Sheep, Camels and Spiders

This week we were missing our mentor and leader but we struggled on undaunted, 7 of us were present for the session and we started with Loot a nice and simple card game.

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 In Loot players play either ship cards or pirate cards, ship cards are the victory points and the pirate cards are played to collect them, with a simple majority winning. Fun was had trying to sneak some small ships through to safety while others were distracted by richer booty. There is a nice twist to the end where hand management becomes important, there is no hand limit so players are keen to fill there hand with cards, however the game ends when a player is out of cards and the draw deck is empty, treasure ships in hand then count against you.

 Battle for a 6 point treasure ship in Loot

Battle for a 6 point treasure ship in Loot

Next we split into 2 tables, table 1 set up Uwe Rosenburgs Agricola, a brilliant game which sets a very high bar in the resource management field and has a rating of 8.17 on the geek, it is quite complex and with 2 people who had not played it before it was decided to use the easy decks and play with the turn order cards face up so that they had a chance. Knowledge of the game is a distinct advantage, so making as much available to new players is essential.

In simple terms it is a worker placement game, "Family Members" are placed on a central board to gather either hardware resources of wood, stone, clay or straw; animals in the way of Sheep, pigs or cattle; or plants in the way of grain or vegetables; other options include playing occupation cards, minor improvement cards or major improvement cards all of which interact in various ways with the other game mechanisms.

 Agricola central board at games end with family members on them. some unused spaces still have materials on them

Agricola central board at games end with family members on them. some unused spaces still have materials on them

This is just a small part of the game and as you want lots of everything to score points at the games end there is keen competition for key spots and of course on your turn there are always nicer spots to go for than the one you really need. It is easy for plans to fall apart by being distracted elsewhere, for instance you need to build an extension to your farm but when it comes to your turn there is a nice pile of 9 wood just waiting, so you grab the wood and on your next turn the extension space has been taken, but you could not leave that wood for the next player.

There is also a lot of preparation to be done to accomplish tasks and most things are at least a 3 action process if not more, for instance to grow vegetables you need 1. Collect vegetable, 2. Plough a field, 3 Plant vegetable and as you start the game with only 2 actions a turn, to set things up and running can seem laborious.

Above is the players Farms at games end (click on picture if they do not rotate through). With 2 players new to the game it was going to be a long one, the initial learning curve is so steep as to be almost perpendicular however as the game progressed the rules and some of the card interactions became clearer and farms started to grow. It was a nice friendly enjoyable game and I look forward to the next game.

Table 2 in the meantime started with Yspahan a game where dice are rolled and placed into sets on a grid. On your turn you take a set of dice and take an action relating to your set, after which you may build a building using the 2 resources of the game, money and camels.

 The main board for playing cubes to and a player board very early in the game

The main board for playing cubes to and a player board very early in the game


Points come from laying cubes on the board, playing cards from hand or building buildings, the skill in the game is picking the correct set of dice at the right time and not just grabbing the obvious.        

Next they played Lords of Waterdeep a lightly themed worker placement game set in the City of Waterdeep where you gather different resources, then you can trade in collected cubes to accomplish quests which give various rewards including victory points. It plays quite well but is not my type of game.

 Player board with quests under way to the left, completed quests are placed face down on the player board

Player board with quests under way to the left, completed quests are placed face down on the player board

Table 2 then played Martian Dice, a simple dice rolling game it was this games second playing at the club and victory went to the winner of the previous 2 games.

 On his turn this player failed to capture the 6 puny humans, his 1 flying saucer far outnumbered by the defending Earthling tanks

On his turn this player failed to capture the 6 puny humans, his 1 flying saucer far outnumbered by the defending Earthling tanks

Next on table 2 was Tsuro  a nice route laying game where you lay a tile from a choice of three in front of your playing piece, each tile depicts 4 tracks and your piece travels to the end of its chosen track, as does any other players pieces. The board starts out blank so as the game develops your options for escape become less and less.

 Tsuro board at games end

Tsuro board at games end

The idea of the game is to feed your players off of the board while yours remains on. Last piece standing wins.

The last game played was from the Haba stable, renowned for the large number of fun childrens games they have published over the years and all with wonderful usually chunky wooden pieces, they have 2 ranges of games, the first (yellow box) for younger players from about age 3+ the other (green box) from about age 8+.

 The mother spider (central disc) precariously supporting all its young.

The mother spider (central disc) precariously supporting all its young.

Purzelspinne is from the former range and is an excellent dexterity game where you are trying to balance baby spiders on top of the mother spider in her web (crossed rubber bands), errors in judgement can cause either the tower to topple or a shift in weight making the mother spider fall, or possibly even both. It is quicker and more fun than Jenga.

I do not believe any games player can call themselves a serious games player or collector without at least one Haba game in their collection, they are excellent fillers and even better "Gateway Games" for new players.

It was another good evening with a fine mix of games for all levels.