8th Dec - AoS St Lucia and Jambo

I couldn't make it this week due to work etc so Matt and Steve played a couple of 2 player games. Here's Matt's report. (Sorry for the delay but I thought I'd lost this when I swapped PCs).

Steve and I met at my house after Garry cried off again and Richard was still busy throwing himself down a mountain in style. I tried to rustle up some interest in Caylus, but was met with barely concealed derision from all sides and so Steve brought round:

Age of Steam: St Lucia two player map

For those not familiar with this particular map, there are a few non-standard steamy shenanigans afoot: Goods are found not in cities or towns, but scattered across the entire island. Whoever builds track to the goods has the ability to deliver them. There is no production and urbanisation does not put blocks on squares. What you start with on the blank squares is what you have to play with. If you ship a block from your own track tile you get a bonus point. The second big change is the priority for start player; at the start of each turn priority moves from one player to another who, after a potential share issue at the very start of the turn, gets first refusal to pay $5 to be start player. If they pass the other player gets the option, else the first player becomes the start player for no cost. The game plays over 8 turns.

The start is quite a canny process. There are no cities on the board and you can only build out of cities. The start player is likely to take urbanization and the second player must then capitalise on this if they can. I started; paid my $5 and played a black city towards the top of the board that had 3 black cubes around it that Matt’s Friendly Rail Inc. (tagline: mountains and rivers are our speciality, apparently.) could ship twice for 2 each (1 +1 bonus). Meanwhile, Evil Steve’s Rail Co. (tagline: There on time- whatever the human cost!) made some track to the south and headed in that direction. Turn two and Steve passes priority and I decide to play again, taking urbanization again. I urbanize the city at the very top of the board to blue which give me a few more choices, Steve heads south again. So I’m $10 down going into turn 3 but I had the idea that the bonus point for block shipping should mean that you can play effectively without a massive train, so I concentrate on tight routes in the cities at the top of the board and don’t plan on getting my locomotive to 6 in 8 turns.

The game move on and I end up issuing 8 shares before my money stabilizes and Steve issues 7, Steve has a 6 point loco, I kept mine at 4, but could and did reliably ship 2 batches for 5 in turns 7 and 8. Steve had stubs everywhere trying to get the big routes where he could, I picked up some of his stubs and built quite a bit of track to connect the cities at the top of the board in loops to maximise the connections and the 5 point shipping opportunities.

In the final round I have 10 connections to Steve’s 6. So; with the score tracks on 39 (Me) and 43 (Steve); we started the final scoring. Now what we have done in the past when we’ve played AoS is subtract the expenses and add the number of connections to see who the eventual winner is. That would have left the foul machinations of Evil Steve’s Rail Co. crushed in the grip of defeat 37 points to 36.

Steve reached for the rulebook.

Apparently the ‘real’ AoS scoring method is that you receive 3VP for each income and 1VP for each connection. Then subtract 3VP for each share issued. This left the scores at 108 points to 118, a victory for Evil Steve’s Rail Co. I asked if we could call it draw. Steve just laughed, cruelly.

Now, the thing I like(d) about AoS was that there seemed to be different ways of accumulating points that were weighted depending on the map, the trick being to find the right strategy for that particular map. Now it seems that points for connections, whilst initially appearing quite important, are not much for than a slight redress for spending more on track, not a strategy per se. Which is a real shame as it railroads (zing!) your strategic options towards getting a big loco and spotting where the best shipping options are. The multiplication of the final income renders any potential gain from connections trivial.

For reference, Steam gives players two vps per income at game end and 1vp per completeted link. With that method it would have ended 103:109 to Steve. A closer game and better for diverse strategies as it reduces the weight of the locomotive at-all-costs style of play. Another reason to be pro-Steam in my book at least.

Next up we played Jambo, one of the lesser known 2-player KOSMOS square box games

After a quick rules explanation to Steve in which I uncharacteristically remember all the critical ones we start setting out our wares on our market stands. I get an market expansion to 9 slots whilst Steve gets the Supplies utility which is rather good. I get one soon after but alll I seem to draw are wares cards of three identical commodities. I win a bid on 3 wares cards from a passing Arabian Merchant and Steve hocks a load of Pineapples to the Portuguese.

It's neck and neck for a while until Steve gets a Leopard Statue and swaps my Throne for his set of scales. Being the CCG hoodlum that I am, I use a 3 card combo to look at the top 6 cards of the deck, take 1, use the supplies to get another one and buy and sell two 6-wares cards to end my turn on 62 gold. Risky (the game ends after Steve next turn, if he can accumulate 63 or more gold, he wins), but Steve was on 46 so I thought it was worth a shot. Steve, the canny sub-saharran merchant that he is, then bought the last commodity he needed to complete his own 6-ware card to get to 62 himself with 3 actions to spare...he threw two actions in for a gold for a stylish win: 62 to 63.

Steve seemed to like Jambo, which is good as it makes a change to be beaten at it by someone other than my wife, and said he preferred it to Dominion. I'd never made the comaprison before but I see it now. It is better; there is more interaction and a great deal less shuffling.

Two close games then, both good fun.