Tag Archives: Sushi Draft!

25th March 2014

While we waited for people to arrive we started out with a quick duelling card game set in feudal Japan, called Tessen.  The tale goes like this:

“Many years ago, in feudal Japan, disagreements and feuds were common among the clans. Fantastic battles were fought for control of resources, land, and supremacy.  Tiring of all the bloodshed, the Shogun declared a plan to minimize the violence…  All disputes would be decided by a Tessen challenge – a competitive hunt for eight types of elusive mystical animals that roamed the land. Whichever clan’s samurai were able to capture and bring back the most animals would be declared the victor, and the dispute would be ruled in that clan’s favour.  The samurai warriors from each clan would certainly attempt to sabotage the opposition’s efforts and capture their animals.  The only weapon the Shogun would allow was the Tessen, a war fan used for both attack and defence.  While the Tessen could still be deadly, there would be far less bloodshed than if the samurai were allowed to use swords.”

Tessen

So, players each have their own deck containing animal and samurai cards.  Players can draw cards, place them in one of five “cages” in their play area, or attack with a samurai card, but although actions are performed simultaneously, they must be discrete actions.  If attacked, the victim must stop immediately to either concede defeat so that the attacker can move the animals to one of their cages, or repel the attack countering with a samurai card of their own.  Each cage can only contain one type of animal and when it has three or more, the animals can be “banked” and moved into storage freeing up the cage for more animals.  The round ends when one player runs out of cards, so they are frenetic affairs which take only a couple of minutes each.  The first round was a bit of a landslide in favour of the Atika Clan, but the Nambu improved significantly on the second round to level the game.  The third round was close with the Nambu starting very aggressively, but the Atika caught up and ran out of cards first preventing the Nambu from banking her final four deer and winning the game. By this time the others had arrived, so exhausted, we left it as a best of three…

Tessen

Next we played our “Feature Game” which was Sushi Draft!.  This game is similar to 7 Wonders in that it is based on “card drafting”, however, the aim is far less complex.  The story goes that the children are having a competition to see who can eat the most of one type of sushi at a Japanese family feast.  Mother, however, wants the children to eat a balanced diet, and will give pudding to the one who eats the most varied meal.  Therefore, the aim of the game is to try to do both.  Players start with a hand of six cards and then simultaneously play one before passing all but one of the remaining cards on to the next player.  Play continues until everyone has played five cards at which point the scores are evaluated and players with the most of each type get a corresponding token and the player with the most different types gets a token.  If there is a draw, then the next highest player gets the token.  About half-way through we realised that some sushi were more valuable than others which changed the game somewhat, but the damage was already done and the winner had already collected the highest value tokens.

Sushi Draft

After some considerable debate, next we decided to play Settlers of Catan.  Nearly twenty years old, this is often credited with being one of the first modern boardgames.  As such, it has largely been usurped by more recent and fashionable games.  However, although we were all quite familiar with it, it was a while since most of us had played it, so we decided to blow off the dust.  The game is played on a modular board made up of hexagonal tiles corresponding to resources (wood, clay/brick, sheep, wheat/grain and ore), each of which gets a number.  Turns come in two parts.  First the player rolls two dice, adds the numbers together and anyone with a settlement on the edge of the corresponding hexagon, gets that resource.  However, if a seven is rolled, then the active player moves the robber onto one hexagon (preventing allocation resources from that hex) and then takes a card from an owner of one of the settlements surrounding it.

The Settlers of Catan

The second part of a turn is trading and building, where the active player can trade resources with other players at any rate they can negotiate, or with the Bank at a predefined rate.  Settlements (which score points at the end of the game) must be connected to at least one of the players other settlements by roads, and players start by placing two settlements on the board (in the player order 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2 , 1).  Unquestionably the game has its faults, one of them being that the starting positions are really very critical.  While this is unquestionably true, it is not always obvious which positions are the best, and with the random nature of dice, sometimes double six will come up far more frequently than the statistically more likely combined totals of six or eight.

The Settlers of Catan

Since we started out with a random tile lay out we had a very, very distorted map with a lowland region containing all the sheep pasture and wheat fields in big regions with a more mountainous area of with forests and hills.  Even worse, all the clay (used to make bricks) was located on the low probability numbers (two, eleven and twelve), meaning that in theory, these would be difficult to come by.  Initial settlements were predominantly round the sixes and eights with players trying to maximise the variety of resources they had access to.  Blue settled in the highland area while Green, Orange and White tried to get a bit of everything, especially the rare clay.

The Settlers of Catan

It seemed Green had the best placement as he was the first to build a third settlement and followed it quickly with a fourth, meanwhile Blue was getting plenty of ore (which is useless at the start) but struggling to obtain bricks and ended up building a lot of road just to get something built, joined her two settlements and picked up the Longest Road in the process.  Two and eleven seemed to be rolled with peculiar regularity and Green was the main beneficiary as he had multiple settlements that qualified, while Orange and White also picked up the occasional hod-full.  Blue’s long road partitioned off an one corner of the board blocking both Orange and White in the process and when Green beat them to a couple of settlements, that left both Orange and White very tight for space to build and it was a race to the finish.

The Settlers of Catan

Orange judiciously used a monopoly card to steal sheep from everyone and then slaughtered the whole flock to build a city and a lot of road.  Meanwhile White used her impressive skills breading and exporting sheep to great effect to extend in the only direction available to her.  Blue’s productive ore and wood supplies in the mountains, together with the “ore harbour” and “wood harbour” finally started to pay dividends making up for her complete lack of any source of wheat or brick.  Green meanwhile, used his vast grain empire to build cities and collect development cards in an effort to build the Largest Army.  With Blue one point from winning with the cards she needed to build one last city in hand, Green needed just one more Soldier to get the Largest Army and bought a development card.  Although it turned out that three of the next four cards were Soldiers, Green was unlucky and Blue took the win.

The Settlers of Catan

Learning Outcome:  Some of the old classic games are classics for a reason and should not be neglected.

25th February 2014

Thanks to people leaving, moving and catching lurgy we were really short of players – what a come down from a few weeks ago when we had two parallel games and were struggling to find chairs for everyone!  For this reason, we abandoned the “Feature Game” (Sushi Draft!), as it plays better with more people and started out with a quick game of Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small.  This is a smaller version of one of our more popular “worker placement” games, Agricola.  In this game players are medieval farmers and the idea behind it is that players start with a small number of workers and carry out actions to build up their farm by fencing off pasture, buying animals, ploughing fields and growing corn and vegetables, all the time trying to make sure that workers have enough food.  At the end of the game, players score for a range of things including how large their house is, and how big their family is.

Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small

In the smaller version, the focus is concentrated on the animals and players primary aim is to develop their stock with a secondary aim of expanding their property and making good use of the new land.  In general, a lot of the basic rules are the same:  You collect resources to build anything and your animals must be kept in an enclosed space (either a building, tied to a drinking trough or in a fenced pasture); any animals that you have more than two of will breed at the end of the round to give another.  In contrast to its big brother, in this game there is no facility for increasing your family from the three you start with, there is very limited facility to upgrade your cottage, food is provided by some other means outside the game (clearly the workers are not going to starve), and minor/major improvements and occupations are provided by buildings.  We had played this before (though not on a Tuesday), so we included four random buildings from the expansion, More Buildings Big and Small, specifically, the Ranch, Dog House, Rearing Station and Barn Floor Manufacturer.

Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small

Red started and began collecting horses, meanwhile, Blue built a Dog house that allowed her to keep one sheep in each unfenced pasture not adjacent to the forrest.  Red then built a stall and some feeding troughs and started breeding horses and pigs while Blue tried to expand her property and built a Ranch as the flock of sheep carried on growing.  In the dying stages of the game, Red managed to gather together enough sheep to avoid a penalty, but failed to completely cover his second expansion board;  Blue had to allow a couple of animals to escape as she couldn’t find space to house them despite completely covering all three of her expansion boards.  Blue ran out the winner with 51 points to Red’s 43, largely thanks to her large flock of sheep.

Agricola:  All Creatures Big and Small

Next, we played Tobago, which is a Christmas game that we’d played before (though again, not on a Tuesday).  This is a very beautiful game of treasure hunting on the island of Tobago.  The board is divided into segments of different terrain, forest, beach, mountain, river etc.   The idea is that players take it in turns to play cards that successively narrow down the location of the treasure.  Thus, if the first player plays an “in the forest”card, the next might play a not “next to the river” card reducing the number of available spaces that can hold the treasure to those wooded spaces out of earshot of the river.  Each player also has an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) that they can move instead of playing a card, and use to collect treasures.  When an ATV arrives at the treasure space (or the treasure location is unambiguously revealed as a location where there is a vehicle), treasure cards are revealed to the players, with one per card per clue and an extra for the player who found the treasure.  The cards are then pooled, shuffled and the top one turned over.  The last player to place a clue card gets first choice of and can either choose to take the card, or pass (waiting for the next card), and let the next player choose.  Each treasure card has a different value and as players who placed a lot of clue cards will have seen a lot of them, they are in a better position to decide whether it is a good idea to take a treasure or to pass, the more so since there are two “cursed treasures” which prevent any further treasures being revealed as well as causing players to discard their most valuable treasure card.   Once the treasure has been distributed, amulets are distributed around the island; players who collect these can exchange them for an extra turn or use them to prevent treasure loss when the cursed treasure is revealed.

Tobago

Red placed his ATV in the middle of the island next to a lake, so Blue placed hers on the other side of the water and immediately realised that Red had the optimal position. Red started laying clues, so Blue carefully stalked him matching every clue he placed.  The first treasure was located in such a way that Blue could make it there first giving her the majority of treasure cards.  Placing second meant that Blue had first choice and was able to keep the most lucrative treasures.  This pattern was repeated for the first few treasures and Blue managed to get a nose in front.  Red made tried to collect amulets so he could regain control of the game, but the final damage was done when the cursed treasure cards appeared and in both cases Blue collected more treasures than Red.  As the game came to an end, Red had amassed a fine collection of amulets, but it was too late to make a real impact and Blue won, 73 points to 43.

Tobago

The last game we played was Morels, which we’ve played before, but was new to one of the players.  This is a fairly traditional set collecting game, but is a very nice rendition with lovely art-work and some hand made forage sticks provided by the designer.  The idea is that you can collect the readily available mushrooms “at your feet” for free, or you can choose a less accessible fungi and pay the difference in forage sticks, the game’s currency.  Once you have a set of three or more mushrooms you can cook them, and add cider or butter if appropriate to add extra points at the end of the game.  Red started again as he hadn’t played it before and made a point of collecting some forage sticks by trading a pair of “Hen of the Woods” for six forage sticks early on.  Meanwhile, Blue picked up a couple of basket cards and couple of night cards, but was unable to get a nice set worth cooking.  Red picked up a couple of Porcini cards and Blue collected a couple of Morels and both players waited for the third card to make up the set.  Red cooked a handful of Tree Ears flavoured with some cider and Honey Fungi, while blue cooked some Shitake with butter and some Lawyers’ Wigs.  As the supply of fungi started to dwindle, Blue finally managed to pick up the third Morel and cook it, but Red took the last pan card preventing her from playing the Chanterelles.  Despite this, Blue took the game by 38 Mushroom Varietal Points to 29, giving her a hat-trick of wins for the evening.

Morels

Learning Outcome:  It is nice to come back from a loosing streak with a bit of a bang.