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[SR] MVGA Holliston 2009-01-29

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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 1, 2009
      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.

      Roll call:
      Steve, Anton, Eric, Walt, Dan, Paul H., Rich

      (Steve, Anton, Eric)

      We've played a lot of Saint Petersburg since
      it came out in 2004. I've recorded 36 games
      myself, and there must have been other games
      on weeks when I wasn't there to keep track.
      Our rate of play has dropped off sharply,
      though: we played 24 times in 2004, 4 times
      in 2005, 4 times in 2006 and none at all
      in 2007. We had a rebound in 2008, with a
      total of 3 games, but it was a lot less than
      I would have liked, because Saint Petersburg
      is one of my favorite games (my avatar on BGG
      comes from a Saint Petersburg card!) Some of
      the drop-off is due to the fact that Evan no
      longer comes---Evan was nigh unstoppable in
      the early days at MVGA with his "buy what I
      need and don't buy what I don't need" idiot
      savant strategy---and part of it is due to
      the fact that Rich dislikes that game and
      limits himself to one game a year (which he
      plays with us relatively cheerfully.) Still,
      there are many evenings when we have enough
      people to play two games at once and yet
      don't pull Saint Petersburg out of the
      fabulous MVGA game locker. What can we be

      I was ecstatic when I heard that Rio Grande Games and some overseas partners
      would be releasing an expansion that contains Tom Lehmann's revised cards. I
      was lucky enough to play a prototype of this expansion at The Gathering in
      March 2007, and while it doesn't change the general feel of the game, it adds
      new decisions and eliminates a few irritating aspects of the original game.

      In the original game, a player who could purchase a Mistress of Ceremonies on
      Turn 1 has a big advantage. She's expensive, but she pays $6 in income, and
      you get chance to collect that $6 twice before the critical cash crunch
      arrives at the start of Turn 3. The 3 VPs she pays per turn are an added
      bonus. In the expansion, the Mistress of Ceremonies pays only $3 per turn,
      and even though her VPs are increased to 4, the reduction in income makes a
      big difference early in the game. Because the player who gets first pick at
      the nobles in Turn 1 is determined completely at random, this eliminates a
      big luck element from the game.

      There are other improvements as well, though none as significant as the
      change to the Mistresses of Ceremonies. The old Marinski Theater was an
      upgrade that almost no one bought because its power was so weak. This problem
      was eliminated by associating the old power with a new Coffee House that is a
      building, not an upgrade, and that costs less to build. I'll admit that a
      useless card is a much smaller problem than an overpowered card, but it's nice
      to see the change.

      Some people believe Observatories are overpowered in the original game, and Tom
      has raised their cost from $6 to $8. I didn't often buy Observatories even
      at the $6 cost, so this doesn't matter to me, but some people consider it an
      improvement. Tom also introduced a Debtor's Prison, a building that is just
      like an Observatory, but allows you to choose a card of your choice from the
      discard pile rather than the top card from a deck. This obviously permits a
      number of interesting strategies, but I'll have to play more games to get a
      feel for how strong the card is.

      In our game, we didn't buy that many cards early on, but we saw so many that
      we liked that all three of us got hand bound, with no room to take any more
      cards but no money to get the ones we had already taken out. Eric broke out
      of this logjam slightly before his opponents and used that advantage to score
      a win. Each of us had 8 nobles, but Eric earned more VPs from blue cards.

      Final scores: Eric 168 (8 nobles,) Anton 144 (8), Steve 143 (8).

      Eric's rating: 10. I rate the original game as a '10' and this version is
      just a little bit better.

      (Walt, Dan, Paul)

      We had not just 3 but 6 people on hand at the start of the evening, allowing
      us to play two games at the same time. The 3 who were not playing Saint
      Petersburg played Dominion, the new card game that has rocketed to #7 on
      BoardGameGeek in a few short months.

      Walt has been playing Dominion a lot with his family, and his experience
      paid off in this game. There are 12 Provinces in the 3- and 4-player games,
      and because they're worth 6 VPs each, the player who gets more than his or
      her share of them usually wins. In this game, Walt got 6 of the 12 Provinces
      while Dan and Paul had to settle for 3 Provinces each. Dan got a goodly batch
      of the lesser Victory cards, but it wasn't nearly enough.

      Final scores: Walt 42, Dan 36, Paul 23.

      Eric's rating: 7. I've reduced my rating from '8' to '7'. It's clear to me
      that the people who really love this game enjoy analyzing a set of 10 cards to
      determine the best way to use them. I don't mind playing Dominion (and in fact
      I've played more than 50 games, many at my wife's request,) but I am not asking
      other people to play it.

      (Walt, Dan, Paul)

      Dominion is a shorter game than Saint Petersburg with the expansion, so when
      the first game was over, another began immediately. This time Dan came out
      on top, with Walt and Paul finishing in a tie, well behind Dan.

      Final scores: Dan 39, Paul 27, Walt 27.

      Eric's rating: 7.

      LE HAVRE
      (Eric, Walt, Dan)

      Le Havre is a game that's been getting significant buzz recently, even though
      no US or UK version has been released (I suspect it has something to do with
      licensing rights.) There is an Australian version, though, and after I played
      a game or two with Joe Huber, I purchased a copy from Funagain, the only place
      I could find it for sale in the US.

      Le Havre is billed as a 2 to 5 player game, but I'm reluctant to try it with
      more than 3. The rule book even warns you not to try a 5-player game except
      with experienced players, and if you have 4 or 5 I'd recommend two games if
      you have two copies. Rich had arrived, so we needed to divide the group into
      two subsets. Anton had to leave early, as usual, so he decided to play the
      other game, Agricola, rather than try to learn Le Havre. There's a lot of
      fine print in Agricola, and you need to be able to read cards in front of
      opponents who are sitting across the table, so it can be slow when you have
      new players.

      Le Havre is another new game by Uwe Rosenburg, who is famous for Bohnanza and
      scored a massive success with Agricola. There are strong echoes of Agricola
      in Le Havre, but the newer game is a bit less grueling, with smaller penalties
      for running into trouble. If Agricola is a game of survival, Le Havre is a
      game of efficiency. On the other hand, Le Havre does share with Agricola the
      mechanism of spaces on the board where goods pile up until someone decides to
      spend a turn to take the stack, together with actions players can take to
      use those resources to improve their lot. You need to feed your people in both
      games, but while starvation is a disaster in Agricola, the capital markets are
      evidently more developed in Le Havre's time; you can take a low-cost loan when
      necessary to buy food. I've noticed that new players have a horror of taking
      loans, but more experienced players will use them freely when there's an
      advantage to be gained by doing so.

      Eric had substantially more experience than his opponents, and it showed in
      this game. He took a half dozen loans or so and used them to amass an imposing
      collection of buildings and ships, paying off his loans at the end to win by
      a margin of more than 100 VP.

      Final scores:

      Eric 279 = 4 francs + 164 in buildings + 76 in ships + 35 bonus
      Dan_ 161 = 89 francs + 32 in buildings + 40 in ships
      Walt 149 = 45 francs + 88 in buildings + 16 in ships

      Eric's rating: 8. I find Le Havre more enjoyable than Agricola. I'm not as
      fond of the grueling struggle in Agricola, and the edges are sharper than I'd
      like. I asked the others to give their ratings. Walt rates Le Havre an '8'
      and Dan a preliminary '7'.

      (Steve, Anton, Paul, Rich)

      As mentioned above, Anton didn't have time for Le Havre, so he joined the
      other game, which was a 4-player Agricola game. You might be asking yourself
      whether this would be any shorter, but Anton had played Agricola before,
      eliminating the new-player delays for him. Steve and Rich also were repeat
      Agricola players, but it was Paul's first time, so we taught him the rules
      before we started. Agricola is relatively simple in broad concept, but the
      actual implementation takes a while to wrap your head around.

      In this game Steve focused on collecting large herds of pigs and cows to cook
      for food and provide VPs at the end, but he never got sheep or vegetables,
      and he added only a single room to his house, limiting his options. Anton
      got points for every category, leaving him with no negatives except -3 VP for
      empty spaces on his farm. Rich went McMansion in the last round, adding a
      room and then upgrading to a stone house for a nice harvest of VPs. Paul
      lagged behind, but this is not uncommon the first time you play. The other 3
      were close, but Rich's house made the difference, giving him victory.

      Final scores: Rich 38, Anton 35, Steve 33, Paul 18.

      Eric's rating: 7. I recognize that Agricola is a well designed game with
      attractive components and a lot of variety, but it's a bit more procedural
      than I like a game to be. I've been saying yes when people ask me to join
      them for a game, but I haven't been asking to play it.

      Eric Brosius
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