Sunday, 19 August 2012

boardgaming in photos

22 Jul 2012. Hacienda on the iPad. I usually played 4P games, but this time decided to try a 5P game. That nearly cost me my undefeated record. I (green) only beat the yellow AI by one point. Now I’m less keen to play Hacienda on the iPad because the AI’s are not very challenging.

22 Jul 2012. Shee Yun (7) beat me in this game of For The Win. She was white and I was black. It was her turn, and she only needed two basic moves to win - ninja (the shuriken) to move one step to the upper left, and then pirate (skull and crossbones) to move one step to the upper left. All her pieces would be linked up, and one of each type would be still active (face-up).

27 Jul 2012. The black box edition of Glory to Rome. Looks much nicer and neater than the original. The black box edition comes with a variant, in which some cards need to be replaced with others, and the rules are slightly changed. However we just played the original game, because most of us were already a little rusty.

In Glory to Rome a card can be used in three different ways. If used as a patron, you look at the left edge, which describes a profession. If used as a building material, you look at the bottom edge. Building materials can be used for a building or stored in the vault for points. If the latter, the coin icons at the bottom left denote the point value. If a card is used as a building, then the description in the centre applies.

This was already my 6th play of Glory to Rome, and yet I was still not quite grasping the strategies. I don’t play it frequently enough. I would like to play it more. Doesn’t hurt that now Allen has this good-looking version.

3 Aug 2012. Indonesia is a four-hour game, so it’s a little risky to bring it to OTK on Fridays, because we don’t really have that much time to play. I’m a Cinderella and need to run around midnight. Thankfully I managed to get a table of four (the ideal number of players) quickly, and off we went. Allen, Heng and I have played before, and only Dennis was new to the game, but he’s an 18XX veteran.

Indonesia is an economic game about founding production companies and shipping companies, expanding them, using them to make money, and guiding the growth of cities (the market for goods). The most important and most interesting aspect of the game is the mergers. Mergers are unstoppable once initiated. You can use this mechanism to have one of your companies gobble up an opponent’s company, or even take over a merger of two different opponents’ companies. However there is also a risk of another player overbidding you to buy the merged company. Mergers make the game very fluid and exciting. It’s a matter of life and death.

In this photo, the wooden ships are the shipping companies, the small square tiles are the production companies (green = spice companies, yellow = rice companies), and the glass beads are cities (green = small town, red = large metropolitan).

I had a rather poor start. My small shipping company was taken over in a hostile merger by Heng. I think I couldn’t have stopped it if I wanted to, because I didn’t have enough cash. After that I seemed to be getting small company after small company, never quite making it into the major league. Only by around mid game I bought a big rice company and continued to grow it to be the biggest in the country. I was the king of rice. Unfortunately rice was not exactly a very profitable product. Margins were slim because I had to spend much on shipping fees. Heng and Allen, the two shipping tycoons were laughing all the way to the bank.

Dennis was quite the menace indeed in this game. He was very intrigued by the merger mechanism, and (I suspect) often called for mergers just for the hell of it. There was one time when he intended to take over a lucrative company, but miscalculated, and ended up handing the merger to another happy buyer who had more cash than him. That seriously backfired for him. Many mergers meant the game sped up considerably. The number of companies a player can own is limited. More mergers means fewer companies being held, which means more slots to start new companies. The end of each era is triggered by company tiles running out. So having many mergers eventually means a quicker pace. I think the mergers ended up helping Allen and Heng the most. Their shipping companies became the only two big shipping conglomerates, and they also had slots for profitable production companies which had sister shipping companies to piggy-back on. It’s a left pocket right pocket thing.

In hindsight I probably should have tried to make a siap faji (microwave meal) company earlier by merging a rice and a spice company. Siap faji fetches a higher price per unit than rice, and I would have paid less shipping fees.

The game ended with all our scores quite far apart. Allen was the richest, followed by Heng, then me, and Dennis. Our game took just a little more than 3 hours, which is surprisingly short. I normally expect 4 to 4.5 hours. The red shipping company is Allen’s, and the yellow one Heng’s. Allen was the rubber king (purple), monopolising all of the rubber companies. Both Allen and Heng had some small but profitable oil companies (brownish grey). I was the rice king, owning almost every rice field. The only exception was that single field in southern Sulawesi (K-shaped island in the centre-right). That was Dennis’, and he was planning to merge it with his spice company to form a siap faji company. Both Dennis and I had spice companies. It was actually quite obvious who was going to win. Allen and Heng controlled the mid- and high-end products - rubber and oil, and Dennis and I were still floundering with low-end products - rice and spices.

I really like that Indonesia, like other Splotter games that I’ve tried, has very interesting macro-level strategies. You really need to know what you’re doing, and there’s a lot to think about and plan for. The game can be brutal if first-time players play against veterans. It is best played among equally matched players. There are many decisions to be made, and many of them matter a lot. If you win, you get a strong sense of achievement. If you lose, you can’t blame luck. Fiddliness is a common feature / problem (depending on your tolerance level) in Splotter games. To me, the gameplay is interesting enough so I think the trouble in managing the many game pieces is worth the effort.

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