What're you looking at!
One of the first games my wife and I bought when we first got into gaming was Oceania. We have played that game many times since and enjoy it a lot, so this Christmas I was lucky enough to get Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons for Christmas. We finally got to try out Oceania's big brother.
The board is huge, and you lay out tiles on it as you discover ocean and islands. You do have the option of choosing a face up tile, but they are expensive, so we just took our chances with the hidden tiles.
I rolled the money dice first, and then for the entire game! The way it works is that if you have less than four gold, you roll the dice to get more, but your opponent gets one more than your roll. With two players, we usually find that one person rolls for the first half, and the other one for the last half, but not this time. Penny was piling up lots of gold but even when a pirate ship took half of her eight gold, it was not enough to roll the bones.
Anyway, there was a nice big island shaping up in the lower right hand corner, so I explored there and started putting scouts on it. It's a good idea to get your scouts on smaller islands too, which I tried to do on the other side of the board. I also placed a fortress on what looked like a good route (anyone using a route that your fortress is on has to pay you a fee), but it was soon avoidable.
When an island is complete, it's scored: whoever has the most scouts/fortresses/settlements gets one point per tile, and whoever else has a presence on the island gets half that amount. I managed to score a small island early, and place a scout, so I got to draw a product to put in a hut.
I put my scout on the first space in front of the hut and drew beans (15 points) and hid it in the hut. It is sometimes hard to remember what you've put where, so I always try to put products in huts at opposite ends to help me remember.
Meanwhile, the island in the lower right hand corner was becoming huge, while I invested in a smaller island on the other side of the board again.
Some of the hidden tiles have question marks on them and you can end up with a storm, pirates, a gold mine, or friendly natives. I managed to get tree firendly natives in a row (these allow you to place a scout on the path in front of the hut without having to score an island), so I was in first position on five of the seven huts: meaning I knew what was in five of the seven huts. I burned into my memory where the beans and corn were (both highest value at 15 points) and remembered where the lowly pineapple was (only worth 5 points). The others were worth 10. Despite all the scout placement, the score was low:
Then Penny completed a medium sized island that I got the full score on, increasing my lead to 13-8.
The large island in the lower right hand corner was gargantuan: 23 tiles. It contained a +5 bonus, so I scored 28 points, increasing my lead again to 41-22.
Thirteen scouts were placed as a result of scoring that island: seven by Penny and six from me. I deliberately did not place any of them in front of the hut with the corn or the beans, and did put one in front of the lowly pineapple just to bluff Penny. It worked pretty well.
In the top left hand corner, Penny built a settlement to claim that larger island for herself, which she did, shaving my lead to 51-42.
By this time, we each only had three scouts left.
One of the big differences between Entdecker and Oceania is that in Entdecker all of the islands get completed and you needn't worry about wasting your scouts on an island that cannot be scored.
There was one big island left to complete at this time, and I had no chance of being the primary scorer as Penny was ahead of me on money for the entire game. So I concentrated on scoring some smaller islands to extend my lead. I pulled ahead a little more at 56-42.
That also meant that I had placed all but one of my scouts before the last big island was scored.
There was lots of exotic produce in those huts, but you have to have more scouts in front of them than your opponent, or if you are tied, have your scout further down the path, to claim their points. It was a very tight race and my bluff had been successful on the corn and beans, but Penny had the advantage on me in placing her scouts last.
I wasn't sure if there was the other 15 pointer out there: potatos. If you place a scout on the third or fourth space, you can look in the hut, but I had used those spaces to prevent Penny from looking in the huts I knew.
In the end, she left me with the corn and beans, and claimed everything else herself, potatos, tobacco, even the lowly pineapple.
On island scoring alone, I lead 73-66.
After scoring the produce, Penny won 123-96.
If only I could have found those potatos.
And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
I love Entdecker (and Oceania, too, but in a totally different way), and this is regardless of whether it's two, three or four players. HOWEVER, if you're going to be playing with only two players, it is EXTREMELY ADVISABLE to use the variant suggested by a wise gamer whose name I've forgotten (please forgive me!), which helps make the die rolling less catastrophic for the poor (literally) die roller. In this variant, the other player only gets the one extra doubloon if the number rolled is a 4, 5 or 6. If it's a 2 or 3, both players get equal amounts of money. And, of course, one way to avoid perpetually financing your opponent(s)is to simply avoid overspending: avoid dropping below four doubloons, and when you inevitably do, make sure your making your journeys very, very short. In time, you'll bounce back: I always do.