So, it's the last IBG of the year. Seven hardy souls ventured through the cold to the welcoming embrace of the Apprentice. Your erstwhile editor was not in attendance but has received various reports of tidings and joy; the first two of which come from the pen of Mr Dawsey.
We knew Jon was coming, but he texted to say he'd be late, so we decided to try and squeeze in a game of 'speed Stone Age', however that seems optimistic in hindsight as it was only Paul's second game and Amanda's first.
Amanda shot into quite a large lead by going for the buildings. Paul expanded his family and went for civilization cards. Gareth on the other hand went for a mixed strategy of tools and civilization cards. After a few rounds of accumulation of points by Amanda and cards for Gareth and Paul, Amanda asked what she was missing. Cards, mainly, for bigger end game scores, although there are many ways to win at this game.
Gareth spotted that towards the end a lot of his cards provided bonuses for extra people so he mated like crazy for the last few turns. Amanda tried to pick up some cards but realised that it was too little, too late. Paul was going for a bit of everything.
Jon looked over a few times with a disparaging 'call that SPEED Stone Age?' - probably a fair point.
Only in the final scoring did Gareth reveal that he'd collected all eight of the technological advancements, giving him a whopping 64 bonus points, and this was in addition to the big bonus he got for his horde of people. Paul didn't do badly on buildings and food bonuses, but nowhere near enough to live with Gareth. Poor Amanda did well for a first go, but really was investing in her Stone Age knowledge so that she can come back stronger next time.
Scores: Gareth 212, Paul 190, Amanda 142
Amanda had to disappear but was eagerly replaced by Jon who'd waited (mostly) patiently for them to finish. Due to us making him wait, we gave him the choice of what to play and Trains pipped Kingdom Builder plus expansion for the table space.
Jon could have sat in the space opposite Paul, but made his way round the more hairy route to sit to Paul's left. Not sure it made too much difference in the game, but Paul's reputation makes old habits die hard.
The cards were selected during set up and the key points to note here were the inclusion of the notorious Tourist Train (a previous winning strategy on more than one occasion) and no cards to expand the active cards by any number, so 5 was the maximum that anyone would get to work with.
The Tourist Train strategy was pointed out to Gareth, although for some reason both he and Paul then let Jon pick up too many of them which certainly helped him to his fair share of VPs. Although there were no expansion cards, there were plenty of cards to cycle through the deck more quickly, so Jon's strategy was to pick up tourist trains, not bother with laying too much on the board and get as many cards to help him cycle through his deck faster.
Paul was placed in the middle of the board and employed almost the opposite strategy to Jon, by laying rails and building stations everywhere possible. He picked up the corresponding waste and tried to combat this by also getting a few cards to help him cycle through or discard the waste, but it did slow him down a little later in the game.
Gareth was over in the East of the board and seemed to be going for a bit of everything, and his waste collecting certainly did impede his progress.
The fact that everyone could only get a maximum of five cards in the deck meant that there were only a few possible Skyscraper purchases (for the big points) and this helped Jon's Tourist Train strategy more. Paul could have closed the game by laying his last track, but instead decided to push his luck somewhat, get some high value trains and hold out to try and collect some of those Skyscrapers. As it turns out, he didn't manage to get them and Jon picked up one or two more instead.
By the end of the game, Jon had laid very little on the board, but no one was surprised by the final score.
Scores: Jon 76, Paul 61, Gareth 57
Now on to the other table where Neil, Phil and Jen took on the roles of building contractors and leaders of dwarven settlements although not at the same time. Neil provided the two reports for Blueprints with Phil doing his customary in-depth run through of Caverna.
Ahead of some Caverna action, Philip, Jen and I had a little opener in the form of Blueprints. Take a blueprint, roll a load of dice and off you go. There are three rounds. On each turn you choose a die to build your blueprint. Dice have to be equal or higher in value to be placed on top of another die. The dice come in four colours, each scoring in different ways. It's also possible to pick up bonuses for different combinations.
Having played three previous games I obviously had quite an advantage. You need to make sure you build your blueprint to the exact specifications. You then need to ensure every dice earns you three points at least. Finally, go for one bonus, and if you can make two then you'll win. Easy!
If your opponents haven't played before you have show them how it works!
Final Scores; Neil - 18, Philip - 7, Jen - 4.
This was our (me, Neil and Jen's) second game of Caverna. The first had been four player and won by Natasha's strategy of building loads of rooms and eschewing adventure. Both run-throughs were with basic buildings only.
More changes between three and four player Caverna than between three and four player Agricola. There seemed to be less resources entering the game, which makes sense I guess, although there were also four different spaces accumulating wood. Start player in four player accumulates food and gives you a ruby. In three player it still accumulates food but it gives you two ore, which is a lot worse than a ruby.
I also discovered that you can't build rooms with rubies. Oh well...
Neil and Jen favoured early game Agriculture (both crops and farm animals) with Adventuring once it became possible (from turn 2). Meanwhile I struck out on a slavish imitation of Natasha, hollowing out caverns from the Rock and building the Carpenter, Stone Mason and Builder Rooms, meaning that I could build a 2 Wood 2 Stone Room with nothing more than two Ore (It also gave me a use for the Ore which I had to pick up when I took start player).
My food supply wasn't too good, since you can't eat dogs, but I managed to pick up three rubies in the third round, and a pile of food on one of the agriculture spaces in round 4. In round 5 I built the "Couples Dwelling" and began breeding my dwarves. In round 6 I built the Slaughtering Cave, which significantly helped my food problems. The other player's had now levelled up to the point where they could build rooms and started to do so. In round 7, need for children flipped to urgent need for children and in round 8 I skimped by buying a simple dwelling for a fifth Dwarf.
With my excess number of Dwarves I was now able to start solving my agricultural problems, and I also picked up donkeys and sheep with cheap fences (thanks, Carpenter). Neil was definitely ahead on the animal breeding front though. Both my opponents managed a third Dwarf, but I was now able to build the sixth Dwarf Room and produce the sixth Dwarf (who isn't in a player colour). I also began building points rooms: one room which gave me 10 points for the sixth Dwarf; another room which gave me eight points for no adventuring dwarves; a third room which gave me two points per points room; and a fourth room which gave me one point per stone (I had 15 Stone at the end of the game).
At some point I started planting crops, turning a Ruby into a Vegetable, and by the end I had quite a few of them. I was also able to breed all four types of animal at the final harvest, though I had to leave my crops in the field to do it.
Neil had built his favourite "cancel seven negative points" room, and was also accumulating gold. He also had a room which allowed him to eat weapons. Jen had the VPs for warriors with weapons room. Both had failed to fully excavate their caverns but completed the agriculture side of the map - as did I, although it was a narrow thing.
Final scoring was slightly enlivened by my inability to add, causing me to declare a very close one point lead over Neil. However, closer examination saw the final scores to be not so close after all.
Philip 106 Neil 85 Jen 62
Blueprints: The Sequel
So with Philip on fire in Caverna, it was decided to end the evening with a reprint - geddit?!! (Ed: you're fired)
Now that they knew what was going on things played out very differently. Philip and Jen both scored much better in the first round. I got something back in the next, although Jen did too. All down to the final round: I was happy with five matching dice, four of the same number... but then so was Jen, and she outdid me both times on the tiebreaker. Damn, must have taught her too well!
I should have written how kind I was being as it was Jen's last visit to the IBG from Yorkshire. Her work's finished down here, no more Jen, very sad. Hope to see you in Brum and Essen!
Final Scores; Jen - 7, Neil - 5, Philip - 4.