[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-08-26
- 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: Eric, Anton, Rich, Bill, Walt,
Paul L., Mike, Scott
TICKET TO RIDE
(Eric, Anton, Rich, Bill)
Four of us were ready to go as the clock
struck 7pm. We knew more would be coming,
so we wanted a quick game to start off with.
Bill likes train games, so we chose Ticket
to Ride, which Bill learned at MVGA back on
July 22 (he won his first game against
several experienced opponents.)
The game started out with a flurry in the
northwest. Bill connected Portland, Seattle
and Vancouver, but Eric was shut out of the
length-1 Portland - Seattle link. This was
a problem for him, because he had tickets
for both cities and it's a long way around
without that link.
Play continued on the west coast as the northeast remained
surprisingly rural. Rich built south from Portland to Los
Angeles as Anton headed east from Los Angeles through Las
Vegas. Bill constructed track in the middle of the map and
on the west coast, paralleling Rich's track, but it wasn't
clear where he was heading. Eric connected Seattle to
Winnipeg and Rich built the two 6-space links east from
At this point the game started to get odd. Eric built a new
unconnected line from Santa Fe to Nashville. Rich built a
separate network down the east coast. Anton worked his way
toward Atlanta and Bill linked up Los Angeles to El Paso.
Before we knew it, Rich was out of trains, and we counted up
the scores. Eric connected none of his tickets, earning a
stunningly low score. He had the three southeastern ends of
his tickets connected, but never hooked them up to the
northwestern ends. Bill was also ticket-impaired, though he
did take the 10-point bonus for longest line. Rich was the
big winner, connecting all his tickets even though he never
did connect his western network to his eastern network.
Rich 126 = 77 for track + 49 for tickets
Bill 82 = 68 for track + 4 for tickets + 10 for long line
Anton 76 = 40 for track + 36 for tickets
Eric 32 = 73 for track - 41 for tickets.
Eric's rating: 8. This is a nice quick game with plenty of
room for planning and tactics.
(Walt, Paul L., Mike, Scott)
Soon after Ticket to Ride started, we had 4 more gamers arrive.
Walt had brought some booty back from Gen Con, including a copy
of Cthulhu 500, a fantasy car-racing game. Cthulhu 500 bears
some resemblance to Formula Motor Racing. It has no track;
instead each player is given a vehicle card, and the vehicle
cards are placed in a line on the table to show who is leading
and the order of the vehicles that follow. Paul L. drove the
Satanic Pushcart, Mike The Vehicle Man Was Not Meant to Drive
(in Boston, that could be just about anything,) Walt the Big
Honkin' Truck, and Scott the Sport Cthutility Vehicle.
In Cthulhu 500, players have hands of action cards of various
types which they take turns playing as they seek to pass the
vehicles in front of them to gain the lead. Passing attempts
are resolved using die rolls, and various modifiers determine
whether a passing attempt is successful and whether either
vehicle is damaged in the process. Much of the appeal of this
game lies in the humorous text on the cards; it sounded as
if it was necessary to read each card aloud and appreciate it
before resolving any results.
The players enjoyed the game, though it dragged a bit toward
the end (I believe there may have been some manipulation in
an attempt to speed it along.) When the checkered flag came
out, Walt was the champ.
Final order of finish:
Walt 1st, Scott 2nd, Mike 3rd, Paul L. 4th.
Eric's rating: Never played.
(Eric, Anton, Rich, Bill)
Cthulhu 500 was still bumping along, so the rest of us chose
a quick game to carry us over until it finished. Bill had
learned Can't Stop on July 29, so we pulled Eric's copy out of
his tub o' games. Bill started out with 6, 7 and 9, which are
good numbers, but he struck out before long. Anton showed much
greater self-control and made it onto the board. Eric decided
he liked Anton's result and stopped in time himself. Rich
went for the whiff, and Bill followed up with his second straight
Rich continued to swing for the fences (he explained that no one
would be able to steal his columns if he never made it onto the
board!) Meanwhile, Anton and Eric made steady progress; before
long, each had two columns. At this point, Anton ended the game
anticlimactically, taking the 9 column by rolling four 9's without
even needing to use his third tower.
Anton 3 (7, 12, 9)
Eric 2 (11, 2)
Rich 1 (8)
Eric's rating: 9.
(Eric, Anton, Rich, Bill)
Cthulhu 500 was still not finished, so we played another
filler as we waited. We normally play with more than 4 players,
but Liar's Dice works well with 4. Bill lost 2 dice early on a
bid of 9 *'s, and Eric lost 2 immediately afterward on a bid of
10 6's. Anton then lost 2 on a bid of 8 6's (the 6's weren't
lucky this time.) It seemed that Rich's two-die advantage might
be decisive, but we weren't finished.
Bill correctly bid 6 4's on the next go-round, costing every other
player a die. Anton then lost his last 2 dice on a bid of 3 *'s.
The calling players had been quite successful up to this point, but
Eric lost 1 die calling a bid of 5 6's and then lost his last die
calling a bid of 3 6's as the 6's made a comeback.
This left Rich with 4 dice and Bill with 3, so it was still anyone's
game. Rich lost one die calling Bill's bid of 4 5's, then another on
a bid of 3 6's and a third on a bid of 3 2's. Now Bill was up 3 to 1,
but Bill lost one die on a bid of 1 *. At this point Rich bid one 3
and Bill raised it to 2 3's. Rich had a 3 to support his bid, but did
Bill have a 3 or was he bluffing? Rich called and Bill revealed two
more 3's under his cup; there were actually three 3's out of 3 dice.
This put Rich out and gave Bill the victory.
Eric's rating: 7.
NEW ENGLAND RAILS
(Eric, Walt, Anton)
Back on June 10 we played an unpublished prototype with the working
title "New England Rails." Based on playtest feedback, Walt had made
changes, and it was time to give it another shot. Read the session
report on this game from June 10 and make the following changes:
(1) The game now has a "timeline" with a definite start and end, and
with three eras (marked A, B and C) laid out. Each turn you turn a
business face up from the draw pile, and each business is marked with
a number (1, 2 or 3) that indicates how many spaces the timeline pawn
moves ahead. This provides a game length that is reasonably, but not
(2) The businesses are now separated into an A deck, a B deck and a
C deck. The A deck businesses come out in the first era and are
mostly focused on farming, with relatively low payouts. The B and
C deck businesses come out as the game moves into the later eras.
The reduces the risk that one player will get much better businesses
than the others. It also provides a stronger historical feel.
(3) The crayon rails aspect of the game has been replaced with a
system that's similar to what's used in Power Grid. Each player
starts the game with a colored house (depot) in his or her starting
city. You may add new depots, paying a cost for the new depot plus
the cost of track from your closest existing depot to the new one.
The focus of the game is on the businesses, so it makes sense to
simplify the building rules.
We played without the politician cards for this game, because we
wanted to test the rules for the timeline, the businesses and the
new depots. Eric started in Portland ME and built to Boston,
purchasing a large number of the cheapest and simplest farming
operations. Each payout was small, but he faced very low
maintenance costs, so his cash flow was safe and predictable.
Walt started in Providence RI and built connections to Boston and
New York. He also bid for some of the more attractive businesses
that are available in era A. This required some loans and cost
him more in track and maintenance, but it also generated a larger
income. Anton started in Concord NH and built to Boston. Anton
too had some of the higher-value businesses, and his income and
expenses were both higher than those of Eric or Walt. We played
until the end of era A and called the game at that point, as it was
time for Anton to go home. We were pleased that the game moved
much more quickly than the earlier version; in particular, placing
depots takes less time than drawing tracks with a crayon.
We did not record scores for this playtest.
Eric's rating: 7. This game has a very solid historical feel.
Walt and Greg (Walt's co-designer) have put a lot of research into
the businesses. Things moved along at a good pace. We'll have to
give it another try soon so we can evaluate the progression from
one era to the next.
(Rich, Bill, Paul L., Mike)
Scott had to leave after Cthulhu 500, so while Walt, Eric and
Anton were testing New England Rails, the 4 remaining players
sat down to Puerto Rico. Bill learned Puerto Rico about eight
months ago and he's always eager for a game. This one was very
close, but Paul L. proved to be the master, nipping Bill at the
end despite Bill's lead in bonuses for 10-point buildings. One
thing I've notice about Bill: he likes building a lot more
than he likes shipping!
VP Bldg Bonus Total
-- --- --- ----
Paul L. 22 + 18 + 7 = 47
Bill 14 + 20 + 13 = 47
Mike 17 + 19 + 6 = 42
Rich 26 + 16 = 42
Eric's rating: 10.
(Eric, Rich, Paul L., Mike)
Walt and Bill left at this point along with Anton, leaving us
with 4 players for a final game. After some discussion we chose
Alhambra, the 2003 German Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahres) and
a game that has had strong staying power at MVGA. The game
started off with a flurry of purchases by Paul L., who seemed to
have just the right change for every tile that came up. Eric
also bought several tiles, including the only Tower in the early
going, while Rich and Mike struggled to collect the right
currency to make the purchases they wanted. Eric took a risk by
placing walls freely around the boundary of his compound, limiting
his future growth. Rich also got good wall scoring, with the same
potential risks. At the first scoring, Eric already had 8 points
for walls, which combined with 6 points for Towers and a stray point
to put him in the lead. Paul was second with good scores in Gardens
and Workshops, while Mike had neither walls nor tiles and trailed
Scores at the first scoring: Eric 15, Paul L. 10, Rich 9, Mike 3.
During the second part of the game, Paul L.'s mastery was so strong
it was funny (except perhaps for Rich, who sat right after him.)
Mike would buy a tile and/or pick up currency, and either Paul would
gain an exact buy right away, or he'd see the perfect currency card
available to buy one of the tiles, snatching it before Rich had a
chance to get it. The only drawbacks for Paul L. were his short
wall and the fact that his buys were concentrated in Gardens and
Workshops, limiting the points he could score. Meanwhile, Eric
maintained his lead in Towers over Mike by a single tile and gained
control of the Pavilions.
Scores at the second scoring: Eric 52, Paul L. 41, Rich 29, Mike 28.
Paul L.'s magical powers finally came apart in the very last part of
the game as Rich finally gained some attractive opportunities. Eric
sweated out his tile placements, but in the end he managed to fit
each tile he bought into one of the few non-walled spaces, ending the
game without ever using his reserve (each of the other players had
at least one tile in reserve at the finish.) His ability to survive
the wall crisis was the difference as he earned more than 40 points
from walls; his wall advantage exceeded his lead over Paul L. in the
Eric 127, Paul L. 114, Rich 74, Mike 74.
Eric's rating: 8. Alhambra certainly has luck elements, but there
are real decisions and it's fun to play.