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Subject: Session Report rss

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Richard Pardoe
United States
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As we game through the alphabet, there will be certain letters that just don't have many names associated with them. The letter of the week is Q and it is one of those letters. Our list of candidate submissions was only 4, but with Sterling absent, we really only had 3 games on offer. As Lawrence, Dave, and Carrie arrived to play games, we actually had more players than games for once.

First up for the evening was Q-Jet 21XX (Roman Edition) otherwise known as Ave Caesar. In Ave Caesar, players are charioteers trying to race 3 laps around the course. Each player has a deck of 24 cards and playing one of those cards determines how far forward the chariot moves. All the points on the card must be used and players can't move through other chariots or obstacles (walls). As certain points in the track are only 1 space wide, a chariot stopped there can block all the chariots behind it. Furthermore, the player deck has a total of 84 movement points and the track (in the 3 and 4 player version) is 80 spaces long if one takes the shortest path. A key tactic will be to force players into the outside lanes which are +1 space (white course) or +2 spaces (blue course) longer than the inside curve. In addition to racing around the track, the chariots are required to "enter the pits" by stopping in the Imperial Alley to pay tribute to Caesar.

We started on the white course with Lawrence holding the inside track and jumping into the first lead. Dave sprang forward to occupy the first bottleneck spot at the first curve. But with Dave moving second, not much blocking to be done as he would move off the spot before his block could take effect. At least he knew he wasn't going to be blocked by someone else.

The chariots raced down the backstretch with Dave positioned to block the shorter inner path around the curve back to the start finish line. Rich was forced to go wide to get around Dave, but had a 6 in hand to land in the middle space of the Imperial Alley and pay his tribute to Caesar after only 1 lap. Dave followed landing in the space right behind Rich. Carrie's chariot was going too fast and she bypassed the Alley this lap knowing she would have to stop next round.

Rich had a couple of 1's in his hand and decided now would be a good time to manage his hand by playing a 1 to give Dave only 1 space to advance. Dave also had a 1, but now Lawrence moved into the final Alley spot behind Dave. But Rich had yet another 1, so did Dave. It was Lawrence who was hamstrung skipping a turn with no movement possible. All the while, Carrie was racing to a quarter-lap, almost half-lap lead by playing the higher numbers in her hand.

Out of 1's and facing options in the track, Rich moved forward only to find Dave returning the favour by blocking Rich in the bottleneck of the curve. But we had Carrie to race after, so all 3 followers raced down the track. By the time, Carrie made it to Imperial Alley, her lead had shrunk to a modest quarter-lap with 1 lap to race. Carrie help on, but coming out of the final curve was hampered by having only 6's in her cards and as leader unable to play the cards. This allowed Lawrence to weave through the traffic to cross the finish line first, followed by Carrie, then Dave and finally Rich.

As the first race was over in about 25 minutes, we decided to race again, but on the blue course. Rich as loser of the first race had the honour of moving first. The chariots stayed relatively bunched with Rich in a modest lead. Lawrence's luck from the first race was wearing out as he was forced wide in 2 curves spending 3 of his 4 extra movement points before the first lap was even finished. As the pack entered the chicane heading to the start-finish line, Rich managed to block the entrance to the Imperial Alley forcing Dave to skip. In this race, it was again Rich first in after 1 lap followed by Lawrence and Carrie. Coming out of the second lap, Rich and Carrie were battling neck and neck with Carrie in the lead managing to block Rich. But on the back straight away, Rich pulled even with Carrie and could finally play a 6 to pass Carrie for the lead entering the final curves heading for home. Moving from bottle-neck to bottle-neck, Rich tried to keep the pack behind him before he played a 5 to land 1 space short of the finish line, but more than 6 ahead of everyone. The next turn Rich crosses the line to go from last to first. Lawrence entered the inside lane of the final curve when his horses stumbled and crashed on the course (ran out of cards). Dave crossed in second and Carrie third. So we had the reverse finish of the first game for the second game.

Adding up the points (6 points for first, 4 for second, 3 for third, 2 for forth, and 0 for DNF):

Rich: 2+6 = 8
Carrie: 4+3 = 7
Dave: 3+4 = 7
Lawrence: 6+0 = 6

A fast-paced race game played in less than 1 hour with lots of enjoyment as people work to block each other and try to gain the advantage. I enjoyed this game. There is certainly luck of the cards, but with all players dealing with an identical deck, the overall moves should mitigate over the course of a race. I do think that the recommendation to play multiple races would help to mitigate this even more. If one is truly bothered by the "luck of the draw", the Ausgebremst variations appear to yield a more tactical game. The game is quickly played, easily enjoyed, with the end in doubt until the chariots make their final turns into the home stretch.
 
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