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SR - GiP 02/01/03

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  • Allan Smulling
    GiP - Gaming in Providence Session Report: 2/1/03 In attendance were: Allan, Larry, James, Mark, Michael, and Shirley (?) Scarab Lords: Allan and Larry We
    Message 1 of 11 , Feb 1, 2003
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      GiP - Gaming in Providence

      Session Report: 2/1/03



      In attendance were: Allan, Larry, James, Mark, Michael, and Shirley (?)



      Scarab Lords: Allan and Larry



      We started out with around 3 learning games of Scarab Lords. Both Larry and myself were pretty excited to get to play this, mainly because we're both fans of Knizia games and I just thought the artwork was very interesting. The general idea of the game is to gain control of two out of three groups in two regions of the board. The groups are divided into Economic, Religious, and Military areas. The game comes with three decks of cards - House Ankar (Blue), House Temet (Red) and the advanced game deck (white).



      A turn is divided into 4 phases; 0, 1, 2, and Supremacy. You are allowed one action during each phase, except for the Phase 0 where you can take as many actions as you wish. The cards are designated as to which phase they can be played on. Also, the Supremacy Phase is where the player tallies his point totals in each group and applies any bonuses that are awarded for having supremacy in each group. The player with the highest point total in each group gains supremacy. If at the beginning of your turn you control two groups in both regions you win.



      Needless to say, I got spanked each game I played. I'd like to blame it on the Dayquil and cough drops I was taking to fight off a cold, but in all honesty it was Larry's superior grasp of the mechanics of the game that allowed him to take the multiple victories.



      After a few more tries at the basic game, we decided to play the advanced game. I can see where the advanced game will give this title its lasting power. Not only does the advanced game give one access to totally different (and more powerful cards), but it also has the potential for you to gain access to some of your opponent's cards!



      While we both feel that the game is enjoyable, it does come with it's faults; namely the ambiguity in the instructions. There seems to be quite a bit of instances where we didn't understand how the cards worked or what the benefits were of performing some actions. For instance:



      * The rules state that you may take as many Phase 0 actions as you wish. One action is to remove curses. If you can remove as many curses off of phase 0 cards why would one waste the time to curse them? I could curse a Phase 0 card 100 times and those 100 curses could be removed on the opponents Phase 0 turn!



      * The distinction between Passive and Active text on the cards can be quite confusing. It seems that some Passive text can be played on each turn while others cannot. The confusion doesn't happen with all the cards, but there are a few that can have disastrous effects if interpreted a certain way.



      We didn't play enough to decide if the decks were unbalanced but it wouldn't surprise me if the Red deck required more aggressive play. All in all, I will definitely play this game again, and would like to have a second (third, and maybe a fourth) chance to play against Larry. Larry, thanks for putting up with your dim-witted opponent.



      Age of Steam: Allan, Larry, Mark, and James (Michael and Shirley arrived about half-way through the game)



      This was my fifth time playing this game and each one has had a different feel. I also think that there are many opportunities to try different strategies. Unlike the other plays of this game, it appeared that the railroad networks were more evenly dispersed over the map with a heavy concentration in the central section. I went pretty much uncontested in the West (my first time playing there). Mark played the Northern Center. Larry started in the East and continued into the Southern Center of the map. James worked his rails in the Center and progressed to the North East and in the process isolated Toronto so that no one could get to it!!!! I'm not certain if this was a strategy to deny everyone access to Toronto's goods or whether it was a track placement mistake. In any event, it surprised me that it was possible to actually render a city useless.



      A few things have become apparent to the group in playing this game:



      1. In order to make great strides in your income you /must/ keep upgrading your locomotive.



      2. It's in your best interest, in almost all instances to build the maximum number of track in your build phase.



      3. This is just my opinion, but I'm beginning to feel that issuing shares early in the game isn't a bad thing (in fact, I wouldn't hesitate to issue at least 2 shares a turn for the first 3 or 4 turns). The first few games saw everyone agonizing over when to issue shares. Today's game didn't have that dynamic. Everyone was quite comfortable with it.



      In the end, Larry took the game with 86 points, followed by Mark, myself, and James. Interestingly enough, Larry had issued the most shares, but managed to make the best use of his funds.



      I found this game quite satisfying, but am left in need of a rules clarification. Can one deliver goods to the same city of origin? Larry managed a big lead in income by delivering a yellow cube to the city that it came from by doing a huge multi-hop loop. Sweet! But is this legal?



      RA: Allan, Mark, Michael, Shirley, and James (Larry opted out, because he said he had to run the store, or some such silly excuse)



      We ended the session by playing a 2 Era game of RA. This was Michael and Shirley's first try at the game. I think I had just as much fun playing the game as watching /them/ enjoy discovering the nuances of play. Mark, of course, did a great job teaching the game. I suck at this game, but I rank it as one of my favs. We had to call it a day, when security came by and announced the closing of the Arcade. I believe if we tallied the score, Mark would have come out on top, with Shirley coming in second. It was too close to call with Michael, James and myself, although I was SET to make HUGE strides in the 3rd Era, baby! (Yeah, yeah, sure you were).



      In closing, we're planning on playing K,K&K next week. I'm pushing for a game of Puerto Rico. I STILL haven't played this, and will take any opportunity to get just one game going. Come on guys, have pity!



      Most memorable conversation: (During Age of Steam):



      Mark: "What are you going to do with all that money?!"

      Allan: "I'm spending it ALL on Pez."





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Phil Alberg <albergclan@cox.net>
      ... upgrading your locomotive. ... maximum number of track in your build phase. ... shares early in the game isn t a bad thing (in fact, I wouldn t hesitate to
      Message 2 of 11 , Feb 1, 2003
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        --- Allan reported:

        > GiP - Gaming in Providence
        >
        > Session Report: 2/1/03
        >
        > Age of Steam
        >
        > 1. In order to make great strides in your income you /must/ keep
        upgrading your locomotive.
        >
        > 2. It's in your best interest, in almost all instances to build the
        maximum number of track in your build phase.
        >
        > 3. This is just my opinion, but I'm beginning to feel that issuing
        shares early in the game isn't a bad thing (in fact, I wouldn't
        hesitate to issue at least 2 shares a turn for the first 3 or 4
        turns). The first few games saw everyone agonizing over when to
        issue shares. Today's game didn't have that dynamic. Everyone was
        quite comfortable with it.

        =-=
        I agree, these are all key considerations.


        >
        > I found this game quite satisfying, but am left in need of a rules
        clarification. Can one deliver goods to the same city of origin?
        Larry managed a big lead in income by delivering a yellow cube to the
        city that it came from by doing a huge multi-hop loop. Sweet! But
        is this legal?

        =-=
        I don't think so. The "Move Goods" section states that a good may
        visit each city or town only once per movement phase. This then begs
        the question, is a good visiting the city in which it starts the
        movement phase? I say yes.


        Nice report, Allan!

        - Phil
      • Steve Meuse
        ... I picked up AoS last night and had a chance to play it at B2O. I really liked it, I can t wait to play it again. I think the major point I picked up on was
        Message 3 of 11 , Feb 2, 2003
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          At 09:46 PM 2/1/2003 -0500, Allan Smulling wrote:

          >Age of Steam: Allan, Larry, Mark, and James (Michael and Shirley arrived
          >about half-way through the game)
          >
          >1. In order to make great strides in your income you /must/ keep upgrading
          >your locomotive.
          >
          >2. It's in your best interest, in almost all instances to build the
          >maximum number of track in your build phase.
          >
          >3. This is just my opinion, but I'm beginning to feel that issuing shares
          >early in the game isn't a bad thing (in fact, I wouldn't hesitate to issue
          >at least 2 shares a turn for the first 3 or 4 turns). The first few games
          >saw everyone agonizing over when to issue shares. Today's game didn't
          >have that dynamic. Everyone was quite comfortable with it.

          I picked up AoS last night and had a chance to play it at B2O. I really
          liked it, I can't wait to play it again.

          I think the major point I picked up on was to not allow your shares issue
          exceed your victory points, at least in the later rounds. We didn't
          actually fully understand scoring until more than halfway through, but, it
          was still fun. It seems to me that urbanization is key early on, and
          upgrading your locomotive becomes critical after the 2nd round. Placement
          during bidding I think can either make or break your game...

          -Steve
        • Mark J. Edwards
          ... Actually James move was a lot crazier than that! I had built a railroad link up to Detroit from the central area and was the only one even in the
          Message 4 of 11 , Feb 2, 2003
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            At 09:46 PM 2/1/2003 -0500, Allan Smulling wrote:
            >Age of Steam: Allan, Larry, Mark, and James (Michael and Shirley arrived
            >about half-way through the game)
            >
            ><snip> James worked his rails in the Center and progressed to the North
            >East and in the process isolated Toronto so that no one could get to
            >it!!!! I'm not certain if this was a strategy to deny everyone access to
            >Toronto's goods or whether it was a track placement mistake. In any
            >event, it surprised me that it was possible to actually render a city useless.

            Actually James' move was a lot crazier than that! I had built a
            railroad link up to Detroit from the central area and was the only one even
            in the northeast area at the time. Then James took urbanization, plopped a
            black city on Buffalo and built a link between Detroit and Buffalo. That
            was his only railroad link in the area, the rest of his network was in the
            southcentral area. So he had abandoned his main network to build one link
            up in the northeast (later he would do the same thing with a newly
            urbanized city I had nested behind my network in the northcentral) He did
            manage to steal that black good in Detroit, delivering it all of one link
            to Buffalo, and obviously he kept me from gaining sole access to the
            northeast. But he isolated Toronto from any access at all and badly hurt
            his ability to deliver goods long distances. We were surprised at how
            easily he had isolated Toronto.
            We were playing with the correct rules that allow you to start building
            track from any city, but I think it's rarely a good idea to start building
            a new network away from your main network unless you can fairly easily and
            quickly link it up to your main network, or minimize any crossover to other
            people's network during goods delivery. He was able to build further
            linkage in the northeast and east areas, but he was delivering goods only 2
            links towards end game, which is not good.
            Despite James' madness it was a very tight game. I was only 11 points
            behind Larry and Allan was only 7 points behind me. I got caught behind
            the locomotive upgrade curve (I was stuck at 4) and simply couldn't afford
            to miss a delivery in order to upgrade it (I was almost always towards the
            bottom of the player turn order).
            I'll have to look around and see if there's an answer to your question
            about delivering a good to the same city it started in. I'm now thinking
            that it isn't legal ("and it (a good) may visit any City or town only
            once") so Larry's victory is officially asterisked until we learn
            otherwise. ;-)
            In this game "Production" was only chosen once. Unlike my last game I
            was unable to isolate a city for my own devices ("Damn you Smulling!" and
            Torr deserves a "Damn you!" on that count also) and never really felt it
            would help me alone. I think Larry chose it all of once on the 2nd to last
            turn. I believe his gamble did pay off.
            We finished in a little over 2 hours and that's with interruptions in
            play as Larry actually tried to run his store.
            AoS is definitely my favorite recent release of the last year or so. I
            can't recall any game that's grabbed me this much since Traumfabrik a
            couple of years ago. I don't think James is all that enamored with it
            though and he readily admitted after his 3rd(?) play that he just doesn't
            "get" it.
            Which reminded me of a topic I saw in rgb or SpielFrieks some time
            ago. What games do you simply not "get"? Off the top of my head
            Stephensons Rocket comes to mind, as does Cartel, Pizarro & Co., Bazaar,
            Tycoon, Kuhhandel and recently Moderne Zeiten. Oddly some of these games I
            really like, others not so much. I think I know one game that would get a
            lot of votes in this category, Ra.

            Btw, thanks for the great report Allan! I love reading reports from
            someone else's perspective (hell even I'm sick and tired of hearing stuff
            from my PoV! It's all the whining that gets to me. ;-)).

            Mark




            "Just look at him. Square. The shape of *EVIL*" - Plankton
          • James Torr <jamesdtorr@yahoo.com>
            ... What happened was that I was in last place to choose actions, and I took urbanization. Then I realized that anywhere I urbanized would likely be built into
            Message 5 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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              > James worked his rails in the Center and progressed to the North
              > >East and in the process isolated Toronto so that no one could get
              >to it!!!! I'm not certain if this was a strategy to deny everyone
              >access to Toronto's goods or whether it was a track placement
              >mistake. In any event, it surprised me that it was possible to
              >actually render a city useless.

              What happened was that I was in last place to choose actions, and I
              took urbanization. Then I realized that anywhere I urbanized would
              likely be built into by everyone else before I could get to it. So I
              urbanized way up in the NW corner of the board in Buffalo. Having
              urbanized there, it was easy to cut off Toronto, just because of the
              way the map is laid out. If I had built from Detroit to Toronto, Mark
              would have built from Detroit to Buffalo, thus preventing me from
              ever building into Buffalo.

              Now, I admit that urbanizing Buffalo (or rather choosing urbanization
              in the first place) was far from an optimal move, and I'll take
              Mark's advice about not splitting up one's network to heart if/when I
              play AoS again. I was assuming/hoping that players would use each
              others' track more often than they did.

              However, my wacky play was due in part to the game's unforgiving
              nature. I had bult a nice little network in the middle of the board,
              but Larry had come in from the east and built parallel routes next to
              almost all of my routes. Clearly this was a good strategy on Larry's
              part, and clearly I should have been expanding west while it was
              happening. But once it happened, I was at a loss for how to recover.
              By turn 4, he had very much beaten me in that area of the board. So I
              played almost the last half of the game in a relatively hopeless
              position. I can tolerate that, but I was uncomfortable with the
              kingmaker situation I was left in. There were all sorts of moves
              (urbanizing, stealing cubes, moving cubes over my own and others'
              track, blocking access to cities) that really hurt or helped other
              players, but I couldn't find a way to really help myself. This was
              most apparent in the last turn of the game when I chose not to move a
              cube over my own and either Larry's or Mark's track for fear it would
              decide the game.

              So yes, I am clearly not quite "getting" this game yet. If I play
              next time I'll definitely start from a corner of the board rather
              than the middle, build a heck of a lot more, and not split up my
              network. I also still feel that access to black cities is very
              important. And I would have had a circular route if it weren't for a
              smart blocking play by Larry early on. But really I don't think I'd
              request the game because of my unpleasant experiences of landing in
              the basement early on and not being able to recover. That and all the
              math :)

              James

              > Actually James' move was a lot crazier than that! I had built a
              > railroad link up to Detroit from the central area and was the only
              >one even in the northeast area at the time. Then James took
              >urbanization, plopped a black city on Buffalo and built a link
              >between Detroit and Buffalo.
            • Allan Smulling
              Hi James! ... I see what you were doing now! Actually I was pretty much just paying attention to my little section of the world instead of the big picture.
              Message 6 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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                Hi James!

                >What happened was that I was in last place to choose actions, and I
                >took urbanization. Then I realized that anywhere I urbanized would
                >likely be built into by everyone else before I could get to it. So I
                >urbanized way up in the NW corner of the board in Buffalo. Having
                >urbanized there, it was easy to cut off Toronto, just because of the
                >way the map is laid out. If I had built from Detroit to Toronto, Mark
                >would have built from Detroit to Buffalo, thus preventing me from
                >ever building into Buffalo.

                I see what you were doing now! Actually I was pretty much just paying attention to my little section of the world instead of the big picture. (Perhaps this is why I never come in first? <grin>). This past game certainly had a more agressive flavor to it than the other ones. I, too, had expected folks sharing rail networks more than they did.

                Have you tried a 3 player game of this yet? I'm curious if the dymanic would change dramatically or if it would be more of the same with fewer people.

                Looks like Age of Steam isn't on the list for this coming week. K,K&K was talked about. How about taking Vinici (didn't you buy that one on Saturday?) for a spin?

                Have a great week.

                Regards,
                Allan


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Mark Edwards
                ... Ahhhh, it makes more sense now. You were desperate and panicked! It happens to the best of us. ;-) Mark
                Message 7 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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                  At 03:41 PM 2/3/2003 +0000, James wrote:
                  >What happened was that I was in last place to choose actions, and I
                  >took urbanization. Then I realized that anywhere I urbanized would
                  >likely be built into by everyone else before I could get to it. So I
                  >urbanized way up in the NW corner of the board in Buffalo. Having
                  >urbanized there, it was easy to cut off Toronto, just because of the
                  >way the map is laid out. If I had built from Detroit to Toronto, Mark
                  >would have built from Detroit to Buffalo, thus preventing me from
                  >ever building into Buffalo.

                  Ahhhh, it makes more sense now. You were desperate and panicked! It
                  happens to the best of us. ;-)

                  Mark
                • Josh Bluestein
                  ... One question about the above explanation: Doesn t Urbanization happen before the player s build phase? So if you have last build, everyone gets to build,
                  Message 8 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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                    > From: Mark Edwards <danger.mouse@...>

                    > At 03:41 PM 2/3/2003 +0000, James wrote:
                    > >What happened was that I was in last place to choose actions, and I
                    > >took urbanization. Then I realized that anywhere I urbanized would
                    > >likely be built into by everyone else before I could get to it. So I
                    > >urbanized way up in the NW corner of the board in Buffalo. Having
                    > >urbanized there, it was easy to cut off Toronto, just because of the
                    > >way the map is laid out. If I had built from Detroit to Toronto, Mark
                    > >would have built from Detroit to Buffalo, thus preventing me from
                    > >ever building into Buffalo.
                    >
                    > Ahhhh, it makes more sense now. You were desperate and panicked! It
                    > happens to the best of us. ;-)

                    One question about the above explanation: Doesn't Urbanization happen
                    before the player's build phase? So if you have last build, everyone
                    gets to build, THEN you choose your town to convert to a city, then
                    you build. Or am I wrong?

                    Josh
                  • Allan Smulling
                    Hi Josh, ... Sounds about right to me. [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    Message 9 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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                      Hi Josh,

                      >One question about the above explanation: Doesn't Urbanization happen
                      >before the player's build phase? So if you have last build, everyone
                      >gets to build, THEN you choose your town to convert to a city, then
                      >you build. Or am I wrong?

                      Sounds about right to me.


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Mark Edwards
                      ... You are correct and that s the way we play. Perhaps James was afraid he would get cut out of getting to the city on the *next* turn as he couldn t get to
                      Message 10 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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                        At 01:06 PM 2/3/2003 -0500, Josh wrote:
                        >One question about the above explanation: Doesn't Urbanization happen
                        >before the player's build phase? So if you have last build, everyone
                        >gets to build, THEN you choose your town to convert to a city, then
                        >you build. Or am I wrong?

                        You are correct and that's the way we play. Perhaps James was afraid he
                        would get cut out of getting to the city on the *next* turn as he couldn't
                        get to it on his build in the current turn?

                        Mark


                        If you like board games and live in Eastern MA or the surrounding areas
                        check out Unity Games -- www.unitygames.org

                        "Head! Pants! Now!! Move that melon of yours and get the paper if you
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                      • James Torr <jamesdtorr@yahoo.com>
                        You re right. I did get the first chance to build into the new city. I had originally written that anywhere I urbanized would likely be built into by everyone
                        Message 11 of 11 , Feb 3, 2003
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                          You're right. I did get the first chance to build into the new city.
                          I had originally written that "anywhere I urbanized would
                          likely be built into by everyone else before I could get to it,"
                          which is wrong. What I should have said was ""anywhere I urbanized
                          would likely be built into by everyone else and I wouldn't benefit
                          much from it."

                          James

                          > One question about the above explanation: Doesn't Urbanization
                          happen
                          > before the player's build phase? So if you have last build,
                          everyone
                          > gets to build, THEN you choose your town to convert to a city, then
                          > you build. Or am I wrong?
                          >
                          > Josh
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