Good news for modern man! CyberKev has completed his project to play every game in the BGG Top 50. He's even played Pillars of the Earth which snuck in a few days ago.
The project was completed yesterday when we played Roads and Boats. To tell the truth I was a bit worried about it. With a listed playing time of four hours I was fully expecting it to take 10 or more hours like Twilight Imperium 3 did, and I was fully expecting to really really hate it. But I didn't.
The game started ingratiating itself by looking very very nice - there are lots of chits which aren't so attractive, but the transporters are nice wooden pieces and the board hexes are colourful and functional. The rules are also quite simple, and you feel straight away that you're able to make progress developing your economy. It was a good positive initial experience.
We played a 4 player game with 3 islands - Hans and I on one side of the map, a river, an island containing mountains and desert, a river, then Andrew and CyberKev on the other side. We figured before we even started that temporary alliances were the order of the day, so it was basically a case of our side of the map against their side of the map, and once we knew what we were doing it would be fair enough to do what it took to win. I was a little worried because Hans was talking about how his favourite game was Diplomacy... but I knew he was smart enough to stick with me for at least the start of the game.
So we were happy little Vegemites building our roads and factories and so on. Hans specialised in clay and bricks and I specialised in wood and research. I had some research happening so we decided to skip rafts and go straight to rowboats. In the same turn we built the rowboat factory we also built a wagon factory. We had the technology to power our soon-to-be massive economy!
What a mistake that was! I spent a few turns getting my donkeys into the wagon factory to upgrade them, during which time we were getting no wood made and no rowboats made. Hans had to build his road network before he could even get his donkeys to the factory. Meanwhile the other side of the board had a couple of dodgy rafts they were using to ferry mining equipment over to the central island.
I looked at Hans' massive clay and brick resources and realised that he could make two things - roads or walls. I didn't want walls near me, so I suggested we use our rowboats to transfer bricks over to the central island and build walls to steal the mines the other guys had built. That would have been a decent plan except the rowboats weren't ready. Furthermore, I only had 3 wagons and without any donkeys there would be no wild donkey sex happening and no more land transporters for me unless I built trucks. I decided I really needed to build rowboats fast!
I tried to get into a rhythm of transferring planks to the rowboat factory and building rowboats, but by this time the other side had transferred their gold back to their base and were minting coins. Hans and I finally got some rowboats built and sent some bricks over to the island. Hans sent a donkey as well, and we started colonising the island. However we were nearly at the end of the game, as the wonder was almost built.
Hans put on his wargamer hat and his donkey portaged his rowboat over to the far river and started rowing around picking up gold that had been carelessly left lying around. I decided that any plans I had of winning the game (and there never were particularly many) were dead and buried and that I needed to finish the game as soon as I could. Hans was particularly scared that the bad guys would start producing stocks, so we poured our efforts into the wonder to minimise the amount we lost by. Hans may have harboured some hope that he could pull out a victory by claiming lost gold, but it seemed unlikely.
In the end it was a matter of luck whether Andrew or CyberKev won. They shared the coins they'd minted and the gold they'd mined without counting very closely, and CyberKev ended up on top. Andrew second, Hans third, me dismal last. Hans and I agreed that the rowboat factory was a strategic mistake - it took too long to make the planks and get them to the factory, compared to the rafts which only required two logs. I tend to think that lack of wild donkey sex was a bad thing as well - CyberKev seemed to be able to achieve far more with his army of donkeys than my carts could.
Although I lost, I still really liked the game. I'd much prefer to play it solitaire or completely cooperatively, and with that in mind I'm thinking about the $US90 price tag. I can imagine testing myself to see how quickly I could build the wonder my myself, or build 1 stock, or whatever. It's the sort of system I like where I can see how it all works and I imagine I'd be able to pick out the inefficiencies in the system and avoid them on my next play.
It's a very good game. You should try it.