Bit of a confusing start to this one… as I drove into the car park, I noticed (what seemed to be) the entire membership of the club gathered in a huddle outside, away from the building. For a moment I wondered if the circus school was holding another unscheduled show in the hall and we’d been shut out — or if there’d been a fire drill or something — but it just turned out to be a weird, co-incidental, spontaneous gathering in the car-park. Ho hum 🙂
Anyway, on to the gaming…
First of the night: Village.
This is the third consecutive meeting where I’ve played Village (so I won’t bore you with another overview of the game)… but it’s become a pretty reliable option for club nights. Gameplay-wise it’s a decent, medium-wieght Euro which has a satisfying amount of “stuff” going on in it — but it also plays reasonably briskly (even when you factor in the teaching time), which means it doesn’t have to be the main focus of the evening; you can happily get this in alongside another meaty title.
Plus, given the Kennerspiele des Jahres buzz, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of people willing to try it out at the moment 😉
On this particular occasion, I didn’t play particularly well — it took me a while to settle into a points-generating groove (travelling the world / maxing out the town hall) …and through a combination of neglect on my part — and evil blocking tactics on Olly’s part — I didn’t get a single sale in the marketplace … which really hit me hard in the final reckoning. Enjoyable game, nevertheless.
Next: The Manhattan Project
I’ve been keen to play this one for a while, so when Michael mentioned that he’d brought his copy, I jumped at the opportunity. The Manhattan Project is a worker placement game where players represent nations competing in an arms race … the first nation to construct a certain amount of nuclear firepower wins. It’s an unusual theme for a game, which some people might find a tad “iffy” (though it might be worth noting that the game is about *building* nuclear weapons, and NOT about actually using them)… but it certainly makes a refreshing change from the slew of worker placement games where you’re a medieval nobleman, attempting to build a chunk of [Castle | Cathedral | Obscure European Township] in return for prestige points from the king 😉
Mechanics wise, it’s all tried-and-tested worker placement stuff. You use various classes of workers to collect resources, build buildings, operate buildings, and transform raw resources into game-winning goodies. There are a couple of tweaks to the standard formula – notably, your workers don’t “come home” until you decide to devote an entire turn to the action bringing them home (in which case, that’s all you do on that round… take your workers off the board ready for re-use, and miss the rest of your turn), and there’s a combat/aggression aspect in there too – you can build up a squadron of fighters and bombers, and go and bomb the crap out of your opponent’s buildings so that they can’t use them for a while. This didn’t actually happen during our game… though I suspect that (much like real life) the *threat* of aggression can be just as important as *actual* aggression.
I really enjoyed playing this one — it pretty much took me a full game to get a proper sense of the game’s pacing, and to appreciate how the various resources flow and interact… but I like what I saw, and I’m looking forward to getting another opportunity to play now that I’m more clued-up!
Finally: Ticket To Ride (India)
Following the overtly-thinky experience of The Manhattan Project we decided something a little gentler might be in order, so opted for Ticket To Ride. Nobody had played the India map before, so — just to make things interesting — that’s the one that we went for.
At first blush, it seemed like quite a quirky map… it’s got a very clear north/south divide to it, a dense area of very short tracks in the busiest part of the board, and an unusual scoring rule in which you pick up bonus points for creating “circular” routes (i.e. extra points if you can perform a return journey between your ticket destinations using an entirely different route to your outbound journey).
I set out with a pretty bombastic (and entirely unrealistic) plan to do a huge mega-circuit connecting all my destinations. It started well; I managed to pick up two long routes on the west coast of the continent which seemed to be very strategically useful (and which — to be honest — I expected everybody else to be rushing for too… though apparently they weren’t). Perhaps I should have spent more time studying the choke points in the middle of the continent… because by the time we got half way through the game, my spidey sense was tingling…
You see, around about this point, I realised there was going to be a ridiculous amount of contention on a lot of the inland cities. Most inland destinations had 6 (or, more rarely, 7) tracks in and out… and, given the odd scoring rules for this map, you have an incentive to build a “through route” wherever you can, rather than terminate your line at a given city. Meaning that — under optimal play — 2 of the 5 players would be “locked out” of each destination. Suddenly the interior of this map seemed *incredibly* fierce… and, foolishly, I hadn’t already established a significant foothold there :/
As the game got into its final stages, things got even odder… there was a far longer period of aimlessly placing-your-remaining-carriages-just-for-points than you get in a usual game of TTR, and — for a time — it even looked like we might fill the whole board up before we ran out of train pieces to place! We double-checked the rules to make sure we weren’t supposed to be playing with a reduced amount of trains… nope; players should have a full set of 45.
I wondered if this map was fundamentally broken in some way (seemed very unlikely), or if it was some kind of deliberate artistic comment on the state of the Indian railway service…
…but no, that seems pretty unlikely too. It wasn’t until the drive home that the likeliest possibility occurred to me: was that map REALLY intended for five players? A quick check of Board Game Geek when I got back solved the mystery. No, it’s not. It’s intended for four players. Oops!
Oh well, in those circumstances I’ll not feel too bad about my crushing defeat 😉
Another good night… I was pleased with everything we played (despite the game of TTR being made un-necessarily evil!). The Manhattan Project was probably the highlight of the evening… it’s well worth jumping into a game of that one if you get the chance!
Great to spot a couple more new faces at the meeting — unfortunately the way that games started and ended this week (and didn’t mesh together very well) meant I didn’t move around groups very much (and by ‘very much’, I actually mean: ‘at all’), but it’s brilliant to see so many new people coming into the club … hopefully I’ll get the chance to play against some of them soon! 🙂
The next meeting – 11th August – will be an all-dayer, starting at 10am. Looking forward to that one!
The pictures were taken by Olly, and have been gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers Google+ Group. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month… usual cost is £3 (or £1 for concessions), but your first visit is free. You can also visit the official club website at http://www.newcastlegamers.net … but, frankly, the Google+ Group that I linked to at the start of this paragraph is way livelier 😉