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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-03-25

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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 , Mar 27, 2004
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      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:
      Dan, Eric, Rich, Evan, Walt, Dave,
      Mike, Joe, Anton, Paul

      We had 10 gamers at MVGA this week. Paul
      and Anton kicked off the tabletop baseball
      season---every team has hope in the spring!
      We were delighted to see Joe, who's a Boston
      gaming regular but an infrequent visitor to
      MVGA.


      PARIS PARIS
      (Dan, Eric, Rich, Evan)

      Anton and Paul set up the APBA charts and
      started the Opening Day game to sounds of
      the national anthem and "Play Ball!" while
      the other 4 gamers set up Paris Paris. We
      knew Walt was upstairs concluding an event
      for the lodge, and Paris Paris is a short
      game, so it was a natural choice. Walt is
      not a big fan of the game, so we agreed that
      we'd offer him a spot if he showed up!

      Evan hadn't played Paris Paris before, so we
      provided a quick rules review before we
      started. The rules are simple, but it takes
      a little while to grasp the implications; you
      can tell a new player to watch the junctions
      carefully, but experience is a better teacher.

      Initial shop placements were scattered across the map, but we soon
      began to concentrate. Rich built up a network of purple shops in
      the southwest, around Montparnasse, while Dan placed quite a few
      unpainted shops in the east. Eric entrenched himself with two
      yellow shops in Odeon and Evan grabbed real estate in the center
      and north. There was a lot of tactical play as we tried to arrange
      grands tours that favored ourselves, and Evan pulled out to a lead
      of about 5 points in the early mid-game.

      Unfortunately, Evan lost position in the center as a result of his
      scoring efforts, and Eric and Rich made up ground with some
      high-scoring grands tours. The closing stages saw a plethora of
      tiles for the central junctions and tit-for-tat banishing of shops
      to the whining bag. On the final round, Rich had to choose whether
      to banish Eric's shop in Hotel de Ville, probably giving him most
      shops in the bag, or Dan's, and he correctly chose Dan's, but it
      wasn't enough to make the difference. There was a tie in the bag,
      so no whining points were awarded, but Eric made back a few points
      to offset the six he didn't get from the bag to win.

      Final scores: Eric 39, Rich 36, Dan 29, Evan 17. As we put the
      game away, Evan commented on how he will need to pay more attention
      to junctions next time.

      Eric's rating: 8. This is my favorite filler. It's easy to teach,
      fun to play, and finishes in 20 minutes when you "play fast, make
      mistakes." It's also a lot of fun to hear Walt talk about it.


      PRINCES OF THE RENAISSANCE
      (Dan, Eric, Rich, Evan, Walt)

      Walt arrived as we were finishing Paris Paris. We offered him the
      chance to play in a second game (I would have been happy to sit and
      watch just for the privilege of watching Walt play,) but he declined.
      It was still early, so we chose Princes of the Renaissance, a game
      we had played to completion once before at MVGA, on December 11.
      We still have more questions than answers in this game, and we were
      eager to give it a second shot. Walt had not played before, but he
      had read the rules and after a short review we were off.

      We played the variant in which players select their starting family
      tiles in reverse order of the initial order of play (a way to offset
      some of the perceived imbalance in the special abilities.) Evan led
      off by selecting Baglioni, who grants a discount in bidding to be
      condottiere, and who is widely considered the most valuable. Dan
      chose D'Este, who adds to the attack and defense of an artillery tile
      and is often considered second most valuable. Walt selected
      Malatesta, who can hold an additional treachery tile, and Rich and
      Eric selected the families that grant discounts in bidding for artist
      tiles. The order of play would be Eric, Rich, Walt, Dan, and Evan.

      In our previous game, we all competed for strong armies, so Eric
      decided to try a "fall guy" strategy. He purchased only one troop
      tile, the cheap and weak light infantry, followed by the Milan tile
      that grants a discount in bidding to be condottiere. He also bought
      some treachery tiles while the other players were building up their
      armies. When the wars started, Eric jumped in to "fight" for the
      city that was opposing Milan in an attempt to drive the value of
      Milan up and earn some money. This strategy proved extremely annoying
      to the other players. They felt (not unreasonably) that a general
      ought to have a respectable army and should not win his position
      (and the resulting payoff) merely through influence.

      Evan bought the other tile that grants a discount in bidding to be
      condottiere, and the double discount he obtained allowed him to be
      the general often (in many cases fighting for Milan against Eric's
      paltry force.) The other players also vied to fight, but they found
      it hard to compete against the discounts. Walt saw which way the wind
      was blowing and adopted a merchant strategy, bidding high for both
      event tiles that give money and victory points for buying merchants.
      This allowed him to buy city tiles that were merchants. Walt began
      to pile up cash as a result. Rich and Dan played mixed strategies,
      with Rich serving as the second-best general, and with Dan buying
      a number of Rome tiles.

      As the game drew to its conclusion, Eric had managed to drive the
      values of Venice, Milan and Florence (the cities in which he was
      invested) up near the top of the display while Rome and Naples were
      near the bottom. However, the players who were not focusing on
      being condottiere had managed to purchase more city tiles, offsetting
      this advantage. It was a close game that looked like it would be
      decided by the bonuses for money and influence, but Evan won two
      late battles to gain enough laurels for the win.

      Final scores:

      City Event Pope Gold Infl Laurel Total
      ---- ----- ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
      Evan 21 4 0 3 0 15 43
      Dan 33 0 3 0 4 1 41
      Walt 27 11 0 0 0 1 39
      Eric 27 5 0 0 0 0 32
      Rich 17 2 0 6 0 6 31

      Our previous game had been won by Anton, who purchased city tiles
      and got the rest of us to fight battles that drove the values of
      Anton's tiles up. Dan had won 21 laurel points to come in second.
      This game was much closer, and was won by Evan, the "terminator."
      Eric's "fall guy" strategy had a big influence on the game, but he
      was not able to benefit from it himself.

      Eric's rating: 8. The order of events in this game is so
      flexible that many strategies are possible. It's still a long game,
      but it was not nearly as long the second time around as we
      became more familiar with the options. I had fun trying a
      strategy that was very different, but I'd like to find a winning
      strategy next time!


      SAN MARCO
      (Dave, Mike, Joe)

      Soon after we began Princes of the Renaissance, three more players
      arrived at the Masonic Hall. Dave and Mike have been coming to MVGA
      regularly, and they brought Joe this week (all three work in Norwood.)
      They selected San Marco, a cube-placement game that is ideal for 3.
      In San Marco, one player divides a set of ten cards into three stacks
      and the other two players each select a stack and take the associated
      actions, with the divider getting the stack that neither opponent
      selects. The job of divider moves clockwise around the table, but
      a random draw determines which non-divider gets first choice.

      Dave played his first game only four weeks ago and did extremely well,
      coming in second to Rich (the expert) by only two points. In this
      game he focused on getting the most cubes on the board. At the other
      table, we knew Dave was doing well this week when he asked what he
      should do if he exhausted his cube supply! (Answer: you can pick up
      any cube already on the board and move it to the new location.) Dave
      also got to be first chooser almost every time when he wasn't the
      divider, giving him first choice among the three stacks.

      Final scores: Dave 58, Mike 51, Joe 45.

      Eric's rating: 7. I still feel as though I'm wandering around in
      the dark when I play this game, but I can see there's a real game
      here. I'm eager to keep playing.


      KOHLE, KIES & KNETE
      (Dan, Evan, Walt, Anton)

      The tabletop baseball series had finished up, and while Paul had
      to leave, Anton stayed for a game. With 9 people we divided into
      groups of 5 and 4, with one group trying Kohle, Kies & Knete, a
      classic negotiation game. It has come out in a new edition under
      the title "I'm the Boss," but Walt's copy is the older edition
      with the German title.

      Players have a lot of control in this game. You can cut players
      in or out of the deal depending on your opinion about who is ahead
      and who is behind. This makes it important to keep a low profile;
      early success can result in a dry spell as people cut you out,
      and the payoffs are larger later in the game.

      This game saw an unusual situation as Dan was the only one with
      cards for a while. This gave him the opportunity to control the
      action, completing deals as his opponents frantically tried to
      refill their hands. It doesn't take long to build a big lead if
      you can pull this off, and Dan didn't miss his opportunity.

      Final scores: Dan $60MM, Evan $52MM, Anton $45MM, Walt $41MM.

      Eric's rating: 5. This is a pretty game, and it sounds like fun
      if you listen while people are playing. I'm not a big fan of
      games that are so heavily focused on negotiation. I prefer
      some structure to hang my hat on.


      TAJ MAHAL
      (Eric, Rich, Dave, Mike, Joe)

      While one group was wheeling and dealing at the Kohle, Kies & Knete
      table, the other 5 chose Taj Mahal, a game that is near the top
      of the list for many of us. Rich had just received a whipping in
      this game the previous week at another gaming group and was
      eager to get back on the horse. Some people believe the game
      is too brutal with 5 players and prefer to play with 4, but others
      believe the extra tension just adds an edge.

      This game saw a lot of folding early. Eric was first player on
      Visit 1, and his six starting cards included four white elephants
      and another white card with a purple general. Normally a few white
      elephants are a boon, but with only one regular card, Eric had to
      fold a few times just to get the elephants going. This provided
      opportunities for the others. Joe and Dave soon had a pair of
      octagonal commodity tiles each, and both were scooping up more
      elephants with each card draw. Rich got a lot of ovals early and
      soon had the special elephant card to begin clawing his way into
      the race. Mike played a quiet game, beginning a connection chain
      and picking up many of the little bonus chits.

      When Eric finally got into the game, he entered with a bang. Eric
      and Joe put down 7 elephants each on Visit 3 or 4; Eric finally
      got the elephant tile, but the high cost damaged them both. Joe
      was a bit frustrated as Eric explained "I have nothing against you,
      Joe; I'm just trying to win the game." Big surprise there! Dave
      scooped up the "+2" special card and played it several turns in a
      row to pull out to a wide lead. The heavy activity exhausted his
      reserves, however, and he soon lost the "+2" card, giving Rich and
      Mike a chance to catch up as Joe and Eric languished at the back
      of the pack.

      In the final Visits, Rich began to hook up connection chains for
      4 and 5 points a visit as Eric won several elephant contests to
      claw his way back. Visit 12 saw Rich fold early for Agra and 5
      points while Eric and Dave laid down card after card. Eric played
      his last card in his chosen color and was relieved to hear Dave
      say he was out of cards and had to fold for nothing.

      At the end of the game, Rich displayed an 11-card long suit to pull
      ahead of the pack for the win.

      Final scores: Rich 44, Eric 39, Mike 38, Joe 33, Dave 33.

      Eric's rating: 10. A terrific game I'll play any time. I wish I
      could have seen the look on my own face when I picked up my initial
      six cards and saw that five of them were white!


      ROYAL TURF
      (Eric, Rich, Evan, Dave)

      For the final game of the night, we were looking for a lighter game
      that we could finish before it got too late. We decided on Royal
      Turf, a die-rolling race game. Neither Evan nor Dave had played
      before, but the rules are easy to explain.

      In Royal Turf, each player places bets on four horses before each
      race. Your opponents can see which horses you have bet on, but they
      can't see which has your double bet and which has your fake bet. We
      add to the fun by not allowing anyone to check their bets once they
      are placed. It's always more challenging when you don't recall where
      your fake bet is located!

      The first race saw the players clustering their bets on the same
      horses. This can lead to a defensive struggle, as players put more
      effort into stopping horses they haven't bet on than into moving their
      own horses forward. Evan led after the first race, but in the second
      race, Rich got a big payoff from his double bet and pulled into the
      lead. Eric was stuck with a double bet on Earl Grey, who finished
      last; with all the nobbling it was a bad day for Old Teabag, who
      didn't as much as show in any of the races.

      The third race had some comedy, as Sahara Wind moved along smartly
      despite the fact that no one had bet on him (better to help Sahara
      Wind than an opponent.) Rich steered his horses home for the victory.

      Final scores: Rich 2400, Evan 2050, Dave 1550, Eric 1200.

      Eric's rating: 9. This game is a light game, but it moves along well
      and is particularly enjoyable when everyone is paying attention.


      Eric Brosius
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