Billabong Boardgamers - 4th April, 2000
Present: Alan, David, Julian W, Craig, Doug, Janet, Debbie, Tina, Donna
Doug Adams writes:
Happy Birthday to Alan!
Craig, Donna, Julian, Janet, Doug
Five players lined up to play this fine game that has been a bit neglected lately. Doug and Janet had played it the most (perhaps 5 times), while Julian had played it once. It was new to Donna and Craig, so Doug bumbled his way through the rules via a combination of memory, quick rules scans and making it up.
The gist of the game is to build up a trading route network and score points. You don't actually trade on this network, you simply build it! Points are claimed for founding trading stations in towns (1 point each), having lots of 20 guilders at the end of the game (1 point per 20 guilders), having trading stations founded in regions of the board (2 points each), and for claiming city disks (varying point values).
Once the rules are absorbed, and they are not difficult, the game settles down and becomes a very nice route planning game in which there may be several choices of action. However you are limited to how much you can accomplish per turn. One of the really nice decisions is at the beginning of your turn as whether you want to draw income from a city or add a trading station to that city. Income is critical to funding future expansion - ie. nice. Adding trading stations help you towards a majority in a city and thus claiming the city disk (for lots of points - also nice). It's not an easy decision and very much dependant on what the other players are concentrating on. It's typically the player who best combines income, city trading stations and expansion that comes out on top here.
In our game Craig opened up with the 8 city and began drawing income from it every turn. Very soon Craig found he had friends as Julian and Janet founded stations in that city. Janet began a takeover there, choosing to add stations rather than draw income, which Craig was content to let happen - he being happy to draw income and expand. Very soon Janet had claimed the 8 disk, and combined with a few lesser city disks, had a clear lead on the board.
Julian seemed to be pulling in vast amounts of guilders from his untouched cities in the north west, but was not claiming city disks until the second half of the game. This saw him move up into a strong second position, which ended up being hotly contested with Doug. Doug had begun close to the 6 and 7 cities in the northeast, but was soon joined in those cities by Donna and Craig. This led Doug to try and mix up his turns with combinations off add stations/draw income to guarantee cash flow as well as sow up the lucrative city disks.
Donna expanded early down into the hard-to-reach southeast corner, but towards the end of the game found the northwest cut off to her ("Doug is one turn ahead of me!"). This denied her some useful region points during the final tally up.
However, it was Janet's skilful combination of towns, income, and city control that gave her the lead and kept her there. Next time, she will not take the 8 disk so easily!!!! :-)
Janet: 51 (7 disks)
Doug's rating: 7 - nice to rediscover this one.
The other table was locked up in a McMulti for almost the entire evening, so our five Medieval Merchants split into a three and a two.
Doug taught Julian the fine art of Lost Cities. After a practice hand (in which Doug had claimed the 9/10 in four colours!! - what must Julian be thinking!?) we played a 3 hand game. That practice had was the high point for Doug, as nothing really presented itself while Julian had two or three really good expeditions to counter his occasional negative scores. Highlight was an expedition of Julian's that picked up 81 points.
Doug's rating: 8
David, Alan, Julian, Doug
A four player closer. Doug went for a low card strategy, David took billions of cards. Julian and Alan seemed to slot in between the two strategies, although Alan seemed to take a lot of cards late in the game - not a good thing. The "lots of cards" strategy seems to come out on top most times in this game, and it succeeded again.
David: 22-13 = 9
Doug's rating: 7
Debbie Pickett writes:
Debbie, Alan, David, Tina
My second playing of this, and I am coming to the conclusion that it's a fun game, but agree with Tina's opinion that it's too long for what it is - namely, a dicefest.
This was a first-timer for Alan and David, and so I employed Doug's time-honoured tactic of explaining from memory and making it up as I went along (which only bit me once, fortunately). We played with the standard rules, which I might be reluctant to do again, as I will explain later.
I invested heavily in drilling rigs early on, more so than the others. Alan and David bought heavily in them after a few turns, and it was Alan who made the first strike. Not surprising, at one point more than half of his island was drilling rigs! Poor Tina managed to consistently roll empty spaces with her dice, and only got two pumping stations as a result, both late in the game. I made a nice start with some good sales and at one point was about 300 million ahead of everyone else. But Alan was Biding His Time(tm).
During the middle of the game, play stagnated as we went several times around the table without rolling a double. There was a glut of crude oil and the consumer oil prices came down to be very cheap. Every dollar was extremely hard-earned until someone finally rolled a double and we were back in business.
The end of the game came when I announced that through selling off a refinery and a service station that I'd cracked the one-billion mark, but by this time Alan was Breathing Down My Neck and I was afraid that I'd made the dash for the finish too early. I was certainly running out of steam by that time. David and Tina really didn't have a chance at this point, having had some less-than-stellar die rolls.
In the end, it was a photo finish. I think I came out ahead on a technicality. 7 million in the end is really almost nothing. Alan really deserved to have win here, as he played very well and timed his final attack perfectly; luckily for me, I'd saved a few extra cents somewhere along the way and ended up with the most money.
Next time, I think we'll play with one of the variants which reduce the impact a run of non-doubles has on the game. That might stop it from stagnating and might also make the game last less than THREE HOURS!
Final scores (millions): Debbie 1291, Alan 1284, David 773, Tina 359
My rating: Certainly a 6. True, there's little player interaction, there's so much luck it makes all that talk about Andromeda pale by comparison, but it's still fun. And it has cool bits.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
Alan, David, Debbie, Tina
A few hands of this little gem before Tina and I had to vanish. As usual, I finished last.
My rating: A 6, but slipping. I'm starting to wonder if there's any strategy for the hand I usually get - middling numbers in all five suits.