Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 24/5/2013 – Copycat, Himalaya, Risk 2210 AD, Core Worlds
Been a long while since we posted any sessrep. Last night, we did HIMALAYA as part of our Wesak Day Friday Meetup and if you have been waiting to hear about this game, read on. We also did COPYCAT for the 3rd week in a row… no sessrep on COPYCAT in this report but I promise you we’ll write about it in the next sessrep.
Gamers: Ivan, Sera, Laurence, Thomas, Rhyen, Heng, Waiyan, CK Au and others.
Games: Copycat, Himalaya (3-player and 4-player session), Risk 2210 AD, Core Worlds
Location: OTK Cheras | Google Map | Lat-Long: N 03° 06.179′ E 101° 44.237′
Date/Time: 24 May 2013 (Fri) 7.30 PM – (Sat) 2:30 AM
We first did Friedemann Friese 2012 game COPYCAT two weeks back, like it and have been doing it for three weeks in a row now. First game was a 3er but the rest all 4ers. Have to say 4-player is the best player count for this game.
A quick description would be Dominion on Farms. I’m meh meh on Dominion but wouldn’t mind Copycat if it’s brought to the table. Anyway I’ve planned to write a sessrep on this from our earlier plays. Stay tune.
Laurence and Thomas who probably thought standing up heightened (no pun intended) their chances of winning.
Turns out Thomas did win this session… but whether that’s due to his standing up or otherwise remains to be confirmed (after all Laurence did stand taller than Thomas).
HIMALAYA was a game that did not have a wide circulation when it was released close to 10 yrs back. Perhaps the lack of an English version was the reason. Anyway I did manage to source a copy last year but did not get the chance to bring this to the table.
Until today when our Friday OTK Meetup happened to fall on the same day as Wesak Day. While the game has nothing to do with the celebration of Wesak itself, we thought it would be nice to play a game set in the region where the ceremony of Wesak is held. J
I don’t usually write about the game components but for Himalaya, I thought you may want to know that the game comes with four sets of miniature game pieces, representing your caravaner (complete with a yak), stupas and delegates.
Yes you actually get playing pieces that look like a stupa and human delegate; not cubes of different sizes and have to go like Oh the smaller cubes are the delegates while the larger cubes are the stupas. 😛 Think Agricola with generic cubes for farm animals vs Agricola with animeeples!
We did a 3-player game – Ivan, Seraphina and CK. The game winning conditions are different between a 3-player and 4-player game and it would be interesting to see how they play different. Since we already have 3 players ready-to-go; we just kicked off with a 3er session.
HIMALAYA is about moving between villages collecting resources (ie those generic cubes in five different colors) and using them to deliver orders. Orders give you the opportunity to increase your influence in three categories such as Religious, Political and Economic.
(Above) Purple caravaner can get one resource from the three available cubes in the village while Red caravaner – if she has the right mix of resources – can deliver the 3-pt order which requires a white (salt) and orange/red (barley).
All (or almost) the information in the game is open info – and in fact, the resource cubes collected should be played as open info as well; since 1) everyone actually knew who picked up what resources and where (so there’s no point in hiding them) and 2) in the Inventory Bonus rounds, everyone has to announce how many of each resource they have.
What’s not open info however is the “action steps” – all six actions – that are programmed by each player simultaneously before they are revealed and executed in turn order. This mechanic follows Robo Rally – and is what brought my attention to Himalaya in the first place.
(Above) The set of 6 action steps programmed by CK in one of the 12 rounds. The orders are executed left-to-right, and from the above, the instructions are
1. Move along a stone path (the caravaner movement is similar to Elfenland)
2. Make a deal in the village CK’s caravaner is at – this “deal” can be either i) pick up a resource cube, or ii) fulfill an order
3. Move along a snow path
4. Move along a dirt path
5. Make a deal in the village the caravaner is at now
6. Rest for a turn (ie do nothing)
The tension in the game partly comes from trying to predict what your opponents will be doing, and either outrun them for the same or switch tack to something else. The game is more tactical than strategic – since the goods and orders are replenished to the villages based on a d20 roll (there’s a variant in the expansion that mitigates this luck factor to some degree) and the only real “thinking” time is when the players are mulling over the programming of their 6 action steps.
Which means this game should play as fast for 4- or 6-player. Admittedly with a more crowded board there’ll be a bit more thinking in-between but additional players won’t add that much play-time to this game compared to others (where turns are taken in sequence).
While most of your action steps would be spent on moving from one village to another trying to pick up the “right” type of resources, the real driver behind all the huff-n-puff is to fulfill orders. Because fulfilling an order allows you to claim two of three bonuses – 1) claim a certain number of yaks (which is equal to economic points) from the village, 2) if the village does not have a stupa yet, offer to build one and with Himalaya being a religious place, this can earn you important religious points, and 3) send a number of delegations to the neighbouring regions in an attempt to exert political influences (you earn points if your delegates have majority control of any region ala El Grande).
Not all stupas are buillt equally. They score differently based on whether they are built in a small village (1 pt), temple (2 pt) or monastery (3 pt). The red stupa built in the village with a monastery (below) will earn Red 3 religious points.
Purple and White delegates (below) fighting for control of regions to earn political points. There are only eight regions on the board so political points are highly sought after. The number of delegates you can send out depends on where you fulfilled your orders – one delegate if done in small village, two delegates for a temple and three for a monastery.
Timing plays an important part in this game as a caravaner only gets to pick up the cheapest resource first therefore in the village below, the two white cubes (salt is the cheapest) have to be picked up before a the red cube (barley) and black cubes (tea which is more expensive than both salt and barley).
Gold (yellow) is the most expensive and therefore the hardest to get.
Special Event Tokens
We played with the advanced variant of Special Event Tokens. There are three such tokens and each player gets the same set, which they can play on any round (the tokens are one-time use only) either to impede someone (yeti footprints, snowstorm) or to benefit oneself (market day) and possibly others.
The snowstorm special event (above) when placed on a path will require a caravan to spend twice the movement point (ie needs two movement action steps instead of the usual one) to move between the affected villages….
… whereas placing the Yeti Footprint special event token will prevent everyone (including yourself) from taking the path to move from one village to the next. Major sabo if played at the right timing.
The last Special Event tile is Market Day which opens up the resource market for this round, and caravaners can take goods of any value (not necessarily from cheapest to most expensive) if they execute a Deal action step in that village this round. Putting a Market Day on a village may just trigger a sudden interest in that village with everyone converging on the village trying to grab the costlier resources!
Now if the game stops here, it would be an okay game.
It has an interesting scoring method. For the 3-player game (this game doesn’t play in 2-player mode), a player wins outright if he has the highest scores in two of the three types of influence ie religious (stupa), political (delegations control of region) and economic (number of yaks).
If there’s a tie (ie each player wins one of the influence type) then economic influence is the tie-break.
In our session, Ivan was heading into the last round controlling both religious and political influences while I was quietly confident I’ve the highest economic influence (since yaks are hidden, we do not know the opponnent’s actual yak count). Seraphina in her last action, pipped Ivan to take control of the political influence so this resulted in each of us winning one influence type – and me winning due to economic influence as tie-break.
While it’s not a bad end-game scoring method, my thought is that with the emphasis on economic influence as the tie-break, if we are to choose one influence type to focus on, economic influence seems to be a good bet. Anyway it was just our first session – and we did play with one major rule error (below) – so I won’t say the 3-player scoring is bad or broken. Just felt it was a tad straightforward.
Errata: This was a wrong setup in our sessions. A village can have either goods or order; not both. Therefore at each round, we’ll always have ten (out of the twenty) villages that have something for us which makes the game more balance.
Our session ended at about the same time as Copycat on the other table. With rhyen just arriving, we now have eight gamers (beside the others who were still at their Risk 2210 AD) to split into two tables. Heng wanted to do CORE WORLDS and everyone (Ivan, Sera, CK) were keen to do another round of HIMALAYA but for 4-player so we have waiyan joining us.
How does the 4-player end-game scoring differ from the 3-player scoring? And how does it affect gameplay?
In a 4-player game, at end-game instead of tabulating the scores to see who has gotten the highest score; you start with player elimination. The first round of elimination is to take out the player with the least religious points (stupa). Ouch!
The 2nd round of elimination is to take out – among the three players left – the one with the least political influence points (delegates). Now you are left with two players and the one with the highest economic influence (yaks) win!
There’s a bit of Tigris & Euphrates scoring in here (try not to lose on your minority first but you need to win based on your final majority) and what it meant is that you cannot just focus on one (or two) influence types (like in the 3-player game) as your game plan. You need to first compete to make sure you are NOT the player who’s last in the Religious (Stupa) influence, and then compete to ensure you are also NOT the player who’s last in the Political (Delegates) influence and after spreading your resources thin and wide to achieve these two initial objectives; try to be the one with the highest Economic (Yaks) influence to win the game. Phew!
In terms of gameplay, it makes for very interesting board dynamics as caravaners compete to jostle for the best orders to deliver to ensure they grab lead – or at least not last – on religious and political influences. The scoring method is brutal but also very engaging.
In this 4er session, I was the one eliminated on the first round of Religious influence but that really went down to the wire coz in the last round there was one more order at a monastery which if I could deliver, would meant the first round elimination would have hit another player.
The 2nd round elimination hit Sera though she was tied on Political influence with waiyan but lost out on the delegations count tie-break; leaving waiyan and Ivan to resolve their Economic influence to determine who won. Ivan won with his 29 Yaks to waiyan’s 22 (but she could have claimed a 5-yak bonus in her last order instead of another 3-pt stupa so the score was close and not runaway which made this a tense & close game).
I’d the most Economic influence (over 30 yaks) but that counted for nought if I cannot make it past the Religious elimination round. Lovely scoring methods.
The change to gameplay (from 3er to 4er) is very evident as players start fighting early for the stupas and delegations. There are visibly more delegation competitions in this session than the earlier 3er session. In that 3er session (below), Ivan went for delegation but I chose not to compete as I decided on economic and religious. In a 4er game, you can’t ignore any of the three influence types… you need to compete for all three (and try not to make a mess of it!)
They said it’s best with 5?
This game has an expansion that allows you to play 5- and 6-player. I’d thought it also came with a different game board to fit 5er and 6er as this 4er board appears cramped for anything more than 4 players (or so I thought).
Turns out the 5-6 player expansion plays using the same board? Hmm.. Interesting.
(Above) Here’s the bird eye’s view of the game board. Same board for 6-player? Even more cutthroat!
Mitigating luck of D20
The expansion does come with a set of village cards (numbered from 1-20) to replace the D20 throw. Basically you use the village cards as a die deck and flip open 5 cards which will tell you the next 5 villages to get goods or order. This allows some pre-planning – and I think better than the D20.
No two birds one stone
Also there’s a Stupa Inversion variant where the stupa points are reversed ie a small village earns you 3 religious points for a stupa while a monastery only gets you 1 point. The number of delegates remain ie small village = 1 delegate, monastery = 3 delegates.
An interesting variant as it eliminates the “obvious” strategy of focusing on delivering orders to monastery – since those locations give you 3 religious points and 3 delegates (very strong bonus).
With this inversion variant, you need to reconsider the priorities of your order deliveries depending on whether you are looking to lock in religious influence or political influence since you can’t do both now. 😛
Kaz missed this session – and everyone who played liked the game plus we played the goods/order rule wrong – so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a 5er or 6er session soon. With the above variants obviously. 🙂
RISK 2210 AD
There was another group of gamers who helped themselves to one of CK’s old fave RISK 2210 AD.
It has been a long while since we scrambled for control of South America and with it the access to Africa, the gateway to Asia (and world domination!)
Needless to say RISK 2210 AD plays slightly different from your conventional RISK as it has another battle ground in the Moon. 🙂
In preparation for our Kickstarter pledge of CANTERBURY, Heng thought it might be good to try out some of Andrew Parks (the designer) earlier games and as he has read the rules for CORE WORLDS earlier, it’s time to get this deck building game for a testdrive.
Btw We still have one slot left for the 6-player pledge… if you are keen to take up the last slot, pls get your name inserted here -> BGC Kickstarter for Canterbury.
(Above) The game board for CANTERBURY, not Core Worlds.
We’ve the usual suspects for deck building stuff on the CORE WORLDS table – Heng, Rhyen, Thomas and Laurence. I didn’t follow their session so won’t have much of sessrep to offer you. Perhaps Heng might write something later. 😛
It’s cards, cards and more cards…
According to reliable resources, they told me the game is good ….
So good they’ll be doing the sequel GALACTIC ORDERS expansion next…
Ya kah? Btw in case it confuses you – as it did me – the expansion Galactic Orders box is LARGER than the base game Core Worlds. But the price of the base game is higher than the expansion. Hmm…
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