Monday, March 17, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Tally Ho! by Rudi Hoffmann

Next up was a serious step back in complexity, Tally Ho! by Rudi Hoffmann. This was a new acquisition since we started this series.

In Tally Ho!, one player plays the humans, composed of the Hunters and the Lumberjacks, while the other player plays the Foxes and the Bears. The object is to hunt the other player's tiles. Stuck in the middle are the innocent ducks, and pheasants, which are hunted by all.

The board is a big grid with 49 spaces. The tiles are placed face down at the start of the game and the players take turns turning them face up, being careful not to change their orientation. Alternatively, rather than turn a tile face up, a player can move one of his own already face up tiles or move one of the neutral duck and pheasant tiles. Bears and Lumberjacks only move one space in a turn while all other tiles can move any amount through empty spaces.

Each of a player's tiles has a specific "prey" it can attack by moving onto its space. The Fox can eat the ducks and pheasants for two and three points, respectively. The Lumberjack can chop down one tree for two points. The Bears can eat a Hunter or a Lumberjack for five points each. The Hunter can shoot any of the animals, the Fox worth five points and the Bear worth the most at ten. The Hunter, however, may only attack in the direction his gun is pointing and can't turn during the game (which is why you can't change the orientation of the tiles when turning them over). You can have a whole bunch of Hunters face up, but if they're not pointing in the right direction you have problems.

Once the last tile is turned face up, each player gets five more turns. During these turns, players can move their own tiles off the board, scoring them. Players note the scores, switch sides and play another round.  Highest score after two rounds wins the game.

There is a good deal of luck in Tally Ho! due to the random distribution of tiles. But I like the tactical movement and the way you can use the ducks and pheasants to block the actions of the other player. The game feels a bit like chess in the way it plays, but is of course much easier and quicker.

During the first round I was the Hunter while Carol was the animals. Trees block movement, making it more difficult to move around the board, especially for the Hunter.  Turning up the Lumberjacks early helps the Hunter clear the trees and gain movement. Unfortunately, I didn't find my Lumberjacks until late in the game, giving Carol some advantage.

At the end of the first round, in addition to pheasants and ducks, I had killed one Bear and only cut down one tree for a score of 39. Carol had killed four of my Hunters and one Lumberjack.  She easily won the round 62 to 39.

Taking over the animals during the second round, I wailed on the ducks and pheasants with my Foxes but had trouble cornering Carol's Hunters. In the meantime, she had found her Lumberjacks and cut down a ton of trees, making movement easier. At the end of the round I had killed two Hunters and no Lumberjacks, while she had killed one of my Bears and cut down ten trees.

Final scores:

  Carol    62 + 73 =  135
  Bob      39 + 52 =   91

Coming up:  We build a medieval fortress and a cathedral in the unnecessarily long-named The Pillars of the Earth: Builders Duel.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - The Settlers of Catan Card Game by Klaus Teuber

The hugely successful board game The Settlers of Catan was the first Euro to make it big in America. Not surprisingly, one of its many iterations is a two player card game.

Our copy of this game is so old that we have the German version, purchased before the English version had been released. This, of course, presents some challenge as the event cards are all in German. A couple of translation sheets I created years ago made that a minor issue (and there are many more available on BGG).

The card game has most of the elements of the board game, with some clever additional mechanisms. Each player starts with two settlements surrounded by six resource tiles, one each of wool, brick, wood, ore, grain and gold. Each card has a different die face and after rolling a die at the start of your turn you receive the appropriate resource. Cleverly, to keep track of your resources, you rotate the tile, showing zero to three of that resource.

Two settlements and their surrounding resources

The first thing you do on your turn is roll two dice.  One gives you resources as above, the other causes an event, either drawing and using an event card, activating the thief, causing a comparison of knight or mill values, or giving each player a resource of their choice. Once that is resolved, a player can trade resources with the other player, build buildings in his settlements and cities, play special action cards, add roads which then lead to building new settlements (with new resource tiles), or upgrade a settlement to a city. All of these actions cost resources but may add additional resources or victory points to your principality. Settlements are worth one victory point, cities worth two, and a variety of buildings also add points as well as give you special powers. The player with the most knight points (from played knight cards) or mill points (from some buildings) captures the appropriate wooden block, each of which is also worth a victory point. The first player to twelve points wins.

It's been a long time since I've played this game and I really enjoyed it. There are a wide variety of options each turn and building out your principality is fun. The game does take a huge amount of table space (compare it to Ingenious to see the true range of the Kosmos two player series). I focused on building harbors which gave me a discount in trading resources with the bank while Carol built buildings which doubled the production of some resource tiles. We both jockeyed for the two wooden blocks. Unfortunately, the game is a bit long. Carol and I played for over an hour the first night and had to pause the game while we were both at six points.

The end is near

We came back the next night and the rest of the game went surprisingly fast. Carol upgraded settlements to cities, played buildings with victory points and quickly reached eleven. I managed to wrest control of the knight and commerce blocks, reaching ten points, but it was too late. Carol built a new building with one victory point and won.

Final scores:

     Carol    12
     Bob      10

Coming up:  We go hunting for wabbits (actually bears and foxes) in Tally Ho!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Germantown 02/17/14

Attendance:  20

  • Leslie Barkley
  • Gabriel Copley
  • Paul Czarnota
  • Dave, Noreen, Andrew & Corwin Fair
  • Nick Ferris
  • Henry Ho
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Bob & Carol Jones
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • Rebecca & Gordon Rotter
  • Jason Ruvinsky
  • Alf & Cynthia Shupe
  • Howard Wagner
We started early due to the President's Day holiday.  Welcome, Jason Ruvinsky!

Games Played (scores in order of place):

Ave Caesar (2 races) - Noreen 8, Doug 7, Carol 6, Bob 5, Corwin 4, Nick 2
Russian Railroads - Paul 441, Dave 399, Andrew 295, Leslie 263
12 Days - Leslie 45, Paul 40, Dave 38, Andrew 27
Ingenious - Howard 8, Jason 7
Steam Park - Eric 101, Nick 83, Doug 76, Laura 68
Oasis - Henry 111, Bob 103, Corwin 58, Carol 51, Noreen 39
Australia - Jason 130, Eric 125, Leslie 120, Noreen 86
Taj Mahal - Howard 46, Laura 43, Bob 33, Nick 32
Small World - Gordon 98, Rebecca 87, Cynthia 79, Alf 74, Doug 62
Royal Turf - Howard 1850, Noreen 1150, Bob 1150, Corwin 1150, Nick 600, Leslie 550
Terra Mystica - Henry 123, Dave 121, Andrew 88, Carol 67, Paul 62

Steam Park image by Triple Threat on BGG.

Posted by Bob on 03/11/14.

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Jambo by Rudiger Dorn

A well-regarded and popular entry in the Kosmos two-player series, Jambo makes the players African merchants in pre-colonial days.

Each player starts with twenty pieces of gold, a market stall capable of holding six goods, and five cards in hand. The object is to get to sixty gold or more. Once a player ends their turn with sixty or more gold, the other player gets one final turn to catch or pass them. If they do, they win. If not, the player who triggered the end wins.

On your turn, you have five actions spread over two phases. The first phase is "draw cards". The card deck consists of market stall cards, ware cards, and people, animal and utility cards. Each time you draw a card it costs one action. Once drawn, you may keep the card or discard it. If you keep it, then you may draw no more this turn and you move into the second phase. If you discard the card, you may draw again or not. Since each draw costs an action, you may draw at most five cards and will only ever keep the last one you drew. After drawing, any remaining actions are used in phase two, "play cards". You may also convert two unused actions at the end of your turn into one gold.

The key to the game are the ware cards which picture either three or six of the goods that make up the market. If you want to buy goods, you play a ware card and pay the bank the smaller of two amounts on the card. Put the matching goods markers onto empty spaces on your market stall. If later you want to sell goods, you play a ware card and turn in the matching goods from your market stall, taking the higher amount of gold on the card in exchange. In this way you buy goods at a low price and later sell them at a higher price.

The three-space market stall cards in the deck cost a gold to play, but they allow you to store more goods, giving you more flexibility in making saleable combinations on the ware cards. There are only five of these cards in the deck, so they're hard to come by.

Bob's market stalls with three goods
The remaining cards (people, animals and utility) give the player either a one time special action or a permanent benefit. They give you things like free goods, extra gold, allow you to swap one type of goods for another, remove cards from your opponent's tableau, or draw more cards. Up to three utility cards stay in front of you and can be used once per turn (at a cost of one action).

Bob has 50 gold, two utility cards and one good in his market stalls.

As you might imagine, Jambo has a specific back and forth rhythm as players spend their gold to obtain wares and other benefits and then gain gold by selling wares. In Jambo it definitely takes money to make money.

Carol and I jockeyed back and forth a bit, slowly building up our gold supplies. I obtained a three-space market stall right away and then proceeded to draw the other four available market stalls and discard them, making Carol muddle through with just her original stall. We both arrived in the mid-40's at about the same time.

At that point, I was within striking distance of 60 gold. I thought Carol might not be so I sold some goods and made it to 61 gold, triggering the end game. Carol would have one final turn to get from around 42 gold to 61 or more to win. It turns out I had miscalculated. She had the right combination of cards in hand to sell enough wares to hit 61 and the game was hers. As an added kick, she used her final two actions to get one gold, making it absolutely clear that she had won.

Final scores:

     Carol   62
     Bob     61

Coming up:  The two player version of one of the most popular Euros of all time, The Settlers of Catan Card Game.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Blue Moon by Reiner Knizia

Our eleventh game was a new acquisition, Blue Moon, the third Knizia game we've played, after Lost Cities and Ingenious. Blue Moon may seem very familiar as we often play its multi-player sequel game, Blue Moon City, at GCOM Germantown.

Blue Moon is a card game where players fight a series of battles, each turn playing one character card plus an optional booster card or support card to reach a certain combat value in either fire or earth. The other player must then play his own character, plus a booster or support, and match or beat that combat value. The players play back and forth this way until one player can't or won't play any more cards and retreats. Of course, many of the cards have special powers which allow for a wide variety of effects like removing enemy cards from the table, not having to meet the combat value, restricting the other player's actions, or drawing additional cards into your hand. Finding good combinations of cards is the strategic heart of the game.

The winner of the fight attracts from 1-3 dragons to their side of the table. Once one player's deck has completely run out, the player with dragons on their side of the table wins the battle and 1-4 crystals. The first player to five crystals wins the game.

The great thing about Blue Moon is the decks of cards. The game comes with two unique, 31 card decks, each representing one of the races of the world of Blue Moon, in this case, the Hoax and the Vulca. Each deck has strengths and weaknesses and plays out differently, but they're incredibly balanced. While the base game has only two decks, Fantasy Flight issued nine others. All are out of print and hard to find, but we liked the game so much I managed to locate several more and so we now have many decks to play.

During our first battle, I managed to overwhelm Carol completely, drawing all three dragons to my side of the board and then attracting one more, ending the battle immediately and scoring four crystals, just one away from victory.  We switched decks and Carol fought back, winning the second battle but only attracting one dragon. Switching decks again, she won another two crystals in that battle, making the score 4 to 3.

During the final round, Carol managed to dominate, not only taking the two dragons she needed to win, but taking all three and attracting a fourth for the full four crystals. I had won the first four crystals of the game but never scored again.

Final scores:

     Carol     7
     Bob       4

Coming up:  We experience an African marketplace in Jambo.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Summary of the First 10

Here are the games we've played so far:
  • Lost Cities
  • Caesar & Cleopatra
  • The Pyramids of the Jaguar
  • Kahuna
  • Ingenious
  • The Reef
  • Dragonheart
  • Heave Ho
  • Balloon Cup
  • Hellas 
Of these games, we've played Lost Cities the most times previously, while Dragonheart was the first playing for both of us. I had played everything else on the list at least once, and most of them many times. In addition to Dragonheart, The Reef and Hellas were both new to Carol.

The most similar games on the list are Heave Ho and Balloon Cup, both of which involve playing number cards to the board to improve a player's total or hurt their opponent's total before a scoring is triggered.  The most unique is probably Hellas which has some elements of a very simple wargame. The game with the most beautiful artwork, in my opinion, is Caesar & Cleopatra, although you can see that they're all pretty great looking.

Caesar & Cleopatra

I'm most looking forward to playing Dragonheart again and I think Pyramids of the Jaguar is under-appreciated in gaming circles.  Carol says she's most interested in playing Dragonheart and The Reef again. I've enjoyed playing each of them, especially since it's been with Carol.

So now it's on to the next ten.

Coming up:  A recent purchase, Blue Moon, by my favorite designer, Reiner Knizia.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Hellas by Franz-Benno Delonge.

As far as I'm aware (and I'm too lazy to double-check), Hellas is the only one of the Kosmos two-player games akin to a (very simplified) miniatures wargame, as each player controls a group of cute little Greek Soldier and Ship pieces and the players fight for control of cities.

The first person to control ten cities wins the game.

So how do you play? The two players start by building the board. Going in turn, each player picks a tile and places it either adjacent to the base Dolphin tile or next to two previously played tiles. Each tile depicts water, land and one city. Water must touch water and land must touch land, so there are some restrictions on proper placement. On each tile you place, you drop one of your Greeks and one of your ships. There are also three decks of God cards, each giving you benefits in a particular aspect of the game. You start the game with one card from each deck. Once each player has placed four tiles, the game begins.

On your turn, you have three options. Option 1 is "Burst of Strength" where you get three actions (or four if your tiles have more Temples than the other player) in any combination. Actions are either playing a Greek or Ship to the board or drawing a God card.

Option 2 is "Voyage" by drawing a new tile, placing it according to the rules above, spending an adjacent ship to pay for it, and placing a Greek on it to claim ownership. This allows you to expand your empire.

Finally, you can "Attack" one of your opponent's cities  from adjacent tiles over either land or sea. If attacking by land, you need only surround the city with an equal number of Greeks to wipe out the defenders and move your guys in, substituting any ships there with yours. If attacking by sea, you have to have one more Greek than the defenders. Either way, the loser is wiped out.

Carol attacks!

During all of this, God cards can be played to affect the outcome of your actions. Some let you Voyage or Attack twice in a row, some allow you to attack an enemy city with fewer Greeks or throw your ships into the battle to support your troops, some allow your Greeks to retreat rather than be destroyed in a battle and some cancel God cards played by the other player.

When we started, the first thing I did was beef up my cities and fleets using the "Burst of Strength" action. Carol followed suit and so we quickly developed equal defensive zones. Then we both "Voyaged" for a couple of turns to discover new cities.

At the point where we started attacking each other, the God cards started coming into play.  Faced with a stalemate, God cards can quickly turn the balance of a battle one way or another. Unfortunately, because of the large number of Greeks we had in the area, as soon as a city would change hands, the other player would attack and retake it.  We went back and forth for several turns, each of us losing gobs of Greeks and winnowing down our forces.

Finally, Carol took control of nine cities and was poised to win. Unfortunately for her, I had a stronger hand of God cards and was able to attack two of her cities in one turn, going from 8 to 10 cities and winning the game. We both underutilized the God cards, which are clearly the key to winning the game. I realized that a little earlier than Carol and so was more prepared.

End of game

Final scores:

     Bob      10
     Carol     7

Coming up:  A summary of the first ten games! Then, we become African merchants in Jambo.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Game Days is Coming!



May 1st - May 4th, 2014
Holiday Inn
9615 Deereco Road
Timonium, Maryland 21093

An Open Gaming Event - Have Fun, Learn, Share, Grow, Play

When: Thursday, May 1st at 10AM through Sunday, May 4th at 6:00 PM
Over eighty (80) hours of available open gaming time!

What: Four days of open gaming. Open to the public. Have fun, learn, bond, make friends and compete with the best group of gamers around. The camaraderie is great! The convention known for learning new games by experienced Game Masters.

Open Gaming. Game Days Game Library, Demonstrations, Silent Auction, Math Trade, Ticket To Ride Asia Team Tournament, Vendors Sales. GCOM Logo Products. GCOM Annual Open Hobby Discussion. No snacks will be provided by GCOM this year.

Pre-registration: Sign up on-line with PayPal
Deadline: Friday, April 18th, 2014.
All Four days $30. Any one day $10.
GCOM Supporting Members: All Four days $25.
GCOM Patron Members: Free

Registration at the Door: Four Days: $40, Three Days: $30, Two Days: $20, One Day: $10.
GCOM Supporting Members save $5 off the total at-the-door registration price
Thirteen - Seventeen: $5 per day. Must be accompanied by a paying adult.
Twelve and Under: Free. Must be accompanied by a paying adult.

On Site Lodging Info: Holiday Inn, 9615 Deereco Road, Timonium, MD. 21093. 1-800-235-3297, 410-560-1000, Off I-83 Exit 17, Padonia Road. The Holiday Inn is a half-mile wal k from the Light Rail connection to BWI Airport. BWI Airport Shuttle available. Rooms include two queen beds OR one king. A special rate of $99 per night has been obtained for Game Days attendees. Please mention "Game Days" to obtain this special rate and to add to our total room counts. Room Reservations must be received by Thursday, April 12th, 2012. Regular room rates rate $129. Hoilday Inn Timonium website:

Contact Information:
Michele Mazzola: Director / 410-739-1987
Michelle Hymowitz


Need More Information? Email   Cell: 410-739-1987

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Game Series - Balloon Cup by Stephen Glenn

In Balloon Cup, the players are hot air balloon pilots, racing through either the plains or the mountains to win prizes. Balloon Cup is pretty similar to Heave Ho! in that the players are playing number cards to either side of the board, represented by four tiles, in order to have the highest or lowest strength. The double-sided tiles represent either the plains or mountains and are marked with a value, 1-4, which is the number of colored cubes, drawn randomly from a bag, that are placed on that tile. Each player has a hand of cards which have values from 1-13 in one of five colored suits.

On your turn, you play one card either to your or your opponent's side of a tile, then draw a new card. When cards are played next to a tile, they must match the color and number of cubes on the tile. For example, if the 3 Tile has one blue and two yellow cubes on it, the players must play one blue and two yellow cards on each side of the tile before the race is concluded and a winner determined. 

Winners are determined by the total value of the cards played. In the mountains, you want a higher total value of cards on your side than on your opponent's side, and in the plains you want a lower total value of cards. Whoever wins the race, gets the cubes on the tile. The tile is then flipped over to the opposite terrain, more cubes are placed on it from the bag, and the next race for that tile begins.

If after a race you are the first to have a certain number of cubes (3-7 depending on the color), you win the prize card for that color. Once a color's prize card has been claimed, leaving you with unused cubes, you can use three of that color as a wild cube to claim another prize. Win three prize cards and you win the game.

The twist to the game is that there are fewer of some colors than others, both in cubes and cards.  For example, there are thirteen red cards (values 1-13), but only five gray cards (values 1,4,7,10,13) making some races more challenging to complete and limiting a player's options.

This was an unusual game of Balloon Cup as neither Carol or I collected any prize cards for the longest time. We just went back and forth amassing a huge amount of cubes, but neither gaining enough to claim any prize cards.  Finally, I won my third gray and my fifth green cubes (as above) in one turn to get their prizes and shortly thereafter collected a fourth blue cube for the win.

Final scores:

     Bob    3
     Carol  0

Coming up:  We battle for ancient Greece with ships, swords and Gods in Hellas.