Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 11/10/2013 – Zooloretto the Dice Game, OddVille, Ginkgopolis, Upon a Salty Ocean
We thought we’ll run some of last year’s Essen releases before we head off for this year’s Essen but ended doing a mix of new, old and missed games in a strange night of a “zoo with salty ginkgo tree in an odd village”. Read on to find out more, tsk tsk.
Gamers: Aaron Tiw, Nicholas Lim, Ivan, Heng, Kareem, Aanemesis, CK Au, Waiyan & others.
Games: Zooloretto the Dice Game, OddVille, Ginkgopolis, Upon a Salty Ocean.
Location: OTK Cheras | Google Map | Lat-Long: N 03° 06.179′ E 101° 44.237′
Date/Time: 11 October 2013 (Fri) 9.00 PM – (Sat) 4:00 AM
ESSEN SPIEL 2012 REDUX… OR THE MISSING GAMES?
We’d wanted to do an Essen Spiel 2012 theme nite to bring back some of the Essen 2012 faves like CO2, Great Zimbabwe, etc which we have not played recently. However I think we ended up playing some past Essen releases that we’ve not played yet – for various reasons. Some have gone under the radar (due to late releases in the US), some have simply gone “missing”.
In any case, we were glad to rediscover some of these “missing” games as you know what, they are pretty solid. Tongiht we’ll highlight a zoo that has a salty ginkgo tree in an odd village. J
ZOOLORETTO THE DICE GAME (the zoo)
While waiting for peeps to arrive, the early birds started on a quick dice game… of ZOOLORETTO. I find it amazing Michael Schadt has managed to shape this game like the chameleon that’s depicted in the box cover of it’s very first appearance as COLORETTO the card game before turning it into ZOOLORETTO the board game; then spinning off AQUARETTO but of a water-themed zoo.
And now Michael presents to us ZOOLORETTO the Dice Game!
In ZOOLORETTO the Dice Game, you throw die instead of drawing cards or tiles to determine which animals get into play. The animals are as usually loaded into trucks (of your choice) and your objective is to build up your zoo without turning it into the United Nations of Animals. 😛
Another group (below) also did a quick session of ZOOLORETTO The Dice Game. This looks like a quick appetizer type of game and fits perfectly in meetups like ours when we need a quick game in-between the heavier Euros.
ODDVILLE (the odd village)
The next game was more of a “forgotten” Essen Spiel 2012 releases rather than an old fave. It was published by What’s Your Game (ahem, who’s now releasing ) as a German edition last Essen and the English ver took a long time and didn’t get widely distributed in the USA which may caused this game to slip under most people’s radar.
Four odd fellas – Ivan, Heng, Kareem and myself – for ODDVILLE.
ODDVILLE is a city-building game where you collect the right resources to lay down (build) “city” cards giving it’s owner/builder VP and resources. It’s basically a worker placement game of resource collection. However players use action cards to execute the worker placement rather than meeples.
Everyone has the same set of four worker action cards (above) which can be used in one of three ways – 1) earn income (ie the coins shown in the top right corner), or 2) produce one resource (only resource types shown in the middle section of the card, or 3) take a building card (either free or with cost from $1-$4).
Cards played are left on the table as “used actions” and you cannot reuse them until you’ve exhausted your hand of all four cards. Or you could alternatively speed up the refresh cycle by paying $1 per used action card to reuse them immediately.
Above: The resource board showing which player has produced what type (and quantity) of resources. Each worker in the board produces exactly one unit of that resource. You’ll need to trade in these resources when doing a Build action.
You can also do a Build action where you pay the correct resources in order to build a Building card from your hand into the OddVille City. Buildings are built next to each other (card) but need to ensure “roads” are not cut off (similar to Saboteur).
Some buildings if built would please one of the four Guilds and they’ll present you with a (temporary) Guild Member card which carries additional special abilities to aid you in your city-building mission. It’s temporary as there’s only 3 Guild Member cards per Guild in a 4-player game, and when the 4th Guild Member card is requested, the three that has already been passed out will be retracted in order to provide the 4th Guild card.
These Guild Member cards also scores you VPs (as shown in bottom right corner of the Guild Member card) if you are able to retain this Member card at the end of the game. Game ends when one player has built his 6th building card in the city (play does continue for one full turn).
Guild Member cards when strung properly together can provide you with the right combo to win the game. There’s certainly good interactions between the players since we’ll be competing for building cards, building locations and Guild Member cards. This is not a game where you can focus on your own tableau but have to pay attention to what others are planning.
It’s a light medium card game but surprisingly good and plays quickly. A little sad that games like these get drowned in the “noise of new releases” and sometimes never make it to a wider distribution.
GINKGOPOLIS (the ginkgo tree)
The next game we bring to the table is definitely an Essen 2012 releases and in fact have received high buzz during the convention last year… It’s still ranked in BGG’s Top 300 but the lack of wide distribution does make this lesser known among the boardgamers.
In GINKGOPOLIS, your objective is to help rebuild the city around the Ginkgo Biloba tree. The city starts small with just nine tile (three in each color).
Each player gets a set of three character cards to start the game with; these cards provide you with 1) your starting resources, and 2) a customized set of abilities. Both your starting resources and custom abilities are different from the other players so this provides some differentiation for everyone’s starting strategy.
Note: The basic game groups the starting character cards into A/B/C/D/E – you merely pick one group. The advance game allows the player to draft these character cards (similar to Agricola). This helps prevent what we OTK call the “Die Handler” symptom. Hehe.
The mechanics for Ginkgopolis is perhaps the “confusing” element of the game. It’s not thematic – so forget about theme when playing this game – and it has the “Reef Encounter” feeling.
In each turn, all players draft a set of four cards and must choose one of the four to do either one of three possible actions – Exploit, Urbanize and Construct. After everyone has taken an action, you pass the remaining three action cards to the next player on your left (ala 7 Wonders), draw a new action card from the deck to make it 4 in your hand and repeat.
“Exploit” = production, and depending on which type of card you play Exploit with; you’ll produce either a building tile (the blue tiles above), a resource token (cylinder) or VP chips (which also act as currency). Exploit with a blue card and you’ll get a building tile. Exploit with a red card and you get a resource; and the yellow card gives you VP.
Above: The three main items – resource (cylinder), VP (the yellow 3-token) and building tiles (blue).
The quantity (and type) of your exploit depends on the level of the location (tile) you are exploiting. For eg if you play Exploit using the Yellow-12 card; you are exploiting 2 VP (ie yellow = VP) on the location of the Yellow-12 tile which is a level-2 tile (ie it’s constructed up to its 2nd level).
If on the other hand you are exploiting on the Yellow-3 tile, you are still exploiting VP but since the Yellow-3 tile is a level-1 tile, you’ll get one VP only. Similarly if you are exploiting on the Blue-19 tile, being a level-1 tile you’ll get one building tile (blue = building tile).
There are similar rules for Urbanize – where you get to add a new building tile onto a new empty space on the outer perimeter of the city. Where exactly you get to add the new building tile depends on the “alphabet” you are urbanizating. For eg if you choose the Urbanize action using the “C” action card, you’ll get to add a new building tile next to the Blue-2 tile (see picture above).
Basically in Urbanize, you are extending the city with a new building tile. You’ll then get to draw urbanization bonus from the adjacent tile (the bonus type again depends on the color of the tiles ie blue gives you building tile bonus, yellow for VP bonus etc). In the above example, urbanizing on “C” gets you only one bonus since there’s only one adjacent tile (ie Blue-2) which gives you one building tile bonus (blue). If Blue-2 is a level-2 tile, you would have gotten 2 building tiles bonus.
The last action is Construct, which allows you to build on-top of an existing tile (therefore you are also raising the level of that location by one level). You can construct by adding a new level but of the same color as the underlying tile (improving the existing location) or you can construct by adding a new level by switching the color of the underlying tile. In the latter, you’ll need to pay one resource (ie return one resource token to the general supply).
You can also build over someone’s territory… you simply return his resource tokens to him (it goes back to his pool so he can re-use them immediately) plus the bank pays your opponent one VP for each resource token returned. You can put your own resource tokens on to the newly constructed territory. Depending on the level (height) of the constructed territory, you’ll place as many resource tokens on it for eg if you constructed on an existing level-2 tile, you would be improving it to a level-3 tile so you’ll need to place 3 resource tokens onto this new level-3 tile.
In addition, when you Exploit or Urbanize or Construct you’ll also gain additional character card bonus depending on what character cards you have placed into your tableau. Looking at the example above, this player has a very strong set of bonus for Exploit (the top set of four character cards) and whenever he exploits, in addition to the resources he’ll gain from his Exploit action card, he’ll also get two resource tokens (red), two VPs (yellow) and one building tile (blue).
On the other hand, he’s not so strongly set up with Construct (the middle stack) and Urbanize (the bottom stack) character bonus. He’ll still get something but clearly Exploit would be his best action.
You get to add the bonus character cards to your tableau whenever you construct a building- you just keep the card you spent for the Construct action and turn it into your bonus character card. This element is actually an important part of winning the game!
Paused. At this stage let me say the rules for Exploit, Urbanize and Construct can prove a little daunting unless you have a number of Euros experience under your belt. This is where we’d deja vu feelings of learning Reef Encounter (another Euro with rather unusual rules).
My advice is to just dive in.. play, learn and adapt as you go. Things would get clearer after a few rounds.
When constructing, it’s important to note at end-game only “district” matters. A district is made up of two or more adjacent buildings of the same color. And there’s an area majority control here where the player having the most number of resource tokens in that district scores for all resources in that district while the 2nd player scores only for his own resources. Nothing for the 3rd player.
As the game progressed, you would see contention for each tile as everyone’s scrambling to build either a higher level tile or connecting (or disconnecting) their own network/district. Eg (below) Black constructing a level-2 Red-8 to lock control for the Red district (which comprised Red-8 and Red-12).
The game – as Heng observed – is mostly tactical since there’s not much long-range planning possible. You do have to be prepared to respond to tactical changes from turn to turn. The landscape shifts from turn-to-turn and you need to be flexible to change your plan.
You acquire building tiles (above) – either from your character card bonus or urbanize / exploit actions – and these would help you form some sort of near-term plan to blend into your tactical executions.
The city towards game-end… the game certainly looks beautiful. And remember I mentioned about the importance of building up a strong set of bonus character cards? My Urbanize bonus character cards can get me 5-7 VPs every time I urbanize.. And that’s a lot of VP since even if you dominate a district, you are also looking at 7-9 VPs in total. I should have stopped getting distracted with other actions and just focus on tapping into my Urbanize bonus.
This would not be a game for you if you are looking for themes or rules that are easily understood or more streamlined. Like Reef Encounter, this game grows on you as you peel it’s layers off. Once you get past the convoluted rules, you’ll start to appreciate the depth of the tactical options available to you on each turn.
If you are looking for a game where you get to trade tactical blows with your fellow gamers on each turn, give Ginkgopolis a try. You might like it! I certainly do. 🙂
UPON A SALTY OCEAN (the salt)
This game UPON A SALTY OCEAN came from the missing file. It was a 2011 Essen release but we only get copies of it recently and it’s kept such a low profile, it went under most people’s radar. It has an interesting theme – albeit similar to FLEET (another highly rated card game) but mechanic wise they are very different – and it has the usual shipping vs building strategy.
In this game, you are merchants in Rouen, a shipping village in France and you want to be the most wealthy merchant when the King visits Rouen at the end of the game. Wealth can be made by fishing or investing in city buildings. Or just selling salt, since almost everyone produces salt as the mines in Rouen seemed to be overflowing with salt.
Each player starts with a Caravel (a size-4 ship) and your salt mine produces three barrels of salt per turn (good to preserve three barrels of fish which you can then sell in the market for a profit). You have the option to add more Caravel or Carrack (size-6 ship) later.
The game plays over 5 turns and in each turn, there’ll be an Event that determines the following – 1) market price changes for salt & fishes (herring / cod), 2) whether the sea is going to be calm or stormy or barren, and 3) if there be pirates out there waiting for ya. 😛
Each merchant also starts with a Depot that can keep up to 7 barrels of anything (salt or fishes). You can upgrade your depot later to keep more stuff. Yes hoard them all!!
Aaron (back facing camera), Ivan and Heng joining me in the quest to be the RICHEST of them all in Rouen by selling er… haam yue (cantonese for “salted fish”). So we became “haam yue lou”? LOL
In each turn, we take as many actions as we can afford to pay. There are four types of actions and they are pretty self-explanatory.
1. CITY BUILDING Action = allows you to build a city (or improve one level if it’s the Notre Dame)
2. NAVIGATION Action = allows you to sail either from the harbor of Rouen to the open sea (here’s where you fish by converting your salt barrels into fish barrels), or return from the open sea to Rouen (where you can now sell your stuff to the market)
3. HARBOR Action = this allows you to either build a new ship or move stuff from/between the Depot and your ships (this is how you load the salt you just produced onto your ships)
4. MARKET Action = Selling and buying with the Market. Selling will drop the price (lesser demand) but buying won’t change the price upwards. Strange half-market economics in play here.. but nvm la, this is Rouen in the 16th century.
Above: The Action table (bottom left corner) indicating the action cost for each of the four possible actions… in the table above, Building action (top row) now costs $6 while Market action (last row) was still relatively cheap at $1. The other table on top of the Action table is the Market table indicating the buying/selling price for Salt, Herring and Cod.
The interesting thing about the Action table is that action cost starts at $0 (zero) for each of the four actions… and as each player takes an action, he pays the current action cost (so for the first player to take any action, it’s free) and the action cost is increased by $1 (to a max of $10). Mimicking some sort of opportunity cost mechanic.
This means with each player taking actions and increasing the subsequent action cost, you need to evaluate your plans for that turn and decide when taking actions stopped giving you positive returns.
Turn order is reset for the next turn in reverse player order according to their current wealth (points) ie poorest player goes first.
SHIPPING (or fishing) is the obvious strategy to make money. To ship, you simply need to ensure you have a healthy production of salt, load them into your ship (harbour action) and set your ships to sail to the open sea (navigator action). Salt production is not an action – and everyone automatically produces salt at the end of each turn. It might help to improve your salt mine so that you are not producing the measly 7 barrels of salt per turn.
While sailing gets you the highest profit margin (the best herring can sell for $6 per barrel), going to the high seas also has it’s own risks; be that bad weathers or pirates. Some buildings provide your ships with protection but you’ll need to invest in those buildings.
Obviously some of the abilities of the buildings help your shipping business, and you’ll need to decide how much should you invest into city buildings vs shipping opportunities.
CITY BUILDING is another viable strategy should you decide the life of the high seas not for you. Here you simply invest your action dollars into either building or improving a city building. Each city building provides you with some abilities – either one that you can use now in-game or a bonus that you’ll get end-game.
If you are on the Building strategy – or even if you are not – you can’t miss the Notre Dame (below). This building is huge… and it’s not a single-build job… but the master builder who can complete this building would earn a hefty $70 point!
Other buildings provide you with varying benefits and abilities. There’s a shipyard and marine academy; both needs to be built first before anyone can make their next ships but these buildings could earn their owners a good stream of income.
Adding more ships would be an essential part of your plan if you are going with the shipping (fishing) strategy. More ships meant you maximize your trips out to the open seas. Above Aaron (green) have added two more ships to his initial one and have the full complement of three ships to max out his fishing trips!
The green cubes above were used to indicate “damage” sections of the ship (usually by pirates or stormy seas) which reduced your ship’s capacity. They can be repaired but would require you to invest in the Lighthouse building (which allows its owner to repair one ship per turn at no additional cost).
However this is a game of tempo like Navegador. If everyone’s doing the same thing as you, then it’s not a “very good thing to continue doing”. So when too many ships are out in the open sea and/or fishing for the same type of fishes as you are, the price of that particular fish type could crash eg herring (above) dropping to a low $3 per barrel while cod was still doing fine at $5 per barrel.
Having too many players doing the same as you meant everyone’s going to drive up the action cost! Paying $9 for a heavily contested action vs paying $3 for another action that’s not heavily contested is also an important investment consideration. After all, this game is not about building your income engine and then converting to VP (ala Puerto Rico).
In this game, your income is your VP! So if you spent $9 and are not able to derive a return of 9 VP – or a similar reduction in your opponent’s VP – then you are likely making a “loss” action which might not help you in winning the game. But then there’s also the need to consider opportunity cost.
And we were told of the salt hoarding/selling strategy where one can pump up his salt production and just sell them as-is (without the hassle of taking the numerous actions to load them onto ships, set sail, fish, sail back and then sell at the Market). There’s indeed a positive opportunity cost arising out of this strategy making it a viable and strong option. But again, if too many people are doing this, that’ll only drive down the price of salt making this an unprofitable venture.
What that tells us is that in spite of it’s rather simple & streamlined rules, Upon a Salty Ocean offers more than just a simple linear problem-solving game but instead gave us a nice economic game with a few paths to winning. Even though there’s rule variant for 2- or 3-player, I suspect this game plays best with 4.
A STRANGE NITE AT THE ZOO WITH SALTY GINKGO TREE IN AN ODD VILLAGE
So while we started off hoping to revisit some Essen Spiel 2012 faves like Great Zimbabwe, CO2, Tzolkin, Crude Oil, Terra Mystica etc we ended up doing Zooloretto the Dice Game, OddVille, Ginkgopolis and Upon a Salty Ocean for what we now called the strange night where we visited the zoo with salty ginkgo tree in an odd village. J
Can’t say the choices of games for tonight were strange. In fact, I think I enjoyed all the games brought to the table; at least we didn’t end up with the same same mainstream games and have the opportunity to try a few left-side games.
For more pictures of tonight’s gaming, check out our Facebook album below
LEAVING FOR ESSEN NEXT WEEK
We are leaving for Essen this coming Thu (17/10) as we’ll be heading for Paris first (to run in the Reims 10K) before dropping into Essen next Weds (23/10) for SPIEL 2013 which starts on the 24th of October.
If you wish to order any games from our webstore pls do so latest by end of day Tues (15/10) as we’ll not be able to make any delivery after Tue and while we are at Essen (till 30/10).
Do stay tune to our Facebook page for updates as we trawl Essen for the latest on boardgames. Especially if you are attending our BGC Retreat 2013 end of November as lots of those Essen new releases this year will be on the Retreat tables for your playing pleasure!
In the meantime, feel free to check out the 1,500+ photos we’d taken from last year’s Essen Spiel 2012 http://blog.boardgamecafe.net/2013/10/14/boardgamecafe-net-essen-spiel-2012/
For more photos of this gaming session, visit our Facebook Album.
For more boardgaming reports, visit our Boardgamecafe.net Blog.
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Categories: Meetup, Meetup Cheras
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