Halesowen Board Gamers #24 (24/09/14)

At the start of the evening, I set up Village with full intent of playing it, as I’ve had it since the UK Games Expo and am yet to get it to the table. My plans got ruined and village got shoved back again however, as Stan turned up with Gluck Auf (Coal Baron) which I’ve been wanting to play for a while!

Coal Baron

Coal Baron is a fairly light worker placement game about, unsurprisingly, mining and selling coal. The game takes place over three rounds with an accelerated scoring mechanism, after which the player with the most victory points wins. After the first round, scores are based on goods in completed orders, then after the second its’ goods on completed orders + goods/completed transport, and in the 3rd round its’ both of those, and scoring for emptied mine sections of each type of coal. You also get some Victory Points immediatey on completing orders, and a few modifications at the end (£5>1VP, 3 unused coal >1VP, -1VP/Uncomplete order, -2VP/imbalance).

In each round, players take turns to place workers, from a pool of 13 for each player, represent chunks of time. (Or more in smaller player count games, we were running 4P). Using a space uses one worker, or, if another players workers are there, then the number of workers they’ve used +1 (Kicking them to the canteen, where they’re unavailable till next round, although they’ve already done their job so no worry!).

Each player has an individual player board, consisting of a 4 level mine shaft, and two sides, lit and unlit. This has an elevator in the middle which slides up and down to move coal around, which occurs by taking a main-board action giving you X action points to do so (Spent like ‘1 to move up or down any number of spaces, 1 to transfer coal to or from the cart to anywhere on that level). Players add to this board over time by buying mine tiles from the main board, and placing them on their respective lit/unlit side at their level (The deeper the coal, the more expensive it is).

Other things players can do:
– Take orders (1 at a time)
– Fullfill Orders (All of 1 transport type, of 4)
– Gain Money

Anyway, I think that was an awful explanation but hopefully you get the gist! The worker mechanism is particular is very clever, as it has you checking how many workers you have left, and whether you can afford to get the coal for one more order, as you’ll run out of workers to fill if someone else takes the space…

Early game I went for a bit of a rush on yellow coal (Forgot to mention, it goes yellow, brown, grey, black in ascending value), hoping to get an easy hold on it for ongoing points while then shifting to focus other things. I also planned to go for trucks as transport (For scoring in the second round), but Stan beat me to it and slipped easily ahead. Maté went for trains and black coal, getting a neat monopoly on both, looking very good with them being the highest scoring things in their categories (Best scoring coal, best scoring transport). I forget what transport type Mike went for (Carts maybe?) in the early game, but he certainly got lots of carts later.

The first round went by fairly simple, and I dropped into the back on points with my petty yellow coal scoring and cheap orders. Going into the second round Maté was in a good place with the train scoring coming up, and I took a few train orders to deny him (3 orders to his 3, as we didn’t realise it was to do with quantity of cubes shipped/transport rather than number of cards fulfilled), and spent the round trying to fill those. I also picked up my first black coal order, with horses as transport, and got the carts to fulfill that, but ran out of time to finished maneuvring it around my mine as I had to get the train ones shipped.

The rule we misunderstood was in my favour, with my 3 completed train orders I’d shipped 8 cubes to Maté’s ~4, netting me a ton of points for winning on train orders shipped. Noone scored horses as Maté perhaps inadvisably decided to wait until the 3rd round to finish a number of orders he had for them. Stan got trucks scored again and Mike carts, while scoring for filled order cubes went similarly, Maté on black by a mile, myself for yellow, grey/brown…um, stuff. After this second round I’d stepped into the lead if I remember correctly, although not by much.

In the last round, I aimed to get into second place on horse fulfillments (Maté filled 4 orders by horse so I had no chance of 1st, but 2nd place scores a few points too), and then concentrated on mining for yellow/brown coal for the last rounds scoring of ‘For each empty mine space/type’ – I was winning yellow easily, and Brown by a small amount too – Both were the lower scoring, but still higher than any previous rounds scoring criteria.

In the last round I was able to score most yellow filled, most by train, and most empty yellow/brown spaces, and I also denied Maté a few points by matching his empty grey spaces (He was second in it, and tying pushes us both to ‘3rd’ which is 0 points). I forget the exact amounts each person scores, but Mike/Stan were looking very close, and Maté managed to finish in second place about 10 points back (So it was probably reasonable that I made an extra ~4 point difference with the denial move). Through the power of deduction, you can work out that I won, hooray!

I found Coal Baron to be a very fun game, and one that felt ‘complete’ despite its’ short length. I don’t know that I’d want to play it over and over, but I’m very glad Stan brought it along to show us. I would really like to see the placement mechanism used in a heavier game where there might be more promise of variation from game to game.

Santiago

To follow up from Coal Baron, Mike suggested one of his games to fit into the ~hour we had left of the evening, Santiego. I was hoping to try out Taj Mahal or Village, but there wasn’t really enough time left for either so we went with that suggestion ^^.

The game is played around a rondel (I think). A little wooden car is moved around the action spaces track, and where it stops is what actions are available. Movement is free for 1 space in a turn, but you have to pay money to advance it further around the track to obtain the actions you want.

The standard abilities for each space (Which are randomly placed out so each game would have a different order of abilities to access) are fairly simple, ‘take a couple of cubes’, ‘gain 2VP’, etc, but they also have a coloured flower in one of 4 colours. Across the top of the board are 12 locations, 3 for each colour, which provide more unique actions. When you use the normal space you also move your meeple onto a tile of matching flower colour for an extra effect (Although it has to be unoccupied).

The spaces of those extra things range from gaining money, to changing boat dice to their 0 side, to disabling a building for a round. One of the normal actions lets you ‘seize control’ of one of these special spaces, and this makes it such that each time another player uses that space, you gain 1VP.

But wait, I mentioned a boat. Well, the driving force behind this game is that there’s a cargo boat with randomized demands for the goods you’re gathering. 5 dice (6-Sided but numbered 0-3 or 0-4) are rolled each time it empties, one for each different resource in the game, and 4 of these are placed on the boat to display demand (So there’s always one thing in 0 demand). The last space around the rondel (Before it jumps back to the start through, presumably, witchcraft, as its’ over a bay) is to fulfill demand, and has players take turns giving up to 1 type or resource at a time for VP (Which are 2-4 per good, based on a chart that fluctuates over the game based on what people are doing).

That’s about the game. After 7 shipments of the boat, the game ends and players reveal their scores (You keep resources/scores behind a little cardboard screen, so they’re unknown till this point (Although they’re trackable information if anyone can be bothered).

I’ve got to be honest, this didn’t appeal to me. First of all was the theme, as I’m just not remotely interested in gathering and delivering tobacco and cigars, but also the rondel mechanic. The first time I encountered it was with milestones, and as I recall I found that to be a fun game, but it was the spatial element of how you spread the roads that intrigued me and that was what felt like the core thing. Here, the rondel seems to take the stage, and…bleh, I don’t think I like the mechanic of paying to skip past crap all the time.

The game went pretty smoothly though, and the other 3 at the table (Maté, Mike & Stan) seemed to enjoy it. I seemed to end up with lots of resources and never had anything to do with them, Mike hoarded lots (Apparently, I mean I don’t know what he had but he commented he had too much stuff quite frequently ^^), Maté seemed to have a balance, and seemed to leave me with nothing useful to do a lot.

By the end of the game, I was assuming Mike was in the lead as he seemed to take VP’s a lot (But they were always small amounts), but on the last turn Maté got a ship fulfillment of 4 oranges for 3VP each for 12 points (Over half my score) leaping him way out ahead. Scores were along the lines of 30-something for Mr. Orange, late twenties for Mike & Stan, and 21 for myself.

I think its’ a clever game, but not one for me, and I think I’ll steer clear of any game with a ‘rondel’ core mechanism in the future. (Although as a secondary mechanic I’m sure that it’s fine).

Won one, Lost one, good evening =-)

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