09-Dec-2008All month
Princes of Machu Picchu, The

Apparently Boog was going to honour us with a report. But I took more than ten minutes to enter the scores onto the site so he's forgotten everything about it now. Luckily I can still remember the salient points, so here we go.

By coincidence, all four of us were involved in the other game of this we had, while we were at Essen. That was only a couple of months ago so we all had the advantage that we sort of knew what we were doing this time. In particular, we were well aware of the importance of gaining as many scoring cards as possible as that's almost the only way to score any VPs. These cards are obtained by moving one of your dobbers up something called the Inca track. Thus we saw a lot of attention being paid to any action which allowed a movement.

This is largely driven by sacrificing llamas at various temples so we saw lots of llama farms springing up on the board. Most of the sacrifices require the player to have collected one or more of the various types of god tiles. So the strategy seems simple enough - grow llamas, get god tiles, move dobber, pick up VP cards, bask in victory. Sadly - or perhaps fortunately - things aren't quite so straightforward. There are various other resources in the game and these are all needed to claim the god tiles.

Thus we all started off trying to build up our economic engines. This is done by building farms which produce the resources. These are built by trading in sets of resources at various locations on the board. One of each resource can be taken for free each day. Others may optionally be produced at existing farms. So each day largely sees a race for each of the freebies, triggering farm production. An auction house allows for resources to be swapped as necessary. And then the resources are traded in for either farms or god tiles. Much of the variability in the game comes from the decision of which resource farms to build, how many of each, and how quickly to start snapping up the god tiles. This has to be balanced against running up the Inca track to get VP cards. Lots of cards are good. However, they are not worth anything in themselves. Each card shows two symbols, each of which represents either a farm or a god. It is possession of the appropriate farms and tiles which actually generates points.

Cards also have a secondary purpose. Each one shows a number of gold symbols. These may or may not be relevant, depending upon how the game ends. The end is triggered by either completing a certain number of turns (days) or by running out of god tiles. Theoretically the game can also end if you run out of VP points, but this seems unlikely. If the running-out-of-days condition ends the game, then the person with the most gold symbols multiplies there score by three and the second most by two.

In theory this is supposed to give two possible major strategies. Farm symbols are easier to score as they need less resources. God tiles are harder to score. And victory cards with god tile symbols also have more gold symbols. So you can aim for lots of farms and try to steer the game to an early conclusion. Or collect god tile symbols and aim to run out of days.

This is where I think things fall down a little. There are things you can do to encourage the game to run long Ė spend turns taking the actions which cause a day to end. But you canít do a lot to encourage the game to run short. For the latter to happen, you really need all of the god tiles to be taken. As youíre unlikely to be scoring for each different type, that leaves you depending upon other players to do part of your job for you and collect those which are useless to you. Worse, those collecting lots of god tiles probably want the other end condition so donít have an incentive to hoover them all up. So whilst the idea is sound in principle, Iím not convinced that it works that well in practice. But perhaps this is just inexperience with the game talking.

Anyway, the game has fortunately been interesting enough so far that we havenít worried about this. And interesting enough that itís unlikely to be a big issue for a while yet. It could, though, make the difference between what is a good game and could have been a very good game.

A glance at the scores will show that we did quite a bit better this time than in our previous game, which ended with scores of 11 and less. Though in this game we had the gold multiplication ending, which bumped up a couple of scores quite considerably.
Scores: Boog 54, Oggie 42, Paul 24, Andy 15
Ratings: Boog 8, Oggie 8, Paul 8, Andy 8
Winner(s): Boog