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Subject: Tinners' Trail - first impressions rss

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Susan Rozmiarek
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Liberty Hill
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Note: I've only played this game once (four players) so this is more of a first impression rather than a full review.

Tinners’ Trail is about mining ore in Cornwall, England during the 1800s. You are bidding against the other players to place your mines in regions on the board so you can mine the tin and copper ore there. Apparently one of the biggest challenges miners faced was water filling the mines. Much of your energy in this game goes toward dealing with the ever annoying water that makes it pricier to mine the ore. Several developments are available in the game to deal with this in varying degrees – ports, adits (a new word for me!), trains and pumps. Adits also add additional ore to the mine and miners, trains and ports allow you mine more ore at once.

Money is tight in this game which is no surprise given its designer. You get a chance to buy victory points with the cash you earn each round but you’ll have to decide how much to save in order to buy mines and extract ore in the following round. To make that decision even more agonizing, you get more VPs for your money in the earlier rounds, but that is also when you want the bidding power to grab the juicier regions on the board, particularly since it is advantageous to have your mines adjacent to each other for adits and on the coast for ports. Selling ore that you have extracted is the primary way to make money in the game but there is one more that gets you a tiny amount – selling pasties. This seems to be primarily a default action when you have nothing better to do or you are really short of cash.

An aspect about mining that you have to consider is that every time you take ore out of a mine, a water cube is added to it, making it more expensive to mine ore the next time. There is a limit to how much ore can be taken out with a single mining action, but you can increase this with a few of the developments, making it more efficient. Of course, you’ll also want to add developments that take away the water added. Each mine can only hold one each of the various developments so you have to time their addition wisely.

There is some luck in the game which can have a big impact. This will give some people fits. You have to speculate how much each type of ore will be worth as you are required to sell any ore you’ve extracted at the end of a round. At the beginning of each round, the selling prices for each type will be determined with a die roll. So, if you say, leave the copper in your mines for the following round in the hopes that the price will go up and it goes down instead, you’re hosed. There is a ceiling and floor for the prices, though, and a modifier applied if it is at the top or bottom. Another bit of luck is how much ore is available to be mined in each region. The amount of ore and water in a single, unexplored region will be determined at the end of each round with dice rolls. However, you can speculate and put up an unexplored region for auction. The winner pays and places his mine before the dice rolls to determine what’s there. A bad roll and you’ve wasted your money on a mine full of water and little ore. These lucky elements fit well with the theme and I enjoy the uncertainty they bring to the game. But, some people are going to be quite bothered. You have been warned!

The turn order mechanism also makes for some tense decision making as well. It is very similar to the game Thebes. During a round, players take turns doing a single action that can be either building a mine, building one of the improvements listed above, mining ore from a single mine, or selling pasties. Each action costs a varying amount of time which is tracked on the board. After each player has taken a single action, a new turn order for the next series of actions is established starting with the player who has taken the least amount of time so far. In addition, you can drop out of the round entirely at any time and not do any more actions. Turn order for the start of next round will be in order from the player who passed first to the player who passed last. A limited number of improvements are put out for grabs each round, so if you really, really want something, you might have to pass early and forgo some precious actions in order to get first choice in the next round.

Tinners’ Trail is another excellent game from Martin Wallace. It’s a little leaner than many of his games, rule-wise, but the game play still has a lot of heft to it with a little luck thrown in to keep you guessing. It is very thematic with a unique, historical theme. I like Brass a little better, but I’m very fond of train/connection games so that isn’t surprising. I’m looking forward to the next game in the Treefrog line although I’m not looking forward to the hefty price of a game that has to be ordered and shipped directly from the U. K. I’m happy that Tinners’ Trail has been worth that price so far.
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James Hamilton
United Kingdom
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For me Tinners' Trail has one major advantage over Brass, it takes a lot less time.

While one game of Brass is better than one game of Tinners' Trail you can get through two games of Tinners' Trail in the time it takes to play one of Brass.

While there is randomness in the game I am not sure there is that much luck per se. The only real luck is if you build a mine in an area that has not been prospected and roll a really good set of rescources or a really bad set.

The market prices are something you need to bear in mind as you buy new mines and extract from your existing ones. Leaving all your copper in the ground when everyone else has dug it out is a huge risk but you don't have to take it. If all the players have a reasonable amount of copper left then you are safe to sit on it. The randomness is most definitley managable.

I played my first two games of TT at the weekend and have to say I am very impressed. If Martin had put the final playtest version infront of me (which he didn't) there is only one area that I may have suggested he looked at and that is the VP buying chart. It seems a little fiddly and when you get to the end of the game it is really frustrating to have to wait while other players go through a load of combinations of "If I buy the £5 now and then you do this and they do that ..." when most of the time it really doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

A good review of another good game from Mr W.
 
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Richard Dewsbery
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Hammy wrote:
For me Tinners' Trail has one major advantage over Brass, it takes a lot less time.


It's fast become the second most played game of Warfrog's that I own (marginally behind Age of Steam right now). For exactly that reason - it's shorter, and also lighter, so it can be played alongside one or two other games in an evening.

Quote:

While there is randomness in the game I am not sure there is that much luck per se. The only real luck is if you build a mine in an area that has not been prospected and roll a really good set of rescources or a really bad set.


I think that the luck creeps in because some players are inclined to gamble with that random factor, others play it safe, and some players play the same as they would irrespective of changes in the price chart. To some players that is to be regarded as luck playing its part; especially when the outcome of a piece of gambling is a win or a loss that owed little to the other decisions taken that game. But I agree - where the current market price is - or could be - ought to affect how much you're willing to pay for a new mine, and the point at which you decide to extract ore from it.
 
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James Hamilton
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RDewsbery wrote:
Hammy wrote:
While there is randomness in the game I am not sure there is that much luck per se. The only real luck is if you build a mine in an area that has not been prospected and roll a really good set of rescources or a really bad set.


I think that the luck creeps in because some players are inclined to gamble with that random factor, others play it safe, and some players play the same as they would irrespective of changes in the price chart. To some players that is to be regarded as luck playing its part; especially when the outcome of a piece of gambling is a win or a loss that owed little to the other decisions taken that game. But I agree - where the current market price is - or could be - ought to affect how much you're willing to pay for a new mine, and the point at which you decide to extract ore from it.


Consider a possition in game where on turn 3 copper is at £4 per, you have 8 copper in various mines and your closest opponent has 6. You could assume that there is a good chance copper will be £4 or better in the last turn and that you will make your money just as easily by waiting. If on the other hand you mine 2 of your copper and get £8 for the pair you will only lose out to the other player if prices of copper go to £8 or more per because you won't have the 2 copper. If copper stays at £ 4 per you haven't lost and if it drops to £2 you have definitely won on the deal.

There are a lot of things to consider in terms of what to mine and when but for me there is very little luck in the price of commodities. New unprospected mines are a gamble plain and simple.
 
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Geeky McGeekface
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It's time for baseball, people! Pitchers and catchers report soon and the national pastime is with us again!
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But Hammy, your analysis doesn't take into account what the relative VP position of the two players might be. If I'm trailing the player with 6 copper by more than £8, I might feel that my only chance to win is to gamble on the price of copper on the last turn. In this case, luck plays a genuine factor and everyone played correctly.

This hasn't been a negative factor for me, but I acknowledge it could happen and could be a problem for some.

I agree with you about the VP chart. For the small number of times it can affect play, I think Martin would have been better off just giving players a number of VPs per pounds invested (based on which turn the investment was made) and streamlined the procedure. Again, not a big problem, but perhaps a bit of overdevelopment.

And while Tinners is shorter and less brain burning than Brass, it hasn't been that much shorter for us. TT is taking us about 2 hours a game, compared to 3 hours for Brass. Maybe we'll be able to get our times down, but there's a good deal to think about and the game length hasn't been a problem for us.

It's another very good design from Mr. Wallace, who seems to be riding high these days, and I'm looking forward to the other Treefrog games.
 
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CHAPEL
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Round Rock
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"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"
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Ore pricing was a killer in that game with Susan. I took a huge chance and speculated prices on Tin for the next round after it was bargain basement already(4GP I think). But my speculation never came about and then copper dived in price throughout the rest of the game. I can see vastly different outcomes in every playing you play just in prices alone.

Felt like playing Crude: The Oil Game without the rapid swing rule. Vicious!

I still liked Tinners' over brass.
 
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