Players: Brian, Justin, Ravindra, David
# plays before today: 0, 3, 0, 0
Justin provided two basic warnings for us at the start of the game. #1 you need to play your cloud tile when your boats are in relatively safe positions up-river. Waiting to play the cloud last out of your tiles is very risky. #2 Beware of letting someone pick up a lot of purple gems. Since the purple ones are the closest to the dock, it is easiest to make a set of 4 of them.
At the start, many of us played almost identically with high numbers for two rounds. This resulted in a raging river, and all of us struggling to keep from hitting the falls. Before the end of the game, everyone (except me) had lost a boat or two to the falls. David kept losing his boats. It seemed like we did a lot of "treading water" since it took us until about mid-game to get enough separation between boats that we weren't all playing the high numbers at the same time.
Justin's words of warning proved correct. Waiting too long to play the cloud cards caused boat carnage, and I nearly completed a set of purple gems. The other guys played keep-away with the purple gems, though. Later, I could taste victory, but I tried to make a play that involved picking up a gem in the middle of my turn (which is illegal). I eventually won the game, but it was a tense finish as turn order allowed me to move my 7th gem home before Justin. Final score was 7-6-4-2, Brian-Justin-Ravindra-David.
HINTS & THOUGHTS:
1. colorblind players might have trouble distinguishing gem colors (purple & brown in particular)
2. pay attention to turn order. it can be especially helpful for trying to steal (or protect) gems
3. play the cloud early
4. keeping an empty boat down-river could be good for stealing gems. actually, it might be a good idea to keep both of your boats separated by a good distance. in addition to hedging your bets (and not losing two boats to the falls on an unexpected raging river), putting some distance between your own boats means that you will be less likely to dock both boats at once and lose a turn of movement on one of the boats.
5. don't forget to move both boats. this is most likely to happen when one of your boats is on the dock