The Games We Play

The Games We Play

A repository of reports on the Wednesday night sessions of the club and anything else related to the club or boardgaming in general, which may be of interest to anyone who may be passing by.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Session Summary – 21 May 2008


Seven this week. The split was initially 4 & 2 with Dave & Ben playing a variety of games, while Steve H, Simon, new visitor Jeremy and I set up Pillars of the Earth, which we were trying for the first time with the new expansion. Mike turned up a little late, but joined the four of us, the expansion extending the game up to 6 players. Following I'll first talk in general about the additions to the game without being too specific, followed by some commentary on our game finishing with some personal opinions, also included and some picture of the new additions.
The idea of the game is still the same with the players seeking to gain prestige through their efforts in the construction of Kingsbridge Cathedral. In addition to extra components to support 2 more players, the expansion provides an extension to the board with new spaces for Master Builders and workers to be placed, together with new cards (Craftsman, Privilege, Event, a single resource card and a special card (Inspiration in St. Denis) obtained by sending a master builder to France). 6 of the new craftsmen were originally given away by Spielbox magazine and I am not sure whether they are also included in other language editions of the expansion.
The sequence of play is the same, with extra options in each stage. In the first you now have the option to allocate workers to the king for the crusades, there being 4 spaces on the board for this, which earn 1 or 2 VPs, when the spaces are activated in stage 3. In addition with 5 players there are more craftsmen and resource cards to choose from. There are now a possible 6 craftsmen for each turn, of which 5 are used with 5 or more players and 4 with less. 8 resource cards out of the 10 now available (including the new 1 worker gets 1 sand Gravel Pit) are used with 5 players and all 10 with 6. The new resource card is not used with less than 5 players.
In stage 2 you now have the option to used master builders to become Tax Collector, which gives Tax exemption and also earns a sum equal to tax die roll, to visit France and claim the Saint Denis card, to visit the coast, which provides a sellers only market with prices 1 greater than the resource market on the main board. The final option is to visit Shiring to gain a prestige card, which will be one of the single or immediate use cards, which are now separated from the permanent ones which are available from Kingsbridge on the main board.
Also used in stage 2 is the master builder track. Only 2 builders for each player are now put in the bag at the start and when a player places his first master builder on the board, he also places his third master builder on the highest available space on the master builder track, when all the builders form the bag including those that passed have been placed on the board, the remaining builders are placed on the board in ascending order of the their place on the master builder track. This means that the first player to place a master builder will also be the last and will go some way toward mitigating lucky/unlucky draws from the bag. One thing I find interesting is that the English rules say to use this track with 5 or 6 players, which suggests that you don't when playing with less than that. I really can't see why it shouldn't be used with any number of players, although admittedly the competition for spaces including the 4 new ones will be reduced with 4 or fewer.
Stage 3 plays out much as before, the new areas are numbered 9a-e and are resolved following the King's Court and before the collection of craftsmen from Shiring.
For this play, Jeremy and Simon were completely new to the game, although Simon had just recently read the book, making him the only one of the five of us familiar with the source material. Mike, Steve and I had played the game before and were just new to the expansion. At the beginning Steve and I lagged behind and it was at this stage that I feel I lost it for the same reason as in my previous non expanded playing by not paying enough attention to acquiring extra craftsmen, this was not so for Steve who was building up to a good score, picking up the beggar which costs nothing and allows you to take a resource from the market before the cathedral scoring. Simon picked up the Toolmaker, but was then unable to get the metal he needed, which had been picked up by Mike. Mike spent most of the game picking up the metal from the King's court and sold most of it to fund other things.
In turn 2 Steve laid further foundations, acquiring the apprentice which increases the capacity of one of your other craftsmen by one, while Jeremy and Simon moved into the lead with Mike behind. On this turn a new event occurred allowing everyone to keep as many resources as they like between turns and both Steve & I declined to score points with our craftsmen that turn in the hope of being able to use them more efficiently next turn.
On turn 3, Steve was the first to use the St. Denis card, which essentially counts as an extra craftsmen, equivalent to any craftsman in play (owned by any player) with a capacity 1 less than that given on the card, so you can't use it for craftsmen with no capacity arrow, or those with capacity of 1. I had also hoped to go to France with my resource hoard from the previous turn, but Steve beat me to it.
For the remainder of the game we contrived to allow Steve to surge ahead, by letting him have access to France far too often, which he mostly used on Simon's sculptor, this combined with the apprentice and the fact that he had Jack allowing him to keep 6 craftsmen made for a good winning score. Jeremy remained steady for second place, while Simon fell away, Mike acquired the market warden on turn 5 giving a VP for each master builder at the market, but hardly anyone went there so this yielded very few VPs. I picked up Prior Philip on turn 4 but was blocked out of the priory too often to make much of an impression with him. I was able to scrape 3rd place from Simon on the tie break. Overall the scores seemed low with the exception of Steve, when my first thought would have been to expect higher scores with the extra opportunities of the expansion, but this may have several explanations. Maybe we just let Steve have all the best opportunities so lost out, maybe with 5 players there is more spread of points or maybe taking advantage of the new opportunities means you forgo the original ones. I suspect all 3 are true, but further play will tell.
After the game there was discussion. Jeremy is fairly new to these sorts of games in general and limited himself to saying that he had enjoyed the evening. Simon was very impressed by the game, particularly the beautiful board, although he couldn't comment on the expansion alone having not played the base game. Mike is not the greatest fan of the base game and the expansion doesn't seem to have changed his view one way or the other. Steve on the back of a dominant victory loves the base game and the expansion has does nothing to change his opinion.
My own thoughts, this is a fine expansion for an already very good game and I can't really see any reason I would want to play without the expansion.
From my first impression the most interesting part are the new craftsmen cards, several of which are of different types to those in the basic game. In addition to those mentioned previously we have the brick maker who converts sand into stone and the tinsmith (available on turn 3) converting metal into 2 VP with a 2 capacity, potentially taking metal out of the game before the advent of the Bellmaker and Organ Builder on turn 6. The fact that not all the craftsmen will now appear in every game will bring more variety, particularly in games with less than 5 when only 2/3 will be in play. The new craftsmen are shown below.
On first impression of the new privilege cards, the only one to make an impression was William Hamleigh granting the use of the black master builder, which reserves a space for you to place on later. Simon used this to block me out of the priory late in the game. The others didn't really make an impression, although several were not in the game. These cards together with Inspiration in St. Denis and the new Gravel Pit shown below.
Of the new event cards, again none stood out other than as mentioned previously, but obviously again they will add more variety. One things that occurs to me is that there are now 7 good events and 7 bad events so it is possible (if unlikely) that all the events in a game will be good (or bad), I think it was an even split in our game. New events shown below.
The extension board is the most impressive part of the expansion, again beautifully painted by Michael Menzel. It fits so nicely with the existing board that it looks as if it was planned at the start (I'm not sure if that is in fact the case). The most significant place on the board at first sight seems to be France as the St. Denis card seems very powerful and in future games, I think we must make sure that no one player dominates this space (unless it's me of course). New board shown below.
So all in all a fine expansion to a game that I already love, which I rate at 8/10 like the base game.
Player
Posn.
Points
Steve H
1
53
Jeremy
2
46
Dave D
3
44+
Simon
4
44
Mike
5
42
Over on the other table Dave & Ben indulged in the following, mostly picked up at Burton the weekend before.
Quinamid 15 mins
Player
Posn.
Points
Ben
1
6
Dave C
2
0
This seems to be a sort of 3D connect 4 with a pyramid of successively smaller boards which you can slide and rotate.
Player
Posn.
Points
Dave C
1
192
Ben
2
186
Simon brought this along and it's one I'd be interested to try myself although I'm not the greatest fans of the TtR board games.
Gheos 40 mins
Player
Posn.
Points
Dave C
1
85
Ben
2
26
Gheos 25 mins
Player
Posn.
Points
Ben
1
85
Dave C
2
23
I played this once at the club when Steve Paget brought it along and remember enjoying it.
It's Alive 20 mins
Player
Posn.
Points
Ben
1
58
Dave C
2
41
This is a quite limited production and Dave picked up one of the last copies at Burton. It seems to be quite well thought of on the geek, must give it a go some time.
That's all; I hope to post the 28 May report over the weekend if I have the chance given that it's Games Expo this weekend.


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