Pevans's Perspective

This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once (www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO) in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?
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I'm not the man they think I am at all

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
London
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Yes, I've had another go at Martin Wallace's Rocketmen - you can find my first attempt in It's gonna be a long, long time.... I got in two solitaire games this weekend, in fact, including my first win. I felt surprisingly triumphant after that, given my only opponent was a simple 'AI'.

First off, I upgraded the 'AI' to 'Normal' difficulty since I now know the basics. My goals (you have to achieve all of them to win, as well as beating the AI) were relatively easy: get a rocket to all three destinations (Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars). I played it too safe last time, so I took a riskier approach to my missions. This resulted in several failed launches. The main problem with this is losing the time (turns) taken to set up the mission.

Here's the final sad, sad situation. I (yellow) have just completed my sixth mission (and third goal) to end the game with only three turns remaining (signified by the 'Asset' cards still on the track bottom left). But the AI has beaten me by a point. Grr. And is only two steps/turns away from adding a hotel on the Moon.
From gallery of Pevans

Along the way, I've seen off two of the 'Threats' to humanity (three of them in the solitaire game), but the AI got the third - and two valuable points. Despite losing, I was proud of my achievements (I've got a Moonbase, and a hotel in Earth orbit!), suggesting the game isn't as dry as I first thought.

On Saturday, I made my third attempt, still against the Normal AI. I drew a goal card that included establishing a base on Mars - the most challenging (and highest points scoring) mission in the game. I was a bit miffed at getting this again until I checked and found that it's on four of the 11 (in a solitaire game) goal cards.

So I went for a different strategy: first, establish a base on Mars. NASA would have a fit. The advantages I saw were getting the hardest goal out of the way first and building up a deck that should then allow me to complete other missions quickly (and also removing from my deck the 'Base' mission card that has no other use). The disadvantages were that I might run out of time and I was missing out on the useful 'Achievements' (bonuses like increasing hand size, extra rocket engines) gained by completing missions. Here's the final board.
From gallery of Pevans

So off I went, first adding money cards to my deck, then buying powerful engines and other cards to boost my mission. Playing cards to my 'Launch Pad' also reduces my deck size, re-cycling those money cards more quickly. In the meantime, the Asset deck was running down and the AI was scoring points. I definitely felt I was running out of time.

Finally, it was time to launch. Given the importance of the mission, I threw everything at it, including the one-use 'High-Efficiency Booster' that gave me two steps on the mission track. The 'Radiation Shielding' converted a zero 'Mission Success' card to a 2, the 'Spacesuit' let me re-draw a card and I reached Mars. Just. Phew! And suddenly I'm competitive with the AI's score.

My deck was pretty hefty once all the cards from the mission were back in it. But this allowed me to launch new missions every 2-3 turns. And I successfully raced the AI to put hotels in Earth orbit and on the Moon to get the extra point for being first each time.
From gallery of Pevans

I completed my sixth mission (photo above shows my player board and cards at this point, including the long line of successes and removed cards) to end the game with a couple of turns left. All my goals were done and getting all three Mars missions gave me a satisfying 36 points against the AI's 19 - I saw off all three Threats this time. And a real feeling of triumph. Next time, it's the 'Hard' AI...
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