28-May-2002All month
 
Great Walls

The first time the grit game has hit the table. The game comes in round tube and consists of a flexible board, a pack of cards displaying tetris like shapes, 4 racks to hold these cards and four bags of coloured grit. The game is Go with a twist. It plays with 2,3 or 4 players and players usually play more than one piece per turn depending on the card they play. Each player is dealt 5 cards and on their turn they play one of these cards to place grit onto the baord to match the shape on the card. The idea of the game is to totally enclose areas with a ring of their coloured grit. The winner being the person at the end of the game with the most captured board.

None of the 3 players had ever played Go so had no idea as to tactics, and hence 3 different tactics were used. Boog started with a small enclosure and kept expanding it. Tel started 2 enclosures and tried to connect them, while Andy tried to develop 2 areas on opposite sides of the board. Boog didnt pay too much attention to everyone else but was intent on making his area as big as possible. Andy however was spending more time employing spoiler tactics, sometimes at a detriment to himself, while Tel seemed content to employ spoiler tactics around his territory. Tel and Andy were both forced to pass (and replace their cards) with no legal move, Boog had a legal move but counted the scores before deciding if to pass and end the game or to play. The count showed that Boog and Tel were tied on 50 each. So Boog played on, claiming 2 extra points, however the redraw had enabled Tel to 2 further plays for a total of 3 points and he took the victory by a single point from Boog with Andy back in third.

On first impressions I like this game, the cards add an element of luck to the game, but not too much that it will supress tactical play. We played the game in about an hour.

Final Scores
Tel 53, Boog 52, Andy 29

Ratings / 10
Tel 8, Boog 7, Andy 7
 
Scores: Tel 53, Boog 52, Andy 29
Ratings: Tel 8, Boog 7, Andy 7
Winner(s): Tel

Guillotine

Scores: Kev 32, Paul 26, Oggie 26
Ratings: Kev 7, Paul 6, Oggie 7
Winner(s): Kev

Mamma Mia!

Next up was the Pizza building game. Players are dealt 6 ingredient cards from a common deck and 1 pizza card from their own pizza supply. On their turn a player may play any number of the same ingredient onto the common discard pile followed optionally by a pizza card. Each pizza requires certain ingredients to be completed. Once the ingredient deck is exhausted whoever drew the Mama Mia card scores the round. This is done by starting from the bottom of the discard deck the cards are laid out, once a pizza arrives if the required ingredients are present the pizza owner gains 1 VP. If there are ingredients missing the player can make up the missing cards from their hand. Whoever has the most VPs after 3 rounds wins.

Andy got off to a flyer. He was the only one to build any pizzas on the first round, completing 3. The second round was a lot closer with everybody making pizzas. However the final round again belonged to Andy giving him a comfortable win.

Although this is a memory game, there is also an element of bluffing going on as to whether you are going to be able to complete a pizza from your hand. A great little filler that plays in about 20 minutes.

Final Scores
Andy 8, Tel 4, Boog 3

Ratings / 10
Andy 8, Tel 7, Boog 7
 
Scores: Andy 8, Tel 4, Boog 3
Ratings: Andy 8, Tel 7, Boog 7
Winner(s): Andy

Pit

While we waited for Kev to turn up we played a few rounds of Pit. Its becoming a bit of a regular start to the evening to spend the first half hour manically shouting numbers at each other trying to collect the 9 commodities of the same type.

Three out of the four hands finished when someone had collected a set of Barley. Boog took the first hand using the Bull as a wild card for the ninth. Tel claimed all 9 Barley cards in the 2nd hand, but then used the Bull to make up the nine in the 3rd. Oggie bucked the trend taking the last hand with Sugar.

It seemed a little quieter tonight but then again Kev wasnt playing.

Final Scores
Tel 170, Oggie 75, Boog 45, Paul -20, Andy -40

Ratings / 10
Tel 7, Oggie 6, Boog 6, Paul 5, Andy 7
 
Scores: Tel 170, Oggie 75, Boog 45, Paul -20, Andy -40
Ratings: Tel 7, Oggie 6, Boog 6, Paul 5, Andy 7
Winner(s): Tel

T Rex

We finished the night with a game of T rex. Tel hadnt played this before so a run through of the rules was needed. Each player is given an identical deck of cards containing numbered cards in 5 colours. From these decks each player draws 5 cards. Two of the colours are chosen one as a trump colour, the other as a Negative Trump. On each of the rounds 2 egg cards are displayed and these are what the players are trying to win. On his turn a player plays a card from his hand onto his own discard pile. Each card has a colour number and symbol. If the symbol shows a number of cards then the player draws that many cards, if it shows a comet then if it is the highest numbered comet displayed the turn ends on this players next turn, unless someone playes a higher comet. At the end of the round the Highest displayed card gets first choice at the eggs with the second highest taking the other. All players then discard either their top card of the discard or deck. The player of the lowest displayed card has the option of changing one of the two trump colours. At the end of the game totals are calculated as the number of eggs in each coloured squared and then totalled.

Boog played the game concentrating on just two colours, saving his big cards for when these two colours were available, Andy played in 3 colours while Tel seemed intent on winning as many cards as possible in whatever colour was there. Boog held a close lead for most of the game, however Tel won the last hand and managed to sneak the game from Boog.

Initial impressions are that I like the game however I suspect I missed some of the subtleties that will come with more play.

Final Scores
Tel 23, Boog 21, Andy 18

Ratings / 10
7s all round
 
Scores: Tel 23, Boog 21, Andy 18
Ratings: Tel 7, Boog 7, Andy 7
Winner(s): Tel

Taj Mahal

With the other table engaged in Great Walls, the rest of use cracked open Taj Mahal. When we first tried this game, the whole group panned it. This was pretty much our first introduction to Knizias wacky score-lots-of-different-ways mechanic which led to much scratching of heads and perusal of rules. This, and a couple of rules which we managed to get wrong, conspired to suck all of the fun out of the game. So bad a time did we have that one member of the group even elected to go home to fix his boiler rather than continue. Of course, the next time we played it it started to click and has continued clicking ever since.

The board is split into 12 regions, each of which has a commodity chit and spaces for a number of fortresses. Roads connect fortress sites to other regions. Each round, players use cards to bid for the right to claim the commodities and build fortresses. The cards contain a number of symbols such as elephants and monks. Each turn, a player can either drop out of the bidding or play another card. If he plays, he lays the card in front of him and totals each type of symbol he has. If he has the majority of elephants when he drops out, he claims the commodity chip. If he has a majority of one or more of the other symbols, he builds one or more fortresses and takes a token for each symbol he had the majority of. Pairs of symbols are traded in for special cards. Except for the specials, cards are discarded when played. As a player can only usually expect to get back one or two cards at the end of the round, careful hand management is very important. Added to this, each player may only play cards of a single colour each round so having a fist full of cards is no guarantee that you will be able to lay a new card in your turn. This leads to a bluffing element, as well as some very interesting decisions. Points are scored for capturing commodities, building fortresses, and building chains of fortresses across multiple regions. Additionally, one of the special cards (known in the group as The Bird With The Bird) scores two points each time it is used and some of the fortress sites contain chits which may give additional points or cards. At the end of the game, each player also scores points according to the number of cards he has of the same colour.

Last game, I failed dismally with an elephant strategy, being forced to withdraw time after time without a majority and ending the game with only a couple of commodity chits and a massive four fortresses on the board out of a possible twenty-odd. I decided to vary the mix a bit this time and tried to supplement elephants with a few chains of fortresses and by trying to capture The Bird With The Bird special card early and using it often. About halfway though the game everything seemed to be going to plan with clear score track between myself in the lead, Kev a good few points back and Oggie somewhere over the horizon. Kev was picking up commodity chits and putting some nice fortress chains together and was scoring regularly. Oggie on the other hand has waving a bad run of the luck with the cards and had been forced to withdraw time after time with nothing to show. His frustration was reflected in his final mark for the game.

Everything changed however when Oggie managed to join two fortress chains together and wrest control of The Bird With The Bird. For four turns in a row he scored spectacularly. Kev was also building on his early chain foundations while Id stopped for a breather to restock on cards.

Coming onto the last round, there was only a one point difference between all three of us. Kev had managed to take The Bird With the Bird and had a connection point to a big chain, but was low on cards. Oggie had a connection to his bustling metropolis which by now pretty much spanned the whole board and was fanning an unhealthfully large number of cards. I could only connect to a smallish chain but would score well if I could take the commodity chit and had slowly been building up a set of yellow cards for the occasion. Finally, a tile on a fortress site was worth four points to whoever could claim it. So, everything to play for. In the final reckoning, Oggie stormed to victory by adding to his chain, taking the four point tile and having a set of 9 blue cards at the end.

Things to learn from this game - dont let anyone connect chains of fortresses together. Unless its you. The bidding rounds also proved interesting in a 3 player game. Playing to stop anyone being able to drop out to take a particular fortress site was sometimes more important than taking a particular majority yourself. And all, of course, within the confines of tight card management.

Final scores - Oggie 68, Paul 65, Kev 60
Marks / 10 - Oggie 6, Paul 9, Kev 8
 
Scores: Oggie 68, Paul 65, Kev 60
Ratings: Oggie 6, Paul 9, Kev 8
Winner(s): Oggie