Monday, October 02, 2006

Garry's Games Day - 30th September (pt 2)

Canal Mania is another game about laying track, oops sorry, building canals across England. Although there are elements of TTR (fixed routes and card collecting) and AoS (moving goods cubes), the game does stand on it's own merits. Garry ran through the rules, and after a few questions and clarifications off we went. Basically there is a deck of cards representing straights, locks, aquaducts, tunnels and surveyors (wild). This deck has 5 cards turned face up. Each player has his own set of canal tiles, with limited numbers of each , so you have watch what you build in case you run out of the kind of tile you need to complete a contract (route) There is a deck of contract cards of which 5 are turned face up, these display 2 towns or cities with maybe a third (via) and a number which is the maximum number of links it must be completed in. You can only have 2 contracts at a time. There are 2 types of terrain, clear and difficult. You can build stretches and locks on clear and tunnels and aquaducts on difficult. It takes 1 card to build a lock or stretch and 2 cards to build an aquaduct and 3 for a tunnel. In addition each player is dealt an engineers card, these have special abilities that can be used in your turn. Things like draw 4 build cards instead of 3, build a tunnel with 2 instead of 3. Each players turn is in 3 phases. Phase one take a contract, or exchange your engineer with someone elses, or discard the 5 face up build cards. Phase 2, take 3 build cards or build on the board. Phase three, move a goods cube. You can also take a face down build card instead of any of these phases.
Certain build cards have coloured symbols on them and if they are chosen the player immediately puts 2 goods cubes onto the board on whichever colour the symbol is. There are limitations where they can go, connected cities first, then connected towns, unconnected cities and unconnected town.
The victory condition for a five player game is the first to 40 points, the round is then finished and 2 more rounds take place, finally moving any goods left on the board. Our game was very close again with Richard and Jo tied for first place yet again. This time the tie break, having the youngest engineer card, went in Richard's favour.
In spite of the obvious comparisons to train building games I think Canal Mania has enough going for it to make an enjoyable experience in it's own right. The production quality is right up there with the big boys and it's a very pleasing game to look at.

Final Scores (Richard wins on tiebreak)
Richard 61, Jo 61, Colin 53, Steve 51, Garry 40

Here are a few pics as promised: First Railroad Tycoon

This is the end position

And Canal Mania - this first one is the end position


At 1:47 PM, Blogger Richard Minson said...

I had read a few reviews and game reports on The Geek - so I was really happy that we all wanted to play Canal Mania as our second game of the day. In particularly liked what I was hearing about Parliament and the Contract mechanism - to me this felt like a good game play mechanism for duplicating the reality of what happened in the 18th century canal building boom.

I think like most game groups we tend to have our preferred colours - given a choice I always try to be red - I don't know why but it is just the way it is (I even my car - a TVR - is red ...). Anyway the rules of Canal Mania say the start player should play red - we however decided to ignore this so I get to play the red bits - bizarrely after drawing for the start player it ends up being me anyway!!

None of us really knew what the pro and cons of what the initial contracts were - nor exactly what future contracts might become available. I initially choose the Manchester - Stoke Canal for no other real reason except that it is was the closest initial contract to my home town of Shrewsbury (Which isn't on the map I know). I also had the view that linking into Manchester and expanding down towards Birmingham (if I could pick up the correct subsequent contract) would put me in two cities and there give me the option of picking up more delivery cubes.

For my second contract my luck was in as was able to pick up the Birmingham - Chester Canal (I love it when a plan come together!!). A shortage of Tunnel and Embankment cards meant that I wasn't able to complete these canals as quickly as I would have liked. Eventually I completed the Manchester - Stoke Canal by the direct route and link Birmingham and Chester via Stoke giving me a nicely linked bit of water way that I could begin to deliver goods on.

To complement this I was also able to pick up the Nottingham - Chester contract and quickly linked that to Stoke via Burton (Choosing not to complete the final into Chester until it was necessary. I also had my eye on the Nottingham to Northampton link (Which would have given me a possible 6 delivery all on my own network!!) - but unfortunately Colin picked it up just before I was going to do so. I had to be content with the London - Northampton link instead.

With myself closing in on the 40 point end game trigger I had to decide whether to go over 40 points and trigger the game end or not. Jo wasn't far behind and I was running out of cubes to ship. I decided I had no option but to see whether I could hang on (Basically once the end game criteria have been met 2 more turns are played - plus all remaining goods have to be shipped if possible).

I quickly complete the last link of the Nottingham - Chester canal - but unfortunately I was 1 lock card short of being able to complete the Lincoln - Boston Canal I had picked at the end of the game - so I ended up with 4 completed contracts (Though they were quite valuable ones).

After final scoring adjustments - once again Jo and I ended up on the same points!! - after consulting the rule book the tie-break was discovered to be who ever wad the youngest engineer. I had John Smeaton (The 2nd oldest engineer) he had James Brindley (The oldest engineer) - so by the tightest of Margins I came out as the winner. I guess this gave some sort symmetry to the games day.

I have to say I really liked Canal Mania - it was a quick and easy game without the complicated mathematics that can be associated with other network building games (eg 18XX & Age of Steam) - plus the theme of the game came through strongly and you got the real feel of building a canal network.

Hell I enjoyed it so much I asked Garry to bring it along next week so that we can play it on our normal gaming night when it is my game choice!!


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