Ken and Brandon came over Sunday afternoon for a few hours of gaming. We decided to take a break from our D&D campaign and bring out the boardgames.
After playing this game a while back at Kevin's, I purchased my own copy and did a paste-up job on the cards with the English translation available at the 'geek. Ken and I both enjoy Age of Steam (that was my birthday gift for him last spring), so I thought he would enjoy this predecessor. Jacob, Brandon, and Matthew joined us for a five-player game.
There are some key differences in the 5 player version relative to the 4 player version. One is that only 2 track cards per group are drawn each turn. For some reason I didn't like this - I enjoyed having to find the best set of 3 cards in the 4 player version, and the choices in this game seemed too obvious. Of course if it really were obvious (or simple), I wouldn't have scored so poorly.
Have I ever mentioned the good fortune that my son Matthew appears to have? Quick tangent here. Some of you may have read the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series. One of the main characters is Mat, and because of some strange magic he is endowed with extremely good fortune. Julie and I really are starting to wonder about this kid... I wonder if he hears dice tumbling in his head? Should we take him to Vegas?
Back to the game - I try and coach Matthew on some strategies for acquiring track sections, explaining how goods will be shipped, and overall feeling pretty smug about my own understanding of the game. This is of course my second playing, and I won my first game largely because of some very fortunate merchandise card drawings. We start laying track, and I get a few good sections and jump out to the front early on. Matthew doesn't manage to get much on his first turn, and Ken is stuck with some poor choices (he finished 5th in the auction) and was unable to break even and suffers a small setback on the income track.
One cool thing about these train games is the ability for a player to require others to use his track sections to ship goods, sharing in the produced income. In the second turn, Matthew started to collect a dividend from just about everybody. Through luck or sheer brilliance, his track happens to e placed in 2 or 3 of the most strategic junctions, encouraging most of us to use him. The pattern went like this - I want to score 3 of my own sections on this shipment, but I'll have to use one of Matthew's - sounds like a good deal! So 3 out of 4 of us do this, plus Matthew ships his own goods, and next thing you know Matthew is racing into the lead. Ken also made some good use of action cards gained from his poor early turns and was neck and neck with Matthew.
The endgame wasn't very satisfying - there were some serious kingmaking opportunities for anyone that wanted to take some time to do a bit of calculation. In the end Matthew won the game in a tiebreaker (over Jacob I think), with Ken very close behind.
We ended the afternoon with this game of negotiations and deal making. This is any easy one to teach, and everybody got right into it. This is a game I need to play with adults - the negotiations could be a bit frustrating at times, though I could certainly afford to be more patient and tolerant. It did get to be a bit annoying to hear a negotiation dialog like this:
Chris: Let's see... I need Cashman to finish this deal. Can anyone bring Cashman into the deal? I would cut you in for $5 million.
Matthew: Well, I'll bring Sacks into the deal for $6 million.
Chris: I don't need Sacks, I need Cashman.
Matthew: How about if I bring Sacks in for $8 million then?
So maybe you'll understand my point. It was still fun, and Brandon did very well. I think he finished with around $43 million, and I was a distant third.