Boardgamecafe.net NY Eve Meetup Report @ Old Town Kopitiam Cheras 31/12/2010
The 2nd of our Back-to-Back OTK Meetups – click here for yesterday’s meetup report – and this one’s running over the Year End Countdown. Most people would be out at the pub tonite doing the countdown but four gamers decided to meet and countdown over a game of Fresco and El Capitan as we bade farewell to 2010 and welcomed 2011. Cheers to Boardgaming!
Gamers: Kareem Koh (kareem), Kevin Tan (kevintan), Heng Aik Yong (ayheng), and CK Au (jack208)
Games: Fresco, El Capitan
Location: Old Town Kopitiam Cheras | Google Map | GPS: N O3° 6.195° E 101° 44.058°
Date/Time: 31 December 2010 8.00 PM – 2:30 AM (Fri)
This game has been receiving Essen buzz and some of us were keen to find out how well it plays. Heng was the first to pick up the rules and he suggested this game for tonight’s session.
The large fresco that we need to help the Bishop restore…
In this game, we are fresco painters looking to help the Bishop restore the large fresco (painting) at the ceiling of his cathedral before some high-profile visitors. Obviously as renowned fresco painters, we do not actually need to get our hands dirty and do the actual work.. we have.. workers! 😛
The smaller cubes are the basic paint colors, the larger cubes the blended colors
It’s a mix of worker action plus set (cube) collection. To paint each section of the fresco requires a certain paint mix. Paint colors come from the basic three colors – red, yellow, blue – which can be blended to produce green, purple and orange.
There’s a neat playing aid that explains how the colors are blended.
The game features a very innovative method to decide turn order. Beginning with the player at the back (ie. LIFO) he decides at what time he wishes his worker to wake up.
The early bird will catch the worm first (ie have first dib on the actions). However it comes at a price; the player in turn order #1) suffers from a -3 morale drop (obviously your workers ain’t gonna be happy if you make them wake up at 5:00 am), and 2) prices of paint at the marketplace tend to be expensive that early in the morning.
On the other hand, if you opt to go last, your workers morale get a lift and you’ll also find prices of paint at its lowest as the traders wish to make their last sale and pack up for the day. The downside is that you only get to buy the left-overs. :S
This is the marketplace where you get to buy the (basic) paints you need.
Once turn order is determined, each player then plan their workers’ action simultaneously and a cardboard screen is used to hide your actions from the other players. Some of the actions your workers can perform are: buy paint at marketplace, paint a segment of the fresco, moonlight at the studio and paint potraits (for cash), go to the workshop to blend paint, and send your workers to the theatre to improve their morale.
You only have five workers and as a typical euro, there are more actions you wish to take than the number of workers you have. In fact if you continue to hoard the #1 turn order and let the morale of your workers drop too low (to the bottom), you’ll have one worker less to work with. I find this to be a very nice catch-the-leader balance.
Blue is hovering very near to the demotivated zone. If he drops into that zone, he loses the use of one worker as long as the morale remains in that level. On the other hand, Green & Red have very motivated workers as such they gain one extra worker (total 6) for their actions.
“Painting a segment of the fresco” is simply claiming one of the tile on the Fresco board by sending in the correct match of paint colors. You then score the VP as indicated on the Fresco tile. If you paint a segment of the fresco while the bishop walks past, you gain his approval and claim a bonus (VP).
You’ll notice the higher scoring segments require more blended paint colors, and it’s interesting to observe the turn sequence for actions is to paint the fresco first before you get to blend your colors. Hence you need to plan forward to decide the correct paint-mix you need for the next round.
Money is pretty tight in this game and there’s only two sources of income; firstly for every fresco segment you’ve completed, you get a $1 revenue each turn. The second source is thru moonlighting at the studio and offering your services to paint potraits. Other than that, there’s no further source of income. And you need money to buy paints from the marketplace (and if you are ahead in the turn order, those paints cost a bomb! Ouch!)
The claimed fresco tile, flipped over to reveal a coin symbol which will give you a $1 revenue per round.
Kareem winning the first game comfortably by focusing on claiming fresco segments as many and as early as he can.
A nice feature of the board, revealing the beautiful fresco painting as we claimed the completed fresco segment tiles.
We enjoyed this game very much, and I think it easily justifed it’s Essen buzz. It’s not too heavy but involves some difficult decisions during the game. And we were plesantly surprised when Heng said the game box actually consists of a base game (the version we’d just played) plus three variants which add up to an Advanced Game. He asked whether we are game to do another version, this time using all the three variants?
Of course, we are!
There are three variants to the game – included as part of the game box – that adds some complexity to make it a more challenging game. The three modules are 1) Bishop’s Requests, 2) Potraits, and 3) Special Blend Colors.
Heng going thru the rulebook before teaching us the variant rules.
In addition to simply collection $3 coins for painting potraits for the man-in-the-street, you can now choose to paint potraits for renowned personalities but if you wish to do that, you gotta hurry coz only the 1st two workers to reach the studio will get this privileged job.
The “Potrait” cards brings either a one-time bonus or a permanent enhanced ability (for eg one Potrait card allows you to gain an additional VP whenever you claim the bishop’s bonus when painting a fresco segment). In general, the potrait cards provide you with better return than simply claiming $3 for a standard potrait job.
In the basic game, the completed fresco segment gives you a $1 coin each round. That’s about the only use for it. In the Bishop’s Requests variant, you can now trade-in sets of 3 matching fresco segment (by color) and claim the Bishop’s Favor bonus tile, which gives you additional VP plus a blended color cube per round!
The last variant is the Super Blend colors where you can mix blended color(s) to produce Pink or Brown. These Super Blend colors are needed if you wish to claim the high-scoring segments of the Fresco.
Comes with a different playing aid that includes the Super Blend colors.
This is how the fresco looks like when completed.
How did I like the game now?
I think FRESCO by itself is already a good game. By adding in the three modules to turn the basic game into an advanced variant, it’s an even better game/value!
Since the three variants do not really make it any harder to teach the game (in particular to regular gamers), what we’ve out-of-the-box is a game that can fit two types of audience
– the lighter gaming group (eg family and non-gamers), and
– the regular gamers who are looking for something more challenging.
There are also expansions already released – The Scrolls and The Glaziers – and I’m very much looking forward to those (should be arriving here Mar 2011)!
Here’s a list of the awards it was nominated for and won.
2010: Pfefferkuchel Winner
2010: JOKER (Pour une autre idée du jeu), Winner
2010: Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
2010: Premio Juego del Año 2010 Nominee
2010: Gouden Ludo (Flanders), Nominee
2010: International Gamers Award Nominee
2010: Spiel des Jahres Nominee
2010: Deutscher Spiele Preis Winner
2010: Graf Ludo 2010 (Spielgrafik des Jahres)
We decided to do one more game before we called it a night. FRESCO has taken us past the 12 o’clock countdown and we are now officially in 2011. J
El Capitan was the chosen game since everyone – except me – has not played it.
El Capitan is a re-implementation of an old game called Tycoon, with improved rules and now accommodating up to 5 players. Like El Grande‘s re-issue (also by the same designer), this game included all the expansions available for Tycoon. Good value for your money. 🙂
This is an area majority control game, very similar to El Grande which was designed by the same person (Wolfgang Kramer). You are basically fighting to gain majority control of each port city by building warehouses to improve the prosperity of that city.
On Payday, each port city pays out a bonus amount to the player having 1st majority and 2nd majority control over the city. Unlike El Grande, there’s no sharing of majority control meaning there’ll always be only one 1st and one 2nd (tie-breaker applies).
There are nine port cities for players to squabble over… and the expansions add three more port cities. My recommendation is to play with just the base game (especially if this is your first session) and only add the expansions once you are familiar with the game as the expansion rules do add some chaos to the proceedings.
To move from one port city to the next, you purchase these voyage cards. The description on the card pretty much sums it up.. Valencia – Napoli meaning you can travel from Valencia to Napoli or vice-versa. These cards can be kept but they are one-time use so you need to look at what’s available on the market and plan your journey accordingly.
Besides warehouses (majority), player can also build a fortress to provide protection to the cities. In return your fortress gets a share of the payday income. The fortress protecting the most properous city(s) – ie the one with the most warehouses in total – gets double the payout!
A snapshot of the game board in mid-game. I suspect the sweet spot for this game would be 4 or 5 as the competition for warehouses and fortresses will get brutal.
The game is played over three Paydays and it does start very slowly… in the 1st Payday, there doesn’t seem to be much happening… It’s a slow-boil though.. And by 3rd Payday, you’ll be stressed out trying to keep all your warehouses intact and to improve your majority control in certain port cities.
A good simple streamlined area majority control game that I’ll always be happy to play. Looking forward to try out the Pirates expansion!
GOODBYE 2010…. WELCOME 2011!
This closes out our 2010 Boardgamecafe.net meetups! We did almost 60 meetups for 2010; with OTK Cheras holding the bulk of them and the others spread to Pitstop Section 17, Cassian Subang Jaya and (relatively unreported) MMU GDC Cyberjaya. Thank you to everyone who came, helped, taught games and supported our meetups! We wouldn’t have been able to do this without you all!!
Let us aim to do even better this year as we are also looking to add one or two other locations to our meetups. I also think one area we need to do more is Events & Competitions which except for the Boardgame Retreat done in July 2010, we didn’t do much events. You bet we’ll be looking to remedy that this year. J
It has been an awesome journey in 2010 for all of us at Boardgamecafe.net. We hope it was the same for you as well! We look forward to seeing all of you – and some more – in this year’s Boardgamecafe.net meetups & events.
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