Players were Chris, Jason, Alan and myself. Alan and Chris were new to the game.
I reviewed the rules with the new players with one interesting mistake about how gems were won in the market that proved an interesting variant. Unfortunately I gave the tie breaker rules (number of brokers) as the primary way to win gems available in the market instead of sum of broker value. This led to high usage of zero brokers in the market leading to ability of players to deduce the zero brokers and subsequently have better control over swinging the vertical sums (which we did play correctly). I am not sure whether our unintentional variant has balanced value or not, but it did introduce a new tactic to the game. I felt badly over giving the wrong rule, but it did not break the game in my assessment.
The game took 1.5 hours and turn speed increased significantly as the new players became acustomed to the mechanics. We played the standard rule set without the throne room
* Jason: 83
* Alan: 77
* Chris: 62
* Ian: 88
In this playing of the game I decided to adopt a new strategy. This was my second run at this game and I won the first one as well by taking a balanced approach to the game. I wanted to contrast a more specialized approach to the game. In this playing I mostly ignored gaining castles through cards and completely ignored the black gems. Both of these items were hotly contested and thus I tried to place my brokers where other players were ignoring, namely the commercial areas which gained you 3 gold per victory as well as constantly plying the market gaining at least one gem. The only castle card I played heavy for was the 5 per commercial area which complimented my strategy. I made sure that I was at least 2nd in the two leading gems which were substantially above the bottom two gems in the market. This strategy worked well, but I am not sure if it would have worked as well had the gem value in the market been more unclear.
I like this game a little more than Alladins Dragons and am looking forward to the additional rules for 5/6 players which is still not posted at ystari.
I rate this an 8 after 2 playings and am more excited about repeated playings than mostly any other recent game with the possible exception of War of the Ring, but that is a game for a completely different crowd than Ys. The amount of angst and different possible strategies packed into a 90 minute game are quite enjoyable.