Monday, March 10, 2008

Go West

I recently bought myself something every gamer needs - a sheet of perspex. The uses of a sheet of perspex are many and varied, as I discovered from the guys at work. Let's not go there. What I wanted it for was to cover game maps, such as the pathetic one from C&C Ancients, and the one you can draw on from Roads and Boats. I also managed to buy a sheet of non-slip material which will come in handy for slippery hex games such as Roads and Boats and Trias. I also needed to try out &cetera, the Roads and Boats expansion. With all of these factors converging, there was only one thing to do - solitaire &cetera.

While considering a solitaire game of &cetera I realised that in all of my solitaire games of Roads and Boats I hadn't even built wagons, let alone trucks, steam ships and so on. &cetera offers planes and power lines and trains, so I didn't see any hope of getting to those on the Lord of the Ring map. So I resolved to play a large long open-ended game, and see what happened.

I chose the "Go West" map from the expansion scenario suggestions. Apart from being big enough to take whatever I could build, "Go West" is the Buster Keaton movie where he plays the character Friendless. It seemed appropriate.

Of course my ambition was to exploit the riches in the mountains, and I decided to get to them by building some plans and flying out there. It wasn't so difficult to build an airport and I had one before the donkeys even had time for a bit of the old hee-haw.

After that I started flights out to the mountains to build mines. But first, I'll explain what planes do. They can take off from any hex they're in. They can carry 4 resources but not other transporters. They can airdrop resources to any hex. They can land on any space without a building or unsupervised geese, or at an airport. They can taxi one space along a road.

I found the very valuable way to use plains was to taxi into a hex full of resources, take off fully loaded, air drop the resources to where they were needed, then land and taxi back to another hex on the next turn. Of course by the time I realised that I'd put my airport in a not very useful place, but I did do an awful lot of air dropping. The tension was always trying to keep an empty hex next to the resource rich hexes for the planes to land in.

I knew I'd eventually need to get some donkeys out to the mines to help load metals onto the planes, so I built a road all the way across the map. At the same time I noticed I had too much to do and not enough resources to do it with, so I decided to electrify my primary production. The mines were producing iron anyway, and iron is needed to build power lines, so it seemed like a good idea.

I'll tell you what electricity does. If you have a power plant fuelled by either wood or boards, the power plant provides electricity to all primary producers connected by power lines. Power lines are denoted by dotted lines and cost one iron to build (like roads cost one brick). The electrification project worked well. I placed the generator midway between a source of wood and the places that needed to be electrified.

With the increased resource production I needed more transport so I set about upgrading my donkeys to wagons. They sufficed for a while, but as more mines came on-line even they became inadequate.

I had to upgrade to trucks and was sad to see there was nothing else to upgrade to. The map didn't have enough water to justify any ships at all, and I don't think I would have given up any of my planes or trucks anyway.

I noticed then that with the mines working well, primary production booming, and transport sorted, I was accumulating gold I couldn't process fast enough. Electrification doesn't help with primary producers, but managers do (it's only a game). Hence I needed to build a Management Bullshit Academy. In the picture you can see the MBA about to produce a manager who will be taxied to the mint where he's desperately needed. Managers double the production capacity of a secondary producer.

I then used the planes to air drop iron and fuel to all of the mine sites to build second mine shafts. These were specialised gold mines, as my intention was to score over 1000 points for the game (I had to plan to stop at some stage.)

I had the financial district absolutely plagued with managers - they were at the coal burners, paper factory, mint and stock exchange, so coins and stock bonds were being produced very efficiently.

At this point the gold mines were producing so much gold the only way I could get it to the mint was for the trucks to deliver it to the planes in the desert, and for the planes to air drop it to the mint and then return to the desert. That was very efficient. The iron which was hanging around was now useless and I managed to sacrifice some to build the wonder. I mostly ignored the wonder throughout the game but towards the end I was pumping huge resources into it just to get them off the board - piles of lumber and bricks were threatening to topple onto the managers.

Eventually everything progressed through the system. When I clearly had 1000+ points I loaded all of the loot onto the trucks and took it home. The two trucks in the back are carrying stock certificates.

In conclusion, although this was an interesting exercise, it took quite a long time - at least 5 hours spread over a week. I can't imagine playing &cetera against other people unless I was 17 again. For that reason, although the &cetera additions fit the game well, I have a low desire to play it again. I would like to do a scenario with more water so I can get steam ships, and maybe with polders, cities, art and railways. However that won't be happening any time soon - I need my table for other games.


Merric said...

Yeah, I'm jealous of Randy's sheet of perspex. And now yours. I need to get one myself...

Maria said...

Get some perspextive on the perspex!