The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

Beer and Boardgames at the White Lion. "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"
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Friday February 3rd - First Test (Lords)

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Oi! Hands off...
An evening of play-testing tonight, as the RoWBGers interest's coincided with that of Surprised Stare, and we were ushered into the role of testers and recipients of free beer.

'Ushered in' is more than I can say for the welcome we received at the Kings Arms, Newent, which was a cross between surly and hostile, but they set up our camp around a large table in the restaurant with something approaching grace, nevertheless.

First of our two missions tonight was an Alan Paull creation named Origins Of Civilisation. As the name implies it is largely concerned with the bronze-age end of the tech-tree, and its own tech is unusual, being collaboratively progressed rather than by individuals. It is also in its very early incarnations (although I'm led to believe that there were even earlier incarnations some 25 years ago).

It's a deep creation, worker-placement followed by a resolution phase, and the fact that most of us had plenty of trouble sequencing the resolution phase was a bit of a hint that it could well have been a bit too impenetrable, especially with 5P. I suspect, like several other Civ games, it might well be at its peak with 3. Plenty of options were thrown back at Alan, and by this point it was almost 10pm.

We moved onto Snowdonia, a shortly-for-publication game that is very much at the fine-tuning point. Tony Boydell's second game in a (very loosely posited) 'railway trilogy' is worker placement, not pick-up-and-deliver, with the expected need to get in ahead of your oppos and convert resources to better resources. It's quick-playing and has a fair variety thanks to the end-of-game goals. I'm hoping to see it packaged up with a geek's history of the Snowdonia railway and the perils of building it. In fact, I suspect my father might even enjoy writing something like that...

Having forsook the typical 'dig iron ore and turn it into rails' approach, I went for an unorthodox alternative, climbing the mountain with my surveyors and building lots of stations. I had planned to add rubble to these endeavours, but Rich - on my right - swiftly put together a super-rubble-combo, making that quickly impractical. We punished him by deprivation of the start player and coal, but he still won.

I'd like to see a little bit of weight added to the surveyor strategy in order to make it a viable alternative - I don't think you can hope to win this game at the minute without laying rail, which makes it a little one-dimensional. Either more points, or more surveyor-connected bonus cards (in place of some of the glut of rail ones we encountered), would fit the bill. There is little point, under the current system, doing anything with your surveyor unless you intend to reach the top of the mountain, and doing that exclusively is clearly action-inefficient. By tweaking this route (only a little), Tony would bring a viable alternative strategy into the game. But that's just my tuppenceworth.

Which, of course, is what play-testing is all about. Tweaked or nay, I expect Snowdonia to do well if - as promised - it goes to press this year.
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