Monthly Archives: March 2014

Halesowen Board Gamers #9 (19/03/2014)

I just want to briefly say that you should consider supporting Tuscany/MERCS:Recon on kickstarter as they’re both EU friendly and look really awesome =P (Also SDE…but you might get shafted for customs/shipping/taxes…I just want to play it when it’s out ^^).

First of all, I want to apologise to the guys I played with this week as I was a bit woozy, yay illness =P Still, we managed to fit 2 games into the evening and had a good time despite my making a mistake or two!

Archon

We started with Archon, which I’ve been wanting to play for a while but thanks to some minor design flaws (visual) has been difficult to introduce – I’ve got it out twice before with friends and they didn’t want to play past the first or 3 years as it was a bit of a strain to see the pieces on the board. I’ve painted the player pieces so they’re now blue, green, orange & purple rather than black, grey, white & unpainted. I’ve also replaced the resources, black cubes are now black cylinders, grey cubes are silver cubes & unpainted cubes are paper meeple things, the white cubes for stone I left the same – This makes them much easier to recognize representations of the resources they represent, iron, silver, paper & stone respectively. The board still isn’t great with it’s lightly coloured spaces in a light background, & resources are still shown as cubes on it (Might try and make stickers to show the replacement resources more clearly) but I’m happy with the look of it all now and feel it’s playable! ^^.

Archon is a relatively straight forward worker-placement game, in that you’re gathering resources to change into points as you go through the game, but it gives you lots of choices to go about this while having some interesting mechanics regarding the placement of those workers. The game is placed over 9 seasons, with 3 seasons to each year. At the end of each year an attack occurs, followed by a scoring phase I’ll go into shortly. Over those seasons, players gather resources, construct buildings, research science, contribute to religion & train knights to build up the city and set themselves up to receive points.

Before they can get to that however, players need to set up their starting workforce. During the game each player has 10 cards representing such, and at the start of the game everyone has 8 courtiers, with the other 2 needing to be made up from special workers to be ready to go. The options are Merchant (+1 resouce/gold/whatever when visiting certain bouard spaces), Scribe (Take a second action after, but not another scribe), Cleric (Use an action space even if full) & Tax Collector (Anyone visiting a space with a tax collector pays 1 to the player that placed it). There is a chart on the board to represent what each player has and how much each costs, and start resources prevent having 2 of the same at this point. When you take a special worker you also get points, so essentially everyone starts with a few points as this happens first.

With everyone up to 10 cards, players can begin with the game, almost. Each round only uses 5 cards, so first everyone chooses the 5 they want in the coming round – The other 5 will be used the following round, and then they’ll get to pick again in the 3rd, etc. I can see the choices being quite strategic with a few plays, but we were all essentially first-timing it so it was pretty much ‘split them fairly evenly’. We then take turns to place our workers, which we do by discarding cards. The worker placed is determined by what card is discarded, so discarding a merchant card means you’re placing a merchant etc. Some spaces on the board have 2 ‘cards’ shown, and you either need to discard 2 courtiers or 1 special worker to use those action spots. If a player finishes a round with cards left in hand, they move up in the player order for the next round.

The first thing players will want to focus on is getting some resources. Spaces to do so are the repository (Take 1 resource from a small selection which changes each round), the marketplace (2 transactions for buying or selling resources), the barracks (take 1 recruit) & the treasury (Take 2 coins). These spaces are quite tight so being earlier in player order is important to secure them (Particularly if you want to merchant the repository to take 2 resources instead of one). Next is spaces to advance science & religion, which take 1 paper/1 gold & 2 gold respectively, and can be done up to 2 times per placement, in the same vain is a spot to turn recruits into knights (1 recruit + 1 silver into a knight, again can be done twice with 1 placement), all 3 of which are generally important to do once/year at least (for points). The other 2 spaces are the ‘engine-building’ ones, which are the guild (replace a courtier with a special worker – note that this means you never get more workers, just varied ability ones) and the builders merchant, for constructing buildings which give ongoing benefits throughout the game (Such as take 2 paper each season, gain a cube when visiting the market, etc).

Using these things together, players will prepare knights, religion & science which come into affect at the end of the yearFirst off, the city gets attacked and a card is drawn to determine the strength of the attack. If the number is greater than the total knights on the wall between players, the raid is successful and all players lose resources (Equal to attack strength – number of knights) or points if they have no resources to pay. If the number is less than the total knights on the wall, then noone gets hit. After, scoring occurs. Scoring is based on a ‘kings grant’ card (Which everyone can see from the start of the year), and gives points based on science, religion and knights. Each year will bring different demands from the king, and the area he cares most about will be the highest scoring for that year (The card also determines a new marketplace configuration each year). Being able to get the majority in the area he’s interested in is a key point to success in the game. All knights/religion & science is then returned to supply for the next year. After 3 years are up, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins!

Considering I claimed it’s relatively straight forward, that was a lot of explanation, oops! I’m going to try writing a little differently about our game, so not sure hoe well it’ll go… Anyway, firstly I’ll say what I did! My aim at the start of the game was to grab a couple of buildings as well as to try and put out my knights first (You can get a couple of points by doing so). I started with a Scribe & Tax Collector, with the aim being to grab all the important spots before they were lost and deny others from having easy money at the treasury. I managed to get a building to generate paper (2/season) quite early on, but then let myself focus too much on science/religion at this early point to be able to get any other buildings to go with it. I think I got all 3 scoring opportunities in the first year but drew for knights and came last for science. The attack against us was successful as it was 5 to 4, so I lost 3 resources (as did Steve, Stan lost 5). In the second year I decided that as I was finding it hard to get the resources for buildings to go for special workers instead, I got myself to 2 scribes so I’d have one every season, and used them first turn each round to grab 2 actions (With one being the hotly contested repository as I was 2nd place in order of the 3 of us). I tried to make good use of my paper in getting science, but lost the chance to compete over knights (Steve got a building to generate them) so just made the one to get ‘some’ points. As we did the second years attack (Which failed with 3 against 6 knights) and scoring, it became clear that Steve had taken a much better early strategy in the prior year, and pretty much took to competing with Stan, who I was within a few points of. In the last year, I finally went for some additional buildings, getting 2 of the 3rd tier buildings down to get a large chunk of points (One for a straight 9, the other for 2 + number of sp. workers, so 9 again). This managed to take me into second place with a little over 60 points for the end game!

I’m not sure what Stans early focus was, but he mainly kept neck and neck with me throughout the game. We both got a lot of workers, but he got a lot more buildings than me (4 to 1 at one point), however I think he put himself in a difficult position by letting himself stay in last in player order by always using all his workers (I stayed in 2nd after getting pushed back also) – This meant he never got to use the repository very effectively, needing to use a Cleric to go there at all and for slim pickings at that. I think a good number of his buildings in the game were to gain supplies when he placed workers rather than ‘each season’, which I think he missed a few times by mistake (Yay, as he’d probably have kicked my ass otherwise :P). I had a rule wrong so I messed up a scoring opportunity for him at the end, but I don’t think it would have got him ahead of me anyway (Close though), at least we know for next time how it works ^^.

Finally we have Steve, who royally destroyed us in points over the game and was the clear ‘teachers pet’ to the King. Early in the game he rushed a couple of good buildings (Beating me to at least one I wanted, unfortunateuly for me ^^), which had him getting huge amounts of reasources every season. He mostly didn’t bother with special workers until later in the game when I think he just got them out of having spare stuff to dump somewhere more than because he needed to ^^. The first year I think he may have actually been on par/small bit behind us, but he had already started shooting ahead by the second, and was a good 30-40 points over me at the end. Next game I’ll be sure to emphasize the need to rush buildings a bit more, and stare even more at the rules for them as they just feel so, so powerful compared to the special workers (Which I understood to be the sort of ‘alternate engine building’ path.). Very tidy win, it’s just a shame we couldn’t have given him more competition to be racing against!

Gunrunners

Following on from this we had a short gap of time so Stan suggested Gunrunners as the followup game. In this game we’re acting as detective teams trying to bust well…gunrunners, and confiscate the crates of guns they’re smuggling. Each player has a 13 card deck (Symmetric) with a number of agents with values from 1-6, with a few of those having special abilities. Each turn the active player rolls the dice, placing more gun crates into the #players locations that are out, or into ‘the warehouse’ if the number is greater than the number of locations. They then place a card, which can either be as a ‘probationary’ face down agent ready to move in (But not yet counting towards the bust), or a an ‘undercover’ operative directly facedown into a location (Max 1.). When a probationary agent is placed, it flips another players one at that same location face up into the location where their ability if there is one actives immediately. When a location reaches 4 faceup agents, it scores, and in order of highest number at that location players take turns to take half the available cubes (So an 8 cube location gives 4, then 2, then 1). The player who gathers the most cubes by the end of the game (All players run out of cards, or 8 ‘busts’ happen) is the winner, and presumably gets a gold star sticker on the police station wall.

I have absolutely no way of saying how the game progressed, as I wasn’t really thinking particularly strategically at this point of the evening. I can say however that I must have made a couple of mistakes in taking extra turns or something that led me to win, as I ran out of cards before Steve & Stan. Sorry about that, I hopefully won’t be ill next week! =)

Advertisements

Kickstarter Interesting Projects #3 (13th Mar ’14) – Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture & MERCS: Recon

Wow, March is an expensive month! 2 High interest (to me) epic games launched within a day of each other! I’ve backed games from both of these creators before, and while I’ve not yet received Myth it’s expected in a month or so and is shaping up to be very interesting (If apparently a bit in need of an FAQ ^^).

Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture

Stonemaier games, a company/pair of individuals I consider to be the most communicative, friendly creators on the platform, who also find ways to bring great value, are bringing an absolute stunner here, which takes their first game Viticulture to new levels with this Expansion pack. Viticulture is one of my absolute favourite games despite not even being a theme that would normally draw me in, and with these extra modules come something greater than the sum of it’s parts, that is absolute worth looking into. The pack is split into 3 tiers of modules, with the expectation being you unlock a module every 1-3 plays and unlock all of a tier before moving to the next.

The first tier has small impact additions, which work together to smooth out and refine the original game. Mamas & Papas adds variable starting conditions for players, which give people a focus from the start of a game & for me will never be excluded from a game again. Patronage adds a special wine order for each player, which they can fill for a couple of points, and if they fulfill a given condition, a few bonus points on top. Advanced visitors are a new set of cards which are balanced to help out through all stages of the game (Whereas some of the original ones may have had bigger impact earlier or alter). Property cards allow you to sell off fields for money, trading off the space for growing to build up other areas of your vineyard. These come together brilliantly, adding unique player powers & strategy and vastly improving the replayability of the game.

In the second tier are a few heavier impact changes which greatly change the feel of the game. First up is the extended game board, which takes the 2 season play to 4 seasons and adds some new action spaces. The extra seasons make being 1st stronger, but this is balanced by bigger bonuses for going later in player order, a very interesting thing to think about indeed. Special workers are new unique workers that cost a little bit extra but each provide a unique power to the player, 2 are used per game and make for even more unique plays. Finally there are an additional set of visitors, which have more complex interactions than before making for tougher chocies for those you want it.

Finally comes the third tier, which consists of ‘one-at-a-time’ expansions which add to the player boards and bring new elements to the game to consider alongside the making of wine. Arboriculture (Which was also available in the original kickstarter) adds ‘arbors’, which is to say lets you grow tomato’s, apples & olives to add to orders, which also introducing the concept of worker morale, which should be kept high to ensure success. Formaggio, the ‘cheese’ expansion, gives players cows to milk and process into cheese, which can be added to orders or sold individually, but has a management aspect to consider that it may go off if kept around too long!

This is just what’s available so far, with stretch goals adding yet more content to this awesome looking expansion to a great game. If you are at all into worker-placement games, I consider this a must have, and if you love wine on top you should certainly consider giving it a look! The game is scheduled to ship to backers for November, and I fully expect it to have aged wonderfully in that time ^^.

MERCS: Recon

Going a little bit up on the price scale is this intriguing looking miniatures game from Megacon Games. I first heard of these guys when I discovered (and subsequently backed) their campaign for their cooperative fantasy dungeon crawl Myth last year, and was drawn in by the quality and care they take to their products. While I won’t have Myth myself for another month or two, shipping has begun for American backers and it sounds like the game is as excellent a quality as I’d hoped if with perhaps a few shortcomings on rules clarity. Throughout that time they’ve been communicative and friendly, and that’s let me to looking into this new project from them.

In MERCS: Recon, players act as mercenaries infiltrating a ‘megacon’, where they must fight through narrow hallways to capture & interrogate employee’s or find and secure objectives. The game is set in their MERCS universe, an interesting near-future scifi setting with advanced weapons and technology.

The map for each game is created with a variety of tiles which fit together in a variety of ways to create a different layout each time you play. These different layouts will lead to the need for differing tactics as you fight your way through the office, as well as setting up situations where you might want to damage the environment  (Yes, destructive environments!) to open up new routes or even pass between floors to make your way to the objective of that particular scenario.

The endpoint of each game seems to result in what the Megacon guys are referring to as a ‘Breach and Clear’ situation. It’s not really clear to me what the point of this is, but you have an expanded tile to ‘zoom in’ on the action and play out the finale in some epic way (I hope it’s epic anyway ^^). Presumably some scenario’s change this up, with talk of civilian capture scenarios and more.

I’m not quite 100% on my interest in this one, but one backers comment summed up what I want from this nicely – a futuristic style board game that plays out like the popular video game Counter Strike (In fact, I’m hoping for some outdoor tiles that might help me to recreate cs_office ^^. If that sounds like the kind of thing you might be interested in I encourage you to browse on over to the kickstarter page and see what you think!

Ok I’ll shush in a moment. These are some pretty expensive kickstarters and they’re going to be putting me out of budget for games for a while, but I hope of some interest to you as the reader of this post! Again, if you’re interesting in Tuscany and in the area, come along to halesowen board games next week and I’ll show you how it plays, and if you back Recon and want to see their other project then come along to try out Myth when that arrives in a month or two! Till then, byeeee! ^^.

Halesowen Board Gamers #8 (12/03/2014)

Halesowen – 12/03/2014

This week at Halesowen I was going to hang around and let someone else suggest games again, but master-organizer Mike split the highly undecisive half of the room I was in up to groups with me providing a game for 4 of us from that group. Mark showed interest in playing Belfort, as I had the box out as a result of picking up Belfort: The Expansion Expansion, so out it came (Without the expansion, mind, I need a chance to learn how it works before I throw it at people, particularly with new players ^^). The players for both games were: Mark, Ian, Stan & Me.


Belfort

Belfort is a worker-placement game where players are vying to me the most influential participant in building up the city of Belfort. The game is played over 7 rounds, and 3 of these, the 3rd/5th & 7th are scoring rounds. When scoring, players get points based on majority participation in the 5 segments of the city, (5/3/1 points awarded to 1st/2nd/3rd place respectively) and then points for most workers of the 3 types – Elves, Dwarves & Gnomes, with 1st place earning 3 points and 2nd place earning 1 point – There’s no 3rd here. The big caveat here being that scoring points also leads to paying taxes, with each 5 points taking you up a tax bracket (Paying 1 more money per round in taxes), this makes it so after the 3rd round players need to start being careful to ensure they have enough money to spare, or lose victory points if they don’t!

Each round takes place in a number of phases. The first of these is placement, where players can place their workers on the variance ‘plank’ spaces on the board & their own properties. Available in every game are ‘Recruit a worker for 2 money’ and ‘Switch Player Order’ spaces, the former of which has more spaces available for higher player counts (resulting in 3 players being far tighter for workers than 4/5). There are also 5 ‘guilds’ which have spaces available, which are different every game and provide the big variability in the game. In our game, we had 2 resource guilds (4 Wood, 2 Iron respectively), 2 Basic Guilds (‘Place a coin under a property to make it worth 50% more for majorities’ & ‘Recruit an Elf, Dwarf or Gnome’) and 1 Interactive Guild (Gain 1 Coin + Receive 1 resource from each player with less walls than you). The rulebook has suggestions for the distribution of basic/interactive/resource but I just go with 2B/2R/1I as it’s fairly easy to pick up for new players. It should be noted that you don’t immediately get the benefits when you place a worker, that comes later.

When a player passes out of the placement phase, they distribute their remaining workers (And there will be some) across 4 resource gathering spaces. These spaces provide wood (But requires Elves only), stone (Requires Dwarves only), iron (Requires an elf + dwarf) or coins (Either). These give you a straight 1:1 of number of workers to resources, but whoever has the most workers (Ties don’t count) gets one bonus resource, so it can be worth it to stagger your needs so you can take majorities and get those additional resources. (Also, this is one of the elements of the game which benefits you to be last, as it’s easier to work out where you can nab/block a bonus from other players).

Once everyone has passed and distributed their workers to the collection area, placement is over and the collection phase begins. Players take their workers back from the collection area and take the resources they’re due (Including bonus if they had the majority), as well as taking an extra worker if they invested in one (Not from the guild as that’s on the city board) and order-rearrangement. At the end of this phase, players receive income and pay taxes. Income is from properties, and some of those that you can build have a coin icon in the top corner. Taxes are, as I mentioned earlier, based on your score, so if you scored high early, you’d best be sure you can afford to pay for it now!

Following this comes the action phase. Going in (potentially different to placement as it changes in collection) player order. In this phase a player can build properties, walls or guilds (Spend resources & place one of your house pieces in the city to represent it’s yours), visit the trading post (Buy 1 thing and sell 1 thing), retrieve workers (Getting their benefit at this time) and buy a gnome (one/round) for 3 coins. These can all be done in any order, then at the end of their turn can buy 1 property card (3 are face up, or can take a random) for 1 coin if desired. Being 1st in this phase helps you avoid interactive ‘steal resources’ abilities by running yourself dry, but being last means you’re building properties last and have an easier time getting majorities in the various sectors in the city.

When teaching the game I suspect I placed too much emphasis on early scoring making things difficult for the players. I say this because the first thing everyone did (Including me, to be fair) was place 2 properties in an area away from other players. Ian was the first (I think) to spread out a little. As a result of the ‘gain a worker’ guild I went for a focus on rushing for a lot of workers in this game over getting buildings. The first round of scoring put Ian out into the lead with his wider spread of property placements, me & Stan in the middle of the pack, and Mark at the back who very much avoided getting early taxes. (I think it was something like 3/turn for Ian, 2/turn for Me/Stan & 1 for Mark).

As the game moved forward, I continued to spam workers and tried to keep the space blocked so that noone could contend me for those points, while also taking the space that improved my properties to be worth more for majority as I wasn’t able to build as many. Mark set himself up with a wall to take resources from players so I made sure to build a couple of walls to keep myself protected (As well as get majorities), the side-effect of this is my stack of workers usually just went to gather money so I could pay my tax (Most properties provide income, walls don’t). Ian managed to get out a lot of properties and spread them around (Not many more, but I think he had the most). I think Stan was focused on propeties too, but he was being a little quieter so I’m afraid I missed a lot of what he was going for (Sorry!).

As we moved into the last season (So just after the 2nd scoring phase where our taxes get really quite high) Ian maintained his lead, while I stayed fairly close behind and Mark managed to capitalize on his lower taxes before to build enough for a big jump to catch up with the pack. I got a bit worried through this bit as the territories I was in got quite highly contested, but the extra strength of my buildings from getting that guild every turn in the game helped me keep up enough to do ok. I’m not sure who of Mark/Ian & Stan got the most points from area majorities in the last round, but I believe Ian/Mark got ahead of me until we counted up worker majorities, where my 6elves/6dwarves (Or 7, not sure) net me 3 points each and caught me up to Ian for a tie in first place. Strictly I won from having more resources left over (I tried to gamble with the thieving guild but just got tons of wood when I needed but 1 stone!) but I decided to share the key-to-the-city, for now! Mark was close behind and Stan wasn’t much behind him either (I think that’s the right order anyhow).

Smash Up

Following Belfort, we had roughly an hour left so I suggested Smash Up and some interest was shown so I grabbed the box to play. I have some ‘selector’ cards which me & my girlfriend made to make setup a little more random with a draft for each players 2 factions (As the standard rule tends to result in the same faction combo’s every single game). This left me as Alien Locals, Stan as Robotic Bears, Ian as Elder Carnivourous Plants & Mark as Steampunk Cultists.

If you’re not familiar with the game, the reason we each had 2 factions are because we take those 2 decks and shuffle them together to play, hence the slightly random sounding pairs! Each deck has a number of minions/actions (Usually 10 of each) and those are played throughout the game to try and capture ‘bases’. Each base has a breakpoint, an effect and some scores. When the power of all minions on the base is over the breakpoint, the scores are distributed to players depending on how much power they had there. The effects vary, and could be when minions are played, when it scores, etc. Each turn, players can play 1 minion and 1 action, which may allow them to do further and more interesting effects based on what the card says.

The start of the game set the precent, with Marks cultists stacking him with madness & Ian doling out even more besides with a byakhee on a base we shared. We shared that base because Stan moved one of my minions there of course (And that particular base soon became ridiculous, with 5+ actions on it and a ton of minions, which took ages to capture as the plants overgrowth card nerfs everyone elses minions by 1 power). Mark made the understandable mistake (First time with cthulhu) of using a fair few madness cards to draw cards rather than returning them to the deck, I generally flailed a bit as my minions/actions just wouldn’t synergise and Stan/Ian did pretty well through the first half of the game.

Sometimes that can change, but on this case it was actually a pretty consistent in that Ian & Stan continued to do well at grabbing bases. Most of Ians madness cards came to me & mark thanks to neat choices made by Stan, particularly in where he placed and where he moved minions to (I.e. making it less attractive for Ian to use a Byakhee on bases he was on so he got less madness from it). I continued to struggle, and while I got a base to 10 power without anyone else bothering to compete for it couldn’t quite capture (I had an action that would have made it 15 but didn’t seem to be able to get enough power there until nearly the end of the game for it actually work). A base came out at one point that could have removed all of Marks madness and catapulted him to compete with Ian, but as I had a terraform card I used it to prevent this and hoped it might delay the game long enough for me to start scoring points (Which it turns out was fated not to be).

We started running out of time near the end of the game, and reduced the playspace to make things go faster (When the last few bases scored we didn’t replace them). I managed to get the base I was going for on my own I think to take 3 points, as well as contributing to another, but this only got me to 9 points for the end. Ian got his ‘2 madness cards to every player’ card right near the end which made it extra difficult for us all as we had to waste actions getting rid of it, and Stan, while he did quite well, didn’t quite get enough points down to take the lead off of him. At the end of the game I think Stan had 1/2 madness, I had 4 (Reducing me to 5 points, waaaah), and Mark had well, lots, but had a lot more points than me and finished on I think 7. Ian took the victory here, so congratulations to Ian ^^.

That’s all for now, although I’m probably going to make a post soon about a couple of kickstarter projects if anyones interested in crowdfunding some stuff (Tuscany & MERCS: Recon). If anyone who goes to halesowen each week is interested in Tuscany I can set up a game next week with prototype bits ^^. Cheers!

Halesowen Board Gamers #7 (05/03/2014)

Russian Railroads

This week I opted to avoid playing my own games if anything else caught my fancy. Russian Railroads is just such a game that I’ve seen a Rahdo Runs Through video for, and found myself wishing I could try it out without quite being able to fit it in my budget for games! Thankfully that’s not a barrier when I remember that other people have games too ;)

Explanation for this one took a little while, as there’s a lot to the game with a ton of spaces to go, bonuses to earn, tracks to follow, etc. Each player in the game has a personal player board with 3 train tracks and an industry track, with players being likely to focus on 2 of these 4 things (Probably a 3rd too, but unlikely to finish it). The first track is a long one, reaching from Moskow to Vladivostok, and is where the biggest focus will be if you want to score by building railway, as it has a number of spots for ‘x2’ tiles which double the values of track in those places. The second track goes from Moskow to St Petersburg, and has good options for picking up bonuses (Of which there are 7 unique ones available) as well as a x2 multiplier for the whole line (But it doesn’t support the best quality rails). The 3rd track runs Moscow to Kiev, and scores points for having black track down (Which is normally 0), or a higher-than-average score for grey by taking a bonus that could net you 20 points/turn. The last track isn’t for rails, and instead traces your industry. Moving this track forwards gives you straight bonuses for victory points, as well as triggering factories which you can place along the way (Which also let you jump over gaps in the track).

The big caveat is that you don’t automatically score for advancing this tracks! Throughout the game you need to obtain trains and factories which you’ll place by your board to be able to advance the tracks and capitalize on them. For the rails, this means putting a train to the left of the track (Or 2 for the big line), which then lets you score up to a certain number of spaces along the line. For industry it lets you get over gaps while also proving unique bonuses for when the industry marker(s) pass over them. These 2 things get better throughout the game, but are extremely tight! There are only 3 spaces on the board to get trains or factories, and 4 people to compete over them!

The next big thing about the rails, is that there are various qualities of rail to build. At the start of the game, you have only black tracks, which are worth 0 points a piece and are mainly for unlocking extra stuff (Like the other track types!) as you advance them along the line. You will then get Grey, Brown, Blank and White tracks which are worth more points respectively. The higher quality tracks are build over previous ones, and can’t go ahead, so you must advance the black track along if you want to advance the grey, and the grey along if you want to advance the brown etc, hence making the higher quality rails very difficult to advance particularly far from their starting point.

The game is played over 7 rounds (Less in a 2 player game) with each round being tracked by how many engineers are remaining. The engineers are an ‘available once-per-round’ resource that provide a unique action space for their owner, with the upcoming engineers being available to everyone for a short amount of time. Each round, one player only will get to obtain the latest available engineer, making them a scarce commodity. They cost money however, and money is extremely scarce in russian railroads with only a single space to gain it, that only provides 2 at a time. Money does have an advantage that it can be played as if it was a worker, as well as to a few unique spots which require it (So many rounds the first placement is that saught after take 2 money space). In addition, the player with the most engineers at the end of the game gets a nice bonus of 40 points, and the player with 2nd most gets 20 (Ties are broken by a number on each engineer), so sometimes it can be good to grab one even if it’s not particularly useful to you. At the end of each round is a scoring phase, which is based on your rails and industry so far. As a result the scoring has a cumulative effect so you score more each round than the last (Which has a great feel-good feeling of advancing your setup).

The last 2 things of importance are turn order and bonuses. Turn order is hugely impactful in the game as going first/second gives you good chances at getting valuable money or the rounds engineer, in fact where some games I try to not worry about being in 4th, in this I really had to think about when take the action space to shift myself into first to be able to pickup the commodities I needed most. The bonuses are shown on little tiles of which each player has 7 (Each player has an identical set). Each of these can only be used once, with a number of places on their boards giving them access to them (I believe there’s 4 chances to get one of your bonuses), all are very strong, being worth, on average, 15-20 points at the end of the game, making them worth picking up (Although points go into the 2-4 hundred range so less than you might think!)

*Breathes* So that’s roughly how the game goes, with spaces on the board being to advance rails, industry, take 2 money, take 2 temp-workers or take the engineer. Some spaces take more than 1 worker with players starting on 5 and potentially getting up to 7 later in the game. Things are tight, and only one can succeed!

At the start of our game, I made a decision to go for industry, as I presumed (Correctly it would seem) that the other players would compete over advancing and scoring through their railroads. I started in last place and stayed there a couple of rounds where I could still pick up what I wanted thanks to the reduced competition for it. Early on this worked well and I had the lead for the first half of the game thanks to industry points happening early on. Mike seemed to focus on advancing his main rail while picking up some industry on the side to gain x2 multipliers through factories he’d picked up. Gordon went very all-rounder, advancing all tracks (Partly for the extra workers) throughout the game, as well as going for industry. Scott focused completely on his rails, with the majority of his focus being on the main track and getting the maximum rail quality onto it.

A couple of years in I decided I wanted to go for an upcoming engineer as it had a space for 2 industry with one worker, which for me and me focus on industry looked like a perfect match. I took first place and grabbed the engineer, planning to pretty much ignore the rest. Subsequently however I managed to get the 2 money space and double it up using my first factory, so I had lots of money which I decided to use for another engineer, (In the end I got 3). Mike struggled to get money and I think the first time he went first he took a different action (Not sure which), which seems to be a risky plan in this game as the money is just so important. Around the middle of the game Scott managed to get his rails to blank which with his x2 multipliers up the start of the track really got worrying. Mike had a lot of x2’s down but just didn’t quite have a high enough quality of track on it to do so well, and Gordon was in a similar situation.

As we came into the last couple of years, Scott had leaped out ahead of me with his x2 increased value tracks (One of the ? bonuses is to increase the value of the better rails). It was hard to appreciate a focus on rails until that point where it got suddenly very scary ^^. I managed to catch up a little after a factory got discarded that gave points for your engineers (Of which I had 3 thanks to the money boost), I made use of activating bonuses through the st-petersburg line to get a second industry token and run it past my factories a second time, giving me some bonuses I didn’t expect and getting me the nice engineer bonus a second time. Gordon managed to finish his 2 shorter rails off getting some nice bonus points while Mike got his main rail to a point it could score well, but a little too late (The lower quality tracks were advanced very far, which I’m not sure is worth it, not for the grey rails at least). Scott got a ridiculous amount of points in these last couple of rounds, with 5 maximum quality rails doubled in value to 20 a piece, 100 points just from those 5 tracks! (Vs my 45 from industry, which would have maxed at 55 leaving me to rely on other sources for the extra points).

Russian Railroads

Russian Railroads

The game finished far from close, with Mike at 237, Gordon at 260, Myself on 345 Scott finishing on a whopping 379! I’m a bit suspicious that the game leans too heavily towards players focusing on one thing with the 2 all-rounder players being far behind, but I think with a little experience the scores will draw a lot closer (Gordon mentioned that his first game had players scores much closer in fact, with a similar array of different tactics). I know I made a couple of mistakes that could have got me a little higher up, and Gordon noted a few times that he’d done silly mistakes too. It was a learning experience though and I hope to play again sometime trying for rails perhaps instead of industry. Thanks for the play Gordon! =)

PS: Apologies for the shocking image quality..dust between the lens and case of my phone means it thinks it’s permanently night time, and I’m bad at manual settings ;)

Weekly Gaming 04/03/2014 (+ Halesowen #6)

This last week has been slightly different, in that I probably played more video games than board games! On Friday night I hosted a small LAN party for some of my friends from University and had an evening making lots of noise in our overfilled lounge ^^. I did still play board games of course, and even managed to slip one in with some of those video-gamer friends :)

Wednesday – Halesowen Board Gamers

At halesowen this week we once again played a game of Viticulture. On this occasion it was a highly overloaded game with a lot of extra content to try out, and I’m very appreciative that James, Phil & Andy were up for playing despite a lot of it being a bit ‘print+play’ ^^.

As I’ve left it a bit long I forget how the games flow went, but there’s a few points I remember about how things went. First of all we had a very worker-heavy game, with all players hitting the maximum of 6 workers, which is something that’s not happened before when I’ve played Viticulture. The extra spots available make it a little more worth it to take this tactic, but I think that a player staying to 4 or 5 could still have kept up just fine.

Another interesting thing is that every player got and used the Yoke. I think this is in part as a result of 2 (3?) of the players having all 3 of their fields populated with vines, and the only way to make use of that was to have an extra harvest opportunity. I was making use of it so that I could worry about using other actions in that season, such as making wine rather than getting the grapes for it. I might not have bothered, but a visitor card gave me 1VP per $2-$3 building, so it seemed worthwhile to have all 3 that fit that description.

For the first few years I didn’t get my vines planted, as I was never able to take the plant 2 spot (James did the same too), I think this was a mistake as I had extra orders at the end that I just didn’t have time to fill. When I did get them planted however I managed to have a well balanced pair of fields, with my 3rd being sold off for money. I spent a couple of years gathering grapes/wine and was prepared to start filling orders when it suddenly dawned the game would end within a year or two! My first order fullfillment was the 2nd to last year, and while I’d got VP’s from some other sources I was at the back of the pack and 2nd-to-last in the pick order for placements.

I opted to go last, and avoided using workers as much as possible (I used one to harvest and one to make wine, keeping the other 5 free), this let me sell wine (Only for 2VP but last year so worth it ^^) and after everyone else passed step in and take both fill order spaces putting me just behind 2 of the other players. Some end game scoring put all 3 of us on 27VP! Andy T was fortunate enough to have more money left over and win the tie-break, so well done for that!
Friday – LAN Party

On Friday I hosted a LAN party for myself and 6 of my friends from University. The first task of the evening was to actually fit everyone in, which I probably should have thought about beforehand! In the end it involved moving just about the whole room around, and nicking a small table from my housemates room leaving us with 5 on one table and 2 on the other, huzzah! :P

I had originally hoped to place Space Cadets before we got computers and such set up, but as we had 7 people and not 6 or less I figured it was best not to push it ^^. Instead, the first game we played was League of Legends with 3 of us while we waited for others to patch as they played other games. It was an ARAM game where we happened to get a comically overpowered team to shred the other side (Something like Lux, Ezreal, Nidalee, Soraka, +1) without needing to get close and having heals to boot.

When all players (Except one who isn’t much of a LoL lover) were patched up, we queued up and had a couple of games of Hexakill. This is a temporary game mode where the game goes 6vs6 instead of the standard 5vs5, which breaks down the ‘metagame’ and leads to hilarity where everyone isn’t quite sure how to arrange themselves best. Our first game had me & Handy top lane as Viktor and Wukong respectively, where we did pretty well (Well..Handy did, but my pick was rushed thanks to Grant ignoring me in picking..-_-). The enemies mid laner got pretty fed on Yasuo (Or jungler, not sure) making him pretty terrifying for a good while, but who ultimately built too squishy so he didn’t last long enough to do too much. We won the game thanks to some good teamplay/split-pushing!

Our second game we went with silly-mode in that we played team-yordle. This was something like Tristana, Lulu, Heimerdinger, Amumu, Kennen & Teemo. This might have gone ok, but I was against Ziggs and got absolutely trashed, thanks to his not needing to worry about turrets with his long range. I’m not sure how well the other lanes went, but as our jungler helped them instead of me despite my comments I presume they were poor too. We lost in the end as we just couldn’t quite draw the game on long enough (I think that another 5 minutes and we could have caught up enough to turn the tide, but that advantage from the early game hurt too much. The other teams long-range ult comp was a bit of a pain too, Ashe ult into 5 others…insta death.

Following this, we changed to a different game to get Dave involved (The absentee from LoL). The game we went for was Artemis, and this time Ash abstained, leaving us again with 6 (I don’t generally want to play Artemis but it’s more fun to play it with others than play solo In a¬† corner to be honest!). We had a number of games, and I got to try out Comms, Weapons & Helm in that time, which were all fairly fun, although I spent more time tabbed out of the game than not when playing as commons. We won 3 games I believe out of 4, with Handy being the captain in the failed game. The last one we switched from jump drive to warp drive (I’d had helm a second time in a row) which I found a lot of fun for navigating around obstacles in traveling places.

With that done, 3 of us in the room started up a game of openra, which for whatever reason noone else wanted to do (I don’t get the rts hate with this group, *;(*). This was me, Dave & Shakespeare, with Me & Dave as allies and Shakespeare as Soviets I think, plus one computer player who I pretty much didn’t see ^^. Dave dominated the game, as for one thing he seemed to actually know what he was doing. I sat in a corner and occasionally threw things at people as I had a reasonable economy built up, and Shakespeare got pretty screwed in his corner as he didn’t know about capturing oil rigs for the extra income :S

Everyone just sort of split into different games then, ‘War Thunder’ seemed to get played a lot, and Shakespeare who was next to me played some planetside 2. We sorted a game of Red Alert 2 out a bit later on, which ended up just being me & Dave vs AI – we were going to do a bigger game but I think people had difficulty getting it setup, so maybe next time. We lost anyway, probably because I’m really bad at Red Alert! My chrono legionnaires took down a lot of enemies though!

After sleeping, we got some more individual games on before packing up, and I took the opportunity to suggest a board game. With just me, Handy, Dave & Shakespeare remaining we played Carcassonne. It was a fairly friendly game with us playing that fields were worth only 2/city instead of 3, and one where Handy managed to take the victory, damnit Handy! ;)

Sunday – Afternoon Play

The problem with afternoon play is that if you don’t get there right on time, it’s a bit short to do much. We went on Sunday and only actually played one game, with an American guy who was called Jordan or John, not really sure as we both heard different things =P We played Smash Up which he picked up very fast. I was Steampunk Locals, Grace was Miskatonic Zombies and Jordan/John played Wizard Tricksters. The game was pretty tight at the end, with all 3 of us being within a turn of taking victory, but J managed to take it just ahead of me, thanks to lots of screwing me over the game (God damn tricksters :P). Despite my faction I barely managed to keep actions on bases! Good game though.

In the evening me & Grace played a game of Carcassonne while watching Lord of the Rings. I managed to get a lot of cities but really messed up with using all my meeples, missing a couple of good scoring opportunities. Grace neatly took the victory something like 90-70 ish I think! Highlight of the night is that she enjoyed LoTR, great success!

Fun week as always. looking forward to Halesowen tomorrow and whatever other gaming opportunities come up! Till then…um…bye or something ;)