St Ives, Sydney
When casting around for a game to introduce Kevin to (we'd played most of my normal introductory games already recently) and knowing both he and Anthony were interested in fantasy themes, we went for Elfenland with the gold extension (none of this basic Elfenland baby stuff here, I tell you!). We played with home cities (great variant) but without wizards and without caravans to further heighten the potential for hosage.
The game progressed smoothly. Each of us taking 2 cities on the first round, before a round 2 explosion saw Craig, Kevin and I take 6 cities each. This was a bit of a dicey call for myself. I had really wanted to swing south first as my home city was in the north, but when I saw all those lovely tiles in perfect position ... I figured go for it and come back thru the desert to Wilheym. I didn't quite make it.
I mentioned casually at the end of round 2 (for the newbies) that another way of using tiles was to lay them so as to hinder other players, not just use them for yourself. With me and Kevin in the mountains in Grangor, not a good time to mention that. Before I got a chance to lay a tile I was surrounded by bloody trollwagons with no way out. And this after buying the perfect, expensive cloud / dragon / unicorn tiles to complement my hand!!!ARGGHHHH!! I was ganked! I was pus'd. I was evilated! I was hosed! Actually we all were by the end of it. Craig got 2, everyone else couldn't move ... uhmm, we'll decline the gold and take the cards thanks.
Rounds 4 and 5 evened things up and everyone was in the hunt at the end. Some good switches and logs were played in the later rounds. My effort to get home through the desert was foiled by not one dragon tile appearing in the entire last round (I had my switch tile poised to pounce) so was left 2 away. Everyone else was within one of their last city, but on non-optimum moves, spoilers coming from everywhere.
Scores: Craig 17, Pat 15, Kevin 14, Ant 13
After 12 playings of Elfen* (3 of landgold, 1 of roads), I give the gold extension a rating of 8 for 'very good, will never turn down a game'. Luck is still a factor (lesson 1, don't rely on getting through the desert considering the dragon shortage), but if things don't go your way, you can ride out a turn and hoard your cards. To take cards or gold can be a difficult decision, and the auctions can be outrageous at times.
One problem however is analysis downtime during tile laying. Each tile layed can change all your plans, especially if you have a sizable hand of cards, which means re-analysis. The game took 150 minutes, plus 30 minute setup /rules /pizza which just got a bit long in the end.
Despite the auction and the effect other players have on your plans, there's not that much interaction with other players, so its not a sparky game. Rather its a gather and combine scarce resources as best you can manage type of game - with decent pus potential - where the mechanisms combine seamlessly to make a very good game.
From the pen of Andrew "Game Boy" Swan on his quest to play every SdJ winner - a different take on Auf Achse compared to last week ...