Monday, 12 December 2016

Kiesling is leaving the station

My recent sell-to-buy policy has meant an influx of new games whilst saying goodbye to old ones. Having already put Ian through the mill with Ulm and Katy with SuperVampires - she hated it so much, now Andrew won't even try it - I thought maybe I should playtest the next on the list in the comparative safety (for everyone else) of solitude. So that's what I did tonight, cracking open Coal Baron: The Great Card Game (or Glück Auf: Das Grosse Kartenspiel, as my copy would have it).

It's a game about loading trains with coal and delivering said coal to various destinations, so thematically it perhaps suffers from euro-fatigue. But on the other hand, it's a Kramer/Kiesling combo, so, ya know.

The cards are set up as follows:

Top row, L-R: lorries, wagons, engines, orders.
Bottom row, L-R: four actions; objectives, innovations, shares.

Each player has a hand of worker cards, with a value of between 1 and 5. In my two-player game (with Dirk) you remove the 4 and 5 value workers and make do with several ones, a couple of twos and a three.  In front of you you also have a loading bay, where the action takes place.

On a turn you play a worker card or cards: you can go to an already-occupied space as long as the value of your card/s are exactly one more than the previous workers. Pick up lorries of coal, or place wagons or engines on the three loading bays in your personal board. Grab an order to fulfil later, an objective card to benefit from at the end of the game, or an innovation card to help you while you play.

me just visible eft, Dirk right

The action cards are the juicy bit though: that's where you can move coal from the lorries into the wagons - but, because these coal producers are the most fastidious deliverypeople in all coaldom, the lorry's crest has to match both the crest on the loading bay itself (there are two crests per bay) and the crest on the wagon itself. And that is the rub in an otherwise straightforward game of loading and delivering: not only are you negotiating the fact other players may take an action before you do, essentially forcing up the price, you're also worried about them nabbing the lorry or wagon you desperately need: when you move coal, you always do it in a certain order so there's no getting around the whole surrender-to-the-crest thing.

Going to Newcastle

The other action cards are about delivering, or grabbing a card from a stack regardless of how many workers are there. Finally; the share cards get you bonuses when they match up with your deliveries, as coal can be taken to a variety of destinations.

Although I was playing for Dirk I was still hoping to win, and grabbed a variety of shares hoping they would boost my efficiency, as they say. Dirk grabbed a couple objective cards. We both made one big delivery and several small ones.

Come the end-game count up, I found I had been so even-handed it took a tie-breaker to separate us: that of the last player to grab the shift token (the starting player marker)

Dirk 50 (wins on tie-breaker)
Sam 50

Damn his soot-stained eyes!

A surprisingly feisty game then, and one where you have to tread carefully when taking risks: it's possible to end up with a lorry that basically stops production until the matching wagon appears - at which point, some other player takes it. Oh, and set-up is practically instantaneous too, thanks to the insert:

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