Billabong Boardgamers
 

Billabong Boardgamers - 22nd August, 2000

Present: Doug, David, Steve, Debbie, Donna, Alan, Tina, Janet, Roger

Previous session report

Doug Adams writes:

SILBERSWERG

Alan, Steve, Doug, Tina

We split into a five and four - the other five playing The White Lotus for the first time. Alan and Steve were new to Silberswerg, Tina and Doug having played once before (see report from a couple of weeks ago for a description).

Tina and Doug completed jewel contracts on the first turn, Tina with a very lucrative 120 contract. Tina followed it up with a second contract on turn 2 to race away to a hundred point lead. During the middle game Alan, Steve and Doug caught up and passed Tina. Doug managed a set of 3 "pick axe" contracts to earn a nice 40 bonus, and repeated that towards the end of the game with a set of "mallets". Tina also collected a set, which led Alan to believe this was a rather luck based mechanic (I'm not so sure - those other tiles have their uses as well).

This game certainly has a nice "ebb and flow" feel. The lead changed multiple times as players tried different strategies to maximise profits. As the contracts dried up and everything became "public", the sell option began to get some use. There were some nice payoffs, with gems often going for 10 each towards the end.

In what was to be the second to last turn, Doug sold off everything to jump out to a 50 point lead. Tina sold everything on the last turn, having stolen two of Doug's gems (worth 20!!!), to take a narrow lead and hold it to the end. Steve turned in three +5/-5 tiles to reduce Tina's score and increase his, making the final result very close.

Tina: 583
Doug: 576
Alan: 540
Steve: 453

EXXTRA

Alan, Steve, Tina, Doug

Mad dice-tossing mayhem. Tina would be magnificent in Vegas (just one more throw...).

Alan: 21
Doug: 18
Steve: 14
Tina: 9

Doug's rating: 8. I'm quite taken with this game, and enjoy the blind bidding/allocation mechanic in other games as well (Keydom, etc). The game works very well.

TAJ MAHAL

Doug, Roger, David, Donna, Alan

When The White Lotus finally finished, we swapped around and I ended up in a game of Taj Mahal - probably the best game I've played this year. I love the planning aspect, the card management, and the poker-like showdowns to make those plans come to fruition.

Doug jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a pickup of the +2 bonus card on turn two, and following a bits and pieces strategy of claiming whatever points he could. Alan was in hot pursuit, but it was Roger who made the big move in the game. He claimed several elephant tiles early on and snowballed out to a 10 point lead. Donna was withdrawing early and trying to transfer the entire contents of the play deck into her hand - very intimidating. David overbid early and spend the mid game trying to reconstruct his hand.

As Roger was making his move, Doug and Alan had a showdown over region 6. As part of Doug's liquorice allsorts strategy, he was after the elephant tile to build on his gems collection. According to the script, everybody dropped out apart from Alan who decided to improvise. Having committed several cards, Alan didn't want to withdraw. The bidding ran to about seven cards each, with Doug taking it. That really blew Alan's chances as he was down to a three or four card hand after drawing.

The end of the game was "catch Roger". Alan led, and Doug playing next played a short suit in a vague hope of taking Agra for four points. Amazingly, it came off as Alan withdrew with nothing. Donna claimed most of the booty in region twelve, bonus cards where exchanged and long suits presented.

Donna: 40
Doug / Roger: 39
Alan: 35
David: 30

It is only the morning after that I realise I didn't take my palace point for Region 12. I was so excited taking Agra I only took four points instead of five! Aaaargh! :-) Great game. A 9 for me.

Debbie Pickett writes:

UNION PACIFIC

Janet, Tina, Debbie, Steve (in seating order)

Lately I've been playing this Alan Moon creation quite a bit, and when I discovered that Steve hadn't played it before . . well, that was all the incentive I needed!

We played with a selection of second-edition rules with respect to earning UP shares. Steve picked up on the rules pretty quickly, and started on the yellow railway. Janet focussed on the black, Tina on the purple and I on the light blue. The first dividend came up as planned, and then we waited for the second divident card . . . and waited . . and waited. By now three quarters of the deck had gone, and we were beginning to wonder if there was in fact another dividend card in the game. The yellow, black, light blue, orange, purple and brown lines had been completely or almost completely exhausted. Thankfully the final three dividend cards came out, but not before a number of coups robbed several of us of valuable monopolies. The very last card in the deck turned out to be the fourth dividend card! With such a long game, scores were bound to be high.

Final scores (in millions of $):
Debbie 161
Tina 151
Steve 138
Janet 126.

Yet again, the strategy seems to be to dabble in several lines, then go strong in perhaps one or two. My second place in a number of companies earned me a lot of piddling small change, whereas Janet's monolithic black and green empires (and her UP share majority) didn't get her ahead as much as she wanted. The real decider was probably luck, as Tina repeatedly got useless cards and I almost always got what I wanted. Declaring at least one Union Pacific share early on is also essential; the rest are largely optional in my opinion.

My rating: I am loath to give games more than 8, in the hope that some day my Best Game of All Time will come; Union Pacific I will unreservedly give an 8 - I'm always happy to play it and will often suggest it.

Game history of railway lines:

  • Grey: Stagnated until late in the game, then expanded by Debbie and taken over by Steve.
  • Light Blue: Built exclusively by Debbie, monopolized for much of the game but didn't pay out a big monopoly because Tina managed to get one measly share to grab second place, 2/3 of the way through the game. All trains were built.
  • Brown: Built early by Tina, made it out the narrow neck to the southeast of Kansas City. Second place in shares owned by Debbie. All trains were built.
  • Orange: Monopolized by Steve early on, eventually limited by its ability to only grow on one kind of track. Second place picked up by Tina.
  • White: Neglected for most of the early game, finally a share turned up (taken by Steve) and built to a modest size. Second place alternated between Janet and Tina.
  • Purple: An early battle between Tina and Debbie over majority ownership, eventually won by Tina and built all the way out to Seattle. All or almost all trains were built.
  • Black: Heavily invested in by Janet, who had fully half of the available shares at the end of the game. Built to its completion. Second place alternated between Tina and Debbie. All trains were built.
  • Yellow: Built to vast amounts by Steve, with second place to Tina. Late in the game (but before the second dividend payout), Debbie took over first place with five shares and continued to build it over most of the board. All but two trains were built.
  • Red: Started by Debbie, abandoned early on to Tina, then Janet. Didn't grow a lot and ownership changed a lot.
  • Green: As usual, blocked in on the western part of the map. Started by Steve and Janet, who got into a pointless declaration war over it. Janet emerged victorious.
  • Union Pacific: Relentlessly pursued by Janet, who presumably traded anything that wasn't green or black for it. The remaining shares were spread roughly evenly between Steve, Tina and Debbie. All shares were taken about 2/3 of the way through the game.

Roger Smith writes:

THE WHITE LOTUS

Roger: 14 (7 chits, won on tiebreaker)
David: 14 (6 chits)
Donna: 11
Janet: 11
Debbie: 8

This was a newbie for all of us. I had prepared by reading Martin's rules (as opposed to the TM rules). I won't describe the mechanics as Greg Schloesser and Martin have both explained this in detail in past messages.

We were caught by the same problem Greg was: part way through we noticed three of the regions were unreachable. We decided to make all regions available for contesting in turn 4. Amazingly this was the correct decision. Looking back through messages after the game, I see Martin covered this in a message he posted not long before he made his rules available. Unfortunately this vital information isn't included in his rules. The main problem this caused is that we kept thinking we had gotten something wrong but, frustratingly, couldn't work out what. Very distracting!

The other problem we had was the leader being beaten up so badly as a result of chit swapping after the rebellion, that they had no chance of regaining a reasonable position. In turn one this saw me reduced from leader to 0 chits. In a later turn David was reduced from 5 to 1 chits, including losing two palaces. Debbie was in a powerful position at the end of turn three: look at the results and see where she ended up. Once again, this has been discussed by Greg and Martin. I'd be inclined to one of the solutions suggested: A maximum loss of two chits.

Despite all this Donna and myself enjoyed the game (rating 6). Debbie didn't mind it (also rating 6) but David and Janet didn't enjoy it - the main complaint being the chit loss problem.

I'm keen to try this again. In retrospect, I don't think we really did much negotiation (although we certainly did lots of analysis and table talk).

One question that came up. When a player has run out of influence cards (except for the 0)after a region has been resolved, should they declare this immediately and remove their remaining control markers from the board, or can they hold off revealing this information until they are next involved in a contest?

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