[SR] MVGA Holliston 2007-08-30
- 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: Steve, Aline, Jason, Walt,
Eric, Lisa, Rich, Dan
(Steve, Aline, Jason, Walt)
The action started early this week, with
our first game underway well before 7pm.
Walt was on hand with his daugher Aline,
and Jason had come over to the Hall on
Masonic business and decided to stay to
play a game or two. It was an on week
for Steve too, so Walt pulled out his
copy of Traumfabrik, Knizia's wonderful
game on the topic of movie making
("Traumfabrik" means "dream factory"
in German, an apt description of
In Traumfabrik, each player has a set
of movie scripts and is charged with
the task of casting the movies. The
game is comprised of a series of
auctions, in which the players bid
using "vertrags" which also serve as
victory points at the end of the game
(when you're teaching Traumfabrik,
please remember to say "vertrags are
points" at some point!) You can go
for quantity, completing as many
movies as you can (a supply of
extra scripts is available to be
given to players who complete one
or more scripts) or for quality,
hiring better (but presumably fewer)
actors in an attempt to win awards
that are also worth VPs.
There's no point hiding the fact that this game was a blowout. Of the 80 VP
available from awards, Walt scored 50, more than half of the total. I don't
know exactly what his secret was, though Walt managed to complete two movies
right at the end of the year to snatch awards he wasn't expected to win.
Steve achieved a score of 86, which would normally be an excellent score, but
he was nowhere near Walt. Walt was still glowing a bit from his victory at
Unity Games XIII, and this simply added to his satisfaction.
Walt 108 = 51 from movies + 50 from awards + 7 vertrags
Steve 86 = 52 from movies + 15 from awards + 19 vertrags
Jason 60 = 40 from movies + 10 from awards + 10 vertrags
Aline 49 = 34 from movies + 5 from awards + 10 vertags
Eric's rating: 8. Traumfabrik is an excellent game in the abstract, but
it is enriched immeasurably by the theme. Who wouldn't enjoy casting Boris
Karloff in Casablanca? The edition Walt and I own is out of print, and a
newer version has been released under the title "Hollywood Blockbuster,"
but the publisher was not able to gain permission to use the real actors'
names in this version, so I greatly prefer the older edition.
While Traumfabrik was finishing up, Walt's wife Lisa stopped by to pick
up Aline. The game still had two years to go, so Eric, who had recently
arrived, suggested a game of Lost Cities, the 2-player card game, while
they waited. Lisa and Walt play Lost Cities at home, and Walt claims she
wins more than half of the games, while Eric has been playing extensively
with his wife and son (the players in the Brosius household are about
Lost Cities is played in hands, with each hand consisting of a single
run through the 60-card deck. There are five "expeditions," or suits,
each containing twelve cards---individual cards numbered 2 through 10 in
each suit together with three un-numbered "handshake" cards in each suit.
The suits are denoted by colors, with the cards of each color depicting
an exploration scene---the desert for yellow or a volcano for red. You
take turns playing cards, and if you decide to play in a suit you must
play in strictly increasing order on your side of the board, so that you
must play any handshakes in a suit before you play numbered cards. There's
usually a risk in starting a suit, because you score positive points for
a suit you have started only if you get more than 20 points in cards played
in that suit. Handshakes add to the risk and reward, multiplying your
score by two, three or even four.
A game consists of three hands, with the highest total score determining
the winner. The first hand was a low scoring affair, as neither player
drew the cards he or she was hoping for. Eric started all five suits, a
temptation he often succumbs to, and as a result he was able to make almost
no progress, falling behind Lisa by a small margin.
Score in hand 1:
Lisa 22 = 16 + 12 - 14 + 8
Eric 7 = - 4 + 1 + 2 + 9 - 1
The second hand was a much higher scoring affair. Lisa scored solidly
in four suits, but Eric piled up eight cards in the red suit, including
several handshakes, earning the 20 VP bonus that is available for any suit
in which you play eight or more cards. In order to achieve this coup, he
had to settle for no net scoring in the other three suits, but he had
moved into the lead on the strength of that single expedition. By this
time, Rich and Dan had arrived, and they stood behind Lisa, watching and
thinking about how they would play the hand.
Score in hand 2:
Lisa 73 = 42 + 5 + 14 + 12, 2-hand total = 95
Eric 104 = 104 + 8 - 2 - 6, 2-hand total = 111
It's always interesting to play Lost Cities against a new opponent. There
are many different playing styles. Eric swings for the fences, trying to
hit the 20 VP bonus, while Lisa is more of a singles hitter. In the third
hand, Eric hit the bonus again, giving him what looked like a lopsided win
while Lisa had to settle for just a few points as the cards in her suits
just didn't show up.
Score in hand 3:
Lisa 7 = 4 + 9 - 4 - 2
Eric 70 = 5 - 3 + 68 - 0
Final scores: Eric 181, Lisa 102.
Eric's rating: 10. I recently upgraded Lost Cities from a '9' to a '10'.
I may have played it more often than any other game. I'm amazed by the
interaction among different play styles, and I can see that there are
players who are stronger than I am. We've decided to start holding little
Lost Cities tournaments at my house, and we held the first one this week,
a 4-player round robin that Andy Latto won going away. If you're interested
in joining us, let me know; we could always switch to a Swiss system if
we have too many for a round robin.
(Walt, Jason, Eric)
Lisa took Aline home, leaving us with 6 gamers left. Eric had a brand-new
copy of Phoenicia he wanted to try, and Walt wanted to join him. We saw
that we should play two 3-player games, so Jason agreed to play Phoenicia
as the other three chose another game. Phoenicia is designed by Tom
Lehmann, who took the basic chassis of the classic game Outpost and stripped
it down, streamlining it into a game that plays much more quickly. I love
Outpost, rating it a '10', but one complaint people have about Outpost is
that you can fall behind and be forced to play for a substantial time even
though you have little chance to win. Phoenicia takes only 90 minutes, and
the final turns go by especially quickly, so by the time you find yourself
behind (if you fall behind,) it's almost over.
Eric reviewed the rules. Many people have criticized the rules published
by JKLM, but if you know the Outpost "expert" rules (developed by Tom himself
many years ago,) Phoenicia will seem familiar. It's an auction game in
which you bid for items that give VPs and provide the resources to buy
more items. As in many such games, you must balance VPs against resources,
typically focusing more on resources early and more on VPs late. Be aware,
though, that in Phoenicia, it gets late early, as Yogi Berra said about
In our game, three items were available for purchase on the first turn. Walt
bid 5 for a Tracker, Jason bid 3 for a Prospector, and Eric took the Glass
Maker for 5. Walt followed this up with a Fort as Eric and Jason each took
Granaries, items that allow you to hold more cards and coins. Perhaps this
was a mistake, as Walt powered ahead, training the new workers from his Fort
and employing them in his improved hunting grounds for bargain prices.
Walt and Jason each bought Dyers, but when the first Dye House came up, only
Walt had the funds to bid on it, getting the valuable Dye House for the
price of 10. This also supplied the storage Walt needed to do without a
Granary of his own, saving him the funds that would have been used to buy
one (and that Jason and Eric did spend.) Walt leapt ahead on the income
track with the Dye House purchase, which allowed him to outspend his two
opponents in future auctions.
Soon after, Jason bought a Shipyard, a building that provides discounts on
various ship-related items later in the game. This seemed like a good buy,
but it didn't provide immediate income, and when Eric was able to outbid him
for the first Ships, it left Jason nearly dead in the water (so to speak.)
Walt decided it was time to start focusing on VPs, and he bought a City
Center, followed by City Walls. Eric also bought this pair, but he was a
few spaces behind Walt in the VP race and could not close the gap. Jason
felt he would value the items differently if he were to play again; income
is too important to ignore early in the game.
Final scores: Walt 35, Eric 31, Jason 20.
Eric's rating: 7. Given how much I like Outpost, I may very well rate
"Phoenicia" higher than '7' eventually, but I'm reluctant to rate a game
too highly after the initial play.
(Steve, Rich, Dan)
Walt had also brought a copy of Antike, the civilization-building and
conflict game that uses the now-popular "rondel" action mechanism. In
a 3-player game, the player powers are determined, and Steve took the
Greeks, Dan the Romans, and the Rich the German barbarians. Dan almost
reached the 10 VP victory criterion first, but he needed one more temple
to pull it off and fell just short. This opened the door for Rich, who
made it to 10 VP for the win.
Final scores: Rich 10, Dan 9, Steve 7.
Eric's rating: 4. I like this game much less than most people; despite
my lowish rating, it's the #79-rated game on BoardGameGeek. This is most
likely explained by the fact that I'm especially fussy about multi-player
"beat on your neighbors" games; if they don't have enough structure to
limit player options, they degenerate into slugfests. I enjoy some games
in this genre (Titan and Age of Renaissance are notable examples,) but on
average I rate them lower than most people.
Jason had to leave after two games, and Antike wasn't close to being done,
so Walt and Eric discussed 2-player options. Eric suggested Notre Dame, a
game neither of us had played in its 2-player form. Walt was a bit
reluctant, since he hasn't been too happy with Notre Dame, but he decided
it was worth trying the 2-player version. If you've played Notre Dame,
you know that card drafting is a key mechanism; you start each turn with
three cards, keeping one and passing two to the left. In the 2-player game,
you pass two cards to your opponent, who selects one and gives you the third
card back; thus, unlike with any other number, you wind up with two of your
own cards after passing is complete. This gives you more to think about, as
it may sometimes make sense to pass a card you need if you're pretty sure
your opponent won't keep it (perhaps the other card you're passing is even
more important to him/her.)
In this game, Walt drove his carriage around early, picking up the 4 VP
chips. Eric loaded cubes into his money farm and cube farm, building up a
good supply for later in the game. Walt was well ahead on the VP track
after Turn 3, but Eric had more cubes on the board. Eric filled his Park
with two cubes and started to gain bonuses for every scoring. This gave
him the power to catch up, and when Walt ran short of cubes, Eric zoomed
by him to win comfortably.
In this game, neither player suffered from the plague, though we flirted
with it a few times. This may be a feature of the 2-player game, since you
may well get your Hospital or Park card back even if you pass it.
Final scores: Eric 69, Walt 41.
Eric's rating: 8. This is not only an '8', but a solid '8'. I continue
to be impressed by the balance in this game, and by the many paths to
victory I am seeing. I'm eager to play the 2-player game more, as it
seems well suited to that number.
At this point Eric had to leave, so there is no write-up for any other games
that may have been played.