Monday, June 04, 2007

6/4 mini report....and one last chance.

We (Michael, Jon, Ben, and I) started this morning with a quick game of Arkadia. Heck it's another SdJ nominee, so it should at least be decent. Well, to my surprise, it had more meat than I expected. I thought it was a lighter game, but it's closer to medium weight. It's got simple rules, but many interesting options and combos can be played. Fun one.

Then we tried another 2 games of Notre Dame. This reminded me that I never play the same game to death, and thus miss a lot of the cool strategies. This time with this game, it's been different. I've now played 4 games in 3 days, and have been blown away by how different all my games have been. Plus I actually learn something new each time. Heck, my increasing score shows it: in my first game I barely cleared 20. I've progressively done better, and in my last game today my score was 58. Someday I'll get to Michael's 70's. It's not rules heavy, but there's definitively A LOT of options and ways to score.

Ok, so officially I'm leaving on 6/11. I'm off now until then. Drop me an email or call if you can play anything this week, anytime, anyplace.

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At 9:54 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Brian said...

After you left we played LotR (w/Battlefields), lots of Glory to Rome, Stage II, & Ave Ceasar.

At 10:13 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

ND is great fun, though I need to figure out how to consistently keep my score in the 60+ range regardless of what the rats do.

Arkadia... a well-produced Tetris variant to be sure, but games without killing tend to leave me a little cold. Still, I thought it was fun, and I'd play again.

I did find the Battlefields expansion to LotR to be interesting, though I do dislike the flowchart style of the map boards. I mean, shouldn't the Helms Deep battlefield sort of look like Helms Deep rather than a decision tree? Still, looking past the graphical missed opportunity, I do feel it added something to the game. Wow, the game is tough though! I'm glad I've had two of my last five games end in victory, or I'd be totally demoralized.

I think I started to figure out Glory to Rome about a turn or so before the end of my first game. I like it.

Stage II... seriously, aren't there any more recent trivia games of similar quality? The 80's are over, man!

All in all, a good solid day of gaming.

At 10:14 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger seanp said...

I'll be back next week... we're dealing with a lot of moving stuff right now. But hopefully by Friday we'll have sold our Dallas home and bought our SA one!

At 12:41 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

Arkadia is indeed very in SdJ benign, IMO (at the level of T and T, Alhambra, etc). Not overly complex, but with interesting choices.

I thought about going back to Da Lair, but it was close to 9pm, and now I live about 20min away (not 8min like before).

At 2:51 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Mark said...

Are you up for an East Front II rematch? On Wednesday I could start about 4pm.

At 3:26 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Some random thoughts about Notre Dame

Hospital: At first glance, this seems like the most powerful location for cubes, since once placed they are always (barring complete overkill) going to provide some benefit every round regardless of whether you add to the numbers. But there is the whole problem of diminishing returns (you can't go below 0 rats, you don't get rewarded extra for being at low rats at the end of the game) that discourage overinvestment.

A quick count (but as we should all know by now don't necessarily take my word for it) tells me that there are a total of 37 rats ( 12 in rounds 1-3, 13 in rounds 4-6 and 12 in rounds 7-9) that will be shown on the cards over the course of the game. A single round can have as few as 1 rats in it and as many as 8 rats in it. If things come out in a fortunate way, 4 early (1st and 2nd round) cubes, my buddy in the hospital is overkill since it can "kill" up to 36 of the 37 rats you will see and most likely will never have to take any other rat killing actions. Three early cubes in the hospital is unlikely to have wasted cubes (killing rats to below 0) ever and will kill up to 27 out of 37 of the rats you encounter (i.e. you will need at least one other rat killer action or card during the game to avoid getting ratted out). Incidentally, I don't think overkilling in the hospital is a terrible idea since you have a decent shot of getting rewarded nicely by the Beggar King in era 2 if you keep the rats at bay.

Park: I don't think Brian is giving this one a fair shake. Even at a cursory glance, this is the only building apart from the hospital that can reward you on a round in which you didn't place cubes in it. In fact, it can reward you up to 3 times in a round in which you didn't place cubes in it (up to 4 in a scoring round). Given that if you don't overdose on the hospital you will need to do at least one other action to deal with rats, this seems like a nice option to use at least twice.

Cube retriever: Along with rats, cubes in supply are your tightest constraint at the start of the game (i.e. you need to do something to increase the number of cubes you have available before the end of the second round or you will be doing plays where new cubes do not hit the board(a bad thing in my opinion(I like nested parentheses too))). Has a similar diminishing returns problem as the hospital in that you only have 10 cubes to retrieve at the start and assuming you don't get ratted will add a maximum of 2 more before the end of the game from Notre Dame returnees so very clearly more than 4 will be wasteful. Three is probably best since there are other options for retrieving the other small amounts of cubes before the end of the game.

Money building: Realistically, I think you could win a game of Notre Dame making a total of 8 gold beyond your initial allotment of 3: 9 of your 11 gold would go to paying the characters which you must be able to do every turn since they are without a doubt the most broken aspect of the game, and 2 of it would go to Notre Dame in the second and third scoring phases at some point. So the sweet spot for here is probably around 4 cubes for 10 total gold which would enable a 6 point notre dame visit in one of the visits instead of the 1 point visit).

VP building: There are no diminishing returns here other than the fact that by the time you have taken care of the other issues preventing you from turning your attention to this, there might not be enough time left in the game to boost this enough. I generally just play this later game when I can't get a better method to generate vps.

Caravan: I like this late game if any plays are available to make the vp grabs. I'm not a huge fan of it early game, but I suppose diligent caravaning could lock some people out of it for good (although whether that will hurt them enough is questionable)

Hotel: Agreed that this is mostly trash, but early game I would take this to free a slave over the vp building most likely. First target for moving people away from later though.

My Buddy(TM): The wild card action, but the second and beyond of this come at a cost of not increasing your power on the board. Late game when you have no cubes to add (you will make a total of 18 plays + 1 for the bishop - 0, 1 or 2 for notre dame cubes coming back to you) Since you only have 14 cubes total there will be at least a couple of plays in the game where you couldn't possibly add a cube anyway and this is where My Buddy could shine.

Notre Dame:

I think playing into Notre Dame for the most part seems to be overrated in our group. The vps you are getting are coming at the cost of an action that is not increasing your power on the board and at least one dollar. That being said I haven't really tested out this theory beyond avoiding Notre Dame in the first scoring phase when I feel that getting cubes into the district is most important.

Cards: My personal belief is that to keep up it is almost imperative that you buy card each round.

Repeated Cards:

Wench: 3 vps plus 1 dollar or kill a rat or take a cube

My first play I was avoiding the money building so every time I took the wench I took the money option. I'm now waffling about whether that or the cubes is better, but I am certain that killing a rat in all but the most dire circumstances is not good). Remember there are many ways to kill rats but only a couple of ways of getting money or cubes.

Monk: 1 vp + 2 cubes

I like this guy alot early game.

Moneylender: 1 vp + 2 dollars:

I've already waxed nostalgic on how much I like this guy. I've cooled on him but not that much. The only reason I think I like the Monk better in the early going is that if you avoid Notre Dame in rounds 1-3 you don't NEED to get money then.

Minstrel: Move 1-3 cubes from one space to another (no action).

I think I've uses this once (in our first game to set up the big park). I suppose an emergency move to the hospital from say the cube grabber could be a nice strong early play.

Jester: Move 1 cube from one space to another (do action)

This one is pretty strong if you have a good action to grab. The default seems to be the hospital in our group which for the most part seems good to me.

Doctor: Reduce rats from cards to 0 for the round.

This can be an extremely powerful card, but given that there are many ways to deal with rats throughout the game, it isn't quite as great as the first impression. Certainly on the second and third run through, hopefully you have established a foundation where you are not relying on him to keep you alive and can take some of the more lucrative opportunities.

(A) cards

Bishop: Move 1 cube from general supply to empty district and do action.

My favorite. He gives you a free cube, a free action, and more power on the board. I hate the idea of not taking him when he is available.

City Guard: 1 vp for each cube in your districts

As much as I would like to say avoid these vp generators early, if this guy comes out in round 3 and you bought the bishop early, he can be worth 7 vps + a park bonus. Given that the highest final score I've seen with us has been 76 that seems to be pretty strong for an early play. In round 2 and 1 though hes an easy skip.

Nightwatchman: 1 vp for each of your empty districts

Even if this guy comes out in round 1 he is worth at most 6 (assuming you didn't double Notre Dame which is completely terrible). You are less likely to have park bonuses running, more likely to need to get some part of your economy going. I think this guy is almost always a pass.

(B) cards

Guild Master: 2 vp for each district with 2+ cubes.

This one is very likely to be worth at least 6, probably 8 by the time he comes out (hospital, cube grabber, money grabber, and park are all possible 2 cube districts at this point. During rounds 4-6, grabbing efficient vps where you can seems pretty strong.

Beggar King: 1 vp for each spare rat you have.

This is situational, but again, if it worked out that this guy will be worth alot for you I would grab it.

Lawyer: 3 vp for every two messages.

Given my attitude towards the caravan, you might not find it surprising that I don't think highly of this one. I've never had a situation arise where it was worth more than 0 for me and I don't think we have had a situation where it was worth more than 6 for anyone.

(C) cards:

Lady in waiting: 1 vp for max cube district

I've seen Jeff collect about 5 with this and in the park game I could have collected 7 with this, but I had played a gold tight game and could not afford to skip the moneylender. Typically though its been worth 4 to me which doesn't seem worth it unless the other cards are terrible.

Mayor: 3 vp for each district with 3+ cubes

This one always rocks in my opinion. I've never had it worth less than 9 except in the park game.

Master Carpenter: 1 vp for each occupied district

Since typically in the end game, you are just trying to spend all your spare resources, even if this doesn't give that many vps (probably minimum it will be is 5 or 6 though), it is probably worth it to grab.

A random thought about Ave Caesar: I fought the robot and the robot won.

A random thought about LOTR: We still owe Sauron a beatdown.

At 3:43 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

Arkadia I mismanaged resources completely by totally misjudging the the end game and leaving myself with 7 of my green workers. That was optimalnot.

At 7:13 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Carlos Pena said...

Mark, I tried to contact you regarding a game of EastFront, but I must have your old email address.

At 8:32 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Mark said...

Carlos: I sent you an email. I closed my old account.

At 8:41 PM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Mark said...

I'm open for gaming day and night Monday - Thursday next week if anyone is interested. Enjoy block games and CDWG, but not afraid to try new games.

At 2:19 AM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

Wow Michael...deep thoughts...

I'd like to reply to it with my own thoughts, but it's late. I have to say that indeed ND may be overrated, unless of course it's split between 1-2 players and/or you are able to deposit 3 gold everytime you drop a block in there. I like that it kinda feels like the Caravan in Yspahan.... you always have to consider how others play into it when formulating your round strategies.

At 6:40 AM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

ND overrated?? Somehow that just sounds wrong...

Beautiful article, Michael. I think you'd rack up some geek gold (or at least street cred) if you posted it on BGG.

At 12:15 PM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

ND overrated? Can't say I've ever heard that anywhere before, ever, ever. The balance could shift to being it underrated if everyone tends to avoid it.

Because ND is so group specific, I'm just leaving the article here. Plus these thoughts are based after 4 plays so I could be totally wrong about everything.


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