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Session report for March 31

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  • Dave Wilson
    Three of us got in a couple of games over at Jeff s this evening. The main event was Bean Trader, a game about buying, trading, and delivering beans in
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
      Three of us got in a couple of games over at Jeff's this evening. The main event was
      Bean Trader, a game about buying, trading, and delivering beans in medieval Europe.
      At its heart it is a standard "pick-up-and-deliver" game, where you pick up
      commodities (here, beans), take them to some destination, and then sell them for a
      profit. Here's what sets this game apart:

      1. There's a nice supply and demand mechanism that governs the price of the beans
      at the differing cities: the more beans there are, the less they cost.
      2. Travel occasionally incurs a toll, making excessive travel expensive.
      3. Trading between players is allowed. In fact, it is encouraged, by making travel to
      trade less expensive than travelling normally. On your turn, you can invite other
      players to trade, and if they except, the cost is as if the journey was one step,
      regardless of how far the distance travelled actually was. It can also reduce the toll
      collected.

      A player's starting stake is determined randomly, and in this game Jeff was staked to
      the largest initial fund. Dave, on the other hand, had the smallest, and that let him
      go first. Early on he was able to deliver a number of two-bean orders, collecting
      smallish but steady income. But on occasion he had to do some significant travel to
      do it, and as the game progressed, that would prove harmful. Sterling also had some
      long trips. Jeff, on the other hand, never seemed to move more than two cities, and
      typically only one.

      The game mechanic of feeding your order cards along with your travel cards means
      that players have a period of time to make good on your orders, and the farther you
      travel, the less time you have. The impact of the travel distances meant that Dave
      and Sterling both were unable to deliver the occasional order, and lost those
      opportunities, while Jeff may have encountered that situation just once.

      The bean supply wound up being fairly lopsided. On a number of occasions supplies
      were distributed incompletely because there was no space left in the cities being
      supplied, while on the other hand there were other cities that sat empty for long
      periods of time because they never appeared on supply cards. This, too, hurt Dave,
      as the black-eyed beans were pretty scarce, and appeared on two or three of Dave's
      ultimately unfilled order cards.

      Trading happened pretty freely, but only when the benefit was mutual. A couple of
      trades of "I'll give you any of my beans for nothing in return, just so you'll invite me
      there so travel is cheaper for me" were turned down because none of the offered
      beans were useful to the other player.

      When the supply cards triggered the last round, trading pretty much stopped, as
      players found they'd gain no benefit and might likely excessively benefit the other
      player. So deliveries were completed as they could, our excess beans were sold back
      to the market, and the money counted. And after all that, we found that Jeff had
      amassed 223 thalers, enough to top Dave's 171 and Sterling's 162.

      My thoughts: I'm a big fan of pick-up-and-deliver games, and I thought this one was
      pretty good. I like the twists that the trading provides, and working out the travel
      costs and trying to minimize them was a challenge (one that I, alas, failed, as I think I
      paid toll once more than Jeff or Sterling did, though the extra 20 thalers wouldn't
      have impacted the final score). I know that this game doesn't have the greatest
      reputation in the gaming community, primarily due to its connection with Bohnanza,
      which it honestly bears very little resemblance to, mechanically. But for what it is, it's
      pretty good -- not great, but pretty good.

      With a little time remaining, we pulled out Mystery Rummy #1: Jack the Ripper. This
      is the rummy with the theme of trying to discover and capture Jack the Ripper by
      collecting evidence, identifying suspects and establishing and removing alibis. We
      last played it back on February 18 (see http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/
      trivalleygamers/message/475 )

      In the first hand Jeff drew lots of victims. The Victim card allows you to draw extra
      cards from the draw deck. Jeff had tons of cards, but apparently none of them were
      matching evidence cards. Dave and Sterling meanwhile played some evidence, and
      eventually Dave was able to go out after having removed Montague Druitt's alibi,
      which would give Dave some extra points. The timing was poor for Sterling, however,
      who had just drawn the "Ripper Escapes" card, which when unplayed can produce lots
      of negative points. It did, and Sterling's score for the hand was negative.

      Hand #2, and Jeff had much better cards. Sterling went out, identifying Sir Gull as the
      Ripper, but it was Jeff who had lots of evidence against Sir Gull. In fact, Dave tried to
      get Sterling to alibi Sir Gull, which would have had him go out, but Sterling passed,
      figuring that it'd benefit Dave too much, particularly since he was leading. Like
      Sterling the hand before, though, Jeff was stuck with the "Ripper Escapes" card, which
      hurt his score in this hand. Dave's lead continued to grow.

      The third hand saw Dave going out by playing evidence that ended up pointing the
      finger at "Jill the Ripper". It wound up benefitting Sterling far more than Dave, but a)
      Jeff, who was in second place at the time, was stuck with a good number of cards in
      his hand, and b) Sterling still had some cards that hurt his score. By this time Dave's
      lead was over 45 points, and Sterling had surpassed Jeff's score by one.

      In the last hand there was a lot of jockeying between Dave and Sterling in trying to
      identify the Ripper. Sterling had lots of points on George Chapman, but Dave
      provided his alibi. Sterling cleared it by playing an alibi he dug out with a Scene card,
      but Dave followed suit by getting Chapman's alibi from the discard and re-
      establishing it. Through all this Jeff played meld after meld, and ended up going out,
      collecting a sizeable 32 points in the process. But Dave scored just enough to give
      him 101 points, one beyond the game-end of 100, and it was enough to win over
      Jeff's 66 an Sterling's 56.

      My thoughts: this is a game to which I was introduced about a year and a half ago,
      and I've enjoyed it ever since. Yes, it's rummy, but with enough variation and enough
      control and enough theme that it's a much more rich experience. There are a number
      of other Mystery Rummy versions (Murders in the Rue Morgue, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,
      and Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld), and they all have their place, but I think
      this first one is probably the most involved and most creative.

      Next has the potential to be pretty light, as Jeff mentioned he'd miss, and Sterling will
      have to miss it as well. Look for a roll call early next week to see if we have enough
      to get together, and to see where it will be held (I'm also available to host, Rich).
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