Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Machi Miracles

We have all asked ourselves that all important question as extemporised by my friends, Insane Clown Posse (above): magnets, how do they work?  As ICP concluded, it's a miracle (like long necked giraffes, hot lava, and pelicans eating cellphones).  Much like magnets, Paul Dawsey can create miracles: such as when he wins two games of Machi Koro in a row.  Other stuff happened last week but first let us bask in the brilliance of Paul...  Now on to the reports which include trains, a Feld which left Phil unimpressed and a gigantic amount of dice rolling!

Over on the window table it was a Game-Lite Nite.  Gary, Andy, Noel and Dan started with a game of Dominion on a track that is Trains

The game was new to Dan, but is quickly picked up. Andy struck out with a heavy investment in Tourist Trains, which he coupled with the Temporary Timetable to drag them regularly back into his deck and set himself up with an early lead. Gary tried to run a heavy infrastructure engine, building tracks and stations galore and accumulating lots of waste. Noel and Dan had more of a mixed approach with some train investment and some track/station. However, Andy’s focused approach and waste-lite deck proved too powerful – his Tourist Trains steadily picked up the points and he was able to acquire Skyscrapers and Towers. In fact, he never built any Rails and his only presence on the board was his original lonely red cube. Andy was a runaway winner with a frankly obscene number of points – something like 70 (if that is possible). Dan and Noel competed for 2nd and 3rd and Gary was left languishing in the station on about half the number of points that Andy had accumulated!

Gary provided a rather succinct summation of where it all went wrong for him: "My approach was never going to compete in retrospect (though I’d like to think there must be some strategy that can compete with the Tourist Train – other than buying some up to prevent one person getting too many), but was well and truly scuppered when my Temporary Timetable managed to discard three potentially valuable Station Expansion cards in one go. A painful lesson in ensuring that the cards you buy really do work well with the rest of your deck and your strategy!" 

Next up was Machi Koro. Gary is our reporter on the scene for the next two reports.

Strategy and careful planning may not be my strong point, but give me some dice and I can be lethal! In fact, my strategy is simply to roll like a demon! Anyway, as we started off, the number 3 appeared to be rolled rather regularly so I decided to acquire some Coffee Shops, which soon turned into a chain of Coffee Shops to rival Starbucks (without the offshore tax planning, of course). Everyone likes coffee and everyone seemed to like rolling 3s, which made me happy, but left everyone else sweating on the roll of the dice (well, actually everyone was sweating from sitting near to the radiator under the window which appeared to be fuelled by nuclear waste!). My growing Coffee Empire prompted Dan, Andy and Noel to “level up” to two dice as quickly as possible – but to no avail. Dan’s first roll of his two dice produced a 2 and a 1 – more coins for me! Fortunately, my coffee shops had given me the money to expand big time into the Convenience Store market, which produce 3 coin on a roll of 4. I managed to build the Shopping Mall quite early on too, giving me effectively 4 coin for each roll of a 4 on my turn and decided not to expand to two dice at all. With 4 Convenience Stores and two consecutive rolls of 4 on my turn, the game was over before Noel could get his emporium of newly purchased Cheese Shops competing effectively.

Finally came CV - more dice, yippee! - a new game to all of us apart from Dan (seemed only fair). Lots of head scratching and rule reading too on a first play of this one for the rest of us. I went for an excess of $ on this one, choosing the Lottery Winner and a “Pension Payout” starter cards. However, this meant a slow start and as the game moved from Youth to Middle Age, I was awarded a free card for being so far behind! Andy seemed to be rolling lots of dice, but suffered a couple of mid-life crises with the unhappy faces – who wouldn't with Twins - as did Dan, even when only rolling four dice! Noel was rather hampered by sticking with his starter Bicycle card for a long while (contributed to by a rules error that initially suggested only scoring points on the top face up card), before he eventually upgraded to a Porsche and Home Cinema. Eventually, my money cards came in, however, and when bolstered by a “Start my own business” card lead to the purchase of lots of yellow goods cards and an accumulation of valuable possessions. I was way behind the others in the Relationship, Knowledge and Lifestyle cards, however. In fact, I only had one Orange Lifestyle card going into the final turn of the game – which seemed a bit of a bad move from a bonus points perspective. However, with this last turn I used the “Visit to the Zoo” I had been saving from the start to roll six dice. I combined that with the “Visit to Essen” card I had picked up to acquire six happy faces. The two “free cards” were the Orange and Purple double counting cards and I also managed to pick up a further Orange card for a combination of four of each (equivalent). This was just enough to pull out a win with around 70 points, with Noel and Dan just back and Andy in the rear this time (a straight reversal of the Trains scoring from the first game).

The Nuclear Radiator Posse (that's a good name for a band - although not as good as Bandcastle) were not the only mob to play Machi Koro with two games also enjoyed by Neil, Paul, James (and Philip for the second game too).  Thanks to Neil for both reports.

Machi Koro I

Yeovil fans Paul and James were still celebrating back to back wins for the Greeny Ones, and so I'd benefit with an easy victory of course. Best laid plans... no chance! I tried to go with my strategy of 'steal' their money and whilst my cafés were productive the restaurants were avoided by neither Paul or James going for the double dice option.
James went for a mass of options under 6, joining me in the cafes, and Paul went for Cheese and Furniture Factory strategy, picking up some hefty lumps of money. Despite me stealing his Cheese Factory a couple of times he refused to roll a 9 or a 10 which might have seen me home.
And then it was over. Paul romped home although we were all within a round of victory. Damn!

Machi Koro II (Machier Koro)

Joined by Philip who matched Paul card for card on the Ranch, James attempted to hone his strategy further by selecting as many of the lower value green cards as possible, giving money to him alone, plus some café action again, and I persisted with my 'steal it' approach.
With me watching only what Paul was doing rather than concentrating on everyone, he picked up some early 6 cards as well as filling his boots from the factories again. Philip got caught by the cafés a few times and found it difficult to buy anything with no funds. James kept picking up his self-enhancing Range and was actually pretty close until Paul's factories and a good run of 6s took him through to a second victory.
Blimey, I thought Yeovil winning twice on the trot was impressive, Paul winning twice on the trot and we must be in miracle territory (Ed:  Paul was to the left of himself - inconceivable!)!! Well-deserved though, I'll give him that. 

After Maching Koro, it would appear that our intrepid dice rollers were to become even more intrepid explorers with Stefan Feld's latest design for Queen Games, Amerigo, the sole purpose of which appears to be to use all of the Shogun/Wallenstein dice towers hanging around Queen's offices.  Phil reports on this one.

All four of us were new to the game with James explaining it to Neil, myself, and Paul. There were snide remarks about the resemblance of the map to the Americas and the thematic resonance of the name.

The red cubes went into the tower and mostly came out again. Then the blue cubes went in and came out with a red cube. Neil, going first, took the red action and everyone else took the blue action. With a full six blue cubes I was able to steam into the middle of the map and land at two large islands, while Paul picked a couple of small islands and James landed at one island I'd chosen and a nearby small one.

Now the black cubes went in- and only three came out, with a variety of others. Everyone except me went for the other actions since Pirate strength was known to be 0 next round. In went the red cubes and we all took out plans, then the brown cubes and we all took techs: Neil took +2 blue, I took +2 pirates for everyone else, Paul +2 Green, and James the red=green tile. Green cubes next and all over the islands buildings sprouted, with James completing a small island for bonus points- Neil of course had to do something else since he hadn't established any settlements. Yellow cubes were next and we picked up trade good multipliers - except I think Neil (naturally) went blue this time. White cubes next- turn order shifted but I can't quite remember how. 

The end of the round came and went with the Pirates stealing 2 VPs from everyone except me. Then we were back to blue cubes...

I'll skip the boring bits. Suffice it to say that James was able to complete the large island he was sharing with me with four settlements there in round 3, scoring about 30 points, and that he was also able to complete the other large island I had landed at the end of the game for rather less points (he'd deliberately isolated a space so only he could get to it so either I let him finish the island or it would go unfinished and I wouldn't score my settlements...). 

Neil completed his own big island but with only a couple settlements. Paul completed several small islands and then got stuck midway through turn 3 with nowhere else to go. In fact by turn 4 there were no harbours left so blue actions were useless. Me and Paul compensated with plenty of yellow actions so we scored well on goods at the end. Everyone made it to the end of the brown track with 4 techs. Mine were the aforesaid extra pirates, +5 gold, 1 extra VP per gold, and +1 yellow/black. We all got about halfway along the White track - in James' case he leapfrogged to the top player's position using a tech.

The pirates gradually built up, going 0,0,1,4,3. Mostly the other players just lost the VPs although they were able to defend on the final turn since there wasn't much else use for cubes by then. Neil and James made best use of the buildings whilst I had several left over at the end of the game.

Final scores - well James won and took the score sheet. But I think it was a pretty convincing victory, can't remember the player order apart from James was first. 

As you may have gathered, this was a less than fascinating game for me. Not quite so bad as to rule out playing again, but definitely not one I'd pick to play!

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