Archive for June, 2007

Print Style Sheet

June 20, 2007

I have created a print style sheet, which should now be live on all of my games pages, and on all the DnD and Necromunda pages too.

This should mean that if you just want to print the page from your browser, then it will format it in a style suitable for printing, leaving out all of the navigation and download links, which would be pointless in a printed document.

I hope that this is useful, let me know if you see a way to improve the print layout.

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Nottingham

June 19, 2007

I have recently played Nottingham, a card game from Uwe Rosenberg. It is a very simple game, quick to pick up, and quite fun and fast to play.

The players take on the role of tax collectors, and use every means at their disposal to collect revenue from the populace, while the sheriff is patrolling Sherwood Forest.

Each player must collect sets of cards, and can trade in three of the same card to score points. They can also try and collect other sets (three pairs, four pairs, one of each card or five of a kind) to score bonuses. Only two players can score each bonus, and each bonus is worth between 10 and 30 points (sets of three are worth 7 to 13).

Each time someone scores, the sheriff moves through the forest. When he returns to the castle, the game ends.

As well as forming sets, each of the cards have a special action. These actions enforce card trading amongst the players, helping you to complete sets, and hindering your opponents. These special actions ensure that most players are always engaged, and avoids any periods of downtime.

I believe that it is a sensible strategy to attempt to complete sets quickly, and score often. As the sheriff moves, cards are given to players with small hand sizes, and taking advantage of this often is a major benefit. I think that a score of 100+ in a four player game should guarantee victory.

The playing pieces are of high quality, but the rules are somewhat confusing. As is often the case it’s much easier to learn to play by actually playing the game, especially if you can play with  someone who has played before. Expect to make a few mistakes in a few games until you get the hang of the rules, but after that, it’s a game that should take less than 45 minutes to play, including set-up time.

Alhambra

June 15, 2007

I played Alhambra for the first time in a while last night. It’s a tile placing/set collection game, where each player collects money, then uses money to buy building to place in their Alhambra (loosely, this means palace). The player who controls the most of each colour of building scores points in the three scoring rounds that happen throughout the game, and the player with the most points wins.

The game is an interesting exercise in optimisation. You need to manage your available resources to ensure that you control enough buildings to score points, but buying too many buildings, or spending too much money on them will reduce the benefit you gain.

Your other resource is space in the Alhambra. Tiles can only be placed in a single orientation, and some are surrounded by walls. Walls can only match walls, and open spaces can only match open spaces. This means that you can be stuck unable to place a purchased tile, which is when the palace must be re-arranged.

In a turn, you can only take a single action, you can pick up money, buy a building, or rearrange your palace. If you pay over the odds for your building, you don’t get change, but if you spend exactly the right amount, then you can take an extra turn.

I think there is a fairly obvious strategy, that will tend to serve any player well. In the early game you need to collect money. When you hold lots of money cards, it is simple to take multiple turns, which is a big advantage. The early scoring round is not worth much compared to the other two, you can afford to miss out on much of the scoring in this round to build a base to work from later in the game. The best buildings to purchase early are those with no walls, as they allow for easy expansion later. Then look for buildings which will help you extend your outside wall (as this scores points), but will still allow you place any tile that you could purchase. Finally, look to take buildings that help you control a set, as this is worth points.

After the first scoring round, start trying harder to control sets of buildings. If you can gain control of three colours, then this should be enough to win the game with 4 players. Taking two, and having second place in others should also ensure victory.

When making play decisions, it is important to note that you have seen all of the money taken by each player. You should know exactly what they can buy at any point, and this should allow you to hold off on purchases if only you can make them, giving you longer to collect money, whilst still being certain of picking the building you want.

The components are all very nice, and they pack neatly away into a relatively small box, which is always a consideration for those of us that own more games than we strictly need.

I like this game, it’s not as good as Puerto Rico, but it’s still good fun. It takes less time to play, and less time to explain, so it’s probably better for more casual gamers than Puerto Rico. It won the 2003 Spiel des Jahres prize, which is always a good indication of a fun game.

Online Board Gaming

June 13, 2007

There are lots of sites available for playing board games online, whether they be Diplomacy, traditional games such as Chess, or new games, like Ticket To Ride.

They can be a useful resource. If you don’t have a local gaming group, then you can play online. If you want to play these games at 3am, then you’ll doubtless be able to find other players willing to play against you (the beauty of timezones). It also allows you to try games before you buy, which is a major benefit.

I don’t feel that playing online is as good as playing in real life. I think that the gaming experience loses quite a lot, and could even mean that a game you’d really enjoy when played for real leaves you cold when you play online.

Gaming online misses a lot of the social aspect of gaming, which is important to many game players. It is possible to add much of this back in, using chat programs and so on, but it is still not as good as face to face gaming.

I also feel that people tend to invest less in an online game. I’ve certainly seen cases of people leaving a game when they are doing poorly, and hardly paying any attention whatsoever to the game. This is occasionally a problem in face-to-face play, but it happens many times more frequently online. This often, in my opinion, leads to people packing up a game when there could still be a chance of winning, or at least an opportunity to learn more about the game.

These players will be unlikely to get better at the game, and will never be fun to play against. They need to realise that you get better at a game more quickly by losing it than by winning, but they won’t learn this playing online.

So, online gaming has benefits, but there are drawbacks, pick the places you play carefully, look for sites that reward playing to completion and not just winning, and you’ll likely have a better experience, but if you can find people to play against for real, then that’ll most likely be more fun.

New File Formats

June 6, 2007

I’ve been ill the past few days, and am only recently recovered enough to drive a computer. As such, this update is not the most exciting in the world, but it’s something that I’ve been aiming to do for a while.

I’ve released all of my DnD characters in ODT (OpenOffice document) and PDF formats. They can be downloaded from the character page of each individual character.

I’ve wanted to do this because Word .DOC files are a proprietary format, and not everyone has easy access to the capability to open them. Releasing in these other two formats should mean that anyone has easy access to a downloadable copy of any of the characters I have created, in addition to the online versions.