Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Robber Knights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robber Knights. Show all posts

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Summer game photos

Now that summer is over, I thought I'd compile some photos of games we've played over the last three months.

The yellow plague outbreak gets away from us.
We love Pandemic, but we have such a hard time winning.  Late last June, the yellow plague took root in remote Santiago, and we neglected to deal with it until the outbreak counter reached the critical point.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Signs of spring: The first backyard boardgame of 2013

Spring has made its long-awaited appearance here in northern Virginia.  The birds are singing, the Washington Nationals are winning (or at least they were before they went to Cincinnati), and the boardgames have finally started to come outside.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Run roughshod in Robber Knights

Kathy's winning wine
over my losing beer
Thursday's cocktail hour saw my wife and I break out last month's impulse buy from FunAgain GamesRobber Knights (designer Rüdiger Dorn [website in German], artist Michael Menzel [website in German], publisher Queen Games).  We like this game as a quick encounter with not a lot of set-up time but plenty of thought and tactical play.  The game requires a certain balance of resources vs. scoring opportunities.  It often poses the conundrum between seizing more points that are vulnerable to stealing and taking fewer points that are protected.  


This round, I think I lost sight of the resource-conservation aspect of the game, as I grabbed every big-point play I could make.  Early on, my blue knights thoroughly dominated the board, and though I knew some of the points were destined to be stolen, I thought that I'd sufficiently saturated the board that I could protect a substantial number of acquisitions and maintain a lead until the end of the game.  


But by the middle game, Kathy had taken over a significant portion of my holdings.  Although we were at one point fairly even in number of remaining tiles and knights, she had taken a lead and locked in quite a few positions that left me little opportunity for cherry-picking any points away.  Again I burned up tiles and knights in the late game, so that by the end, I had only two knights and two tiles (a city and a forest castle - which meant that I'd be unable to score the city).  Kathy meanwhile place a city tile with three sides open so that she'd be confident that she could reclaim it if I tried to steal it from her.
Close observation reveals the number of my blue knights covered by my wife's green for the score


The bottom line was a strong win for my wife, 34-22, thanks to taking full advantage of my impulsiveness and her making judicious use of resources to dominate the board.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Boardgames in the backyard: Robber Knights

(c) Queen Games
Used by permission
Now that the weather is nice, the annual challenge for Kathy and me is to find two-player games for our cocktail hour that work on the tiny glass outdoor coffee table that we have in the backyard.  We have a number of favorites that I'll discuss in the coming weeks, but today's game, Robber Knights (designer Rüdiger Dorn [website in German], artist Michael Menzel [website in German], publisher Queen Games) is a recent discovery that is quick, compact, and a tight game-playing challenge.

I came by Robber Knights as an afterthought during the FunAgain Games 2012 spring cleaning sale (which at this writing is still going on).  RK was one of those checkout-window, "hey, by the way, before you go, we're selling RK at 67% off - why don't you throw that one in your shopping cart, too?" kind of links (which at this writing is apparently still available at that price).  For ten bucks, based on a cursory review of the boardgamegeek.com entry, I decided to take a chance on it.

We've played twice now, and I have to say that RK is a clever little game-playing challenge.  Players lay up to three tiles in a turn.  Tiles depict various terrain, some of which (cities, villages, castles) are worth points if controlled by a player's knight at the end of the game.  At the time a castle tile is laid, a player may deploy knights from that castle along a row or column of previously laid tiles to claim them.  Previously claimed tiles can be subsequently claimed by an opponent's knight, but only if certain movement and stacking constraints are satisfied.  Once deployed, knights do not move for the rest of the game; they simply hold claim to the tile until it is taken by another player.  So the strategy comes in laying tiles in a way that allows one's own knights to lay claim to points while leaving tiles minimally vulnerable to knights of other players in subsequent turns.

I think of this game as a cross between Carcassone (tactical tile-laying) and Othello (row/column driven shifting control of spaces on the board).  The "robber knight" theme is minimally engaging; the game is abstract to all intents and purposes, and as it happens, that suits me just fine in this case.

Kathy and I have played twice.  In the first game a week or so ago, our scores were tied by pure luck of fumbling around trying to figure out the tactics and techniques of taking and protecting points and preserving resources.  The rate at which you use up tiles and knights is discretionary - one to three tiles laid per turn, and zero to five knights deployed every time you lay a castle tile.  Once you've deployed your last knight, you can gain no more points.  Once you've laid your last tile, you're done with the game while the other player(s) continue until all tiles have been laid.  We haven't quite established whether there is an advantage in harboring tiles for the end of the game, but it certainly seems important to keep track of how many castles you've laid relative to how many knights you've deployed.

In today's game, we played much more quickly than in our first round, albeit more thoughtfully and more conservatively.  We were not eager to spend knights or lay three tiles in a turn unless sure that the point return was worth it or the points acquired would be safe from re-claiming.  I won this afternoon's game by five points, owing in part to one turn of perfect tile luck in which I drew a city, a village, and a castle and was able to deploy five knights to score eight points (including a village that was already on the board) in a protected location that Kathy could not come back and claim later.

I should point out that although tile luck is a bit of a factor, it is tightly mitigated by a semi-ordered tile stack. I'm reminded of the cards in The Speicherstadt, which are divided into four "seasons" that are each shuffled independently and then stacked to form a semi-ordered draw pile.  Here in RK, a player's tiles come in five ordered groups of five shuffled tiles each (plus four specific tiles on the first turn), so there is a semi-predictable distribution of castles, villages, and cities that become available over the course of the game.

Given the relatively quick play of this game, the compact table-space it occupies, and the tight tactical challenges that it offers, I expect we'll play RK a fair amount this summer.