Billabong Boardgamers
 

Billabong Boardgamers - November 2nd, 1999

Present: Doug, Janet, Alan, Donna, Craig Mac., David, Bernie, Greg, Debbie.

Previous session report

Good night tonight, with Greg returning after too long an absence, along with David and Bernie back from the Essen fair. David was clutching a copy of Stephenson's Rocket, along with a copy of Games Games Games with 6 Billion on the cover!

STEPHENSON'S ROCKET

David, Alan, Janet, Doug

The Knizia rail game that we'd been waiting for, and appearing at Billabong a lot earlier than we'd expected! David said this is the only game he'd carried back on the aircraft - the rest are coming back via the post.

This one is pretty heavy for RK - definitely at the Euphrat end of the complexity scale, but not really a complex game. All the complexity here is in the scoring combinations - what scores what, when does it score it, and who will get it? The game feels like Durch die Wueste meets Acquire - not a bad pedigree.

What happens? Seven railways gradually track out across England. On your turn you get two actions. One of these can be to extend a railway one hex further, and draw a share of stock in that railway. Before the track tile can be placed to finalise the move, however, any other stockholder in that railway can veto the move by giving up a bid amount of stock to place the railway somewhere else. This led to many interesting plays, and battles over "passengers" (incorrectly played as we discovered, see questions below).

The second option available to the players is to place one of their coloured station blocks on the board in the hope a railway will be built through that hex. It's a bit of an each way bet this, as you cannot guarantee you will be built over, but the builder earns a passenger chit which pays off at the end (perhaps). Having a majority of railway stations on a line pays off when the line connects to a railway hex (specific station towns around England) and at the end of the game when final scoring takes place.

The last option available for the player's two actions is to take goods tokens off the cities on the board (each city is a different colour matching the chits - cities are different to railway towns). When train lines are built into these cities, majority holders in the coloured goods pay off (and there are only three goods per city).

The game play is pretty simple - do two of the above. The complexity is in the scoring and boy did we get confused early on. Here's how I see it:

  • If you build a track into a railway town, majority stations on that track pay off for each town and city built into, $1000 per city/town (second place gets half).

  • If you build a track into a city, majority goods from that city pay off, $2000 (second place gets $1000).

  • If you merge two rail lines, the mover is disbanded and majority shareholder again gets a town/city payout of $1000 per town/city, with second place being paid half. Stock is then cashed in at 2:1 into the remaining rail line.

Actually that all sounds pretty clear, but at the end of the game, scoring mutates into:

  • Each line still active, majority/secondary shareholder picks up another city/town payout, then...

  • you do it all again for each active line, this time based on stations built along the line, then...

  • goods from cities pay out based on TYPE of good, not city it came from. Each majority in the five or six types (including passengers) pays out $6000/$3000 for first/second place.

This was all pretty heavy stuff for four newbies, and I'm sure one person who's played before would do much better at teaching new players. I think one of the problems is everything looked rather similar to us, done in "Doris green". Looks great, but confusing in that first game. We struggled through the game for the first hour, then things started to move along. There was a lot of downtime while moves where considered, and vetos were played out.

Doug and David developed the yellow line in the south early and it was looking strong. However, even strong lines can fall here, if it's moved into another line - even a pipsqueak line! Doug went on a merge-a-thon and quickly destroyed orange, green and Janet's promising blue line so yellow could progress.

While Doug and David were struggling over control of yellow stock, Alan was a quiet presence on the board with a few stock in red, but spending most of his actions collecting chits off towns - these score via majorities at the end of the game, providing the town the goods came from is linked to a track - nice rule, that.

Janet, after seeing her beloved blue line destroyed by her beloved Doug, went collecting chits as well, and began dabbling in the grey line in the north. At about this time Doug self destructed by voluntarily merging yellow into red, and THEN realising this was a bad move as both stock and stations were going to guarantee him a payout at the end. In effect he squandered about $10000 (probably more). What the heck! :)

The purple line in the north became isolated, and grey was merged into red to end the game because only one active line was left on the board. Scores:

David: $53000
Janet: $50000
Alan: $43000
Doug: $39000

Questions (with answers from Jay of Rio Grande Games):

  • Defunct lines after a merge - are they now part of the controlling line that took them over? We played no. We assumed they were just dead track, and any stations on them were useless (unless relocated). Jay writes: they are now part of the existing line that merged with it

  • Isolated lines - can active lines merge into them? If yes, do you receive a payout in the isolated line's stock even though it's been "removed from the game"? We played no. Jay writes: if it's possible to merge the line, then it's not isolated

  • Veto - can you win a veto, keep the proposed move, and take the passenger off the active player? Indeed, that's the only reason I can see why you'd do it. We played yes. Jay writes: no - only the active player may take a passenger. Winning a veto will not get you a passenger.

Interesting game - quite nasty, lots of scoring possibilities and combinations. Tons of stuff to keep track of, and rather overwhelming to me first game. Desperate to play again to get a better idea.

Oh, we took 2 hours on this, including 20 minutes rules time. Give the rules a good first read, there's some tricky stuff in there.

Doug's rating: 8, and may actually work 2 player! Spiel des Jahres for Reiner at last? Or Taj Mahal? Just kidding... ;-)

BIG CITY

A new game to David and Alan. Debbie and Doug made up the four. Debbie started slowly, while the other three opened with double residence and business buildings. Doug was in the lead early thanks to a triple residence, a post office, a church and a tripled double business (thanks to Debbie who placed the town hall).

That town hall was troubling Doug, who'd picked up the "L" shaped factory and wanted to get it down in a rather obvious shopping mall building site. Too late, Debbie got the mall down and jumped 30 points to threaten the lead.

Doug was leading late into the game and invested heavily in the 60 deck, but picked up rubbish that zig-zagged down the 60's block. Debbie was trying to inconspicuously build the streetcar line over to the 80's block for another shopping mall (and certain win) but David thwarted that by using up the last two streetcars.

The game wound down with David left holding cards, and a doubled post office, followed by a single business nailed Doug's 10 point lead.

Scores:
David: 73
Doug: 72
Alan: 63
Debbie: 63

David was so taken by the "great bits" he bought my crushed box copy right away.

Doug's rating: 7, but four is the limit in this game.

That's it - lots of other stuff played. Oggled a bit at Bernie's Settlers of Nuremburg (just an empty box!) - sure looks nice.

Alan Stewart writes:

(Starting earlier on Melbourne Cup Day afternoon).

SETTLERS: THE CARD GAME

Craig Macbride 12
Alan 9

Craig ended up with 1 more settlement, played the 3 spy cards (1 stolen from Alan), and ended up with both the knight and mill tokens.

Alan built both Waterworks, but plague never came up after they were built!

At one stage scores were 10-10, with the mill token swapping sides with each turn.

JOE

Craig Macbride: -40 -20 70 -10 -90 -80 -10 winner
Alan: 5 -35 5 115 205 210 130
Donna: 15 120 40 65 180 140 220

Everyone went out concealed (-80) at least once, and everyone was caught with a full hand at least once.

BLUFF

Janet won, from Craig, Doug, Alan, Donna (order eliminated).

Debbie Pickett writes:

When I arrived, a group of four was already going over the rules for a brand new copy of Stephenson's Rocket, so the rest of us started on a game of Trumpet.

TRUMPET

Bernie, Craig, Greg, Debbie

This old game has been receiving a lot of attention lately at Billabong. It was new to Greg and Craig, but they picked up the idea quickly and took off into the lead. As usual I trailed most of the game, but actually caught up towards the end, and a couple of fortuitous cards helped me to win the game, with Bernie and Greg about two spaces back and Craig stuck about 8 steps back, having not got a single supertrump in the whole game.

ADEL VERPFLICHTET

Bernie, Craig, Greg, Debbie

Since the other table was still going through the rules of Stephenson's Rocket at this stage, Greg got out his copy of Adel Verpflichtet (insert or remove consonants as you wish). The game was new to me and perhaps others, so the rules were quickly explained and we got underway.

Greg led off early with a little exhibit of As and Bs, while we others were collecting some more antiques for larger exhibits. As a result we trailed for the entire game, although Bernie threatened towards the end. Greg continued to exhibit the same cruddy collection of As and Bs (weren't the people going to these exhibits getting sick of the same stuff all the time?) and no one was able to catch him. In the end it was Greg by a country mile.

My rating: 5. Clever but vicious, I can probably only play this one when I'm in the right mood.

6 NIMMT!

Bernie, Craig, Greg, Debbie

I think that the other table was just about starting to play Stephenson's Rocket about now, so we played a couple of games of this little filler. We played with the cards from 1 to 44, so there were no gaps in the sequence of cards in play each hand.

Having never played this one before more than just figuring out the rules, I must have hit it lucky. Everyone else was being lumped with huge piles of cards, whereas the most bullheads I ever took in one hand was 12. Poor Greg was especially unfortunate in the second game, landing a few huge piles several times. Ironically, it was Bernie who ended up with the most points in game 2.

Scores, game 1:
Debbie 0 9 11
Bernie 11 17 32
Greg 15 27 34
Craig 19 38 68

Scores, game 2:
Debbie 12 20 20 24
Craig 10 22 43 43
Greg 34 54 57 67
Bernie 7 15 50 74

My rating: 7. A great little filler that gives you the illusion of control when you are really at the mercy of what cards your opponents play.

By this time, the other table had packed up Stephenson's Rocket again, possibly without even playing it, and we regrouped for games of Big City and Medici.

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