Players: Philip, Noel, Andy, Dom, Sean, Amanda, Gareth II, Jon, Neil, James, Barry, John
A welcome return to John tonight, after far too long away (and he even came by taxi - how committed!) And in the best traditions of his appearances he brought something new and shiny, which garnered a fair amount of interest amongst the regulars (well it did contain trains, so it was a fairly safe bet...)
Agricola: ACBASEarly arrives Jon and Neil are both big fans of this 2-player game, and so it didn’t take much discussion to decide to break it out to kick the evening off.
Neil picked up 3 expansion boards and lots of wood, but was finding it difficult to pick up any animals early on. He also had a special building which allowed him to build a free fence each time he bred a horse, which he used to good effect throughout the game. Once he had built some mega fenced-in areas, his animal-acquisition was on in earnest.
Jon, however, had decided to stay small and attempt to increase capacity with a Stall (later to become a Stable), some feeding troughs and a handful of fences. He had a growing population of pigs and sheep, which were constantly bursting out of their accommodation, so his last turns were spent acquiring the resources to upgrade his cottage to a Half-timbered house in a desperate attempt to scrape together a few more points.
In the end, the scores were incredibly close, with Neil’s 12 point bonus for enclosing his 3 expansion boards probably being the difference. And it’s always good to see that 2 completely different strategies can compete. The extra buildings in the expansion also add a really nice twist to each game. Most of their effects are quite subtle, but they can help to open up new strategies, which makes each game slightly different and certainly improves replayability. Expansion #2 should be available in time for Essen, so watch this space……
Neil 54; Jon 52
And so, the long awaited return of John Bandewotsit was heralded with him bringing along a copy of the latest mash-up game – deck-building meets trains in a game creatively entitled – “Trains”. Neil, Jon and Barry joined in to see if it was worth the wait…
Basically, this is a Dominion clone, but with enough new stuff to make it feel quite different. For starters, there is a board, which is divided into hexes in classic train-game style. Players can build track and stations on this board, which will earn them points at the end of the game. Secondly, the deck-building side of thing introduces the concept of ‘Waste’ – every time you build something that potentially gives you points, you collect at least 1 Waste card, which does nothing more than clog your deck up. There are ways to ‘dispose’ of the waste, but it does add an interesting twist, which prevents you from being able to streamline your deck too much.
Anyway, everyone set off on the journey with equal uncertainty about what to do – except, of course, for veteran John, who made an early beeline for the Tourist Train cards – giving 1 point every time they came up in the deck. Jon (and others, I’m sure) also considered buying these cards, but it was difficult to gauge their worth, as they clogged up your deck and would only be worth it if the game lasted long enough for them to come around several times. By the time everyone realised that John was starting to rake in a healthy stash of points from them, it was pretty much too late to do anything about it.
In terms of board position, everyone started in different corners, but soon Barry was muscling in on Jon’s carefully constructed stations, and then both of them moved over to where John was quietly hiding out. Neil attempted to break out of his mountain stronghold, but ran out of time to join up.
The game ended after about an hour when Barry laid his last piece of track, and in doing so earned himself 8 points for entering John’s 3-station hex. Jon muttered something inaudible under his breath, as he had waiting for the right combination of cards to come up for the last 3 turns in order to execute exactly the same move. Sympathy did not abound though…
Before final scoring took place, John was already 20+ points ahead of everyone else due to his Tourist Train endeavours, and he had enough extra points on the board and in his deck to comfortably maintain this lead. The other 3 players were close together, with only a large-station scoring dividing each of them.
Thoughts? Well, the similarity with Dominion is obvious – several of the cards are exact copies of those from Dominion – but the added deck-clogging of the Waste cards, as well as the board action, makes it feel quite different (in a good way). Having played it through once, you learn a lot about how the game works, which makes you want to play again immediately to put that knowledge into practice.
With Dominion (or at least with the base set), the goal is to get a streamlined deck that enables you to consistently get enough gold to buy the provinces – and then start buying the points cards. With Trains, that strategy is more difficult, because every time you buy a Building (VP) card, you also get a Waste card, which means that you now have 2 more cards clogging up your deck. Plus, if you’ve been building track and stations, you’ll likely have quite a bit of waste in your deck already, which affects how much money you’ll have to spend each turn anyway. The VP cards are also worth less points in general, so all-in-all, you’d better try to diversify that points acquisition!
Anyway, enough of all that – here’s the scores!
John 60; Barry 44; Jon 37; Neil 32
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game (thanks Philip)
The four of us participated in this co-operative deck builder of heroes and villains. The supervillain was Dr.Doom, his evil plan to jailbreak 12 lesser villains from the city. Each player played a strange composite deck of heroes though we were able to specialise in one hero type more as the game progressed. Andy went for Elektra, I went for Wolverine and Dom went for Hulk.
Hulk smashed Dr Doom into tiny pieces, defeating him three of the four times needed to win the game (Andy defeated him in the other game). Hulk also smashed everyone else's deck, as his special abilities were "deal everyone a wound" and "heal your own wound". We actually ran out of Wounds in the Wound Deck.
The co-operative has a competitive element, which Dom won outright, scoring about ten times my score... and significantly more than the other two players. Hulk-Smash!
Paris Connection (thanks Neil)Having enjoyed this game at home with the family was looking forward to another outing at the club. Last time Dan made a b-line for Marseilles finishing the game before it had hardly begun although it didn't earn him victory.
With Barry, Jon and Philip I thought the long-term strategy would be fine. Regrettably, I picked five yellow trains out of the bag and although I could have tried to push their value I doubted I'd get that far so chose to ditch a few in early on. Whilst Barry pushed blue heavily, Jon nudged black along nicely and Philip made a small start on yellow and red. I had to go purple as two of my remaining shares where in that company.
And then Philip was there, just three away from Marseilles and no way of stopping him! Useful bonus scored but with a couple of reds each Barry and Jon were sitting comfortably due to a sensible 'black and blue' policy. In the final mix Barry had just edged it... very close!
So, another speedy game of this very short game even if played out... darn it!! Me and my long-term goals huh, what a waste of space!!
Final Scores; - Barry - 134, Jon - 132, Philip - 119, Neil - 91
Kingdom BuilderWith Paris Connection finishing in record time due to Philip’s sprint down to Southern France, there was plenty of time for Neil’s favourite game - Kingdom Builder.
Scoring cards this time were Miners (build next to mountains), Knights (most settlements on a horizontal line) and Farmers (settlements in your least populated sector).
Jon picked up the special ability that enabled a free build at the edge of the board, and was hoping to complete a nice full line to score well with his Knights. However Phil had other ideas and blocked this off, leaving Jon in No-Man’s land, and unable to get any settlements in to the 4th sector to boot.
Neil and Phil managed to get a nice balance of workers between the 4 sectors to score some healthy Farmers points (whereas Jon had an inglorious zero!), but it was Barry that had done best across all scoring opportunities, and despite Jon ending the game prematurely by laying his last settlement, Barry had done just enough to sneak ahead of the other 2. A fine game (whatever Neil tells you to the contrary….)
Barry 58; Neil 52; Phil 48; Jon 37
Trains II (thanks Noel)Andy, Noel and James were all delighted that John was keen for another session of Trains with 3 newbies. The starting cards included no special ways of dealing with waste and no tourist train which John had used in the previous newbie steam-rolling. The also included an odd card which asked you to guess the next card you would draw from your deck with a money bonus if you guessed correctly. Despite this being their first play of the game this random nonsense was quickly and unanimously vetoed by James, Andy and Noel, and replaced with another card that was copied directly from Dominion (much safer).
John placed first and headed over to stake his territory on the west between the two 3-station cities. Noel placed East, leaving James with a decision to go West to tangle with the player who knew the game, or east to mix it up with Noel, which past history told him would give the game to another player as Noel and he dragged each other into the dirt. Despite his reservations he cosied up to Noel, leaving Andy to place in the South which James strangely hadn’t even considered.
Silver (erm sorry, 2 money trains) were most peoples first target for their decks and emptied quite quickly as did the 3 money trains. John had built up one of his 3 station cities. Andy had picked up some skyscrapers along with some uninterrupted station building and Noel had the upper hand in the East with some Collaboration cards in his deck and station and city placements. John had a good money deck with cards that allowed him to add further cash to his hand and was well placed for further expansion into his 3rd city. Before he was able to do so Noel closed the game out with 2 purchases and a station upgrade to trigger the end game due to 4 decks expiring.
At final tally Noel had enough with 19 points, largely from city placement and encroaching on James' builds, John and Andy had 16 points each and James 12ish.
Lessons learned...Dominion improves with a map and some cubes, the different cards change game length and points scored considerably and James needs to heed his own counsel and avoid Noel's patch in future games.
Noel 19; John 16; Andy 16; James 12(ish)
BibliosLooking for something quick to end the evening with, this ‘super-filler’ was selected. Lots of ‘reduce dice’ cards came out early, and soon each set was only worth 2 points each. In a 4-player game, it’s often the person who manages to snag 2 different collections that wins, and this was to be the case today, with Noel picking up 2 x 3-value sets.
Noel 6; James 4; Jon 3; John 2
Also played was Sean's nicely laminated copy of Mice & Mystics. And that's the extent of my knowledge on the subject....
See you all next week folks...