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Session Report - March 29

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  • Richard Pardoe
    Dave and Sam arrived to join Rich for games. And that game tonight was Elasund: The First City (of Catan). We had just finished the rules explanation and a
    Message 1 of 75 , Apr 1, 2006
      Dave and Sam arrived to join Rich for games. And that game tonight was
      Elasund: The First City (of Catan). We had just finished the rules
      explanation and a few turns when Sheryl arrived. As we were not that deep
      into the current game, it was agreed to end the current game and start over
      with a quick rules explanation for Sheryl.

      Elasund is the latest in the Catan franchise. But the only similarity to
      the base Settlers of Catan is the use of dice to generate resources and then
      using those resources to make production buildings that should generate more
      resources. The winner is the first to achieve 10 victory points. Notably
      absent is the trading between players. So what does Elasund offer?

      Elasund is a city set on a 10 by X grid. (10 for each of the numbers
      2-6,8-12 that might be rolled on 2 dice, as in Settlers, 7's do "bad"
      things). The width X varies by the number of players - smaller for 2
      players, larger for 3, and a bit larger again for 4P. The board has a pair
      of nice "city gates" that are placed on the board to show this limit.
      Players seek to develop buildings on the city plot. There are a variety of
      buildings - each producing some combination of gold, influence, and victory

      Gold and influence are the only 2 resources produced in the game, although
      influence does come in 3 colours. But as influence cards are drawn from a
      face-down deck, one does not really control what colour one receives.
      Influence is then played in various combinations (a pair or triplet of the
      same colour, or 1 of each colour) to enable certain actions. Gold is used
      to pay for buildings.

      Unlike the other versions of settlers, a building is not permanent. It can
      be removed from the game by building another building on top of it. So
      instead of a trading game where there is some mutual cooperation between
      players to get towards 10 VPs, here we have a game with a bit more
      confrontation. But the ability to build (or overbuild) is not that easy.
      More than just gold is needed to produce a building. The other requirement
      is the necessary building permits.

      Each player has a set of building permits valued 0~4. Building can only be
      built if the appropriate number of building permits required for that
      building are in the "footprint" of the new building. A single player does
      not need to provide all the necessary permits. So if blue had permits worth
      2 and 1 in a footprint; while red had a permit worth 4, red would win the
      right to build (using blue's permits) as red had the highest total value of
      permits. So quite a bit of strategy centers around the placement of permits
      (and possibly moving them or upgrading them as necessary).

      But there are parts of the game that show the Catan roots. On each players
      turn, 2 dice are rolled and a trading ship is moved to the matching row on
      along the city. Any buildings in that row now generate gold or influence
      for their owner. One nice twist is that if the same number is rolled twice
      in a row, the ship doesn't stay in that row generating, but must move 2 rows
      up or down. Therefore, each production phase should be different. The ship
      placement also impacts the building permit placement as players can only
      place permits for free along the same row as the ship. Players do have the
      option of spending resources (influence) to play a permit elsewhere, so one
      is not completely dependant on the luck of the die for permit placement.

      Again, rolling a "7" does "bad" things. In Elasund, the ship now represents
      pirates. The ship is moved (and again, the ship must move) to a new row and
      any player with victory points in that row now loses 1 resource (their
      choice). Unlike, Settlers, there is no hand limit in Elasund, so the impact
      of the pirates is not as severe as losing half your cards.

      Finally, in addition to the production buildings, there are other ways to
      generate victory points. The first is the "trading" track. Certain spots
      on the board are worth trading points. As one builds on these spaces, one
      gains trading points which turn into victory points at certain points along
      the track. For example 1 VP after 3 trading points, another after 5 and so
      on. However, with the ability to overbuild, building on the spots are not
      safe, so players are at risk not only for losing the victory points for the
      buildings in the city, but also for the points along the trading track.
      This does result in much more back/forth movement of victory points as the
      game progresses.

      But there are 2 ways to gain permanent victory points. The first is to help
      with the construction of a city wall around the city. Each player will have
      9 wall tiles that can be built. The 3rd, 6th, and 9th tile are worth 1 VP
      that cannot be lost. While building the wall does not require building
      permits, it does require gold - so can be an expensive way to gain victory
      points and needs a steady stream of gold to support. But towers also have
      one additional benefit - when the pirates strick, the player rolling the "7"
      can claim 1 discarded card for each of the towers built in the walls. This
      is the only way cards move from one player to another in the game. The
      final way to gain victory points is to help build the church. The church is
      a 9 tile building that will be built 1 tile at a time in random order.
      While the foundation (starting space) of the church is indicated on the
      board - the exact location will vary each game depending on which tile of
      the 9 occupies that space. If the first church tile played is the lower
      left corner, the resulting church will be built up and to the right. On the
      other hand, if the first church tile played is the upper right corner, the
      resulting church will be built down and to the left. The player choosing to
      build the first church tile does get the advantage of looking at the first
      two tiles in the draw pile and deciding which to use - so has a modest
      influence on the eventual church development.

      With the rules explanation underway, we launched into our game and
      immediately saw that one issue I have with Catan came up again in Elasund.
      The first 6 rolls of the die hit only resources for Sam and Cheryl or a
      blank row wherein no one got resources. Therefore, they had nice hands of
      influence and gold with Dave and Rich were stuck with their initial
      resources. Over the course of the game, the number of rolls might even out.
      Sam seemed to want to have a diversity of resources, so held onto his
      resources a bit longer than others as Cheryl, Rich, and Dave were the first
      to build as shopkeepers came out to help with resource generation. Dave and
      Rich capitalized on the low cost of building the side walls of the city and
      each managed to get a tower built for some initial victory points. Sheryl
      soon moved in developing a marketstand for trading points and victory
      points. Also, players initial worker huts were overbuilt (but as these are
      semi-permanent buildings - they get to be rebuilt immediately for free.)

      Early in the game, we see the victory points at 3 for Rich (2 towers,
      tavern), Sam (tavern, church, tower), and Sheryl (market, tower, trading
      track) while Dave is right behind at 2 (merchant, tower).

      Dave and Sheryl had building permits next to Rich's tavern so were
      threatening to overbuild it. But Dave uses his building permit to build
      shopkeepers, leaving only 1 permit. Rich decides that he needs to place one
      of his permits adjacent to Sheryl's to defend against the overbuild, but the
      ship doesn't land in the correct row and Rich has insufficient influence to
      place his permit anywhere on the board. In the struggle for the Tavern, it
      was interesting to see how the permits developed. Rich had tried to defend
      his tavern, but there were actually 3 permits around the tavern - enough to
      satisfy the footprint of one of the larger 6 block buildings. So one needs
      to be careful that placing permits in one region allows another footprint to
      open up for a different style of building. While it would have been
      expensive to build using Rich's permits - the option still existed. To
      avoid this - Rich built on his permits to remove them from the board.

      Surprisingly, we didn't see the pirates (rolls of 7) that many times in the
      game. I think a total of 4 or 5 times - which seems a bit lower than the
      odds would suggest. But as the game progressed, the wall was completed with
      Rich and Sheryl at 2 towers each. Dave and Sam at 1 tower each. Buildings
      kept getting developed. Sam had an opportunity to build a marketplace (3
      square building) near a couple of trading point spaces along the wall - this
      would have given him 4 trading points (worth 2 VPs) in addition to the 1 VP
      for the marketplace itself...but Sam hadn't been considering the opportunity
      until it was mentioned after he had built another building using his
      permits. Dave did manage to get up to 6 VPs, but found himself moving
      backward as Sam's building removed Dave's VP and moved Dave down the trading
      point track.

      In the end, Sam had a double build of a tavern (+1 VP) in addition to a well
      (+1 VP) netting some trading points (+1 VP) to have 10 VPs on the board and
      the game win. Looking at the scores we find:

      Rich: 4 VPs
      Dave: 5 VPs
      Sheryl: 6 VPs
      Sam: 10 VPs

      My personal reaction - I thought the game was just OK. Yes, I played poorly
      (notice the VPs), but I didn't place enough emphasize on the trading point
      track so was behind the others in gaining those VPs. I also probably
      invested too much into the wall rather than trying to emphasizing the
      buildings. My second wall tower cost netted a VP, but only after building 2
      other wall segments - so the cost per VP is rather high (8~12 gold depending
      how many segments are built on the side walls) compared to the cost of
      gaining a VP from the church (7 gold per VP).

      I also noticed we didn't really move the building permits around on the
      board once placed. But as we were all newcomers to the game, I suspect we
      didn't quite gel on some of the defensive and offensive strategies for
      buildings and permit placement. There were some good placements - but
      suspect much more can be done with experience.

      So why do I have the reaction that I do. I do like the planning ahead to
      see where buildings might be placed. I do like the fact that one can try to
      interfere with anothers plans by placing permits next to their building to
      threaten their advancement or to make them pay a bit more to accomplish
      their plans - slowing down a bit of their momentum. But I do have one
      concern - game length. Our play lasted pretty late (about 2 hours), but I
      am tempted to explain that as newcomer inexperience trying to think about
      the options on a turn. Another factor is that the turn sequence is a bit
      awkward and we were constantly checking the player aides as we played to
      make sure we stepped through a turn in proper order.

      As I thought about the game, I came to a very interesting chain of
      thought....Compared to base Catan, I prefer this game. I feel there are a
      few more options to work around bad production rolls. In addition, one can
      move one's buildings to some extent in the city (overbuild them) to try to
      adjust resource generation to dice rolls. But if I were interested in a
      resource development, building game, Antike is the game that I would prefer
      over Elasund. Antike plays quicker, is a bit more streamlined in its turn
      progression. And my ratings do place Antike over Elasund over Settlers.
      Interesting food for thought.

      I certainly wouldn't avoid this game in the future and would like another
      opportunity to try out a few different strategies, but suspect it will be
      awhile before this one hits the table again.

      Until next week,

    • Sam A.
      I ll be there. -Sam Richard Pardoe wrote: Shall we gather for games? I am happy to host ..... Games: Wednesday Night, ~18:30 to ~21:00
      Message 75 of 75 , Apr 12, 2006
        I'll be there.

        Richard Pardoe <RPardoe@...> wrote:
        Shall we gather for games?  I am happy to host .....

        Wednesday Night, ~18:30 to ~21:00
        My house in San Ramon
        Contact me off-list if you need directions)


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