Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 6/11/2015– The Prodigals Club, Celestia, Mombasa
The first of our Essen gaming Friday saw us took a mix of light, medium and medium-heavy games for a spin…. read on to see what we think of The Prodigals Club, Celestia and this year’s 2nd ranked game in Fairplay and also Alexander Pfister (of Isle of Skye and Broom Service) first foray into medium economic game Mombasa.
THE PRODIGALS CLUB
Tonight’s session started with THE PRODIGALS CLUB. Fans of LAST WILL would fit easily into this game. After all, it’s based on the same theme of “losing it all, quicker than your opponent”. In The Prodigals Club, instead of losing your inheritance, you are competing with others to lose your social status.
There are three areas (or boards) where you can “lose” everything; the Asset / Possession, the Election (Hyde Park) and Societal Status. Each comes with its own board and to win, you need to do well on all three tracks. It’s not enough to just dip below zero on one (or two) track coz the winner is the player with the “lowest highest score”.
For this session, Ivan decided to go with the standard setup of just two areas (boards) instead of having everyone compete on all three areas. Looked like he went with the recommended setup of Society & Election boards.
The Society Board where you do your darn most to be disliked by society. 😛
Hyde Park is where you attempt to undo all the good votes “bought” by your parents (the Election board).
The character cards that you can play on your board to activate it’s effect. Some are one-time events (white-bordered) and some are multiple uses (black-bordered).
If you enjoyed Last Will, you will want to check out The Prodigals Club. It can even be combined with Last Will but think of Last Will as an expansion to The Prodigals Club than the other way round. FYI, no one in this group that played this game at OTK has had any prior experience playing Last Will and I think they enjoyed the game without the Last Will references. So this is a game that’s as good for those who have not played or even heard of Last Will. Comparatively I’ll say The Prodigals Club is a heavier game than Last Will (ie if all three boards are in play).
It’s a game where you can say it’s never too low for zero. 🙂
The next game is a lighter one, the re-theme of CLOUD 9 from BLAM (a French publisher) now known as CELESTIA. I’d heard of Cloud 9 but had not the chance to play it… at least Celestia should offer another opportunity for us to get acquainted with this fun push-your-luck game.
In CELESTIA, each player takes turn becoming the captain of a aircraft (in Cloud 9 it was a hot air balloon) that attempts to perform as many trips as it can through the cloud cities of the Celestia before it crashes!
There’ll be hazards for the aircraft to overcome before it can arrive at a new city (hazards are determined by dice roll)… and it’s all up to the (then) captain to overcome these hazards. As passengers, you have to decide if the captain is able to overcome the hazards (by playing matching equipment cards).
Obviously since the captain can’t abandon the ship, he won’t say anything about whether he has the right “cards” to overcome those challenges. Or well, he might say he can. Just to lull you into following him on the impending crash. If you think the captain does not have the proper cards, you’ll want to exit the aircraft at the current city – and claim one treasure card.
Obviously treasure cards are higher values the further you travel… so if the captain can successfully navigate these hazards, the aircraft would move on to the next city offering more lucrative treasure cards.
Or the aircraft crashes now and you get nothing!
There are 9 cities in the game (hence the name Cloud 9); the 1st city offers treasure cards worth min 1 pt only while the 9th city offers treasure cards worth at least 25 pts (you only need 50+ to win). Exiting the aircraft too early gets you cards with low values while pushing on might just end up with a crash. Ah… a 5 pt card is better than nothing you say. Until you see your opponent grab a 18 pt boomer! tsk tsk.
Boon Khim has collected the most number of cards. He seemed to jump out at the right moment. Hey maybe those mind power does work! LOL
After having played Celestia, I can understand the buzz around Cloud 9. BLAM (publisher) has streamlined some of the rules of Cloud 9 in Celestia but since I’ve not played Cloud 9, I won’t be able to tell the differences. Wouldn’t mind getting a copy of Cloud 9 and play alongside Celestia for a Push-your-Luck theme nite!
We have not opened preorder for this game yet as we are waiting for availability of the English version but stay tuned at our BGC Marketplace forum for announcement soon.
The last game for the evening is certainly not the least one. Sharing the 2nd spot in the Fairplay Ranking this year with NIPPON & SIGNORIE, MOMBASA from Alexander Pfister looked set to be one of the top games of this Essen. Let’s see how well the game plays.
p/s Apology for the upside down game board pic as I was sitting on the wrong side 🙂
Unlike some Euro games where you start with building an income engine and then switching to VP generation, Mombasa is about both income and VP generation. Money is tight in this game and left-over money at the end of the game is worth VP. At the rate of 1 VP per coin, it means money is a viable VP source (unlike other Euros which usually offers consolation points for money at the exchange of 5 coins to 1 VP for eg)
The heart of Mombasa is the set of action cards. Each player starts with the same 9 cards and one starting card (with slightly different resale value to offset starting player advantage). You also get two book tiles (you choose one) which is used in the Bookkeeper’s track (more of this later).
The starting Book Tile (blue has selected his above) also determines which three of your starting Action Cards are locked in the Reset slots. Cards in Reset slots are not available for use until they are recovered into your hands.
Mombasa can be described as a mix of deck rotating with some worker placement. You start with a deck of 10 action cards and would be able to acquire more action cards to add to your deck (obviously to support the strategy you wish to pursue). From this deck, you get to choose 3-5 cards to play each round.
The sequence of action cards planned into your Action slot (ie the row at the bottom of your player board) does not affect the sequence in which you can play them (action cards can be played in any order regardless how you laid them down) but it’ll decide which of the Reserved slot columns the used action card would stack into.
After the player has played all his action cards – they are flipped over once played – his turn is over and he can pass. He chooses one column in the Reserved slots (the row above his player board) to recover. He’ll recover all cards in that column back into his hands, available to play in next round. The example above only showed one card in each column but when play progresses, you’ll have more than one card stacked in some columns (see example below).
The three action cards – after being used in the current round – are then stacked up with the existing cards in the Reserved slots. This ties up your action cards and you need to plan out your action cards for the future rounds to ensure you have the right set of cards stacked for recovery.
This is the deck rotation that you need to manage in Mombasa. It’s not overly complicated but does need some getting used to else you might just find yourself recovering the wrong set of cards into your hands. Just remember: you play action cards horizontally but recover them vertically.
You also see similar deck rotation in Concordia and Historia where cards played remain on the table until they are recovered into the player’s hand. In Concordia, you use the Tribune card to recover and in Historia, you play the Revolution card. In both games, when you recover you recover all the cards on the table (ie cards played in earlier rounds). In Mombasa, the cards played are split into 3 columns, and you recover by column.
You can acquire more action cards – usually improved cards – by spending resource cards (or money) to buy them. They add to your hand and is crucial in building your action card deck to support your chosen strategy. You “need” to acquire action cards – so plan for it – as your starting deck of 10 action cards won’t rotate fast enough to allow you to execute your plans effectively.
Mombasa is a multi-path to victory game; and you do need to specialize rather than diversify if your aim is to win rather than just “doing good”. There are basically four VP tracks in Mombasa
- Coins (each coin worth 1 VP)
- Company shares – value of the shares depend on the expansion of their trading posts
- Bookkeeper track
- Diamond track
The main VP sources in Mombasa is the company shares track. There are four companies in play here – Mombasa (black), Cape Town (red), St Louis (white) and Cairo (orange); each having a set of 15 trading posts and its own share track (slight difference in progression and bonus but all ending with 8 shares).
The four companies do offer some slight variance in how you play them; firstly they are linked to different resources eg Cairo with coffee, St Louis with cotton – and secondly their share track offers different bonus rewards.
FYI, each company share track is double-sided and one side is chosen at random to start your game, creating good replayability in terms of how you max out the company share tracks. In this session, I should have played the Cairo track (which gets me good money) with the Mombasa track (which allows me to buy action cards with money instead of resources – and therefore allow me to spend my resource points on advancing along other share tracks).
To increase the value of a company share track, you need to expand the trading posts… every two trading posts expanded into the region (btw this is played on a map of Africa) adds a coin value (or two) to your share holding. While share holding can deliver immense end-game points, it’s also easy to peg back. Either by pushing back the trading posts (you can advance another company’s trading post into an existing trading post territory and return the latter to the company stock devaluing the share value) or just co-invest in the same company share.
But do not let an opponent run away unchecked on the share track. That’s gonna end your game earlier.
The Bookkeeper track is pretty much a tacked on theme. Through out the game, you get the chance to earn bookkeeper points, which you then spend to acquire Book Tiles (above). Each book tile has a specific resource requirements, and if you are able to fulfill those requirements – with the action cards you played for that round – you get to advance on the Bookkeeper’s track.
There are certain milestones in the Bookkeeper track which earns you VP at game end. Obviously the farther you advance on this track, the more VPs you’ll earn. The same goes for the Diamond track (oops, didn’t take any picture of the Diamond track). There are Diamond Merchant action cards that you can play to advance on the Diamond track. Advancing past each milestone earns you VPs at game end.
Both the Bookkeeper and Diamond tracks also bring an added benefit; once you advance past an early threshold you also unlock one more Action card slot. Playing more action cards is always good as each action card more or less translate to an action (or in worker placement term, each action card is equivalent to an extra worker). However in Mombasa’s deck rotation, having more card slots also meant your Reserved slots are more fragmented now. That’s an interesting counter-balance mechanic.
Each player also has two bonus action marker that you can place (ala worker placement) on any of the 11 bonus action spots. Bonus action spots allow for action / tasks that are usually not available via action cards so it’s important to blend this into your overall strategy too.
Three of the bonus action spots (on the left above) are pretty good – you pay 2 coins to get an extra action tile (either another bookkeeper, diamond merchant or explorer). Unlike action cards, action tile does not take up any of your available slots so they are like an “extra” worker but lasts for one round only. You can of course keep buying them for 2 coins if you think they are useful to you.
In our session, Mombasa (black) was a ghost town (no one seemed interested to develop it) while Cape Town (red) expanded furiously. St Louis (white) and Cairo (orange) had moderate growth. The growth of Cape Town proved decisive for Ivan to take a complete victory.
However it’s also worth nothing that I saw potential in both the Diamond/Bookkeeper tracks and also Money (if you get into Cairo early and started selling coffee). You still need to invest in some good shares but you do not need to be dominant in share holding to win.
This game does not reward diversity – having your fingers in everything would return meh-meh results – you need to specialize and you need to set up your action card deck to rotate to your advantage. I think learning how to set up your action card deck rotation is the key to this game. The spread of VPs are your usual Euro min-maxxing.. but to be able to execute your plans as you visualize it requires your action deck to be properly set up to rotate into your hands at the right time. That usually requires planning 2-3 rounds ahead – and given the game is over in 7 rounds, you need to get it right almost from the get-go!
More pictures of this meetup session from our Facebook photo album.
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