[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-04-28
- 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.
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.
WAR OF THE RING
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
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'
(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.
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 $9 bid for a technology
that was worth 6 VP to Dan and 3 VP to Eric.
____ _Ind_ Tech_ Conn_ Bonus __$__ 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.