Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Puerto Rico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puerto Rico. Show all posts

Friday, October 23, 2015

Controversial themes

This week I happened across an old State of Games podcast in which Chris Kirkman, Nat Levan, and the Dice Hate Me crew discussed the potential backlash from Nat's whaling-themed game, New Bedford.  The discussion addressed why people might have difficulty with a game based on hunting and killing whales.  For my part, I'm very fond of the game, and I think its historical setting and the chit-pull mechanic that models the depletion of the whale population lend the proper respect to the topic.  In short, it's not a controversial theme for me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top ten games that I play with my wife

Quite some time ago, Chris Norwood posted a list of his top ten games that he plays with his wife.  That list in turn was inspired by The Dice Tower podcast Episode 189, in which Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer shared their own top ten games that they play with their wives.  Those lists are both several years old, but the topic is timeless, so I thought I'd confer with my wife Kathy so that we could compile our own list.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Multi-player games for two players

Ryan Metzler recently posted a top-ten video of his favorite multi-player games for two players - that is, games made for two or more players but that are his favorites as two-player games.  His video is both quick and informative, and I bumped up a number of games on my wishlist as a result.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day weekend gaming

We marked the three-day Labor Day weekend celebrating American workers with several boardgaming sessions.  (In other words, we commemorated work by playing.)

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
Friday evening, Kathy and I had our friend Theresa H. over for a game of Puerto Rico, one of our very favorites but one that we seldom get to play in its original three-to-five player form.  The three of us ended up very close in shipping and building points, but Kathy won with a strong showing of bonus points from the fortress and city hall.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another pounding in Puerto Rico

My wife Kathy and I went back to an old favorite tonight, a two-player variant of  Puerto Rico (designer Andreas Seyfarth, artist Franz Vohwinkel, publisher Rio Grande).  Whereas I was thinking it was a pretty close game, in fact I made a major error in spending my dubloons on a Wharf instead of saving for a large bonus-point building.  Kathy bought both the Fortress and the Residence.  I ended up using my Wharf only once, to ship two corn - hardly worth the investment (not to mention the opportunity cost of a large building later).  We were very close on shipping victory points and building points, but the bonuses from her big buildings earned her a huge win, 52-36.
My wife's game-winning city - only two production buildings but beefed up with the Fortress and Residence

It was a very odd game, mostly traceable to the fact that most of the coffee plantations came out early, before either of us was ready to invest in a Coffee Roaster, and most of the indigo didn't come out until the end, when we were largely committed to other crops and neither was interested in starting something new.  So except for the very last Craftsman phase, she only produced corn and tobacco, and I only produced corn and sugar.  The Trading House never filled up, because the Office became unavailable (under the two-player variant rules).  The situation made for some very odd dynamics; I left my Small and Large Markets unoccupied for most of the game because I never had the opportunity to sell sugar or corn after the second Trader phase.  
My wife's shipping points and goods at game end (custom game pieces were a Christmas gift):  The indigo was the only one produced all game.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Personal Pre-PrezCon

PrezCon open gaming and pre-cons started this evening (President's Day, hence the name), though I won't be arriving there in Charlottesville, Virginia, until Thursday morning.  But I had the opportunity to play a lot of games this weekend in a kind of home-style pre-PrezCon warm-up.

My son's red empire extends from
Buenos Aires to the ends of Asia
My 15-year-old's friend from Maryland spent the weekend with us, so Saturday afternoon started off with a reprise of our three-player Risk session from last July.  Last time, my son and his friend got pre-occupied with Asian occupation, and I ended up achieving an objective in each of the first three turns and winning the game in short order.  This time, I was not so fortunate, and they were not so inattentive.  My capitol was in New Guinea, and my dice luck prevented me from seizing control of Australia in the first turn.  It was all slow going from there.  My son gained control of South America and Africa, his friend dominated Europe, and I could do little more than throw roadblocks in the path of one and then the other.  Eventually my son rolled up the "Control two continents," "Control 18 territories," and "Control Asia" objectives to win the game.  I definitely prefer Risk (designer Rob Daviau, publisher Hasbroin the new objective-based format (rather than the old-style player-elimination global-domination victory condition).  I haven't decided whether to throw my hat into the Risk tournament at PrezCon, though.

That evening my wife and I played a two-player game of 7 Wonders (designer Antoine Bauza, artist Miguel Coimbra, publisher Repos Production).  It's not quite the same crazy free-for-all that a four- or five-player game can be, but it's still a nice way for us to pass the time.  She had the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; I had the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.  I won by a fairly narrow margin, as I recall.


Image (c) Mayfair Games.  Used by
permission.  All rights reserved
Yesterday, our friend Sue C. came to join us for a couple of days, and we started with Cities and Knights of Catan (designer Klaus Teuber; artists Volkan Baga, Harald LieskeFranz Vohwinkel, and Stephen Walsh; publisher Mayfair), an expansion that I actually prefer to the original Settlers of Catan but which requires considerable familiarity to play.  Maybe I can develop some interest in C&KoC among my gaming friends.  With barbarians, knights, walls, commodities, city developments, and progress cards in lieu of development cards, the game takes on a richer level of complexity.  Dice luck is still a factor, but sound planning counts for a lot.  Kathy kept me from building a settlement on a contended road junction by occupying the corner with a knight.  Although I had a more powerful knight on the same road network, I hesitated to spend precious wheat to displace her knight and then have to move my knight out of the way again to make room for a new settlement.  My hesitation cost me in the end; she ended up building the settlement there instead, which left me to have to build new roads elsewhere and develop less productive locations.  Ultimately it was Sue, however, who stole Kathy's longest road and ended up winning, despite my late-game move to build a cathedral and get within two points of victory myself.

Next was Citadels (designer Bruno Faidutti, numerous artists, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), always a favorite of mine, and one that Kathy had never played three-player before.  I think that assassins and thieves are particularly dangerous in the three-player version, because when the roles pass around the second time, each player knows two roles that have definitely been chosen by someone - so the assassin and thief can guarantee that a target is in play.  I ended up running away with the win this time, in part because of an excellent hand at the start of the game.  Although I think Citadels is primarily a game of getting inside your opponent's head, card luck is still a considerable factor.


Box cover image courtesy
of Rio Grande Games
Today we opened with another favorite, Puerto Rico (designer Andreas Seyfarth, artist Franz Vohwinkel, publisher Rio Grande).  Kathy and I seldom get to play it in its original intended format of three to five players.  I had a pretty strong engine going with corn, sugar, and coffee, plus a factory and office that helped with the cash flow.  Kathy put her hospice to good use (as she likes to do), ending up with three occupied quarries that enabled her to pick up the fortress and capitalize on her excess population.  Despite one captain phase that saw me spoil a ton of product, I was able to eke out a one-point victory, helped by the guild hall.

After Sue left this afternoon, Kathy and I enjoyed our customary cocktail hour with a game of Ingenious (designer Reiner Knizia, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), which was a PrezCon acquisition last year and which I still appreciate both for its elegant gameplay and for its aesthetic appeal.  Kathy won, as she often does.  Although tile draw luck is a factor, I think Kathy did a better job keeping an eye on my scoring track and anticipating what I needed to do better than I did on hers.

So I got to spend this three-day weekend sharpening my teeth on some friendly competition before heading to Charlottesville later in the week.  I have to admit that I'm a lot better prepared to go have fun than I am to beat anybody; I think I'm a far cry from winning anything at the tournament level of competition that I expect to encounter.  But heck, it's all about having fun, meeting people, learning new games, and engaging with other designers and publishers.  I expect to do plenty of all of that.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pounded again in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico with
enhanced players' aids
My darling wife and I went to our old favorite, a two-player variant of Puerto Rico (designer Andreas Seyfarth, publisher Rio Grande) this afternoon.  Our games are typically a cocktail-hour custom, so our Puerto Rico set-up includes a couple of extra player-enhancing components.

We each started with indigo, and for some reason I got completely wrapped up in the idea of maximizing my building points, even to the point of neglecting basic production.  Kathy, meanwhile, seized upon what I thought was a rather clever combination to put together an impressive strategy.  She was the first to grab a bonus-point building, the Fortress, relatively early in the game.  Later she picked up the Hospice (one of her favorites) and the University (usually one of mine, yet one that I inexplicably declined to buy despite my building-focused strategy).  Once they were occupied, it was clear that hers was a population-based strategy.  Every Mayor, Builder, or Settler phase meant that she would get at least one more colonist.  As a result, her Fortress racked up seven bonus points by the end of the game.

My ending position - lots of quarries and
buildings, relatively little production
My building strategy worked to the extent that I obtained two big buildings - the City Hall and the Customs House.  Now, the City Hall makes sense in a building-focused strategy and gave me five points at the end.  But the Guild Hall was gone by the time I was ready to buy a second big building, so I settled for the Customs House, which did me very little good since I wasn't producing much and therefore wasn't shipping much.  I was gratified that my wife didn't get it, though, because it turned out that she out-shipped me like crazy.

I think in general my building choices were misguided almost throughout the game.  I had two sugar plantations but never bought a Sugar Mill until it was too late.  I mentioned that I never picked up the University, which I usually like to do.  And I'm starting to take more seriously my friend Grant's contention that a fourth Quarry doesn't pay off.  I've always liked it for the big building discount, but now I'm not so sure.

Kathy's strong finish -
34 shipping points!
So in the end, as it happens, my building strategy was for naught.  We tied in building points, and her bonus points were almost as good as mine.  But because her plantations were twice as productive as mine, and because
she had the Harbor, she had over twice as many points from shipping as I did.  The final score was Kathy 61, Paul 43.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Punked in Puerto Rico

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
Well, my wife did it to me tonight in a two-player variant of Puerto Rico (designer Andreas Seyfarth, publisher Rio Grande).  I had a pretty good corn shipping strategy going, and then went long in sugar and eventually coffee.  But I think I overdid it with the Hacienda and filled up my island plantations too quickly with other crops that didn't really pay off.  I only had one quarry, which made it difficult to construct buildings.  She wasn't producing many goods until she got tobacco going.  Along with the Office, her tobacco sales made it possible for her to buy the Fortress, the Guild Hall, and City Hall (?).  Despite my shipping like a fiend with my Wharf, her big buildings enabled her to outscore me 52 to 43.

I'll blame the rum...

Friday, October 8, 2010

More playing than designing this week

All week I've been coming home from my paying job and unwinding by playing games rather than buckling down and working on my submarine game. 

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
Yesterday Kathy and I played Puerto Rico, inspired perhaps earlier this week by Race for the Galaxy, which is similar in concept though considerably more complex (to us) in execution.  PR is one of our favorites.  It's actually designed for three to five players.  We adopted the two-player variant that appears in a solitaire rules set called "SoloPlay Rules," which works well for us.

I used to approach PR with a rigid strategy in mind - either grow lots of cheap crops and ship them like a madman, or focus on generating income and go heavy on buildings.  I've since learned that a semi-flexible strategy is important, as is paying attention to what roles benefit one's opponent(s) as much as or more than oneself.  I have a hard time articulating my strategic approach to PR better than that, so perhaps it's worth some thought and a subsequent post ... and perhaps some research first into what others have written on PR.

In yesterday's session, Kathy picked up a hospice early, as well as a couple of quarries and a few corn plantations, so I was afraid she'd be off to the races. I had a small start in indigo but went pretty long in sugar. I picked up both small and large markets, so I had some good cash coming in, enough later to buy the fortress and city hall. Kathy got tobacco production going but could only sell it once or twice. She picked up the guild hall very late, but my building points ended up carrying me by three points at the end.

This afternoon was an absolutely perfect fall day, so Kathy lit a fire in the fire bowl in the back yard, I made some drinks, and we sat out and played a couple of games of cribbage.  That game was quite popular on my boat when I was in the Navy (and holds a submarine tradition going way back to World War II).  Nowadays, I find it a nice diversion.  I have to say that my opponent today is distractingly better looking and much more pleasant company than were my opponents aboard ship.

I picked up a copy of Castle Panic (designed by Justin de Witt, published by Fireside Games) today on the recommendation of my son, who came home after a game session raving about it.  We tried it as a family game after dinner tonight, and we picked it up pretty quick.  I think the cooperative aspect of this game works well for us as a family, once we have the "game courtesy protocol" established (no touching pieces on other people's turns, etc).  We players won against the monsters, and my youngest son emerged as the Master Slayer with 16 points.

This nice discovery of Castle Panic (thanks to Spike and Mary) comes serendipitously after my posting earlier this week in which I expressed concern about the approachability of games in their first playing.  CP turned out to be very intuitive and straightforward in its execution, and therefore easy to learn in the first play-through.  Now, it is a relatively simple game by any measure.  Still, I think its construct is conceptually transparent, so that individual quirks and capabilities of unique monsters and action cards could be learned one at a time as they came up.  We could learn each new capability as it emerged and accommodate it into our overall understanding of the game without the frustration of saying, "oh, well if I'd known that, I'd have done this differently."

So I think if I want to design family games, I really have to give some thought to this aspect of being able to sit down, start playing, and learn while playing without ever having to go back and re-visit points in the games that the new player previously thought they'd understood.