In a burst of activity, the Tuesday night session at Mike's had five, count 'em, five attendees - HazMatt, Jeff, George, Mike, and myself. I had been hoping to give Brass a shot, but seeing as Mike was supposed to teach Cuba at the upcoming Gamestorm con (which I am missing to go to, wait for it, Palm Desert), and we had five, Cuba seemed like the right choice.
I don't mind Cuba, although I have to say it doesn't really grab me as it might have, say, five years ago. I like that you can take several paths to winning, as shown by Matt beating me despite me having an early and effective cigar strategy (helped by a nearly endless stream of cigar-ready shipping). I ran out of money fairly quickly, and with generally high taxes for points (and few chances to grab citrus), most of my points were coming from loading cigars on the 3 boat, usually for 9 points a turn. So clearly you can win this game without having a machine working for you. Of course, the thing that won for Matt was generating VP from a couple of buildings and a Subsidy that let him play the Mayor for an extra five points at the end of each turn, generating somewhere between 8 and 13 points every turn. It was a pretty sweet deal, and no one else was spending money to change that law because of the Corruption Act.
I like the game, as I like Caylus and Pillars of the Earth, although there do seem to be a lot of fussy little rules - ties go to the last person to play the fourth card after the start player, but to the first player after the start player after the second voting round. The whole turning water into mangoes thing is very confusing, and I believe this is the first game I've played where I understood it correctly (out of three games). And, seeing as I've actually *been* to Cuba (legally, for any Bush data miners out there), you'd think I'd have a particular interest. Where the game starts to fall down is that I am pretty good at planning what my move for the turn will be, taking into account what others may or may not do. In this game, no one else was making cigars, so I could ship them whenever I wished - the holds were always available, and in any case I could convert them to VP anyway. As such, I knew exactly what I needed to do in any given turn.
However, Cuba tends to be a fairly tactical game, so if you are in a competitive area (as rum was in our game), you stop and spend a lot of time thinking about what you need to do when the person in front of you does something you did not expect. As such, I spent about a tenth of the game actually thinking about what I needed to do, another tenth doing it, and the remaining 80% waiting for others to decide on their action. That may be a little atypical, but five may be one too many for this game from a downtime perspective.
We finished up with a rousing game of Foppen, which I did pretty well at but never well enough to get all cards out of my hand (my max was, I think, -11, with an average of less than -5 for the entire game). Matt, who went out at least twice, won handily while I tied with George for second (and quite a ways back). This is a game I need to get next time it's in print, as I do love trick taking games and general play them pretty well (all of that Bridge training, you know).
Not sure where we're at next time, as Chris will just be back from Europe and his family will, in all likelihood, be sleeping starting around 6pm that night. ;-)