Tonight, five of us were due to play a game of Ticket to Ride Europe for the Eurogames tournament the club is organising this year. Richard was unable to come, so Paul B., Julian, David and myself sat around the table. Paul would have liked to have a practice game first, but Julian couldn't face the psychologically damaging possibility of performing better in practice than in the tournament game, so we went straight for the 'real thing'.
My initial tickets were not great and after some typical deep slow thinking on my part (read: indecision), I settled for Copenhagen-Erzurum and Vilnius-Athens routes, seeing I could cover both with a long track. As the game went on, I had not much trouble in doing the two tickets, except for Paul forcing me to take an extra 4-train detour, and for a 4-train tunnel costing me two extra engines (ouch!). I despaired when Julian attempted the 4-train orange tunnel that I needed to go from Athens to Erzurum: not another detour! Fortunately, he wasn't able to match the two extra cards coming up in the draw and in my next turn I attempted the same: luckily, I had to match only one extra card. Uff! If two had come up, I would also have to forfeit the attempt.
Paul was following his usual strategy of amassing huge amounts of cards. He was also taking lots of cards from the top of the deck. At some point David wondered why so few engines were appearing.... Paul managed to do the 8-train tunnel in North Europe, landing him a whopping 21 points. David was initially a bit all over the place, with disjoint tracks in East, Central and South-West Europe. Julian had a similar pattern, but in East and South Europe. Both built some medium-length tracks. Result: during almost the whole game, I was trailing behind in the point count.
It looked like I was going to get the 10-point bonus for longest track, with 30 trains connecting Copenhagen to Erzurum via Athens, but Paul had his eyes on the bonus too and with his big hand of cards had no major problem in surpassing me. I extended my route with a 3-train track to get back in the lead, but Paul got the upper hand again. Bummer!
Everybody else had kept 3 or 4 tickets from the start and never obtained new ones. I was wary I'd get some bad routes again, but nevertheless tried my luck. I picked up a Frankfurt-Copenhagen and a Frankfurt-Smolensk route. I just needed two green cards for the former (which I had) and to place a station for the latter. Great!
Paul triggered the final round, in which I placed the Smolensk station, thereby accomplishing all my 4 tickets, for 50 points. But the coup was David managing to do in his final turn a 6-train tunnel that accomplished his Lisbon-Moscow ticket and gave him the longest route! Paul was utterly dismayed, especially because he had neglected two tickets in order to attempt the longest route.
Final score: David won his second tournament game with 132 VP, Paul had 77, Julian 104 and I 111. David used no stations, everyone else used one.
At another table, Nigel, André and Nick Baldyworth (not to be confused with the children book author Nick Butterworth) played Stone Age. I had brought the 6 hut tiles from spielbox and promptly forgot to tell them I had it. Duh! Matt and Ester played Royal Palace, with some gentle bantering going on between Julian and Ester, while Steve, Keith and Graham managed to get a game of Princes of Florence in about one hour. Keith and Julian then joined Matt and Ester for a game of Cuba, while Graham and Steve joined us for Modern Art.
We had lots of laughs as we tried to entice the interest of others on our offerings and paintings were auctioned for ridiculously high or low prices. A prime example of the latter was David and I selling two Karl Gitter paintings to Steve in the 4th and last round for respectively \$1k and \$3k! David and I were really desperate, with no good cards and everyone outbidding us in the last round. While David did well in the first round, I did well in the 3rd round, and Graham did regularly well, the last round was mainly a Steve & Paul affair: each one acquired 5+ paintings, with Paul having first choice on the fixed-price offerings of Steve. I acquired no painting in the last round; David bought two Lite Metal paintings, hoping to bank on the score accumulated in previous rounds, but they turned out to be worthless; Graham managed to sell several paintings for a good price. Final wealth: Paul \$535k, Graham \$408k, me \$350k, Steve \$328k, David \$225.
Two great games in one evening, with big twists in the last round. Well designed games are a bit like good plays, providing comedy and drama for over one hour. But of course, much of the entertainment depends on having good actors, and my 'thespian colleagues' at the club never fail to raise to the occasion.