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Subject: ahh the lovely palacial estate rss

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J Boyes
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With role playing gaming canceled this week (sigh I was looking forward to digging through lizard guano for untold treasures) we decided to board game instead. So Jeff2, April and I headed over to Scott and Karen's place. We brought along Iron Dragon, Peurto Rico, and Boomtown, the whole range of gaming styles for unforgiving crayon rail, to Euro, to light chaotic Euro. Someday I will get to play Boomtown with 5 but not tonight.

Karen bowed out from gaming tonight to do some work, so it was just Scott, Jeff2, April and myself. We looked at the games and Iron dragon seemed to naturally float to the top as Scott wanted to try something new, and I have only played it once before and wanted to play again.

We gave Scott the rules breakdown, which isn't very hard really. Pay for rail up to 20 bucks, foremen give terrain discounts, pick up goods at cities with good, deliver the goods if you have a delivery card, collect money, repeat.

In the other game I played I never made it to the underworld, so I decided I wanted to own the underworld this game. Luckily I got dealt the Orc forman which allowed me to. Jeff2 took a dwarf and I think Scott and April got elves, or half elves or 1/4 elves.

The start of the game is very intimidating. You get three delivery cards, and 60 bucks to build rails with. There are a lot of cities that you have to locate and try to figure an efficient route for, and it can take a while if you haven't played much like Scott and me. Basically I just looked for a single route, between two major cities, in this case underground town and middle of the world mining town. And then possibly a secondary route. And luckily I had both, an ale delivery to middle town, and then a gem delivery from there.

Everyone started mostly in the middle. Planning on branching from there. April made a mistake, and was planning on filling two deliveries on the same card. So early on she got stuck taknig four turns in a row with a delivery mulligan until she could make some money. Scott went south, Jeff2 upgraded engine early, and went for dragons up north.

Jeff2 and scott started to make some money, I continued to dominate the underworld, getting to three exits there. April went across the land bridge to the old world. April and I got kind of stuck behind, having to go long distances for deliveries, while Scott and Jeff2 were pretty efficient with it, expanding tracks and delivering lots.

Since April and I were a bit behind and on the same side of the table we were joking around a little bit. I declared that I had built an underground Palacial Estate, and even marked it on the map. I delivered gems and excess ale there, even some armor. (Basically I was on single good runs, and had the extra room, so i was carrying undeliverable goods in case I got a lucky draw, which I never did!)

Eventually I started getting some good runs, and April did too, so we started making our comeback as Jeff2 and Scott had to make some long runs. Jeff2 came down into the underworld and he and I were the only two who went down there. Scott got some rock and roll synergy on some deliveries and was the first to hit the 7 cities he needed for victory, so then he was just hunting money, for his 250 bucks. Jeff2 got his cities next, and then I did, followed by april. By that point Scott had made 100 bucks.

Toward the end a flood came up and broke all the bridges in the old world, including the one that led april to a big payout,and she had no money to repair it. So that messed up her endgame pretty badly and she mulliganed a bunch at the end for another run, and hoping to kill Scott somehow. We weren't sure if broken bridges separated cities from your system for victory purposes, and rather than looking it up, we decided that they did, so if you wanted to count the southern cites in the old world time to build a new bridge. Now this is a small point of interest, both Jeff2 and Scott were in the small town at the south of the oldworld and had their bridges to that break off. They both paid to have them rebuilt, alhough they didn't have deliveries there and the town didn't count toward victory.

The game rambled on to the end, with Scott sewing things up pretty handily. He had a good rail system and the deliveries really clicked for him. But he won the game with exactly 250 bucks on the nose. That extra three for the bridge nearly cost him an extra delivery. We all had all our cities so the other points came down to money, I had 92 bucks, Jeff2 had 89 and April had 40 something. So the unneeded bridge that Jeff built cost him a tie for second. All in all a fun game!

Obervations:

This game is pretty unforgiving. If you don't keep extra cash on hand to fix broken rail you can get put way behind.

I was always having to build to my next delivery. Constantly spending money to get to the next dropoff and make more money. Consequently I couldn't upgrade my engine. April was in the same boat, she had a teapot until very close to the end. I think this hurt my progress.

Jeff2 had lots of deliveries inside his network, so he upgraded to Iron dragon quickly, which I think helped him lots. He was in the lead for the majority of the game. Toward the end of the game he build a lot of rail even after he had his cities, he made a giant loop, and could get places quickly. However it was too late to catch up to Scott, and it ultimately let me sneak into second, though I had a much smaller network. I almost think that after you connect to your 7th big city you shouldn't really build anymore rail unless it directly leads to money for you.

I wouldn't like to say that this game is luck based, but I think a few different card draws and the game could have easily swung in anyone's direction. I only once had a delivery 'combo' where I could make a drop off on the way to another. Scott had several, and he won handily. There is luck in the game but I think it is mitigated by the long play, and the abundant opportunities to shave off a few bucks here and there in rail building.

The Ork foreman was interesting. I had him most of the game, keeping him until I needed the dwarf more to reach 2 cities in a hurry. Having him gave me free run of the underworld, which i used, but he also discouraged others from building there. I know I lost some efficency by holding onto him. I can't tell if it was worth it to keep the others out. Did I hold him too long? Should you get rid of him once you have access to three or four of the tunnels? Should you keep him just to deny him to other players?

All in all a fun game in about 4 hours. I wouldn't want to play it every week, but every so often it is neat to break out.
 
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