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Subject: 4P First timers' game (includes advice & impressions) rss

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John H
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Four of us played a game at Games On in Mong Kok on Wed. night Nov. 11. Nice venue, friendly people!

The game itself took about 2.5 hours, but we were all first time players. We played by the normal setup rules, not with the suggested setup for first timers. I feel that increasing familiarity with the options/icons/etc. would yield a significant decrease in playing time, provided no player was regularly paralyzed by indecision or overlong analysis consideration.

Final scores: Aman 140, Angus 123, John 117, Patrick 103.

Aman is very sharp and played very well. Afterward, he pointed to making it to the first bonus ability of the Cairo track early as his key. That ability allowed him to buy cards with bananas at a discount of 1. He got the early banana goods card, and was able to get an advantage in card and share buying throughout. He also played diamonds well enough to get his 4th action slot midgame and get to 25 points from them at endgame, I think. He was able to buy enough cards containing shares, and that pushed him high enough for the win. He did very little expansion. He gained either no VP or 10 VP from books, I believe.

Angus is a very smart, experienced gamer. I think he was experimenting with all the VP tracks so he advanced in diamonds and books enough to get up to 5 action card slots. He was active in expansion as well. I think spreading his attention in so many areas affected his ability to get shares as well as he could have. He finished a solid second though.

Patrick had a plan and did well in that he was the only player to max out a company’s shares (Cape Town). He was able to do it partly because that company’s special bonus marker action allowed him to discard an action card for its crate value + cash (8 pounds at the end). That company also had the highest share value of 10 or 11. Unfortunately, Patrick scored no points on the diamond or bookkeeping tracks, and thus also had only 3 action slots the whole game. He also did not have many shares in other companies. This garnered a last place finish, but not terribly far behind.

*******************************************************************

My game ended up in 3rd place (though close to 2nd) as it was marred by
a huge strategic blunder and some tactical ones. I will list these in order to help others avoid them .

* My biggest mistake was not fully understanding the company bonus power I was moving toward from the start. Then when I realized my error, I moved too little, too late to fix it. I had a starting tile which gave me a diamond and a space on the St. Louis company track, and St. Louis had the bonus action marker spaces to convert gold to diamonds and book pts. I did not fully comprehend that these spaces were once-a-round possibilities that required both hard-to-find cash and a valuable action marker! I incorrectly assumed I could get enough diamonds from that and expansion land bonuses to hit the extra action slot and decent diamond VPs without worrying too much about diamond merchants. Wrong. I ended up getting only 10 VP from diamonds late and having 3 action card slots all game. I chose a disappearing cotton goods card (both would be swept off board next round if unbought) over the initial diamond merchant in T1. After that, diamond merchants all seemed to go for 1 more good or gold than I had on a turn… I screwed that up big time, not even getting to the extra action slot. This hamstrung my game. That extra action slot and those added diamond VPs may have been gamewinners for me.

Aside from that huge error, I also had tactical errors which you can hopefully avoid in the future;

* I didn’t realize on T1 that Mombasa’s max bonus space was based on expansion pts! I could have had that max which would have been better than other action marker choices then.

* One turn, I counted on my 5 or 6 cotton as being eligible for the max marker space… and it was 1 short! Have to better monitor what cards people buy and their resting piles. Also, it is never safe to assume!

* I was tempted into a couple sub-optimal action marker placements by playing them on max bonus spaces for companies that distracted my focus.

* I bought at least 1 too many expansion cards; 3 action slots all game prevented full use. # of cards you can play needs to factor into the number and type of cards you buy.

Some things worked out well though.


* My plan to ignore the bookkeeping track did not hurt at all. I took either pounds or books that came with pounds from the turn track whenever I earned book points. This let me buy what I needed. My failure to develop the diamond track enough hurt.

* I went some expansion in T1, bigger on T4 I think, and all in on Turn 7. T1, got cheap land rewards; T4, got cheap land rewards and helped preserve borders; my T7 splash netted great stock gains and got me enough diamonds to get VPs. The rhythm was good for my purposes.

* Buying those expansion cards that have company shares on them was helpful. They let me control late expansion, and I ended up earning as much as the winner from shares partly because of them.

* I feel that spending an action marker midgame to become first player worked out well. I had been last in order, and in late turns, action markers were too valuable for people to use on that space, so I remained 1st player the rest of the game. Helped get a max bonus space on a tie and guaranteed the best card was mine at least 1 turn. Worth it when I had no greatly better use for the marker that turn.

******************************************************************


Advice to first time players (from lessons hard learned)


1) Be very aware of each company’s bonus powers and exactly how they work; they can become crucial to a winning plan and mess up your game if you don’t fully grasp them.

2) Have a good plan for your action markers; in a 4P game you only get two of them, so you need to make them count each turn.

3) It seems very hard to win without 4 action card slots at some point. (Though I’m not sure 5 is good at all.) Seems like you need to move down diamond or bookkeeping track as soon as is feasible to get that extra slot.

4) Don’t ignore cash. Buying a key card at some point or having enough to meet company track “capital calls” is very important. (Not to mention that 1 pound = 1VP)

*******************************************************************

Impressions

I have not been overly impressed by a “ heavy-thinking” Euro game in a long time, but this one is special. After playing a few more times, I will do a review and cover my impressions more completely. For now, here were my key observations.

* This game is relatively easy to play but provides many interesting decisions to ponder. (Your brain will be used to strategize and make tactical choices, not deal with rules overhead or complicated mechanisms.) There is no squinting at and parsing card text in your own hand or across the board; gameplay is smooth and satisfying.

* One issue some have raised is that this game can be unforgiving. I will refute that to a large degree, in that it is not a “punishing” game. The game itself does not throw big negatives at you. There are multiple paths to your goals so frustration is not a big danger. Other players can mess with your share values a bit, but not to a totally destructive or gamebreaking degree. There is progress in unlocking company bonus powers and obtaining more powerful cards which is cool, but there is no giant “engine” you are required to build that yields exponential benefits as time goes on; In engine-building games, poor early decisions can result in frustration and a bad game experience. In this game, even with some bad decisions, you still will accomplish things, have some feel-good moments, and do well at some parts of the game, even if your final score won’t be as high as others.

* I am big on theme, and this game had enough to keep me happy. Of course, you are not going to feel like you are out on a safari or anything, but there was no excessive dryness or lack of theme to bother me. Buying shares of companies, extending influence of companies, and making progress in your efforts made the goals of the game seem clear and grounded enough.

On the BGG scale, this rates a 9 from me after one game, with a suspicion that more games will lead to a very rare 10 rating from me. My first game made me want to play it again immediately, which is not that common. It ticks none of the boxes which make me dislike games for one reason or another. Despite playing relatively poorly in my first game, I enjoyed it a lot. I think this one has a chance of becoming a new classic.
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Pedro Pereira
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Nice session report. We had a lot of similar things happen in our first game. Mombasa has a lot going for it and I'm very excited about playing this again soon.
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Alexander Pfister
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Thank you John for your great session report.

Especially I'm happy about you experiencing...
gamezendo.com wrote:

...Your brain will be used to strategize and make tactical choices, not deal with rules overhead or complicated mechanisms...
...because thats the way I try to design games.

Good advice to first time players!
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Uisge Beatha
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Excellent review; I think your comments capture the game very well and reflect my own views ... this is one of the best games I've played in a while. Even though there's a lot going on, it doesn't feel TOO heavy, although it certainly gives you a lot to think about, and birls along at a fair pace for a game of its weight.

One comment on the ability to interfere with companies' share prices. You're right that it's difficult but companies who have only expanded into a few areas can be fragile - especially if they've chosen to take the expansion pieces from all three columns rather than a single column - Cape Town went from value three to zero on the final turn of our last game as a result.

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John H
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Celtic wrote:

One comment on the ability to interfere with companies' share prices. You're right that it's difficult but companies who have only expanded into a few areas can be fragile - especially if they've chosen to take the expansion pieces from all three columns rather than a single column - Cape Town went from value three to zero on the final turn of our last game as a result.
I can definitely see that. Companies can clearly be affected by others' actions, which is good for competition. I guess what I like is that the result of another's action probably only results in a company moving from "weak"-to-"terrible" or "dominant"-to-"strong", NOT from dominant-to-weak. In 4P games especially, I think there is enough co-ownership of different companies to avoid any drastic "bash one company" cascade. [Though if all your eggs are in one basket (one company) , perhaps, you deserve to be knocked down a peg or two :-).] I guess my main feeling was that there was no potential for one swingy card/turn/event/etc. to totally wreck anyone's game. Sure, other players can hurt companies, but that wouldn't necessarily be game-ruining. There is interaction and competition without total screwage.
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Kenrick Fearn
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Excellent review with your advice as well ...it's an excellent game one of our favourites from this years Essen crop ...

Ric
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Gary Barnett
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Very enjoyable read. I too only have one play under my belt but I am looking forward to many more.

Totally agree that it can be picked up and played relatively simply for such a potentially heavy game, just focusing on one or two areas (expansion, diamonds, company shares) but there is great deal more strategy (I imagine) that is possible (and necessary for a winning score). I keep finding myself thinking "what if" thoughts... Do you focus, do you do a bit of everything, what can you safely ignore...? How many cards can you safely burn for money and yet retain enough for playing those "ideal"(?) four slots? Could you concentrate on card acquisition and getting to five slots and make it work? All questions to be explored!

I also liked the ebb and flow. If you have one big expansion/diamond turn etc, you will be waiting a few turns to get those cards back to repeat.

Our game was won by someone focusing on bananas and Cape Town too. The initial game set up allows that synergy, but maybe more analysis will be needed in later games when the company tracks are randomised and it is unlikely that the banana discount benefit will be associated with Cape Town. (BTW congrats on your opening game scores, ours were quite a bit lower).

I messed up the book track. It can be quite difficult to get your ducks in a row (at least it was for me!) I think I was too stingy in buying the A and B tiles and should have acquired some easier to meet C tiles maybe. But I very much like the puzzle aspect of the book track and will try it again. The diamond track is much easier to negotiate provided you can buy the merchants. I think it probably relies on competition for those diamond merchants to prevent someone scoring very heavily on it.

I also probably wasted some actions on the max banana/cotton etc spaces that might have been better used elsewhere. In so doing, I was probably spread too thinly across the companies. But it certainly is difficult to pass up those cheap moves up the company track when you do have max!

So much to think about, but as you say, not in a way that is overly complicated or detracts from the essentially idea of making money.
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Great session report. I just ordered a copy of my own from the UK.
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