Anyway, when I got to Sam’s, he and Martin were just finishing off a game of The Little Prince (Martin won, by a narrow margin). We discussed what to play. Martin had brought Palaces of Carrara, hoping to teach it to Sam, but I suggested Railways of the World. I was keen to see Martin’s high-bond strategy in action.
Turns out it was a highly effective. He happily took out more bonds to pay off his early debts, having not shipped anything for the first round or two and I thought "this can't possibly work." But soon I found myself following Martin down the high-bond route, not to emulate his tactics, but because I’d painted myself into a corner around Mexico City and couldn’t get out. Sam kept his bonds low.
Before long, Martin’s bond strategy pushed him into the lead and into profit. He got a delivery bonus and a three-link bonus all in one go, and shortly afterwards, he got the bonus four deliveries of four different colours.
Early in the game, but Martin already
has the upper hand.
If that weren’t enough, at one point Sam considered building a route which would’ve damaged Martin’s otherwise unstoppable march forward. He even laid the tiles on the board to see how they looked. Then he reconsidered, built somewhere else and Martin build there as soon as he could.
After that, it was just a case of Martin finishing the game as quickly as he could. And I, stuck in third, kind of hoped he would. Sam urbanised to try and squeeze out one more round from the game, but it was futile. At the end I felt like I’d asked to see Martin’s strategy in the same way a boxing enthusiast might ask Mike Tyson to punch him in the face. Sure, it was an education, but I kind of regretted it afterwards.
After this it was still early. We suggested Biblios because Sam was still smarting after his recent third place and I was just keen to play a game where I felt like I had a chance until the closing stages. Martin said he loved the game, and even reminded us of the values of the cards in the pack and then told us Bibliards (my new name for people who play Biblios) that the auction pack needs to be shuffled. We checked the rules: it does! To be honest, I prefer our way, since not shuffling removes a bit of randomness and adds an element of memorising to the game. Not that we ever do remember what cards we put down, but it’s nice to know the option is there.
We taught Martin the rule of Extreme Biblios: say “Eat Shit” whenever a “one gold” card is offered to an opponent. He seemed to get the hang of it. Sam, though, is not distracted by new rules about shuffling. At the final scoring, he swooped in on the last two dice to take the win from Martin.
Finally we went for Sticheln to finish off the evening. After three beers and a whiskey, I couldn’t remember any strategy and for a brief moment, I though we were playing Pala, the game of colour-mixing trick-taking. We played three rounds, and in two of those rounds, two people chose the same “pain” colour. Martin said it made a real difference to his strategy. I just nodded.
Martin remains atop the form table, with Sam heading upwards with real intent.
As for the Division (since it is still, technically, the end of January, I thought I could squeeze in an update) Martin steals top spot in terms of Points, but loses Medal Table to Sam. James leaps up four places after his recent two-win evening.