October 27, 2010

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nechama, Nadine, Max, Sergei

Gili brought her friend Nechama, again. Although she doesn’t speak English that well, she is enjoying the games and the club.

It’s Alive

Nechama 57, Gili 42, Jon 38, Nadine 32

Scores approximate. First play for Nechama. I tried to manage my money well, but I drew very poor tiles for much of the first part of the game, which made life difficult. Happens sometimes.

Steam

Jon 78, Max 70, Gili 40

Scores approximate. First plays for both Gili and Max. Max said that he had never played a train game; however, he had played Ticket to Ride and Power Grid, both of which are train games in their way.

Gili started off poorly, and then sank poorer, hitting -7 on the income track at one point. It was as much as she could do to simply get back up to positive and end with a decent score by the game’s end. Most players with reasonable play and approximately equal experience should not fall so far behind during a game.

The bigger problem with the game is the kingmaking at the end, something I wrote about last time. Max and I were fairly close, with me clearly in the lead by a half a dozen points or so. However, if she had wanted to, Gili could easily have given the game to Max by moving cubes on his routes. This disturbs me greatly, because often you have to move on someone else’s routes, you have no reason to pick one player over another, and the decision determines the game. Bad.

I think I have a possible solution: points earned by someone else moving on your track can only be used to increase your income, not your victory points. If you are negative on the income track, you’re behind anyway; if you’re positive, you’re gaining 1/2 victory point per track used instead of 1 victory point, a significant mitigating factor. And the gain limits out at 10 income.

If this happened at the beginning of the game, it would be a significant advantage. But toward the end of the game, maxing out at 10 on the income isn’t as much of a problem or determination of victory. And yet, you still can gain something from someone else using your track. I’ll try this out next game.

The map we played on, the Eastern US, tends to favor a certain building pattern. I didn’t mind this, since the actual track paths are always so different, but Max thought this could be a problem. Luckily there are two maps included in the game, and several dozen others available to purchase or download.

I took the East, Gili started in the south, and we grew toward each other. With occasional rogue track placement in the other person’s territories. Max started out on the West and eventually merged south with Gili, north and then east and west back down the center of the board to merge with me.

We nearly ran out of player disks, and the game doesn’t say what happens if you do. Speaking of running out of things, Max was also annoyed at the rule that you can’t build a type of track junction if the tile isn’t available; and that it can become available by changing an area of the board that is nowhere near your construction. I think I agree, but I can’t see how to change that. Otherwise, he liked the game a lot.

Prince of Florence

Nadine 59, Sergei 58, Nechama 55

Nadine taught this to both of them. And it sounded like she pretty much played both of their positions throughout the game, so close game-ending scores is not a surprise.

Notre Dame

Sergei 69, Nadine 64, Nechama 50

Nadine taught this to both of them. as well. Same story. Sergei won with a heavy car movement strategy.

Dominion/Intrigue/Seaside

Max 29, Gili 29, Jon 24

Kingdoms: Remodel, Envoy, Courtyard, Masquerade, Baron, Scout, Haven, Native Village, Explorer, Tactician

A strange set, with lots of drawing and discarding. And a rare pull for us with multiple Seaside kingdoms and only one kingdom from the base set. All three of us made mistakes by reading trash instead of discard or vice versa on some card, or by missing that the Explorer puts the money into your hand: quite a powerhouse of a card.

I tried some combination of Remodel, Native Village (mostly for the 2 actions) and Masquerades, hoping to get some Explorers and so on. But Max pulled an early Tactician and two Provinces faster than you could bat an eye. Gili also pulled two provinces before I could.

We eventually all ended with four Provinces, but I had given away all of my other points (Masquerade, Remodel), while Max (on my right) had five Estates and Gili (on my left) had two Estates and a Duchy.

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