Galaxy Express

I am not normally sad enough to play solitaire board games on a Saturday night, but Ness is ill, there’s nothing on the TV, I’ve read all my favourite websites and my PC is in too poor condition for video games. In desperation, I remembered Mikko’s “recent posts”:http://www.melankolia.net/gameblog/archives/000999.html about his initial experiments with piecepack solitaires, which inspired me to have a go at “Galaxy Express”:http://www.ludism.org/ppwiki/GalaxyExpress, a runner up in the “Solitary Confinement”:http://www.ludism.org/ppwiki/SolitaryConfinement competition.

The rules summarise it well:

bq. Galaxy Express is a solitaire game for the piecepack about delivering shipments between planets in the distant future. It is a game of strategic planning and clever movement. Carefully move your starship to each of the planets, in the proper order, while refuelling as little as possible.

The planets are coins and the starship is a pawn. The universe is an 8×6 board, formed from 12 piecepack tiles. Starships can move from one edge of the board to the opposite, rather like the 1970s video game, “Asteroids”:http://www.squadron13.com/games/asteroids/asteroids.htm.

I had to think a lot, and managed to complete the game and get 115 points on my first attempt. According to the rules this is a good score. I think I was helped by lucky initial placement, which meant that all the planets had at least one shared axis with another planet.

I enjoyed Galaxy Express a lot; in fact it resurrected my dire evening. What I particularly enjoyed was the wraparound board. This reminds me of the Toric Scrabble variant, in _New Rules for Classic Games_. The name and concept come from the “Toroidal Universe theory”:http://www.cs.appstate.edu/~sjg/class/1010/wc/geom/donutuniverse.html.

Puerto Rico Online

Thanks to “a tip-off from Chris Brooks”:http://www.chrisbrooks.org/PermaLink.aspx?guid=725113f6-bb76-4061-b69e-a7dcc2f45e1c, I have just been playing “Puerto Rico online”:http://www.phial.com/puerto-rico/. I am quite impressed. The interface is pretty usable. It is much better than BSW, but that is not saying much as I think BSW’s interface is the _worst I have ever seen_.

Only small quibbles:

* The lobby is not great for meeting people to play with.
* Long download – even on broadband.
* It doesn’t work in “Firefox”:http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/ – the best browser around.

Edel, Stein & Reich, Ivanhoe

Playing games for two nights running is exceptional for me, so I decided to keep things simple.

“Edel, Stein & Reich”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/5781
We played a four-player game of this. It went down well, but I am not sure if this was due to the gems or the gameplay. There is some subtle thinking when bartering, which makes this one a deeper game than it first looks. Although there is a lot of luck in the scissors-paper-stone element of the game, I am sure that skilful players will win the majority of the time.
For me, it plays better with three players than four, as there is less clashing of choices. It might play well with five, but I have not had a chance to try it.
I stuck paste-ups (cut out from A4 labels) onto the event cards, which definitely improves the game. It’s light and fast moving, so looking up translations would slow it down too much.

“Ivanhoe”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/883
This is good for when you are feeling tired and just want some light, direct aggression with your friends. I made the mistake of getting too committed with draining battles, and should have picked my shots more carefully. We enjoyed it so much we played twice. Apparently, the battles mechanism is similar to “Taj Mahal”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/475, which I borrowed a while ago, but have not got around to playing. Judging by the consistent success of Ivanhoe, the guys will love Taj Mahal.

Wizard Kings

“Wizard Kings”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/692 arrived in the post last week and was delayed in the post office for over a week and I had to pay an extra £8 in tax, because it came from outside the European Union and it cost over £18. This was very annoying as I cannot easily get to the post office during the week and it was hardly one of Ness’ top priorities on top of looking after Oscar. It also makes an expensive game _almost_ too expensive.

It’s a pity that Columbia only ship from their own website. It would save European customers money and time if they could make a good deal with a European distributor.

Anyway, we played it last night and it was worth a wait. The rules are simple and elegant. It almost feels like an video game like Myth or Warcraft. In fact some of the “multiplayer battle types in Myth”:http://www.gamespot.com/features/myth2_gg/multi6.html could be ported into interesting Wizard Kings scenarios.

We only had time to get a feel for the game and half-play the first scenario. I’m looking forward to exporing this further.

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 Gefährten 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.