Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The week of 15!

It seems bizarre that three weeks ago Ollie and I sat in the pub lamenting the death of NBG “just two this week” was the murmur from bar staff or so we suspected. But last Tuesday a staggering 15 people attended…yes that’s right 15 and even then Matt and I were able to name 10 or so, could be regulars who had not come. Shanon and Luke had returned to the UEA and had brought with them somebody new (who then proceeded to win all their games) and I apologise for not properly saying hello or noting your name or for that matter the games you played or who else was at your table, though I think it was Chris and Andy. I remember Adam set up Alhambra wrong and that he avoided Rachel’s wrath by insisting that Shanon washed his hands before playing just about everything. By the end of the night Shanon had contracted OCD but at least non of Rachels games got dirty.

Jimmy, Matt, Harry, Steve and Tom played ‘In the year of the dragon’ which Matt dominated only to be piped at the post by Tom. After which Harry and Steve departed leaving the other three to play ‘Wabash Cannonball’ which was won by Tom, two in a row. He obviously had been training over the Christmas break and swotting up on how to kick ass.

Ollie, Rachel, ???? (I’m sorry your name escapes me, I will update later apols) and I played ‘Pillars of the Earth’. I did the rules session supervised by Ollie, the resident pillars expert. Followed by a game of Baumiesters of Arcadia, Rachel then departed and the three of us played ‘To court the king’.

In Pillars of the Earth you are helping the construction of cathedral and score victory points by skilfully donating workers to endeavours to ultimately earn you victory points. The game has a Caylus feel to it, but Pillars is far more accessible and ultimately its own game.

The game is played over six rounds which for us flew by. The fact there are only six rounds is important when you calculate the value of some of the objects (craftsman and other cards) later on offer. The best objects that can or will come out later are not necessarily as good as they seem given the length of life they have in them and conversely some of the lesser objects early may be more valuable. The object of the game is to accumulate resources and convert these into victory points whilst balancing this objective with the gold at your disposal.

There are 4 resources in the game: Wood, Stone, Sand and Iron. Each player receives 3 craftsman cards, each has a specific resource that they convert into VPs at a rate which is not favourable. During the game there are opportunities to gain more craftsman cards which have enhanced or different powers / conversion rates. However you are only allowed to hold a max of 5 craftsman cards (there is an advantage card, which Rachel got in our game, that lets you hold 6 – kind of like the warehouse in St Petersburg – more on that later). When you acquire a sixth card you must choose which you wish to discard. Be warned if you discard one of your original workers (marked with an exclamation point!) you are punished immediately with a permanent loss of ability linked to that card, these are:
Can no longer buy wood at the market,
Can no longer sell stone at the market,
Can no longer receive VPs from the mason.
This may have no impact on how you are playing but you must take care and consider this carefully, as we all did.

There is a second type of card possibly depicting a person, these are known as advantage cards. At the start of a round, 2 are randomly drawn from the deck and placed on the board to be won later in that round. We read the cards out loud and explained what each card did. In later games the name of the card will no doubt say it all. These cards offer a variety of benefits, instant rewards or additional benefits when you choose a particular action or resource- they are fairly self explanatory. In our game I acquired 6 or 7 of these and Ollie got one or none, at the end of the game there was 2 or 3 points separating us. They are obviously helpful and powerful but other paths to victory are available.

Each player receives 12 workers who they will farm out to get the main three resources. You receive one large worker (worth 5) and seven smaller ones. At the beginning of the round 7 out of a possible 9 resource area cards are laid out on the table. In the deck there is a small (2 cubes) medium (3 cubes) and large (4 cubes) work card for each of the three areas, forest (wood resources), Quarry (stone resource) and ????? (sand resource). In addition to this there are some extra craftsman cards to supplement the three you start with. There are six mini decks of four cards so experienced players will know at what stage of the game what new craftsman will be coming out. It is advisable that a quick summary of these cards are shown to new players before the game begins. Each of the mini decks are labelled 1-6 and two cards from deck 1 are placed face up on the board for use later and the other two craftsman from deck 1 are placed next to the resource area cards. Starting with the start player (which generally rotates clockwise at the end of one of the six rounds) each player takes it in turn to choose one of the nine cards now on display or soft passes. If they choose one of the two craftsman cards they pay the gold cost indicated at the top of the card and move there gold marker down accordingly on the gold track. They then add that card to there personal display (remember max 5) and where possible may use it this turn. Alternatively players may take one of the seven resource area cards, if they do this they place the number of workers indicated at the top of this card into that work area on the board (these will be returned later) in doing so players have fewer workers to use in subsequent goes this round. If you wish to wait and see you may pass and join in again later or if there are no moves available to you and you still have workers left over, or if you just want to, you can place your remaining workers in the village on the board – these will later earn you one gold per worker.

In the next stage all players have 3 master builders which are placed in a bag. There is a dial at the foot of the board which is set to seven and counts down to zero. A random master builder is drawn from the bag and the player whose builder it is must decide to pay the cost in gold indicated by the dial or to pass. If they pass their master builder is put on the dial at the point they passed and the dial is moved down one notch. Later the player will get to place their master builder for a cost of zero but only when all others have been drawn from the bag thus losing any advantage of placement order. If the player chooses to accept the price indicated on the dial then they pay the gold by moving down the track and get to choose any available spot on the board. The dial is then still moved down one notch and a new master builder is drawn. This continues till all master builders are drawn, once the dial gets to zero all subsequent placements cost nothing. When the bag is empty all master builder tokens on the dial representing the passes are placed on the board in the order they were drawn. In our game if drawn at 7 or 6 players nearly always passed except in the hotly contested last few rounds or if a player knew they needed a particular thing. If a player had enough money they considered the 5’s but pretty much everyone always took a 4 or any other lower draw.

When the master builders have all been placed, the final stage of a round starts and the board positions are calculated. There are 14 area events on the board, each one is resolved in order and then play continues to the next event. When all 14 are finished a new round begins. At the end of the sixth round a winner is declared.
The 14 events are as follows:
1) Event card – 6 out of 12 event cards are seeded to the board, half of the available cards are positive half are negative. There is no knowing what the distribution is in the game. The top card on the deck is drawn and read aloud, instructions followed.
2) If a master builder is in the arch-chancellor position they may choose to ignore the event card – otherwise they may take a good of there choice immediately from the market for no cost.
3) The village, all workers that were placed here gain there owner 1 gold. Workers are returned.
4) Take the advantage card for free. The strength of these is dependant on your strategy and the point in the game when the card comes out. Some are always good, or some you always think are naff, others at the table however could disagree. I got a card that allowed me to look at the event cards, in one game this was useless in another superb.
5) Straight victory points. 2 or 1. There is an advantage card which awards an additional 1 point every time you take this action.
6) Woods – you gain cubes equal to the number written at the bottom of your resource area cards.
7) Quarry – you gain cubes equal to the number written at the bottom of your resource area cards.
8) ??????? - you gain cubes equal to the number written at the bottom of your resource area cards.
9) Tax + Tax exemption – Any player who has a master builder in this section is tax exempt. The first player to place here has an additional reward of one metal cube. With the exception of two advantage cards. This is the only way to gain the fourth valuable resource of Iron. A six sided dice containing numbers 2 -5 is rolled and each player not represented here is subject to pay the amount rolled in tax.
10) Gain a craftsman card for free.
11) Gain two additional workers (to add to your 12 for placement in resource areas) for one go
12) Trade with the market: You may buy goods providing they are available (present on the board) once gone these resources are not replaced till the end of the round, you may not buy Iron. OR you can sell any of the four goods for the price listed. After your go the next person on a market space may use the market once. After all players have used the market, each player gets a second opportunity and then a third, till all players have used the market as often as they can or wish to.
13) Be first player for the following round.
14) Collect VPs based on using cubes and craftsman cards in any legal combinations that you wish.

After this the game board gets reseeded in preparation for the next round. Resource cards are collected from players shuffled and 7 drawn then placed with 2 craftsman at the side of the board, 2 craftsman and 2 advantage cards are placed in the correct positions on the board, the market gets filled, an iron cube goes to the joust, first player changes clockwise (if nobody chose it with there master craftsman), all master craftsman should be in the draw bag, bonus grey workers are returned to the pool and used cards are discarded. At the end of the sixth round a winner is declared.

After careful consideration I have decided not to write up the games of Baumiesters of Arcadia or ‘To court the king’ as I will probably not get that post finished till August. All games where won by Luke, Pillars was VERY close between Ollie and Luke, Arcadia was fairly one sided but to court the king was also close with Ollie getting 8 5’s only just beaten by Luke’s 6’s.

See you all soon.

1 comment:

Mr Bond said...

I was very impressed with 'In the Year of the Dragon'.