Monday Night Tabletop Round-up 29/09/14

I am a little behind schedule here but never mind. Also, I am on holiday next week so no round-up although I may put a few pictures on Twitter(@dixxie_flatline) of my wife breaking my heart as she thrashes me at Battle Line, again.

Unexpected Treasures

Players: 5 (Plays 3-6)

Duration: 30 minutes

Junk. Not the game but the theme where you have to collect as much junk as possible and turn it into treasure somehow. OK so the theme has got me a bit confused but the game is simple, quick and fun. At the start of each round players simultaneously reveal a numbered card from 0 to 5. If they are the only person to reveal that number then they get to take that many rubbish chips from a pile in the centre of the table and if possible trade them in for victory point cards (tiles and cards are replenished at the end of every round). The 0 is the robber and instead of retrieving tiles from the centre they take them from players equal to the number of unique cards played that round. At the beginning of the game each player is given a numbered chip and when the same card is played only the player with the lowest numbered chip gets to go, then players swap chips to even things out.

It sounds a little confusing but it really is quite straightforward and comes down to trying to predict what other players are going to do. If I have the 1 chip then I know that if I play a 5 card I will break all ties and get to pick up 5 tiles. But everyone knows that so they will play a 4. So should I risk playing a 4 to block them or will they call me out and play a 5. For me the game is all about the reveal, turning over your card then looking around hoping that you have read your opponents correctly. In our group one player really struggled to get going and she ended up getting frozen out a lot at the start but the game plays so quickly that it didn’t matter too much. Good fun.

Palazzo

Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)

Duration: 1 hour

Palazzo is a strange mix of bidding, buying and building where players obtain tiles to build towers which are awarded points at the end of the game based on height, number of windows and uniformity of colour. In the centre of the table is a market surrounded by four quarries with a master builder token on one of them. On their turn, players either take money, rearrange their buildings or buy/auction tiles. 5 king tiles are randomly distributed in the lower third of the tile draw pile and the game ends when the fifth one is drawn.

Each time a player takes the buy/auction action a new tile is added to the central market and one of the four quarries. Then they can either choose to buy 1 or 2 tiles from the centre (the more there are, the cheaper they get) or auction every tile on the next quarry on from the master builder (who then moves along). This is a really interesting decision. Do you take a safe purchase of a couple of tiles or a risky auction for a lot more. You might even want to buy a stack of tiles just to deny your opponents those top tiles that they really need. The last option is very satisfying.

Sometimes you play a game and everything falls into place and that is exactly what happened when I played this as I managed to get a crushing win. I seemed to pick up the right money and managed to outbid opponents on tiles they wanted as well as ones I did too. I was very lucky and will hold onto the win in the inevitable victory drought coming my way!

Puerto Rico

Players: 5 (Plays 2-5)

Duration: 2 hours

It’s hard to describe the feeling of playing Puerto Rico. On the surface it’s about creating an island economy in order to ship goods and buy buildings, both of which yield victory points, but underneath it is an incredibly tight max-min game which forces you to pay attention to what other players are doing and try to limit the benefits they can get from your turn. Let me explain.

Each player has a board with one space for plantations and one for buildings. The first player (the governor) picks up an action tile and uses it, then every other player in turn also gets to use that action too. Then the second player gets to pick an action which other players use and so on until every player has chosen an action. There will always then be three unchosen actions which get a coin added to them for the next person that chooses it. Then the governor card moves round one space and play continues. Example actions are the builder (buy a building), the settler (take a plantation), the trader (sell a good), the captain (ship goods for victory points) and the mayor (obtain workers).

The player that chooses an action does get a slight bonus but they have to be very careful not to help the other players too much and that is where the key to this game lies. Often it’s worth taking an action that may only benefit you a little but will help nobody else. That action you really want will get picked by another player so let them have choose it for you and reap the benefits. Turn order can be brutal, has that guy to your right only got coffee? Pick the trader before him and sell yours ahead of him. Mean as hell.

I can certainly see why this game has such a high rating. It has a solid worker placement system and a nice level of player interaction (by which I mean screwing over). Personally I found it to be a little bit muddy at times, some of the actions didn’t really match what they actually did which added to a layer of abstraction that could get in the way of understanding the game. However, this is just window dressing and I really liked it. Puerto Rico is a great mental workout and nothing beats hearing the 3 players to your left groaning as you pick the captain and watch them toss half their hard-earned goods in the river.

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