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.
Steve, Cindy, Eric, Anton, Bill, Rich,
Paul H., Walt, Dave
(Steve, Cindy, Eric)
We welcomed first-timer Cindy to MVGA this
week. Cindy is Dave's girlfriend (you all
remember Dave, who last attended MVGA in
November, 2004.) She works in Needham,
the town Eric lives in, so he gave her a
ride to Holliston, with the plan that she
would get a ride home with Dave. As you
know, Cindy was exempt from the $3.00 fee
because it was her first visit.
The first 3 players arrived at 6:45, so we
were able to start our first game early.
You don't want to kick off the evening with
a long game, so we pulled Wyatt Earp out of
the fabulous MVGA game locker. Steve was
new to the game, though he knew how to play
rummy, and Wyatt Earp is a rummy-type game,
so we reviewed the rules quickly before we
The first hand was an outlaw fest as we laid outlaw cards down three or
four at a time. You can only play one sheriff on your turn, so the game
can start slowly if you draw a lot of sheriffs, but in theory the game
can end on the first player turn if that player has enough of two
outlaws. It was over before we knew it, and Cindy used a pair of timely
photos to take the early lead.
Scores after one hand: Cindy $12K, Eric $9K, Steve $6K
The second hand took much longer. Eric played a stagecoach robbery on
Butch Cassidy, an outlaw for whom he had a big lead in capture points.
Three unsuccessful hideout attempts were played in this hand, but Steve
clawed his way back into a share of the loot for Butch as Cindy managed
to preserve her lead by staying out of the chase for Butch. The game
almost ended after two hands, but Cindy fell just short of the $25K
needed to end it.
Scores after two hands: Cindy $24K, Eric $19K, Steve $18K.
The third hand also took a long time, as we worked our way into the
second deck. Steve made a valiant effort to take the lead but whiffed
again on a hideout to fall short by $3K.
Final scores: Cindy $34K, Steve $31K, Eric $26K
Eric's rating: 9. There are a lot of different approaches to Wyatt
Earp. You can use that Wyatt Earp card to draw more cards, or you can
save it to fend off a hideout attempt. You can use a Most Wanted to
take a card from an opponent's hand or try a shot to steal one off the
table. My family enjoys the game, and my wife is especially good at it.
THURN & TAXIS
(Bill, Rich, Walt)
More gamers came flooding into the Masonic Hall, though Dave had not yet
made his appearance (he was stuck at work.) Anton and Paul had an APBA
tabletop baseball series to play, but Bill and Rich and (could it be?)
Walt also showed up. Walt was fresh back from Worldcon in Los Angeles,
where he had a terrific time being a famous science fiction author (and
meeting an even more famous science fiction author---maybe he'll tell us
about it...) The Millers were off on vacation and Rich's son Jeff was at
a high school football meeting or we'd have had even more people this week.
Thurn & Taxis is a game in which there is no direct way to interfere with
your fellow players, though you certainly can take the cards they want or
flush the board so as to keep them from getting cards. Sometimes you do
a great job of ruining opponents' plans without even meaning to! Walt was
frustrated by an inability to get certain cards (Pilsen and Carlsruhe were
two he complained about in particular) and fell far behind the pack. The
right card would have given him the foreign service bonus and/or more of
the country chips and put him right in it. Bill and Rich dueled for the
lead, with Bill almost managing to place his final house for the win, but
he fell one short and Rich upgraded to a '7' carriage to win.
Rich 27 = 10 carriage + 19 bonus - 3 houses + 1 laurel
Bill 24 = _7 carriage + 18 bonus - 1 house
Walt 15 = _7 carriage + 12 bonus - 4 houses
Eric's rating: 8. I continue to enjoy Thurn & Taxis either as a family
game or (paying closer attention to the cards) as a more competitive game.
I finished 2nd behind Anne Norton in the Thurn & Taxis tournament at WBC
and I can assure you that players were thinking very carefully about how
to interfere with opponents while advancing their own interests!
DIE NACHT DER MAGIER
(Steve, Cindy, Eric)
Wyatt Earp was the first game to finish, so Eric set up Die Nacht der
Magier, the new dexterity game, to fill in the gap. Die Nacht der Magier
is a visually striking game in which careful planning and a deft touch are
required. It is not a game of reflexes, because you push the pieces slowly
as you try to maneuver your cauldron into the central ring.
The first few turns went quickly as we each seemed to knock a disc off the
table within a few seconds of beginning our turns. Eric managed to get his
"pusher" piece onto the board and began edging one of his moon-marked pieces
toward the center. Cindy had a star-marked piece nearby and pushed in a
similar direction, but Eric edged her off to the side. Steve decided to
strike back by starting on the opposite edge and moving the central disk
back to a neutral position, but he did so in such a way that Eric was able
to use the room thus created to finish the job by plopping his cauldron into
the middle for a win.
Eric's rating: 8. Die Nacht der Magier is a great combination of thinking
and dexterity. First you have to choose a direction in which to push. Then
you have to get the piece to go where you want it. Those wooden pieces have
the infuriating tendency to slide off to the side rather than moving straight
ahead. I've seen some very nice moves made by twisting the pusher piece, but
it must be done just right and it's easy to get unintended results.
CLEOPATRA AND THE SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTS
(Cindy, Eric, Rich, Dave)
The long-awaited Dave finally showed up, just as the two previous games were
ending. Eric had brought his copy of Cleopatra and the Society of Architects,
the lavishly produced game of ambition and greed in ancient Egypt. Four of
us sat down to play as the other 3 went off to play St. Petersburg. Dave and
Cindy were new to the game, and they laughed as we explained the rules. The
game features "corrupt" cards that allow you to build far more quickly than
non-corrupt cards, earning fabulous wealth. The one catch is the "winner or
dinner" showdown in which the player or players with the most corruption at
the end of the game is fed to the crocodiles and eliminated from contention.
Dave declared right at the beginning that he would be crocodile food, because
he wouldn't be able to resist the lure of the corrupt cards.
As we started the game, Dave delivered on his promise by scooping up lots of
corrupt cards, but he couldn't keep up with Rich, who seemed to draw nothing
but corrupt cards (not only the face-up cards, but the face-down ones too.)
Before long, Rich's paper pyramid was positively bulging from the corruption
tokens he had secreted inside. Eric and Cindy played much more cautiously,
taking just one token each, but falling behind in the building race. This
seemed like a poor strategy, because with Rich and Dave absolutely glowing
with corruption, anyone else could dabble in a reasonable amount of corruption
without attracting the attention of the crocodile feeders.
The first offering came early in the game as we proved adept at rolling ankhs,
and as one might expect, Rich and Dave spent lavishly, devoting some of the
profits earned from corrupt living to an attempt to ward off the ill effects of
that corruption (isn't that always the way it works?) Dave paid the princely
sum of 20 talents to rid himself of 3 corruption while Rich paid 11 talents to
take only 1. Cindy paid 3 talents to take 2 corruption as Eric haughtily
declined to pay even a single talent, taking 3 corruption as a result.
Rich was now the clear corruption leader, and though one might have expected
him to take it easy, he continued to draw nothing but corrupt cards and spent
them freely. Cindy decided to let her guard down a bit, building several
triples with the help of corruption and pulling into contention for richest
architect. Eric failed to do so only because he was unable to draw enough of
the critical artisan cards to fuel a spending spree and was thus limited to
using his Nile merchants as artisans at the cost of 3 talents each.
As the end of the game approached, Rich made a move to build mosaics, claiming
two sanctuaries that would neutralize 9 corruption. Eric followed up with two
sanctuaries of his own for a potential neutralization of 10 corruption. Rich
had so much corruption that he was still dreaming about crocodiles during his
sleep, so he made a critical move by building one more mosaic in such a way
that no more mosaics could be placed. This took the opportunity to build a
sanctuary away from Cindy and Dave and gave Rich a way to make it back into
the land of the living.
By this point there were only a few items left to build. Cindy completed a
spectacular build of two column walls and a door frame for 24 talents (and a
few more corruption, but who was counting...) Dave then built the final
column wall to end the game.
We revealed our talents and Cindy was far ahead, thanks to her late-game spree
of building and her frugal sacrifice. The only question was whether she would
survive the "winner or dinner" phase. We removed the corruption from our
pyramids. Rich had 17 tokens. He placed 9 of them in his sanctuaries, which
left him with 8. Eric had 10 tokens, all of which he placed in his sanctuaries,
but took 2 more for two held-over corrupt cards. Dave had 9 corruption, one
more than Rich. Cindy was left with 10 corruption tokens and one card for a
total of 11. Despite her riches, there was nothing left of her at the end of
the game but a few bubbles rising to the surface of the Nile.
Final scores (with corruption):
Rich 46 (8), Dave 43 (9), Eric 41 (2), Cindy 65 (11).
Eric's rating: 7. This was a terrific game. None of us foresaw that Cindy
would be the richest player (she started so quietly,) and none of us foresaw
that she would be the most corrupt. Rich made an excellent play when he built
the final mosaic in such a way as to shut Dave and Cindy out of sanctuary
opportunities. This gave him a chance to win. Eric was trying toward the end
of the game to use corruption to earn riches, confident that he would not be
the most corrupt, but he could not get the cards he needed to do so. This
emphasizes the need to preserve enough flexibility in your strategy to use the
cards you draw and not the ones you wish you could draw. I'm starting to think
about raising my rating to an '8'.
(Steve, Bill, Walt)
Bill has liked Saint Petersburg ever since we taught him the game back in July
2004, and he requested another chance to play as 4 others played Cleopatra and
the Society of Architects. Steve didn't know the game, but he knew it was one
he wanted to learn, so after a brief explanation of the rules, we gave him a
chance to try it. Bill has a particular fondness for orange cards, and he got
a fistful of them in this game, but he kept up with the blue cards as well.
Walt was having a "one short" night, and this was most evident here, as he kept
finding himself one rouble short of building the card he wanted. Paraphrasing
Will Rogers, I'm inclined to give the advice "just spend one rouble less in the
previous phase." By the end of the game, Walt and Steve had pulled within one
unique noble of Bill, but all the interest was concentrated in the race to be
runner-up as Bill ran away with first place.
Final scores: Bill 102 (8 nobles,) Steve 74 (7), Walt 73 (7).
Eric's rating: 10. I really enjoy this game. I take nobles when I can get
them, but I often find that the winning edge comes from the timely purchase of
blue building cards.
(Steve, Bill, Walt)
Saint Petersburg was finished, but Cleopatra and the Society of Architects was
still going strong, so the Saint Petersburg players moved on to San Juan. Walt
continued to experience his "one short" woes, as he was unable to construct a
"6" building and had to make do with 5 cards buried beneath a Chapel. This left
him far behind. Bill built the amazing total of eight production buildings and
combined them with a Guild Hall to score 37. Steve earned 7 VP for a City Hall
and 3 more from his own Chapel to come in second.
Bill_ 37 = 21 + 16 (GH)
Steve 31 = 21 + 7 (CH) + 3 (Chapel)
Walt_ 24 = 19 + 5 (Chapel)
Eric's rating: 8. Just now there's a discussion on Boardgamegeek about the
merits of San Juan. I find it to be a well-constructed game of the "card flow"
variety. I always enjoy it. Look for Tom Lehmann's new Race For the Galaxy,
which Rio Grande plans to issue next spring. It has many more options and it
rewards skill even more heavily than San Juan does.
WEB OF POWER
(Steve, Eric, Paul H.)
The baseball series was over. Anton and Walt left for the evening, but the rest
of us decided to play one more game. Bill was especially eager to play Caylus
again, and Dave and Cindy were happy to learn, so Rich taught the game. The
rest of us wanted a shorter game and settled for Web of Power, which we can
finish in just over a half hour (at least at MVGA speed.) Steve requested the
game because he had seen it recommended and had never had a chance to play it.
We started building in Lothringen, moving next to Burgund. In each of these
countries, Steve and Eric placed two houses while Paul placed one. On the other
hand, Paul got advisor control of Lothringen and shared advisor control with
Steve. France was looking like a critical location for advisors, as it often
is. Eric opened up Italy and wound up placing 5 cloisters there, gaining two
4-cloister chains with the help of a few placements in Burgund and Bayern and
awarding Steve 5 VP in each scoring for just a single cloister.
The invasion of France featured Paul placing cloisters and dueling Steve for
advisors (in the end, each of them got 2 advisors) as Paul and Eric split the
country 4-4 for cloisters. Eric waited till the end of the game to begin
placing his advisors, focusing instead on cloisters, and he led at the first
First scoring: Eric 20, Steve 19, Paul H. 13.
In the latter stages of the game, Eric placed advisors in Franken, Bayern and
Schwaben, sharing a majority in each, and placed 2 advisors in Italy to take
the undisputed lead. This gave him a nice scoring cluster in the east, which
when combined with his two chains and strong cloister scoring was just enough
to edge Steve out for the win.
Final scores: Eric 83, Steve 78, Paul H. 53.
Eric's rating: 9. Web of Power is a game that offers many opportunities for
skillful play and different paths to victory. It's not as complex a game as
some games, but it fills that 30 to 40 minute "end of the evening" slot as well
as any game we have at MVGA. Steve rated Web of Power as a '6' (happy to play
it, but wasn't particularly taken by it. Paul rated it as a '-3' and said this
may have been his last game for all time..
(Cindy, Bill, Rich, Dave)
I have no report for Caylus because it was still underway when I left.