Thursday, 24 January 2008

Late posts took that long

I gave Matt the task of writing last weeks session report for reasons that will become apparent later but he obviously is too work shy to get the job done. I am far more ‘relaxed’ about posting than most bloggers and hoped that involving someone else might raise the standard or at least the promptness of the reports, but alas no. Of course it’s worth noting that any contribution from someone other than me raises the standard (incidentally if you would like to post session reports then let me know and I can give you the permissions you need) as soon as Andy has the nerve to shows his face again I am sure we will all be blessed with another amusing rant….but until then you will have to settle for my words of ummm wisdom.

For a change we played a game brought by Jimmy, I’m not so much bitter about the fact the games recently are Jimmy’s more about the fact that he has been able to purchase a whole bunch of glorious new Essen releases that we have all yet to play, eventually this pool of riches will dry up…..just in time for us to play them again or judging by the extent of his hall just in time for him to bring back a whole load more from Essen 08. Also I really feel that the games industry in the last 18 months or so has produced a significant amount of solid to excellent games. In previous years there was one or two good release or maybe perhaps 3 or 4, so you would play them lots explore them and love one, some or all 4. But because you had little choice you were thankful for what you could get. This year (new games played in the year 2007) there has been a dozen or so that are in or around my personal top 20. In no order:

League of Six
Wabash Cannonball
Pillars of the earth
Notre Dame
Year of the dragon
Age of Empires 3
Agricola (yet to play it personally)
1960 making of the president
Key Harvest
Battle lore (14 months in Britain)
Imperial (yeah these games are getting older)
Iliade (was that this year?)
Race for the galaxy (someone likes it I’m sure it has a good geek rating)
Zooloretto (no-one I have met likes it)

Financial expense of keeping up aside, I don’t play games enough to appreciate these wonderful riches. So our collective new years resolution needs to be, more gaming, more often. Get yourself to games club and play a new game or an old favourite.

On with the session report. So why am I writing this? Especially when a certain someone has already written this……

I’m a big fan of the rondel and Mac Gerdts (the designer)
has done a great job of utilising it in a game that is very different to
previous rondel games - Antike and Imperial. The game flows very well and partly
thanks to the rondel there is very little downtime. However, Hamburgum has by
far the weakest theme out of the three games. The actions are very abstracted
and although it's a nice efficiency engine game, there is no interaction and the
theme never really draws the player into the game. Without great theme or
interaction it does feel like you're just maximising the rondel, which makes it
feel even more abstracted and dry. Great components, the clay bricks are a great
touch, but the art is nasty and a bit confusing. Worst of the rondel

Matt makes several good points. There was very little down time in our group and there is very little interaction. I liked the theme however and felt it was no more abstract than most other euro games. The game would definitely benefit from more player interaction but I wouldn’t know where to introduce that. There is interaction through competition and seating order can play a part as if the player to your right builds a building you wanted too or changes the ships and so on….that can effect your turn. Just ask Jimmy as he frequently found himself losing out in this way. It can be very frustrating but part of the game is utilisation and part of the game is planning. I kind of like the tension games like this cause when you have two or three moves and you hope nobody beats you to the punch. What makes the game somewhat forgiving is that if you miss out on option A there is an option B, most of the time although not ideal, you do have options.

I like games that have a degree of tactics and a degree of strategy. Its good to know a game and know what you want to do, but I also enjoy adapting to the surroundings and knowing when to go with the flow or even lead the flow. I don’t want to hold Hamburgum up as a good example of this as its not and I’ve played many games recently that are better, but going back to my previous list, in another year this game would have been the be all and end all. It isn’t because of the quality of the opposition not solely due to its own shortcomings.

How does it fare compared to the other rondel games? I should really play Antike again before I pass judgment. I prefer euro style games to civ or war games but would currently rate imperial as the best rondel game and Hamburgum a fairly close second. More plays and this difference will change. But I am unsure in which direction the tide will flow. I may agree with Matt and like Hamburgum less or this game will grow on me and I will keep requesting it at games club incurring dirty looks from Matt and his friends.

We had five at games club: Jimmy, Matt, Ollie, myself and Richard H. We haven’t seen Rich for nearly a year (I had written why but have decided to delete thinking I had better not post other peoples lives on the net, I will leave that for them to do). Welcome back Rich its good to see you at the club again (insert joke that obviously reveals private information that I had previously said I would not post, here). Incidentally one of the games brought down and not played was Viking Fury, we haven’t played it for ages I said, to which Rich replied “we played it last time I was here”. Which kind of says it all.

We played two games first Hamburgum which Matt won by a canter. We all made minor mistakes throughout the game and Matt was no exception but he made some astute decisions and got some solid VP payouts leaving him obviously the winner. Ollie came up the rail and was clearly second 5 odd points behind Matt and a similar distance from the rest of us. The remaining players where grouped together. I was third, Rich was two points behind me and Jimmy was one point off Rich. This was Jimmys third game and he confesses to coming first or last and never in-between. The game got a mostly positive reception but we were mixed about just how positive to be.

The second game played was Mu and More a delightful 5 suit trick taking game which has cards valued 0 to 9 with two cards that have a value 1 and two with a value of 7. Cards have a triangle pip on them denoting there VP value, the distribution of these pips is uniform across the suits and might be zero, one or two. So all 9’s for instance have zero pips and all 6’s have two pips. There are usually 2 sets of trumps though trumps can be a number or a colour. One is a minor and chosen by the runner up in an auction (of sorts) he is known as ‘the vice’ and the other trump is the major chosen by the winner of the auction, known as ‘the chief’. This player has to choose a partner to help him achieve a target of VPs he may not choose the runner up (the minor trump chooser) as his partner. His target is dictated by the number of cards he lay and won the auction with, and his reward or penalty is dictated by how accurate his prediction / bid was. The auction process is relatively simple lay n cards onto the table or soft pass. When everyone has passed in a row the person with the greatest number of cards showing is the chief. In the event of a draw the person who played his card last that ‘forced’ a draw takes a penalty. The player who has placed the second greatest number of cards down on the table is the vice, in the event of a draw the player with the highest value card wins, if still a draw the second highest card between those two and so forth.

The chief leads off, you have to follow suit if possible, unless a trump is lead. If a trump is lead any trump can be played. Lead trumps ‘out trump’ minor trumps. The winner of a hand leads off the next hand. When all tricks have been won each player counts his individual triangle pip total, this is their VP total. The chief had a target which is looked up on a reference card to work out the pip total he and his partner needed to accumulate. If they achieve it they gain additional points if they fail the chief loses points the partner remains on his total and the other players gain a bonus.

Our game was hotly contested between Jimmy and Luke. Luke was the chief with his first ever hand and did not make the total needed and as a result received a large penalty. The same level of failing happened to Jimmy on the penultimate hand. After the Second hand Jimmy was 100 odd points ahead of all other players. To put that in perspective Richard came forth and after 5 rounds had acquired less points than Jimmy had after two. Ollie had less points at the end of the game than Jimmy had after one round. Luke made good progress after round one and managed to be within 20 points of Jimmy for the final round. Matt who had stumbled through the game was dealt a belter and wiped the floor with everyone in the last round (rich won a trick I think) and as a result positions at the end stayed as they were with Jimmy being the deserved winner.

This game was played with immense fun. Failings were taken well and funny comments were shared amongst players. We had open contest for ‘worst hand ever’ which Richard claimed to have won, but blatantly one of Ollies subsequent hands had that privilege. Despite statements like ‘I haven’t a clue what to do’, ‘What a bag of s***’ and ‘This game is so getting a one’ (referring to the board game geek rating) we all enjoyed the 45minutes of trick taking fun.


andy malcolm said...

I can't believe you wrote about Hamburgum and didn't mention the box cover.

I shall be back in February.

Mr Bond said...

My thoughts on Hamburgum come across a little harsh. It is in no way a bad game and as I mention it's very good at what it's designed to be, which is a rondel controlled, efficiency engine euro. However, I feel it comes off badly when compared to Antike and Imperial where the themes seem to come first and the rondel is just a nice mechanism to regulate actions/turns. In Hamburgum I felt that the rondel was the game. Still, it is a solid game and despite my negative words I'd like to give it another bash and perhaps let someone else win.

Trust Andy to bring up the box cover - which, to be honest, is terrible.