I hosted an afternoon of gaming at my house in Sherwood before departing on my New York trip. Julie and the boys were already at the lake, so it was just me and the cats hosting. Doug and Mimi, Ken, Kevin, and Elliot all joined in.
Doug, Mimi, Kevin, and Chris kicked off the afternoon with this tile-laying transportation game. This is another "hidden agenda" game where each player has a secret route they must try to complete, starting by laying down trolley tracks and then running their trolley by rolling dice. Each player must start at one numbered station and finish at the same numbered station across the board, stopping at two required trolley stops along the way. I of course got wrapped up in my own route and didn't spend much time thinking about the other players (this is usually how I play games for the first time). Before I knew it Mimi was running her trolley having completed her track. Doug followed closely behind, then me. I got some helpful dice rolls, allowing me to quickly jump through 2 trolley stops. Doug made a wrong turn leaving an opening, and Mimi got bogged down with low dice rolls. Kevin started his trolley, but after a few moves realized he didn't actually have a route that would allow him to visit his two stops. Mimi quickly got her momentum back and beat us to the finish line.
Elliot and Ken played a game of Balloon Cup while waiting for Linie 1 to finish. This was a first time for both, but they quickly got the hang of it and didn't have any lock-ups. Elliot won but didn't appear to be thrilled with the game. Ken is eager to try it again.
I asked Ken to bring this since I've been wanting to play it ever since I gave it to him as a birthday gift (that sounds very self-serving, doesn't it?). This is a train game (I just realized this was a very transportation-oriented session - trolleys, balloons, and trains) set in middle America - comfortable territory for me since I've lived in 3 of the cities represented on the map (St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Des Moines). Players compete by building rail line segments between cities and establishing shipping lanes to increase their annual revenues. The longer a route used to ship the goods, the more income produced. Cash flow is a major factor in this game - just like the real business world, you almost certainly need to issue shares to get cash to build your lines. The player that gets to positive cash flow early has a good chance of pulling ahead, but there are some interesting mechanics that prevent a runaway situation. As business grows, so does the complexity of managing operations (margins can decline), so there's a progressive income reduction at the end of each turn depending on the income level. Ken got control of the middle of the board early, was fiscally responsible and got his locomotive upgraded to transport 3 segments by the third turn. Ken won the game, with Doug, Elliot, and I close behind (I had a good comeback but never recovered from a negative cashflow situation early the game that knocked down my income two notches). Kevin finished a distant last but I got the sense this game wasn't his cup of tea. I loved the game and am eager to try some of the other train games (18xx series, Volldampf).
This was a bargain I picked up at the Wizards of the Coast store so Ken, Elliot and I decided to break it out and give it a first try. This game surpassed my expectations. The goal of the game is to collect the most artifacts, and artifacts are purchased using treasures. Players successively place secret bids on treasure caves, town stores (where special abilities can be purchased), and palace rooms (where artifacts can be purchased). In some cases only the winner of the auction in a particular room gets anything, in other cases there are staggered prizes even for the losers. There was one point of confusion that we need to investigate - the rules state that in a 3-player game, only two sets treasures should be placed in the dragon caves (so the 3rd place finisher wouldn't win anything). But the 3-player treasure cards show three treasure sets in several cases. We assumed the cards overruled the printed rules, but we could have been wrong. This was a very close game - Elliot one by collecting the most scroll artifacts, which was the tie-breaker and we all finished with six artifacts.
Ken and I wrapped up the evening with a shortened game (to 100) of MR4. I like the rummy games, particularly Wyatt Earp, and I suggested this once since I think it plays better with two than Wyatt Earp. I got off to a quick lead, but Ken cam back at the end to edge me out. The final score was something like 112 to 102. The designer, Mike Fitzgerald, wrote a great strategy article on spielfrieks that I need to read and digest before playing this again.