Tag Archives: Tsuro

2nd December 2014

We were very late starting, but after a short discussion we decided to go with the “Feature Game” which was Grog Island.  This is an “Essen Special” that we’ve not played at the group before, but it has turned out to have been a bit of a hit elsewhere due largely to its innovative bidding mechanism.  The game revolves around retiring pirates who aer trying to work out how to spend their ill-gotten gains. This game is played on a board that represents the five peninsulas of “Grog Island”, which is where pirates that have survived to retirement can go to invest their spoils by buying pirate-like properties.

Grog Island

The idea is that each player receives a hand of end-game victory point condition cards, a number of pirate meeples and markers, eight gold coins, a treasure card (containing an undisclosed amount of gold) and a parrot card.   On their turn, the active player rolls five coloured dice, and then places their first bid.  Bids are placed by selecting any number of the dice with the value of the bid equal to the sum of the number of pips on the upper-most face of the dice.  The bid must be less than the players total amount of gold (including hidden treasure cards).

Grog Island

The clever part of the bidding is that the dice that form the bid are placed in descending order, with each dice placed in one of the five available spaces, starting on the left with the highest value dice. If they can afford it, the next player may increase the bid, by increasing the total number of pips visible on the dice.  To do this they can add dice, replace dice, even completely rearrange the order of the dice, so long they do not change the number on any die and the dice remain arranged in descending order starting from the left.

Grog Island

The position and colour of the dice have a number of consequences, both for the eventual winning bidder, and for players who withdraw from the round early.  The player who eventually wins the bid gets to carry out the actions associated with the dice according to their final position.  These include placing pirates on the island and blocking spaces on the island, but the peninsula is restricted to the colour of the die placed in the location associated with that action.  Pirates positions on the island are important, because these are the primary way players can get points during the game, but since those points depend on the victory cards handed out at the start, everyone has a different combination of goals.

Grog Island

Players who drop out of the bidding either because they can’t or choose not to increase its value, get resources corresponding to the colours of the dice in the current bid.  Thus, if the current bid is comprised of the yellow, blue and green dice, the player receives lemons (yellow), fish (blue), and coconuts (green).  These resources can then be used to carry out one of the options on the shipping track.  For each resource, there are two options available:  the top option costs a single resource and varies as the game progresses, while the bottom option is always the same and allows players to place a single pirate on the peninsula of that colour.

Grog Island

We eventually got going, and after some rules confusion (despite extensive discussion before we began), Blue won the first round so had almost no money and very little to show for it.  Purple and Green both managed to win a couple of rounds while Black, struggled to win anything.  Victory points are awarded at the end of the game depending on the conditions on the victory point card, so every turn that Black didn’t win an auction, he ominously took a card.  Now in this game, the dice cannot be freely placed:  they must be placed in descending order (and are locked so the value cannot be changed).  This, coupled with the fact that the bid must always increase (but players don’t want to spend more than they have to) means there are restrictions on where the dice can go.  Black tried everything, he even used Parrot cards to change the number on dice, but unfortunately, somehow, when he eventually did win an auction, he couldn’t do much with it.  Meanwhile, Blue (who hadn’t been feeling at all well), just collected resources and Purple and Green carried on winning auctions and accruing a lot of money.

Grog Island

Blue had spent most of the game checking things with the rules as she seemed completely incapable of remembering what was going on, but despite this, she eventually managed to win a second auction and then suddenly realised that she had collected enough resources to start to place pirates without winning having to win auctions, which meant she didn’t need any money. Purple and Green both also had pirates left to place when three rounds later, Blue brought the game to an end by placing her final pirate.

Grog Island

Black went first with the scoring, and woefully shook his head saying, “I’m screwed,” as he revealed his goal cards and the fact he’d succeeded in almost none of them.  As we moved on to score Green, Black added, “You need to be somewhere round here,” gesturing at the thirty-five point mark; we all muttered disbelievingly.  Green also thought he’d done badly, but in actual fact had nearly double the number of points Black had achieved and was within one point of Purple.  Much to everyone’s surprise, possibly Blue’s most of all, she ran out the clear winner with thirty-five points.

Grog Island

Because of the late start and the inordinate amount of time it had taken to explain and then play Grog Island, we only had time to play one other quick game.  Purple nipped out for a moment and, in her absence, the rest of us elected to play Indigo.  This is a pretty game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, and was described by Black as, “Like Tsuro in reverse.”  The idea of Tsuro is that players start with a stone on the edge of the board, and they take it in turns to play tiles that extend the path their stone is sitting on and the winner is the one who keeps their stone on the board the longest.

Indigo

In Indigo, the stones start on the board and players have to build paths to guide the stones into their gate.  The really clever part of Indigo is that each gate is shared by two players, making it a sort of semi-cooperative game.  In the four player game, each player shares one gate with every other player, so three out of the four players have two gates next to each other and one on the opposite side of the board.  The final player, in this case Green, has a gap between each of his three gates, spreading them evenly around the board.

Indigo

The game started quickly with Purple and Blue teaming up to bring a yellow stone home, giving them one point each.  Then it was Green’s turn, but from then on, Blue and Black teamed up to build a highly lucrative gate pulling in a handful of green stones and the three-point blue stone.  There was only a single point between first and second and, unsurprisingly, it was Black and Blue who were in the running, with Blue edging it by a nose giving her a clean sweep for the evening.  Path laying games are definitely Blue and Black’s sort of games, and equally certainly, not Purple’s favourites although she doesn’t mind Tsuro.  Green commented that he felt it was much harder with the gates spread out, though Blue was less sure, as she felt it should be easier as stones were never very far away.  Well, we’ll just have to play it again sometime to find out, though as Purple is not so keen it may be a little while…

Indigo

Learning Outcome:  You don’t have to feel 100% to win.

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!

22nd October 2013

We were back to our usual location for our first meeting on the alternate week.  This meant we had an extra person, but in addition, we one of our more distant members coming down on his way to Essen.  He was held up in traffic, so we started out with a quick game of Eight-Minute Empire.  This is a quick little area control game, though in truth, eight minutes is only possible if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.

Eight-Minute Empire

Each player has a limited number of coins, three wooden city pieces and a handful of army cubes.  The idea is that players start by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins.  Each card is a resource which provide points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.  The game was a clear victory for Red who finished three points clear of Blue in second place.

Eight-Minute Empire

As we finished, our long distance traveller walked through the door and without missing a beat sat down to join in the Feature GameTsuro.  This is a path laying game that is similar, though strangely opposite to Indigo, which we played a few weeks ago.   Both games are beautiful with a simple mechanism:  players play tiles and any stones that are on paths that are extended by the tile are moved to the end of the path, however, that is where the similarity ends.  In Indigo, you have hexagonal tiles and only draw one at a time, however, in Tsuro, the tiles are square and you have a hand of three for as long as there are enough tiles available.  More importantly though, in Indigo, the object of the game is to navigate stones to your gate and collect them whereas in Tsuro each player has one stone must try to keep it on the board and be the “last man standing”.  We enjoyed the first game so much that we played it again with the winner of the first game coming joint last in the second, and Blue, who came fifth in the first game winning the second, meanwhile one person managed to remain the bridesmaid in both, coming second twice!

Tsuro

The last game was one we have played several times and were mostly very familiar with, Alhambra.  In this game, players can either collect money or buy tiles, however, while they can always overspend, if they pay the exact money, they get an extra turn.  The snag is that there are only so many of each type of tile and the player with the most of each type scores the most points.  The other challenge is placing tiles:  they must form an area unbroken by walls, on the other hand, the longest continuous wall scores lots of points. Playing with so many people really seemed to disrupt some of our plans and the end result was a run-away victory for White who was thirty-six points clear of Blue and Orange who were joint second (with sixty-seven).

Alhambra

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes if you win spectacularly on the first play you can lose the next just as dramatically.