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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-04-28

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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. Turn north on Church Place (which is more a
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2005
      MVGA meets Thursday nights at 7pm in the
      Masonic Hall in Holliston, on Route 16 just
      east of the center of town. Turn north on
      Church Place (which is more a driveway than
      a street) to find parking.

      We welcome visitors. We'll even
      waive the $3.00 fee for your first visit.

      Roll call:
      Dan, Rich, Eric, Mike

      (Dan, Rich, Eric)

      There were 3 of us on hand at 7pm, as Dan,
      Rich and Eric all got out of their cars at
      the same time in the driveway next to the
      Masonic Hall. Rich planned a 5-game ABPA
      (tabletop baseball) series with Bob, who
      does not play board games with us but is in
      a league with several MVGA regulars.

      We knew it would be only a few minutes till
      Bob arrived, so we played a 20 minute game.
      Paris Paris is in Eric's bin most weeks,
      though we don't play it often because Walt
      is allergic to it (or so it seems.) Walt
      was away on tour being a famous author, so
      it was a good week for Paris Paris.

      Dan and Eric started off strong, with Rich confined to the stops
      around the periphery as Eric grabbed double shops in Pont Neuf
      and L'Institut to get out to a big lead. Dan was well dug in
      in the middle of the right hand side, near Pompidou and Hotel de
      Ville. As the game wore on, however, Rich and Dan double-teamed
      Eric, dumping his shops in the bag willy-nilly until the entire
      right hand side of the board was gray (Rich's color.) This made
      Rich into a grand tour machine, and he blasted past both Eric and
      Dan in the final turns. Eric got 7 VP for having 7 shops in the
      bag (compared with only 4 each for Dan and Rich,) but it wasn't
      nearly enough (you want to have most in the bag by only one shop,
      not by three!)

      Final scores: Rich 62, Dan 56, Eric 51.

      Eric's rating: 8. Paris Paris is a compact game and it plays
      in just 20 minutes. By the midway point of this game, Bob had
      arrived. He watched the final stages as we tried to explain
      how the game works. The scoring is tricky; first time players
      usually fail to understand it (even if you show them examples)
      until you're actually scoring. Once you have it, though, it's
      a great opener.

      (Dan, Eric)

      By this time it was 7:30 and Rich was sitting down with Bob to
      play several hours of tabletop baseball. We knew Walt wasn't
      coming, and most of the other regulars arrive by 7:30 if they're
      coming at all. Dan and Eric had played two games of War of the
      Ring and enjoyed it, so they decided to play again at MVGA,
      given that there were only 2 of them. Once you know the game
      you should be able to finish in three hours most of the time, so
      we had plenty of time to finish. We decided Eric would play the
      Shadow and Dan the Free Peoples, as Dan had played the
      Shadow in both previous games.

      Eric started off with two dice in the hunt; he had a card that
      let him attack the Fellowship if it were revealed and wanted to
      increase the odds of a tile draw even if it slowed mobilization.
      Eric rolled a third eye and Dan moved the Fellowship once
      successfully. Dan had several muster dice and used them to play
      muster cards and move Gondor down a step on the political track.
      Eric brought Saruman into play with two muster dice and used
      character dice to begin moving his forces in Mordor. Character
      dice aren't ideal for the Shadow early on because they're only
      half as effective as army dice as you move your forces.

      On the second turn Eric again placed two dice in the hunt, but
      this time he didn't roll any more. Dan moved twice; one of the
      moves resulted in a tile draw; a '3' without a reveal. Dan was
      not too unhappy as he sacrificed Gandalf the Grey and used a
      Will of the West die to bring him back immediately in Fangorn.
      Eric had only one muster die this time, which he used to move
      the Sauron nation to War. On the third turn, Eric rolled two
      additional eyes, giving him four, and used a muster to bring
      the Witch King into the game. Eric immediately moved the
      Witch King to Angmar with a card, recruiting three units, and
      began to march toward Rivendell with character dice. Dan's
      supply of muster dice had dried up completely, so he was
      unable to add troops in defense; he had plenty of palantir
      dice, but the muster cards he drew were for places like
      Ered Luin.

      At this point, Mike arrived. Mike and Dave are the only ones
      who come to MVGA late, and we were delighted to see him after
      a long absence (we're still hoping Dave comes back as well.) We
      didn't want to make Mike wait through another two hours of play,
      so we gave up on War of the Ring in the middle of the third turn
      so we could play a game with Mike.

      Eric's rating: 9. I've played seven games now, not counting
      this partial game, and it's an engrossing game, dripping with
      theme and presenting interesting choices. Some people say the
      game is the same every time (take the ring to Mordor,) but my
      games have been different enough that I wonder what will happen
      as I begin each game. I've recently raised my rating from '8'
      to '9'.

      (Dan, Eric, Mike)

      Both Rich and Eric had purchased copies of Louis XIV at the
      Gathering a few weeks back, but we hadn't had a chance to play
      at MVGA. It's possible that the game is unbalanced with 3, since
      in a 4-turn one player must go first in both the first and the
      last turn. In compensation, that player gets a free intrigue
      card at the start of the final turn, but there's a lack of
      symmetry that may irritate some people.

      Only Eric had played the game before, so it was a good thing that
      Eric was chosen to be the first player. Louis XIV features a set
      of 12 personalities from the court of Louis XIV. Each personality
      is shown on a cardboard square 3 inches on a side (I'd have
      expected metric dimensions, but it's inches here.) The squares
      are laid out corner to corner in a checkerboard pattern, with 4
      squares in the center and 8 more around the outside. Each player
      receives five influence cards each turn, though you always leave
      one influence card unplayed (allowing you to avoid one single
      card that doesn't help you.) On your turn you play a card and
      may then either place 3 influence markers on the squares or get 3
      extra influence markers out of the supply (you must take this
      option some of the time or you'll run out.) The influence cards
      have pictures on them, and when you place markers you must start
      with the square whose personality matches the card you play. You
      may place all 3 markers on that card, or you may move them to
      other cards, moving corner to corner and leaving a "trail of
      bread crumbs" behind. Some of the influence cards are jokers,
      allowing you to start with any personality, but restricting you
      to 2 markers.

      Once influence placement is complete, the personalities score in
      order (each personality has a number from 1 to 12, with 1 to 4
      in the center and 5 to 12 around the outside.) Each personality
      confers a specific benefit; numbers 1 to 4 each confer a hexagonal
      "mission chip" (scepters, letters, rings and helms) while numbers
      5 to 12 confer money, shields, extra cards, wild mission chips
      (crowns) or the ability to move influence tokens outside the
      usual rules. To obtain the benefit you must fulfill a condition
      shown on the square: sometimes you need a specific number of
      markers, sometimes you need to have more than any other player,
      and sometimes you need to spend money.

      Once the 12 personalities have been scored, the players have the
      opportunity to spend the mission chips they have collected to
      play mission cards on the table. These cards provide special
      abilities, and they are also worth 5 VP per card on the table at
      the end of the game. Each mission card requires a specific set
      of mission chips, so there's some skill (and luck) in getting the
      right chips for the cards you need to play.

      The goal of the game is to amass the most VPs. The mission cards
      at 5 VP each are the most efficient source of VPs, but the game also
      features "shields" that serve as consolation prizes and are worth
      1 VP each. There are also 6 VP in bonuses for gathering sets of
      specific types of shield, but since you draw the shields blindly,
      there's not much strategy in collecting them.

      The first turn saw Eric and Dan collect four mission chips each
      while Mike got just three. On the other hand, Mike got an extra
      influence card from personality #11. An extra influence card is
      extremely valuable; you play all but one of your influence cards,
      so an extra card is an extra turn. Even better, if you're
      playing five influence cards while the others play only four,
      they will run out of cards before you do, so you get to play
      after the others are finished (a big help when you're trying to
      be #1 in influence markers on a chip.) In the mission phase,
      Dan turned his four chips in to play two mission cards, and Mike
      turned in two of his to play one mission card, keeping one for
      the second turn. Eric was stuck, however; he played two chips
      for a mission card, but could not match either of the cards in
      his hand with the last two chips, so he had to discard one chip
      for a shield (you can only keep one chip from turn to turn.)

      Mike was first to play on the second turn (as well as last, thanks
      to his extra influence card.) This 3-player game featured much
      less conflict than the 4-player games I have played; I don't know
      whether that's always the case, but it seems likely with just as
      many personalities to court and fewer players (and influence cards)
      to court them with. This time Eric got the extra influence card,
      as well as an intrigue card (which, when played, lets you place
      markers on a personality just before it's scored, after it's too
      late for your opponents to do much about it.) Dan played a mission
      card that allowed him to buy an extra influence card each turn.

      In the third round, Dan got the free influence card, which meant
      he'd have six plays to only four for Eric and Mike in the last
      round. Eric played a mission card that gave him a free intrigue
      card, and also won an intrigue card from personality #12, so he
      would have three intrigue cards for the final round, including the
      one he got for having to play first twice.

      Mike and Eric finished up while Dan still had three plays to go.
      Dan had to plan his plays carefully, and with so many influence
      cards to play, he needed to reclaim markers twice for ammunition
      (even so, he ran out of markers.) Eric was able to whip out his
      intrigue cards for personalities #2, #3 and #7, costing the others
      items they had been counting on. It was clearly close as we
      turned over the shields; Eric won 5 extra shields for having
      the most in 5 types, Dan won 2 and Mike won 1. Even though Dan
      beat Eric by two mission cards, Eric's advantage in shields was
      just enough to pull out the victory.

      Final scores:

      Eric 7 mission cards + 20 shields = 55
      Dan 9 mission cards + 9 shields = 54
      Mike 6 mission cards + 14 shields = 44.

      Eric's rating: 8. I'm a big fan of area influence games. The
      key to a good area influence game is restricting the players'
      options enough to force tough decisions, but not so much as to
      dictate play. Interestingly, the influence cards I drew in this
      game forced me to play some of my markers in locations that would
      earn me shields, and it was the shields that made the difference.

      This was the best published game I played at the Gathering, and
      I've played it with my family since I got home. My wife enjoyed
      it, which is a good sign. I asked the others to give me their
      ratings; Dan rated it 8 and Mike rated it 7.

      (Dan, Eric, Mike)

      Rich and Bob were finishing up the third game in their five-game
      tabletop baseball series. It was clear that they'd be playing for
      the rest of the evening. We looked in the MVGA game locker for a
      good 3-player game and selected Industria, a game we haven't played
      in quite a while. Industria is an intriguing auction game. The
      start player each round gets a set of tiles to offer. Each tile
      may be sold to the high bidder (with the auctioneer keeping the
      money and going on to auction the next item.) Alternatively, the
      auctioneer may keep the item without having to pay, in which case
      the right to auction moves on to the player on the left. If no
      one bids on an item, you must keep it (and give up the right to
      auction any more items.) The trick to the game is knowing in what
      order to auction the items, and deciding when to take the money
      and when to keep the item for yourself. (The other trick is
      drawing good sets of tiles when you're the auctioneer.)

      In this game, Eric led off as auctioneer. He sold the Quarry for
      $3, took the Well for himself, and bought the Waves bonus chip
      from Mike. Mike drew a good set of tiles, but Dan drew two
      commodities and a bonus (a lousy draw that wouldn't earn Dan much
      money.) Mike took the Construction technology, but didn't have
      any way to buy the Stone he needed, and had to discard the
      technology, losing any chance at the VPs. Eric bought a Wood tile
      and used it to play the Mechanization technology for 2 VP.

      In the second era, Dan again got a lousy set of tiles to auction.
      One downside to Industria is the fact that lousy tiles can put a
      player out of the running. This time Dan took a technology to
      keep it out of Eric's hands, and he also had to discard it for
      no VPs. Eric's early lead in cash caused Dan and Mike to play
      with a bit of paranoia, taking tiles they were auctioning lest
      Eric get out to a big lead.

      By mid-game Eric was short of cash and Mike and Dan were richer,
      but Eric had enough production industries in play to keep enough
      cash coming in. Eric also drew the tiles he needed when he was
      auctioneer, several times getting a critical technology. In the
      fourth era, Eric bid $5 for a technology that Dan was auctioning,
      but in the fifth era, Eric spurned Dan's $9 bid for a technology
      that was worth 6 VP to Dan and 3 VP to Eric.

      Final scores:

      ____ _Ind_ Tech_ Conn_ Bonus __$__ Total
      ____ ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
      Eric __12_ __19_ __18_ __14_ __2__ __65_
      Mike __17_ ___9_ ___9_ __14_ __1__ __50_
      Dan_ __16_ __10_ ___6_ ___6_ __4__ __42_

      Eric's rating: 7. This is a clever game that's not like any
      other game I'm familiar with. The auction mechanism introduces
      considerable angst. One drawback is the fact that a player can
      have trouble simply because of bad tile draws.

      Eric Brosius
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