11-Jun-2002All month
 
Drakon

Another new game to the group. Drakon is a tile laying game. The players are slowly building, altering and destroying a dungeon which they are travelling round with the aim of collecting 5 gold pieces by visiting the gold producing tiles. As rules go they dont come much simpler. On a turn a player may either place a tile (from the 4 in his hand) and then draw to replace it or move his figure one tile. The tiles are square and some of the four sides on each tile will have an arrow pointing of it. For legal placement no two arrows may face each other. Most of the tiles have a symbol in the middle which denotes the action for that tile usually performed on entry, these allow for gaining gold, stealing gold, rotating, destroying and swapping tiles etc. And thatís it.

The first game lasted about 5 minutes. In our ignorance we contrived to put 4 coin gaining tile together and a quick race round this loop ensued, Kev went off on his own and did manage to prolong the game by one move by preventing Andy from winning only for Boog to claim his 5th gold immediately afterwards.

So we started a second game and this one was more cagey. Boog set off on the road to Nowhere while the rest of us stayed clumped together round the start. Things soon got interesting as some of the more intersting tiles started to hit the table. Terry lost an early lead and ended the game with only 1 coin with Boog having stolen the rest. Andy also ended the game with less coins then he once had, he however having to place most of his coins on the start square. Andy and Tel spent the last 20 minutes sacrificing their chances of winning in attempts to stop both Boog and Kev. But eventually they run out of options and couldnt stop Kev claiming the victory.

The second game was very entertaining with plenty of humorous moments and took 45 minutes to play.

Ratings / 10
1st game - Boog 7, Tel 6, Andy 6, Kev 5 (Boog won)
2nd game - Kev 7, Tel 8, Boog 8, Andy 9 (Kev won)
 
Scores: Boog , Kev , Andy , Tel
Ratings: Boog 7, Kev 5, Andy 6, Tel 6
Winner(s): Boog

Drakon

Scores: Boog , Kev , Andy , Tel
Ratings: Boog 8, Kev 7, Andy 9, Tel 8
Winner(s): Kev

Jack the Ripper

Paul and I usually catch the same train back from work in an evening. This gives us an hour of prime game playing time but in an unusual location, ie a moving train with a small table space. Hence the choice of games is a little restrictive. Also since its on the way home the idea is to relax which cuts down the choice yet more ( No brain drain games). Our regular game is Lost Cities. Within the gaming group we have played and enjoyed Wyatt Earp so when Paul picked up Jack the Ripper we thought wed try it on the train. JTR is part of the Mystery Rummy series, ie a rummy game of playing melds but with a theme and a twist.

The idea of JTR is that the players are trying to put cases together to prove the identity of the infamous serial killer. Cards are split into Evidence cards and other cards. In a turn a player draws a card, plays any number of evidence cards and may play one non-evidence card (gavel cards), then discards a card. There are 5 victims and 5 corresponding scenes of the crime. Playing a victim/scene allows the player to draw a cards from the draw/discard pile. Once a victim is in play then Evidence can be played against the suspects. An initial meld of evidence against a suspect must be made up of 3 cards, after that anyonre can play evidence or the suspect card for that suspect. There are other cards which allow special abilities including the Ripper Escapes card, once all 5 victims are in play the Ripper can escape using this card. The end of the hand can occur in 3 ways- twice through the deck, ripper escapes or someone plays out. If the Ripper escapes the player playing the cards scores 35, with only scenes and victims scoring of the played cards, otherwise all played cards are worth their face value except for the cards of the ripper - the suspect with the most evidence (or card value) - these cards are worth double. Cards let in the hand that are unplayable to existing melds are sutracted. The game plays over multiple hands until someone hits 100 points.

Into the first hand and after almost reaching the end of the first time through the deck Paul played a card forcing all victims into play and then on his next turn allowed the Ripper to escape. In the second hand Tel managed to provide Pauls prime suspect with an Alibi ( preventing him being the ripper ) and then go out with less evidence against one of his own suspects to close the gap. The next two hands were really unkind to Paul as he drew almosyt exclusively gaqvel cards both hands while Tel had a handful of evidence cards, allowing Tel to build compelling cases and take the game quite comfortably. We played a second game but didnt manage to finish as the train pulled in before we broke the 100 point barrier though Paul was almost there.

The game is perfect for out train journey, it fits on the small train tables, requires some thought but not too much, as with Lost cities the biggest decisions are often which card to discard. Definitely recommended.

Final Scores
Tel 108 Paul 51

Tel 64 Paul 93

Ratings /10
Both gave it 8
 
Scores: Tel 108, Paul 51
Ratings: Tel 8, Paul 8
Winner(s): Tel

Jack the Ripper

Scores: Paul 93, Tel 64
Ratings: Paul 8, Tel 8
Winner(s): Paul

Jack the Ripper

While waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for Kev to turn up, myself and The Boog decided to start up a game of Jack The Ripper. This was my third game within as many hours but the game was new to The Boog. However, hed recently played Wyatt Earp which shares many of the same basic mechanisms and so picked the game up very quickly. The Boog used to work in the same area in which the Ripper peddled his grisly trade, but his experience of the back alleys and hostelries of the area proved not to give any advantage in the game.

The game started slowly with each of us collecting evidence and finishing the first couple of hands about square. Things got interesting during the third hand, which hinged on a nasty choice of which of three cards to discard. With the deck almost empty, four victims on the table and a nagging suspicion that The Boog had the fifth in his hand I didnt dare discard The Ripper Escapes. That left a straight choice between discarding the alibi card for my chief suspect or a wild evidence card. I decided to go with the wild card which The Boog promptly picked up and used to meld enough evidence out of his hand to end the round.

Having been burned for 8 points by having The Ripper Escapes in my hand, I decided to discard it as quickly as possible in the next hand as my fistful of Gavel cards didnt indicate Id be going out any time soon. This play proved to be a tad sub-optimal. Little did I know that The Boog had been dealt three victims in his opening hand. The Ripper escaped almost before news of his deadly deeds had hit the broadsheets.

Despite having been told that Jack very rarely escapes, The Boog seemed determined to disprove this theory. He was within a whisker of repeating The Great Escape, again building up a set of victims very quickly. I managed to catch him in the nick of time, as the Commissioner was about to resign in The Boogs next turn which would have flushed all five victims out onto the table.

This put the scores at 92-99, so the next round was almost certain to end the game by one of us hitting the 100 points needed for victory. This hand ended extremely quickly. I was dealt a very fortunate set of cards and was able to lay nine evidence and a suspect card at the same time after about four turns to claim the round and the game.

After three games each so far of Wyatt Earp and Jack The Ripper, Ive found the latter to be by far the most interesting of the two. It plays very well with two players and seems to have more scope for clever and subtle tactics than its Wild West counterpart. Despite a couple of rounds being heavily influenced by the luck of the initial draw, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

Scores - Paul 131, Boog 85
Ratings (/10, for this session) Paul 8, Boog 8
 
Scores: Paul 131, Boog 85
Ratings: Paul 8, Boog 8
Winner(s): Paul

Medina

Myself and Oggie have both played this three times, but it was new to Steve so we launched into a rules explanation. This was slightly hampered by none of us having read, or even seen, the English rules to this game. We were taught it by a very nice chap on one of the demo stalls at Essen last year so we know the gist of it. Any situations arising outside of our mental ruleset had to be handled by the time honoured method of making it up as we go along though. We do seem to be getting quite good at convincing ourselves that we can resolve these situations by referencing the original German rules however, despite only understanding roughly one word in each sentence.

We think the game is based around building the ancient city of Medina. Each player has an array of different coloured building blocks which can be placed within, or around, the grid representing the city. Blocks in four different colours represent the four different types of buildings. Smaller white blocks can be added to buildings to give the residents somewhere to keep their goats, with the additional benefit of increasing the size of the building. Meeples can also be placed to represent a queue of people waiting patiently in the streets. Or perhaps theyre celibrating the birth of the city with an alfresco conga. Wall pieces are used to partially surround the city. Each player has four roof tiles with which to claim a building. He can only claim one building of each of the four colours. Once a building is claimed, we believe it can only be further increased in size by adding goat sheds. Players compete for largest buildings, and score additional points for being next to walls or congoing citizens. Tiles worth 1-4 points change hands as players outbuild each other or connect buildings to walls.

Buildings do not belong to anybody until they are claimed with a roof, so the game is full of difficult decisions. Do I claim this building now or do a make it a bit bigger? But if I make it bigger, will one of my opponents claim it before I get the chance to? There is thus a chicken element and players spend much of their time trying to minimise helping their opponents instead of directly aiding themselves. This makes for a very thoughtful game. A lot of our groups games can be quite rowdy, but a typical conversation in Medina tends to go along the lines of Silence. More silence. Whos turn is it? Mine, Im thinking. More silence.

This was our first outing with three players so none of us were sure how big a building should be allowed to get before it gets capped. I was the first to crack, claiming a five point grey building. Steve seemed to be following a slightly quirky strategy of claiming six point buildings in the shape of churches. He appeared to be letting these out to families of farmers as one of the churches later became outfitted with three goat sheds. Oggie meanwhile had proclaimed his first building as the party capital of Medina and it was soon surrounded with a rowdy crowd.

Oggie seemed to be in pole position throughout the game, grabbing a couple of decent bonus tiles to supplement his partygoers. Indeed, the party must have been a good one as new people were turning up, bottles of wine in hand, to expand the throng. Soon it had snaked past two of his buildings and was about to hit a third. Unfortunately for him I managed to coax the conga line down an alley between two of my building. However, as soon as they ran out of room to dance, Steve started another party up beside Oggies new grey disco on the other side of town. I dont think Oggie was very pleased about this though as the disco had not yet opened. In fact, the building wasnt even finished yet, but the partygoers wouldnt clear the building site. He therefore ended up putting together a far smaller affair than the six floor, four bar metropolois he had originally envisioned.

Coming into the end game, we were all cagily playing fairly neutral pieces to avoid adding that vital last building piece, roof or wall too early. The decisive last battles came down to who could claim, or hold onto, the wall tile bonuses. We hit a hole in our rules knowledge when Oggie capped a building next to a wall to try to claim a tile that Steve had previously taken by connecting the same wall to one of his buildings. The tile is taken by the last person to connect one of his buildings to the wall. We werent sure if the tile could be claimed as the wall had already been built past this building to another. Not sure what the correct ruling was, we thoroughly consulted the German rules before arbitrarily deciding that wed allow it. We all thought this had cemented Oggies win, but I managed to wrest the four point wall tile from him at the death to steal victory.

As ever, this was a thoughtful experience with plenty of turn angst. I expect it to hit the table regularly now that our group has grown to the point of splitting to play two seperate games and are no longer restricting ourselves to just playing five or six player games. Though more of a tactical than a strategic battle, the decisive strategies in this session were to deprive opponents of bonus tiles and gain as many points as possible from adjacency to the conga line.

Scores - Paul 49, Oggie 47, Steve 43
Ratings (/10, for this session) - Paul 8, Oggie 7, Steve 7
 
Scores: Paul 49, Oggie 47, Steve 43
Ratings: Paul 8, Oggie 7, Steve 7
Winner(s): Paul

Puerto Rico

Second outing for Puerto Rico. Paul and Boog decided to sit it out to wait for Kev to turn up so it was Tel, Andy, Steve and Oggie. Oggie and Steve were newbies so Tel gave them a 15 min intro to the rules while Andy set it up (and that takes a while).

Tel again adopted the quarrying approach to the game claiming 4 quarries very early on and was the only player in tobacco. Andy also used the same tactics as last time by building the hacienda to quickly fill his Island with plantations. Oggie and Steve were producing a plenty of goods, but where Oggies were all the cheap varieties and he kept being forced to discard them and was permanently short of cash, Steve had the lucrative coffee monopoly and was constantly loaded. So for the second game running the coffee monopoly took the game, however Tels quarry tactic proved more successful this time claiming 2nd place.

I am already a huge fan of this game. After only 2 plays its obvious that there is huge potential for a variety of tactics. Despite the coffee route winning both games so far, this was due in part to the naivety of the group. I hold my hands up to probably gifting Steve the game today as on a couple of occasions I produced goods to further my own cause but gave Steve an even bigger advantage. My only two gripes about the game are its setup time ( so many pieces) and that with an ever growing games collection within the group I may not play it enough to fully understand all the intricacies and tactics but hey retirements only 30 years away.

Final Scores
Steve 35, Tel 31, Oggie 29, Andy 26

Ratings / 10
Steve 8, Tel 8, Oggie 6, Andy 6
 
Scores: Steve 35, Tel 31, Oggie 29, Andy 26
Ratings: Steve 8, Tel 8, Oggie 6, Andy 6
Winner(s): Steve