Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Rise and Fall of Fortune

An epic four tables of goodness this Tuesday, with a veritable smorgasbord of games on offer.

Hawaii followed by Tichu was the order of the day for Jimmy, Nicky, Dean and Matt, whilst elsewhere a quick game of Kingdom Builder was belted out in the same time that it took Pete to setup and do a rules session for Terra Mystica.

Tez and Jerry newcomers all the way from Alaska turned up just as Kingdom Builder was finishing and with a bit of a reshuffle, Rich joined Jerry for some Twilight Struggle action, and Tez waded into a repeat of Kingdom Builder.
Pete and his Degenerate Halflings in Terra Mystica

Sam learned the finer points of Terra Mystica with myself and Pete, and despite me for once hitting just about everything and having decent optimisation, Pete romped to a win with a "degenerate strategy" he had picked up from board game geek. Earning a huge haul of points in the last round - 39 from digging - tested a theory posited on the geek that the digging victory points and the halflings digging points bonus caused the game to break. To put things into perspective, the differential of points between first and last place in a 3 player game for end of game VPs is 36. So, in theory you could ignore the end game scoring entirely - and just dig - the most basic action available.

I am not sure about breaking the game, but it certainly makes everything else far less meaningful - after all if you can get more points just by doing a basic action, rather than a much more complex series of actions, then, why bother ? Sure everyone can benefit from it, but a race keyed to digging - such as the halflings, will see monster benefits from it.

The designer of the game has noted that in the reprint a new rule will be added that prevents the VP for digging appearing in the final stages of the game - and thus somewhat avoiding the issue.

As for the halflings - their digging VP bonus is pretty tough to match, and its probably one of the easiest things to score from. Broken ? I would have to play it more. But it's certainly challenging playing against it.

More shuffling of players and 6 Nimmt, Hey Thats My Fish and Hansa Teutonica rounded out the evening.
A room full of gaming... and drinking.

Pete, Tom, Sam and Moritz clashed in Hansa - and when I looked at the board the setup seemed rather off. This might be explained however by the presence of - new to me - VP cards - each player having secret objectives to control a set of cities and gain a VP end score for doing so. The board had a massive number of cities occupied - the most I have ever seen in a game, with some pretty hefty city and web scores at the end - the privileges had been quite hit up ( probably to get access to all those city spots ) and everything else was less frequented.

Pete struggling to get his third action nevertheless had an early lead with a clear bag and book.

Interesting. If you read last week you will remember that Pete was of the opinion that actions, bag and book were all much of a muchness. With a clear bag and a clear book, but only 3 actions, surely here was a time to prove the theory.

Unfortunately things were disastrous for Pete, who limped into a shocking unheard of last place, with Sam taking a well scored lead - despite having maxed out blocks and getting hit with a few horrible route swaps that left him unable to really take advantage of them. Tom, the only player with five actions came in a close third. Wrapping up the action point track to milk it for points ( pretty much what I did two weeks ago and kicked ass with ) this time failed to pay off as the other players refused to bite, and left Tom not gaining much out of his action point control.

I watched the end game - it seemed strange to me. I didn't play, but I am not sure I like the influence the VP Cards seemed to have. Part of the 'charm' of Hansa for me is the fact that it's like a piece of clockwork - (almost) perfect information, with an enormous level of player interaction. The fact that the VP cards are hidden and prioritise random cities seems, eh, to 1) Lessen direct confrontation and 2) Inject imperfect information into what is an otherwise perfect information game.

Matt won Hawaii, pipping Dean who had lead for most of the game to the win, Rich barely lost the Twilight Struggle - the commies put in their place by a resurgent US but perhaps most importantly I won the two games of Hey Thats My Fish. Cross paths with my penguins at your peril.


Peter Chinkin said...

In TM I didn’t really follow a specific strategy so much as did the best I could given the available scoring opportunities. I just wanted to see where it fell on the scale of a bit degenerate to completely game-breaking. I guess I kind of agree that it is a relatively easy strategy to follow in the final couple of turns but it took some quite complex strategy to best make use of the early game scoring while optimising for the end game digging. In future I think we should ban the spade scoring bonus from the final two rounds as per the designer’s errata.

It was a really good game of Hansa Teutonica - and great to play two games ending in ‘ica’ in a row. The cards do add some hidden info but this increases the variance from game to game and adds some tension. I like them although maybe they affected the effectiveness of my strategy as people were less predictable and all I really wanted to do was get in their way. I had maxed out my book early but I was hurt by being stuck on two actions for about two thirds of the game. I also think that people wised up to my tactics and (sensibly) made things more difficult for me by deliberately avoiding displacing me or blocking routes with a third colour making them stagnate. Sam played a good game and deserved the win for getting an awesome connected route and increased keys while getting the +7 bonus. Towards the end, I sacrificed my own score a bit to try to block him from connecting up the red cities but I was already far enough behind. In hindsight I should have hit the points for disks track but would have needed to get my privilege up. I really enjoyed it though.

Minitrue said...

I was kinda surprised none of the points for discs were taken - especially because just about everyones privilege was increased by at least one - and yet not even the basic point had been taken.

Strange stuff. The game looked weird to me. So many occupied cities.