Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 21, 2008

Participants: Gili, Jon, Nadine, Avri

Game night in Gili's house as she had to babysit her kids. Avri from the Beit Shemesh group was in town so he came over for the night.

Pillars of the Earth

Avri 46/6, Nadine 46/2, Jon 46/0, Gili 39

First play for Gili. First four-player game for Nadine and me.

I loved the three-player game. I see it as a far better worker-placement game than Caylus, which is just fiddly, long, and tiresome. On the other hand, I can see how others could like Caylus better, as Caylus has less luck and more meat.

There is luck in PotE, not just randomness, 'tis true. But the better you get in the game, the less the luck affects you. I was hit by one instance of bad luck because I didn't plan well. Unlike other games, planning for the bad luck is not a "waste", because you can usually convert all of your reserved cushions for victory points on the last round, anyway. There is, perhaps, a bit more luck in four-player than in three-player. The order the master workers are drawn can be a problem.

In our game, my instance of bad luck was that I needed either of the two metal converting craftsman to be available for purchase on the last round, since I grabbed first-player position on fifth round. Unfortunately for me, neither one showed up on the bottom row for purchase, and instead both were only available for master worker acquisition in the second phase. And, my master workers were not drawn before others could grab these craftsman in the second phase.

But the reason that the bad luck affected me was because I let my money drop so low. If I hadn't, I would also have benefited just as much from the craftsman who converts gold to victory points. Instead, Nadine picked up one of these and Avri picked up the other. So my bad luck was partially my fault.

And as you can see, we ended in a three-way tie, with me losing the tiebreaker even after all the cash conversion by Nadine and Avri. Gili was the one who picked up the nice bonus card that let her look at the upcoming events, but most of the events were good events, and the ones that weren't didn't really hurt anyone.


Jon/Gili+, Nadine/Avri

I taught all of them how to play Rook. Rook is a nice partnership, trick-taking, kitty card game, not particularly better or worse than any other partnership, trick-taking, kitty card game (such as Whist). The Rook card is not really a great mechanic, especially if played with the real rules, but we played with the standard variation that the rook could only be played as a usual trump card. Then we decided to limit it even further, by making the rook only function if it is played in response to, or starts, a trump trick; i.e. it cannot be used to ruff another trick. It's still not a great mechanic.

I think the point was to encourage a particular dynamic from an age that appreciated it. Modern gamers would prefer the 1 of trumps to be worth 20 points - not the top trump which is guaranteed to win the trick anyway. That gives you more need for careful tactical play.


Nadine said...

I had the card that gives two gold for a blue cube because I was starting player. The two less gold I started with doesn't offset the advantage of starting.

Mischa said...

The expansion has a great luck-balancing mechanic for Master builders.

Each player only puts two MBs in the bag, and the rest are set aside. Play as normal; the first player to take an action (instead of passing) places their third MB last in a line. The next player to take an action places their third MB second-to last in line, etc. Once the bag is empty, place the passed MBs as normal. Once every player has placed two MBs (from the bag directly or via the pass mechanic), players place their third MBs in order from the line.

So the first player to actually take an action will take the last action. It reminds me of the start position mechanic from Settlers.