Saturday, December 16, 1995

Bolo Game (12/16/1995)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

We played Bolo with the "tournament rules," which allow for ammunition each time a tank dies at the beginning of the game -- but less and less ammo as you die further into the game; and we provided Joshua with a map of the island because he was just starting out in Bolo. At first, Mike took the upper-left of the island and quickly stretched it across and down toward the center. Scott started in the lower-right and spread to the top, keeping the whole right side to himself. Joshua had the lower left and a bit of the center, but didn't really crank until later.

Once established in their respective territories, Scott and Mike became expansionist. Scott engaged Joshua to the left of the maze (roughly center of the island) and lost his builder, so when Mike drove through the middle of the island and took Scott's first stronghold -- the lower-right -- Scott was busy trying to slow Joshua's attempts to take back what Scott had just won, so Mike won the spot almost unopposed. To counter Mike's win in the south, Scott attacked the top-middle but spent too much time there while Mike fought long and hard to take the right-side center of the island, thus splitting Scott's "empire" in half before his builder ever got back.

Joshua had a some bases but he collected all of his pillboxes near one or two of them, stacking them up "like a trailer park" (Mike). This was hardly an effective empire- building strategy, but is sure kept his two bases safe. Feeling that he was out of the game, Scott engaged in some general trouble-making (destroying boats, half-destroying pillboxes with no intent of taking them) while Joshua and Mike battled each other -- Mike for control of the island and Joshua for more and more pillboxes.

Joshua was fortunate enough (or skilled enough) to kill Mike's builder three times in quick succession, and that was the chance that Scott and Joshua were waiting for. Scott quickly regained his lower-right outpost and then parlayed that into a victory in the center- right. Joshua worked at Mike's upper-left and center positions, and with those weakened, Scott then took the center-top base and we agreed to call it quits. Scott was declared the winner at the end (with Joshua second and Mike third), but those positions could well have been reversed if the game had ended a half-hour earlier.

A word from our winner, Scott

"When I heard Mike's builder had died, I realized that he would be unable to repair pillboxes, so that's what I decided to destroy. I figured that I could at least recapture my original empire, and it wasn't until Joshua got the builder twice more that I expanded my goal to include an actual win in the game. Bolo is most effectively played as an empire- building game, but remember to solidify your own empire before going after others'. The latter strategy can be deadly."

Scott's words to live by:
- Building roads and laying mines are underrated activities, both of which slow your competition and allow you greater mobility in your own territory
- Place two pillboxes near each base for much better protection of all three
- A dead builder is worth his weight in gold -- to the other players

Saturday, December 9, 1995

Dune Game #2 (12/9/1995)

Players: Janet (Guild), Joshua (Harkonnen), Mike (Emperor), Nazim (Fremen), Scott (Atreides)

Harkonnen and the Emperor battled for early control of Dune, and much to the latter's dismay, Harkonnen pulled out two straight traitors. The loss of those four leaders critically weakened the Emperor, and for a while, he had to be content with control of only one (non-paying) city. The Fremen attacked Tuek's and gobbled up spice all over the planet, driving the price of treachery cards through the roof.

Guild was expansionist and had Habbanya in addition to Tuek's Sietch, while Atreides simply collected two spice on Arrakeen and kept a detailed log of everyone's cards. When a nexus finally appeared, the weakened Emperor sought an alliance with the Fremen, and to counter that, the Guild and Harkonnen joined forces. Immediately, the Fremen rode the worm to destroy Harkonnen's men in the Imperial Basin (which left them poised to take Carthag); and these two alliances pounded each other for three rounds, with Harkonnen claiming afterward that he had miscalculated on at least two sure chances to win the game for his alliance (missing the opportunity afforded him by a Karama card).

Atreides moved a few men about the planet for two rounds to scoop additional spice while many battles occurred. Harkonnen locked Carthag with "Weather Control;" the Guild defeated the Emperor by one in Sietch Tabr; and the Fremen pummeled the Guild in Habanya (while Harkonnen occupied Tuek's). Then it happened. With masses of troops tanked, Atreides moved eight troops into Sietch Tabr to face only one Guild and slid five into Carthag (from Arrakeen) which defeated a force of three Guild. Game over.

A word from our winner, Scott

"Early in the game, all the spice blows blew (a few sixes and one eight), and it would've cost me too much to get them, so I sat tight. Don't be in a hurry to get to your Kwisatz Haderach unless you can make it worth your while; even though I had only two combats for the game (and both in the last turn), I was still into the game -- people can be intimidated away from fighting when you know every card they own. Definitely track the cards; other players will alternately love you and hate you for it."

Scott's words to live by:
- Bide your time when you cannot help your position
- Don't save your cards for the future when you can use them effectively now
- The Fremen should amass their troops in the Polar Sink rather than the Imperial Basin (to facilitate troop deployment toward Carthag and Arrakeen)

Dune Game #1 (12/9/1995)

Players: Anne (Harkonnen), Janet (Fremen), Joshua (Atreides), Mike (Emperor), Nazim (Bene Gesserit), Scott (Guild)

The Dune storm was positioned correctly for the Emperor to blow the Shield Wall as the first turn came to the Battle Round. The Emperor won close fights with both Atreides and Harkonnen -- with some players surmising that the latter had thrown the fight to destroy Atreides -- and that forced Harkonnen to abandon Carthag temporarily (to Plastic Basin). The Emperor took Arrakeen and Harkonnen inched back toward Carthag (over the course of several turns), with Atreides tanked to the max and the Bene Gesserit massing in the Polar Sink.

The Fremen occupied Sietch Tabr and Habbanya Ridge Sietch, and were moving toward Tuek's Sietch when the Guild defeated them in Habbanya and used Weather Control to slow their progress toward Tuek's (where three Guild troops beat back the two Fremen who survived the trek through the storm into Tuek's). A nexus then produced about 15 minutes of negotiation before Guild/Harkonnen and Bene Gesserit/Emperor alliances emerged -- which seemed to ensure that the battle of Dune would soon be decided.

As the next round began, the B. G. forgot to declare themselves hostile in Carthag, and Tuek's was still owned by the Guild and locked down by weather. The Emperor put 13 troops in Habbanya to face a perceived maximum of 14 Guild, but the Guild went last and placed their nine off-planet reserves in Arrakeen -- where they faced only seven Emperor forces -- and moved their troops out of Habbanya. Guild won the battle by one, so the fact that the Emperor played a traitor was irrelevant. Harkonnen finished the win with 20 uncontested troops in Carthag and a big smile on her face.

A word from our winners, Scott & Anne

"The length of time spent considering the alliances is what struck me about this game. There seemed to be no guaranteed win with any alliance, so I wanted to invest a few minutes to think about it, and even then, the win came hard (with the Emperor almost able to defeat me in Habbanya and the victory in Arrakeen only by one troop). What tipped the scales for me was the fact that both players in the other alliance had to go before Harkonen (my partner) and I (who, as the Guild, could go last)." - Scott

(Anne has declined comment, preferring to keep her secrets to herself)

Scott's words to live by:
- Consider your alliances carefully before jumping in
- Know your character's strengths and weaknesses well (see game summary, Bene Gesserit)
- The winner writes history, so smile while you agree with me

Saturday, December 2, 1995

Eurorails Game (12/2/1995)

Players: Allan, Anne, Janet, Joshua, Mike, Nazim, Scott

For this game of Eurorails, we reinstituted the rule that the winning player must connect at least six major cities. Mike maintains that this only had the effect of keeping players cash-poor early in the game, and that it made so little difference in the game that we should not play with it in the future. 'Course, he might be sore because he finished closer to me than to the winner this weak ;-)

Game was a bit more ruthless this time (competition of having seven players, no doubt). Allan built the short, inexpensive route from Milano to the Rhur and then cut off a line of Joshua's that was headed toward Marsailles (these two clashed on the way to Roma, too). Both Scott and Mike headed toward Spain right away, and Nazim repeated his route to Copenhagen (without using the ferry). Janet had some Madrid and some middle- European track, and Anne kept pretty much to the center of the board at first.

Scott, Allan, Mike and maybe Janet led early, with long runs for big cash, but Scott wilted on during the long trip from Copenhagen to Sevilla, and Mike seemed to run out of lucrative runs -- all of which left Allan alone in front for a long time. Joshua did okay by delivering goods as often as possible and by snatching cargo when other players tried to trade it; he was Allan's only challenger by the end. Somehow, Janet and Anne got bogged down in the middle-game (Anne had track going practically everywhere, but it didn't work out for her), and Nazim might have overbuilt the north east in an effort to find a faster route in and out of Copenhagen.

Allan won, with Joshua a close second ("only two turns away from the win" he claims -- maybe he's getting closer as a trend and not out of sheer luck) with Mike and Nazim (maybe $200 million) on the next tier, Scott at about $130 million and Anne and Janet riding in the caboose.

A word from our winner, Allan

"I started out the game with my favorite opening move: The Milano Opening. It is not always possible to employ this opening -- the cards have to be favorable for it to work; and they were. Some people shy away from Milano, but under the right circumstances, it can be the foundation for a winning strategy. Once I had my opening moves set up, I focussed on always having a paying load on- board; two or more if possible. I feel it's more important to have smaller paying loads both ways than one lucrative load one way. On my last run, I made the trip over the English Channel with Tulips to London for a mere 9m, but once there, I was able to get 2 loads of hops and a load of Bauxite which all went to cities on my corridor to Milano -- for a total of over 90m and the win."

Scott's words to live by:
- Read the lessons from last week before you start the next game
- Find a way to make each run pay
- Do not be afraid to turn in your hand -- sometimes it's easier than delivering all those useless loads