Hi, Ethan here with another solo gaming session report. It feels like a while since we’ve done one of these, and in fact it’s been almost a month since we last headed to Kryptonite Kollectibles for a regularly scheduled Meetup — our NMA gaming weekend was at the end of last month, and we needed a few weeks’ beak afterwards. Nevertheless, this Thursday, I was really jonesing for some gaming, so fortunately I got to play a few good games with a good group of people. So, enough with the introductions, let’s get to the games!
I may have mentioned this previously, but one of my favorite parts of game night is getting to play heavy or involved games with a lot of bright people. A lot of times, games don’t play as well (or at all) with two, so just Amber and I can’t play them at home, and sometimes we don’t want to just go at each other in the heavy competitive games anyway. So it’s always nice to get a chance to play a thinky game with a full complement of four people. And Shipyard is a great game to scratch that euro itch, and to play with a full four people at game night.
Shipyard is, as you may imagine, a game that centers around building ships. Over the course of the game, players buy ship pieces, parts to add to their ships (smokestacks, propellers, cannons, etc.), passengers for the ship (captains/officers, businessmen, and soldiers), and waterways to navigate. Players can also buy employees that give them special powers or extra actions, and can buy and sell train cars full of resources (coal, iron, and grain) for money or ship components. Every player has government contracts they’re working on as secret goals that will give bonus points at the end of the game, and they also earn points from taking the ships they build throughout the game on shakedown cruises, which are the shipyard’s version of test runs.
Three out of the four of us playing (Rob, Paul, and me) had played this game before, while the fourth, Brock, was new to this game. And since it had been a few months since the rest of us had played, it took a while for a rules explanation/refresher. Shipyard has a lot of moving parts, with about 8 different actions and rondels associated with most of them that all required a thorough explanation and understanding. In addition, there is a bit of complexity to the midgame scoring coming from shakedown cruises and symbology on the end-game government contract secret goal cards, so it was important that everyone knew what they were working towards and what would earn them points. By about 6:00, we were ready to start!
With the action selection mechanic of Shipyard, each turn a player puts their marker on one of the available actions, which leaves it unavailable for the other players. Then, on subsequent turns, you must move your marker to any of the actions besides the one you just did and those occupied by other players. Because of this mechanic, there were a few turns where there were no available actions that I particularly wanted or needed to do, so I had to improvise as best as I could. The game also allows you to pay 6 guilders (the currency of the game) to take any extra action on your turn, so there is a possibility for mitigation, albeit a pricey one. I did take advantage of the extra action a few times over the course of the game, as did my three competitors, but we often didn’t have enough money to do so, or our money was better spent elsewhere.
Overall, my strategy centered around one of my government contract cards, which gave me points for launching ships made up of exactly six pieces, up to 17 points for three such ships. This worked out nicely, since when building ship parts, you’re able to buy up to three each time. So I typically bought the three cheapest (or free) components to try to launch six length ships as quickly as I could. And in fact I was the first one to send a ship out for a shakedown cruise, but because I didn’t bother adding any propellers, smokestacks, or sails, it only had a speed of 1 and did not score me very many points. Meanwhile, the other three players, who took their time building their ships, earned a lot more points test driving their ships. However, by the end of the game I managed to launch my three six-length ships, and on the last one scored a lot of points for soldiers and cannons (which tied in with my second secret goal), so wasn’t too far behind before end-game scoring. Then, after successfully earning lots of points with my secret goals, I pulled out a narrow win with 86 points, with Paul and Rob scoring 82 and 80 points, respectively, and first-timer Brock coming in with a very respectable 67.
I really like Shipyard, and had been wanting to play it again after trying it for the first time last year. After this second play, I can definitely say that Shipyard is a game where strategy is heavily dependent on your secret government contract cards which are used for end game scoring and can contribute almost half of your score. The way I played this game was definitely different from the last, where I had completely different goals to work towards, and I imagine if I play again it’ll be different still based on my goals and what my opponents do. So it’s certainly a game that rewards repeated play and adaptability, so I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to try it out again.
After all the brain-burning of Shipyard, and because there were only 45 minutes left in the Meetup, I decided to finish the night off with something a bit lighter, and wandered over to another table to join a game of Dixit that was just getting started. Dixit is a family-weight game where all of the players submit cards featuring strange and surreal artwork based on a clue given by one player. Then, all other players try to find the card that player submitted based on their clue and what they know about that person. The clue-giver only earns points if some people correctly guess their card, but not all, so it’s to their advantage to give somewhat vague clues or ones that they know only some people at the table will understand. This is definitely a game that’s best played with people you know fairly well.
I’m usually pretty good at Dixit. I can often give clues that are just vague enough so that only some of the other players can get them — this is where it’s good to play with Amber because I can give clues that only she will get for sure. On the flip side, I’m usually good at picking up on a wide variety of pop culture references, which are often good candidates for Dixit clues. However, for whatever reason I was really off my game this night.
On my first turn of the game, I knew right away which card I wanted to submit, as I’d been eyeing it ever since it entered my hand. It was a card depicting a white raven amongst a bevy of black ones. I laid down the card and gave the clue “Citadel”, a reference to the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones), where white ravens are sent from the maesters at the Citadel to herald the changing of the seasons. I was really hoping that the one other person at the table I knew had read all of the books would get the reference, but when all the cards were revealed and he looked as lost as everyone else I knew I was in trouble. I guess the clue was a bit too vague. Then, as everyone else took their turns, I was missing out on clues left and right. “Geppetto”, “Guilty”, and others were all misinterpreted by me.
In the end we weren’t able to play a full game with the time allotted, but I insisted on taking my last turn since I wanted to redeem myself. I played a card featuring a dragon with some paper lanterns, and gave the very specific clue “1988”. I waited with bated breath as everyone submitted their own cards and then pored over the results, wondering what to pick. In the end, only one person got it right, as I’d hoped — the one person at the table who had been born in 1988, the year of the dragon on the Chinese calendar. So I was able to have my moment of redemption, even though I still came in dead last with 10 points, while the leader when we finished had 20, and everyone else was somewhere in between. I’ll chalk it up to playing with two couples and not having Amber there to balance things out, but it was still a ton of fun. I can’t wait for the next game night!