On Saturday night I invited a friend over to join me, Grace & my housemate Ken to play some board games. It was quite late already, but the only different that made was that we had a few beers over the night ^^. I wanted to introduce people to something new, so while Grace has played it plenty, I went with Ticket To Ride: Europe, as while it’s a very well known gateway game, it’s not one that Ken or Handy had tried yet, and I recently got it in a trade so wanted to give it a play!
Ticket To Ride: Europe
The Ticket To Ride series are set-building route-claiming games, where players vie to fulfill ‘destination tickets’ that are drawn at the start of the game, by drafting sets of coloured train cards to then play in sets of colour to take individual routes on the board. If a player manages to reach the start and end point of a destination ticket, then at the game he/she receives the
number of points shown on the card, if he/she doesn’t fulfill those requirements, then they become negative points against his/her score. Each turn a player can either claim a route by discarding a set and placing his trains on the board (Each player has 44, game ends when someone is down to 2 or less), takes 2 cards from the 5 available face-up, or random from the pile (Or only 1 if it’s a rainbow wildcard faceup) or takes an additional 3 destination tickets, of which he/she must keep at least 1 (Even if they can’t complete it).
I quickly got the game taught and we jumped right in. Then right from the start whatever Ken was trying to do made a big mess of how I planned to do my routes, as he filled 3 of the 4 ways out from Athina, one of the destinations for my longest route (Forcing me to go a longer way around), which had also been a convenient place to go through for a secondary route, which also had to get re-planned. Handy/Grace both had routes along the other side of the map entirely, making a large chunk of the game feel a bit like a pair of 1v1 battles, with it feeling like Grace/Handy had the advantage with their getting in each others way less. To complete my other secondary I’d kept of 3 destination tickets, I had to go across to their side a bit, and found myself blocked twice from the destination of it that end making me need a station to reach the endpoint (Stations are a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free in ticket-to-ride europe, as they count a second of route that you’ve not actually got trains on for destination tickets, but if you don’t use them [You have 3] then area worth 5 points each at the end of the game). My routes overall were so haphazard to get around blocks that I then needed another station to do the other end of that same secondary route.
At the end of the game, I actually got quite a lot of points as while I’d done it in a ridiculously haphazard way, I had more trains down than everyone else and had ended the game too early for at least one person (Handy needed 2-3 more turns to finsh up routes). It wasn’t quite enough though, with Grace taking a tidy lead and victory by completing everything she’d be given, as well as having the longest route (Another TTR:Europe thing, person with the longest continuous track gets +10 points).
After TTR, we jumped into a game that Ken requested to be played – Eldritch Horror. In Eldritch Horror we play a team of investigators travelling the world to find a way to prevent the awakening of one of the great old ones. In some cases it’s possible to still win even if they awaken, but on this occasion we chose to fight Azathoth, which is to say a foe so powerful that his awakening is an instant loss – He’s also the easiest to beat however, as while we would never beat him in combat, he’s easier than the others to prevent from awakening in the first place, at least within this board game he is ^^.
A game of Eldritch Horror is played over a number of rounds, each consisting of 3 phases. The number of rounds is defined by the great old one you’re going up against, both in a strict limit, and with a ‘doom’ track/timer which upon hitting 0, has the old one awaken and probably destroy the world (Some can be beaten still, such as Shub-Niggurath, but the game ramps up in difficulty a ton at that point so unless you were about to win anyway, it’s probably ‘gg’ time ^^). The 3 phases are the action phase, encounter phase and mythos phase. In the action phase each investigator/player takes 2 actions (Rest, Travel, Acquire Assets, Gain Tickets, Other) to get into position and prepare for the encounter phase. The encounter phase is where things happen and dice are rolled, each player in turn draws an encounter card depending on where they are and what’s on their space (Or fights monsters first if there’s any on their space), then reads the text on that card, rolling for any checks as asked for on the card. Finally there’s the Mythos phase, where the game-timer ticks down and some effects happen based on the Mythos card drawn (Such as monsters spawning, clues spawning, epic monsters turning up, ongoing effects, etc) – The lead investigator token (1st player) is then passed to another investigator (Optionally) and the next round begins.
In our game, I was playing Charlie Kane (Asset-Acquiring hacks), Handy played Ronan Dex (Sea Hacks, disclaimer – Ronan is not the characters actual name), Grace played Spell-Person and Ken played a Spy…I’m shocked at that last one, truly. Our team worked well throughout the game, as I was able to get some good items to people (Including the double-barrelled shotgun which is awesome for combat), Grace did a good job of getting clues and working on the mysteries, Handy became artifact-man, getting both a lightning gun and the sword of saint jerome (That luck ^^) from his seafaring adventures and Ken well, played somewhat jack-of-all-trades.
While everything seemed to be going great, halfway to completing the second mystery we had an unfortunate research encounter that got our solved one shuffled back into the deck. This was quite a setback as it was already late (1 or 2am I think at that time). This might have been ok, but Grace’s character ran into a slight utter-lack-of-sanity issue, and we decided to leave it there to go and sleep. I think that if we’d have continued we could have won, so I’m going to call victory on this one. Hopefully next time I decide to hold an impromptu games evening I sort it out at a more reasonable time!
The Morning after…Um, well, The Midday after, I sorted out a cooked breakfast for us all (Plus Ruth, another of my housemates), before suggesting another game before people filtered off for the day. My initial suggestion was Voluspa, but I got overruled with a request to play Paperback from Grace, backed up by Ruth who I’d talked to about it too – I’m glad for that as it’s an awesome feeling to have people say what they’d like to play instead of feeling like I’ve forcing games on them ^^. We got it set up, to a few confused looks as to the fact this game is well, a bit outside-the-box, and I explained how it works – which is blissfully simple – to be ready to get started.
My strategy for the game was to um…er…I really can’t seem to work out the best way to play this one to be honest! In the end I went for an attack-card focus, more in response to Handy picking up an attack card first, and partly as I never seemed to get an opportunity to grab card draws. Handy managed to get a lot of card draws on the other hand, having huge hands for a large chunk of the game, Ruth/Ken just did as best as they could with it being their first time (Handy’s first time with it too..but damn he’s lucky ^^), and Grace just did what she could with some words I’d never heard of (Which were still legit…Grace’s knowledge of random words scares me ;D). The game went on a bit longer than it has before, with people not really rushing for victory point cards overly much and long words being fairly few and far between – Ken decided he couldn’t be bothered to play it out and stopped playing because he couldn’t win so we pushed for an end soon after, doing a mild bit of cheating to get a 10-letter word from a large hand he’d managed to get. I left things a bit late to get victory point cards so had very few in my deck, so Handy got victory, Grace in second then I don’t remember the positions of the last 3 of us (Think I might have been 3rd, I did get one of the long words to Handy’s 3 -_-).
I think everyone had fun (Maybe not Ken, who seemed pretty annoyed at not being able to compete for whatever reason :S), which is good overall, as I think it’s a brilliant game I like to play, and in Ruth’s case is one of the few games I have that appeals ^^. I don’t think I’m ever going to win unless I really up my knowledge, but to be honest I’m totally cool with that as it’s an enjoyable experience ^^.
With Ken/Ruth having retreated to their rooms, I suggested one more game while Handy was in earshot – Voluspa. As I mentioned, it was going to be my first suggestion but got overruled, but I wanted to play anyway as it’s a more recent acquisition (Through trade, hooray ^^). Voluspa is a tile-laying game, with each player having a hand of 3 tiles, taking turns to place them adjacent to any already in play to try and score points. Each tile has a number from 1-8, with the 1-6 tiles having special abilities to work with for scoring points. To score, the tile you placed must be the highest in the row/column you’re checking (I.e. the 7/8 tiles don’t need an ability as they can probably score anyway ^^). The game ends when everyone’s tiles and the draw stack runs out, at which point the player with the highest score wins.
I don’t think there’s any way I can really go through how out game went, as it’s very tactical and abstract, but it was fairly close in the last few turns. Unfortunately, the last opportunity I got for enough points to nip into the lead got locked, as my placement to set up for a Loki tile fell through when Grace also turned out to have a Loki tile in hand, (Loki being a 1 value, but who makes all adjacent tiles worth 0). Grace managed to take the win, and on the last turn Handy slipped past me as I just didn’t have the right tiles remaining to get a decent amount of points with the layout of the tiles already out. Fun game, and I look forward to more plays to come, as well as to getting comfortable enough with play to put the included expansion tiles back into the game (We included them in our very first game, but 12 different tiles to think about is a bit much for the first few games I think). Still…looking forward to eventually having them all in play, as well as with the order-of-the-gods expansion and lightning tile promo…I think this game will be worth all the extra stuff ^^.
Right, that’s all I have to talk about for the moment. I had a brilliant easter weekend with my girlfriend & friends, including the games above, lots of League of Legends, a cinema visit to see Amazing Spider Man 2 (Which seemed like an experiment in cramming 4-5 films into 1 film) and Tv/Food/etc besides. Good times!