SOG SR: 8/29 in Westford
- We had a light crowd of four people at my place in Westford last
night: Rob, Mike, Jeff M. and myself.
We started out with a quick game of Cartagena. I managed to take an
early lead but foundered due to not having a good enough card
supply. Mike, on my right, did everything he could to ensure that I
couldn't easily draw more cards, and the card shortage was enough to
give him the edge and win one turn before I would have been. Jeff and
Rob were both well behind but catching up.
Next up we played City and Guilds, a tile-laying game from JKLM
Publishing. These guys are pretty small, but the production quality
of the games is pretty good. Perhaps not high-gloss Rio Grande
quality, but still nice enough. (These are the same folks who
distributed Kogge, which I have a first printing of, and the quality
of that is pretty poor, so this game is a big step up.)
The game board consists of a grid containing eight city blocks, all
separated by streets. Each block has eight spaces on it, but
otherwise the blocks are shaped differently. One of the clever
aspects of this game is that, although roads separate blocks, squares
that are separated by only road (however long) are considered to be
adjacent. This gives the board some very interesting properties.
There are 80 tiles in the game. Most of them are assigned to one of
four guilds: Candlemakers (Red), Bakers (Yellow), Blacksmiths (Blue),
Clothmakes (Green). Each color has eleven Guild house tiles and seven
markets. There are also four Minstrel tiles and four Taverns, which
add value to blocks but are unassociated with any guild.
The gameplay itself is very simple: You have a hand of three tiles,
you play one, you draft a replacement from a face-up pool of three.
But depending on the tile you play, different things can happen.
Guild houses allow you to place a man on the tile, giving you control
of the building. They also optionally allow you to increase your
control of that particular guild. Guild markets don't let you place a
man at all, but give you two steps of control in a guild. Minstrels
let you control the building, but do nothing for guilds. (Taverns are
Scoring takes place whenever a block is completed. Points are awarded
for control of a block (most buildings, with tiebreaker of most men,
followed by a first-in rule) and guild control. Block control can be
a lot of points...guild control is generally smaller but still adds
The game ends when all blocks fill up, and there's a final scoring for
guilds. Each guild is worth 1 point per tile in the longest chain of
that color, and a potentially huge bonus is awarded based on the
number of blocks the chain goes through. This number is triangular,
so in one block it's only worth a point, but if you have a chain that
manages to enter all eight blocks it garners a 36-point bonus.
The game is pretty strategic, although you are somewhat at the mercy
of whatever tiles are available to be drafted. Several times I found
myself with nothing but markets available to draft, which made
competing for block control kind of difficult.
Jeff took the early tack of extending the Candlemaker's guild into as
many blocks as possible, incidentally putting him well in the lead for
control of that guild. Rob thought that seemed like a good idea so
spent a lot of effort extending the Candlemaker's guild as well...but
not enough so as to get himself into first place. Mike and I battled
for control over blocks and generally jockeyed for position in other
At the end of the game, Jeff racked up a very nice bonus on the
Candlemaker's guild, making the final chain worth a total of something
like 35 points (of which he got half, Rob got a quarter and Mike got
an eighth). Between that and his control of the Blacksmith's guild,
Jeff was an easy lock for the win. Rob was in second place, and my
top positions in the Baker's guild and Clothmaker's guild were only
enough to get me third. Mike finished a point behind me. The total
spread wasn't too bad -- Jeff finished at about 80, and Mike was at 65
I enjoyed this game a lot. Rules are simple (although some of the
details of control determination can be a little odd), game is
strategic and complex while still giving you fairly limited choices
each turn. I'd like to play it again, but so far it gets a tentative
Rob had to go home at this point, so we decided to play a few
three-player games. After a little jockeying back and forth, I
suggested we start with Der Flaschenteufel. Jeff was new to this
game, so took a few rounds to get the hang of it, but he still managed
to do reasonably well. Jeff and I took turns getting stuck with the
bottle in the first four rounds, with Mike racking up the points.
Going into round five (of a predetermined six), Mike had about 150
points, with Jeff and I a point away from each other in the mid-60s.
The last two rounds were not kind to Mike. He ended up getting stuck
with the bottle both times, and I was able to pull in enough points to
pass him by for the win in the final round. Still, it was close --
final scores were all in a 30-point neighborhood. I love this game
and I'm always happy to play it.
Mike had enough mojo for one more game, so I suggested Bus. I've
played this a lot online, but never managed to get my actual copy to
the table before last night. Great game, very strategic, no
randomness at all after the initial determination of who goes first.
(Funagain was selling copies last fall for $15, so I felt it was my
time to buy.) This was another first-time play for Jeff, although
Mike had played before.
The dynamic of face-to-face play is a little different, but the game
is still the same excellent, frustrating game. You have to balance
being able to do what you want to do with being able to do it in the
order important -- most of the crucial decisions (road building,
building placement) allow the last person choosing the action to take
it first (although with diminished capacity). So if you need to place
buildings, you can take the guarantee of being able to place a lot,
but possibly after someone else has already filled the spots you want
Networks got pretty big this game, in part because Mike bought himself
up to five buses, which made line building easier (most actions are
limited by the maximum number of buses anyone has). I managed to take
a two-point lead in the next-to-last turn of the game, and then
stopped the clock for the final round. Mike, with one stone committed
to Vroom!, couldn't get enough points on his own to do better than tie
my score, which would give me the win on the tiebreaker due to having
the clock stone. Jeff was placed into a kingmaker position -- he
could build offices on Mike's route and give Mike the win, or he could
decline and let me win. Unfortunately for him, his route was so
overlapped with Mike that he couldn't do too much to improve his own
score -- he would have needed four points in any case, and only had
So, final scores:
Josh: 11-1 stone = 10
I enjoyed the face-to-face aspect and was pleased with how quickly the
game played. The board is a little busy, which can be a bit of a
problem sometimes when you're trying to keep track of all the lines
and buildings and passengers...but even so it's a great game.
Mike headed out, and Jeff and I closed off with a game of Fjords
(Vitas, I still have your game!). We played the standard three
rounds, with both of us being fairly new to the game. I'd played one
round before, and Jeff and I had both watched Vitas and Mike play it.
On our first round, we were both very conservative in placing farms,
placing them very late and we split all the territory exactly
equally. In the second round, Jeff played his farms quickly and I
held off, attempting to place my last two farms to better advantage.
Didn't work well for me, and Jeff took a one point lead. In the final
round, Jeff again played all his farms early, but this time I chose a
little better about where to place my farms, and scored five more
points than Jeff, taking the win by four points.
Fjords is not a bad little game, although I have to say that there's
something about it that leaves me feeling unsatisfied. I don't mind
playing it, but after a practice round and a full game I confess that
I don't feel any real need to own a copy.
That was all for this week!