20 November 2008 was another great gaming night! I played 3 different games (not that common, as you know from previous posts), all of them very good (even rarer), and I had the pleasure of winning two of them and coming 2nd in the other (quite astounding!). Interestingly, the three games use similar mechanisms: they are card-driven, and two of them are connection + majority games.
We (André, Matt, Keith, Sam and I) started with Taj Mahal, brought by Matt upon my request. Only André had played it before. At its core, it's a poker game: do you keep playing cards to obtain majority in certain roles, or do you keep the cards for the next round (i.e. in the next Indian province)? After all, if you fold, you can be offering the majority to others... The variability between rounds can be quite high and makes for a fun and tense game. For example, I once managed to get the majority of elephants and generals in one single play of 2 cards, but in another round I played 5 cards for nothing! In round 10 I immediately folded in order to get 3 cards (2 in the colour I wished), thereby preparing myself for the 11th round to get another elephant majority. That's where I had my lucky break (I got the majority just by spending 2 cards), leaving 7 elephants (and 3 white/colour card pairs) in my hand for the 12th and last round. In the final scoring, André made a spectacular recovery because he had loads of cards, while I had spent almost all in the last round. Nevertheless, I managed to win due to the many elephant majorities, which bring in spices: the more you have of them, the more VPs they count for (i.e. the first spice is worth 1VP, the 5th is worth 5VPs). In the end, I had 50 VPs, André 46, Matt 33, Sam was somewhere between 28 and 30, and Keith had 18. I must confess I had some luck because I drew the majority of yellow cards during the game. For another view on this session, see Matt's report.
We were about to start the only other 5-player game available that evening, when I saw that at another table Richard had left and the remaining players were starting a game I had longed wished to try out. I hence asked everyone if I could change table. Matt was quite happy to see me go. 😊 André, Matt, Keith and Sam played a game of Masons, while I joined David, Ben and "Big Nick" for a game of Web of Power. David had just finished explaining it to them, and so they had to endure a second explanation just for me.
In this game, players place their monasteries and advisors in various European countries to get influence (i.e. VPs) via majorities but also chains of monasteries. The VP calculation is quite interesting. Most games only give points to the one or two players with the most pieces in a certain region, but in Web of Power everyone gets points, based on the other players' monasteries. For example, at some point, Nick had 4 and Ben had just 1 monastery in some country: Nick got 5VP (total of monasteries), and Ben got 4 (Nick's number)! One also gets VPs for building consecutive chains of monasteries, even across countries. The game has two levels, because the number of advisors in a country is limited by the number of monasteries of the majority holder in that country. Having advisors in neighbouring countries brings in VP. To sum up, the bottom monastery level restricts the upper advisor level, and both levels use majorities and connections, but in different ways. Very clever. Moreover, you can only place two pieces per round, in the same country, and you have far fewer advisors than monasteries. To top it all, there are just two scoring rounds, advisors only counting for the second one. I hope you get the picture: it's a tense, but short and fast-flowing game. David won with 71 points, Ben and I were 13 behind, and Nick a few more points behind us. David and I didn't do any monastery chain, but David had advisors everywhere and hence surpassed us all in the 2nd phase.
We ended the evening with my favourite racing game, Cartagena. I won, but David would have ended 2 turns afterwards.
If we add to all this that my PitchCar mini order arrived in the morning's post, and that Nigel brought me Blokus, which I had ordered from him, then it's safe to say this was one of my best gaming days so far.