Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Then Mines of Gold, of Wealth Untold

A variety of games, most of them involving wealth, and one or two featuring gold mines...
We begin with some modern wealth...
Briefcase (thanks Jon)
It was great to see John back in our midst again, and as usual, he was able to bring something new and shiny for us to play – in this case, Briefcase. This is a deck-building game set in the modern business world, which shares a lot of similarities with other deck-builders such as Dominion, but has enough new elements to make it feel quite different. Players have a deck that is comprised of only 4 types of cards – Buy, Activate, Obstacle and Hire. These are used to purchase resources (Steel, Paper, Concrete and People) and buildings. The buildings are then activated by the players to give them extra cards and special abilities. Buildings provide points at the end of the game, as long as they have been activated.
As with many card games of this nature, the first thing to get to grips with is the iconography. Although not as mysterious as Race for the Galaxy, the icons did take a little working out at first.
The first few turns appeared to be fairly scripted, although maybe everyone was just following John’s example, as he was the old hand. Therefore, people and steel were collected to power everyone’s Power Stations to produce energy. Hire cards are used to essentially rent other players’ buildings at half the usual cost – the twist being that the cost is paid to the palyer themselves rather than the ‘bank’. For some reason, John and Paul both decided that Woody would be the fortunate recipient of all these free resources, despite the fact that he had the most buildings in his play area. Jon made some hurt, whimpering noises, but to no avail – his buildings remained unhired, and he was forced to plough a lone furrow. (Paul later admitted that he has a policy of not helping Jon in any game. If Paul wasn’t soon to become a father for the first time, there would be some choice words flying back in his direction…)
Anyway, the game started to pick up pace as everyone became more familiar with what was going on (and as a result of John receiving an SOS from his daughter…) and pretty soon the end game loomed (3 piles of resources, or the ‘Buy’ stack running out). Jon had the option to end the game, which would give just Woody a final turn, but would not allow hom to score much, or to allow another turn for all players. He chose the latter, which as it turned out, allowed John to score 7 points on his final turn and win the game. Jon scored 6 himself, and lost by a single point as a result of not having activated one of his buildings. Woody was also not far behind, but Paul was languishing at the back in last place – his evil machinations having come back to bite him on his not inconsiderable derriere…
John 20; Jon 19; Woody 17; Paul – a miserable 11

Now for Renaissance wealth...
Medici (thanks James)
Being late meant I was in the position of grabbing any position at a table that was needed players, and luckily a game of Medici was about to start with room for one more. I hadn't played this for 3 years, in fact since my very first evening at IBG... As luck would have it I somehow managed to win that game, and so my casual arrogance with that memory betrayed me as I pooh-pooh'd the offer to review the rules and just launched straight in... and proceeded to screw up the first round totally, lagging in last place on about 75 points while Gareth and Andy jumped ahead with around 120
The more astute readers might at this point marvel at the excessively high scoring in the first round... indeed... just who are these talented Medici players who can score 100 points in a single round ?

Ok, perhaps at this point I should mention that Gareth was responsible for reading the rules...

...and suddenly the penny drops.

So... after a pause... a review of the rules... and a re-scoring (10% from memory) of the first round we carried on. Personally I was still last, but feeling like I had been brought a 2nd chance.

And the 2nd round everything worked perfectly for me, and I picked up the 30 point max, plus 25 from goods... which launched me into 1st place with Tara 2nd and the others squabbling at the back.

To the 3rd and final round. My plan at this stage was to do nothing rash as I had a 25 point lead. Luckily Gareth and Barry had a disaster round as they were left at the end with no cards and only 1/2 filled holds... This cemented 4th and 5th place and despite some good scores from Tara and Andy my lead was unassailable. The battle for 2nd was close though, with Andy just squeaking it with a 20 point bonus for 1 of the goods. With 2 games in 3 years and 2 wins, I'm very much looking forward. to trying this game out again in 2015.
James 129, Andy 105, Tara 104, Gareth 91 and Barry 69

The legendary wealth of Moorish Spain comes next...
Granada (thanks James)
Some people would call this Alhambra with a proper board, Barry though was worried that a great game would be ruined by an unnecessary tweaking of the rules. However both Gareths, Barry and I decided to give it a go and see how it compared to its older cousin.

So to create Granada, take Alhambra, merge the boards into one proper board, change the walls for moats, simplify the scoring (all colours are the same scores and have the same tile distribution) and add some weird twist about double sided tiles. That’s it really.

It was the first time for Gareth (#2) and given this game punishes players who don't really get the concept of construction of the palace it's hard to win I think playing more experienced players. I was lucky to pick up initial tiles that all merged perfectly for a long moat, and by the time the first scoring came round was already on an 8 points bonus.

No one was choosing to select the other side of tiles, so that aspect of the new game was pretty much ignored, but by the 2nd scoring players were looking around to see where they could compete with others for each for the 9 types of buildings in their palaces. Again though experience worked and Gareth (#1) and I put together a bigger score with me taking a good lead after this round.

The game then carries on until all tiles are used from the bag. Gareth (#1) was in full catch up mode by now, and Barry was collecting some solid tiles. Gareth (#2) by this stage had probably realised where he had gone wrong and was struggling to put together a moat of any size.

I was lucky though, and picked up some tiles at the end to add to my moat and despite the initial scoring giving Gareth a momentary lead I had enough points in the tank for the end scoring to run away with the win. Barry almost pipped Gareth (#1) for 2nd place with some late scoring as well...
Good game (well I would say that...) , although Barry was not impressed with the differences made to Alhambra. Personally I think Alhambra is probably a better game out of the box, but this is a nicer package, and the simplified scoring helps a lot. The double sided tile thing though is a mess... should just ignore this for future games with the rule that tiles are randomly places meaning the distribution of buildings is random each game.

James 151, Gareth (#1) 128, Barry 123 and Gareth (#2) 85

Followed by some actual gold mines...
Oregon (thanks Jon)
Woody and Andy knew what they were doing, but Jon had only played once before a long time ago, so Woody gave a nice clear recap. Woody was also good enough to give some early game advice (take note Paul….) which was useful in helping Jon to build his coal mine next to his general store.
Andy started right in the middle of the board, whilst Woody managed to congregate several workers around some harbours in the South West corner.
Jon had picked up a couple of gold mines, and managed to build them next to one of Andy’s at the top of the map. He then placed a worker right in the middle of them, picking up 3 ingots in a single turn.
It was looking like Jon was going to end the game incredibly quickly, until a quick count-up revealed that 3 of the green meeples were missing. Nevertheless, he was still able to get them on the board in the next few turns and the game finished. Woody had a large lead at this point, but Jon had spent much of the game mining, and had racked up a massive 43 points in gold and coal, enough to overtake Woody and take the win.
The moral victory goes to Woody, though, for the generous strategic advice at the beginning!
An excellent 45 minute game – must play more often…
Jon 97; Woody 84; Andy 69

Medieval wealth next- from Baking, mainly.
Neill, Gareth and I played, with my taking 1st player. I adopted a 2 red 1 white 2 yellow placement, with Neil 2 red 2 white 1 yellow and Gareth 1 red 2 white 2 yellow. Initial cards were Tithe (steal yellow dice), Baker (earn money for yellow dice in the play area) and Archer (shoot at events).
I opened with Baker, Neil with Archer and Gareth with Tithe. Play continued with everyone using the cathedral and Gareth agriculture.

In round 2 Confession (+2 to each die in a group), Militia (yellow dice to red dice) and Hunting (red dice for influence) were revealed, along with The Resistance, an expansion event that causes players to become spies or resistance members depending on their secret identity... just kidding, it actually adds another red card and each turn wipes 2 cubes off each event. The ‘knock cubes off the cathedral’ event came out this turn and stayed around a bit, knocking 2 of Gareth’s cubes off.

Neil took Baker, Gareth used Tithe for four cubes on Militia and I used the Archer to shoot at the Resistance, only hitting twice on five dice.
Fortunately Neil was also shooting and he had better luck and chose to take out the Resistance since anything else would be lost to them next turn.
Turn 3 saw Pilgrimage (VPs for dice groups of any colour), Sculptor (yellow dice to VPs) and Banquet (VPs for most red dice in an area (need not be your area)). No one used Banquet as red dice were fairly evenly divided. Gareth used Tithe with Baker for 16 gold (11 gold profit) and I kept shooting at the events while Neil went Hunting and to Confession. Gareth had the money for Sculptor and I invested in Tithing and pushed another follower into the Red and White buildings.
During Turn 4 Neil shot down the ‘cubes off the Cathedral’ event which was now threatening his cubes, I was able to Tithe into Baker and then buy Sculptor and Neil and I put more cubes into the Cathedral.
Turn 5 saw more of the same with Gareth going on Pilgrimage. Secret identities were money (me) influence (Neil) and cubes in the cathedral (Gareth), with Neil managing to score most points on all three! Unfortunately don’t have an exact note of the scores but roughly...
Neill 45 Gareth 32 Philip 30

The wealth of Ancient Egypt...
Gareth, Neill and Tara embarked on this without a cloth bag for the pieces so we had to use a shopping bag. First Kingdom went smoothly with me on least Pharaohs and Neill on most Pharaohs, a patter repeated for the rest of the game. Tara and Neill had Niles and floods, I did not. We all managed a civilisation tile but Tara had three.
In the second kingdom my suns were very low, resulting in repeated calls of Ra, which only served to cement Neil and Tara’s lead, Tara collecting 4 different civilisation tiles this round. I picked up a couple of disasters, killing pharaohs (whom I had too few of to matter) and floods and niles. I did however manage to collect all 8 monument types, shame they don’t score yet...
Third kingdom my suns were almost as low so more calls of Ra and I managed to collect 4 of one type of monument. Neil also had all 8 monument types, Tara only had 3 and a set of 3 but nevertheless won, helped by her most suns to my least suns. Scores approximate.
Tara 52 Neil 40 Me 25.

Ok, this one isn't about wealth...

Skulls and Roses
Reversing my usual tactics I decided to bid heavily, resulting in an early flip to the Roses side and the loss of three of my cards. Down to a rose, I switched tactics and pretended to have only a skull left, passing except when forced to bid, and only bidding one then. Meanwhile Woody was also on Roses but successive bids failed on Neil’s repeated skulls, including 2 bids by Neil! Someone eventually turned my rose over, forcing me back into the bidding. James made a successful bid and it seemed to be between him and Woody, with Woody winning the final round by an immediate maximum bid.
Woody won, Jon, James, Tara, Gareth, Neil, Philip lost.

P.S “Then Mines of Gold of Wealth Untold” is a quotation from Utopia Unlimited  by Gilbert and Sullivan

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