Saturday, November 26, 2005

Tuesday 22nd November - Power Grid/France

Originally uploaded by coljen.
I have played Power Grid only a couple of times but it is a game that I really like, so as it was my choice this week I thought we'd give one of the new maps a run out. France looked like a good bet with the extra nuclear power and slightly different set-up of resources. The triple city of Paris with no connection charges looks a good place to start for the first player to build, but as they warn in the set-up rules this could be a drawback as they will be last to buy resources and build next turn. Anyway Steve went first and snapped up two of the Paris locations and built a third city so did indeed end up last next turn. I started building just to the south west of Paris, Garry to the west and Richard further down south east. This map does give you space to build and nobody got really stuffed. Whereas the Italian map looks really crowded, be interesting to see if that is the case when we do play it. Considering that more uranium is in the initial set-up of resources and a nuclear power plant is the first one off of the deck it seems slightly strange that the uranium is not given more when you re-stock each turn.What was interesting was Richard building cities all over the map but for most of the game, up until the penultimate turn I think, only supplying 5. The right power plants just didn't turn up and there was quite a lot of passing. I think we had 2 rounds where everybody passed and no power plants were bought at all. Actually in the game the nuclear power plants didn't feature much, I had one for a time, Garry had a couple but I don't think Steve or Richard had any. I know I made a couple of mistakes but didn't think I was doing too bad. Nearing the end game Steve, Garry and I could all supply 15 cities and Richard had finally got the one he wanted and went up to 18. I made a big mistake which cost me dear in the end, as I failed to notice the coal resource gradually drying up and when Steve bought it all on the last turn it shut down my power plant that could supply 6 cities. So Richard finally got the win, the first game of Power Grid he had won he told us.

Final Scores (Money is the tie-break)
Richard 18, Steve 15 (60 money), Garry 15 (22 money), Colin 9

Power Grid France - Close up of Board

Originally uploaded by coljen.
This is a close-up of the board around the Paris region. Notice the 3 centre city with no connection costs. As an aside I have just got a new digital camera, an Olympus Mju 600, and these and the pics of Byzantium are the first taken with it. I have to say the macro mode is going to come in really handy. The quality is really good.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tuesday 15th November - Byzantium

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Tonight was a chance for us to tackle Byzantium, the new game from Martin Wallace published by Warfrog. None of us had played before so Steve ran through the rules. This took about 40 minutes. I thought it a bit like Caylus, no not the game but the way the rules looked a bit daunting at first, but once you have got into the game it seems to play quite smoothly. Not to say its an easy game, because you need careful planning of your resources to avoid running out of money to pay the upkeep of your army. Actually we knew that we probably wouldn't finish a complate game so we decided to play to a time limit, not ideal but it gives you a chance to explore the games mechanics and hopefully when we play again everyone will know what they are trying to achieve.

The game is unique in that everyone has a Byzantine and Arab army, and that everything is determined by cubes which represent everything. Your army, movement and special actions all involve utilising your cubes. You have a certain amount of free cubes to use and once these are used up you can use cubes off of your playmat for a cost of 3 money each. Basically you have a certain amount of actions you can perfom during your turn. You can take control of a unowned city, strengthen your army, choose a special action, tax, move an army and fight or not, activate the Bulgars and fortify one of your cities. You take one action each in turn until 3 people have passed then the fourth player gets one more action and that ends the round. You
play 3 rounds.You score points for both your Arab and Byzantine armies, at game end your weakest score must be at least half what your strongest score is otherwise
it doesn't count. A bit Knizia like.I started in the middle but soon got caught in a pincer between Richard and Garry so my cities soon dwindled down. Richard activated the Bulgars (just cos he could) and attacked one of Steve's cities with them. Garry worked his way across the med and Steve attacked my Arab cities.

I think we would all have different ideas next time we play, managing your resources is obviously key in the game. I think there was a lot more attacking as we were playing to a time limit so the scores are not very representative of a full game. Anyway after our first play these where the scores.

Final Scores
Steve 47, Garry 45, Colin 41, Richard 37

Byzantium Board Close Up

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Here is a close up of the board. As you can see the components are very very colourful and high quality.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

AoS - Switzerland close up of board

AoS Switzerland 2
Originally uploaded by coljen.
The Winsome maps are in two parts and sort of laminated thin card. But they do the job. This is the central part of the map showing Zurich and surroundings.

Tuesday 8th November - AoS Switzerland

AoS Switzerland 1
Originally uploaded by coljen.
So this week was one of the new maps from Essen for AoS - Switzerland. Richard, as a AoS fan, has written the report for this one, so take it away Richard:

As it was my turn to choose the game for tonight, after a bit of thought, I decided it would nice to play one of the Age of Steam expansion maps that I acquired from Essen in October. As we going to be 4 players, the Switzerland map seemed ideal as it allows upto a maximum of 4 players.The main differences between the Switzerland map and normal Age of Steam map relate to track building in a mountainous country, the full rule differences can be summarised as follows: Some hexes are greyed out - indicating you can't build in them Some hex borders have dark boundaries - indicating you can't build across them Track building, Track Upgrading, Town Building & Upgrading are all $4 There are several tunnels that automatically get built on Turn 5 There also 3 green cities to which accept deliveries of blocks of any colour In a players have the option to buy back one share for $8 each turnRandomly determining starting order results me starting. Initially I issued 2 additional shares (calculating I would need to pay $6 maintenance & $12 for track building plus some a little bit more for bidding). Bidding $2 on first bid I was a little surprised that none of the other players upped the bid.I choose to increase my train size to 2 - whilst Garry took first build, Steve Urbanisation & Colin Turn Order. For our first builds Garry expanded from La Chaux-de-fonds to Bern via Biel, I connected Schaffhausen, Zurich & St Gallen together via Winterthur, Steve expanded east from Geneva to an urbanised Fribourg whilst Colin connected Basel to Zurich via Aarau.My 2 train gave me an advantage on the first turn as I was able to deliver goods generating a total of 4 income, the other played mostly delivered goods to a value of 2 after manually increasing their train size.As the game progresses I expanded east trying to increase my route length by getting to the yellow city Steve had (kindly) placed on Fribourg (I had access to alot of yellow cube on my eastern cities) whilst Steve attempted to expand his route the other way so that he could deliver goods to Geneva (A green city). Garry tried to do a similar thing to Steve and access more cubes that could be delivered to La Chaux-de-fonds (A green city as well), whilst Colin became stymied because of a lack of good to deliver (Almost going broke at one point).As the game entered its final stages, on turn 5, the tunnels were automatically built allowing easier access to the southern part of the board. Despite this we do not connect to Lugano, which remained isolated from the rest of the board. In fact because of the way the map was designed
there was only ever one route into Lugano and that that only became available once the Gotthard tunnel appeared on turn 5. None of us really felt it was worth the effort in building it (Minimum of 2 turns building).At the end of the game both Steve and I were generally shipping blocks for 5 points, which was generally more than Garry or Colin. As I had issued less shares a generated slightly more income during the game I came out the winner.

I know Colin did not enjoy the game as it went badly for him. I don't know why, but he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to playing Age of Steam.The re-strictive nature of the map (ie the mountains) means there is quite a bit of necessity to pay to use other player's track - which means if you get certain routes first you can generate a bit of cash from other players using it. I also felt the game could have done with a bit of extra play testing, especially as regards the consequences of how certain tile plays can restrict access to certain critical parts of the map (one of the reason I think Lugano was not reached was because of how I placed the Zurich - Luzern link on my second build - effectively making it expensive to reach Zug and therefore the tunnel beyond it on Turn 5).

Now all I need to do is get 7 players together for the Netherlands map I have!!

Final Scores
Richard 111, Steve 85, Garry 37, Colin 34

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Tuesday 1st November - Caylus

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Only three of us tonight as Richard has an early start tomorrow to go to Birmingham. Garry decided that we would give Caylus another go and try to get the rules right this time. We just a quick run through of the bits we misplayed last week and we were off. The game definitely played a lot smoother with the correct rules. The castle took on more significance and the favours tracks were used more as a result. As the game progressed you could see that we were all pursuing different strategies. I used the castle quite a bit to get points and favours, Steve built the bank where you could buy gold blocks and was getting on it and the gold mine whenever possible. The provost was travelling down the track fairly quickly nobody was paying to move him but using the free space to move him quite a bit. Garry got in the Inn early and stayed there quite a long time, the stables were used several times, notably by me on the last turn to go first and be able to build the Cathedral.
Steve had been amassing gold cubes regularly and had enough to build the Monument on the penultimate turn and still had 7 or 8 left I think. I was lucky to get to first in the turn order for the last turn because I think Steve had emough cubes to build another prestige building and that may have got him the win. Meanwhile Garry had been collecting gold and grey cubes getting ready to build a prestige building but never got the chance, but he had enough cubes to put 3 batches in the Castle on the last turn and had four gold cubes as well. That gave him an extra 21 points on the last turn which was enough to give him the win by 6 points.
As I said before the game played a lot better now we had the rules nailed. Steve made the comment that there was not a lot of incentive to screw up your opponents because you give up an opportunity to better your own position which could be critical. I was quite surprised also that as there was only three players the game took about 150 minutes. On the geek someone mentioned about 40 minutes per player so we were way over that.

Final Scores
Garry 78, Colin 72, Steve 70