Thursday, 24 February 2011

boardgaming in photos

5 Feb 2011. It was good to bring out Puerto Rico again after a long time. Michelle and I played the 2-player variant game, which is still pretty decent. I decided early to go for the quarries (discounts when constructing buildings).

Galaxy Trucker with expansion. My front was all guns, so I had no fear of any big meteors coming from the front.

We played with the Rough Roads expansion (special rules that apply to everyone). There was this particular card which allowed us to build engines facing the front as well. Normally your engines must point to the rear. During the voyage, certain events will cause your ships to flip front-to-back (and that's why you need those front-facing engines). We also played with the Evil Machinations expansion (special event cards than are seeded by the players and are only known to the players who seed them). I had seeded a card which forced you to pay tax for batteries, so I didn't build any component that required batteries. That didn't turn out to be such a good idea. I didn't have any shields...

I had three rich men's cabins on this spaceship - the orange coloured cabins with lone astronauts. These were rich men who would pay to join your dangerous voyage just for kicks.

Two Rough Roads cards. Infected Goods kills your human crew if you need to use them to load the goods. Cosmic Psychosis can make human crew go crazy and bomb their own cabins.

That hole on the left between the rich man's cabin and the left-pointing cannon was caused by an event card. Luckily all the components around it were connected to other parts of the ship, so I didn't lose too many components.

Damage taken to my left rear.

6 Feb 2011. At the Gates of Loyang. Would this make a nice mobile phone wallpaper? That little green glass bead doesn't come with the game. I added some of these to be used as score markers.

I planted a lot of red turnips, because many of my regular customers wanted them.

I had many helpers! I did not need to worry about this causing my two-packs to be too expensive though (normally they would cost $6 because I had 6 helpers), because I had the Official, who made two-packs free. Also I had the Foreman, who could bring the Official back to me after I used him.

6 Feb 2011. Sid Meier's Civilization. This was my 3rd game, also a 3-player game versus Han and Allen. I was the Egyptians and got myself the wonder which gave extra Trade every round. That meant I did very well with my science. I aimed for a science victory, and later also tried to get coins so that the economic victory could be my backup plan. I realised that if you can only rely on techs to reach 15 coins, you must pick all the techs that allow you to collect coins, not a single one less. 3 tech cards let you collect up to 4 coins each by fulfilling specific criteria (that makes 12), and another 3 tech cards give you a coin when you research them (adding 3 to 12 makes 15). This means you have fewer choices in selecting other techs. There are other ways of gaining coins, e.g. via others' event cards, or great people, or on the map, but these are harder to come by. In this photo you can see I have 10 coins.

Han and Allen. They are smiling and they look friendly, but they are actually engaged in a bitter war. See those unit cards on the table.

Allen (blue) had sent two armies to threaten Han's frontier town. Han (yellow) quickly assembled a big army group and attacked Allen's armies. This was when things started to go downhill for Allen. Han was the Germans, i.e. militarily very strong. He had sent some armies to blockade resources at one of my cities, and send some others to prevent Allen from building his 3rd city. Allen had tried to go for a cultural victory, since it was something none of us have tried before. Unfortunately for him, once war broke out and distracted him from writing poetry, his studies in fine arts slowed down greatly and the momentum was lost. I think culture victory is rather risky.

And then Han nuked my (green) super-production city, completely wiping it out and destroying two armies that were there.

After nuking my city, Han attacked and destroyed Allen's second city. He was unstoppable. I was going for science victory (researching the Level 5 tech - space flight), but I couldn't make it in time. In the same round that I would reach the Level 5 tech, Han would be able to conquer Allen's capital and thus claim military victory. In the sequence of phases, army movements (and battles) are done before research. In that final round, both Allen and I desperately gathered culture and progressed on the culture track to draw culture cards, hoping that we'd draw something that could be used to stop or delay Han.

Unfortunately none of the culture cards could stop Han. As part of progressing on the culture track, I gained one great person. I drew a great person tile. It was an ugly fat man. But at that moment in history, he was the handsomest sight. He gave me my 15th coin to win an economic victory!

I had 13 coins on my tech cards and 1 from an event. It was quite impossible to gain more using my Code of Laws tech card because it required winning battles. I wasn't exactly a formidable military power, and there weren't anymore barbarians around to kill.

So from the three games that we've played, we've had a military victory, a science victory, and now an economic victory.

This was my tech tree in the last round. I had 13 coins on my tech cards, and 2 on my civ card (Egypt). My tech pyramid was built with no waste at all and if we had reached the last phase of the round I would have been able to research the Level 5 tech to win a science victory.

15 Feb 2011. Playing Category 5 / Take 6 at a Chinese New Year gathering with friends. Christy, Keith, Sai Keun, Simon, Futt Chin. They were all new to the game.

20 Feb 2011. Finally, I got to play my own copy of Struggle of Empires for the first time. I've played Chong Sean's copy once. This was the setup for a 7-player game, but later one player couldn't make it so we did a 6-player game, taking out Prussia (grey).

Front: Allen (yellow - Spain), Soraya (blue - France), Azrul (white - Austria). Back: Han (orange - United Provinces / Holland), Afif (red - Britain), me (green - Russia). This was one rare occasion that we had six players.

At the start of the game, my (green) presence was very scattered, having single control tokens in 5 different regions. I didn't get any tile that gave extra income, because my presence was so dispersed, none of the tiles would really give me much. In hindsight, I should not have let my economy go to tatters. I had to take a lot of unrest to raise money. From the early game I worked on establishing control in the German States and Central Europe, because those areas were high-scoring and didn't have much other presence. It worked well enough for me for the first two wars (of three). I was in 1st place after the first war, and 2nd place after the second. It was because I had not completely lost my control in the colonial areas, and I had some control in Europe. However, my empire was not in good shape. I didn' t have many troops to defend my foreign holdings and I steadily lost them to others. Due to my poor economy I took a lot of unrest. At game end, 20 unrest or more meant instant loss. I had 18! That was very dangerous. I fought rather aggressively in the 3rd war, and gained much unrest due to losing armies. I ended the game in 5th place.

This photo was taken during the middle of the second war, i.e. about mid game. Russia (green), France (blue) and Austria (white) were in the same alliance and had strong control over the German States. The United Provinces (orange) had just landed two armies to try to establish control.

Whenever someone's army or navy was killed, he (or she) must take 1 unrest, and the others would cheer "Yay!".

This was after the second war. Austria (white) was leading.

Game end. Winner was Azrul (Austria/white). Soraya (France/blue) was next. She had been trailing and had been keeping a low profile, but by the 3rd war she had established strong control in many areas. She actually scored more than Azrul for the 3rd war itself, just that it wasn't enough to overtake him. Allen (Spain/yellow) and Han (United Provinces/orange) were next, and me (Russia/green) and Afif (Britain/red) were last. I thought I would be the one with the worst unrest (18), but it turned out that Afif was worse. He had 19. Just one more unrest and he'd score 0. At game end he lost 7pts for having the most unrest, and I lost 4pts for having the second most unrest. Even without these penalties we would have been 5th and 6th place anyway.

The game took about 4 hours, which surprised me a little. I had thought we'd take maybe 2.5 to 3 hours. I guess it's partly because most of us were new to the game, and Han and I had only played once before. The game was quite tense throughout. I still don't have a very good grasp of the game (as is evident from my 5th placing, heh heh...). One thing I remembered from my first game was that the game was very much about area majority and how to do that efficiently. I had the same impression from my second game. With 6 players, alliances became more complex compared to my first game with 4 players. One aspect that came out in our 6-player game was the negotiation and persuasion aspect. We spent much effort trying to influence what others did, trying to convince others to attack someone else, trying to persuade others to support us in battles. The alliances in the game was much more than just the formal alliances determined at the start of each war. The formal alliances were more a mechanism to stop players from the same alliance from attacking one another, than a mechanism to allow players to attack the other alliance. We were all at one another's throats, and quite often we lamented that we couldn't attack so-and-so because we were in the same alliances. Gosh... boardgames bring out the worst in us.


Frank Conradie said...

Great session reports!

I have Struggle for Empires on my wishlist, mainly because I currently lack a "meaty" 6/7 player game in my collection. However, I worry about the complexity of the rules, especially after seeing reports of lots of rules exceptions - can you comment on this please?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

The basic rules are not complex, with few special cases. You can check out the concise ref sheet I did for the game (see side bar for link to my concise ref sheets). Much of the complexity comes with the many special tiles which give you special bonuses or abilities. Most aren't complex, but it is overwhelming when you have so many to choose from. There is much to explore in SOE, how to make use of the alliance mechanism, what combination of tiles to take, etc. And definitely there's a negotiation / people manipulation element similar to Diplomacy.