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Subject: First Train to Nuremburg - A Raggy Session rss

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Dev Sodagar
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Sutton
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I am never quiet certain what to call a 4-player game seeing as strictly speaking it is actually Last Train to Wensleydale... Maybe I should compromise and go for First Train to Wensleydale... Ok well I am a lazy writer (this is what an Engineering Degree'll do to you!) so lets go with FTtW... This is telling y'all precious little about the game now isn't it? Is any one still there? Ok, ok I'll get on with it:

This was a night of firsts. It was my first visit to Epsom, my first visit to Epsom Games Club. Later in the evening it would be my first play of Magnum Sal but the first game my new gaming buddies and I sat down to play was FTtW. (Nope still not onto the game yet! Hang in there!)

The players around the table are all geek users and starting with the opening player are:

Russell D
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Ewell
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Dev Sodagar
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Sutton
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That's me!

Jeff Clark
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Gordon Watson
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Banstead
Surrey - United Kingdom
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The only real problem with the opening turn order was that Russell and I were the only ones who hadn't played any incarnation of this game previously! This turned out to be of little significance as the play order is in a state of constant flux as events shift peoples rankings in the various turn phases.



As you can see the game occurs on a very nice board and there is a fairly hefty amount of initial set-up required, this wasn't helped by the fact that Jeff hadn't opened the game since he bought it so all the wood was bundled together in a giant bag! The cubes of cheese and stone had to be placed (pairs of cubes are randomly drawn from the bag and placed on each stone and each cheese square, then any cube that doesn't match the type of square it sits on is removed. This mechanic is a great way to randomise the game board to give each game a unique feel. The same random placement is done with the passengers and landlords (or NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yards) as most of us in the UK think of them as), as they are put down in appropriate numbers on each town. So we're all ready to get into the action... not quite, there is a side board that gives players influence in various areas and turn orders so player tokens need to be placed on here, also the randomised tokens for the auction slots have to be placed... and now we can get on to the game...

But first: a further note on the game board. Gordon mentioned that the artwork was quite different in this edition to the original Last Train to Wensleydale so I thought I would have a quick look-see at that one:



Ok so that is an ugly baby... 'nuff said

And now on to the game, no really I mean it this time:

The game opened with an auction round and this is where the game really started to loose me. I am fairly tolerent of set-up issues, I generally find that sensible bagging and getting your mates involved can overcome most set-up issues (yeah I know still not talking about our game). The thing is that whilst I am happy to put up with set-up... I just don't get auction games. I really don't, I usually struggle to relate the items up for auction to the rest of the game and I am terrible at valuing stuff. The net result of this double ineptitude is that I often bid for the wrong thing... and at the wrong price.

This is not a good way to win an auction game...

For FTtW I decided to go with a simple strategy for bidding on things... give priority to getting ahead in the political influence (this allows you to get rid of NIMBYs and also means you go first in the track laying phase). I also decided to lay down as little as possible in the auction phase, saving my money to buy more track. All of this was because I hadn't realise one key feature... having track is bad.

The opening track laying section saw me build out across the top of the map grabbing some quick cheese, a couple of Stone and Green Passengers and this notes my next mistake... it turns out you are trying to balance all 4 goods, not just pair cheese and stone or red & green passengers as I had initially thought. So whilst I am merrily building away up north out of Darlington, Russell explored the West of the board travelling up from 'The South', Gordon, like me travels out from the East but across the middle of the board from Northallerton. Jeff decides to build a quick link between red and green across the South Eastern Corner of the map Skipton to Harrogate. No real contest over goods at this stage as all players are reasonably well spread out. And so we headed into the next turn with Gordon ahead on the points.

Turn Two and I decided to nip into a town that Gordon had missed a Stone cube and this along with the cubes that I had failed to pick up the previous turn kept me on the level for the turn but I was still not really sure what I was really doing.Gordon had sold off a fair amount of track and moved his focus to the south, starting a new route out Ripon. Jeff moved into the Lofthouse Valley to claim a fair chunk of resources there and Russell continued his March north on the western edge of the board unopposed.


Turn Three saw me venturing into the valleys and connecting up routes ready to turn south to link up with a red point somewhere... this was a mistake, it brought me into conflict with Gordon as we vie for the resources around Kirkby Stephen. At this point I had accrued quite a few red passengers and figured I could quickly build down to Skipton or Connecting up with The South... It was at this point of the game where I noticed 'Catan-itis'. It is very easy for one or two players to completely cut off other players because of the restricted access points and leave players with no way to score. Jeff and Russell proceeded to do this with Skipton and The South whilst Gordon took a single route out of Skipton to score a couple of additional points. Having only two red nodes which are as vital as the four spread out green nodes but significantly less accessible is a significance I hadn't appreciated and makes this game aggressive in a way that I don't enjoy in a game.

Turn Four and by this point I was out of the game, I had unintentionally created a junction that left me with no way of selling of the majority of my lines as it has to be from town to town and I had created this junction in a field and proceeded to sell two of the lines meaning I could never sell the other line. In a desperate bid to stay in positive points at the end of the game I focused everything into creating a quick short route weaving out of the wrong side of Skipton and into the valleys to get a measly two red passengers. In doing this I effectively prevented Gordon from winning the game, although he had made an additional mistake in the previous turn that cost him a further 8 points that also could have won the game for him. Russell was uncontested to continue his expansion and shipping of everything he might need for a solid score. Jeff focused on make sure he shut down the lines he still had to limit any point damage from that.

The final scores and some more information can be found here.


Retrospective:
I really ought to have shut down lines a lot quicker, my first turn was mostly right but I could have purchased additional trains and made sure to ship everything in one go so the line could be shut down, then look to get some red passengers from the southern quarter much earlier in the game.

A lot of my criticism of the game is centred on the "Catan-itis" red node access and this may seem hypocritical given my love of Ticket to Ride, however with Ticket to Ride, there are always other routes to build, in this, if you can't score red passengers, you have lost the game. The reason I have likened this to Catan is also a little unfair, however in most of the games I have played there is a point about a third of the way into the game that one player is boxed in and they are out of the game. This situation usually has very little to do with the way they played and in fact there was nothing they could have done to prevent it. To me this is the epitome of a bad game, their loss was not down to bad choices on their part or bad luck but because it is the way for others to win the game and make the loser feel impotent for the majority of the game. There way well be people arguing that this is no different to other games, but I have found whilst other games may have a similar issue, you can often overcome it through a conquest of some type (although this action may well be very costly).
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John Bandettini
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That one not so much
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In a four player game, you should only have played four turns, not five.
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Dev Sodagar
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Dammit I knew I had spit the actions too thin! We did only play 4 turns, my memory failed me. I will have to re[write when I get home. Thanks for the heads up!
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