Date: September 25, 2003

Games: Coloretto, Expedition, Trendy, HellRail

Attendees: Doug, Ed, Jeff F., Jessica, Jon, Mengmeng, Mark, Robert, Roxana, Susan

Reporter: Susan Rozmiarek

Tonight we welcomed new attendee Mengmeng, who found us through another game group attended by Mark and Jeff F. It turns out that he lives right down the street from us. I wonder how many other gamers are living right under my nose? I must ferret them out!

Coloretto: Doug, Mark, Robert, Susan

I jumped out to what looked like a hefty lead early on. Of course, this made everyone else out to get me, so I started playing conservatively by taking stacks of only one or two cards to avoid the negative points the others were sure to try to force me to take. Alas, Doug snuck up and pipped me for the win.

Results: Doug 39, Susan 38, Mark 35, Robert 25

This game remains an enjoyable short filler for our group.

Expedition Roxana, Mark, Robert, Jessica, Doug and Susan explore the world in Expedition.
Expedition: Doug, Jessica, Mark, Robert, Roxana, Susan

Next up was this old favorite which hadn't seen table time in quite awhile. After a quick rules refresher we were off and exploring. Many chips had been placed at the start in Asia, but oddly enough everyone avoided this area for most of the game. I think it was because everyone wanted to avoid helping out the others who had chips there and was hoping someone else would burn his turn taking one of the expeditions into that region. I know I was more concerned with some of my locations located on the remote edges of the world. I felt I was doing really well in this game by picking up numerous public locations. Unfortunately, I was unable to reach a few of my hidden ones and these counted as negative points at the finish. Mark, Doug and I all tied in the number of locations reached, but Doug and I ended the game with cards in our hands.

Results: Mark 16, Doug 15, Susan 12, Jessica 9, Roxana 6, Robert 6

This is still a good game that is very accessible to casual and non-gamers. We prefer to play with the variant that when a loop is formed, the player immediately places another arrow from any spot on that loop.

Trendy Trendy, this year's favorite filler card game, gets another work out.
Trendy: Doug, Jessica, Mark, Robert, Susan

I'd be willing to bet this is the game that has seen the most plays of any game in our group this year. It's lighter than helium but strangely addicting. In this game, Robert's 11 yr. old daughter put the adults to shame with her keen sense of fashion.

Results: Jessica 101, Mark 87, Robert 79, Susan 78, Doug 65

HellRail Mark, Susan and Doug delivering souls for punishment in Mayfair's HellRail.
HellRail: Doug, Mark, Susan

This game has been out a while, but I've never had the opportunity to play it. I enjoy rail-laying games and I'd been wanting to try it for a long time. It certainly has an unusual theme, that of picking up and delivering damned souls to the different Circles of Hell. The winner is the player who delivers the most souls.

The basics of the game are as follows. The nine Circles of Hell are laid out in a designated pattern on the table and everyone starts their locomotive, a tiny colored wooden engine, at the gates. On a player's turn, he draws a card and then takes as many actions as he desires which include picking up a car full of souls, delivering souls, moving his engine, laying new rail, upgrading rail, or "fanning the flames" (discarding a card to draw new ones). All of these actions involve playing a card. The really neat thing is that the same cards are used for all the actions. Each card has a number of souls and the locations where they are picked up and delivered, a brimstone value which is used for moving one's train and railroad tracks in various orientations which form the railroad when played onto the table. So there are plenty of tough card management decisions to be made as to how each card is best used as you plan your route. I really enjoyed this aspect of the game.

HellRail HellRail close up.
The one aspect of the game which I'm not as sure about is the Circle effects. These are disks that are randomly laid out at the beginning of the game, one on each Circle of Hell. Each one has a special effect or action that a player can chose to activate when his train enters that circle. Some of them directly help him and others are to hinder other players. These can cause the game to be quite chaotic and frustrating. The effects definitely add to the theme with names like "Gluttony" and "Lust" and they turn an otherwise friendly little pick-up-and-deliver game into an diabolical game of screwage. What else would you expect in a game set in Hell?!? I definitely need more plays to determine whether HellRail exceeds my tolerance level for this type of game. I think the fact that I was learning the game contributed to my frustration but I'm looking forward to playing it again soon which is a good sign. One nice thing about it is that it does play in under an hour which is about right for a game of this type.

I had good luck with my initial draws and was able to make several nice early deliveries. Of course, this set me up as one big target, especially for Mark, who was all too eager to try to work those Circle effects to his advantage and my detriment. Fortunately, I was able to make a few more deliveries and further my lead. Meanwhile, Doug was stuck on one of the Circles trying to escape from the clutches of Cerberus, the three-headed guardian of Hell. Feeling confident of my lead, I tried to draw and play as many cards as I could in order to deplete the deck and discard pile and end the game. Mark tried to thwart me by being a glutton and activating the Gluttony effect which plucked cards from my hand for him to play and get back into the discard pile. Each time he did that though, he had to leave that Circle and then come back on another turn to reactivate that effect. I was finally able to deplete the pile to end the game despite his repeated attempts to prolong it.

Results: Susan 48, Doug 32, Mark 28

Other games played: New England, Puerto Rico

New England
Jeff Ford, Jon and Ed complete to build the best farms in New England.
New England up close
Midway through the New England game.
Puerto Rico
Jon, Ed, Jeff and newcomer Mengmeng play Puerto Rico.
Expedition board
Expedition close up.

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

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Copyright © 2003, Ed Rozmiarek