'Tigris and Euphrates' by Reiner Knitzia - 06/07/00
Kendall arrived ten minutes earlier than usual, usefully passing the time with Dicken whilst studiously avoiding noticing the game board laid out. Spiller arrived ten minutes later than usual, so Dicken disappeared upstairs on some spurious task linked to his daughter whilst Kendall opened the door just prior to Spiller's attempt to knock on it.
Spiller is attempting to coax money out of the inter-net. Presumably this is why he is heavily sunburned and wearing shorts. "95% of all ideas are already on the net!" says Spiller, to which Kendall counters with the challenge to the laws of relativity posed by light travelling through Caesium - something he has read which sounds vaguely more important than Tony Blair being hand-bagged by members of the WI.
No-one has yet thanked Dicken for setting up the board. Time to begin 'Tigris and Euphrates'. By common consent Herr Knitzia's best to date - though not according to Phil who is prone to panic attacks. Perhaps we all secretly yearn for those lost days of empire building in games like Diplomacy , Strategy I , Strategy II, Buck Rogers... Perhaps not. Tigris has the real advantage of being quick. Knock-about fun with just enough complexity to keep your brain in a stew. Kendall gets off to a racing start, with all four leaders quickly productive whilst Dicken comes off second best in a string of confrontations.
"That's me out of it" comes the cry from Dicken. Spiller takes the bait and crashes into Kendall's positions with astonishing success. With stinging delight Spiller pronounces "This is the best I've ever scored" and "This is the best move I've ever made". You've guessed it! Dicken wins by a point. Unrepentant, Spiller declares it the best game he's ever played.
We've played T. and E. a huge number of times, easily in excess of twenty, and although it bears the usual Reiner trademark of having no connection between the theme and the actual game ( at no point do you ever feel as if you are building a civilization in the fertile crescent ) it's a great game. Colours and connections are the keys to this baby and you don't have to go through the mind wrenching contortions of a game like 'Roborally' to get an excellent hour or so's play.
Post mortems are a time when the game can yet be won, but Kendall's attempts to explain just how unlucky he'd been with black tiles fails to impress. He did better when revealing that he had redrawn his initial hand whilst Dicken was upstairs - too many black tiles. Ever the genial host, Dicken offers a choice of chocolate or ginger and marmalade cake, making mention that there isn't much of the chocolate cake left. Spiller and Kendall opt for the ginger and marmalade - Dicken appears with a large slab of chocolate cake. "Moist!", remarks Spiller tucking in, then after a few mouth-fulls declares, "Can't manage any more".
Spiller insists Dicken finishes both cakes, which he does with no trouble whatsoever. There's a man who likes his cake and eats it too.
Go to top of page
‘Tigris Euphrates’ by Reiner Knitzia.
Games night......25th April
Dicken has had a look at some rules for a future Ragnar game. He brings them round and is still discussing them with Kendall when Spiller arrives. Spiller helpfully points out that clip art is out of fashion in the big wide world of the Internet and launches into possible e-solutions to the artistically challenged. Spiller would be well advised not to take up teaching, but then again that’s never stopped an IT teacher.
8.38 pm and Spiller reckons ‘Tigris Euphrates’ is playable in about forty minutes. Dicken dwells on his first turn. Spiller re-assesses. ‘Tigris’ is unquestionably the favorite Reiner game for this circle of gamers. It has a limited sense of history, but the counters and artifacts have good feel. What makes it, is the shape of the game and the potential for major swings in power. It doesn’t get stuck in predictable repetitions.
Spiller and Dicken quickly build twin Empires together on the Eastern edge of the map, whilst Kendall goes it alone on the Western margins. Kendall establishes a strong river base (blues), but is short of greens and blacks (whatever they may be). A Monument is built in each Empire. Spiller and Dicken begin to spar with each other. Kendall tries to look like someone not doing very well, but not the sort to tangle with.
Other games have started very differently with big punch-ups, more separate Empires, less co-operation. There’s a lot of variety to be had in a pretty limited board space. Furthermore, experience pays in ‘Tigris’ (Phil always gets a good stuffing when he visits) and Dicken (who owns the game) wins at ‘Tigris’ more frequently than in most other games he plays (is this a compliment?). At the moment, however he is struggling to remember the most basic of rules – or could it be he’s bluffing?
Spiller tells a longish joke about a dumb blonde quiz show or is it a dumb blonde contest? Anyhow, the punch-line is ‘Give her another chance!’ It’s a good joke and no doubt, you’ll enjoy it when you hear it. It doesn’t particularly help the forty minute playing time target, but then both Dicken and Spiller are showing masterly ability in starting their turns, laying tiles and then having a re-think.
Besides which, supper has arrived. Sandi (it’s at Kendall’s house tonight) has gone overboard. Cheese and biscuits and Doritos and dips. Spiller doesn’t appear to have eaten today and Dicken is not shy either. Kendall comments about ‘having a word…’ ‘What about cake?’ asks Dicken waggishly. ‘Sorry… but there are some chocolates….’
The war is hotting up and, as is often the case, no-one seems to be winning. Each offensive is countered and Empires skittishly change shape and structure. Parachuting Leaders in with a bag of Red tiles is proving less popular than using ‘Hands across the ocean’ (joining Empires with rival Leaders). It’s hard to determine whether this feels comfortably abstract in nature or whether there’s just enough ‘historicity’ gluing the system together. Whichever, it works.
Kendall is moaning about too many Blue tiles and Spiller and Dicken about too few - the variant rules concerning tile drawing have not yet been tried, but generally get a mention by someone about now. Strangely, no-one ever mentions them at the start of the game.
All the ‘Disaster’(?) tiles have been used – an unusual occurrence. Dicken disputes a rule and reaches for the rule book – another unusual occurrence.
Kendall joins two Empires together to sneak the final white cube and close the game. The Ragnar ceremony when revealing the final points tally provides each game with a fitting climax. Tonight Spiller and Kendall both have 31 (!!) points in their strongest colour - roll of drums. And in the lead in the second strongest colour with 20 points it’s Dicken - boo, hiss. And in the third …. Blah, blah, blah … it’s Dicken with 14 points – yawn, yawn. And finally (and relevantly) the fourth strongest colour … a three way tie on 13 points – a very unusual occurrence.
Rule check. Dicken wins on count-back. 10.10 pm.
Go to top of page
Games night..21st October ‘Tigris and Euphrates’ by Reiner Knitzia
Kendall has arrived early at Dicken’s in order to discuss Ragnar Brothers’ strategy. Sales are going well for ‘Viking Fury’ and other companies are showing some interest. Too much stock in the Ragnar lofts means that ‘Blooming Gardens’ and ‘Where there’s a Will’ need to be shifted more quickly. Kendall suggests E-Bay. Dicken is sceptical. A quick trawl of the auction house for ‘Toys and Games’ reveals an abundance of Monopoly hybrids and not much else - so perhaps not. Still, you can’t fault the boy for showing some initiative.
Spiller arrives and Dicken disappears to put daughter Lorna to bed. Spiller is sporting some new teeth. At £300 per tooth he’s had five of his front ones filed down to ‘triangles’ and then had some better looking substitutes stuck on instead. The only problem is that they don’t bite together evenly – something to do with Spiller’s jaw, but it’s the teeth that will need adjusting. Dicken and Kendall offer their services at a very reasonable rate.
The conversation moves onto other parts of the anatomy. Spiller (to the surprise of Kendall and Dicken) says he’s been to a ‘chiropodist’. He corrects himself before too much damage can be done – he means chiropractor. This is to sort out his back, which threatens to move inexorably to a stoop courtesy of long hours at the computer. The chiropractor has cracked bones, created pain and taken yet more of Spiller’s millions.
Kendall is still sporting his arm protector, designed to prevent exacerbating tennis elbow. By some circuitous route this leads the discussion to ‘attractive women in the workplace’. Both Kendall and Dicken report astonishingly low percentages – just 5%. Spookily, this is matched by the percentage of men to women. Spiller sympathises and recommends the internet.
So to the game – at last. The old favourite ‘T & E’ sits waiting. Dicken has also produced a reminder – in the form of a diagram – of a recommended variant. This amounts to there being a choice when drawing tiles. Tiles can be taken from the bag (as normal) and / or from one of three which are face-up. The idea is that this reduces the ‘luck of the draw’ element, yet balances this advantage with the disadvantage of other players knowing your preferred choice of tile. With one or two riders to this, the rules are otherwise the same.
The game begins and so does the beer and pringles fest. Dicken has provided two packets tonight, recommending that the ‘Barbecue’ flavour be taken before the ‘Hot and Spicy’.
Quite soon (certainly sooner than normal) Dicken builds a first monument. Then Kendall builds one and then Spiller. At this juncture each player has played only four or five other tiles besides the four used for the monuments. Kendall feels the dynamic of the game is already compromised and Dicken agrees. Spiller agrees, but suggests the game be played out to the end – at which point everyone will be able to say for certain, that which has just been said. For some perverse reason, Kendall and Dicken agree.
Care should always be taken when playing a tile laying game whilst consuming pringles and alcohol. There is a definite correlation between the satisfaction of laying a tile and that of popping a pringle.
Kendall builds a second and then a third monument. He has cannily refused to take the treasures available, which means his leaders (which are positioned next to temples bearing the treasures) enjoy protection from disasters. Spiller and Dicken need to attack to break Kendall’s strangle-hold. Attempts are made using both the ‘empire joining’ strategy and the ‘parachuting a leader in’ strategy. Kendall flukes some bold defensive play and chocks up the points.
Kendall announces that the pringles taste awful. Dicken points out the error of eating ‘Barbecues’ after ‘Hot and Spicys’. One in the eye for Kendall.
After forty minutes play it feels like they’ve been at it all night. Far too much thinking, vast amounts of over-planning. Only a couple of Disasters have been placed – another indication of something less entertaining. With a dozen tiles still to go Spiller throws in the towel. Kendall wins by a street.
Well done Reiner – truly an honorary Ragnar (on this occasion). Game fanatics may bemoan random drawing of tiles, just as they do rolling of dice. But take away the ‘chaos’ element (limited though it is) and you are left with control freak paradise. ‘T&E’ (and Ragnar Brothers) come from a tradition
in which you accept some slings and arrows of fortune, but count upon your own skill to negotiate these to prove you are still the better player (and presumably a much finer human being).
Not yet 10.00 p.m. and so time for chocolate finger biscuits, coffee and more low-life conversation. For example, ‘Old people and the need to conserve fossil fuels’.
Go to top of page