Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Forget it, Kate.

Chinatown was the main event for GNN's regular Tuesday meet, a very sparse affair this week. Martin, Andy and Matt couldn't make it. Ian was a late withdrawal. Even Andrew was absent, perhaps still a little gamed out from the weekend. Steve and Anja were busy building a garden deck.

However such is the population of GNN that still left 5 of us: Hannah, Adam, Joe, Katy and myself (Sam). Whilst we waited unknowingly for an Ian who would never arrive, we played Joe's new card game Kobayakawa. I missed its debut last week but it's very simple, if a little counter-intuitive. The main question at hand is whether to go for a high card or a low one, as the lowest card adds the common Kobayakawa card to their score before cards are compared.

Joe streaked off into a healthy lead, winning the first few rounds as the rest of us puzzled over our best move. In the fifth and sixth round I surged back into contention with two straight wins as I claimed the Kobayakawa. However in the last round I had to drop out and consolidate, hoping Katy would beat Joe. She didn't:

Joe 17
Sam 10
Katy 1
Adam 0
Hannah 0

We moved onto the main event. I was pushing for Rialto, but Joe had his heart set on Chinatown. He pulled the old get-the-board-out manoeuvre, and sure enough we were soon embarking on a seemingly never-ending negotiation spree.

For negotiation is Chinatown's main mechanic. Every player gets plots in the city (a lá Lords of Vegas) and businesses to establish there. However businesses are more rewarding when fully established over several plots rather than just one, and that's where the swapping of plots, businesses and money comes in. Unlike Lords of Vegas, the gambling is fairly minimal and only really applies if you negotiate for a plot whilst still needing a second (or third) plot to join it with your existing business. For the most part it's easy to work out what plots are worth, just by calculating what businesses will earn once established there.

I say it's easy. After a single beer and some Bombay mix I really struggled with the simple maths, and stared down at the player aid with a kind of number phobia, the same sensation I get when my accountant explains corporation tax to me. This bewilderment was misinterpreted as Machiavellian scheming, and I was accused of "winning", but I was just being thick.

If I had a strategy it fell together by accident - establishing two businesses as fast as possible then selling all my other plots to generate extra cash. It gave me a healthy position mid-game, but by the end the other businesses were much more profitable, and Hannah swept to a convincing win:

Hannah $1,200,000
Adam $940,000
Sam $890,000
Katy $850,000
Joe $840,000

I blame the Bombay mix, which was rather hot.

I'm not sure how I feel about Chinatown personally. I find the fact that plots worth is calculable (by those of us who are numerate, anyway) mean it feels like the game mainly consists of haggling. That's a fun mechanic for a filler but I found 2 hours of it quite tiring. I'd be interested to hear the other's thoughts.

Hannah was tired anyway, but that might not be the game. Whilst she retired to bed we finished with No Thanks. It was to be Katy's revenge: I missed out on a linking card for my two chains, Adam ran out of coins and Joe went for high cards that didn't exist:

Katy -8
Sam 47
Adam 51
Joe 80

Suitably sated, we called it an evening and Joe escorted me home in his new shiny gold Audi. We had to stop and work out how to fill it up with petrol on the way, which gave me an idea for a game...


  1. I'm a big fan of Chinatown, though I'm clearly lacking the necessary skills. The calculability only really comes in to play in the last few rounds - earlier on there are simply too many ifs and buts - but I like the fact that the maths isn't too opaque.

    Katy must have been doing something right to not finish last, since she gave all her money away in round four (?) then asked what the winning criteria was. Money!

    Oh, and LORDS OF VEGAS!

  2. If I start saying Lords of Vegas every time you do, we could generate some real comment volume here.

  3. Sounds like a fun evening. Sorry I couldn't make it, but if the recent games weekend weren't enough, I've been dreaming about games, too. First, I dreamt about Castles of Burgundy, except with bonus cards a la Mad King Ludwig. I remember taking the yellow building bonus card, so that Paul couldn't get it.

    Then I dreamt about a game where everyone had a black rectangular player mat with a luminous pink grid on it, and a small cube to move around on the grid. I had no idea how to play, and I was getting quite irate because it was my go. Joe patiently explained that I was the only player with a "Parents" card. I asked what that meant, and he said something like "Well, if you become head of the army, then you can look at your parents for encouragement and then become Emperor." No idea what that was all about.

    I didn't get to play the last game at all, but each player had a little wooden tray with compartments, and in these were things like dividers, compasses, pencils etc.

    So there you go. After all that, I thought I needed a rest from games.

  4. Holy shit Andrew, that's intense. That middle one was the Tron re-theme of Republic of Rome, by the sound of it. Very hard to get hold of these days . . .

  5. Re Kobayakawa, I can't claim any great strategy. I think if you win the first round you're in a good position to take a punt in the following rounds, though I suspect that as the players get to grips with the game, there will be fewer rounds where lots of people stay for the fight.

    Interesting that there were a couple of rounds where nobody played high - I guess because the Kobayakawa card was a high one - if it's 12/13 or higher there's little sense in playing high.

    Interesting little game . . .

  6. I don't think Hannah liked Chinatown - once you can do the maths and if your negotiation strategy is "half what its worth" then its just about who picks up the desirable plots. And saying "That's Chinatown". Obv.

  7. (I thought it was okay, but a bit light for two whole hours.)

  8. My dream about a market stall game selling fruit and veg now seems rather twee

  9. I agree about Chinatown. Fun in parts, but too long and too calculable in the end game.

  10. Sorry I couldn't make last night, I hope you weren't waiting around for me to arrive. I'm sure I sent an email around 6ish saying I couldn't make it.

    I wish I had an interesting games-theme dream to share, but I don't have any dreams.

  11. No probs re attendance Ian; we got your mail when we realised it seemed you weren't coming. Your lack of game-themed dreams however is a real let-down.