No thanks!, Kontor and Snow Tails session

After 3 weeks of absence, I returned to the game sessions. It was a nice to see two new faces. Moreover, I finally got a chance to play Kontor, a team game, something we don't play at these sessions: it's mostly individual competitive games, with the occasional cooperative game thrown in, like Shadows over Camelot.

No Thanks box coverBut first, André, Manuela and I started with a game of No Thanks!while we waited for more players to arrive.  It's the most minimalist game I know: in every turn you have exactly the same binary choice, either pay a chip or take the numbered card on the table with all the chips paid so far. The crux is that while chips increase your final score (by one meager point), cards diminish it, by the number shown on the card (ouch!). To this add a press-your-luck factor: if you get a sequence of cards, only the lowest card counts (negatively), but some cards have been randomly removed before the game starts. All this, put together, makes for a fast, fun, filler game with a nice nastiness factor, because you can make your opponents pay for a card that is worth zero negative points to you but many negative points to them. It's the kind of game I play recklessly, just for the fun of it. The result was as expected: André won with about -25 negative points (he had just one sequence!), Manuela had -40 something (she managed to get a long sequence from 3 up to 10) and I had -87!

Kontor box coverAs we were finishing, Paul, a new member who had come for the first time last week, arrived and joined us. We played Kontor, which had been sitting unplayed on my shelf for a very long time. It's a game for two that can also be played by two teams of two players each. By random draw, André and Manuela played against Paul and me. The game is about laying cards to build the Amsterdam harbour with its canals and warehouses, and getting the majority of goods in more warehouses than the opponents, whereby only the 5 largest warehouses will count. The game has various interlocking mechanisms that allow you to play constructively (i.e. expanding and scoring warehouses where you have the majority) or destructively (e.g. by flooding the opponents' warehouses, or by encircling a warehouse with canals so that it remains small and doesn't get scored in the end). You can read more details about tactics in this quite good review that got me interested in buying the game (I was looking for a game about Amsterdam at the time).

In the end, the game lived up to my expectations: it's certainly different from our usual fare, not just because of the team-playing aspect, but also because it mixes area control with the construction of those very same areas! Clever game. Moreover, it features nice graphics and wooden coins, and is a tense game to the very end: Paul and I were leading the whole game, but in the few last turns, Manuela and André got the majority in 3 large warehouses, while we had only 2! André didn't enjoy the game too much. He said it was OK, a bit like dominos, you depend on the random draw of cards and then try to put them in the best places. What a nerve to say that! To the despair of Manuela, he took quite some time in deciding which card to play and where, studying the harbour attentively and calculating moves in advance. I wonder if he engages that intensively with a game of dominoes 😉 To make him justice, André also remarked he found the discussions between team-mates interesting: you're trying to decide upon the best move but without giving hints to the opponents about their best counter-moves. I guess that's why Manuela and André discussed their moves in Swiss-German...

To end the evening, we started a game of Snow Tails, which Peter C. had brought. None of us had played it before, so I read the rules while André setup the components. I must confess I thoroughly disliked the rule book: it's full of tongue-in-cheek comments that add nothing to the explanation of the rules and just make them more verbose and annoying, especially when you want to get through them as quickly and as straightforward as possible. Fortunately, the game is much better than the rule book. It's a race game with a clever mechanism to advance and steer your sled. André decided to make the race course more interesting, by using the advanced board modules, full of trees and narrow passages. The result was that after about half an hour into the game we were still discussing the finer points of movement rules and hadn't reached half-way of the race.

At another table, Jackson (also a new member) thoroughly beat David, Paul B., Huggy and Big Nick in Mare Nostrum. Beginner's luck or has David found his match? Stay tuned for the next sessions... I had to give Paul B. a lift back home, so Peter C. (who had just finished Chicago Express with Matt, Keith, Ester and Julian) took my place in Snow Tails and I left. At that point, Paul was leading the race by a long shot, just entering the half-way curve, and André was in 2nd place, followed by me and Manuela. I wonder who won the race in the end...?


  1. by Pete, on February 25 2009 @ 10:53 am
    Hi Michel,
    Paul maintained his lead up to the point where we all had to leave, so whilst unfortunately we didn’t finish we would have been hard placed to catch him. For beginners you did pick a difficult course, happy to bring it again if you want another go (though I’m doing BSG this week).

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