This past Saturday, a regular at my gaming group (Rodney, known for bringing in the very latest that Eurogaming offers) showed up with his copy of the latest by Uwe. I was fortunate to get in on his inaugural game (he knew that I was aching to try this), and we were able to get two like-minded individuals to go 4-player.
I got to go first, followed in turn by Keith, Rodney, and Dan. Those who've been to the WBC may know Keith and Dan; the former has been GMing Le Havre for the past couple years, which Dan has been winning at the same time!
I opted to go right for cash, using my 2 bucks to get a landscape (forest, 3 blanks, hillside, placed above my starting area). I planned from the get-go to try a 'heavy bread' strategy, which would include getting the Windmill (convert grain to flour) and Bakery (convert flour to bread, and sell some bread for cash). I also wanted the Grain Storage (only in 4pl, gives 6 grain), but Rodney built that with his first move. This wasn't too bad for me, as I bought my way in there a couple of times during the game.
One thing that struck me was how close together the 'A' and 'B' decks come out, followed by a long pause, then the 'C' and 'D' buildings close together. This also forces you to plan for getting 2 settlements out in a short span of time; the consensus is that one ought to try to get them out at every chance, but I actually only got 4 out of 5 onto the board. It worked well; my goal was to get a good 'dwell' building next to multiple settlements, and I did succeed somewhat in that endeavor.
Rodney actually built a number of buildings that I found myself paying to get into (notably the Builders' Market and the Winery). I also used Keith's Grapevine to stock up on grapes, turning them into wine before hitting 'my' Cloister Church (bread/wine for 8-point reliquary, can do so 2x per trip). I was able to get 6 reliquaries before my last move (which turned two ornaments into yet two more reliquaries, thanks to Dan's Pilgrimage Site). For my 'building' part, I got the only Quarry in the game (after getting my 2nd landscape, a mountain one after many others opted for coasts). Before that, I got the Cloister Courtyard, which proved useful (for getting grain without Rodney's help) and profitable (others used it often).
I did make some mistakes (most notably, not noticing when Rodney got a 5th stone to beat me to building the Castle, forcing me to 'settle' on other buildings), and was the only one not to get 5 settlements out ... but my goods total (64 from reliquaries alone), combined with some well-placed 'dwell' buildings, helped me hold on despite others grabbing a wonder or two down the stretch.
Final scores: me 205, Rodney 195, Dan 194, Keith 181. Fairly close game, and well-played (I thought) from first to last.
We all thoroughly enjoyed our experience. There's a good chance that we'll get another game in at the next EPGS meeting, and we'll probably try our hand at the Ireland version for that one.
(Sorry for not being better versed with the details.)