Friday, April 07, 2006

Saturday Session, 4/1/06

April Fool's Day, and I spent it at Tim and Carrie's game day. They are extremely good hosts, providing food and drink for all, and extending invitations to both hard-core gamers and the merely game-curious alike.

First up was Railway Tycoon, but set on a map of Europe. Doug (there were three of us there!) had built this off of a map available on the 'Geek, and it looked great (with better color calibration than the original map). The rules are pretty much the same, but instead of four tiles you can build per action, it's limited to three. The map has a "gap" of sorts in the northern section right about where Germany meets Poland (it takes four tiles to get from city to city), and there are lots of "ferry" routes you can build that allow you to cross water but at roughly twice the cost. Also, the Alps and Balkans are expensive to build on, and there is a distinct dearth of red cities to build to, at least in the east (where I was). Finally, the cards that each player gets with bonus points at game end are instead public, and anyone who meets the qualifications can get these points if they are the only one to earn them (a much better mechanism, and one that can easily be done in the original game).

Tim got the first player bid for a steal, considering that there was an easy track from Tunis to Palermo that netted him a slug of points right away. I had sadly not been paying attention to what the initial cards were and paid for it all game. I began in Poland and built everything up very slowly. In fact, by the end of the game I had just gotten a 3 train, and the "biggest" train built was a 5. I was also trying to create as little debt as possible, and did great with a single certificate, but chose to go to two in order to build a line from Athens to Budapest a bit quicker. Dumb move, as it netted me three points one turn early, but I ended up tied with Mimi for fewest shares issued and neither of us got the points.

In the end, the Other Doug did a great job of holding off Tim, who seemed unstoppable at the start of the game, although he did have to buy the Orient Express off-board link for E30k to steal a 20 point special card out from under Tim. Tim took third, surprisingly, and I ended up dead last. I like this game, but I have terrible trouble parsing the board to see what goods go where, especially when a city has lots of cubes and it's tough to see what color it is. Thanks to Doug and Mimi for bringing the board so we could try it out, it definitely adds some new twists and eliminates the whole "East Coast" problem with the original. Plus, the new map fits in less space than the original!

By now, others were arriving, so we split up into smaller groups. George had brought his 4 year old son Sean, who had brought a couple of games he likes, so Mike and I joined them for a little reminder of why I don't have children. Actually, Sean is a very bright and articulate little boy, and he's got these great Euro-Indonesian eyes that will almost certainly get him into big trouble some day.

We started out with Crossed Wires, a very simple game where you have a board with six telephones on it, each with a convoluted twisting path of wire to another phone. You roll a die to see what phone you start with, then you play a tile when you know which phone it connects to. If you get it right, you get a point and get to shift a couple of the wire tiles around to (hopefully) mix things up for the next time. Sadly, not a great game to play with children, as parsing the rat's nest of wires is fairly easy for adults and harder for Sean. We all lost interest after about 15 minutes. Fortunately, they'd also brought The A-Maze-Ing Labyrinth, which is a fun game for all ages. Nothing like figuring out how to open a path to the icon you want, only to find out that something else happened you weren't expecting! Sean was doing quite well when he ran out of patience and started wandering around the room, so we called that one too after about 30 minutes. Not bad for a 4 year old!

The last game out was Rocketville, the latest Richard Garfield title from AH, requested by Doug. I didn't do a great job of explaining the game, partly because the rules are kind of sloppy and hard to parse, and the colors on the board don't help either. I was afraid that this game would become an excruciating set of 36 blind bids, and I was right. It seems to me that using the Campaign Planning cards would add some strategy to the game, but instead it was simply a matter of playing a bunch of cards that did me no good, then sitting around and waiting for the damned thing to end. Doug, Mimi, and Mike agreed that this is a waste of perfectly good cardboard. I can only hope that the original design was significantly better and was ruined in development, or else Garfield had some sort of contractual obligation. To be fair, both Chris and KC in my group like this title, but if I had a wood-burning fireplace, this would heat my toes come November.

And no, the preceding paragraph is not an April Fool's joke.

By now, it was time for a little BBQ Beef sandwich, then home for me. Thanks to Tim and Carrie for being such great hosts!

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