We had 7 people for our New Year’s Tandem Gaming session, so lots of 3 and 4 player stuff except for a giant 7-player Bohnanza at the end.
Kim went off and played some 4-player Flaschenteufel while Jeff, Scott, and I broke out Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers and tried out the new King & Scout expansion. It had a surprisingly negligible effect on the game. Jeff got the Scout, which allows you to bring people back to your supply, but he never had a chance to use it as he never got all his people onto the board at once. I got the flat-bottomed canoe which gives you bonuses when rivers close as part of a big river system, but my system got shut down early and the tile scored 1 or 2 points at the cost of losing a person for the whole game. Scott never played his bonus tile. All this being said, I can see that if we played again the bonus tiles would be used a little better, but they are quite a subtle effect on the game – which is good, I think. A nice twist, a few little player-specific options without upsetting the game. Hunters & Gatherers remains by far my favorite multi-player version of Carcassonne, and I’ll definitely keep throwing in the King & Scout expansion until a problem occurs.
Then Kim & Jeff swapped, with Milton and Jeff teaming up to play Chris & Linda in Tichu (I hear Mitlon & Jeff didn’t do so well, losing by over 1000 points … in a game that is only played to 1000 points). Scott, Kim, and I played the new Die Fugger from Adlung (by the same designer as Carcassonne, interestingly). The basic idea is that you have a deck of commodities, and each turn you alternate playing a commodity card until 5 are out. Then commodities that are more numerous go up in value (with a wraparound, so you go from being worth 9 to worth 1 if you go up too far), and the losers go down. You then cash out the commodities you’ve played, and play another round. Vaguely reminiscent of Modern Art without the bidding, although definitely more entertaining than that sounds. Some neat choices although you will often be hamstrung by the cards you draw, some definite skill but not hugely challenging … a neat game, I thought, definitely solid filler, if not hugely inspiring. Adlung’s games are still too expensive in the US, though.
Kim, Scott, and I then went on to Domaine, one of the best games of 2003. One of these days I’d like to play Domaine and Löwenhertz back-to-back, just for comparison’s sake. I do like Domaine a lot better, but I am sensitive to people’s concerns that there isn’t as much long-run strategy; if, say, you buy heavily into Knights early, you can’t know whether or not you will draw enough expansion cards to make it worthwhile; in the original you know what the deck looks like and can always bid for what you want. Of course, in the original you’re still hosed if someone else is going after Knights also and you bleed each other to death while the other two players go on to crush you.
Last was a big game of Bohnanza with everyone. This game works surprisingly well with bigger numbers all the way up to 7. The 7-player game is always a bit shorter than I expect too, which is good. I own La Isla Bohnita, which doesn’t ever get played because it’s lousy, but every time I play Bohnanza with 7 I always remember midway through that I’d like to use the 26s (and maybe even the 28s) from that expansion sometime in a big game, just to see how it would affect things, never mind so that I could actually get some use out of them. The default 7-player game works awfully well as is, though.