Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kosmos Two Player Series - Lord of the Rings: The Duel by Peter Neugebauer

Not a classic like Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, neither is it the uninspiring and confused Lord of the Rings: The Search by the same designer. Lord of the Rings: The Duel by Peter Neugebauer holds the middle ground. A fun card game of quick combat between Gandalf and the Balrog over a chasm, on the bridge of Khazad Dum.

Each player has a deck with twenty-seven cards. Four duels will be played, three preliminary and one final. For the preliminary duels, each player will draw nine cards from his deck, play six, and save the remaining three for the final duel. After three rounds, during the final duel, the players will play all nine remaining cards; careful planning is important so that you have some good cards left.

Scoring is done on the cool bridge on which stylish wooden figures represent Gandalf and the Balrog. At the end of the game, whichever piece is closest to the top of the bridge, wins.

First round card play

The cards themselves are pretty clever. On the right side is an attack strength, indicated by zero to four "magical symbols". On the left side is a defense strength, also indicated by a number of magical symbols. All cards are played next to each other in a line, so the card you are playing defends against the card played by your opponent, then attacks the other player's next card. For every undefended symbol, a point is scored, moving your cube up the energy track. After all cards are played in a round, the difference in the players' progress on the energy track determines how much the winner moves up the bridge, from one to three steps.

Each deck also contains a few special cards like the Balrog's Whip, which allows the player to pick up and reuse an already played card, or Gandalf's Magic which lets him discard a card played by the Balrog. A timely play with one of the special cards can turn around a duel going badly.

After the fourth duel, the player higher up the bridge wins. If both are on the same level, the winner of the final duel is the winner of the game.

The Balrog and Gandalf at two points each.

Carol, as Gandalf, started out by crushing me in the first duel and moving up two steps. I tied the game during the second duel. During the third duel, I went ahead by moving up a single step. Carol managed to win the fourth and final duel, moving up another step, and putting the game into a tie, which gave her (and the forces of good) the victory.

The end of the Final Duel

Coming up:  We recreate the War of the Roses in Rosenkonig.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kosmos Two Player Series - Druidenwalzer by Michael Rieneck

I consider Druidenwalzer to be one of the most beautiful games in the series as well as one of the most challenging. The art by Andreas Steiner is lovely and the gameplay, based on Mancala, is filled with subtle strategy while getting tighter and more tense as the game progresses. Carol, on the other hand, hates it.

Please note that what is to follow are a lot of references to spirits, faeries and other flighty topics.

Each player represents one of the two Druid cults, The Suns and The Moons. Each cult has four trees it protects from subversion by the other cult. The player who subverts two of his opponent's trees wins the game.

Each player starts with Druids (colored cones) on three of his trees. Only trees with Druids may be subverted by the other cult. Each tree has five Spirit cards with a value from one to five below it. When a player plays a Spirit card from his hand onto a tree, the Spirits dance, and a tree or even multiple trees might be subverted.

The game is set up and ready to go.

On your turn you have three choices. You may play a Spirit card, discard a Spirit card, or Move a Druid. Moving a Druid is the easiest, you simply move one of your Druids to an unoccupied tree. Since only trees with Druids can be subverted, you are now protecting the empty tree. Of course, once you've lost a tree, you have a Druid on every tree, so moving a Druid is no longer an option.

Discarding a Spirit card from your hand or one of your trees is a way to get weak or problematic cards out of the way. Unfortunately, you have a limited number of cards so if you discard too many, you become vulnerable to losing a tree from lack of cards.

The main action in the game is playing a Spirit card. You place a card from your hand onto a Spirit card pile in front of one of your trees, then move the Faerie Ring onto that tree. Each tree has a number from one to four and the tree you choose determines how far the Spirits will dance. The card itself determines in which direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise, the Spirits will dance, as well as which Spirits will dance. For example, if I play a value 3 Spirit card with a clockwise arrow on tree number 2, all 3 value Spirit cards from both players will move clockwise 2 spaces. The idea of the dance is to get the higher value Spirit cards to move below your trees, while getting the lower value cards to move below your opponents trees.

One of Bob's trees has been subverted by the Sun Cult.

After the dance, Druid conflict occurs. Except for the tree with the Faerie Ring, you compare the value of the Spirits protecting the trees with like-colored Druids. Generally this means that at least two trees will be in conflict every turn. The trees with the lower value Spirit get a subversion token. The winning cards are discarded and new cards flipped up in their place. If a tree gets six tokens, it is subverted and flipped over to represent its new allegiance to the other cult.

If one of your trees is ever emptied of Spirit cards, you have until the end of your next turn to get a card down on that spot or the tree is subverted.

And that's basically it. It sounds confusing and can be for a couple of turns but you get used to the strange flow of the game pretty quickly. Deciding what value of Spirit card to play on which tree and being able to visualize all the moves that will occur and the ramifications of those moves is challenging. And as the game goes on, it gets tighter as you have fewer trees and Spirit cards left, limiting your options.

Carol started out strong, hitting my trees pretty hard and I was the first to lose a tree while having five subversion tokens on another. Frankly, it looked bad for me, while Carol's damage was more widespread across all four of her trees. With our options decreasing, I managed to subvert one of her trees, and then another before losing any of mine. As you can see below, one of my trees took no damage, while one of her tree's only took one.


I really enjoyed the game and its challenges. Carol still hates it.

Coming Up:  We return to Middle Earth for the final time in Lord of the Rings: The Duel.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kosmos Two Player Series - Elk Fest by Hermann Huber

Elk Fest is a flicking game. Yes, you read that right, a flicking game. As such, it is the simplest game in the entire Kosmos two player series and takes very little time to play.

In Elk Fest, each player is trying to get his or her Elk, Jule or Ole, (admittedly, the game pieces are actually  moose) from one riverbank to the other. You do this by flicking with your finger any of the six stepping stones and moving your Elk from stone to stone to cross the table. The rules are pretty simple. You get two flicks per turn and can move your Elk any number of times before or after a flick. To move, the Elk moves his front hooves onto a new stone, with his rear hooves moving to the stone the front hooves started on. If you drop the Elk into the water (he touches the table) then your turn is over and the other player gets three flicks on his turn. The player whose Elk touches the opposing riverbank first, wins.

Jule starts out.

One thing to remember is that after the initial turns, the players can flick any stone, so moving the stones near your opponent's Elk is an important defensive move. Most of the time, though, you're moving your Elk and your own stones, until the Elks meet in the middle of the table and things get momentarily congested.

Ole gets close to the riverbank.

My Elk, Jule, was the first to get in range of the opposing riverbank, but I muffed several flicks. Carol gave me more chances by missing several shots herself, but in the end was able to get in range and move Ole onto my bank.

Ole makes it for the win.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kosmos Two Player Series - Lord of the Rings: The Search by Peter Neugebauer

The Search is definitely one of the stranger of the Kosmos two-player series in that it's theme is completely and utterly wrong. One player plays Frodo and the other Sam, searching Middle Earth for the One Ring and then racing to Mount Doom. Yes, you read that right. Neither has the Ring and they're both competing to find it and destroy it. What's more, finding the Ring isn't necessary to end or win the game. Once you've located and raced to Mount Doom, you count up the points and determine a winner. Oy.

I will say this up front. This game has a terrible reputation and few fans. I had tried to play it years ago with the rules included with the game and failed spectacularly. However, with the correct translation of the rules available on Boardgamegeek, the game became playable. Not great, but at least playable.

The two players start on the Shire tile, placed in the center of the table. The players alternate drawing and placing tiles until an 8x6 cross of tiles is created. Then the game commences. On your turn, you play one tile down to the board from your hand of three tiles. The terrain on the new tile must match terrain on every adjacent tile. If you create a complete, enclosed region, you immediately place an Encounter Chip matching the terrain on that space, some face up, others face down. Mountains are always two tiles while other regions can be huge. If you can't legally place a tile, place one upside down as a sort of "wild" tile.

Once you've placed your terrain tile, you can move your Hobbit to a bordering region. This is where the size of a region becomes important. If you're in a large region, you can go to any of the many bordering regions, while small regions have less options. If there is a Green or Yellow Encounter Chip (representing good characters or items) in the new region, you take it. The chip will provide some assistance to you, either in battle with the Brown chips or through special actions such as extra movement or turns. Brown Encounter Chips  (representing enemies) may require you to fight a battle. If you lose a battle, you skip one or two turns, delaying your quest, but if you win, you gain victory points. Blue chips (representing other characters or items, including the One Ring) can only be reached when you have a boat, which can be purchased with two Brown chips in your possession.

And basically, that's it. You wander around, trying to pick up as many chips as you can, defeating as many enemies as you can. You're not really searching for Mount Doom as the last tile placed on the board becomes Mount Doom. If you're closer to it when the game ends and you have the most points from the tiles, get to it and win the game. If you have fewer points, keep collecting chips while your opponent rushes to Mount Doom.

Carol and I went back and forth, collecting chips as above. While large regions give you greater movement options, they reduce the amount of Encounter Chips you can capture. Near the end, I created a bunch of smaller regions to get more chips I could reach. Finally, I turned up the last tile and quickly made my way to Mount Doom and we scored the game. I had thirty to Carol's 22, so I took victory. (Although, since the Ring was destroyed, didn't we both win?)

I like the art on the chips and most of the bits are nice. The terrain tiles are a disaster of clashing colors and weird angles, as you can see. I wouldn't mind playing again to see if there are any other strategies, but I suspect there aren't.

Coming up: Two elks compete to cross a river by hopping on stones in Elk Fest.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Germantown 02/02/15

Attendance:  18

  • Leslie Barkley
  • Andrew, Noreen & Dave Fair
  • Nick Ferris
  • Jennifer Glinzak
  • Randy Hoffman
  • Rebecca Holte
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Bob & Carol Jones
  • Rich Parker
  • Eric Reinhold
  • Gordon Rotter
  • Alf & Cynthia Shupe
  • Kelsey Smith
  • Chris Wottawa
Games Played (scores in order of place):

Coal Baron - Eric 103, Nick 102, Leslie 100, Jenn 90
Istanbul - Chris 5, Rich 4, Doug 4, Kelsey 3, Bob 3
Castles of Mad King Ludwig - Carol 112, Noreen 106, Andrew 95, Dave 84
Ingenious - Doug 13, Bob 13, Rich 11, Carol 10
Kingsburg - Randy 70, Alf 47, Cynthia 38
Loco - Bob 28, Carol 24, Doug 23
Loco - Carol 23, Bob 18, Doug 15, Randy 10
Loco - Carol 26, Randy 22, Bob 18, Doug 16
Saint Malo - Gordon 61, Jen 55, Leslie 55, Nick 53, Rebecca 49
Steam Park - Dave 98, Chris 85, Noreen 76, Andrew 53

Castles of Mad King Ludwig image by Steph on BGG.

Posted by Bob on 02/15/15.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Germantown 01/19/15

Attendance:  22

  • Leslie Barkley
  • Aubrey & Shannon Bell
  • Robin Bertley
  • Paul Czarnota
  • Andrew, Noreen & Dave Fair
  • Nick Ferris
  • Jennifer Glinzak
  • Randy Hoffman
  • Rebecca Holte
  • Bob & Carol Jones
  • Ben & Rich Parker
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • Gordon Rotter
  • Jason Ruvinsky
  • Kelsey Smith
  • Chris Wottawa
Welcome, Robin Bertley!

Since it was a federal holiday, we started early and got a lot of gaming done. We also had a LOT of people attending!

Games Played (scores in order of place):

For Sale - Ben 51, Paul 50, Bob 50, Robin 45, Rich 43, Jason 24
Pairs - Andrew, Gordon, Kelsey, Rebecca, Noreen
Blokus - Shannon 4, Chris 9, Aubrey 14, Bob 19
Show Manager - Ben 46, Rebecca 42, Paul 41, Gordon 34, Rich 30, Robin 29
San Marco - Kelsey 54, Jason 39, Bob 36
Viticulture - Leslie 29, Randy 26, Nick 22, Jenn 21, Carol 20, Dave 19
Istanbul - Andrew 5, Laura 4, Eric 4, Noreen 1
Brew Crafters Travel Card Game - Jenn 24, Leslie 22, Nick 22
7 Wonders - Eric 77, Chris 66, Shannon 61, Aubrey 59, Andrew 56, Laura 51
Pairs - Shannon 17, Aubrey 13, Andrew 12, Chris 11
Alhambra - Jason 96, Kelsey 66, Rebecca 65, Noreen 62, Paul 45, Gordon 43
Innovation - Rich 4, Ben 1, Robin 0, Bob 0
Istanbul - Carol 5, Dave 4, Randy 4
Pairs - Paul, Robin, Jason, Dave, Bob, Carol, Randy, Noreen
Pairs - Bob, Carol, Dave, Randy, Jason, Noreen, Paul, Robin
Takenoko - Chris 36, Aubrey 23, Leslie 22, Shannon 15

Takenoko image by Bob Rob on BGG.

Posted by Bob on 02/08/15.

Germantown 01/05/15

Attendance:  16
  • Leslie Barkley
  • Aubrey & Shannon Bell
  • Andrew, Noreen & Dave Fair
  • Nick Ferris
  • Jennifer Glinzak
  • Randy Hoffman
  • Bob & Carol Jones
  • Rich Parker
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • Kelsey Smith
  • Chris Wottawa
Tonight was the first night of a new experiment to play a game and then over subsequent sessions play that game's expansions. We started with the winemaking game, Viticulture.

Interestingly, early on in the evening, all three games we had running related to alcohol (Viticulture, Brew Crafters, and Gold Brau).

Games Played (scores in order of place):

Blokus - Shannon 1, Aubrey 2
Uptown - Aubrey 4, Shannon 6
Gold Brau - Chris 94, Laura 84, Eric 60, Bob 46
Brew Crafters - Nick 69, Jenn 51, Rich 40, Noreen 32
Splendor - Chris 17, Bob 14, Aubrey 12, Shannon 11
Viticulture - Leslie 23, Randy 19, Carol 16, Dave 11, Kelsey 11, Andrew 10
Qwixx - Chris 65, Aubrey 50, Shannon 43, Bob 42
Unnamed Game - Rich, Noreen, Jenn, Nick

Viticulture image on BGG by Jamey Stegmaier

Posted by Bob on 02/08/15.