This page has notes on games played recently at the club. Please add a few comments or a short session report on anything you found interesting. If you have not visited us before, this page will give you an idea of the type of games we play.
November 8th The last two tournament games of Panamax were completed this week and we have four clear finalists. I was fully engaged with Merchants & Marauders all evening, and we had a visitor David Nicholson join the game after David-L very kindly gave up his place. There is some luck in this game which creates some of the interesting narratives. A lot depends on how to ride the luck and mitigate disasters. Eventually it revolved around who was spotted by NPCs. My pirate/smuggler was able to get past a French Man-o-War blockade at Havana twice undetected to deliver cloth and contraband: Paul’s trading vessel escaped detection once and traded for a lot of cash on board but was then hunted by a pirate frigate, and sunk in a battle outside San Juan. With M&M, I can accept this amount of luck, because it creates very interesting stories for each captain, and it is excting to see what risks can be taken and got away with. I can also underrstand why some people find it too dice-dependent. On other tables I saw Steam and Ra, but there were quite a lot of other games, including something with a lot of miniatures that I did not recognise (Ian?).
November 1st This week we had two tournament games of Panamax. It is still quite open as to who ends up in the final. On other tables I saw Power Grid for 4 on the Netherlands board, Ticket to Ride in the back room, and Great Western Trail. We also had time for Flamme Rouge, which recreates the tactics of cycle racing quite effectively – do you stay in the peleton and conserve energy or go for a breakaway hoping to stay ahead? The version we played had very high production values with nice interlocking pieces to make the variable tracks, neat pieces for the cyclists and well-produced cards and player boards – very good if you have 45 minutes left at the end of an evening..
October 25 and five tables. I was in the backroom this week playing the latest iteration in the Quartermaster General series, The Cold War, which is designed for 3 players (Western powers, Eastern Bloc and Independents). Like the other games in the series it is fast-playing, tense and historical. The main differences are that there is much more covert play (Espionage cards are played face-down and work like response cards), and much less overt conflict (fewer build and battle cards). This is in keeping with the cold war theme. There is also an interesting escalation mechanism with WMDs which tends to create a military stand-off while encouraging subversive manoeuvring. I particularly enjoyed playing the independents, (China, India and numerous liberation and guerilla armies in different hotspots around the world). Another difference from previous games in the series is that armies can coexist in an area, and there is some incentive to do so. All of these changes make a real Cold War feel to the game. I am not sure that it is better than the more military titles in the series (WW1, WW2, and the Peloponnesian war), and I did miss the teamplay aspect of the others, but it is certainly different. In my short forays into the main room, I noticed Goa again, a tournament game of Panamax (can someone please tell me what the final scores were) Antike, Brass-Birmingham and some curious German game about hedgehogs - Igel Argern?
October 18th There were just 4 groups this week and two were playing Panamax. Once you have tried it, there are only three rounds and it is quite quick – we were finished by 9:30 and had time for Perudo. It was first game for several players in the other group and they were just finishing at 11. On other table there was Goa, which we have not seen for a while and Clans of Caledonia.
October 11th There was quite a mix of old and new this week, but I did not circulate much as I was fully engaged in Samurai & Katana for the whole evening. It ran rather longer than it should but was still very entertaining because there is always so much interaction - during other player’s turns you have to continually look at what cards to play and be prepared to defend your patch as new cards arrive in your hand. We had one other Japanese-themed game this week – Yokohama. Spirit Island, played on the neighbouring table is receiving a lot of attention on BGG just now and the 4th (Portugese-theme) table started with Coimbra (dice-drafting) and went on to play Azul.
October 4th This was my first opportunity to play Panamax, and I was pleasantly surprised. Essentially you are running a shipping company trying to get goods through the Panama canal. It needed a long explanation of the rules before we started, and even then I was not quite sure what to do or what to expect. However, once started the actual game play is not that complex and many elements are intuitive; if you buy more shares in a company you get a bigger dividend and the share price goes up etc. However unlike some other games you cannot lose your company to another player by becoming a minority shareholder- you keep it for the whole game. Meanwhile on the map-board you are trying to load and run ships efficiently to make money for your company and hope to be paying out dividends to yourself and other investors. It works. There are slightly too many interlocking mechanisms for running the ships (and trains!), IMO, but there is a balance between self-interest and cooperation depending on what goods are loaded on each of the ships. I look forward to playing it again. One other group started with Ave Caesar before moving on to Root. There was a welcome return for Castles of Burgundy and the table next to us were playing what appeared to be a very complex version of Stoneage called Pre-History, which had two separate central boards as well as 4-player boards and a lot of cubes. Player-boards which are almost standard in many games nowadays may just be there to keep track of bits and scores, but more often they carry key information on who can do what to you or can do something before you can. In this case keeping track of everything happening on all the different boards is quite daunting, at least for the first few play-throughs. I think that the reason I found Panamax less complicated than I feared was because it was possible to track what was happening, just by looking at the main-board.