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Subject: First Time Play rss

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Mark Brown
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Last night, we once again gathered for Wednesday Board Game Night at Critical Hit Games in Iowa City. Rob brought in his shiny new copy of Cuba and had barely finished the set-up phase before we had five players: Rob, me, Joel, Brad, and Jared (the game store owner). So my qualifier for this report is that we played with five players. I suspect the game may not be as compelling with fewer than four, and certainly two players would make the voting phase pretty lame. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rob was pumped to play the game, seeing as how he'd only played 1/2 a game previously. Joel and Brad had played each other once, so they were our designated experts. Jared and I kept up as best as we could.

I have to admit, when I saw all the various bits, cards, and whatnot, and it began to dimly dawn on me that this game was all about generating resources, producing products, and shipping them to market, my eyes briefly rolled back in my head and I prayed, "Oh, please, Lord, not another trading-based Eurogame!" The bad news is that, yes, it turns out that Cuba is another trading-based Eurogame. But it also turned out to be the most AWESOME trading-based Eurogame EVAR!

The first few rounds were spent as they usually are, trying to figure out all the bits and rules. But then it started to click that there are a lot of options in this game. You're not all simply trying to do the same thing. Well, technically you are - you're scoring victory points. But there are many different strategies to this goal.

We foundered a bit gathering various kids of crops and resources for the first few turns, then we built a few buildings and the fun began. Joel turned in some water to build a dam, and was suddenly scoring three waters per turn. He says he intended to build a golf course, but that never happened. More on that in a minute.

Rob focused on tobacco and making cigars. I glommed onto a sugar-into-rum model. Jared and Brad seemed to focus on growing and shipping crops (unless I missed some subtleties, which is entirely possible). I lagged behind until I got my rum cafe set up so I could sell my rum instead of shipping it, but by and large we stayed in a pretty tight pack until the end of the game.

This is where Joel pulled ahead and won by (what was it?) 18 points or so in the last turn. But it turns out it was because we didn't get the rules right!!! Here's a quote from another thread here on the geek:

Quote:
...the veto tile can't be used to veto the same numbered Act in two consecutive turns( i.e. if Act II was vetoed in one turn, an Act II card can't be vetoed again in the following turn)


Well, Joel had nine water cubes when he voted in the Act III law that gives one victory point for each water in your possession. He then built the church, which gave him veto power, which he used every turn to keep us from voting in a new Act III law. Uh-huh. We got it wrong. Without that, he would have had to switch strategies. With it, he won.

Not to take away his glory or anything, but this is what happens when there are lots of rules with lots of subtleties. Not his fault. Not ours. We were all new players, and to me this situation just illustrates the problems inherent with any game with lots of rules and lots of resulting complexities. (And Joel's a good enough game player I'm sure he would have stood a very good chance of winning, anyway.)

But besides that one minor glitch, we all agreed that Cuba is a blast, and we all want to play again. I know I've added it to my want list!
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C Lloyd
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Nice session report. Just got Cuba myself, and can't wait to play.
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Joel J
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I'll second that Cuba is an awesome game. The first time I played, the market was pretty static and the bills didn't much matter. This second game was tense with the bills playing a big role and lots of swings in the market and a wide array of different strategies. I really can't wait to play again.

As to the water strategy, I would point out that since I vetoed in round 4, I only needed to win the round 5 voting to go ahead and veto the third bill again in round 6. Had I not been able to do this (if I remember at least one other person had a decent amount of money) I would have been forced to buy the golf course and get 10 points over rounds 5 and 6 for my water as opposed to the 18 I got. I think I was more than 8 points ahead at the end, so there was certainly still a chance to win. I say this not to validate the win, but to point out that the water strategy is still viable when you have a damn and the water subsidy comes out at the right time. It's just a lot more balanced now

airship51 wrote:
this is what happens when there are lots of rules with lots of subtleties.


I certainly agree it's not always easy to remember little exceptions, but I think the problem is more playing when there is no one to teach the game that has recently read the rulebook if at all. I've been taught a lot of games recently where the person teaching only had a general idea of the rules and while the games played fine, afterward it always turns out we missed a huge rule or two.

Also, the number of players poll does suggest that the game plays well with three and "best" with four so I guess it's possible the game could get even better

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Chris Linneman
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I'll also note that the maximum VPs you can get from a subsidy in one turn are 7. It seems this rule was introduced specifically to tone down an out-of-control water producer.

I agree Cuba is a great game. I've enjoyed it with 3-5 (you are right that 2 is a little open and the bidding is uninteresting) but 5 can be a little too crowded and make it pretty likely that someone will "accidentally" get in the way of what you wanted to do somehow. I think it's best with 4 (as with so many games).
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Rob Mixemong
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Can't believe I had to make a login name to comment on this thing. O well hell of a game. I guess the only thing that I really wanted is a more glaring shiny thing a ma bob that signified the game turns. I although I don't think I would have finished first I would not have finished last had I realized that the ship wouldn't sail and I wouldn't make my close to 12 vp plus the bonuses at the end. Other than that I will have this game in my car ready to play again.
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Mark Brown
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Chris, glad to hear about the subsidy limit. Joel was actually combing the rules desperately when we ran out of water cubes about three turns from the end, as he wanted to continue to gain a lake full of water each turn and drown us all in a ridiculous number of victory points. Fortunately, it seems that if you run out of resource cubes, you're out of resources, so he couldn't get to the "27 VP per round from the water subsidy" condition he wanted to have, anyway.

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Mark Brown
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DreadPirateRobert wrote:
I although I don't think I would have finished first I would not have finished last had I realized that the ship wouldn't sail and I wouldn't make my close to 12 vp plus the bonuses at the end.

Rob, Joel also pointed out to me that Brad discovered that we apparently played the tradeswoman's black market ability wrong, which means I should have made about 3-4 fewer bottles of rum, which would have put me back in the pack instead of 2nd. So I think we were all pretty much either positive or negative victims of an incomplete understanding of some of the subtler aspects of the rules.

Next time, though... devil
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Joel J
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QBert80 wrote:
I'll also note that the maximum VPs you can get from a subsidy in one turn are 7. It seems this rule was introduced specifically to tone down an out-of-control water producer.


Nice catch. That will certainly change things as well.
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Brad
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Great session report, Mark!

My actual strategy was one-dimensional and not very potent. I had three buildings: one that gave 2 VPs, one that gave 1 VP, and one that gave a VP for turning in a wood (up to 4 of them). These were arranged in such a way that I could leave my worker in one spot and pick up two wood, and then use my foreman for a total of 5 VPs.

This felt like a fairly well-planned attack but it was weak. Straight VPs are just not worth as much as a rum or cigar machine.

This was my second game of Cuba, and in both games the drought card was in effect for most of the game. This means that the market was starved, so it was difficult to ship anything. I appreciate the fact that this can happen, but frankly I'm hoping for a more active market in the next game.

This game was cool because in my only previous game, we just thought about the effect of the laws, which was chaotic and difficult to plan for. In this game, we thought more about the cause of the laws--that is, saving a big vote card and having enough money to be the lawmaker. It was much more satisfying.

While we missed a few rules, and I look forward to using them next time, those rules would only have slowed Joel down slightly. He identified a terrific engine and rode it to victory.
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Martin Lévesque
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airship51 wrote:
I have to admit, when I saw all the various bits, cards, and whatnot, and it began to dimly dawn on me that this game was all about generating resources, producing products, and shipping them to market, my eyes briefly rolled back in my head and I prayed, "Oh, please, Lord, not another trading-based Eurogame!" The bad news is that, yes, it turns out that Cuba is another trading-based Eurogame. But it also turned out to be the most AWESOME trading-based Eurogame EVAR!


I'm still fairly new to Euro so had no previous experience/ownership of that type of games, so the (reported) derivative nature of the game did not bother me. I wouldn't know if it's most awesome trading-based Euro ever but it's certainly awesome in my book!

I think it's going to become my favorite in my collection. It's too bad I missed years of fun with Puerto Rico and other games of that ilk but I'm having lots of fun with Cuba and eventually, I'll try the games that influenced it.
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Chris Linneman
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I don't think Cuba is really as derivative as people say it is. Ya, you ship goods like in Puerto Rico, and you build buildings that look sort of like the Caylus ones. Sure there is a Power Grid-esque market. But the game's feel is completely different from any of these games. I consider it truly unique.
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James Hemsley
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I have two gripes with the game:

I wish the market was more like Power Grid. I.e more dynamic and useful. The way it is in Cuba, it is too easy to overlook the market, because oftentimes the ships are worth more points for the goods. I would want it to be more of a viable option. The two laws the fill or deplete the market are a good step in this direction, but it depends on if they show up or are implemented.

My second gripe is that just when you build a solid engine, the game is over. I want it to last a little longer. Right now, you have to lock into a strategy and can't do much to change. You just have to optimize it. I think I would like a game that forces you to change strategies if your selected strategy doesn't work at first and not be 100% penalized for it.

I still like Cuba and will continue to play it if offered, but to me, there are better games out there.

--James
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