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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2007-03-08

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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 , Mar 10, 2007
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      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, Dan, Rich, Anton

      (Eric, Dan, Rich, Anton)

      The air was frigid outside the Masonic
      Hall in Holliston this week, but the heat
      worked just fine as we met in the upstairs
      room at the back of the hall. The live
      steam group sometimes meets the second
      Thursday of the month, and we weren't sure
      whether they had a meeting scheduled this

      Eric was toting a new copy of Yspahan, the
      latest in the line from Ystari games, a firm
      whose game all seem to contain the letters
      "Y" and "S" (they should sponsor a Sesame
      Street episode!) Yspahan takes no more than
      an hour to play, and neither Dan nor Anton
      had played it before, so it was unanimously
      selected as our first game.

      The central mechanic of Yspahan is a set of nine dice that are
      rolled each round to determine what actions will be available.
      As in Puerto Rico, a wide range of options is available to the
      starting player each turn, and those who go later in the turn
      have increasingly limited options, though everyone gets a chance
      to do something. The starting player token then moves to the
      left and another turn begins. The game consists of three weeks
      with each turn representing a day, for a total of 21 turns. In
      the 3-player game, each player gets to be first seven times. In
      the 4-player game, each player gets to be first five times, with
      the 21st and final turn played in order from lowest to highest

      When you are starting player, you roll the dice and arrange them
      on a small board containing a picture of a six-story tower. Each
      story of the tower is associated with a particular action. The
      ground floor lets you obtain camels (represented by cute little
      wooden tokens) and the top floor gives you money (represented by
      yellow disks.) Each of the four floors in between corresponds to
      one of the four neighborhoods on the main playing board and lets
      you place goods cubes in that neighborhood. Before you place the
      dice, you first arrange them in groups by number. You then place
      them in order, placing the lower-numbered dice on the lower stories
      and the higher-numbered dice higher up. If all the numbers 1 to 6
      show up on the nine dice, each story receives at least one die, but
      often numbers are missing. In this case, place the lowest number
      on the ground floor (camels,) and the highest number on the top
      floor (gold) (unless all nine dice are equal.) The other numbers
      are placed in increasing order starting with the second floor---
      thus, the fifth floor is the one that will be empty if even one
      number is missing.

      The starting player then chooses the dice from one floor of the
      tower and uses them to take an action. You may take camels if you
      selected the ground floor---one camel per die---or gold if you chose
      the top floor---one coin per die. If you select a middle floor, you
      may place one goods cube per die in the corresponding neighborhood
      (there are additional details, but they are easy to understand.)

      Instead of the specific action associated with the floor you choose,
      you may instead take one of two generic actions: (1) take a card or
      (2) move the supervisor pawn on the board. The cards are quite
      powerful (for example, one card gives you three free camels) and it's
      often more beneficial to take a card than try to use an unattractive
      story of the tower. The supervisor sends goods he moves next to off
      to the caravan---another board that provides victory points for cubes
      that are loaded on it. When you first read the rules, you think the
      supervisor will be used to send opponents' cubes to the caravan, but
      if you do the arithmetic you conclude that it's usually better to
      send your own cubes to provide additional scoring chances. When the
      supervisor sends your cube to the caravan, you may bribe him with a
      camel to send a cube from your general supply instead, leaving the
      original cube on the board to score, and we generally tried to work
      things so this happened.

      In our game, Rich scooped up a 6-camel bonanza on Tuesday of the first
      week when he rolled six 1's. He spent them to purchase several of the
      buildings on his individual player board over the next few turns,
      giving him special powers (take one extra camel, take two extra coins,
      and place one extra goods cube in a neighborhood.) Like the buildings
      in Puerto Rico, these buildings also provide victory points, so they
      are a valuable resource (though I've seen players score very well
      without building any buildings.) Eric tried to keep up with Rich in
      the building game, but Rich stayed just a little bit ahead for most of
      the game. Dan was the fourth player on the first turn of the game, and
      he suffered from poor die rolls (it's not as attractive to choose second
      when the first player rolls six 1's) and lagged behind. Eric placed a
      total of three cubes on the caravan, Anton two and Rich one as Dan did
      not use it at all. It was clearly a close game as we counted up the
      final scores, but Rich won by a small margin.

      Final scores: Rich 92, Eric 90, Anton 69, Dan 53.

      Eric's rating: 8. There's luck in Yspahan, as there is in almost every
      die-rolling game, but most of the time it's not overwhelming (though you
      should talk to Dan and get his opinion.) Even though 2 of us were
      playing for the first time, we finished in no more than an hour; like
      Web of Power, this is a game that moves quickly. We all enjoyed the
      experience and expressed a willingness to play again in the future.

      (Eric, Dan, Rich, Anton)

      It was only about 8:30, so we had time for a longer game. Rich and Anton
      both expressed interest in Caylus, a game with no luck other than that of
      the opening set-up. Eric is not as fond of Caylus as the others, but it
      had been a while since he had played it and he was willing to give the
      others a chance to play. Dan was chosen to be first player, Anton was
      second, Eric third and Rich last. Rich got an extra coin or two to make
      up for the fact that he was last, but it's not much consolation when the
      best items are snatched up before you have a chance at them.

      In our group, at least, everyone tries to grab a cube on the first turn.
      Those cubes can be hard to get, and no one wants to fall behind. Eric
      built the first building, the "two cloth or a spam" building. Dan went
      to the castle to build a batch. Early in our Caylus experience, we
      often fought in the castle, but it's a lot mellower these days as we
      take turns, allowing the guy with the big hoard to have his way (and that
      guy typically builds several houses to avoid having to return.)

      Dan used his favor to take NOTHING (as we described it,) advancing his
      marker on the building favor track. Anton had the only cloth, and he
      jousted on Turn 2, also taking the building route. Rich visited the
      castle, and used his favor to make it a stack of three markers on the
      NOTHING space on the building track. When Eric finally made it to the
      castle on Turn 3, he built two sections, but he opted for the VP track

      It was a gentle game for the most part on the bridge. None of us made
      himself a big enough target to encourage attacks by opponents (there may
      have been a few tweaks back and forth.) The free move was used to move
      the provost forward, so the first part of the game finished with an empty
      space left in the dungeon---everyone had built in the castle, but only
      Eric had built two to get the extra favor, which he used on the VP track.

      The three building track aficionados were soon able to build the stone
      production buildings as Eric was unable to get to the Mason with the
      right cubes (the Mason came out much later than usual.) These buildings
      are powerful, as they generate not only VPs, but a cube a turn. We ran
      low on money during the second stage, and Rich occupied the Inn, but as
      it turned out, he had only a few chances to use it and was almost happy
      when Anton spent a worker to eject him just as the second phase was

      Eric again contributed more than his share to the castle during the
      middle part of the game, enabling him to keep pace with his build-happy
      opponents, pushing the VP track at every opportunity (and taking money
      just twice.) The builders now started on residences, and when Eric
      added the lawyer to give himself a shot at one, Anton used it to build
      two residences in a single turn, raising his income to 4. Dan had
      collected several gold cubes by now and we were closing in on the end
      of the game as the final part of the castle filled up.

      It looked like the last turn. We had stacks of cubes and there were
      only eight empty slots in the castle. Dan jumped into the castle first,
      followed by Eric and Rich. Eric free-moved the provost back three and
      Anton spent to move it back further. This put a huge monkey wrench in
      Rich's wheels, depriving him of the cubes he needed for that blue
      building. Dan was also looking unhappy; he had the cubes to build 4
      sections in the castle, as did Eric, but if he did so, he'd have to
      forego the blue building he had his eyes on. As a result, he decided
      to build only two sections, allowing Eric to build 4 and leaving two
      open for Rich. Rich thought a bit, and counted a bit, and made the
      decision to build just one section, let the game go on, and collect
      what he needed for his big building.

      It was an odd final turn. Dan was the only player in the castle, as
      there was only one open spot and we knew he'd take it. Both Dan and
      Rich placed workers in the turn order section, angling for first choice
      of blue buildings even though the game was not likely to go on. Dan was
      trying to figure out how to build two blue buildings, and he momentarily
      considered not building, taking the 2 VP penalty and allowing the game
      to go on for yet another round! In the end, however, he decided it
      wouldn't get better and finished it off. We collected our end-game
      favors, three blue buildings were built, Eric collected another bucket
      of VPs on the favor track, and we were amazed to see that the game had
      ended in an exact tie, with Dan just 1 VP behind. Anton mourned the
      fact that an error near the end had put him off stride and cost him the
      chance to make it a 4-way horse race.

      Final scores:

      Rich 77, Eric 77, Dan 76, Anton 63

      Eric's rating: 7. Puzzle games aren't usually my favorite genre (for
      example, I rate the much acclaimed Torres as a '3', but I have to admit
      that Caylus is a well-constructed game. I'm usually engaged while I'm
      playing, but I rarely go home thinking about the Caylus game I've just
      played. One nice point is the fact that (at least the way we play it)
      there's more than one successful strategy in the 4-player game.

      Eric Brosius
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