Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Backyard Traders of Carthage

My wife and I love this time of year.  The crisp air and the fall foliage call us to our backyard refuge, where we start a little fire in the firebowl, set out the cheese and crackers and cocktails, and play our afternoon game.  Today it was our new favorite, a bring-and-buy acquisition at Congress of Gamers - Traders of Carthage (designer Susumu Kawasaki, artists Peter Gifford and You Satouchi, publisher Z-man).

Fall firebowl with Traders of Carthage in the background

This was our second game.  Kathy had won the first, and we quickly decided that this was a game we'd enjoy quite a bit.  Today I had one crazy turn that scored very high (nine points) that alone more than accounted for the winning margin in my 26-19 win.  (Something tells me that I can't count on repeating that kind of victory.)
Traders of Carthage compactly arrayed on our small backyard table

We are still trying to develop an understanding of the deeper tactical elements of this game.  In our first game, we looked at all '5' cards as "big money" and tended to take them into our hands at every opportunity.  Today I came to recognize the value of reserving a '5' card in the market for purposes of buying it later.  Since the score for every card of the color of a ship reaching Carthage is equal to the maximum such card, having a '5' in the shipment maximizes the value of all of them.  We've also learned to pay attention to which colors are represented in the market relative to the position of ships in the Mediterranean.  We've learned to take cards from the market to slow the advance of the corresponding ship (rather than just worry about having money or containers in hand).

I think I may read up on other tactics in this game to gain a deeper understanding of all the nuances and considerations that make ToC so fascinating.


Note on a previous post:  In my third of three Congress of Gamers after-action accounts, I continually referred to the excellent horse-racing/stock-trading game of Aaron Honsowetz and Austin Smokowicz by the wrong name.  The correct name is "Pole Position," and I've corrected it accordingly in the original post.

I'm reminded of the story behind the name of the game Pirateer, by Scott Peterson.  In the introduction to the 1997 edition, he writes,
I played it with my friends, and they wanted their own copies, so I began manufacturing them in my garage.  Soon, complete strangers were asking for them, and by 1985, over 8000 had been sold.  The game reminded me of [Sir Francis] Drake's voyage, so I called it 'Privateer.'  The growing cadre of fans called it something else.  Their name stuck.  
So to read Scott Peterson's account, the published name of the game Pirateer is different from his intended "Privateer" because it became well-known by a misnomer coined by fans.

On the other hand, in a 2003 post on boardgamegeek, Dave Menconi, an early player of the original "Privateer," wrote that "the game called 'Pirateer' [is] so called because Lucas Arts have the rights to 'Privateer.'"  So, it isn't clear whether the name changed because of the fans or because of an existing trademark registration.  No matter.  The important thing is to respect the game and its designer by calling it by its correct given name.

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