Our First Visit to the Bury St Edmunds Board Games Group

City Tiles to Bathroom Tiles

With that game finished we looked around the room. One table were still trying to stop an Old One from destroying the known universe and at another table the players were still trying to steal things whilst sneaking past killer robots. We shrugged and got on with another game. We chose one that all four of us were familiar with: Azul.

Azul is a much simpler (rulewise) game than Gingkopolis. In fact, it has been winning some awards lately including the Spiel das Jahres! In this game, players take tiles from a selection in the middle and lay them out on the left side of their board. At the end of the round, all complete rows will put a tile from the left onto the pattern on the right and score points, the remainder of the complete row goes out of the game. Play continues until one player has completed a row of five tiles on the right.

There are restrictions, however. Each row on the right can only contain one of each colour. When a player takes tiles from the offerings, they must take all of one colour. When players place those tiles on the rows on the left, they must all go in the same row; if there isn’t room then the player will lose some points.

It’s pretty simple but very think-y. You need to keep an eye on what all of the other players are doing so you can predict the tiles you’ll be left with. Some good planning means you can leave the other players tiles that they can’t use. This is normally my kind of game and I generally really enjoy it. This night – I think I used up all of my brain power on Ginkgopolis and I did really badly! Never mind…

My board at the end of a game of Azul. Not my finest play of this game. In fact, I did pretty poorly!

Buying Shares and Building Track

We scoped out the room again. The Old One still hadn’t broken through the pan-dimensional gate but those players were still struggling. Meanwhile, the sneaker spacesters were still stealing stuff although there were mutterings that Craig (who had a birthday recently) was about to die. I just thought – in space, no-one can hear you scream but they can hear you stumbling around corridors trying to nick things.

Again, Sarah, John, Jenny and I decided to play another game. Sarah suggested Mini Rails which she knew I was hoping to get to the table tonight. John and Jenny hadn’t played so I got to do some rules teaching.

In Mini Rails, players will attempt to get the most valuable stocks in six rail companies whilst also building out those companies’ tracks. Players will get two actions during a round and must buy a share (one action) and build track (the other action). These two actions can be done in any order, though. Shares always have a value of zero when bought but go up or down whenever someone builds track of the same colour and their value can go below zero.

The shares and tracks are represented by coloured discs that are laid out randomly from a bag at the beginning of the round. There is one colour per rail company. At the end of the round there will be one disc left and this gets placed on a track which shows the number of rounds. And here’s the trick: at the end of the game any company who has a disc on the round track is said to be taxed. Player with shares of a taxed company remove all the negative scoring shares of that company. Players with shares in a non-taxed company remove all of the positive scoring shares of that company but leave the negative shares. After this a player’s score is the total value of all their remaining shares.

Mid way through the game of Mini Rails. Such a nice little game with the only problem being the similarity between the white discs (left) and the cream discs (right). Needs to be played under good light!

I think the game went down well with John and Jenny. There was much musing over the best play for each action. John commented on how neatly the game worked and how much depth it seems to cram into its simplicity. Players began to try out mean moves on each other, reducing the value of shares they weren’t involved in and the like. My only disappointment was that all companies were taxed at the end of the game thus negating all of the negative points. I feel that once players get more cutthroat, players will begin to freeze out companies from taxation and really screw up the opponents. This was only the first time we’d played with this couple and only mine and Sarah’s second game so hopefully we’ll start to see other strategies come out during later plays.

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