Monday, 22 August 2011

boardgaming in photos

30 Jul 2011. Through the Ages. This was the first time ever that I took Churchill as my leader. Nowadays I only play Through the Ages with my wife Michelle, and since she doesn't like direct confrontation, we tend to have an unspoken rule of "playing nice", i.e. despite having Aggression cards and War cards in the decks, we very rarely use them. In this particular game, Michelle kept upgrading her military. It did help her with some of the events that depended on military strength, and she also gained more colonies because of her military, but the way that she built up her armies was much more than what she needed for the events and the colonies. I realised that she was threatening me. If I let her start a war while she was so much stronger than me, the results of the war would be devastating. I was forced to catch up, to spend my actions and resources on military, even though it wouldn't do me any good (other than minimising damage / risk). Churchill was a good defensive leader who could help me if I were attacked. In the end, Michelle didn't attack me. She was happy enough to have threatened me and forced me to waste my resources.

Part of Michelle's civilisation. She had 2 warriors and 5 cavalrymen. That meant she had fulfilled the Classic Army tactics card on the right. Her Trancontinental Railroad wonder and Military Theory technology also gave her additional military strength. She even naughtily asked me repeatedly how Napoleon's special ability worked when he appeared on the card row (he doubled the strength of an army). I think she was more interested in posing the veiled threat than actually understanding how Napoleon worked. She didn't take Napeloen eventually.

14 Aug 2011. Ticket to Ride Switzerland. It's usually hard to avoid needing to get to Zurich, so it's important to make sure you don't get cut off. This is still my favourite version of the Ticket to Ride series, partly because I usually do 2-player games and it works very well with two. And drawing many tickets is just fun, especially when you're lucky and keep drawing tickets that are already completed or are easy to complete. It's the exitement of gambling.

Michelle and I tend to play very peaceful games, i.e. we don't claim routes for the sake of blocking. So our games tend to be less vicious. However we still do sometimes get in each other's way because we both need to reach the same cities.

Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries. Similar to TTR Switzerland this is a 2 or 3 player game. It feels a little like playing the USA map with the Big Cities expansion, because many tickets have one of those few big cities, like Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm, which are mostly in the south. Look at Michelle's (purple) long coastal route. Later her route extended even further north from Tromso.

Factory Manager. I rarely talk about artwork when I write about games, and artwork rarely affects whether I like a game. But for Factory Manager, I like the artwork (by Lars-Arne "Maura" Kalusky) so much that I'm sure I'm biased because of it. And the thing is the artwork isn't anything very stunning or beautiful. It won't win any awards. I have seen Maura's artwork in other Friedemann Friese games, and they are alright but they don't charm me like the artwork in Factory Manager and Power Grid. In Power Grid there is not much opportunity for Maura to draw much, but in Factory Manager there are plenty of machines to draw. I can't explain it. Somehow I really love Maura's artwork in the context of an industrial environment.

The tiles in this photo are the machines available in a 2-player game.

Factory Manager is about managing and upgrading your factory, to produce goods and earn money. After 5 rounds, the richest wins. This above is my factory. Somehow when I played, I kept wanting to install fancy machines and upgrade my factory. I was like a yuppie buying gadgets. In contrast, Michelle focused on the bottom line and remembered that the end goal was to make money. I guess that's the difference between a person with an IT background and a person with an accounting background. The IT department wants to install all sorts of nifty technology, but the finance department counts every sen.

Eventually Michelle won by a comfortable margin. She didn't even bother to buy machines in the final round. She had also been saving money by taking the later turn order tiles (which gave discounts for buying machines and hiring temp staff). I was the big kid always going for earlier turn order so that I wouldn't miss out on buying the shiny new toys.

My factory at game end. I had spend more effort on reducing the number of workers I needed. By freeing up workers, I had more opportunities to buy more machines, to bid for turn order, etc. I didn't do so well with saving electricity though, and paid quite a lot. Only near game end I reduced my electricity consumption a little.

Michelle's factory. She had been spending more effort in reducing electricity consumption, which saved her money, because the electricity cost went up quite quickly in our game. Her factory's output was not as good as mine by game end, but that didn't matter. She was richer than me, so she won.

Some complain that sometimes the best course of action in Round 5 is to not buy anything. I don't see that as a problem. To me, that just means the game has been decided in Round 4 (at least for that player), so Round 5 is just an execution round or a scoring round. It just means that the player has played well to get to an optimal factory by Round 4. There will be times that a player will need to buy something in Round 5 to maximise his factory performance. He may need this Round 5 in order to do better than the player who does not need to buy anything in Round 5. It's all about how you plan your factory upgrades. You have 5 rounds, you try to do as much as you can within the limitation.

I'm keen to play Factory Manager again. I certainly have room for improvement.

Power Grid on the USA map, using Variant 3 of the new power plant deck expansion. This variant uses most of the basic power plant deck, but adds 6 big power plants. Also the numbers of cities to trigger Stage 2 and game end are increased. I quite like this variant, since I mostly play Power Grid as a 2-player game. More cities mean more opportunities for manoeuvring. In this photo, the power plants with green edges are from the expansion.

We played 24 cities in the eastern half of USA - brown, green and red regions, plus 3 more cities in the yellow region. The variant that we used needed exactly 24 cities in play. We used yellow houses to mark inaccessible cities. I was green, Michelle was red. I started in the northern half of the play area (this photo was taken from the north, the direction of Canada) and Michelle started in the southern half.

We had more or less established our front line by now, and mostly expanded in the safe areas away from the front line.

Stage 2 came at 12 cities connected (which was higher than the standard rules). I lost the game due to over-relying on oil, and under-estimating how much cash flow Michelle had. She managed to connect to 24 cities to end the game in the very round that the oil market was exhausted. Her plants' total capacity was lower than mine, but she could power all of them that round (supplying 20 cities). I couldn't power all my plants that round, only managing 17 because I couldn't power one of my oil power plants. If I had another round, I would have replaced one of my three oil power plants to get out of this oil-dependency hole. Well, I guess I can only blame myself for digging this hole in the first place. Coal was popular in the early game and both of us switched away from coal plants, and by game end, only I had one coal plant, and coal was dirt cheap.

Power Grid should be much better with more than 2 players, but I still quite enjoy the 2-player game. And I do enjoy getting beaten by my wife. I want a rematch!

At the Gates of Loyang is a game that I'm lukewarm towards, but both Michelle and Shee Yun (my 6-year-old daughter) like it. Must be those colourful vegetables. In my opinion it is rather solitairish and it's more a puzzle about coordinating supply and demand. But I guess some people do like this sort of exercise.

No comments: