Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Wednesday before

Yeovil’s mighty climb into the Championship!

Attendees; James, Jon, Dan II, Amanda, Barry, Gareth II, Philip, Gary, Sean, Andy 

Games played but unreported on; Biblios (I’d guess at a 1 point victory in a spread of 2-3 points scored), Dungeon Petz (almost called them pezts), and Pandemic (save the world? this lot probably couldn’t even save Brentford losing on a subbuteo pitch)  

Fast Flowing Forest Fellows (thanks Jon)

It was 7pm and the only IBG’ers present were Jon, James and Dan II. A quick game of FFFF was set up, but before long, Amanda, Barry and Gareth II had also arrived, so James graciously stepped aside to consume something meat-free, and left the other 5 to duke it out on the dangerous rivers of Canada (or somewhere). Dan took every opportunity to push everyone else back down the river, whilst Amanda took advantage of the boys fighting to slip her 2 lumberjacks quietly upstream for the win.

Barry came second (as behoves a man of his heritage) whilst Dan’s strategy only managed to secure him last place.

Amanda; Barry; Jon; Gareth II; Dan II

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (cheers Gary, top man!)

“I love the smell of fresh cardboard in the morning….”

The evening began for some, not with the excitement of a short and entertaining set collection card game, but with the over-excitement of opening a virgin, shrink-wrapped copy of Sean’s Tzolk’in… genuine Eurogame chrome….

However, for a newbie to the game, taking a first look at the board and the iconography is a bit like looking at a wall of genuine Mayan inscriptions – totally bewildering (unless you are Mayan, of course). There is so much going on that you need to take in that it’s just a bit tempting to stop concentrating and just nod a lot… and I’m sure if anyone had been looking closely they would have noticed an uncanny resemblance between myself and that dog off the Admiral Insurance adverts as Philip did another sterling job of taking me through the rules and what everything did and the aforementioned iconography… I really did try and concentrate and I am really grateful! And, much to my chagrin, I then pulled out first player marker, the perfect way to show up my ignorance!

From my perspective, the only cogs turning at this point in the game were those on the board….

I tried to distract Philip and Andy with news of the fact that I had visited three of those Mayan temples represented on the board in my more youthful, carefree days – I hoped that they would be intimidated by such local knowledge – sadly, they saw through my transparent time-wasting and pushed on with the game…

OK, so it’s a worker placement game, involving putting your workers on circular tracks which are moved by a large gear mechanism. You get stuff and then try and convert it to other stuff, which brings you better resources or VPs etc. I guess this is largely standard stuff, but it certainly looks nice and the gear mechanism works well and makes decisions (once you do get past the point where everything is a bit overwhelming) as to how long to leave your workers hanging around on those tracks quite difficult. And it transpired that there certainly appear to be a number of different strategies that can be devised, based on buildings, Wonders, skulls, technology or the temples.

The only advice that Sean had given me in advance consisted of “Go for those lovely shiny skulls”. I’m not sure if this qualifies as strategy, but if it does, I ignored it entirely. In fact, it took me a 30 minutes to even notice where to get a skull, let alone how to use it! So, as usual, no strategy for me. In contrast, Philip clearly had a strategy (even if it was mostly opaque to me at the time) of quickly heading up the technology tracks to the top end, boosting his production and resources. Meanwhile, Andy (good luck to the Bees at the weekend!) had pulled out a starting hand which gave him extra workers and (I think – these things were all just a bit too much to take in!) the ability to feed his workers starvation rations of only one corn. Seemed like a powerful combo.

As the game proceeded, and the board started to look less like an indecipherable museum piece to me, it became clear that there were three very different strategies on the go. Andy had clearly taken Sean’s advice to heart (even if it was aimed at me!) and was very active on the Chichen Itza shiny skulls wheels picking up points and advantages. Phililp’s strategy leapt out like a bright neon light when he picked up the only Wonder built in the game which gave him a whopping 33 points for getting to the third spot on three technology tracks. Meanwhile, largely by default rather than any careful strategy, I’d been heading up two of the temple tracks (yellow and green), surprisingly unpursued by either Andy or Philip. (In fact I remained convinced til the very last turn that one of them would somehow pull something out of the bag on the last go to overtake me, even though if I’d followed those turning circles carefully I probably should have predicted that wasn’t actually possible.) In addition, the second wave of building tiles attracted a lot of attention from all three of us, building up our points total.

The final totalling was a tense affair. Philip was originally the backmarker, but that was no surprise given the number of resources he’d committed to that VP-laden Wonder. Much to my surprise, I garnered a plethora of points from the Temple track endgame scoring (something like 34) pushing me up past Andy’s skull-fuelled score and into first place temporarily. Philip’s technology track Wonder, however, brought him to within 1 point of my total. And then the trade in of left over goods etc, brought Philip 2 points and me 1. So final scores: Philip 66, Gary 66, Andy 54. Not even the tie-breaker (workers left on wheels) could split us and so a draw was declared.

…a result that I shall put it down as a fine tribute to Philip’s excellent and generous teaching skills, both at the start and throughout the game.
Railways of Europe (many thanks Jon!)

Dan, Amanda and Jon were left to select a game, with Sean hovering as well to see if he was going to be tempted away from Tzolk’in. In time honoured tradition, Jon picked 3 games for Dan and Amanda to choose between, and the winner was – Railways of the World – hoorah! And Sean decided that he would join in too, so the Europe map was chosen from Andy’s box of £3.75 goodness…

It was to be Amanda and Sean’s first game, so Jon did the usual explanation and tactfully managed Sean’s excited questions as best he could (Jon’s used to having a 6 year old quizzing him at home…) Sean bid $7 to be starting player, and after some deliberation, chose to connect to Milan to pick up a juicy Service bounty on offer. Dan chose southern Italy for another bonus, whilst Amanda chose Brest to Paris for her first link. This left Jon with starting a little line to Berlin, and the game was underway.

Sean scored 5 points with his first delivery, thanks to the service bounty and speed bonus, and decided that he needed to speculate to accumulate, so he took some more bonds to build down into northern Italy, essentially blocking Dan in. He then got a finger in another pie, picking up the card that gives a bonus for connections built into Paris, which scored a few points for him throughout the game. Added to that was a hotel in Milan (nice!) which further widened his scoring options.

By this time, Dan had also moved into Northern Europe around Amsterdam, where he was in competition with Amanda for a few cubes. However, he eventually managed to scrape together 4 different coloured cubes and picked up the associated 4-point bonus. Jon had been keeping himself to himself, and was the first to deliver a 3-link cube via Berlin to get his scoring going. He had also picked up a hotel in Vienna, which turned a couple of black cubes into 4 point deliveries – a nice bonus that early in the game.

The game continued with Sean continuing to splash the cash, building through the mountains into Spain, and Dan starting to create a little circular network around Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg (he had taken the card that stopped anyone else building into Essen). By now, Amanda had exhausted her cube supply around Paris and had struck out westwards. This was to end with her completing the prestigious Paris-Constantinople major line, and opened up the possibility of some more valuable cube deliveries.

Jon had also gone west, up to Moscow. The cubes were poor on the way, but arriving there completed the Vienna-Moscow Major Line, and also gave him more cubes to deliver to Vienna and Berlin. Dan took a couple of turns away from his circular route to steal a service bounty into Moscow, but by now the game was entering its final stages.

Sean built up to Berlin for his own major line bonus, but Jon’s connection to Kiev enabled him to hoover up a number of solitary purple cubes which brought the game to a close. Jon’s ability to make a number of 4, 5 and even 6 point deliveries in the last few turns meant that the winner was clear, especially as he had only accumulated 5 bonds throughout the game. Sean’s investment strategy had turned out to be a good one, as he came in second despite having the most bonds. Dan and Amanda fought it out for 3rd spot – had the game been extended by a couple of rounds, they both might have been able to ship some valuable cubes. Dan admitted afterwards that he had allowed himself to become distracted in different areas of the map, which may have stalled his main ‘circular loop around Essen’ strategy. As always – a great game.

Final Scores; Jon (ruthless! ed.) 53; Sean 37; Amanda 30; Dan 29



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