Wednesday, 9 May 2012

"Geography's Just Physics Slowed Down with Trees on Top"

Coloretto (thanks Paul)
There was a game of Coloretto at the start of the evening as five people were waiting for the rest. I can't recall exactly who played or what the points were, but I think it was a three way tie for the lead on 21 points between you, me and Soren. I could be wrong.

The focus shifts to a heavier game...
Ora et Labora
I was eager to play with my new copy of this, and I found three people new to the game and willing to be taught, Noel, Neil and Ian.
After a somewhat laborious rules explanation I kicked off with the opening moves in brewing beer. Noel copied me by building the Priory, Neil took money and bought some seaside and Ian built the Spinning Mill and used the revenue to expand his holding by a strip.
My beer brewing strategy was reasonably successful. Noel beat me to the Stone Merchant and Neil beat me to the Brewery, but I was still the first to brew beer and I brewed quite a lot of it. I then switched to Whisky production, distilling 10 barrels Whiskey by building the Whisky Distillery. However my alcoholic efforts meant I fell behind in the settlement phase, building a less valuable settlement in the first opportunity available and also that I had to spend more on landscapes later in the game.

Meanwhile Neil had made good use of the False Lighthouse and Houseboat and was already laying the foundations for his grid like array of settlements. Ian tried several different courses, building the Alehouse, Scriptorium and Builder’s Market .. Noel developed a line in Cloister buildings with the Cloister Courtyard, Cloister Workshop and Chapel.
At this point I rather lost my strategic direction- I had a lot of whiskey but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I turned Beer and Whiskey into Chalices at Noel’s Chapel and then turned a Chalice into 14 goods by building the Portico. Then I decided to boost my settlements by building the Castle. Unfortunately the Castle and new settlements required quite a lot of clearing of bog and forest spaces, which slowed me down. Fortunately I had plenty of straw left over for use at Neil’s Slaughterhouse, where I was able to turn 10 Sheep into 10 Meat for a gain of 30 food.
Noel and Ian were now focusing on making Vp goods. Ian built the Quarry and Filial Church, giving him Stone enough for the Round Tower and Vps enough to use it for a Wonder. Noel pursued a more direct route of steadily making ceramics and metal out of clay and stone.
Neil had meanwhile perfected his grid system, sometimes buying buildings just to fit them in the gaps. His strategic focus gave him a clear victory over the rest of us.
Neil 221 Philip 205 Ian 191 Noel 185
Elsewhere the game was more urbanised...

Sunrise City (thanks Paul)
Soren had become a board game pre-production backer with Sunrise City, from Clever Mojo games. He'd taken delivery by courier the day before, played it at London On Board the night before, and seemed more than happy to play again with us folk further to the west.

If I were to summarise this game in one short sentence, I'd say 'think Sim City meets Carcassonne'. Most gamers out there will then realise that it's all about building a city, and the main mechanism for doing this is by laying tiles. Our first observation on unpacking the box was that the quality of the components was outstanding. Two types of tiles which were both easy to follow and also really chunky, plus nice big wooden pieces and nice graphics on the cards also really helped the game.

Of course there is more to it than a tile laying, city building game with nice bits, but as the theme was represented very well, the game was easy to follow and Soren's explanation left us without many questions and eager to break ground.

The game is played over three rounds, with players choosing three roles (property developer, mayor, union boss, etc) at the start of the game, with one role being used by each player in each round. Each round involves revealing the roles, deciding who the start player for the round is, 'zoning' (playing tiles into the empty space to dictate which buildings could be built there), bidding on where you'd like to build and doing the actual building.

Points are mainly, but not exclusively, scored in the building phase and the number of points depends on the height of the building and the numbers on the building. There are extra points for ground floor buildings to the players who held the right to build there - not necessarily to the tile layer. One very important feature of the game, is that 'stars' (victory points) are gained every time a player scores ten points, however if the player manages to land their scoring cone EXACTLY on the tenth space, two more stars are awarded. Therefore, as Soren very fairly explained at the start, these extra points can triple your score, and will almost certainly dictate who wins the game.

The first round saw James II ensure he played first, which he was the try and do throughout the game. Soren showed us how it was done, getting himself into a good early lead by hitting a 'ten' when he was only just starting, which he managed to keep for the rest of the game.

Soren's tips at the start clearly underlined the importance of the 'ten' scoring, which implied a subtle approach - i.e if you're none away from the end then it's better to score six than ten, as then you can get the other three some other way. However this goes against most game playing instinct and both James II and Paul, in their tussle for second place, took a while to twig that this really was the most important part of the game. Only during the latter two rounds did they both catch on, when bigger ranges of scores were available and therefore it seemed easier to hit the tens and pick up the bonus stars.

Paul started to pull away from James II at the start of the last round, and made some ground on Soren by hitting a few tens in a row, but the lead was too big.

At the end of the game, all players agreed that they could have easily enjoyed playing another round or two. My verdict was that it was such a smooth playing game, which really stuck to the theme very well, with a lot of scope for variation, and call for some serious thinking without causing me to get a headache, that I'd give it a huge 'thumbs up' and happily play many more times. Soren - please bring again.

Score: Soren: 23, Paul: 21, James II: 10
Another urban game followed...
Lords of Vegas (thanks Paul)
Soren then left for the evening, so James II and Paul decided to see what Lords of Vegas was like as a two player game. Paul had played many times before and wasn't at all sure how it'd pan out. James II had never played before but was keen to try it.

The games resulted in a huge ding dong battle, with big swings one way and then the other. Casinos were built with blood sweat and tears, only to be swiped by the other player, then back and forth many times.

Paul took the first points, but James II got a green casino going which came up a few times and took what appeared to be an unassailable lead. Somehow Paul managed to take this over and build it into a nine-tile enterprise, so on the back of that clawed his way back into it.

Other casinos were then taken by Paul or James II by the 'only card' that could have done it (usually with a 'six' on the die' being drawn). A lot of money was spent on rerolling dice, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

Overall it was a great game and didn't suffer at all by only two players being at the table. The only thing that we noticed afterwards, perhaps understandably, is that no trading took place at all. But the game didn't seem to be any the worse for it.

With the final card scoring the strip, Paul was in the lead but James II had more casinos touching the middle, so the final outcome did come down to the last turn of the card. As it turns out, Paul managed to hold out for victory, but it was mighty close.
Paul: 40, James: 36

P.S. “Geography’s just Physics slowed down with Trees on Top” is a quotation from “Every Major’s Terrible”, which is a modern spoof on “A Modern Major-General”, which is found in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. You can find the spoof at

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