Friday was fortnightly games night with my friends. My wife took the car to visit her mother with Scully, so I caught the train to the venue at one of my friends’ place. I stopped off on the way to grab some Thai food from the place near where we used to work.
We played Viticulture first. This is a game where to win you need to be the first to score 20 points. To score points, you (1) acquire grape cards, (2) plant grapes in your fields, (3) harvest grapes and put them in your mash barrels, (4) create wines from the grape mash, (5) optional, mature your wines a bit, (6) fulfil orders by selling wines to buyers. It’s only when you reach step 6 and sell your wines that you gain victory points.
There are a handful of other ways to earn points. You can get a consolation point for choosing to go last or second last in a given round (during the phase where everyone chooses their ordering – going earlier gives you smaller consolation rewards). You can get a point by being the first in a given round to choose to sell some mashed grapes, before they get turned into wine. If you build the windmill, you get a point whenever you plant some grapes. And there are “visitor” cards which represent various people visiting your winery, and they have various effects, allowing you to do bonus actions (such as harvesting extra grapes, or making more wines, or whatever). A few of the visitors let you do things like sacrifice money or grapes for a point or two.
Anyway, the game start is partly randomised by each player being dealt a Mama and a Papa who own the winery together, and they each grant different initial resources. My Papa gave me an option of taking an extra 3 coins, or starting with the Cottage building (which normally costs 4 coins to build during the game). I elected to start with the Cottage, which gives you an extra visitor card draw each round. So I thought I’d go for a visitor-heavy strategy, and my first few turns were spent doing actions to collect more money, since I started with less than anyone else, while everyone else started planting grapes. The first two visitors I got were a great combo: A wedding party, where I got to give up to 3 players 2 coins each, and collect a victory point for each player I gave money to. Since I had a lot of money, I gave 6 coins away and collected 3 points. Then the other visitor I played on the same turn immediately after allowed me to ask for 2 coins from each player. For each player who chose not to give me coins, I would gain a victory point. Since they were all short of cash, they elected to keep the coins, and I gained another 4 points! I was now 7 points clear of everyone, and I still hadn’t even planted a grape!
I continued to play by collecting extra visitor cards and using visitors to gain points where possible, and choosing some of the actions that granted me points. I built the windmill and planted some grapes (gaining points). After I harvested the grapes, I chose the action to sell the mash and gain points, rather than turn them into wine. As the game progressed, it reached this stage:
I was green, and you can see on the scoring track at the bottom of the board, I was way ahead on 17 points, with the next nearest player on 10, and the others behind. But… by now they were all selling wines and gaining points quickly, while I had not produced a single wine in my winery! I wondered if my strategy would run out of steam and they would overtake me before I reached 20. But I drew into some more visitors who gave me points and managed to win the game, although it turned out to be closer in the end than shown in the photo. My nearest rival ended on 17 points, and he said he would have been able to reach 20 if he’d had just one more action on his last turn. So, I won with the unusual strategy of not bothering to make any wines!
Next we played Through the Desert, which is an older game we played many years ago. The simplest way to describe this is as a kind of multi-player version of Go. You play camels to create connected caravans and try to enclose areas to score points.
This game I came second in, which felt like a good effort, because it’s a fairly intense game where it always feels like you don’t have enough camels to do what you want. These two games were long enough that we called it a night after that, and I got a lift home from a friend.
Today I tried my new running shoes which I bought last weekend. They feel good, and I ran my fastest 2.5k since the first half of last year, breaking the 12-minute barrier at 11:54. I’ve been trying to get below 12:00 again for months. I wonder if the new shoes really helped.
I did a big round of housecleaning: vacuuming, draining and refilling the damp absorbers, cleaning the bathroom and shower. Workshopped some new Darths & Droids strips with a co-writer. And this afternoon I baked a cake!
It’s an orange and almond cake, made with this recipe. Only 5 ingredients (and one is just a teaspoon of baking powder), and dead simple. It looks like it turned out beautifully, and I’m looking forward to trying a slice tonight for dessert.
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