Wednesday, 9 April 2014

We need to talk about Kiev-ing

If it’s Tuesday, then it’s games day. No need for explanation, just turn up at the pre-arranged house and spend a happy evening in the company of like-minded people.

I got there a little early, and found Ian, Martin and Joe (the host) trying out a new game that Joe picked up in a charity chop, called Stack. In this game, everyone has lots of dice, that they roll at the same time (try to avoid the “dice everywhere” effect, the rule book warns) and then you have to stack the dice, without them falling over, with each die going on top of another die of the same value. Anyone who successfully stacks four dice gets to keep them, and scores that value.

We were halfway through when my deliberately wonky stack of three collapsed under Martin’s fourth dice. We checked the rules to discover his forfeit. We discovered that he had to miss a turn and maybe roll a die to see how many points he lost. We also saw that anyone attempting to use an opponent’s die would be penalised.

We weren’t sure when you would want to do that, unless you’d forgotten which colour you were. We suspected that some of these rules had little to do with strategy and more to do with padding out the rules to cover at least one side of an A4 sheet of paper.

During the game, Sam, Gonz and Matt arrived, and Martin suggested that if we stopped now, we could pretend it never happened. Still, at least Joe got some nice dice for only a pound. So the seven of us discussed what to play. Russian Railroads returned to the table as Game Of The Month. Me, Joe and Martin said we’d be happy for another go. Then, after some debate, Sam joined us too, while Gonz, Ian and Matt chose Kingdom Builder.

By now, you would think that a winning strategy would have been found, but not just yet. Matin, who’d won so easily by using industries decided to mix things up and try building a railroad. Sam went for his classic tactic of a railroad plus multipliers, and I ended up going for a bit of everything. I had wanted to try industries, but everyone else got in on the action, too.

Martin cursed Sam’s ability to go where he wanted to go and, later in the game, my habit of picking up multipliers, apparently for no reason (I had an end-of-game bonus related to how many I had, though).

Joe, meanwhile, played smart. He maxed out industry and Kiev and St Petersburg and he got the 9-level train as a bonus, which I had my eye on. It was to prove a successful combination, as he broke the 400-point barrier and during the game he lapped first Martin and then me. Sam kept his dignity intact by only a few points.

Sam (yellow) in second just avoids being lapped by Joe. I'm further back, in third.

Joe 401
Sam 303
Andrew 292
Martin 262

On the other table, they’d managed to squeeze in two games of Kingdom Builder. The first saw Gonz hit by Explainer’s Curse, as he lost to two newbies.

Matt 29
Ian 22
Gonz 19

Or maybe he was just trying to lure them in: make them think they stood a chance and then, once they’re addicted, hit them for all they’ve got. That’s my theory, anyway. Gonz managed to win the second game by a narrow margin.

Gonz 59
Matt 56
Ian 47

We were still midway through Russian Railroads, so they began on a game of Trains. This time it was Matt’s turn to explain, as Gonz and Ian were playing the Dominion-esque game for the first time.

The four of us decided on a game of Quantum. This dice-based space-opera is “all about the fighting,” as Martin reminded us. Indeed, Sam needed no reminding after one brutal round which ended with him having no ships at all on the board. Joe’s tactic was to act like the school snitch, telling everyone when someone was about to place a cube, hoping to start an intergalactic war between his rivals. I didn’t work. Martin managed to close the game up nice and quickly, before the rest of us had really got started.

Martin 5
Sam 2
Andrew 2
Joe 1

Trains was still rolling along, so we dug out 6nimmt. It remains a chore and a joy. You face down impossible odds, placing hopeless cards, only to be saved by another player’s worse fortune. At least, you do if you’re Martin.

Woah! Super space age filters!

Martin 22
Sam 45
Joe 61
Andrew 69

And the game of Trains ended

Gonz 62
Matt 44
Ian 27

After this, we set off into the night. All of this activity leaves the form table looking like this:

Sam2 2 2 1 1 8
Martin1 1 4 1 2 9
Gonz 1 1 3 4 2 11
Joe 3 3 1 3 1 11
Ian3 3 2 2 3 13
Andrew4 2 3 3 3 15
Matt2 21 55 15
Will2 4 23 5 16


  1. Nice post title Andrew - and nice space-age photography!
    Thanks chaps for a lovely evening. I enjoyed Russian Railroads - I expected 4-player to be more of a bun-fight, but I think I got off lightly on account of Martin trying a new strategy.
    Interesting game, with Sam/Martin vying for track and Andrew/Me competing for industry. I'd be really interested to see a graph of points scored after each round.
    Sam scored very big in the late rounds, as befits the trans-siberian strategy; I scored a decent amount in the last three or four rounds, but topped out at about 80 for the last two rounds. I guess that's typical of the Industry route, so maybe not that interesting after all.

    Quantum is brutal - but short and dicey enough to not feel too personal. Lots of room for Martin's 'creative' play, which ironically consists of destroying everything in his path.

    More games soon pls. thx.

  2. Yeah, playing Quantum against Martin is like being caught in bed with Mike Tyson's wife - if he was married to dice, in space. Every time I redeployed I got twatted back to the scrapyard again. But it was fun. Sort of.

    I'm not sure where I stand on Russian Railroads now - multiple plays have given me the (possibly erroneous) impression that to win you have to play a little spitefully, and block people from their moves. That's what I was inadvertently doing to Martin, as having got ahead of him in the first round I was making all the moves he was planning - but nobody was stopping Joe, so he romped home, unhampered by interference.

    Thanks Joe for hosting and gin, and Andrew for the write-up.

  3. just to clarify, I did not interpret Joe's play as spiteful! What I meant above was we needed to be a bit more obstructive of what he was doing with his industries.

  4. That kind of 'spiteful' blocking interaction is exactly the thing that turns me off most worker placement games I think. If I'm building my own little engine, I'd rather get on with it without obstructions. Whereas if I'm interacting with the other players, I want it to be much more direct - like Quantum!

    My problem with RR is that it seems like to do well you really have to stick to a strategy right from the beginning of the game. That means it's quite hard to deviate to block the other players, so the game seems to be a bit too much determined by who picks which strategy. If you're the only one doing something, you'll probably win.

  5. Yeah, you put it much better than me Martin. Joe - as least-hampered player - ran away with it. He may well have won anyway but the fact nobody was really pushing him for the industries definitely made it seem like the path to victory. Whereas you and I got in each other's way (me more than you, I confess) and Andrew stopped both of us picking up multipliers. Almost as if with 4 players you need to agree two will compete for track and two will fight over industry!

  6. "Almost as if with 4 players you need to agree two will compete for track and two will fight over industry!"

    Exactly! I thought Andrew and Joe were both going to be pursuing industry, but Andrew branched (ho ho) out into the doublers to fulfil his bonus card.

    I suspect in 3p it comes down to one person doing Trans-Siberian and two doing industry and in 2p one of each.