Wednesday, 30 January 2013

"In Ancient Times"

“In Ancient Times”
On Cornwall’s pleasant mountains...
Tinners’ Trail (Thanks Neil)
Tom had mentioned in the week he was bringing this together with a friend from NCT, Ravi. Both went down very well! It’s another game in my collection that I had not played so that was good and Jon had also reserved a spot which he duly took. Martin Wallace came up with the game visiting his in-laws in Cornwall and discovering the world of tin and copper mines. He provides a good amount of information about it all in the rulebook which reads very smoothly.
Taking place over 4 rounds each player has 10 lumps of time to ‘spend’ on a good variety of actions, Wallace says he took the time and turn order mechanic from ‘Thebes’. As your actions you can build a mine (2 time units), mine the ore (1), sell a pasty! (1), and somewhat crucially, get some assistance; an additional miner (1), a boat (2), and adit (3) [it’s a Cornish invention, an additional tunnel used to pump water out of the mine ], a steam pump (1), and in later rounds a train is available (2). Now these are useful because you can only mine 2 cubes at once, and the cost is dependent upon the amount of water in the mines, so influencing those variables is key to mining efficiently.
Once all players have taken their actions it’s time to sell all of your production. The prices vary each round based on the throw of the dice, with copper ranging from £2 to £10, tin from £4 to £7. This makes each round different in your efforts to maximise outputs. And then another clever mechanism is used to convert your cash into Victory Points, which Wallace acknowledges he stole from ‘Princes of Florence’. You have to make investments outside of Cornwall, the returns in the early rounds are good, but these reduce on an ever decreasing sliding scale. So how much to invest? You need cash to pay for mines - sold by auction - and to mine too, so cash is precious for the future.
We learnt that the hard way when the first round of auctions where colossally high and there was little money for mining… so we started again.
In our game there were high levels of water, dictated by the throw of the dice at the start of the game, and thus it was expensive to mine. We all picked up several mines in the first two rounds and Jon and I were able to make some large investments as a result of using miners and ships. Tom continued expanding his empire and picked up some useful adits. Ravi decided to prospect in the north of Cornwall, reasonable well at first with again dice determining the amount of ore and water in the mines. Until disaster struck, his third venture was the perfect disaster, he found a mine empty of ore and completely flooded, thankfully he hadn’t paid much for it but it certainly stymied his efforts.
After the third round it was pretty close, Tom was starting to invest well and I managed to close the gap on Jon to just 2 VPs; all to play for. Prices were good for the last round. I managed to clear all the water from one of my three mines which meant mining was free! Jon then kindly let me pick up the last adit as well and so I was fortunate enough to be able to add more ore into the mines. With everyone maximising their mining it was looking close, but Jon invested wisely and managed to creep further ahead. Tom had also managed to close the gap on us so it was pretty tight all in all.
I think we all enjoyed it more than we had expected to and Tom and I were really looking forward to it. The theme is good, and managing to have pasties in a game about mining has got to be impressive. There’s an excellent range of mechanics that seem to be perfectly tuned for a fascinating game. Mr Wallace, what a top job you’ve done on this one, can’t wait to play it again.
Scores: Jon 141; Neil 118; Tom 109; Ravi 100

Out to sea...
Fleet (thanks Neil)
My third play, and this time Tom knew the rules inside out, he’s been playing it a lot with Mrs Tom. As such his rules explanation was thorough, Gareth II and Ravi were both new to the game.
In the early rounds Tom picked a very useful Processing Vessel licence, Ravi a Tuna, Gareth a Shrimp and me a Lobster. Tom then continued picking up fistfuls of cards whilst the rest of us struggled to save up for further licences. His empire was building quickly.
Which was when Ravi and I both realised we should have been accessing more cards and that certainly helped! Gareth was keenly launching after picking up Cod and Tuna licences, his Shrimp licence saving him money each and every time. Tom picked up a couple of kickstarter Salvage licences and started dumping vessels as a result, quite profitably too.
With each new round of licences I couldn’t find a Processing Vessel I was keen to have so switched to picking up a couple of pubs. Both Gareth and Ravi had good collections of launched vessels and thus fish stock. Tom’s empire suddenly looked relatively meagre although he’d collected VPs very efficiently.
I have to say the game made a lot more sense to me this time round and all I need now is to have a reasonable timeframe within which to play the game, beginning at 10.40 meant a bit of a rush making decisions and we all know where that leads. Will certainly play again… and I’ve not said that before!
Scores; Tom 71, Neil 66, Gareth 53, Ravi 50
Into Space...

Eclipse: Rise of the Ancients
For Eclipse’s final week as game of the month we used Gareth’s copy with the expansion. All the bells and whistles were added except Alliances (with only 3 players, they aren’t used anyway). Gareth was the Rho Indi Syndicate, myself the Terran Alliance, and Michel the Exiles. The galaxy was teeming with hostile Ancients- hive worlds, cruisers and dreadnaughts in addition to the regular ones. Another important addition was Warp Portals, allowing teleportation from one hex to another.
The game started pretty slow with all sides fighting the Ancients around them. I was able to research Improved Hull while Michel had Conformal hull (three hull points, costs 2 power) and Gareth had Sentient hull (combines hull with +1 computer). As usual Gareth was over-extending himself and had to abandon a few systems- but this was also true of me. Gareth discovered a couple of Ancient Hives, the first of which I was able to conquer. He also built a Warp Portal in his system adjacent to Michel and then went off Ancient-hunting...
This proved too much temptation for Michel, who promptly moved in. However he took three turns to take the system, by which time Gareth had exploited his superior mobility to invade through a Warp Portal in Michel’s backdoor. I continued patiently to take out Ancients- including an Ancient Cruiser, and built up a tonne of materials- some of which became a 5VP Shell World in the penultimate turn.
I also had enough science for the Wormhole generator, which allowed me to block the Warp Gate in my backyard with 4 ships in the final turn. Michel was invading Gareth’s home systems with Neutron Bombs (the only one to turn up all game), while Gareth tried to break through my Warp Gate- he succeeded in pushing a couple of ships through and seizing a valuable system.
Philip 42 Gareth 38 (?) Michel 32 (?)
And back to bluffing...
To end the evening off, the maximum number of 6 players joined in for a few fun games of Coup. Gary had a vendetta for David, which resulted him exiting stage right rather early for 2 games running. Dan II proved to be quite a competent player, but was eliminated early in round 3 to leave him uttering those immortal words - "How did I win the last game?!"

Philip played the Ambassador 3 times running, even though there were only 3 cards in the middle of the table to swap with, and as per usual, everyone had at least 1 Duke in front of them.

To the best of my knowledge, David, Dan and Noel won a game each - a fine way to end an evening.

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