Monday, 13 August 2012

"For He Can Prophesy"

No Thanks
Four games of No Thanks were played over the course of the evening. All involved Philip, Rufus and Sophie and one involved Woody as well. Unfortunately we neglected to take a note of the scores of the games, which was a pity as some remarkable runs saw some very low scoring, one player making -5 on one hand, with a run from the 14 to the 3. Rufus and Sophie were quicker to take cards than Philip, with Woody somewhere in between.

No, it isn’t a game about Olympic gold medallists...
It was 10pm and 3 became 4 as Jon’s mate Calum unexpectedly turned up. A good opportunity to have a go at the much overlooked China, a great area-majority game that plays in under 45 mins.
This was new to Woody and Calum, and James had only played a couple of times before in the dim and distant past. As usual, the emissary scoring is a bit hazy until you finish the game and see how it actually works, so players mostly focussed on scoring regions and roads.
Woody had a mammoth road that no-one apart from Jon seemed to want to stop. James was moaning about being picked on (again….) but seemed to be doing ok with the region scoring. Calum also had a decent road network, and started toying with emissaries too. Jon had no roads, but was dumping several emissaries, hoping for a nice bonus at the end of the game. Woody and Calum had placed their fortifications wisely (on their roads), and received a nice double-points bonus.
It always surprises how quickly this game goes – the deck went through twice in no time at all, and when the dust had settled, Calum’s mixed strategy of regions, roads and emissaries had won the day. Although, maybe everyone had just been nice on the new boy…..!
Calum 48; Woody 46; James 41; Jon 34
From China to bulls...

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15 minutes to go and this ever-popular (amongst some people!) filler came out. New to Calum, but that hadn’t stopped him in the last game…
Having 4 players leaves you with less safety margins, and with most players seemingly having low cards, it was a tense affair.
Jon and Calum picked up the fewest bulls heads (with Calum scoring the magical zero), whilst Woody and James had bulls heads coming out of their ears (an interesting mental image..)
Calum 0; Jon 2; Woody 24; James 24
Back in time, both in theme and circumstance...

Philip, Rufus and Sophie played this neat Egyptian auction game. I had played before and explained the rules to the others. In the first epoch I had a good start with 4 civilisation tiles, most Pharoahs, and some gold, while Rufus accumulated huge numbers of monument tiles- I think he had seven different types of monument before the first epoch was over, an achievement even more impressive because of the speed which the Ra! Tiles came out. Sophie had some God tiles and a little of everything else.

The second epoch saw Rufus pick up his eighth type of monument and a pharaoh killing disaster as well as several Niles and a flood- Sophie and I also picked up Niles and floods but this was an even shorter epoch than the last one and both of us failed to spend all our Sun tiles.
For the third and final epoch I maintained my lead in Pharoahs and found a flood for my many Niles, while Rufus gathered 3 Civlisation tiles and the highest total value of Suns. I had lowest total Suns, but I was nevertheless the winner. Scores are approximate only.
Philip 54 Rufus 48 Sophie 40

Philip Rufus and Sophie again for this rather different type of bidding game- players bid how many cards in each suit they think will be played, earning points for successful predictions. Although players start with 8 cards each they pass cards to their right-hand opponent at intervals throughout each hand.
We were all new to the game and I was certainly pretty bewildered, simply playing my longest suit to avoid committing myself.
The four suits are Sky, Crystal Ball, Tea Leaves and Palmistry, btw- in keeping with the divination theme. Some bids are worth double or triple points- because they are particularly unlikely. We were pretty good at bidding roughly the right numbers- a near miss gets  you 1 VP, a wider miss is worth -1 VP and a precise guess is 3 VPs. Not many 3 VPs were scored over the course of the three hands- so Sophie’s triple point correct guess in the second hand was a pretty good sign she would win the game. As indeed it proved...although once again no one kept score!

Santa Cruz
The same trio now ventured into Santa Cruz, aided by James’ elegant rules explanation. The game is a bit of an exploration exercise in the first half, combined with careful positioning for your VP cards. Then in the second half almost all locations are visible so it is more of a points optimisation exercise. There’s also a bit of deckbuilding- four prebuilt decks are available at the start, then midgame you change decks.
I had the roads deck, together with a scoring card for gold, a scoring card for settlements on rivers, and the “volcanoes erupt” scoring card, which is unique in destroying buildings and giving out negative VPs. I was able to score fairly even on the rivers and make sure I wasn’t hurt by the erupting volcanoes, but Sophie had all the gold so she benefited from my last scoring card. Sophie and Rufus were indeed generally more successful in scoring for fishes, wood, grain, wood and grain, four houses, and so on. I entered the second half of the game in last place.
Fortunately for me that meant I benefited from the game’s catch up mechanism, allowing me to choose my deck and go first. We were each dealt an extra scoring card before choosing decks- I drew positive volcanoes, so I picked my old deck again and discarded the “volcanoes erupt” scoring card – face down of course. Rufus chose the rivers deck and Sophie the ships.
Since I could see everything I was able to sail up the main river with my double move card, straight into the volcano area, while side-tracking a little by road to pick up gold, wood and grain. Rufus copied my route but had to travel by road as I was blocking the river spaces. Sophie concentrated on the edge of the island with her ships. Rufus achieved his 5 settlements connected by road scoring card and then discovered he couldn’t move- he only had river cards left and no river spaces he could move to. Final scoring reflected this...
Philip 127 Sophie 125 Rufus 105
Earlier in the evening, on another table...

Santa Cruz
In lieu of actually being on holiday, Woody, Jon and myself decided to spend Wed evening exploring a small island... interestingly the only Santa Cruz that shows up on googlemaps is a region of California, so despite sounding like a good name for an island it's nothing of the sort.

It's a simple game, you all have a slightly different deck of cards (7)
showing roads, rivers and ships. Also 3 distinct scoring cards. On your turn, you can play any card. A scoring card triggers a scoring round (for all players), while one of the other card enables you to explore further. After all cards are played, you do the same again, but with (more or less) the same scoring cards, so this time players are aware of what might be coming up and can explore with that in mind.

As a first game for everyone progress was a little slow. Jon was darting around the perimeter of the island, while Woody and myself were rushing inland. The scoring cards for me were all based on particular resources (discovered via explorarion), while Jon had one for coastal regions. Woody had the dreaded volcano card giving negative points to anyone building on the lucrative (but risky) volcano areas. During the first round Woody and Jon seemed to score well, and both were picking up lots of bonus bird tiles while I didn't take any.

So to the 2nd round. Here a lot of information, previously hidden, was not available. I was lucky to get a scoring card giving positive points for volcanos which lead my strategy to buld on those areas hoping others would think it was a foolish plan. Jon took the scoring cards I had which didn’t leave him many options.

This time around I made a beeline for the volcano areas (in a somewhat obvious manner), while woody focused on coastal areas (preferably with fish). Jon was feeling squeezed a little with the deck he had.

After a few turns it was clear that Woody and myself were getting a comfy lead on Jon, and as the last few cards were played I'd managed to push ahead... but Woody had a enough birds to open an aviary and this would settle the game... Nice game, not very deep, but enough going on to keep things interesting, and a nice change of pace at half time when the game presents a slightly different set of challenges for the 2nd round of exploration.

Jon 138... James 145... Woody and his harem 149.
P.S “For he can prophesy” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sorceror”

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