I explained the rules as best I could. I'd sent out a handy overview during the day, and everyone had genned up a little too. Plus, we've all played Uwe games before. How hard could it be?
Not that hard at all. Admittedly it was nearly 3 hours long - including rules explanation - for the 'short' game, but the time seemed to sail by.
My strategy was to put all my metaphorical chips in aggression; going out raiding and pillaging as much as I could, abetted by three massive blocks of ore in my ship to clonk people over the head with. Chris also built a longship, but spent a lot of time hunting at home. Steve built a trading ship, and Andrew - perhaps inspired by his wasp strategy in Eclipse - built a flotilla of whaling boats and set about destocking the ocean.
Andrew was first to have a real impact on his income, getting up to 3 silver per round whilst Steve was still at zero. Then Steve branched into animal husbandry, and started picking up lots of wool. Chris was still hunting and setting snares, but occasionally went for a pillage when the mood took him. Andrew began picking up animals. I stayed true to my raid and pillage strategy, chucking in a few Occupation cards in the mix.
spices, booze, and a rug
In the mid-game I was looking strong, with the highest income and several bonuses popping up each round. But my strategy was much like raiding and pillaging in real life, I suppose: there's no long-term development. And my steady success was eclipsed on the last two rounds as the bell-curve of the others' plans reached maximum verticality. Suddenly Steve traded: flipping a gazillion green tiles to blue, and placed them all down. Chris emigrated his two boats, turning 13 points into 39 points. And Andrew - the only one to do so - filled out his board, giving him exactly no minus points. He'd also built a shed! All that blubber he'd harvested from the sea really paid dividends:
We packed away the game now more in admiration than fear. It is mad, and it doesn't have the strong theme of Agricola/Caverna, because for all the logic of resources build boats, boats catch fish, it still has the Patchwork abstraction of arranging things on your board.
I can see that, like Caverna, this is perhaps not a game that will serve me well on the leaderboard. But every time I play I enjoy it a little more, and last night was no exception. There's something about the way Uwe stitches things together that - even with the thematic incongruity of tile-placement- scratches several itches for me.