Age of Steam PBEM finished

Our five-player, play-by-email game of “Age of Steam”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4098 finished the week before last, but I was unable to post about it due to “my problems with Blosxom”:http://www.cheyne.net/blog/archives/000001.html.
To my surprise I won, due to some early auction wins and building a ring around Lake Erie, so I could ship goods in peace. I had only played it once before and playing it PBEM and having the time to absorb the rules has led me to revaluate it. It certainly worked very well PBEM, although all the players were already very experienced.
I am very torn about AoS, as I still think that apart from Tigris and Euphrates, it is the deepest non-abstract game I have played, and that the theme richly matches the game mechanics, but the last time I played, I came sixth and spent two hours watching everything I touched turn to mud. Having said that, this viciousness is a part of the appeal. AoS is *definitely* the last game I would ever play with a non-gamer.

Musings, Ramblings, and Things Left Unsaid

While playing around with “Trackback”:http://www.movabletype.org/trackback/beginners/ and “Technorati”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cheyne.net%2Fblog, (MovableType is *superb*) I found I was linked to from quite an interesting blog, “Musings, Ramblings, and Things Left Unsaid”:http://tajmahalfred.blogspot.com/.

Fred mostly writes about books and games, particularly big, heavy ones like “Roads and Boats”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/875 and “The Peloponnesian War”:http://boardgamegeek.com/game/6859.

I would love to play some monster games.. “American Megafauna”:http://boardgamegeek.com/game/639 looks particularly excellent, but games are a _totally_ a social thing for me, and I can’t imagine how I could fit this into my schedule or persuade anyone to play it with me.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Princes of Florence

Only two of the guys showed up last night. I have been too busy to read any new rulesets, so we played two old ones.

“Der Herr der Ringe: die Gef√§hrten das Kartenspiel”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/2672
I am not sure why this typically neat Knizia card game is so underrated. Maybe it’s the German text on the cards? In any case, the Fantasy Flight version, “Kingdoms”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4753, was not more successful.
This is one of those games I can always rely on to give a good gaming experience. It’s quick, simple, has plenty of variety and requires a fair bit of strategic thinking to win. “Bruno Faidutti”:http://faidutti.free.fr/jeux/articles/lotrcartes/lotrcartes.html hated the cards, but I disagree. As Bruno points out, you need a big table and have to remember that you can’t place a new place card if that would mean that other players have to place cards off the table to surround it. I printed paste-ups onto an A4 label, cut them out and stuck them onto the cards and rings, a good time investment.
It definitely plays better with four, as three players run out of character cards and the game ends well before all the place cards are finished. This meant that we were finished at the Gates of Mordor, which feels wrong thematically.

“Princes of Florence”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/555
This worked well with three players. There was not as much competition over profession cards, but at least the game was quicker. Games like PoF, that do not involve much direct aggression between players, are good with three, as they avoid the “petty diplomacy”:http://www.wunderland.com/WTS/Jake/GameDesign.html problem.

FFF, Volldampf, Wallenstein

Last Saturday I visited my friend Michael, who was hosting a games day in Crawley (near Gatwick Airport). Unwisely, I chose to cycle the long distance on the windiest day of the year, so I was exhausted. I played three new games: one good, one average and one superb. Two games were based around maps of Germany, so I got a good geography lesson.

“Fische Fluppen Frikadellen”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4370
This is a nice medium weight romp. It’s a fine balance of keeping an eye on the resource graph and the other players, while plotting your movements around the board. The components are very nice quality and look great. Apparently our game was particularly chaotic, due to using a trader who shifts other traders around the board. I’d like to try this with multiple boards, but it’s not on my buying list for now.

“Volldampf”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/1338
We played a six-player game of this one. Five of us were Age of Steam veterans. Michael was keen to try this, as he is an AoS nut and heard that this one was lighter and quicker. It is very close to AoS in terms of mechanics, but lacks a few elements, like engine and getting victory points for track. These changes mean that although the games share 90% of the same genes, they are very different. We all agreed that Volldampf is the chimp and AoS the man. AoS is very tense, as any mistakes you make will be immediately and harshly punished. Volldampf is much more forgiving and there is much less incentive to set up your own networks. You’re better off working out where bottlenecks will occur between heavily built up areas of track. It occupies an uncomfortable middle ground between light, fun games, and heavy absorbing games. While not being a bad game, I can’t recommend it for either casual *or* serious gamer

“Wallenstein”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/3307
I have wanted to play this one ever since I read “Bruno Faidutti’s review”:http://faidutti.free.fr/jeux/articles/wallenstein/wallenstein.html. I generally agree with Bruno’s recommendations and they were one of my main gateways into this hobby. I find that our tastes most closely match with heavy games.
I was not disappointed. This was the best game of the day and my best discovery since Acquire. About a year ago, I played El Grande and liked it a lot. I put it on my list of games to buy, but never actually got around to it. Wallenstein has now blasted El Grande off the list. My only complaint with El Grande was that it felt like it lacked drama. Wallenstein is like a cross between El Grande and Risk, so there is no shortage of drama and chaos. It may be too chaotic and political for some, but I really enjoyed it, despite coming fourth in a five-player game. There is plenty of skill, but enough politics to make it sharp and exciting. The tower is a brilliant innovation and fits perfectly. My only worry is that the box is huge, so I will have to move a few games out of my collection into the attic. There is some German text, so I’m going to print paste-up images from the Geek onto A4 labels and stick them to the cards.

Hanafuda

I heard about an interesting site yesterday on “rec.games.playing-cards”:http://snipurl.com/hanafuda, all about Japanese traditional “Hanafuda”:http://hana.kirisame.org cards and the games that can be played with them. ([“Mikko also mentions them.”:http://www.melankolia.net/gameblog/archives/000230.html])

The website and the cards look great. Unfortunately they are pretty expensive at [“¬£15 plus postage for a pack”:http://www.playingcardsales.co.uk/cards/framehdg.asp?cat=SRP&nav=1&hdg=JP*]. I am also wary of traditional card games. Just because a game has been played for a long time by many people does “not”:http://www.pagat.com/adders/cribbage.html mean it’s good.

On the other hand, I think I’ll find it easy to persuade my wife to play Hanafuda games with me. She did a Japanese degree, lived in Tokyo for a year and loves Japanese things in general (is there a word for that, like Francophile?).

For Sale, Through the Desert, David and Goliath

We had five at my house last Wednesday. We thought we’d stick to simple/already played games, rather than try to teach anything new.

“For Sale”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/172
Four of us played this while we waited for a latecomer. This was our first play of this featherweight filler. I made my own DIY copy, as it’s so expensive on eBay. We played the variant where the lowest bidder withdraws their entire bid – as I read on the Geek that this reduces the problem of players constantly equalling the bid of the first bidder. We only played one game, but the guys liked this first impression. It is so simple and short that it is hard to dislike. I suspect there is a subtle optimal strategy I am missing. If it continues to be enjoyable, I’ll buy a reprint.

“Through the Desert”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/503
We all enjoyed this classic from Knizia. It is not discussed too often these days on Spielfrieks or rec.games.board, but that is only because it is older and relatively unambiguous and simple. Apparently when Knizia was pushed about which was his favourite creation he mentioned this one. I am not surprised.

“David and Goliath”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/44
We finished with a three-handed game. I am not sure about this one. It is simple and fun, but I am not sure there is much skill involved. I think the optimal strategy is (1) hope you get low cards, (2) get rid of your high cards early, so that you can plan your final winnings as much as possible. All played cards are exposed, so it is not as if card counting matters. Maybe someone can give me an insight? At least our almost invincible regular Bridge player came last, so I was glad of the lack of skill required.

New start

I finally gave up with Blosxom. For no apparent reason, my old blog stopped working completely. It was just too much trouble to install and maintain. I could not get any nice extras like trackback to work, even getting comments going was an Odyssey.

I am trying to get my old site back online. A nice bloke from the Blosxom mailing list is having a look. I do not hold out much hope, but it would be nice to have my old posts available.

I toyed with trying WordPress, but MovableType is used so ubiquitously, I believe that when I run into any problems, I will be more likely to find a solution. Plus WordPress does not support Textile yet. WordPress does have a lot of nice extras though. Installation is easy, it’s free like MT, it produces valid code and it’s generally more user-friendly.

Unfortunately, when it comes to software, and free software especially, there is safety in numbers.

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