[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-07-07
- 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: Walt, Rich, Bob, Bill, Eric,
Paul H., Dan, Mike
TICKET TO RIDE
(Rich, Bob, Bill)
We welcomed a first-time visitor to MVGA
this week. Bob has been reading our MVGA
session reports on the Unity Games Yahoo
group for a while, and he decided to pay
us a visit. Of course, as a first-timer
Bob did not have to pay the $3.00. Bob
said he hoped to find a game of Ticket to
Ride, but was open to anything we might
recommend. We decided to start off with
Ticket to Ride and move on from there.
We split into a group of 4 and a group
of 3, with Rich and Bill joining Bob for
Ticket to Ride.
Ticket to Ride is always a balancing act. If you aren't
ambitious enough, you'll never score enough points to win, but
if you're too ambitious, you'll fail to complete all your tickets
(either because you're blocked or because you run out of trains.)
There's a significant amount of luck in the game; if you draw
several tickets that can be completed using common track sections,
you gain an edge over opponents who must connect their tickets
In this game, Rich benefited from drawing two transcontinental
tickets, L.A. - Miami and L.A. - New York. Of course, it's not
always easy to connect to L.A., and if an opponent seizes that
little Houston - New Orleans section, it's a long way around.
Rich stepped nimbly around the pitfalls and connected all his
tickets for a total of 133 VP. Of course, Rich wasn't able to
get the 10 VP for longest route with these cities; Bill took
prize, but fell short with 122 VP. Bob drew a lot of tickets,
and in the end his eyes were too big for his stomach as he failed
to complete them all, finishing with a still-respectable 110 VP.
Final scores: Rich 133, Bill 122, Bob 110.
Eric's rating: 8. The 3-player game is the most tense of all
the options. A double-link connection can be used by only one
player; this makes the other side of the connection unavailable
to opponents. The 2-player game is less crowded, though still
enjoyable, and the 4- and 5-players games allow two players to
use a double-link connection. The card draws introduce quite
a bit of luck into Ticket to Ride, but I find the combination
of luck, skill and pure brinksmanship makes an enjoyable game,
and my family agrees.
(Walt, Eric, Paul H., Dan)
Walt purchased a copy of 7 Ages several months ago and we
played a short game a while back (no session report was
written, as Eric was away.) We wanted to give it a more
extensive outing, and we had selected July 7 as the date.
Although the game will accommodate 2 to 7 players, we felt
it would work best with 4, and we were happy that the number
of people in attendance made it convenient to play with 4.
Walt had printed out some play aids from the internet for the
first game. Eric printed out more and wrote up an Action
Guide for a game he arranged in New York over the Independence
Day weekend. The rules are quite intricate, though the set-up
is quite brief, and we started play at 8pm after a rules
review that took about 45 minutes.
7 Ages has a large colorful map (it takes up two full A1
sheets, which I guess makes one A0 sheet,) but the heart of
the game is a deck of 110 multi-use cards. Each card may serve
one of three distinct functions. The top section of the card
shows a potential empire that a player may start and run in an
attempt to gain victory points that are called "glory points"
(GP). The middle section of the card shows an artefact that
may be played to benefit ones own empire or hinder an
opponent's empire. The bottom section of the card shows an
event that may be played to affect the course of the game.
In 7 Ages, a player has a limited set of assets: a hand of
cards, a set of action markers, and a GP total. The player
with the most GP at the end of the game is the winner, and the
primary means of gaining GP is owning successful empires, so
the focus of the game is on starting and running empires.
Eric explained that the game could start at the beginning of
any Age, from Age 1 (prehistory) to Age 7 (the twentieth
century.) Each Age contains 7 Progress Steps, for a total
of 49 Progress Steps (Age 1 consists of Progress Steps 1 - 7
and Age 7 consists of Progress Steps 43 - 49.) The game
ends when an empire reaches Progress Step 50 (the Age of
Aquarius,) or when a player uses the Al Gore leader to play
the Internet artefact on an empire (just kidding about the Al
Gore part!) The player who wins the bid to go first in Turn 1
may start any empire, but once the first empire is on the map,
players may only start empires that are qualified to operate
in the Age currently occupied by the most advanced empire.
Thus, a player who has a broad enough collection of empires
to start in any Age may not care about going first, but a
player who can start only in a subset of the Ages will want
the first empire to begin in one of those Ages.
We used the variant that allows any player to discard all 7
cards at the start of the game to get 6 new ones, and Eric
took advantage of this option to re-draw. We bid for
starting order, and Eric won first choice with a "6" (Eric
had a lot of high cards and wanted his choice of empires.)
Walt bid a "4", Paul a "3", and Dan (who was unhappy with
his hand) bid a "1". The cards bid were placed in the discard
pile and we selected colors: red for Eric, purple for Walt,
gray for Paul and green for Dan. Each color comes in two
shades (e.g., dark red and light red, or pink, for Eric) with
the lighter shade being more numerous while the darker shade
are better fighters.
Once turn order and color is established, Turn 1 begins. In
each turn you play one or more action markers from your set
of eight action markers. You may play one marker on each
empire you own, plus one additional non-empire marker if you
have fewer than the maximum permitted number of empires on
the board (normally four in a 4-player games, but we played
with a maximum of three to speed things up.) We all played
our Start Empire Markers face down and turned them up. Eric
started the Russians in Ukraine, hoping to gain many GP by
dominating Asia and Europe. Eric started in Age 4, in
Progress Step 22. Walt immediately played the Mongols and
used his two free starting maneuvers to grab most of Central
Asia and create a check on Eric's ambitions. Paul started
the Hausa, an desert-based empire I'd never heard of, in the
Sahara. Dan was unhappy, because the only empire he could
start was the Hapsburgs, which had to start right next to
Eric's Russians. At the end of the first turn, Paul took
the GP lead, as his Hausa earned points for being the richest
empire in the world (Paul saved some of his initial cash to
enjoy, given that his empire enjoyed money.)
Paul was starting player for Turn 2. Three of us started
our second empires: Paul started the Picts & Scots in
Scotland, Walt started the Ming under the protective screen
of his Mongols, and Eric started the Srivijayans, who earn
VPs for controlling seas, an objective they had no competition
for. Dan had no empire that could start in Age 4, so he was
forced to live with just one empire. After Start Empire, Walt
played his Production action marker, gaining income for his
broad array of Asian regions and building even more Mongols.
Ordinarily the next action after starting an empire is maneuver,
but Walt was able to skip this step because he had received
free maneuvers when his empire started. The other 3 of us
did play Maneuver action markers on our existing empires. Paul
spread across the Sahara, gaining access to elephants. Dan
spread across Germany and east into Hungary. Eric decided Dan
had too many regions, at 7, and moved into Hungary, taking it
from Dan. With his other units, Eric spread across Eastern
Europe, giving him 7 regions to Dan's 6 and with them 2 GP
for most regions in Europe. Dan's second action was Destiny,
which allowed him to discard all his cards and re-draw to
bring his hand back to 6.
Score after Turn 2: Paul 12, Walt 10, Eric 9, Dan 4.
In the third turn we maneuvered, but no one started a third
empire. Our hands were getting thin and we all needed to use
the destiny action except Dan, who had done so in Turn 2. Dan
did use Start Empire to begin his second empire, the Modern
State, which took over one of Paul's regions in the eastern
Sahara. Paul objected to Dan's move; the Modern State must
start by taking an area from an existing empire, but Paul felt
Eric and Walt were better targets. Dan pointed out that the
Modern State gains points for Wheat areas, and the best access
to the two Wheat regions in Egypt and Mesopotamia was from the
edge of the Hausa empire. Walt pulled ahead in this round, as
the Ming and Mongols are both excellent GP-generating empires.
We began to use the Trade and Progress action, which gives the
winning empire 1 to 3 free Progress Steps. This moved several
empires out of the dark age in Progress Step 21 (at the end of
Age 3) and on to Progress Step 22 (at the start of Age 4.)
Score after Turn 3: Walt 18, Paul 17, Eric 17, Dan 6.
We started two more empires in Turn 4. Eric started the Arabs,
right in Dan's intended expansion path, and Walt started the
Sinhalese in Ceylon. Despite the close proximity of many of
our empires, we didn't engage in warfare after the Turn 2
battle of Hungary; there seemed to be other things to do, and
the fiddly nature of the combat rules were a deterrent. Eric
edged toward Walt's Mongols, hoping to make a move into Asia,
but it isn't easy to gather troops in this game (once you take
a region, or even move into it, you must leave a force in it
(we called it the "trail of breadcrumbs" rule,) and Eric never
got around to attacking. Walt's Mongols similarly could earn
GP by taking regions from more advanced empires, but Walt never
mounted a single attack during the entire game. Paul's Picts
and Scot's sailed to Iberia and set up shop in Portugal, but as
barbarians they found it hard to afford extensive troop levies.
Score after Turn 4: Walt 28, Eric 26, Paul 22, Dan 11.
Turn 5 was relatively quiescent. Dan started the Melanesians
in Papua New Guinea, a potential threat to Eric's Srivijayans,
but the Melanesians were so poor they could hardly afford
ships, so it would be several turns before they would leave
the safety of land. Despite Dan's fears, Eric's Arabs did not
launch an attack on Dan's Modern State. The Arabs gained
points from artefacts, and Eric used a Civilize Action to play
an artefact for the GP. Eric would have loved to play the
Islam artefact on the Arabs, who gain GPs for being the largest
Moslem empire, but he couldn't find a card with Islam on it
(though he did find Confucianism and Hinduism, which don't help
Score after Turn 5: Walt 37, Eric 37, Paul 27, Dan 17.
As we started Turn 6, we all agreed that we'd had enough of the
game for the evening. You can play the game all the way through
to Progress Step 50, but you can also stop at a pre-determined
time. We agreed Turn 6 would be the last. During Turn 6, Walt
played Feudalism on his Mongols, giving him 1 GP for a total of
38. At the end of the turn, during the Harvest Glory phase,
there was a flurry of activity. First, Eric played an event
that doubled the GP harvest of his Srivijayans. Walt then
played a card that eliminated all GP gains for empires other
than one of Walt's. Eric then played a card that eliminated
all glory for the turn. This left Walt the victory by 1 GP.
We ended the game with the most advanced empires in Progress
Step 29. The time was 10:30, so it had taken us 2 1/2 hours
to advance by 7 Progress Steps. At this rate, it would have
taken us a total of 10 hours to complete the game. If our
game had started in Age 1 rather than Age 4, a game would have
taken about 20 hours at the pace we were setting; this is
consistent with what I've heard from others.
Final scores: Walt 38, Eric 37, Paul 27, Dan 17.
Eric's rating: 6. This is an interesting game that offers a
great deal of variety, but as Dan said, it's extremely fiddly.
There are a lot of special cases to consider; I presume this
problem would be reduced as we gain familiarity with 7 Ages.
There is a lot of luck in the game, but this is only a problem
if you're focused exclusively on winning. 7 Ages will be most
attractive to players for whom the experience of playing is the
most important part of a game. Both games I've played were
decided by the play of a "Glory pour moi" card on the last turn;
this might not be an issue in a game that goes the distance, but
it's critical if you play for just a few hours.
(Rich, Bob, Bill, Mike)
Mike arrived during the Ticket to Ride game. We were delighted
to see Mike, who has made it to MVGA only erratically this year.
Bob said he was happy to play any 4-player game, so we moved on
to Louis XIV, an area-influence game that's my favorite 2005
release so far. You gain VPs in Louis XIV by gathering missions
(worth 5 VP each) and shields (worth 1 VP each, with a random
kicker at the end of the game.) I've heard two main criticisms
of Louis XIV. Some people complain that the missions dominate
the game (5 VP is a lot more than 1 VP,) so that the winner
almost always has the most missions. Others complain about the
luck introduced by the random kicker.
In this game, Bill and Mike were more successful in completing
missions, but Rich and Bob collected more shields. The game was
close, but when we counted the scores, Bob had won by a margin
of 4 VP. Interestingly, the two high scorers had fewer missions
than the two low scorers. I don't agree with the claim that
missions dominate the game, although I will concede that it
makes a big difference whether you can use your last two mission
chips to complete a mission (if you can't, you take two shields
worth only 2 VP plus the kicker.)
Bob 48 (6 missions,) Rich 44 (6), Mike 42 (7), Bill 40 (7).
Eric's rating: 8.
(Bob, Bill, Eric, Mike)
Both games finished at about the same time, so we mixed it up
a bit to make two new 4-player games. We took another look at
the MVGA game locker (almost everything was new to Bob, so we
had many great options available.) Bill still hasn't gotten
enough of Saint Petersburg and wanted to play it again, and
Bob, Eric and Mike were happy to join him.
Bob learns rules quickly, as his Louis XIV victory demonstrates
(this isn't an easy group to win a game in; we're friendly, but
we play hard.) Before long we were under way, dealing cards and
buying them. The Czar & Carpenter showed up in the first turn,
and Bill (as last in the green phase) had to pay $8 for him. In
the blue phase, Eric had to decide between an Observatory and the
Potemkin Village. He took the Potemkin village, judging that a
savings of $4 outweighed the flexibility the Observatory provides.
Bill snapped the Observatory up, and added a second Observatory
later in the game. Three nobles were dealt. Bob had first choice
and took the Judge as Eric took the Controller and Bill a Warehouse
Manager. Mike hadn't opened up a spot for a noble, as all the
remaining buildings were pricey.
Bill focused on collecting orange cards, using one and often both
Observatories to draw each turn. He bought few buildings and fell
far behind in the VP race (though he did convert his Czar &
Carpenter to a Fur Shop early on for 2 VP a turn.) Mike suffered
from being behind Bill; since Bill was using his Observatories to
get nobles, he didn't work to free up spaces for them, and this
kept Mike from getting them. Bob and Eric put more of their energy
into purchasing buildings for VP, though Eric got the Patriarch and
a Fur Shop down early to augment his score.
In the end, Bill ran into bad luck and was forced to settle for
just 8 different noble types, not nearly enough to close the gap.
Eric 97 (6 nobles,) Bob 81 (5), Bill 71 (8), Mike 65 (5).
Eric's rating: 10. It's amusing to read through the comments
included with the ratings on Boardgamegeek.com. When you compare
the comments of the people who rate a game '10' with the comments
of those who rate it '1', it's hard to believe it's the same game.
I read comments that say there's only one way to win Saint
Petersburg, and I wonder which of the many paths to victory they're
(Walt, Rich, Paul H., Dan)
The 4 players who were not in the Saint Petersburg game decided
to play Alhambra with two expansions we recently acquired: "Change"
and "Diamonds." They agreed that "Change" is an excellent addition
to the basic game. It provides additional incentive to over-pay for
tiles from time to time, adding an additional element of uncertainty.
The "Diamonds" expansion was okay, but didn't add much, at least not
for these players.
In this game, Dan focused on Pavilions and Serails---low-scoring
colors, but valuable if you get unchallenged leads. He also built
a respectable wall to win comfortably.
Scores after the first scoring (T = tiles, W = walls):
Dan_ 4T + 6W = 10
Walt 5T + 7W = 12
Rich 6T + 3W = 9
Paul 3T + 5W = 8
After the second scoring:
Dan_ 10 + 18T + 12W = 40
Walt 12 + 18T + 12W = 42
Rich_ 9 + 25T + 8W = 42
Paul_ 8 + 18T + 7W = 33
Dan_ 40 + 60T + 13W = 113
Walt 42 + 42T + 17W = 101
Rich 42 + 46T + 9W = 97
Paul 33 + 44T + 8W = 85
Eric's rating: 8 for Alhambra with no expansions, but I haven't
played a game yet using the expansions.
- brosiuse writes:
> Eric's rating: 10. It's amusing to read through the commentsI was browsing through the comments for Venice Connection the other
> included with the ratings on Boardgamegeek.com. When you compare
> the comments of the people who rate a game '10' with the comments
> of those who rate it '1', it's hard to believe it's the same game.
> I read comments that say there's only one way to win Saint
> Petersburg, and I wonder which of the many paths to victory they're
> referring to.
day, and found these two at the bottom:
After 3 or 4 games you'll realize that the player who starts second
nearly always wins (rating: 3)
If both players pay attention, the starting player wins the
game. *yawn* (rating: 2)
I wonder if their ratings would go up if they played against each other...
- On Jul 11, 2005, at 5:01 PM, Doug Orleans wrote:
> brosiuse writes:Reminds me of a great quote I found and am using in the new book:
> > Eric's rating: 10. It's amusing to read through the comments
> > included with the ratings on Boardgamegeek.com. When you compare
> > the comments of the people who rate a game '10' with the comments
> > of those who rate it '1', it's hard to believe it's the same game.
> > I read comments that say there's only one way to win Saint
> > Petersburg, and I wonder which of the many paths to victory they're
> > referring to.
> I was browsing through the comments for Venice Connection the other
> day, and found these two at the bottom:
> After 3 or 4 games you'll realize that the player who starts second
> nearly always wins (rating: 3)
> If both players pay attention, the starting player wins the
> game. *yawn* (rating: 2)
> I wonder if their ratings would go up if they played against each
A man of the state of Chu had a spear and a shield for sale. He was
loud in praises of his shield. �My shield is so strong that nothing
can pierce through it.�
He also sang praises of his spear. �My spear is so strong that it can
�What would happen,� he was asked, �if your spear is used to pierce
- Ancient Chinese fable
I do think St Petersburg is due for a deck of 20 new cards to be
added to the set a la Puerto Rico, but it's still an engaging game.
The problem is, there are enough games coming out that if you don't
like it right away it vanishes from the list of games you're willing
St Pete is among the most popular games at MVGA for 2004 and 2005.
Walter H. Hunt
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