EURO GAME RETREAT @ GENTING AWANA 8/10/2006
Event Report #3
Gamers: Edwin, Shaun, Jen Fai, Denise, Richard, Chris, Melissa, KP, Ryan, BK, Melody, Teddy Pang, Heng, Alvin, Rob Street and Jeff Au
Games: Heck Meck, Caylus, Antike, Tikal, Railroad Tycoon, Samurai, Through the Desert, RA, Ticket to Ride, China, St Petersburg, Niagara, Thurn & Taxis, Santiago, Cosmic Encounter, Pirates’ Cove, Settlers of Catan, Torres, Elfenland, Pompeji, Cafe International, Power Grid, Acquire, Elasund, Reef Encounter, Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, Puerto Rico, Primordial Soup.
(Buy these games from our Web Store)
Games on Special Menu: Dune, 1856
Games on Preview: Project X
Location: Genting Awana
Date/Time: 7-8 October 06 (Sat/Sun)
Day One ended with 5 rounds of gaming; a total of 21 games played and we were on schedule to complete the next two rounds of gaming tomorrow morning. Everyone adjourned to the restaurant for a good buffer dinner, chit chatted over dinner and by 8PM, were already to commence with their respective evening programmes.
Some chose to enjoy the free-time on their own but nine gamers decided to take the opportunity to learn/play the longer & heavier games such as Dune and 1856. Let’s take a look at how the After Eight Evening Gaming session went.
|DAY ONE – AFTER EIGHT EVENING GAMING|
We have always wanted to have the opportunity to get away and make use of the time together to play some of the heavier Euro Games which invariably means they take longer to play. Some of these games are Indonesia (4-6 hrs), Twilight Imperium 3 (4-6 hrs), Diplomacy (6-8 hrs), 18xx (4-6 hrs), Dune (6 hrs), 7 Ages (>10 hrs), and Civilization (>10 hrs).
Table #1: DUNE
Instead of resting, nine gamers decided to spent their Awana evening getting immersed with one of the heavy games above. The first group of four got together to re-live Frank Herbert’s award-winning sci-fi novel “Dune” which has not only inspired a movie and TV mini-series of the same name, but countless other books and merchandise spin-off.
Dune the boardgame was designed by Eon Games, the same people who gave us the fun fun fun Cosmic Encounter (see report #2). The Dune boardgame is now OOP (out-of-print) and existing copies fetches a very high price at eBay. Thankfully Edwin has a copy of the game.. and he gladly brought it along with him to this retreat.
Shaun, Jen Fai and Teddy joined him to learn the game. This game plays up to 6 players, and is in fact only good if you have the full complement of 6 players otherwise it might appear unbalanced in certain areas. Each of the player will play one of the major races/factions in the novel such as Fremen, Atreides, Harkonnen, Guild, Benne Gesserit, the Emperor, etc
Each faction/race has their different strength/weaknesses and is best played with a different approach. This gives the game a very unique feel for the player depending on which faction/race you control. The player’s objective is simple enough; to gain control of Dune (and all its spices).
However the choice of approach you take to achieve the objective mentioned is what makes this game so special. It also follows the storyline of the book very closely. I’ve not played Dune yet so I can’t say how closely it follows the book’s story arc but suffice to say, many Dune fans absolutely luv this game! I suppose you get to do some role-playing when you negotiate and form alliances to achieve your megalomania objective of controlling the Dune universe.
While Edwin started going thru the rulebook for Dune, the other table saw five gamers – Heng, Alvin, Rob, Ryan and myself – settled themselves down for an adventure in railroading 18xx-style, this time in the Upper Canada during the early days of the railway industry in Canada.
Table #2: 1856
The 18xx series of games (such as 1830, 1856, 1870, 1835, 18FL, etc) is IMHO the best stock-market and operation management business game out there. Started by Francis Tresham with his 1829 game, the series has gone from strength to strength and there are now over 20 different games of this genre.
The 18xx series is also the series where the railroad business theme is very strong and dun feel like a pasted-on theme (eg Ticket to Ride). In terms of complexity, I would rank them as follows:
10 Days > Ticket to Ride > Union Pacific > Railroad Tycoon > Age of Steam > 18xx
The best game from this series is 1830 which unfortunately has gone OOP and yours truly have been searching eBay in vain for a reasonably priced copy. The last I checked, one copy was sold for US$156 (gosh!). I would think the only person I know who has a copy of 1830 in M’sia would be our good Dr Chua.
Read my first impression on 1830 played earlier this year at Games Circle.
There is not even a single luck element in an 18xx game. No random good cubes distribution, no random Action Cards or Tycoon bonus. So everything’s up to you. The basic premise of the game is simple. Everyone starts with a certain amount of money (usually $1,500 divided by the number of players) and it’s up to you to make use of this starting capital to build your fortune in the railway business. The player with the most money at the end of the game wins.
You can decide whether to use your starting capital to fund a new railroad company and help it get listed to the stock market. Obviously you hope to have majority shares when that happens so that you can become it’s CEO and get to dabble into the day-to-day operations of the company; deciding where to build your tracks, which cities/towns to link to and setting up your revenue stream from your railroad networks.
Or you could choose to be an “investor” (this is where the term Robber Baron came from), taking up initial positions in those new railroad companies formed by your peers but not getting involved with the operations. You attempt to spread your investment, diversifying to maximize your returns. And when the time is right, you either unload the shares of one railroad company to get maximum capital gains or you start a massive buy-in of the company’s shares to attempt a take-over of the business when it’s most profitable.
The game is played over two rounds; the Stock round and the Operations round. The game starts with a single Operations round and up to three Operations round in the later phases of the game.
We started off with a trial game as I explained the rules to them. We decided to dive straight into the game, and pick up some of the not-so-obvious rules as we go along, with constant reference to the rulebook. Rob, Alvin and Ryan quickly started off their railroad companies while Heng and myself started investing in one of our own.
We quickly got the sale of Private Railroad Companies done. This is the stage where each player bids for the 6 private railroad companies that were the pioneers in the Canadian Railway history – Flos Tramway, Waterloo & Saugeen, The Canada Company, Great Lakes, Niagara Falls and St. Clair Frontier. Some of these private companies come with special privilege on the map for track building or income generation therefore one of the things we need to learn is how to pair these private companies with the public companies we intend to float later.
Once the private companies were all operational – and their owners getting a small revenue stream from them every turn – our attention were turned to choosing which of the twelve public railroad companies to capitalize. Rob and Alvin quickly got their public companies floated (each of us investing in them as well) and soon we have two public companies running on the map of Canada.
Heng were not too far behind to float his public company and soon the three companies were competing not just for track-building space on the map but also for the choice of track tiles to use since in Phase One we only have access to the Yellow Track Tiles. I decided not to get my hands “dirtied” running a railway company and chose to spread my investment across the existing public companies….. earning good dividends from each one especially Rob’s company which was doing really well and paying dividends up to $10 per share.
At this stage, we have discovered Lesson #1 – It’s good to invest in a company that pays good dividend.
.. which was not really a difficult thing to do because it seemed every CEO was getting his company to pay out the profits from each round. One thing to note about this game is that you handle two types of money; your own personal cash and the public companies treasury (where you are CEO). These piles of money ARE NOT interchangeable ie. you cannot transfer funds from a company treasury into your own personal account (hehe but there are ways you can siphoned from the company’s coffers).
One way to get money out from the company treasury is to pay out dividends, which distributes the profits to all shareholders (which unfortunately may also include your competitors). However this will cause your public company to be low in operating cashflow since the profits were all paid out! The other side effect of paying out dividends is your share price goes up one step in the stock market increasing the net worth of your holdings! But who cares right as long as your pockets are being filled up? hehe….
This stage went on for awhile; with the public companies making great effort to expand their network and increase their revenue; all the time feeding the profits back to their investors. But as they said, good times don’t last….
When Phase 3 arrived (with the first purchase of a Type-4 train), the CEOs were in for a BIG surprise! Most CEOs prior to Phase 3 have bought and operated Type-2 trains with one or two of the more forward-looking CEOs buying themselves the more expensive Type-3 trains. For eg. one of Rob’s companies LPS had three Type-2 trains and only one Type-3 trains.
What happened in Phase 3 is that all Type-2 trains are considered obsolete and to be sent immediately to the scrap yard with no compensation whatsoever to the companies. Furthermore public companies are now allowed to own only up to 3 trains (instead of 4 previously).
This created a panic, to put it mildly, as the CEOs suddenly realized that since they did not factor in “technology obsolescence” in this business plan, they are now faced with having only one Type-3 trains to operate their business. Some do not even have any more trains since they have invested heavily in the Type-2 trains (which were cheaper then) and have not thought of upgrading!
You see company income level dropping from $150 per round to $45 (or worst, zero income for some!) since with only one train they cannot service all the routes they’ve built and can only earn from a single route!
And now comes Lesson #2 – You should not pay off all profits as dividend. Keep some in the company in order to provide capital for growth!
Updated 9/5/10: I now prefer to use this quote for Lesson #2 “Have you been saving for rainy days? Coz it sure is raining now!” LOL
Now you see a reverse of the dividend payout trend. Instead of paying out dividends, all CEOs decided to withhold profits and attempt to squeeze whatever little profits they have to quickly upgrade to the newer Type-4 trains in order to preserve their business! The investors now find their pockets getting dry and as a result, the stock market took a nose dive….
Rob even took the drastic step of dumping all his shares in LPS to raise the necessary cashflow so that he can salvage his other public company… causing LPS shares to drop from a high of $175 to only $90 after Rob has relinquished all control of LPS to Ryan.
This was a great a-ha moment for us as we now realized that while the game seemed to be cruising along on an auto-pilot speed, it can suddenly picked up and make a sharp turn… and woe behold those players caught unaware of the sharp change in fortunes.
We played the game further for a few more turns before calling it a day since it was already 4 AM then and we still have to be up by 9 AM to start Day Two of the Euro Game Retreat. But looking ahead, we can certainly see a few more sharp corners for us to maneuver in this game if we were to continue playing.
•When Phase 4 arrives (on first purchase of Type-5 trains), companies are only allowed to run two trains! All private companies are closed. This will means companies need to move away from running the existing low-value 2- or 3-link networks to lucrative 5-link networks.
•When Phase 5 is reached, companies that cannot pay off their Government Loan ($100 each loan chit) shall be absorbed into the Canadian Government Railways (CGR) with the incumbent CEO losing his position. Diesel engines are introduced at this phase and all Type-3 trains are considered obsolete. So if you have not planned for your Type-3 to be upgraded to either Type-5 or Diesel, you are in for another a-ha.
•And finally when Phase 6 comes, you have to scrap Type-4 trains as well. Vicious.
Even when we retired to our cozy bed, I couldn’t help not thinking about this game. Ditto for Rob, who keep discussing with me various strategies and tactics we can use to increase our wealth or run the railroad companies better. So much richness in the game like an onion.. as you peel off one layer, you discover the next layer and so on…. To quote Rob, “I’ve played many strategy games and I’ve to say this is Top Shelf.”
What Next for 18xx?
Let’s first take a look at the 18xx games on the market. There are three in-stock 18xx games; 1856, 1870 and 1835. It’s still best if you get to play the basic 1830 and then from your experience with 1830, decide which one to branch out next.
1856 is the one to try next if you like the financial aspect of the stock market element in the 18xx game. Loans, stock manipulations, bankruptcies, etc. If track building is more to your taste, 1870 does a good job while keeping some of the more interesting stock market maneuvers of the 18xx genre. Finally 1835 offers you a more toned down stock market with better historical flavor.
For a full list of the 18xx series, check out this Geek List from Boardgamegeek.
We are also forming a 18xx Special Interest Group (SIG) for Boardgamecafe.net Meetup where we aim to arrange for more regular play of the 18xx games. If you are interested to learn about this game and play a session or two, go sign yourself up at Boardgames Meetup and you will be informed of future 18xx meetups.
|DAY TWO – ROUND SIX|
Everyone’s back at Jelatek Room by 9 AM sharp on Day Two to resume their Euro Game Retreat sessions. Even though some of the gamers took part in the After Eight Evening Gaming (see above) which ended around 4 AM, they managed to look fresh for the morning session. Hmm…. Red Bull or Livita? Take your pick 😛
The morning session kicked off with a 2-hour game with the following games being picked for this round – Power Grid, Acquire, Elasund and Reef Encounter.
Table 1 & 2 now consist the strongest pool of players after Day One’s play as they now jostle in the last two rounds to determine the eventual winner.
Round 6 – Table 1: Power Grid
Four IPP (independent power producer) businessmen and tycoon-wanna-be arrived in USA to begin their fledgling Power Grid business. With abundance of coal and oil, they started building power plants that made use of these readily available and cheap resources. As their power network expanded, some switched to the more ecologically friendly wind-plants while a few decided to recycle garbage as a viable power source.
Edwin decided to start on the West, catering to the more upper-market customers selling his power at a higher cost to reap better margins while Jeff and Rob duked it out on the East which comprised mainly of lower- to middle-income consumers. However the higher volume from the Eastern market more than compensates for the low margins.
Chris wisely, chose to be in the middle, away from the tightly contested Eastern shores and Western shore which has a higher barrier of entry for new competitors.
Everyone was doing well growing their IPP business until the Eastern market started to saturate far too quickly possibly due to overly aggressive growth by Jeff and Rob’s businesses, and also due to Chris recent expansion into the eastern side of the market.
The choke point threatened to consumed Jeff and Rob’s businesses until Rob decided to punch out and quickly established a foothold in the lucrative Western market which caused Edwin to start his expansion drive into the Eastern shores, building new garbage plants to cater for the lower priced energy market in the East.
Jeff stuck very much to his favored coal/oil which allowed him to power ahead into the lead when the 17th city was triggered. Both Rob and Edwin were able to powered 16 cities but Rob won by default of having more cash-on-hand. Chris lost the race as he has to junk his coal plant to switch to garbage due to a shortage of coal raw materials in his area.
Round 6 – Table 2: Acquire
The hotel industry has always attracted the stock-wheeling type and on this table, we have four gamers trying to emulate Trump. Their objectives? To wheel and deal in hotel shares, to help their hotels form large chains, and to make full use of insider knowledge to do mergers that benefit themselves more than the other gamers. The richest player wins in the game of Acquire.
These gamers are fast! Very early in the game, I can already see 6 (out of 7) hotel chains being formed…. and as each player slowly trickled down their cashflow buying up shares of hotels they thought will yield them the highest return, there was tension all round as each of them refused to buckle under pressure…..
After a few tough mergers and take-overs, Heng won due to better insider information and will get an 1-hour audience with Trump, while Ryan came in second. KP and Melody were third and fourth respectively.
Round 6 – Table 3: Elasund
After successful settling in the island of Catan, a new generation of people came and decided to do some building in the first city of Catan, Elasund. This game is not Settlers II and it can be quite confrontational. Gamers vie for building permits, fight for the prime choice of real estate, or they can help build the church (and use the church to destroy other buildings that’s in its path, vicious!)
After much tramping over each other’s toes, Shaun won with Alvin in second place. BK and Jen Fai did not have good stories to tell of their time in the first city of Catan.
Round 6 – Table 4: Reef Encounter
Reef Encounter is one of those low-profile games that’s seldom seen on gaming table but which boasts a very unique game play (similar to how Tigris & Euphrates is different) and one that’s very open-ended with minimal luck factor. The gamers are taken to the underwater world of coral reefs where their objective is to keep their corals well-fed and to grow the largest and strongest corals on the reef so that the corals can be fed to their parrotfish.
Ah yes.. the wonders of the sea. Besides corals and parrotfish, you’ll get acquainted with other sea lives such as polyp, algae, larva and shrimps. The game board and player mats are beautiful to look at, depicting underwater life.
Quite a brain-burner too, after more than 1.5 hours, Teddy and Denise managed to make their corals the largest among the reef world with Melissa and Richard getting theirs consumed too fast by the parrotfish.
Round 6 Results
Heng’s win at Table 2 allowed him to leapfrogged the rest and kept pace with Jeff. However the 4-pt gap would be too large to close with only one more round of gaming (and which was canceled due to scheduling reason).
i. Winner gets 3 points, 1st Runner-up 2 points and 2nd Runner-up 1 point.
i. Number in brackets denote the gamer’s current accumulated points at the end of this round.
We did not manage to complete Round 7 (Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, Puerto Rico and Primordial Soup) as we were close to check-out and lunch-time. So we decided to end the Euro Game Retreat session after Round 6. The scores of each round were tabulated to determine the gamers’ final total.
Prizes – Last Finisher and Most Losses
There shall be no losers in this Retreat hence even those who i) finished last from Table 4 in the last round, and ii) completed with the most losses were given some prizes as a token of appreciation for their perseverance and effort.
Note: The prizes are not given to the same gamer. If a gamer already won a prize in one category, he will not qualify for the next category and the prize shall go to the gamer who’s next
For their effort, they got a Special Edition Days of Wonder calendar and a collector’s item of the Catan magazine personally autographed by none other than Klaus Teuber! Must fetch a good price at eBay??!!
p/s I think these two got the “best” prizes among the lot. 😛
Prizes – Top Finisher, Highest Score and Most Wins
Next up were prizes for the three winning categories –
i) Gamer who finished 1st at Table 1,
ii) Gamer with the Highest Total Score, and
iii) Gamer with the Most Wins.
Ryan got two Blue Moon City expansions plus the limited edition Ticket to Ride: Mystery Train expansion for being the Gamer with the Most Wins.
For winning the Highest Score category, Heng got himself the Puerto Rico expansion pack (hmm, he told me he’s planning to buy that expansion!).
hehe.. and for my effort, all I got was a lousy Days of Wonder t-shirt and some coasters from an unknown German pub. 😦
There were also lucky draws arranged for gamers who did not win any prizes from the above categories so that some can also go home with souvenirs. The two lucky gamers were Melody and one-whose-name-I-forgot (hahaha!)
And for those who did not win any prizes or lucky draw, we left them with the following memories (haha):
1. A Group Photo of all 16 participants of the Euro Game Retreat 2006
2. The chance to learn many new games within a 1.5 day retreat
3. The experience of playing in 6 rounds of award winning Euro Designer Gamers with gamers from all over Klang Valley (and some from British and France).
All said, on behalf of the organizer I hope we left them with a priceless experience! We hope to see you all – and some new faces – again next year!!!
Talk about this Euro Game Retreat in our forum.
Majulah Boardgames Untuk Negara!
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