Essen Spiel

OTK Meetup 1/11/2013 – Essen Preview #1

Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 1/11/2013 – Essen Preview #1
By jack208

EXCERPT
The first of our Essen 2013 previews in preparation for our BGC Retreat. Concordia, Glass Road, Cafe Melange, Coup, Okiya, Mascarade, Legacy and Canterbury were among the games played last Friday. Find out what we think of these games.

Gamers: Hiew, Wolfx, Enson, Boon Khim, Sinbad, Ivan, Kareem, Aanemesis, CK Au, Waiyan & others.

Games: Concordia, Glass Road, Hanabi, Complots aka Coup, Cafe Melange, Okiya, Mascarade, Legacy, Canterbury.

Location: OTK Cheras | Google Map | Lat-Long: N 03° 06.179′ E 101° 44.237′
Date/Time: 1 November 2013 (Fri) 9.00 PM – (Sat) 4:00 AM

BGC RETREAT – ESSEN PREVIEW

Essen Spiel 2013 has been a blast! Now that we are back – with a healthy loot (check out what games we brought back from Essen here) – and with the BGC Retreat 2013 looming in the coming weeks, it’s time for us to break open all the new Essen games to preview them before selecting which gets to the Retreat tables this month-end.

Here’s the final ranking list from Essen Fairplay – which of these top 8 games would hit the OTK tables tonite? 😛

CONCORDIA

We started with the latest (non) rondel game from Mac Gerdts. His rondel games have always been a favorite of OTK and once we knew Mac was coming out with a new game this year, we were so looking forward to that. We were lucky as Colin (Spore) has an early copy of CONCORDIA and invited us to an early preview on the eve of Essen Spiel (23/10 Wed).

We were impressed with the game from that preview session and as Kaz suggested, perhaps that set a default bar for us re: other Essen games this year. Tonight five OTK regulars have the chance to testdrive the latest from Mac.

CONCORDIA is Mac’s first design without the famous “rondel”. Other than that, the map looks familiar with his previous release NAVEGADOR. There’s absence of combat in this game. You have land and sea colonists – whom you send to conquer new territories – but no military to wage your wars – a departure from his Antike & Imperial days but following the trend set in Navegador.

In this session, seemed like everyone started with the Architect route.. branching out to new territories except for Heng whom decided on a different approach.

The actions in this game comes from a standard set of 7 personality cards (eg Architect, Colonist, Mercator). However in the course of the game, you can buy more personality cards – from a sushi deck not unlike Thru the Ages. This allows you to customize your actions to focus on a particular strategy.

This session is a 5-player game while our Essen Preview session was 4-player. As you can see from the map above, contest for territory is tighter in a 5-player game and cities often have more than one production house. Production house is one of the way which you can gain resources (which are then needed to build more production house or purchase new personality cards). Building a 2nd or 3rd production house on the same city makes it expensive so I reckon cashflow would be tighter in a 5-player session.

Game board at the end of the session. Wolfx (blue) won this – thru double and triple counting of the scores (haha, you would have assumed gamers who can play games of such complexity would not be challenged with simple addition arithmetic?) but overall I can see the scores were still close (not unlike our 4p session).

Feedback from them are generally positive and most agreed this is likely the most complex of Mac’s games. After all, this game was holding on to the #1 spot in Essen Fairplay until the last morning when it was pipped by Russian Railroads. I didn’t play in this session (was on the Glass Road table) so this is not (yet) a sessrep on Concordia. Mac would be expecting a good sessrep from us and given the quality of this game, I certainly would want to oblige. 🙂

Want to buy this game? We had brought back some limited quantity of this game as Essen Preorder but (not surprised) they are all sold-out. We are trying to secure the next restock and as soon as we’ve confirmation, we’ll announce on our Facebook page. If you wish to reserve a copy from us, either shout at this Concordia preorder thread or just PM us thru Facebook.

GLASS ROAD

While Concordia was going on at the other table, four of us started on the #3 Essen Fairplay game – GLASS ROAD from Uew Rosenberg. Uwe has two games this year – the other being CAVERNA (Agricola cavemen style?) – so it’ll be interesting to see how GLASS ROAD stacks up. Mind you, GLASS ROAD occupied the #3 spot in the Essen Fairplay list while CAVERNA did not make top 10 (this is not saying Caverna is a bad game as the ranking does get influence by popularity too).

The Agricola factor is immediately felt with your player board (below) being set up similar to a farm land with forest, ponds and groves. You are given only two empty space to build new buildings but the forest can be cleared with certain specialists to produce wood (mostly) and/or other resources like food / charcoal.

Buildings are what you are after since they i) provide you with additional abilities and ii) VPs at the end of the game. Buildings in the top row provide ability that can be reused throughout the game (eg converting one resource into another) while those in the middle offers one-time ability/resource. The ones in the lower row are mainly end-game bonus buildings.

The game is set up with three rows of five buildings. Being familiar with the building’s ability and setting up combos is surely a key factor to doing well in this game. Or game of this genre.

Obviously you’ll need “resources” to build those buildings.. And this is where we introduce you to the (unique) resource production wheels in Glass Road. Tsk tsk.

There are two resource production wheels; the top one produces “glass” (green token) while the bottom one produces “brick” (red token). There are 6 types of basic goods which you can acquire thru cards and building ability/bonus (these are the resource tokens to the right-side of the production wheels) but glass & brick are the two produced (manufactured) goods that you need to make thru these production wheels.

Note: There are one or two building that provide these produced goods but you won’t be able to depend on them for a steady supply of glass & brick.

Understanding how these production wheels work (move) is an important element of the game. Will explain more later. 😛

The other key element in the game are the 15 specialist cards that each player has (the same set). The game plays over 4 rounds (for our 4-player session) and in each round you choose 5 of these specialists and get to perform 3-5 of them. Each of the specialist does something different for you; either gain you some resources, allow you to build a building (but building cost still applies) or change your landscape (by adding or removing landscape items).

Within each round, there are three specialist action turn. In each turn, all players simultaneously select one specialist from their cards in hand (the 5 selected specialist for each round) and put it face-down. Then in turn order (the starting player changes after each round), we turn face-up our chosen specialist and performs his action.

Each specialist card has two doable actions (top / bottom). This is where another unique element of this game comes into play. When a player turns face-up his chosen specialist card, the other players whom have also selected this specialist (as part of the five for this round) will need to play their (same) specialist card too. Forced.

When this happens, the active player can only do one action for the specialist either top or bottom action. Likewise the other players who have the same specialist card can also do one of the top or bottom action. Kinda “leeching” on the action turn of the active player.

Above: The Supplier specialist was played by one of the other players and since I’ve picked the Supplier card into my hands, I now get to play it out-of-turn and leech on the Supplier card to gain one of its action -> I chose the bottom action of constructing one building.

The upside is that if the active player plays a specialist card that’s not chosen by any other players, he get to perform BOTH the top & bottom actions (without additional cost)! That’s a bonus – an advantage which you’ll want to deny your opponent!

Therefore it’s useful to be able to predict what the other players are likely going to select as their 5 specialist cards for the round so that you can leech onto their actions. However you can only leech twice (ie play out-of-turn two matching specialist cards) as you still need to play 3 cards on your turn (and other players would also be able to leech onto yours).

Eg above in one particular round, I got to play the Charcoal Burner (burns wood into charcoal), Clay Worker (uses water to make clay) and Builder (which allows me to build 1-2 buildings). That’s a typical 3-action round for a player. If there’s at least one other player who also selected these three cards (Charcoal Burner, Clay Worker or Builder) in their hands for this round, I’ll only get to perform a single action from the card otherwise I get to do both actions.

The difference of being able to do 3 actions (from the three cards) or 4-6 actions can swing the game decisively in your favour.

So at minimal, each player would get to perform 12 specialist actions in total for the whole game. Unless you are successful in leeching onto other players’ specialist action in which case you may get additional 1-2 “leech” specialist actions for each round. Being able to predict what other players would likely play as their specialist is important for two reasons; 1) it restricts the active player to perform only one of the two doable actions for the specialist, and 2) it allows you get one extra action from the specialist in this turn.

With all things being equal, the player who gets more “actions” would stand to gain some advantage over the others (provided the extra actions were used effectively).

Thou shall produce – if thou can

Ah.. The production wheels (Glass & Brick). In a typical game where basic resources can be mixed to produce “finished” resources eg sand/food/charcoal/water/wood to produce one glass (as finished product), you usually get almost full control over when you wish to trigger the production (either by playing an action card, taking an action space or simply paying the basic goods and receiving a finished good.

In Glass Road, there are only two finished products ie glass or brick but they are critical as the more powerful buildings would require these two finished products. Production of such finished resources need to be timed since they are done “automatically” via the production wheels and not necessarily on-demand.

Let’s look at Glass, which is produced by the top wheel. Glass is the green token on the left side of the wheel and in the picture above, it said I’ve one unit of Glass. The Glass production wheel only moves when there’s an empty space to the right to the top dial (the one with a small green arrow on its arm). This means you won’t get any glass production – nor can force any glass production on-demand – unless you first produce some sand (yellow token) and food (beige token).

When you produce sand & food, the yellow & beige tokens are moved forward (depending on how many you are producing), this then leaves an empty space for the production wheel to rotate forward… therefore creating one unit of Glass for you!

The green token remains in it’s position, however becoz the production wheel has moved forward, the number of glass resource is now increased (from 1) to 2.  However since the production wheel had moved forward, your charcoal (the black token) which you used to have 1 unit is now zero – since you have expended it (together with one unit of sand, food, water and wood) to make one unit of glass.

The same production concept applies for brick (in the bottom production wheel).

The production wheel is not difficult to understand… but until you are in the midst of the game when you thought you had enough charcoal or wood or whatever resources only to realize the production wheel has taken it’s own liberty to rotate forward and spend those resources for you to produce glass! Ouch!

The key point to note is that the production of glass is not a decision for you to make. As soon as there’s an empty space for the production wheel to rotate forward, it will! As in the above example, if your actions gain you food and sand that’ll leave an empty space and your glass production wheel will rotate forward and also spend the other resources for you ie charcoal, water and wood to produce glass! The only control you have is not to produce both food and sand to avoid leaving an empty space for the production wheel to rotate forward.

From a gamer’s point, this mechanic presents an interesting new challenge in addition to the usual worker action (thru specialist cards), and construction of buildings for ability & VP.

According to Uwe’s design notes, the wheel mechanic was first seen in his Ora et Labora and then the 2-player Le Havre: Inland Port. It’s in Glass Road that he first implemented it as a “production wheel” and apparently this will be the first of a few more games using this mechanic. Will be interesting to see how this evolves in Uwe’s future design. 🙂

Feudal Lord (specialist) in play.. The feudal lord  specialist allows you to reserve three building tiles into your private offer for future construction. Emptying the buildings available for other players to build, a powerful denial tactic.

Feudal Lord was seen quite often in our session. But this also means it’s easy to guess that Feudal Lord would be in play so you’ll tend to pick Feudal Lord if you wish to leech on others. Since this is our first-play, it could be group think and not necessarily a dominant specialist action. 😛

My player board towards game end. There’s a building that scores bonus VP for the forest space you still have remaining hence the large swath of forest space. I only build one more building before the game ended so that’s a total of five buildings for me (in the four rounds of the game).

Glass & bricks, being finished goods are always worth VPs at end-game if you cannot consume them so there’s usually no harm in producing them if you can. Above: the 3 glass resource I’ve would score me 3 VPs and with our average score of 20ish VP, that’s a good 10% of your total score.

Aanemesis’ board near game-end. Think he added on two more buildings after this so that would made it 5 buildings too. I think he has also built the Mansion which gives him 2 VP per adjacent grooves and also the Hunting Lodge which gets you 3 VP if you have at least 4 forest left. The grooves and forest tiles in his board were consciously added (thru other specialist actions) to maximize his Mansion and Hunting Lodge buildings.

Kareem was early to build the Floodgate (which gets you 1 VP per pond) which obviously influenced his strategy as he combo that with the Water Tower to gain more pond tiles quickly. The Floodgate would have scored him 8-9 pts for this game. His final score was 23 pts (the winning score) and the Floodgate alone – properly maxed out – contributed close to 50% of the final score.

Henry has the Extension which scored for adjacent buildings. Again, if you get this end-game building early, you can plan to maximize it’s bonus by constructing buildings around it rather than pell-mell around the board. He didn’t build the building in the early rounds (since you need substantial resources to build it) but you could use the Feudal Lord to claim this into your private offer space and then plan your strategy around it.

What do we think?

Our session has everyone building 5-6 buildings and scoring in the average of 20ish points. Kareem won with 23 pts though all these stats might not mean anything given this was our first-play and this game certainly needs familiarity with the building abilities so that you can form a more effective game plan.

There’s plenty of player interaction since you do want to be able to predict which specialists the other players would pick for this round so that you can leech on those for 1-2 extra actions and given the tight number of actions in the 4 rounds, you’ll need every single action you can get. Leeching is also a 6-pointer (reference to football matches) since if you or other player successfully leech on another player’s specialist, you are also preventing him from getting a free action (for the cost of one action).

This is certainly a gamer’s game but I think with familiarity, this game can be done in 90 minutes. We only played with the basic buildings (and did not mix the advance buildings into the game until the very end of the game when we ran out of the basic buildings) so another session using the full set of buildings would open up different opportunities for us, I presume.

The game’s also playable with 1-player (solo) and I noticed a lot of this year’s Essen releases allow for solo play. Not sure this trend is healthy, after all isn’t the purpose of playing boardgames to socialize rather than to sit in one corner in an attempt to maxxed out your Glass Road or Caverna scores?

I’m keen to play Uwe’s next 2013 release CAVERNA and see how that game compares to this. Stay tune for our sessrep on CAVERNA soon.

Want to buy this game? Zman should have this game in stock around mid Dec and as soon as we’ve confirmation, we’ll announce details on our Facebook page. If you wish to reserve a copy from us, either shout at this Zman preorder thread or just PM us thru Facebook.

COMPLOTS aka COUP

While two tables were busy with two of the top Essen Fairplay games – CONCORDIA and GLASS ROAD – the 3rd table opted for something light and FUN!

COUP is a bluffing game that’s receiving lots of buzz at Essen Spiel this year, probably due to their successful kickstarting campaign in May this year when IndieBoards retheme this game into The Resistance: Coup.

The game was already available for pickup in Essen but we also picked up a copy of the French edition of this game titled COMPLOTS published by Ferti.

Featuring different graphics/art, COMPLOTS has also added a new 6th role Inquisitor though you still choose only 5 to play.

Inquisitor : either choose to
– pick one card from the deck, having 3 in hand, return one card to the deck and shuffle, or
– select a player who choose one of his cards to show to the Inquisitor ; then the Inquisitor decides to give it back to the player, or have him return the card to the deck, shuffle and pick a replacement card from the deck.

© 2013 Najak, Boardgamegeek

While I like the French graphic (above) of COMPLOT, I think the colorful IndieBoard graphic (below) is more practical as it allows you to easily see the role of a face-up card across the table.

© 2013 Jerome75 Boardgamegeek

Anyway the IndieBoard version (The Resistance: Coup) will be more widely available once we’re able to pull stock from IndieBoard but the Ferti edition (Complots) would be a one-off purchase while in Essen. Happy to have both versions in our game library. J

Ian, dressed somewhere in-between Ferti and Indie fashion….

If you enjoy bluffing games like Love Letters, you should try out COUP and also MASCARADE (see our next sessrep).

ESSEN PREVIEW FOR OUR BGC RETREAT

We’d three tables of regulars previewing the Essen Spiel 2013 new games in preparation for our upcoming BGC Retreat this month end. Beside Concordia, Glass Road and Complots (Coup), we also did Okiya, Cafe Melange, Mascarade, Legacy and Canterbury. Stay tune for the 2nd part of this sessrep.

For more pictures of this preview session, pls see our Facebook photo album (below).


For more photos of this gaming session, visit our Facebook Album.
For more boardgaming reports, visit our Boardgamecafe.net Blog.

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