Monday, August 6, 2007

Gameday, Saturday, July 28th

Four friends were able to show up for gameday on Saturday.
Mark Bausman
Mervyn Dejecacion
Al Hay
Mark Simonitch

The following games where played.
1. Imperial - 5 players
Starting with control of the following nations
Mark Bausman - Austria-Hungary
John Boone - Italy
Mervyn Dejecacion - Britain and Russia
Al Hay - France
Mark Simonitch - Germany

Imperial is a game about money. The player with the most money, in bonds and cash, at the end of the game wins. Players represent financial investors that influence the running of the major European countries during the late 19th and early 20th century. Although all players start with a majority interest, in terms of bonds, of at least one country at the beginning of the game control can be taken away from the players during the course of the game.

The Map and Setup
The map is divided into both land and sea areas. Each nation is composed of 5 areas called home provinces. Each home province contains a city color coded to indicate which type of factory, armaments (brown)or shipyard (blue), that may be built in that province. There are an additional 15 land regions that do not belong to any of the player nations at game start and also 9 sea regions. Note the difference in terminology, provinces are land areas originally owned by one of the six nations; regions are land or sea areas that are neutral at game start. I will use area when taking about regions and provinces and region or province when being specific. At game start, players are randomly dealt a starting nation flag. Each nation starts with an armaments factory and a shipyard factory to place within their home provinces. On the back of each flag is listed the bonds a player must purchase to start the game with. All players start with a piece of their color in the center space of the circular track on the map called the Rondel and two additional markers in the lowest starting boxes on the Power Points and Tax Charts tables.

A game turn consists of individual player turns starting first with Austria-Hungary and proceeding in order through, Italy, France, Britain, Germany, and finally Russia. While Austria-Hungary starts first, the player on his/her left starts with possesion of the Investor Card. As mentioned earlier a person can lose control of their starting country and in fact have no country under their control and thus effectively no turn while another person may have two, three, or more countries, ie player turns.

As this is a game about money, control is measured by who has the most money invested in a country through the purchase of the countrys bonds. That player will decide, when it is the country's turn, what action that country will take on the Rondel.

The Rondel
At game start, all players start in the center of the Rondel. On the player's first turn they must decided which field to enter and take that as their first action. There after, on subsequent country turns, the controlling player must move the country piece clockwise around the Rondel from 1 to 6 fields and take that action for the country. A player can move the country's piece 1 to 3 fields for free but moving 4 to 6 fields cost $2 Million each. For example, it would cost $6 Million dollars to move 6 fields. There are six different fields on the Rondel representing the six different actions a player may perform in a turn.

The Maneuver field allows the player to move all of the active country's units. There are only two types of maneuver units in Imperial, Armies, and Fleets. Army units moving on land may move to an adjacent land area. Fleets moving from port or from another sea region may move to an adjacent sea region. Army units may also move by sea (convoy) to a land area if all sea regions along the path taken have a fleet of the same nationality of the army unit. During maneuver all fleets of the active nation are moved first, if desired, and then the armies are moved. Because of this orde,r a fleet may first move into a sea region and then an army may use that fleet for a convoy move. If a fleet moves into a sea region, or an army into a land region, that is not occupied by any other player nation the player may place one of his round tax chips in the sea or land region indicating ownership of that region. Players may never place tax chips in others nation's provinces. If a fleet or land unit enters an area occupied by other players units a battle may take place.

Battles are not mandatory. The active player first states if he wishes to battle one of the other players occupying the area. If the active player does not wish to battle the other inactive nations in the same area may choose to battle. If no battle is desired nothing happens and all units remain in the area. If a battle is chosen units of the two battling nations in the area are removed on a one for one exchange rate until no units of one or both sides remain. If only two nations occupied the area at the start of the battle and one nation has at least one unit remaining while the other nation does not at the end of the battle a tax chip, of the winning nation, is placed in the area. Land units that move into another nation's province, that contains a factory, must state whether they wish to deny use of that factory to the owning nation or remain peaceful. If the use of the factory is denied it may not be used for any action that requires the use or presence of a factory. Another nation's factory may be destroyed by three enemy armies occupying the factory province. An army in another nation's province may also deny use of the rail movement ability through that province. Rail movement is a special move that may be used by land units within it own home provinces. Rail movement allows a land unit to move anywhere within its home provinces. This rail move may be used before or after a normal land or convoy move in the same maneuver action.

The Factory field allows the player to build a factory, armaments or shipyard, in the active country for $5 Million. The correct factory must be built, ie brown city provinces may only have an armaments factory and blue city provinces may only have a shipyard factory. A factory provides two benefits. Each factory is worth $2 Million dollars during a Taxation action and factories are used to build armies and fleets during the Production action.

The Production field allows the player to produce one unit in each unoccupied (by an enemy army) factory space of the active nation. There is no monetary cost for this action. Army factories produce army units and naval factories produce naval units.

The Import field is another action that allows build up of a nations units. A maximum of 3 three units (armies or fleets in any combination) may be purchased and placed in the home province of the active nation. It costs $1 Million dollars per unit to perform this action. The purchased units may not be placed in enemy occupied home provinces and fleets are restricted to provinces with blue cities. The last two actions are probably the two most important ones in Imperial, Taxation and Investor.

The Taxation field allows taxing of the active nation to raise money for the nation, pay for its military, increase the country's value, and possibly pay a bonus to the player controlling it. Taxation is a thee step process. First each unoccupied (by enemy units) factory is worth $2 Million dollars and each tax chip is worth $1 Million dollars. The active nations marker is moved to the appropriate space on the Tax Chart. If the marker position moved up on the Tax Chart this difference is awarded to the controlling player, $1 Million dollars per space moved upward from the previous position, as a success bonus for running the country well. Secondly, all military units of the active unit must be paid, if possible, from the tax revenue raised. Each fleet or army costs $1 Million dollars. Any monies left over is added to the treasury of the active nation. Finally, the marker of the active nation on the Power Points track is moved a number of spaces indicated by the current position of the active nation on the Tax Chart. Movement upward on the Power Points track is very important for two reasons. First, the farther along the track a nation is the more it is worth during the end game scoring and two, the game ends immediately when the first nation occupies the 25 point space of the Power Points track. Maximizing the benefits of taxation requires building factories, increasing land and sea holdings, and having a small military at tax time.

The Investor field action consists of the following steps, paying interest to all bond holders of the active nation, activating the investor card, and activating all players who control no nation for investing. All nations who hold bonds from the active nation are paid interest on those bonds from the treasury of the active nation. If there is not enough money in the treasury the controlling player must make up the difference from his own treasury. If this is not possible the Investor action may not be chosen. After paying out interest, the holder of the Investor card is first paid $2 Million dollars from the bank and then may invest in any one nation by either taking a new bond or upgrading an existing bond by paying the difference in cost between the current bond and the new bond. Once the Investor is finish he passes the Investor card to the player on his left. Finally, each player who does not control a country is allowed to invest once. If during the active player's turn he does not land on the Investor field but passes over it he still triggers the ability of the Investor card and the investor ability of players with no control over a country.

The game continues until one country is advanced to the 25 point space of the Power Points track during a Taxation action. When this occurs the game ends immediately and proceeds to the end game scoring procedure.

End Game Scoring
Each player's victory point score is based on the interest value of each bond he holds multiplied by the country's factor on the Power Points track. To this sum is added the player's cash, in millions of dollars, in his personal treasury. The player with the highest total wins.

Our Game
In the beginning, Mark Bausman, starting with control of Austria, expanded his holdings into the region around the Black Sea. Italy moved into Eastern and Central North Africa with France landing in West North Africa. Mervyn, controlling Russia, expanded into Sweden and Denmark. As a first time player one needs to get over the fact that one might not hold a country for the whole game but one still has an affinity for their starting country and as Italy I felt threatened by Austria and France after they blocked me from expanding any further from my two holdings in North Africa. Austria, as my neighbor seemed to be the immediate threat so I built up units to protect against and later attack Austrian holdings near the Black Sea. Mark Bausman later took control of Russia from Mervyn making Italy more nervous but fortunately Mervyn took it back again . Mark Simonitch later took Austria from Mark Bausman leaving Mark Bausman a man without a country. In the end this seemed to work out as a viable strategy for Mark. I accidentally took control of Russia from Mervyn. Accidental in that I only wanted a large bond from Russia since it was so rich and wanted to cash in on its next payout but not really wanting control since Mervyn was handling it well and from my history with Italy I would probably ruin it. Germany temporarily expanded its control into Western Russia but Russia later re-established its border and took back territory Austria had taken in the Black Sea area. At this point, Mark Simonitch then took Russia from me and Mark Bausman and I controlled no countries while Mark Simonitch controlled three, Germany, Russia, and Austria. On my next chance to buy a bond I took back control of Russia. At some point, feeling Italy was cramped from Austria on one side and France on the other, I decided to attack France's holdings in North Africa with the intent to reduce my armies before taxation. On France's next turn with the Investor card Al stopped Italy's aggression by buying control of it. Italy did not do very well for the rest of the game, as if it was doing great before then under my control, as Al spent all his time trying to improve France's position making France very attractive. Mark Bausman spent a good portion of the game with no controlling interest in a country which allowed him to make frequent small bond purchases. Near the end he took control of Russia. Mervyn ended the game when he took control of France and advanced it to end the game. The final point tally is shown below in descending victory point order.

First off I have to say, html tables are a pain in the arse on Blogger. This is the third time I've tried to post these, finally having converted them to PNG files.

2. Age of Empires III: the Age of Discovery - 4 players
Mark Bausman - Score: 63
John Boone - Score: 105
Al Hay - Score: 59
Mark Simonitch - Score: 92

Between Imperial and Age of Empires III, as a first time player of both games, I felt this one was easier to grasp. Each player represents a group in Europe attempting to discover and explore, first the new world, and later other parts of the world not represented on the board. The game consists of three ages with scoring rounds at the end of each age on turns 3, 6, and 8.

Each turn, all players start with 5 colonists, plus any specialist gained from the previous turn, with which to conduct his actions for the turn. In turn order, each player will assign one unit to one of eight tracks/boxes, Initiative, Colonist Dock, Merchant Shipping, Trade Goods, Capital Buildings, Discovery, or Warfare. As you can see there are more choices than you have units so you have to weigh the benefits of performing some actions while foregoing others. The turn rotates through this stage until all units have been placed; you can't save units for the next turn. After all units have been assigned each box it resolved one at a time.

There are 5 spaces on the Initiative track numbered in turn order 1 to 5. Players may chose to place a colonist on the lowest numbered unoccupied space on the initiative track to move up in turn order for the next turn. In addition players receive payment equal to the number of the space they occupy ie, space 1 gets to go 1st next turn and receives $1, space two is second and receives $2, etc.

Colonist Dock
The Colonist Dock contains spaces numbered 1 to 11 in addition to two spaces labeled X and Y. Spaces X and Y are in play when activated with the appropriate Capitial Building (Indentured Servitude and Colonization Laws Capital Buildings) along with numbered spaces up to 2 times the number of players minus 1. For example in a 4-player game, 7 numbered spaces would be available for colonists; spaces 8 to 11 are not in play. When the Colonist Dock is resolved the unit on space 1 is moved to any previously discovered colony, then space 2, and so on until all colonists/specialist have landed. There are 9 Colonies in the New World but at the beginning of the game only the Caribbean is open to colonization. All the other areas must first be "discovered" before colonists can be sent to them. Some specialist units have special abilities when they land. A Missionary generates a bonus colonist in the colony it just landed in. A Merchant generates $5 for its owner when it is placed in a colony. A Soldier can be used during the Warfare event in the colony it occupies. As Age I, II and III score for colonies the Colonist Dock is one of the more important Tracks in the game. This track won me the game as I was able to take an early lead during the Age I and II scoring rounds.

Merchant Shipping
The Merchant Shipping event box contains one ship figure which is replaced every turn. When resolved the player who contains the most points of colonists and specialist in this box wins use of the merchant ship for the rest of the game. Both the Captain and Merchant specialist units count as two colonists when placed in this box. Each Merchant ship that a player owns can be used as a "wild card" when building sets of trade goods for money and scoring in the final round. Some Capital Buildings also confer extra rewards per merchant ship owned. The Navy Capital Building awards 4 victory points per ship owned during final scoring and the Privateers Capital Building awards $1 per ship from the other players. In our game Mark Simonitch managed to collect 4 ships along with the Privateers Capital Building allowing him to gain an extra $12 for his piracy actions during the Income phase of the turn.

Trade Goods
At the start of the game and at the beginning of each new turn 4 Trade Goods are randomly drawn and placed near this track. When the Trade Goods event is resolved each player who has a colonist in a Trade Goods box gets to pick one of the available Trade Goods. The order of choice is from leftmost box to right. Building up sets of Trade Goods is one of the ways players generate income in the game to purchase Capital Buildings or train specialists. For any three Trade Goods a player receives $1. For a set of three matching Trade Goods one receives $3 and for a set of 4 matching Trade Goods one receives $6 dollars. As mentioned previously a merchant ship can be used to complete one set; it acts as a wild card. Having leftover money at the end of the game is usually not worth anything unless you also own the Wealth Capital Building which awards 1 victory point for every $5 you have at the end of the game. Other ways to generate income are by sending merchants to colonies via the Colonist Dock as already mentioned, successful discovery events and by purchase and use of some of the Capital Buildings listed below.

Conquest of the Inca Empire - One time gain of $20
Trading Post - $5 per turn Factory - $30 per turn
Privateers - $1 per ship per player
Taxation - $10 per turn
Rum Distillery - $3 per Sugar per turn

Capital Buildings
In every turn, there are 5 randomly drawn, from the pool for the current age, Capital Buildings chits. These are placed face up near the Capital Buildings track. During resolution of the Capital Buildings phase players who have placed a unit in one of the boxes has the opportunity to purchase one of the displayed Capital Buildings. Order is from left to right on the track. First Age buildings cost $10, Second Age cost $14, and Third Age cost $20.

Capital Buildings confer either some special ability, victory points at the end of the game, or money. Examples of special abilities include gaining an extra specialist type per turn, gaining a random trade good per turn, or moving colonists or soldiers between colonies. Which Capital Buildings you purchase can either help your preconceived game strategy or steer you toward one if you are not sure how to proceed.

I had purchased the Training Grounds Capital Building on the first turn which gives the player an extra soldier every turn. I think this let me gain an advantage early when I sent soldiers to colonies early in the First Age.

The Discovery box is important as this is the only way new regions can be opened up for colonization. In turn order, players, if they have units in the Discovery Box, can send a group of units, from their units in the Discovery box, to explore one region that has not been "discovered" on the board. At the beginning of the game, the eight undiscovered regions in the new world have a discovery tile placed randomly on them. When a player choses to resolve a discovery in a region the tile is flipped and the number of natives on the tile is compared to the number of units sent on the discovery mission. If the number of natives (ranging from 1 to 5) is greater then the attempt has failed, the tile is returned face down to the region, and the player loses all units sent on that discovery (returned to the players force pool); otherwise it is successful, the player gets to place one colonist in the region, his units sent on the discovery are returned to his force pool, and the player is awarded money. The money awarded is a random base value on the chit and a bonus amount per soldier included in the discovery party. This is another good use for soldiers besides warfare. Soldiers can greatly increase the monetary value of a discovery. The newly discovered region is now open for colonization on the next turn for all players. Once all regions have been discovered on the board new discovery missions are drawn from the discovery card deck. These discoveries are more difficult as the number of natives range from 3 to 6 on the cards. Successful discovery chits/cards award the owning player victory points during the end of game scoring phase.

I had only attempted three discovery missions, all in the new world, during the game which awarded me 15 VPs at the end of the game.

Warfare is the last event resolved. There are 4 boxes in the Warfare section of the board. Starting on the leftmost box and working to the right the player in the box can declare either a battle or a war. Battles, which cost no money, allow the player to attack one other player in a region where the player has at least one soldier. Soldiers kill off the enemy player's units on a one for one basis. If the defender also has soldiers in the region he then kills your units. A War costs $10 to declare but allows one player to attack one other player in all regions that both players occupy which contains soldiers of the attacking player. Since Warfare is resolved before scoring it allows a player to improve his scoring position in that region.

Al and I were the only players who started battles during the game and no one spent money to have a war with another player.

In turns 3 and 6, players score for Colonies in the New World. A minimum of one player must have at least 3 colonists in a region to score with first place getting 6 points and second place getting 2 points. Ties for first get 2 points and ties for second score zero points. Three ways ties score zero points.

In the final round scoring, after the Third Age, players score for Colonies, Economy, Discoveries, and Capital Buildings. Colonies score as in the 1st and 2nd scoring rounds. Economy scores 1 point for each dollar gained for Trade Goods. Discovery chits/cards score the victory points listed on the chit/card. Capital Buildings score as stated on the respective Capital Building chit. Mark Simonitch came on strong in the the Third Age Scoring Round due to all his Capital Buildings but my First and Second Age score let me hold out for the win.

3. Mag Blast - 3 players
Cody Boone - Glorp
John Boone - Freep
Mark Simonitch - Alpha Mazons

We finished off the day with a game of Mag Blast. I got revenge on Cody from our first playing by taking out his Glorp Empire and then on the next turn took out the Alpha Mazons with a lucky draw of a direct hit card and catastrophic damage cards which Mark could not negate through his open green zone.

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