Theme Game Day #7 – Lena Day!

21 Jan

My game group meets every Monday at the store I work at (have I mentioned it? I have? Too bad. Beyond the Board in Dublin, Ohio. Go there!). It usually starts out at my friend Tim and myself, sometimes Matt. Later Ron shows up, and even later than that is Lena. Others float in and out depending on their schedules.

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Lena. If you hadn’t guessed.

As she usually shows up after I’ve already been at work for a full day + a couple hours, I don’t get to game with her as often as I’d like. I originally met Lena when she worked at the same museum I did many moons ago. She’s also Tim’s girlfriend, so she’s been part of one of my gaming groups for several years. When we decided to do these theme game days, it was decided that on the Monday preceding everyone’s birthday, they get to pick the games that day, They don’t have to really have any themes, just games that person likes and / or wants to play.

Unfortunately for Lena, her day came on the Monday when she, Tim, and I had tickets to see Star Wars Episode VII in the evening. That, combined with the fact that the store was constantly busy with customers due to Christmas meant that we were only able to get to two games for her day. We did get to one really interesting new game, and we took another run at Ticket to Ride with dice.

Game #1 – Cavum

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For people that know the game, don’t yell at me yet.

The first game up was Cavum, a lesser known game from noted game designers Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer. The basic theme of the game is that players are miners, all trying to tunnel into a gem-laden mountain in order to collect gems to make valuable jewelry, or sell to the market for more points.

Each player has a player board with 12 action spaces. The various spaces allow you to do such things as build more tunnels, set dynamite which will cause part of the mine to collapse, as well as playing stations (either to protect your tunnels, block other people from using your tunnels, or place them in cities to be able to mine and sell anything you may collect. On a turn, a player may do 1-4 of the actions on their board. Once they have performed 11 of the 12, the last action is Prospecting which allows a player to trace a route from a station in one city through the mines into another station, collecting gems along the way.

These gems can either be sold to the market for points, or used to complete jewelry cards that players chose before they began building their mines. Finally, all the dynamite in the mine blows up, causing parts of the mine to collapse, and wipe away bunches of tunnels.

We played parts of this game totally wrong.

If you look at the picture above, you’ll see white tiles. Those are the veins of gems that players “discover.” Once these are emptied, they are supposed to be removed from the board immediately. We didn’t do that. That made the game WAY easier to play. It’s very possible that if you time things poorly, you could get totally blocked, and unable to get gems at all. This fact makes the route building phase more important, because you can’t guarantee the vein will still be there to get you where you want to go. Cavum is a much meaner game than we played.

That being said, I think this is a good game that I think would enjoy a place in more collections than what it’s in. I do think parts are a bit more convoluted than they needs to be. For example, the bid for turn order is almost unnecessary, since you can time your actions – turn order isn’t as big of a deal as the designers wanted to make it. I also feel like the way the gem selling market works – where players play a game of chicken as to who will sell their stash of gems for the least amount of money – is just one mechanic too many for this game, which is already a pretty heady game. I’d like to give it another run with the correct rules.

Game #2 – Ticket to Ride: Switzerland w/ Dice Expansion

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With three of us around, we played one of Lena’s favorite maps, Switzerland. But we played it with the Tim & Scott (TM) approved Dice Expansion. And now here’s where it all went terribly wrong for me. In my initial hand of tickets, I had 3 cards which all ran the exact same route. Now, in a normal game, I would have started the game by placing a whole bunch of little 1 & 2 lines so I wouldn’t get blocked out in the tricky northern part of the map. What I should have been doing is taking the long way around, weaving in and out and using longer routes…because I had that ability. I wasted so many turns due to the simple fact that I only used 1 train when I could have used 4. I was playing the wrong game. With the dice expansion, it’s about going big and doing it quickly. Tim ended the game after getting all of his trains on the board. I still had 26 trains left. I think he had close to 150 points, I might have gotten to 60.

I don’t know if Lena really liked the dice because it took away one of her strategies of this map. Since it is such a narrow map, it’s very easy to get route synergy going, so cycling through the destination tickets, and snarfing up all the routes that are close together is a very legitimate strategy. Because of the speed on this game, it’s much harder to do that. I still really like the dice for the change of pace it brings to Ticket to Ride.

After that, it was time to fly to Jakku and well…that’s where this post ends. I’ve got about 4 more of these theme days to catch up on, and then I’ve got a few actual longer game reviews lined up. Thanks for reading.

 

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