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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Keep on Truckin'

Last Saturday, Mike, Doug and I got together for a rousing game of Roads & Boats. Dave was originally going to join us as well, but got called away at the last moment. Fortunately, the game scales well.

I was originally going to post this on my personal blog, as it sorely needs attention, but it fits very nicely here. Session reports are rarely a bad thing, particularly when both Mike and Doug have reported on the same playing.

As neither Doug nor Mike had played before, and I hadn't played in a year, we chose the symmetrical 3-player scenario out of the book. After getting things set up, I started explaining the game to the guys. After all questions and a rundown of the provided strategy tips, about a half hour was spent in preparation.

Finally we got started. The first couple turns went mostly the same for all of us. We all went for the clay pit/stone factory option over the quarry, but I felt like I was not being very efficient. This is definitely a game that rewards frequent play. After the initial woodcutter/lumber mill/clay pit/stone factory, there was some decision on what to build next. I had decided to work towards a paper mill right about the time Doug built one in the central mountains. "Well, I'll just use his" I thought. Later on, the realization that it can only produce one paper per turn meant I'd eventually have to build my own and let Mike and Doug fight over that one.

I decided to build a raft factory instead, and work my way down to the island on "my" side of the board. Around this time, the mines started appearing, and Doug was starting on his research. It's always interesting playing a game for the first time with new people, as you see play styles you'd never run across before. Both Mike and Doug were way more willing to "borrow" stuff from other parts of the board (including drive by snatch-and-grabs) than my old gaming group. There were probably five times more calls for player order resolution than in any other game I'd played.

Eventually the gold and coins started appearing. Around the same time, the trucks started appearing as well. This was also a new one on me, as my old group never got beyond wagons, putting the resources to other use. It definitely is a different approach. You really have to watch where your opponents trucks are, as four hexes is a long way on those boards. We'd all built up a significant road net, so there really weren't many places the trucks couldn't go.

Except for where the walls were placed. About 1/2 of the way through the game, Doug suddenly exclaims "Walls! I'd forgotten all about them!" And thus began the (minor) turf war. Mike was probably the most effective at wall building, including one turn where he swooped a truck into "my" side of the board where four stone were sitting unprotected, and proceeded to wall off four of the exits from that hex. Right in the middle of my production zone.

As we were getting into the end game, I was concentrating on the gold/coins/stock pipeline while still trying to protect my stuff from Mike. (Doug never really did encroach on anything I was doing.) I'd been sort of paying attention to what people had been producing and I didn't think Doug had done enough for hard coinage, but he'd put a lot into the Wonder. Mike was sort of half and half, and I thought I had the lead on cash, but was way behind on the Wonder. I figured it was going to be close, but I had pegged Mike as winning, myself second, with Doug a close third. I ended up two turns short of getting a second stock certificate, unfortunately.

Fortunately, what I had was enough. I managed 200 points in hard coinage and 26 out of the Wonder. Mike had pulled 170 points in cash, 42 in the Wonder, while Doug had 150 cash and 60 from the Wonder.

So, I had estimated the rankings properly, but not the numbers. I was surprised to come out with a 226/212/210 victory. I knew I played rather poorly as I had resources laying around all over the place and never moved beyond donkeys/rafts.

Both Mike and Doug have posted their feelings about the game in their blog entries referenced above. Me? I love the game. It's permanently lodged on the top shelf for me (to steal Dave's terminology) and I've never had a session where I didn't love the game. The big concern in our group about the game has been playing time, with the estimate being 2 hours per player. However, this game lasted around 4.5 hours after all explanations were complete. Right in range for three people who either had never played or hadn't played in far too long, and perfectly consistent with my prior experience. I'm always happy to get this game on the table whenever possible. Tentatively, Mike and I have penciled in the last day of February for another session, so hopefully that works out.

We did manage to boof four rules, best I can tell. I didn't notice that Mike had geese reproduce in the forest (supposed to be plains only), Doug misread the aid card and was moving his trucks six hexes for a while instead of four, we built multiple colored walls on the same hex side (interestingly enough, this mistake is immortalized in one of the geek's images for the game), and we played one turn too long. (I forgot to take out the extra neutral bricks and we played 34 turns instead of the maximum of 33.) We also played the last few turns rather fast and loose. There was probably a bit of illicit activity on all parts there at the end.

All told, it was a great way to spend a Saturday.

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