Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for June, 2007

Hacienda Map Available on SBW

Posted by sodaklady on June 30, 2007

The map I created is now posted and available to play on SpielByWeb.  A play test there ended in a 3-point difference.  This seems to be a very well-balanced map where every extra point you manage to get could make the difference.  There are no “sweet spots” that players will fight at the beginning of the game; the longer land chains may not have as many markets and water within reach, the small chains reach more markets and water but it’s hard to expand your chain except with 2 pampas.

I hope some of you will try it out and let me know what you think.  The map is #153 and, through some glitch on SBW, does not have a preview shot.


Posted in Do-It-Yourself Games, Game-related Thoughts, Internet | Leave a Comment »

More Hacienda–Making And Playing My Own Map

Posted by sodaklady on June 25, 2007

All Saturday evening my mind was caught up in what didn’t work in the 2-player map we played. First thing Sunday morning, I started working on my own map using the Westpark Gamers’ map-generator.

I decided there were three issues that I wanted to address to give the game back its tension and decision-making. First, there weren’t enough markets; it was too easy to get to all of them. This brought up my second issue—everything in the previous map was just 1 space away from something else: land-land, land-market, land-water. I think it should be harder to make the jump, at least in some places. The third issue, which was my first thought after the last play, was the balance of terrain types.

I started with a slightly larger playing area, increasing the columns by two and then plunking down seven markets and five water holes in an asymmetric pattern. Maybe it says something about my personality, but I don’t like maps where one side mirrors the other; I like to mix things up a bit.

I filled in the random hex areas that would be non-pampas terrain, mixing up the length and placement. I also left at least two pampas spaces between most of the features, with only a few 1-spaces. By now Cori showed up to take a look and said she thought there was too many markets. Alright, we’ll turn one market into a water hole although I like the market better. The water hole in the upper left corner used to be a market. Excuse the quality of the printing—I guess it’s time for a new ink cartridge.


When I hit the button to place terrain randomly, it came up with an even distribution of terrain: 7 of each except mountains which were 6. Well, that wouldn’t do, would it? Time to short-sheet one of the terrains. You, mountains, as long as you’re already a bit shy, you’re elected. My map has 8 forest and rocks (or mud, as we like to call it), 7 swamps, 6 meadows and 5 mountains.

Cori and I play tested the map twice with excellent results. No one was able to make huge land chains and it wasn’t as easy to gobble up markets. Our games were very close even though our scores for various items varied. The first game Cori won 131-128. The second game was a tie score, with Cori winning by $5. Here’s an end game photo of the first game. I’m blue and, as you can see, I’d have been more likely to spend animals to connect to the upper left corner if it had been a market! Then again, maybe it would have given me the game instead of Cori!


I really enjoyed this project. In fact, creating maps could become addictive if it weren’t for the cost of buying new ink cartridges!

Posted in Do-It-Yourself Games, Game-related Thoughts | 9 Comments »

Hacienda For Two

Posted by sodaklady on June 23, 2007

I recently found a player-made map for Hacienda on Spielbyweb that looked like a good two-player map so I played with the map-maker, inserting terrain hexes since they are randomly selected for the online play. This map is bonedigger_12 and I want to thank the creator.

Hacienda 2-player board

Cori and I tried this map on Saturday afternoon and had an…interesting time with it. She hadn’t played Hacienda for awhile and I’ve been playing online where the excellent implementation on Spielbyweb tells you everything you need to know and doesn’t let you make accidental rules mistakes, so a quick once-over of the rules began our session.

I started in the right-hand corner, building up a land chain while Cori chose to spread out in order to hit as many markets as possible. I bought lots of sheep, both intentionally and as lucky blind draws so I managed to collect a sizable flock that blocked Cori from one market. Cori was able to connect to three markets by the first scoring and still added enough land tiles to score most of her land areas. I’d reached four of the five markets, all but my original homestead with only single land/single animals.

I wish we’d thought to take a mid-game picture, but at the time I had no thought of writing up a session report. Try to picture that Cori had started 4 separate land areas, each as near to a market as she could get, and had connected to the markets. I had the lower right corner locked up, the land not quite reaching the middle market and the sheep reaching to the water hole on the right edge, but the other three corners were a single land and a single animal.

Hacienda, first game


By the time we started the mid-game scoring, Cori was pretty sure this map was bullshit. She was really upset that I’d managed to get to all the markets while still having a large land chain whereas she was spread out all over the board; I had money to spare while she was scrambling to make enough to buy more cards. After the scoring, which turned out to be about 4 points apart, we discussed the balance that comes from each of our strategies. Most of her land still scored her points both for market access and land chains; it also left her with more maneuvering room. I had the benefit of one large land chain but the single tiles in the corners were a wash since there was nowhere I could expand. I also had very few opportunities now for making money. The single land areas aren’t big money-makers and there were only two more open spaces next to the sheep market. It all balanced out very nicely, we decided.

Now this is where I have to tell a story on myself. We at the end of the game, only 1 animal card left in the deck. I’d been buying one land card a turn in hopes of drawing one of the illusive pampas cards but finding only swamp, which I duly complained about. On Cori’s turn, she complained that she’d drawn a meadow which was useless since there weren’t any meadow spaces left. Ding, ding, ding…that’s the bell going off in my head finally! Why, yes, of course. Any land cards with no land vacant of that type may now be used as a pampas.

Cori went on to join the land area at the top with the one in the middle just below the large lake, and then placed a horse in the NE market. I used 2 of the 4 swamps I had to cover the last 2 empty spaces, giving myself 2 faux-pampas cards, one of which I used to join to the just-placed swamp tile to the SW of the center market, increasing my hacienda by 2 more tiles. On the next turn, Cori drew the last animal card and final scoring began.

Cori’s now-huge hacienda and the lakes she managed to buy were too much for me since the second half of the game was tough for me in the money department. Final score: Cori—142, Mary—134.

We’d had a good time with the map, even with the mistake, and agreed to play a second game with our newfound knowledge. This was a totally different animal and not necessarily a better one.

We both started grabbing land, expanding and connecting our areas so that by the mid-game scoring we’d connected to only 2 or 3 markets but had covered every terrain space on the board except for one forest. This had become a variation of Blokus as we both tried to cut each other off and reach the farthest corners of the board first; we’d fill in the animals later.

Hacienda, second game

The result of this was a game that grew stale ¾ of the way through. With one huge hacienda, it was easy to reach the markets and water holes, and simply placing one animal in a market gave you plenty of money. We didn’t see how we would play it any differently in future plays—grabbing land was the way to go. Of course, you could still try to block your opponent from a couple of markets but if both players manage the same tactic, it all evens out in the scoring.

We decided that part of the problem was the ease of using “dead” terrain cards as pampas. This is my fault and not the map design. I purposely chose to place terrain as evenly distributed as possible and I now think this was a mistake. If I had chosen 2 types of terrain to short-sheet, say only 2 or 3 spaces, then it would be harder to deplete the remaining types. This may not totally fix it; maybe 2 players still need a bigger map or maybe the players need to be more inventive and imaginative in their play.

Oh, I almost forgot. The final scores in the second game: Mary—208, Cori—176.


Posted in Session reports | 2 Comments »

Tide of Iron–Chain of Command

Posted by sodaklady on June 16, 2007

I taught Tide of Iron to my daughter, Cori, today and was not TOO surprised to find that she liked it.  I could tell from all the enthusiastic yelling when she won a battle and the equally enthusiastic cussing when she didn’t—that only happens when she’s having a good time.

 I started with the Chain of Command scenario,  me taking the Americans for the first time in 4 plays.  She did very well and picked up the tactics quickly, even offering advice to me in the final turns as I tried to get at least ONE damned half-track across the board.  This is a tough scenario for the Americans and, as in every other play, they lost.  She parked a couple of newly-recruited squads (one with a machine gun) on the flippin’ bridge and I couldn’t get across on that side of the board.  The other side of the board was full of squads and a total no-go.

 To my total surprise, she wanted to play again, this time as the Americans.  We took a break and set them up again.

 Her strategy was to target the machine gun crews and the anti-tank crew.  This worked very well as she took out the anti-tank crew with one roll, the machine gun crew with 2.  There were many times when she hit nothing but she hit often enough that I was hard-pressed to keep a full squad anywhere on the front lines.

 Throughout the game, I managed to use all of my command to reinforce with a 4-infantry crew, a 2-infantry/mortar crew and finally another 2-infantry/machine gun crew to replace the one she’d killed off.  Needless to say, I wasn’t spending any command on initiative.

 At the end of round 4, with all of my squads either fatigued or pinned, she drove one of her half-tracks along the German’s right flank and parked it between the double-hex trees and the building beside the forest.  I didn’t have enough command to take the initiative from her and at the beginning of turn 5 she continued moving the truck towards the boarder, having to stop on the edge of the board—one movement point away from 2 VPs.  Unfortunately for the brave Americans, I rolled well and heavily damaged the truck—tires destroyed, engine blown to hell, armor in shreds and even did damage to its gun.  NOW there was serious profanity, especially when I pointed out that if she’d stopped on the bridge, she’d have gotten +1 cover.  It probably wouldn’t have mattered, but it’s the possibility that it might have that really twisted her tail.

 This is a fun beginning scenario, but definitely much easier to play the Germans who are still undefeated, much to Cori’s disappointment.

 A couple of things we learned: 

 1.  It’s fun to shoot at the handicapped vehicles.

2.  Don’t forget the bridge offers cover.

3.  Shooting at the squad with a medic specialization is bad Karma.

Posted in Session reports | 4 Comments »

Tide of Iron

Posted by sodaklady on June 10, 2007

I finally got Tide of Iron on Friday afternoon.  That meant I was sure to get a call from Mike (who had been waiting almost as anxiously as I) and we agreed to play on Saturday.

 What can I say about ToI that hasn’t already been said by at least a half dozen others?

 The boards are THICK!  “Holy wood pulp, Batman.  >Kapow< the evil-doer with one of these boards from Tide of Iron!”

 The miniatures and their bases are a little bit fiddly to deal with even with my small fingers.  They aren’t too bad to snap into their holes but pulling them out again can make you clench your jaws.  I have a machine gun unit that is going to become a permanent fixture on its base.

 The play is excellent; just what I was looking for and I’ll be happy to play any time I have a couple of hours or more…and a fresh mind.

 Mike and I played the Chain of Command scenario.  I took the Germans and managed to hold Mike to his half of the board for 5 turns even though he was killing Germans at an annoying rate.  This effectively ended the game since he couldn’t get any points by the end of the next round and I had held the bridge for 3 rounds (3 VPs).  Mike liked the game, though wasn’t thrilled with the miniatures and their stands, and wants to try it again the next time he comes over.

 This morning (Sunday), I introduced my husband to the game using the same scenario, again taking the Germans myself to see if I couldn’t come up with some better moves.  He hadn’t read the rules so it took about 2 ½ hours to teach as we went along.  And once again the Germans managed to hold their half of the board through 5 rounds, winning the scenario.

 Richard liked it and was still thinking about what he should have done differently after the game was over—a good sign.  For myself, I think it will join in sharing popularity with Command and Colors: Ancients.

Posted in Game-related Thoughts, New Game | 2 Comments »