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. Look for us in
the room at the back of the hall.
We welcome visitors. The Masons generously
stopped charging us for the space, so there
is no longer a $3.00 fee for anyone!
Eric, Steve, Rich, Paul H., Dan, Anton
(Eric, Steve, Rich, Dan)
We had a solid turnout this week. Anton and
Paul had scheduled a tabletop baseball series
between their league-leading teams. The rest
of us started off with Notre Dame, a new "big
box" Alea game from Stefan Feld. Notre Dame
is now out in the Rio Grande edition as well
as in Germany, but the copy we used is the
one Rich won as a prize back in April. It's
the third time we've played the game at MVGA.
Steve was new to the game, so we explained it
to him before we began. I find it relatively
easy to teach, as you have no more than three
choices at any one time (with the exception
of how to apply the effect of some of the
bribes,) but it takes practice to play the
It was an interesting game. Although it was his first game, Steve shot out
to an early lead, driving his carriage around the board to pick up several
of the 4 VP tokens (passing up tokens that provide a cube or a coin, but
fewer VP.) Dan got two cubes into the park very early, but he had to move
them to the hospital in Turn 3 to curb a menacing rat infestation. Rich
and Eric played more deliberately, gaining fewer early VP but building more
It's hard to know what to do with the Notre Dame cards, especially early in
the game. They offer a lot of VP, especially if an opponent or two chooses
not to donate, but at the cost of a valuable action and an equally valuable
coin. In the first part of the game, Dan decided not to donate, but each
of the other players paid his respects.
Score after 3 turns: Steve 14, Dan 10, Eric 7, Rich 7
During the second set of turns, Eric got two workers into the park for the
bonus, which he retained for the rest of the game. Steve ran into several
forms of trouble, suffering from a rat plague in one turn (costing him VPs
and a cube) and running out of cash in another (so that he could not make a
bribe.) Only Steve and Eric donated this time, yielding 5 VP for Steve and
6 VP for Eric with his park presence. Dan hit the cube region hard, taking
every single blue cube out of the supply and ready for use. Eric made his
big move during the middle part of the game, whizzing out to a nice lead.
Score after 6 turns: Eric 33, Dan 25, Rich 24, Steve 21
Dan came back strongly during the final rounds. Once again he eschewed the
cathedral, and though this cost him some VPs, it did allow him to take full
advantage of bribery to pile up big scores (he earned 9 or 10 VP at the
end of two of the three rounds.) Dan augmented this scoring with bonuses
for the park, which he once again stocked with two cubes. Rich piled up
several cubes and his trusted friend in the VP section of his board and also
made a cathedral trip, but it wasn't enough to keep up with Dan or make up
ground on Eric. Steve tried to fight back into the game, but the damage he
had suffered during the middle of the game was too much to overcome, though
he did (with Eric) donate to the building of the cathedral three times over
the course of the game.
Final scores: Eric 60, Dan 55, Rich 51, Steve 34.
Eric's rating: 8. Notre Dame is not only an '8', but a solid '8'. I enjoy
it every time I play it, and I wish Mac users like me could play it on BSW.
In this game, Eric visited Notre Dame with a donation three times while Dan
didn't visit at all, yet we finished within 5 VP of each other. The balance
between different strategies seems good, though the "wild card" space is one
I only use in case of emergency (for example, if I need a coin to make a
bribe and don't have the coin card or the trusted friend card.)
(Eric, Steve, Rich, Dan)
The APBA baseball series was still underway, so we chose a short game for our
next undertaking. We've played San Juan 30 times at MVGA, and all four of us
know the game and can play quickly. Rich started us off by building a Quarry.
Eric built a Gold Mine. He immediately followed with the Prospector and was
delighted when it paid off in its first use. Dan built a Prefecture and
started milking the Councillor for all it was worth. Steve tried Tobacco
and the Craftsman/Trader route.
It wasn't long before Rich and Steve built Libraries. The Library is a very
strong card in the 2-player game, but it comes in handy with 3 or 4 as well.
Rich and Steve were building and Prospecting for excellent value, and Dan got
Coffee and Sugar up and running, as well as a Gold Mine of his own. Both Eric
and Dan struck gold three times in the game. There was a lot of competition
for the 6-cost buildings. Dan built both Guild Hall and City Hall, while Rich
built the Guild Hall and Triumphal Arch. Rich also built a Chapel, under
which he buried 4 cards for VP, including several other 6-cost buildings.
Dan_ 33 = 17 + 6 (City Hall) + 10 (Guild Hall)
Rich 31 = 17 + 4 (Chapel) + 4 (Triumphal Arch) + 6 (Guild Hall)
Eric 30 = 24 + 6 (Palace)
Steve 23 = 16 + 7 (City Hall)
Eric's rating: 8. I'm looking forward eagerly to Race for the Galaxy, but
meanwhile I'm happy to play San Juan.
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
Anton and Paul were still finishing up the last game of their tabletop
baseball series, so we chose an even shorter game while we waited. Steve
decided to take a break, so the other 3 played Liar's Dice. I'm not sure the
baseball managers appreciated the sound of all those dice being shaken and
slammed down on the table, but at least it was only 15 dice, not the 30 we
use when we play with 6 players.
It was a game with relatively little drama. Dan lost one die, then two more.
Dan then called Eric's bid and lost a die for Rich as well as himself when
Eric's bid proved to be exactly right. Dan completed his quick exit with
another failed bid, leaving Rich with 4 dice to go up against Eric's 5. It
didn't take long for Rich to drop to a single die (Eric demonstrated great
skill in rolling stars in this game.) When you're up 4 or 5 dice to 1 in
Liar's Dice, it usually pays to tell the truth. Eric started by losing one
die to Rich, who rolled just the right number, but closed him out by telling
the truth in the next round, winning with 4 dice remaining.
Eric's rating: 7. Liar's Dice isn't complicated, but it combines luck and
skill and accommodates almost any number of players.
(Eric, Steve, Rich, Paul H., Dan, Anton)
The baseball series was now over, giving us time for a short 6-player game.
Union Pacific is often our choice under these circumstances. It wasn't much
of a game. Dan got 4 UP shares down early, scoring 10 VP all by himself when
the rest of us waited one round to long to play our shares. Eric stole the
green line from Paul to take second place.
At the second scoring, Dan scored big again, this time with uncontested
control of the light blue line (his initial blue share held up all game as the
others of that color were buried in the bottom of the deck.) Rich had 4 UP
shares in his hand still unplayed---the genius of this game is the way it
lures you into not playing shares that are, by any measure, essential to play.
Before the third scoring, Dan played four green shares to steal the green line
from Eric (who had stolen it from Paul earlier) and win by a huge margin.
Final scores: Dan 96, Eric 75, Steve 65, Rich 57, Anton 49, Paul 48.
Eric's rating: 8. Union Pacific is well balanced. It rewards careful
planning, discipline and low cunning. It will take 6 players with ease and
finishes in a manageable amount of time.