Tuesday, August 5, 1997

CombsCon 1997

As detailed in the email, we convened at Mike's house at 9:00 am on 8/1/1997 for the inaugural CombsCon. Mike surprised us with T-shirts in honor of our first 'Con, with a 1997 CombsCon logo, shown in photo. (Note: I made the *ultimate* sacrifice to get this picture -- I pulled out the ironing board to make sure it wasn't wrinkled. Now *that* is commitment!)

Joshua showed up first, so after he and Mike finished their game of Twisted Metal 2 (for the original PlayStation), Joshua had the honor of choosing the first game of our first 'Con. Ironic indeed that he chose Mediterranee, because he refuses to play it any more. Something about Mike blockading him in his home port... but who really remembers these things?

The game has some cool pieces, but the initial setup and reading through the rules gave us a 10:00 start time. Allan made the first bad pun at 10:40 ("Always keep a sailor in your galley or you sink, which would be a 'Titanic' mistake."), and after three hours, Mike said, "You know, after every move, I realize I screwed *that* one up, too!" And in what would become a running theme with us, it took us almost five hours to play a game that takes most human beings two.

In the end, Allan skimmed out a win over Scott ($18,000 to $16,500), with Mike and Joshua totally checked out and playing Twisted Metal in the other room. Come to think of it, that's yet another running theme -- but more on that later.

At 3:45, Scott chose RoboRally, a very cool game that involves strategy, luck, and skill -- something we were sorely lacking. In the middle of the first move, at 3:52, Mike exclaimed "Oh shit," so I think it wasn't going well for him. Not much detail except that Scott got to the flag first, followed by Joshua. But Joshua won because his robot pushed Scott's off the board before the end of the turn. Strangely enough, that's yet *another* running theme :)

We moved right into Ransom (Allan's choice -- more bitter irony, if you ask me), a card game where you try to make money building some of the skyscrapers in New York. Emphasis on "try to." You start with $50 million, and often our winners have ended the game with less than that. Guess it's a good thing none of us went into real estate development. Anyhow, halfway through the game (at 5:25), Joshua said to Allan, "$40 million?! That's like *all* my profit." Allan's rejoinder: "That's Ransom!" Naturally, those two ended up third and fourth. Scott crushed the competition, winning by 44% over the next competitor with $95 million (Mike had $66 million, Joshua had $59 million, Allan $41 million).

At 6:00, we played another round of Ransom. This time we read the rules first and were impressed that we were only breaking two or three of them in the first game. However, the result was the same, Scott won with $110 million, and Mike ($96 million), Joshua ($72 million), and Allan (still stuck on $41 million) marveling at his real estate empire. Maybe the point is only *I* could be a real estate developer :P

At 7:20, we started a game of Settlers of Catan, which has too much die-rolling for Allan's taste. At 7:21, Mike regretted his first move :( At 7:55, Allan promised revenge against Joshua for setting the Robber on him. And the Robber obliged by coming three turns in a row -- ending up on Joshua, Joshua, and then Allan. By 8:30, Mike almost had it won, and was naturally shunned for it. He did pull out the win a few turns later, just eking by Allan 10 to 9. Joshua and Scott pitched a heated battle for last, with Scott ending up at 5 to Joshua's 6.

9:30 pm, and we made our first critical mistake. Never start a game of Eurorails that late at night, especially if you aren't playing the "fast game." By 11:00 the board was a bloody, multi-colored mess, and by midnight, Mike, Allan, and Joshua had fallen so far behind that they were playing tag-team Twisted Metal between turns. That was sort of annoying, though it did give Joshua a chance to say, "I love this, Allan. You're so much easier to kill than Mike!" The end was long, slow, and inevitable: Scott $280 million, Allan $124 million, Mike $108 million, and Joshua $102 million.

It was 2:00, and the sane among us (Joshua and Scott) headed off to sleepyland. But being the gluttons of the group, Mike and Allan played Air Baron until 3:30. Then they quit for the night, satisfied with 7 games in 17 hours.

Day Two (8/2/1997) began with a 10:00 game of Ransom, which Joshua won with $106 million (to Allan's $96 million, Scott's $95 million, and Mike's $86 million). It seemed we were getting the hang of that game, as all the scores were higher and closer together. So of course, we never played it again during the 'Con.

Then we tried Lords of the Sierra Madre, starting at 11:00. I don't know who called for the game, but we tried it multiple times over the years. It was expensive, and we kept hearing how great it was. But by 11:45, Mike was crying out for a mercy kill of the game, and Allan declared, "Lords wins again!" We just never got that game. Something about our competitiveness or maybe a misinterpretation of the rules. But it seemed that no matter what, no one was allowed to make any money except the Ruales and strikers. Whatever the case, if you want to pick up a copy cheap, make us an offer.

Allan won a one-hour game of Air Baron, and Mike said he didn't want to play that game again. As you can see, we were slowly whittling down the games we would play.

We then played a few games of Speed Circuit, a racing game that is much, *much* better when played without the Chance Table. But at this point, we still used that aberration, which puts a lot of luck into the game. Interestingly, with more luck involved, Allan won two games, with he and Joshua each winning on the Monza track and Allan taking the rubber match on the Monaco track. Note: Mike and Scott struggled to finish the races, with each failing to do so once. I'd blame that on luck, but it might sound like sour grapes. So congratulations to the winners -- here's hoping you injure yourselves in the post-race celebration ;)

Mike and Allan tied on the final game, a five-hour marathon of Mediternee, with $11,500 each; while Joshua and Scott tied for last with $8,000 apiece.

Allan was declared CombsCon 1997 Champion, and the final victory totals were as follows:

Allan 4.5
Joshua 3
Scott 3
Mike 2.5

And that was about it for CombsCon. If we'd gone to AvalonCon, it would have cost hundreds of dollars each and we would have gotten in five or six games. The totals for CombsCon 1997:

26 hours of gaming
13 games
no offensive smell from un-bathed geeks
hundreds of dollars saved
Countless bad puns

It was one hell of a good time for all involved, in fact, more fun than I could possibly convey here. For proof, consider this post-CombsCon 1997 email:

Mike, Anne, Joshua and Scott,

I just wanted to drop a quick E-mail to all of you to let you know how
much I enjoyed getting out for the weekend and gaming - what a blast! Great
company, food, games and T-shirts that will draw the envy of every GQ model
out there!

Sorry I faded towards the end - I can truely say we gamed until I dropped
this time!

See you all in the sand,

See you in the sand... man, we never played Dune!!

BTW, Check the Overall Victories tally now, and you'll see that Joshua's 4 victory lead is down to 3.5 victories. Trust me, that will dwindle more as we go along -- I believe Allan won the first three 'Cons we held!

Saturday, May 31, 1997

Priceless Game (5/31/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike, Scott

Three games of Priceless; three winners; and the gaming gods smiled on Scott, dealing out two cards and a coin and facilitating a trade (with Mike) for another of each. Mike was stuck with antiques (expensive at game's beginning), Joshua and Allan with nothing connected, in fact, Allan passed his first turn to better his hand. A lot of trading in this game, and to the betterment of most players. Scott vaulted to an early lead, with Mike a bit behind and the rest of the riff-raff on the fringe, but around mid-game, Joshua caught Scott in points, and Allan started stringing together a collection of toys and cars. Mike rounded out his antique collection, but had to split his team and built in pewter next, whereas Joshua invested in timepieces and musical instruments (with a possible connection to artwork). Scott's luck extended to jewlery, but when he and Mike bid against each other on diamonds, it was clear nothing was going to come easily for the rest of the game. Opposition on gold coins cost Scott too, and Allan looked formidable with a three-category chain and checks galore. When Allan went for 1890s toys to end the game (last frame), he scooped up mega-points (somewhere in the 40 neighborhood -- nice neighborhood, I've always thought), and that put him over the top for the game. Final tally was something like Allan $1.3million, Scott 1.2, Mike 1.05, and Joshua 850,000. Thus was broken the symmetry that the gaming gods had devised for the night, and I'm sure Allan will suffer great losses in the future for shunning their obvious wishes. BTW, good game, Al.

A word from our winner Allan

"This win had more than a little luck involved. A last minute blackmail of Scott had him giving me the fourth toy (for my final frame) to keep me out of bidding for Chineese coins. He would probably have won if he could have just outbid me or stuck me with the bogus coin. But to the tip: I took my first turn as a pass to avoid having to spend 2 checks to get my game started and get my check value up. The 2 cards I pulled allowed me to trade for what I needed to make a chain in a non-contested part of the board. Sacrifice whatever you have to to save checks. If you can build slower, but still make good purchases without spending checks, do so. My extra checks. Sacrifice whatever you have to to save checks. If you can build slower, but still make good purchases without spending checks, do so. My extra checks really paid off in the end."

Scott's words to live by:
- Next up, Combscon 1997!!!

Settlers of Catan Game (5/31/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike, Scott

You never saw the number 5 so many times in a two-dice Settlers game -- Mike and Allan being the main beneficiaries of that odd twist of luck. Allan drew four special cards before anyone built anything, and when the building began, Mike went for the longest road. Joshua and Scott waited and waited for the dice to come up anything but 5 (seemed like eternity), but when it finally began happening, most roadways were clogged and the best areas were developed. Joshua went for cities, with Scott desperately trying for longest road and a 3-fer port; meanwhile, Allan and Mike had two cities each and enough sheep to keep them company for many a winter, and when it became obvious the battle lay there, Joshua and Scott tried to help Allan (after all, Mike won Speed Circuit). However, when that strategy failed to help Allan, the two leaders were left pretty much on their own. Mike went after the largest army, got another settlement (which hindered Allan's progress) and appeared to be on the way. But Allan just had too many cards, and when he finally built the settlement he was after, he revealed 3 victory points in his hand and that was game. Mike had 8 or 9 points, Joshua 6, and Scott a paltry 4. Says here that Allan is now a legitimate threat in dice rolling games -- won one a few weeks back, too. Will the Earth ever be safe again?

A word from our winner Allan

"The moon was full, Jupiter aligned with Venus, the tide was high and I was scorched, some thought from the fires of hell when I made my deal with the devil: 2 wins in one night? I could get struck by lightning any minute now! "I'd like to revise my previous tip of looking for settlements that produce groups of commodities that work together (like wood and brick) to specificly any combination of your first two settlements that produce ore, grain and sheep. I was lucky that my cards drawn were heavy on the VP type of cards, but I still see the cards as the fastest way to get victory points. There's the often unclaimed largest army bonus in there plus the knights to move the thief for you. I got about the same number of resources that everyone else did, but while they were building roads I was hording advancement cards. I think I pulled 7 or 8 before I won."

Speed Circuit Game #2 (5/31/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike, Scott

Second game of Speed Circuit, same track, different cars. Mike actually stalled at the start, and once again, Scott blazed out to an early lead, and burned much of his wear in the first lap, while Joshua coasted behind him, "slipping" and braking to avoid the wear that was killing Scott. Desperate to make up ground, Allan tried an insane turn and crashed. Mike followed him, and the race was all but over, with Joshua's car coasting in comfort and Scott's spitting bolts all the way. Eventually, Scott crashed on the same turn Allan and Mike hit, and Joshua literally coasted to victory (in fact, we didn't even make him before declaring him victor -- actually, that means he finished neither race, what a wimp).

Happy to report that Joshua did not submit a winner's tip :P

Speed Circuit Game #1 (5/31/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike, Scott

We played one of the shorter courses in Speed Circuit, and there was instant jealousy over each other's cars (something's always greener on the other side). Scott's good start speed and 180mph top speed bought him an early lead, which he stretched out over Mike and Joshua. Allan balked at the start and that cost him dearly as the other cars became distant specks. Scott roared around half the track, but used most all his wear during that time, and when he tried to save some, he blew it on one of the tables and limped toward lap two. Mike caught him near the start/finish line, and with judicious "slips," Scott remained a solid-second. Joshua and Allan battled until Joshua fell behind and Allan set his sights on the lead pack. I believe Mike played it safe, knowing Scott was seriously handicapped and the others were unlikely to catch up, and he still won by a full turn,. Allan just missed a chance to move up to second, and Joshua never finished (to my recollection).

Sorry, Mike did not submit a winner's tip

Saturday, May 3, 1997

Dune Game (5/3/1997)

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

In Spice Harvest, The Fremen bid 9 spice to become Harvest Manager and proceeded uneventfully through an eight-spice gathering. Unfortunately, he spent all his spice on one Access card, and consequently, the job passed to Atreides, who pocketed an extra three spice (out of another small harvest) when the BG and Guild disagreed with his distribution formula. For some strange reason, Harkonnen got the majority of the spice as we moved to the surface of Dune, and was off and running with a lot of cards that the BG claimed put her in the lead. No harvest in turn three when Atreides bought an extra card and got wormed, and when the job passed back to The Fremen, it fell to Atreides again because the poor Fremen couldn't scrape together the necessary spice to keep the job, and fell further when Atreides purposely spent all their cash to pass it to Harkonnen. Harkie then made out by announcing lower than actual and paying The Fremen handsomely and paying Atreides just enough to get their vote. (Ummm... that is they paid one spice for a "yes" vote -- which upset the BG to no end. Not suprising, then that the BG got hosed in shares next round, too.) Final round, Harkonnen announced ten spice harvested, and distributed only nine, which left the door open for a successful challenge -- with all four votes going "thumbs down." Twice in this game, someone got skunked for a single spice. Greed, greed, greed. Tsk tsk.

Well, on to the game. After trading Access cards, Harkonnen got Arrakeen, The Guild got Carthag (trading most of the Access cards for spice because the half-rate shipment made it worthwhile), The Fremen got spice only (and precious little of that), Atreides got Habbanya, and The Bene Gesserit took Tuek's Sietch. Auctions on Treachery cards were spirited because people didn't mind paying a lot for them -- as long as it went to the bank and not The Emporer. Based on knowledge of Access cards, The BG claimed that Harkonnen was the player to beat, and then twice sent a single troop into Atreides' zones to fight with a strength of 6 (guaranteed survival of the leader) and soak off some green counters. The Fremen appeared just above the Great Flat (for spice) and moved half their troops into Sietch Tabr, and seeing this, The Guild reinforced Carthag and Atreides moved into the Imperial Basin, waiting for scraps. Harkonnen shipped down a few more to Arrakeen, and The BG went along for the ride.

Next round found The Fremen in Carthag (in force), and one of the BG/Atreides skirmishes broiling in Habbanya. The Guild defeated The Fremen but was left with only three troops, as the storm moved past Tuek's and toward the dreaded Shield Wall. The Bene Gesserit then shipped to a spice blow near Habbanya, and Atreides abandonded the city for that spice (and blew away the BG). The Fremen hoard returned from the tanks to park right outside Carthag, and a "conservative" Guild took and empty Habbanya with 6 (of their best) men. Three players took Choam Charity (including the first time we've ever seen The Guild do so), and ten spice blew in right next to Tuek's Sietch. The Bene Gesserit swarmed all over it, and Atreides called a summit with The Fremen and Guild leaders. Emerging from a smoke-filled foyer, The Guild cross-planet shipped from Habbanya to Tuek's, and agreed not to fight The Fremen in Carthag (in return for the spice that allowed that shipment).

The BG guessed right ("Do not play a projectile weapon") and saved their leader but still lost the fight. The Guild threw the battle in Carthag, and The Fremen looked mighty powerful, with two cities and a smallish Harkonnen force in Arrakeen. The Storm locked up Sietch Tabr, and The Fremen split the Cathag force to invade Arrakeen. The BG and Guild needed a round to regroup before mounting another offensive, and most players thought Harkonnen would destroy The Fremen, what with six cards and all, so Atreides ignored the possible attack in Carthag and awaited the outcome. Atreides helped Harkonnen (to prolong the game) while The BG aided The Fremen (to get it over with), and once Atreides saw those magical 6 cards, he wished he'd taken on the Fremen, too. No weapons meant little chance for victory, and with the BG using a Truthtrance to reveal some of Harkonnen's battle plan, Vishal had little trouble winning the city and claiming victory his first Dune game. Cleaned our clocks again, giving him a 50% winning percentage in our group.

A word from our winner, Vishal

"I was pretty surprised to win the game with one battle. I think I had an advantage in playing The Fremen, as I could put my troops on the board without any cost. First I sent my troops to Sietch Tabr and then to Carthag. I think other players should have taken this move very seriously. Now to win the game I needed one more city, so my next goal was Arrakeen which was held by Harkonnen. I won the battle and eventually the game by using my best leader and a poison weapon. So the bottom line is: Any time a player has two cities assume that his next move will be for the game and do your best to block him."

Scott's words to live by:
- Read the web page: Joshua told us last time that a weakly held city should be taken away, but none of us ever went after Sietch Tabr
- Don't assume that new players are less of a threat than experienced ones
- Be persistent about getting the winner's tip if you want a timely web page
- Keep this up, Vishal, and we'll send Deep Blue after you

Robo Rally Game (5/3/1997)

Players: Anne, Joshua, Mike, Scott, Vishal

Decided to play Robo Rally while waiting to see if our mystery guest showed, and it worked out perfectly. Allan painted the 'bots and not only do they look great, you can actually tell which direction your 'bot is facing -- excellent! Phase one saw Josh kill his robot on the conveyor of doom and a serious crusher threat to Mike's robot, while Scott and Anne's 'bots bounced around in the wall maze, both real and both sustaining real damage. All of this tempered Vishal's wish that his virtual robot get real soon. Joshua went for the conveyor again (a move he'd soon regret), and Mike forged into the lead, dodging crushers like laundry duty. Vishal's robot no sooner became real than it conveyored itself off the board. When Anne faltered at the crusher conveyer belt, Mike seemed assured of victory and already had his winner's tip written: "What's the big deal. You program your robot and run it. Simple." (Hope those words taste good ;-> ) Luck of the non-Irish kicked him when he was three squares away from victory and was dealt seven, count 'em seven, turn cards. This allowed Joshua and Scott to move in, gumming up the works on the main conveyor and both dealing and receiving some serious damage. Joshua got off the conveyor by diving into a pit (death number three always sucks), and Mike and Scott raced for the flag.

Scott's robot passed over the flag and pushed Mike's into a wall, and the two 'bots traded damage for a few phases. Mike locked two of Scott's registers, and then had one of his own locked, after which he announced a shutdown following the next turn. Mike's 'bot passed over the flag and shut down precariously at board's edge, while his opponent (the "damn the torpedoes" robot) spun and sputtered to the flag just before bumping Mike's 'bot off the board. What happened to Anne and Vishal's robots is a mystery. Anne was still going at game's end, but Vishal was restarting for the third time, and of course, parts of Joshua's machine were strewn all over the board. We'd originally set up two flags for a one-hour game. Someone remarked, "We always underestimate this game," to which Mike replied, "No. We always overestimate ourselves."

A word from our winner Scott

"In the past, I've believed you should shut down rather than dying and coming back. However, tonight's game was a sprint, so I didn't think any shut down was advised -- just roll on and hope for the best. Three pieces of advice: think about which way you want to go before the timer begins; always turn your cards so their all facing up while the dealer is finishing the deal; first thing once you turn your cards over? separate the turns from the move. A swivel chair doesn't hurt either."

Saturday, April 12, 1997

Settlers of Catan Game #2 (4/12/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike C., Scott

This game of
Settlers didn't go accoring to plan at all. After placing the tiles, the obviously fertile land of 5, 6, and 8 die rolls produced like the frickin' desert. Allan banked on that land, and was initially hurt, and Joshua battled him for central-board supremecy. Mike and Scott pursued coastal strategies out of necessity once Allan and Joshua clogged up the middle. Mike tried building cities rather than expanding his range of settlements, and both he and Scott seemed destined for mediocrity as they were pushed toward the outside of the board. Allan grabbed the longest road (again) and then made a crucial error in trading Joshua what he needed to build a settlement -- the settlement that chopped Allan's road in two. This gave Scott the longest road (which he held to the end), and completely fouled up Allan's strategy.

At this point, with Mike and Scott marginalized and Allan falling, it seemed Joshua's game to win. That's when the vindictive non-fraternization policy went into effect. Allan, Mike, and Scott adhered to a strict no-trading-with-the-leader rule for the remainder of the game, and it almost worked. Mike began to get those cities established and developed the Largest Army, while Scott put together a few more settlements and got necessary resources from both Allan and Mike. The Robber remained on Joshua's property for the duration, and though he finally pulled out the win (with a Library or something on his last turn), it was far closer than it should've been. Final score was Joshua 10, Scott 8, Mike 7, and Allan's precinct still hasn't reported.

A word from our winner, Joshua

"Location, location, location.

"Resource Order According To Joshua: Grain, Clay, Wood, Rock, Sheep.

"Try to pick a location that sets you up to be getting the resources that are more precious (especially if the numbers make them rare). Either that or you have to expend resources to get a port that can trade, which is too costly in the beginning when you need to be collecting resources on all sides."

Scott's words to live by:
- Happy May Day to all, and to all a good night

Settlers of Catan Game #1 (4/12/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Scott

This round of Settlers was a blowout. Allan put down his stuff first, and got a primo space with a 5 and 6 roll that brought timber and brick, and when he combined it with a "3 of anything" port, the writing was on the wall before the Robber showed. He got the longest road, built two settlements into cities, and kept raking in the resources. Meanwhile, Joshua and Scott were competing for dead second and dead last, with only Joshua even close for a short time. Scott got his "empire" cut in half, and Joshua could only stay close if Scott traded him everything he needed (not bleedin' likely). Meanwhile, Allan rolled so well that he not only got tons of resources, but he got to place the Robber most of the time. His only setback came when he finally scooped up a ton of wood only to have it taken when Scott called a forest monopoly (getting a total of 11 trees), though that did give Allan a great story to tell afterward. By the end, the resources poured in so fast he didn't even care if he had to lose some cards. The final tally was something like Allan 10, Joshua 6, and Scott 4.

Allan's victory is significant for one other reason: it came in a dice rolling game. Congratulations, Allan. Hope you didn't use a lifetime of luck on this one game, as I was hoping to ally with you next Dune game. (And don't forget, you still have a coupon for two free spice next time we play Dune. Coupons can't be honored if you don't bring them.)

A word from our winner, Allan

"Probably already said by many, but be aware of the catalystic relationship between the resources you plan to harvest. Work on pairs of wood and brick (for roads and towns) or 3 of a kinds for cards. Always develop cities on your best villages if you can. Beware of monopolies when you harvest 8 wood (argh!)."

Scott's words to live by:
- Can't wait to get pictures of the Robo Rally figures posted. Way cool, Allan

Priceless Game (4/12/1997)

Players: Mike B., Mike C., Vishal

All that is known of this game of
Priceless is the following. The two experienced players, Mike B. and Mike C., cost each other MAJOR coin trying to get each other to overpay for items. The plan failed, however, because they forgot there was a third player, and thus Vishal discredited the Mutually Assured Destruction strategy by kicking their tushies and is now one of the few undefeated Priceless players we know. The final tally (as can be best estimated) was about $900,000 to a pair of $450,000s (though Mike B. claims victory over Mike C. - perhaps a reamatch is on tap). What wisdom does Vishal have to pass along? Read below and learn, Grasshopper.

A word from our winner, Vishal

I will attribute to my victory less to my skills and more to Mike B. and Mike C. mutual destruction play. This was the first time I was playing the game. When Mike C. expalined to me about the the game, one thing was clear -- that you have use your checks very carefully. I could see that both of these guys had used up their checks very quickly. Here are some tips which I think will be useful:

1. Don't buy the 4th item in the group, rather it would be good to buy articles from the adjacent groups as they save your checks and allow you to form a chain.
2. In the auction, if you think the price has gone to high, don't go for it.

Scott's words to live by:
- When ordering from Wok & Roll, split a dinner, don't try to eat one yourself -- they put in too much food

Time Agent Game (4/12/1997)

Players: Allan, Joshua, Mike B., Mike C., Scott, Vishal

Three reasons this summary will bite: with a new game you have to explain the game and the action of that night; I can't remember any of the other player's character names; and I waited way to long to write this up. Bear with me. In Time Agent, players send agents into the past to change key events from history -- events that once hurt their race (or that once helped other races) -- and try to destroy time travel when history smiles more upon their race. For some players, it's tougher to find events that help your race (umm... the Buralti spring to mind), so those players should change what they can to hurt other races, whereas some players benefit from almost every alteration in history and simply look around for the changes that help them most.

During your turn, you can look into the past (up to three tiles per time machine), build new equipment, buy new squads and agents, or send agents and/or squads into the past where they can rotate tiles or alter events. Combat ensues when opposing squads/agents have opposing plans for the same hexagon. Most players opted to search before sending troops into the past, except for the richest player (Scott) who sent troops back to explore rather than waiting a turn and for the most economically challenged player (Allan) who didn't even have the cash to explore (SUCK!). After that first turn, all players started exploring the past, searching in accordance with the "cheat sheet" provided that tells you where your most important events are. Josh had to take away his own Victory Points to get cash (a cruel twist in the rules), and Allan built his empire from the ground up, exploring the less expensive tiles of the recent past and working his way back. The two Mikes tried with little success to bolster their empires (for every step forward, seemed one backward was right behind), and after a slow start, Vishal roamed the western part of the board unopposed for most of the game.

At this point, "blood" was spilled for the first time in our gaming sessions. Mike B. knocked over his wine glass, and as Malcom McDowell once said, "The vino was flowing," flowing all over Mike B.'s cheat sheet and character description. We surveyed the damage and all realized that this would be a much cooler (and cleaner) game if ACTUAL Time Travel was available. Also might've helped if loose fitting clothes were out of style. Mike C. dispensed his advice for all time: "When you're gaming with a new group, this is how NOT to get invited back."

Perhaps spurred by the sight of blood on the table, Allan roared to second place (all the while whining about other players' advantages -- deception at its finest), and the rest of the pack crept toward the Buralti (who start the game miles ahead), so Scott tried to end the game but was temporarily rebuffed by those pesky rules. Mike C. cost Allan and Vishal points just to play spoiler, and knowing the game might end the next turn, Joshua sold back his economic advantage for Victory Points. When Scott destroyed Time Travel, the Victory Points jumbled and juked, and in the end, Josh won with Allan a close second and all others crushed in defeat.

A word from our winner, Joshua

When playing the alienraceIplayed (sorry, can't remember what they're called) the VERY first thing you MUST do is reverse the invention of alienraceIplayed's philosophy. This does two things for you:

1. You get 15 more bucks per round.
2. Your victory points go down so you look weak and helpless (pretty much true).

Once this has been accomplished (by turn 2 at the latest) always buy one time machine per round since the only way to win the game is for the alienraceIplayed to know which turn the game is going to end and reverse all of the key events on that turn only. (Since you're going to lose that 15 extra bucks per round and have too many points to fain weakness.) Figure out who is going to stop time travel and "advise" them sufficiently such that you know/control when the game will end.

Scott's word to live by:
- Time Agent might be a keeper if the different character advantages don't get predictable
- For years now, "Guild counter in the salsa" was our worst disaster. Now that Mike B. has raised the bar, should we fear our next gaming session?

Saturday, February 15, 1997

Joshua Brings the Hammer (2/15/1997)

Players: Allan (Harkonnen), Anne (did not play Dune), Brian (Fremen), Joshua (Atreides), Mike B. (Emporer), Mike C. (Guild), Scott (Bene Gesserit)


What an effin' wipeout. Played four games, Joshua won three and we didn't finish the fourth. He brought the hammer alright, and my head still aches. We started out with Dune, skipping the Spice Harvest because of time constraints on one player (he had only three hours), though it turned out we should've played Spice Harvest and skipped Dune. First round was pretty boring, Atreides took Habbanya Ridge Sietch sans opposition (and with only two tokens), the Fremen got spice in The Great Flat. The Worm appeared and the Fremen rode it into Tuek's Sietch, and next turn, the Guild moved out for spice and the Emporer swooped in to fight the newly arrived Fremen in Tuek's. Everyone else passed until Atreides sold some information to the Emporer, which gave him just enough spice to ship into Sietch Tabr to battle the Fremen. The Bene Gesserit (and everyone else at the table) did not realize that this was for the win, and the spiritual sisters skipped their turn. This meant that an Atreides win in Sietch Tabr meant a one-player victory on turn two of a six-player game, which is exactly what happened as he wiped out the no-treachery-card Fremen and ended the game early.

Robo Rally...

After we detached our chins from the floor, we decided to play a serious game of Robo Rally. Mike C. screamed out to an early lead (first one to the second gameboard), while the other players bumped and lasered each other around on the massive "conveyer belt vortex." Allan reached the second gameboard next, and his reward was a robot that immediately spun into a small pit, and the "bots" got pretty spread out due to robots enticed by the edge of the board or Scott and Joshua's "laser-magnet-bots." Mike C. muddled around around between walls and lasers and couldn't get himself going, Scott's bot took serious damage and shutdown (while on a slow conveyer), while Joshua, Anne, and Allan rebuilt their robots and started over. Eventually, Mike was forced to shut down, and Brian flew into a pit; but restarting looked like a pretty good strategy when Allan got back to the second gameboard right away and Anne kicked ass with her nine cards. Scott avoided the crushers by swooping across them toward the backside conveyers. Mike B. stopped for multiple rounds on a repair spot to shed some damage, and Mike C.'s robot was finally compacted into a can and had to restart (though his archive point was close to the flag -- close geographically, that is), and Scott finally navigated the conveyers to land first on the first flag, which left only two flags to go.

Brian had to leave, so we removed his bot. Allan reached goal No. 1 next, and was hot on Scott's trail (and halfway to the next flag) when Mike B. made it. Joshua got there next, and Scott and Allan missed on their first pass at the 2nd flag, meanwhile, Mike C. and Anne pounded each other into oblivion at the edge of the board, and Mike's robot died as he was trying to shutdown whereas Anne rode the momentum of Mike's defeat to the first flag. The second flag was on the edge of the board and had three layers of conveyers between you and it, and was particularly difficult to reach, but Allan appeared to have it in sight when he changed his plan just before the timer sounded (we used a two minute timer). His new plan was safer, but he realized he would've gotten there with the old one and kicked himself the rest of the game. Scott shut down again (and again was on the conveyer at the time) Finally, after the shutdown, Scott reached the second flag, followed closely by Joshua and Anne (the latter of whom knocked the former off the board -- which was Joshua's third death and the end of the game for him). We called it quits then (with still one flag to go). Finally tally was as follows: Mike B., Mike C. & Allan reached the first flag, Allan nearly reached the second one (Anne nuked him before he got there) and Mike B. had the healthiest robot ever after spending multiple turns on repair spots. Scott, Anne, & Joshua reached the second flag, with Joshua knocked out of the game by Anne right afterward, and Scott on his way to the third flag, carrying no damage at all (and still on his first life).


Priceless went sour fast. In the first game, Joshua built an early lead with cars and coins, Mike B. and Scott competed for games and in the end they both lost (overpaying for half the points), and Mike wandered around the board because he had nothing together. The luck of the draw indicated that Joshua should win, and he did -- by about $500,000 -- as he locked up antiques, cars and coins (the three most valuable groups on the board).

The second game was more competitive, with Allan moving out to a quick lead (collecting antiques), Mike C. gaining when he lost an early auction to Scott (who once again overpaid -- this time for glassware). Joshua started slowly, lining up some stamps and card through shrewd trading, while Scott tried to recover by grouping clocks and one antique with his early glassware error. Mike started a nice collection of cars and married it to a chain in toys (and one glassware) that brought him to the lead for a moment before Allan filled in his third artwork item and catapulted back in front. Joshua added a few coins (and one jewelry) to his chain, and built momentum that appeared ready to carry him to second place.

Allan erronously thought Scott was ahead of Joshua and used an Auctioneer card to spoil Scott's attempt at a respectable last-place finish, and when Joshua bought his third stamp right afterward, Allan realized he should've saved that dastardly deed for Joshua. Mike could never finish his jewelery collection (price was driven through the roof), and that ultimately relegated him to 3rd place. The Joshua/Allan sweepstakes ended with Joshua at $1.4 million and Allan at $1.36 million -- our closest finish ever and quite a disappointment to Allan who might've won if he'd hosed Joshua rather than Scott.

A word from our winner, Joshua

For Dune:
"ANY time a player has two cities (no matter how weakly held), assume that his next move will be for the game and block him. Especially when he's got a mere 2 troops holding a city. Remember this: The more pathetic a player looks the more he deserves to be in tanks instead of being in a city. If nothing else lobby to pay someone to eradicate the weakest city held. Otherwise you might as well go for the six player alliance."

For Priceless:
"Don't listen to the bull look at their points. That's where the real money comes from. Keep a tally of how many checks each player has spent and you immediately know how much their worth and probably where they're headed next. Also, if you go with a middle group then don't plan on buying the 4th item; it's just way too expensive. However if you go with one of the outer groups then it's just a measely $100,000 for the 4th item and you still get the 10 bonus points. Two adjacent outer groups can be worth way more than solid inner groups since they won't deplete your check supply while your building up points. One check makes a difference big time."

Scott's words to live by:
- Joshua was lucky enough to follow both his Priceless strategies in one night -- and win twice
- In Robo Rally, anyone else notice the correlation between the name "Anne" and the phrase "knocked out of the game"?
- Also in Robo Rally, don't give up a life too easily; shutting down for a turn is better because you don't go back to your archive point and you (usually) come back with fewer damage points
- Next time I'm that far behind in Priceless, I vow to cheat
- I propse a variant on 1830 where we play Spice Harvest first for either cash or stock in companies. This might eliminate some of the predictability of the game