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.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Session Summary – 23 April 2008


7 this week, it was good to see Steve Paget and I was somewhat surprised that he was without Gordon, who apparently was stuck into revision. We also welcomed Alec, a friend of Ben. We started with a 7 player game, Top Secret Spies (or Heimlich & Co).
We didn't remain 7 players for long as Dave had to drop out to go and pick Jenny up from the station, but that is not a problem with this kind of game. We played the basic game, which does not include the Top Secret cards, this resulting in a game that plays quickly but I suspect will always be decided in favour of the first player to be in the right position on their turn, which was the case for me in this game. The cards would add the chance of being able to do something clever on someone else's turn, but at the expense of taking a fair bit longer. I seem to remember this was the case on the one previous time we played the game, but I also seem to recall we didn't play it right, while not remembering the details.
I've included Dave in the scores, although he was missing for most of the game.
Player
Posn.
Points
Dave D
1
46
Dave C
2
36
Steve H
3
34
Ben
4
33
Alec
5
32
Steve P
6
27
Mike
7
23
After that we split 4 & 3, with Dave playing with Ben & Alec, while Steve introduced us to Hamburgum, a game I've been curious about. The idea in this one is to earn prestige through donations for the construction of Churches. The board is double sided with Hamburg on one side and London on the other; I can't imagine why the different sides should make a significant difference to the game as each just shows a network of buildings divided in 5 coloured areas, each of which also includes a church, but I may be wrong. There is also a cathedral, which is in a different coloured region on its own.
The game is one of gathering resources (beer, sugar and cloth), which can be sold either overseas through the use of ships or locally at a reduced price. The money so earned is used to buy building materials (bricks & wood) to build various buildings and also donate to the construction of the churches (the last donation to a church must also include a third material in the shape of a church bell).
On your turn you take an action, which is controlled by the rondel, first seen in Antike, showing the 7 possible actions with Trade represented twice. I will say here that while I don't dislike this game like Antike, I still fail to see the reason for this mechanism, beyond the introduction of a layer of needless complexity. 3 of the actions are to gather the various types of resources, the base being one unit but this can be increased by the construction of the appropriate type of building.
The trade action gives 2 options, you can either sell goods overseas, which requires you have at least 1 ship. Each ship will carry from 1 to 3 goods of the same type, depending on which dock it is in and goods sold in this way receive from £100 (at the start of the game, gradually falling to £50 as buildings for that type of good are constructed). If you can't load your goods on a ship, those left over can also be sold locally but this only gets you £30. The other trade option is to buy building materials (brick, timber and church bells) at a price based on the total number of all goods you buy (the price per good increase with the number purchased).
The church action allows the making of a donation or donations to a single church, the cost of which (in terms of materials and money increases with each successive donation). Each donation gains one of 5 bonus tiles for that church, which will gain the player prestige points, the first of these has to be one that earns a base 5 points, while the other 4 earn a variable number depending on a certain condition, such as the number of a particular type of building that the player has. A player may never have more than one of each type of tile active at any time, so if he acquires another he has to score at least one of them, even if they could possibly be worth more later on.
The shipyard action allows the expenditure of timber on buying ships, a new ship is placed into the 3 dock and if that dock is full the existing ships are all moved down to the next lower dock with those all ready in the 1 dock being scrapped.
The guildhall action lets you build buildings, each costing 1 timber and 1 brick, these must initially be linked either to one of your existing buildings or to a church that you have donated to, so you need to make at least one donation before building. You acquire master builder status when you complete a church allowing you to ignore this requirement from then on. Ownership of the buildings is marked by placing citizens on the map and there are 5 types, 3 of which increase your production of the 3 resources by 1 per building (and also reduce the price available from foreign markets), the others are official buildings which give money based on criteria depending on the building and the others are captains, which give you a new ship and also bring a neutral ship into play, which affects the existing ships in the same manner as any other ship.
The game ends with the completion of the sixth church at which points all VP tiles are scored together with 1 per £100 (goods and building materials convert into £50 each).
As to the game, Mike started followed by Steve H, then me. We all decided to start with a visit to Church to make a donation so we could get the building moving, while Steve P went for gathering more goods to make a bigger trade. In the early stages all the 5VP tiles were grabbed fairly quickly before we started on the variable bonus tiles. Steve H started building a large fleet, coming to the stage where he had all his ships on the board, at which point he was able to trade in a ship bonus tile he had together with another that he had just collected, which took us aback when we saw him collect what seemed to be a massive number of points, but it turned out that he was not able to gather many points elsewhere. I think he also probably spent more in jumping ahead on the Rondel than the rest of us.
I built a brewery early on and then set about gathering the materials necessary to complete the first church, this was delayed by a misunderstanding regarding the cost of the last donation, which I initially thought was based on the total number of buildings on the board, rather than the number of buildings I had myself. Thinking I was short on cash, I did another trip around the rondel, by which time we had the correct rule sorted out I thought at the time I may have done serious damage to my chances, but this was not the case. I spent much of the rest of the game finishing churches and ended up with 4 of the 6, gathering 9 VP tiles including 3 donation tiles, which I got the scoring wrong on as I thought they were based on the purely on the donations to that church rather than all donations. I scored the last one just before the end and we able to correct that one, but the other 2 were underscored by, I guess 5 or 6 points.
Steve P and Mike seemed to follow fairly balance strategies, with Steve collecting quite a few scoring tiles, while Mike completed the remaining 2 churches. At the end I am not sure whether that we counted the building materials when exchanging for money, at this point I discovered that I had a bit of cloth (a green block) which had got lost amongst the rest of my bits, so I didn't realise I had it. Also we had some discussion about the citizen tile from the cathedral, which I interpreted from the rules as applying to all citizens on the board since in every other case it is specifically noted that only your own are used. The others argued that that would make the tile too powerful, which I accepted despite the fact that that interpretation seemed to make it too weak as it only earned 1 per citizen, compared with 3 or 4 from the other churches. I did find confirmation from the designer afterward that my interpretation was wrong, he also commented that this tile would be more powerful with fewer players which is probably true.
There was of course some discussion after the game. This is a perfect information game with no randomness other than the player order determination and I felt the game was OK, but had a feeling that it was too dry; it gave me a bit of a Caylus feel although it should play a lot quicker than that game. Also the rondel is an unnecessary complication and I can't really see the reason why you shouldn't just be able to pick an action. Mike made comments about the game being like a multiplayer solitaire, which I just can't see as there seem to me to be numerous ways to affect your opponents, such as buying buildings you opponents want to fulfil their bonus tile requirements or the reverse of grabbling the bonus tiles they want. In addition, by building a ship at the right time you can damage their ability to trade by making their own ships move down a dock. Steve H demonstrated this in this game. The 2 Steves liked the game although Steve H did agree with me about the rondel.
Hamburgum 100 mins
Player
Posn.
Points
Dave D
1
78
Steve P
2
72
Mike
3
69
Steve H
4
57

Dave, Ben and Alec played Colossal Arena and Ave Caesar, scores below
Player
Posn.
Points
Alec
1
12
Ben
2=
11
Dave C
2=
11
Ave Caesar 70 mins
Player
Posn.
Points
Alec
1
16
Ben
2
13
Dave C
3
10
This report delayed due to the excessive time I spent mulling what to say about Hamburgum, which I started to write about 10 days ago.

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