Building a win

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This week’s session saw Susan and I host John, Laurie, Sheer, and Yehuda for a couple of three player games.

At the other side of the table, Yehuda ran a game of Amerigo, then a game of San Juan, both with Laurie and John. I believe he won both. Because I was busy with my own games, I do not have any meaningful recollection of what happened, though it appeared John liked his introduction to both games, and Yehuda was getting tired of both. Clarification is awaited!

On my side of the table, I ran a game of Suburbia, then a game of Dominion, both with Susan and Sheer.

In Suburbia, I beat out the others because I could claim all three public goals and my own goal. As Sheer commented, the goals are very powerful. As I commented, that’s why I think it is a mistake to ignore them.

In Dominion, I beat out the others by going for a money first strategy. That allowed me to be the first to buy VPs, and even although I received a ton of curses (negative VPs), I burned enough away with the Chapel card. Sheer had a very impressive Market based deck, but it just did not generate enough money early enough. Susan seemed to play lost of Spy, Thief, and Witch cards. While these impacted badly on the other players, Susan did not seem able to benefit sufficiently, and struggled to get VPs.

It was good to get in a couple of chunky games, though I was hoping to try out the Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders. Some were not keen on it. This is interesting: no matter how highly rated a game is, there always seem to be players who do not like it and do not want to play it. That’s not a complaint; it’s an observation about there being different strokes for different folks. I wonder what strokes we will get up to next week?

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I want to live in Amerigo

This peaceful land, about to be discovered, settled, and scored!

This peaceful land, about to be discovered, settled, and scored!

This week’s session, kindly hosted by Yehuda, was an intense introduction to Amerigo for newcomers to the game Laurie and Nadine. As usual, this meant Yehuda had to perform his rules explanation. Nadine complained that there was no advice about strategy. In response, So, Yehuda offered both Laurie and Nadine some advice on an ongoing basis. I joined in too, though my advice might more accurately have been termed ‘gamesmanship.’

Waiting in hope for the right color cubes to emerge...

Give me a red…

(Nadine and Laurie were fascinated by the tower and the cube/action points mechanic. But despite examining the device, they failed to inspire Yehuda to always generate the right combinations.)

Yehuda sized up the map, analyzed things well, and promptly put his pieces in good positions. Nadine, Laurie, and I followed suit.

In the early rounds, Yehuda threatened to streak ahead, and I focused on keeping him back. That ended up being bad for both of us: both ladies, no doubt aided by Yehuda’s advice, kept scoring, scoring and scoring.

The pirates started small (zero) but reached a whopping ten points by the last round. Most others did manage to keep up their pirate defenses, with Nadine benefiting from a bonus chit that halved their damage.

I was the early leader, with Yehuda at the back. That did not last long. Laurie took over and was in the lead till the final scoring, when Nadine’s well spread out scoring selections paid dividends. Yehuda and I were the back markers, and I was at the back of the back markers…Well done, Nadine.

Once again, blue actions were rendered useless for the last couple of rounds because we had settled all the landing areas on the map. I also think the brown action was pretty much out of it for the last round as the available bonus chits were not much use to anyone. Yehuda commented that he thought the map needed to be a bit bigger. He may be right, or it may be that we are playing too aggressively. But, regardless, it’s a good game though it can drag at times. I’m sure we will play it again.

Again, well done Nadine for winning, and thanks for hosting, Yehuda.

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Watch out for the other guy

dominion

This week, we started with Dominion.

Susan and I were joined by Ben and Yehuda, with a random distribution of Action Cards, including Council Room, Feast, Gardens, Market, Remodel, Spy, Throne Room, and some others that I cannot remember.

Yehuda quickly amassed the desired combination of cards, but couldn’t quite generate the 8 points of gold he needed to buy the Province victory Point cards. Or at least, not as often as he wanted.

Ben and Susan were in a similar situation, with Susan relying a fair bit on the Spy card, and Ben chopping and changing his approach.

I went for a combination of Market and money, in small doses. I got lucky and generated three consecutive Province purchases. When the scores were totted up at the end, I had won. In a game with such high level competitors, that was a notable win for me.

A good start to the night.

Sheer arrived, swapping in for Susan, and we turned to play Amerigo.

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At this point, I want to give a special mention to Ben. Not about his braces, or his beer, or anything like that. Instead, I want to note his attitude to playing the game. He is a fine game player, and well able to hold his own. But like all of us, there are games  he likes, and games he doesn’t like. And games he plays well. And games he doesn’t play well – or do well at.

So, when the others suggested playing Amerigo, I noted Ben’s response. It was something like:

“I remember playing it last time and not hating it enough so as to never want to play it again.”

Looking back on last night’s game, I think I can now translate what he said as:

“I didn’t like the game. But I didn’t hate it. And to help the evening, if everyone else wants to play it, I will.”

What a gent. You see, he really struggled in the game. He was always at the back of the scoring track, and never looked like catching up. I really felt for him. But not once did he complain. (Unlike me…) and not once did he moan, or regret having made the decision to play. This was a major help in everyone having a good time. So, it was appreciated, and I wanted to record it.

Thank you Ben!

As for the game itself…

Everyone else was so busy watching Yehuda, that I was able to grab a small island, settle all its landing areas, and complete it by the end of turn 2. That gave me a huge morale boost and a 40 plus point score. From then on, I was always in the lead, or just about. Sheer was a threat. Yehuda was a threat. But I held on for the win, with Yehuda just edging out Sheer for the coveted (usually be me) runner up spot!

It helped that for the first two rounds, the pirates were no threat, but materialized in round three. In that round, I had already prepared my pirate defenses. So while everyone else was playing catch up there, I was able to score some more valuable victory points.

Yehuda had a relatively trouble free time in settling his lands. However, he seemed to have restricted his options and had nothing to build in the final couple of rounds. Ben and Sheer carved me up on one of the bigger islands, and that kept my score in check. Thankfully, for me, they were eating into each other’s points as well.

That white island is mine, I say. Mine!

That white island is mine, I say. Mine!

Incidentally, we had settled all the board – apart from one small island that Ben had captured for himself – by the last turn but one.  Unfortunately for Ben, he could not generate enough victory points out of the opportunity.

Separately, I’m beginning to suspect the game may be one turn too long, as it is not the first time not much of consequence has happened in the last turn.

Waiting in hope for the right color cubes to emerge...

Waiting in hope for the right color cubes to emerge…

But it was a good game, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Thanks to all who came.

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Merry go round

amerigo

Sheer and Yehuda joined me for the second outing in our group of Amerigo. It was a first time experience for Sheer, but as usual he picked it up quite quickly and had no trouble competing. He might even have won if he had been a bit more aggressive in his play, but despite my helpful suggestions – well, I thought they were helpful – he plied a neutral and comfortable track. And didn’t win… but it was close!

This time around, we corrected our mistake about the scoring for completing an island. That incentive, plus the smaller play area with three players meant the board filled up quickly. Indeed, on the last couple of rounds, there was little that remained to be built on.

Yehuda started by hoarding money and cannons. He also nabbed the bonus card that paid him money for defeating the pirates. I grabbed the bonus card that gave me extra red and blue actions, and got a reasonable return out of it. Sheer had a variety of bonus cards, but the most annoying was the one that made the pirates stronger against Yehuda and me. This cost me, especially, a lot of points as I struggled to counteract its effects.

My red and blue bonuses gave me an early lead, but by half way the others had caught up. Going into the last round it was close, and even after the final scoring we were all within about half a dozen points, with Yehuda sneaking the win. Well done Yehuda.

I thought it was much faster as a three player game, but wasn’t that enamoured by the smaller play area. However, I think the game has good replayability and even with just this couple of sessions of experience, I can see there are several strategies worth pursuing. There may be more to find. It’s quite a heavy load for a newcomer to learn, but the actual mechanics are straightforward. It’s a tad too long, though, and less serious gamers may balk at the time required. We’ll be playing this again.

Thanks to Sheer and Yehuda for a great gaming session.

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Let’s go to Amerigo!

amerigo

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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