Billabong Boardgamers
 

Billabong Boardgamers - 11th July, 2000

Present: Alan, Doug, David, Craig, Torben, Debbie, Steve, Joe

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

BATTLE CRY

McPherson's Ridge
Union: Doug
Confederates: David

After a week of taunting on the Billabong mailing list, old adversaries Doug and David lined up for another game of Battle Cry. David whipped Doug last week at Antietam Creek, so now it was time to up the ante.

David proposed we play a six game campaign over several weeks. Our campaign scenario is Gettysburg - we'll play the three scenarios from Gettysburg as one side, then as the other side, and tally flags at the end of it. As we are only playing one scenario per evening, this could take a couple of months.

Reports of our campaign will be Compiled on our Campaign Game Page!.

McPherson's Ridge, the first scenario in our campaign, is not included in the game but was devised by Dennis Snow and has found its way onto Web Grognards. It is a very interesting situation simulating the opening "clash" at Gettysburg between Harry Heth's division, up against Buford's cavalry and the Iron Brigade. The battlefield features the Ridge running virtually the length of the board, with the Union basically defending it against the Rebel advance. The Confederates must cross a creek (Willoughby Run, I think) to engage the Union. The Rebels have a slight manpower advantage, but the Union begin closer to the defensive terrain, and have potent horse artillery.

A rather neat rule, which really creates a sense of "get there first with the most" is the Ridge hexes are in fact flag points! If you can get an infantry unit onto the Ridge, you are one flag up. Excellent scenario rule that really the importance of that ridge in the opening clash of forces.

The Union, led by General Adams, began well courtesy of a Bombard card. The artillery begins deployed in advance of the infantry line on the Ridge, and it managed to clear out some advancing Rebels and take the first flag. That bastion of the Rebel army, General Coutts, was trying to set up a balanced attack on all sectors of the battlefield, and threaten the Ridge hexes from multiple points. Whether this was deliberate or not, I am not sure, but it certainly worked.

The Union was forced from their strategy of advancing their own infantry, and using the cavalry and horse artillery to pick off individual threats as they approached the Ridge. A second Rebel flag fell, but the Union suffered a setback when one of the cavalry units was eliminated, along with it's General.

So, two flags all and Heth's division advancing en echelon. A rather desperate "Short of Supplies" sent one measly regiment back to General Coutts' edge of the battlefield. However, this didn't distract the master tactician one bit, as Rebels began swarming up the hill courtesy of the All Out Offensive card. It was suddenly like facing Napoleon as the flag count, courtesy of Ridge hexes occupied, now hit 5-2 in the Rebels favour.

General Adams launched a counter attack, as the Rebels were about to win next turn (one more unit on the Ridge and it was all over) and drove one Rebel back down the Ridge. The Union thought it had bought enough time as the Union now had to activate two sectors to get their two units back up the hill, and this should take two separate turns. Not so, a Coordinated Attack, allowing one unit from each sector to activate, saw two more Ridge hexes occupied and a historical result.

Confederates currently leading after Day 1 at Gettysburg: 6-2

Breakdown:
Confederates: 4 terrain, 2 Union flags
Union: 2 Confederate flags

Next up, Day 2, The Devil's Den.

David writes: Nothing much to add except I thought it was a well-designed scenario, played in half an hour (plus 10-15 minutes set up), and was closer than the score indicates!

STEPHENSON'S ROCKET

Steve, Joe, Doug, Debbie

Steve had requested this one, continuing on his Knizia-a-thon. I have played this game around 5 times and didn't feel anywhere near confident I knew what I was doing. As Debbie ran through the rules, backwards - you don't get it easy Steve ;-), Steve began looking more and more stupefied. Once we were sure he didn't have the faintest idea, we began....

The early game saw a real clash of styles. "Old hands" Doug and Debbie began in the north and started splattering stations across northern England and linking them up. Steve ran the orange line up from the south, placed an early station and linked it, but seemed more intent on grabbing commodity tokens. Joe was in no doubt of his strategy, also a new player, he grabbed any token he could lay his hands on. In fact he used his first 6 or 7 actions to claim 2 per turn. Doug sneakily took textiles off him but I think he picked up the majority in the other three types.

Once the token-fest had settled down, the game of cat and mouse with trains and stations began. Joe and Steve took some time over their moves, trying to fathom the game. Doug was working on the grey and yellow lines, and building up nice share holdings in both. Steve had placed stations well, and had managed to link most of them up in the centre of the board. Debbie, linking a lot of early stations, was using the same strategy as Steve, but the lines were avoiding her stations. Debbie had picked up some nice juicy payouts early and appeared to be the early leader.

At about the two-thirds point the majority of railway lines began to fall. Purple into red (Debbie/Doug); Orange into Yellow (Steve?); Yellow into Blue (Doug, Joe); Grey into Blue (Doug/?) and so on. Joe, who seemed to be out of it early via claiming tokens, was picking up some nice dollars (sorry, pounds) in the latter states of the game and had a chance to end the game in his favour. He could merge the Green train into either Red or Blue (which had become isolated). After some analysis, he went the blue route and took the majority of shares in that line. The $18,000 payout proved very beneficial. This last play ended the game with Joe picking up dollars galore courtesy of his early token strategy. Debbie/Doug took passengers.

Scores:
Doug/Joe: 70
Debbie: 57
Steve: 54

Doug's rating: 8 ... beginning to make sense :-)

Steve writes: I think I made two related mistakes. My first thought, to run the orange line up from the south and link stations to to it, was, I suspect, essentially a good one. But in my confusion I abandoned it and tried to to get in on the action up north. But Debbie and Doug had a solid head start there, and so all my moves there were basically unproductive, since I could never get a majority share holding in Purple (later, Red), or Grey.

At the same time, I further confused myself by also trying to imitate some of Joe's much more clear-headed play by taking commodity tokens. I'm amazed that Joe was able so quickly to hit on a winning strategy and pursue it without distraction in his first game.

In short, my play displayed all the classic symptoms of the clueless newbie. But then, so did my first game of Taj Mahal. I look forward to riding the Rocket again.

DIE FUERSTEN VON FLORENZ

Steve, Debbie, Doug

A new game at Billabong, and rather a good one! There is so much going on in this one that I could spend the next 200 lines describing it. To put it simply, we play Princes of the Renaissance who are out to be patrons to intellectuals. We are hoping these people will fall under out patronage, produce stunning works, and earn us prestige. It is the prestige earned that determines the winner.

To encourage the people to produce good work, we landscape our estates in such a way to keep our people happy. For example, the Astronomer likes a forest (dark skies), a tower (observatory), and if we give him those things, then his work will be of a better quality, and that means more prestige.

The game is played over seven turns, each turn split into two phases.

Phase A allows you to purchase one of the following at auction: park, lake, forest, jester, architect, prestige card, enticement card. (these all have uses, but you can only purchase one per turn, and you only have seven of these for the game!).

Phase B allows you to take two actions. Actions consist of: producing a work from a person, earning money and prestige; buying a bonus card to enhance potential works; buying a building (there are about a dozen of these); buying a freedom (keeps your people happy); or bring a new person to court to potentially produce a new work.

Therefore, in a nutshell, you are trying to landscape your palace grounds to entice your people into doing their best work. Producing a work keeps the cash flow running (most of this costs money) and keeps the prestige counter ticking over. There are lots of ways to pick up extra prestige along the way and during the endgame.

After frying Steve's brain in Stephenson's Rocket, we finished the job with this game. Steve wasn't feeling the best by this stage, but did stick it out. After a hurried description of the rules we hurtled through a three player game in an hour. During the game, Doug put on five works, while Debbie (who was very fond of lakes) and Steve put on four each. Doug had played once before and saw the power of prestige cards, and of producing works, and thus determined follow that course. It paid off as he triggered an extra 28 prestige at the end of round seven, including his end of game prestige cards.

Scores:
Doug: 68
Debbie: 52
Steve: 38

I've rather brutally rushed this last report - apologies for that - this is really a fine game. Excellent mechanics, nicely presented and an appealing theme. This game does have a distinct "multiplayer solitaire" feel to it with the interaction between players handled via the auction and purchases. There is a fair bit of German text on the components, but it is really only the Bonus and Prestige cards that benefit from a translation (many thanks to Steffan O'Sullivan for those cards). The rest of the German text is perfectly manageable.

A solid 8 - if it stands up to repeated play, will probably go 9.

Debbie Pickett writes:

THROUGH THE DESERT

Alan, Debbie, Torben, Steve, Craig

Steve recently bought the Fantasy Flight version of this Reiner Knizia placement game. I admit to slightly preferring the original Kosmos version, with its slightly more appealing board coloration (the board is also a bit sturdier in the Kosmos version). The Fantasy Flight version has identically shaped waterholes, a marginal improvement over the Kosmos one where this could affect the initial layout. The camels are identical, as are the trees that mark oases.

I don't remember many details of the game, save that Torben got some impressive enclosed areas and long camel trains. The game ended when I used the last lilac camel to deny Torben from doing the same. I thought I was right out of the running, as did Alan. How surprised we were to see the final scores. I personally have no idea how these scores came to be.

Final scores:
Alan 57
Debbie 54
Torben 52
Steve 45
Craig 36

Rating: There's a heck of a lot of downtime with this game, especially when players analyse their moves a lot, and especially especially when there are five players. I'll happily play it, but there are other games I'd prefer to play. Currently a 6, with a chance of going down to 5.

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