MVGA meets Thursday nights at 7:00 in the
Masonic Hall in Holliston, on Route 16 just
east of the center of town.
We welcome visitors. We'll even
waive the $3.00 fee for your first visit.
Roll call: Anton, Dan, Rich, Paul, Eric,
We were happy to see Mike and Dave back
again; Dave has now learned the route from
the place they work and he arrived a little
(Anton, Dan, Rich, Paul)
The 4 gamers that were ready to go at 7:00
decided to start with Ra, a game that
doesn't take too long, and that also would
let them add a fifth player if one were to
arrive before they finished setting up.
Ra is a bidding game in which each player
has three "suns" (lovely wooden pieces
shaped like suns) to bid with. When you
have bid three times you're done for the
epoch, and when everyone had bid three
time, the epoch ends. The epoch can
also end when the "ra" tiles finish
crossing the sky; if you haven't used
your sun by then, too bad. In the first
of the three epochs, the players are
given carefully balanced sets of suns,
but in the second and third epoch you play
with whatever you picked up in the prior
epoch, so that one consideration in bidding
is what sun you'll get for next time.
As the game started, Anton and Rich scooped up the first few lots
while Dan and Paul awaited better fare. You're always conscious of
time in Ra. If you use your suns early, you wait helplessly as your
opponents scoop up valuable lots cheaply and the "ra" tiles seem to
creep across the sky. On the other hand, if you save your suns, the
"ra" tiles seem to race across the sky, and you're tempted to bid for
anything at all lest you lose your chance. One key source of luck in
Ra is the rate at which "ra" tiles are drawn; a rapid rate favors
those who bid early, while a slow rate favors those who wait. Of
course, you can evaluate the probabilities based on what has been
drawn so far, but it's still a random draw.
In this game. a flurry of suns ended the first epoch quickly, leaving
Dan and Paul with almost no tiles purchased (Dan had nothing but two
unflooded Nile tiles.) However, Dan had amassed good tiles for the
second epoch. In the second epoch, the players drew juicy sets,
benefiting those with the large suns capable of winning
hotly-contested auctions, only to spoil them time and time again by
adding "killers" to the sets (the funeral that kills Pharoahs, the
drought that kills floods and Niles, the earthquake that kills
monuments, and the anarchy that kills civilizations.) It just wasn't
Dan's game as his suns failed to pay off as expected.
The third epoch went fairly quickly again, with a number of quick
strikes by Rich, who picked up all eight monument types and all five
of one monument for 30 monument points. Rich's ability to get five
of a type not only gave him 15 points, but also made it impossible
for anyone else to get eight types. Anton gathered 20 monument
points to come in second.
Final scores: Rich 61, Anton 57, Dan 34, Paul 24
Eric's rating: 9. Ra is a great game that plays quickly and
works well for 3, 4 or 5 players. My rating is 9 and not 10
only because luck is so prominent, but the game is short
enough that it's not much of a problem; if you lose because
of bad luck you can always play again immediately afterward.
It's too bad this game is out of print; someone should pick
it up and reprint it.
Eric came in soon after Ra started and watched the action. Dave
came in and watched as he ate his sub, but when Mike arrived, he
and Dave sat down to play Balloon Cup. Dave has played before,
but Mike has more experience.
At one point in the game, the players drew a total of four gray
cubes, but they knew of the rules fix that directs you to redraw
in this situation. Mike got some lucky draws and knew where to
use them, and this gave him a comfortable win.
Final scores: Mike 3, Dave 1
Eric's rating: 7. A little more than a filler, but a game that
doesn't take long and is fairly easy to teach.
(Anton, Dan, Rich, Paul, Eric)
Dave and Mike were still battling over hops, so we chose another
short game. We wanted to avoid making them wait for our game to
finish. Santiago is remarkably quick (only nine rounds with 5
players) and when you live by our MVGA motto ("play fast, make
mistakes,") it finishes in well under an hour.
We played a 4-player game of Santiago last week, with Rich pulling
a close victory out of the hat by bidding carefully and taking the
Canal Digger role more than his share. This game had 5 players, so
we knew it would be even harder to attract that pesky canal network
to water our plantations, and with only nine rounds we knew we'd
have to start using those emergency canals early or some of us
would lose the opportunity.
In this game, Eric stole Rich's approach from last week, getting
to be Canal Digger four times, twice for a bid of 1 that allowed
him to place a tile with a full complement of crop markers. The
Canal Digger role pays off not only in bribes, but also in giving
the holder the last bid in the following round. Eric twice
held the Canal Digger as a single extremely valuable tile was
turned up. This puts the other players on the horns of a dilemma,
as a high bid can be topped, leaving one to pay a lot for the
second best tile. In the end, Eric concentrated his crop markers
on a large banana plantation and a large pea plantation while also
gathering about $20 in cash to win by a wide margin. Paul had
six crop markers on a sugar cane plantation of size 7 or 8, but
he found it impossible to gain access to water and a large part
of the spread was sadly abandoned to the encroaching desert.
Final scores: Eric $104, Rich $83, Anton $74, Dan $66, Paul $43.
Eric's rating: 7. This game is fun to play, but it seems random
at this point. On Monday I lost a game by $30, while in this game
I won by $20, and it's not clear exactly what I did to make the
difference. Further play may prove that there's more control than
is apparent at first; if so, my rating will go up.
(Anton, Rich, Dave)
Paul had to leave, and Dave had wanted to learn San Marco, a game
that works best for 3, so we split into two groups. Not only is
Rich an expert at San Marco, he is also happy to play it at any
opportunity, so he joined to teach the game, and Anton sat down
to fill the game out. San Marco is a cube-placement, area-scoring
game with a unique mechanism. One player divides a randomly
chosen set of six good cards and four bad cards into three stacks.
The other players each choose and play one of the three stacks, and
the "divider" takes the third, unchosen, stack and plays it. It's
important to divide fairly evenly lest one be stuck with the worst
stack, but an expert player will take advantage of the differences
in the player's positions to divide in a way that helps the divider
more than it helps the "choosers."
Dave took to the game right away and was in contention all the way
through (first-timers often find themselves hopelessly behind in
San Marco.) In the final round, Anton went over 10 limit points
first, leaving Dave to split a final set made up of three "3" cards,
two area cards, two Doges, and a bridge. At this point Dave had 9
limit points and Rich had 6. If Dave put all the "3"s in one stack
Rich could take the other, scoring 12, while if Dave split them, Rich
could take the stack with one "3", scoring 6, or the other stack,
allowing no one to score. It was an extremely tough decision, and
in the end Dave put a bridge, one "3" and one area card in the stack
Rich took, while Dave got two Doges, an area card, and two "3"s.
Dave thought about which area or areas to score with his Doges. He
could score Castello and San Marco, gaining ground on both opponents,
or San Marco twice (first place for Anton and second for Dave,)
gaining a lot of ground on Rich but losing ground to Anton. He chose
the split scoring, and when Rich rolled a "1" on his final banishment,
it was a close game, with Rich winning by 2. As it turned out, if
Dave had scored San Marco twice, he would have tied Rich for the win,
just ahead of Anton.
Final scores: Rich 58, Dave 56, Anton 42.
Eric's rating: 7. I have never won San Marco, but I can see that
the 3-player game is a great gaming challenge. Don't play with
anyone who's prone to analysis paralysis, and be careful about
playing with 4, but for 3 players who can make decisions quickly,
it's a fine game.
(Dan, Eric, Mike)
As 3 players sat down to San Marco, the others decided on Industria,
a game we've played quite a bit recently. In our initial playings
of Industria we tended to focus on gaining points for ourselves, but
we're now keeping our eyes on each other and playing defensively.
Cheap connections can be such a source of points (especially in
the technologies area) that sometimes you just have to take that
tile yourself unless the amount offered is exorbitant.
Dan was chosen as first player, with Mike second and Eric third.
In the 4-player game it's difficult to be last, but we haven't found
this to be true with 3. Dan turned up the first set of three tiles
and got two resources and a bonus. This miserable lot didn't bring
much cash in, and when Eric later got the Sawmill, the Quarry and
the Brickworks, we were reminded that there certainly is luck in
Industria. Eric sold the Sawmill to Mike and the Quarry to Dan
before taking the Brickworks for himself. The Brickworks is perhaps
the least valuable of the three, but considering that he got paid
nicely for the other two, Eric made out very well. Eric used the
cash to obtain the Clay Pit and both technologies, and Mike only
kept the Well (with another connection) out of Eric's hands by
ignoring a big bid.
As we continued on to the next era, Eric had to pause to rebuild
his money supply, and Dan got some roads in the quadrangle while
Mike got a Bank he couldn't afford to build for a while. Technologies
were more evenly spread for the remainder of the game, but Eric's
early acquisitions gained him several connections. Dan got the
Stock Exchange and proceeded to use it effectively on multiple
builds while Eric backfilled with a few bonuses after ignoring
them in the early going.
At the end of the game, it's often difficult to spend money as players
realize that money isn't worth much compared to other options. Dan
was stuck with a pile of money, and this together with his first-round
bust cost him the win. Mike paid the price of stepping up too many
times to swallow a tile that was worth a lot to Eric or Dan but not
worth much to Mike.
Bldg Road Bonus $ Total
---- ---- ---- ---- ----
Eric 37 + 18 + 10 + 1 = 66
Dan 24 + 9 + 22 + 4 = 59
Mike 27 + 3 + 8 + 2 = 38
Eric's rating: 8. There are plenty of tactical tricks in
Industria, and you can suffer from poor tile draws, but
it's a lot of fun to play. If you're just learning, stick to
the 3-player version.
WEB OF POWER
(Rich, Eric, Dave, Mike)
Anton and Dan had to leave, but the 4 of us who remained weren't ready
to call it a night. Web of Power fills a useful niche as a full-scale
game that offers tough decisions and plays in less than an hour.
There's luck in the card draws, and you can gain from poor play on the
part of the player who precedes you in the turn order, but the experts
win a lot more than their share of games.
Dave is still fairly new to Web of Power, and he found it more
difficult than San Marco. There are three scoring routes in Web
of Power: cloister majorities, cloister chains and advisor
majorities. The cloister majorities are score halfway through the
game, and all three are scored at the end. It looks like a simple
game, but you don't always get the cards you'd like (in fact, you
usually seem to have the wrong cards,) so you have to make do. For
new players there's a temptation to force things, but that usually
results in helping someone else more than it helps you. It was a
defensive struggle, but oddly enough no advisors were placed in
Aragon until Mike dropped one in, and then Eric finally got one on
his very last turn. Eric shared advisor majorities in Italy, England
and France, so this single placement was worth 12 VP, and it was
just enough to beat Rich by a nose.
Final scores: Eric 72, Rich 71, Mike 62, Dave 58
Eric's rating: 7. One of the best 45-minute games around.