[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-05-27
- MVGA meets Thursday nights at 7pm 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, Paul H., Paul L., Eric,
Dave, Rich, Evan, Dan, Scott, Mike
Although Walt was away again promoting his
books (he's a science fiction author,) we
had 10 gamers at MVGA without him (we
collected the $30 for you, Walt; you can
pick it up on June 3!)
(Anton, Paul H., Eric)
There were only three gamers present at
our 7pm starting time, so we decided to
try Hansa, a new Michael Schacht game that
many feel is at its best with three
players. Anton and Eric had played Hansa
before, but the game was new to Paul H.,
so we reviewed the rules before we began.
The rules are simple and easy to explain,
though the implications can take a little
while to understand.
In our initial games of Hansa at MVGA, we were reluctant to pay
that thaler to re-stock the goods chips (why not let someone else
pay and wait to swoop in to grab some of the loot?) As a result,
the games moved slowly at times while we dared someone to make a
move. More recently (for example, in our game on April 29,) we
have begun to see that the re-stocking player can reap rewards
that far exceed the modest re-stocking cost, and in this game we
didn't let too many empty spaces appear before someone paid up
to get the first look at a new batch of goods chips. This makes
the game even a little more attractive, as it moves more quickly.
It's dangerous to let your market presence get too thin in Hansa,
and we all put plenty of effort into laying more market stalls in
the early going. Solo presences were particularly targeted, and
3-barrel chips were used to gain majorities in cities where one
player had played two stalls in the initial set-up. Eric got a
small edge in market stalls, but fell behind in selling goods
chips as a result and had to try to catch up. Paul was the last
player, and with Anton looking like the leader, Paul chose to
lay markets in two new cities (one of which had been a monopoly
for Anton) to get points for presence and take away the 4 point
monopoly from Anton.
We counted the scores carefully, and Anton won by a nose in the
closest game of Hansa we've had so far at MVGA. As the scores
demonstrate, all 3 players pursued similar strategies; Anton
simply executed a little better.
Goods Cities Total
----- ----- -----
Anton 34 + 10 = 44
Paul H. 31 + 12 = 43
Eric 30 + 12 = 42
Eric's rating: 8. Like Web of Power, another Michael Schacht
gem, Hansa has the feel of a bigger game, but plays quickly and
with no unnecessary fluff. There are plenty of tactical
decisions, but the best player will win a substantial share
of the games.
(Rich, Evan, Paul L., Dan)
Hansa was over quickly, but we had 8 players on hand by the time
it finished. Walt had taken his copy of Saint Petersburg to Balt
Con with him, but he left his copy of Goa in the MVGA game closet
for the week, realizing that he wouldn't have a chance to play
this longer and more involved game. Rich, Evan and Paul L. had
played Goa before, but the game was new to Dan, who received an
explanation before the game started.
I didn't receive details on this week's game; all I have is the
final scores. Rich and Evan finished with equal victory point
totals, and Rich won on the tiebreaker.
Final scores: Rich 39, Evan 39, Paul L. 33, Dan 27.
Eric's rating: 8.
(Anton, Paul H., Eric, Dave)
Dave has been bringing Medina to MVGA every week. We played it
back on March 4, but it seemed time to play it again. Dave read
in Eric's write-up on the MVGA website that Eric had never played
Medina, and he felt it was time Eric learned it. Paul H.
and Anton joined in to make up a 4-player game, and Dave went
through the rules. Medina is a city-building game with a twist:
you work with the other players to construct palaces and other
related structures, but you don't own anything until you "cap" a
palace with one of your own four precious caps, and as soon as
you cap a palace, construction on that palace is halted forever
(except for attached stables, of which each player may place only
three.) The primary source of VPs is the palaces you own, but
you also receive VPs for city walls and meeples adjacent to your
palaces, and for bonus tiles representing the largest palace in
each color and the last connection to each corner of the city.
Palaces come in four different colors; each player gets five
palace blocks in each color, and each player may "cap" only one
palace of each color. You might think each player would work on
his or her own palaces, but this isn't the case. Only one palace
of each color may be under construction at one time; thus, anyone
who plays brown blocks must build the same brown palace, increasing
the size until one player pounces, placing a cap on the brown
palace. At this point, a new brown palace may begin construction,
but if you have already capped a brown palace you may not cap a
second one (though it's possible that you'll be forced to add
blocks to another brown palace, helping an opponent.) Dave warned
us that although one might think it's wise to wait for a palace of
size five or more, space on the board is limited, so it usually
pays to make your move sooner.
We started off hesitantly, starting palaces in all four colors,
adding a block here and a block there. Anton was the first to use
a cap, claiming a gray palace while Paul H. and Eric played more
cautiously, hoping for bigger game. Dave claimed a fairly sizable
orange palace soon thereafter, and before long we were all heavily
invested in various colors. At the start of the game you don't
want to play anything (you worry that you'll open good
opportunities for others,) but by mid-game you have more to do
than you can do.
Ownership of the largest palace bonus tiles moved around, but
Dave played a canny game and wound up with the largest share of
the loot. Anton and Paul H. ran out of pieces and had to watch
as Eric and Dave finished up. Eric connected to the 4 VP corner
with his last wall and was relieved to see that Dave was one
wall short of stealing it away, but Dave's mastery of the bonus
tiles made the difference in a well-fought struggle. Dave is still
fairly new to MVGA, and he was pleased to win one from this
competitive group of opponents.
Walls Meepl Palac Bonus Total
----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Dave 2 9 18 10 39
Eric 6 8 16 7 37
Anton 8 4 20 3 35
Paul H. 5 6 17 0 28
Eric's rating: 6. Medina worked smoothly, though I can see that
in a less careful group it would be easy for one player to hand
victory to the next person in player order. The early waiting
was a bit odd, but I can see that with more practice it could be
a unique and enjoyable feature. I wasn't entranced by Medina on
my first try, but I'll be happy to give it another shot sometime.
The wooden pieces and desert theme do make a visually attractive
THROUGH THE DESERT
(Anton, Eric, Dave, Scott, Mike)
Paul H. had to leave after our game of Medina finished up, but Mike
and Scott had arrived to take his place, and we looked for a short
5-player game to play while we waited for Goa to finish. We decided
to continue the desert theme with Through the Desert, a game with
palm trees, water holes, and unaccountably pastel-colored camels.
We name the colors after sherbet flavors: lemon, lime, grape,
peach and mint. We've played Through the Desert a number of times
at MVGA, but Dave was new to the game, so we went over the rules with
him before we started. The mechanics are simple; on each turn you
get to place two camels, expanding one of your herds by two camels or
two of your herd by one camel each.
Victory points are scored by connecting your herds to palm trees and
water holes, by surrounding empty regions with your herds, and by
owning the largest herd in a color. It's hard to keep your attention
focused on all these diverse goals, especially when four opponents
are all trying to do the same. It can also be a surprise when one
player takes the last camel in one of the five colors to end the game
(often a little before you were ready for it to end.)
The initial camel placements were nasty, as Mike and Eric in
particular placed opposing herd leaders adjacent to each other in the
neighborhood of several different palm trees. This almost guaranteed
that the two of them would be focused on each other in the early going
to the exclusion of anyone else, and indeed Mike got much the best of
the palm tree connections while Eric grabbed more than his share of
the water holes in the vicinity.
Through the Desert can feature a run-away winner if one player is left
alone to cordon off a big section of the board, but you're not likely
to get away with it in this group. Anton in particular tends to be
death to enclosure attempts, sacrificing his own goals to prevent an
embarrassing haul for anyone else. As a result, it's important to
grind out the points for palm trees and water holes while sneaking
out to a lead in one or (ideally) more colors. Dave and Anton both
got respectable enclosures, but Dave did just a little better to win
his second straight game.
Final scores: Dave 63, Anton 49, Eric 48, Scott 41, Mike 41.
Eric's rating: 9. Through the Desert is a wonderful game for 2
to 5 players. It can be frustrating when you lose because
everyone else is picking on you, but in this week's game I can't
blame my poor finish on anything but the fact that I challenged
Mike too directly, taking both of us out of contention.
TICKET TO RIDE
(Rich, Dan, Mike)
Scott and Anton left for home, but the 7 remaining players split
up into two groups for another game. We've been playing Ticket
to Ride regularly since its first MVGA appearance on April 8.
It's a game with important tactical and strategic decisions that
aren't obvious until you've played it a few times. It doesn't hurt
to draw the right tickets (ones that work together and aren't
spread all over the map,) but the better player will pull a win
out of middling-quality tickets when a lesser player would come
in behind the pack.
Dan and Rich had both played a number of games of Ticket to Ride,
but it was Mike's first MVGA playing. In the 3-player game you can
build only one line between any pair of cities (even if two lines
are drawn on the map,) and this restriction adds tension to an
already tense game.
In this week's game, Dan and Rich were neck and neck going into the
final scoring, but Dan pulled out a narrow victory.
Final scores: Dan 129, Rich 125, Mike 92
Eric's rating: 8. Ticket to Ride is considered by many the odds-on
favorite to win the SdJ award this year. I'm not so confident, as
the SdJ jury has made some unexpected choices in the past, but it
would certainly be a worthy candidate. Ticket to Ride is a fine
gamer's game, but it also plays very well for families. It will
even work for fairly young children as long as you find a way to
help them hold the cards (you often have 20 or more cards in your
hand, and although the cards are small, children may have trouble
holding so many.)
(Paul L., Eric, Dave, Evan)
Eric has been bringing Industrial Waste to MVGA every few weeks, but
we hadn't played since February 6, 2003, before we began writing up
these session reports. Rich isn't fond of Industrial Waste, but he
was busy with Ticket to Ride and we had four players who were
willing to give it a try.
Industrial Waste is a game in which players buy resources, produce
orders for money, upgrade their factories, and pay workers. It may
sound a lot like many other games, but there's a twist: too much
production generates waste that can lead to a stiff fine, or even
to a total regulatory shutdown if you let the problem get too
severe. You can improve your factory by increasing capacity, by
reducing your need for raw materials or workers, or by reducing
the amount of waste it produces. The trick lies in deciding where
to focus your efforts.
The game is driven by a deck of cards, with each card allowing a
player to take a specific action. At the start of each round you
deal out five sets of three cards each (one more than the number
of players.) Each player in turn takes a set, with the fifth set
discarded after everyone has made a selection. Players who select
early in the turn order have many options, but those who select
later must make do with what's left. Turn order rotates (like in
Puerto Rico,) so if you have the first choice on one turn you need
to save up for leaner times in the following rounds when you have
Early in the game, innovation and production cards are highly
sought after, but in many games the recycling cards (which reduce
your waste pile) become increasingly important as the game proceeds.
There are even a few "waste removal" cards that allow you to ship
your own waste into the waste piles of your opponents; this sneaky
move can upset their carefully-made plans.
This game was unusually gentle, as the sets of cards we dealt out
provided a good mix of cards throughout the game. In some games
the cards available can be extremely unattractive, forcing players
to take out loans that impose VP penalties just so they can stay
alive. Dave reduced his waste production and churned out a steady
stream of orders. He paid handsomely for raw materials but was
able to turn a profit as he grew his factory and upgraded its
capabilities. This represented three wins in a row for Dave, two
in games he was playing for the first time, solidly cementing his
place as a man to watch out for at the MVGA gaming table.
Final scores (VP):
Fctry Innov Money Total
----- ----- ----- -----
Dave 20 + 31 + 17 = 68
Eric 18 + 31 + 15 = 64
Evan 20 + 28 + 10 = 58
Paul L. 19 + 17 + 20 = 56
Eric's rating: 9. Industrial Waste appears uneventful at first
glance, but it forces you to respond to changing circumstances as
the card sets introduce variability. One key skill is putting
yourself into a position in which the cards you want aren't of
interest to your opponents (ideally while they fight each other
for the same sets of cards.) I've been playing Industrial Waste
by e-mail and it's even more interesting when you have time to
work out just how you can limit the options of your opponents.
WEB OF POWER
(Eric, Rich, Mike)
It was late enough in the night that we didn't want to start a
long game, but we had time for a game of Web of Power, especially
a 3-player game. In the 3-player game you take ten cards out of
the deck, two in each color, and the game flies along.
The action started in Burgundy but soon moved to France as
Mike piled in with a cloister, Eric popped an advisor in, and
Mike came back with one of each. Rich sat back and played
nothing but cloisters, snagging a 6-cloister chain starting
in France and extending all the way to Italy. Mike and Eric
wound up with 2 advisors each in France, but Rich got 4
cloisters to scoop the 8 VP for France twice. Mike's next
set of advisors went into Bayern, generating some laughter
from Rich, who noted that Mike could hardly have found a set
of two more distant countries for advisors.
Eric pushed advisors in Aragon and England, while Rich added
an advisor component to his strategy in the east after his
opponents had expended many of their pieces elsewhere. Eric
wound up with the biggest advisor score, but Rich's dominance
in cloister scoring gave him a lead that was too wide to
Cl #1 Cl #2 Chain Advsr Total
----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Rich 14 + 23 + 6 + 11 = 54
Eric 8 + 20 + 0 + 18 = 46
Mike 10 + 16 + 0 + 6 = 32
Eric's rating: 8. Web of Power is another wonderful Michael
Schacht game. I seem to be partial to his designs; I also love
Paris Paris and Coloretto. I praised Hansa earlier in this
session report, and I see many similarities between Hansa and
the earlier Web of Power.