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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2007-06-07

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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 , Jun 9, 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:
      Walt, Eric, Rich, Anton

      NEW ENGLAND RAILS [prototype]
      (Walt, Eric, Rich, Anton)

      Long-time readers of these session reports
      may recall that we played three games of a
      prototype named New England Rails back in
      2004. Walt and Greg are the designers, but
      we haven't seen Greg for almost two years
      at MVGA, and Walt has continued to work on
      the game alone since then. Walt got some
      new ideas back in April that he has now
      incorporated into the game, and he wanted
      to try them out with the MVGA crowd. We
      were happy to give it a test spin.

      New England Rails features a map of New
      England and a set of historically accurate
      New England businesses players can buy to
      generate income. You'll see the Bath Iron
      Works, the American Waltham Watch factory
      (located in Dedham in the game, as Waltham
      is not shown on the map) and many other
      historical businesses. The economy varies
      from turn to turn, and income varies as
      you experience depression, prosperity or
      normal conditions. Most businesses pay
      more in prosperity and less in depression,
      though there are exceptions (the lobster
      fishery earns more during a depression,
      since 19th century consumers considered
      lobster a trash fish, to be eaten only
      when they couldn't afford decent food.)

      Each player is assigned a New England state at the start of the game (no one
      gets Massachusetts, as its central position would be too much of an edge.)
      You begin with a depot in the state capital: Rich started in Montpelier VT,
      Walt in Concord NH, Anton in Hartford CT and Eric in Augusta ME, with a bonus
      depot in Portland to offset the disadvantage of Maine's remote location.
      Rail building is important because each business earns additional income if
      it is connected by rail to a major city (Boston, New York or Montreal.)
      Early in the game, you race to build a depot in a major city, with additional
      depots in the cities your businesses are located in.

      Rail building also confers other benefits. There are a number of special
      cards you can claim once you have connected certain connections, such as
      Boston to Montreal or Cape Cod to the Berkshires. Depots are placed using a
      mechanism similar to that used in Power Grid; this is a simple but effective
      way to depict the way a rail network spreads across the map.

      In our game Rich built to the southern end of Lake Champlain and then claimed
      the ferry, putting him within reach of Montreal, which he promptly connected,
      increasing his income and preparing to snag some of the special cards. Walt
      spent little time in New Hampshire, dashing instead for Boston and continuing
      to connect enough mail cities to take the lucrative Massachusetts mail
      contract special card. Anton was frustrated in his attempts to connect to
      New York City by a delay in the development of bridge-building technology
      (a set of somewhat random events governs the options available; each will
      appear sooner or later, but later can put a stumbling block in your way.)
      Eric built north to Bingham, took the Maine mail contract and the Grand Tote
      railroad (which provides a bonus to lumber and paper businesses,) and headed
      for Boston.

      In the midgame, Rich moved steadily toward Boston, then leapt to Portland and
      took the Montreal-Boston and Montreal-Portland specials, guaranteeing him a
      steady supply of income and lucrative endgame bonuses. Eric moved into New
      Hampshire, taking the White Mountain Hotel special as well as the New
      Hampshire mail contract, which Walt was showing no interest in. Walt was
      concentrating instead on developing Massachusetts, building the Hoosac tunnel
      once nitroglycerine and compressed air technology were developed. Walt felt
      personally insulted when Eric was awarded the mail contract for Walt's home
      state, and he splashed a great deal of money out to build all the way to
      Lancaster NH and reclaim it (you may take a mail contract from another player
      if you have more mail cities connected in the state.)

      Our game was unusual because we experienced nothing but normal economic
      conditions for an extended period of time. In Walt's draft rules, you enter
      the second stage of the game once one of the three piles of economic condition
      cards runs out, and the normal deck ran out before we had made a dent in any
      of the other decks. Walt declared this to be inappropriate and added some of
      the already-used normal cards back into the deck to lengthen the game (it was
      a playtest, so we wanted to give the game its best chance to succeed.)

      Once the first stage was complete, the game rushed toward its end. All of the
      specials were taken, leaving players with little to do but operate their
      empires, building track if they felt the investment would be repaid by the end
      of the game. Rich was raking in huge profits each turn, pulling further and
      further away from the pack. Eric passed in each of his last few turns,
      feeling that none of the actions available to him was worth taking. This is
      one aspect of the game that still needs work---how do you make the game come
      to an exciting end instead of letting it coast slowly to a stop?

      Although Walt had thought we could finish a 4-player game in 2 hours, we had
      been playing for almost 3 hours and the game still had quite some time to go.
      Anton has a long drive home, so we declared that we'd play just two more turns
      and call it a night. When we counted up our money, we found that Rich had
      indeed won by a mile, but the other 3 players were tightly bunched.

      Final scores:

      $ Bus Dpt Spc Tot
      --- --- --- --- ---
      Rich 414 62 57 50 583
      Eric 328 69 45 _0 442
      Antn 301 62 54 15 432
      Walt 260 76 63 25 424

      Eric's rating: 6. I enjoy the historical feel of this game, and I'm a
      natural for economic/rail games, but this game still needs something to make
      it exciting at the end. Some people complain about the sometimes-abrupt end
      of Power Grid, but playing this prototype gave me a greater appreciation for
      Friedemann's design, which doesn't hang around at the end. We gave Walt some
      ideas for the next version and packed up for the evening.

      Eric Brosius
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