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.
Rich, Paul H., Eric, Walt
(Rich, Paul H., Eric)
There were only 3 of us on hand at 7pm, and
Rich and Paul had a 4-game tabletop baseball
series arranged. Walt was in the building,
but was committed to some Masonic activities
for the first hour or so, so Eric watched the
baseball game, caught up on his reading, and
waited to see whether any other gamers would
arrive. No one else showed up, so when the
baseball series finished (Paul won games 1
and 3 as Rich won games 2 and 4) we moved to
Wyatt Earp, our favorite filler.
The game started slowly, especially for Rich,
who had no sheriff cards in his hand, but was
unable to assemble a collection of 3 outlaws
of a single color until his third turn, when
he picked up a Butch Cassidy that Eric had
discarded. Eric played 3 of a single outlaw
plus a photo for that outlaw on his first
turn, and then followed up with the same
trick on his second. Rich and Paul started
on Billy the Kidd, but Eric used a Most
Wanted with a shot (a tactic rarely seen at
MVGA to take one of Rich's cards, get a
share of the Billy money, and win the first
hand by a mile. At this point Walt came down
to play, so we ended after just one hand.
Final scores (one hand):
Eric $13K, Rich $7K, Paul H. $3K.
Eric's rating: 9.
THROUGH THE DESERT
(Rich, Paul H., Eric, Walt)
With Walt on hand, we had many good 4-player games to choose
from. The club owns a copy of Through the Desert, the game
of sherbet-colored camels (lemon, mint, peach, grape and
lime.) It had been too long since we last played. Though
Through the Desert is a game in which you have many options
from which to choose, it's important to decide which of those
options are most important because the game will end before
you can do everything you were hoping to do. I often fall
into the trap of forgetting to keep track of who has the
longest chains (the player who has the longest camel chain
in each of the five flavors earns 10 VP) and it happened again
this week. I just need more practice!
We began by setting out our starting camels, one per flavor
for each player. The resulting spread of camels was truly
impressive, with no one having any significant room to
maneuver anywhere on the board. We began placing camels,
swallowing up water holes and connecting to oases. Eric
and Paul worked to surround territory to the extent possible
given the ubiquity of camels around the board. Walt spent
less effort seizing territory and grabbed the quick points,
extending chains in flavors that were less popular with the
other players. Rich pursued a middle-of-the-road course.
Before we knew it, the last camels were used up in one flavor
and---wouldn't you know it---Walt had the longest chain in
three of the five flavors, earning 30 VP just for long chains.
Eric did surround some territory, but Paul lost out on a
respectable enclave that he was just one turn short of walling
off. It was a close game, but Walt's long chains were the
margin of victory. Walt also won the last game of Through the
Desert we played at MVGA; we'll have to keep a closer eye on
him next time.
Walt 74, Rich 69, Eric 68, Paul H. 35.
Eric's rating: 8. Some people complain that Through the
Desert is dry. What do they expect from a game with a desert
theme, anyway? The camels are adorable and the game plays
quickly once you've played it a few times.
(Rich, Paul H., Eric, Walt)
It's been quite some time since we played Taj Mahal at MVGA.
Taj Mahal is a wonderful, intense game from Reiner Knizia,
and the 5-player version is too confrontational for some
folks; as a result we often play something else. With 4
players the confrontation is a little less dramatic. Eric and
Rich had both played Taj Mahal at the World Boardgaming
Championships in August (Eric took 6th place) and they were
eager to play again at their home club.
In Taj Mahal players compete for items that are scattered
across a small playing board, but the true heart of the game
is the cards. To obtain items, you must expend cards, and it
seems you never have as many cards as you need. In each round
players play cards one at a time around the table. The cards
have symbols (a general, a vizier, a princess, a monk, a mogul
and an elephant) that correspond to the six items you may
obtain in each province. Instead of playing another card
you may drop out, winning any item in which you have more
symbols than any opponent at the time you drop out. In most
cases it's better to drop out after playing just one or two
cards than to spend more cards in the hope of gaining more
items, because you get only two cards each round (the last
person to drop out gets only one card---this serves as a sort
of excess testosterone tax.)
There are three fundamental sources of victory points in Taj
Mahal. You can collect elephants that give you commodities
which score points; the later elephants score much more than
the earlier ones. You can collect the other cards to place
palaces which score points; if you place many palaces you can
get many extra points for connecting chains of palaces. You
can also win in princesses to gain the special "+2 VP" card,
which you can use every round until someone takes it from you.
Rich started out with an elephant strategy but backed off and
switched to palaces when Paul showed an interest in elephants
as well. Eric tried to begin a palace chain, but Rich cut him
off skillfully in Turn 6. Paul ran low on cards early and was
forced to limp along for a while with the help of the "+2 VP"
card. Eventually Walt took the card away and used it to make
a comeback. With Eric's chain stopped, he had to tread water
for a while searching for an alternate strategy. This allowed
him to build a huge hand of cards (with two 9-card suits, as
it turned out,) but it never seemed to be the right time for
him to use it and the turns ticked away as he fell further and
further behind. Eric finally sprung his trap in Turns 11 and 12,
but it was too late. Rich won by a comfortable margin by means
of a balanced strategy that incorporated elephants palace chains,
and a 9-card suit of his own for endgame scoring.
Final scores: Rich 53, Walt 46, Eric 43, Paul H. 34.
Eric's rating: 10. Taj Mahal is one of my favorite games. I
seem to prefer games that involve a little healthy paranoia
(which is only reasonable considering that my opponents are all
out to keep me from winning!)