Billabong Boardgamers
 

Billabong Boardgamers - 14th December, 1999

Present: Debbie, Roger, Craig, Doug, Janet, Bernie, Donna

Previous session report

Petra Pickett writes:

FRANK'S ZOO

Doug, Roger, Janet, Debbie

While waiting for people to arrive, we picked up this supposedly quick little card game. Doug read out the rules while we de-shrink-wrapped the cards and dealt them out.

This game is essentially a reworking of The Great Dalmuti, which is itself a reworking of a standard-deck-of-cards game. Each kind of animal card (there are 11) has other cards that rank above it; unlike The Great Dalmuti there are holes in the hierarchy and even a route back down to smaller cards (mice outrank elephants). There are also wild cards and special rules regarding playing mosquito cards as elephants under some circumstances (turning mosquitoes into elephants is a German idiom akin to turning molehills into mountains in English).

We only played one hand, not really enough to get the idea of any strategy. People started arriving, so we packed the game up and got something meatier to play.

My rating: I wasn't very impressed; I give it a 5 with the understanding that this may go up.

DIE SIEDLER VON NÜRNBERG

Doug, Bernie, Donna, "Petra"

One of the participants of this game is going under a pseudonym because if Tina were to find out that I got to play this before she did, there'd be hell to pay. Any resemblance between me and Petra is purely coincidental.

Doug, Bernie and Petra had just gone through the rules of this brand-spanking-new copy of Teuber's latest in the Settlers empire, and started about two turns, when Donna arrived. So the game was started again.

This game certainly has more depth than the original Settlers; for one thing, the money aspect now makes for more options if resources aren't coming up for you. Actually, this is less of an issue now that the dice are replaced by a bunch of cards that produce a more even distribution of numbers. These cards also contain events, which add a little more flavour still to the game. This part of the game is a vast improvement over basic Settlers. The need to produce commodities in the city of Nürnberg becomes apparent early on, as this is the only way to make money with which to build parts of the city wall, which in turn earns prestige, which in turn earns victory points. This cascade of settlements to resources to gold to prestige to victory points is quite well balanced, giving you plenty of options almost every turn. This is in stark contrast to regular Settlers where you could be spending several turns in a row without anything to do because your numbers are not coming up. (This is actually similar to the use of resources as gold-equivalent in the Alexander the Great expansion for Settlers.)

In this instance of the game, Donna tried to focus on getting all of her settlements down on the regional map. This meant that she received a steady stream of resources in the later part of the game, which worked to her advantage. Doug began by getting the majority of tollbooths (sort of the Nürnberg version of roads) on roads, while Petra and Bernie spent their resources on setting up workshops to improve their gold income. The battle for the greatest prestige (worth 4, 3 or 2 victory points for first, second or third place) became very fierce, with Doug and Bernie building towers, and Petra building walls. Eventually, Petra got a workshop in the Bauhof and was allowed to build towers too. She pipped Doug to the 12-prestige mark (thus ensuring the safety of her 4 victory point card). Doug then cemented the 3-VP card in the same manner, leaving Bernie with the 2 on 10 prestige points.

Meanwhile, Donna was getting a disturbing number of points simply by having a huge presence of settlements and workshops on the board. She then managed to get two right-of-way cards off Doug, which not only ruined Doug's chances but meant that Donna needed only two more victory points to win. Petra was in the same situation and needed only to build a settlement to reach the target of 13 VPs. In the end, Donna's more balanced play enabled her to get the necessary resources, which she spent on gold and then on a tower, giving her 11 prestige points, and stealing the 2-VP card from Bernie, giving her victory.

Final scores:
Donna 5 Settlements + 3 Workshops + 3 Right-of-ways + 2 VP from prestige = 13 points (Prestige = 11)
Petra 3 + 4 + 1 + 4 = 12 (12)
Doug 4 + 1 + 0 + 3 = 8 (12)
Bernie 4 + 3 + 1 + 0 = 8 (10)

My rating: How can I rate it? I didn't play it! But "Petra" rates it an 8, slighly better than other Settlers variants (but she hasn't played Städte und Ritter, nor Sternenfarher yet). A very balanced Settlers with lots less luck than the standard game. Highly recommended.

Roger Smith writes:

PRAIRIE RAILROADS

Janet: 527
Craig: 526
Roger: 457

I've been dragging this along to Billabong for months now in the hope of getting a game. We looked set to go with 5 players when Bernie arrived. The lure of Siedler von Nürnburg was just too much for some, so we split into two groups. Let me start by saying I think this is a great game: much better than Lancashire Rails (which I do enjoy). PR has very much the look and feel of a German game: some very tricky decision making. The mental arithmetic you need to go through when deciding how much to bid for a share is very reminiscent of Medici. On the negative side, it does require lots of paperwork, and the aforementioned mental arithmetic might be a turn off for some people.

As none of us had played before, we had absolutely NO idea what to do at the beginning: particularly how much to bid and how many shares we should attempt to get hold of. It took us quite a few turns to work out even the most basic strategy. I kept having "NOW I think I get it" flashes of inspiration throughout the game. We played one rule right...then wrong...then right again. This may have thrown the balance of the game out somewhat. I concentrated on a couple of lines, Janet had the majority of shares in the only line that made it through to the west (I just couldn't make that last link) and Craig diversified and accumulated large quantities of cash. Worked well with three players, but I'd like to try with more.

Roger's rating: 8

RES PUBLICA

Roger: 24
Bernie: 23
Doug: 16
Craig: 14
Janet: 9

I've never had a game of Res Publica where the leadership changed so often. I was sure Doug was going to win. He had two Village cards down before I had even one. Maybe this game doesn't have a catch the leader problem after all. I just snuck ahead of Bernie due to an extra pair.

Roger's rating: 8

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