Portsmouth On Board - 26 February 2014 - Russians, Belgians and A Lack of Elephants

I've been looking forward to this session as the main game of the night was already planned. . . . wait a minute I always look forward to Portsmouth On Board, what am I saying? OK forget that last part, but anyway, tonight I was continuing my mission for the week to play lots of new worker placement games with Russian Railroads. This is a game that's got a lot of buzz since Essen as a medium weight Euro train game that's easy to play, but has multiple cool features to distinguish it from the competition.
Now I'm not normally one for train games bar Ticket To Ride, but that's a light, family game, not a brain-burning train management game. I've been introduced to several iterations over the last few months including 18XX, Chicago Express, Locomotive Werks and another really tiny filler train game to which I've forgotten the name (think what Eight Minute Empire tried to achieve and put trains in it) - none of which have grabbed me and in the case of the second one, actually bored me to tears. I'd like to try Trains which is the deck-building game but again I don't think that would be counted as a Euro train game so chances are I'll like that one by default.

"Russian Railroads - point salad central"

But Russian Railroads intrigued me and so I was keen to jump in to a 3 player game and test it out. And considering someone else had brought Clash of Cultures to the fray which is extremely high on my list of To Play games (what is there, like 1,000 games on it at this point, I feel like such a noob), that's saying something.

"Railways of Great Britain (HOW BIG IS THIS BOARD?"
Elsewhere in the club I could see Seasons, which is an excellent game, one of my favourites as well as Small World: Underground, a game I haven't been able to get many people into playing sadly as it's also a good game - maybe it's that people struggle with all of the races available, particularly in my expanded copy of the original Small World.

"Small World: Underground"

Russian Railroads appeared at first like a typical worker placement game. You have your board with a hundred icons where you will track the progress of your tracks and industry levels and another board has all of the spots you can place your workers (which are all shaped to include the Russian hats whatever they're called which is cool) for various actions. It didn't take very long to be taught to the rules and that should be the case with everyone, it's a medium weight game overall. Once you know what the icons do, you can quickly formulate a strategy and adapt to what actions are available, or at least that's how I saw it personally.

It plays so smoothly though and AP was kept to an all-time low for a Euro game. But when I say that this game is a point-salad, MY GOD it's a point salad with extra pie, chips and gravy. You get points for extending your train tracks, building up your industry, using engineers, achieving special bonuses, hell, even for being the 2nd or 3rd player to go in the turn order. . . . now that's a first in my experience! But that's not a bad thing - you get a feel that everything you do is worth something, but you really need a calculator to help out with round scoring!

"Seasons"

I was impressed and for a train game that's high praise - this could possibly see its way into my collection as it seemed very quick and balanced throughout and some of the mechanics in the game such as the industry tiles "bridging the gaps" on the industry track is quite ingenious. It was good fun and surpassed expectations.

Following this the Clash of Cultures game was nearing it's conclusion as well, but why no elephants? You can't put a giant war elephant on the box cover and then not have any elephants! Boooo! Ah well a future expansion should be solving that issue and I still want to play this game and check it out. The technology tree looks very diverse although there were comments of not much "war" taking place - but that might have been because they were playing the short game as normally the reviews I hear of this game is that it can get very combative. My mate Jim I believe took the victory by half a point - it's a good feeling when you literally scrape that victory, but I've been on the receiving end of that as well and it's not pleasant - yeah I'm talking to you Chaos In The Old World!

"Clash of Cultures"

Lighter games across the club were breaking out with King of Tokyo, as usual, being a popular choice, but there was also Last Night On Earth, which incidentally is also what I believed I was experiencing when I last played that game - such odd theme issues with that game, much preferred Zombicide for a classic "Left 4 Dead" style feel.

Fortunately for us, another item on my hit-list was shown in Bruges, the recent Stefan Feld game that has also been receiving a lot of praise. The concept of having all of these character cards to use in different ways with a ton of variety was intriguing.

In this game you are building houses and canals as well as recruiting characters to earn victory points in classic Stefan Feld style. The interesting aspect is that there are a huge variety of characters each with their own special ability once you recruit them. Finding a good combination of these characters is key to success. But of course you have to avoid getting screwed by the various hazard tiles that you collect such as pests, fires and floods. I had a few pests come in and invade my houses, but no big deal.

"Bruges"

It was a fine game, although I feel that your ability to do well is dictated entirely by the cards you draw. If you draw the colours you want or a good combination of characters, you will do well, if not, you won't. Pure and simple. I guess that's not a huge issue however as the game is a "lighter" Euro game so an element of randomness is to be expected and it does have a lot of variety in the characters and is relatively quick to play. But when it comes to Euro's I tend to shy away from luck and save that for the filler games or Ameritrash genre.

I came last which is no big surprise given that luck seems to have a go at me on a regular basis. I never drew a good combination of cards, but I got a good feel of how the game plays - it's just one that I'll play at a club, but won't opt for owning it in my ever growing collection which has taken a big boost in games lately (Russian Railroads being one of them!).

"6 Nimmet"

No time for anything else that night - but definitely some great games being played - now that Co-Op month is over and my Top 10 Worker Placement game list has been recorded now as of 2 March 2014, I can start playing some new games on my wish list - anyone bringing back Clash of Cultures? :-)

Games Played

Russian Railroads
Seasons
Clash of Cultures
Bruges
6 Nimmet
King of Tokyo
Last Night On Earth
Small World: Underground
- and many more!



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