Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CenTuesday session, 11/21/06

Another Tuesday night, another night of gaming. I've missed the last two regular sessions because of the Sunriver retreat, so it was nice to get back to a regular schedule. Not that there will be anything regular with the holidays coming up...

I really wanted to try out the new 1910 expansion for Ticket to Ride, and Jim, Liz, and Matt joined me to try the Big Cities variant, which uses tickets from both the 1910 and original sets, but only those with one terminus in Chicago, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, LA, or Seattle. You pick four of two tickets at the start of the game, and when you draw tickets later you pick one or more of four, so there is a lot of motivation to draw lots of tickets.

Unfortunately for everyone but Jim, everyone picked tickets on the west coast, so Jim had the entire Eastern Seaboard to himself. In fact, he drew extra tickets for his first action, while Matt and I grabbed the single link connection between Portland and Seattle. Things got worse for me quickly as it became apparent I wouldn't be able to simply "drive" down the coast to LA and then head east to Houston, and I ended up running a line due east from Seattle, then south to El Paso, branching out to both LA and Houston. I got 'er done, but it took a long time. Meanwhile, Jim was drawing more tickets and keeping two or three of them at a time.

My next ticket draw only gave me one viable additional route (to Atlanta), and the next got me up to New York, but with only four tickets I was not in the running for the win, much less the 15 points for most tickets. The other thing I needed was to stretch out my longest route, but when Matt played his last trains to beat me by one point, I was forced to make a ticket pull for my final turn to try to get some points, but all I did was lose 10 points as none of the routes fit my track. As it was, Jim got over 100 points for his routes at the end of the game, and Matt was a good 20 points behind for second, with Liz and I another 20 points back from there. Had I been able to snag longest train with that last turn instead of tickets, I'd have come in second, but it was clear early on that Jim had this one walking away.

Jim's strategy of drawing trains early was a good idea, but getting the only runs on the east coast for most of the game were a bigger advantage. I think that with this particular variant, it is better to just go for short tickets and forget longest train and efficiencies, a strategy I'll try next time.

Meanwhile, Michael, Peter, Alex, Ben, and Carey played Mission: Red Planet in the other room. Opinions varied from "OK" to "needs another playing" to "fun". Definitely one I'll keep an eye on, and the art may be enough for me to buy this one.

At this point, we both ended about the same time, and about half of the players headed for home. Matt, Michael, Carey, Ben, and myself stuck around to play Vegas Showdown, the surprising AH title of building a hotel/casino. I was the only one who had ever played before, but aside from some rules confusion over how you place rooms on your playmat, the game is very easy to teach.

I got off to a strong start, mostly because of some very fortunate card draws (it was good to have a fancy restaurant early). I also grabbed the Table Games room early, which gave me the chance to buy the High Rollers Room early. In the late game, Matt made a bluff bid that took him out of the running for the 5-Star Steak House (and gave it to me). On the penultimate turn, I noticed that lots of people were bidding on the premiums (as the basics were gone or almost gone), and so I guessed that there was a good chance the game would end soon, and I was right. I used my turn before to hook up my two sides and fill the Hotel side.

In the end, I'd managed to get both of the bonuses for revenue and population, but Matt was surprisingly strong (and had seven poins for diamonds, where I had none), and we ended up tying for first place! Sadly (for him), the tiebreaker was money, and I had $20 left over because I'd renovated the turn before. I'll take a squeaker win anyday.

We'd also gotten the chance to try out Ben's new Wii system that he kindly brought over. This truly is a revolutionary system, and while it won't necessarily win over hard core gamers, it is astonishly easy and intuitive to use. Ben and I tried out the boxing game that comes with the sports games bundled with the basic set, and what a hoot that was. Bobbing, weaving, undercuts, it's really hard to explain how different this system is without actually showing it to someone. I'll definitely pick one of these up, but probably not until after the start of the year when the channel starts to fill up again. Very cool!

Thanks to all for coming, and we'll see you next week!


Matthew said...

I enjoyed the Vegas Showdown game enough that I ended up buying it and playing it with my folks and siblings on Friday. It played well and is a good game for non-gamers, once they get past the level of detail.

I have to say that last building I bought (Theatre) in our game felt a bit like a "God Building." I thought I would end the game at least ten points behind you, Doug, but I got 16 points out of it (12 Base Fame + 5 Theme + 3 Connectivity - 4 for money I would have had left over had I not purchased it).

In reading through the rules, I saw that choosing the Publicity action allows you to place an off board tile into your casino. Maybe you mentioned it and I missed it, but it would be nice if they'd but some sort of reminder on the board that the Publicity action doesn't only give you 1 Fame.

I *also* read that you actually have to trade in your money for your 1 Fame/$10 at then end, so you didn't actually *have* any cash on end in the end game. (insert friendly ribbing here)

Dug said...

Well done, Matt, not only on identifying the mistake but in taking the win. I thought you were completely out of it in the midgame. All part of your misdirection campaign, I'm sure!

And here I thought I'd finally explained a game correctly the first time...

Matthew said...


Well, I didn't have any cash left over either, so we'll call it a draw.

When I played with my family last night, as soon as it was possible that the game might end (another rectangular premium room drawn), it did.

It took us by surprise. I'll be curious, going forward with this game about the effect of such a broad range of endgame times - the game *could* have gone on at least eight more turns...