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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-07-07

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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 3 , Jul 9, 2005
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      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
      separately.

      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.


      7 AGES
      (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
      the Arabs.)

      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.


      LOUIS XIV
      (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.)

      Final scores:
      Bob 48 (6 missions,) Rich 44 (6), Mike 42 (7), Bill 40 (7).

      Eric's rating: 8.


      SAINT PETERSBURG
      (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.

      Final scores:
      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
      referring to.


      ALHAMBRA
      (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

      Final scores:

      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.


      Eric Brosius
    • Doug Orleans
      ... 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
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 11, 2005
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        brosiuse writes:
        > 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 other...

        --dougo@...
      • Walter Hunt
        ... Reminds me of a great quote I found and am using in the new book: A man of the state of Chu had a spear and a shield for sale. He was loud in praises of
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 11, 2005
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          On Jul 11, 2005, at 5:01 PM, Doug Orleans wrote:

          > brosiuse writes:
          > > 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
          > other...
          >
          > --dougo@...
          >
          Reminds me of a great quote I found and am using in the new book:


          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
          pierce anything.�

          �What would happen,� he was asked, �if your spear is used to pierce
          your shield?�

          - 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
          to try.

          St Pete is among the most popular games at MVGA for 2004 and 2005.

          Walter H. Hunt
          hotc@...
          http://www.walterhunt.com/



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