Friday, 18 January 2008

TTR Switzerland, Carc Abbey & Mayor

I have played Ticket To Ride Switzerland and Carcassonne Abbey and Mayor, my recent purchases, some more, and find that I am liking them more as I play more.

Ticket To Ride Switzerland

I played one two-player game of Ticket To Ride Switzerland with Michelle where she completed 13 tickets! That must be a record for us among all Ticket To Ride games that we have played. So, the designer Alan Moon indeed achieved his goal of making this game very much about drawing tickets. Michelle scored 107pts from her 13 completed tickets. She did fail to complete one ticket, but that only cost her 2pts. In the mid game I struggled with some routes needed for two of my tickets, so I was reluctant to draw more tickets and focused on completing those first. Once those were done, I started to draw more tickets. Unfortunately it was too late. I did manage to complete all the tickets that I drew later, and without too much difficulty, but I probably would have done better if I had drawn more tickets earlier, because then I would have been able to plan my routes better. So, I think in this game you need not insist on drawing new tickets only after having completed existing ones. I think you should gamble a little and draw more tickets earlier, so that you can look for synergy among the tickets and plan routes better. Maybe this is applicable for other Ticket To Ride games too, just that my playing style has always been more conservative.

I probably would not have won that game anyway. Michelle drew two identical country-to-country tickets, and another which is effectively the same. I think two were Austria to France (or Italy or Germany), and one was France to Austria. These three scored her big points.

We still did not experience too much blocking. Some, but not a lot. Less than I expected from reading reviews of the game. I am guessing probably blocking will only become severe in 3-player games.

I am looking forward to play more of Ticket To Ride Switzerland.

My first impression of Carcassonne Abbey and Mayor was that it didn't make things significantly more fun, but it didn't make things worse either. Now that I have played more, I find that I am liking it more. I probably will always play with it, at least when I play against Michelle. We had one quite exciting game (to me), where Michelle scored a 63pt city very early in the game, and I had to play very aggressively to catch up and finally win. She scored another large city around mid game too, also one with the cathedral (from the Inns & Cathedrals expansion), which made things quite bleak for me. She had lapped me (i.e. more than 50pts ahead of me, because the Carcassonne scoreboard has 50 spaces). However, the huge lead caused complacency, and addition to Michelle's sleepiness, she allowed me to catch up. I scored a big city later in the game, using my mayor and big boy (big meeple) to steal the city from her mayor and normal guy (normal meeple). I also used my barn to score big points, which she didn't do. These come-from-far-behind victories are always sweet, although I probably would not have won if Michelle had put more effort into stopping me.

All set up to start.

Close up of the pieces. Front: the abbey tile. Middle (left to right): wagon, big boy (from the Inns & Cathedrals expansion), mayor (we call him big pants in Hakka - "大裤囊"), barn. Back: the seven dwarves.

The original Carcassonne and the box for the Abbey & Mayor expansion.

Game in progress. Mayor, a.k.a. big pants, in the foreground. On the right edge you can see a road that ends in the middle of a field. That's one of the new tiles that came with the new expansion. Another new tile can be just not far behind the red farmer (lying down) in the foreground - the "flyover" castle.

The abbey and the two barns in action. The roundabout with three branches at the top of the photo is a new tile. Unlike the older tiles, where a 3-way junction is considered the end of the roads, for this tile all three branches are considered the same road. Another new tile is the big city at the back, the tile with two shields.

The green wagon thinks it's a monk.

Now I find the abbey, the mayor and the barn to be quite interesting additions. The abbey is usually used for completing cities. When competing for those big cities, now there is an additional element of considering whether your opponent will use the abbey to prevent your followers from joining and stealing that big city. In our game, Michelle used her abbey to do this, scoring the big city by herself and cutting off my followers who were all set up to steal the city away from her. So, the abbey can be one very critical piece to be reserved exactly for such situations of big point swings.

The mayor is also a specialist, and unlike the abbey which can be used to complete any features, the mayor is only effective for cities. And how effective they can be. For big cities with many shields, a mayor often can only be countered by another mayor. So, while mayors can be used for scoring small cities, you'd want to make sure he (or she, just to make sure I'm not a male chauvinist) is available and ready for action.

I now primarily try to use my barn to score my farm twice, the first time when my barn kicks away my own farmer (3pt per city touching the farm), and the second time for the barn itsefl at game end (4pt per city). One thing that I like about Carcassonne is the long term planning consideration for the farmer scoring at game end. Some people recommend not to play farmers when teaching the game to beginners, which I do not agree with, because that leaves out a very important and interesting aspect of the game. I have not used the barn (kind of like a super farmer) offensively to kick away my opponent's (i.e. Michelle's) farmers. Maybe I should try that. I wonder whether that's an effective use of the barn, because by the time I use the barn, that farm probably would have had many cities, and that follower which I kick away would score big points already. If the farm doesn't have many cities in the first place, I probably wouldn't be using my one and only barn on it. The big boy (or two regular meeples) is probably more effective offensively, because I can deny my opponent points completely, although I only earn 3pt per city instead of 4pt.

Up to now I still find the wagon rather insignificant. I did try to use it frequently and scoring just a few points each time, because I suspect that is the most effective way to use it. However I find that I tent to get distracted by other opportunities around the board and can't spend too much time on the tiles near the wagon. So the wagon ends up being neglected again.

I am enjoying Carcassonne Abbey and Mayor, and will probably always play with it from now on. It's a good expansion for veteran Carcassonne players.

1 comment:

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