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Subject: Metropolys session report - 4 first time players learn some basic strategy rss

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Graham Dean
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Bedford
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Metropolys

Session report

We had already played Endeavor and Yspahan, but we had played at quite a pace and still had time for another game if we were quick and it wasn’t too long. One of the players had brought along Metropolys, which I gather he had owned for a while without ever being able to play it. It fitted the bill perfectly, so that’s what we chose.

The group

Pogle: Supplier of the game. As mentioned above, he had owned the game for a while but never managed to get it to the table. He started coming to our local Games Club a at the same time as I did a few months ago, and I get the feeling he has a large pent up quantity of games he’s bursting to try.

Julian: Defining quote would be “You have a plan? I tend to just bumble along.” I have to say this is probably not gamesmanship in his case. Is often there or thereabouts, and is always good company at the table.

Uncle G: Me. I like to figure out some underlying principles which will give a handle on how to approach a game. Mostly I would say I was a tactical player rather than strategic.

Tonksey:

Game session

My first impression was that the artwork and colour design was awful. I frequently play games with someone with visual impairment, and there’s no way he would be able to play this game for that reason alone. The board is much too colourful and it’s very hard to distinguish the counters. However, the 13 towers seemed interesting, and the bit about it being a bidding game was interesting.




This alternative board design wouldn’t look as colourful, but would be much easier to play on. A two sided board would have been a great idea, so that individual playing groups could choose.

Setup

Basically each player has 13 buildings, each with it’s own number. The first player chooses a building a places it on one of the spaces on the board. The next player can either pass, or place a building with a higher number on an adjacent unoccupied region. This continues until all but one player has passed, upon which the winning building is turned over to conceal it’s number, and the losing buildings are removed from the board.



Each player is also given two secret objectives. One of them is about the coloured spaces you are trying to build on, and the other is about placing your buildings in a certain way. My secret goals was to build on the brown spaces, and also to build 3 buildings in a single region. With 13 building available, this meant that I could achieve this a maximum of 4 times.

Bonus (and penalty) discs were spread out randomly over the board, which would make some of the regions more or less attractive.

Early Game

We started out placing buildings with a lot of guesswork, as none of us could really get a grip as to what tactics or strategy we could use. In fact the early turns were extremely chaotic. You have no control over were the snake of connected building bids will go, so you can’t really plan anything. As I remember there were a few comments to this effect, until the first occasion when one of the regions got cut off, and one of the players (I think it was Pogle) was able to claim it uncontested with his value 1 building.

In fact this was the point when the first penny dropped for me. As the board filled up, there would be more and more opportunities to claim a space on the board with a single low value building, where there were no legal spaces (i.e. no connected empty regions) for anyone else to bid.

I tried to conserve my tallest, high value buildings in the early rounds, although I think I did use one of them quite early and give away that I was collecting the brown spaces. In the main, though, most of the early rounds went far higher than I was prepared to pay, and after about 10-15 rounds of bidding I was beginning to feel slightly worried that I had so few buildings on the board compared to the other players.

Mid Game

Gradually the board became more congested, and the game play became much less chaotic (although there was still a strong random element caused by the bidding mechanism).



I played a few of my taller buildings to get useful brown regions with bonus tokens on, but kept my 12 building in reserve. I always liked the idea of being able to claim a region if I really wanted to. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that this would also allow me to take control of where the bidding starts at some point in the future.

Pogle was keeping some high value buildings back, but from memory both Tonksey and Julian used a lot of their high value buildings quite early.

On those occasions where I did win the bidding and placed one of my buildings, I tended to start the next sequence in the approximate areas of the board I was interested in placing in, and directed the chain of buildings towards those areas. As a result these areas began to clog up and the chains of buildings being bid became shorter.

Given that one of my secret aims was to build three buildings in the same region, by the time I had placed my first few buildings that pretty much meant that there were some areas of the board where I wasn’t interested in winning at all. If someone started an auction in one of those areas I tended to pass early.

End Game

I had managed to build a few times on brown spaces, and claimed a few positive tokens, so I was reasonably pleased with how things had gone.



Tonksey had six buildings left to place, but they were his 6 lowest value buildings, so he had reached a phase of the game where he wasn’t going to be able to win an auction if any of the rest of us wanted to stop him. I hadn’t been able to figure out what any of his goals were, although I suspect if it wasn’t my first aim I would have been able to spare more of my attention to what he was doing, and could have figured most of it out.

Pogle had about the same number of buildings, although one of them was his 11 which was by far the highest value building left in the game. I again didn’t know what he was aiming for with his secret goals, and I now know that he hadn’t done very well in achieving them, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess either.

Julian was down to about two low value buildings by this stage. He had used his four highest value buildings very early, and had gone through a lull where he was unable to win anything given that his highest value building was only a 9. As more buildings were placed in the mid game, 9 became quite a powerful building, and he had gone through another phase of building placement. I had made a guess that one of his secret goals was to place three buildings around a lake, and he didn’t seem to be having any luck achieving this.

I had about six or seven buildings left to place – most of them pretty low, but the 12 I had retained meant that I could win an auction if I felt I needed to. I had managed a few brown regions, and had achieved by other secret objective once by placing three buildings in the same region once. I had also picked up a few bonus tokens, so I thought I had done all right. I was also very close to meeting my secret objective a few more times which would help my score a lot, with a bit of luck.

When the game actually came to an end it was actually a bit of a surprise. I had the opportunity to bid on a brown region with a +3 token on it, so I used by 12 value building to win it. I then thought I would look around for isolated regions on the board which could be won by placing a single building. It turned out that there were several, and due to the way I had been steering the auctions during the game, most of them happened to be in regions where I already had a building placed.

In fact I was able to complete my secret goal four times, for a best possible 16 points in total. I was then left with one building to go, and a choice of two spaces where I could place it to finish the game (the game ends when one player has placed all his or her buildings). However both spaces had negative tokens on them.

I did a quick calculation and decided to take the negative points and end the game. Tonksey and Pogle were left with a lot of unplaced buildings which I thought would effectively remove them from contention for the win, and Julian didn’t seem to have done well with his secret objective.


This is for illustrative purposes – none of the images included in this report are from our game.

Scoring

I had 16 points from my secret objective (3 buildings placed in a region on four occasions for four points each), which boosted my score to what we all thought was going to be a hard to beat 39.

Tonksey had managed to achieve his secret objective, which was to place chains of three connected buildings, on (I think) a couple of occasions. This left his with a respectable score of (about) 25.

Pogle was gutted at not having placed his 11 value building before the game ended. He had quite a difficult objective, which if he had managed it would have been worth more points. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I think it was place three buildings around a statue. He hadn’t achieved this at all, and thanks to his unplaced buildings finished up with a dismal 14 points.

I was correct in my earlier guess that Julian’s secret objective was to place three buildings around a lake. He hadn’t achieved this either, so his score came in at (I think) about 23.

So final scores were:

Uncle G: 39
Tonksy: 25(ish)
Julian: 23(ish)
Pogle: 14

I think we all liked this game, although I don’t think any of us regard this as being anything more than a nice second game for the evening. I don’t think any of us would be clamouring to play it as the main event, and to be fair I don’t think that’s where the game is being aimed at either. It seems (based on only one play) like a good game (better than the initial turns had suggested), but due to the chaotic feel will not be to everyone’s taste.

Analysis

My usual habit is to think through a game afterwards to try to work out what worked and what didn’t, so that I will be able to play a better game next time.

One comment which both Julian and Pogle made was that placing three buildings around a feature (lake or statue) was hard, and even though these objectives paid out more points when they were achieved, they would both much rather have had my objective which we all thought was very easy.

Is the game balanced? There’s no way we can tell after only one game (comments from more experienced players welcome), but clearly an attempt to balance them has been made by giving each secret objective different points values. I suspect that with more experience it would be possible to retain some high value buildings, and use them when they were the top value buildings to claim the key spots to achieve a bonus.

In general though, I think I stumbled across a few interesting strategies during the game as I was playing. Retaining high value buildings is an obvious strategy – especially if you have difficult to achieve objectives. Judging the best time to close out the game is a key consideration as well. It was critical in this game, and I suspect would happen in a similar way quite often.

AMmre subtle consideration revolves around the importance of guessing the goals of your opponents, which would come with experience (knowledge of what the goals are, and better play by your opponent’s in achieving them).

Another subtle feature is the way you can influence the game by directing the bidding snake towards certain areas. As the game goes on this becomes more achievable, and you can influence what areas of the board are going to get congested.

The last few low value buildings, if you get to place them at all, will almost certainly end up in blocked off spaces where there are no valid adjoining spaces left for others to bid on.

Thoughts on Strategy

d10-1 Try to retain a high value building so that you can win a key auction, and regain control of placing the first bid marker towards the end.

d10-2 You can place lots of low value buildings at the end when there are locked places. In this game I was able to gain some bonus points and close out the game before two of my opponents had placed all their buildings.

d10-3 Don’t get caught out – I placed about 6 buildings in a row to close out the game!

d10-4 Try to direct the chain of buildings towards areas you want to get clogged up with buildings.

d10-5 Retain high value buildings to help you achieve the most difficult (and therefore higher value) secret objectives.
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John Brownsill
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Another great session report Graham.

I agree that this isn't a main game, this is an end of evening game as a nice light finisher.

As you kindly pointed out I did pathetically and was unable to complete the surround a statue objective at all.

I'm sure there must be some sort of strategy that can be applied to this game, but I can't figure out yet how it can be done. Everything just seems so chaotic and very difficult to end on the neighbourhood that you want.

Having said that I did enjoy the game and would happily play it again as a filler or end of session. But I do have a penchant for bidding games with Ra being one of my favourites.

I must do better than last place next time
 
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Graham Dean
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I think I was lucky to get quite an easy objective card for my first game, but I think there are things you could do on some of the other ones. The main thing I can think of is to hold on to your 12 and 13 buildings until everyone else has played their 13. Then wait until you win a suitable auction next to a statue with 2 available spaces, and use the 12 and 13 (which would now be unbeatable) to claim them.
 
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Kendahl Johnson
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Great session report. The strategy below depends on where other people have placed their large buildings. That bonus is 5 points... I think there could be better uses for two best buildings personally... You can sometimes pick up the neighborhoods you need for a lot smaller investment.

Uncle G wrote:
I think I was lucky to get quite an easy objective card for my first game, but I think there are things you could do on some of the other ones. The main thing I can think of is to hold on to your 12 and 13 buildings until everyone else has played their 13. Then wait until you win a suitable auction next to a statue with 2 available spaces, and use the 12 and 13 (which would now be unbeatable) to claim them.
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