Saturday, June 27, 2009

26th June 2009 Session Report: My First Go At Indonesia!

Marcus introduced us to Indonesia tonight. We were having some trouble with the rules initially and halfway through the explanation I wondered if we would have been better off opting for a game of Le Havre considering the limited time available. But I'm glad we persevered because after a few rounds, we got the hang of it and it was a highly enjoyable affair. I don't think I'll feel a need to own it because of its fiddly nature, lengthy playtime and somewhat cumbersome phases but the open nature of the game intrigued me. As the game progress, I began to catch a glimpse of the possibilities available and the brilliance of the design. The game ended 1200, 1187, 1030 to Van, myself and Marcus respectively. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts regarding the game:

1. The turn order auction is a unique affair. I bidded aggressively for turn order during the mid-game when I was flushed with cash as I realized that the penalty of the bid isn't as severe as in other games. Firstly, your opponents are forced to pay their last bid which meant that it would hurt them almost as much as it would hurt you. In fact, there was a crazy moment where Marcus and I bidded over 200+ or 300+ just to go first (which allowed Van to catch up and eventually take the game). I did realize that unless everyone was equally aggressive in the bidding, the one who bailed early would reap the benefits, which Van did in this case. She forced merged our companies and took them easily with our lack of cash on hand to compete. Secondly, the cash used for bidding while out of play do count at the end to determine victory. We neglected the R&D for the turn order multiplier for most of the game till we realized that that was the way to go if we valued going first rather than bidding ludicrous amounts.

P.S.: Marcus just emailed to say that we were playing the turn order auction wrong - it should have only been once round. LOL, guess that was a major boo-boo!

P.P.S.: A one-round auction for turn order seems to provide a clear advantage to the last player. It seems that turn orders are likely to be reversed from turn to turn. But that's where the R&D turn order track comes in, which rewards those who invest in it - a rather clever design I think.

2. The ability to merge companies is an interesting mechanic of the game. It occurred to me towards the end that apart from gaining income from production and shipping, another viable means of acquiring wealth was through building up the companies and "selling" them off when the merged companies are auctioned off. I intentionally merged two of my companies at the end and gleefully took the first or second bid that Van made in order to end the game by acquiring the remaining companies with my newly available slots.It seemed a wise move at that point as my highly prized shipping company had just been bought over but little did I realize that earnings from the final operations phase would be doubled. Hah, none the less, that would probably still have been my optimal move except perhaps to push up the price slightly more.

3. The rule we missed was the expansions rule and despite advancing on that track a little, Van and Marcus missed doubling their free expansions when available. I could see the importance of expansions in the game, not so much to increase goods for shipping since goods then to quickly outnumber hull slots in this game but rather to enhance the value of your company so as to make it less susceptible to takeovers.

4. The options on the R&D track all seem useful in their own ways which allows the pursuit of various strategies. This was nice to see compared to games such as Kingsburg where certain tracks are outrightly stronger alternatives than others. In this game, I maxed out my hull track as I acquired a shipping monopoly amidst a cluster of cities and companies. Nonetheless, I saw how the tracks I failed to invest in tied my hands in parts of the game.

All in all, I had excellent first impressions of the game and would be happy to have another go at it. I consider it head and shoulders above the highest ranked economic game - Power Grid. Nonetheless, it is incredibly fiddly and cumbersome, especially in tracking the remaining hull space of ships and the bidding for merged companies in awkward multiples. I enjoy the openness of the game where players have diverse options to pursue victory. In fact, it is probably even more open that Le Havre but however it lacks the latter's elegance. The games I generally feel the need to own are those which provide the open feel yet are elegant enough so that the mechanics can be easily picked up by casual gamers.


  1. Yup, major boo boo on the turn order bidding, apologies! Let's table it again when I'm back, but with a laptop next to us so that we can make use of some of the excel templates on the geek to speed up mergers and shipping.

  2. Sure thing, I enjoyed the game quite a bit once I got the hang of things.