Tuesday, March 24, 2009

21st March 2009 Session Report: The One Where We Tried Reef Encounter For The First Time

Marcus came over for games in the morning, bringing along with him Le Harve and Reef Encounter. I had favourable impressions of Le Harve after my first play and was eager to give it another go. Learning from my first play, I intentionally:

1. Tried to acquire buildings which were more significantly used. It helped that I was more familiar with the buildings this time round but nonetheless competition was stiff for them. Delayed acquiring the Shipping Line and Van stole it from under my nose due to my carelessness. 

2. Avoided indivisibilities for most part, but towards the end of the game, had to use coke for energy requirements despite it being lower than the 10 units which coke provided.

3. Acquired ships early to aid in feeding. Ended up with a wooden, iron and steel ship each though I anticipated the end of the game poorly and should probably aimed for a luxury liner rather than merely sub-optimally utilizing my resources on a steel ship in the last round.

4. Processed goods in bulk. Did so for grain and cattle though I realized the longer you can hold it off, the better. Would have liked to delay for a couple more rounds if possible. Managed to covert 8 coal into coke at one go too. Somewhat overpowered - no energy cost coupled with 1 franc earned for each unit of conversion.

For some reason, all 3 of us failed to realize it was the last round till it was too late. I failed to visit the local court adequately and had to repay my remaining 4 loans with francs. Also, I didn't manage to accumulate sufficient goods to maximize my shipping. Ended up with 173 which was a marked improvement from my first game but still insufficient to top Marcus at 198. The game is really growing on me and on the current debate comparing it to Agricola, Le Harve might actually be my preferred option as play seems much more open-ended, with greater strategic options. Agricola seems constrained by the elements introduced in more or less a fixed manner as you move through the rounds. Nonetheless, one of the biggest issues I have with Le Harve is its length. Would be a 10 in my book if its game length was around that of Agricola's. A more minor issue is that casual players would probably take to Agricola more easily due to its theme.

Marcus next introduced to us Reef Encounter. Always heard it was a brain-burner and was keen to experience it for myself. Had a cute theme but unfortunately the mechanics came across too abstract and felt disjointed from the deep sea theme. The game reminded me of Tigris and Euphrates which I have to acknowledge is the far deeper game. Nonetheless, similarities abounded with the tile laying, cube collections and "conflicts" (in this case, coral consumption). The shrimps reminded me of the leaders in Tigris though with a much diminished role.

I struggled in making sense of the strategy during the game. While cognitively explained by Marcus that locking down the multipliers and collecting the relevant corals were key, I had little clue how to implement it. Marcus rushed the game by removing his shrimps quickly and I just tried to keep up. Ended up 35 points to his 44, while Van managed 26. Wouldn't mind trying it again but doubt it would really grow on me. Somewhat abstract and if I was indeed in the mood for something along these lines, I would reach for Tigris and Euphrates which seems to trump it on most counts. The conflict aspect is far more interesting with the differing natures of internal and external conflicts while here, it is merely 'eating' another's coral tile.

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