Saturday, February 28, 2009

Argghhh...Missed A Rule In Stone Age

Played Stone Age a total of 7 times with more than a couple of games with 2-3 players. Chanced upon the Stone Age rules forum at BGG and realized that I missed a rule about the 2-3 player game.

We have been playing with 4 stacks of huts regardless of the number of players. The rules actually indicate that the stacks of huts (7 per stack) in play are based on the number of players. This means that during the game earlier, we ought to have played with 3 stacks of huts instead of 4.

I like the rule - it adds to the other rules such as limiting the number of players procuring resources each round in enhancing the game's scalability. The designers have done a good job of ensuring the game doesn't lose any luster with less than the full complement of players.

27th Feb 2009 Session Report: The One Where I Witnessed The Power Of The Colosseum

Marcus joined us for a late night session of gaming today and we started off with Glory to Rome since he was familiar with it as well. I have been singing its praises on BGG and once again it did not disappoint. Despite repeated plays, I'm still discovering new combos. 

This was the first time I won by ending the game by building the Catacombs. I racked up an easy lead with my Scriptorium (completes any building with one marble) by completing a series of influential marble and stone buildings. Marcus and Van were struggling to keep up and being clearly in the lead, I decided to end the game since the Catacombs was in hand. This was fortunate too since I failed to notice that Marcus was attempting a Forum victory. The scores ended 11, 7, 6 in my favour with Van and Marcus battling for second place.

With the speedy game, we decided to proceed with a second round. I was progressing well again with the Gate (activates powers of uncompleted marble buildings) completed and a series of marble building powers activated including the Temple (+4 max hand) and the Scriptorium (again!). Unfortunately, Marcus had a good game going too. 

Van and I had little experience with the Colosseum in play and I was always under the false impression that the value of the card only laid in allowing the owner to 'steal' other players' clients when the Legionary role was played. What I didn't realized was that the obtained client doesn't go into the stockpile as other cards acquired via the Legionary but rather straight into the vault. 

When I realized what was going on, Marcus had already built a lead in terms of stashed gold from various materials sold in the vault. Van and I had none since the Merchant role hadn't been played and with the 3 bonus points awarded for the majority of each material stashed, we were faced with a significant deficit. 

I was clearly ahead in building influence but trailed nonetheless. At one point, I had up to 5 Craftman clients but ran out of marble and stone sites to build on. I also failed to make up the deficit via the vault due to Marcus obtaining a rare Merchant client on the first turn. 

The game dragged on as Van and I tried in vain to make up ground while Marcus attempted to end the game by utilizing the last in-town site. Interestingly, he never got his hands on the wood building required and finally only ended the game by exhausting the deck. He ended up with the highest score I had ever witnessed with 60 while I and Van took the rear with 46 and 36 respectively.

Marcus was keen to try Princes of Florence but I suggested otherwise due to the limited number of players. I rate the game very highly but it is really only worth playing with 4-5. Hopefully, I will be able to get this newly traded game to the table soon. 

In the end, we decided to introduce Marcus to Stone Age. Despite being his first play, he caught on quickly and the dice rolls were especially kind to him. However, his failure to anticipate the end of the game as well as Van and myself left him with a substantial number of valuable resources unused at the end of the game. I thought my game was well diversified, racking up points on the building front as well as accumulating a majority of the civilization cards. Unfortunately, Van pipped me at the end by a mere 7 points, with a score of 257. If only I had that one extra wood to purchase the final 12 point building. Alas, it was not to be... 

This demonstrates that while dice rolls tend to average out over the course of the game, there are instances when the last roll decides between victory and defeat. Nonetheless, it is still a game I fancy despite its lack of depth compared to other worker placement games. I find it a good stepping stone for introducing casual gamers to heavier games.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sorry! Sliders On Its Way...

Have been looking to add a dexterity game to my collection. Problem is - most of the popular ones are incredibly expensive. A brief search on BGG will produce selections such as Pitch Car and Crokinole. Pitch Car looks cool although I'm continually surprised how much fun people seem to garner from such a simple game. Is it worth its price? I'm not convinced. The latter reminds me of a game familiar in this part of the world - Carom. I remembered how my junior college days used to be spent in the canteen playing this very game with other schoolmates - before, during and after school.

Anyway, back to my search. The game that seemed to fit the bill was Sorry! Sliders - an inexpensive dexterity game touted to be loads of fun. Considering it's produced by a mainstream games manufacturer, Hasbro, I was disappointed not to see it in stores locally. I tried getting a friend to search for it when she made a trip to Australia in December but in vain. In fact, even in the States, it is only available in parts. 

I understood that the game could be purchased off Target shelves at about US$15 and was unwilling to fork about US$25 (the best I could find) including shipping to obtain it from Amazon. It didn't help that most of the usual online retailers I frequented failed to carry the game. 

Imagine my excitement when I saw it on sale online at Toys R' Us. It was going for just over US$12 but unfortunately the shipping was a killer. I went ahead with the purchase even at almost US$22 with shipping since I figured it was unlikely I would be able to acquire it at a lower price (not many sites with free shipping for a single product).

Little did I know Toys R' Us refused to accept local credit cards so I had to resort to using a virtual debit card (with a small fee of course) to complete the purchase. For all the trouble I went through, I do hope the game's worth it when it arrives. The reviews are comforting nonetheless, it should be a blast!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

17th Feb 2009 Session Report: The One With An Old Friend Joining In

We had an ex-colleague, Kok Leong over for dinner tonight and after the meal, I took the opportunity to introduce to him some of our newly acquired games. He was one of our most regular gaming partners in the past but it had been awhile since we gamed together.

Unsurprisingly, first up was Glory to Rome - the game which has quickly established itself as one of our favourite games. Kok Leong picked up the rules relatively quickly though he commented at the end he wasn't really sure what he was doing. Admittedly, it does take a game or two to familiarize oneself with the various building powers and establish a strategy based on certain combinations. Nonetheless, he acquitted himself well with a score of 24. Van and I had 20 and 31 respectively.

For most part of the game, I was aiming for the Forum strategy, with the card in tow and the Merchant and Patron roles in my clientele early. However, Van had the clear lead in terms of building progress and racked up impressive influence points. I had to diversify my approach by stashing VPs gained from selling valuable materials (stone & marble) in the vault. This coupled with a completed Statue (+3VP) proved to be adequate in earning me the victory. Ironically, the Forum strategy was progressing well with the Gate completed (activates powers of incomplete marble buildings) but finally stalled at my inability to acquire the Legionary and Labourer roles in my clientele.

Van next suggested Stone Age. I was keen to introduce that game to Kok Leong too but recognizing a shorter game may be more appropriate in light of the time, I counter-proposed with Galaxy Trucker. I figured since Kok Leong had been exposed to a variety of games, he might be keen to try something with a little more unique mechanics. He validated that decision when he gave a favourable verdict at the end.

We only played two boards, including the customary introductory round. Interestingly, I neglected to open a bag of tiles which accounted for about a third of the ship parts. As a result, even Van and I had difficulty in building the usual flawless ships due to the shortage of pieces. Naturally our ships took more of a beating than expected during the space journeys but I enjoyed the increased tension. Van surprisingly struggled with her second journey and had a portion of her ship blasted off by cannon fire. I snatched the win by fending off most of the threats in space, while Kok Leong and Van took up the rear in terms of cosmic credits.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Railroad Tycoon And Nexus Ops On Their Way...

Discovered a couple of good deals on Milsims from BGG. Considering the near parity of the Singaporean and Australian dollar, the quarterly crazy deals on the site were a steal. These 2 games weren't on my wishlist but at the prices offered and the favourable reviews on BGG, I decided to take the plunge (doesn't that sound familiar?). It helped that Van's ex-student kindly agreed to lug it back for us from Down Under.

Railroad Tycoon caught my eye at a A$60 price point. How could it have not when the online US retailers have it in stock at US$60??! I figured that it would be nice to add a railway game to my collection. While Age of Steam is the undoubted king of railway games, RT intrigued me with its apparent friendliness to casual players. What use is a brilliant game if it rarely appears at the game table!!! 

The length of the game does concern me though. However after a 3 hour go at Le Havre recently, I realize that good games with minimal downtime do have the ability to make the game time feel shorter than it actually is. It is with this hope that I went ahead with the order (ditto the Battlestar Galactica order).

Nexus Ops was another spur of the moment decision although I harbour less expectations regarding this purchase. A flat shipping fee to any Australian address coupled with a A$20 price point sealed the deal. I have heard good comments about the game, that while evidently in the Ameritrash breed of games had some nice Euro elements. Furthermore, since Van and I donated away her copy of Risk, this could provide something similar which we would actually play. This is especially so since it plays at a much more reasonable game time of 60 min for what it is. 

Nonetheless, the theme may be a turn-off for Van, but I suppose with it being OOP and all, it shouldn't be all that hard to trade it off if it does comes to that.

Should get my hands on them in March (:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Goodbye Taj Mahal... Hello Princes Of Florence!

My second trade in a fortnight. I wasn't always that keen to get rid of Taj Mahal unlike Mr. Jack but when an offer came along for a game that I had my eye on for quite some time, I had to take the plunge.

As usual, I thought I would provide a eulogy of sorts for the game traded away. Taj was an enigma cause this was a game I really thought I would like after doing my research on BGG. After eyeing it for sometime, I finally managed to get hold of a copy. While my first couple of plays didn't meet up to my lofty expectations, I did enjoy the unique mechanics (as typical of Knizia games). 

Here are some impressions:

1. Not as advertised

What attracted me to the game in the first place was that it was touted to possess poker-like gameplay. I am no gambler but I have always been intrigued by the game of poker but that's for another post. And while Taj did live up to that somewhat with a fair bit of bluffing and where you get to call each other's bluffs, that aspect of the game ultimately disappoints. 

What you have in Taj is sort of a reverse poker mechanism for here, the person who stays in to the very end of each province's play is often the one penalized the most heavily. While the player may have obtained some gains, it is highly likely that some of province's rewards have been absconded by players withdrawing early. Furthermore, by lasting the length of the 'battle', the player's hand is likely to be so severely depleted that he or she is unlikely to be a factor for the next couple of provinces.

2. Both Strategic & Tactical

Taj Mahal is one of the games that blends both strategic and tactical elements. The tactical elements are obvious during each province battle where deciding whether to withdraw early or stay in the fight is critical. 

However, strategic play comes in choosing your battles. For example, I tend to gear myself up for the provinces where I am due to go first. Often, the goods I choose to accumulate are based on what's available during the turns I go first. A triple elephant (assuming I've in possession the general's bonus card) is more often than not adequate to capture the economic power of the province with an early withdrawal. 

In addition, strategic play comes in when scoring connection points. A certain degree of planning ahead is necessary however I often find this strategy difficult to execute with more players and focusing on goods accumulation tends to be the dominant strategy.

3. Abstract & Repetitive

As with most Knizia games, this is highly abstract with the theme merely pasted on. I suppose that's one of the reasons the game while mechanically interesting does come across somewhat dry. Van is willing to play the game but is by no means thrilled by it. Sadly, I feel the same though I have often been the one trying to bring it to the table. I so want to like the game better than I actually do.

The nature of play is also repetitive as you seek to divide the spoils from one province to another. There is little development in gameplay. For example, in games such as Puerto Rico, the game progresses in such a way where you build your income engine early but focus on acquiring VPs towards the end of the game. The combination of card powers in Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome changes the dynamics of the game. In El Grande, the on-board situation changes as the game progresses. But here in Taj Mahal, more or less the same thing happens province after province and goals do not differ all that much.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

8 Feb 2009 Session Report: The One With First Impressions Of Le Havre

Marcus came over today to introduce us to Le Harve. I was eager to try it since both Van and I enjoyed its sister game Agricola when it was loaned to us.

While the 3 common playing boards did bring Agricola to mind at the start, the game that stuck in my mind as I played was Caylus. Le Harve utilizes a similar mechanic which allows players to build buildings available for use by other players for a small fee.

Some first impressions:

1. With the nature of the loans in this game, a 'starvation strategy' is much more feasible than in Agricola or even Stone Age. In Agricola, starvation is a strict no-no due to the hefty penalty. In Stone Age, a starvation strategy while possible can be easily deterred by opponents who catch on to it. Here, it almost seems a folly not to take advantage of loans at opportune moments.

2. The game gives the same feel as Agricola in which I feel I've constantly more things to do than actions available. However, the availability of loans coupled with the ability to substitute money for food at 1:1 reduces the tension somewhat, and food actions can be sacrificed for better options when available. However, the demands for food do step up significantly towards the end.

3. Shipping appears key to racking up points towards the end of the game. I failed to anticipate the ending well, and was busy repaying my loans and acquiring food towards the end-game. As a result, I failed to ship even once, leading to an inability to acquire a better exchange rate for my remaining resources.

4. Ships have a triple role - first for a regular food supply, second to provide capacity for shipping and third, VPs. I paid too much attention to the third function, and put off building ships to the very end in hope of nabbing the ones with higher VPs. This was terribly unwise as it left me fighting to acquire food at the end, and unable to effectively utilize shipping to acquire points towards the end. Early ships are evidently important with the incremental food requirement.

5. The best goods to ship appear to be those that can be converted without energy such as coke and charcoal. In particular, shipping steel makes little sense with the additional need to supply substantial energy for the production process.

6. Bulk exchanges are a must to save actions, thus planning ahead is critical. Efficiency of actions is clearly the determinant of victory.

7. I like the set-collection element of the buildings where acquiring certain groups of buildings provide additional advantages.

8. The ability to purchase buildings ahead in a stack could be used as a strategy in gaining priority assess to high cost buildings that need to be built.

9. In some ways, it is harder to plan your actions as there is no certainty an opponent will vacate a building you are targetting. While it did not come to that in today's game, I see that part of the importance of owning key buildings is to be able to sell them when necessary to forcefully vacate an opponent.

10. Owning and blocking the Shipping Line towards the endgame can really throw a spanner in our players' plans. However, with a sufficient large shipping capacity, perhaps one ship with the last unblockable action is all that's needed.

11. Potential wastage of resources due to indivisibility. I can remember the number of times today I over-payed or had to round down francs acquired due to odd number exchanges.

12. Game seems to drag on somewhat towards the end. I suspect I would prefer it more if its length was closer to that of Agricola. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to my next play.

I ended the game with 114 points, Van had 140 and Marcus took us to the dryers with 200+ points. Almost left that out but this is after all a supposed session report ;)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Jack... Hello Red November!

Traded away my copy of Mr. Jack for Red November. As usual, I will take the opportunity to note down some of my thoughts on the game.

Mr. Jack was an enigma for me. It's very well thought-off on the geek. Coupled with interesting mechanics and a reasonably short play-time, I figured it would be a shoo-in for my collection and I took the plunge despite the somewhat high prize tag for a game of this nature. However, despite a number of plays, the game never took off for me.

I'm intrigued by the mechanics and like the premise of the game of trying to deduce the identity of Mr. Jack. Unfortunately, two issues leave the game somewhat wanting in my eyes:

1. Downtime Due To Analysis Paralysis

Mr. Jack has a certain chess-like element which leads to a certain degree of downtime while players contemplate their moves. While I agree this varies from player to player, it has nonetheless been true of my games with Van. I in particular can't play the game by merely making cursory in-game decisions. 

While I don't mind downtime in some games, it is particularly frustrating here for the downtime is unproductive. What I mean by this is that while my opponent is contemplating his or her move, I am unable to use the same time to contemplate mine for my potential moves are highly dependent on the state of the board after the completion of my opponent's moves. 

Unlike Chess, the random nature of card flips on alternate turns limits the ability to think ahead and decisions tend to be confined within each player's turn. In addition, the variety in possible moves also add to the difficulty of planning ahead during an opponent's turn.

2. Insignificant Character Turns

As the game progresses, there are an increasing number of suspects proven innocent. Due to the rotational nature of characters, there will be occasions where players need to utilize certain innocent characters which have little to nil impact on the game due to their location on the board or the irrelevance of their special ability at that point in time.

A somewhat related issue is the variable movement of characters. More often than not, I find little difference in moving my chosen character between 1-3 spaces and thus the decision becomes much less meaningful.


I thought I add some of my pre-play impressions of Red November which led me to trade for it:

1. Portable
2. Plays up to 8
3. Reasonably short game time - box says 60 minutes but I understand that is highly dependent on the number of players
4. Cooperative element - reviews and the rules suggest it does not suffer as severely as Pandemic from the 'puzzle' syndrome.

The rules did seem rather fiddly though, hopefully that will not be a game-breaker. Looking forward to trying it out. Unfortunately it doesn't play with 2 so Van and I will have to wait till we have friends over to give it a go.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

5th Feb 2009 Session Report: The One With The Palace-Sewer-Wall Combo

Managed to get a game of Glory to Rome going together with Van tonight. It was a close one which I took by a mere 3 points, 29 to 26. 

Van had a early shrine (+2 hand) which was key to her progress while I eventually succeed in completing my combo of the Palace, Skewer and Wall. One of the reasons I love this game is the powerful combos that can be created with the right cards. Take a look at their functions below and see if the potential of the combo is apparent:

Palace - Allows you to lead or follow with multiple cards or jacks of the same kind to gain multiple actions

Skewer - At the end of turn, you may place order cards you played into your stockpile

Wall - At the end of game, every 2 cards in your stockpile counts as 1VP

Basically, I was able to rack up the cards in my stockpile easily by playing multiple order cards each turn. Despite completing the combo rather late, I was still able to stash about 10 cards which accounted for 5VP to earn me the victory.

Nevertheless, it seems Van has got the hang of the tactics and her play has become remarkably stronger. One of the issues of the 2-player game is that the game may end prematurely if one player chooses to rush by rapidly using up the in-town sites. However, if the opponent is able to keep the score close throughout, there is less incentive to do so and prevents the game from ending on an unsatisfying note.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Puerto Rico 2-Player Variant

There are a couple of 2-player variants of Puerto Rico floating around BGG. I tried to search for the post that recommended the one we are currently using but in vain though I suspect it was Yehuda Belinger who first mooted it. It is our preferred variant of the ones we have tried:

Game Preparation:

Per Player: 1 player board, 1 Doubloon, 1 Indigo (for governor); 1 corn (for 2nd player)

Plantations: Remove 2 of each type of plantation from the game. Uncover 3 plantations (one more than the number of players)

Quarries: Remove 3 Quarries from the game (use 5 quarry tiles)

Buildings: Use 2 of each Production building, and 1 of each Violet building

Victory Points: 50 total Victory Points

Colonists: 35 (in supply) + 2 on the colonist ship (minimum = player number)

Goods: Remove 2 of each type of good from the game

Cargo Ships: Use the 4, 5 and 6 capacity cargo ships

Trading House: No change

Role Cards: Remove both prospectors from the game

Game Sequence:

The Governor begins and selects a role. The second player selects the next role before the Governor has the pick of the third and final role. Place one Doubloon on the remaining role cards. The Governor then changes to the second player and the above sequences is repeated. All further rules are the same as in the Multiplayer game.

3rd Feb 2009 Session Report: The One Where Van Beat Me At Glory To Rome

My pre-arranged game session fell through with Ben and Mun not being able to make it. Van graciously suggested playing some games just between the two of us so off we went:

We started with Glory to Rome which was Van's pick. Despite her previous irritation at the way 2-player games often end abruptly with the all the in-town sites being utilized, she was keen to have another go at it. 

She got off to a strong start with a couple of building completions and a Storeroom (all clients count as labourers) allowed her to make up for my initial advantage in the vault. As usual, the Circus Maximus (doubles each client's action) proved to be a devastating card and I tried in vain to make up for the differential in influence between the two of us. 

I managed to obtain each of 6 different clients and with a completed Scriptorium (able to complete any building with one marble material) stood a good chance at a Forum victory but alas, the card never came. 

In the end, Van took the victory easily with a score of 32 to 19. She commented that she made an effort to manage her hand more efficiently this time round after I highlighted it to her after the last game. Looks like I can look forward to more keenly contested games in future.

I next picked Puerto Rico cause I was keen to play a game that hadn't come to the table much recently. Van as usual was reluctant to play Race for the Galaxy so I figured Puerto Rico was one of the deeper games we had that scaled reasonably well for 2 using a suitable variant. 

The plantation draw was cruel to me and I failed to get either cash crop early in the game. I successfully blocked Van by taking both the Harbour and Factory (in the variant we played, we had only one of each violet buildings) but in vain as she propelled to victory by scoring maximum points for her Guild House. The final score was 48 to 35 in Van's favour. 

On second thought, I should have perhaps taken the Guild House earlier since it seems particularly strong in the 2-player game. I thought I had a nice shipping strategy going but due to my limited production of goods, I ended up with only 18 shipping points despite the effect of the Harbour (extra point for each type of good loaded)

Van chose Stone Age as the final game and I made it a point to opt for a more diversified strategy this time round. It paid dividends as I maxed out my tools, meeples and was just one short of maximizing my food production. I also managed to obtain all 8 different green civilization cards and beat Van with a score of 437 to 342. She tried to pursue a building strategy but her limited number of multipliers at the end of the game did her in.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Australian Open Final

Just an aside on yesterday's Australian Open final between Federer and Nadal. What an absolutely magnificent match between perhaps (in time to come) the two greatest players ever to grace a tennis court.

I am a staunch Federer supporter but it was hard to begrudge someone as humble and respectful as Nadal taking a well-deserved win. It was clear that Roger had a prime chance to tie Sampras for 14 Slams but it seems at points (especially in the first and fifth) that his normally tough mentality failed him. 

He started tentatively as usual in these big matches against Nadal and dutifully handed him the first set on a platter after having his serve broken thrice. I guess such jitters were understandable with his losing record against Nadal but I was disappointed at his performance in the fifth especially after such a spectacular fourth. While Nadal showed little signs of tiring, I was convinced Federer would manage the momentous feat if the match were to reach a fifth set - I guess I was wrong. Nadal's indomitable spirit coupled with his superhuman athletic prowess ensured the victory and his 6th Slam - his first on hard courts.

I thought that Federer needed to come at Nadal like the underdog to help overcome early match jitters but he seemed like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. No doubt it was a momentous match for him, but based on past records and the current world rankings, he was clearly the world's no.2 coming against the best player in the world currently. Perhaps it was time for Nadal to feel the pressure for once and for Federer to attack him more aggressively and take more risks earlier in the rally rather than simply playing not to lose. 

Federer's best shots came with him forced at full stretch rather than a deliberate attempt to paint the lines. Federer is perhaps the most gifted player of all-time and if anyone could beat Nadal by going for broke right from the start, he be the one.

Nonetheless the shot-making on both sides was fabulous and I couldn't believe my eyes seeing both giants make shot after shot after shot. The level of play was unbelievable and the match is bound to go down as a classic. My heart was pounding as they went neck-to-neck, and reminded me of how I felt during last year's Wimbledon final. 

However, I thought Federer became a little predictable trying to draw Nadal out of court with the wide serve. That strategy was also the reason for his low first serve percentage which averaged around 50% for the match. One of the most devastating aspects of Federer's game is his unpredictable serve because of the same ball toss used for all his serves. I generally find that Federer serves most of his aces when he bangs it down the centre line and thought he ceded that advantage by going mostly to the wide serve. I suppose it was a reaction to Nadal standing way back in an attempt to negate the threat of Federer's serve. While it was effective in parts, I suspect Roger lost the easy points that he is used to winning by varying his serves somewhat more. 

Another example of Federer sticking overly to his pre-game strategy was his monotonous return of Nadal's serve to his backhand. While effective initially to keep Nadal away from his fearsome forehand, it became far too predictable towards the endgame so much so that a couple of returns to the forehand would have kept Nadal more honest. 

Nadal on the other hand stuck wisely to his strategy of peppering Federer's backhand with heavy top-spin because Federer remained unsuccessful at overcoming the disadvantage faced by his single-handed backhand against Nadal's shoulder high balls. 

I have heard comments regarding how Roger should opt for the slice rather than try to top-spin those balls but I suspect he knows better than any of us that Nadal is able to generate incredible pace on those slice returns to leave him a sitting duck. Nadal only seems to struggle handling the slice when he scrambling across court to reach it and in such situations, a ball with higher pace would usually be the better option. But I concur with Verdasco - to win a point against Nadal you need to win it three times over. 

In the past I felt Federer's superior all-round game was the key to unlocking the mystery that is Nadal and was frustrated when he failed to slice or approach the net adequately. But if isn't obvious enough, Nadal has also been relentless polishing his all-round game and coupled with his superior groundstrokes, it is a wonder whether Roger will ever gain the upper hand on him again. With the five year gap between the two, it would seem that Federer would have little chance at equalling and breaking Pete's record if he be facing Nadal across the net in future Slam finals. 

Perhaps Nadal would be upset en route to a final or an injury lay-off would provide him an opportunity, just like the one awarded Federer in last year's US Open final. I'm sure Federer as any fierce competitor would love to see himself clinching the Grand Slam record via defeating his greatest nemesis on court but after last night's tear-stricken affair at the prize-giving, I doubt he'll mind it much if he faced someone else across the net at his next Slam final for a change. 

I was truly touched at Roger's raw expression of emotions during the award ceremony. It reminded me of his first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon and demonstrates yet again why he is so well loved worldwide. While still divinely graceful on court, the great champion shows just how human he can be as he sees his aura of invincibility gradually eroded by his young nemesis. 

I long to see Federer win his 15th one day because he's a genuinely nice and classy guy - doesn't hurt that he produces the most beautiful tennis ever witnessed but in Nadal lies a young champion with the potential to lay both Federer and Sampras in his wake. 

To many more exhilarating matches between these two great champions! What a privilege to witness their careers in their entirety.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Goodbye Pandemic...

Sold off my copy of Pandemic today. Had it for slightly less than 2 months but it was enough for me to realize that while the game had its merits, it wasn't one that I needed to own. It has always been my belief that I rather have a small collection of games that I play regularly rather than a large collection collecting dust on the shelves. 

As a tribute to Pandemic, I thought I record some of my thoughts of it. First, what I like about it:

1. Plays easily under 45min which means a high likelihood of seeing multiple plays
2. Accessible to casual and non-gamer types - fits the category of a gateway game
3. Unusual mechanics - not that many cooperative games out there

Pandemic has climbed impressively up the rankings of BGG and currently sits comfortably at the no.20 spot. I was quite surprised that I was so ready to part with a game so highly ranked but after a couple of plays, I discovered I was increasingly reluctant to reach for it when I had friends over.

It is a good game to have in one's collection for it fills a niche admirably - a short cooperative game accessible to first timers. Its cooperative nature will definitely serve as an intrigue to those more familiar with traditional boardgames such as Risk and Monopoly. I was tempted to keep it for this sole reason but realized it would be futile if I myself wasn't keen to play it. 

I do have other games in my collection such as No Thanks! which I have little interest to play but they serve their purpose during parties where I can do a short explanation of the rules and leave my friends to entertain themselves. Pandemic unfortunately has more complex rules and will probably need me to join in during the first one or two games to highlight common mistakes and answer queries.

Why do I not enjoy Pandemic

It is far too puzzle-like for my liking which leads to the likelihood of one or two experienced or vocal players directing play while the others just follow along. 

I enjoyed my first couple of games when I was 'discovering' it together with a couple of friends but once I became familiar with the game, I found the game a bore while playing with new players. I didn't want to always be the one directing and advising, but at the same time it wasn't enjoyable sitting through sub-optimal decisions made by others. Most of my friends are casual or non-gamers and I figured that the game was unlikely to see many plays due to this reason.

I read through some suggestions on BGG providing discussion guidelines to circumvent the problem of a dominating player but I felt it would come across too unnatural to place such restraints on in-game discussions.

I am still keen to have a cooperative game in my collection and hopefully Battlestar Galactica would serve to fill that niche nicely. It seems to me that the traitor element provides a richer social experience rather than a puzzle-like one that seems to occur with cooperative games without the traitor.