It was a very quiet night possibly exacerbated by the closure of the A417, which impeded everyone who comes from the south.
We started out with a filler game called Taluva. This is really a thinly veiled abstract, but is very pretty for all that. On the face of it, it has a lot in common with Carcassone: players take it in turns to play tiles and then place a meeple. However, the tiles are twelve sided and comprise three hexagonal regions or fields, one of which is always a volcano. When placing tiles, they can be adjacent or on top of other tiles so long as the volcano sits on top of another volcano (the tile must also cover more than one tile and there cannot be an overhang).
The meeples are the real difference though: in this game, they represent buildings rather than characters, and the rules for placing them are a bit arbitrary. Players can place their building anywhere (buildings do not need to be put on the tile they’ve just placed), but the type of building dictates where you can put it and how many you can place. Thus, a single “hut” can be placed on any level one field (excluding volcanoes) to form a settlement, that is to say, the hut cannot be placed on a tile that sits on other tiles. On the other hand, an existing settlement can be expanded by adding huts to all adjacent fields of the same type, but in this case, the number of huts added depends on the level. So, a level two field (i.e. one that sits on top of one other tile) would get two huts and a level three field (one that sits on top of two other tiles) would get three.
Each player also has three temples and two towers to place, and these must be placed adjacent to settlement containing at least three huts (and no other temples) and on a level three tile in a settlement of any size respectively. The game ends when all players but one are eliminated because they are unable to place a building, or when one player wins by exhausting two of their type of building or when there are no tiles left. In the last case, the winner is the one who placed the most temples, then the most towers and finally the most huts.
We started at a leisurely pace before Blue remembered that we should have started with a subset of tiles and then it all became a little more frenetic. Having played it a few times before, Blue should have had the edge over Green, however it is one of those games that Blue has a bit of a blind spot for. So although Green felt he was stymied at every turn, he was only ever one or two tiles from taking the lead. The game finished with Blue and green level on towers and temples, but Blue had placed more huts, so just kept her nose in front. We concluded that we liked it, though there was nothing in the theme to assist remembering the rules. We also thought is would play very differently with more players.
After much debate (which ended in rolling the dice) we decided to play our “Feature Game”, Darjeeling. This is a game about collecting and shipping crates of tea. Each player has a tea-collector meeple which moves around an array of tiles, picking up tea. When they have a set of complete tea chests, they can choose to ship them. Bonuses are awarded for shipping larger loads and for shipping the type of tea that is in the greatest demand and the game ends when a player gets to a hundred points. The demand indicator is very clever – it consists of a double set of wooden disks lined up on a sloping track: when a tea is shipped the corresponding coloured disk is moved from the bottom to the top and the bonus is awarded according to the number of discs between the two discs of the same colour. So, if there are two discs of the same colour at the top of at the ramp, shipping that colour will give no bonus. As other teas are shipped, however, these two discs will gradually move down the ramp together until they are at the bottom when they will give the maximum bonus possible.
The other clever part of the game is the scoring for shipping: points are awarded at the beginning of a players round according to the number of crates still on ships multiplied by their position in the boat-stack. When crates are shipped, they go onto a boat at at the top of the boat-stack, so a boat still at the top of the boat-stack at the start of a players turn will score points equivallent to three times the number of crates on the boat. When Purple, Black, Blue, Green and Pink played this game a while ago and Green managed to ship six crates and unfortunately nobody was able to ship anything for at least two rounds which meant for a while Green scored eighteen points every time at the start of each of his turn and consequently gave the rest of us a bit of a hiding. There was no way Blue was going to let that happen again…
Blue started, but Green was the first to ship with four crates. Blue followed immediately with four of her own. Since Green had just shipped, he was not in a position to ship again for a couple of rounds and as soon as he did, Blue shipped again straight away knocking Green off the top spot. Blue persisted with this strategy for several rounds, shipping immediately after Green even if the timing was suboptimal for her, but preventing Green from building up a commanding lead. In fact, before long, Blue was building a sizable lead of her own and it wasn’t long before she passed one hundred points, bringing the game to a close. A couple of poor final moves meant the score was closer than it should have been, but Blue ran out the clear winner.
We were a bit tired, so we finished off with a game we’ve played before, but haven’t played for a while, Citadels. The idea of this game is that players are trying to build a city and the game ends when the first player builds their eighth building. To do this, players choose character cards and then each character is called in the prearranged order. Thus, when the late characters are played, the situation may have changed significantly from when they were originally chosen. On a character’s turn, the active player first takes money or cards, and then (if they can) they build one of the building cards from their hand. There are bonuses available for players who get one of each building colour, the player who gets to eight buildings first (triggering the end of the game) and any others who finish the game with eight or more buildings.
With so few players, we included the Witch and the Wizard from the The Dark City expansion. Blue started quickly and built a valuable purple building, while Green started with cheaper buildings collecting a range of colours. Blue then built a very cheap red building which Green promptly destroyed using the Warlord. As the game came to a close, Green had a building of every colour while Blue had more buildings but was missing red and no matter what she did, could not replace the one that got zapped. Blue finished first with another high scoring purple building and Green finished with the Architect building two buildings to bring him up to eight. Blue’s valuable buildings and the extras for finishing first offset the bonus points Green picked up for a full set of colours and all eight buildings. So the game ended thirty-three all.
Learning Outcome: Sometimes games play very differently with the minimum number and maximum number of players possible.