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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-02-26

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  • brosiuse
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2004
      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,
      Mike, Dave

      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
      before Dave.


      RA
      (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.


      BALLOON CUP
      (Dave, Mike)

      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.


      SANTIAGO
      (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.


      SAN MARCO
      (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.


      INDUSTRIA
      (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.

      Final scores:

      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.


      Eric Brosius
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