Monday, 19 January 2015

Anyone for Venice?

They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can set up a series of chain events that leads to someone from GNN getting a perfect five: that’s how unpredictable it is. Tonight saw Ian come so close, but so far from that historical moment. (Rumours that anyone who gets a Perfect Five will have their face carved on the side of the Avon Gorge a la Mount Rushmore are, as yet, unconfirmed.)

Tonight was only meant to be a first play of Rialto, a game that Sam’s had tucked away in his cupboard for a few weeks now. This game of area control and building bonuses is set in Venice and, as such, reminded us a lot of San Marco, simply because the names of the different areas were the same.

The game itself is quite different. While the initial aim seems the same (get more meeples into each area than anyone else) the way it’s done is quite different, using a hand of cards to activate different actions, and then having buildings to boost these actions. Plus, you can influence how much each area is worth by building a high-scoring bridge to it, or a low-scoring gondolier.

It was new to all of us, but I showed the greatest lack of understanding when it came to getting meeples on the board. My presence on the map by the end of the game was so sparse it would make even a Liberal Democrat laugh. Ian, though, won handsomely, despite having only a few buildings.

Ian 71
Sam 68
Andrew 51

Ian and I were especially impressed when Sam, unable to find the elastic band that held the cards together, fashioned a quick and efficient solution: just throw enough string at it until it works.

By now it was half past nine and we thought we could squeeze in one more game before it was too late. Then again, if we chose 7 Wonders, we could squeeze two games in. And so that’s what we did. It was an odd game of 7 Wonders, with no one specialising in anything, really. I, at first, cursed my stupidity in building a parchment card when my wonder already produced parchment.

But then, I used a parchment card to build part of my wonder, which gave me a monopoly on this resource. Excellent. Maybe I’d stumbled upon a new tactic. It was a resource-lite game, too. But despite that, Ian came through with a little bit of military, a science guild and a bunch of blue buildings.

Meanwhile, I remain very impressed by the artwork on even the most insignificant cards.

Ian 51
Andrew 47
Sam 43

And then we played Biblios. I tried so hard at this, and fell on my face. A pretty galling experience. I was especially upset about not winning the blue dice, and allow me to explain why in detail. At one point I had 17 points of blues in my hand. Since there are only 25 in the pack, and some cards are discard at the start, I thought it was unlikely that the other eight points would all end up with one player. As such, I discarded my blue cards until I had eight. When it came to adding up, Ian had eight! And he won the dice on the letter tie-breaker! And he won browns from me! Two dice that I had boosted during the auction round!

Ian 10
Sam 4
Andrew 0

Oh well, you live and learn.

By now, the chance of Ian getting a Perfect Five had occured to us so we thought we should keep going. I guess the whiskey macs helped fuel our enthusiasm. So we dug out another quick game to see if Ian could maintain his good form. It was Timeline, but it was not to be. The details about when the cork was invented escaped him, and he ended in third.

Sam 0 cards left
Andrew 1 card
Ian 3 cards

I was ready to go, and I was getting my stuff together while Ian and Sam debated what they should play next. Someone said No Thanks, and I was persuaded to stay. Ian has taken my tactic of taking low cards and, even more annoyingly, he’s managed to win with it! I was stung by a late 33 that I had to pick up.

Ian 22
Sam 25
Andrew 45

So, four wins out of five. So close, yet so far away. All of this leaves Ian on top of the Form Table, but still dreaming about what might have been...

Ian 1 3 1 1 1 7
Sam 2 1 2 3 2 10
Adam 4 1 1 1 5 12
Andrew 3 2 3 2 3 13
Katy 3 3 1 1 5 13
Joe 2 1 2 4 5 14
Matt 2 3 4 5 1 15
Andy 2 3 6 2 3 16
Martin 1 1 4 5 5 16
Steve 3 3 4 5 5 20
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23


  1. Rialto was a lot tenser than the average Feld game. It reminded me ever so slightly of Taj Mahal; although you only have one chance to bid rather than several.

    There are several sets of cards dealt out at the start of each round (one more than there are players) and each player takes a set. Then there's six bidding round using the cards - starting with the Doge track (which breaks the oft-occuring ties and decides turn order) then gold (which you pay to activate buildings) then the building of buildings, then bridges (which define area scoring) gondolas (similar, though they are low-scoring they also allow you to add a guy to the board) and councilmen, who add guys to the current area.

    The highest bidder in each case gets a bonus; ties are decided by the ever-relevant Doge track. Ian blitzed us on the board while we built buildings. I tried to get second place in a few areas and did manage to stay on Ian's coat-tails, but it wasn't enough. Good game though...

  2. Oh and I like the way the areas close out and become unreachable as the game progresses. Placing the bridges and gondolas is really key.

  3. I did enjoy Rialto. I had neglected buildings for most of the game and I thought that was going to come back to bite me in the arse, but I had done enough on the board to keep in the lead. It does feel like there could be a few different winning strategies, which is always good.

  4. You played a new Feld and didn't invite me?! :)

  5. Actually I think you'd like it Martin. Yes, really!