Saturday, November 16, 1996

Priceless Games (11/16/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

You gotta love
Priceless, a game with blank checks that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (especially considering that you start with NINE of them). Leaping off point for this game: players start with little cash and a bunch of blank checks (that are also worth little, at first), and they then purchase collectible objects (from Art to Cars to Cards). Buying additional items within one category increases the value of your collection but is also more difficult financially, and putting together "chains" of items (i.e. items that connect to each other on the game board) builds your wealth faster as well. At game's end, the player with the greatest value (comprised of cash on hand and value of remaing blank checks) wins.

I won't describe all three games we played (play time is roughly one hour per game), so I'll just provide some specific rememberances and general principles that we discovered while playing. I remember Scott won all three games -- there, I said it, and I'm glad. The first game started out close, with all three of us trying to put together chains, without spending too many checks. The strategy of the game dictates that you cannot use all your checks if you expect to win, so we all struggled with the balance of saving checks and building income so that we could make future purchases in cash. In the first game, Mike and Scott managed that balance better than Joshua, who eventually overspent checks to start his first chain. No specific turning point stands out, but Mike and Joshua battled over some similar objects d'art, while Scott built a collection along the western side of the board. Joshua and Mike traded property cards a few times, and Mike made it out of the cellar first, followed by Scott.

We encourage trading as it makes the game more interactive and interesting and offsets the luck factor (which can become enormous if players don't trade). In the third game, early trading between Joshua and the two other players put Mike out in front at first, and a late trade between Mike and Scott locked in two entire categories for Scott and a long chain for Mike. However, you should always (and only) trade when it helps you corner a certian category or build a chain for yourself. In fact, this strategy worked for both Mike and Scott in the last game, where Scott collected within a category while Mike traded and auctioned effectively enough to chain seven items together; in the end, both players built their buying power exponentially and raced toward the finish and ended up within 15% of each other. Overall, the first and third games were competitive whereas the second game was a wipeout.

A word from our winner, Scott

"At first, this game feels like a delicate balance between building your wealth while trying to save blank checks for the end, but the more we play it, the more it appears that you simply have to bite the bullet and spend checks aggressively to get over the income hump. That hump is the point at which you can purchase a property each round (up to about $35,000) without spending checks; that way, you can build within a category without suffering much and you can effectively bid on items in an effort to get them or to make others pay more for them."

Scott's words to live by:
1. If an auctioned item is worth $20,000 to you and $100,000 to another player, force that player to PAY for it. Lack of blank checks hurts more than plenty of collectibles helps
2. If given a choice, build within a category rather than in a chain
3. If your hand stinks, don't pass your turn until you've explored all trading opportunities

Saturday, September 28, 1996

Settlers of Catan Game (9/28/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike B, Mike C, Scott

Settlers is a pretty fun game, loosely based some other game (though what it is, I don't know). You randomly deal out land, water, and seaport hexagons, interlocking them into the shape of a large hexagon, and then (sort of randomly) put numbers onto the land hexes. Players build their initial settlements and roads (two of each), the former placed at the intersection of three hexes and the latter placed along the edge of land hexes, and then the fun begins. You roll two dice and the land segments with that number produce raw materials that correspond with the type of land on that segment (forest produces lumber, rocks/ore, et cetera), and players then trade these raw materials either with each other or for roads, settlements and other cool cards. All settlements and cities, longest road in the game, biggest army, and so on -- all that stuff is worth victory points (VP), and ten VP win the game. Seemed simple enough and was just what we needed to pass the time until Nazim showed up for the main event (a rousing game of Dune).

Unfortunately, there isn't much to tell about the game as it went. The Thief showed up right away (moves around the board whenever someone rolls a "7" and steals from the people adjacent to the new hexagon). We started out with a lack of timber that seemed to stretch far into the game, brick was plentiful and we were all poor at first. Mike C. had the grain market cornered, but didn't harvest much of it; Scott made bricks by the truckload, but without timber, it was virtually useless; Mike B. had sheep, sheep, sheep, and Joshua the same. As I saw the board, the southwestern quarter was the most crowded, hemming in the building process for the first five or so rounds. All of this didn't leave the Thief much to steal.

Mike B. offered wholsale trades to his friends (one of something for one of something else) and retail to other players (seemingly all of us) where he wanted greater quantity for in-demand items. Mike C. did the same but actually treated some of us as friends, and Joshua and Scott traded more with the "bank" than with other players. Later in the game, we were all screaming for ore (which lead to several bad puns about how many "ores" it took to build a city) and grain, as Mike C. moved into the lead. The "Longest Road" bonus changed hands several times, finally won out by Mike C., and Joshua, Scott and Mike C. started their quest for the largest army (and another two VP), with Joshua beginning a drive for institutions (Library, Tower, et cetera) at one VP each.

Mike B. played the Monopoly Card (which gave him all of one commodity from all players), and then regretted it when the Timber market exploded, with literally dozens of timber cards produced and now in the hands of his opponents. With the Longest Road bonus out of his hands, Scott fell hopelessly behind, and Mike C.'s only challenger was Joshua. With Mike C. at nine VP, Joshua gambled by trading in most all of his materials for Institution Cards, and the gamble paid off when he pulled up a Tower to complete his ten VP and the win. Sorry I didn't make this more dramatic or interesting, but it's the first time we played and I'm still trying to figure out how to play, let alone how to report on it. I promise to do better next time.

A word from our winner, Joshua

"The best thing to do is spread out as fast as you can, remebering that it's better to be getting a little of everything than to dominate a certain resource. Also, don't underestimate the development cards. Buildings are a sure way to victory and using the Knight to attack acquire resources that your opponents are hording isn't too bad either. (Beware the robber.)"

Scott's words to live by:

This game has definite possibilities, and here's why:
1. The land set-up is random enough to keep the game almost endlessly interesting
2. It supports between three and four players, so we don't need a big crowd to play
3. It's fast enough that we can play a few games of this or a quick one while waiting for the main event (just as we did on Saturday)
4. Economy works pretty well, as one player cannot corner any market unless other players allow it to happen.
5. My loser's tip: Don't get caught up trying for the longest road. It's a sure path to defeat (just ask Mike C., with whom I warred over the road thing)

Dune Game (9/28/1996)

Players: Joshua (Guild), Mike B (Fremen), Mike C (Emporer), Nazim (Harkonnen), Scott (Bene Gesserit)

Dune it is. The Fremen placed their troops near Tuek's Sietch and in Sietch Tabr (right by the spice blow), putting them in a strong position already, but Harkonnen was lured by the spice and held a quasi-threat against the Fremen city after the colletion round. As you can see, the game started with no Atreides, which left Arrakeen open for whomever wanted it and left us in the dark when we bid on Treachery Cards. The Emporer and Guild battled over the empty city first, with three Saurdukar up against a dozen or so Guild troops, which of course, meant that the Guild squeaked out a victory.

Undaunted, the Emporer went for Carthag next round, a move that the Emporer believed would convince Harkonnen to fight the Guild in Arrakeen, but instead, Harkonnen reinforced Carthag and left the spice for a hungry Bene Gesserit. The Fremen became even more dangerous when they took over Habbanya Ridge Sietch, and with their proximity to Tuek's (and Sietch Tabr already in their pocket) they were looking mighty mighty. Carthag went to Harkonnen (doesn't it always), and the Emporer appeared pretty beaten and bruised. The Guild went for spice just above Arrakeen, opening them up to another attack, and the B.G. continued to mass in the Polar Sink (hole); meanwhile the storm parked itself over Sietch Tabr, thus allowing the Fremen to commit troops all over the board.

The Guild then donated spice to Harkonnen so that the latter could stop the Fremen from ending the game. It was the first time in all our memories that Joshua did something so wonderful, so selfless, so benevoleant, and we thank him for having us in his presence when the blessed event took place.

Harkonnen brought some of his tired troops into Habbanya, and the Fremen (aren't we always talking about them?) moved out to the rocks and were thus no threat to end the game by sweeping into Tuek's. The Guild moved back into Arrakeen, the Emporer and Bene Gesserit took the round off to collect their thoughts, and STILL no worms so no alliances (and boy did I need one). Next round, the Emporer fought Harkonnen over Carthag again (must be good-looking 'ores there), but this time the Baron (Harkonnen) could not reinforce from on-planet, so he split off three troops from Habbanya to pursue spice. Seeing this, the B.G. moved non-advisors into the partially-vacated city, while the Fremen finally attacked Tuek's Sietch, convincing the Guild to call a special conference in Arrakeen (all Guild required to attend). The Shield/Lasegun brought all that Carthag business to an ugly close, Harkonnen collected his spice and lost Habbanya to "those bitches" in religious garb.

The Bene Gesserit bought erroneous storm information from the Fremen, and thus did not play Weather Control, a crucial mistake as Habbanya was now vulnerable to attack, which the Guild gladly provided. In fact, the Guild went for the win by splitting forces between Arrakeen and Carthag in addition to Habbanya, and the chase for a longer game was on again. With donations from Harkonnen and the Emporer, the B.G. guaranteed a victory over the Guild in Habbanya, and the Baron attacked a weakened Guild in Carthag while the Emporer spent the round recovering from the force of that Lasegun. The Fremen then surprised few when they marched troops into Arrakeen, and the combination of that city with Sietch Tabr (which they occupied from the start) and Tuek's Sietch gave them the win when the Guild could offer little resistance (due to lousy cards). So the Fremen were finally free men (which hadn't happened in a long time), and the rest of us had to "pound sand" as slaves to Dune's natives.

A word from our winner, Mike B

"It may have looked like patience and cunning were what gave the Fremen the win. However, part of the victory must go to stubborn pride. The way the spice came up in the game (which was remarkably short, all things considered), Harkonen always had a shot at it. His offer to let me get it and pay him for not attacking offended my native sensibilities, so I preferred to remain poor and weaponless through the whole game. Also I didn't want to fight the Baron without any weapon. I believe it was just good fortune that all the other players except the Guild slaughtered each other, and then the Guild made a play for victory without weapons or overwhelming force.

"I was pretty surprised to win the game with one battle. If I had gone along with the Harkie offer, I would have obtained cards, and may well have been more aggressive, and who knows what would have happened. In retrospect, I think that in most of the games the Fremen can successfully adopt a wait untill the other guys finish each other off strategy, just by lurking near three cities ready to pounce."

Scott's words to live by:
- Sometimes, a lack of alliances makes this game feel a bit like McMulti
- Did the Fremen deliberately hose me with bad storm-movement information? Just to win the game? Can't be, can it?
- The Emporer aptly pointed out that it's easier to play when you know the other players, something he learned during those massive and unexpected wars with Harkonnen
- Happy Birthday to Lori (8/2) and Mike C. (8/4).

Saturday, August 3, 1996

McMulti Game (8/3/1996)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike B, Mike C

I apologize for any errors in reporting, but I wasn't there so I take no responsibility for same. As
McMulti opened, three basic strategies were apparent: Mike C. made a grab for the retail market, purchasing three stations and a refinery to capitalize on the differential between the foreign/domestic and consumer markets; Allan went after the oil-production market, hoping to find some inexpensive wells before the other players; Joshua and Mike B. played balanced stratgies, with a few stations, some oil exploration, and a refinery thrown in here and there. The consumer market remained relatively stable for a while, so Joshua and the two Mikes made some decent profit whereas Allan patiently awaited his first oil strike (eying the other players' cash piles all the while).

An oil embargo came to light, sealing off the foreign market and driving all prices down. His patience finally wearing out, Allan filled his entire island with exploratory rigs; he hit one, but then Joshua found the next four, driving up the price Allan would ultimately pay for his next few. The news forecast wasn't good for anyone who owned gas stations, and the consumer market fell into the bubbling bidet along with the domestic market. Reaction to these events varied, with Allan hungrily waiting for the news to crush his competitors, Mike B. and Joshua holding their stations and their breath for better news (though both claim they had the cash to handle any tax levy), and Mike C. pretty much clearing off his island to avoid projected taxes (which left him close to where he started -- with about $250 million).

When the news disappeared, some bizarre dice rolls bounced the market from PROSPERITY to RECOVERY and back several times, bringing about explosive growth in the consumer market. This growth worked in favor of those who took the news risk, and at that point, it was pretty much a two-player scramble for the victory, with Joshua and Mike B. in a Porche and Lambourghini (respectively), Mike C. in a Taurus Wagon, and Allan in a '76 Pinto (American-made, of course). Allan finally hit his second and third wells, but probably overpaid for them (given the number already owned by other players), and with his capacity added to that of other players, the crude oil market bottomed out again and again. From this point on, it was "buy oil for $1 million, refine it for free and sell it on the consumer market for somewhere between $15 and $60 Million (a tidy profit no matter the final price). The whole gang employed this strategy (to the best of their individual ability) for many rounds, and the game was decided when Mike B. was able to sell the last of his equipment during PROSPERITY while Joshua had to sell his in RECOVERY. The final count was (approx.) Mike B. $1.16 billion, Joshua $1.1 billion, Mike $700 million, Allan $500 million.

A word from our winner, Mike B

"I tried to kep a balanced asset set, and to weight it in the direction the market was moving at all times. I placed a few rigs and took my wells when they came, slowly securing a steady supply for my refineries. I always had enough cash on hand to pay whatever (outrageous) taxes were threatening and never let the tax situation influence my decisions about the market."

Allan's words to live by:

Aggressive play can win or lose you the game:
1. Mike B. and Joshua kept their stations in the face of serious taxes, and the strategy paid off
2. Mike C. was ahead but sold his equipment too aggressively and fell behind at mid-game
3. Allan bought tons of rigs but unlucky rolls doomed his strategy, aggressive as it was.

- Posted by Scott on behalf of Allan

Saturday, July 13, 1996

Dune Game (7/13/1996)

Players: Anne (Harkonnen), Ray (Atreides), Joshua (Guild), Mike (Bene Gesserit), Scott (Fremen)

We skipped Spice Harvest because of the Ray's inexperience at
Dune and the fact that we'd promised that we would finish a bit earlier than usual (Guild leader had some prior commitments). The Fremen started strong, with Sietch Tabr, Habbanya Ridge Sietch and some spice gathered between Habbanya and the Polar Sink (that brought early treachery cards). Bene Gesserit waited a full two rounds before blowing the Shield Wall, which wiped Harkonnen out of Carthag, and the Fremen tried for a quick win but were turned away by Atreides. All this early action left Harkonnen licking her wounds, Bene Gesserit threatening havoc in Sietch Tabr (after bringing about massive havoc with Family Atomics), the Guild complaining about lack of revenue, and Atreides and the Fremen battling for the early advantage. Then came the nexus.

Harkonnen and the Bene Gesserit quickly allied, leaving the Guild lobbying to join the Atreides team and the Fremen holding out for a solo win. Atreides finally took pity and combined forces with the Guild, who implored his newfound rich uncle, "Go for the quick win. It's your best hope." Fourteen of the best Guild troops shipped into Habbanya, while Atreides used the Hajar to even his forces at eight apiece in Carthag and Arrakeen. The Harkonnen/B.G. alliance wiped out the Guild forces at Tuek's Sietch (not that the Guild cared), and the Fremen slipped seven troops out of Habbanya and pulled a Shield/Lasegun combo to leave 19 Guild troops in the tanks (that, the Guild definitely cared about). The Worm turned once again and the Guild found themselves ally-less.

The Fremen brought the storm around with Weather Control, wiping out the bulk of Atreides' troops in the two northern cities, and immediately plunked down a force of seven in Arrakeen to fight for the win. The Guild then put a token force (and I do mean a token force) in Carthag, and Atreides rested on this, the seventh round. Harkonnen held Tuek's Sietch and attacked the lone orange counter in Carthag, while her Bene Gesserit ally used a Worthless/Karama to move 10 troops into Arrakeen. The Fremen, knowing that defeat in Arrakeen was inevitable, saved their Karama and Truthtrance to help the Guild with the closer contest in Carthag; but nothing could stop the husband/wife hometeam alliance, and the Harkonnen/Bene Gesserit juggernaut took Dune during the stormiest day of the year.

A word from our winners, Anne & Mike

"Dune reminds us of fighting someone while both of you are on a log floating in the river. You've got to topple the other while keeping your own balance. Sudden strikes often cost you as much as your opponent. In Dune, of course, there are six people fighting on the log.

"This win didn't have any amazing new strategies or tricks, just a complete focus on the basics. Instead of our tips, here are our reminders:

"You don't need strongholds to be in the game, you only need them to win. We stayed flexible and didn't commit any major forces anywhere until we made our strike. Even then we held some in reserve, just in case. We kept our balance.

"If you're not the Emporer or Guild and don't have either of them as a patron, don't forget the spice. The Bene Gesserit wandered through the sand in search of spice, fought tooth and nail for spice, were devoured by worms while harvesting spice, and were sandblasted by the storm after collecting spice. But if not for the one harvest that went well, the alliance wouldn't have been able to ship down the force to win."

Scott's words to live by:
- This epic game of Dune had more twists and turns than hurricane Bertha (and was rockier and rollier, too)
- Playing without the Emperor kept travel to a minimum and treachery cards pretty cheap -- both factors ganging up on the already handicapped Guild
- Man oh man; were those tanks overflowing. I mean filled like I've never seen
- Happy Birthday to my sister Lisa (7/16)

Wednesday, May 15, 1996

Dune Game (5/25/1996)

Players: Allan (Fremen), Joshua (Harkonnen), Mike B. (Emporer), Mike C. (Bene Gesserit), Scott (Atreides)

The Spice Harvest add-on provided some suspense to the opening of Dune and was quite enjoyable to boot. We started out with five Fremen in Carthag, ten Harkonnen troops in Tuek's Sietch, Bene Gesserit in control of Sietch Tabr and Habbanya Ridge Sietch, The Emporer in charge of Arrakeen, and Atreides off-planet with 37 spice in hand. Atreides immediately attacked The Emperor's forces in Arrakeen with 14 men and turned down the Fremen offer to identify a "non-traitor" leader -- so when Lady Jessica turned out to be in The Emperor's employ, Atreides regretted it mightily (as did his tanked troops).

The next turn brought no true action. The Fremen picked up some spice while the other players sat tight. However, during the following round, Bene Gesserit played the Thumper card to call forth a worm, which ate that Fremen spice and caused a nexus, during which the Bene Gesserit and Fremen allied (read that sentence again if you don't get the irony). In fact, this allowed The Fremen troops to reinforce Carthag by riding the worm, which, along with the two two Bene Gesserit strongholds, would have provided victory for the new alliance. In response, The Emperor and Harkonnen allied, leaving Atreides to pick up what scraps it could find. With these two superpowers going at it, the fate of Dune seemed sure to be decided quickly and not quietly -- and it was.

After lengthy negotiations with the Emperor/Harkonnen alliance, Atreides attacked Arrakeen with one troop (for 10 spice -- and no guarantee of throwing the fight), and with that city secure, The Emperor went after Sietch Tabr and Harkonnen tried his luck in Habbanya. Bene Gesserit fortified Sietch Tabr, and The Fremen moved four troops into Tuek's Sietch, leaving Carthag as the only non- contested city on the planet. Atreides continued their theme of total destruction with an Arrakeen Shield/Lasegun, and Sietch Tabr went to The Emperor, which portended a speedy win; however, Harkonnen lost Habbanya to a traitor while holding Tuek's with ease.

Atreides relieved the overburdened tanks with a Ghola (took a total of seven men out) and immediately claimed the newly-vacant Arrakeen with ten troops. With most of the other players licking their wounds, Harkonnen sent four of his best warriors into Habbanya to face down eight Bene Gesserit. It shouldn't have worked, but did. The B. G. miscalculated and allowed the Emperor/Harkonnen alliance to prevail before 11:00 when we should've played well past midnight. But as Harkonnen said, "Half the battle is showing up, and that's what I did." And we congratulate him on that accomplishment.

A word from our winners, Joshua & Mike B.

1. "It is a good thing to be a rich Emperor in Arrakeen when beginning a game."
2. "It is also a good thing to be a card-tight, rich Harkonnen with Tuek's Sietch."
3. "It is a bad thing to form an alliance early in the game that forces the strongest other players to ally before something's had a chance to weaken them."
4. "It is an even worse thing to bank on the survival of your two-previously-used-card Bene Gesserit leader against an opposing eight-card Harkonnen leader when you have more than twice the opposing troop strength."
5. "Summation: Don't allow a soak-off to become a hosing." - Joshua

"With both Harkonen and the Emporer entering the game already rich, their alliance was virtually unstoppable. In an all out final battle scenario like the one we entered on the third round, it is vital to attack wherever it is feasible, especially when you are loaded with treachery cards, like we were." - Mike B.

Scott's words to live by:
- When played well (read: "when played by Mike or Allan"), the Bene Gesserit are a formidable force, especially in an alliance. Maybe we should use them rather than the Guild when we have five players
- Two spice for the identity of a loyal leader seems like a bargain now
- Knowing that the Bene Gesserit are alergic to Dune (in the spring) might change my strategy in the future

Saturday, May 11, 1996

1830 Game (5/11/1996)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike, Ray, Scott

Nice to get back to the 1830 grind again. Joshua and Ray posted prohibitive bids on the C&A and B&O respectively, while Scott bought both the D&H and M&H, Allan scooped up the SVN&RR, which left Ray with the C&St.L and Mike got no small properties. Joshua made a deal with Scott in order to start the Penn at a higher par, and the first Operating Round (OR) saw only two companies start up (C&O and Penn), and they purchased only a few 2-trains between them. The following Stock Round (SR) brought the first cunning strategic move (read: dirty trick) of the game; Mike had bought enough Penn stock to float it and then proceeded to sell them to knock the price down the toilet first chance he got, claiming all the while that "stock price is an indicator of shareholder confidence in The President." With so few companies under way, Mike then started up the New Haven to take advantage of its early pay-off possibilities.

Once 3-trains entered the game, the Penn bought the D&H from Scott (to complete the previous deal) and the C&A from its President (Joshua); Joshua used his newfound riches to start up the New York Central and Scott combined forces with Ray to get the B&O up and running. Meanwhile out west, Allan's C&O connected two routes with Chicago and floated to build a ton of stock value. Penn trapped the B&O in the south (where the latter made hay by running two 3-trains -- one to the Deep South and the other to the east) and finished its route to New York, while New Haven went to Boston and paid well even though it got a semi-late start. Mike sold of four shares of Central (see a pattern here?) and started Erie at $100 per share; Scott spent his newfound gold pieces to bring the B&M on-line (also at $100 par) and the technology race had begun.

After running his corral-full of 2-trains, Allan bought the first 4-train to obsolete them and put the hurt on a few other railroads. No one else had to withhold dividends to provide their railroad with a new train, but only Allan got the joy of running those multiple-2-trains before sending them to the scrap heap. Even with its rich uncle (the Central), Penn limped along with inferior trains until very late in the game. The B&O and C&O chugged along, the latter reaching a maximum stock value of $164, and the former paying as much as $21 per share with two 3-trains. The next SR brought the CanPac up and the threat of Diesels loomed large even though The President asserted that he had no intention of buying one. B&M was still getting started and the Erie tried to reach the C&O track when CanPac bought the last 5-train; directly after that, B&O and Erie cleaned out the 6-trains. Left with no real choice (he had the money and the 4-train to trade in), Scott bought the dreaded Diesel, leaving the Penn and New Haven with no train and no rich corporate uncle to bail them out. Mike (with the New Haven) never had to face destruction because Joshua purposefully bankrupted (on Central's turn) to end the game.

Order of Finish:
1. Allan with $1578
2. Scott with $1253
3. Mike with $1216
4. Ray with $1092
5. Joshua with $0

A word from our winner, Allan

"Don't be afraid to try new things. Our group had always focused on the eastern railroads and relegated C&O to a late game role. I tried starting the C&O early and it proved to be a winning move. I was lucky enough to salvage the mid-game by getting one of Mike C.'s railroads to sell the C&O a 3 train instead of having to buy the poison 4-train which allowed me to buy a 5 train by only withholding one dividend. In the end Joshua went bankrupt and the C&O's high stock value is what won the game for me. I think others would have caught up with me if the game had not ended abruptly."

Scott's words to live by:
- Seems whenever I don't plan on Diesels, they wipe me out; and when I bring the Diesels on, I never get to use them. Bummer
- Allan's QuickStart C&O strategy worked well and bears closer scrutiny in future games
- It's easier to play when you're running the 1830 GameCorder. Honest

Saturday, March 23, 1996

Dune Game (3/23/1996)

Players: Allan (Bene Gesserit), Anne (Emperor), Joshua (Atreides), Mike B. (Guild), Mike C. (Harkonnen), Scott (Fremen)

After an eternity of negotiations about what game to play, we decided on Dune (a choice we never seem to regret). Fremen used their opening option to occupy Sietch Tabr, and the Emperor immediately beamed into Habbanya Ridge Sietch. Bene Gesserit shipped three men to the south of the Polar Sink and the Fremen defeated those three to get the ten available spice. Harkonnen put up the Family Atomics flag when he moved seven men to the rocks by the Shield Wall and the battle lines were already being drawn between Atreides and the Baron. Several meetings "in the next room" seemed to ensure Atreides/Bene Gesserit and Fremen/Harkonnen cooperation.

The Emperor took over Tuek's Sietch, and the wily Guild place a contingent on the Rim Wall West as the Fremen massed by the Polar Sink -- just in case the Baron followed through on the Family Atomics threat. Bene Gesserit were just plain making trouble; they sent advisors with most every shipment and battled during the following round -- always with the threat of Shield/Lasegun and nearly always eliminating an enemy leader with their "voice" -- all to keep the Emperor (perhaps strongest at this point) and the Fremen off-balance. Our first nexus brought an instant Fremen/Harkonnen alliance, and all other players considered a four-on-two game before deciding to split up Guild/Emperor and Bene Gesserit/Atreides. It seemed the game would end soon, but it just didn't happen that way.

The Storm was far away from the Shield Wall (and surprisingly, no one went to kill Harkonnen's troops), the Emperor held both Tuek's and Habbanya Ridge Sietch, while the Fremen gobbled up spice and the Bene Gesserit amassed strength in Carthag (though only in an "advisory" role). Atreides split off nine men to attack Sietch Tabr and (with both "voice" and prescience) won handily. The Emperor used Weather Control to halt the Storm over Tuek's Sietch but once again, the Guild failed to win (or even attack) another city, seemingly more interested in rebuilding Arrakeen after Family Atomics was detonated. Sick of seeing the Emperor so close to victory, Bene Gesserit finally Shield/Lasegunned Habbanya (though the Guild quickly retook the city).

As the Storm crept to Arrakeen's doorstep, Atreides took one last shot at survival by halving its forces between Carthag and Arrakeen; the Guild and Fremen licked their chops at the thought of empty ornithopter cities. Harkonnen fled to the Polar Sink and sent five men into Sietch Tabr to face only three Atreides; however, even with support from the Fremen, the Guild, and the Emperor, he lost the battle and the Atreides/Bene Gesserit team won. Remarkably, Atreides held all three cities, and notably, Bene Gesserit has predicted "Atreides in turn 6" but had to share a victory in turn 7 with Atreides.

A word from our winners, Allan & Joshua

"Atreties and the Bene Gesserit can be one of the most powerful alliances in the game. The 'voice', along with Atreties' knowledge of the cards each player holds and the ability to know one element of the opponent's battle plan limits most of the variables in battle. Along with this devastating combination, our winning trump card was a Truthtrance held by me that was used when our opponents blocked the voice with a Karama card. Dune rule #1: Always have a surprise up your sleeve." - Allan

"Don't underestimate the Atreides/Bene Gesserit alliance. If you ever get into a combat with them assume the your leader will die and that his leader will live. This is equivalent to you having no leader, and the A/B alliance having 5 extra men. Equally dangerous is the Harkonnen/Bene Gesserit alliance. But here the Harkonnen have a bad stigma which keeps others wary where as the Atreides are seen as friendlier." - Joshua

Scott's words to live by:
- Apparently it is true that the forces of evil always win Dune?
An aggressive use of the Truthtrance card (by the Fremen) would have prolonged the game
- What am I gonna do with all this leftover spice? Reply at your own risk

Saturday, March 16, 1996

HeroQuest Game (3/16/1996)

Players: Anne (Elf), Lori (Barbarian), Mike (Overlord/DungeonMaster), Scott (Dwarf & Wizard)

HeroQuest is cool because of the look of the pieces and all the other parafrenalia, and we increased this advantage by replacing two of the plastic heroes with miniatures that MikeC had in his basement (the heavily-bearded Wizard and sexy-but-deadly Barbarian were particularly cool). The object of this particular quest seemed simple enough: go into the pit, find the just-turned-evil FireWizard, return him (or his body) and receive 100 clams per hero. Easy money if you ask me, and I was ready for the challenge.

The adventure started out harmlessly enough, with two lame skeletons in the hallway that Barbarian easily dispatched (without a single point of body damage). Elf discovered a trap near the next doorway, and that prevented us from assuming our most advantageous formation before opening the door. Barbarian lagged behind a bit so the Dwarf opened the door (rather than the our normal pattern of Barbarian doing the dirty work -- which we usually employ because that gives us our maximum number of shots at any monsters before it's their turn). We'd hit the motherlode -- four skeletons and one kick-ass lookin' guy behind them. Dwarf moved to the left side and missed in his attack of one skeleton, while Elf took one out with a single mighty swing. Wizard moved into the doorway and summoned a ghost to attack the big guy, but the attack was blocked. Dwarf took two body hits and Elf took only one, while one Skeleton move into the doorway to block Barbarian or Wizard from entering. This strategy didn't work, because Wizard destroyed him with his next attack, though Elf and Dwarf both took another body hit each (with the big enemy man taking an attack on Dwarf that missed).

Barbarian moved in to squash one of the skeletons and Dwarf continued to fight in the corner opposite Elf and Barbarian. Once this round was over, only one skeleton and the big guy remained, but the latter'd received no body damage and looked primed for some serious combat. When his turn came, he unleashed a firestorm that inflicted one point on Barbarian and two each on Dwarf and Elf (Wizard, still on the outside looking in, was unharmed). Elf then fled to regroup (and revive her health with a spell) while Dwarf and Barbarian hit the big man again. Then, Wizard put the enemy to sleep for one turn and that sealed his fate. He was dead before he got another chance to destroy our heroes.

Turns out that this fallen enemy was our ultimate prey for the quest. He could have transported to another part of the maze, but didn't get the chance because of Wizard's use of spells. We were going to continue through the maze, looking for additional loot, but after stopping for peppermint-stick ice cream and chocolate sauce, we were satisfied and left the quest with our heads held high and stomachs bloated.

A word from our winners, Everyone

"We won. We rich. We eat." - Barbarian

"If short people got nobody, why're all the babes attracted to me?" - Dwarf

"Like they say in the Keebler commercials, 'Elfin magic saves the day'" - Elf

"Can I take a nap now?" - Wizard

Scott's words to live by:
- The heroes in this game have successfully completed 8 out of 8 quests. When do they become full-fledged heroes?
- The heroes should pool their cash and buy Doom II (for those lonely nights in the dungeon)

Saturday, February 3, 1996

Pictionary Game (2/3/1996)

Players: Anne, Christine, Joshua, Lori, Scott

Even though this game did not take place at Mike's house, did not include an email announcement of a Pictionary game, and does not go along with the mission of this web page (which is that we "play games that emphasize skill, negotiation, and a bit of treachery"), I'm working fewer hours for the time being and thought I'd put something together for it. Besides, I promised that if the winner's would email me their winning strategy tip, I'd post it; and we all know that a "Winner's tip" without a "Game summary" is like an NFL season without 10 or more Tampa Bay losses.

Game started innocently enough, with three tipsy women voting down "1830" in favor of something "friendlier" (their word -- not mine). Joshua and Scott pulled ahead early but were slowed when they hit every conceivable "All Play" and lost most or many of them. Christine, Anne, and Lori steadily made up ground and passed the men with a combination of fortunate die rolls, skilled guesswork and both minimalist and post-impressionist drawing styles. (They may have cheated too, but why make accusations you can't prove?)

21 squares behind and hopelessly stuck on an "All Play," the men were ready to cede the game, when suddenly, Christine called out "pretty" and Lori exalted in what she thought was the final victory -- only problem was, the word we were after was "ugly." The punishment for that transgression was to allow Joshua and Scott to roll and continue their own turn. The men then ran off six words in quick succession and the wine consumption of their opponents increased with each roll of the dice. They trailed by only two squares when the women finally nailed their last "All Play" to claim victory and spoil what would've been a more dramatic web page entry.

A word from our winners, Anne, Christine, & Lori

"When playing group participation games like Pictionary, you must be able to feed off of each other. Going the extra step based on body language is more important than interpreting drawings. If you can, with one of two guesses, get a 'yes' nod from the drawing partner, before you start guessing further, CLARIFY what the nod was for. 'Are you saying yes for "box" or for "square"? Does it have to do with a box? Does it sound like box? Is it a phrase with the word box in it?' Once you get your second affirmative nod, you will spare the whole team from unrelated questions. Each time the reaction from your partner is violent (usually signifying, 'Almost! You are so close!') get him or her to stop drawing for a second to clarify WHICH part was very close. If they keep pointing to the paper, and you keep saying 'box' without asking any other questions about whether it should be 'square' or something that sounds like 'box,' you will run out of time, and frustrate both yourself and your partners." - Christine

"ESTROGEN!!" - Lori

"The only skills you need to play Pictionary well are: talent, intuition, and spontaneity; and our team had a perfect balance of all three skills, which we honed to master the game. While Lori was the master of intuition and could command the unrefined meaning from our scribbles, Christine had the awesome ability to bombard us with a barrage of spontaneous ideas. I, on the other hand, had a harder time liberating ideas from my mind (which was slightly stifled by the wine) but could draw a pretty mean stick man. Though I will admit that we had a slight advantage over the boys because it was three against two, they would never and could never match us in talent, intuition, and spontaneity." - Anne

Scott's words to live by:
- The winners should team up with my sisters and go for the Pictionary world's championship
- Anne's comments were both bold and cold, but I never get caught in an on- line argument (though she goaded me so well, I will call her a "master baiter").
- Joshua, I'm rolling from this day forward...

Saturday, January 27, 1996

Monopoly Game (1/27/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

Over Mike's protests that we should play either bolo or Speed Circuit, we played a "fast rules" game of Monopoly. Mike got the first monopoly on the board -- the utilities -- and made Scott pay for it with a near-maximum rent of $110. Scott got the purple monopoly early on and actually collected a few times on it (though early in the game it didn't threaten to bankrupt anyone). Joshua started collecting railroads and a stray property here and there but didn't truly get into monopoly mode until Mike traded him the last orange property for some railroads. That trade brought both players needed economic strength.

Scott happily collected his $250 and $450 for Club Med. and Baltic, respectively, and eventually traded the third green property to Mike for the last two purples. At the time, it seemed like only Mike had the cash to develop the greens and Scott could afford to develop only the purples, so the deal look good all around. However, Mike later confessed that the greens were too expensive and that the trade nearly cost him the game because Scott quickly put hotels up on all three purples.

Joshua's orange monopoly failed to pay off for him, and he eventually bankrupted to Mike. Scott suggested they quit and play bolo, but Mike insisted on going on. At the time, it appeared that Scott would win, but Mike then employed two desperate but effective strategies. He sold off houses on the green properties for houses on the newly- acquired oranges (mortgaging most everything in the process) and began rotating which railroad was active, depending on where Scott was on the board. It then came down to who would hit the opponent's properties most often, and it appeared that Scott had won when he landed in jail; however, Mike made it past Scott's properties and when Scott left jail, he immediately landed on New York Avenue. The game was over with Mike thanking Joshua for his advice and Scott reminding them both that he hadn't won a game of Monopoly since the 5th grade.

Many words from our winner, Mike

"Monopoly has a lot of luck, but you can change the odds significantly by making the right deals at the right time. I traded Joshua an orange monopoly when he was cash poor and, therefore, not a great threat to me. I gained all four railroads in return and an immediate source of income. Joshua's monopoly helped me persuade Scott to trade with me; he had the Baltic properties and now needed a better monopoly to counter Joshua, and the clock was running. Once again, I gave more (two, unmortgaged purples) than I got (one mortgaged green), but I thought I would be able to build them faster. Unfortunately, I underestimated my expenses in comparison with Scott's and this almost cost me the game when he put up hotels and Joshua and I hit them.

"If you can't develop all your properties at once, you can 'aim' them at other players. I started when three of my four railroads were mortgaged. By mortgaging the last one and using the money plus another $10 to unmortgage another, I was able to open the railroad that players were approaching; and it's a $200 payoff if it hits, so it's a pretty good deal. When I switched the green houses for orange ones, it was an act of sheer desperation. I lost $500 on the move, but it made Scott more likely to hit my property before I hit his. The game hung on this one move, and Scott was unlucky enough to hit (he is only in the game to pay me rent, after all). 'Game over, man.'"

Scott's words to live by:
- If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?
- Don't offer to input any "winner's tip" that's longer than the "game summary."

McMulti Game (1/27/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

We thought maybe we'd romanticized McMulti during its year-long hiatus from Saturday nights, but rules clarifications showed us again how fun this game can be. Joshua and Scott went drilling for oil early in the game, with Mike building gas stations to take advantage of the profit margin as the game begins. Joshua hit some wells and Mike sold some gas, but Scott's had Allan's luck and dropped behind. The economy moved quite frequently and not always the way it was likely to move, and the consumer market boomed for most of the game (hitting an astounding high of 77!).

Mike made his profit on the gas stations and decided to sell them off at a profit (or slightly less) and begin drilling and refining. Joshua's three wells pumped him full of profit and his refinery guaranteed that he could sell on whatever market he wanted. The import and export markets for refined oil topped out at $48 million per barrel -- and the incredible consumer market made even that heavy investment worthwhile. All three players were contentedly making money until luck finally changed the game.

Scott's roll moved the economy into "Depression" and he sold on the newly invigorated consumer market and bought an island's worth of equipment. On Mike's next roll, he changed the economy back to "Rapid Growth," driving equipment prices (and the consumer market) through the roof. Both he and Joshua purchased their equipment at much greater prices than Scott, and almost immediately, news forced all three to pay substantial taxes on their equipment. From that point, it was only a matter of time before Scott won, with Joshua and Mike finishing almost $700 million behind.

A word from our winner, Scott

"Are you kidding? Okay, here's my winner's tip: sit on your ass until the dice win the game for you. On a more serious note, I remember that we stopped playing this game because we felt that luck played too much of a role, and I think I'm back to that opinion. The game was decided by the dice and nothing else. We were all pretty close before the fateful round, but the advantage I gained by a roll of the dice was decisive."

Scott's words to live by:
- Take Joshua's "winner's tip" from last week with a grain of salt -- he played the same strategy this time and lost by millions.
- Mike's strategy of making early profit on the consumer market seems sound.

Saturday, January 20, 1996

McMulti Game (1/20/1996)

Players: Allan Joshua, Mike, Scott

We hadn't played McMulti in a while, and our faulty memories led to several hosings early in the game. Both Joshua and Mike got to stock their islands with a fair amount of equipment under the favorable "Recovery" economy, but because we rolled to see if the economy changed after each player's turn (which we now know we weren't supposed to do), both Allan and Scott had to pay exhorbinant amounts for much less equipment. All players tried their level best to develop an oil well early, and because of the cheaper (and therefore, more numerous) rigs that they got, Mike and Joshua had success right away. Limited resources combined with his usual poor luck rolling the dice left Allan scrambling to catch up and Scott bought little equipment but got the rolls he needed to begin oil production relatively soon.

Joshua forged an early lead with two working pumps, with Mike close behind (after turning a $65 million profit on the sale of his first well) and Scott not far from Mike. Allan's bad luck continued as the first bit of news closed the foreign market, leaving him with massive reserves of refined oil and nowhere to sell it. In addition to the closed market, the economy was quite stagnant (due to another rules misinterpretation on our part), often staying in one mode for four to eight rounds. These conditions forced players to hoard their oil until something broke the tide, but further news threatened to tax those reservers and there seemed no way out. Scott left (at 1:00) and the others persevered.

The boredom of playing with no economic change spurred Mike, Joshua and Allan instituted a house rule that when the consumer market hit zero the economy automatically switched over to "Depression." This helped Joshua, who had free oil coming out of the ground and being refined all the time (though they failed to tell me how this affected the other players), and made the game more interesting since you could always buy your equipment during "Depression" and sell it when it became more valuable and because the consumer market always moved. Game ended (at about 2:45 am) when the "tax" news came to fruition and Allan couldn't sell enough equipment to pay for it (the one disadvantage of playing so often in "depression"). Joshua won and everyone wanted a more dynamic economy and some sleeeeep.

A word from our winner, Joshua

"LUCK and diversification are the key to this one. Get a pump, a refinery, and a station and you have a money machine that pays in all seasons. Don't just stick to stations, the margin in buying gas and selling to the consumer market just isn't enough to compete when others can produce gas for free. If you do acquire the pieces to a money machine, USE IT. Always sell everything you can to earn a free buck:. Remember: any oil that comes out of a pump is free money -- so take it."

Scott's words to live by:
- Reread the rules when you dust off a game that has set on your shelf for a year.
- This game probably has too much luck to be taken very seriously (see next week's "winner's tip" for details).

Tuesday, January 9, 1996

Merchant of Venus Game (1/9/1996)

Players: Anne, Christine, Joshua, Paula, Mike, & Scott

A rather enjoyable game of Merchant of Venus. Mike got off to a fast start by servicing a short route (with additional demand) for Bionic Perfume, and Joshua got lucky with an Immortal Grease delivery of relatively short length (from the left-middle to the top-middle). Christine and Scott went exploring, Scott in "the cloud" and Christine toward the lower- right of the board. Anne followed Joshua to the upper-left and then veered off to discover strange new worlds along the top edge of the board.

Two trips through the supernova slowed Anne considerably, but she did build a factory once she'd discovered a great run from the top-right to the top-center; but alas, her two trips past the supernova may have cost her too much time for the money she made. Once Christine had discovered most of the right side of the board, she then left it alone and scooted along the bottom of the board, picking up relics and opening telegates along the way. Scott muddled around in the upper-left quadrant, while both Mike and Joshua delivered profitable runs in the same area (just good enough to beat Scott there).

In the classic speed versus payload debate, Joshua upgraded to a Transport, while Mike and Scott opted for Freighters. Christine stayed with her scout and she and Scott proceeded to service the long-neglected right side of the board (which was teeming with goodies). Mike delivered nearer the center and actually ran out of Freighter runs pretty quickly. Joshua used his Transport -- loaded with red and yellow drives -- to make an Immortal Grease run every turn (and to drop off some Servo-Mechanisms on the way back). In fact, he often got some demand when delivering the Grease.

At this point, Paula joined the game and delivered two runs then left. (It was the Blizzard after all, and she needed a way to kill a few hours -- would you have said no?) Joshua masterfully avoided detection as the leader by pointing out Scott's lucrative payloads and Christine's growing stack of cash. Mike was beaten to many potential deliveries, trying to go too far in a Freighter when faster ships were on the way; I'm not certain where Anne went wrong, but she did say that she lost on purpose to avoid having to write anything for this game summary. Mike's last ditch effort to stop Joshua failed when he could not steal a factory from him, and Joshua barely beat Scott and Christine to victory -- though barely counts only in horseshoes and hand-grenades (and we don't play with either).

A word from our winner, Joshua

"A Transport with a red and yellow drive allows you to make a run EVERY turn with 2 holds open for cargo. This can lead to big bucks when there are a lot of players in slower ships trying for the same runs. A word to the wise: Lasers and Nova Balls seem to appear at around $1700 (in a game to $2000), so make sure your properties are protected by then."

Scott's words to live by:
- Don't let others identify you as the leader (especially when it's not true)
- Roll well or face the consequences
- If Grease is Immortal, why did the demand for it keep coming up?