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.
Paul, Eric, Evan, Walt, Greg, Dan
There were 6 gamers at MVGA this week.
Five were regulars, and we had a rare visit
from Greg, who was once an MVGA regular, but
finds the trip from his home near Lowell is
long enough to discourage frequent attendance.
EDEL STEIN & REICH
(Paul, Evan, Walt, Greg)
Walt brought a pile of games to MVGA, including
both Basari and Edel, Stein & Reich (ESR,) its
2003 remake. ESR has no board, but it will
accommodate 5 players (the limit for Basari is
4,) so we selected the higher-capacity game.
As we were reviewing the rules, Dan arrived.
Neither version works for 6, so Eric decided to
play a 2-player game with Dan while the other 4
stuck with ESR.
ESR offers a simultaneous choice of actions. In most cases, it's
best to select an action no one else has selected, because you may
lose your opportunity (or at least be required to pay a price to
keep it) if one or more opponents select the same action.
In this game, Evan consistently made the right selections. Evan and
Paul both scored three different colors of gems at different points
in the game, but in the end, Evan finished with no gems at all
(that's ZERO gems) and yet won by a mile. This game wasn't even
close to being close.
Final scores: Evan 90, Paul 60, Walt 53, Greg 35.
Eric's rating: 6. I enjoy Basari much more than ESR, partly
because I enjoy having a board in front of me and partly because
the die-roll option in Basari gives some degree of control over
when scoring will occur.
Dan and Eric discussed a few 2-player game options and settled on
Attika. Eric, who had played over a dozen games, had an edge in
experience over Dan, who had played only once. Some people find
the 3- and 4-player games irritating because when one player is
threatening a connection there can be a game of chicken over who
is going to stop it. This isn't problem in the 2-player game,
because you have to do all the stopping yourself.
Eric was selected as first player and drew three cards to broaden
his choices. Dan placed a building in the middle of the board
and drew two cards, and Eric responded by playing his Silver Mine,
his Mint and another building, zipping right past Dan's lone
building and threatening an early connection win. This game feels
a bit like Twixt at times; you can hem your opponent in and make
progress toward a connection in one play.
Eric extended his line of buildings with two roads, and Dan was
forced to start a new settlement to make an expensive stop. Eric
quickly emptied a stack, placed a new map tile in such a way as
to circumvent Dan's block, and used the amphora from the coinage
group to finish a connection with only ten buildings on the map.
Eric's rating: see below.
The first game was over so quickly that, with Edel, Stein & Reich
still going, Dan and Eric played a second. In this game, Dan
went first, and each player started a settlement near the shrine
at his own end of the board. Dan focused on drawing the black
main buildings, but Eric drew mostly the white buildings, placing
them using resources on the board and not worrying as much about
keeping groups (especially those belonging to his city) together.
Eric drew two streets and extended toward Dan, and when Dan placed
his main city tile in an accessible location, Eric spent cards to
swarm around it, cutting off its expansion options. Dan countered
by placing a convincing blockade across the board, and despite a
few half-hearted attempts by Eric, connection was never seriously
threatened from that point on.
In surrounding Dan's city, Eric had managed to cut the map up into
several areas with a single large star-shaped settlement. This
gave Eric room to expand in multiple directions while avoiding new
settlement costs, while Dan was forced to place new map tiles and
start new settlements just to find expansion room. This turned out
to be the difference as Eric completed his thirtieth building while
Dan still had a number of buildings on his map. Dan's black
building strategy didn't pay off, as he was unable to find the white
tiles he needed to benefit from the potential free builds.
Eric's rating: 7. The order in which you draw your tiles is an
important source of luck in Attika, but there are many important
decisions as well. The game is short enough that you can play a
few times to even out the luck. I particularly enjoy this game with
2 players, although I've played it more often with 3 or 4.
(Paul, Eric, Evan, Walt, Greg, Dan)
Walt purchased Liar's Dice for the chapter, and he's determined to
get the most out of the acquisition. He insisted that we play one
game before going on to something else, and it's hard to refuse a
game that's quick and enjoyable. We had six players, so all 30 dice
were in action at the start.
The game kicked off with two exact bids. When a player's bid is
called and proves exactly correct, every other player loses a die
(though we play the version in which you can't lose your last die
unless you are wrong.) There was a lot of grumbling, especially
from people who lost two dice without being wrong once!
This seemed to kick up the dissembling level. It's hard to believe,
given the upstanding nature of this group, but people sometimes bid
a number, even though they have no dice with that number, just to
deceive their opponents! We saw a whole series of big misses. Greg
lost 3 dice at once to go out first. Evan then lost 3 at once to go
out, Paul lost 2 at once to go out, and Walt lost 3 at once to go out.
This left Dan and Eric with 4 and 3 dice, respectively. Dan ground
Eric down to a 3 to 1 score, and Eric came back to even the odds at
1 die each before Evan rolled a 6 and bid "one 6" to close out the
Eric's rating: 7. There's plenty of luck in this game. It's a
big advantage to roll high numbers and multiples. Luck
causes no harm in a short game, though, and there's always
a laugh when a bid is called and we reveal the dice.
MERCHANT OF VENUS
(Paul, Walt, Greg)
In honor of Greg's visit we decided to play a game of Merchant of
Venus, an older Avalon Hill title that's a lot like a railroad
game. You pick up goods, deliver them to locations where they are
in demand, and upgrade your ship. The original design for this
game was set in the Indian Ocean during the 16th or 17th century,
but the setting was moved to outer space to allow the sources and
destinations to move around in a randomly-chosen manner each game.
The game is playable with 6, but we split up into two groups of 3
to avoid the delays inherent in a big game.
Merchant of Venus can be played to a set monetary goal (such as
$2000) or a time limit. This game used a time limit; whoever had
the most money at 10pm would be the winner. The scores were close,
but Walt had a bigger pile of cash, outweighing his slightly less
valuable collection of deeds.
Walt $1100 deeds + $1160 cash = $2260
Paul $1200 deeds + $920 cash = $2120
Greg $1200 deeds + $753 cash = $1953
Eric's rating: 8. I enjoy reacting to the changing opportunities
as the civilizations are discovered and lucrative trade routes are
(Eric, Evan, Dan)
Puerto Rico is always a favorite at MVGA, and we haven't played
very often with 3 players, so we decided to give it a try. With
only 3 experienced players, the game flew along. Dan won the random
draw to be first player, Eric won the dreaded second player slot,
and Evan received a starting Corn plantation as third player.
Dan started us off by Settling for a Quarry. No Corn was available,
so Eric took a Sugar, starting off a game-long Sugar monopoly, and
Evan took Tobacco. The new plantations again contained no Corn, and
it was clear that shipping would be more difficult than usual. Evan
got some Corn shipping in early, before the Indigo boys were up and
Eric and Dan bought early Factories, and Evan began to worry, but
Evan got a Wharf and Evan and Dan sold Tobacco and Coffee to fund
Harbors. This left Eric in the dust; he picked up several Corn
plantations and bought a Wharf too late but was unable to keep up,
despite respectable income from his Factory.
We weren't sure who was in the lead as Evan took Mayor to end the
game, and indeed it was a close game, with Evan winning on the tie
VPs Bldgs Bonus Total
----- ----- ----- -----
Evan 25 + 18 = 43 with 5 doubloons
Dan 16 + 20 + 7 = 43 with 1 barrel
Eric 20 + 17 = 37
Eric's rating: 10. Once you've gained experience, the 3-player
game is almost a different game from the 4- and 5-player games. The
Trading House is especially different, because a single round of sales
cannot fill it up, so that there are often solo sale opportunities.
(Eric, Evan, Dan)
Puerto Rico finished in record time, and Merchant of Venus was going
until 10pm, so we selected another quick 3-player game. It's a
mystery why Ra hasn't been reprinted, but several MVGA regulars have
their own copies, so we get to play it often. With 3 players, each
player receives four suns to bid with (as opposed to three,) and this
again gives a different feel to the 3-player game.
Evan started the game with an emphasis on monuments and Nile tiles.
He almost ignored civilizations and Pharoahs, costing him in the
first two epochs, but building up future potential. Eric and Dan
dueled over Pharoahs, but their monument collections were anemic.
In the third round, Evan made a serious play for Pharoahs, passing
Eric who had decided to take a Pharoah killer. Dan bid strongly to
ward off the threat, but Evan grabbed even more monuments and Niles
on the rebound, capping it off with a flood tile. Evan beat Eric
by 1 to avoid the low sun total penalty, so Eric gave 5 to Dan (who
had the high sun total.)
Evan wound up with all eight monument types and a string of about
10 Niles to edge Dan out for the win.
Final scores: Evan 55, Dan 54, Eric 30.
Eric's rating: 9. Timing is everything in this game, as each move
by the sun god Ra (or each failure to move) re-adjusts the bidding
(Eric, Evan, Walt, Greg, Dan)
It was still only 10pm, and we had time for one more game. Paul had
to leave, so we discussed our options for 5-player games and settled
on El Grande. Although El Grande is a big game, it plays quickly as
long as you can avoid analysis paralysis, and all 5 of us thought we
could live up to the MVGA motto: "play fast, make mistakes." Greg
had only played once or twice long ago, so we reviewed the rules with
him before we started.
The initial card draw saw the "score all 6 and 7 regions" card turn
up. With Walt in Granada and Dan in New Castile, this was a
big threat. Evan bid his 13 and Eric bid his 12 in an attempt to
get into the action, but neither of them took and killed the 6 and 7
card, so Dan and Walt started out staked to a big lead. Eric pursued
a "cabs on the board" strategy with some success, and by the
two-thirds mark Dan was in the lead, with Walt and Eric about 10
points behind and Evan and Greg way back in the distance.
In the last three rounds, the spread tightened up quite a bit, but
Dan made a number of clever moves to hold the field off and win.
Final scores: Dan 92, Walt 89, Eric 85, Evan 77, Greg 70.
Eric's rating: 10. El Grande is one of the great games of all
time. Every time I play it I tell myself "it's even better than
I remembered!" I have to remind myself to play it because it's
too good not to be played regularly.