Wednesday, August 26, 2009

25th Aug 2009 Session Report: 1st Automobile Ride!

Had an opportunity to game with Valerie and Marcus today. Valerie had some gaming experience back in the UK and we went through some of my shorter games while waiting for Marcus to arrive.

Alhambra (Me 141, Val 100, Dirk the Dummy 92)

First go at the official 2-player variant for Alhambra. Verdict? It plays quite well. There isn't much setting up for the dummy player except to add tiles to his hand at 3 points in the game but serves its purpose to provide some competition for the scoring phase. It is however unlikely for 'Dirk' to pose any threat since he doesn't score points for an external wall. He will tend to lag behind both players unless the players opt to purchase buildings on his behalf (which is an option in the 2-player variant) although I didn't see many opportunities which would make that worthwhile. Val ran into some trouble after acquiring some difficult to place tiles early on, which slowed her progress in expanding her estate. I on the other hand leant from the experience of my first play to acquire more money cards and only purchasing tiles at the exact price as far as possible. I could also concentrate on building an extended external wall this time round which accounted for a significant proportion of my score.

Battle Line (Val 3 Me 0)

Taught Valerie Battle Line figuring its short playtime was especially appropriate in light of Marcus's impending arrival. We started with 2 games without the tactic cards and Val despite it being her first play went on to trounce me soundly. She won one game by making a breakthrough (3 consecutive flags) and the other by nabbing 5 flags to my 2. I then introduced the Tactic cards which she grasped the nuances immediately and promptly won the 3rd game as well.

Automobile (Me $4790, Marcus $4050, Val $3980)

Marcus brought Automobile over, which was a game I was eager to try after all the hype on BGG. Thanks to Marcus, we got to try the game on one of the few sets of the first print run. Apparently, the game will only be widely available early next year. This was also my first Martin Wallace game and while I can see the genius of it, I figured it was a game I didn't feel much compulsion to own. The feel was very much of a business game. Of the games I have played, Indonesia comes the closest although Automobile is far shorter (which is a big plus in my book) and does not involve mergers.

We took awhile to plough through the rules together, but the game mechanics became much clearer after the first round. The challenge of the game lies in estimating the demand each round, and matching your production and sales so as to achieve the largest profit possible. Val and Marcus underproduced for a couple of rounds while I leveraged on my low-cost car factories to make a killing to gain a significant lead.

There are 3 ways to sell cars: 1. 2 cars via Howard (special ability of 1 of the characters), 2. Through distributors (up to a max of 8 which you have to build up over the rounds provided you were successful in supplying them with cars each round), and 3. based on the combined demand tiles drawn (number sold depends on factory placement and modifiers based on executive decisions chosen).

You are trying your best to match demand and supply each round for each unsupplied distributor and unsold car will reap you a loss cube. You also gain loss cubes for factories that lag behind more advanced factories opened. However, our observation from our first play is that the penalty of taking loss cubes isn't too severe and various characters plus closing down your factories allow you to reduce your loss cube count. Loans while available also seem unnecessary as each player starts with $2000. We attributed the lack of tightness to the fewer players in the game - it would be interesting to try the game again with 5, which according to Wallace would be far more cut-throat.

Tulipmania 1637 (Marcus $20825, Me $14775, Val $12875)

Marcus introduced us to another game about the sale of tulips. The mechanics resemble a stock market of sorts where the price of different coloured tulips fluctuate depending on demand and supply, as well as speculation. You earn money via the tulip you put up for sale on your turn and try to accumulate tulips of higher prices so that once the 'bursting' point is attained, all tulips of that colour in hand can be sold at various prices depending on whether one owns matching buyer cards. It is one of those games where you struggle to capture its nuances the first time round, and which is highly dependent on the actions of others. It possesses some similar elements to a potential acquisition, Chicago Express, but somehow failed to capture my interest.

Sorry! Sliders (Marcus - Winner, Me, Val)

We had a little time left so I figured it was a good opportunity to give my new set of Sorry! Sliders a go. Acquired it to add a dexterity game to my collection. Was initially somewhat disappointed by the quality of the components but all in all, it was good fun for the short while we had a go at it. I guess deeper games still interest me more but I believe it will be a hit with the casual or non-gamers I game with.

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