Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Germantown 09/29/08


  • Leslie Barkley
  • Aubrey Bell
  • David Briggs
  • Martha Briggs
  • Todd Heidenreich
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Ben Jones
  • Bob Jones
  • Eric Reinhold
The BGG entry for tonight's session is here.

First up, the clever and transparent card game, Gloom, where parts of the cards are literally transparent. Players try to inflict misery on their poor pathetic characters before their inevitable death. This night, Dave Briggs was by far the most miserable with a downright forlorn winning score of -50. Dave was followed by Eric -25, and Doug -20. Leslie brought up the rear with a merely relatively depressed score of -10.

When I arrived, Aubrey was waiting, so I taught him the wonderfully balanced two player game by Reiner Knizia, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. Aubrey was the Dark Lord Sauron and his minions while I captained the Fellowship of the Ring. The early game was a bloodbath with multiple characters on each side getting killed, a strategy that usually leads to a Dark Player victory. Unfortunately for Aubrey, his inexperience led him to leave an opening for Frodo to slip past his forces and zip straight to Mordor for the win. I doubt Aubrey will make such a mistake a second time.

The enormously successful Settlers of Catan started the whole Euro game trend back in the early nineties. It’s been quite a while since I played so I was eager to bring it to the table with Doug, Dave B and Martha. What followed was a tight, very close game. Dave was cut off and had difficulty finding spaces to build, although he did manage a sizable road for the Longest Road bonus. About halfway through the game I found myself with lots of sheep, grain and ore so I started acquiring development cards to get the Largest Army card and its two victory points.

Alas, on my penultimate turn, I forgot to play one of the two Knight cards remaining in my hand. Had I done so, I would have gotten the 2 point bonus on the next turn and won the game ahead of Doug. Since I didn’t, he won by building up to 10 Victory Points, leaving the rest of us with 8 points each. A harsh lesson in paying attention.

Thurn & Taxis is another recent Euro that, like Ticket to Ride, plays quickly and is easy to learn but also requires a decent amount of strategy and is just plain fun. In this game, Aubrey proved the most adept at setting up post offices throughout Europe with 19 points to Eric’s 17, Leslie’s 14 and Todd’s 8.

What a shock! We played Race for the Galaxy again! Todd won with a huge shipping score. Final scores (cards, shipping, bonus) were Todd 21+28+0=49, Aubrey 13+4+24=41, Eric 9+20+4=33, and Leslie 21+2+6=29.

Finally, with three of us left, Ben joined us for four hands of Poison. After two rounds, Doug had a good lead. Unfortunately, a bad third round did him in. Dave and Ben were pretty much out by the second round. Bob 6+0+4+2=12, Doug 2+0+11+4=17, Dave 11+8+4+7=30, and Ben 4+15+4+8=30.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Middletown 09/27/08

We had six gamers make the trek to Middletown for some great gaming:

  • Scott Fisher
  • David Fair
  • Tom McCorry
  • Bryan Snyder
  • Steve Lollis
  • John Weber
We played some terrific games, and everyone had a good time, we ate some pizza and generally just enjoyed the whole experience. it really was a great day.
In October, there will not be a Last Saturday session at Middletown, but we will have both a First Saturday and last Saturday session in November, so we plan to see you on Nov. 1!

Descent - The Overlord Awakes - Prologue

Several of us got together and decided to play an ongoing Descent: Road to Legend Campaign. In preparation for this, we started with a regular game of descent, just to get more familiar with the rules and the flow of the game. I expect that the full RtL campaign will give us enjoyment for the next year or two, as we are only going to play approximately once a month, on days where we are playing at GCOM-Middletown.

The inaugural, get-to-know-the-game session, that pitted four unlikely heroes (Tom: Battlemage Jaes, Bryan: Varikas the Dead, Scott: Trenloe the Strong, Steve: Ispher) against the Mighty OverLord (Dave).

The heroes had heard tales of the legendary Blade of Light, and they set off in search of it, only to find that the map that had fallen into their hands was a trap, set by a new power on Terrinoth, and that by obtaining the blade, they would inadvertently release this new power and it would be able to wage war on the entire world...

They set off into the dungeon, only to find that the Blade was guarded by an unstoppable warrior who fought them and harassed them every step of the way. It was a hard-fought battle throughout, with the Heroes constantly hampered by the Guardian. Once they found the Blade of Light, they were able to use it's power to kill the Guardian. In his dying breath the Guardian warned them that the Demon who had imprisoned him here would do the same to him if they did not kill the demon quickly. The heroes found and fought against the great nameless demon, and were finally able to vanquish him from the land. In doing so, however, a portal was opened, and the Overlord was able to come directly to Terrinoth, and begin a campaign of destruction and death the likes of which Terrinoth has never seen before.

The Heroes won 1 turn before the Overlord was about to take their remaining Conquest tokens (1 hero was near death, and the deck was about to run out), but as it was, a hit with exactly the damage required to kill the final demon won the day for them. They ended with 8 conquest tokens.

Kill Log:
Trenloe: 15 (4 masters) (Died Once)
Varikas: 11 (3 masters) (Was Not Killed)
Jaes: 36 (13 masters) (Died Twice)
Ispher: 7 (3 masters) (Died Once)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Damascus 09/26/08

Seventeen gamers in attendance:

  • David, Noreen, Corwin, and Andrew Fair
  • Jason Cheng
  • Leslie Barkley
  • Rick & Linda Pasquale
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • David & Martha Briggs
  • Bob, Carol, and Ben Jones
  • Nathaniel Klinger
  • Eric Haas
Our Games Played list for this week:
See you next week!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Frederick 09/20/08

A total of 10 people attended this Saturday's Frederick session, doubling last week's figure:

  • Leslie Barkley
  • Sarah Brockley
  • Cynthia Lewis (me)
  • Robert Martinez
  • Jack Ridgeway
  • Jim Sparks & his son Billy
  • Russell Williams
  • Louise Wolfe
  • Ram (whose last name I did not get)
Two of our attendees, Sarah and Ram, had never been to a GCOM location before. Sarah was referred to us by Fran Lunney, a regular attendee, and Ram is Jack's coworker.

Sarah, Jack, and I started the day off with Dominoes. The final scores were: Cynthia 303, Sarah 280, and Jack 245. Robert and Leslie joined us and we all played another game of Dominoes. Ram arrived and we worked him in. The final scores were: Robert 414, Cynthia 280, Sarah 243, Leslie 237, Jack 197, and Ram 64. Robert's victory was amusing since he didn't seem to care for the game. He commented that if he were to become more interested in it, and learn more about the strategy involved, he would probably lose. Life *is* that perverse, I agree.

Jim Sparks and his son Billy arrived, bringing a delectable assortment of refreshments with them: tortilla chips, hummus, pepperoni, cheese, macaroni and potato salad, and little cans of cat food (er, pâté). Having not eaten breakfast or lunch, I was especially grateful for the snacks.

We broke up into two groups at this point, with Jim, Billy, Leslie and I playing two games of Pegs and Jokers and the rest of the folks playing Squint, Taboo, and hearts.

Having played Pegs and Jokers with Billy, I knew his tendency to focus more on messing the game up for others rather than winning or helping his teammate. With the exception of one perverse play that he made simply to be obnoxious. Leslie and Billy won the first game and I and Jim won the second.

I'm afraid I didn't keep track of the scores or the happenings from the Squint, Taboo, and hearts games.

Russell Williams and Louise Wolfe arrived. They are both regulars but had not joined us for a while, in part due to Russell's broken foot which has healed nicely.

I never quite realized how many house rules we have until I heard Leslie explaining many of them to the newcomers.

Ram left before we could drink the wine he brought.

Although I was better at keeping track of things this time so I could record them here, I find it distracting to try to take note of when people arrive, of who arrived and left when, what order we played what in, and even kept the score sheets. kept better track of scores, though too hard to follow multiple games. take leslie's suggestion and make turn slips in. I found it distracting to have to try to follow what other people were playing, let alone what the scores were.

That left Leslie, Jack, and I. After an 11 PM "dinner" break at Cracker Barrel, we played two games of Qwirkle to end the night. I do know the scores, but it would be impolite for me to reproduce them here, so thoroughly did I trounce my fellow players. :-)


P.S. Our next Frederick session will be Saturday, October 11th @ 2 PM. The most attendees we have ever had at the Frederick location was 11, and that's about the maximum my little townhouse can accommodate. So if we do get more participants as a result of these posts or of joining the GCOM West mailing list, we may have to move to public location, most likely The Common Market. Because of this, I ask for RSVP's from anyone who is planning to attend, as far in advance as is possible.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Damascus 09/19/08

We had seventeen eighteen in attendance in Damascus tonight...

  • David, Noreen, Corwin, & Andrew
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Jason Cheng
  • Rick & Linda Pasquale
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • David & Martha Briggs
  • Bob, Ben, & Carol Jones
  • Luke Conte
  • John Stup
  • Howard Wagner
Games played:
Next week we have Damascus on Friday, and a long-awaited return to Middletown on Saturday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Frederick 09/13/2008

Cynthia here; I'm the host of Frederick Games. David Fair asked me to write an entry describing our last session. I've had the week from hell, work-wise, and don't find myself with enough leftover brainpower to do it justice. I understand that it's customary on this blog to include everyone's scores. But there won't be any accounting of points in my post since, well, I don't remember who scored what.

I do remember who attended:

  • Leslie Barkley
  • Carolyn Lewis
  • Jack Ridgeway
  • Jim Sparks
  • me
...and what we ate and drank, which included:
  • The delicious sangria that Jack often brings
  • Tortilla chips with salsa, hummus, or nacho cheese
  • Pumpkin bread
  • Salami
  • Veggies and ranch dip
  • Chopped-up Amish people (there's a funny story behind this, but if I try to tell it right now it would probably sound offensive rather than humorous)
...and what we played:
  • Squint - A game Leslie brought that was new to the group, wherein players must assemble representations of words out of cards with various shapes on them. I found it quite fun and challenging. The group was especially entertained by Carolyn's attempt at representing a "flood", which involved the enthusiastic tossing about of cards with wavy lines on them. I don't remember who won.
  • Guillotine - This is a game I have had on loan from Jim for quite a while, which we play regularly. Players act as executioners from the French Revolution, and their task is to behead as many nobles as possible. This is a good game for shy computer geeks with latent aggressive tendencies (I'm not naming any names). I don't remember who won.
  • Dominoes - we played several games using Jack's set. I know that I didn't win any of them, but I don't remember who did.
  • Poker
Carolyn left first, to feed a hungry parrot his dinner.

After Jim Sparks abandoned us to our own devices around 9, Leslie, Jack and I spent several more hours trying wacky poker variants such as Elevator, Harem, Have a Heart, Iron Cross, Jack the Shifter, night Baseball, and Want It? Want It? Got It! Jim left when he was exactly even. After having to borrow heavily early on, Leslie made a nice recovery and, I believe, ended up only a little bit down. The majority of the money shifted from me to Jack in only a few rounds of our dangerous home-grown version of Pass the Trash, and Jack ended up winning, with me $1 in the hole.

What we almost always play that we did not play this time: Pegs and Jokers. It's best for four people, and most of the time at this session, there were either five or three. This means that I did not get my fix, and is probably why I have been so cranky the rest of the week.

So, in a nutshell, you should consider coming to Frederick games because:
  • You will be able to keep track, should you desire, of who wins what, since I am constitutionally unable to (unless we're talking $ instead of points, apparently).
  • You will be able to find out about the chopped-up Amish people; we might even have additional chopped-up Amish people on hand this week.
  • You may be able to say that you have met the person who folds more frequently at poker than anyone else you have ever met (Note: this person was not in attendance at this session, but I'm hoping he will make an appearance at our next).
  • If we have enough attendees, we can almost certainly play Pegs and Jokers. This will make the whole world a better place to live in.
Hope to see at least one or two of you at our next session, this Saturday, September 20th @ 2 PM.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Germantown 09/15/08

This night was rather quiet with much of the Borders Cafe to ourselves. Which is just how we like it!


  • Leslie Barkley
  • Aubrey Bell
  • David and Martha Briggs
  • Dave Fair
  • Todd Heidenreich
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Bob Jones
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
While I’m not overly fond of the game bits, Uptown is a fun tile placement game with some cutthroat elements. Dave’s notes indicate that this game was particularly brutal, with everyone starting out near the center of the board. Final scores were 2 Laura (7), 2 Doug (10), 2 Dave F (16), 4 David B (10), and 4 Eric (12).

I haven’t played the tactical trading game, Hansa, in quite a while, so I brought it out. Eric, Laura and Martha joined me in the Hanseatic League, shipping goods in northern Europe. Everyone did a good job of spreading their market booths into multiple cities. Fewer did well at converting barrels to victory points. Martha did a great job, sometimes gaining eight or more points in a single turn and walking to victory. Scores (barrel points + city points) were Martha 46+12 = 58, Bob 35+12 = 47, Eric 24+16 = 40, and Laura 26+10 = 36.

The new Alea (medium box) game, Witch's Brew, is out and I didn’t know it! Dave did know it was out (having bought it) and so they read the rules and played. The reaction wasn’t stellar, but I’m looking forward to playing it. Dave F 21 (17+4), Doug 19 (14+5), Leslie 17 (17+0), Aubrey 16 (12+4).

While we finished Hansa, the other group broke out an old favorite, Verflixxt, an excellent roll and move filler. Leslie had a bunch of negative points but managed to get a couple of “lucky dogs” to make them positive. Todd and Aubrey weren’t so lucky. Final scores were Doug 14, Dave F 11, Leslie 6, David B 6, Aubrey -3, and Todd -12.

With nine of us left, we broke into two groups. Dave F learned that Todd hadn’t yet played Dominion, so they immediately rectified that along with Eric and Doug. They played two games with Eric winning the first and Dave winning the second. Scores were Eric 27, Dave 23, Doug 21, and Todd 15. Then Dave 27, Todd 25, Eric 15 and Doug 10 (ouch!).

Maenwhile, I brought out one of the “Blue Games”, Dragon’s Gold. The Blue Games are a series of small but fun games that all come in a blue box. (The most played Blue Game in our group is Democrazy). In Dragon’s Gold, players deploy a team of adventurers attempting to kill dragons and steal their treasure. Killing the dragon is the easy part; afterwards, the players who contributed to killing the dragon have one minute to divide the treasure. Failure means forfeiture of the entire treasure. In this case, Aubrey was by far the best as he trounced us. Aubrey 51, David B 41, Leslie 36, Martha 34, and Bob 34.

For more commentary, follow this link to Dave's summary of this session on BGG.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Damascus 09/12/08

We had a big crowd for our first session back in the Rec Center. We were especially happy to see several folks who had not darkened our doors in some time...

  • David, Noreen, & Corwin Fair
  • Jason Cheng
  • Scott & Liz Percival
  • Scott Fox, Judy & Kayla Trent
  • Bob, Carol, & Ben Jones
  • John-Paul Pizzica
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • David & Martha Briggs
  • Leslie Barkley
  • Tim Rothenhoefer
  • Rick & Linda Pasquale
  • Lance Slifka
  • Raphael Lehrer
Games Played:
Corwin and Jason faced off in a game of Hive as people were arriving and we were getting situated. Corwin won in a rather quick game. later, Corwin and Ben played Chess as well...

We then tackled a 7-player game of Diamant.

The first of five (!) games of Dominion finished...

A game of (deep breath) Tal der Abenteuer: Die Schatzsuche im Himalaja was up next.

Ticket to Ride: Europe was the next to finish.

Followed by an epic game on an epic map, Railroad Tycoon.

A quick little dex game of Hop Hop Hooray.

2 games of Tichu, one not quite finishing... The other a more one-sided game.

Power Grid, on the China map.

And finally, Beowulf, the Movie Boardgame.

This Friday is International Talk Like Pirate Day... We'll have several pirate games in store, and be keel-haulin'anyone wot complains 'bout it. Arrrr.

This Saturday & Sunday is Congress of Gamers, at the Bauer Drive Community Center in Rockville. David & Bob will be there to show off Dominion.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Damascus Gaming Cabinet

It has been almost a year since we got the cabinet for games and snacks, and I think it has been an amazing success. the convenience of having our favorites and staples right at hand has been tremendous.

I would like to start the process now to determine what games to stock in the cabinet for the coming year. While any game is open to being added to the cabinet, the following 20 games are our most played over the last year (Oct '07 - Sept '08):

Race for the Galaxy47
Ticket to Ride14
Blue Moon City11
Cheeky Monkey10
Big Points9
Hanging Gardens, The9
Power Grid8
San Juan8
Category 56
For Sale6

So, take some time, think about your favorite games, look through Dave's collection, and decide what you want in the cabinet for the coming year, then post a comment to this entry, and let us know. I will be changing the cabinet over to the new contents soon.

Dave's Collection on BGG
Current Cabinet contents on BGG

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Damascus 09/05/08

Since Dave and Noreen were off conventioning at some boardgaming thing, we held the Friday night Damascus GCOM session at the Jones house in Germantown.


  • Leslie Barkley
  • Aubrey Bell
  • David and Martha Briggs
  • Jason Cheng
  • Luke Conte
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Bob and Carol Jones
  • Rick and Linda Pasquale
  • Eric and Laura Reinhold
Eager to get down to gaming, we broke into three groups.

Since Race for the Galaxy wasn’t available (sorry, haven’t bought it yet), Eric, Laura, Rick and Doug brought out its cousin, the excellent San Juan. One of the cool things about San Juan is that it’s very portable yet packs a good gaming punch. Since you can put all the bits into a deck box, Carol and I usually take San Juan when we’re traveling. Final scores were Rick 27, Doug 23 (tiebreaker), Eric 23, Laura 18.

Meanwhile, another group brought out the mid-nineties Euro, Manhattan, a building game with direct conflict between the players. Manhattan is a solid design but can be unbalanced if all four players aren’t watching their neighbors. In this instance, it looks like Jason and Leslie got the best of any conflicts. Final scores were Jason 38, Leslie 37, Linda 26, and Carol 26.

Martha and David had said they wanted to learn one of my favorites, Princes of Florence, so out it came. We were joined by Aubrey and Luke. This was a very close game and everyone did well. Aubrey only produced four Works but still had an excellent score. After the seventh round, there was a three way tie between me, Luke and Martha. Unfortunately for him, Luke hadn’t been able to complete his Prestige card when he ran short of cash during the final auction round. I had a Prestige card, “Complete the Most Works”, and Luke and I tied for the most with six Works each. That was worth 4 points, giving me the victory. Final scores were Bob 63, Luke 59, Martha 59, Aubrey 50. And David 46.

At the pub table, four players traveled the London Metro in On the Underground. The game took a bit longer than usual. Rick proved the best urban planner. Rick 44, Carol 40, Jason 37, and first-time player, Leslie 34.

Another group broke out Knizia’s fabulous auction game, Traumfabrik, set in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Amazingly, first time player Linda obtained six scripts during the game which paid off for the win. Final scores were Linda 101, Doug 87, Laura 52, and Eric 43. 101 is a huge score even for an experienced player. Nice job, Linda!

Luke expressed in interest in one of Carol’s favorite games, Attika, and Carol was happy to play, joined by Doug and Aubrey. Carol made a run for a two temple win early but was thwarted. As the temples were blocked, someone would have to place their last tile on the board to win. Doug did for the victory.

Meanwhile with seven players, Jason suggested another old favorite, Formula De. We chose the Japanese racetrack. The lead went back and forth during the game with Leslie having atrociously bad luck and falling behind. At the halfway point, Jason had a commanding lead. Coming into the final turn, however, he was passed by David, Martha and me. Eric took a big risk, trying to catch the leaders but overshot the turn and crashed into the wall. Of the three leaders, whoever was ahead after the next roll would easily cross the finish line the following turn. Martha rolled a seven, David rolled a seven, and I rolled a twelve for the win. The order of finish was 1st - Bob, 2nd - David, 3rd - Martha, 4th - Jason, 5th - Leslie, 6th - Laura, 7th - Eric.

At this point, most everyone departed, but four of us were still up for one more game, Agricola. My luck was consistent this evening and I pulled off a final victory for the night. Bob 42, Jason 38, Carol 28 and Leslie 25.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. We’ll see you at Damascus this Friday night!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bob's Top Five Games

Following are my top five favorite games as I list them on Boardgamegeek. Choosing any list of top games out of the hundreds I play is really kind of silly. Different games are better in different situations at different times and what may be a great game at a particular time with particular people might be a disaster with different people at a different time. Or something.

Nevertheless, since we humans like to rate things, below is what I have decided are my favorite games.

Please note that Agricola is not on the list. It is a fantastic game and I anticipate playing it for years to come. I certainly rank it among my favorite games but I haven’t settled yet where it will go. Besides, I rate Agricola a 10 and I suspect that I may be a shill. So I’m leaving it off the list to balance out my obvious bias. I will further flagellate myself later.

All of these games are medium intensity, requiring sound strategic choices over the course of the game with important tactical opportunities that must be considered. Throughout these games players develop resources and make steady progress towards victory. All of these games are intense yet fun.

All images from Boardgamegeek.

# 5 - Railroad Tycoon by Glenn Drover and Martin Wallace

In Railroad Tycoon, the goal is to create a network of awesome-looking railroad lines allowing you to ship goods longer and longer distances while taking advantage of numerous tactical scoring opportunities that crop up. There are multiple routes to victory and agonizing choices throughout.

The newest entry into my top five. When we first started playing this game, we played it at every opportunity. A couple of times when we were out with friends on a Friday or Saturday night, we would retire to our game room and start playing after midnight. What’s even more notable is that I’ve never won a game of RT. I’ve done really well, in fact I’ve lost several times by a single point, but someone always manages to do slightly better than me. During my first half dozen plays the game frustrated me so much that on more than one occasion, I swore never to play it again. Now I can’t wait to play again and I hope to one day win my first game.

#4 - Princes of Florence by Richard Ulrich and Wolfgang Kramer

In Princes of Florence, players are Renaissance patrons seeking to inspire craftsman and artists to create great works on the player’s manor. An auction for landscapes, builders, jesters and various cards leads off each round followed by the purchase of buildings, freedoms, other cards and the playing of Work cards. Once a work is created, the player must decide whether to take the proceeds in cash to assist in future auctions or to sacrifice the cash to gain victory points, a fiendishly tough decision. The player whose works gain the most prestige is the winner.

A sophisticated theme and a wonderful blend of many different mechanics make Princes of Florence challenging and satisfying. Player interaction is mostly limited to the auctions that start each round but the auctions can make or break your strategy; depriving an opponent of a crucial element of his Work can cost him the game. What I really love about POF is the necessity of intricate plans to produce the highest possible value work at the right time and managing your resources to make it happen. It’s a juggling act, but a heck of a lot of fun.

#3 - El Grande by Richard Ulrich and Wolfgang Kramer

El Grande is the quintessential “area control” game where players place their Caballeros in Spanish provinces, hoping to have multiple majorities when scoring occurs after every third round. There’s virtually no luck, so skill in taking advantage of which action cards are revealed each turn to manipulate Caballeros is key.

El Grande is an awesomely balanced five player game, undoubtedly one of the best five player games we play. Each turn calls for tactical decisions to maximize your action, while simultaneously keeping all of your competitors at bey. Pulling off a double-whammy of taking control of a province while simultaneously knocking an opponent off his perch in another province is incredibly satisfying.

#2 - Euphrat & Tigris by Reiner Knizia

In E&T, the players represent the very first civilizations rising in the fertile crescent. You place your leaders on the map and build civilizations with farmers, traders, priests, and government tiles. Build adjacent to another civilization and you may go to war with potentially devastating results. Civil war is also possible as leaders clash. Build a monument and receive a steady income of victory points, but be careful; too many riches can draw the attention of greedy enemy leaders looking to usurp your position.

The oldest game on my list, E&T is the masterwork of my favorite designer, Reiner Knizia. In the original Hans Im Gluck version, the pieces are beautiful and fantastic, and the play is tense and brain-burning. You have almost limitless options and on any given turn while you play what you think is your best move, you’re almost certain that there’s a better move you could have made.

#1 - Taj Mahal by Reiner Knizia

In another Knizia gem, players represent different political factions in India. Play cards to establish your position in various areas, hoping to build palaces in the current province. Leave the battle when you’re in the lead to collect your prize. Leave when you’re behind and get nothing. Establish chains of palaces for big points or collect province tiles and score when collecting resources.

Taj Mahal is seemingly a one-note game. The mechanics are fairly simple. You do the same thing for 12 rounds and then whoever has the most points wins. So, what’s to like? Turns out, everything.

Taj Mahal is one of the most tense games I play. There’s a definite poker aspect as you play chicken with the other players, hoping they’ll back off while you’re in the lead. Are you bluffing or do you have the cards? Heads-up contests between two or three players can be absolutely devastating to those who stay in too long and end up with nothing. Other times you go in hoping to take one quick palace and end up taking most of the province. Rarely in a game does accurately reading your opponents pay off such large dividends. Best with five players, Taj Mahal is simply a great gaming experience.

And those are my five favorites. (Currently.)

Germantown 09/01/08

As summer winds down, and everyone returns from vacation, we find ourselves back at Borders.


  • Leslie Barkley
  • Shannon and Aubrey Bell
  • Dave and Martha Briggs
  • April and Michael Charbonneau
  • Todd Heidenreich
  • Bob and Ben Jones
  • Marc Nelson
  • Eric and Laura Reinhold
  • Bill Salvatore
Welcome to Marc Nelson!

Since it was a holiday, Bill, April and Michael arrived at 2PM and starting playing Runebound. When I arrived at 6PM, they were still playing. :-) At 8:30PM, the Charbonneau’s had to leave so they quit the game in progress. No word on who was ahead. While we’re generally restricted to playing shorter games at Borders, there is a large contingent of hobby gamers who prefer mega-long, epic games. This was a very good example.

Meanwhile, Eric, Laura, Dave, Martha and Leslie were playing the mighty farming game, Agricola, which is no mean feat considering the size of the tables in the Cafe. It was Leslie’s first game and she did pretty well, finishing with 22 points. She also completed the largest pasture I’ve ever seen, encompassing ten or eleven squares! Dave Briggs did really well for only having two family members. When he finally starts expanding his family during the game, he should do quite well. Laura pulled off the victory. Final scores were Laura 33, Martha 30, Eric 27, Dave 26 and Leslie 22.

With everyone else occupied, I taught Aubrey the quick card-laying, tile-gathering game, Hanging Gardens. As usual, Aubrey picked up the game very quickly. It was a closely contested game but my experience paid off. Final scores were Bob 87, Aubrey 74.

About that time, Shannon arrived, so she joined Aubrey and me to save the world from horrible virulent death in Pandemic. We were doing quite well, having cured three of the four diseases and only needing to get to Aubrey’s turn so he could cure the final disease, when disaster struck! There had been six prior outbreaks, and a bad card turn resulted in an outbreak in the only area on the globe with two adjacent three-cubed cities. The double outbreak made a total of eight outbreaks, spelling doom for the human race. So close!

We then were joined by Todd and a newcomer, Marc Nelson, whose son plays regularly at Rockville on Friday nights. We brought out the gateway game Ticket to Ride with the full 1910 expansion. Finishing my three tickets early, I went on to collect two more and completed them, gaining the "Most Tickets Completed" award at the end of the game. In the final scoring, Todd was slightly ahead, but the 15 points of the award gave me the game. Unfortunately, Marc got cut off and didn't complete four of his six tickets, ending up with a score of 15. Ouch! Final scores were Bob 140, Todd 128, Shannon 61, Aubrey 51, and Marc 15.

With forty-five minutes to go, we played a couple of quick but fun games of Diamant! Intrepidly exploring the depths were me, Shannon, Aubrey, Leslie and Ben. Aubrey and Ben played conservatively throughout, rarely being killed in the mines, making it back to camp with small but consistent loads of gems. But bold plays in the face of certain death paid off for Leslie who won the first game and Shannon who won the second game. Also of note was the first appearance of the Golden Buddha in the mines which was collected by Shannon. It was Ben’s first play and he loved it. Scores: Leslie 45, Bob 42, Shannon 39, Ben 27, Aubrey 14. Shannon 39, Bob 28, Ben 27, Aubrey 21 and Leslie 8.