A four player Saturday night session led to an unusual finish for this gamer, and has changed some of my strategy in the process.
After placing the cubes on the board, there were clearly 2 areas that would seem to draw most of the early attention. Philadelphia was dropped with 3 yellow cubes, and with the quick link to Baltimore with one track was certain to be an early play. There were also 3 red cubes dropped in St. Louis, which looked to possibly draw the attention of anyone interested in Chicago. The opening flip of cards was quite interesting as well, as there were multiple new industry cards to open the game.
Blue retained the opening rights, and proceded to play the Philly/Baltimore tile as expected. Purple opened NY/Phil, Red St.L/Roch and Yellow Cinci/Louis. After a few of the New Industry cards were played and deliveries were made, things were underway.
The second round went with minor building and deliveries as Red connected to Chicago. Purple shifted gears south as the Jacksonville delivery card showed up, and yellow drew 2 good tiles on a city growth card and red upgraded to a level 2 train as everyone continued to make deliveries.
After more deliveies and growth, everyone had upgraded to L2 trains when blue made the first move to L3. Yellow followed suit and when blue made the L3 delivery for the bonus, yellow then upgraded to a L4 to make sure he didn't get both bonuses.
At this point, blue and purple with fighting over the Northeast, yellow was building his line in the central, and red was working Chicago. Yellow built his third link out of Chicago, and yellow then built from the fourth hub to prevent him from taking full advantage of a possible future Western Link. Meanwhile, purple worked up from Atlanta to Richmond for a nice bonus. At this point in the game, all 4 players were within 1 VP of each other.
Blue connected Detroit to Toronto for a small bonus and began to work towards connecting Toledo to Baltimore in hopes of that bonus card coming out. Meanwhile yellow began to build to series of loops in the Louisville area and was making a significant number of 4 link deliveries. In doing so, yellow had moved out front slightly, with all 4 players still within 5 VP.
Purple began working down towards New Orleans, as did red in hopes of a NO/Minn. card arriving, meanwhile yellow upgraded to a L5 and then L6 train on consecutive rounds, and after a couple of more deliveries had built up a 12 VP lead. Problem was, yellow was running out of cubes to deliver, and while blue and purple had been building, they then upgraded trains and quickly began to close the gap.
Meanwhile, red had purchased a Western Link in hopes of making up ground as he had fallen back. The problem was, yellow would take half of the Chicago output and he was not making any headway. Yellow's lead had dropped to 7, and things looked to be going down to the wire as purple worked back into striking distance.
The 14th empty city signaled end game, and one more turn was in order. Upon the flip, the delivery to Louisville card showed, and with noone else close to that city, it was obvious yellow would quickly achieve the bonus and would hold his lead.
After the final tally, Yellow finished first with 92 VP, Purple second with 86, blue third with 79 and Red a distant fourth with 64. Neither blue nor red had seen the cards they were looking for appear, and the Western Link that red had built seemed to help yellow more than anyone. The loop of links that yellow had built enabled him to maximize his delivery distance and gain the extra points needed to secure the victory.
I am amazed at how much fun this game has been. With the randomness of the initial setup it makes the game have a different approach every time, and although you can anticipate certain cards showing up and work towards goals that those cards will reward, they don't always show up, and you can be left scratching your head wondering what went wrong.
Hats off to Eagle games for putting this one out, as I know it will be getting a lot more playtime from my group.