This was looking like a 3p game with me, Brian and Alex, until Neil F. arrived just after I had started a rules explanation, then Neil M. as I was about halfway though. With prior experience indicating that a 5p game wouldn’t be overly long, it seemed like a good idea and we settled in.
Play got off to a typical ‘crowded’ start (on the score/production track), although with Neil F. looking like he was nudging ahead on production, while I was stuck on 3 for the first three turns. I started to compete with Brian for Dyers, but let him have two of them. Having seen earlier that Advanced Hunting seemed to have, arguably, the best return per worker by a tiny smidge, I aimed for this and got the first Tracker. Unfortunately, Improved Hunting is good but not great in terms of return per dollar invested, and Neil M. grabbed the second Tracker when I was depleted of cash.
As we progressed Neil F. leaped way ahead of everyone on the production track. When I pointed this out to him and everyone else, he countered by pointing at his spot on the score track, which was actually about 3 spaces behind most of the pack (he was about 6 compared to everyone else on about 8, 9, 10).
Then was the infamous Caravan-Shipyard incident. The auction was with me. Although I didn’t want Neil F. to win his second Shipyard, I really wanted the Caravan as a kicker to my production and languishing storage. Given my discount I put the Caravan up for its minimum bid of 9. Neil bid 10 and everyone else passed. So here was a dilemma: Both Neil and I could afford one or the other, but not both. I could let him eat the Caravan and take my chances against the other players in the Shipyard auction, or I could continue to bid for the Caravan (which I really wanted) and hope that the other players would stop him from getting the Shipyard. So I went 11, thinking that he might go higher and if so I would leave him with it. But he passed, I got the Caravan and had to then pass the auctioneer privilege to him. He put the Shipyard up of course and despite my open and loud clanging of the bells of doom (ie., table talk), the other players passed.
Now with two Shipyards, it was clear to me that Neil would probably win unless he made any major mistakes, even though we were not yet halfway through the game. As the game progressed, Neil F. pulled further and further away on the score track, and ended up with two Shipyards, three Ships, and two Trade Fleets, inter alia. Alex pointed the blame finger at me for not warning anyone that this would happen :-^)! But having convinced myself it was the turning point of the game, I will rue that Caravan-Shipyard auction for a long time to come.
All kudos to Neil, though. A well-deserved win, and a good showing by Alex in the last two or three turns to come within one point.
30 mins rules and setup; 108 mins game time.
Results: Neil F (purple): 35. Alex (yellow): 34. Brian (red): 28 (+more cash). Paul (green): 28 (+less cash). Neil M (blue): 24.
(Originally posted in The Mine Shaft Gap.)