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Subject: Session Report rss

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Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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Our Game of the Month! Last week we tried a 5-player game, which proved to be a bumpy experience for me. First because I was the early victim in the game who never bounced back, but mostly because the game went longer than I expected, and I was driving home *much* later than I like. Turns out the game didn't take longer than it should've, though, despite the Left Coasters' reputation for slow play. La Citta with five is just a big, hairy game, one I don't care to play again. (I have the same exact feeling about Vinci with six.) What I *do* care to play is La Citta with fewer. Though I've read multiple accounts online about how great it is with just two, no one wanted to try it that way with me. We did get a 3-player game going, however. This time we used semi-random terrain setup (Jonathan tweaked it just a bit to fix some glaring inequities), and *timers* for individual players. The latter was more of an experiment than a control system--we wanted to see how long we each take in the game. We only timed the political action rounds in the game, leaving the rest of the accounting steps untimed. There are 5 actions during each of the 6 turns, so 30 decision points overall. Jonathan suggested 20 minutes as a good starting point for our timers.

It was interesting. First of all, as expected, the 3-player game was notably shorter, helped even more by the fact that we all knew the rules already (Game of the Month!). I think we all agreed that there was a completely satisfying amount of interaction/conflict, too, so now I'm even more certain that I want to restrict my play to 2 and 3-player games. As for the timers, Jonathan ended up needing a little extra time on the final turn (call it 22 minutes total), I ended up with not quite 2 minutes left on my timer, and Mike--who also won the game--was left with a whopping 7 minutes left! Wow! So not only am I not the fastest, I wasn't even very close. Stupidly, the most time I took was making the same mistake I made twice last week--trying to add citizens to a city that couldn't accept them. With my planned turn thrown into disarray, I had to revise it with the timer running... I don't think we need to play with timers in general, but it was a good experiment to learn where the time is spent during the game.

Also interesting was the play itself. It turns out I only learned part of the lesson from last week. That is, do not leave yourself vulnerable to losing a tile. Losing a citizen here or there is okay, but losing a tile is a penalty from which you may not recover. Not only do you lose an action in a subsequent round to rebuild that tile, but you lose territory that your opponent may scoop up before you can reclaim it. If it's prime farmland, you can count on losing it! With one great farm area in the random setup, Mike and I set up our initial cities nearby and came into early conflict. As I said, I learned last week's lesson and kept a population reserve onhand. The *new* lesson I learned was the necessity of building the marketplace and water source in time. I did okay on the marketplace (having seen Jonathan fall into that trap in an earlier game), but was holding out for the public bath rather than building a simple fountain. I thought I needed the two health points. Well, I probably did, but I needed the simple water source more. Pretty soon I was locked, with exactly 8 citizens on 8 tiles. I couldn't grow the population without a water source (even with Golden Times), I couldn't construct a water source without a citizen. Catch-22. The only way I got out of the lock was when Mike stole a citizen from me, enabling me to demolish a tile, get a spare citizen during population growth, and then (belatedly) build that fountain. And that was lucky, in a way--the turn I was locked was a turn Mike stole a citizen. Had the voice of the people been in *my* favor, I would've been unable to demolish a tile, and been locked for an additional turn. Perhaps the game needs an option to use a standard action card to demolish (undo) a tile, but I'm inclined to chalk it up to experience (and be ready to explain the trap to a newbie and let them take their action back).
 
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