Thursday, April 24, 2008

Game Day at the Beit Shemesh Board Game Club

The BSBGC is run by Avri who first came to my group once or twice and then set up his own, something I never managed to successfully do when I lived in Beit Shemesh. When I arrived around 7:00, I figured I would stay for a game or two. There were around 10 to 12 people there, half of whom were smack in the middle of a game of Robo Rally.


I own nearly all of the games he owns as well, so I wasn't keen on playing any specific game. I found one woman who had been hanging out all day but not playing anything. She didn't like to play most games, but she had played Hearts on the computer. I managed to convince her and two others to give Team Hearts a try.

Team Hearts is far superior to regular Hearts. You always pass to your partner, and you win or lose as a team. Shooting the moon still has to be done by an individual, so you can block someone from shooting by giving his partner a point and still not take any yourself.

The woman found even this to be too trying, and conspired to get someone to take her place midway through the game, so we ended up finishing without her. I believe the others enjoyed it. My team won (no surprise, as we used passing signals and our opponents didn't) 63 to 119.


Zooloretto is the most celebrated family game from last year, earning 14 or so awards including the coveted German board game of the year (Spiel des Jahres). It's a thematic game based on similar mechanism from a 2003 card game Coloretto by the same designer.

Each player has a zoo with three pens. Each pen can hold between 4 to 6 animals. In the center of the table are trucks, one per player. Each truck has room for three tiles. A bag of around 100 tiles contains animals of seven or eight types, money, or concession stands.

Each turn, you a) take a tile out of the bag and put it onto a truck, or b) take a truckload of items and try to fit them onto your board, or c) pay money to rearrange your board. Once you take a truck, you can't take any further actions until all players have taken a truck as well. After everyone has taken a truck, all trucks are returned empty to the center of the table and the game continues. The game ends roughly when the tiles run out.

Each pen can hold one type of animal. Any additional animals you have go into your barn and score negative points. Money can be used to swap animals, discard unwanted tiles, buy them from other people's barns, or add one additional pen to your zoo. Concession stands can be placed next to a pen, one per area.

At the end of the game, you score points for complete pens, or half if you're shy just one animal. Otherwise you score nothing for the pen unless you have a concession stand next to it, in which case you score one point per animal in the pen. You also score two points for each different type of concession stand you own. And lastly you score negative two points for each animal in your barn.

There are a few other rules, such as a free baby animal when you have a male and female animal.

It's a decent enough game, with pretty artwork and some light theming. It's also pretty easy for families to play, although given the male and female animals and their mating habits, it might be more fun in an adults-only environment. Still, as often happens, I don't think it's so darned good as to have earned so many accolades.

In my game, I managed to avoid any negative points, but my timidity prevented me from scoring better with the pens and concession stands, so I didn't win.


Looking for something light to flush the brain cells between games (not that Zooloretto could be considered heavy), I was astounded to discover that no one there knew the game Pit. Pit is over 100 years old, and, I thought, a staple of American households.

I taught them using the resources from games of Settlers and C&K of Catan. It was a HUGH hit. Games last typically less than a minute, and they wanted to keep playing again and again. Avri in particular broke out in helpless laughter a number of times. One of the other players wanted to play nothing else for the rest of the evening.

Puerto Rico

I saw a Puerto Rico game starting for four players and cajoled my way into being the fifth player. This was probably a mistake.

I don't think I've ever felt quite so embarrassed during or after a game. I discovered early on that my opponents were all fairly inexperienced players. By the time I discovered this (turn 2), I didn't want to leave the game, and didn't want to play poorly just to even up the chances. I just played a straightforward game.

By mid-game they were taking bets on how big the spread would be between my winning score and second place. Some of them went to far as to say 20 points. In the end, I had 64 points and second place had 40.

I had started in fifth position, and had no quarries, an early coffee monopoly, an early Factory and then a Wharf. I also pulled Guild Hall and Custom's House by the end of the game. the guy next to me bought Large Warehouse, a building I tend to avoid. But with his Large Indigo and Large Sugar, it actually came in handy for him and netted him 7 additional shipping points near the end of the game.

It's Alive

As Saarya's last game, he taught a few people how to play my game It's Alive. From what I was hearing, they were confused during the explanation and throughout the game. As a result, they weren't terribly enthusiastic at the end (some more than others). Oh well. Can't win them all.



Richie said...

As one of the foursome you trounced in Puerto Rico, let me just say that it was well worth the opportunity to see how the game is really supposed to be played.

Oh, and by the way -- if you updated the picture on your site/blog (and it wasn't a profile shot), I might've recognized you before you mentioned that little game you invented.

- Richie

Yehuda said...

So my picture is a little younger than myself! So was Dear Abbie's ...