Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Yukon count on me

The summer recess is fully upon us, and a rag-tag bunch of four gamers assembled at my (Joe's) kitchen table last night for a spot of tuesday night gaming. As it turned out, four ws the perfect number, as Martin had brought his recently acquired copy of Lost Valley - a well-regarded 2004 game which has recently had a new lease of life via Kickstarter.

But while we waited for Martin, Andrew, Ian and I started with a quick game of Timeline. My set contains a massive jumble of inventions, animals, historic events and more (The Big Bang is a personal favourite). Martin joined us halfway through, but it didn't make much difference; Andrew closed out the game with the rest of us a three-way tie for second place.

An interesting note; the invention of the cork in 1695, the invention of the corkscrew a full 100 years later - what were people doing with all that wine for a century!? Poking the cork in with a knife I guess.

Andrew winner
Martin, Ian, Joe joint 2nd

So we set to and unpacked the plethora of bits that come with Lost Valley. It's hard to imagine a game with more bits, certainly one that actually coheres as well as this does. It helps when you've got Martin as your teaching guide of course, and I'd got up to speed via a comprehensive review on the Geek earlier in the day.

The theme is strong in this one. You are prospectors during the Yukon gold rush of 1896, discovering and extracting river and more precious mountain gold, some of which you'll trade for gear that makes it easier to get more gold. It's got elements of Carcassonne, the tiles that form the board being added by the players as they explore.

Here's me, for instance, thinking I was in clover as I found myself surrounded by untapped gold reserves:
Martin hovering in the background . . .
Unfortunately, you need to spend resources such as food and timber to mine the gold - so I had to wander off in search of these things, leaving others to snaffle my finds.

Ian with lots of precious mountain gold, and jerky. Oh look it's Martin lurking in the bushes again.

Ian's skill was the drunkard, meaning he could drink twice as much whiskey as us each turn, but at the expense of experience which gets you new skills.  As I mentioned earlier, it's a game with big ideas - there seem to be tons of things going on, but it's all very thematic and as a result it never feels overwhelming. In fact, for the first time in ages, I felt I was playing a game for the first time with a real sense of discovery, rather than stress at not fully grasping the mechanics.

The game can end in a couple of different ways, and ours was scuppered by the encroaching winter.
Despite all being fairly gold-rich at earlier points in the game, we'd all spent gold on gear, and not quite got round to using it, so the final tally was less than impressive. That said, Andrew had almost twice as much gold as his next nearest rival, and four times that of Martin in last place, so he was definitely doing something right.

The Yukon, as winter hits and the game ends.
I enjoyed it a lot. It was long, but there was a lot of consulting the rulebook, and we were taking our time exploring the options. It has a lot going for it though - feels like a very open space in which to explore different strategies, and that feeling fits so well with the theme that the net result is a game with real charm.

Andrew 18
Joe 10
Ian 8
Martin 5

Martin scooted at this point, as he had a plane to catch to America the next day. We three manfully pushed on with a quick game of High Society. Unlike our last few, this one played out in the way you might expect, with a decent showing of points cards interspersed with negatives and multipliers. Ian's greed got the better of him in the end, as he snaffled a multiplier for a whopping 32 points but did so with all his money, instantly disqualifying him.

This took the pressure off Andrew and I, and we fought over another multiplier. I should have taken it but I let Andrew pay a lot for it, hoping a few high point cards might come out next for me. But the card that came out next ended the game,and Andrew scooped his third win of the evening. 
Well played sir.

Ian 32 OUT
Andrew 10
Joe 4

A fine evening, and I hope to read of some gaming exploits over the next few weeks whilst away in Scotland. If I manage to bribe my kids in to playing any games with me, I'll be sure and let you know.

Andrew 1 1 1 1 2 6
Sam 1 3 1 3 2 10
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Matt 1 4 1 1 5 12
Ian 3 3 2 3 3 14


  1. Yeah, definitely more of an explore and experience game than a calculate and optimise one, and all the better for it. Shame my damn treasure map was so unreliable!

  2. I did enjoy Lost Valley, the theme made everything cohere.

    If I had just stayed put in the dying embers of the game, and not bought all those tools and whisky, I would have finished 2nd. But greed got the better of me.

    Not sure what I was thinking in High Society, that was a rather silly bid I made. Maybe I was attempting to bluff? I actually don't know.

  3. Twice that evening I got lucky with games ending when they did. While everyone else was panicking over the end of Lost Valley, I was actually quite glad it was almost over. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it - I did - but any longer and people would have had the chance to catch up with me.

  4. Andrew has four ones in a row!!!!

  5. The perfect five is so close... what do you want the first game to be next week Andrew?

  6. Hmm, the only game I'm best at is Mr Jack, and that's non-Leaderboard because it's two-player only. I shall have to think about this...

  7. Nice try Martin. We know Andrew prefers Agricola ;)

    Also we may be able to host next Tuesday, stay tuned for more info...