Thursday session: Dutch InterCity, Modern Art

Kansi: Dutch InterCity

As my order from Northumbria Games arrived in just two days, we started our games with Dutch InterCity. We had four players, but fifth arrived just when we were about to start. Five, then.

Dutch InterCity is an older title from Winsome Games and a progenitor for the Riding series. It is somewhat similar to Wabash Cannonball, but even smaller and more minimalist.

The game features five railroad companies building track in the Netherlands. Each turn starts with a share selling phase. Each player chooses a share to sell. There’s an auction, and the high bidder gets the share. First share is the director’s share, after that the player with the most shares in a company will be the director. The share auction continues at least until every player has chosen a share to sell. Once that happens, the auction will continue until somebody runs out of money.

Then the companies get to build track. Each director chooses which connection the company wants to build that turn. The track costs 2-6, paid from the company treasury (supplied by the share auction). However, if two companies want to build the same track, there’s a blind bid and the company that pays more gets to build and the other doesn’t build.

Next up is dividends. The dividends are determined by the longest continuous run of track: each share pays that amount, so the dividends are not diluted like in Wabash. The turn ends with the turn order rearrangement: the richest player goes first, the poorest is last.

This continues until the map is completely built or a turn goes without any building at all. That doesn’t take long, because the map is fairly small. Four to six rounds, says J C Lawrence, and that sounds pretty accurate. In the end, companies are liquidated. The value of the track (sum of the values of the company track) is added to the treasury and the pot is divided to the shareholders. The director takes the remainder.

It’s very simple and clever, but takes surprisingly long. I suppose playing the game in 45 minutes or so is possible, but out first game took 75 minutes. It depends on how long you take in the auctions, because that’s the main part of the game.

The auction is clever. The ending condition is interesting. The strategies aren’t obvious. Ending with just few dollars is clearly a bad idea, though, as you’ll lose all control over the auction. Overpaying can be a good idea, especially as you can get part of the money back from the company treasury in the end. In the first round, one of the players was able to get a bid of a lead: everybody bought one share, then the first player simply went all-in and outbid everyone else to score a second share and ending the auction immediately. The auction strategies take some thinking.

Dutch InterCity is a fairly minimalist game; mostly an interesting auction, really. The track-building is less interesting, the options are fairly constricted. There’s some guess-work and choosing between risky but valuable and safer but less profitable options involved. In most of our game each company was controlled by a different player, but controlling more than one company is certainly useful in the track-building phase.

As this is a Winsome game, the production values are very minimalist, but work pretty well. The map is fairly ugly, and I would prefer that the track lines would show the value of the tracks. The game has small cardboard chits to mark the tracks, but using those is a pain. I highly recommend using wet-erase pens, as the board is laminated. Also, using railway value chart from Geek is a good idea.

I like it, and my fellow gamers were interested in trying again, so this one’ll see some table time. It’ll take some more experience to say how Dutch InterCity compares with Wabash Cannonball; so far I’d say Wabash is slightly more interesting, but Dutch InterCity is definitely worth trying (but is it worth paying a lot or hunting with great effort, is another thing).

Modern Art Finnish box

We continued with a five-player game of Modern Art. This was Hannu’s game, his total score was over 500, while the others were in 300 or so and I plunged to 234 thanks to a last turn double auction offer that ruined me. Ok, I might’ve called that ruin upon me by offering a fixed-price double for 105 and having to buy that, because the artist had run dry…

Lesson learnt: an artist doesn’t have power to sell well for three or four rounds. Don’t hang on to your doubles too long! I lost because of my own greed; I could’ve sold those paintings to Hannu, had I priced them lower. Then again, there was some pretty strange sales, too, because we had some newbies involved. I think Hannu might’ve received some lucky money, too, but he was a good salesman, too.

Still, it was an entertaining game, even though the final round spoilt my performance. I think I prefer Modern Art with less than five, though — I like having slightly more control over what is sold.

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