Thursday, 27 June 2013

"Truckers, Diggers and Wings"

Truckers, Diggers and Wings
A little engineering to start with:
Terra Mystica
Keith and Jonathan were new and it was Woody's second game but I decided not to go with the basic setup... we had the Dwellings bonus tile and the 3 Power 1 Worker bonus tile removed and the round tiles were Fire Workers (Stronghold), Water Priest (Dwellings) Fire Power (Dwellings) Air Workers (Stronghold), Air (Spade) (TPs) and Towns.

Keith took the Mermaids, Jonathan the Witches (at my suggestion, I thought the initial stronghold Vps and later Air track bonuses good for them) and Woody the Halflings. Since I've played all the Red, Black and Yellow races and this didn't look like a Dwarves set up I picked the Engineers.

Initial set up saw heavy crowding on the eastern end of the central continent, with my settlement adjacent to one of each of the other players. I also settled on a peninsula in the far north of the eastern continent, with Woody some way further south. Keith's second settlement was in the southern continent and Jonathan's in the far west of the central continent.

I went with 3 power+1 Shipping, planning to burn 6 power and take the double spade action on my first turn. Don't remember what the others picked... Keith started by terraforming, spending 3 workers for one spade- Jonathan upgraded to a Trading post, giving me 1 power.

Which meant I only had to burn 5 power, which was just as well since I would spend most of the game using the 7 power available to me to the full... I picked a couple of hexes which could be bridge to later and built on the one adjacent to Woody. I continued the turn by building a Temple (Air 2) and a Trading post. Meanwhile Woody, focusing on the round bonus, built a Fire 3 Temple and sent a Priest to the Fire track. Keith soon ran out of Workers and passed, while Jonathan built his Stronghold and set about populating the land with Dwellings.

The game continued with Woody pursuing a strongly religious strategy, at one point having nothing on the map except two Temples and a Sanctuary. He and Keith followed my example in taking the Air 2 Favour, while the Water 2 Favour was also popular. I however preferred Earth 2, giving me 10+ power income a turn. I was able to bridge to the two locations I'd terraformed on turn 1.

 I was able to build my stronghold on turn 4, creating a town on the eastern continent (with bridgehead on the northern). I think Keith was next to manage a town, half and half on the northern and central continents, and Woody soon followed on the central continent where his sanctuary was. Jonathan too a bit longer in the western half of the central continent as his town consisted mainly of dwellings because no one else was over there.

Also on turn 4 I expanded my central continent settlement northwards with a bridge onto the northern continent- thus getting the full 9 VPs a turn from the stronghold. With the bonus workers from the round 4 scoring tile this central area soon became a town. Jonathan also completed his second town in round 5 by bridging between the central and southern continents. Woody and Keith delayed their second towns to round 6 when the bonus came up. Both me and Jonathan took the Water 1 favour in turn 5 for 6 VPs per trading post that turn.

Woody and Jonathan both upgraded their spade rate around round 3, although only to level 2. Shipping was largely neglected until the final round when both me and Woody invested in it as part of a race for largest area- a contest in which we tied at 11 buildings each. Keith came in at 9- he had 4 more buildings in the south-west which he had not connected. Jonathan hadn't connected his settlements either, though his big town was 8 buildings large.

The cult tracks were dominated by Woody, with Keith and Jonathan managing one first place each and me only a second place on the Air track. However, my end of round VPs, including some 12 VPs over the game from the trading post starting tile, more than compensated.

Philip 122 Woody 97 Jonathan 78 Keith 63

Keith had a slow start and never built his stronghold or upgraded his shipping, so not playing to his race's strength. Jonathan invested a lot in his big town in the west- he said at the end he hadn't realised shipping would trump it. But as both were playing a first game on an advanced setup they did well enough.

Woody certainly had a determined focus on the cult tracks. If he'd chosen Fire 1 instead of Fire 3 (1 less worker in the short term, 15 more coins over the game as a whole) as his first favour it might have worked better. Earth 2 would also have been a good pick at some point- he faced worker shortage most of the game. But he also did very well on a setup which didn't favour the Halflings (no Spade VP round tile, no Dwelling starter tile).

The Engineers worked like a dream, but of course it would been different against more experienced opponents!
A more European game next...
A game new to the three of us, James had ‘read the rules’ and so set up and explained how this somewhat overlooked Feld game worked to Barry and me. If I was to describe the game in two words it would be ‘an auction fest’, oh that’s three, never mind!
Players start with 4 sets of cards, valued 1 to 6, with which to bid or ‘influence’. These need to last for 5 rounds of auctions with a different set of 7 items to bid on each round. So you can’t bid on everything! With all auctions the winner gains influence within the council or amongst the vintners. Second place gains something until it comes to selling goods; only the auction winner is allowed to sell. The starting player for the auctions follows the winner around so changes frequently.
So, what do you win exactly? An edifice to place in the city, where you win extra VPs for having your meeples beside. A chapel for the same purpose. Then the resources; wine, shoes, meat, bread, which allow you to place your meeples in the city, providing you can pay for the privilege, as well as having some resale value, and you also get representation on the council, important for VPs at the end of each round.
At the start of the game each player is normally dealt 5 task cards and will choose between 1 and 5 to keep. As it was our first game we decided to take three each and keep the lot. These provided bonus VPs for fulfillment, or -3 VPs if you didn’t… turned out to be expensive.
The influence cards are shuffled by each player and you simply take as many from the top of the pile as you feel comfortable with. James led the way placing family members in the city whilst Barry picked up some good returns early on amassing some useful coins. I played it a bit safe although had to use some higher influence cards to do so. I also started looking ahead on the round boards to work out when I needed to win places for the final council positions as one of my bonuses was related to this.
The rounds fairly sped by and James and Barry had more meeples in the city than me and I thought I may have to settle for third, oh well, a good learning game I thought positively. Round four came and the influence cards I thought the others had been holding back didn’t come out so I pulled back a bit of ground and won the edifice that I also required for another of my tasks. They must be saving it all for the final round. However, there was only three places on the council up for grabs and I was able to take two of these comfortably as the others concentrated on getting more meeples into the city.
Final scoring; points are handed out for council members, meeples placed next to edifices and chapels, and for your task cards. Despite not having quite as many meeples in the city I had them placed nicely so managed a small lead, until Barry came back big time. The task cards; does this one mean I get a load of points for running the council then? Oh yes… victory was mine!
Would certainly be keen to play this again. It felt like a lot was going on but also was over very quickly. The influence decisions later in the game became more important and trying to figure what the others were planning was a huge part of the game, good interaction I have to say. Stefan Feld hey… who’d have thought he’d ever come up with a good game!?!
Final Scores; Neil - 54, Barry - 51, James – 42 (see, I didn’t even mention the false start we had… not even once!)
Something a little drier...

Forbidden Desert
 It was early in the evening and Jon had a shiny new tin with him – and it didn’t take too much persuasion to find 3 other volunteers (Neil, Jonathan & Keith) to assist in the new co-op quest that is Forbidden Desert. Woody (who has a vested interest in the success of this game!) was also floating around, and provided he players with a special promo card to add to the equipment deck.

This game is from Matt Leacock, and is at first glance very similar to Forbidden Island (modular tile-based playing area, collect 4 items, players with special abilities etc), but is in fact very different. It has several more layers of complexity and strategies for success, and seems to generate more team discussion than its predecessor. 

The basic idea is that the adventurers explore a buried ancient city, looking for 4 parts of a legendary flying machine. When these are assembled at the launch pad, the adventurers have succeeded and can escape the enveloping desert storm. Running out of water, having too much sand on the board and allowing the storm to grow out of control are all ways to lose and remain buried for ever.

All seemed to go swimmingly at first with this expedition. 2 or 3 of the flying machine parts were collected early on and the adventurers were in high spirits. However, thirst was becoming an issue, and several turns had to be spent excavating an oasis and sharing water out. Before long, the sand had built up to the point where the players were having difficulty removing it in time, and eventually the sand tile supply had become exhausted and the adventure was lost.

This was played at ‘Normal’ difficulty level, so at least we know that the game isn’t too easy!

Jon, Jonathan, Neil, Keith – all lost
A bit more competitive...

The Great Heartland Trucking Co.

Verrater, Coup and Kylie Minogue – all these go to prove the adage that the best things really do come in small packages. And as the Great Heartland Trucking Co game comes in a tiny box, will this be added to the list of fantastic miniscule things? Maybe…

Neil had brought this along, and Jon & Dan II were conscripted to give it a go. It’s a very simple ‘pick up & deliver’ game, with the map being made up of a number of cards containing certain goods to load, and prices of goods that can be unloaded. Players move around the map paying either cash (expensive) or fuel cards (if you can get them) in order to load or unload goods. Cash is earned when unloading goods and when the first player reaches a certain income level, the game ends.

It played quite quickly, with Dan making the most efficient deliveries and storming to a clear victory. Jon had found fuel cards were rather scarce, and had paid a lot to move his truck around. He was also left with a number of undelivered goods at the end of the game, which were worth minus points. Neil had done better than Jon, but also had some undelivered goods (pigs if I remember correctly) which depreciated his score.

This is a nice simple little game, which has some more advanced variants included in the box, which might be interesting to try. A post-mortem also revealed that Neil had somehow misread 2 of the main rules in the game – with only his previously unblemished record in this department saving him from universal ridicule. 

Definitely worth a re-run for this ‘super-filler’.

Dan II 38; Neil 29; Jon 25

“Truckers, Diggers and Wings” are the titles of the individual volumes in Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad

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