Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 27, 2010

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin, Avi K, Eitan, Emily, David K

A bustling night, though only seven of us were here. We played some meaty games and then looked up and it was a quarter to midnight.

Homesteaders

Gili 68, Binyamin 53, Jon 39

Binyamin wanted to learn how to play this. Second play for me, third for Gili. I played by instinct again; last time my instinct served me well. This time it didn't.

Last time I started pulling in early steel and trad chips, and that gave me access to many other good buildings mid-game. This time I didn't go steel, and I had more competition for the buildings. I kept settling for whatever came my way. I still made that work efficiently, but I wasn't raking in points like Gili was, or goods like Binyamin was.

My biggest mistake was forgetting that gold disks were the equivalent of 5 silvers as far as money goes. I didn't notice that the gold that Binyamin was producing was essentially giving him lots of extra cash to outbid me; instead I was stuck with buildings that gave two silvers, which, while it looked nice, wasn't enough.

Gili once again beat me to the mid-game 10 point building. Binyamin ended with 8 workers.

Robo Rally

Avi K, Nadine

Says Nadine: Avi did very well, planning correctly on his own, even on a track moving off the edge of the board. He won, one board, one-way.

R-Eco

Nadine 23, Avi 15

Scores approximate. Says Nadine: I won, he got the no pollution bonus.

Steam

Jon 35, Eitan 33, Nadine, Emily

Scores approximate. First play for all of us, although I'd played Age of Steam three or four times before. I read the rules while we set up.

One change from Age of Steam is that the components are more attractive; AoS had that old wargamey cardboard and black text look and feel. The biggest changes are in the income/share calculations and the cube distribution, both of which have been streamlined and simplified.

Income/Stocks: Each player starts with no cash and at 0 on the income track. Every space you move back on the income track gives you $5. Every time you deliver a cube, you get 1 bonus/link. Each bonus can be spent on either moving forward on the income track or moving forward on the victory point track. At the end of each round, you have to pay if you're negative on the income track, or you gain income if you're positive on the income track. Simple as that.

For the first few rounds, we all went negative and back up to 0 or -1. For the rest of the game, we hovered around the -1 to +2 area of the track. I'm sure the match could tell you if it's worth it to simply go high up the income track so you don't have to keep spending a bonus or two there each round.

The only other thing to note is that, at the end of the game, you get +1 VP/+2 on the income track, or -2 VP/-1 on the income track.

The cubes. At the start of the game, a bunch of piles of three cubes each are place on the side of the board. Every time someone takes "city growth", which costs $2, they can take one of the piles and place it onto any city that hasn't already had a city growth. Also, any time someone takes "urbanize", which costs $6, they can take one of the piles and put it onto the new city, which can't have any city growths after that.

Straightforward, no dice rolling, no surprises when you draw cubes from the bag. All the randomness is done before the game starts. There are no random elements in play during the game.

Another change: you don't bid for turn order. Each special ability if numbered. Holder of the lowest value from the previous round selects a new value first, followed by second lowest, etc.

Otherwise, it's the same basic game: acquire special ability and turn order card, build tracks and pay for them, run cubes, collect income or pay debt. Repeat 8 times (in a four player game). The rules about building track are still pretty difficult to explain, but the game flows smoothly.

It's still a great game. I definitely thought I was losing, but I had the most tracks on the board and so caught up in the final scoring. I also had some late 5 to 6 point cube runs.

Eitan was the first to get to 6 on his railroad track, but he seemed to be taking mostly 3 or 4 point runs, or 6 point runs that gave 2 points to Nadine. Nadine didn't get beyond two on the railroad track for most of the game, but she delivered two cubes over two links nearly every round.

The major problem with this game, and it's probably true of Age of Steam as well, though for some reason it never bothered me in that game, is the ability - necessity - to give points to other players, and to choose whom to give them to in the process. Scores are sufficiently low that this introduces a strong element of kingmaking into the game, and it's blatant and unfortunate. Plus, as Nadine says, giving points to other players is simply a "not fun" mechanic.

I'm definitely happy to play more times, but this does bug me.

Cuba

Binyamin, Gili, David K, Avi K

First play for all but Gili, second play for her. She had trouble explaining it, so Nadine gave a lot of attention to their game (instead of ours), but I don't think it helped them much.

Nevertheless, Binyamin liked the game. David misunderstood one of the tiles and played wrong because of that. I think this contributed to his feeling that the game was only "ok".

3 comments:

native said...

Regarding your review of Steam, does giving other players points bother you as much in Caylus?

agent easy said...

Placing track strategically so that other players are likely to give you points at a later time is a key element in playing Steam. I don't see it as a problem at all! Things may have played out somewhat randomly with so many new players, but that would change with some experience.

Yehuda said...

Native: yes, but not as much as other aspects of Caylus.

Agent Easy: Sure it's fun to place your tracks to ear points from other players; it's just no fun to give points to other players. I'm not saying the mechanic doesn't work; I'm just saying that I don't like it.

And not only because it opens up a huge kingmaking problem (in many situations, you decide to which players to give the points, sometimes several times in a row). I just don't find it enjoyable.

Note that I don't mind the route blocking mechanic, such as Settlers of Catan.