SOG SR: 4/4 in Sudbury
- We had eight people in attendance at Rob's house last night: Mike,
Andrew, Rob, Mark K., Jeff, Chris, me and Paul S. who drove all the
way up from Avon to attend.
While waiting for everyone to arrive, we played a quick (six-player)
game of Cloud 9. I managed to hold a lead until the next to last
turn, where Rob overtook me by just a couple of points. I jumped
early, hoping Rob would plummet to a fiery balloon death, but he rode
it all the way to the top, clinching the victory with a very nice 66
At this point, we had eight people and so decided to split into two
groups of four. I wanted to play Maharaja (for the first time), and
finally there were a few others willing to give it a try. Andrew
brought the game, and was happy to explain the rules and school a trio
of newbies. Mike, Mark and I played with him.
(The other four, meanwhile, played a quick succession of shorter,
lighter games: High Society, Wheedle, Bluff, and Igel Argern.)
Maharaja is an interesting game, and I think it took all of us a
little while to get our heads around it. Because, of course, you're
competing for points, except you're not really competing for points,
you're *really* competing for money, except you're not really
competing for money, you're *really* *really* just trying to get all
of your palaces built. The fact that the points you 'score' during
the play of the game have no real bearing on your winning is something
new to me. (Still, try winning without scoring any points...)
We had a minor glitch in the setup which resulted in our four villages
being populated before we saw the initial order in which the cities
would be scored. This was according to the summary cards but the real
way to do it (according to the rules) is the other way around.
After a couple of turns. it was pretty clear that Andrew was running
away with the game. He managed to set up a network of villages all
populated by his houses, and eventually he claimed the center palace
spot in something like four of the seven cities on the board. Still,
we pressed on and pursued him. The game ended on Turn 8, when Andrew
amassed enough cash to build his final two palaces and win the game.
I was one palace behind him, while Mike and Mark were each one palace
behind that. I attribute my relatively good showing to the fact that
I relied heavily on the #4 tile, that lets you move around the
countryside without paying any tolls...or, more accurately, with the
government paying all of your tolls for you. This is clearly an
inferior strategy to having a huge network of villages that other
people (and/or the government) pay you to use, as even though you get
to travel for free, the people whose villages you pass through still
get paid, so you're helping others out instead of just raking in your
own cash whenever some other poor slob travels your roads. So I was
able to build palaces fairly quickly, but I never accumulated the cash
surpluses that Andrew managed. I think Mike and Mark were equally
strapped in that regard.
Still, I enjoyed the game and already have some ideas about how to
play it better the next time it hits the table. I found it slightly
less compelling than some of Kramer's other games (El Grande, Torres),
but would still happily play it. It seems like it ought to go fairly
quickly with experienced players.
We finished our game as the other table was near ending Igel Argern,
so we played a quick game of Bluff (first time for Andrew and Mark)
until they were done. I took an early lead but squandered it, while
Mike somehow managed to weasel his way into a victory, using his
boyish good looks and sweet disposition to hoodwink the rest of us
into believing his outrageous claims. Well done, Mike...
Chris, Jeff and Rob were in the mood for something meatier at this
point, while Mike and Andrew were winding down. So Mike, Andrew and
Paul started a game of Shark while the rest of us pulled out Age of
Steam. This playing of Age of Steam (basic) is intended to be the
first in a cycle, where we take a shot at playing through the six
scenarios in the three expansions for the game. Next week, we may do
England or Ireland. Mark was the only new player, although Jeff and
Rob had both only played it once and that some time ago. (I myself am
a bit rusty on it.)
As always, I continue to be pleased by the excellent game design,
simultaneous with being appalled at how bad I seem to be at it. I
actually took a good early lead, and seemed to be doing OK until Jeff
took umbrage at some imagined slight and seemed to make it his mission
to thwart my every move. Well, or something like that. In any case,
I experienced a substantial dry spell in the final rounds of the game
and ended the game with a fairly depressing score of 39 for last
place. Mark was at 40, Jeff was at 51, Chris was at 58(?) and Rob was
the big winner with 66 points. I suppose it's possible that if we
start playing this more frequently I will figure out what mistakes I
made during the game...I figure at least I ended with a positive
score, so it could be worse, eh?
The Shark game ended abortively when a) Mike and Andrew realized that
Rob's rules explanation was almost but not quite completely wrong, and
b) Paul had to leave to drive home. So we bid them farewell for the
night, and finished our game and concluded another successful SOG
Next week's SOG location TBA. Watch this space. Or possibly this
space. We like to keep y'all guessing.
- Age of Steam. Somehow you fail to recall that, in my very first game,
I was leading for a large portion of the middle of the game. Hmmm ...
Not that I am looking for external validation or anything ...