Sunday, 20 September 2009

5P Automobile

On Fri 11 Sep 2009, I finally joined the Old Town Kopitiam Cheras (OTK Cheras) gamers to play for the first time. I have been talking about joining them to play since slightly more than a year ago, when my regular kaki (gaming buddy) Han was being transferred to another city because of work. By now Han is expecting to return to KL soon. The OTK players are regulars, so the cafe reserves two rectangular tables with sofas for them every Friday.

I was one of the earlier arrivals, so I played Wyatt Earp with Jeff and Wai Yan as a starter. I have played this 5 years ago but have forgotten most of the rules. It's by the same designer (Mike Fitzgerald) of the Mystery Rummy series, so there are many similarities. However my impression of it hasn't changed since the last time I played. I didn't enjoy it as much as the other Mystery Rummy games. What was funny in our game was how I kept getting Hideout cards, and I kept playing them on Jeff and Wai Yan's melds to deny them points. Still, it didn't help to prevent me from coming in last. Serves me right for being nasty.

After Wyatt Earp, I played a 5P game of Automobile, this being the first time I played with 5P, the supposedly ideal number of players. I played with Jeff, David, Afif and Reza, who all played this game for the first time.

5P Automobile can be quite brutal. Competition is more fierce, because the number of slots for distributors is the same as when playing with fewer players, and the demand for luxury cars is the same too. The game becomes quite tight. There were a few times when some distributors had to be fired because there weren't enough slots, or when the players controlling them didn't have the right car type that they could sell. It suddenly dawned on me this advantage of producing all 3 types of cars - it can help your distributors keep their jobs. You have more flexibility when fighting the distributor war.

I made a very stupid mistake in the first round. Well, maybe I should say I made two very stupid mistakes. I console myself by telling myself that I made stupid mistakes because I had been a good teacher and had been paying more attention to teaching than to playing. First mistake was placing three distributors, when I was 4th (or 5th?) in turn order. That's bad, because in Round 1, there are very few slots for distributors, and when you are far behind in turn order, it's risky to place so many distributors. Although distributors are good, and it's always good to place some earlier, I probably shouldn't have placed 3 (the max allowed per action). In Round 1, I was the only person to build a factory for cheap cars, anticipating the later growing demand for such cars, and trying to avoid competition in mid range cars. Second mistake - I should not have built 2 factories. That would force me to produce at least 5 cars every time I produce. In Round 1, there is no general demand for cheap cars, and there are only 3 distributor slots for them. I didn't control the Howard character, so I couldn't sell 2 cars using him. So I could sell at most 3 cheap cars, even if no one competed with me. Why the heck did I build 2 factories? Third mistake - I realise I actually made three, not two - I decided not to produce cars in Round 1. I decided to build two more factories instead (a 3rd car factory on the cheap car spot, and a parts factory), to lay foundations for the future, and to avoid the losses and the loss cubes penalty for failing to sell cars. After I did that, I suddenly realised that I had basically just hired and fired 3 distributors in the same Round. The three jokers didn't have cars to sell. Bye-bye. Hello three loss cubes (which is even more than if I had just produced five cheap cars and failed to sell two of them).

A photo of Automobile taken earlier. For more photos taken on the actual day, see here

The game was very enjoyable, despite my silly mistakes. 5P Automobile is tough and challenging. Surprisingly, there were still times when we underestimated the demand for cars, and thus produced less than we should have. I think somehow we tend to focus on the market demand, which is only one of three ways of selling cars. There are other avenues - the Howard character, and the distributors. We had incidents of players discounting cars out of fear of failing to sell, but it turned out that the market demand was high enough for all cars to be sold. The car buyers must be laughing... But we did have incidents of having too many cars too, and players taking loss cubes as a result.

One trick that we learned was to build one advanced factory late in the game, and then closing it. Closing a factory costs you $100, but it also allows you to get rid of half your loss cubes. In Round 4, each loss cube will cost you $40. So if you have lots of loss cubes, you can consider this. The other possible advantage of building that single factory is to allow you to have cars in all three classes. I did this, the single factory being a mid range car factory. I only produced very few mid range cars, but the flexibility that it gave me helped me a lot in the distributor wars. Also since I wasn't producing many cars anyway, I didn't have to worry too much about being unable to sell all of them. And of course, some profit from these sales wouldn't hurt.

I have played Automobile 7 times now, and I think indeed the game is best with 5. 4 is quite good too, but I think 3 would be less interesting. With 5, you get pain - the good type of pain.

1 comment:

Aik Yong said...

Glad you enjoyed your time at OTK. Sorry I wasn't there but I usually won't be there if I have to work saturdays. And I'm kicking myself now for not making it to the Automobile session.

A note, OTK doesn't reserve their tables for us. but usually we reach early enough to 'book' those tables. ;P