Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tuesday 23rd May - Age of Steam/China Map

Here I am in Austria having a really wet holiday. This must be the wettest May in Austria for a very long time. Still we are enjoying the Tiroler Grostle!!! So Richard has taken over as guest blogger this week, and his report for AoS China is below.

As Colin was away on Holiday (Hopefully enjoying the delights of Austria) the remaining three of us, Steve, Garry and myself, decided that might be a good idea to take the opportunity to play Age of Steam (Basically not one of Colin's 'preferred' games).

The only choice was which board to play?

As I seem to have acquired a considerable selection of Age of Steam boards over the past few years I emailed out to Steve & Garry the following board options (* Indicates we or I have played it before):

Austria*, Switzerland* & The Netherlands

France* & Italy

The Moon & Reunion Island

Western US & Germany*

Ireland* & England*

Northern California & 1830's Pennsylvannia

Northeastern USA & South Africa

China & South America

Scandinavia & Korea
My preference was to play the China map, but as it was Steve’s choice this week it was his decision, luckily without any prompting from me he decided he wanted to play the China map as well.

With the China map the main differences from the normal map is that all your track must be contiguous to one of the costal cities, plus to connect to any new city you must pay cash equal to the value of it’s goods replenishment number (ie 1 to 6). The last rule was really constricting early in the game as it meant you had to be especially careful with you money and track building.

Other minor differences included changes to the engineer (to connect to new cities at half cost), a Russia hex that generates one good cube from the goods cup each turn , having an additional ‘personal forune’ of 10 cash at the game start and Peking being the only Purple city (The new Purple city being removed from the game).

Once we had the set the board up, it became obvious that there weren’t many

Initial income generating routes. Basically I started down in Hanoi and built up to Chung King via Kwei Yang whilst Steve expanded from Wai Hai Wei via Luancheng to Peking and Garry east from Tsin Tao. A miscalculation on Garry’s side meant he missed out on the early income generation opportunities (Going back one the income chart in turn 2 I think).

As the game progressed I created in ‘Circular/flexible’ route in the south western area of the map, Steve linked many of the coastal cities and pushed into my south western monopoly whilst Garry expanded into the north east.

Having a circular route in the south east (Hanoi, Kwei Yang, Chung King, Si-an, Lan Chow, Cheung Tu, Kung Ming & back to Hanoi) gave me a great deal of flexibility as it allowed me greater flexibility in delivering goods (Basically you can send a good ‘the long way around’ if it is directly next to a city of the same colour) – this coupled with a 6 train at the end of the game meant it was impossible to stop me delivering for 6 each delivery phase.

As a matter of general Age of Steam strategy, I am of the strong belief that train size and a flexible network (The circular route above being a prime example) are the keys to winning at Age of Steam.

For most of the game Steve seemed to be deliberating whether he should connect to Russia to get at all the goods that had accumulated there. However he decided that he needed to remove the goods on my railway instead (to reduce my income generation abilities) – so expanded towards me instead. He was still generating quick a bit of cash but never enough close the gap – either by removing goods that were of value to me or by shipping them for income himself.

Garry, stymied by his initial miscalculations, was only able to deliver goods of large value towards the game end – by which time both Steve and I had opened up to large a gap.

The final scores were

Richard 161

Steve 131

Garry 81

All in a all a very good game, personally I really enjoyed the China map, the need to pay to get into cities was a really good game mechanic – on more than one occasion we found we really couldn’t build where we wanted to because we simply did not have the cash to do so (Don’t bid so much next time Steve …)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cleopatra - overall view

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Overall view of the board and market.


Originally uploaded by coljen.
Close up of the garden mosaics.

Tuesday 16th May - Cleopatra

Originally uploaded by coljen.
So, tonight we were playing Cleopatra, I had been looking forward all week to this game. Having read differing reports about it I wasn't really sure what to expect. But be assured there is a game there under all the flash, and a good game too. I particularly liked the way the deck of cards is shuffled half up and half down gving a twist to drawing cards. Clearly management of your tainted cards are very important. When you see the result you will gather that this is a skill I haven't quite mastered yet.
Building is the name of the game and there are wondrous obilisks, sphinxes and gardens to build. But the order in which you build them can enormously affect the number of talents you get or give your opponents the chance to score more. The mosaics are quite an important part of the game (as I found out to my cost). If you can capture a sactuary or two it enables you to get rid of a number of corruption amulets at the game end equal to the number of squares in your sanctuary. I think Richard discarded 10 corruption in this way. I didn't manage to get any sanctuaries and this was a crippling factor in me being fed to the crocodiles. Of all the resources it seems that lapis lazula is the most precious. It is needed to build the throne and pedestal, the garden mosiacs and the door. Of these I think the garden mosiacs are the most important. So it is advisable to get lapis yourself and try to deny it to your opponents.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing and look forward to playing again. Even though I ended up crocodile bait.

Final Scores (Talents + Corruption)
Garry 41 (6), Richard 37 (1), Steve 36 (5), Colin Crocodile Bait - 44 (13)

You will see that although I had the most talants I was the most corrupt by some way. If your going to be corrupt you might as well be really corrupt. :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tuesday May 9th - Thurn und Taxis

Originally uploaded by coljen.
As I said before Garry had sent to Adam Spielt with an order for some games which came with their usual prompt service. Garry's choice tonight so not surprisingly he choose one of the games he ordered, Thurn und Taxis. This Andreas and Karen Seyfarth designed game is about connecting stagecoach routes across europe has many mechanics that players of Ticket to Ride will find familiar. Cards are laid out with city names and you choose from the display or choose a blind one off of the stack. You lay your cards in front of you to form a route and then claim it when you are ready. That said I found the game very pleasing, not to simple with plenty of tactical options and opportunities for clever play. I particularly liked the special action where you can change all six cards on the display, as Steve was to my left I'm not sure he found it so good!!
The play flows fairly quickly and you should get a game in the box time of 60 minutes. There are bonuses for getting coach houses in all regions and all cities in one region and so on. All in all a solid design that all our group would be happy to play again. None of us had played before except Steve who had played it once at BayCon so perhaps this reflected in the final scores.

Final Scores
Steve 23, Colin 16, Richard 14, Garry 6

Next week - Cleopatra

Originally uploaded by coljen.
I had one game in the Adam Spielt order, Cleopatra. This Days of Wonder production is truly a wonder to look at. The quality of the production is up to the usual Days of Wonder standard. So after our game of Thurn und Taxis we decided to give it the once over. The pic shows how many bits in the game. Next week we will have our first game and hope the game is as good as the presentation.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Tuesday May 2nd - Industrial Waste

Originally uploaded by coljen.
Back to 4 again this week and Richard chose Industrial Waste. A 2001 game by Jürgen Strohm published by Hans Im Glück/Rio Grande Games. The theme is energy production and you have manage your manpower and energy production against the amount of pollution you produce. Obviously pollution is bad so you must try and keep that to a minimum. You can enlarge your factory to get more euros each time you produce, reduce your manpower (get more efficient) and reduce the amount of pollution you produce with each order. The turns are card driven, columns of 3 cards, one for each player plus one, are laid out and the starting player for the round has first pick. Then round the table clockwise. Then you each play a card and action it until you run out of cards or pass. You are allowed to keep one card for the next round. The cards do various things like reduce your pollution, auction barrels, decrease your manpower, barrels needed for an order or pollution (innovation), give pollution to other players and so on.
When a player has moved their factory to the last space on the board the game ends. Of course there are accidents, if the accident card is turned over each player in the yellow or red areas on the pollution scale have to pay 5/10 million euros and move their factory back 1 or 2 spaces. I must admit when Steve was explaining the rules it did seem a bit messy, but after playing 1 round it seemed to fall into place (as a lot of games do!!). I really enjoyed it after that and would gladly play again.
Richard had bought Tittica along as well hoping we might get in a game, but we had run out of time for this week.
Garry has sent an order off to Adam Spielt for some games for us all and these should have arrived by next week. So I think Thurn und Taxis may hitting the table.

Final Scores (Factories, Workers, Production, Pollution, Money, Total)
Richard 20 - 15 - 10 - 15 - 11 = 71
Colin 19 - 6 - 15 - 15 - 9 = 64
Garry 19 - 3 - 15 - 10 - 12 = 59
Steve 16 - 6 - 15 - 15 - 3 = 55