Saturday, January 27, 1996

Monopoly Game (1/27/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

Over Mike's protests that we should play either bolo or Speed Circuit, we played a "fast rules" game of Monopoly. Mike got the first monopoly on the board -- the utilities -- and made Scott pay for it with a near-maximum rent of $110. Scott got the purple monopoly early on and actually collected a few times on it (though early in the game it didn't threaten to bankrupt anyone). Joshua started collecting railroads and a stray property here and there but didn't truly get into monopoly mode until Mike traded him the last orange property for some railroads. That trade brought both players needed economic strength.

Scott happily collected his $250 and $450 for Club Med. and Baltic, respectively, and eventually traded the third green property to Mike for the last two purples. At the time, it seemed like only Mike had the cash to develop the greens and Scott could afford to develop only the purples, so the deal look good all around. However, Mike later confessed that the greens were too expensive and that the trade nearly cost him the game because Scott quickly put hotels up on all three purples.

Joshua's orange monopoly failed to pay off for him, and he eventually bankrupted to Mike. Scott suggested they quit and play bolo, but Mike insisted on going on. At the time, it appeared that Scott would win, but Mike then employed two desperate but effective strategies. He sold off houses on the green properties for houses on the newly- acquired oranges (mortgaging most everything in the process) and began rotating which railroad was active, depending on where Scott was on the board. It then came down to who would hit the opponent's properties most often, and it appeared that Scott had won when he landed in jail; however, Mike made it past Scott's properties and when Scott left jail, he immediately landed on New York Avenue. The game was over with Mike thanking Joshua for his advice and Scott reminding them both that he hadn't won a game of Monopoly since the 5th grade.

Many words from our winner, Mike

"Monopoly has a lot of luck, but you can change the odds significantly by making the right deals at the right time. I traded Joshua an orange monopoly when he was cash poor and, therefore, not a great threat to me. I gained all four railroads in return and an immediate source of income. Joshua's monopoly helped me persuade Scott to trade with me; he had the Baltic properties and now needed a better monopoly to counter Joshua, and the clock was running. Once again, I gave more (two, unmortgaged purples) than I got (one mortgaged green), but I thought I would be able to build them faster. Unfortunately, I underestimated my expenses in comparison with Scott's and this almost cost me the game when he put up hotels and Joshua and I hit them.

"If you can't develop all your properties at once, you can 'aim' them at other players. I started when three of my four railroads were mortgaged. By mortgaging the last one and using the money plus another $10 to unmortgage another, I was able to open the railroad that players were approaching; and it's a $200 payoff if it hits, so it's a pretty good deal. When I switched the green houses for orange ones, it was an act of sheer desperation. I lost $500 on the move, but it made Scott more likely to hit my property before I hit his. The game hung on this one move, and Scott was unlucky enough to hit (he is only in the game to pay me rent, after all). 'Game over, man.'"

Scott's words to live by:
- If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?
- Don't offer to input any "winner's tip" that's longer than the "game summary."

McMulti Game (1/27/1996)

Players: Joshua, Mike, Scott

We thought maybe we'd romanticized McMulti during its year-long hiatus from Saturday nights, but rules clarifications showed us again how fun this game can be. Joshua and Scott went drilling for oil early in the game, with Mike building gas stations to take advantage of the profit margin as the game begins. Joshua hit some wells and Mike sold some gas, but Scott's had Allan's luck and dropped behind. The economy moved quite frequently and not always the way it was likely to move, and the consumer market boomed for most of the game (hitting an astounding high of 77!).

Mike made his profit on the gas stations and decided to sell them off at a profit (or slightly less) and begin drilling and refining. Joshua's three wells pumped him full of profit and his refinery guaranteed that he could sell on whatever market he wanted. The import and export markets for refined oil topped out at $48 million per barrel -- and the incredible consumer market made even that heavy investment worthwhile. All three players were contentedly making money until luck finally changed the game.

Scott's roll moved the economy into "Depression" and he sold on the newly invigorated consumer market and bought an island's worth of equipment. On Mike's next roll, he changed the economy back to "Rapid Growth," driving equipment prices (and the consumer market) through the roof. Both he and Joshua purchased their equipment at much greater prices than Scott, and almost immediately, news forced all three to pay substantial taxes on their equipment. From that point, it was only a matter of time before Scott won, with Joshua and Mike finishing almost $700 million behind.

A word from our winner, Scott

"Are you kidding? Okay, here's my winner's tip: sit on your ass until the dice win the game for you. On a more serious note, I remember that we stopped playing this game because we felt that luck played too much of a role, and I think I'm back to that opinion. The game was decided by the dice and nothing else. We were all pretty close before the fateful round, but the advantage I gained by a roll of the dice was decisive."

Scott's words to live by:
- Take Joshua's "winner's tip" from last week with a grain of salt -- he played the same strategy this time and lost by millions.
- Mike's strategy of making early profit on the consumer market seems sound.

Saturday, January 20, 1996

McMulti Game (1/20/1996)

Players: Allan Joshua, Mike, Scott

We hadn't played McMulti in a while, and our faulty memories led to several hosings early in the game. Both Joshua and Mike got to stock their islands with a fair amount of equipment under the favorable "Recovery" economy, but because we rolled to see if the economy changed after each player's turn (which we now know we weren't supposed to do), both Allan and Scott had to pay exhorbinant amounts for much less equipment. All players tried their level best to develop an oil well early, and because of the cheaper (and therefore, more numerous) rigs that they got, Mike and Joshua had success right away. Limited resources combined with his usual poor luck rolling the dice left Allan scrambling to catch up and Scott bought little equipment but got the rolls he needed to begin oil production relatively soon.

Joshua forged an early lead with two working pumps, with Mike close behind (after turning a $65 million profit on the sale of his first well) and Scott not far from Mike. Allan's bad luck continued as the first bit of news closed the foreign market, leaving him with massive reserves of refined oil and nowhere to sell it. In addition to the closed market, the economy was quite stagnant (due to another rules misinterpretation on our part), often staying in one mode for four to eight rounds. These conditions forced players to hoard their oil until something broke the tide, but further news threatened to tax those reservers and there seemed no way out. Scott left (at 1:00) and the others persevered.

The boredom of playing with no economic change spurred Mike, Joshua and Allan instituted a house rule that when the consumer market hit zero the economy automatically switched over to "Depression." This helped Joshua, who had free oil coming out of the ground and being refined all the time (though they failed to tell me how this affected the other players), and made the game more interesting since you could always buy your equipment during "Depression" and sell it when it became more valuable and because the consumer market always moved. Game ended (at about 2:45 am) when the "tax" news came to fruition and Allan couldn't sell enough equipment to pay for it (the one disadvantage of playing so often in "depression"). Joshua won and everyone wanted a more dynamic economy and some sleeeeep.

A word from our winner, Joshua

"LUCK and diversification are the key to this one. Get a pump, a refinery, and a station and you have a money machine that pays in all seasons. Don't just stick to stations, the margin in buying gas and selling to the consumer market just isn't enough to compete when others can produce gas for free. If you do acquire the pieces to a money machine, USE IT. Always sell everything you can to earn a free buck:. Remember: any oil that comes out of a pump is free money -- so take it."

Scott's words to live by:
- Reread the rules when you dust off a game that has set on your shelf for a year.
- This game probably has too much luck to be taken very seriously (see next week's "winner's tip" for details).

Tuesday, January 9, 1996

Merchant of Venus Game (1/9/1996)

Players: Anne, Christine, Joshua, Paula, Mike, & Scott

A rather enjoyable game of Merchant of Venus. Mike got off to a fast start by servicing a short route (with additional demand) for Bionic Perfume, and Joshua got lucky with an Immortal Grease delivery of relatively short length (from the left-middle to the top-middle). Christine and Scott went exploring, Scott in "the cloud" and Christine toward the lower- right of the board. Anne followed Joshua to the upper-left and then veered off to discover strange new worlds along the top edge of the board.

Two trips through the supernova slowed Anne considerably, but she did build a factory once she'd discovered a great run from the top-right to the top-center; but alas, her two trips past the supernova may have cost her too much time for the money she made. Once Christine had discovered most of the right side of the board, she then left it alone and scooted along the bottom of the board, picking up relics and opening telegates along the way. Scott muddled around in the upper-left quadrant, while both Mike and Joshua delivered profitable runs in the same area (just good enough to beat Scott there).

In the classic speed versus payload debate, Joshua upgraded to a Transport, while Mike and Scott opted for Freighters. Christine stayed with her scout and she and Scott proceeded to service the long-neglected right side of the board (which was teeming with goodies). Mike delivered nearer the center and actually ran out of Freighter runs pretty quickly. Joshua used his Transport -- loaded with red and yellow drives -- to make an Immortal Grease run every turn (and to drop off some Servo-Mechanisms on the way back). In fact, he often got some demand when delivering the Grease.

At this point, Paula joined the game and delivered two runs then left. (It was the Blizzard after all, and she needed a way to kill a few hours -- would you have said no?) Joshua masterfully avoided detection as the leader by pointing out Scott's lucrative payloads and Christine's growing stack of cash. Mike was beaten to many potential deliveries, trying to go too far in a Freighter when faster ships were on the way; I'm not certain where Anne went wrong, but she did say that she lost on purpose to avoid having to write anything for this game summary. Mike's last ditch effort to stop Joshua failed when he could not steal a factory from him, and Joshua barely beat Scott and Christine to victory -- though barely counts only in horseshoes and hand-grenades (and we don't play with either).

A word from our winner, Joshua

"A Transport with a red and yellow drive allows you to make a run EVERY turn with 2 holds open for cargo. This can lead to big bucks when there are a lot of players in slower ships trying for the same runs. A word to the wise: Lasers and Nova Balls seem to appear at around $1700 (in a game to $2000), so make sure your properties are protected by then."

Scott's words to live by:
- Don't let others identify you as the leader (especially when it's not true)
- Roll well or face the consequences
- If Grease is Immortal, why did the demand for it keep coming up?