Thursday, September 22, 2005

Got game

Donald's FB concluded for the day, and some nosh later, last Sunday's gaming was rounded off with a couple of quick boardgames. So, in the spirit of milking for all it's worth, here is a look at what went down between myself, Donald, and Tony at the gaming table that night.

Settlers of Catan

Seriously: this is without a single shade of doubt the boardgaming phenomenon of our times- the mother of all Eurogames. Its designer Klaus Teuber can ride this game and its many expansions and sequels laughing all the way to the bank for as long as he can get away with it as far as I'm concerned. Long may he prosper this damn genius of a German. (Expect 'Rash[es] of Enthusiasm...' sometime I guess.)

Go here to find out more about the game (including a neat online tutorial that will help the uniniated understand what follows).

And go here (click through Club to Boardgames Corner) and here if you'd like to read some of my earlier- brief- apprecations of this game that is somewhere in the 2nd division of my most played games ever.

Oh, and go to your local FLGS to get yourself a copy of this modern classic if you don't already have one!

So, to Sunday's game. We had a balanced region layout, but with 7 (yes, 7! red resource markers down; 5 of them 6's; and 3 of them adjacent- IIRC). We expected a fast game, and we got it.

Losing the roll to go first, I got the going last consolation, giving me a solid and diverse resource base with great city-building potential; not to mention good access to ports, including a 2:1 brick (with a brick resource generator on 8- across the island-neat!). I was definitely out of the running for longest road though, with my inital settlements on opposite sides of the island of Catan. So I felt good after set-up.

I soon felt better than that, as resources flowed in and early development was rapid. Then I made my Big Mistake of the Game: getting an early city up, I chose to go for the city-building corner (2 ores and a grain IIRC), thinking that I was going for a city-building strategy in the end after all. I should, of course, have gone for the city on the lumber/brick/sheep settlement, for the roads and settlements needed to expand outwards before upwards.

This mistake was amplified by Donald's rapid expansion to my east- he seemed to have roads, settlements and cities popping up everywhere, just as my error was bearing its bitter fruit and my own expansion was stymied. Those damn dwarfs! In no time at all, Donald was reaping the rewards of settlements and/or cities on 3 different 6-points, drawing as many as 6 resources on a number that came up above and beyond the mean in this particular game. I was starting to feel the heat!

Tony's development was slow, but then he was the least experienced player alongside 2 seasoned players, and seriously rusty to boot. Tony's knowledge of the game shone through though: he knew that- as lead player- Donald had to be singled out for whatever finkery the robber allowed, because that was how to keep the game open long enough to give himself his only chance of recovery towards a chance of victory.

So it was that Donald suffered a lot from the robber, and from an all-out trade embargo when he reached the 8VP mark with disturbing rapidity. This was helped by his garnering the Longest Road's 2VP on top of his burgeoning colonial expansion. Tony gamely tried to contest this, but Donald just kept on slapping down new roads, and we knew it was not to be: the game would be decided, one way or another, before Tony could get his hands on the resources to steal Donald's 2VP prize away from him.

It was at this point, ironically enough, that I bought another Development Card (of 4 I bought in the game): Road Building- 2 'free' roads. If only Tony had got that I found myself thinking! In the end, I used it to expand towards the build of the extra settlement that was vital to my plans, so I'd been wrong about who needed it most.

My other 3 Development Cards were all Soldiers. I used the first to chase the robber off back to hamper Donald and his furiously digging dwarfs. The other 2 I got in a snap decision to buy 2 Development Cards both at once in the hope of getting 1 or 2 of the decks' 5 Victory Point cards- each worth 1VP.


I now had 3 Soldiers all told. Playing the 2 from hand would give me the Largest Army- worth 2VP just like the Longest Road. I would need 2 turns to play them; and I would have to consider the timing too, given the chances of the robber screwing everything up if Donald rolled a 7 and sicced the robber on me.

Speaking of which: Donald was really unfortunate with the robber in this game. Not only did my Soldiers keep me pretty much free of this blackguard's attentions (and guess where I was putting him?) but I seem to remember that most of the 7's in a game- in which they were about as regular as you'd expect; well, where do you think they went too? Moreover, Donald was hit mebbe 2 or 3 times with 8+ cards in his hand when the dread 7 came up.

The end-game went something like this.

Donald hit 9VP with me on 8 (IIRC), and Tony out of the running but still playing like a pro. Both Donald and I were sitting on resource bases ideal for our positions (except for that darn robber in Donald's case, naturally enough!). I managed to get to 9VP without Donald getting that 1VP he needed (how I did this escapes me). We were both looking for a city now.

Somewhere in what followed came a big blow to Donald IIRC: another 7, and a big whack to a large hand of resources. I can't imagine how I could've survived otherwise. Meanwhile, I was sitting in that unique sweat of waiting out the dice, looking for those rolls you know must come; hoping that nobody else's come first; and holding your nerve against the prospect of another damn 7 as a couple of good rolls start to build your winning hand as your next turn approaches.

And what a hand I had after Donald's last roll: my city, in a hand big enough to keep it even if the robber came round for a visit. I'd won, but it'd been the closest run thing I can remember for a long time.


Nuclear War
Fancying another game and looking for a beer'n'pretzel quickie before repairing to the pub, we easily agreed to have a blast of this classic satirical game of global thermonuclear holocaust. And so it was that Libronia (me), Ulanda (Tony) and Dwarfonia (guess who?!) started rattling their sabres behind protestations of peaceful intent, as ever.

Go here to visit the website of this venerable game, which is 40 years old this year btw. Happy birthday Nuclear War, and thanks to all concerned with this gem of gems for my own 25 years of laughter in the face of madness.

Anyhoo, going first as is my right as owner of the game (yes:- it is in the rules, and anyway: I waited a long, long time for that particular privilege- some 20 years in fact) I did nothing much with secrets, and set out my stall for some routine pleas for peace (aka. stealing your opponents' population with Propaganda cards- all useless once the bombs start dropping, naturally enough).

Tony did a bit more- including hitting Donald with missing his first turn of the game; and laid out his own initial strategy.

Then Donald- looking a bit shamefaced- but still evidently pleased to be enjoying a bit of payback for my theft of his victory at Settlers, sicced me for a loss of 50 million population. That took care of my 2 25 million population cards then. I wasn't feeling quite so sanguine already, and the first turn hadn't even begun! Donald then did a poor sap on me: feeling guilty no doubt at exercising such petty revenge, he hit Tony with a missed turn. Pah! In that situation I know what I'd've done: revenge or not, I'd've kicked me while I was down. This is Nuclear War after all!

And off we went. Tony revealed himself to be an immediate warmonger- revealing an immediate missile delivery system IIRC- as Donald and I played nip and tuck with Propaganda cards.

As the game progressed, several ABM systems went on display to discourage fruitless expenditure of valuable hi-technology. Being the first player so not to suffer from the others' attacks gave me a warm feeling I can tell you!

Other highlights included: Ulanda's foolish decision to invest in Libronian missile technology for one of their B70's (down in flames on it's first payload- heh; aimed at me too IIRC- double heh!) ; Radio Free Libronia making it to the moon, again(!); and my putz's mistake in putting a Titan down behind my Saturn, thus loosing the chance to launch my 100 megs towards Dwarfonia. "Doomed!" I thought, "I'm doomed."

And this one:
1. Donald hits me with 'A disastrous earthquake [that] destroy[ed] 10 million of [my] population'
2. You fool I cry, they're really a secret strike force tunnelling their way to launch a sneak attack on Dwarfonia...
3. The deck is reshuffled shortly thereafter
4. I hit Donald with, guess what?
5. See? I told you so, I gloat.

The endgame saw me and Tony- with 1 or 2 population cards each forming a pact to whittle away at Donald's pile much larger than both of ours put together. First on our agenda is stripping him of his 2 ABM's. I'm forced to reveal my population when I have to cash my last population card in for change after a strike from Dwarfonia.

Then Donald wiped Tony out with a Secret. Ulanda's final retaliation was impressive but not decisive. As peace breaks out, Libronia and Dwarfonia eye each other nervously across the glowing rubble as cards laid but unplayed are picked up and replaced.

Dwarfonia having disposed of Ulanda, it was Libronia's move. 'Peace!' we cried, playing a 25 million Propaganda card. Joy was unbounded as the people of Dwarfonia declared allegiance to the Libronian way of life, leaving their once revered leader to nurse hopes of revenge in some sad place of exile. Relief was evident among the 8 million Libronian survivors, who realised that their own government had been right all along, and that there was, in fact, no need to decamp to Dwarfonia after all (a 10 million Propaganda steal would've left Donald celebrating the lack of final retaliation instead of me, next turn).

Another very, very close run thing!


And so Felix Mephisto slept soundly in his bed that night in Paris despite everything it would seem in the end. Or: payback is sweet!



Anonymous said...

I see that you are a fan of Settlers of Catan. I too love the game. I have gotten into SeaFarers and latley Cities and Knights. Now that I have played Cities and Knights, I love it so much it makes it hard to go back. It adds another level of strategy to the game and I love more strategy.
If you ever get into making maps ahead of time, to either save time on game night or to tweak the map design just right to balance it the way you want it, you wil like this web site:
Check it out. It becomes more useful the more tiles you have.
-The MapMaker

Anonymous said...

You sound like a great gamer! Come out to Long Island New York for a gaming con!