Boardgame club session: St. Petersburg, Maharaja, Victory & Honor

We had a pleasant little boardgame club session yesterday. Only few people came to play, but hey — that’s enough. One table of gamers is all I need. Our first game was St. Petersburg. While I explained the rules, I joked that since it’s a four-player game, a fifth player will walk in after I’ve finished with the rules. That was indeed the case, but we played nonetheless. As was appropriate, I won the game hands down, thanks to a large bunch of aristocrats. When explaining the rules I emphasised the value of workers but didn’t say much about aristocrats.

That’s something you learn on your first game, I suppose. After all, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing to describe the value of everything before the first game, since that’s basically what’s being good in St. Petersburg is about. Even though that might cause one to lose the first game, one’ll learn and in the next game function better. At least I’ve really enjoyed learning how to play the game. The more I play the less I’ll be able to learn and that’s a bit sad, really.

Later on I played a two-player game with Robert. That was very fast and furious game. Early in the game Robert made some small mistakes (buying too expensive things, basically, which caused him to lag behind me in money income) and it was fairly obvious I would win. I think the two-player game could use a doubling cube — in many occasions conceding the game earlier might be a good move.

Then we tried Maharaja. We got a full table of five players for it, which I think is a good thing. Thanks to the simultaneous action planning, downtime is reduced and the game took only 75 minutes. Without the simultaneous planning, it would probably be over two hours… Anyway, it’s an interesting game. Lots of possibilities for tactical manoeuvres, less scope for strategic play. I think. That might change after more plays and I certainly want to play more. Next time I’ll know some things better, how to operate the characters and Maharaja order and whatnot. Clever game, indeed, but perhaps a bit too chaotic for my tastes.

Something lighter next: High Society. I won, when Ville, who had most points, happened to have the least money. I just love that rule — it makes the game so nervous, trying to decide how much you can bid without losing too much money. My calculations have worked so far, in the three games I’ve played I’ve never been the one with least money. High Society is a lovely game I think I should get. It’s so easy and accessible.

I met Robert on the field of battle in Memoir ’44. We played Arracourt. I was the Axis and Robert was the Allies. Looking at the web site, the Allies have won 14 of the 16 battles reported (that includes ours) so it’s no wonder I lost! I think next time I’ll try Sword Beach — three-star rating from 21 raters and pretty balanced records (44/50). Here the only concern is that Axis might not have much to do except to stand and shoot. Anyway, Arracourt was an interesting battle even though I was overwhelmed by the Allied forces. It’s a fun game, lose or not. With more time, a double match would be of course the best option to balance it out.

We tried another kind of war game, too: Victory & Honor. This one’s a American Civil War -themed trick-taking game. It’s an interesting game, where players play three tricks at the same time. Certain cards have special abilities and the order of the play depends on the cards played (basically each player can choose who plays next). It was very complicated to teach, mostly because I didn’t know the rules and the rule book was very unclear. I think I’ll write a clearer summary of the rules one day — I’m quite certain the rules can be expressed in clearer fashion, because the game isn’t that difficult. However, playing it well is going to be a serious brain burner.

We played one practise phase, then a practise round. That latter was unintentional — I noticed after the round that allied players do not score together. Oops. We managed to play one proper round before we had to end the game. Tuomas and Olli won that, the scores were something like 18+6 — 12+15 or so. Pretty close, and I want to make it known that it was Robert who ruined our side’s score… I’m looking forward to playing a proper four-round game at some point. Victory & Honor seems very promising.

To end the evening (at least for my part), we played a game of San Juan. My explanation of the rules was probably the shortest one possible but hey, Atro knows how to play Puerto Rico and he’s a smart guy. He did quite well, too, so I guess my explanation was successful. I managed to win the game with 11-point City Hall, using Prefecture and Carpenter to score cards. Others had more production buildings, but they just weren’t fast enough.

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