A quiet evening as Lawrence and Dave joined Rich to play through the letter "I".
First up was one of Michael Schacht's lesser known designs. While people might this designer for Web of Power (Kardinal und König), Hansa, or Coloretto, his portfolio does include a couple of "I" games. While the geeks among us might think of Industria, the game we played was InterUrban - a kit game from Winsome games.
3 Player - 1 Hour
As this is from Winsome, we know the theme will be trains. InterUrban is a game of trying to control tracks built out from a central hub. The majority owner on the track scores the "track points" with each successive owner get half as much as the previous player. What makes this game interesting is how a few rules control the overall track placement.
Each player starts with 10 station tiles form 1 to 4. Some of the stations are simple straights while others are complex crossing tracks. Each player will have 3 tiles face-up available to play and the rest face down to form a draw pile as stations are used.
There is also a common draw pile of tracks. These tracks are either straights or curves. Some of the tracks have a point value which helps increase the value of the route containing that track. Again, 3 tiles will be available face-up for the players to use with the rest face-down to resupply the face-up tiles.
Finally, there are 4 start squares. These are mixed face-down and 2 chosen as the central hub from which the 6 possible routes emerge. The start-squares indicate the initial value of each route. The final value of each route might be increased by numbered tracks as mentioned above.
On a player's turn, they may place 1, 2, or 3 tiles. The tiles must extend an existing route, but need not all be placed on the same route. Each player may choose from the common face-up track tiles or from their own face-up station tiles. However, only 1 station tile may be played each turn. (Mea Culpa - I missed one part of this rule - you can play another player's station as your station build.)
What is interesting is that the placement rules are quite simple, but create an interesting dynamic in the game. The placement rules state:
A) Station tiles can't be adjacent, a track tile must intervene.
B) A player can't have two consecutive stations on the same route.
C) There may only be 1 station of value 1, 2, and 3 on a route. There may be multiple stations of value 4 on a route.
D) The 6 routes can't connect together.
E) A tile may not be placed such that track runs into the (untracked) edge of another tile.
F) As soon as a route as one station of each of the four values, the route is complete and can't be extended.
The second requirement requires that all the players must cooperate to build a line if it is too grow. The last two provide ways of shutting down track to lock in the points. In fact, similar to expropriation in Fresh Fish, if a track can't accommodate any more stations because of (E), the route is ended.
The game ends when all 6 routes are completed and then the scores calculated. As mentioned above, each route has a value consisting of its base value plus any additional points from numbers on track tiles. The player with the highest sum of station values (commerce value in game terms) then is awarded all those points. The player with the second highest sum is awarded half (rounded up) of the first place points. The player in third is awarded one quarter (rounded up) etc.
It is hard to summarize a session indicating laid what, but there were some notable plays in the game that did get recorded. Dave did upload a photo of the completed game: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/70756 that shows the game, so if you are unclear on any of the descriptions, I will try to show where in the photo the section exists.
One track had a crossing station with a curve exiting it. Approaching the crossing station was the neighbouring track. Dave managed to play a straight track to the connect to the crossing station, a curve out of the other side. This had the two curves from the crossing station pointed at each other. Dave then played one of his 1 crossing stations to not only cross the tracks again, but to play the necessary 1 to close out 2 tracks in one move...neat play. While Dave didn't have the majority in one of those tracks, he did in the other. This gave him a share of 2 tracks and locked up one of the more valuable tracks in the game. (This is at the lower right of the photo.)
Rich had the terminal station on a couple of track so was limited to building off the other tracks by placement rule (B) above. (If we had realized the rule about playing other's stations, he might have had a few more options.) He did cap on of the lines with a crossing 3 before realizing he could have used a straight 4 to extend the line and perhaps gain a larger share in that route. (This is at the lower left of the photo.)
Lawrence did cross some track and build a station facing a gap 1 tile gap that had another station at side. As this was Lawrence's station also, no track could be placed in the gap, closing off that route, perhaps a bit to Lawrence's' surprise. (This is at the upper left of the photo. The track starting at H.)
As the game neared the end, Dave had a single 4 station on a short spur of track worth about 10 points. This track pointed at one of Rich's crossing stations which had been placed earlier hoping to force the connection. This was also the last route still active. When Rich's turn came, there was no straight track face-up to span the gap, only curves. As Rich had no tile play, the game ended. (This is at the upper center of the photo. The track starting at 7. Just above the track, you see the 3 curves (no straights) that Rich had as a choice.)
Turning to scoring (where cp is the sum of the station's along that right or commerce points)
Route Value Dave Rich LawrenceBase 4 + 2 = 6: (3cp) 2 (6cp) 6 (5cp) 3Base 7 + 3 = 10: (4cp) 10 - - Base 8 + 3 = 11: (1cp) 3 (3cp) 6 (6cp) 11Base 6 + 6 = 12: (5cp) 12 (3cp) 6 (2cp) 3Base 6 + 4 = 10: (8cp) 10 (4cp) 5 (2cp) 3Base 8 + 1 = 9: - (2cp) 5 (4cp) 9 ======== ======== ======== 37 Pts 28 Pts 29 Pts
(For those checking against the photo - The H start tile gets the same start value as the highest start value in the game. Since the rest of the tracks are all numbered starts, we knew this would be 8. This is the last track scored in the summary above.)
And the win goes to Dave. As the scoring shows, Dave placed first in 3 of the 6 routes while Lawrence was first in 2 routes. Rich scored second in most tracks. Good planning by Dave, but I do wonder if we had played each other's stations (as allowed in the rules) how the tracks might have progressed differently. As for that last straight piece Rich had wanted? If it had been played, he would have shared with Dave for the second route listed above. That single score by Dave was a critical key to Dave's victory. Well played in trying to close it so that others could not take advantage of this short but valuable spur.
The comments at game's end indicate that it was enjoyed by all. It did take about 1 hour to play (including rules explanation). While the first plays were a bit tentative as we thought of how to play, the game pace picked up quite nicely once we had the rhythm of the moves down. I enjoyed the game and hope that it can hit the table again as a nice warm-up to a session or as a game to play while others finish up.
I did get the kit version of the game and did have to cut out the tiles myself. (The photos will show that I was reasonably proficient at this task, but did miss a few cuts.) For the price of the kit, I think the game is a good investment. I would be hard-pressed to spend double that price for a "pre-cut" version of the game. A hidden treasure that should get played a bit more often.