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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2007-04-19

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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 , May 5, 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. 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!


      Roll call:
      Anton, Eric, Rich, Dan, Ian, Walt


      NOTRE DAME
      (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
      contributes.

      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
      builder.

      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.


      GUATEMALA CAFE
      (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.


      YSPAHAN
      (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
      second place.

      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.


      Eric Brosius
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