Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Sun, snow, and intergalactic imperialism

 Contributors: Daniel, David

I arrived later than usual last night and despite James' best efforts to prevent me getting involved in any gaming, the two Jo(h)nnies graciously made a spot for me at TTR: Nordic.

After some initial confusion over the difference between ferries and tunnels (no idea how Jon has managed to make it across the channel so many times in the past on his way to Essen) we got into the swing of things pretty quickly. John and Jon were both trying to run long connections down the length of the map, so while I was struggling to pick up any Locos (which I desperately needed to even get started on my routes) I amused myself by blocking their paths here and there. Things eventually opened up for me and I got so carried away with grabbing additional route cards that I completely forgot what the endgame conditions were. Eyeing up the heavily depleted pile of carriages next to me I asked Jon the fateful question and the penny dropped that I had gone ahead and picked up a hefty route that I couldn't hope to complete - oops!

Despite my disruption through the mainland, John managed to find a more circuitous connection, something which made the difference in being able to score two 20+ point routes. This was more than enough to swag a comfortable win, with Jon's late game acquisitions from the stack of route cards proving a mixed bag that left him around ten points off the boil. I was lagging quite far behind with the 36 point deficit for my incomplete route only mitigated by having the 'most routes' bonus card.


We were then joined by Dani for Machi Koro with all the things mixed in. Dani went down the route of hoarding loads of cash and quickly buying into the expensive landmarks like the Airport. As the rest of us were going for the more mean-spirited cards this turned out to be an excellent strategy as he was able to avoid the worst of any impact from this. All the way through he looked a dead cert to take the honours, however Jon was keeping pace with a flush of income from his stack of cornfields despite having earlier declared them as a useless purchase.

There was to be a twist in this tail though, as Dani's empire was built on mortgaging his way to supremacy and in what should have been the very last turn the bailiffs finally came calling. Left impoverished after their visit he was unable to purchase his final landmark despite it's ridiculously low cost, tantalisingly short of cash after being Scrooge McMoneybags for most of the evening. This left the way open for Jon to snatch victory, with the rest of us a landmark or two short of the finishing line.


Next up was Roll for the Galaxy, wherein I was completely foxed by the addition of an expansion and provided the kind of rules explanation that James would be proud to give. It's a fairly straightforward game when you do get going but boy is it convoluted to begin. After a slow start everybody managed to click and it was interesting to see how we all took very different routes. Dani quickly set up a production engine and began to crank the handle very early on, bringing in a consistent stream of VP tokens and cash. It looked like another unstoppable juggernaut was in process, but as it was fairly slow moving there was breathing space for the rest of us to catch up.

John was piling dice into his cup like there was no tomorrow, which meant that he was able to piggy back on pretty much every action due to the large numbers he was chucking every turn. Maintaining that size of population required a lot of cash so despite the versatility of his pool he was accumulating VPs at a slower rate than he might otherwise have been able to achieve.

Jon eschewed the advice of his homeworld setup, which was encouraging the collection of red dice for a rampant militaristic conquest, and took the hard route to spreading his empire to new worlds with lots of exploration and settle actions along the way.

I had a very tight economy with a relatively small number of dice compared to my opponents, but what I did have was the ability to use cash to make my conquests cheaper. Along the way I picked up a couple of blue worlds with matching dice and so started to piggyback on Dani's actions to churn those for a decent handful of VP chips. Most of my game was focused on getting a 6 point development into play, something which eventually won me the game - except that it didn't as I forgot to include the base value of the development in my score at the time (blame it on habits from the card game). It was tight though with both Jon and Dani on 35, John on 34, and me on 30/36.


James B and I arrived early with Philip turning up just after so we started with a game of Patronize. It's the AEG re-print of the Japanese original and another game set in the tempest universe, although that doesn't add anything other than a series of characters no one has heard of or has any interest in. Although it's quick and effectively a simple trick taking game it has a convoluted scoring system and requires a bit of experience when it comes to timing. Knowing which cards to protect, when to steal and when to pass is all important. It was a one sided game where I dominated from the first turn to the end. Having played it a few times I knew exactly when not to win tricks and when to steal. This allowed me to rack up a pretty big score of 83, James B came second with 64 and Phil last with 50. It's a bit wonky to start with but once you've played it a few times it really turns into a nice game.


After that was a game of North Wind with Karolina, Magnus, James B and myself. A surprisingly thematic exploration game with wonderful components. Large cardboard ships and various upgrades and wooden good tokens that fit snugly onto your ship. Each player is attempting to fulfil contracts at three different ports, the first player to complete 8 contracts wins. The first quarter of the game is Luck driven, learning where certain resources and events are and then exploiting them. However once you've upgraded your ship the luck element is almost completely negated and it's then a race to beat the other players to the contracts, knowing when to ditch or sell certain goods is key. I started quite slowly, as last player the contracts I was aiming for were completed by the others before I could get to them. Magnus meanwhile raced into an early lead by beating pirates and delivering pirate captains to face justice. I managed to complete a few bonuses such as having a full crew and completing a contract in each port that allowed me to catch up towards the end. James B steadily completed the harder contracts whilst Karolina dominated the wine contracts. At the end Karolina managed to pip Magnus to the win by completing the last few contracts as well as the bonuses. So Karolina won with 8 cubes, James and Magnus were on 6 and I ended on 5.


We then moved onto The Grizzled. I'm not a huge fan of co-ops but the artwork and theme were enough to tempt me and I wasn't to be disappointed. This is perhaps the most fun I've had playing a co-op, but as I don't play that many take that with a pinch of salt. It's set in the trenches of WW1 and each player is a French solider. The mission is to survive by relying on each other for support whilst battling the never ending horrors such as shelling, mustard gas and various traumas. Each round a player becomes the squad leader and leads a mission into no man's land. The objective is to complete missions safely, if you succeed the cards are discarded if you fail the cards are added back in. In our first game we were totally demoralised from the very first mission, Magnus was rendered mute for most of the game and James B was a tyrannical leader who refused to give up command and who continually made life hard for us. So it didn't take long before we failed, the never ending battery finally killing our morale. In the second game we failed again but came within a whisker of winning it, we unfortunately ran out of support at the crucial time. I thought it was great, a real challenge, which makes me want to play it again.

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