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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2007-02-01

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  • brosiuse
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2007
      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:
      Rich, Eric, Walt


      MERCHANT OF VENUS
      (Rich, Eric, Walt)

      Rich, Eric and Walt were all on hand a few
      minutes before 7pm this week. Walt had
      done some work on a prototype he and Eric
      were discussing, and the 3 of them spent
      some time looking at Walt's components and
      discussing how the game play might go. We
      knew Dan and Anton wouldn't make it, but we
      weren't sure who else might show up. After
      about a half hour of discussion, we decided
      that we wouldn't get more than 3 of us and
      we needed to pick out a game. Eric had his
      tub o' games, but there wasn't anything that
      seemed ideal (Walt didn't seem to have an
      interest in Paris Paris.) We went over to
      the fabulous MVGA game locker and surveyed
      our options. It was still early in the
      evening, so we had the option to play a
      longer, more involved game, especially since
      we were all relatively familiar with most of
      the games we might play. One of us proposed
      Merchant of Venus, the old Avalon Hill space
      trading game, and we were all happy to give
      it a shot. Merchant of Venus is a favorite,
      and it moves quickly with experienced players.

      We rolled the die to determine seating order, choosing Walt as the
      first player. He headed off to the left and found the first alien
      civilization, #4a. Eric was second and headed up to the second
      system, finding civilization #3. Rich had to head into the Cloud,
      an area rich in artifacts, but one that's hard to navigate through;
      you can easily find yourself going in a direction you didn't want
      to go in. Rich also found a civilization, #8. Merchant of Venus
      is a game that forces you to develop a plan on the fly every time
      you play. The map is the same every time, but the civilizations
      are randomly placed at the start of each game, and the goods from
      any given civilization will be bought only by 3 or 4 other
      civilizations, which may be near or far away. In this game, the
      trade routes were relatively efficient, as it turns out, leading
      to a quick game.

      Each of us chose a different strategy in this game. Rich upgraded
      early in the game from the Scout he received at the start of the
      game (as did Walt and Eric) to a faster Clipper. The Clipper makes
      movement and trading more efficient, but it's not clear that you'll
      recover your cost during the relatively short game to $2000. Walt
      saved up some money and upgraded to a Freighter, which carries up
      to five goods (compared with two for a Scout or Clipper) but is
      slow and hard to maneuver. He then picked up four lots of Finest
      Dust and headed for a system that had three bonus chits for Finest
      Dust on display, promising huge payoffs for Walt's inexpensive haul
      of Finest Dust. Eric played a cheapskate strategy, sticking with
      the Scout he received at the start of the game and trying to make
      it to $2000 before Rich and Walt's superior technology could win
      out.

      We all experienced some good and bad luck during the game. Eric
      eventually found a string of civilizations down the whole left
      side of the board that would let him sell each system's goods at
      the next system, using the money to purchase goods to sell at the
      next system. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't quite afford to
      buy the space stations he needed to take full advantage of this
      good fortune. Walt bought both a red and a yellow drive for his
      Freighter, increasing his maximum speed, but his die rolling went
      cold at key stages, costing him valuable time. He did run into
      quite a few well-placed fares, however. These eliminate the need
      to buy goods, instead promising a hefty reward for delivering a
      passenger to a destination. Rich had some bad die rolls early,
      but his dice were much better late in the game, giving him the
      fuel he needed to pull out to a late lead.

      It turned out to be close at the end. It was Eric's turn, and
      he and Rich were in the same system with the same plan. Eric
      needed an 11 on three dice to make it to the next system to sell
      ahead of Rich, scooping a bonus. He failed to make it (a 50%
      shot,) and Rich's Clipper, with four dice, zoomed past to make
      the delivery, snag both available goods at the next system, and
      move on to victory at the next system.

      The winner in Merchant of Venus is the person who announces that
      he or she has $2000 in cash during his or her turn (and who does
      have $2000.) Rich made it to $2000 to win. For determining the
      order of other finishers, we use the WBC rule that goods on a
      ship are worth their purchase price, to be added to a player's
      cash and deeds. Walt had some goods that would have appreciated
      significantly in price if he could have delivered them, while
      Eric had only a single Chicle Liquor (which he was happy to have
      gotten after Rich took two.)

      Final scores:

      Rich $2254 = $1400 in deeds + $854 in cash
      Eric $1867 = $1000 in deeds + $827 in cash + $40 in goods on board
      Walt $1611 = $_600 in deeds + $681 in cash + $330 in goods

      Eric's rating: 8. Merchant of Venus takes longer to set up than
      a "modern" game, and it can drag with inexperienced players, or
      players who aren't playing attention, but it's a wonderful game
      that presents a different puzzle every time you play. With 3
      experienced players, as we had this week, it's a blast.


      SAN JUAN
      (Rich, Eric, Walt)

      Eric wasn't able to stay late this week, but Merchant of Venus
      finished in less than 2 hours and we had time for a short game.
      We looked at the short options (Eric suggested Paris Paris again,
      only to be met with Walt's scorn) and selected San Juan, one of
      our favorite short games with a significant thinking challenge.

      Rich was first governor, and his cards were so bad that he chose
      the Councillor for his first role, hoping to get some card that
      he wanted to play. Walt Built a Quarry and Eric a Gold Mine,
      setting up a Prospector play which failed. Rich built a Coffee
      Roaster, a relatively unpopular building that demonstrates how
      bad his other cards must have been. Walt was now governor, and
      he also took the Councillor (I don't know when I've ever seen a
      game of San Juan in which the first two governors both took the
      Councillor!) Eric Prospected again (something he'd do over and
      over throughout the game) and this time he hit. Eric's Gold
      Mine would pay off three times during the game, which is more
      than you'd expect. Rich took Producer to fill his Coffee, and
      he would spend most of the game Producing. Walt built an early
      Aqueduct, leading to a pattern in which Rich would produce and
      Walt would sell two goods. This left plenty of room for Eric
      to Prospect when he needed cards and Build when he had cards.
      Eric built an early Library to help him with these roles, and he
      also built a Chapel after he got stuck with more than seven
      cards in his hand, and he managed to bury 4 cards during the
      course of the game.

      Rich spent the whole game building production buildings. It
      seemed almost certain that he had a Guild Hall; he finished
      with eight production buildings and almost nothing else. Walt
      fished fruitlessly for cards with the Councillor, at first
      giving Eric a 1-card advantage each time, since Eric had a
      Prefecture, and later building a Prefecture himself to make the
      Prospecting more productive.

      This was one of the oddest games of San Juan I remember, as the
      card draws were unusually bad for Rich and Walt, and were not so
      good for Eric either, except in comparison. Late in the game,
      Walt got a Victory Column and a Triumphal Arch down, and both
      Rich and Eric played Guild Halls. Rich's Guild Hall was worth
      more, but Eric had better peripheral cards and a Chapel to win
      by 6 VP.

      Final scores:

      Eric 38 = 22 building + 12 Guild Hall + 4 Chapel
      Rich 32 = 16 building + 16 Guild Hall
      Walt 25 = 21 building + 4 Triumphal Arch

      Eric's rating: 8. To get the most out of San Juan, you should
      play it frequently so the luck evens out, and so you learn the
      deck well enough to formulate plans for the future (in the sense
      that you know what cards might be available to help you.) I keep
      mentioning how much I'm looking forward to Race for the Galaxy, a
      more complex game that resembles San Juan, but San Juan itself is
      an excellent game as well.


      Eric Brosius
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