[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-07-21
- 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, Paul H., Anton, Rich,
Jeff, Dan, Ian, Eric, Bill
(Anton, Rich, Jeff, Dan, Ian, Eric)
Walt and Paul were halfway through a
tabletop baseball series when the rest
of us arrived at the Masonic Hall. Several
MVGA regulars participate in an ABPA league
that's been running for a quarter century.
This is a club with history; MVGA has been
meeting continuously since 1965 (though
there have been shifts in the types of games
played.) Rich's son Jeff and Dan's son Ian
were on hand, augmenting our usual numbers.
Our first game was TransEuropa. This game transports the
mechanism from TransAmerica to a new continent. As in the
original game, the game map is criss-crossed with a network
of lines in the form of a triangular grid, so that there
are six lines emanating from an intersection. Thirty-five
of the intersections are marked with cities, seven each in
five colors, and the game comes with a deck of cards, one
for each city. One new feature in TransEuropa is that each
city card bears an illustration of a notable landmark from
the corresponding city. This is a nice touch; many of us
know that Rome has the Colosseum and Paris the Eiffel Tower,
but how many know that Budapest is known for the Fishermen's
Bastion and Charkiv for Blagoveshenskii Cathedral?
TransEuropa is played in a series of hands. Ian was our
starting player, and he received the starting player card
(with a picture of the French TGV train.) In each hand you
are dealt a hand of five city cards, one in each color,
which you must connect to win the hand. The red cities are
in the west, in Britain, Spain and western France. The
yellow cities are up north, the green ones in the east, the
blue ones in the south, and the orange ones in the center of
the map. With one card in each color, you know you'll have
to connect cities in various parts of Europe. At the start
of the hand, players place their starting stones (one per
player) in vacant intersections. After this, track building
begins. Each player may build one or two track sections.
You may build track from your starting stone, or from track
that connects to your starting stone. If you build a section
marked with a double line (a bridge, a mountain pass, or
embarking or disembarking onto or off a ferry,) you may build
only one section; otherwise you may build one or two. All
track sections are black, as track does not belong to a
specific player. You may use any track section you are
connected to. At the start of a hand, each player has a
separate network, but before long the networks all join to make
one big network. Because you may use track built by other
players, the key to TransEuropa (or TransAmerica) is to get
your opponents to build track you need.
Eric explained that it's traditional to complain about how bad
your cards are at the start of each hand. After a brief
demonstration of our aptitude for complaining, we started. It
wasn't long before we had combined our track into one network.
Eric finished his connections first with the help of a line
from Warszawa to Vilnius to St. Petersburg that connected
three cities using only three turns worth of builds. Most of
the scores were close, but Dan got no help from the rest of us
and lost 8 or 9 points for the hand (e.g., he needed that many
extra building points to connect his cities.) The game ends
when at least one player has lost a total of 13 points, so the
game was half finished in theory, although Dan could lengthen
the game if he were able to go out in the following hand(s).
In the second hand Dan won the complaining competition by an
impressive margin. Five players strung a network across the
center of the board from Russia to Spain while Anton set out
on a path of his own, connecting Berlin to Malmo. No one
seemed inclined to connect the common network to Anton's
track, so he connected to us. This allowed Eric to add two
track sections, connecting Malmo to Stockholm, and go out.
The damage this time was more substantial. There was no line
to Britain (Eric's red city was Madrid) and this was costly
to several aspiring engineers. Dan lost the remainder of his
points (maybe he was right to complain!)
Eric 13, Ian 9, Rich 5, Anton 5, Jeff 4, Dan 0.
Eric's rating: 7. I'll have to play more TransEuropa games
to get a better feel for the comparison to TransAmerica. The
pictures of the landmarks are a clear bonus in TransEuropa,
and though some people find it a challenge to locate the less
familiar cities on the European map, I think it adds to the
appeal of the game.
(Rich, Dan, Eric, Bill)
Bill arrived just as TransEuropa was finishing up, giving us 7
available gamers. The tabletop baseball series had an hour to
go, so we split into groups of 4 and 3 for our next game. We
have played a lot of Power Grid recently, but Bill just learned
the game recently and was eager to give it another shot. Rich
and Eric welcomed the opportunity to get another practice game
in before the World Boardgaming Championships next month, and
Dan joined to make 4.
We played on the German map and removed North Rhine-Westphalia
and Bavaria from play. This meant that the city of Erfurt would
be a key connection. Any link between the northern regions and
the South Rhine region would have to pass through Erfurt.
Bill started us off by putting the #04 coal plant up for auction,
and Eric took it for $6. The #05 hybrid went to Dan for the same
price, and Rich let Bill take the #03 oil plant for $3. This
gave Rich a choice of the #06, #07, #08 or #09. He paid $9 for
the #09, a fuel-efficient wonder that powers one city for a single
oil barrel. Bill, as the owner of the lowest-numbered plant,
began building by connecting the twin cities of Halle and Leipzig
for $20. These cities are just north of Erfurt and provided
building room to the north as well. Eric started in Hamburg,
hoping to wall off an area in the far northwest. This left two
obvious building areas. Dan took the other set of twin cities,
Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, and Rich built in Schwerin, limiting
Eric's options and claiming the northeast.
In Turn 2, Dan with his 2 cities was first bidder. The #06,
#07, #08 and #10 plants were visible in the current market. Dan
bid on the #10 coal plant and got it for $12 after a bid from
Bill. This made the #13 windmill available, and Bill got it for
list price, with the #14 trash plant showing up as a replacement.
Rich now took the #08 coal plant for list price, and Eric chose
the #18 windmill that flipped over next. The replacement was the
#20 coal burner, an early-game powerhouse with a 5-city capacity.
Unfortunately, we had each bought a plant, so we knew we'd have
to wait until Turn 3 to bid for it. In the building phase Eric
could see space would be at a premium, and he connected Lubeck
and Kiel to make it to 3 cities. Rich connected one city, Dan
declined to build, and Bill added a third city himself, moving
north toward Rich and leaving Erfurt empty.
Rich won the auction for the #20 at the start of Turn 3, paying
$28. Eric got #22, another capacity-2 windmill that appeared
next, for list price. The two windmills gave Eric the ability to
power 4 cities with no fuel, but threatened him with capacity
problems later on. Trash plants were starting to pile up in the
display, and Bill chose the #14, which powers 2 cities for two
trash. This dropped the #23 nuclear plant into the current
market, and Dan was happy to get it. Rich jumped all the way to
Flensburg, taking a city in Eric's back yard. Dan added Fulda,
one step from Erfurt, Bill passed, and Eric built to Bremen. A
close inspection of the map reveals that Bremen contains a tiny
statue, distinguishing it from all the other cities on the map.
This is designer Friedemann Friese's tribute to his home town.
At the end of each turn one plant is removed from the market and
replaced with a new plant from the deck. At the end of Turn 3,
the #15 coal plant was drawn and placed in the current market.
Eric, with 4 cities connected, was first auctioneer, and he put
the #15 up for auction. The #15 was the best plant available,
but the other players let Eric take it for list price as they
hoped for better options from the replacement draws. Their hopes
were dashed when the #19 trash plant appeared. Bill was already
burning two trash a turn with the #14 plant, and it didn't look
as though trash would be cheap any time in the near future. The
other players passed, leaving Rich with a capacity of 8, Eric
with 7, Dan with 6, and Bill with only 4. Dan declined to build
again, but Bill added 2 more cities, including Erfurt, as Rich
and Eric added one each. The new plant at the end of the round
was the #12, a decent plant in Turn 2 but a mediocre plant in
Turn 5. Eric passed, content to rake in the income at a cost of
just two coal per turn, but Bill held his nose and took the #12
for list price, increasing his capacity to 5. The new plant was
the #24, giving us the unique sight of three trash plants in the
current market: the #06, the #19 and the #24. Rich and Dan were
happy to pass on these plants. Dan finally connected two more
cities, bringing him to 5. Rich also connected his fifth city,
but Bill could only power 5, so he did not connect a sixth.
Eric had power for 7 cities, but he built only Cuxhaven for 6,
leaving Wilhelmshaven unconnected. Eric reasoned that his two
windmills would allow him to pile up cash faster than the other
players as long as the game remained in Phase 1.
Turn 6 brought the #26 oil plant, with its 5-city capacity, into
the current market. Eric and Rich were both determined to buy
this plant, and Eric bid Rich up to $54 for it. The next plant
was the #30 trash plant, with a capacity of 6 cities. Dan knew
he needed to increase his capacity and bid $44 to take it, even
though trash was still fairly expensive. The #34 nuclear plant
was now available. Eric got it for $34 as Bill decided to hope
the #36 coal plant would drop from the future market. Bill's
plan worked, and he got the valuable #36 for list price. Its
7-city capacity raised Bill's potential to 11 cities, compared
to 12 for Rich, 11 for Dan and 10 for Eric. The Phase 1 stall
continued. Bill connected a sixth city, but Rich and Dan chose
to stay at 5, preserving their favorable spots in the turn order.
After their burst of innovation in Turn 6, the power plant
designers must have taken a vacation. There was nothing at all
we wanted in Turn 7, so we passed through the auctions and cast
the #07 plant out of the game. Dan connected a sixth city this
turn, and Eric began to grow nervous about his meager capacity.
If the Phase 1 stall continued, an opponent would eventually be
able to force the game to its conclusion while Eric's anemic
plants were still operating. Eric connected Wilhelmshaven, his
seventh city, to put the game into Phase 2. We usually enter
Phase 2 in Turn 6 in our games, but the stall put it off till
Turn 7 this time.
In Turn 8, Eric came to the auction armed with his new resolve
to shop for power plants with higher capacities. Unfortunately,
the largest plants on display were the #21 and #29 hybrids, each
powering 4 cities. Eric took the #29 for list price, replacing
one of his windmills with a larger but still fuel-efficient plant,
and the #25 coal plant, another prize, replaced it. Bill put it
up for auction. Rich bid $26 and was surprised to get it at that
price. Rich's capacity was now 15 cities, easily enough to win
the game if he could get the timing right. Rich bought a huge
load of coal to supply his #20 and #25 plants, which between them
used up 5 coal each turn. He also went on a city-building spree,
connecting 4 more to make it to 9. Bill built 2 to reach 8,
Dan built 3 to reach 9, and Eric built just 1 to tie Bill at 8 and
become dimmest bulb with its advantages in the auction. He was
sad to see all his opponents pass in the Turn 9 auction, and took
the #21 to increase his capacity to 13. It was a miscalculation.
Eric went on a city-building drive, but fell just short of being
able to connect 17 cities for the win. Instead he built 8 new
cities to reach 16, grabbing cheap opportunities and knocking a
few shabby plants out of the current market and into the box.
This moved the game into Phase 3, and plants a-plenty would be
ready for the taking in the next round. Bill connected 5 new
cities to hit 13, Rich 3 to get to 12, and Dan 2 to reach 11 (he
was shut into the corner of the board around Frankfurt, so wanted
to wait for the easier Phase 3 builds.)
Six plants were available for purchase at the start of Turn 10,
but none of them had a 7-city capacity (Bill had the only plant of
that size---the #36 he bought at the end of the Turn 6 auction.)
Eric started by putting the #50 fusion plant up for auction. This
plant was the object of spirited bidding, as the price of coal had
risen dramatically and the opportunity to power 6 cities for no
fuel looked attractive. Dan bought it for $75, raising his
capacity to 15. Eric auctioned the #40 next, and Bill bought it
for $56, raising his capacity to 15 as well. The replacement plant
was the #46 hybrid, which powers 7 cities and can run on oil, which
was still cheap. Rich finally let Eric have it for $74; he could
not afford to buy it and connect more than 15 cities, while Eric had
the cash and needed the capacity. The game now rested on the next
plant draw, and Rich was disappointed to see the #39 nuclear plant
appear. Rich's three current plants all had capacity 5, and the #39
with its 6-city capacity was the only plant that would increase his
capacity to 16. Unfortunately, uranium was extremely expensive.
We purchased fuel and began what looked to be the final building
round. After Dan's heroic bid for the #50 and his expenditure for
trash and uranium, he could connect only one city to reach 12.
Rich calculated carefully, looking for a way to connect four more
cities for a total of 16. Eric had made Rich's job harder by
connecting so many cities during Round 9, but Rich finally found
a solution that used every dollar of his cash. Bill was also a bit
short on cash and could connect only one more city for a total
of 14. Eric wanted to end the game if possible, given the greater
potential capacity of his opponents in Round 11, and he had just
enough to connect a 17th city with $3 left over. This was another
exciting, close game of Power Grid.
Eric 16 cities + $3
Rich 16 cities + $0
Bill 14 cities
Dan 12 cities
Eric's rating: 9. We've played more than a dozen games of Power
Grid at MVGA and people still ask for it every week or two.
(Anton, Jeff, Ian)
While 4 of us played Power Grid, the other 3 played Puerto Rico,
an MVGA favorite since it came out a few years back. All three
players had experience with Puerto Rico, but Anton took his
younger opponents to school in this game, outbuilding them and
sticking close to Ian in the shipping race.
VPs Bldgs Bonus Total
----- ----- ----- -----
Anton 26 25 10 61
Ian 31 15 0 46
Jeff 15 20 7 42
Eric's rating: 10.
The Puerto Rico game ended just after Power Grid (which is not
a long game, no matter what people tell you.) Walt and Paul H.
had just completed their tabletop baseball series and were ready
for something new. It was only a little after 10pm, but Eric
was tired and left at this point. Reports on the remaining games
will be posted by Walt, who took notes for the rest of the evening.