A Derk appears from the mists...
Marissa, Drew, John, Ken, Derk
After the opener, I knew that everyone would be fond of the idea of Euphrat & Tigris. Everyone knew how to play it, and this game truly shines when played by veterans. But just after two turns with each of us laying out a king, temple tile, a trader, and a random tile, Marissa came through the door and ruined all of our good fun. Naw, that’s not true at all. We’re always glad to see Marissa, as she adds a much-needed different perspective to our gaming. And besides, this would afford Drew and John the opportunity to play Union Pacific, which had been the topic of almost constant discussion since Drew had walked through the door. We quickly buzzed through the rules for Marissa’s sake. But as the single newbie in a room full of Airlines/UP geeks, she would receive an ear-full of advice.
Drew had lately begun to abuse the ‘Who’s going first?’ metagame, so I took control of situation and declared John to be the first player. Normally, I wouldn’t have any problems with an action like this. It didn’t benefit Drew the wanker-boy, and it would afford Marissa the maximum amount of time to see others’ moves. What I hadn’t considered was that it would doom Marissa to be last place in UP stock, something that sucks a bunch in a five-player game. Because of all the talk about UP, the first few turns revolved around getting as much UP stock as possible. After all the stock was traded and selected, I had secured a slim majority by taking two pieces of UP in each of the first two turns, giving me five shares total, while John, Drew, and Ken all would share second place with four each. Drew shot me a knowing look, because his assertion is that five is the magical number for UP. “In almost every situation, five UP is the optimal number for getting the most points for the least amount of effort.” I wasn’t sure about the least effort part, because I’d been forced to discard some decent stock to get those UP shares.
Once the UP race was finished, we settled into a more typical game. Ken and John’s initial stock choice had been the same brown line, and this would set a pattern for much of the early game. If Ken had interest in a stock, John would seize control, and vice versa. Drew was adding purple trains to the board, which I liked a bunch because I still had a couple purple shares in my hand. And Marissa had exclusive control of the white line, and was adding white trains to the board like it was going out of style. The first scoring card popped up and we each scored a few points…
Marissa: 6, Derk: 6, Drew: 4, Ken: 2, John: 2
As the next period of the game aged, the fighting between Ken and John really started to intensify. They were vying for control of the blue and brown lines, which both have relatively few total shares. Ken diversified himself a little by gaining some interest in the green line, but Marissa later took control of this line. Marissa was definitely getting lots of advice throughout the game, and some of it was better than others. Using my perfect twenty-twenty hindsight, I think that I, in particular, may have given her some subjective advice. She was going to get smoked on the UP shares scoring, of that there was little doubt. My thought was she needed to keep exclusive control of her white line for a good long while if she wanted to make up the points. And the white stock was being quite amenable through timely appearances on the stock deck. But what ended up happening is that she passed on a red stock early on, which would’ve definitely helped everyone in the game. Because later in the game, I would be able to build on my UP advantage by retaining exclusive control of the sizeable red line through the next two scoring rounds. At the same time though, John (sitting between Marissa and I), also had at least two opportunities to snag one of the red stocks, but opted to take another action. So it wasn’t completely my fault for giving bad advice. If my white tactic had worked out (admittedly, it was a long shot), it would’ve actually pulled Marissa out of the hole she was in.
All metagaming aside, the game proceeded. As I said, I was able to retain exclusive control of the red line for the next two scoring rounds, giving me a huge advantage. The red stock simply would not appear for anyone besides me. In fact, I didn’t need to play more than one piece of stock until probably ¾ through the game because of this. Ken and John were continuing their little contest; it looked pretty equal, but Ken pulled ahead just slightly. Drew didn’t look to be having a whole lot going on, which should have made everyone suspicious. The second scoring card finally showed up.
Derk: 31, Drew: 22, Ken: 21, Marissa: 21, John: 20
The next period was actually quite boring, all things considered. Everyone picked their favorite color and built on it. John and Ken were still fighting over the blue and brown lines. John was able to nail down a white stock, which negated Marissa’s exclusive control. But Marissa was onto to bigger and better things. She and Ken had been vying for control of the green line, and she was presently winning. So she continually added green trains to the board. Drew really wasn’t doing a whole lot. He still had exclusive control of the orange line, and he was milking it for all it was worth. When the next scoring card came up, the results were fairly predictable, with the UP payoffs starting to take its toll.
Derk: 66, Ken: 54, John: 52, Drew: 50, Marissa: 41
The next part of the game was all about getting a red stock into someone’s hand besides me. I understood the sentiment, because the game was definitely not exciting from that standpoint for anyone. But this final period did have some interesting features. The yellow line hadn’t been built up to this point, and the yellow stock was starting to clog the stock queue. When we drew the last scoring card, something amazing happened. Another yellow stock came up making four yellows available, which meant the queue was discarded. John was able to take advantage of the situation, by taking exclusive control of this now-eight company. Then Drew made an incredibly surprising move. Marissa had held majority of the green line with very few shares, so someone should’ve have suspected something. He played a whole mess of green shares to definitively take control of the sizeable green line. And finally, someone besides me was able to take a red stock, breaking my exclusive rights to the company. The final scoring card took forever to come out, making it almost difficult to place trains on the board, it was so full.
Derk: 120, Ken: 92, John: 92, Drew: 90, Marissa: 69
The results were not really surprising to anyone. Majority of UP alone gave me a decent advantage, but the fact that Lady Luck refused to give red stock to anyone but me made me unstoppable. So it’s not like I did anything really great to deserve the win, I was just in the right place at the right time. But this whole UP thing is really starting to bother me. I never followed all the discussion about UP stock values on RGB when it was happening, so this probably has been addressed before. But I’m thinking that perhaps the UP part of the game might be a little broken. It favors the first player(s) too much, in large games. Ken mentioned that there should be a rule that you can take an UP share or trade for an UP share, but only one of the two. Otherwise, it’s simply too easy to dominate the race. I like the game, but I’m definitely not the rabid fan that Drew and John have become.