Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Lessons Left Unlearned

So, never forget to ask everyone for reports on the fun they had for the blog when you’re in charge of compiling it.  Otherwise you learn the lesson that no-one will contribute, except Super Pauly Dawsey of course, and he’ll have two on your desktop by 7.30 the following morning no less!  Anyway, this week’s crowd was Andy, Noel, Paul, Neil, Jen, Philip, Dan II, Tom, Tom II, James and James III, wow, two newbies who popped up to gauge the weirdness and who were talked into joining late on for a couple of games no less; welcome fellows!

The games that got played but will go unreported on were; Kingdom Builder including the Crossroads expansion, Ticket to Ride 4: Ticketer to Ride, Nederlands, Rattus Cartus and Two Rooms and a Boom! 

Sushi Go

So, earlybirds were treated to Tom’s Japanese set collection 7 Wonders style food game.  Slipping the sushi down were Tom, Paul, Jen and Neil.

You receive 8 cards featuring different sushi delicacies.  You keep one and pass the rest on… then play your card and repeat.  The different sushis up for collection score in every variety of collecting styley imaginable.  After three rounds the winner eats the cards.

A good game this in fact.  You think you know what you’re doing but have you just handed your neighbour that perfect card – as I did twice for Jen to get a whopping 3 card set worth 10 points each time.  I didn’t quite feed her enough though, Paul scraping through despite losing 6 points for not getting involved in collecting Sushi puddings… guess you had the most of those, you’ll never get it of course!

Final Scores; Paul – 45, Jen – 44, Neil – 40, Tom – 32.

Trains (thanks Paul!)

The starting player in trains is the one that last travelled by train. Non virtual and none cube based train, that is. When he read this from the rules Andy and Noel gave Paul a look like it didn't matter how recently Paul had done it, it was going to be him.

Andy selected the Tokyo map, and Paul placed his initial rail cube way out to the east, giving him access to plenty of mid-sized cities and some good points on the far flung hexes. Andy went south west and Noel went North West, which meant that whilst they were all starting in different sections of the board, Andy and Noel were closer to each other than Paul who was off on his own.

Andy's tactic seemed to be to collect as many station master's as possible (allowing an instant draw of two additional cards), whilst Noel concentrated on expansion by snaking from the north to the south in no time, making some of Andy's rail expansions more expensive. Paul quite enjoyed the fact that he was on his own until right at the end of the game when Noel decided to pop over and say hello as he'd built just about everywhere he could in the west.

Noel seemed to pick up a lot of waste but got rid of it cleverly using the freight trains. Paul's initial waste was not great, so he ignored it and towards the end of the game his deck was quite seriously diluted. Andy benefitted from his multiple station master cards and was the only player to build any skyscrapers as he was the only one with the cash to do it.

The game was brought to a close as the final station was played by Paul, knowing that he hadn't won, but hoping to limit the damages from what they might have been. It turns out that Noel's super expansion strategy was on the money, whilst Paul being on his own was actually a drawback as he had to construct everything himself, instead of piggy backing off anyone else.

Final Scores; Noel - 51, Andy - 47, Paul – 42.

Caverna, the Cave Farmers

So, the first outing for Uwe Rosenberg’s revamp of Agricola, comparisons are inevitable.  Firstly, I have to say the box is one chunky beast of heavy gaming cardboard, wooden resources, acrylic rockage and a rather well written set of rules, plus the compulsory appendix.  I’d had everything out of the box a couple of times and read through the rules but not actually gone as far as to playtest any of it.  Probably would have been useful, to me at least!

Philip was keen to play as we’d tried to play it in Essen but all Caverna tables were very busy.  We were joined by Dan II, who wasn’t best pleased with rulebook’s version of the plural of Dwarf being ‘Dwarfs’, I mean it’s a fictional thing in the first place, who gives a monkey’s uncle about that.  Our game was built up to four by Jen, who was not chuffed that she couldn’t turn the sheepdogs into food: I’m assuming that what’s ok in Korea is fine in Yorkshire too.

Set up took a wee while.  There are a lot of tiles for deforestation and making the most out of your cavernous mountain.  There are a lot of resources; sheep, cows, pigs, donkeys, dogs, stone, wood, ore, rubies to say nothing about the food and gold.  Then there are the weapons; the biggest new feature.  Your farmers are in fact dwarfs (not dwarves), and they can be given weapons (although these should have been called tools to be honest), and then go on adventures.  As in real life, the bigger your weapon the more you can adventure, or in the game’s terms the more you can gain additional resources/actions/stuff. 

Game play is pretty straight forward for anyone with any sort of knowledge of Agricola, or even Agricola All Creatures Big & Small.  Place your dwarf, do the action, enhance your cave/farm to build up resources converting these any number of times into eventual victory points.  Harvests aren’t quite as regular and feeding your army/duo of dwarfs is rarely difficult such are the alternatives you can feed them with, just about anything you have, except for dogs of course Jen.

So, twelve rounds, off we went.  As start player I took early ore as I was keen to tool up and go on expeditions/adventures.  Philip got into hoarding resources whilst Dan looked at making his caverns beautiful.  Jen delved into the forest side of the farm creating fields for wheat and veg, and pastures.  With my dwarf being ready to adventure in the third round I gained some freebie resources and got a useful leg up. 

Philip decided that he liked the look of that and so began converting his resources appropriately.  Jen also decided she wanted a dwarf with a weapon and despite the rulebook telling us that we needed to be careful if one player went adventuring on his own, he would be likely to win, and that the converse would also hold true.  Dan listened well and stuck to tunnelling, furnishing, dog gaining strategy.  His combined caverns of the carpenter and stone mason were particularly powerful together as all builds became one wood and one stone cheaper.

Despite this the rest of us continued to send out dwarfs on expeditions with me also concentrating on animal husbandry and Philip turning into a ruby collector.  Game play didn’t feel too slow to say that we were all new, and it didn’t quite feel as though the rounds were as limiting as in Agricola.  The sense of achievement was greater, certainly for me.  By the time final scoring came around I think we all felt that Philip with his cache of rubies would be victorious, with maybe my animals taking me into second.  As the festive spirit puts it, ‘ho, ho, ho’ were we wrong!  Dan’s collection of muts, together with his veg, gold and furnished rooms took him way out in front and to an impressive victory.  I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that he was quite surprised by this.  There’s no way he’s getting both the carpenter and stone mason again though I can tell you.

Final Scores;  Dan II – 101, Philip – 86, Neil – 78, Jen – 59. 

Machi Koro (cheers again Paul)

Andy was on his way home, gleefully claiming that he'd get extra brownie points from Mrs Andy for not staying out all night, when Noel and Paul put Machi Koro on the table, whereupon he saw it, said 'oh... I like that...' and promptly sat back down.

Paul, the Machi Koro newbie took just a few seconds to get up to speed on the delightfully simple rules, although it took him a few turns to work out that his first move was actually not such a wise one. In his first turn he'd paid four for one of his victory cards to allow him to roll two dice, after all rolling two dice is better than one in games, right??? Well, not always, and not really at the start of this game, so he used his resources on an unnecessary card while Andy and Noel bought the cheaper resource cards, meaning that they were a few steps ahead.

Andy got loads of forests. Noel loads of mines. Cheese factories, which apparently came up lots before due to the high probability of a seven being rolled didn’t turn out to be the winning strategy, which means that there clearly isn't just one way to win - and that is a good thing.

Noel generated enough cash to be able to know he'd won a couple of turns out which out too much that Andy and Paul could do about it, as they didn’t have the right 'business' cards to peg him back.

Final Scores; Noel - won, Andy and Paul - Not so

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