Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Full steam ahead...

Players: Barrie, Ian R, Jon, Gareth, James (minus beard), Philip, Iain C, Johan

The first 5 through the door decided to break out a quick little starter...

No Thanks!
This is a very simple little bidding game where the object is to take cards of lower values than anyone else, and preferably build up some runs in your hand. It is much more difficult to get consecutive numbers with 5 players, making the auctions reasonably tense. James ran out of bidding chips twice, Philip seemed to be able to pick up less cards than anyone else, and both Gareth and Jon were disappointed at the turn of the fnal card to realise that the cards that they needed to complete a sequence were not in the stack. Ian generally kept under the radar and tied with Philip for the win (even having the same number of chips left). 
A fun way to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of the evening.
Philip 44, Ian 44, Gareth 54, Jon 61, James 78

Iain had now arrived, and Johan was expected imminently, so before the ‘main events’ of the evening, we went exploring for rubies and diamonds….

This is a great ‘push-your-luck’ filler, which can support up to 8 people (in fact, the more the merrier). Gareth had a fantastic opportunity to grab fistfuls of gems when he was left alone in the second mine - but got too greedy and lost the lot. Mines 3 and 4 ended before they had even started, and it all went down to the wire in the final mine, with Barrie just picking up enough gems to pip Iain and James to the post.
Gareth’s parting comment? “I nearly won that!” (hmm…except you didn’t…you came last, with zero gems…)
Barrie 18, Ian 15, James 15, Jon 14, Ian 13, Philip 7, Gareth 0 

By now our token Dutchman, Johan, had arrived so it was time for the main course. Iain had brought along Age of Steam and managed to recruit 3 other willing (?) volunteers to join him. The rest of us decided to spend the evening building power stations to provide Germany with much-needed electricity.

Power Grid
James was new to this game, so we picked a fairly open set-up on the Germany map. At the beginning of the game, 2 or 3 large power plants made their way onto the current market, and Gareth tried the interesting strategy of pretty much bankrupting himself to get 2 “sixers” during Step 1. Jon also picked up a “four”, which enabled him to start building cities quite quickly. James played the newbie strategy of buying lots of power plants, and Johan positioned himself in the middle of the map, which left him with some expensive connection costs.
Step 2 occurred without too much of a ‘stall’, but suddenly there were no large power plants appearing in the current market. Gareth’s strategy of buying big plants early seemed to be paying off, until Johan suddenly played his ‘masterstroke’ and bought a coal-powered plant simply to hoard all the coal and leave Gareth powerless. Jon was also heavily reliant on coal, but had enough stocks of it to power-up a couple more times.
Step 3 began with a mad rush to buy big power stations, but with only enough fuel for one more turn, Jon decided to try to end the game by building to 17 cities – and managed it with only 10 elektros spare. Despite having the largest potential, Gareth was still impotent due to the dutch coal mountain, and could only power 10 cities (although had power plants enough to power 16). Despite buying lots of plants, James still ended in a very creditable 2nd place, only 1 behind Jon.
And the evil Dutchman? Last seen buried up to his neck in fossil fuels……..
Jon 15, James 14, Johan 13, Gareth 10 

Age of Steam
(Thanks to Barrie for the info on how this game played.)
Other than Iain, no-one had played this "classic" as he put it, so the others elected him as mentor and took the plunge. AOS is one of those games where the rule-book would break your toe if you dropped it, but when playing it took just a few minutes to grasp the idea, and to realise that it would take a lot longer to master!
Early game play was a little stunted, as everyone was learning the ropes and following Iain's lead, but a couple of early strategies began to surface. Philip went for the 'build all you can' approach at one stage, leaving him track rich but cash poor, whilst Ian was more measured and took an accountant's view (well, he is an accountant) and built a steady empire which fitted together quite well. Iain also went for the steady approach, but obviously benefitted from having played the game before. Barrie, on the other hand, went wild, spreading himself around and generally testing the game's mechanics to near-destruction - maximum shareholders, lots of track but sadly not enough income (the AOS equivalent of the credit crunch.)
The end game was close, with 3 players all in with a chance, but Iain narrowly edged Ian out of first place by 1 point.
After the dust had settled, it was revealed that Barrie had taken Iain's advice at the beginning of the game to "not bunch together too much" to the extreme, and took a little corner all to himself, where he was promptly hemmed in, much to his chagrin.
After a steward's enquiry, it was also admitted by Iain that he had taught 2 rules wrong. As he is relatively new to the group, we will reserve judgement on whether this was an honest mistake, or if he was trying to "do a Gareth"....
Iain 79(60 income+19 track), Ian 78(54+24),Philip 64(45+19), Barrie 42(21+21)

And that was it for another week – both of those brain-burners had taken us up to closing time.
Don’t forget to check out our new Guild on BGG.

See you next week!


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