The game arrived on Saturday, so I only had a couple read throughs of the rules before our Monday night session. John, Tim, and Mike agreed to learn the game on the fly despite my not giving it the usual solo try out.
After a few stumbles at the beginning we quickly got the hang of it. At first, every time a token tile was put down, the placer felt he had to max out his men in order to gobble it up. That left his rivals with the chance to methodically pick up the better vp tiles with just one action spent, then place it next action, then move onto it next action, then efficiently discover it. The other three kind of kept up this pattern of "bingeing", thus getting to move up in turn order by having no more men to commit, while the other 2 proceeded more slowly, until they in turn binged.
Since I initially went last for the first 2 turns, I felt I would always be behind them, so I went to the North of the board. This worked well, since I had no competition for the vp tiles I laid down. I also had the luxury of holding onto them while placing tiles to move West as well, in the quest for the 15 pts for 1st Northwest Passage tile. Not having paid much attention to the solar disc, my ship was frozen in place by the 4th turn, while the other three kept heading south for the clear water.
Unless I was playing it wrong, I just transferred all my men to our sled, and continued west. Going quickly west into zone 3 really paid off in tripled vps! My turns went quickly, as I had no competition up North.
The other three did devolve into some analysis paralysis behavior at times since they stayed so close to each other, but it wasn't extreme. Deciding on which tiles to pick up and how to place them was not much of a time sucker at all until we all got close to the NW Passage. Suddenly it was tough to find tiles that matched up with what we had placed and what was printed on the board. We were also a bit unclear about the whole "joker"tile business as well. I totally hit an ice wall in not being able to find a single tile to match my nearly solid land one.
Mike went completely south with his ship and was never frozen in. It turned out that the last guy there, got the first NW Passage tile. I never did. We panicked with the solar disc moving inexorably around the board and started dashing for Greenland about turn 6. I got there first, having not gone far enough west, with Mike and Tim close behind. We were done by the end of turn 9. John, bringing up the rear, found himself able to place and score a couple more straight tiles with no one else to bother him.
I pulled out the win with 60 pts. John had 52, with Mike and Tim in the 40's. As usual with a Euro, getting some of all the categories, and winning at least one of the big ones paid off. I had 3 six pointers, 2 three pointers, a set for 6, 13 for most Inuits, a couple of 2's for second place ties, a 10 for Greenland, and the rest for islands and 1 pointers.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the game's mechanics, the tile laying, the mapping aspect and the strong general theme of exploration and discovery, and were eager to give it another shot with revised strategies. A wonderful choice of a game to play!
I've only played it with two players so far. Sounds like it is also good fun with four.
If you play another four player session, it would be interesting to read of different strategies you might implement.