Posts tagged ‘mayfair games’

New Catan Card Game Video Posted

If you like Settlers of Catan, Card Games, and portability, you should check this video out. Cory Duplantis provides you with an overview of how to play the game, as well as a bit of strategy and a review.

Enjoy!

July 29, 2009 at 2:40 am Leave a comment

Pillars of the Earth – An Introduction

Builders and Cathedrals – Carcassonne This Is Not

Author – Tristan Angeles

It is the middle of the 12th century, and England is in anarchy, brigands prowl the countryside waiting for undefended travelers to victimize, while in the towns and villages, greedy lords rule over their subjects for their own gain. It is also a time of religion. Europe is in great upheaval as another crusade is sent to the holy lands to retake it in the name of God, while monuments are built for his glory. This is the setting for Mayfair games’ Pillars of the Earth board game, based on the book of the same title by acclaimed author Ken Follett.

Although the story is set in a bloody period of history, the Pillars of the Earth board game downplays the battles, and instead opted for another form of conflict. The game puts the players in the role of master builders looking for favor by contributing to the construction of Kingsbridge Cathedral. The players do this several ways, but it all comes down to efficient management of resources.

Is it a game or Is it Art?

Upon opening the box, you can say both of Pillars of the Earth. Inside is a beautiful board that can probably be mistaken for a painting ( and hey if you get tired of the game why not frame it!), by Michael Menzel. There are also a lot wooden blocks, which is the trademark of German games, for you to use as resources and player pieces. The game also includes cards for craftsmen, resources, events, and privileges etc. The included rulebook is well written, you can understand it easily, and beginners can get into the game by following the rulebook from cover to cover. Lastly, the game includes a six piece wooden cathedral you use as a turn marker.

The Politics of Scarcity

Pillars of the Earth is an easy game you can play upon set up while following the rulebook.  At the beginning, play time will most likely last two hours, but this will be cut short once you and the other players learn the game. Also due to the theme of the game, the game is suitable as a gateway game for friends, and family members who are new to gaming.

Players win the game through efficient resource management and strategically placeing builders through the course of the game. Planning moves is extremely important since a mistake in one turn may set back a player and haunt him for the following turns.

Phases of Play

A turn in Pillars of the Earth basically follows three phases.

In the first phase, players take turns choosing resource cards set up near the board. There are only a few resources, and they are: wood (brown), stone (gray), sand (cream), and metal. Only the first three resources are available in this phase of the turn. You can acquire metal, which is important in the last few turns, later on through builder placement. Aside from the resource cards, there are two random craftsmen cards available for the players choosing. To get a resource, you must allocate a number of workers equal to the number indicated on the card in the forest, quarry, and gravel pit parts of the board. In this part of the game, especially during the first turn, the players must have an idea of what resources and craftsmen they will be using.

The second phase of the turn gives the players the chance to place builders on the board to get several advantages. This is a bit complicated since the turn order is determined by drawing the player’s builders from a bag, which adds a bit of randomness to the game. When a player’s builder is drawn, he may either play it, in which case he/she will pay a cost, or pass and put down the builder on the board and wait for its turn to come up.

In the last phase of the turn, the player’s builders and workers are resolved in order of the numbers in the board. Depending on where the player has placed his builder, he may get several advantages. Placing a builder on the king’s court for example, will exempt him from taxes, and if he is the first player there will also reward him with one metal. On the other hand, placing a builder in Shiring gives the player whichever craftsman card is on the space. At the end of the turn, players have the option of converting the resources they have gathered to points by using their craftsmen.

Rinse and Repeat!

Place a piece of the cathedral on the board after the last phase of the turn. This signifies the end of the turn and the beginning of a new one. Shuffle and randomly place the resource cards on the board and the builders are placed inside the bag. At the end of the sixth turn, the player with the most points wins the game.

Conclusion

Pillars of the Earth is a great game for two to four players, although there has been reviews that say it plays well with two, and some with four. We think the game plays best with three. With four persons, there are not enough spaces on the board and is a little bit crowded, while for two persons there is not enough conflict. Get this game if you want a light strategy, with a little bit of randomness, and short game play.

Check out Pillars of the Earth

July 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Settlers of Catan: A Beginner’s Strategy Guide

Settlers of Catan is one of the first Euro-style games to come to America, and has won countless awards. If you’re looking for tips on how to improve your game, the most important place to focus is on your initial two settlement placements. These two decisions, often made in a minute or so, can have as much impact on your chances for victory as a half-hour’s worth of turns later in the game.

Initial Placement

Numbers
The most obvious thing to consider, and most important, the dots associated with each number. The dots on each number indicate how frequently it is likely to be rolled. Consequently, you should be sure to place both of your settlements at intersections with a high number of surrounding dots. The red numbers (6 and 8 ) have five dots each, so obviously, you’re much better off playing on an intersection of 6, 9, and 3, then of a 4, 5, and 11.

Another thing worth paying attention to isn’t just the total of dots, but the different sorts of numbers you have as well. If you place your initial settlements on two 4s, two 6s, and two 9s, then unless someone rolls a 9, 6, or 4, you aren’t going to get any resources, and can prepare for a long, boring defeat. Diversifying your initial settlement numbers increases the chance that you will get at least something from every roll. And that’s a good thing, because even if it’s not the resource you wanted, you can always trade it for one you do need.

Resource Types
Pay attention to the types of materials available in the game. There are more sheep tiles than any other resource, so sheep tend to be less valuable. The other resources have the same number of tiles – but not the same availability! If two of the three brick spaces have low-dot numbers (like 2 and 11), there will probably be an early brick shortage as players attempt to build roads. This makes a settlement on the single high-dot brick space (a 6 or 8 ) a strong opening placement.

Try to have settlements that gain you compatible pairs of resources, such as wood and brick, or ore and wheat. Wood and brick will allow you to quickly build roads in the early game, working towards more settlements. Ore and wheat will allow you to upgrade your settlements into cities, thus increasing resource production. Either can be very strong

Location
Try to avoid playing both of your initial settlements in the same corner of the map, unless you can guarantee that you won’t get boxed in. It may be tempting to connect your two settlements and get a head start on longest road, but more often than not this strategy won’t work.

Consider the ports. Starting on a port is probably a bad idea because you’ll want your initial settlements on 3-resource intersections. However, being close to a port is important, because building to one early in the game will give you more trading flexibility.

During the Game

Expansion
Move to a port early, if possible. The 2:1 ports are great if you have high production of the associated resource, otherwise not so much. You’ll want lots of room to play new settlements and possibly reach for longest road, so try to expand towards underpopulated areas. If you’re competing with someone else for the same area, move to block them if you can, but don’t sink roads into going towards somewhere you can be blocked out of too easily.

Development Cards
If you started with decent ore and wheat production, grab a few sheep and buy some development cards. At worst, these are a soldier, sometimes a victory point, and sometimes a special card that will allow you to swing the game in your favor later. Holding lots of soldiers leaves you in a good position to keep the robber off of your property, and sets you up to gain the largest army bonus later in the game.

Resource Cards
Try not to sit around with more than seven cards in your hand, because the robber will be rolled fairly frequently. This means that you should often build something when you can (cities, new settlements, development cards, or even roads). Don’t be afraid to use the ports if you have a large hand of cards; shipping three sheep for a brick may seem like a bad deal, but if it gets your hand back to reasonable size and gives you resources you need, go for it.

Trading
And don’t forget about trading with other players. Most people won’t trade with you unless they gain a boost to their position, so be sure that any time you trade, you are also gaining a boost to your position as well. Trade on your turn to get resources you can use immediately.

February 13, 2009 at 3:37 am 1 comment

Hey! That’s My Fish: A Cutthroat Little Game With Cute Penguins!

Despite its appearance as a kind of children’s game of penguins catching fish, “Hey! That’s My Fish” (2003), by Alvydas Jakeliunas and Günter Cornett, is at heart really an abstract game filled with tough strategic decisions and tense game-play. It has the feeling of Go, because of its emphasis on claiming territory, yet its simplicity makes it appealing to a much wider audience. This is a game that is accessible for the whole family, yet also rewards smart play.

Rules

The rules for the game are surprisingly simple. First, players place all the hexagon fish tiles (of which there are 60 in the game) in alternating rows of 7 and 8 tiles. The tiles depict one, two, or three fish that the penguins can catch and eat. Whoever collects the most fish with his or her penguins wins the game. To collect fish, the players may move their penguins in straight lines to other ice floes. They pick up the tile they started from, adding it to their collection of points to be scored at the end. And that’s really about it as far as the rules are concerned.

Assessment

Now that you’re generally familiar with the rules, you might ask, is that all? Will I like it? The answer is that if you’re looking for a fun filler that plays fast and suits a wide range of ages then you will probably like “Hey! That’s My Fish”. However, there are a few things you should know before you buy.

  1. This game is really quite cutthroat. Beginning players often simply go after the three-fish tiles, and neglect to stake out larger chunks of ice. As a result they often find themselves blocked in with little left to do but watch other players scoop up the rest of the fish tiles. Be aware that some children may find it a bit painful to see their penguins marooned. On the other hand, my oldest two (four and five year old) find it delightful to cut people off and they certainly can see the humour when it happens to them – so whether you find the game too cutthroat is mostly a matter of sensibility.
  2. Set-up is a bit fiddly. Since the game doesn’t take very long it can be a bit of a pain having to arrange all the tiles on the table, especially since it’s necessary to leave a bit of space around the edges of the tiles so that they can easily be picked up. However, if everyone helps out this is done in no time flat.
  3. There is a small difference between the regular version and the Deluxe version. Aside from having slightly larger tiles (with fish on both sides), the Deluxe version also contains 16 painted resin penguins which look nicer and flashier than the old wooden ones.
  4. This game is more light-hearted than other abstract games. As a result, in a multi-player game even the best strategy will not always help. This is particularly true when your children gang up on you! I speak from experience…
  5. If you find the game a bit dry as it is, there is an official variant that you might like to try. It’s called “Pushing Penguins!” and it runs like this (quoted from the Phalanx website): “The movement options of penguins are expanded by this rule: Situation: One of your own penguins is next to a penguin of another player. If there is a hole in the ice in a straight line directly behind the opposing penguin (the ice floe already has been removed), or that penguin is at the outside border of the gaming surface, your own penguin may ‘push the opposing one into the water’ and move onto his now empty ice floe. The ice floe occupied by your own penguin at the start of your movement is not removed and stays on the table. The opposing penguin is out of the game and placed back into the box.” I really like this variant. It is immensely entertaining.

So, in conclusion, I highly recommend “Hey! That’s My Fish” as a quick filler that fits a wide range of ages and audiences, contains plenty of player interaction, and is nicely themed. And if you like the whole idea of claiming territory, you might also try Through the Desert, which substitutes plastic camels for penguins, but is a slight step up in complexity.

Happy gaming!

February 10, 2009 at 3:07 am Leave a comment


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