Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Five Points : The gangs of New York

I sneaked in for the WIN! 

I heard of this game and wasn't too keen on it because it did not look particularly unique until I heard Donald Dennis of OnBoardgames rave about this. So when it arrived in my local Online boardgame shop, i decided to give it a go and see what it is all about.
In essence, this game is all about area control. Its an abstract light-medium weight euro-style game and reminds me a lot like a tammany hall light but without the negotiations.

Players are trying to either put 5 of their boss-eeples onto the board OR, when the game ends, score as many points (by means of having boss-eeples on board and collecting of district cards and complete sets of 4 district cards) to win the game. During each round, players must place a rabble (cube) onto a district OR pass. If they place a rabble, they can also place cubes onto 1 of 4 special tiles to bid for it.
Once all players have passed, then the special tiles are resolved. These special tiles only last for that current round and sometimes gives benefits like provide extra votes for that round. Players then go to the board and see who can activate the 2 buildings that are on the board. These buildings also give special benefits from VPs to moving of entire districts around the board. Finally, players see which district(s) have majority of rabble on it and perform an election which will allow the winning player to place a boss-eeple in that district. Start player shifts and players start another round (if the end game condition has not been met).
Rules are also quite simple to get to and art work is Ok. Theme wise though I feel it doesn't mix well with the mechanisms especially when you get to relocate neighbourhoods and its as if you can pluck it out and plop it anywhere else on the board which is disconcerting. There could possibly be a theme that will make it all come together much smoother but well, what can you do. There are also quite a lot of tiles so replayability should be quite assured.
This is my first time playing it and we read the rules and learnt as we play. Initially we all have no idea whats happening as we could not really visualize how to win. We got the setup rule wrong where we are supposed to have some rabble on the board. After that we kinda got the hang of it but got distracted by the shifting of tiles around the board. The rules did not specifically detail what conditions there are for shifting of tiles around (except for placing) so we ended up creating holes or islands. The setup rule did specify though so I guess that rule should carry on throughout the game. That may make more sense then if that is the case but still the theme doesn't really help with this special action of shifting districts in so drastic a manner.
As people somewhat got the hang of things, Boon (usually the fastest to pick up on things in our group) started to accumulate a LOT of district cards and was getting good at blocking others. Dion (the older gentleman of the group) was pretty good as well with about 4 bosses on the board already, 1 short of winning. Now Dion muttered several times during the game that it was a stupid game mostly because of the shifting of the tiles. Still he was winning. This created the atmosphere where we all tried to stop him. At the very last round though, while trying to stop him, I quietly manage to win a special tile which allowed me to initiate a special election and placed my 4th boss-eeple on the board and finally the normal election which placed my 5th boss to snatch the win!
I have mixed feelings about the game mostly because the first few rounds we had no idea what was happening and I guess we were expecting a meatier game. Midway through I think it sort of clicked to us to treat this as an abstract game and things got more smoother after that. I did not expect a win because I had thought I was quite far off as I was not getting much headway in terms of obtaining scoring tiles as my plans were getting screwed with all the building actions and special tile actions. However I did manage to slowly put my bosses onto the board and stay quiet and since the attention was drawn to the player with the most bosses, I could sneak in a win.
There is definitely a lot of screwage in the game and I can see how this game get draggy because of the end game conditions (i.e. players keep blocking the leader). I will need to play a few more times to see how I really feel about this game but for now I am enjoying my winner's bias. Try before you buy!

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