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Subject: Who needs Old Friends when one has got Stewards rss

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Alan Kwan
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
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The copy I've ordered arrived after a looong wait, and I finally had the chance to bring my own copy to the Saturday session.

I took Blue, my favorite color, and proceeded to teach Yellow, a new player. With some experience in the game, I gave a detailed explanation of not only the rules, but also some basic strategy tips (such as the point that non-farm properties generally having better 'printed stats' than Farms, but Farms have got more and better helpers in the decks), including an overview of the first six special cards. Red and Green were more experienced players, so I decided to draw a Last Will card instead of starting with 70G. To the delight of the experienced players (who were perhaps a bit fed up with having played too many 70G games), we drew 120G, so we were in for a long race.

We used the TGHK custom that the owner of the game (me, Blue) will be the starting player. My starting hand included the 10G Mansion which can burn 5G maintenance with a Lady, and a Town House which could burn 3+3G maintenance with the Town/Manor Gardener. Seeing that Mansions had a good +3G buying price while Town Houses had a bad price, I discarded the Town House and Gardener, and kept the Mansion plus a 2G Carriage. In retrospect, that was a good choice also for another reason: the Mansion gives 5G maintenance for one slot, while the Town House gives 6G maintenance with the Gardener, but that would take up two slots, so the former is more efficient (though the Gardener would be better if I could find another Town/Manor House). Yellow had a Reservation and a Waiter, so he kept those.

The special cards for the first round were two Old Friends and the house Steward. I sensed that the Steward was no worse than an Old Friend for me (perhaps even better, since it also burns 1G expense), so I chose the 3C/2A plan. Red and Green, being experienced players who knew too well the power of the Old Friend, did snatch up the Friends, and I got the Steward as desired. I actually screwed up and mistakenly drew Event cards instead of Companion cards which I intended to (it's puzzling to myself how I keep making this mistake so easily), but I just lived with it (instead of requesting a disgraceful take-back as an experienced player), took a Wild, and played the Mansion and the Wild for my first round (while holding on to the Steward and the Carriage for the next round). (In retrospect, this 'honorable' act might have been the mysterious reason of my strong luck for the rest of this game ... )

In my last game before this one, I made the mistake of setting up too lean an engine (filling my board with many action-free expenses which didn't add up to enough), so against the high goal of this game, I realized that I needed another big property. In the second round, I got the 20G farm which could burn 7G with a horse, sent an errand to make farms expensive, and then played the house Steward, the 2G Carriage, and bought the farm for my 3 actions.

In the third round, considering that I needed only two actions to add a horse and maintain the farm, I chose the 6C/2A plan in hopes of drawing a horse. I drew three H&E cards and three companions, and wow, not only did I get a horse, I also got a farm Steward, the +2 Coachman, and a 3G/A Carriage! I hurriedly picked up an extension board, since the need had become obvious. So after three rounds, I had a Mansion and a Farm with a Steward for each, and a Carriage, and could burn 15G each round without spending any actions.

In the fourth round, the 2G/+2C special School Chum was dealt, but nobody else took it, so I grabbed it (plus another extension board) while playing my Carriage plus Coachman. Now I could burn 22G each round with just one action. In the fifth round, I got another extension board to play the School Chum - and his expense plus the cards turned out to be very useful ...

I could somehow gain control of the property market for the last two rounds, enabling myself to sell off my properties cheaply while my opponents had to swallow more cash. I also drew some wonderful Carriage Ride events to help myself spend 11G with two of my actions in the last round, and finished the game with -16G.

Yellow was running two Reservations with a Waiter and two houses, and finished the game with around 5G. Interestingly, Red and Green were left with over 20G despite their Old Friends. Red admitted that he had misplayed at some point. This confirmed the fact that, while Old Friends are strong, they are not simply an easy ticket to victory. You still have to play well with an Old Friend, and you can even be out-played if someone else gets lucky. (That miracle draw of mine on round 3 ...)

round# maintenance expenses events
2 5 3
3 12 3
4 12 10
5 12 12
6 12 12
7 5 12 11
losses from property prices 13
total: 134

(I perhaps went to the Opera once or such, couldn't quite remember.)

Not only did I get lucky card draws, I also went very smooth with my errands. I managed to get three extension boards when I needed them, and also controlled the property market in the last two rounds when I needed them. Another point of note is that, I was playing out this game in accordance with the theory I 'discovered' in another thread: properties first, expenses mid-game (with Carriages and Coachman )

The importance of the property market should not be under-estimated. Say I am competing against another opponent to sell our properties. If I control the market, I sell at -3 while he sells at +3. If he controls the market, I have to sell at +3 while he sells at -3. That's a swing of 6G for each player, for a total swing of 12G between the two players!

Yellow was very satisfied with his first play of the game.
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