Sunday, 31 May 2015

Hello Ruby in the Dust

Sunday night and Andrew, Ian and I (Sam) convened at my house for some off-piste gaming. We regarded the cupboard and, as the hour was early, vacillated between some beasts - Canal Mania? Eclipse? But in the end trusty old Railways of the World came out. We all know it and love it.

I've come up with some thematic cube labelling as well:

Red: Food
Yellow: Medicine
Blue: Post and parcels
Black: Fuel
Purple: Secret government transportation of aliens

We set up and handed out the barons. Ian again (it transpired) got the Culiacan baron. I had the barons who rewarded most track and most links out of Mexico City. As there was quite a bit of food on the table (red cubes) I went for the latter, and bid big enough to claim starting player and ship the first cube.

Thereafter the game became unpredictable. Ian clearly had the Culiacan baron as he once again set out to complete the desired links. I concentrated around Mexico. Andrew was a little more spread out, but to be honest I wasn't watching what the other two were doing that much - having built out of Mexico twice I realised with a little work I could cut off at least one of the long-distance link bonuses for them, so I put my energy into that. But I realised about twenty minutes into the game that I had built a series of links to grey cities and had nowhere to deliver. As Andrew claimed the four-cube delivery bonus I still had the solitary red cube in front of me and wasn't feeling confident.

Completing the shortest long-route delivery bonus saved my bacon and suddenly I had a bit of income to build with. As Ian continued to pick up bonds almost every single turn, my confidence grew. But there was still Andrew to worry about, with the fewest bonds... except in the final third of the game he ran out of options - Ian had built all over the north of Mexico so profusely Andrew simply couldn't get in. I scored a pretty decent return for my Mexico City baron - ten points. Ian was hit hard by his nineteen bonds:

Sam 64
Ian 49
Andrew 31

For the first time ever, I managed to win at three-player Railways!

We had bashed through the game so quickly (starting at 6.30 ish) that by the time Joe - against our expectations - walked through the door carrying Caverna with him, we were ready to go.

Joe now takes over the story...

Another game of Caverna, this time four player (a new count for me I believe), in less than a week. How could I refuse. Though when I heard they were playing Railways I felt sure we were overreaching, starting at a little after eight.

And when it transpired Ian hadn't even played Agricola, I thought we'd be lucky to finish by midnight. But it is an easy game to teach - hugely daunting to play for the first time, I've no doubt. Still, by 8.30 we were away, and with the rules for adventuring clarified, it was smooth sailing.

Sam eschewed his adventuring strategy this time, concentrating firmly on decimating the forest outside his cave and planting. Andrew got adventuring as soon as the space came up in round three, but furnished a cavern very early on. Ian felt his way into the game tentatively, happy to go last in turn order and watch things unfold a bit.

I had an odd first few rounds, picking around the edges of things but with no real strategy. I remember from playing Agricola that, if you can't formulate a solid strategy, taking spaces that offer lots of resources often pays off. I sort of did that for a bit. I got ready to get a baby dwarf as soon as possible, but then  hung back for a couple of rounds, worried about feeding.

Adventuring was generally less alluring than last game, but we all did it a bit - Sam had two armoured dwarves by the end. Rubies were far more hotly contested, rightly so as they're soo versatile - delicious in salads, make excellent pets etc.

Toward the end of the game we were all confident of being able to feed our families, and began scrabbling for points; I had a room that gave me points for stone, Andrew went adventuring just for money. Sam had a room that gave him points for yellow rooms, but had already tunnelled out his mountain and was unable to capitalise on it. Ian was gathering lots of animals, I think.

The final scoring was a fairly broad spread, with a player each in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
 and it was only 10.30!

Joe 83
Andrew 77
Sam 63
Ian 50

I really enjoyed getting Caverna to the table again. Feels like the old days when we played a lot of Agricola. Feels like old-schooling it a bit. I wouldn't want to play with more than four, and three may be the sweet spot, though four opens up some interesting variations like starting player getting you a ruby. I'd like to play it two-player too. I think I can safely say Adam would love it, Martin would hate it.


  1. Apart from having a diabolical plan that - Andrew pointed out - would have broken the rules I enjoyed Caverna a lot. It's a different hit to Railways: more options, less tension. But fun for it.

  2. What an evening! I got RotW all wrong. I went for the four-colour bonus, but by the time I did that, Ian's network had me hemmed in. I stupidly built a track in the mountains that I never used, and then shuffled cubes around, constantly giving Ian one point every time.

    When we began Caverna, I decided I would not be bullied again! In fact, it's quite hard to screw over an opponent, unless you happen to choose the option they wanted. But I did better this time, by getting babies early on and teaching one of my dwarves to eat wood.

    I like it as a four-player. The starting player option becomes more important, especially since it's a way to get rubies. I'd like to play it again soonish. But will Martin allow it in his house?

  3. I sincerely doubt there's room on the table for it with 7-8 of us in attendance! :)