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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-08-26

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  • brosiuse
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2004
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      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

      (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.

      Final scores:

      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.

      CTHULHU 500
      (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.

      CAN'T STOP
      (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
      joy buzzer.

      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.

      Final scores:

      Anton 3 (7, 12, 9)
      Eric 2 (11, 2)
      Rich 1 (8)
      Bill 0

      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.

      (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
      completely, predictable.

      (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!

      Final scores:

      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
      final scoring.

      Final scores:

      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.

      Eric Brosius
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