A quiet evening as Lawrence and Dave joined Rich to play through the letter
First up was one of Michael Schacht's lesser known designs. While people
might this designer for MS for Web of Power (Kardinal und König), Hansa, or
Coloretto, his portfolio does include an I game. While the geeks among us
might think of Industria, the game we played was InterUrban - a kit game
from Winsome games.
3 Player - 1 Hour
As this is from Winsome, we know the theme will be trains. InterUrban is a
game of trying to control tracks built out from a central hub. The majority
owner on the track scores the "track points" with each successive owner get
half as much as the previous player. What makes this game interesting is
how a few rules control the overall track placement.
Each player starts with 10 station tiles form 1 to 4. Some of the stations
are simple straights while others are complex crossing tracks. Each player
will have 3 tiles face-up available to play and the rest face down to form a
draw pile as stations are used.
There is also a common draw pile of tracks. These tracks are either
straights or curves. Some of the tracks have a point value which helps
increase the value of the route containing that track. Again, 3 tiles will
be available face-up for the players to use with the rest face-down to
resupply the face-up tiles.
Finally, there are 4 start squares. These are mixed face-down and 2 chosen
as the central hub from which the 6 possible routes emerge. The
start-squares indicate the initial value of each route. The final value of
each route might be increased by numbered tracks as mentioned above.
On a player's turn, they may place 1, 2, or 3 tiles. The tiles must extend
an existing route, but need not all be placed on the same route. Each player
may choose from the common face-up track tiles or from their own face-up
station tiles. However, only 1 station tile may be played each turn. (But
here is the rule I missed this game - you can play another player's station
as your station build.)
What is interesting is the placement rules which are quite simple, but
create an interesting dynamic in the game. The placement rules state:
A) Station tiles can't be adjacent, a track tile must intervene.
B) A player can't have two consecutive stations on the same route.
C) There may only be 1 station of value 1, 2, and 3 on a route. There may
be multiple stations of value 4 on a route.
D) The 6 routes can't connect together.
E) A tile may not be placed such that track runs into the (untracked) edge
of another tile.
F) As soon as a route as one station of each of the four values, the route
is complete and can't be extended.
The second requirement requires that all the players must cooperate to build
a line if it is too grow. The last two provide ways of shutting down track
to lock in the points. In fact, similar to expropriation in Fresh Fish, if
a track can't accommodate any more stations because of (E), the route is
The game ends when all 6 routes are completed and then the scores
calculated. As mentioned above, each route has a value consisting of its
base value plus any additional points from numbers on track tiles. The
player with the highest sum of station values (commerce value in game terms)
then is awarded all those points. The player with the second highest sum is
awarded half (rounded up) of the first place points. The player in third is
awarded one quarter (rounded up) etc.
It is hard to summarize a session indicating laid what, but there were some
notable plays in the game that did get recorded.
One track had a crossing station with a curve exiting it. Approaching the
crossing station was the neighbouring track. Dave managed to play a
straight track to the connect to the crossing station, a curve out of the
other side. This had the two curves from the crossing station pointed at
each other. Dave then played one of his 1 crossing stations to not only
cross the tracks again, but to play the necessary 1 to close out 2 tracks in
one move...neat play. While Dave didn't have the majority in one of those
tracks, he did in the other. This gave him a share of 2 tracks and locked
up one of the more valuable tracks in the game.
Rich had the terminal station on a couple of track so was limited to
building off the other tracks by placement rule (B) above. He did cap on of
the lines with a crossing 3 before realizing he could have used a straight 4
to extend the line and perhaps gain a larger share in that route.
Lawrence did cross some track and build a station facing a gap 1 tile gap
that had another station at side. As this was Lawrence's station also, no
track could be placed in the gap, closing off that route, perhaps a bit to
As the game neared the end, Dave had a single 4 station on a short spur of
track worth about 10 points. This track pointed at one of Rich's crossing
stations which had been placed earlier hoping to force the connection. This
was also the last route still active. When Rich's turn came, there was no
straight track face-up to span the gap, only curves. As Rich had no tile
play, the game ended.
Turning to scoring (where cp is the sum of the station's along that right or
Route Value Dave Rich Lawrence
Base 4 + 2 = 6: (3cp) 2 (6cp) 6 (5cp) 3
Base 7 + 3 = 10: (4cp) 10 - -
Base 8 + 3 = 11: (1cp) 3 (3cp) 6 (6cp) 11
Base 6 + 6 = 12: (5cp) 12 (3cp) 6 (2cp) 3
Base 6 + 4 = 10: (8cp) 10 (4cp) 5 (2cp) 3
Base 8 + 1 = 9: - (2cp) 5 (4cp) 9
======== ======== ========
37 Pts 28 Pts 29 Pts
With the win to Dave. As the scoring shows, Dave placed first in 3 of the 6
routes while Lawrence was first in 2 routes. Good planning by Dave, but I
do wonder if we had played each other's stations (as allowed in the rules)
how the tracks might have progressed differently. As for that last straight
piece Rich had wanted? If it had been played, he would have shared with
Dave for the second route listed above. That single score by Dave was a
critical key to Dave's victory. Well played in trying to close it so that
others could take advantage of this short but valuable spur.
The comments at game's end indicate that it was enjoyed by all. It did take
about 1 hour to play (including rules explanation). Once we started though,
the game played relatively quickly.
3 Player - 45 minutes
With about 90 minutes left, we brought out Sid Sackson's Isfahan to play.
As it is difficult to play with just 8 tokens, we also brought out the base
game (Samarkand) for which Isfahan is the expansion. Starting with the base
game, Samarkand is a trading game where players are rushing through the
desert to get commodities not from other players, but from nomads or oases
in the desert. Goods in hand, players then head to the cities to sell their
goods for cash. The more goods, the more cash. The limiting factors in the
game is that movement is strictly controlled between squares (indicated by
arrows) and a player usually has to either give up goods or spend money in
each square. The winner is the first to increase their money from the
initial 200 to 500 piasters. The twist that Isfahan brings is that the
cities buying the commodities are no longer fixed but change as the goods
The initial selling was modest as Lawrence sold a couple of camels for a
modest gain. Dave and Rich hoarded their goods and sold 4 carpets (Rich) or
5 fruit (Dave) for a bit better gain. For the first part of the game, Dave
appeared to be generally following Rich around the board, but appeared to be
safely a square behind Rich as Rich headed laden with copper pots to the
city to sell. Dave then managed to fly through the nomads given them each
one of his goods to reach the city first and sell off 6 copper cards. This
had a double impact on Rich. First, it moved the copper demand to a city on
the other side of the board. Furthermore, it filled up the nomads on the
way with their limit of commodities. As a result, Rich couldn't just drop
off a card and move on, he had to purchase all the goods the nomads held.
As a result, Rich headed to the cities with a suboptimal sale of 3 gems.
For most of the first half of the game, we had patiently moved 1 square at a
time. Lawrence was the first to try the desert winds for a bit of a boost
by rolling the die. He paid his fees and rolled a "1" with the end result
of the identical move if he hadn't rolled the die. Having been stung by the
ill-winds, Lawrence then spent the rest of the game moving slowly through
the squares. Afterwards, Lawrence did mention he had forgotten that one
could give a single commodity to the nomads and then move again. This might
have accelerated some of his movement and perhaps yielded a few more goods
to sell for a bit better return.
Rich was approaching the cities with a full load, but decided to negotiate
with the nomads just outside town to trade for a few more and increase his
payout. Unfortunately, the commodity deck ran out and Rich was over the 12
card hand limit and had to shed a large number (I think it was 8?) cards
severely hurting his market plans. By this point in the game, we were
accumulating cards such that the sales were of 6 (or 7 in the case of wheat)
cards at a time. Seeing the other gain income, Rich knew he couldn't waste
his time moving slowly to the city and he took a gamble on rolling the die.
The winds were favourable as Rich rolled the 5 necessary to jump to the city
and sell immediately. But this luck would not hold. Later as Rich
approached cities with no goods to sell, he rolled once and managed to jump
over the city. But hoping to jump again the next turn, Rich rolled the move
backwards spot and was forced to enter the city and pay the penalty for
But Dave was the player accumulating wealth. He managed to sell 5 gems (120
piasters) and then 7 wheat (140 piasters) to get to 570 piasters or 70 over
the game ending (winning) condition. Lawrence had 280 piasters in hand;
while Rich (about to sell 6 carpets, but again too late) was the poorest
with 225 piasters.
And that was another game done in about 45 minutes (including rules
explanation and cutting the tokens from the Isfahan card). Personally, I
enjoyed this game. I was relatively close to the lead (if not tied) late in
the game, but had some bad results that hurt my progress. Whether this was
just bad luck or bad game play can only be determined by another playing.
Dave was the only one of us who had played before and as the score shows, he
certainly understand the game's dynamics. Granted, I haven't played the
base game of Samarkand, but I suspect that I like the dynamic market
situation in Isfahan as it does allow the markets to move around. But I can
also see the value of fixed markets as the board is more stable and one can
perhaps see paths forward a bit more clearly.
After 2 games with the same order of finish in both, we still had about 20
(perhaps 30 minutes) left. But as there were no real fillers that start
with "I" that for certain could be finished quickly, we decided to call it a
night and look forward the "J" week - which I suspect will finally be the
week of limited, very limited options. But there is a "J" game I would like
to bring to the table.....
But that will have to wait until Sunday's invite.