Stone Age session

Almost full house tonight - 16 players! Nick, André and Ben played Elasund; Keith, David, Paul B. and (who else?) played Seafarers of Catan followed by Cartagena; Nigel, Ian, Sam, Simon and Huggy finished their Game of Thrones that started last week; and Ester, Julian, Matt and I played Stone Age.

box coverI was curious about this game in the Geek's top 50 and someone (Huggy?) had told me many weeks ago, when Matt first brought it, that it was a good game. I was slightly disappointed when I read the rules last week, in preparation for tonight. There didn't seem to be any innovative mechanisms and there was the added complications of the cards that also score at the end in various ways. Tonight's play would confirm the disappointment.

But first the facts. Only Matt had played before and he explained the rules. Julian remarked that Matt was very nice to newbies... or was it just to win the games? It took us 2h, including rule explanation, to finish the game. I was again the slowest player and I got from the others the usual looks and comments, and this time Matt had the nerve to also nod, pretending to fall asleep! Matt quickly got in the lead, although Ester and Julian caught up later. I was trailing behind. At some point, I did again a pathetic move (it really started to be a dejá vu of last week): I put a worker on a building to exchange brick and some other goods into VPs, I had those other goods, but I forgot to put workers on the brick production space! How stupid is that?! Luckily, someone else had put a worker on a card that generated 2 bricks and other things on the dice roll, and I managed to grab a brick before my turn of putting the workers to action. Pheww...

In the penultimate round, again a sense of dismay: I went first for a tool, second for a cheap card, and on my 3rd turn all buildings had been selected. Aargh! Here's the situation for your full appreciation: I'm sitting on a pile of commodities and not being able to convert them into VPs in this round, I'm trailing about 30 points behind the leaders (Ester and Matt with 1 point difference), and the next round might be the last because there was only one card left in one pile. Aah, the future looked definitely bleak... :sad:

Alas, compared to my playing so far, my last round was a stroke of genius, if you don't mind me saying so. :smile: I had 8 workers and I set them to good use. I put them on 3 (!) buildings, including the one that would end the game, on a card with a 'use once' 3-tool and on silver and wood, the resources I needed to fulfil the building's conditions. I managed to get all I needed, recovered easily my 30 point lag and finished first with 115 VPs. Matt had 103, Ester 85, Julian 69.

Opposite to last week, tonight Matt let the critical opportunity slip (he should have terminated the game) and I seized it. While the others were busy converting commodities to VPs, I collected workers and tools, which gave me the most VPs in the final scoring round. Hence, the trailing behind paid off, but it's too risky a strategy to be repeated because it critically depends on the final rounds.

Now the opinion. Stone Age is a good economic development game, with tense decisions and opportunities for non-trivial strategical and tactical thinking, and gorgeous artwork by one of my favourite illustrators (Michael Menzel). However, I probably shall not play it again. Why? Because it lacks elegance. The cards and buildings introduce a purely game-mechanical aspect that doesn't fit the theme and just adds complication. Moreover, the game's duration is slightly too long and although it can be offset, there's still too much luck involved for my linking, with all that dice rolling. With several great games to choose from, why play twice the merely good ones?

Next we started a game of Thurn and Taxis (also illustrated by Menzel) I had brought, but after ca. 1h15 (including rule explanation) we were still some time away from finishing and had to interrupt the game, because everyone else had or was finishing their games. By the time we interrupted, Julian was leading with 10 VPs, Matt had 9, Ester 8 and I was again trailing behind with just 4 VP. Would have history repeated itself? We'll never know... After the game, Julian said he prefers games that allow players to be nasty to each other, and T&T does not. I see I should have insisted on playing Modern Art instead. No problem, I'll bring Intrigue next time... :twisted:

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