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Reflections from a Swede in Norway.

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Another Sunday, another gaming session

Published: Sunday 2005-02-06.

Since it is once again Sunday, I met up with my board gaming buddies to play some board games. I have managed to get several colleagues at Opera to show up, both people who are inveterate gamers (as I have become) and curious novices. Today Ivar, who leads the sessions, me, Marit, Daniel and Ian showed up, where the latter four are from Opera.

Since Daniel and Ian were a bit late and had to wait for a bus, Ivar, Marit and I started with a quick game of Quicksand. Quicksand is a game that I first played at NärCon last autumn, and whose goal for six adventurers to get through a dangerous jungle to an ancient temple. The thing that is special about this game is that no-one knows who is who, and that no matter the number of players, all the six explorers are in the game. This time, Ivar managed to completely fool the rest of us by almost not moving his black piece at all, which made it lag far behind in the start, something that made us believe no-one was owning it. Because of that we were happy to move it towards the end of the game, which meant that Ivar easily could get it into the goal and win the game...

After Ian and Daniel finally managed to get themselves to Nydalen, we played Ticket to ride, a game where you build railways in North America according to the missions (tickets) you receive. When starting the game, each player receives three missions, of which you must keep two; to succeed it is best to have similar lines, for example two from the west to the east, or two from the north to the south. I managed to get two that could “easily” be fulfilled by one railway line, and that also were worth quite a lot of points, so I had a good starting position.

Each round you can either take two build cards in different colours, or you can build by playing a number of build cards of the same colour (and for most of the lines you also need the proper colour to build), or you can select new missions. The trick is not to wait too long to start building, because it is easy to get blocked, especially when playing with several players (we were five), but you cannot start too early because then you reveal yourself. Some time into the game most players drew missions, and so did I. When doing that you take three new tickets, of which you must keep at least one. I was very fortunate to get two new lines that I had already built a large portion of (I was done with my initial missions) and I also managed to finish these.

When calculating the score, you score for all the line segments you have built, with longer segments scoring higher, for the missions (with minus points for the ones you didn’t manage), plus that the longest continuous route scores ten bonus points. I managed to win over Ivar with one point (126 to 125) by completing my four missions, even though Ivar did score the longest route and had several long segments. My missions simply were worth a lot of points (in total over 60). It was quite obvious that it was a big advantage to having had played the game before since neither Marit, Ian nor Daniel, who hadn’t played before, were close to me or Ivar. On the other hand, neither was I the first time I played it.

The third game of the day was Citadels, a game where each player selects one of eight available roles and builds buildings in their own city. Each building costs an amount of money to build, and at the end of the game you sum up the value of the buildings you have, with the one scoring the most winning the game.

Early on I managed to get a few really good (but very expensive) buildings on my hand and tried to save up money to be able to build them. This was apparently a really lousy strategy, since both times I managed to save up enough money I was robbed (one of the roles you can choose is thief) of all my money, both times by Daniel. I ended up hopelessly last with eight points, while Ian won with over 20 points, with Ivar second and Marit third, just a few points behind.

After Citadels, Marit had to leave, so we were down to only four people. First we played Power Grid, a game I have given a detailed description of earlier. For once the game didn’t end immediately after we had reached “phase three”, which meant that all the power plants were available for purchase. Daniel managed the impressing feat of being able to supply power to 17 cities using only two rods of uranium in the last round, by having two really good nuclear power plants and the self-sustaining fusion plant, the most expensive power plant in the entire game. With a raw material cost of five electro for 17 cities he of course did win the game, with me second with 16 cities powered by three oil-based power plants. Ian and Ivar each had fifteen cities they were able to supply, which meant that the money was the tie-breaker. Since Ian had saved four electro, while Ivar only had two after the last round’s purchases, Ian ended third.

After a badly needed food break, we played Tigris & Euphrates, a game that Ian described in detail after the last time played it. It really is an interesting and entertaining game. The rules are almost impossible to understand the first time you get them explained to you, but you get a real aha reaction when you play the game, because then they become completely obvious.

To score in the game you have to balance the four different scoring colours, because only completed sets count. I managed to get eight points each in black, red and blue, while I only had six in green. Fortunately, I had managed to get my hands on two “treasures” early on in the game. These count as wild-cards, which meant that I could also count eight green points. Most of the other players had a big majority in one of the colours, which is very common, but no-one managed to beat my eight points.

Two first places and one second in five games is a really good tally, I think. Now, winning is of course not the important thing, the best thing is meeting up and having fun. But it’s of course never wrong to win sometime.

This entry is referenced in: Review: Ticket to Ride – Europe.

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