Monday, May 25, 2009

CombsCon 2009, Redux

After months of planning and a few fits and starts, we finally got a game session together for last Saturday. Mike and Anne were our gracious hosts, and we played two three-player games and three four-player games.

We started at 10:00 with Allan, Mike C., and Scott playing Power Grid, though the start was interrupted when the CEO of Scott's company lost email access. But we got rolling quickly enough, vowing to play by the actual rules this time. Which somehow we did.

Even with the correct plant replacement rules, Mike scored an early 7-city plant and Scott snagged an early 6-city plant. Allan missed out on those, but ran three wind-power plants for much of the game. This had a curious effect -- it was a boon for all. Allan didn't have to buy fuel, so he had more money on hand, and Mike and Scott got to buy *cheaper* fuel because there was one player out of the fuel market.

Anyhow, Allan initially had the second-most cities and try as he might he could not fall behind Scott, so Al got railheaded out of cities and that cost him any chance for a victory. Scott couldn't keep up with Mike's powering capacity; just too many 2- and 3-city plants available and nothing he could upgrade. So in the end, Mike squeezed out a victory in a very quick game (by our standards). The game was 2.5 hours, and the final standings went like this:

Mike 15 (powering capacity)
Scott 14
Allan 12
Note: Joshua called to say he'd be there by 2:30. There were some skeptical eye rolls, but I'm not at liberty to say who's eyeballs were rolling.
Our second game was Puerto Rico, which we highly recommend, as it plays great at three-, four-, or five-players. It was a strange one, with Mike bolting to a big lead in victory points and looking for all the world like he'd run away with a second win. He produced lots of different types of goods and had a Factory to take advantage of it. But in the mid-game, his lack of a Warehouse cost him lots of goods during shipment phases, and that probably cost him the game. Lots and lots of tobacco was lost -- and that is a very valuable commodity.

Meanwhile, Allan produced lots of corn and he and Scott used Quarries to build, build, and build. Unfortunately for Al, his corn wasn't worth anything with the Trader, whereas Scott was trading of coffee at four-ducats a throw. And Scott had an Office to boot, so he could always trade Coffee no matter what.
Note: at 2:30 Joshua called to say he'd be there at 3:30. More updates as they become available.
Riding the money from all that coffee (and his Quarries), Scott got three of the 10-ducat buildings and nearly got a fourth -- Al just edged him out. That made the score closer, but Scott eked out a win at the 90-minute mark:

Scott 57 (victory points)
Allan 54
Mike 44
Note: Joshua showed up just as this game ended at 3:30. He then claimed that he could have been there at 3:00. And even though we prefer to be charitable, we can't think of any reason why you'd put off getting to the game table. Perhaps Joshua will post his reason in the comments area.
After a 15 minute set-up, we started Pillars of the Earth at 3:45 -- all four of us: Allan, Joshua, Mike C., and Scott. Not that it mattered much; it was a runaway most of the game, with Mike hitting a big lead around the third turn. Others might remember this one better, but Mike had some huge Victory Point machine; it depended on Stone but he had plenty of it.

Allan went for some metal but never made it really pay in the end, though he ended up with a very good showing. Joshua avoided some *very* bad news early on, but his strategy got bunged up when Al edged him out of two things he needed. Scott had a money-making machine, but took too long to optimize it for Victory Point production.

Mike rode his big early lead to a comfortable win. And even though Al and Scott were closing the gap, it would have taken at least two more turns, and that's a lot in a six-turn game. The final standings:

Mike 49 (victory points)
Allan 45
Scott 45
Joshua 42
Note: If you haven't figured it out, Joshua was at the game table by this point, so there will be no more updates on his whereabouts.
Next up was another round of Power Grid, and I'd like to reiterate that it is *so* much better when you play by the rules. Scott waited to buy his first power plant and ended up with the best one, which of course meant he went last in all the important phases. That lasted two rounds and cost him dearly (missed an early build round by a BUCK). He never recovered and was only a factor in how he could screw other players.

Speaking of which, he screwed Mike in a build phase and then helped Mike screw Joshua that same round. Never got around to Al, but I'm sure he had his eye on him. And when Mike aced Joshua out on that build, it set Joshua back and he never really recovered. So it became a two-man race: Mike and Allan.

Al chose the best spot on the board, with seven cheap cities he could build with no interference. And he used that to get us to Phase 2 quickly. Then he slowed his building and let Mike catch up, which gave him cheaper fuel and a shot at better plants in the auction. And he used that strategy to stockpile money and wait until he had more plant capacity than anyone else -- at which point he built 5 cities (getting to 17) and ended the game with an impressive win (though it did come in a tie-breaker):

Allan 12 (plant capacity), and $25 cash
Mike 12 (plant capacity), and $21 in cash (the tie-breaker)
Scott 11
Joshua 10

We started our last game at 7:45, a "quick game" of Merchants of Amsterdam. Everyone started with a strategy of not overpaying for auction items. That lasted until the first auction went for $160,000. Just something about the possibility that others might win the auction rubs us the wrong way. It's the same reason we never made any money in Ransom; but that's a story for another day.

This game was dominated by those who had actual strategies: Joshua and Mike. Both got multiple bonus payments, both played their cards just right before payoffs, and both ended up at the top of the leader board. Joshua had spots sewn up on the commodity market, and first or second in just a few other places. Mike had some commodities, but was more dominant in the world market. Allan was probably most dominant in the warehouse strategy. And Scott... ummm, he brought Girl Scout cookies, so I guess that's something.

Anyhow, time moved too quickly for Allan several times, and Mike took an early loan that was costly to repay later (though he said it was totally worth it). And though it was tough to give up some of the perks in the later rounds, Joshua managed a fairly comfortable win, joining the $500 club three times over:

Joshua 1,650 (Guilders)
Mike 1,480
Allan 1,290
Scott 1,070 (and Thin Mints!)

The final tally (which has been added to the Overall Wins tote board) was as follows:

Mike C. 2 wins
Allan 1 win
Joshua 1 win
Scott 1 win

In any event, a good time was definitely had by all. In fact, it was so much fun that we're gonna try that whole "playing by the rules" more often. Pinky Promise!

- Scott