[SR] MVGA Holliston 2009-02-26
- 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: Paul H., Eric, Anton, Rich,
Steve, Charles, Walt
(Paul H., Eric, Anton, Rich)
It took us a little while to get started
this week. People kept showing up as we
were planning what to play. Before long
we had 7 people, so we had to split up
into two games. Eric had two new games
in his tub o' games: Snow Tails and Jet
Set. Snow Tails is a clever dogsled racing
game from the Fragor Brothers, Gordon and
Fraser Lamont. The MVGA crew has been fond
of racing games in the past, and this one
is likely to go over well, but we decided
to start with Jet Set instead.
Jet Set is a network connection and
economic game designed by Kris Gould, who
saw a number of games released in 2008.
I describe it as a cross between Ticket to
Ride and Empire Builder. It's not a train
game; it's a plane game, but the distinction
doesn't matter too much when you're claiming
routes to gain VPs.
Jet Set shares with Ticket to Ride more than the fact that it has a map as its
game board and a collection of colorful plastic pieces for each player. The
map shows a number of European cities, with a network of air links connecting
them. The network is more intricate than those in Ticket to Ride, with one
link sometimes crossing over another despite the fact that there is no direct
relationship between the two. You have to watch carefully or you'll miss the
best routes from one city to another.
Jet Set also shared with Ticket to Ride a very simple turn structure, in which
you can do just one small action each turn, and in which it takes more than one
turn to accomplish anything. The options on each turn are:
(1) Place your planes on the board,
(2) Claim a flight card if you can pick up one plane from the board from each
link along a path connecting the two cities named on the card, or
(3) Receive income from the flight cards you've already connected.
If you place planes on the board, you can either place them on a link no one
has ever placed planes on before (paying to claim it,) place them on a link
an opponent has previously claimed (paying the opponent to use the link and
paying the bank for the planes,) or place them on ONE OR MORE links that you
already claimed in previous turns. The "ONE OR MORE" part is only applicable
if all the planes you are placing are being placed on links you have already
claimed; thus, there's a time savings when you don't need to claim a new link
or use an opponent's link.
The flight cards come from a deck of "short" flight cards and a separate deck
of "long" flight cards. A selection of cards is placed face up next to the
board, and a card may be claimed by whichever player legally claims it first.
There is also a special deck of "final" flight cards from which two cards are
dealt to each player, face down. The short flight cards contain only two
cities (e.g., London-Paris) and the long flight cards also contain only two
(e.g., London-Athens,) but the final flight cards contain three cities (e.g.,
London-Marseille-Warsaw.) To complete a final flight card, you must pick up
planes along a route that visits all three cities IN ORDER (A-B-C or C-B-A,
which is equivalent, but NOT B-A-C.)
The game resembles Empire Builder in that unlike Ticket to Ride, you need to
spend money to place those planes on the board. You start the game with a
paltry amount of cash, and you'll have to take income a number of times if
you are to have any hope of winning. Ideally you'll claim short flight cards
that also fill in track that will help you later, but if this doesn't work,
you'll have to claim short flight cards for the sole purpose of earning funds
to finance future building.
In our game, we started by picking up short routes, complaining loudly all the
while about how poor the selection of routes was for our individual positions.
We moved into the middle game, and suddenly Paul realized that he was planning
to complete his final flight card in the order B-A-C, which is not legal. He
felt this miscalculation had ruined his chances, but he began working to patch
up the route and make it legal. In the meantime, Rich started aiming toward
a pair of long flight cards, one worth 5 and the other worth 7. Anton had
plans that, as far as I could tell, were even grander.
Reality struck, however, as Paul laid down one of his final flight cards and
demonstrated that he had the ability to pick up planes and claim it. Getting
your final flight card is valuable. It is worth 10 VP when you play it, and
after that you stop playing, instead putting a little plane worth 2 VP on the
card each time your turn comes round. The game ends immediately when a player
puts a fifth little plane on the card, or (alternatively) when all players
have played their final flight cards. Paul's collection of flight cards was
not as large as those of his opponents, but he had the earliest (and thus
most valuable) final flight card.
Eric was relieved to be able to play his final flight card just after Paul,
but Rich and Anton had calculations to make. Rich realized it didn't make
sense to try for his final flight card, so he simply finished the two long
flight cards he was working on. Anton got one long card, but he miscounted
his turns and wound up trying to complete his final flight card but running
out of time, leaving him far behind.
In the end, Paul's early mistake still left him within 2 VP of first place,
while Rich's large collection of ordinary cards put him in the running. Anton
was far behind, though one more turn would have put him back in the game.
Eric 32 = 5 1's + 3 3's + 18 (Rome - Frankfurt - Copenhagen)
Paul 30 = 4 1's + 2 3's + 20 (Munich - Warsaw - Barcelona)
Rich 28 = 4 1's + 4 3's + a 5 + a 7
Anton 21 = 5 1's + 3 3's + a 7
Eric's rating: 7. Jet Set is a tense game that clearly has been playtested
thoroughly. There are a number of different strategies, though as in Ticket
to Ride you need to be prepared in the event an opponent ends the game before
you were expecting it to end. I asked the others how they would rate Jet Set.
Anton gave it an 8, Rich a 7.5, and Paul gave it a minus 4 because the link
geometry is too confusing.
(Steve, Charles, Walt)
Harry Wu designed Wabash Cannonball, an innovative railroad game with a clear
resemblance to Martin Wallace's Early Railways Series games, but with some
unique innovations as well, back in 2007. The game has since been re-issued
in a far more splendid physical form under the title "Chicago Express" (a
title that's not as evocative for rail fans, but which may be more acceptable
to the general gaming populace.)
Chicago Express is a game in which players buy shares in railroads at auction
and proceed to operate those railroads for profit. All sorts of dirty tricks
are possible, a fact that is almost a necessity if the game is going to recreate
the pre-ICC United States railroad scene. There are also a number of critical
early auctions in which players can put themselves out of the running if they
bid too high or too low, something new players can easily do. It's a game that
you need to play more than once.
In this game, Walt and Charles bid high for shares in the initial share auction,
leaving Steve with far more cash than they had. This allowed Steve to buy two
discount shares early in the first round, putting him far ahead. Walt ran a
conservative, fiscally sound railroad, and this did not prove to be the route
to riches. Charles joined Walt in a spot far behind Steve, who won by a mile.
Steve $567, Walt $344, Charles $336.
Eric's rating: 7. I'm happy that we have a copy at MVGA; I want to play this
game a few more times.
SAINT PETERSBURG EXPANSION
(Eric, Anton, Charles, Walt)
We played the Saint Petersburg expansion a few weeks ago, and in accordance
with my plan to get this game onto the MVGA table more often, in particular
when we have two games going at once, I suggested that we choose it for one
of the two games that would start next. I got positive feedback from some
of the group, though Rich and Paul had no interest (no problem, as they could
play in the other game.)
It was a game in which none of the players had a strategy that was dramatically
different from that of the others. Charles focused on nobles early, scoring
almost no VPs, and Eric also pushed the income track. Walt and Anton bought
cards that yielded VPs, opening up leads, but their income was less, promising
a comeback by the richer players late in the game.
On one turn most of the table was cash poor, and Eric was able to buy several
blue cards. Suddenly he announced that he was scoring 20 VP during a blue
phase, with $6 in income. You can catch up in a hurry when you score big
during the blue phase. Eric was also managing to draw a lot of orange cards.
Somehow there was almost always one orange upgrade available when his turn
came around. Charles had the opposite experience---the orange upgrades kept
running out on Anton's turn, just before Charles got his turn.
In the end, Eric's blue scoring gave him a reasonable lead over the others,
who were clustered together just before the corner of the scoreboard.
Eric 143 (9 nobles,) Walt 126 (8), Charles 120 (9), Anton 118 (7).
Eric's rating: 10.
(Paul, Rich, Steve)
I left before this game finished, so all I got was the final scores. It was
a close game.
Rich 44, Steve 43, Paul 37.
Eric's rating: 6.