A couple of games played again tonight, and again 2 player with Dave as we still have our lull in gaming attendance....
First up was last year's Goldseiber game by Stefan Dorra KRETA.
On the island of Crete, players have villagers, ships, abbots that can be placed around the island to control various areas. In addition, players can build villages and forts to help influence the area control. One key is that the villagers, ships, and abbots can move around the island while villages and forts are static - remaining where they were built. Why would movement be important? Because the areas being scored shift around the island as the game progresses.
As the game progresses, players will be maneuvering their influence in the areas where points are to be awarded and trying to also maneuver to position themselves to gain additional points at the subsequent scoring areas.
The details...the island of Crete (game board) is divided into 16 areas each worth a varying number of victory points from 2 to 6. Higher victory points for more fertile areas and for areas with harbours. Surrounding each of areas are "fort" nodes numbered from 1 to 26. These nodes are end of the border(s) between adjacent areas, and as a result are adjacent to 2 to 4 of the areas on the island.
A game will consist of 11 scoring rounds wherein a particular node is scored. Any area adjacent to that node will be scored individually with the player having the majority in that area gaining victory points from that area.
The scoring node is determined by a deck of cards. 1 card for each of the nodes is shuffled and 11 are laid out face down beside the board. The first two are turned face up so players not only know the next scoring node (and the areas that need to be controlled) but also the subsequent node so that moves can be planned ahead. When a node is scored, that card is turned face down and the next face down card revealed. The player that triggered scoring (details to come soon) does have the option of rejecting the just revealed card. If it is rejected, it is replaced by the top card from the 15 cards not used initially. That choice can not be rejected.
So how does one seek to control the areas that border these nodes? By placing one's villagers, villages, and abbots in the area, by placing one's ship in the harbour for that area (if one exists) or by building a fort on the node itself. And how are these items placed and moved? Each player has 7 "character" cards in hand, each with a specific ability.
There is the "abbot" card which allows players to place or move their abbot. In addition to providing influence in a region, an abbot prevents other players from playing villagers or villages in that region (unless their abbot is there also).
The "commander" card which allows players to place or move their villagers. The "admiral" card which allows players to place or move their ship. The "architect" to build a village or a fort. But before a village can be built, the player needs to harvest crops, so each player also has a "farmer" which allows players to harvest crops. (Harvests are worth a few victory points also.)
Between scoring, each card can only be played once (and its action taken at that time). But the player also has a "king" card which lets the player repeat a previously played action.
The final card is a "castellan" which triggers scoring. The majority in each region around the "active" node is determined with the majority player getting the victory points for that region. As the nodes border on 2 to 4 areas, multiple victory points will be awarded.
As each player has only 7 cards, scoring is bound to happen every 7th turn at a maximum, but any player can play the castellan to trigger scoring if they feel it is advantageous for them. Once scoring occurs, all the played cards are returned to the players hand and the next node is contested.
At the end of 11 scoring rounds, the player with the most victory points is the winner.
Our game started at node 8 which bordered a wheat region worth 6 points and a hill region worth 3 points. Dave immediately moved his ship into the harbour of the wheat region, so Rich moved in with his abbot to prevent (temporarily) further development by Dave. Dave, of course, responded with his abbot.
Rich then looked ahead to the next scoring node (18) on the other side of the island and moved his ship there to prepare for the subsequent round. Dave responded with a villager to even up the influence, but Rich responded with another villager to gain the advantage once more. (In addition, for harvest to occur, a player needs to have a string of villagers from the harvest tile back to one of his ship's. Rich now had such a train and could harvest soon. Having 1 harvest tile, Rich could then build 1 village).
Dave set up a villager back in the wheat area to prepare for that harvest, so both Rich and Dave harvested. Rich then built one of his forts on Node #9 as the fort would extend it's influence not only into the two regions being contested at Node #8 but also into other regions that might be contested later. But it was Dave who gained control of the wheat region and gained the 6 points when he triggered scoring. Rich's fort did gain the majority in the neighbouring region, so Rich gained 3 points also.
With the contest shifting to the other side of the island, both players maneuvered for points. The initial plays were more of bringing pieces in from a player's supply (ie placing them on the board) but as the game progressed, movement of the pieces became more important. As each region has a limit of 7 villagers, abbots, & villages combined, one key part was trying to lock out an opponent from that area, but with such a concentration of pieces in one area, the neighbouring regions might be less contested, so faced with an overwhelming force, it might be better to retreat into the neighbouring areas to pick up those victory points with less opposition.
Occassionally, the two scoring regions were fortuitously placed for a player. For example, the current scoring node was #21 while the next one was the adjacent #25. #21 borders a 5 point and a 3 point region. While 25 borders the same 3 point region and another. So while Dave won the struggle for the 5 point region, Rich took the 3 point region for a 5-3 deficit scoring, but then immediately triggered scoring again, to score the 3 point region uncontested for a quick 3-0 advantage.
In this game, one needs to not only look at the current scoring opportunities but also to position for the next scoring round...a fact that Rich would forget as the game edged to a close.
While Dave had jumped to an early lead which had increased to 10 points, Rich never dropped off and had managed to close back to within 3 points of Dave (50-47) with 4 scoring rounds to go. The scoring cards again were set up for 2 adjacent nodes #13 and #9. While struggling over territories around #9, Rich managed to harvest for 2 victory points (50-49) before Dave triggered scoring for 9 points to Rich's 5 as Dave jumped into a 59-54 lead. But Rich saw that he had the advantage on the next scoring area, so immediately triggered the next round of scoring for 11 points to Dave's 7 (66-65 for Dave).
The second to the last scoring round was on the other side of the island (#20) with the final round to be near the recent scoring (#5). After Dave had moved his ship to start to contest the area, Rich saw that he had the majority of points and saw a chance to jump into the lead, so triggered scoring again for an 11-8 point advantage and the lead (76-74).
But Dave was first to move after the scoring round and moved his villagers into the rich 6 point whear area bordering node #5. With the limit reached, there was no way for Rich to contest those 6 victory points. Perhaps Rich could contest the other bordering regions? No, they were too far from Rich's villagers to cover. In his excitement to gain the lead, Rich had not protected the next scoring area. The best Rich could do was harvest a 3rd crop for 3 victory points, while Dave triggered scoring to jump back into the lead and win 84-81.
There are similarites in this game to other games. Obviously, a big similarity to any of the area control genre games. However, I did like the variable powers of the units and the ability to adjust and maneuver some of those units around the board. The villages and forts have a bigger impact (worth more influence for villages; affect multiple areas for forts) but they are static, so the decision to place them requires a bit more thought as they can't be moved.
The ability to see where the next two scoring rounds are going to occur allows for planning ahead (even if I did forget to do so at a critical junction in the game) but not every possible location will be used. As a result, there is much risk in the strategy of "staking out" an area and hoping that scoring will come eventuallyl. With 2 scoring areas visible and a limited number of actions to carry out, the game is more tactical as players react to the scoring locations and moves by the opponent.
With 2 players, it did seem fairly easy to get plans developed, or better yet, plans implemented. Both Dave and I were curious how this game would play with more people as the congestion on the board would like increase and the conflicts would certainly make it difficult to implement plans. But with 3-4 players, points are also awarded for being second in area control. So there remains the incentive to contest areas.
A nice little game that is appears unlikely to be published into English (unless a company like Z-Man picks it up). I am glad I purchased the German edition. The components are language neutral. An excellent (illustrated) translation of the rules exists at BoardGameGeek.com as well as nice player aids...but after the first round, neither Dave nor I needed to use the player aid at all.