Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pigs Might Fly

When you're on your way to your next board gaming event, keep an eye out for portents and omens. Burning bushes, holes in the sky, whales beaching themselves, the player to your right producing coffee, that sort of thing. Make a haunt roll now. Something very strange has happened.

I found a train game that I like.

Of course there's already Metro, which is not particularly about trains but more about connections. And indeed, my new friend, TransEuropa, is also about connections. But it has trains in it, and I like it, and so it counts.

I was particularly attracted by the thought of a game with extremely simple rules, and based on a map of Europe. I'm in love with the history of Europe and looking at a map of Europe evokes so many wistful thoughts... whereas a map of America reminds me how many Republican voters there are in the world. So Railroad Tycoon, Ticket to Ride and so many of the others immediately alienate me just by looking at the map. TransEuropa has a very nice map.

I've also been reading about connection games in this book. As TransEuropa is not abstract it has a little more going for it than Hex, for example. It's also cheap and scales from 2 to 6 players, so it was worth trying it. Also, nice sensible European people share railway lines, unlike all those stupid American railway people!

I tried to play a quick game with the kid before dinner last night and after rescuing BIL from the bathroom where the door lock had broken we abandoned the game. He showed me that he was going to Kick My Butt. That got me thinking about strategy. It's almost inevitable that the rail networks are going to become connected, so whatever I've done is going to be available to my opponents. So I want my track to be of as little use to them as possible. If there's a long hard slog across the continent to be done, I want someone else to do it and then I want to join on and take advantage of their work.

Armed with those thoughts I sent the kid to bed and challenged Scrabblette. It took only one round for Scrabblette to make the same strategy deductions, so after conceding 3 points to me in the first round she started playing warily and it was an interesting game of cat and mouse. I refused to make any play that could possibly benefit her until it was the best thing I could do for myself as well. Scrabblette tried to do the same thing, and succeeded, so she won the next two rounds and we were even at 10 points each.

However the following round was something of a strategy disaster for Scrabblette. She had a long track across southern Europe, and I had a network in the northeast. I needed to get from Warsaw to Dublin and couldn't see how connecting to her track which went to Barcelona was going to help me, so I struck out across northern Europe to get there by myself. Scrabblette didn't want to have to do all the work of connecting to me, even though she still had to get to Vilnius or somewhere, so deliberately avoided connecting to me. While she made fancy-shaped tracks, I approached Dublin. Eventually she had to connect to me, but by then I was at Dublin and with only one more piece of track got to Firenze to win the round. Poor Scrabblette scored 5 for that round, which was the worst score either of us had all game. So although cat and mouse is a useful way to play, you still must remain focused on the goal!

After a couple more rounds I finished her off. I think we played 7 rounds, which took 90 minutes. The box says the game plays in 30 minutes, but that sounds to me like they're assuming players score more points per round than we were doing. I suppose with more players the game would actually speed up as someone could get unlucky and do badly. As it was, I thought the game had very little luck and and was quite beautifully balanced. I like it.

Anyway, I must go now. I think I can hear a wolf howling outside.

1 comment:

Molen Menod said...

You've totally convinced me to give TransAmerica a try again. Thank you.