MVGA meets Thursday nights at 7pm in the
Masonic Hall in Holliston, on Route 16 just
east of the center of town. Turn north on
Church Place (which is more a driveway than
a street) to find parking.
We welcome visitors. We'll even
waive the $3.00 fee for your first visit.
Roll call: Rich, Eric Dan, Anton
(Rich, Eric, Dan, Anton)
When we arrived at the Masonic Hall this
week, we discovered to our surprise that the
door to the closet that contains our game
locker was locked! One benefit of meeting
in the Masonic Hall is that we are able to
keep a nice stock of our favorite games on
hand. No matter how many people show up, or
what their preferences are, we always have
suitable choices. With the closet locked,
however, we had to make do with the games
we had brought. Neither Rich nor Dan had
any games with them, but Eric opened up his
tub o' games to look for 3-player options.
We selected TransAmerica, and just before
we started Anton showed up with some more
games in his satchel.
We've played TransAmerica (or its younger
sibling, TransEuropa) several times in the
past few months. It looks like it's
dominated by luck, since you must connect
a set of cities that are dealt to you at
random, but there's a lot of scheming.
The first one was close, as Rich finished connecting his cities
while Eric and Anton were each 1 away. Dan was 3 away from
finishing his connection. He complained that, no matter what
he does, no one ever helps build track he needs. We suggested
that Dan should wear a tin foil beanie to keep his brain waves
(and information about the cities he holds) secret from mind-
Scores after Round 1: Rich 13, Eric 12, Anton 12, Dan 10.
The second round was another fiasco for Dan as Eric went out
while Dan was still 4 away from connecting. It was simply
unreasonable that Dan had the only orange city in all of
Dixie (the rest of us had our coastal cities in Washington,
New York and Boston.) This widened the gap and put Dan halfway
toward falling into the Pacific Ocean for the loss.
Scores after Round 2: Eric 12, Rich 11, Anton 11, Dan 6.
Rich opened up a big lead in the next round. When he connected
his fifth city, Eric and Anton were both 5 away from their
west coast cities. Dan almost connected this time, but Rich
now had a big advantage.
Scores after Round 3: Rich 11, Eric 7, Anton 6, Dan 5.
Eric went out first in the next round, whacking Dan for another
4-point loss as Rich and Anton lost as well. Eric had three
cities in the southwest this round (Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Los
Angeles) and began by connecting them as his opponents in the
East were unable to respond. The scores tightened a bit, but
time was running out for Dan.
Scores after Round 4: Rich 8, Eric 7, Anton 4, Dan 1.
In the final round, Anton was first man out ("these are not the
cities you are looking for.") Eric suffered another big loss,
and Dan took a hit for far more than the 1 point he needed to
drop into the Pacific and end the game. Rich got close enough
to pull out the victory despite Anton's strong finish.
Final scores: Rich 6, Anton 4, Eric 2, Dan 0.
Eric's rating: 7.
(Rich, Eric, Dan, Anton)
Anton has been bringing Iron Dragon, one of the Empire Builder
family of "crayon rail" games, to MVGA for a number of weeks,
and with just 4 of us on hand, he wanted to give it a shot.
Eric and Rich are big Empire Builder fans, and Dan was willing
to play with the rest of us even though he finds the system a
bit fiddly (it is fiddly, but I like it anyway.) We warned
Anton that he'd have to play fast if he wanted to make it home
at a reasonable hour; Anton tends to play slowly and doesn't
like to stay out too late. He promised to make an effort to
keep the game moving, and he did a pretty good job delivering
on his promise.
Iron Dragon is a fantasy-based version of Empire Builder, set in
an imaginary world with commodities such as dragons, scrolls and
wands (along with the usual commodities.) There are quite a few
pieces of chrome in the rules, including a "rainbow bridge" that
facilitates instant movement between two cities that lie on the
opposite shores of a body of water. It can take quite a while to
play if the cards aren't helpful, but the payoffs are big, so it
can finish before you know it if someone hits a few big spec runs.
We all began the game with usable sets of cards. Eric built east
along the south of the board from Eaglehawk to Shayobh with the
help of a foreman who belongs to the cat-man race. Each player
has a foreman who provides special abilities, and the cat-man
builds through jungles at a cost of $1 instead of the usual $3.
Eric's line wasn't ideally situated for expansion, but you must
choose a set of loads and build the track you need to deliver them.
Dan, going second, built Railla to Parekis with the help of an elf.
This route joins the center of the map to the northeast, an area of
the map that has little magical influence and specializes in
mundane products like cattle and fish. Rich started out by picking
up a few items in Borgofort and the Bluefield region and taking a
boat to Ozu-zarkh to deliver them for nice profits, returning via
boat to Wikkedde for his next leg. Anton began in the Old World at
the east edge of the map, connecting Octomare to Ozu-zarkh (and
getting in Rich's way in the process.)
It was some time before we were struck by the inevitable run of
disasters, and we used the time to deliver loads and extend our
track. The area around Shayobh was heavily built early in the
game, and Rich wound up building a winding, S-shaped line from the
south to the north. Eric faced a tough road to connect Wikkedde
as all three opponents built to that major city early. To win
Iron Dragon you need $250 and 7 of the 8 major cities, and it's
almost obligatory to connect Wikkedde. When the disasters hit,
they wiped out Dan's line through the desert, destroyed quite a
few bridges and delayed everyone for a few turns. Nevertheless,
Eric was leading in cash as the game approached its conclusion.
Money was public, as the Rail Tax card had appeared early, and
Eric had $185 to Rich's $100 or so, but Rich had all his major
cities connected while Eric was still two short. The gap was
even more deceiving in that Rich had almost $100 in loads on
Eric finally connected his last major cities, Wikkedde and Kola
in the northwest, and had winning loads on his trains. It was
just a little too late, however, as Rich delivered a load and
drew a card that paid $59 for dragons to Wikkedde. He was only
two turns away and raced over to complete the run and end the
game. The game had taken about 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Final scores: Rich $287, Eric $183, Dan $154, Anton $144.
All four players had their major cities connected.
Eric's rating: 6. Iron Dragon is one of the more awkward
members of the Empire Builder family to me. You can't use your
knowledge of geography to help you find the cities or the
commodities, and the chrome seems to weigh the game down. The
original Empire Builder is my favorite, with Eurorails a close