The 2nd gaming session of the weekend was in the evening around Matakishi's place.
We started the evening with Port Royal, a push-your-luck card game with naval/pirate theme.
In this game, players take the roles of profit seeking merchants who must recruit crews, fulfill expeditions, deal with taxes and see off pirates.
I have to say this has consistently been a popular favourite game with nearly everybody of I've played it with. Port Royal is one of the best £12 that several of us have spent.
Port Royal is won by scoring 12 victory points.
The first thing to mention about Port Royal is how money works. Port Royal is a card game with a deck of 120 cards. The cards also count as currency in the game (kept in pile face down next to you). This means that it is very hard to to card count, it also makes the game unpredictable. As it is impossible to guarantee or predict what cards will appear during play. As players accumulate and spend money, face down cards are constantly drawn from the draw pile and replaced into the discard pile. It's a great little mechanic for stopping the game getting too stale.
Each turn is broken up into 2 phases, Discover and Trade & Hire.
In the discover phase, the active player draws cards and places them face up in the central playing area (called The Harbour Display). The active player can continue drawing cards as long as they want to or until they go bust. What constitutes going bust? I'm glad you asked, that's where the push your luck mechanic comes in. Populating the deck are ships, they come in 5 different colours. If you draw 2 ships of the same colour you go bust.
Now you might ask, why would you continue drawing cards after the 1st ship has appeared.
The answer is; several reasons.
Once the active player decides to stop drawing cards, play moves on to the next phase; Trade & Hire.
Here the active may take a single action (unless they've acquired additional actions). The player has the choice of 2 types of action.
Once the active player has finished their trading & hiring, other players may now take trading and hiring actions (in the active player's turn). What's so good about this? Well, when they trade in a ship, you get a cut of the earnings, similarly if other players buy a card, they have to play you a little extra on top.
So you see, drawing extra cards has benefits. Quite often you won't have the money to buy a card and trade a ship in the same turn and must choose one or the other. This frequently gives you a hard choice to make. Having extra actions makes those choices easier.
Additionally, having a good selection of cards on display allows other players to buy them - which earns you more gold.
First player to buy cards with a total of 12 victory points, wins.
There are other events that occur during the Discover phase, such as expeditions and taxes (taxes are a good way to incentivize players to not hoard their gold - another neat idea in this game). But that is the basics of the game.
Nearly everyone I play this game with, ends up liking it. Plus it's cheap, has a low set up time and is small and portable as well as having buckets of replayability.
The only minor criticism I have of the game is that you frequently have to shuffle the discard pile into the draw pile - that's it.
A really good game in my opinion.
The 2nd game of the night was Machi Koro, another game we play a lot and is popular with everyone.
Currently there is the base game and 2 expansions. 'The Harbour' and 'Millionaire's Row'. Generally we only play with the first expansion. The base game is average, if I'm being honest. But The Harbour expansion makes it a much, much better game. None of us have been sold on the Millionaire's Row expansion and were not certain it adds enough to the game to warrant its inclusion.
Anyway enough of that and on to describing the game.
In Machi Koro, each player is the mayor of a blossoming city on the cusp of rapid expansion. The game is won by being the first player to build all of their city's landmarks.
Landmarks and city establishments are represented by cards.
The first thing to do is to create a marketplace, this involves turning over 10 different city cards and placing them in a central area. If you draw a double of a card you simply stack on the other one. You keep doing this until you have ten different cards available.
Each player then takes a set of landmark cards and put them in their own playing area face down. Each player then receives their starting cards, a wheat field and a bakery. These too are placed in their own playing area, but face up. Finally each player takes 3 coins from the bank.
Next I need to explain the anatomy of the cards before writing more about the rules.
Each city card contains 3 pieces of vital information:
Right - so this is how play goes.
First the active player rolls the die or dice, then cards may be become activated according to the rules above. Once this has been dealt with, the player has the choice of buying a card from the marketplace or building a landmark in a turn (or passing). Both of which cost coins.
Acquiring establishments increases the chances to earn more money, the more cards with different activation numbers the more chance that a card of some sort will be activated.
When a landmark is built, it grants the player a special ability.
First player to build all their landmarks, wins!
And that's it for the basic rules.
What I like about this game, is that there is no single winning strategy (Other than the Tuna Boats - we all know about the Tuna Boats!!!). The cards that appear in the marketplace are random and you have to adapt to what it available to buy. It keeps the game fresh.
Machi Koro blends quick set up and play-time with replay-value and enough strategy and depth to keep us interested.
This is a game that we've played a lot, probably more than any other single game in the last few years.