To be honest, while I went into RollingCon with the intent to play only train games, I reached an inflection point Tuesday morning, where I was ready to play some light, whimsical, new Essen titles, but would pass on train titles so that I could rest – or look at the window to see excavators balanced on hopper cars.
Luckily, there was some of that on the train as well. One table played Smartphone, Inc., while we played a title not yet listed on BGG from the Spring 2018 Game Market: Evidence, Case#02.
In this real-time cooperative deduction game, players are trying to identify two cards which have been pulled from the deck. A field of cards 1-9, in 3 colors, is displayed in a 3×3 grid. The deck consists of an additional 2 cards of each number.
If a player ever has both copies of a number in their hand, that character immediately dies. The players lose if five characters die, and win if they can guess which two cards have been removed.
The players cannot discuss what they have in their hand or any deduction that may follow from various clues, but can swap 1-4 cards – though 2-4 cards is only allowed if they are consecutive – with another player. There are also some one time actions that allow information disclosure such as ‘3 of my cards are in this column.’
It’s a short game – 3 minutes at most. We played three times, and I’m not sure we get it. We could get 1 or 2 right, but our guesses didn’t feel confident, and the sudden death for matching pairs seemed capricious.
Anyway, after debating taking 1 or 2 additional trains to get from the train station to the convention hotel, we settled on cramming into an Uber with, uh, too many people and luggage.
I volunteer for the con and am able to run around a little behind the scenes, though that’s usually because I’m working to help set things up – but the planning gets better each year, and things seem to be ready to go earlier and earlier each year. Many steps of library, badge, and prize prep was already completed by the time I arrived.
Here’s an obligatory shot of the library. This year the new titles are occupying 10 carts instead of the usual 8, and the previous years games occupy 30. From my understanding, next fall when the convention moves downtown, the library is planning to grow to 60+ carts – meaning less aggressive culling, and more titles from storage.
There’s usually a new feature or two in the library, and what I saw this year was playmats! Some games will list in the system and on a sticker on the box (but don’t hold me to either of those…I think that’s right though) if there is a corresponding playmat that gets checked out with the game.
I didn’t schedule too many of my volunteer shifts too early, as I couldn’t predict when the train would arrive, but I did schedule them late, and so didn’t get much gaming in today. I sold more titles than I was expecting in the Virtual Flea Market, and because I wanted to avoid the hullabaloo of the formal meetup on Thursday night, I spent part of tonight tracking folks down and making exchanges.
Once that settled down, we found my friend PK and took a look at the ‘Shadow Library’ of sorts that he runs from his room. We checked out a few titles from his library, but this is the one that hit the table: 1906 San Francisco. Not the new Looping Games 2018 Essen release, but rather a 2000 Amigo release. I’ll note that while perusing BGG for a rule clarification, found that this is one of those games with years of session report posts with little additional material -so shoutout to OG’ers Craig, Dan, Greg, and Mark (if not also others) for their contributions then and now; it’s humbling to contribute here along side them.
So, because I may ramble, I’ll try to get to the punchline. I enjoyed this. I found the play worthwhile – I think that’s the best word. I don’t know that the game was great, and I don’t think that I loved it – and, actually, if it was a release from this year, I’m not sure how I would feel about it. But as it stands, I had an absolute joy of a time playing it.
The rules were rough, so I recommend the player aid, but it is auctions-within-auctions as players try to place their fences around the tiles in the city below. Once a tile is surrounded, if one player has the most sticks, that building flips and scores that player the amount of points shown. Additionally, when a building is flipped an event card is drawn; the game lasts 12 event cards at which point the player with the most points wins.
Players have two currencies – cash and influence. Each turn will consist of an auction, through a card flip, of a certain type of building, and with one of the two currencies.
For cash, the auction is the usual round-and-round, until all but one player has passed – but you can only bid in amounts represented by cash cards in your hand, and you can never pick up cards you’ve used to bid (outside of passing or winning). How do you get more money? Uh, we’ll get to that.
There are also a number of Raj/Hol’s der Geier type elements. For influence auctions, each player has a deck of cards 0-9, and blind bids one card. After eliminating players with the same rank, the highest bidder wins. All players return their cards to their hand, and the winner also moves down on the influence track by an amount equal to the rank of their winning card. You can’t choose an influence card in this auction if it is higher than your remaining amount of influence on the track. How do you get more influence? We’ll get to that.
There is one additional type of auction, but I also wanted to note that some of the cards only reward the winner, others the top 2 positions, some top 3, and one is unlimited.
For the third type of auction card, we have Raj-within-Raj. Players each have 3 tiles corresponding to the ranks of the buildings on the board – one for the two types of 6 tiles, one for the 5s, and the 4s. Each player simultaneously chooses one and reveals. Any player that was the only player to choose a certain number will be able to play any single money card from their hand and place a stick next to a corresponding tile. For players who revealed the same type of tile, the players then simultaneously reveal 1-5 money cards, and after Raj-ing out any ties, the highest bidder places a stick.
OK, I think we’re ready for how to get more money and influence. As I said before, once a building is flipped, an action card is flipped and resolved. Sometimes these are more auctions(!), but they may allow you to move sticks on the board, replace other player’s sticks, and whatnot. But a few times there will be cards that allow you to either gain 4 influence, or up to $100,000.
So, a note about the currency. During setup (in a 5 player game), you deal *all* of the $1k, $2k, and $3k bills. As the game progresses, the specific money cards available in the bank becomes quite restricted. At one point, when I was ready to draw up to $100k, there were no cards available below $60k, so I took a $100k – and this added an interesting dynamic to money auctions as I had this single large bill.
There are plenty of issues with the game – largely around the usability of the icons and the lack of a start player marker, but also it can be fairly chaotic with so many of the Raj auctions, and the rulebook was problematic. But honestly, it was such a good time that we wondered aloud if it would be the best gaming experience we have this week.
I have a thing against recommending things, but I might go so far as to say check this one out. I found it worthwhile.
OK, then it was time for bed. In actual time, I’m finishing this up the next morning and am about to go see what’s going on in the registration line. But I’ll leave you with Aaron here who was first in line at around 6 PM last night! He is part of the group that is traditionally first in line and shortly would bring a table over and game through the night, but apparently there is a sort of internal rivalry within that group of who will be first, and, well, this year it was Aaron.