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Subject: A 4-player "learning game" that suddenly got nasty... rss

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Jerry Hagen
United States
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As Sara and I had no desire to brave the airports this Thanksgiving, we stayed home and invited friends over. Jeff and Michelle came by, with a copy of Roads and Boats.

Neither Sara nor I had ever played before, so the intent was to set up a scenario which would play out with a minimum of nastiness. The choice was the "Modern Art" map, without the Art or Trade expansion rules. We did use the city tiles, however, which allow players to build two structures per city, one city per player.

The map is about as tame a map as one can find. The four players each start on a peninsula, the four peninsulae being connected by a two-hex-wide desert. Sea walls block off each player from those to his left and right. Resources are ample, which meant we could spend time figuring out how to build up our infrastructure without concentrating overmuch on defense.

After the rules explanation, Michelle and I began breeding our donkeys, while Jeff and Sara concentrated on early production. As the game continued, Michelle and I continued our parallel transport upgrading, rushing for trucks, with she reaching the goal slightly earlier. However, she lost some time to me due to a board shortage caused by her failure to build a second woodcutter. Jeff made do with a network of donkeys, and was the first to build a mint. Sara fell behind due to a less efficient road network, and eventually built a rowboat factory. Meanwhile, Jeff and I were for the most part keeping pace with each other on the wonder track, though I misunderstood the rule about only building wonder bricks with resources at the home tile, and thus scored 10-15 more points' worth of bricks than I should have before we caught the mistake.

The game moved toward its conclusion, with Jeff making a move for wagon trains late, and Michelle and I catching up in building our stock exchanges not long after he did. Suddenly, in the middle of our race, Sara stopped praying, moved her red rowboat over toward Jeff's gold mine on the other side of the inlet, and grabbed his last gold! This despite the scenario having been set up specifically to be nice to the new players. I was very proud of her for her audacity. Jeff was less amused.

We finished the game, with Michelle's more developed mining operation giving her the extra gold ingots she needed to overcome my lead in wonder points. It turned out that that missing gold would have allowed Jeff to mint an extra coin, which would have given him a second stock certificate, enough to put him in contention for the win with me and Michelle. So he can literally say he was robbed.

The final scores:

Michelle 342
Jerry 340 (minus an unknown amount of points for illegal bricks)
Jeff 317
Sara ~200

I felt like I did pretty well for my first time playing, though I definitely noticed some inefficiencies in my play. But then, so did we all. Sara liked the game fairly well, but in general loses her patience with 4-hour-plus games. I'll have to do some sweet talking to convince her we need this game as part of our collection. Which is unfortunate, because after one play I'm thoroughly hooked.

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