Since we knew people were arriving late, we started nice and early to get a quick two-player game in first. The game we settled on was a cute little game picked up from Essen a couple of months ago, called 1911 Amundsen vs Scott. This is an asymmetric card game where players are engaged on a polar expedition, and as in 1911, the players take different routes and use different tools (Roald Amundsen famously used dog sleds and beat Robert Falcon Scott’s team who used horses by just a few weeks). On their turn, players collect cards or play cards. The cards played can be used to get closer to the pole, or can be special cards to either assist the mission or obstruct the opposition. Scott had played the game a few times before, whereas Amundsen was new to it. The Scott’s starting hand included the “equipment loss” card which is quite powerful as it reduces the opponents hand limit from seven to five. Since Amundsen hadn’t played it before, Scott decided to let Amundsen find his feet before playing it. This turned out to be a tactical error as the game mirrored 1911 and Amundsen arrived just ahead of Scott who reached the South Pole only to find Amundsen’s Norwegian flag already planted in the frozen ground.
Next up was the “Feature Game”, Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. This is a complex, but beautiful worker placement game where players represent different tribes during two Mayan “ages”. On their turn, players must either place workers or pick up workers. When placing workers, players can place as many workers as they like (as long as they can afford it), and must put them onto the gears in the lowest available spaces on any of the five outer gears. At the end of the round, the central gear rotates, turning each of the outer wheels moving the workers up the next level. On the next turn, players may chose to place more workers, or might take some or all of the current workers off the gears – the catch is that a “null move” is not allowed, so timing is everything and it is very easy to get things slightly wrong. This is made worse by the fact that everyone must have three corn at the start of the round and half way through and at the end of each age, there is a “food day”. The currency of the game is corn and if you don’t have enough to support your workers you Anger the Gods and the penalties for that can be quite dire.
Since we had one person who had not played it before and it was a while since the rest of us had played it, we spend a fair amount of time going through the rules. Then we dealt out the starting tiles for players to chose their starting conditions. Green chose the crystal skull, Blue decided to start with some technology, Yellow began with some corn and Red started with a small farm providing enough to keep one of her people fed for the rest of the game. Green started out placing his skull on the Chichen Itza wheel (or chicken pizza as we call it) as he felt it would give him a guaranteed thirteen points. Blue went first and started out by getting an extra worker and then very slowly began to build her corn harvesting ability, angering the Gods when she didn’t have enough corn at the start of a round. Meanwhile, Red ensured that her people would be fed by building lots of farms, and Yellow quietly collected resources.
Green confused everyone by placing only the one crystal skull and then going all out to climb the temple steps. However, it wasn’t until late in the game that everyone else realised this and although Blue capitalised by catching a lot of the remaining spaces, by this time the damage had already been done. Yellow made a surge as the only player to successfully build a monument, but it was not enough to catch Blue, or indeed Green who made it two wins out of two for the evening.
Learning Outcome: Sometimes its necessary to keep a close eye on the beginner to stop them from winning!