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Subject: First playings shorter than expected rss

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Paul Mackie
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I’d been eager to play this Martin Wallace monster for a few weeks now, and was pleased that we got a critical mass of 3 to start it. I was surprised actually that it didn’t meet with more enthusiasm from the rest of this group, with Pat being the only other one who really wanted to play it.
Mechanics are simple, as are action choices and track-building options. A recurring Wallacian theme is that money is of secondary (or even lower) importance, and the real constraint is your limited number of actions per turn. And the hardest thing to do is to pay attention to your opponents’ emerging strategies while you’re planning and managing the growth of your own empire.
But the biggest surprise for me in this was how quickly the game went with just three of us playing. It took us about 30 minutes to set up the whole thing and do a rules explanation, including a run through the cards. The game was then all over in about 55 minutes.

I started in the lucrative north-east, never getting too far from New York. I made lots of money too, more than the others, I think, but I also didn’t get the chance to do anything remarkable with it. Pat also started near here, and worked his way south. Alex decided to plonk down in multiple locations in the mid west (see the yellow tracks in the pic), but seemed to struggle.
Except for the short game play, I still found interest and satisfaction in this. But each of us could have done with more, so we immediately launched a second game.

While I played this a little more adventurously (and successfully), Pat and Alex made more fundamental and significant changes in their strategies, almost swapping their focus between games.
Pat made the first move and built from Baltimore to New York, skirting right around Philadelphia. This did hinder Al and me, but his main intention was to secure a connection to NY and build immediately across the Appalachians westwards. Al huddled around NY and some of the towns to the south. I secured the north, but had to do without a connection through Baltimore to reach towns like Richmond and eventually Charleston.

By the end I had made a respectable showing, I thought, having to make only 2 share issues in total by consistently building wealth with modest shipments of 2-3 segments each turn. Alex consolidated track, but just didn’t ship cubes with enough consistency. Although he had only 3 share issues for the game, he lagged gradually a little further behind each turn.

Pat on the other hand went hard on the risky western expansion strategy. After making the NY connection he immediately invested in the build across the mountains, and by about the 4th turn his share cetificates were in the teens. He was having to issue more shares just to meet the dividend commitments! But, he clearly had a plan, which turned out to revolve around his secret bonus card and one of the target points cards on display, both of which paid off for him. A healthy run of red cubes from places like Toledo and Indianapolis back to NY by mid game slowed his share spiral. These, combined with bonuses (one of which turned over for him after it was built!), kept him comfortably ahead of the negative share certificate gap he needed to account for. I had intended an urbanisation play on the last turn to stretch things out for another turn or two, but there were already 13 empty cities - too late. Pat had run away with this game like a coal-hungry locomotive, despite share certificates numbering in the 20s (Alex and I had 3 and 2 respectively).

This second game was also only an hour long, and it was suggested that to make it longer for 3 players we could start with the normal 4p starting cubes (an extra one per starting city). My feeling is a better solution would be to increase the number of empty cities allowed instead, to say, 15. This would put more pressure on the players to expand geographically.

Game 1: 52 minutes. Pat: 38. Paul: 28. Alex: 19.
Game 2: 67 minutes. Pat: 52. Paul: 36. Alex: 25.

(Originally posted at www.themineshaftgap.com.)
 
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Brett Kildahl
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Paul Mackie wrote:
This second game was also only an hour long, and it was suggested that to make it longer for 3 players we could start with the normal 4p starting cubes (an extra one per starting city).


My group played several games this way after someone suggested the same thing.


Paul Mackie wrote:
My feeling is a better solution would be to increase the number of empty cities allowed instead, to say, 15. This would put more pressure on the players to expand geographically.


That's a decent idea. Please let me know how it works if you end up implementing it.

Brett
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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Just play more games with the basic rules, and as you get more efficient, the games will take longer and have more dramatic rail lines, and more player interaction. At least that's what I've found, and I'm on my 6th or so game.
 
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John Weber
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Yeah, but if a player is hell bent on emptying a bunch of cities (particularly the gray ones which start with one cube each), the game can end fairly quickly, before players' rail networks are well developed. One person I play with prefers to ignore the "empty city" markers and just play until the leader hits a set score on the track, scaled to the number of players. I'm not sure, I like the option of the emptying the cities strategy that the other players must take urbanize and city growths to counteract. Maybe upping the required number of empty city markers is the way to go to assure a longer game.
 
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Sam Butler
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I don't own the game (yet), but I recall reading somewhere that the game length is balanced such that someone who takes a 1-2 share small railroad but well-optimized, has a chance against an expansionist, issue a dozen or more shares, build until the cows come home wherever you can strategy. I don't foresee a major problem with expanding the length if that is what you are after (either method sounds good), but just let your gaming group know that they will likely have to issue a few more shares to succeed.
 
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Steve
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MrWeasely wrote:
Just play more games with the basic rules, and as you get more efficient, the games will take longer and have more dramatic rail lines, and more player interaction. At least that's what I've found, and I'm on my 6th or so game.


I have had the same experience... as players made longer term plans with their cubes, looking to 3-5 link moves instead of just the 1 and 2 that our group used to seem to think about the game stretches longer as players try to make more effective (pointswise) use of their cubes.
 
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Glenn Drover
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I once won a game where I had over 40 shares! Had a huge lead, but it was eroding fast as I racked up more shares just to service the debt. Had to end the game quickly to stop the bleeding while I still had a lead.


 
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