UoB Tabletop Society, Pathfinder & Halesowen Board Gamers (22/10/14)

UoB Tabletop Society

Friday of last week (17/10) had me along to the UoB Tabletop Society (Which seems to be a regular thing again, yay for people staying late ^^). I’d brought along Galaxy Trucker and it got suggested, so I was plenty happy to get it out as its’ been a good while since I last played!

Galaxy Trucker is a real-time tile-laying game where players rush to throw together a valid starship. The games ship pieces are placed in the middle of the table, face down, before each round, and each player takes a ship and centre module (Identical ship boards, the centre module is so each player has a unique colour). Ships start small, but over the course of a game you get large and more complex ships to build.

The first part of a round is the building phase. In real-time, players grab tiles, one at a time, from the centre of the table. They then decide to either place it in their ship matching the edges single-single, double-double, single-universal, double-universal or universal-universal, or return it to the centre face-up. Hence over the course of the phase, you get easier access to a variety of components, but generally lose out on the better pieces (ones with 4 sides for a close-knit ship for example!). Once a player is finished, they can start flipping the hourglass any time they wish, until it works its’ way from the round number to the 0 mark, at which point all players finish building no matter what.

The latter half of each round is the race phase. This is a fairly ‘automatic’ phase, as its’ little more than drawing cards from a shuffled deck and following the instructions. It’s also one of the best bits, as here you get meteors slamming into your ship, pirates attacking, invaders eating the cargo you just spend 3 days picking up, and so on. This drives a story of the adventures of your mighty galaxy trucking.

At the end of 3, or however many you fancy (There’s ships for I-IV and plenty alternative layouts with expansions), rounds, the game ends. The player with the most credits wins! Congratulations on having slightly less terrible ships than the rest of the players =P

The first round of our game went by fairly slowly, with players new to the game needing time to work out how to build up their ships. 2 of the 3 players new to the game seemed to do fine, but Dwayne had a bit of difficulty and took a little longer, with me giving a hint or two once everyone else had finished. There was actually remarkably little damage to players ships, but a combat zone hit hard on other things, and an open space took the close knit group of ships to being massively apart, and stardust made that even worse (Stardust = -1 flight day per exposed connector, I think 9 was the highest someone had, ouch).

At the end of the round everyone ships were intact (Kind of disapointing in Galaxy Trucker really =P), and I leapt into the lead from having an untouched pretty ship & a touch of cargo. For the second round, I grabbed a rough roads card for me and the other player who knew what he was doing…but the building round didnt’ even get finished. At about 7:20 (When we had the room till 8), we got asked to pack up to go because people wanted to play Magic: The Gathering. Disapointingly, rather than spend 5-10 minutes to finish the round, 3/5 players got up and left, leaving it to the other 2 of us (And I think John helped out) to tidy it away… I usually find people playing 24/7 MTG annoying, but got to be honest…felt pretty pissed off about that, kind of like having a friend around for a dinner you’ve cooked and having them leave halfway through for a McDonalds…

After moving to the learning centre, I suggested Xia: Legends of a Drift System. We set the fame-point target to 10 and I got explanation to the 4 new players out of the way before we got to playing. We randomised the starting ships, with me getting the Puddle Jumper (Started with it every game…including the 2 where we randomised the starting ships -_-).

Pretty sure it’s not too long ago that I wrote up how the game plays, so I’ll skip talking about that. Problem is I forget what our game went like! I know I won, getting the last ~4 fame points in one turn (Conveniently right as we were being asked to pack up to leave), but asides from ‘it was a combination of missions & trading’ I’m not sure what to say. One interesting moment was when a player who’d stacked up on weapons needed to repair, I paid him the 1K to do so with an agreement he wouldn’t attack me (I was on the opposite side of the map). This worked nicely for me, as my next turn I flew all the way over there for both a mission and to sell goods I’d picked up ^^.

Hopefully can play again with the same people so that I can concentrate more on the game than the teaching and making sure everyone gets it next time ^^.

Saturday

Pathfinder – Progress:
– Thistletop
– Clearing out well, druid almost insta-gibbed before getting a turn.
– Continue to go in on a group of 10 goblin refugee’s
– Promptly get asses handed to them, On 0 health, Ken just about manages to drag Chris to safety, but, Dave being too large, tries to hide him away.
– Next day, Chris recovered a little, stealths into the hideout and finds Dave gone.
– Returning to town, they discover hemlock has returned with additional guards.
– Offers his aid, and brings along Paul and Barry to round two. Dave takes control of Hemlock
– More successful this time, and break their way into the fort.
– Stealthier than before, and with a tank, light work of upper floor
– Paul & Barry die, missing their chance to earn surnames.
– Almost die to Orik, but get him low and accept his offer of his services.
– Now with 2 tanks, things going better and clearing things out well.
– Floor cleared, including the bugbear.
– End of evening, until next time!

Halesowen

I arrived upstairs fairly late this week, and found everyone to have worked out groups and picked games already (Although at least 2 people knew I was having dinner and would be up soon, who said nothing apparently!). None of the games out were particularly endearing to me, so I went with the ‘whoevers happiest to add a person’ approach, and ended up in a game of Power Grid with Mike, Steve, James &…Woman who’s name I don’t know/remember :P

This game is one that throws a few mechanics together – Area Control, Auction, Turn-Order Management and Resource Management. The aim of the game is to power the most cities, which you do by activating power plants (A maximum of 3 of them, because reasons) with fuel, and ‘owning’ those cities on the map. The game ends at the end of the turn where a player first ‘owns’ 15 cities, with 3 phases where choices available to the players escalate.

At the start of each of an undefined number of rounds, a series of auctions occurs to gain power plants. The ‘best’ player (Most cities owned) goes first, choosing a plant from the bottom row ahead of players taking turns to bid until all pass, at which point the winner pays and takes the plant (Replacing an existing one if they have 3 already). The auction area is refreshed immediately, so it sometimes pays to avoid taking anything until later in the auction phase.

For the rest of the round, the ‘worst’ begins (least cities owned), because…because. Players take turns next to take control of cities, paying 10/city (or 15/20 in later phases if you share with others) plus a variable amount based on the links between cities (So could be 3+10 or 21+10, depending if its’ a short and easy or long link crossing swathes of land). This has a large influence on player order next turn, which tends to be more important than how many you actually get control of.

Next, players take resources, again with the ‘worst’ first. Resources are bought from a track on the board which makes it so that the more that are available of a particular type, the cheaper it is. The result being that the players with the most cities pay the most resources to get fuel to actually power them, potentially to the point, although it didn’t happen in our game, that the required resource could run out or become too expensive for them, leaving them unable to provide as required. You can however only store fuel in power plants and only up to double their usual capacity.

The final part just has players paying fuel to activate plants and power cities. Its’ totally optional whether you do this, so if you want random blackouts to occur that’s absolutely fine, you just don’t get paid as much. Payment works by diminishing returns, so at first each city increases pay by 11, but by the 100 mark its’ only going up by 7 to power more places. (Although you’ll also have better power plants, so 1 plutonium might power 1 city at first, but 4 cities later on).

As far as our particular game I’m not sure what to talk about. As far as area control, Steve got left totally uncontested on one side of the map, I took a corner to try and do the same to some extent, with James, Mike & Female in the middle (James closer to me, Female closer to Steve). I’m not sure this was the best of idea’s for me, as James pushed in on where I was quite closely (Not that I wasn’t pushing back, plus he had Mike in his way the other side). Until phase 2 (Oh yeah…phases, when someone first controls 7 cities, phase 2 activates and we can start sharing cities 2 people/city, when the power plants deck runs out, phase 3 activates and you get 3 people/city) started I was certainly feeling pretty stuck where I was, but did manage to push out eventually.

On power plants, well, no idea what everyone else did, but I started with an oil/coal combination plant to give me options and extended to have a green plant & nuclear plant letting me power things cheaply for much of the game. I did however struggle to get any high providing options, only getting one to power 7 cities in the last round at a slightly inflated price (Although I almost might have had to pay 90-something as I pushed Steve up very high on bidding for a 7 before that). James had nuclear power a lot of the time, and I believe Mike had a couple of 3 coal > 5 power plants (Or oil, not sure). I forget what Steve had unfortunatey.

By the last round, things were in a position where Mike owned 15 cities, Steve 14 (I think), Me/James 13 and Female 10. Female would have been able to power the most if I remember correctly, but needed another round to actually have them owned to be powered. Me/James powered all of our cities, but were limited to 13, not sure what Steve managed, and Mike did 15 with his 3 5 power-providing plants. (I have a 7, 4 & 2, would have had to get that 2 replaced to achieve much more, perhaps leading to ~16 power for another turn had there been one (Although it’s likely Mike/Steve could have powered much more than that then too).

I found Power Grid to be a rather interesting game, but one with lots of little things that claw at me about it. One thing that doesn’t bother me too much is that the game seems to rely heavily on the satisfaction payoff of solving simple math problems (Whats’ the cheapest way for me to spread out), with that making the area control here a lot more interesting than most such games – I liked this in Milestones not long ago too (Calculating the best cost of routes), so should probably try and look into more games doing it in future!

So…things that bothered me. ‘Owning Cities’ seems a good start, now I figure this probably is more of a ‘contract to power those cities’, but it bothers me greatly that you could control 13 cities and just decide you don’t feel like powering them, with no reparations – I think I’d have liked a caverna-style ‘feed or lose points’ take on this, perhaps losing a city each turn you don’t power all those you control. It also seems odd that we can’t share them at first, but…then we suddenly can. For less than 6 players, areas of the map get cut off, which is what ended up letting Steve have a 1/3rd of the map to himself as there was expensive links between where he was and everyone else, he didn’t win so it’s not like that caused major imbalance, but I find it…frustrating. Finally, while for the most part people kept their money in view, I don’t like that you get to keep it hidden if you want to…hidden trackable information is boring & annoying :(

All in all though its’ a good game, and I can see why a lot of people like it. Would definitely be interesting in trying with the robots sometime though, think I’ll enjoy it more with automated opponents ^^.

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2 thoughts on “UoB Tabletop Society, Pathfinder & Halesowen Board Gamers (22/10/14)

  1. HalesowenBoardgamers (@halesowenBG)

    Re: Power Grid, it’s interesting to hear your thoughts on this, which is HBG’s most played game. Regarding some of your comments, you don’t actually own cities, the costs are to connect them to your network, providing the infrastructure for distribution, rather than a contract. The game takes place over an extended time period, although what that is is not specified,I see the increased number of players allowed in the cities as their growth to a size capable of supporting more than one supplier.

    I wasn’t watching your game, so I don’t know how much deliberate refusal to power cities was going on, I would only normally expect to see it when the following turn was expected to be the last and there is a possibility that a player might not be able to get the fuel to run a plant, so needs to save it for that final turn. The India board has a rule which requires that you power as many cities as you are capable of.

    With 6 players you still only use 5 regions of the map, there are actually a few boards that only have 5 regions, so for 5/6 players you would be using the while map.

    Regarding HTI, I’ll disagree with you, I tend to adopt different attitudes to it depending on the game but I wouldn’t want to play with open money in Power Grid.

    Finally the female was Suzy.

    Dave D

    Reply
  2. Smoothsmith Post author

    Suzy! Right! Oh I feel bad now, I was intending on name replacing before I posted and totally forgot last night :(

    Suzy, if you’re reading I hope you aren’t offended, sorry about that!

    Reply

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