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Subject: 2p Report - Not "Dumb" at all rss

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Kurt FromVirginia
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I wanted to share my thoughts from last nights’ 2p game of Vanuatu as a Session report rather than a full-on Review. For what it’s worth, this was the second time playing the game for me and my opponent, and although we probably played correctly, it’s a game that neither of us has developed a polished strategy for.

First of all, my compliments to the designer for the game in both the intended and the 2p form. It’s clear his intention was to ensure the screw factor came forward in the 2p variant as opposed to making it too easy for the opposing sides to easily build up strategies. Each of the eight rounds was closely fought over, with agonizing decisions by both sides. Some overall thoughts as the game evolved:

- The use of a "dummy" third player seems to fail in a good number of 3-5 player games that try to stretch themselves into 2p mode. From my perspective, the mechanic in Vanuatu of giving the start player two markers to place, followed by the second player with three markers and then finally combined with the use of the Character cards (which effectively give a bonus marker to the owner as they break ties) works very well for this game. There did not seem to be any easy choices.
- Control of the start player was greatly contested in each round. In fact, it was almost automatic for the current start player to put one of the neutral markers on the Rest space. For this reason, the Preacher character carried great weight as it allows the owner to have a comfortable chance of obtaining the Start Player rest token. The Mendiant Character provided a similar, albeit not as strong benefit.
- I’m not certain if the Tourist element of the game should be altered for 2p. I would have thought there would have been a greater number of opportunities for there to be only a single tourist available. Instead most all rounds seemed to have had either 0 or 2 tourists available - in these circumstances the importance of getting simple majority of the Transport action wasn't all that important. Keep in mind as well that every "3" Tourist tile really only produces 2 tourists in a 2p game since there is no ability to ship bonus tourists in the game.

As I mentioned earlier, it was a tight game throughout. I made a critical (ok - stupid) mistake early on and find myself ill-prepared on the money side to carry out a full round of actions. However, I’m able to keep control of the Start Player through the first four rounds to otherwise gain other advantages. The Ship tiles are pretty week. Very little opportunities to earn points as the ships are full of white and orange cube slots. Mid game sees us battle back in forth as we each create our own island monopolies - each of us building huts and lots of tourist cards with 2+ tourists. End game sees me pinning my opponent on an empty island space through the use of multiple neutral player markers. I finally give him the opportunity to break free, and he gets just enough end game points to beat me by 10 or so - - somewhere in the 75 to 65 range.

VERY HAPPY to get this under the tree this year. Thanks to all you Essen folks for giving this game high marks and making it worthwhile to seek out.
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Andy Andersen
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Thanks.
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Jimmy Okolica
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I'd second the fact that this plays excellently for 2 players. I've played two 2-player games and one 5 player game (everyone but me was new to Vanuatu) and only found the tension a little higher in the 5 player game.

The primary variant for 2-player is that there is a neutral player. The start player places two of the neutral player's action pawns and then the other palyer places the remaining three. After these are placed, role selection occurs where each round players can only pick 1 role from a selection of 5 potential roles (like in Mr. Jack). The remainder of the game is normal except:
1. players cannot have their ships on the same tile.
2. players always lose ties to the neutral player, unless they have the role for their action space.
3. neutral player pawns are not removed until the round is over.

I suspect this variant creates more tension to perform actions than a 3-player version. In a 3-player, each player is removing action pawns so you can time your actions. In the 2-player variant, the only way to get to do certain actions is to either have the right role or commit 2+ action pawns to the action (and if your opponent has dropped two pawns on a single action, 3+ action pawns).

As far as the Euro side of it, I agree that more players icnreases the importance of going first in performing actions. In a 2-player, I may not care whether I deliver toursts first or second or fish first or second or ... However, being able to perform the action at all is probably tighter in a 2-player than a 3- (or even possible 4-) player.

The one part of the OP I disagree with is Starting Player. My experience has not been that starting player was highly contested. Going second gives you more opportunity to mess with your opponent, particularly if he's dropping a neutral action pawn on the rest area. Also, seeing where your opponent is committing resources generally gives you the flexibiltiy to work around him.

On a personal note, I cannot figure out how to make the preacher work, particularly with more players. You can only activate him if you don't have a majority anywhere and with skillful play, your opponents can usually make sure you've got a majority somewhere (though generally in a useless spot).

Overall, an excellent 2-player (recommend) and 5-player (best) and one I'm looking forward to trying with 3 and 4 players.
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Kurt FromVirginia
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Thanks Jimmy for adding color from your 2p experience.

Butterfly0038 wrote:

The one part of the OP I disagree with is Starting Player. My experience has not been that starting player was highly contested. Going second gives you more opportunity to mess with your opponent, particularly if he's dropping a neutral action pawn on the rest area. Also, seeing where your opponent is committing resources generally gives you the flexibiltiy to work around him.


From my robust experience of a single play, we found that having control of the Start Player was highly important, perhaps not critical.

Being the Start Player provides a little muscle to scare away your opponent. This benefit seemed to be more desirable than the benefit of going second and then going second on certain key actions (particularly Fishing and the action that allows you to Ship a Good).

Being Start Player also seemed to be important if you had any desire to completely pin your opponent for a turn. In one turn, my opponent ended his movement on a terrible space - no fish or treasure to harvest, and the upcoming tiles were highly desirable. I could also deduce from the Character cards that were available in the current round (an odd numbered round) that the Characters in the upcoming round did not include either the Move or Preacher benefits. Accordingly, I got control of the Start Player token, and then placed the desirable tiles adjacent to my Ship. Next, I blocked the Move action by placing two neutral markers - i.e. in order for him to move he'd have to deploy three of his five markers. I reaped the benefits (but yes, still lost....)


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Stuart Carroll
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I love the two player variant.

In both my plays using it, being first player did not seem that important, as you get to see what the first player wants before you place your action markers.

A lot of blocking by one player also means that lots of other actions open up for use too.

The game plays very quickly with 2, its excellent!

 
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Jimmy Okolica
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I've now palyed two 2-player games, two 5-player games, and a 3-player game. While I agree the 5-palyer game is better than the 2-player, the 2-player is definitely better (tighter/more vicious) than the 3-player. In the 3-player, there were several turns where every was taking 4 or 5 actions. That never happened in the 2-player or 5-player (I think occasionally someone might sneak 4 actions but I don't think I ever saw 5 actions executed in the 5-player and very rarely in the 2-player).

The 2-player is an excellent variant and one I'd strongly recommend. The next time I play the 3-player I think I'll play it without the cards and see if it makes the game feel tighter.
 
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Emily Bacon
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The family got this game for Christmas and have been happily playing with 3-5 players, just as the rules say. We had no idea there even was a 2 player variant! Where can we find the rules for this scenario? We'd be very eager to try!
 
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Jimmy Okolica
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It's in the File section: [filepage=73376][/filepage]
 
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