Newcastle Gamers – 28th April

(Another catch-up post… this meeting was nearly 3 weeks ago…)

Games played this time:

Power Grid

It was good to play this again (I actually picked up a copy of this for myself earlier in the year, but it’s mostly sat around unplayed due to a less-than-auspicious first game against Mrs Shep, in which we pulled out a really bad selection of robot tiles, and played an incredibly unforgiving game). This copy belonged to Les & James, but I don’t think they’ve played it much and/or haven’t played for a long time, as everybody at the table seemed to have a similar level of experience. It was a bit of an odd session – Olly suddenly pulled away with a racing lead – mostly because the rest of us had been squabbling over cheap east coast towns, and we’d managed to leave the western map wide open for him to exploit – ending the game way sooner than expected (I don’t think we managed to start stage 3?) with a bit of a blitzkrieg victory on his part. Oops. Got to watch out for that next time!

Dominion (with Hinterlands expansion)

I really like Dominion; it’s a deckbuilding game that I know really well, and am pretty heavily invested in (I own 5 expansions… and I’ll inevitably get round to completing the collection one day). This was the first time I’ve played it at Newcastle gamers but… for some reason… it felt like a really flat game. I guess it was due to the mixture of cards we had on this particular outing… surprising, as it was one of the “recommended” sets from the Hinterlands rule book, and (despite not being familiar with THAT particular expansion) I’ve always found the recommended sets to play really well. Alas, not this time. IIRC, there was NO attack cards in the set at all, essentially leaving us with a 4-hand game of solitaire. Ugh.

Non-confrontational Dominion plays well with 2 players (because you have a very good sense of who is in the lead, points-wise, and what you need to do to catch up… so it plays like a race game)… but with 4 players? No.

Note to self: remember to break out the attack/reaction cards in any future 4-player games!


Olly’s winning streak has finally been broken! … admittedly, it wasn’t quite as sweet a victory as it would’ve been if I’d won with maximum points, but I’m not complaining. ๐Ÿ˜‰


This is the game that I picked up in the Maths Trade that I was telling you about the other day. I like it… it’s a quick-playing area-control game, with euro-leaning tendencies. Players take turns adding archaeologists to a randomly-jumbled egyptian landscape, and at the end of each round the players who are dominant in each quadrant of the map score points and get special powers for later rounds. Scoring is made a little deeper by the fact that you need to book rooms in a museum to display your finds, with points being awarded depending on the prestige of a particular room and how many appropriate treasures you collect for that particular spot. The game manages to pack a surprising amount of crunchy decisions into about 40 minutes of play time (and a small box). Good stuff! ๐Ÿ™‚

This was the first time I’d played with more than 2 people. I don’t think I played particularly well – (I rarely do while I’m teaching; I think I concentrate too much on making sure everything is running smoothly, at the expense of my own play experience!) – but it was still an enjoyable session. Hopefully the other guys thought so too.


This was the third time I’ve played Oregon… I’m still not sure how much I like it. The game involves placing settlers and buildings on a wild west map, with points being scored based on your placement… e.g. place a settler in an open field, score nothing. Place a settler next to a gold mine and a village store, score points and get gold.

The problem: When playing Oregon I seem to sway between two different states:

(1) Total Confusion.. the game map relies on a strange pictorial (rather than numeric) co-ordinate system – presumably to make it more accessible to children – but I find it a bit of a brain scrambler. Somehow it seemed even more baffling than normal this time – perhaps because I was looking at the board upside-down. Once I’ve finally figured out which locations I’m actually allowed to influence in a turn, confusion gives way to..

(2) Analysis Paralysis. Ugh. Too many options… probably only a few of which are particularly good, but it can take a LONG time to figure out where the optimal position to play is.

It’s an OK game, and I don’t mind playing it when there’s nothing better on offer… but it’s not something I’d pro-actively suggest playing.


Archaeology (The Card Game)

I only had about 15 minutes before I had to head off home, so pulled this one out of my bag. It’s a pretty simple set-collection/push-your-luck rummy-style game, and an unashamed filler title… but quite good for what it is. It filled the gap and rounded off the night nicely.

So… SIX games played this week – none of them were particularly heavy titles, but I’d had a pretty hectic weekend, was suffering from partial brain-failure, and it was a bit of a relief to not have to play anything too complex. Apparently the next meeting – May 12th – was the group’s 3rd AGM (and a freebie session!), but I missed it due to a clash with wicker man burning/general summer madness (see previous post). Shame … would’ve been interesting to see what went on.

Never mind… maybe next year! ๐Ÿ˜‰

CREDITS: Session pics gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers web site. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the monthโ€ฆ usual cost is ยฃ3, but your first visit is free. More details here.

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5 Responses to Newcastle Gamers – 28th April

  1. That was my third game of Dominion, and the first two were just as unexciting. I’d assumed that it just wasn’t a game for me, buy maybe it is because I’ve yet to play with attack cards. Have you ever played Ascension? I haven’t, but from what I’ve heard about it I think it could be better due to the contention for the available cards.

    As you’ve got a copy of Power Grid, can you please bring it along to the gaming groups some times? I’d love to play it more; I think it could easily become one of my favourite games. From my limited experience of the game I think that you’ve got to pay very close attention to the other players’ progress across the map. I put my win in this game down to a single move when I leapfrogged across Les’ network to gain access to the north and west, when I could have taken a cheaper option and stayed in the centre, but might have ended up boxed in.

    And I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only person that struggles with working out the map in Oregon. It’s a case where adding a small number to the cards (wagon = 1, bison = 2, …) would make it much easier to find where you can play.

  2. Shep says:

    @Olly: Yes, I’ve played Ascension… it’s very, very similar to Dominion – so much so that I wouldn’t really bother having both in my collection. The restricted card pool *does* add a bit of player interaction, but it’s mostly limited blocking your opponent from getting cards that you think would benefit them… and when you *do* use that tactic, you never know if the card you flip to replace the one you just took is going to be equally beneficial to them.

    I guess the randomness tends to nudge Ascension somewhat towards the tactical/ameritrashy end of the deckbuilder scale, rather the strategic/eurogamey zone that dominion (arguably?) occupies. The theming probably makes Ascension a bit of a hard sell to “grown up” gamers too… it reminds me a lot of the kind of Games Workshop stuff I was fascinated by when I was 15. Not a bad game though; I’d quite happily play it, given the opportunity.

    Most of my Dominion playing has been 2-player (it’s my wife’s favourite game), and I suspect _that’s_ the sweet-spot… you really need a good sense of what cards your opponent is holding, and what you need to do to catch up / defend from their potential attacks to get the most out of the game. That’s a lot harder to track with multiple players. Attack cards do help to liven up the 4-player game a bit, and I *have* had some entertaining 4 player games… but I think head-to-head is where it shines.

    Re: Power Grid – yep, no problem, I can bring that along, wouldn’t mind a few more games of it myself! Same offer goes for anything else in my collection that you’re particularly interested in looking at (it’s all listed at BGG). Actually, if you’ve got a penchant for network building games (a la Ticket to Ride / Power Grid), Hamburgum might be worth a shot one week too… it’s a rondel-driven economic / network-building / set-collection game. It’s a bit of a medium-heavy game though; more going on than TTR/PG – probably difficult to get on the table if the mix of available players isn’t right; I’ve only managed to play my copy once (!)

  3. Shep says:

    @Kai – yep, seen it… episodes tend to cover the lightweight end of the hobby, and Wil Wheaton gets a bit annoying in long doses… but he seems to be enthusiastic about what he’s doing, and the show has apparently succeeded in driving quite a lot of newbies into gateway boardgames, so — on balance — it’s got to be a good thing.

    IMHO the best online boardgaming show – by far – is this pair: – “Shut up and Sit Down”. Starts a bit rough, but gets more professional with every episode. Very watchable!

  4. I’ve played Hamburgun once, on the Londinium map. I wasn’t too taken by it, partly because it took me quite a while to work out what I was doing, and partly because Gareth crushed everyone else into the ground.

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