LudoNJ Game Day - Caylus, Boomtown and Railroad Tycoon

Yesterday was game day at LudoNJ game group run by Gil. As usual it was a really great time with good attendence around 15 people or so. I was able to play a game of Taj Mahal, Caylus, Boomtown, Reef Encounter and Railroad Tycoon. Boomtown and Railroad Tycoon were both new to me and Caylus was my second play having played it the night before in our own game group.

Caylus is truly a wonderful game. A resource management game with elements of PR, Goa and Keythedral, Caylus is fantastically well balanced with a myriad of options each turn. Basically, players have income which acts like action points to place workers in buildings. The workers in turn will do one action depending on the building chosen, each building being unique. Because the buildings are built through actions, the actions available each game are dependent on the accumulation of choices players make. Thus no game is the same. Players accumulate presigue points (the game's VPs) primarily through building buildings and sections of a castle. About the only complaint I have for the game – beyond the terribly mediocre cover art and a few art details – is the game length, which seems to run past 2 hours. That said, the time is only a minor 'complaint' as there is absolutely no downtown the entire session. Play moves very, very quickly. This due to the fact that players place their workers on buildings one at a time and execute the buildings actions in order that the buildings fall on the board. So, one is always doing something or watching others hoping they won't make this move or that one. Again, one of those games where there is not enough to do everything one wants – not even close to it – and each play is a tough choice. In this game at LudoNJ, my score was 1 point behind Kevin's 79 score with another player a bit further behind. Wow, talk about tense! I very much look forward to another game.

Boomtown is a nice little game. It is one of Bruno Faidutti's collaberations (which I usually tend to shy away from). That said, I had a terrible headache from Caylus and from a previous illness earlier in the week, so I thought a light game would definately be in order. And it was. It was fun and I can see this working for those who need a bit more die rolling and lighthartedness.

The game is a bidding game for cards that pay off on common die rolls much like Settlers. Each turn, players bid to have the first pick from cards pulled. The winner pays the other players in a specific manner and the other players then choose a left over card of their choice for free (mostly). The cards, which are primarily mines, come in five colored suits. The first player to accumulate a set of three mine cards in a suit gets a "mayor" token of that suit's color. Now, any time a player picks a card from that suit they must pay that player an amount equal to the number of cards in that person's set. This makes for some interesting bidding as players are as much looking to get the first bid to avoid certain cards than to get others. When another player accumulates more cards of a suit than the player with the mayor, they now become the mayor of the suit. As with other Faidutti games, there are plenty of 'take that' cards in the deck and some power ups that I won't mention here. After players have taken their cards, the winner of the bid rolls two die. All cards with matching totals pay off according to the value on the cards. This is the main source of income for players.

In summary, this is a light one, playing under 45 and having some interesting decisions. After one play, I purchased it as I'm a little low on entertaining light games.

Railroad Tycoon
We finished the night off with this, in which Brian explained to the other 5 of us who had not yet played. As usual, Brian did a great job explaining (he also taught me Boomtown), so it was easy to get into this one. While I've not played Age of Steam, I've read enough to know what it is about and that I probably won't like it. With Railroad Tycoon, on the other hand, Martin Wallace has repurposed much of the 'good stuff' from AoS to tightly fit in this mammoth sized game. I'm not a big fan of Eagle these days, but this game shows how much the company has turned from its American style play to a leaner Eurostyle feel (well, mostly). Glenn Drover still hangs onto his original vision of massive game boards with this one which has been garnished with Paul Niemeyer's artistic flair. The size, while astonishing, is very cumbersome and uncomfortable to play, forcing players to get out of their seat up high to view the far ends of the board. This and a small nitpick with two close colors is about the only negative I have as the game is wonderful! Each turn, players have only three actions which they play in sequence. Actions are building railroad lines, upgrading engines, delivering goods, getting some action cards and changing some cities' status. There is never enough time to do what one wants and certainly not enough money. This is really just lots of fun. It's also a great pleasure to see the rail networks snake out from city to city. With 6 newbies, this clocked in under 2.5 hours which was impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed this one!