[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-03-25
- 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.
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
(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.
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!
(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.
(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!
(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.