Beer, running and travel. The themes for last Monday’s games are oddly prophetic because I am going to be doing exactly those three things in real life when Moorfields station closes later this year!
Players: 5 (Plays 1-10)
Duration: 45 minutes
Roll and move. A snubbed game mechanism amongst gamers who would say that boiling progress down to pure chance makes the whole thing pointless. So when one of the most experienced gamers in my group pulled a race game out his bag which involves rolling dice to dictate the movement of runners I was a little confused. However once I got into the game I realised that chance was only a small part of the race.
In Metric Mile players control runners (based on actual athletes like Seb Coe or Roger Bannister) each with a unique running profile that controls the distance that they run each turn, their stamina number and any penalties for being in the front of the race or losing contact with other racers. On their turn players decide on one of 5 different movement types: ease up, normal, pick up, forcing and sprint and roll dice to see how far they have gone and how much stamina they will have lost. The faster movement type you choose the greater distance you can make but there is a greater chance of losing more stamina too. If you run out of stamina then your movement is cut short and then next turn you roll on a special exhausted movement table that, as you can imagine, doesn’t move you very far. After ten turns the racer out in front is the winner.
I had never played a race game before this one and was a little sceptical about how one would play out but the end of this game was tense. It’s gameplay is basic but there are some decisions to be made like knowing when to sprint for example. Sprinting gets you some good distance but really eats away at your stamina and once you start you can’t stop. Also, the profile of each runner is a little different meaning that some high stamina racers will want a fast race all the way through but others will want to keep it slow and steady but be able to burst out the pack for a sprint finish. It’s very interesting. The roll and move aspect is nicely pitched too as the dice only affects your movement by 10-15% making it more about risk management than a random success generator.
Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by Metric Mile. It’s a lot of fun and the thrill of a 1500m sprint finish is surprisingly well captured. I am not sure how easy this one is to get as it looks like it’s made by a basement developer but if you can get a go then I would recommend it.
Players: 5 (Plays 2-5)
Duration: 90 minutes
Beer. Homer Simpson said it was ‘the cause of and solution to all my problems.’ Thankfully Furstenfeld is not about drinking it (I take care of that on my own) but it’s about profiting from it, hopefully building a lovely palace on your alcohol-fuelled gains.
At the start of the game 5 random pub cards are drawn (each with a level of demand in wheat, water and hops) and placed in the centre of the table at the bottom of a demand track. Players are each given an identical deck of building cards and a ‘furstenfeld’ player sheet which represents the 6 plots of land they can build on (initially three plots produce one unit of wheat, water and hops apiece). On their turn players draw three cards (adding them to one card they kept from the previous round), sell goods they have produced from their furstenfeld to one of the pubs and then build up to two buildings if they want/can afford to. Players then discard down to one card and put all discards on the bottom of their deck.
If a pub receives more ingredients of a particular type than it needs then the price it will pay goes down and may even go to zero but if by the end of a round they haven’t met their demand then it will creep up. Players need to exploit this fluctuating market and use the powers of buildings they place to pay for six palace buildings on their player sheet as the player to do so first is the winner. The catch is that the palace doesn’t generate any income and once built will take up one of the six plots on your player sheet. The more you build, the harder it becomes. In addition the price for palaces increases as more are built so if you wait too long then you will have to pay an awfully high amount to complete your palace.
The trick is knowing when to start building those palaces over your other more useful structures and remembering what cards are coming up from the bottom of your deck (and what order they are in). There is a subtle tipping point when you stop trying to be clever and just race for the finish. If you know you have enough in the bank to build over your plots then you need to start doing it. These simple mechanics require you to balance out your deck, your little economic engine and the demand of each of the three beer making materials. It can be enjoyed on a deeper level or just a devil may care builder. This frosty stein is definitely half-full.
Players: 5 (Plays 3-5)
Duration: 90 minutes
When gamers get sick of trains they turn to planes. Apparently Airlines Europe was a train game and then a plane game before that but was reskinned to appeal to new audiences every few years. Trains! Ugh. Planes! Ooh. And so on. So while you could apply it to taxi routes, drainage contracts, intergalactic trade or ice cream vans none of them would have cool plane miniatures. Squeeeee!!!
The game takes place across a map of Europe which features various cities and picks routes between them with each route having a few slots and associated costs dotted along them. Players start with a small amount of money and a handful of five share cards dealt from the share deck (in ten colours that represent 10 different airlines) and five share cards are played face up into the centre of the table. Around the board is a track that represents the value of each of the ten companies.
On their turn players can do one of four things. Buy a route (pay the cost to put the company of their choice in a spot on a route which increases the value of that company) and take a card from the centre (which is immediately replaced), play share cards from their hand (placed in front of them and then receive a cash dividend), swap share cards for a special 11th company or take money from the bank. Three score cards are seeded throughout the share deck and when one is drawn players score victory points based on the dividend cards they have played and the value of the companies. Having the most cards in a company gets you the largest points and so on with more points awarded to more valuable companies.
Investing in companies and building routes creates a lot of passive interaction amongst players. You want to build routes in the company you have the most shares in but then another player could just let you do all the work and then try and snaffle up all the shares. Do you focus on getting big in one company or spreading your bets for a smaller amount of points in many. It’s a tough balance and players heads are constantly swirling around the table to see what other players are doing and hopefully not piggybacking a crafty opponent to victory.
Naturally I was not an incredible businessman and my bottom-feeder strategy of trying to snatch second and third place points in multiple companies didn’t work. Whether this is even a viable strategy or not I have no idea but I enjoyed trying it and when you have fun coming (almost) last you know you have played a good game.