I hosted this week’s session, in which Ben, Peleg, and Yehuda came along and joined me in opening up for the first time and playing Amerigo, a game by the well liked Stefan Feld.
Because it was so new, the setup took a while. I read the rules. I started describing the setup. Yehuda read the rules. Eventually we got started playing the game.
The game is played in five rounds. Each round has seven segments. The central feature of the game is that for each segment, the first player takes the colored cubes for that segment and drops them in the tower. What goes in is not necessarily what comes out. You may get some of the cubes you drop in, and some from an earlier drop.
For example, the first segment is (always) blue, the second is black, and so on. (Each color connects to a specific game action.) The picture above shows the result of the yellow segment. The first player put all the yellow cubes available in the tower (see next picture) and out popped five yellow and one green cube. What that result meant was that each player, in order, could use five Action Points (because of the highest number of cubes of a single color) for a yellow or green action (because of the color of cubes that came out).
I think the tower mechanic is copied from Wallenstein, but I had never seen it in action before and quite liked it. There is a luck element, but broadly it affects all players.
The theme is exploration and discovery. The actions are about sailing to ports and setting up trading posts, preparing your defenses to stave off pirates, planning developments, building developments, and garnering special action cards, money, and production resources. And, of course, victory points.
There is a lot going on and, as Yehuda pointed out, the aim is to maximize your scoring each turn. I am not great at such games, but wasn’t put off. Yehuda crushed us all, winning by 50+ points. I think I was well in last place. Peleg and Ben did OK, but couldn’t compete with Yehuda’s building strategy until it was too late. Peleg had built well – finishing off my attempts at getting a decent score – whereas Ben was trying a different strategy. I haven’t worked out what Ben’s strategy was, but I’ll let you know if I ever do…8)
The player order is important, and I suspect Yehuda’s winning margin was because for the first half of the game he was unchallenged as first player. We should have made him work harder to keep that.
The scoring was the one glaringly obvious area where the components let the side down. The scoring track only runs to 50. You get a chit to keep if you pass 50. You flip it to show 100 if you get that far, and so on. We lost track of who had and who had not passed the 100 mark. Not good. It’s not fatal, but a bit of a pain.
Right now I anticipate Yehuda is off to analyze the game and find the optimum strategy. He was already talking about ignoring the pirates. (Not preparing your defenses costs you victory points.)
It’s a big, clever game that is advertised at 90 minutes in length. I think 2 hours for 4 players is probably more reasonable. A slow thinker will truly lengthen the game time as there is a lot to analyze.
Once we had played the first round, the mechanics and rules were just about clear for everyone. There were a couple of areas where the rules were a bit lacking in clarity, but nothing crucial. We had no real issues.
In the after game discussion, everyone said they would play it again, which is a good sign. Yes, we enjoyed visiting Amerigo and will be back soon!
Thanks to all who came. You made my night.