Sunday, 22 August 2010

Indonesia again

I was thinking of naming this post "Revisiting Indonesia" or "Shipping in Indonesia", but then I was worried whether it'd attract some spam comments from shady travel agents or business ventures. Indonesia (2005) is one of the most expensive games I have ever bought. It is a niche game published by a niche publisher, Splotter Spellen from Netherlands. I have only played it once before, more than a year ago, and it was a not-very-interesting 2-player game, so I have been wanting to play it again with more players. Afterall, this is a game that I use in my blog header background, representing my liking of heavy Eurogames.

The Play

Han, Afif and Reza came to play today (Sun 22 Aug 2010). Since we had 4 people and 4 hours, I decided to bring Indonesia to the table. None of them have played before. Our game took almost exactly 4 hours to play, including rules explanation (I think about half an hour, maybe slightly less).

Han, Afif and Reza.

Era A went by rather quickly, because there were 4 players, and the companies got snatched up very quickly. In R&D, most of us went with increasing the number of slots for owning companies. We were quite peaceful in the early game, mostly minding our own businesses. Afif was the first to go for the merger tech, and thus was the first to start proposing mergers. In this game, mergers usually mean hostile takeovers of companies. In the early part of the mid game, there were many mergers. I let go of a shipping company when a merger was proposed to merge it with another, because I felt shipping didn't really earn a lot of money, and I didn't want to spend too much money to protect it, lest my other companies get targeted. It was a decision I regretted later.

Han was first to propose a spice company and rice company merger, creating a siap faji company. Siap faji is a microwave meal. Afif told us it's instant noodles. So throughout our game we called it Indomie, which is a well-known instant noodles brand from Indonesia. We had a lot of Indomie companies. Health consciousness is totally lacking in the younger generation. They only eat Indomie and they don't eat rice. During the mid-game I let go of two more of my companies, one a rice company, another a spice company, because they were forced to merge with other companies to become Indomie companies, and I didn't want to own Indomie companies. Not that I cared about the health message. There was too much competition. I eventually became a rubber tycoon. I guess manufacturing, ahem, contraceptives, is more my thing.

The meat of our game was in Era B, among the flurry of mergers. Era C came and went rather quickly too. The oil companies didn't make too big an impact. Everyone was making and eating Indomie, and many were trading rubber. At mid game, there were only three shipping companies, owned by Afif, Han and Reza, and all of them spanned most of the archipelago. I was the only one without a shipping company. I think I did pretty well in operating my production companies, and had pretty good cashflow throughout the game, but I underestimated how profitable shipping companies were. Also, due to not controlling any shipping company, I could not direct the expansion of shipping routes to Sarawak, where I had a potentially quite profitable oil company. Unfortunately, the keyword was "potentially" and not "profitable".

I think this was early in Era B. I owned that 4-plantation rice company, and that 3-yellow-ships shipping company, but both were later taken away from me due to mergers.

On the left is one of the small spice companies that I used to own. Maaan... I'm being so nostalgic about my old companies... I need to learn to let go.

Those cubes are from Age of Steam. We used them to mark ship capacity usage. They are much easier to handle than the small, flat $5 coins. And they look like containers on the ships.

Second last round of the game. So many Indomie (siap faji) companies. Two were owned by Han, and one by Reza.

My pride - the Hiew Rubber Company which I defended from a hostile takeover attempt by Afif. I also competed fiercely with Han's small rubber company and denied it growth. But his rubber company was a small side business which didn't matter much to him anyway. Reza's small rice company and my small oil company on Borneo Island (foreground) never managed to grow, due to lack of shipping routes.

When the game ended and we totaled the scores, first place and second place was only $14 apart! Han had $1692, and Reza $1678, a 0.8% difference! In that final round if I had chosen to use Reza's ships instead of Afif's for some of my shipments, Reza would have won. But then I knew Reza was doing better than Afif, so I had deliberately tried to use Afif's ships more where I could. I had $1277, a very distant 3rd. Afif had $1013. His downfall was the lack of decent production companies throughout the game. Both Han and Reza had decent production and shipping companies. They mostly used their own ships for delivery, which saved a lot of money. They also had a collaboration going, prefering to use each other's shipping companies over Afif's when there was a choice. Their business networks happened to complement each other, so it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. That's what business is about afterall.

In the final round I earned $360 from my rubber plantations, but more than $180 of that went to the three shipping companies owned by Han, Reza and Afif. Money earned in the last round is doubled, so I really helped them a lot. The cities didn't grow much throughout our game, so I had to ship rather far. This was, of course, good news for the shipping companies.

The R&D chart at game end. Han was orange, Reza black, me green, Afif purple. That stack of discs on the Turn Order tech was a mistake. None of us researched that.

I'm quite pleased with my Age of Steam cubes solution to the shipping management problem.

The Thoughts

  1. You need a calculator. It makes the mergers much easier.
  2. Use some wooden cubes from another game to mark ship capacity usage, as opposed to trying to stand the ships on different sides, or placing $5 coins as suggested by the rules. Cubes are good, and cubes are cute.
  3. Take actions simultaneously when they won't impact others. It saves time.
  4. Don't underestimate the profitability of shipping companies. Aaarrgghh!!!
  5. The game is long, but it doesn't feel so because you are constantly engaged.
  6. A lot of chores in the game. Effort vs decision ratio is high. It does have a lot of interesting decisions and tense moments, but you have to be prepared to pay the price - the fiddling around with bits and the long play time.
  7. In our game noone bothered to increase the bidding technology, so when bidding for turn order, usually whoever bid earlier would lose, because the later bidders would always be willing to pay the previous bid + 1, if they wanted to go earlier. So this is an aspect that we have not explored.
  8. We mostly tried to own many companies - increasing our slots, as opposed to trying to own fewer but bigger companies. Even by game end, only Afif had the level 3 merger tech, i.e. he could propose a merger of a size 1 company and a size 2 company. The rest of us were at level 2. This meant noone could propose to merge two size 2 companies (you'd need to be at level 4 of the merger tech). I think things would be more interesting (i.e. vicious) if all of us had higher merger techs. With the level 4 tech, the shipping companies and the Indomie (siap faji) companies would be at risk. This is another aspect that can be explored further.
  9. Hmmm... saying that we "sped past" a 4-hour game is rather scary, but that's what I sincerely felt. I felt we missed exploring some aspects of the game because we had sped through it.
  10. Indonesia can be an unforgiving game, like Greed Incorporated (also by Splotter Spellen). One key mistake, or one early mistake, can cripple you. That kinda sucks when you are investing in a 4-hour game. But that's the price you have to pay. I enjoy how tense and brutal the mergers can be. This is a game that you need to stay sharp throughout. It is a game of knowing where the big decisions are, make making the right choices at those critical moments. This is truly a gamer's game.
  11. Was Indonesia worth the money that I paid for it? I don't measure a game's worth by money paid. I measure it by (a) whether I play it enough times to appreciate the intricacies, (b) whether I like the game after understanding it, (c) whether I had a good time with my friends. (c) is definitely there, and I hope to continue to work on (a) and (b).


Afif Ter said...

I read Siap Faji is a misprint, its supposed to be Siap Saji, ready to serve. Oh, we need to play indonesia again! haha

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I too was a bit puzzled about "siap faji". What you said makes sense. Unless there really is an Indonesian word "faji". Anyone from Indonesia can confirm?

K_I_T said...

Great read! Thank you for this info. I'm considering purchasing Indonesia.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

K_I_T, hope you'll enjoy the game! Just be prepared it will take long, and the mergers can be quite brutal.

Jawad Joe said...

No there is not. "Siap saji" is the correct one.