Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Follies of Berger

Just a couple of days ago, tonight looked like being a bumper crop of gamers at Sam’s. But yesterday, Quentin bowed out and then today Gonz got a puncture and so he couldn’t make it either. But seven is still a healthy turn out. Along with Sam and myself, Steve, Anja, Martin, Adam and Joe were present. Sam's kids offered a heart-warming message for us all:

At first, Joe told us of his most recent find in the Charity shops of Bristol: The Sigma File. This 1970s game of espionage is set on a by-now inaccurate map of the world (East Germany? Yugoslavia? Bombay?) and involves moving around plastic men in search of a suitcase containing the notorious Sigma File. He then has to get back to his base. It sounds intriguing, and was a definite possibility for a while, but it does need four players, and we just didn’t divide up right.

Sam, Martin, Steve and Anja went into one room to play Sutter’s Mill, since the rules were still fresh in Sam’s mind. In the kitchen, me, Joe and Adam played Steam, another new arrival on the doorstep of GNN Towers.

Joe explained the rules to Adam, and before you knew it, we were off. Joe started fretting very early, as Adam and I built up our cash reserves while Joe’s bank balance hovered around the zero mark. Something inside him must’ve snapped, since he played a very combative game. He insisted he didn’t mean to, but he tried to block tracks built by both me and Adam.

It was a long, arduous game. Any description of it as being “Railways of the World Lite” is hopelessly wrong. In such a small space, some kind of conflict is inevitable, which leads to a lot of AP as potential moves are worked out way in advance.

We heard the sound of laughter from next door, and when I went in, it looked like quite a different game to the two-player version. Far more crowded. There was practically a bar room brawl in Odd Fellow’s Hall!

Our game, meanwhile, put us through the wringer. Options became more and more limited, and by the end, there were no cubes left to ship. I suspect that we played one round too many, but it could be that three RotW experts like us are able to get the most out of our resources. In the end, I edged ahead of Joe thanks to my position on the money track. Adam ended with a healthy lead.

Adam 79
Andrew 68
Joe 65

The folks from the creek across the plains (ie, in the front room) also ended around the same time as us. They didn’t, though, finish at the same time as each other. Since part of the game is to get your guys out of town before the gold runs out, Martin did so quicker than his opponents, so he came in to watch us play for a bit.

Once all four had ended, the scores were

Martin 68
Anja 66
Steve 45
Sam 18

That’s not a typo. Sam got hit by Explainer’s Curse as hard as it’s ever hit anyone. Sam could only say “I played my cards badly” by means of explanation. Steve and Anja gave me a lift back, and they mentioned how impressed they were by Martin’s ability to pick up the gist of the game. Although Steve did point out that Martin read the rules. That probably helped. Anja must just be good at picking up gold and running away with it. Steve said he was baffled by the whole experience.

But although me, Steve and Anja had left, the other four fought on with a bracing game of Love Letter. I got a text telling me the scores:

Joe 3
Martin 2
Sam 2
Adam 0

In the text, Sam suggested that Martin knocking him out of the last round may be a tie-breaker, but is that in the rules? It goes down as joint second for now.

A very enjoyable, if somewhat exhausting, evening. I head the form table, which is nice.

Andrew2 1115 10
Sam2 4 222 12
Joe1 3 333 13
Adam3 1 225 13
Steve3 31 55 17
Martin215 5518
Anja2 45 5521


  1. I think I was trying to make up for a lack of coherent plan by being mindlessly annoying. I now see the benefits of getting your income up before starting to take points - in the previous 3 player games I've played we've all hung around the zero income mark; but those gave all been playing on my own!

    I'm surprised I managed to claw back as much as I did though. It did feel fraught didn't it? Though I'm pretty sure if we'd sat down and played Mexico it would have felt just as combative. As Adam pointed out, not having the rail baron cards as hidden goals leaves you feeling a bit exposed - it's all on the board for everyone to see.

    The added randomness of pulling cubes from the bag, plus the operations cards I guess also lead to Railways feeling a bit less intense; there's just a little less sugar-coating to Steam. Railways is a big, jolly panatone, Steam is a dense, chewy panforte, perhaps?

  2. Sutter's Mill is a sherbet lemon.

    I'd love to blame the explainer's curse but the fact is I made exactly the same mistake I did when playing Andrew - thinking "ooh, I don't want those big influence cards stuck on the board at the end!" and forgetting that once removed, they score you points. I stuck all mine in the box and then scored the most for the cards left on the board anyway!

    Let that be a salutary lesson to all of us.

    I like the game though; I think it'd be less thinky on a second/third play and also I would imagine 3 is the sweet spot.

  3. That was nice of Sam, but I don't think there is a tie-break in Love Letter.

    Sutter's Mill was intriguing, but it does seem a bit odd thematically how little of a role the gold we mined seemed to play in the final score.

    Now to get those red 5s wiped off my performance...

  4. I wish I could take the claim, but that phrase came from a conversation during the game. Can't remember who said it.

  5. I'm Spartacus!

    I liked Steam, but it didn't grab me quite like Railways did. It felt like the map was tighter and it was easier to screw over your opponents, which probably makes it easier to catch a leader up. I'd play it again in a second though.

    Not sure we should allow Martin to get rid of the red 5s by the way!

  6. How about this: every time he suggests Palaces of Carrara, he gets a red five.

  7. Who won palaces last night?