[SR] MVGA Holliston 2004-12-30
- 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: Paul H., Eric, Anton.
(Paul H., Eric, Anton)
We expected a low turn-out this week, as a
number of regulars had let us know in advance
that they'd be away. We decided to meet
anyway, given the possibility that we might
get visitors who were in the Boston area for
the New Year's Holiday. As it turned out, we
never got above 3, but we had fun anyway.
We often start with a filler to see whether
more people will arrive, but there was a good
chance no one else was coming, so we picked a
longer game. Puerto Rico moves quickly when
you have only 3 players, especially when
everyone is familiar with the game.
We drew plantations for seating. Eric drew
first indigo, Paul second indigo, and Anton
corn. Eric started us off by Settling for a
Quarry. There was one corn in the initial
draw, which Paul took as Anton took tobacco.
Paul then Mayored, filling the two corns and
Eric's Quarry. Anton Built a Small Market,
as did Eric, and Paul built a Construction Hut.
In the second round, Anton Produced, but Eric
Captained to push the new corns onto a ship,
postponing any trading activity. Each player
got corn and indigo going, but there was a lot
of defensive Captaining, so the Trading House
sat empty for quite a while.
Before long Anton scraped together the funds for a Tobacco Shed and
Eric for a Coffee Roaster, giving each of them a temporary monopoly
in the respective good. Eric ended one round by Producing and Anton
Traded, allowing the two players to gain funds to build matching
Factories. This was a key point in the game. Paul had no high-value
good to trade (and no Market,) so he fell behind in the money race, a
gap he was never able to close.
Eric and Anton continued to mirror each other, buying matching
Harbors with the funds generated by their Factories. Unfortunately
for Anton, Eric had purchased an early Small Warehouse (the only
Warehouse bought in the game,) and this allowed him to keep more
goods in stock at the end of each Captain phase. At one point, Eric
Captained, loading four corn onto the four boat for 6 VP and shutting
both opponents out of the corn shipping business for the round. This
turned out to be the margin of victory.
The game took about 70 minutes.
Eric's rating: 10.
(Paul H., Eric, Anton)
No one else had arrived, so we decided to choose a meatier game.
Neither Paul nor Anton can stay too late, so we wanted a game that
would finish in not much more than 90 minutes. We've had success
with Power Grid at MVGA recently, and we thought we could finish
promptly with only 3 players. The 3-player version of Power Grid
uses three regions on the board and ends when a player connects 17
cities. Eight power plants are removed from the power plant deck
at random before the game starts; this thins the deck and brings
the third stage of the game around at an appropriate time. We
decided to play on the U.S. map, but we choose the northwest,
southwest and south central regions to make sure we had to pay
good money for most of our connections.
Anton led off by auctioning the #04 coal burner, which Eric bought
for $7. Anton then took the #03 oil burner for $3, leaving the #08
coal burner for Paul. Anton built in Denver, preparing for the cheap
connection to Cheyenne, Eric built in Oklahoma City, and Paul built
in San Diego and Los Angeles. In the next round, Paul scooped up
the #07 oil burner, bringing his capacity to four cities. Low value
plants appeared from the deck, and it was clear that good plants
would be scarce in the early going. Eric and Anton bid up the #10
coal burner, with Eric finally taking it for $17. Anton then chose
the #13 windmill, which was the best option among the four capacity 1
plants on offer. The #11 nuclear plant showed up as the refill,
further disappointing the expansion-minded CEOs. The next turn
Anton bought the #11 after Eric and Paul had passed; with a capacity
of only 1 city he just had to find a way to grow.
A key turning point arrived on round 4. Anton was looking at the
#18 windmill in the current market, with the #20 coal burner just
next to it in the future market. Anton wanted the windmill, as coal
and uranium were getting pricey (goods don't restock very fast in
the 3-player game.) On the other hand, if the windmill were bought,
there was a chance the #20 would drop (it all depended on whether
the refill plant from the deck would have a higher or a lower serial
number than #20.) Anton auctioned the windmill, and Paul won the
bid at $23. The #20 dropped and it was a highly valuable plant.
The #20 powers five cities for three coal; no plant with a lower
serial powers even four cities, to say nothing about five cities.
It can be expensive to run if the price of coal rises, and it can
run out of fuel if you try to use it as an endgame plant, but it's
an early mid-game powerhouse. The bidding rose to $37 before Anton
conceded the plant to Eric; Anton's poor early cash flow meant he
couldn't afford fuel for the #20 if he paid $38 for it.
Armed with the #20, Eric built his way to eight cities, gaining
an income edge as his opponents struggled with the apparent lack of
innovation among power plant designers. Paul continued to buy
plants: he got the #22 and the #19 as Eric and Anton waited for
better plants. The following round, Eric passed, declining to bid
on the #27 windmill, which powers three cities. Paul bought the
windmill and the #26 oil burner fell into Anton's lap at list price.
This excellent plant powers five cities for two oil. It gives an
economic benefit and is a solid endgame plant. This is one
advantage of going late in the turn order; you benefit from any
good refills. (Of course, you aren't guaranteed a good refill, but
the person going first has no chance at all to benefit.) Anton
used the #26 to make a comeback, sliding ahead of Eric in the
city race for a round, though he was running tight on cash the
whole way and couldn't always afford the fuel to run all his plants.
On the last turn of the game, Eric had the #15, #20 and #32 plants,
powering 3, 5 and 6 cities. He had 14 cities connected. Anton had
the #23, #26 and #34 plants, powering 3, 5 and 5 cities. He had 12
cities connected. Paul had the #19, #27 and #33 plants, powering 3,
3 and 4 cities. He had 11 cities connected. We had just reached
the third stage of the game, so all six plants on view were available
Eric started by auctioning the #50 fusion plant. Paul bought it for
$61, giving him the ability to power 13 cities without using any
fuel at all. Next Eric put up the #46 hybrid, which powers seven
cities. Anton bought this plant for $47 and could now power 17.
Eric then took the #39 nuclear plant at list price; he could also
power 17. Paul bought no fuel, and Anton bought fuel for only two
of his plants; it would have taken over $40 to power them all and
this would have constrained his building. Eric paid $31 for a full
load of fuel. Paul connected two more cities, giving him the 13 he
could power. Anton realized that with the #46 plant, he would be
first in the turn order if he built a 14th city, since Eric would
pass his builds. This would allow Eric to buy up so much fuel that
Anton could not run his plants on the following turn. For this
reason, Anton passed. Eric was not sure he could connect 3 more
cities to end the game, but because Anton had not built, Eric was
able to connect San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco for $66,
making 17 cities. Eric had $1 left at the end of the game, so
Anton's ploy came within $2 of giving him a shot at a win.
Eric 17 cities + $1
Paul 13 cities + $0
Anton 12 cities + $30
This was an exciting game, full of twists and turns. The luck of
the power plant draws was important; the eight plants removed at
the start were mostly valuable plants, leaving lousy plants for
us to play with, but we didn't know that as we played. Even
better, the game took only 70 minutes, so it easily met our
objective of finishing before Paul and Anton had to leave.
Eric's rating: 9. The only reason I don't rate Power Grid "10"
is the fact that the power plant draws introduce a great deal of
luck. On the other hand, if the game finishes in 70 minutes, I
can tolerate a lot of luck.
(Paul H., Eric, Anton)
Power Grid finished so quickly that we had time for yet another
game. We unanimously voted for Wyatt Earp, a closer we're all
familiar with. The first hand ended quickly, as we drew many
outlaws and played them in bang-bang fashion. Anton emptied his
hand in just 3 or 4 plays.
Scores after the first hand: Anton $12K, Eric $9K, Paul $8K.
The second hand went a little more slowly, but again Anton was first
out. Paul and Eric tried to target him, but to no avail. He
extended his lead slightly, and it was almost certain that the third
hand would be the last, since Anton with $21K was only $4K away from
the $25K needed to finish the game.
Scores after the second hand: Anton $21K, Eric $17K, Paul $15K.
The third hand was a bit more of a tug of war. Paul played a Most
Wanted to take a card from Anton. Eric then played a Hideout to
cover one of Anton's suits. Anton had only a single card in the
suit, but we were willing to try anything to catch him. Anton
countered the Hideout with a Wyatt Earp, but his shot missed. Paul
got several good runs on the table and went out. As we counted our
scores, we realized the game was extremely close, and in fact, it
was closer than we realized!
Scores after the third hand: Anton $25K, Eric $25K, Paul $25K.
I'd only been in one Wyatt Earp game with even a 2-way tie, but we
had a 3-way tie here, and to heighten the drama, it was a 3-way tie
at exactly $25K. The rules specify that ties are broken by a
shoot-out. This is a totally random procedure that captures the
unpredictable nature of the Old West (I guess...) In the shoot-out,
Anton turned over a miss, Eric a hit, and Paul a miss. This gave
Eric the victory. The game took about 25 minutes.
Eric's rating: 9. What an enjoyable game Wyatt Earp is! There are
enough options to keep things interesting without bogging the game
down with excessive analysis.
Paul H. had to leave, but Anton agreed to stick around for one more
game. Eric had brought a brand-new copy of Buyword, the new Sid
Sackson word game from Face2Face Games. Buyword was Sid's wife's
favorite game, but it was never published during his lifetime.
Buyword is built around a set of letter tiles similar to the tiles
in Scrabble. The difference is that the letter values range from
1 to 4 rather than from 1 to 10 as in Scrabble. Each tile has from
1 to 4 dots marked beneath the letter to indicate the value. On
each turn, each player has a chance to buy a set of from 2 to 5
tiles (as determined by a die roll.) The cost of a set is the
square of the total number of dots (so 4 tiles with 7 dots cost $49.)
You may buy the set or (if you don't think it's worth the price)
discard it. You may then form words to sell, with each word valued
at the square of the number of dots. You may make one or more words
on your turn, or you may pass, but you only keep 8 tiles at the end
of the turn, so if you have more than 8 tiles you have a strong
motivation to make at least a short word to get some money rather
than throwing away tiles you paid for.
Each player in a 2-player game starts with 4 wild tiles and $200.
The wilds are 1-dot tiles that substitute for any letter. You may
use only one wild in a word.
Since you buy and sell using the same formula, the key to winning is
to sell dots at a higher average price than you bought them at. You
do this by assembling large words, allowing the squaring to help you.
We played with the "drafting" rules in which (for example) if 2
players are getting 3 tiles each, you place 6 tiles in the middle
of the table and the players alternate adding one tile to the set
they will have a chance to buy.
Eric and Anton started off buying three lots before they were over 8
tiles. Anton paid more for his tiles, but was able to sell SHIMMY
for $169 as Eric sold HAZELNUT for $144. Next Anton sold VIDEOS for
$81 as Eric sold CAVING for $100. A few more small purchases led to
Anton's TRAFFIC for $100 and Eric's CLUSTERED for $144.
At this point Eric had $400 to Anton's $297, but Anton had an
inventory of tiles and Eric had used almost all of his tiles up.
Eric had to save up while Anton got VIXENS on the board for $121,
leaving him ahead by $346 to Eric's $326. Eric noted that no Q's
had shown up, so he stashed a U away for future used. This paid
off when Eric was able to sell QUICKLY for $196 as Anton sold
GOPHER for only $81. This left Eric ahead, $441 to $327, but again
Anton was ahead in inventory.
Anton drew closer on the next sale, gaining $100 for MAJOR as Eric
got down to 8 by selling TAT for $9. Eric then sold ROBBED for $121,
countering Anton's $100 for TOUCHED. Eric widened his lead by
selling NAPPING for $100 as Anton passed and the tiles ran out. In
the endgame sale, Anton got $81 for WOOLEN and $9 for ARE as Eric
sold FEARS for $49.
Final scores: Eric $554, Anton $460.
During the game, Anton bought 81 dots at an average price of $7.17,
and Eric bought 77 dots at an average price of $6.61. There was
one round in which the cost was so high that we both opted not
to buy the lots we had drafted. Anton sold 84 dots at an average
price of $10.02, and Eric sold 79 dots at an average price of $10.92.
Each player started with 4 wild dots; Anton had 1 dot unsold at the
end and Eric had 2. Anton's sale price per dot exceeded his
purchase price by $2.85, while Eric's sale price exceeded his
purchase price by $4.31. This difference in margin outweighed
Anton's greater volume of dot sales.
The game took about 50 minutes. This was longer than the 30
minutes promised on the box, but we took some time thinking
about our options as we drafted the letters; the non-drafting
version would be quicker, though more driven by luck.
Eric's rating: 7. I'm not a huge word game fan, but I enjoy
Buyword more than Scrabble. As you can see from the words listed
above, the 2- and 3-letter words that are so critical in Scrabble
don't play a big role in Buyword. This makes it easier to play
without trying to memorize word lists.