this game has not gotten much positive press so I guess I have tended to look elsewhere when choosing a two player game. Today though, Susan wanted to give it another try and since we had never played the advanced rules, I didn't mind giving it another go. The advanced rules increase the size of the game "board" and add in the ship that can be moved around to remove cards. You know, after playing so many games with "advanced" rules, it seems that most of them are the way the author designed the game originally, but then it was dumbed down to a "basic" game. In the future, I think I will just start off with the "advanced" rules and skip the basic game.

This game started off bad for me in that most of Susan's initial card selection were "coin" cards. These cards make the other player pay a "tax" of one coin to the treasury. If you can't pay the tax, you don't get to go this turn. You start with four coins and get one if you play a water/canal card. Well, Susan's wealth of coin cards taxed me heavily early on causing me to play more water cards than I had wanted. Midway through the game I found myself with no coins and twice Susan taxed me again, causing me to miss two turns. In the long run this probably gave Susan the edge she needed as she was able to gain control in a couple of regions that would swing the game her way.

I think the game has gotten a bad rep and is actually a decent two player game. I would like to explore Kontor some more with the different scenarios and the Das Exportlager expansion, which we have but have not used. A strong 6 rating, with a chance to go higher. If you pick this up, skip the basic rules and go straight for the advanced.

Results: Susan 3, Ed 2

May 25, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
Cosmic Encounter: Ed, Andrew, Jon, Mark
We revisited Cosmic Encounters today after our incomplete game on Wednesday. The powers fighting for control of the universe today were the Empath (me), Healer (Andrew), Vulch (Jon) and the Mind (Mark). There was a great deal of ebb and flow with the powers being used a lot. Mark (the Mind) was constantly looking at the other players card trying to get a feel of what would happen and Jon was scooping up Artifact cards left and right. (Somethig very strange is that I got no artifact cards the entire game.) Andrew wasn't sure when to use his power and I suggested times where I would ally with him if he healed my ships. The times this happened, he was good to his word and would save my ships from the warp if needed.

I was able to jump out to an early lead, getting three colonies without losing a single home system during my first two turns. I was then able to establish a forth on Andrew's turn as I used my power and forced a negotiation on his turn and we struck a bargin. Unfortunately, the others turned on me causing me to later lose a colony in the yellow system. On what turned out to be my last turn, I almost won but a mistake on my part cost me the game. On the first invasion of my turn, I attacked Mark. I thought I would win it out right with my 18 card, but he had an artifact that caused us to negotiate. I was forced to bargin but got a colony out of it, my forth. I then was able to attack yellow and choose a system that Andrew was on. I thought Andrew also had four colonies and I planned on using my Empath power to force a negoiation and get a shared victory with Andrew. It turned out that he only had three colonies and my plan failed.

The game ended when Jon attacked Mark but used an artifact to force a negoitation. Jon and Mark exchanged colonies and settled for a joint win. I still enjoyed the game and am looking forward to the 5-6 player expansion that is planned for the fall (at least that's what I have read).

Results: Jon/Mark, Ed, Andrew

May 23, 2001:
Tally Ho!: Ed, Susan
A very lopsided game of Tally Ho! tonight. This is a good game that is very random early on but can become a nice strategy game after about half the tiles are turned over. There is one major problem with the game and it is the initial setup. If you get a bad random mix at the start, it can throw the game to one side or the other. This happened in the first round of our match tonight.

I played the Animals in the first round, with Susan taking the Hunters and Lumberjacks. Unfortunately, we were hit with a bad random mix. We had many tiles trapped behind trees or in a situation where they could not hunt/capture another tile. In fact, we had to turn over almost half of the tiles before we came across a situation where someone could hunt another tile. Very strange. As it turned out, this round was not very exciting and we just turned over tiles and did what we could. The balance tipped my way in the second half of the round as I could hunt several of Susan's Hunters that were trapped pointing the wrong way or against trees. The round was very lopsided and not very challenging.

We switched sides for the second round and this time the game showed that is can be a nice little strategy game. We had a good mix and initial setup so we were given many more decisions early on, making it a much more enjoyable game. Susan took a lead at the midway point as she was able to hunt three of my Hunters while I was only able to collect a few trees and birds. I was able to trap a bear and fox, but it was stalemate since I could not capture them without giving up at least one Hunter. This is when things turned my way due to a couple of things. First, I turned up two more hunters, with their guns pointing right at Susan's animals and Susan forgot a rule. What Susan forgot was that we could move the neutral/green tiles. She thought that they were unmovable (like trees) so she was using them as blocking tiles. (Things like this happen when you don't play a game often enough.) This turned things into another rout for me and the game ended soon afterwards.

Overall a disappointing night due to the bad setup in the first game and rules problem in the second. Not bad enough to be turned off from the game, but a reminder to completely review the rules before playing a game after a long time off.

Round 1: Ed (Animals) 72, Susan (People) 30
Round 2: Ed (People) 74, Susan (Animals) 30

Cosmic Encounter: Lunchtime Gamers - Ed, Jim, Jon, Mark
I had been wanting to play this since I got it a week or so ago. Believe it or not, I have only played this once a little over a year ago when a friend brought his Mayfair copy into work and we played at lunch. So I brought my shiny new Hasbro copy into work today to give it a run. Luckily we had exactly four people, so we could give the game a good test drive.

The game was new to a couple players and another had only played it once so a review of the rules was in order. This took a little bit longer than I had hoped since I was not as familiar with the rules as I would like. By the time we were ready, it was a little late to get a full game in, so we decided to play a learning game.

The alien powers in play were Filch, Trader, Parasite and Anti-Matter. As many have stated the Mothership and Carriers are a little fiddlely, but I find that they add a nice feel to the game and everyone figured out how to add ships fairly quickly so this was not distraction. Since none of us had really played the older versions, no one was confused with the wording changes to the components. The game was slow to start with everyone figuring out the turn mechanics but picked up the second and third time around. We were not able to complete the game do to the time and all hoped to play it again Friday.

Overall I am pleased with the game and am looking forward to playing it more, but only with four players, I think I will stay away from games with less than four. I am certainly looking forward to Hasbro/Avalon Hill bringing out a 5-6 player expansion mainly so we could play with a greater number of players. Extra aliens will be nice, but the extra ships and home systems will be what I really want.

Results: No official winner

May 20, 2001:
Kahuna: Ed, Susan
This is a game I just love but don't play that much. Why? Well, Susan doesn't do too well at it and I think I have won every game we have played. Not sure why. I have played close games (and lost) to other people, but I guess it is just one of those games Susan has not gotten the strategy or just can't "see". But, given the fact that Susan wants to play every game we own this year, it had to hit the table eventually and today was its lucky day.

The first round was close with both of us getting our initial bridges out and taking control of a few islands. As usual with this game, the first round was fairly peaceful as the only bridges removed were due to one of us taking control of an island. The round ended with a 3-3 tie for islands.

The second round saw more of a battle for control shaping up. I started taking control of the few remaining neutral islands while Susan was trying to solidify her islands. As it was, when I took over an island, Susan would lose a bridge or two and started having to play catch up. I did notice a pattern at this time, at least for this game, in that I was controlling the outside islands while Susan was working on the interior ones. I wonder if that has some significance. I'll have to watch next time I play. As it was, Susan was never able to make up any ground and the second round ended with me having an 8 to 2 advantage in islands.

In the third round I just needed to keep control of most of my islands while Susan needed some major changes in island control. I was able to stockpile cards where I thought Susan would attack. With only two cards available per island, it is very difficult to make fast changes in control. This turned out to be true this time as I was able to fend off Susan's advances and maintain control of a majority of the islands. The game ended with me having a 7 to 2 advantage in island control.

I really enjoy this game and I think it is one of the better Kosmos two player games. I need to bring this into work and see if I can pick up a few games there.

Round 1: Ed 0, Susan 0
Round 2: Ed 2, Susan 0
Round 3: Ed 7, Susan 0

Battle Cry: Ed, Susan
We just received this game in an order from Target and were wanting to try it out. We had heard a lot of good press and many positive reviews on the web and finally decided to pick up a copy when it went on clearance at Target. I spent a lot of time Thursday and Friday getting the 100+ plastic figures ready to play but had not gotten around to reading the rules. So, we set up the game (the First Bull scenario) and read through the rules.

Susan took the Union forces and I took the Rebs in this effort to recreate the first battle of the Civil War. I could see early on that Susan's "first time" luck would hold up here. Her early cards gave her a lot of movement actions for her troops allowing them to advance rapidly on my troops. She also got some lucky rolls on her to hits rolls taking out my well positioned artillery before they could get in a single volley. She was also able to have a sharp shooter take out one of my generals (1 in 6 chance). I, on the other hand, was only able to move a unit or two at a time and was unlucky with my die rolls. Before I was able to do much damage to those blue clad troops, Susan had captured four of my flags.

My valiant troops were able to fight back and inflict some damage to Susan's and I was able to capture three flags, but there wasn't much I could do against Susan's well positioned troops and better cards.

Dan Becker, a friend at work, has painted his Battle Cry figures. After seeing and playing the game, I can understand the desire to do this as it would a lot to the visual impact of the game. I don't know if I'll ever get around to doing this given other higher priority projects, but I'm sure the idea will come up every time I play. To read more about Dan's Battle Cry figures, see his article on painting them.

Results: Susan (North) 6, Ed (South) 3

Animorph Invasion: Ed, Susan, Shea
After watching us play Battle Cry, Shea wanted to play a game and pulled out Animorph Invasion. Now this isn't a game I would pull out with the game group, but with the kids it's a good game. If you or your kids have read any of the Animorphs books, the game captures the feel of the story fairly well. You must travel around the board to one of the three active sites where the Yerks are located. Once there, you battle the Yerks and if successful, collect the location card. The mechanism that brings in the books is that you must morph into an animal to battle to Yerks. Certain animals have a better advantage than others depending on the battle. Also, travel between sites is done by different paths based on the animal you are currently morphed into. The winner is the first to collect three location cards and then travel to the EGS Tower and win one final battle and destroy the Kandrona Ray Generator.

This was a pretty usual game in that the Yerks moved around from location to location and we battled them, holding off the invasion as best we could. I collected two locations and was moving for my third. Shea had two but then decided to go for a location in a morph that required a roll of 9 or more to defeat the Yerks, this slowed him down. Susan picked up her second as I was poised to collect my third, when my bad dice rolls from Battle Cry came back. For my third location I only needed a roll of 4 (on two six sided dice) but got a 2. This allowed Susan to sneak in and take it away from me. I was forced to travel across the board to get my third while Susan headed for the EGS Tower. By being in the correct morph (elephant) I was able to get a third location card while Susan was slowed with a couple low movement rolls.

I had saved two cards for the end. One allowed me to cross the board in one movement and the other allowed me to double a movement roll. Playing these on the same turn allowed me to jump in front of Susan and make it to the EGS Tower first by one spot and attempt the final battle. I needed a 7 to win but got a 6 instead (foiled by the dice yet again). On Susan's next turn she able to get to the tower and defeat the Yerks to win the game.

There is lots of dice rolling (movement and battle), some card play (controlling your morphs and other actions) and actually some planning involved. This isn't a deep thought game but instead a fun little game to play with young fans of the Animorphs books. We have seen it on sale many places. Pick up a copy if you have fans of the books in your house.

Results: Susan, Ed, Shea

Lost Cities: Ed, Susan
We really haven't planned on play a fourth game today, but after a thunderstorm knocked out our power, we decided to pull out another game and play by lantern light. This game showed some wide variation in scoring. The first round saw neither of us having a decent collection of cards in any one color. I actually did something I almost never do, start an expedition in every color. It actually worked out in that I had no negative scores in any one of them, but I did not score much in any of them.

The second round started with Susan laying out the 2 though 7 of white along with an investment card as her first 8 plays. Very unusual. I never got very many good cards and ended up having another ho-hum hand. Luckily I got the white 8 and 10 so Susan's white collection did not net her a huge score, but it was enough to get a pretty good lead going into the last round.

The third round saw my turn at white. I was able to play two investment cards and a few low cards to start a good collection with the 7 and 10 still in my hand. While playing my white cards, I started drawing green and ended up with all three green investment cards. Knowing I needed to go all out to catch up, I gambled and played all three green investment cards. My luck held out and I was able to complete both white and green with 8 cards, getting the 20 point bonus for each. My other cards netted 0 points, but white and green got me an impressive 149 points. Susan had a good run of blue getting 63 points from them, but the rest of her cards did not pan out much so I was able to come from behind in the last round and take the victory.

Round 1: Ed 38, Susan 21
Round 2: Susan 111, Ed 88
Round 3: Ed 237, Susan 193

May 18, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
Drakon: Ed, Jon, Mark, Andrew, Scott
Squeezed in two games of Drakon today at lunch. I was the only one who had played this before but only with two and I was looking forward to playing with several people. I passed out the player's aids and explained the rules to the other three adventures who had been trapped by Drakon in his dungeon.

We played the first game without the hero abilities so everyone could get a feel for the game. The game played like many I have read about on the net. Lots of table talk, especially later in the game when someone would be getting close to winning. Most of the reports talk about this being a fast paced game, but we have a player or two that must annalize and ponder for long periods of time. This slows down many of the games we play, with this one being other that was impacted. There were times where people would send several minutes pondering what to do.

The first game was back and forth with several players getting close to winning, only to be foiled by clever play by someone to stop the leader. Many times people would say they were "taking one for the team" as they played a tile or made a move that would only slow down or hurt the leader. In the end, with Jon poised on four gold, but isolated in a dead end part of the dungeon, I was able to maneuver into a situation where I had two paths to victory on my next two turns. I was able to pick up two gold and escape the dungeon.

In the second game, we picked up a fifth player and this made things even more chaotic. Andrew was able to isolate himself in part of the dungeon and set up a very good money making loop that everyone quickly realized could end the game quickly. We were able to slow him down and hinder him quite effectively for a while. In fact, I was able to set up a Find a Gold/Master Key combination that I thought I could win with. I had several gold but then one was stolen and Jon was able to transport onto my loop. We thought Jon would sneak in for the win, but Andrew recovered from the trouble we had caused him and was able to transport himself to a gold tile and claim the victory.

Game 1: Ed 5, Jon 3, Mark 2, Andrew 2
Game 2: Andrew 5, Jon 4, Ed 3, Scott 2, Mark 1

May 16, 2001:
Ohne Fucht und Adel: Ed, Susan
Today turned out to be Bruno Faidutti Day. We decided to finally try out this much talked about card game. We had to use the 2 player variant we had found on the newsgroup. In this variant, you start with all 8 character cards. The king selects one, hides one on the table and passes the remaining 6 to the other player. That player does the same, selecting one and hiding one and passes four cards back to the first player. This repeats so each player ends up with 2 character cards and there are four hidden cards. Each player gets two turns per round as each of the characters is called out and has only one set of district cards and a single money supply. We played to eight district cards tonight but I would probably play to a higher number in the future, most likely ten.

I was very surprised how well the game played with two players. Since I have not played a game with several players, I can't compare how it plays vs. the normal number of players. Our game seemed to play very fast in that there was building each round. With two characters each player could get four gold pieces per round or two gold and a district card. Usually, we got more gold if we picked one or two of the characters that generated additional income. I would think that in the normal game, there would not be as much building as people would need time to build up their gold supply. Another thing that I noticed that the Assassin and Thief were never picked as we tended to go for the characters that got additional income and district cards.

I was the king through out the game. In the first round neither of us picked the king card and I built a yellow district. Thereafter, it was in my best interest to take the king to get the extra gold and to protect my advantage of going first. In addition, I usually hid the Assassin so that Susan could not take the crown away. (The two player variant recommended using the rule that states if the king is assassinated, the crown still moves.) It was a race to complete our 8 districts with both of us completing our eighth on the same turn. Susan was first and got the extra bonus for doing it, but I had some higher valued cards and was able to overcome her advantage. We both completed one district of each color.

I am looking forward to playing this with a large group to see the interaction of the characters.

Results: Ed 32, Susan 28

Dragon's Gold: Lunchtime Gamers - Ed, Susan, Mark, Jon, Andrew
First time for all of us to play Bruno Faidutti's game of dragon slaying and treasure negotiation. Although the rules are fairly straight forward and not too complicated, I had not read them recently, so was a little rusty explaining them and missed a couple minor points which had to be clarified during the game. The game lasted much longer than the 30 minutes stated on the box. In fact, we clocked in at about an hour of actual game play. I think this should go down as we play again and people are more comfortable with the flow of the game. We jumped right in to the using the advanced rules, bypassing the basic scoring.

Our game showed a lot of trepidation early on as I think people did not understand how the deals would affect the scoring. Lot of fairly even trades. About half way through the game, it was clear that Susan was going for the blue and purple gems. People were unsure of the magic items with not many coming into play early on. One player did obtain the Invisible Hand but was at the end of the table and had little chance to attempt any slight of hand. He never did admit if he got anything, I don't think he did since I don't recall any dragons missing any treasure. The second half of the game showed a higher use of magic. The black diamond did not show up until about 3/4 of the way through the game.

I felt I was running behind for most of the game. I did not seem to be involved in many of the negotiations. I was able to get a decent collection of gold and silver, but not many gems. I collected a complete set of gems early on, only to foiled by Andrew on the very last dragon as his Thief ole my only purple gem. This cost me the 5 point bonus for one of each gem, but it really had little impact as my initial feelings of being behind came true with the final scores. Most of us are looking forward to playing again, possibly at our Friday session.

Results: Susan 41, Mark 41, Andrew 39, Jon 38, Ed 26

May 13, 2001:
Samarkand: Ed, Susan
Just Susan and me traveling around collecting commodities. Still not sure what to think of this game. The mechanisms used are nice and many people really seem to like it. Unfortunately, most of my plays of this game have been two player and I think this game really needs more. I have gotten the Lunchtime Gamers to play once, but it did not go over well.

This game went as usual for us, that is, Susan won. We played with the Isfahan expansion which allows the commodities destinations to move from city to city. This adds some variation to the game, but again, it would come into play more with more players.

Results: Susan 525, Ed 260

May 12, 2001:
Scrabble: Ed, Susan
Saturday night in front of the TV watching British sit-coms, playing Scrabble. Sounds like something some "old" people would do, not a couple of 30 somethings. But, after spending all morning with the kids at soccer games and doing yard work, we just wanted to kick back and relax.

Not much really interesting to report except that I won. I never win at Scrabble. I'm a programmer by trade, so language stuff is not my forté. But a few lucky draws and being able to reuse the 'Z' word twice gave me enough points to out last Susan in the end.

Results: Ed 233, Susan 220

May 11, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
6 Nimmt!: Ed, Jon, Mark, Andrew, Jim
A lunchtime favorite hit the table today. Everyone here just loves this because you can never tell what's going to happen. We played the basic game with all 104 cards, ten to each player and four starting rows.

I had some good luck in the first two rounds and had a slim lead, but then the cards turned on me. In the third round I got a bunch of middle cards (40's & 50's) that I was left with for the last 4 or 5 rounds when it seemed like everyone else had high cards. I made me take a row of cards for 3 turns in a row. Of course, this reset the row, which then filled up with the other players cards. I lucked out in that most of the cards I was forced to take only had 1 ox head. I escaped the round with only 18 points, it could have been much worse.

In the end, Mark was able to somehow escape taking many points and won the game. In fact, he took only one card in rounds 3 & 4.

Round 1: Jim 2, Ed 14, Mark 16, Andrew 18, Jon 30
Round 2: Ed 20, Andrew 24, Jim 31, Mark 35, Jon 37
Round 3: Andrew 32, Mark 35, Ed 38, Jim 43, Jon 47
Round 4: Mark 36, Ed 48, Jon 50, Andrew 60, Jim 61
Round 5: Mark 48, Andrew 63, Jon 64, Ed 66, Jim 74

May 9, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
Money!: Ed, Mark, Jon, Andrew
Another new game for the Lunchtime Gamers. Jon has played it before and explained the rules and we set down to wheel and deal in the currency market.

In the first round I decided to collect a single currency and ended up working on Yen. I was trading away everything but Yen and taking whatever pile contained it. At the time I thought the strategy was working well and I collected all of the Yen cards except the 50 plus a couple gold cards, netting 470 points for the first round. After seeing Andrew and Mark get over 500 by collecting two or more sets, I changed my mind and decided to work on more than one currency in the next round.

Round two saw me collecting Yen again due to my initial cards and some of the first trades. I keep looking for another good currency to collect but could not get another decent set going. Finally midway through the round I picked up a couple Dollars and held onto them. I didn't think it would pay off well, but then I got lucky in the last turn. John bid a set that contained the 50 Yen and the 50 and a 30 Dollar card. This set would give me the last Yen card and push my Dollar set up over the 200 point boundary. I was able to snag the set even though I had bid low and was about to layout a complete set of Yen and 210 points worth of Dollars, for a total of 710 points, pushing me up into first place.

We had time for one more round and a third of the way through, people were complaining of the bad cards so far. I settled on Kronors and Euros this time. I slowly built up my Kronor collection but could never get many Euros. (It turns out Mark was collecting them as well.) Again I was fortunate enough to collect a complete set, this time in Kronors and picked up enough points in Euros to get a positive score. Throw in a couple gold cards and I had enough points to hold off Mark and Jon (who had a 740 point round).

Round 1: Mark 520, Andrew 520, Ed 470, Jon 380
Round 2: Ed 1180, Mark 1030, Andrew 1030, Jon 860
Round 3: Ed 1730, Mark 1600, Jon 1600, Andrew 1280

May 6, 2001:
Landlord!: Ed, Susan
We decided on an low brain power game tonight. In this card game you build apartments and try to fill them with paying residents while at the same time doing nasty things to the other players. This was the first time for Susan with this game but I have played it with the Lunchtime Gamers. I should have known I was in trouble, Susan always wins the first time she plays a game like this.

The first third of the game was pretty tame and fairly close with both of us building up several apartments. The worst thing that happened was a few move cards being played. (It seems that the Researcher just could not decide where to live.) But then it took a turn for the nasty side as Susan wanted to see what happens when a bomb is played.

Well, bombs were played, buildings demolished, Squatters moved in and were rousted or murdered, in general, lots of mayhem ensued. In the end, Susan's large number of apartments was to much keep up with.

The game plays OK with two people but I think it works better with more. One of the funnest parts of the game is messing with the other players and with two it gets sort of tit-for-tat.

Results: Susan 230, Ed 204

May 5, 2001:
Princes of Florence: Ed, Jon, Susan
First time for any of us to play this highly touted new game. I jumped out to a quick lead by completing a work in the first round. I had thought about trying out the Jester strategy that I have read about a lot on net, but changed my mind after looking at my first three profession cards, all of which had "Opinion" as the freedom and two had "Lake" as the landscape. It seemed natural to go for a Lake in the first auction. After the first round, I slowly dropped back as Susan and Jon battled for first and second and my works always seems to be not as impressive.

I built up a selection of professions that matched my buildings, landscapes and freedoms and was able to make good works in final rounds. I got lucky in the 6th round being the only one with a work and by buying a Bonus card. The card gave me 7 points on a work and I used it in the last round making two works with values of 27 and 20. This appeared to give me the win, but Jon's prestige card gave him 8 points and Susan got 7 with hers. I only got 3 with mine. The final scores were very close with Susan two points behind Jon and me one point behind Susan.

There is a lot going on in the game and many choices to be made. I can't say that it ranks extremely high after only one playing with three people, but it was much enjoyed by everyone and I look forward to playing it again, hopefully with more people. With only three people and with us not really understanding any strategy, the auctions did not come into play too much. Everyone generally got what they wanted for a small price. I don't think that will happen again.

Results: Jon, Susan, Ed

San Marco: Ed, Jon, Susan
Second time for Susan and I to play San Marco, first time for Jon. There was an interesting card distribution early on, with three banishment cards coming up in the first two distributions. As a result, I only had three aristocrats on the board after the second round of cards. I was able to get some retaliation after the first passage as I had the fewest limit points and got the free banishment.

The game turned out to be a battle between Jon and me. Susan fell behind early and could never catch up, going over the limit card limit in the first two rounds. I was always able to stay under the 10 point limit and was able to make up for my continued lack of aristocrats by getting the limit bonus at the end of each passage.

Jon had the lead after two rounds, but he went over the limit card total first in the third round and allowed me and Susan to have the extra turn. I was the distributor for the final turn and was able to divide the cards such that I would again get the limit bonus and the free banishment. With my final turn I was able to take majority in two regions and with the banishment, clear out a third (one where Jon had the majority). This allowed me to win by 8 points over Jon. Susan, unfortunately, never got close.

Result: Ed, Jon, Susan

Kraut & Rüben: Ed, Jon, Susan
After playing Princes of Florence and San Marco, we needed a short, less brain intensive game, we decided to play Kraut & Rüben. This is a tile laying game with a gardening theme.

After several rounds of people just playing vegetable tiles and a couple of snails, Susan was the first to claim a garden. She was a bit tricky in the fact that she took a garden that had none of her main vegetable (tomatoes in her case). She had hoped to get what she needed in her draws to complete it. This turned out to be a problem for her as she only got one tomato and early on got several asparagus, her negative vegetable, and had to tip her hand.

With that knowledge, Jon and I freely played asparagus into Susan's garden while building up the remaining free gardens. I finally took a garden that was about 50% full, but had several of my good veggies and none of my bad. In the end, Susan was the first to have her garden filled. I was next but was able to counter the one bad veggie in my garden with my mole. Jon was left to fill out the remaining two gardens hoping to build one he could use, which he was never quite able to do.

Result: Ed 18, Jon 12, Susan 4

May 4, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
Mississippi Queen: Ed, Jon, Andrew, Mark
First time in a long time for me to play this game and the first time for our Lunchtime Gamers. We played basic game but with the extra tiles from the Black Rose expansion. These lengthen the game and add things like sand bars, floating logs and coal depots.

By burning some early coal, I was able to pick the first Southern Bell and Andrew took the point and charted the first part of the river. After picking up my first bell, I was able to get back into the pack by burning even more coal and then refueling at the first coal depot (and using my last unit of coal in the process). Andrew ran into some trouble by running up on the first sand bar facing the wrong direction. This caused him to have to back up, turn and then go over the sand bar again. This, coupled by the fact that Mark and Jon stopped for Bells, allowed me to take the lead. With a couple of lucky rolls and tile draws, I had a straight shot down several tiles and was able to pick up my second Bell very easily. Mark and Jon both picked up Bells from a platform that caused them to slowly navigate around several islands. Mean while, Andrew ran a foul of the second sand bar which allowed Jon and Mark to catch him. I cruised to easy victory with Jon passing up Mark for second as Mark stopped for his second Bell. Andrew saw his chance with Mark stopped so Andrew burned all of his coal to push Mark out of the way and get in front. Unfortunately for Andrew, he miscalculated and was not able to slow down enough on his next turn and ran aground on an island.

I'm looking forward to playing this again soon and not leaving it on the shelf for so long.

Results: Ed, Jon, Mark, Andrew

May 2, 2001: Lunchtime Gamers
Katzenjammer Blues: Ed, Susan, Mark
First time on the table for this game for any of us. To be honest, I had been staying away from this one due to the overall lack of positive reports on the net, but Mark brought it in and we wanted to see what it was like. Now that I have played it, I can agree with most people, there just doesn't seem to be much game here and it is over before you really get into it.

Anyway, Mark jumped out to a quick lead by melding a 5 point/mice band. Susan and Mark seemed to battle for the most points while I could never get the right cards to complete a meld without breaking up another set I was building. I finally got enough cards to meld a 2 point band, but it was too little too late as Susan completed her third band to take the final mice to end the game. She captured the win since Mark had the most Jokers and lost 5 mice.

I can't say that I will be asking to play this again anytime soon.

Results: Susan, Mark, Ed

Space Walk: Ed, Susan, Jon, Andrew, Mark
This game made its return to the Lunchtime table after an inital run of games late last year. Every one but Mark had played this before, so he was at a little of a disadvantage, and it showed early on. It was a typical five player game with lots of ships being sucked into the black holes early. The midpoint saw Susan, Jon and Andrew with the most ships, I had lost several large ships and Mark was already in danger of being the first one to lose all of his ships. Jon was then picked on some and lost several ships before Mark's last ship was sucked in. Susan turned out to be the best space captain by saving enough ships for 12 points. Andrew was next with 11. I was able to sneak into a tie with Andrew by holding all three of my special action chips to get 6 points.

Always a fun and vicious game. One tip, never remove a ship of the player to your left if they have a chance at retaliation on their turn.

Results: Susan 12, Andrew 11, Ed 11, Jon 6, Mark 0

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Copyright © 2001, Ed Rozmiarek