[SR] MVGA Holliston 2005-11-03
- 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: Eric, Rich, Dan
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
Three of us were on hand promptly at 7pm at
the Masonic Hall on Washington Street in
Holliston. We typically start with a quick
game while we wait for late-comers to arrive.
Eric reached into his game tub and pulled out
TransAmerica, a game in which you build rail
networks, trying to connect sets of five
cities before your opponents. The trick is
that all the track is black, and before long
all the players are working on one single
communal network. In order to win you must
get your opponents to build track that helps
you more than the track you are building
Your set of five cities is determined by a
random card draw, and you keep your cards
hidden until the round ends, so the only way
to guess which cities your opponents have
(and the ones you want to avoid) is by
observing the track they build (or perhaps
the expressions on their faces as they play.)
If you have a city off in a corner, like Los
Angeles or Portland OR, you must decide
whether to build there alone (perhaps helping
someone else who has Santa Fe or Medford OR)
or wait and hope for help. It may seem like a
game dominated by luck, but the best players
win an astounding percentage of their games.
In the first round, Eric and Dan were assigned New York and
Washington DC as objectives while Rich had to reach Charleston.
Every player must be assigned one city along the eastern
seaboard, and Rich was hoping for a partner in building to
the southeast, but it was not to be. Eric connected his
cities and Dan was close behind.
Scores after one round: Eric 13, Dan 11, Rich 10
The second round wasn't any better for Rich, as Eric and Dan
again shared New York and Washington. This time Dan lost only
one point as Eric connected first again and Rich again was
alone in the southeast. On the west coast Eric had Portland
for the second time in a row, and he extended Dan's line to
Helena westward to finish the connection.
Scores after two rounds: Eric 13, Dan 10, Rich 6
In Round 3 Eric had first placement, and he started way down
in Arizona. He had been dealt Santa Fe, Phoenix and Los
Angeles and knew he'd have little help in the southwest. Dan
got stuffed on the east coast, and Rich finished his connection
to make up a lot of ground.
Scores after three rounds: Eric 9, Rich 6, Dan 3
Round 4 was a disaster for Dan. In TransAmerica it's customary
to complain loudly about your cities (if you don't, people
wonder what's wrong,) but Dan had cities in every direction that
forced him to build alone (maybe he just needs to learn that
Jedi mind trick?) Rich finished his connection, dropping Dan's
score to zero with plenty to spare, and the game ended in a tie.
Final scores: Eric 6, Rich 6, Dan 0.
Eric's rating: 7. I'm fascinated by this game, and by the
amazing facility the best players have to choose the best line of
play. I'm not an especially adept player, as my experience on
BSW demonstrates, but I know it's by no means a game of luck.
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
No one had showed up during our first game, and in fact we would
have only three players for the entire evening. It was time for
a meatier game, and after some discussion we selected Industria,
a clever auction game that many people prefer with 3 players.
The 4-player game has just three auctions per epoch, so one
player does not get to start an auction round in Epoch I. This
player must play carefully to avoid disaster. The 3-player game
has four auctions per epoch, so everyone gets to start at least
one auction in each epoch. Many people play all five epochs
even with 3 players, but we agreed to play just four epochs, as
specified in the rules when there are only 3 players.
Eric served as first auctioneer. He turned over the Quarry, the
Well and the Sawmill. As auctioneer, you choose an item and sell
it to the high bidder, collecting the bid, or take it at no cost
yourself. If you sell the item you get to auction the next item,
but if you take it yourself, the player to your left becomes the
auctioneer. This leads to an odd auction process in which your
opponents can at times surprise you by their choices. Eric
auctioned the Sawmill first, receiving $3 from Dan. He then
auctioned the Well, which Rich bought for just $1. Eric took
the Quarry himself. The Quarry is expensive and produces no
commodity, but offers many connection possibilities---connections
are worth 3 VP each at the end of the game. This established a
game-long pattern; Eric was poor but had a lot of connections
while Dan and Rich had the money.
Dan was the second auctioneer. He sold Rich the Quarry as Eric
took the Construction technology and Dan the Machinery. It can
be risky to take technologies, since they are worthless if you
cannot obtain the needed commodities in time, but we played
carefully and were able to build all eight of them. Eric also
bought the Iron Mine (another tile that produces nothing but
has a connection) and Rich the Brickworks, and Rich and Dan
snagged the two bonus tiles. Rich's set of tiles to auction
was relatively unattractive, getting him off to a rough start.
Score after Epoch I: Eric 6, Rich 3, Dan 2
In the second epoch, Dan purchased the Bank, which grants a
discount on all future tiles (and allows bonus tiles to be built
at no cost.) Rich took the Pottery Shop, Dan the Glassworks,
and Eric the Ironworks, his first commodity-producing tile.
On the technology front, Dan bought the Dam and Eric the Steam
Engine, with Rich cleverly playing in such a way that neither
Dan nor Eric gained a connection in technology for the epoch.
Eric bought the Kiln tile, and could not afford to build it
(and collect the 3 VP) during the epoch, but he already had
one connection (Iron Mine - Ironworks) and another waiting to
be built (Ironworks - Kiln.)
Score after Epoch II: Eric 12, Rich 7, Dan 6
In the third epoch, Rich took the Stock Market for a discount
of his own. Rich had quite a collection of bonus tiles, and
from this point on he was able to lay one down almost every
building phase. Dan built the Automobile technology and Eric
the Railroad, for one connection each, and Rich the Oil Field
with its two potential Epoch IV connections. Dan built the Coke
Works, with a 2 VP bonus from his anchor tile, and Eric finally
got into the production business in a big way with the Steel
Mill, the Power Plant, the Cement Works, and another 9 VP lined
up to be scored for connections at the end of the game.
Score after Epoch III: Eric 17, Dan 13, Rich 10
In Epoch IV, Eric and Dan again split the technologies, Eric
building the Spacecraft and Dan Automation. Each was worth
8 VP to the owner; 5 VP for the tile and 3 VP for the
associated connection. Rich got the Refinery and Dye Works
with their connections to the Oil Field and additional bonus
Score after Epoch IV: Eric 23, Dan 21, Rich 18
At this point we counted the game ending points. Rich
scored 16 for bonuses and Dan 10, while Eric had not even
collected a single bonus tile. Eric received 21 for seven
connections, Rich 9 for three, and Dan 6 for two. Players
also receive 1 VP for each $3 at the end of the game; this
gave Eric 2 more VP and Rich and Dan 1 each.
Final scores: Eric 46, Rich 44, Dan 38.
Eric's rating: 7. Industria is unique and challenging, and
it can be won by using a number of different strategies. The
tile draws introduce a considerable amount of luck; if you
flip over unattractive tiles when it's your turn to be first
auctioneer, it's hard to recover. Rich suffered some from
poor tile draws, though it wasn't as bad as Dan's luck the
last time we played Industria back on April 28.
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
We haven't played Puerto Rico very often in recent weeks, but
it's terrific with 3 players. We selected it as our next game.
Dan suggested that we play with *all* the expansion buildings;
he's been playing that way at work, and it certainly forces a
shift in your plans. Rich and Eric complained that the Forest
House would be worthless, but that didn't bother Dan; he said
we shouldn't buy it if we didn't think it made sense.
Dan was chosen to be our first Governor, and he took a Quarry
as Eric grabbed Coffee and Rich Sugar. There's no Prospector
in the 3-player game, and with no Markets we saw that money
would be tight. Rich and Dan purchased the two Aqueducts as
Eric took a Small Indigo, perhaps undervaluing the extra goods
the Aqueduct provides. Rich got Sugar going (with a Large
Sugar Mill) and this gave him the first good trade. Eric and
Dan were able to trade Coffee and Tobacco (respectively) soon
thereafter, but the trading action wasn't as effective as in
the normal game.
Eric set his sights on a Lighthouse, thinking that the cash it
generated would come in especially useful in this game. Dan
saved up for a Library and a Union Hall; the Union Hall gives
one extra VP before shipping for each pair of identical goods,
and the Aqueduct is ideally suited to produce such pairs. Rich
stuck closer to his knitting, purchasing a Guest House for
worker flexibility, a black market to generate cash, the other
Lighthouse, and (eventually) a Customs House, the only large
building to be purchased in the game.
Dan suffered in the shipping game despite his Union Hall; he
did not get a Storehouse and was forced to dump many barrels
of goods into the water. Eric spent money on a number of
buildings that weren't quite what he wanted, ending with a
Union Hall that paid off only once, instead of saving for
the large building he really wanted. In the end, Rich's
ability to avoid the distractions of the new buildings made
the difference as he won by a fairly comfortable margin.
Eric's rating: 10.
WEB OF POWER
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
We were all a little tired this week, so we didn't want to stay
too long, but it didn't seem right to quit before playing at
least one more game. Web of Power hit the spot perfectly; it
is one of our favorite 3-player games and it takes only half an
hour to play with 3 experienced players. Rich was chosen to be
the first player, a position many people prefer to avoid. As
first player you may place only one cloister in your first turn,
and all too often your opponents pile in with two pieces each,
so that you're crowded out before your second turn. Rich put
his first cloister in France, the biggest country on the board
and one that seemed almost certain to draw a crowd, but Dan went
off on his own, playing a cloister in Lothringen, and Eric
followed up by playing in Burgund, leaving Rich on his own in
France (or "Frankreich" as it's called in this game.)
Rich played two more cloisters and two advisors in Frankreich,
but you would have thought he had leprosy as Dan and Eric
studiously avoided the place. There are several ways to score
VPs in Web of Power, and two of them depend on the presence of
your opponents' pieces to build up your points. For this
reason, it's relatively inefficient to build alone in a country.
You'd prefer to share with an opponent or two (ideally, you'll
have just one more cloister than they have.) If you place your
own pieces on all 8 cloister locations in Frankreich, you get
just 8 VPs for placing 8 pieces, but if you play 7 cloisters
while an opponent plays 1, you get 8 VPs (the sum) for your
7 placements while your opponent gets 7 VPs (your number) for
placing 1 piece. Dan and Eric weren't actually trying to
avoid Rich; they simply weren't drawing the purple cards one
needs to play in Frankreich.
As play continued, Rich and Dan entered England, Dan and Eric
entered Italien, and Eric and Rich entered Aragon. Finally,
just before the first scoring, Eric put two cloisters in
Frankreich, scoring 2 VP at the first scoring compared with
5 VP for Rich. Eric zipped in right after the first scoring,
using several newly-reshuffled purple cards to grab three more
cloisters and completing a chain of 7 cloisters. Rich was
trying to build a network of advisors around Frankreich, but
he had to do all the work himself. Eric and Dan sparred for
advisor majorities in the east, with Dan winning the key race,
placing two advisors in Italien compared with one for Eric.
Cloisters score for you even if you have fewer than one of
your opponents, but advisors are useless unless you have the
most (or are at least tied for the most) in two countries
that share an open border. Dan also completed a chain of
his own from Schwaben through Italien and into Burgund.
Web of Power seems like a big game, but it ends before you
know it, and we were soon completing the final scoring. This
was one of the closest games we've ever played.
Rich 51 = 35 for cloisters + 16 for advisors
Dan_ 52 = 30 for cloisters + 18 for advisors + 4 for a chain
Eric 53 = 38 for cloisters + 8 for advisors + 7 for a chain
Eric's rating: 9. Web of Power provides about as much game
as you can possible fit into half an hour. With experienced
players, the various strategies (cloisters, advisors and chains)
are well-balanced, so you must take advantage of the best
opportunities rather than play with a pre-conceived plan.