Billabong Boardgamers January 19th, 1999
Present: Dey, Roger, Janet, Doug, Bernie, Moray, Liz, David C., Julian, David M., Greg
Doug Adams writes:
Another strong turnout with new gamers David McCartney and Bernie (whose surname I missed). Bernie was a Melbourne gamer who discovered the website and came along. Apart from an extra gamer, Bernie is from Germany and knew about several of the games we play. Hopefully rules hassles are a thing of the past ;)
Roger and myself lined up against new players (to this game) David Coutts and David McCartney. I would have been quite happy if I'd never played this game again as I thought it was mediocre the one and only time I'd tried it, but bolstered by Greg Schloesser's urgings, the good press just about everyone else online was giving it, and the deep down feeling that I really *should* try it again, I opted in on the game.
I'm *very* glad I did - my opinion of this game did a 180 degree turn and the rating is now a high '8'. You definitely need a warm-up game before you start seeing possibilities and how to defend against such possibilities. Roger took care to explain the game to the two David's, who seemed to grasp the concepts, and off we went.
Right from the start this game differed markedly from my only previous game. In that game the map formed itself into one long chain of tiles, with each player just lining up against the previous player's caballero cards and not creating a good game at all. This time it was mixed up from the beginning, with cards leaving the board (voluntarily or not) to expand the board in intricate and interesting ways. One large land mass was being formed in the centre and being contested strongly by Roger and Doug.
David and David were perhaps struggling with some of the finer tactics of the game, and trying to build strong empires from the satellite islands starting to form around the outside of this large 10 space island. The large island became even more valuable when Roger took back a caballero card and placed a land tile in the gap that effectively joined the large land mass to another mass, extending it by 5 tiles or so.
Roger did this as he thought he was gaining control of the whole mass, but he actually gave it to me as I my Grande on a caballero tile that influenced this mass, and Roger hadn't factored that in. While we would have let him replay the move, he let it stand and this island was hotly contested for the rest of the game.
Doug took a score of 48 from the first scoring round, helped no end by this land mass, and several ships on a large ocean area. This was more than double the score of any of the others, so it was get him in the intervening rounds before scoring took place again.
Roger made a great effort to achieve this - removing a caballero tile and extending to give himself control of the region. However, Doug had played the '2' power card and flanked Roger's controlling caballero tile with a land tile on his turn, and with the '13' power card played on the next turn, giving control of the critical large region back to Doug.
This control was not taken off Doug again. Roger tried hard to build land around Doug's tile with the Grande on it (giving him more points in the process) to threaten vulnerable Caballero tiles flanking it. Roger nearly did it with a neat move where Doug's tile was flanked, and he then covered the space with one of his own Caballero tiles, at low cost. This was clever, as Doug couldn't defend the now vulnerable Caballero tile next to his Grande (apart from the mandatory Castillo), and on Roger's next turn he could remove his covering tile and play a land tile against my tile to remove it - at his leisure so to speak.
This happened, but nobody could not take advantage of the gap, and Doug still had control of the large land mass at the end of round 7. At this point it was agreed that Doug couldn't be caught and the game was abandoned (it was very late at this stage, as well).
Despite the lopsided score line, all players were very engrossed and agreed at the end of the game that the game was indeed excellent. The strongest of the Essen '98 releases so far. If only they'd put it in a sensible box, but that would almost certainly disguised the depth of this fine game.
Doug The Converted's rating: 8
We broke open Greg's newly purchased Elfenland because that was the only game there that Liz, Moray and myself knew how to play. I do not explain rules very well, as I tend to forget half of them until I get playing!
The three of of all reached 5 cities on the first round for an even start, and no logs appeared until the third turn when Janet played a log on Moray, which was followed up by a log being played on Janet by Liz. Moray retaliated in round four with a log on Janet, however Janet had an extra card and wasn't hindered by this.
Janet and Moray travelled with a caravan a few times each, while Liz having a good hand of cards each turn didn't seem to need such transportation.
Janet's rating: 7 (would rate higher with more players)
Greg and Bernie were playing this game for the first time and grasped it well. One rules issue that came up was what happens in the following example:
Greg leads: blue 4 Bernie plays: brown 6 Janet plays: brown 4 and declares trump
What happens? Does Bernie take the trick? Can Janet make that play and declare trump? Answer: this is illegal, Janet cannot declare brown trump. Bernie, playing brown first in the trick, declares whether it is trump or not, and that stands for the rest of the trick.
Janet's rating: 7