27th June 2017

After our recent large numbers, this was a really quiet night.  It all started off slightly controversially with a new “Tuesday Night is Pizza Night” at the pub and a new menu to go with it.  Despite being very set in our ways, we just about coped and the staff were very understanding and worked round our little foibles.  Inevitably, discussion about pizza re-ignited the pizza topping discussion from last time, with Pine adamant that pineapple is not a suitable topping for a pizza, while Blue commented that she quite liked it and in any case it is much better than sweetcorn, which is added to all sorts of things just for the sake of it.  It was about this point that Ivory pointed out that today was “International Pineapple Day”, much to everyone else’s disbelief.  From there the conversation moved onto the food value of celery and how much you had to chew it before it gave fewer calories than it needed to eat it and GIGO (“Garbage In, Garbage Out”).

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

We then segued neatly onto the subject of Thomas Midgley.  He was the the chap who discovered that adding tetraethyl lead to petrol stopped combustion engines “knocking” and developed the first of the CFCs, “Freon”, thus single-handedly causing more damage to the environment than anyone else, ever.  The world has a strange way of righting itself, though, and Dr. Midgley stopped torturing the planet when he caught polio and was paralysed.  Undeterred, the innovative scientist devised an elaborate pulley system get him out of bed, which ultimately (and perhaps fortunately for the future of planet earth) caused his premature death when he became entangled in the ropes.  Eventually, the conversation came full circle as we moved back to pizza toppings and the unusual “red jalapeños” (or should they be “hala-peenoes”?) on the Jockey’s new “J.B Pizza”.

Scoville
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was clear we were only five and we were all going to play the “Feature Game”, 20th Century.  Blue had carefully read the rules over the weekend and fully understood them at the time, however, in the interim, something seemed to have happened to those brain cells making it almost inevitable that we were going to struggle a little.  That said, the game is not that complex, taking place through a series of auctions, however, there are lots of steps to each round.  Part of the problem is that there are only five full rounds and, as the game is quite a long one, it takes at least two or three rounds to get a grip on how they flow, by which time it is too late to do anything about it.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the game is that players are building their own country (“Pine-istan”, “United States of Burgundy”, “Côte d’Ivory”, “Great Blue-tain”, and “Green-land”) with the winner being the player with the cleanest country.  Each round begins with a land auction.  The “Start Player” begins the auction by choosing a tile and placing the first bid. On their turn, players must increase the bid or they can pass.  The winner then starts the next auction in the same manner.  With five players, there are a total of eight tiles to be auctioned  and players can win as many as they can afford, however, there is a penalty, as each successive tile comes contaminated with additional waste.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

When a player passes, they can either choose to “pass” and bid on the later auctions, or as Pine commented, they can “completely pass out”.  In this case, the player can move onto the next phase and choose whether or not to buy a technology tile.  Choosing when to pass onto the next phase is quite critical as the first player to “pass out” gets the choice of all the available technology tiles, whereas leaving it too late means the good tiles may have already gone.  However, leaving it later can also make them cost less, especially as there are two different “currencies”, “money” and “science points”.  This means that in this game, timing is everything.  Going first allows players to choose to auction the tile(s) of their choice and then move onto choosing from all the technology tiles, but that can be very expensive and money is needed to prevent catastrophes in the next phase.  And some of the catastrophes are very much to be avoided if at all possible.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progresses, the catastrophes get progressively worse leading to pollution and contamination and can be utterly crippling.  This is effectively another auction, started by the first player to move on to the technology purchasing phase.  These are very different though as there are the same number of catastrophes as players and the are effectively auctioned simultaneously.  The first bidder chooses one of the catastrophes and bids.  The next player can increase the bid on that catastrophe or choose a different one and bid any amount they can afford for it.  When it is a player’s turn, unless they are currently winning, they must increase their bid or place a winning bid on a different catastrophe. Bidding continues in this fashion until everyone has bid for different catastrophes.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

With all the bidding over, players then add any tiles they’ve won to their country along with any rubbish that may have come their way during the round.  Each land tile features one or more cities built on a piece of railway that can be connected to the player’s rail network.  Each city has special production abilities with some producing money, others producing science points or victory points.  Cities are activated with a citizen token, so players have to pick which cities they are going to activate when they place the tiles.   How the tiles are connected is also critical, because some cities have a recycling plant which can be used to remove waste cubes, but only from the same tiles or adjacent tiles connected by rail.  Some technologies also allow players to move rubbish or citizens, which make the rail networks all the more critical.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to their “country”, everyone has a player board depicting three production tracks (finance, science and victory points), as well as the pollution level in their country.  The production tracks simply help players keep track the production in all their activated cities.  The pollution track is more interesting, however, as the position on the track gives end-game scoring.  After the fifth round, players can use their technology tiles, productions and recycling plants one last time.  Then, in the final scoring each tile with one rubbish token on it scores nothing and those with more than one score negative points.  Each clean tile scores two, three or four points depending on the state of the player’s pollution track.  Players also score points for the environmental quality or take penalties for any pollution, as well as the players with the most cash-in-hand and science points picking up bonuses.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

We all struggled at the start, but Pine (still in “plaster” after the little incident at the egg-throwing in the village fete) came off worst.  In truth, this sort of game is not really his sort of thing, made worse by the fact that he always wants to understand how games work rather than just doing “stuff” and seeing what happens.  For this reason, in the end he decided he’d “Just pass out” during the first auction.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad tactic as it meant he had a lot of money going into the second round.  Burgundy, meanwhile, began picking up victory points left right and centre and quickly built up a healthy lead, while Ivory and Green were busy trying to build more environmentally friendly countries.  Blue eventually began to catch Burgundy a little until her rail network finally ran out of steam, but the end-game scoring showed how close the game really was.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone picked up a huge number of points at the end and finished within five points of each other.  Green and Blue both finished on eighty-seven.  It was Ivory though, who had managed to push his pollution track much further into environmental quality than anyone else and took the glory finishing with eighty-eight points.  Almost everyone had enjoyed the game, all the more so since it was a £10 special from The Works clearance sale a few years ago.  There were several aspects that we enjoyed, in particular, the catastrophe bidding is very stressful, as it can ruin plans as well as have significant impact on the amount of money player have for the next round.  Pine was the exception, as he clearly hated it from start to finish, not helped by the fact that Blue wasn’t on the ball when teaching it and he clearly felt that £10 was a ripoff!

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  The way the rules are presented can be critical.

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