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Subject: Playing Pillars with a non-gamer rss

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Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Calling Hugh a non-gamer is not entirely accurate. In fact, he's a keen gamer - it's just, for Hugh, gaming is primarily at a computer playing Age of Mythology or some WW2 First person shooter. I've known Hugh now for over a decade, and we're good friends. However, he's never played a boardgame with me before, instead just watching as I showed off my latest games and played them with his young daughter.

Hugh is now in his mid-50s, but the display of Pillars of the Earth made him really eager to play the game. This can be almost entirely ascribed to the book by Ken Follett. Hugh loved reading Pillars of the Earth (he later lent it to me), and that there was a game based on it? Fantastic! He's also been curious for some time about the games I play. So, with everyone else busy as we waited for choir rehearsal to start last Wednesday (I sing bass, he conducts the choir and orchestra!), we finally had time for a game of The Pillars of the Earth.

Let me say that Pillars is not a good gateway game. There are worse games for beginners out there, but Pillars has a few areas of complexity that were a challenge for Hugh. All in all, I'd say the primary obstacle was realising that gold isn't that important in the game. It's something that is there to help you get Victory Points - by the end of the game, gold is immaterial.

The craftsmen and how they work is also something Hugh wasn't prepared for. I can say that he was most of the way there to comprehension by game's end, but I made sure to help him as much as possible throughout the game. It wasn't a solo game - Hugh made enough decisions of his own throughout it - but neither was he being thrown completely into the deep end without a lifejacket!

Despite his utter newbie status, Hugh managed a few plays to completely throw me (which is partly an indication of how little I've really played Pillars!) In the first turn, I took the wood->gold carpenter, thus ensuring a good supply of Gold throughout the game... or so I thought. The next turn, Hugh took the only Wood resource card in offer, and my Carpenter had to sit there unused!

As is normal for my games of Pillars, we spent the first three turns fairly close together in victory points. Hugh managed to amass quite a bit of metal, while I gained a tax exemption from Brother Francis (I only had to pay 2 gold per turn for taxes).

One new aspect that developed in this turn was the use of the Market. Most of the games I've played have basically ignored the Market, but we used it more extensively this game - quite a lot in the late game! Hugh was able to replenish his gold stocks thereby.

I drew ahead dramatically in the 4th and 5th turns, but Hugh had managed to draft both Sculptors by the time the last turn came around. This would be 7 stone -> 14 points if he could get the stone!

He did. A glassblower allowed Hugh to use two of his metal, but he still had a couple of cubes left - these were sold at the market, and thre resulting profit allowed him to buy the rest of the stone, so he could pump all 7 stone through the Sculptors.

It was almost enough. The finals scores found me at 57 points to his 54. I think that he'll be more able to handle the game the next time we play it - which I hope will be soon!
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Craig Liken
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I wouldn't agree that gold is unimportant - if you run too short of gold then you cannot a) buy the craftsmen you want in later rounds and b)pay the master builder fee for the optimal placements in the mid-late rounds.

57 is not a bad score for a first game! Sounds like you helped him a bit though.
 
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