Saturday, February 13, 2016

Systems Saturday - Homesteaders (2009)

I've played Homesteaders (2009) on a couple of occasions and blogged about it a couple of times in the Summer of 2014 here and here.  It has been a while since I last played this but it came back to me quite quickly.  While I was a couple points off the lead at the end, I still feel I played well and am not sure how I might have improved with the strategy I chose.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Homesteaders is an auction and resource management game in which players bid on the opportunity to build certain types of buildings, then spend resource cubes to build one of several buildings of that type. The buildings confer abilities, income, and points; some automatically and some requiring a worker.
The game lasts ten rounds, with each round consisting of an auction phase followed by a building phase. After the last round, players take one final income phase and have one last chance to buy and sell goods and use their building abilities before scores are tallied.
Players score for their buildings, bonuses conferred by buildings, and points earned throughout the game from selling resource cubes. The player who builds the best combination of buildings and best manages the nine different resources in the game will score the most points and win – as long as they don't take on too much debt!

I approached this time around sticking with the idea that debt should be avoided.  I quickly grabbed a couple of buildings to ensure I'd have plenty of trade tokens throughout the game.  I've seen players who didn't have them languish and also know that in the final round of the game, extras can be used up making trades to snag a few extra victory points.  I even played a game once where that was the whole intent of my strategy, though that might have been excessive.  This time, I did it early and didn't worry about it the rest of the game.

Midway through, I picked up a Farm, as much for the Apple/Food as for the chance to take it from the later round just before another in an earlier round was to be removed from play.  I'm not sure if anyone would have wanted it at the stage, but it did decrease the options for other players that they might have hoped would still be there.  I also grabbed the Boarding House to eliminate one of two debts I had collected as well as for the ongoing income.  I don't think I was ever hard-pressed for Silver or Trade Tokens all game and that did put me into a position to purchase the circus in the last turn.  It nearly won me the game, I daresay.

A look under the hood of various Games, Rules and Systems.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Incan Gold (2006)

Incan Gold (2006) gets broken out round these parts whenever we get a large number of players and don't want to breakup into smaller groups, unless Liar's Dice is chosen instead.  It largely depends on who is there and what games they have available to them.  We enjoy both games so it's a toss up for me.  Sometimes, like recently, we play when even with just a handful of players.  I've blogged about our games of Incan Gold a couple of times before, here and here, so you can tell it is a mainstay at our local tables.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Incan Gold is a quick, fun and tense game in which you and other adventurers explore an old Incan temple in search of gold and treasure. In each of the five rounds, you secretly choose if you want to continue exploring the temple in search of more treasure or retreat to the safety of your camp with your share of the treasure that has been discovered so far.
Each time that an explorer braves new territory, more treasure or a danger appears. When a second card of the same type of danger is turned over, all exposed treasure is buried, leaving the remaining adventurers with nothing. Do you flee the dangerous temple with your portion of the treasure that has been uncovered so far or do you venture into the exciting temple in search of more hidden valuables?
After five rounds of exploration, whoever has the most treasure is the ultimate explorer and winner!
From the publisher: "You and your fellow adventurers travel to Peru to find a ruined Incan temple and its treasures: turquoise, obsidian and gold. There are also rumors of valuable Incan artifacts. Will you chance dangers like giant spiders, mummies and fire during your search, or will you escape back to camp and safety, carrying out your loot?"

I've mentioned in the past how much we enjoy this game because of the number of players it can support.  I've also discusses that we enjoy press your luck games, and that still holds true.  But to delve a bit more into strategy with this game, I have to say you certainly need to be flexible.  What other players do will definitely be very important to your own path toward victory.  This time around, I found that getting an early cache of gems forced others to press their luck much more than I have seen in the past.  While this allowed me to play more conservatively, the chance for an Idol to allow someone to catch up was ever-present.  I wouldn't advise being timid in later rounds even if you have a substantial lead, or suspect you do.  Also, keep a close eye on what others are stashing in their tents.  Knowing just how close others are has to influence your decisions as the game progresses.

Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nostalgia Thursday - Ra (1999)

I wrote about Ra (1999) last Saturday (here) and we've been playing it quite a bit since, so I thought I'd revisit it today in the Nostalgia Thursday.  It is from last century, after all.  We love how fast this game plays even if set up is a bit long, sorting the tiles.  We've discussed using a draw bag but haven't pulled the trigger on that modification yet.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Ra is an auction and set-collection game with an Ancient Egyptian theme. Each turn players are able to purchase lots of tiles with their bidding tiles (suns). Once a player has used up his or her suns, the other players continue until they do likewise, which may set up a situation with a single uncontested player bidding on tiles before the end of the round occurs. Tension builds because the round may end before all players have had a chance to win their three lots for the epoch. The various tiles either give immediate points, prevent negative points for not having certain types at the end of the round (epoch), or give points after the final round. The game lasts for three "epochs" (rounds). The game offers a short learning curve, and experienced players find it both fast-moving and a quick play.
From the Box: 
The game spans 1500 years of Egyptian history in less than an hour! 
The players seek to expand their power and fame and there are many ways to accomplish this: Influencing Pharaohs, Building monuments, Farming on the Nile, Paying homage to the Gods, Advancing the technology and culture of the people. Ra is an auction and set collecting game where players may choose to take risks for great rewards or... And all this is for the glory of the Sun God Ra!

The more we play, the closer the final scores of the games seem to become.  I've been pleased how well snagging groups of Monuments has proven to keep me close or not in first place.  Definitely avoid being odd man out when it comes to Civilization tiles.  Worse, still, coming up with the lowest total Bidding Tiles at the end of the game can spoil and otherwise good finale.  While snagging God tiles when they come around is beneficial if they come with other useful tiles, using them costs a drawing turn so they have a hidden cost.  Watch out for tile killers unless at least part of their cost is covered in the available array and a decent trade up on bidding tiles is in the offing.

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wargaming Wednesday - Civilization (1980)

I've been enjoying Civilization (1980) since its first release.  I try to play it annually at least once, if not twice, often teaching the game to new players.  There is very little luck involved insofar as there are no dice and although one draws cards as part of the game from the Trade decks, one can mitigate the effects from cards that are not beneficial.  My regular gaming group includes three players who hadn't tried this classic before, so we buckled down to give it a go over two of our weekly sessions.  We played the first last week and the second half is still to come.  I've blogged about the game a couple of time before here and here, as well as another time as part of a larger wargaming post from Gary Con here.  I have played Sid Meier's Civilization: The Boardgame (2002) and blogged about that here and am familiar with the Mega Civilization (2015) (blogged here), though I haven't played and am happy playing the classic game in any event.  The original game is so well designed, I'd just as soon play it over almost any other game I play.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
CIVILIZATION is a game of skill for 2 to 7 players. It covers the development of ancient civilizations from the invention of agriculture c. 8000 B.C. to the emergence of Rome around the middle of the third century B.C. Each player leads a nation of peoples over a map board of the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East as they attempt to carve a niche for themselves and their culture.
Although battles and territorial strategy are important, this is not a war game because it is not won by battle or conquest. Instead, the object of play is to gain a level of overall advancement involving cultural, economic, and political factors so that such conflicts that do arise are a result of rivalry and land shortage rather than a desire to eliminate other players. Nomad and farmer, warrior and merchant, artisan and citizen all have an essential part to play in the development of civilization. It is the player who most effectively changes emphasis between these various outlooks who will achieve the best balance - and win.
(from the Introduction to the Avalon Hill edition rulebook)
This game has a huge following and is widely regarded as one of the best games about ancient civilizations. Each player takes on the role of leader of an ancient civilization, such as the Illyrians or Babylonians. Your task is to guide your people through the ages by expanding your empire and using its proceeds to finance new technological advances, such as Literacy, Metalworking, or Law. The advancements help your civilization better cope with its problems as well as help bring new advancements.
Civilization is widely thought to be the first game ever to incorporate a "technology tree," allowing players to gain certain items and abilities only after particular other items were obtained. This influential mechanism has been adopted by countless other board games, card games, and computer games.

I won't comment too extensively on this ongoing game and will blog about it next week in more detail.  Suffice to say, the new players picked up on it quickly and are all doing quite well.  They each have their own strategies in hand and have been trading and moving along the AST with great aplomb.  I look forward to finishing the game with them and getting their feedback.

A closer examination of board and miniatures Wargaming.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Terrain Tuesday - Leaves, Hexes, & Ruined Buses

Over on, even though they are out of stock until the middle of March, have a look at the "Miniature Leaf Punch" here.

Also, on, Map Mastery now has a "Large Fantasy Blank Tabletop Map" available here.

Finally, on the Squidgy Bridge YouTube channel, there's a new video showing Part One of "Ruined bus terrain - How I painted it (part 1) from Ainsty Castings."  Enjoy!

For purposes here, the term Terrain is used broadly
to cover 3D and 2D maps, foam, felt, and such.
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Monday, February 8, 2016

Minis & Modeling Monday - Enterprise, Challenge, & Cleaved

Over on, they take us through "The Restoration of Star Trek's USS Enterprise in Pictures" here.

Also, on, a recent conversion entry is "From IanW Curtgeld Schindlers List 20 points" and pictured here.

Finally, on the UselesswizarD YouTube channel, he shows us "How to: Paint The Cleaved Chaos Space Marines."  Enjoy!

A look at prepping and painting Miniatures,
crafting buildings and paper Models,
and other non-terrain stuff for the tabletop.
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Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Sunday Miscellanea - Dragon Lairds (2007)

I really love when I get the chance to play Dragon Lairds (2007).  It's a fun, colorful card game with lots of surprising and shifting strategies that requires real engagement.  One of the bonuses playing locally is that both designers might be part of the game.  We often make a point of playing it when both are available.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
In this cousin of Saint Petersburg, each player represents a monarch dragon clan, and attempts to assert herself as the Dragon Monarch by game end, by securing the most Royals (victory points). In order to facilitate this process, players will use their Geld (money) to hire Dragon Lairds (aristocrats) and buy Resources (buildings) and Commoners (peasants). You can use precious Royals (your victory points) to acquire Dragon Havocs, which empower you to do anything from getting extra cash, to stealing things from your opponents. The Havocs tend to be one-shot little guys, however, and are always discarded to the bottom of the discard deck, as far out of reach as possible from those cards that pilfer the discard pile.
At the end of each round, you accumulate the Geld and Royals that your acquisitions generate for your clan. At the end of the game, you additionally receive any Finale Royals on cards as end-game victory points.
From the Margaret Weis web site:  
Deep in the heart of an island continent, many years ago, was a long forgotten land of ancient Saureans… Dragons of all sizes and shapes, who had, through the generations tamed the foolish races of men, dwarves, and elves that lived among them. Over the centuries, they refined their techniques and now were trying to gain control over all the surrounding dragon countries. There could be only one Dragon Monarch, but who would it be?
At the start of the game, each player is given a dragon clan and chooses to play either the king or queen of that clan. The object is for your clan to score the most points in Royals by the end of the game and thus become the ruling Dragon Monarch.

I've had good luck with a myriad of strategies and paths to victory with this game and it always feels like anyone could win.  I've even managed to win with the elusive all-one-color strategy, twice!  However, I have also lost miserably attempting this strategy so it's not for the faint of heart.  It's a safer route to lie in the weeds in second or a close third place and avoid making enemies with Havoc cards and stash a little more money away for the final turns.  Also, avoid snapping up too many cards early, the cards that look good but can't be brought into play right away.  Too many times I have seen those hand cards ruin a perfectly good final push.  Watch out for the high value Resource cards.  They seem like winners but too often become the targets of Havocs.

Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics on
not covered elsewhere or wanting a particular focus.
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