Thursday, July 10, 2008

Railroaded (Railroad Tycoon: Rails of Europe, Hollywood Blockbuster)

We finally brought out the Railroad Tycoon expansion "Rails of Europe" a second time. Next, we played the carry-over game from last week... Hollywood Blockbuster. We were five players: Luch, Kozure, Bharmer, JayWowzer and myself.

Rails of Europe

With five players, Rails of Europe is a pretty crowded place. I drew the baron which wants a connection from Vienna to St. Petersburg, and get what was right there in the initial deal of railway operation cards? The Vienna Hotel. I bid quite high for first place and grabbed it, though a really lucrative collection of yellow cubes centered around Rome would have been the better move. JayWowzer grabbed that and milked it nearly to the end of the game! Meanwhile, Luch started in the North-east, Bharmer was set up in the West and Kozure was Center-North. By the end of the game, the railroad spaghetti was quite a sight. JayWowzer built a particularly convoluted track within the impossibly congested region around Paris. Anyway, Bharmer made the earliest major connection and made the most of his superior cash flow throughout the game. He finished in first place AND had the least shares, so he won by a fair margin. I came in a close second, until my 18 shares were taken into account. Still second, but no longer that close (I believe I was tied with JayWowzer).

Hollywood Blockbuster

With five players, Hollywood Blockbuster is a very different game. Movies are NOT easy to make. Whereas I completed 5 movies last game, I only managed 2 this time (though the others completed 3).

Last game, I felt that the way money moved around was a little strange. With 5, it is a lot strange. How do you deal with the fact that almost every auction goes for 8-10 contracts, but the person with that money moves around the table as the funds change hands. Make a big purchase, and it can take quite a while before you can afford to make your next one (with 5 players, and bidding typically going to 8, each person gets 2 contracts back per round). I found it hard to figure out when to go for a particular lot, because I could almost always use whatever was offered. So how do you decide? Do you just bid once you've regenerated your money? I don't know... it just felt strange and kind of pointless.

Anyway, my intuition was clearly in the toilet. I kept bidding way too high for lots which had one or two tiles I felt I needed (usually against Luch. Never bid against Luch). Then, I'd sit and watch as I rebuilt my funds to the magic 8 contracts. Also, I tried way too hard to get a movie made that was worse than Luch's Keanu Reeves vehicle. I spent lots of money trying to ultimately make 0 points (Luch outbid me on my one opportunity to finish the movie and get the award. It was still unfinished at the end of the game). JayWowzer killed us with a number of successful movies (including the multiple best movie award winning Forrest Gump directed by Woody Allen).

Anyway, I still thought it was okay, but I liked it less than I did with three (though that felt like too few). I'm guessing, therefore, that the sweetspot will be with 4.

Comparisons to RA feel even less valid after this second play. For one, RA suffers with more players because the lot changes too much between each player's actions. In HB, the board is set ahead of time and all players do is bid on them in sequence. It's all about preplanning rather than push your luck.

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