Wednesday, 22 October 2014

I pity the Thule

Although three of us had been playing the night before, that didn’t stop us from re-entering the fray. Battle-hardened, war-weary, fight-fatigued and spat-spent, Ian, Sam and me joined Martin, Adam, Joe, and Hannah for our regular Tuesday meet.

At first, we were six because Hannah was putting baby Aurthur to bed. We filled in the time until she could join us with Timeline. Inspired by Chris’ mixed set, Sam bought a new deck of cards, and wanted to give them a test run. The theme was scientific discoveries, and there was some concern over the wording on some of them. For example, the first calculation of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Is that the first accurate calculation?

Reservations aside, it was still an educational game, and it got the evening started.

Ian 0
Andrew 1
Joe 1
Adam 1
Sam 2
Martin 2

After this, we split into two. Three of us (me, Joe and Martin) played Greenland, Phil Eklund’s new epic of obscure but accurate pieces of history. In this case, something to do with surviving on Greenland. The other four went for Amerigo. And I’m glad to say that us playing Greenland were sitting to the North-east (just about) of those playing Amerigo. It’s these little details that make it all worthwhile, isn’t it?

Being in different rooms, I only caught a glimpse of their progress of Amerigo when I went in to get another can. I did notice that Ian had made an early dash for the big island in the middle. I thought he had it sown up, but maybe he’d made his move too soon, since the scores at the end were:

Adam 121
Hannah 115
Sam 107
Ian 98

As for us in the other room, we spent a peculiar evening in the company of Phil Eklund’s latest. Our early suspicions that we were about to have a unique gaming experience was supported by the baffling slogans on the box. No eye-catching commercial-friendly words to tempt you into buying the game. More like impenetrable one-sentence explanations of certain rules (what is a "biome", anyway?) and an illustration of a typical playing card with the words “Put husband here” next to a big red arrow pointing to a woman on the card.

After a rules explanation, we had to go through ten turns (each one a generation (not literally)) and at the start of each turn there is a random event that we all have to deal with. Our first event was fairly benign: Beaver Pelt Fad. But as the game came to a close, we were all struggling to keep our number of meeples up. Even Martin.

The playing area is made up of two rows of steadily shifting cards. You can place meeples on them to hunt there (using dice) and if you’re very lucky you may get three-of-a-kind (for example) that lets you keep the card, either for victory points or as a bonus action you can put in your hand for later use.

Joe had a very up and down game, going from a hopeless situation to sitting pretty and then back again during the ten turns. I started brightly but went into a slow decline thanks to being particularly prone to shark attacks. Martin had a bit of a benefit in that green get to start of a part of the New World with plenty of wood to burn to get energy.

My tribe, the Thule (hence the hilarious blog title) are great at kayaking, but I found little opportunity to exploit this. Joe’s tribe began with a domesticated animal: a pony. Before long he found it too expensive to keep, so he killed it, only to realise the next go that he couldn’t travel as far, and he regretted his rash decision. Maybe he should have kept the pony and let an elder die instead.

We ended with the event Dense Summer Fog, complete with bland illustration. I’ll say this much: Greenland is a game which offers experiences that no other game does. Martin ran away with the win, while I just about scraped second thanks to me killing a polar bear in the second round.

Martin 27
Andrew 8
Joe 6

It was fun, but I couldn’t tell how much of that fun was due to the absurd events and cards that come up throughout the game. I’m sure we skipped over a lot of the rules. There was very little fighting or marriage. I’m sure there are greater depths to this, and the dice rolling certainly livens the game up, especially as you can collect cards that influence the dice results in your favour.

I hope we play it again, since it would be stupid to only play it once and base your decision on that.

Amerigo and Greenland both ended at around the same time, but after an evening as intense as this one, there was little chance of one last party game to finish off the night.

It’s close at the top of the form table, with just four points separating first and fifth.

Adam 1 2 2 2 1 8
Martin 1 3 1 2 2 9
Andrew 2 2 2 1 3 10
Sam 3 3 1 3 1 11
Joe 3 2 3 3 1 12
Ian 4 1 3 4 2 14
Katie 3 2 6 1 3 15
Chris 4 2 4 4 1 15
Matt 1 3 2 5 5 16
Hannah 2 2 5 5 5 19
Stanley 4 1 5 5 5 20


  1. Thanks for indulging me Andrew and Joe. Eklund games are always a strange trip, but in a world full of rather samey games, that's why I love them.

  2. I *think* I'm right in saying that Adam and Hannah enjoyed Amerigo, though with caveats. The main one being how long it takes to set up and pack away. I was so tired last night I'm surprised I didn't remove the insert and just sweep the lot in. Set-up next time would only be an extra few minutes.

    Yes Ian shot into a strong position, but having nabbed the large central island he felt beholden to fill it, get the 3point bonus and the treasure chest. I would have done the same. But Adam pointed out at the end it was a lot of work for him and maybe sailing some more might have staved off the point stagnation. Then again, the options for sailing closed off rapidly with four players - it was a very different beast to playing with three.

    I tried a tactic of getting production buildings (little yellow tiles!) early, but it didn't really work as while I was doing that everyone else was grabbing the resources that go with them. I did enjoy it though. I love that tower.

  3. Hey it was a strange trip indeed! The key to exploring a new and complex game is to simply go with it, and recognise that you will make mistakes and that this first game is simply preparation for the next game.

    However it's impossible to totally switch off the competitive instinct, so when you find you've misplayed so badly you can't recover, the grumps can set in. Along with the dense summer fog.

    Always after an experience like that I wake up wanting to tackle it again, and yeah I'd like to do that, as Andrew says, sooner rather than later. Bring it on!

    Compared to Pax it seemed simpler to get one ahead around, and also less chaotic. I liked the fact that the central cards you're going for are fairly static, so you're not recallibrating a huge number of options each turn - the key seems to be shoring up your supply of energy, elders and people to deal with the inevitably harsh events.

    Green certainly had an advantage in that regard, so it's certainly up to the other players to tackle that Markland stronghold. Tricky though as you only have five (?) people at the start, so if you send four of them to the new world you're going to be on very thin ice back in Greenland - and an unlucky roll (or lucky roll from green) could wipe you out in turn one.

    The Geek probably has lots to say on the subject, but I'm holding off for the moment, instead going to gen up on Los Valley in the hope of playing it during the next week!

  4. My plan in Amerigo was to sail around more and plant more house. I chose a development tile that would have given me a gold for each house I built, but when the opportunity to move arose all the ports nearby had been snaffled up, and the distant ports looked likely to be taken before I could reach them.

    Deciding (perhaps prematurely) that my initial plan was futile, I floundered around aimlessly for a bit. I certainly should have done something else though. Cannons would have helped, as I succumbed to the pirates at least twice, which I think cost me 15-20 points in total. Maybe I could have moved up the development and special action tracks and garnered points there.

    On the other hand, completing the large isle was a satisfying folly. A mini nation, falling to ruin even as it's being completed.

  5. A metaphor for something, that, Ian. Not sure what though.