Tag Archives: The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet

26th August 2014

We started the evening with a big bowl of chips, some ice-cream and a game of Hanabi.  This is a a co-operative game where everyone works together to try to achieve a common aim.  The idea is very simple:  everyone has a hand of tiles which are turned to face away, so that players can see everyone else’s tiles, but not their own.  On their turn, players then either play a tile, give a clue about the colour or number of the tiles in front of a player, or discard a tile (and recover a clue).  The aim is to lay twenty-five tiles in order within their suits.

Hanabi

Everyone had played the game before, but never together as a group, so we had a quick discussion of conventions.  The game can be played very strictly in complete silence with “poker faces”, but given how hard the game is, we’ve always played it in a fairly relaxed way.  Some groups have a lot of extra ways of giving clues, for example, if a player has three green tiles, they point to them in a prearranged order, say, from lowest to highest, however, within the group we’ve always felt this is a step too far.  We typically play with a conveyor-belt, where new tiles are generally placed at one end and, in the absence of other information,  should it be necessary, the oldest tiles are discarded.  This not only helps the players giving clues ensuring that tiles stick about for as long as possible and makes sure people know which tile is “in the hot seat”, but also helps the owner remember which tile is which.  In the past, we’ve also used some element of the active player talking through their thought process so that other players can learn how people think.  This is nice when learning, but does have the tendency to give away a little too much information, so this time, with more experienced players, we tried to keep that to a minimum.

Hanabi

We started off well with one player beginning with three ‘ones’ all of different colours, but then the trouble set in.  The absence of “twos” meant that nobody could really find any really good clues to give and before long we were forced to discard tiles which led to the inevitable consequence of throwing away both white “threes”.  Although it limited our highest possible score, it had the advantage that people could freely discard white tiles and recover clues.  Doors opened a little and we managed to play complete blue, green and red fireworks.  The total of nineteen gave us an excellent crowd pleasing display, though it would be interesting to see if the same group could do as well, or even better next time, playing a little more strictly.

Hanabi

Meanwhile a couple of other players arrived and, seeing that the game had some way to go, decided to start a quick game of The Little Prince:  Make Me a Planet.  This is a pretty little game based on the book, The Little Prince, by the French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  We’ve not played it before on a Tuesday, though many of us have played it on other occasions.  The idea is that each player is trying to build a planet from a total of sixteen square tiles.  The tiles have one of four different motifs: characters, up edges, down edges and middles and when four of each are combined, they make a picture of a planet with the four corner spaces occupied by the characters.

The Little Prince:  Make Me a Planet

On their turn, the active player chooses a motif, draws one tile per player and keeps one.  They then choose another player and pass on the remaining tiles for them to select one, then pass remaining tiles on etc.   The final player gets no choice and gets to keep the last tile, but to make up for that, this player becomes the start player for the next round.  Each tile features a number of items:  lamp posts, sheep stars, strange-looking foxes, elephants, baobob trees, cobras etc. which are used for scoring.  The score for each item depends on the characters, however, and items will score highly for one planet and poorly, or even negatively for another.  The game was tight all the way through, but Purple finished ahead with a lead of seven points.

The Little Prince:  Make Me a Planet

The games came to an end and we decided to start two simultaneous games of The Speicherstadt, our “Feature Game” for the week.  This is an unusual auction card game where players compete for victory points, which come mainly from contracts (sets of resources) and special cards.  The game is set in Hamburg around 1900 where there was a unique complex of storehouses (Speicherstadt) and a network of canals and bridges forming a terminus for spices, coffee, tea and carpets from all over the world.  Players act as wholesaler at the heyday of the Speicherstadt acquiring shiploads for the storehouses and making profits selling selling them.  We played this game quite a bit a few months back, but somehow seemed to have forgotten how to play it.  After a period of staring blankly at the rules, we remembered that each player starts with three meeples which they use for bidding, and bid by placing them above their chosen card (and any meeples already there).  Once everyone has declared their interest, the first card is auctioned:  the person at the front of the queue has the first chance to buy and the price is set by the total number of meeples in the queue.  If they choose to buy at that price, they pay up and the auction is over.  If they choose not to buy (or are unable to), then they forfeit their opportunity, remove their meeple and the next person has a chance (and the cost is reduced accordingly).  The deck is stacked so that contracts mostly come out first, then “schiffs” which carry the goods used to fulfil the contracts.  There are also firemen (or feuerwehrmenn) and a smattering of other interesting and valuable cards.

The Speicherstadt

In the first game, Blue failed to acquire any firemen and was duly punished by losing a total of ten points during the game.  Because Orange and Red had not played before, they had neglected contracts in the early stages, which meant goods were plentiful and were mostly sold.  Blue picked up the most contracts, but it was nowhere near enough.   On the other hand, Orange took all ten points, so the question was whether the contracts and Counting Houses held by Red were enough.  It came right down to the wire and the game finished with just one point in it, in Red’s favour, by just two points.  Meanwhile, the second game was playing in a completely different way.  In contrast to the first where contracts had gone unclaimed and all the “schiffs” were bought and goods sold, in the second game, most of the contracts had been snapped up, but with a shortage of money, some of the ships had not been bought.  In the second game, Green had picked up most of the firemen points and finished thirteen points clear of Black, his nearest challenger.

The Speicherstatd

A couple of people left early and those remaining played decided to play Montego Bay.  This is a game we’ve played a few times before, that features simultaneous card selection, which are then played in a predefined order.  Cards are numbered one to five and each player chooses two to move their big docker and their little docker round a circular track.  If they land on a space that is already occupied, then the piece that was there, moves to the other side of the track if that space is available.  If that space is also occupied, then the active piece moves as far as it can and then stops.  Each space corresponds to a cellar that contains some number of barrels which players then take it in turns to load into boats.   When a boat is full (or if it is the first boat in line at the end of the round), it sails and players score points for having the most barrels in boats when they go.  Beware the broken barrels though, if a player lands on a cellar with some of these they must remove the corresponding number of barrels from the boats rendering the best laid plan in tatters.

Montego Bay

Black started off really well with excellent timing on a couple of boats and catching lots of points as a result.  Then Purple joined in before Green took a commanding lead.   Blue made some in-roads, but proved her own worst enemy when she landed her big man on a cellar with broken barrels and then, to add insult to injury, landed her little man on the same space, moving the big man to the other side where there were even more broken barrels waiting for her.  Green ran out the winner with forty-four points to Blue’s thirty-eight in second place.

Montego Bay

Learning Outcome:  If fire is inevitable, ignore it at your peril.

3rd June 2014

This week, we started late partly due to illness and delayed arrivals and then we got side-tracked by the latest haul from the UK Expo over the weekend.  These included The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, Tsuro of the Seas (an expanded version of one of our favourites, Tsuro), a little card game called Dodekka and most exciting of all, a new game based on the old childrens’ classic, Ivor the Engine, complete with the original artists drawings.

Ivor the Engine

We decided to start with Dodekka, as it had been played at the show. This is a short card game played with five different suits, Fire, Earth, Air, Water or Ether each numbered 0-4. The game starts with three random cards placed in a line from the draw deck. On their turn, a player may choose to take the card closest to the deck into their hand or take a new card from the deck and add it to the end of the row. Players score the total face value of the highest set, minus one point for each additional card and the highest score wins.   As long as the row totals twelve or less (or the new card is the same number as last one) everything is fine, but if the active player chooses to “twist” and goes “bust”, then they must take all the cards on the table into their hand and this can lead to a lot of negative scores!  The game started fairly evenly, but White was the first to succumb to the bust.  It seemed that every time it came round to White, she had to choose between taking a card she didn’t want or taking a chance that she would not go bust from 11!  So yes, the inevitable happened again and just as we were beginning to wonder if this game was flawed, Red went bust and shifted the cycle.  Green (who had not played it before) somehow managed to hang on till the end of the game without going bust and won with the handsome score of 9.

Dodekka

As the theme of the evening was new games and old favourites, next we played Alhambra, but with a couple of new, unplayed modules:  the Characters and Military Encampments from the City Gates expansion.  We’ve played Alhambra a few times as well as its predecessor, Stimmt So!.  Basically, on your turn, you buy coloured tiles with different coloured money cards and add them to your Alhambra. If you can pay with exactly the correct amount, you can buy another tile, but if you over-pay, you get no change and your turn ends. While this all sounds simple enough, there is the little problem that most of the tiles have walls along one, two or three edges, and when placed, these must match up without partitioning the Alhambra.  These walls are critical as poor play in the early stages means that it is possible to get yourself backed into a corner later in the game.  The Military Encampment tiles are placed alongside and outside the Alhambra walls and score points dependent on the number of tiles within that row.  The Characters can do a variety of  things:  some help end-game scoring, some provide a one off bonus, and others give a bonus of some sort every turn.  These cards are in the money deck and are immediately auctioned off when they appear.

Alhambra

The game progressed steadily through to the first scoring round, with White and Green matching tile for tile and Red just a couple behind. After totting up at the first scoring round, Red was only two points.  As the second round progressed, things began to get interesting as the characters started appearing.  Red picked up the first two, which enabled him to swap exchange a tile on the market board if he wanted, or get extra money if he got low.  Green got the third Character, which was a tie breaker for one tile colour at scoring. White then got in on the action with a card which would increase her wall score, and since her wall was looking good already, seemed like a wise investment.  Meanwhile, Red’s Alhambra was looking good for the high scoring tiles and the wall, although building was going to become more challenging.  White was also getting a little boxed in to the west, but built up a few camps improving her score.  Green did not have the long wall, but was really boxed in due to the hap-hazard nature of his city.  So, when the next character card to appeared gave an additional city re-arrangement action for placing a new building, Green did everything he could to get it, and fortunately for him, the others did not try very hard to stop to him.

Alhambra

In the second scoring round Green’s tie breaker character gave him a boost and White’s wall bonus gave her a few extra points, but it was all to no avail as Red soared into the lead.  Moving into the third round and the game picked up intensity as Ruth left the building (i.e. the game became “Ruth”-less!).  The final character to appear enabled the player to get a money card if he bought a high value tile, although looking at what was already on the table there did not seem to be many (if any) left and only Green thought it was worth money.

Alhambra

So the fight was on, White was trying to make her wall as long as possible and added camps as often as she could.  Green and Red fought to get the most of the highest scoring, purple tiles, while Green frantically set about re-arranging his city, turn by turn, often over-paying simply to buy a tile and unlock the re-arrange action, so that he could to get more tiles in. Red won the battle for purple and green tiles, Green just about got his city re-arranged and nabbed a couple of white buildings at the last to give him the lead in that class.  In the scoring, Green then used his tie breaker to take the lead in brown tiles ahead of White, adding them to the lead in red tiles, meanwhile, Red sneaked ahead in the lowest scoring blue tiles.  Both White and Red scored well for camps and walls, but Green had managed to pull his city together and link up his walls to give a respectable score.  In the end, the game was quite close, but Red won the day with 146 points, just seven points ahead of Green in second.  We all agreed that the character cards really added an interesting twist to the game, and will likely remain a feature of our Alhambra games from now on.

Alhambra

This game had taken a very long time, and, even though it was only supposed to be only an hour, according to the game cube timer it had taken over an hour and a half excluding setting up and auctioning!  There was still time for another crack at Dodekka though and this time Green went bust very early on, while Red remained card-less and White went bust next.  Red did not survive and right at the end, Green took a gamble and went bust to finish the game.  As we’d found earlier this is a generally low scoring game and this was no exception, with Red running out the winner on 1 point!  Even so it was agreed that this was a good game, worth playing again… and again… and again…

Dodekka

Learning Outcome:  To win you don’t always have to score highly!