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First play on Tel's shiny new Spain / Portugal map.
With four of us, some regions of the map had to go. Sadly Oggie wasn't here so we couldn't use the normal trick of removing the ones closest to him. He does so enjoy having to stand up to place houses. We wimped out on removing the centre of the board and ended up removing a couple of areas to the west. This took out some nice clusters of cheap connections. So it was no surprise to see Tel grabbing the nicest bit of the map, Steve nabbing the bit right next to him, Andy taking the only other half-attractive bit, and Paul wondering whether to resign immediately.
The connections on this map seem nicely balanced between too cheap and too expensive. This saw us playing a bit of a cat and mouse game, trying to get a nice position for resource purchases to squeeze out that elusive extra build. Or it did until Steve got bored with that game and burst through the 7 city limit to trigger phase 2. This seemed to come a couple of turns too early for everyone. Desperation for cash and decent power plants, and despair at resource costs, saw an interesting couple of turns of everyone deliberately underpowering their cities.
Much to almost everybody's relief, phase 3 arrived and brought a couple of decent plants into play. What had looked like a one or two horse race suddenly threw the field wide open. First we were convinced that it was Tel's game for the taking. Then we decided Andy would win. Then we decided Paul couldn't lose. Unless Steve won, which looked quite likely. This led to a nice end game with everybody in the mix.
Going into what would almost certainly be the final turn, Paul was three cities behind everybody else but had a pile of cash. Tel had the advantage on power plants, with everybody else eyeing up an upgrade. That led to some fierce bidding, especially for the Piddinghoe boys who don't usually do that. Everyone seemed reasonably satisifed with what they'd managed to snag, except maybe Andy who's pockets weren't as deep as he'd have liked. Come the end of the auction round we did a quick count and realised we would all be able to power 18 cities. So we all proceeded to build to 18 cities. And had go to a tie break to split everyone.
In the final reckoning, Steve took the game by about 20 cash in the closest finish we've ever seen in this game. What a top game.
Comment by Tel
Slight errata to the report, we removed a couple of areas from the east (Barcelona is only western Spain if your looking at it upside down).
Certainly was a very good close game. 3 of us moved into oil power plants at the start of the game making oil very expensive, and leaving Steve free reign to keep coal very cheap. I also bought a expensive (30+) plant in turn 2 which prevented me from building for a turn, allowing Steve to grab all "my" juicy connections. However just when I thought he'd got the game in the bag, he missed out on a couple of decent power plants, and got stuck watching mediocre plants fill the supply, allowing everyone else back into the game.
We'll have to retry this soon to see if the map is truly well balanced, or whether we just fell lucky this game.