Gaming in Sherwood – Sunday, June 29

I hosted an afternoon of gaming at my house in Sherwood before departing on my
New York trip. Julie and the boys were already at the lake, so it was just me
and the cats hosting. Doug and Mimi, Ken, Kevin, and Elliot all joined in.

Linie 1

Doug, Mimi, Kevin, and Chris kicked off the afternoon with this tile-laying
transportation game. This is another “hidden agenda” game where each player
has a secret route they must try to complete, starting by laying down trolley
tracks and then running their trolley by rolling dice. Each player must start
at one numbered station and finish at the same numbered station across the
board, stopping at two required trolley stops along the way. I of course got
wrapped up in my own route and didn’t spend much time thinking about the other
players (this is usually how I play games for the first time). Before I knew
it Mimi was running her trolley having completed her track. Doug followed
closely behind, then me. I got some helpful dice rolls, allowing me to quickly
jump through 2 trolley stops. Doug made a wrong turn leaving an opening, and
Mimi got bogged down with low dice rolls. Kevin started his trolley, but after
a few moves realized he didn’t actually have a route that would allow him to
visit his two stops. Mimi quickly got her momentum back and beat us to the
finish line.

Balloon Cup

Elliot and Ken played a game of Balloon Cup while waiting for Linie 1 to
finish. This was a first time for both, but they quickly got the hang of it
and didn’t have any lock-ups. Elliot won but didn’t appear to be thrilled with
the game. Ken is eager to try it again.

Age of Steam

I asked Ken to bring this since I’ve been wanting to play it ever since I gave
it to him as a birthday gift (that sounds very self-serving, doesn’t it?).
This is a train game (I just realized this was a very transportation-oriented
session – trolleys, balloons, and trains) set in middle America – comfortable
territory for me since I’ve lived in 3 of the cities represented on the map
(St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Des Moines). Players compete by building rail
line segments between cities and establishing shipping lanes to increase their
annual revenues. The longer a route used to ship the goods, the more income
produced. Cash flow is a major factor in this game – just like the real
business world, you almost certainly need to issue shares to get cash to build
your lines. The player that gets to positive cash flow early has a good chance
of pulling ahead, but there are some interesting mechanics that prevent a
runaway situation. As business grows, so does the complexity of managing
operations (margins can decline), so there’s a progressive income reduction at
the end of each turn depending on the income level. Ken got control of the
middle of the board early, was fiscally responsible and got his locomotive
upgraded to transport 3 segments by the third turn. Ken won the game, with
Doug, Elliot, and I close behind (I had a good comeback but never recovered
from a negative cashflow situation early the game that knocked down my income
two notches). Kevin finished a distant last but I got the sense this game
wasn’t his cup of tea. I loved the game and am eager to try some of the other
train games (18xx series,
Volldampf).

Aladdin’s Dragons

This was a bargain I picked up at the Wizards of the Coast store so Ken,
Elliot and I decided to break it out and give it a first try. This game
surpassed my expectations. The goal of the game is to collect the most
artifacts, and artifacts are purchased using treasures. Players successively
place secret bids on treasure caves, town stores (where special abilities can
be purchased), and palace rooms (where artifacts can be purchased). In some
cases only the winner of the auction in a particular room gets anything, in
other cases there are staggered prizes even for the losers. There was one
point of confusion that we need to investigate – the rules state that in a
3-player game, only two sets treasures should be placed in the dragon caves
(so the 3rd place finisher wouldn’t win anything). But the 3-player treasure
cards show three treasure sets in several cases. We assumed the cards
overruled the printed rules, but we could have been wrong. This was a very
close game – Elliot one by collecting the most scroll artifacts, which was the
tie-breaker and we all finished with six artifacts.

Mystery Rummy 4 – Al Capone

Ken and I wrapped up the evening with a shortened game (to 100) of MR4. I like
the rummy games, particularly Wyatt Earp, and I suggested this once since I
think it plays better with two than Wyatt Earp. I got off to a quick lead, but
Ken cam back at the end to edge me out. The final score was something like 112
to 102. The designer, Mike Fitzgerald, wrote a great strategy article on
spielfrieks
that I
need to read and digest before playing this again.

Session Report – Gaming at Doug and Mimi’s – Saturday, June 28

We spent most of our time play-testing a new game, but we managed to squeeze
in a playing of the new Fantasy Flight game
Quicksand. This is a
racing game where you advance one of six adventurers on your turn by playing
cards of that adventurer’s color. The catch is each player is trying to
advance their secret adventurer while trying to guess which adventurers belong
to which opponents. Adventurers can be delayed by moving them into tight
situations (like quicksand) or by playing quicksand cards. This is a simple,
quick game that won’t be for everybody. It has a fair bit of bluffing and
misdirection, but there isn’t enough time to do much but advance your
adventurer and slow down whoever is in the lead. There’s a substantial luck
element as well – I only drew 3 cards of my adventurer’s color the whole game.
Mimi pulled this one out with Doug and Ken a close second. This one will be
fun with the kids, but a bit too light for my taste. I’ll give it a 6.

Fresh Fish Development Update

I’ve made great progress on development over the past week. Quick status update:

  • Core engine is essentially complete. At least complete enough that I feel good moving on to the first UI.
  • The scoring algorithm was a bit tricky, but turned out to be very similar to the expropriation algorithm. In fact, I’m going to be looking for some refactoring opportunities in both sets of code. What I really need is a “street traversal visitor” of some sort, but I haven’t thought it through enough yet.
  • I’m up to about 30 unit tests right now – they’ve been instrumental in supporting some pretty heavy refactoring efforts.
  • My first UI will just be a standalone, Windows forms, hot-seat client to validate overall gameplay.
  • My next UI will probably be a web-based, real-time interface.
  • Finally, I plan to make a winforms-based networked real-time interface. Hmmm… maybe I’ll use web services for the client protocol.

I might post another source drop this weekend in case anyone wants to see the core engine. I’ve got two weeks of vacation coming up at Keuka Lake so I hope to have a working beta by the time I get back.

Fresh Fish Online Source Available

I’m working on an online version of the game Fresh Fish by Friedemann
Friese
. Some folks
have asked to see early versions of the source code, particularly the
expropriation algorithm. I’ll post more thoughts on the design and
implementation right here in a sort of development diary, so stay tuned. You
can download the source right here.