Escalation of Secret Saboteur Tribunes in Toledo

This week’s game night was absulutely fantastic!  I got to play 6 plays of 5 different games, and even won 3 of them!  Plus, our numbers were up a little, and everybody had a great time.  So, on with the report…


I was able to get to game night a little earlier this week, and jumped right into a game of Escalation! as it was getting started.  I guess it was a good thing for everyone else, because I stunk up the room (almost as much as Denise’s kid did when he burnt the ever-livin’ crap out of some mac n’ cheese in the microwave) with my misearable performance.  In fact, Chris (the winner) took less cards in the whole game than I did in the last hand alone (since I picked up a whopping 34 cards in that last hand).

Time: 19 minutes (for a 4-hand game)
Score: Chris 30, Alton 40, Graham 60, Me 88 (lower is better, by the way)
Ratings: Chris 7.5, Alton 8, Graham 8, Me 7

I can at least take solace in the fact that Escalation! is all about luck.  There’s some opportunity for hand management and a little bit of clever card play, but mostly it’s about drawing the cards you need.  That being said, it’s a lot of fun and has cool art about surburban warfare, so it’s a great little filler.


Our Game of the Month! hit the table next, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting plays of it that I’ve had.  I started in third place, and held three “6” cards in my initial draw.  Of course, Alton (the second place player), put his first business in the spot I wanted, so I had refigure how to place my businesses from there.  I was lucky enough in the first few rounds of play to pick up another few “6” cards, and on one turn used 7 or 8 of them to get a few of my pawns well along the track.  I managed to construct and deliver the12-value sword and pick up one of the 2-value El Greco paintings before most other players had a sword ready or were close to the Alcazar.  Seeing my advantage, I made a mad dash (aided by putting together a string of seven “3”‘s at one point) to get two other pawns to the fortress, ended the game, and won!

Time: 36 minutes
Score: Me 13, Alton 9, Graham 5, Chris 4
Ratings: Me 7, Alton 8.5, Graham 7.5, Chris 7.5

Again, Toledo is a very solid game.  It just doesn’t do that much for me overall.  But for a 30-40 minute game, it’s worth the investment.

Tribune: Primus Inter Pares

By this point, we had 8 gamers available, and divided into two groups.  Chip and I went straight for Tribune, and were joined by Denise and Kenny, neither of whom had played before.  Despite having new players, we decided to try out the Victory Point variant instead of a standard victory condition card, which meant that we would play until one person had 6 faction control markers, and then just total up the points from all the stuff that we had accumulated.

I started by going for control of the Gladiators and the Praetorians, so I picked up several Legions early.  I controlled the Patricians and Plebians at one point or another as well, but never got a scroll that I could convert into a Tribune.  Seeing that others were catching up with me and my legion-induced lead, I instead managed to take over the Senators using their leader, which gave me another faction-control marker and let me end the game.  When we totalled up points, it turned out that the 2-point bonus from ending the game won it for me, as I beat out Chip by exactly 1 point!

Time: 45 minutes
Score: Me 22, Chip 21, Denise 17, Kenny 13
Ratings: Me 9, Chip 9, Denise 8, Kenny 8

I’m going to hold off in discussing this game, because we actually played it again a little later…

Review Game That Shall Not Be Named

Denise and Jen pulled out at this point, and Kenny went about setting up his shiny new copy of Space Hulk to impress us all with, so the other 5 of us played “the review game”.  While I felt like I was really sucking early on, I actually managed to finish tied for second place. 

Time: 44 minutes
Score: Chip 79, Me 66, Alton 66, Graham 54, Chris 44
Ratings: Chip 8, Me 8.5, Alton 8.5, Graham 8.5, Chris 7.5

More hints about it:  1) it is actually a foreign-language (French) reprint of a game that is currently out of print, and 2) everyone really likes the theme.  So far, I’ve played it with 2, 4, and 5 players, and it scales really well both in terms of play and time.  I need to get started on the review…


Graham was trying to leave at this point, but we managed to seduce him into one quick game of Saboteur before he got away.  The gold-diggers (accompanied by an appropriate Kanye track to spur them on) easily won the first two rounds, and all of us loyal dwarves were rolling in treasure!  Then, in the third dig, Chris revealed his true nature as the Saboteur (the only one, it turned out) when he caused a cave-in at a critical branch point with the deck just about to run out.  Thankfully, I was holding the card that could repair it, and again the gold-diggers won.  But not all gold-diggers are equal, and Alton’s luck at getting good treasure cards led him to the victory.

Time: 26 minutes
Score: Alton 7, Graham 4, Me 4, Chip 3, Kenny 2, Chris 1
Ratings: Alton 8, Graham 8, Me 7, Chip 6.5, Kenny 8, Chris 8

I think that Saboteur does a great job at incorporating a traitor mechanic into a 30-ish minute game.  But the scoring just sucks.  There has got to be a way to make it better, and possibly more granular.  Still, I’m having a lot of fun with it so far, and you just can’t beat the time commitment.

Tribune: Primus Inter Pares (take two!)

So, there we were, just 4 of us remaining after Graham and Chris took their leave.  We talked about playing a few different games, but Alton had been wanting to try out the VP variant for Tribune, and the rest of us were totally up for a second game.  So, out it came again!

I started off almost identically to the first game, taking over both the Gladiators and the Praetorians – and this time using the Praetorian leader – which gave me 3 legions by the end of the first turn!  I worked for a turn to build up some cards, and managed to put together sets for the Legates, Plebians, and Patricians.  Chip used this time to get a Tribune from these same three factions.  I then started on turn three by claiming control of the Legates and getting a scroll, and then followed it a turn later by taking over both the Plebians and Patricians, thus turning my Scroll into a Tribune.

Meanwhile, Alton had played a crazy 7-card, 42-value set (gander over to the right) to control the Senators after putting the Chariot on the Vestal VIrgins.  Not surprisingly, his control of these factions held out and he got his Tribune as well.  I wanted to end the game, but the only two factions I hadn’t controlled previously were the Senators and the Virgins.  On turn 6, however, several high-value Senators came up on the board, and I decided to go for it.  After all the resolution was complete, however, I ended up with only a 6-card, 40-value set, and instead dumped the two highest cards to the Field of Mars for a sure 2 laurels. 

Instead, Chip managed to wrest control of the Virgins from Kenny, and the game came to an end.  Even with the bonus from triggering the end, Chip again found himself exactly one point shy of my game-best 31 points.

Time: 65 minutes
Score: Me 31, Chip 30, Kenny 25, Alton 22
Ratings: Me 9, Chip 9, Kenny 8.5, Alton 9

Tribune is just amazing, and the Victory Point variant just further proved that to me.  But I don’t know that I really liked the VP variant is really better than the regular victory condition cards, it just adds more flexability and replayability to the game.  It’s certainly better than the obligatory Tribune card, but it both changes the nature of the game and draws it out more.  With a victory condition card, you need to have a plan and generally know which ones you’re going to try and accomplish.  With the VP variant, however, you can just float along and look for situations where you can be opportunistic.  More than anything, I’m getting more and more excited about the English printing of the expansion, which is supposed to be out in November.

Other Games Played

Witch’s Brew
 24 minutes
Score: Chris 31, Alton 27, Graham 22
Ratings: Chris 9, Alton 8.5, Graham 8

Vegas Showdown
 55 minutes
Score: Graham 67, Jen 56, Chris 53, Alton 36
Ratings: Graham 8.5, Jen ?, Chris 8.5, Alton 8.5


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