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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2006 8:30 pm 
Gaming God
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Polyhedral Underground Session Report 11/30/06

The Hearsay Episode a.k.a. "But Don't Quote Me."

LOCATION: Seripmav's lair

2 Seripmav
3 Harbinger
4 Auger The Great
11 Guardtroll
23 Yong No Mo
29 Cornbread46
32 Eric Holdridge

Special Guest Star: Guardtroll's son. I have it on good authority that he used to be known around these forums as "LRO". But don't quote me on that.

I will try my best per Harbinger's request to stick with your forum names and avoid real names. I believe in my heart that most of you just prefer the fun of your assumed names, but I harbor a sneaking suspicion that some of you may use an alias out of necessity. I wonder how many of the PolyU participants have someplace they just can't go back to. Literally. Like under penalty of law. But I digress.

GAMES PLAYED: 4 as described below. Including an "in depth" look at a game I didn't even play that night. Eight people was a bigger showing than I expected and per reports of long-time members this numerosity may have even exceeded the turnout of some past Gameapaloozas. But don't quote me.

I was a little late getting there. I am unfamiliar with this place you call "Omro". The timely members of the group had already started a five-player game when I arrived.

Game #1 -- Oltremare -- http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/13551

Players: Seripmav, Harbinger, Auger The Great, Yong No Mo & Cornbread46

Score/Winner: I didn't play and neglected to take down the scores. My feeble brain wants to say that Seripmav was the winner, but don't quote me. Hopefully some of the players will chime in with their thoughts on this game, tell us how they felt it played, and confirm who won.

I have played Oltremare before and I would generically describe it as a set collecting & trading game. You are basically moving around a somewhat superfluous board with your even more superfluous (but cool) little Ship. The ships are polystyrene I think, a la Wizkids' Pirates of the Spanish Main. As you travel along you get cards which show certain types of goods, including rubies, scrolls, and jugs. The point of the game is to collect sets of the goods and put them into your cargo stack in uninterrupted sets of the same good. For example one of any good by itself scores very little. Four jugs in a row is really nice. Point wise I mean.

Tangent #1 -- When my wife and I played at Rock-Con with Harbinger and his lovely wife, we were eventually cured of asking each other "do you have any jugs?" once Harb actually looked in the rules and realized those cards are officially called something else. "Pottery" I believe he said. But don't quote me.

The goods cards in Oltremare have the distinction of having more information on them than my driver's license. The cards you lay down basically tell you (1) your hand limit for the next round; (2) how much you must move your ship on the board this round; (3) how many cards you MUST lay down into your cargo stack in the next round; (4) how many ducats you receive that turn; (5) how many cards get put into your "pirate stack" that turn; (6) how many types of each good card are available in the game and what each uninterrupted grouping of each
good is worth to you if you can lay them down into your cargo stack in the correct order.

(pause for breath)

It is also possible that the cards tell you even more information than this, such as the longitude and latitude of Guam and your grandmother's maiden name, but this is where Harbinger (as the owner of the game) or the other four (who actually played last week) can jump in to correct or enlighten me. Needless to say, you can mess up in this game by playing a card that gives you a hand size of one but requires you to lay down four cards into your cargo stack in your next turn.

Luckily you can both outright purchase cards and you can trade for them. You can trade cards for other cards and you can even trade ducats (which are money but also the victory points) for them as well. And you can outright purchase a random one from the stack with ducats. What incentive is there to trade? The game provides you with a token each time you make a trade when it is not your turn and these counters score in mid-game and at end game for the people who have the most. I heard through The Grapevine that Harbinger did a lot of trading but only on his own turn, so was never in the running for these bonuses. The Grapevine was unclear on whether this was due to Harb being distracted by Guardtroll and I or due to Harb's self-sufficiency in the game or due to Harb's casual indifference to the wants and needs of others. Any of these are possible according to The Grapevine. But don't quote me.

What is the "pirate stack" mentioned above? It is where you must place certain cards (i.e. if you are over your hand limits or the cards you played to your cargo stack show pirate flags). Most of these cards are random draws and you do not know what they are. You can purchase from this deck as well and you have a slight incentive to do so in that your pirate stack counts against you at the scoring at the end of the game.

What does the board do? Sit there and look pretty, mostly. But there are also ship routes printed on the board and at each port there is a bonus token that gives you a special power. Some of the powers are to teleport to another port of your choice; to get gold equal to your hand limit; to get extra ducats for each ducat symbol on the cards which go to your cargo stack; to buy cards on the cheap & other powers which I am not recalling. Since you must move each turn, at first you will cycle through the power chits pretty quickly. Once there are some open ports you can return to (you can't double back on the same turn) you are faced with the difficult decision of keeping one of the powers you can exploit turn after turn and getting further power chits. These chits are scored like the "trading bonuses" and the person with the most at the end of the game gets a bonus. A nice little tension there.

This is a nice little game that was on my want list even before I tried it with Harbinger, but after playing, it slid down the priority list. Not because my wife and I didn't like it, because we did, but because the gaming foursome/fivesome we normally play with in IL has one member who does not like trading games or play them well. He is of the shutting down sort where in most trading games he eventually gets to the point where any trade request to him gets a surly "win on your own!" reply. Basically he often feels that "the girls" (my wife and his SO) are giving trades they shouldn't be according to his perceived valuations. That is why I traded away Traders of Genoa (ironic, no?). Oltremare is a game which works as long as you don't have a trading curmudgeon in the group. It helps that it provides a direct incentive to trade in the bonus points, but I'm not sure it's enough for me to risk buying it and him play once and then state "never again."

What did everyone else think?

Tangent #2 -- This game is designed by Emanuele Ornella, a designer I am really interested in. I like Oltremare and we tried his latest game called Hermagor at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair -- it was great and although its release date was pushed back to early 2007, this is on my must-buy list so at some point we all can try it. He has another game also, called Il Principe, which was released in North America by Z-Man games. Has anyone in the group tried this? Does anyone own it? From the rules it looks pretty interesting.

Guardtroll & LRO arrived while Oltremare was going on, so Guardtroll and I played a round and a-half of a great two player game while we waited.

Game #2 -- Fjords -- http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/15511

Players: Guardtroll & Eric
Score/Winner: Of the single round we officially scored Guardtroll prevailed 15 to 13

I talked about this game already in the last report, so a quick summary in a quote from Guardtroll will have to do: "This is like Carcassonne crossed with Go".

Truer words were never spoken. It takes some excellent aspects of both and even works as a quick once around if you don't mind the luck of the draw. When you play out the full three rounds of laying tiles and then performing your go-like blocking placements, any luck should really even out anyway. But I had fun even in the half-game we got in before Oltremare ended.

At this point, the large group broke off into two games so Harbinger could indulge his multiple personality disorder by teaching both simultaneously.

Game #3 -- Dragonriders -- http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/18750

Players: Auger The Great, Yong No Mo & LRO

Score/Winner: The score was unknown to me but I believe I heard it said that Auger The Great was triumphant. It may have been Auger himself who said it, however, so don't quote me on this.

Hopefully some of the players will chime in with their thoughts on this game, tell us how they felt it played, and confirm who won. I will try to do better about games I didn't play myself in the future, so they don't get the short shrift.

This was a game designed in part by the Carcassonne guy and looks a lot like a Fantasy Flight game, but is actually put out in the U.S. by Rio Grande. It has modular board and is basically like many of the chariot racing games from the 80's and 90's but with a cooler fantasy theme of racing dragons. Plus there are little dragon pawns and spells to be cast. So, this game is already clearly better than most of the older chariot games whose main appeal was yelling "whip the beast!" at the top of your lungs. And you can do that anytime really. I suggest yelling it loudly and repeatedly at work, for instance.

Any further details will have to come from the players of the game and I encourage them to jump in and let us know how the game played and if there were any three-dragon pile-ups going into the turns during the game.

Game #4 -- Bean Trader -- http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4395

Players: Seripmav, Harbinger, Guardtroll, Cornbread46 & Eric

Score/Winner: Seripmav (140), Harbinger (108), Guardtroll (116), Cornbread46 (141) & Eric (150)

While the others played Dragonriders we played Bean Traders, which is a pick-up and deliver game with a trading element by the creator of Bohnanza. It describes itself as the Bohnanza board game and is basically exactly that. The graphics appear to be by the same artist and many of your favorite beans from Bohnanza are also present in this game. The graphics caused some discussion around the table in that the green bean was not actually represented by the color green and more disturbingly, the graphics show a large bean driving a wagon of
other beans to the slaughter. The group was unsure if that made us cannibals or simply some sort of bean-slave-traders selling out other races/types of beans or what. We got over this pretty quickly and settled into the game.

The game board shows quite a few locations which explicitly have a market for only 2-3 types of the beans. As these market locations fill up (when harvest cards are periodically played as the game's timer) the prices for the beans at that location go down. It seemed to the group that the order cards which tell you which beans can be sold at which locations were created to make sure that you could not sell a bean in the same locale where you could purchase that type. You each have a little horse and buggy pawn which you move around the board buying and selling beans. You also have a player board with a nice summation of the turn order and a place for your stock of beans (which I believe is up to 8 -- & you begin with one of each color).

Tangent #3 -- We ignored the money (which also doubles as the victory points) that came with the game in favor of Seripmav's poker chips, which gave the money a nicer feel than the money provided with the game, but there was nothing really wrong with the components.

This game uses the Bohnanza mechanic of having to keep your hand in a certain order fairly well. You are given a set of cards for your color that you must play out to move around the board to the various locations. You are also dealt (and acquire at the end of each round) bean orders which specify some specific types/colors of beans (usually 2-3) and a specific location where you can deliver/sell those beans for a profit. These cards also give you the payout amount if you are able to fulfill this order. It really is quite simple. There are some quirks about movement and paying taxes when moving and inviting others to join you at your current location to trade, but that is really about it.

Oh wait, there *is* one more thing, which is The Rule We Missed (TM pending). At some point during the mid to end game it was discovered that any product you have left at the end of the game which you were not able to use to fulfill an order could be sold at the base/default price for that type of bean. This caused some players to observe that they might have played differently during the game and provided other players (like me!) a chance to fill up their eight bean-slots on their final turn with profitable beans at locations where the price had been driven down. This definitely may have affected the final scores, although I hesitate to press this point on the only game I have won at a PolyU gathering, it still must be said for the record.

Some people thought the game ended a little quickly in that none of us were able to fulfill many orders, which would make the luck of the original order draw more significant overall. It also caused me and Guardtroll -- who both ended in places we couldn't sell anything with a full set of 8 beans -- to try our hand at a last ditch effort to draw an order card that we could immediately fulfill. The game allows you to toss one of your constant cards and pay some money in order to draw a new order card, and since you can fulfill them immediately when you draw them if you have the right beans at the right location, it was tempting for Guardtroll and I to try this (since we played 1st & 2nd respectively after the end-game condition was triggered and could not be sure how many more points the other players would be able to make). It didn't help me at all, just depleted my cash and IIRC it didn't help Guardtroll either. But don't quote me on that.

Despite all these quibbles, this one still gets a provisional thumbs up from me and I would certainly play again. The trading element is much lighter than in Bohnanza and not that many trades happened overall, which I think actually strengthened my like for the game rather than weakened it. I think time will have to tell on this one because I think (1) it will play much faster on subsequent playings and (2) it will play much differently if everyone is playing with an eye towards the end of game liquidation of their entire stock.

After that, things broke up and since Cornbread46 couldn't make it to the next session, he took the copy of the super-secret disk that Guardtroll brought, since I will be in attendance and will have a later chance.

All in all I had a great time and really enjoyed meeting everyone. And I can't wait for the meeting this week.

You can quote me on that.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:03 pm 
Polyhedral Underground Master
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Wonderful report Eric! Keep it up, you have a great writing style. Plus this helps us remember, which I can not do.

Memoir wouldn't do that...

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:07 pm 
Polyhedral Underground Master
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I'm giving myself the Vulcan nerve pinch right now!

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:35 pm 
Wow! You really have the gift to kind of tell it like it is, but don't quote me on this.LOL

As far as the dragon game goes, I liked the artwork, but my ability to judge distances really sucks. Auger brought up, and I agree, that the lead player has no chance of casting spells on someone behind them. I didn't like how slippery the board was which caused the dragons to not stay put when measuring.

Love the humor!

As far as your friend goes with Oltremare, and I don't know him from Adam, but it is, after all, just a game, but don't quote me. It might be something more to him. My S.O. tends to take some games personal. Take the Zoloff or what ever it is and have some fun.

Serip took the lead away from me the last turn by one; that sneaky bastard.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:00 pm 
Polyhedral Underground Master
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I declare a new rule that you MUST attend every meeting that I do not so that I can get a good account of what was said behind my rather imposing back..... I wish I had the time, patience, and abitility to write as well as you do... maybe I would have more than 13 geek gold........Great Job!

I may not be perfect, but parts of me are pretty awesome.

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