[SR] MVGA Holliston 2007-04-19
- 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. Look for us in
the room at the back of the hall.
We welcome visitors. The Masons generously
stopped charging us for the space, so there
is no longer a $3.00 fee for anyone!
Anton, Eric, Rich, Dan, Ian, Walt
(Anton, Ian, Walt)
We're now meeting every week in the room at
the back of the Masonic Hall. As an added
bonus, we are no longer required to pay for
the space, so we've ended the $3.00 fee! It
was school vacation week, so Dan brought his
son Ian, and we had 6 players on hand. There
were a number of new games we wanted to try,
so instead of looking for a 6-player game, we
split into two groups of 3.
One group decided to play Notre Dame. Though
the game is not out yet, Rich won an almost
finished pre-production copy, so we're getting
the chance to play it before most of the rest
of the western hemisphere. Eric, Rich and Dan
had played Notre Dame the previous week, so we
let the other 3 players have a shot this week.
When you play Notre Dame for the first time, some of the concepts
present difficult decisions. The park, with dual plague fighting
and victory point amplifying roles, is especially hard to evaluate.
In this game, Ian started in with the park early, at the cost of
building up his economy. Chip collection was fairly even, as Ian
took three chips and the others took four each. Despite the varied
strategies, it was looking like a close game for most of the way.
In the final set of rounds, however, Anton somehow managed to be
the sole donor in Notre Dame. This gave him the VP for his gift,
and the 8 VP for being the only one to donate. As a result, Anton
won by a wide margin as Walt and Ian were close at the back. Even
though it's hard to keep that Notre Dame card, it can be fatal to
let it go, because it's a huge advantage to be the only one who
Final scores: Anton 51, Ian 43, Walt 42.
Eric's rating: 8. I continue to enjoy Notre Dame. I haven't latched
on to any one strategy yet, though I have little fondness for the wild
card district except under desperate circumstances (perhaps that's how
it's meant to be used.) One disappointment is that the implementation
of Notre Dame on BSW doesn't work on a Mac.
PILLARS OF THE EARTH
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
It's been a while since we've had two games going at once, but with Ian
on hand, we had 6 gamers. Actually, we had 7 people present, as Walt had
brought his daughter, Aline, but she was only staying until her mother
was able to pick her up, so she didn't join a game. For our other game
we chose Pillars of the Earth, a Euro game adaptation of the Ken Follett
novel. This game has a beautiful board, depicting the environs of a
medieval cathedral that is under construction. At the start of each turn
you place a wooden cathedral piece, and when the cathedral is built, you
know it's the sixth and last turn.
In each turn of Pillars of the Earth, you begin by gathering raw materials
to use in construction (sand, wood and stone cubes.) You then send your
master builders to different spots on the board to carry out different
missions. Finally, the missions are carried out in order (similar to the
way the buildings are resolved in Caylus.) There are no auctions in
Pillars of the Earth; players choose items in order, but the order in
which the master builders are placed is innovative. All of the master
builders are placed in a bag and drawn out one by one. When one of your
master builders comes out, you may either pay to place it right away or
pass and get a free placement at the end. Money is tight, so you have to
decide when it's most critical to grab that key spot for your master
Rich was first player, and during the first raw material phase he passed up
his first acquisition opportunity to take the craftsman that allows you to
sell wood cubes for 4 gold each. The game is somewhat scripted, in that
there are four craftsmen that come out in Round 1, four that come out in
Round 2, and so forth, but of the four craftsmen for each round, two are
randomly selected to be available for purchase during the raw materials
phase while the other two are placed on the board where they can be taken
for free if you place a master builder on the corresponding spot (of course,
you may have to pay to place the master builder.) This turned out to be
a good move for Rich, who was able to dispel money problems throughout the
game by selling wood.
Dan and Eric had no easy solution to their money problems. Dan made an
early trip to the market where he sold a load of stone cubes to raise money,
but he ran out anyway toward the end of the game. Eric tried to pinch
pennies, but as a result, he was often forced to pass while Dan and
especially Rich paid to place their master builders in attractive spots.
Eric got off to a big lead early, but as a result of his poverty, he lost
ground turn after turn until at the end of Round 5 the score was Rich 35,
Eric 33, Dan 33.
In the final round, two metal were available, one from the tax collector
and the other from a free card. Eric greedily grabbed both, but this cost
him the opportunity to take the organ builder (a craftsman that pays 6 VP
for a metal and a wood) and also left him without the sand he needed to
keep his glass blower busy. None of the big VP craftsmen operated on the
final turn, but Rich had the capacity to turn many common raw materials
into VPs and won going away.
Final scores: Rich 53, Eric 46, Dan 39.
Eric's rating: 8. I've played Pillars of the Earth about ten times now,
and although it's a beautiful game that's fun to play, I'm wondering whether
the play isn't a bit channeled. If I don't find that there are alternate
strategies, I fear that my rating may drop to '7', which is still a good
rating, but one that's much more common among the games I've played.
(Anton, Ian, Walt)
The Notre Dame game finished before Pillars of the Earth, so the three Notre
Dame players moved on to Guatemala Cafe, a new game that's been getting a
lot of favorable press. In Guatemala Cafe, you take turns placing coffee
workers and storage sheds in various colors on a stylized map. When a
scoring token is played for a color, you score for each worker you have
placed in that color, as long as you have a connecting shed. It's possible
to multiply the points you earn for a color if your operation is connected
by road to a port that has one or more boats of the matching color. The
unusual feature of this game is the method by which you determine your
options. There is a second board (with a map of Guatemala) that contains
workers, sheds, ships and scoring tokens on a squared grid. A pawn moves
around a track on the outside of this board. On your turn you move the
pawn and select three pieces from the row or column in which the pawn ends
its move. This allows you to restrict the options of the player who follows
you in the turn order by placing the pawn in a particular position.
In this game, Walt built his plantations high in the mountains, far from the
ports in areas where land was cheap. Ian and Anton built closer to the
ports, spending more money. When the two of them constructed roads from
their own plantations to the ports, Walt took advantage of their efforts,
extending the roads just a bit further and sharing the bonuses for being
connected to the ports. This gave him a comfortable victory in a short
game (one color was not built by anyone.)
Final scores: Walt 41, Anton 31, Ian 19.
Eric's rating: 5. Guatemala Cafe has some clever ideas, but I don't enjoy
extremely tactical games in which your options are determined by your right
hand neighbor. My preferences aren't typical, however, as can be seen by
the high ratings awarded to games like Torres and Tikal.
(Eric, Rich, Dan)
When Pillars of the Earth was finished, Eric briefly considered leaving
early, but agreed to stay for a quick game of Yspahan. Rich is always a
threat in cube-placement games, and he ran away with this one as we piled
up unusually high scores. Eric was delighted when he rolled 5 camels on
Tuesday of the first week, but Rich topped this with 7 camels on Monday
of the second week! Rich put quite a few cubes into Vase-tria, the most
difficult area to access, but one with high payoffs. He also got the
building that gives 2 VP extra for each region scored, and this building
paid off for him big time.
Eric tried to make the caravan strategy work, but with little help from
Dan or Rich, he only scored 10 VP in the final scoring, with lesser amounts
at the end of the first two weeks. Dan was far behind early in the game,
but he came back with several strong cards to finish in a respectable
Final scores: Rich 102, Dan 90, Eric 80.
Eric's rating: 8. Yspahan packs a lot of play into a 40 minute time
frame. It seems like a game with a lot of luck, but this is misleading.
I've played it a dozen times, but I have a strong suspicion that I don't
really understand how to play well yet. There's no doubt that luck plays
a role, but I think the better player will win significantly more often.