Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The One Without a Gilbert & Sullivan Title.........

Players: James, Paul, Dan, Jon, Noel, Neil, Andy

With Philip away for a few weeks, Jon has taken over blogging duties in his absence.
There was a welcome return tonight to Noel, who has spent a couple of months 'working' with the Team GB athletics squad in the US and Portugal. Apparently he smuggled a lot of games home from the US in the kit bag....

Tonight, we were sharing the room with the 'Golden Jubilee Organising Committee', who managed to lure Barrie over to their end of the room - so he spent the evening discussing street parties and cream teas, whilst we engaged in much less frivolous occupations......

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers
James and Jon were the early-birds, soon joined by Neil, and so James brought out this quick little Friedman Friese number that I think that he’d picked up from The Works sale recently.
The rules pretty much fit on the back of a stamp, but the game is probably all the better for it. It’s a card-driven race game (a la Ave Caesar) where players are loggers, riding their logs downstream to the finish. I’m surprised that it hasn’t got more press, because, as race games go, it’s pretty good!
James decided to spice things up by playing with aboard that contained multiple extra logs on it as obstacles. This increased the interest/difficulty, but also unfortunately the game-length, and what should have been 30 minutes turned into the best part of an hour.
Anyway, Neil turned out to be the best log-rider, closely followed by James, whilst Jon had been rather distracted by everyone else turning up and wanting to play Railroad Tycoon…….
1st – Neil; 2nd – James; 3rd – Jon

Railroad Tycoon (Rails of Europe)
With the sudden arrival of Dan, the proposed 6-player game on the Eastern US map was shelved, in favour of a 4-player game on the Europe map. It was new to Neil and Noel, Andy had played once before and Jon twice. It was decided not to play with the rail barons cards, as there was certainly enough for the newbies to think about without also having secret objectives.
Noel won the auction to start the game, and immediately built the Paris to Amsterdam link, gaining him a bonus point after he had delivered the first cube.
Jon also chose Amsterdam to Paris, and then issued several shares to continue on down to Marseilles to claim the first Major Line bonus. Neil started laying track out of Berlin, and Andy also started off in Germany.
Noel soon found himself shut out, and transferred his railroad down to Spain and Portugal. It was here that he picked up several coloured cubes to also claim the 4-point Passenger lines bonus. Andy was quickly upgrading his engine, and soon received the Speed Record bonus for a 3-link delivery.
Jon was planning to drive down into Italy, but Andy got there first, so he picked up a hotel in Milan instead, to at least earn a few extra points as the game progressed. Neil built down into Prague and then took out a City Charter for that location, which limited Andy and Jon’s expansion potential somewhat.
Noel had decided that Spain wasn’t profitable enough on its own, so drove his railroad West across expensive mountain ranges, ending up in Milan to take the 7-point Major Line bonus.
As the end-game approached, Andy was a fair way ahead on the score-track, although had issued 11 shares, and was running out of cubes to ship along his impressive North-South network. Neil was lagging behind somewhat, having only upgraded to a level 2 engine, which was limiting his delivery potential. He did however break out from Berlin, and built track all the way to Moscow, giving him a Major Line bonus of his own. Had he had time to upgrade his engine further, this could have proved to be a highly profitable line.
Jon had almost completely run out of cubes to ship, and was a fair way behind Andy and Noel on the score-track. However, he had managed to issue only 4 shares and had a large income. Therefore he was able to make a sudden dash from Vienna to Constantinople to join up the entire route to Paris and claim the 8-point Major Line bonus. On the same turn, he also picked up the Service Bounty for Constantinople, and his score was starting to hop along.
Noel had built North to Brest, only to have Andy do the same thing and steal one of his cubes. Jon triggered the end of the game, and having just upgraded to a level 5 engine, was able to make 10 points of deliveries in the last round. Andy was also shipping high-value goods, but Neil didn’t quite have the engine power to maximise his score at the end.
Although Andy was just ahead on the score-track, Jon had still only issued 4 shares, which meant that he had won by 8 points (not a huge amount in this game). Having scored 25 points in the last 2 rounds, Jon would probably have languished in third place if the game had finished a little earlier.
All in all, a fine way to spend 2 hours, and the consensus appeared to be that this would be a welcome game to try again. Just as well, considering that Jon has now invested in the England & Wales expansion too……
Jon 57; Andy 49; Noel 41; Neil 30

Ticket to Ride India (thanks Paul for this report)
Whilst the 'heavy' train game was chugging along at the other table, James, Dan and Paul chose to maintain the theme, but with a lighter feel - Ticket To Ride: India.
The subtle twist on this flavour of the well established series is that bonus points are available at the end of the game for all routes that can be connected by two exclusive routes (exclusive means not sharing any track). The more routes that each player has completed in this vein, the bigger the bonuses at the end.
And of course, the map is India, although pre-partition, so India included what is now Bangladesh and Pakistan.
As it was a new game I started off aiming to get some of the 'new' bonuses, by opting to keep two of my longest routes and joining them up in a big circle. Within a few turns I had given up hope of this as James and Dan were already in the process of fighting over the middle of the board and I could see that if I didn't get down quickly then I'd miss out on on of my key cities in the middle of the country.
The game is played with all 45 train pieces, so all players had a chance to collect more routes, which they all did at least once. I kept to the Western half of the board, whilst James' and Dan's routes appeared to snake over most of the subcontinent.
At the end Dan was the only player to have any circular track laid down on what had become a very congested board. However after the last turn and it was time to tot up the scores, Dan confessed that he'd made a howler, but confusing Calcutta for Calicut he'd routed quite a few of his trains incorrectly, including his prized circular, bonus winning track. He did still manage to get the longest route, but James ran out the winner with Paul in second spot.
James: won, Paul: second, Dan: Third

Ad Astra (thanks James for this one)
Another new game (in fact I played all new games last week) chosen after a long deliberation by Paul, Dan and myself... mainly cause the box looked the coolest I think. In retrospect though despite the space-themed look the game itself is quite euro in the way it plays.
Each round players choose 4 from 11 available actions that are placed anywhere in slots 1-12 and once completed these actions are carried out in order 1-12. Actions can be to explore, to build, to trade, to mine or to score points... and thats about it really... not too hard a game mechanic-wise to pick up, but, as we discovered, trying to work out how to play well (for most of us) wasn't so straightforward.
Paul and Dan were mining Ore's early on, while I was trying to get water and food to enable more colonies. Paul was building factories and Dan cottoned on early to the idea that the aim was to score points and not just colonise places so we was working on terraforming planets. Already in the 1st round Dan played a scoring card which didn't quite go to plan, but was a sign of the way he was going to play the game.
By mid game I had finally got a handle on how things were working but was struggling to have the right resources at the right time. Paul has spread factories across several star systems and aced the 2nd scoring round having the most buildings, but Dan had been steadily picking up points from his terraforming and took the 3rd scoring round to jump into a large lead...
Paul and Dan also made good use of the trading card to swap a few items around... this works similar to Settlers, but played with open hands so that deals are more easy to visualise. Might be interested to try this in settlers sometime perhaps ?
Dan and myself both decided it might be fun to collect a few alien technologies around this stage, and I lucked into a +10 end of game point bonus which turned out to be quite useful.
By now Dan was trying to bring things to a close, while myself and Paul still seemed to be getting more fun out of building stuff, and by obtaining points... I mean whats the point of a space colonising game if you can't fly spaceships around settling new planets, right?
Finally Dan triggered another scoring round based on the number of resources in hand and took another large score to scoot him past the 50 point victory post, with Paul and me still only about 1/2 way...
I think we all liked the game, but given the theme is seemed to lack something for me, felt a bit dry for a space theme where you're expecting something a bit more pizazz-y. Dan bemoaned the ability to take your spaceship and destroy other peoples colonies... which is all you need to know about Dan :)... and the game would benefit if there was some way to directly interact with opponents... although this might extend the play time out by another hour which creates its own problems...
Dan 50, James 34, Paul 28... (or something like that... the 10 point bonus pushed me into 2nd place which is all I really remember...)

Pitch Car Mini
10.30pm and everyone (except Andy – boo!) was keen to hang around for a final game of something not too taxing. And this game fitted the bill perfectly. We played 3 laps, and pretty much all that I can remember is that Paul won in the pink car. Oh – and that Neil spent more time looking for his car on the floor than on the track.

And that was all we had time for. And I'm sure that the Golden Jubilee street party will be all the better thanks to Barrie's expert input..........

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