Santiago and String Railway

We started the new year yesterday. We’re back to the pub Konttori, because the university cafe is being renovated and our other favourite location, Artturi, isn’t good for Wednesdays. We’re actually having two weekly game nights now, with the other in Artturi on Thursdays. We’ll see how that turns out — I know I won’t be able to participate on Thursdays, as it’s the grocery shopping day for us.

Santiago box coverFirst it seemed like a bunch of three-player games, but Hannu and Sonja came too, so we had five. A bit tricky number, but fortunately I had Santiago waiting to be tried. I hear it’s best with five. Behind the ugly cover (I get it, scantily clad beautiful ladies on covers is bad, but how is an ugly guy any better?) and drab board lies an interesting bidding game.

Players bid for right to choose plantation tiles, which are then placed on board. Each takes one or two cubes. In the end, plantations are scored by multiplying the number of similar adjacent tiles by the amount of player’s cubes on them. A field of eight tiles with five my cubes and two your cubes with worth 5 x 8 = 40 points to me and 2 x 8 = 16 points to you.

Santiago play
I'm white and bidding $2 to build a canal to water my chili fields. Photo: Mikko Saari

The bidding is restricted and regulated: you can’t repeat a bid. If I bid 3, nobody else can bid 3 in that auction. That neatly removes all ties. Well, several players can pass, but there the last person to pass gets to choose first. Whoever bids least (or passes first) gets the right to be the Canal Overseer. That’s a very good position to have.

The plantations need water to survive. Water comes from a well and flows through canals. Each turn, Canal Overseer will add one canal. Other players may propose new canals and give some grease in the form of bribes. Canal Overseer chooses which bribe he or she likes the best and builds that canal — or pays one more than the highest bid to build wherever he or she likes. Unwatered fields will wither and eventually dry out.

In the end, money is key. Fields are points or money as described above and of course money in hand is counted as well.

Game's over!
Board after the game was over. Grey won. Photo: Mikko Saari

Our game saw some pretty large fields forming, potatoes and cane and whatnot. Hannu suffered from not cooperating — looks like working with your friends is essential in this game. Cooperation helps to get the canals where you want them, too. Everybody has a private canal they can plunk down at any point they want, and Hannu used his on the round one. I had to use mine fairly soon as well.

Tuomo won the game. He spent some time as the Canal Overseer, which meant he bid less and had quite a bit of cash. He was also favourably involved in some larger fields. Combination of field points and lots of cash meant a clear victory: 68, 61, 60, 55, 45.

Santiago seems a rather delightful game. Nothing earth-shaking (I’ve currently rated it as a 7), but the bidding is interesting. Next time, I’d probably like to give the variants a go (beneficial palm trees or something like that) and perhaps place the well somewhere on the edge of board, as I hear that makes the game even more interesting. Let’s see if Santiago gets on the table another time this year. I wouldn’t bet much on that to happen, but one can hope…

String Railway coverWe also played String Railway. It’s a game with lots of luck — I lost again, thanks to some fairly miserably tile draws. Well, it’s fun nevertheless and this time the game wasn’t bogged with too much attempt to maximise scores. That’s a better experience, as the game doesn’t really support very exact string placements.

My brother continues his amazing performances with the game. I think some of it has to do with sitting later in turn order. I have a feeling that the starting player is not a good position and the later players have an advantage. I’ll have to keep better records from now on to see if that’s true. Of course, the luck of the tile draw is significant as well (drawing Transfer stations is often bad, for example). Then again, I’ve only played with five players, where the luck is perhaps emphasized as each player has only four strings and not five.

Still, it’s a fun game and a one I’ll keep carrying along.

String Railway string tangle
Blue and green made a nice tangle of strings. Photo: Mikko Saari

Konttori is not a bad place for photography. It’s a bit dark, but there’s a nice lamp over the table. I had the 18-55 mm kit lens instead of the 50 mm prime, this time. It worked well, the wide angle is useful. Using the 50 mm prime would require some standing up from the table to get an overview shot. So, from now on, for game session photos, I’ll use the kit lens (though an 28 mm prime might be a good idea as well).

Countryside tracks in String Railway
My red tracks running through the countryside. This looks much better in larger format, so click through to see the full size. Photo: Mikko Saari

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