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Subject: Playing a variant by accident rss

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Dave Wilson
United States
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That done, we needed to get a game for five. Jim rummaged through my bag seeing what was I had brought, and settled on a game that has come out on game night twice before, Fresh Fish.

I should note here that I didn't explain the rules quite correctly, and as a result we ended up playing a variant quite by accident. The actual rules have the final scores being total distances, less the money you have left. However, when I explained the rules, I listed the final scores being total distances only, with money remaining being a tie-breaker. That being said, on with the report.

The most remarkable part about the start of this game is that we had lots of retail buildings coming out quickly. I suspect I may not have shuffled the draw tiles sufficiently. But a lot came out, particularly gas stations, which Carrie, Helen and Alice all purchased, and all set on the same side of the refinery. As a result, they had all picked out the one space next to the refinery where they wanted a road to appear, and Carrie reserved it, meaning that a rogue building popping up there was highly unlikely.

The harbor was also a place of early struggles, as both Dave and Jim jockeyed to get the closest spaces, and to not get expropriated into roads. As it turned out, Dave was able to get a couple of spaces reserved which pretty nearly guaranteed him a distance of either 1 or 2, and once that was done, he refocused his attention on the game factory.

Over by the nuclear reactor, Helen won a bid for a waste dump, and placed it one space in from the corner of the board. It was at that point that we realized that there was an unbroken line of buildings, retail or otherwise, from her reactor all the way to the far edge of the board. As a result, five of the spaces around here were all expropriated for roads. Only Alice also had a waste dump in play by this point, and she began to get really concerned about how to get a short road to connect to the reactor. She had reserved a plot that she really wanted to be a road, and she made sure that no building would be placed there by anyone else.

Meanwhile, back at the game factory, Dave did finally get his game store placed, right on the edge of the board. A couple of buildings later, two road tiles were forced, giving him a two tile connection in that area. In fact, everyone did pretty well with the games sector.

But all the attention Dave payed to his game factory ended up really hurting him, when another gas station came up. Helen drew it, and only Dave and Jim were in the market. But Dave had only one spot reserved, and it was on the other side of the refinery from Carrie, Helen, and Alice. And yes, this was that unbroken line of buildings that Helen's nuclear waste dump completed, so Dave would end up having to take the maximum score for distance for his gas station if he were to get this gas station. As it turned out, he was in the tie-breaker position in this auction, and both he and Jim bid zero. As a result, Dave got stuck with the gas station, and that all but killed his chances.

As the board continued to fill out, Alice and Helen realized that they still didn't have a fish market placed. And so they danced, a delicate dance, trying to reserve the right places to get fairly close and not have those places get expropriated by the placements of the other. As it turned out, Alice was able to reserve a plot that was pretty much expropriation-proof, and that enabled to try to hurt Helen's fish market placement. She placed a park that ended up expropriating one of Helen's reservations, but the other stood long enough for Helen to place her fish market, finally, and as it turns out, it was one space closer to the harbor than Alice's.

With that completed, most of the attention shifted back by the nuclear reactor. (Dave and Carrie still needed fish markets, but their reservations were guaranteed, so they just let that happen whenever it chose to happen.) Dave reserved some four spaces near the reactor, to try to finagle just the right placement to get a one-space distance, and he managed to do just that. On his next turn, he found himself with a choice. He had a neutral building, and three spots to place it. If played in space one, he could force Alice's plot to become a road, likely giving her a connection of 5 or so, rather than the 14 she faced otherwise. But, it would end up expropriating one of Jim's plots, making him scramble for a space with a longer connection distance than the 3 or so he'd have had otherwise. Place it in space two, and Dave would force the the street along the edge of the board, making Alice's plot un-expropriateable (and thus giving her that 14 space connection), but effectively giving Jim that 3 space (or so) connection. So, rather than playing kingmaker, and without thinking much more about it, Dave placed that building on a third spot, with interesting consequences. It ended up both making Alice's plot un-expropriateable, andturning Jim's plot into a street. For Dave, it ended up a perfect solution.

Gradually the game wound down, until there were no building tiles left. Unfortunately, the board wasn't finished. Alice's nuclear waste dump still didn't have a street to it. We weren't sure what to do. We just decided to pick a spot and give her a street, which made her connection distance exactly 14, but we weren't exactly happy with that resolution. As it turns out, there's this blurb in the rules I found online, after the line where it says how many buildings to use when constructing the building draw deck:

Place the surplus tiles to one side. The surplus tiles may be used later in the game when the stack is used up.

I think we were supposed to separate the listed number of buildings, shuffle them up with the retail buildings, and then place that shuffled stack on top of the left over neutral buildings, and go from there. Next time, that's what we'll do.

Anyway, to scoring. We tallied up our scores, and they turned out as follows:

Jim Carrie Helen Alice Dave
Fish 2 2 9 10 1
Games 1 4 4 2 2
Oil 4 2 1 1 14 (more like 25?)
Nuclear 11 1 7 14 1
Totals 18 ($5) 9 21 27 18 ($8)

Both Jim and Dave had pretty good scores for three of their four spots, but had the one big score to dash their hopes. Alice and Helen struggled with two of their retail stores. But Carrie, relying on strong defensive play, had no retail store farther than four spaces away, and ran away with the win!

That was definitely bad timing for that gas station to come out. I was spending too much time trying to secure my game store, and just ignored that corner of the board. It's a hard lesson. As a group we're still coming to grips with the expropriation rules, but I think we're getting there. But this game takes quite a bit of thought, and I'm not sure it's the kind of game you can play twice in a row. But when it does come out, it's a lot of fun.
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