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Old 09-10-2020, 05:09 PM   #1
Izulde
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Obsession: A Board Game Dynasty

I've never backed a Kickstarter project before.

But then I saw this: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...on/description

I'd heard about Obsession back in 2017, but being both poor and not yet trusting of Kickstarter, I didn't jump in on the first edition. So when this came along - a Kickstarter for the new Upstairs, Downstairs expansion and with the option to get the second edition of the base game and the first expansion - the Wessex expanion, I jumped in.

Playing as ruined gentry trying to rebuild a fallen estate and win an important marriage with the Fairchilds? Set in Victorian England? Yes, yes, and yes. Totally in my wheelhouse - especially with all the Victorian-era novels I've read and the studies I've done of Victorian British imperialism and empire.

So I bit the bullet and got the Queen Victoria pledge level - going all in (I would back a second Kickstarter a short time after, but that's another day).

Originally, it was supposed to arrive in March of this year, which would have come to me in Vegas. Well, COVID-19 happened, and as you can imagine, delays galore in production. Then it looked like August was going to be the fulfillment date. Then September.

As you can imagine, those months created issues for getting to me. Originally I was going to have it sent to my uncle. Then to me at the hotel. Finally, literally 24 hours before change of shipping address deadline closed, I hit upon the idea of sending it to myself at the high school.

It arrived yesterday, and I hiked 20-25 minutes through pouring rain with the box. Luckily, it was no worse for the wear. Here's what was inside:



It might be hard to see, but... from L to R

Obession Promotional Tiles - I'll talk more about that in another post
Upstairs, Downstairs Expansion up top - what the Kickstarter was for
Obsession base game down on the bottom - 2nd edition printing; 1st ed is OOP
Wessex expansion - the very first expansion for Obsession

Over the next few posts, I'll get better images of everything and discuss each in turn. I'm not sure I'll manage to get a game in any time soon - the hotel room table is quite small - but we'll see.
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Old 09-12-2020, 12:20 AM   #2
Izulde
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There's a rulebook and a glossary. Very attractively designed, well laid-out, and easy to follow.



Ignore the Howard and Wessex families for now - they're part of the Upstairs, Downstairs expansion and Wessex expansion respectively. The purple boxes held meeples, a bag to put improvement tiles in, and some other stuff. They can be used post-unboxing for storage, which is GREAT!

Also, I love the family boxes. They're empty at first because you have to put the stuff together, but once you do, every family has their starter stuff all in the box, so you can just hand the box to the player who picks them. It's BRILLIANT.





These are what are called Improvement Tiles from the Sporting category and coins. Very easy to punch out. The side of the tiles with the roses are the better side, and it flips to the rose side after you first play a tile. (More on that later).

I'm going to skip ahead a bit and post the setup for my first game. I'm using one of the two solo variants - a 2-player game against an opponent of my choosing. There's 12 possible opponents - 4 each of Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert.



Since it's my first game, I opted for Beginner, naturally, and some disgraced branch of the Boelyns (they never recovered after Anne got her head chopped off way back when, apparently).



One of the mechanics involved in the game is the courtship of the Fairchild heirs, Charles and Elizabeth. I'll condense the long, rather interesting backstory included in the glossary by saying that the Fairchild children are parentless due to a boating accident involving their parents. This is a rich, well-connected family that unfortunately experienced a lot of death, disease, alcohol, running off with an actress - lots of bad shit.

At the start of the game, they've come to Derbyshire after a year of mourning their parents. Their aunt-in-law, the Dowager Countess Margaret, is the owner of Adderly Hall. She has no children. That means either Charles or Elizabeth will inherit Adderly Hall and that side of the family's wealth (Charles/Elizabeth's family also owns property up in Yorkshire, so this is a monied, landed family).

So trying to get a marriage match with Charles or Elizabeth will be critical to try and win the game.



I chose the York family. Why? Because A. The daughter of the family is cute and B. They start with an extra footman as their bonus.

Each family in the game has its own bonus. I'll focus on the original four families first since we're doing the base game.

York - One extra footman, because they're famous for the excellence of their domestic staff. Lot of training and development for the downstairs folks in this family.

Cavendish - The most esteemed of the four struggling gentry families trying to return to prominence. They start with an extra 3 reputation points and begin with 1.4 Reputation, rather than the 1.1 Reputation of everyone else.

Asquith - They've got their own Dowager Countess living with them, so they start with five family members rather than four. Dowager Countess is worth 1 Victory Point and her favors, which I'll cover some other time.

Ponsonby - Of the four families trying to rebuild, they're the wealthiest. They start with 300 pounds of cold, hard, cash, as opposed to everyone else's big fat zero.



I'd hit it with Marianne Waters. Maybe she can hook Charles Fairchild in.





The starting board position for the Yorks. Every family starts with the same five basic Improvement Tiles seen here - 1 each in of the five categories. Every family also starts with a Head Housekeeper (red), Butler (dark blue), lady's maid (purple), valet (green), and footman (white). Yorks get a second footman as noted, which I think will be quite useful.

There's other setup things to do, but that's the basics to get us started. I think for my first playthrough, I'll be explaining mechanics and going through gameplay at least the first few turns. Eventually, however, this being me, we're gonna get novelistic, baby!
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Last edited by Izulde : 09-12-2020 at 10:18 AM.
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Old 09-12-2020, 12:21 AM   #3
Izulde
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Argh. Sorry for the giant images and horrible quality - old iPhone 7 and shitty lighting in this hotel room = crap resolution. Any suggestions for easy re-sizing fixing, or should I just let it go?
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Old 09-12-2020, 12:52 AM   #4
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Deleting images for now because the damn board won't register the resizes that are showing up in Imgur.
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Old 09-12-2020, 10:20 AM   #5
Izulde
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Images are now resized, fixed, and reposted.

I got impatient and played my first game last night. I won easily, despite the Boelyns getting two Monuments (which are worth huge Victory Points) and there being tiebreakers in all but one courtship phase. Final courtship phase, we ended in a tie, so neither of us managed to marry off one of our kids to the Fairchilds. But now that we're officially set up and ready to go, I'll start a new game that goes step by step with the same opponent.
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Old 09-12-2020, 02:20 PM   #6
Izulde
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Here's what a family box looks like with all its starter stuff put in. I'm running York again because I love that extra footman.



Remember that punch sheet of improvements? All of them go in the bag at game start except for the Monuments, seen here. They're powerful - the number of Victory Points is in the lower-right hand corner, and as the circle with the lion represents, they generate you 1 Reputation Point each turn. That adds up. They're also expensive - costing anywhere from $200-400 (pounds) extra in addition to their position on the builders' market.

The number of Monuments you put in the bag depends on the number of players. You always include at least either the Sculpture Garden or the Garden Maze. The default rules say Sculpture Garden, but a lot of people like to play with the Garden Maze because of the lower VP - Sculpture Garden's 10 victory points can be potentially imbalancing.

Okay, so let's go with the Garden Maze. In a two-player game, you choose two other Monuments. I'm going with the Largest Wine Cellar and the Imported Marble Floor.



The Monuments are then added to the other Improvement Tiles in the giant purple bag. It's an okay bag - I'd rather have the crushed purple velvet of a Crown Royal bag, though.

I then set up the rest of the main game board:



The number of servants for hire depends on the number of players. In this case, a two-player game, it's 4 footmen (white meeples), 2 ladies' maids (purple meeples), 2 under-butlers (black meeples), and 2 valets (green meeples).

The initial Builder's Market is also set up. For the market setup, all tiles have to be Prestige Level 1, 2, or 3 (seen in the lower left-hand corner). If you draw a Prestige Level 4, 5, or 6 - including Monuments - they're put back in the bag and more tiles are drawn until you have six tiles of 1, 2, or 3. They're then ordered according to their serial number, which is to the left of the Victory Points (probably too small to see here), with lowest number in $300 slot on the board, highest number in the $800 slot on the board, etc.

So I'm pretty much set to go. Until I get this response from the developer about whether I should also be unboxing Wessex, Promo Cards, and Upstairs Downstairs:



...Ope. Well, I'm not going to change the setup, but I *am* going to add Wessex stuff in.



Two new rooms, a new family (the Wessex family), 16 new gentry cards (including 5 starters - I'll talk about that in a minute), and new AI opponents for solo Extended Play.

Wessex - They really hate the upstart wealth of the Ponsonbys. To keep up, the matriarch has sold a prime piece of land to some noble who wants to build a hunting lodge or something. With the money from the land sale, the Wessex family gets their bonus - either a Breakfast Room or a Tennis Court added to their board at game start. Important Note: If Wessex is not used, neither tile is part of the game. If the Wessex family is used, whichever tile they don't select for their board is not part of the game. IOW, those Improvement Tiles don't go in the bag.

Interesting, but York is still my jam, so not changing.

I do, however, switch opponents at Dan's suggestion:



Another famous name with some withered branch.

So a couple more things:

1. A player's starting hand is composed of the family cards (usually 4, but 5 in the case of the Asquiths) and 2 Starter Guests. Very briefly - Guests are divided into Casual Guests (1 fleur-di-lys) and Prestige Guests (2 fleur-di-lys). Starter Guests are a set of 15 with a crown on them in the base game. Wessex adds 5 more Starter Guests for 20 total. (Though this expansion still limited it to 4 players max. Upstairs Downstairs expands player max to 6).

There's two ways of distributing Starter Guests: 1. Shuffled and randomly dealt out. or 2. Starter Guest draft. Since I'm doing solo play, it's obviously the first, though in multiplayer games with other people, I would definitely do a draft.

Here's the Starter Guests I pull, who are currently existing friends of the Yorks:



You can see the Starter Guest crown.

Now, in the upper left-hand corner, you can see a 1. That's their Prestige Level, same as with Improvement Tiles. In order for a family to host a guest or an activity, their Reputation Level has to be equal or higher to the Prestige Level of the Improvement Tile the event takes place on and the Prestige Level of all guests attending the event.

In the upper-right hand corner, both 0s in this case, are their Victory Points. The other two items I'll talk about when I get to the turn action.

Last thing for setup: Objectives.

Every player draws 5 Objective Cards in a standard game. (Extended Game is 4). There's discard involved, but we'll talk about that when the time comes.

Here are my Objective Pulls:



So we've got some synergy here: Literature Group and Domestic Group have some overlap. Right now, none of them are on the market because they're too high Prestige for initial setup, but it's something to keep an eye on. Monuments become even more powerful now (as the Objective notes, there's a few Improvement Tiles, that when flipped, become Monuments).

All right... that's set up! Now on to Season 1.

In a Standard Game, there's 4 seasons. Each season lasts 4 rounds, for a total of 16 rounds. At the end of each Season is a Courtship event that involves the Fairchilds. More on that when we get to it.

Turn 1, Season 1.

I look at my board, then at the Builders' Market. I really want that Servants' Quarters - that's just pure gas of a card. See, normally, you can only play meeples from Available Service. This allows you to pull one from the Servants' Quarters (in between Expended Service and Available Service), so it's some serious BDE.

Do I have a route to get there? Yes! A couple of different ways, actually. I'm going to do it this way, however:

The Yorks decide to invite their dear friends, the cosmopolitan and freely-speaking Lady Sarah Lewis and the kindly, giving Miss Penelope Atwood to the family estate for a few weeks visit. The highlight of the visit will be bowling on the bowling green, the Yorks decide - Lady Lewis is rather sporty and Miss Atwood will no doubt find it a bit of fun.

Most turns, you will be hosting an activity - in other words, moving an Improvement Tile to the Activity Box. In this example:



Notice the card has a white outline. That means you need to play a Footman (white meeple) to host this activity - presumably he's fetching things and keeping the game running smoothly. You also need 2 Gentry - in other words, two guests and the gender doesn't matter.

Footman summoned, invitations sent to Lady Lewis and Miss Atwood, both of who are delighted to accept.

Their cards are then played from my hand.



Hooray, they've arrived! But wait, there's one more condition to be fulfilled. Not only does your Reputation Level have to match the Prestige Level of the event and the guests, but you have to provide service to your guests. There are some exceptions - the family members will never require service, and some guests won't either.

Lady Lewis is one of those guests. She has her... ahem... companion, who takes care of her needs. Great! Miss Atwood; gentle, generous, and broke ass woman that she is, needs a Lady's Maid to assist (indicated by the purple meeple icon on in the lower left-hand corner). The lady of the house quickly arranges for Miss Atwood to be attended by one of the maids.

The bowling is a smashing success (no pun intended), and after the delightful time is had by all, favors come into play.

There are four types of favors, and they're resolved/carried out in this order:

1. Money

2. Reputation

3. Invites

4. Servants (only in a few instances)

In this case, the bowling tournament is a lucrative event for the Yorks - probably selling tickets to the locals to come watch. 300 pounds in the coffer, plus Lady Lewis generously donating 100 more pounds. Neither of these young women brings any reputation or acclaim, but everyone adores Miss Atwood and she happens to mention during the tournament that she knows someone.

The fleur-di-lys (single) means you draw a card from the Casual Guests deck.

Who does Miss Atwood know?



Miss Alice Barstow! She herself is no one of any significance or money, but she's gregarious and will doubtless know someone else due to her chattiness.

Miss Barstow then joins the deck.

So we have 400 pounds after favors are dispensed, so we buy that Servants' Quarters. The other tiles are shifted down to the left, leaving the 800 pound out slot open.

I pull from the bag and... ...shit. Deja vu hitting.



It's a god damn Monument. This is a horrible event for solo competitive play - especially in the early game. More on that in a second.

The cleanup stage then happens. Lady Lewis and Miss Atwood are moved to the player's discard pile, the Footman and the Lady's Maid used for this event are moved to Expended Service, and it's the AI's turn.

Why is the Monument appearing in the Marketplace bad? Go back up and look at the Solitaire Builders' Market AI. There's two columns - Standard Turn (No Monument in the market) and Monument Turn (Monument in the market). Because there's a Monument in the Market, that column applies.

Rolling the d20 that comes with the game (love that shade of purple by the way), if the roll is a 1-7, the AI is buying that Monument - otherwise it buys whatever card is in a given position or refreshes the market (ie all Improvement Tiles are discarded and new set drawn).

Sure enough, I roll a 5. AI snaps up that Monument with its 8 Victory Points and a huge lead in another part of the game.

So I'm behind the d20 as it were already.

I played out the rest of Season 1, but that would crash the board with pics, so I'll split it into another post.
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Old 09-12-2020, 03:40 PM   #7
Izulde
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Round 2 - Season 1

Every year, in the third part of the first season (standard game), there's a Village Fair. One of the best things to do is start preparing for the fair before it starts. And so that's what Viscount George York and his heir, the Honorable Alan Waters, elect to do.

Game Mechanics
The butler attends to the needs of two family members in the Private Study tile. When flipped, the Private Study is stocked with Village Fair preparations, which nets 300 pounds and 2 Reputation Points if turned over before the Village Fair starts. So to me, in a standard game, this is pretty much like ramping in Magic: the Gathering - pretty much a Turn 1 or 2 automatic.

The Viscount collects rents and Young Master Waters decides to help him, adding 300 pounds to the York coffers. With that money, they elect to enhance the estate by having a Fencing Paddock constructed to provide a cozy home for the family's horses. (Fencing Paddock purchased from Market)

AI Turn
Middle finger to the AI. On the roll, they remove the Flower Room from the market - which I need for one of my Objectives. And oh look, a damn Monument showed up after the Flower Room got evicted. I hate you, purple d20.

Round 3 - Season 1

The village of Derbyshire is greatly impressed with the Yorks' dedication to the local fair, and money and esteem flow to the family. Delighted at the family's success and tired from Village Fair preparations, Viscountess Beatrice of York decides it would be great fun to have Miss Alice Barstow over for a game of whist in the front parlor. Though Miss Barstow is common, she'll make for a lovely conversationalist during cards, thinks Beatrice.

Until Alice remarks that she knows a young, wealthy American woman who is visiting England. The Norrises are North Carolina tobacco titans and the girl is fabulously wealthy. "You should invite the dear to visit," Alice says with a wide grin, "It would be quite the riot, I should think."



The Viscountess frowned at her hand, pretending concentration on her next play. The absolute scandal of a mercenary heiress! And an American at that! Absolutely not! She'd immediately write her and refuse her entrance. That was the only proper thing to do.

Still... such girls were rich beyond dreaming, and often freely showering of their money. Perhaps the notorious Miss Norris could be induced to show the proper monetary gratitude. That would give the Viscountess enough money for that proper English garden she'd dreamt of since the day she married George...

Game Mechanics
So I got 3 reputation points from the whist game, which moved up to Reputation Level 2. This is a major step up and opens up a lot of hosting and event doors. And then I pulled the American heiress. Opinions are split on American heiresses. They're boku money - literally - but they often come with huge downsides. In this case, I'd be giving the 3 reputation points right back and would have a guest who is worth -3 Victory Points at game end.

The Lady of the family, regardless of house has options for Favors - either draw two Casual Guests, keep 1; or dismiss a guest - in other words, take a card from the current activity, your hand, or your discard pile, and put them on the bottom of their relevant card pile - striking them from your list of acquaintances.

Originally, I'd intended on draw 2, keep 1. But when I drew this filthy monied Jezebel, I wondered if I could change to dismiss. Specifically, I wanted to know if 1. I had to declare which Favor I was using before the Favors phase and 2. If I had to declare the order in which the Favors of the same type occurred. In this case, it was two possible Invitations of a Casual Guest.

So I emailed Dan, asking him about this. His response: You can decide which option you want to use and don't have to declare beforehand. It's better thematically that way and reflects how the Viscountess might respond to the thought of an heiress in the house. The one thing you can't do is combine the favors in one action - for example, you can't use Alice's invite and then say you're going to draw a second card using the Viscountess's ability. Alice's Favor would resolve, and then the Viscountess's would.

After a lot of thought and studying the board, I decided to go with my original plan of Draw 2, Keep 1. My choices were two dudes both worth 200 pounds in Favors, both 1 Prestige Rank guests. But one was worth 1 Victory Point, the other 0. Easy choice. Welcome to the guest list, Sir Richard Beeston.

AI Turn
And of course, I roll a flipping 4 so the AI gets ANOTHER DAMN MONUMENT - in this case, The Largest Wine Cellar. Great - that puts me far behind in my two worst categories. Wonderful.

Round 4 - Turn 1

Hearing that Miss Norris had a fondness for horses, the Yorks invited the tobacco heiress to come and see their horses and spend time riding them every day with the daughter of the house, the oh so pretty Honorable Marianne Waters.


Aww yeah... you know what's coming

All seemed to be going well, though some in Derbyshire called the Yorks money-obsessed to be parading about with a common American for her massive piles of pounds. And then it happened.

Two nights before Miss Norris was to travel back to Dover, where she was staying with a cousin, Marianne caught the heiress - as the young York woman would later describe it - "doing with poor Bricklebutter what a woman should be doing with a man, not a horse."

The Viscountess Beatrice flew into an absolute rage and had the male house staff bodily evict the disgraceful Miss Norris out into the pouring rain with her suitcases - forever barred from returning.

As she later gripped and sipped her tea, almost breaking the fine china in her fury, the Viscountess thought sadly, "I shall never be able to look at my new English garden quite the same anymore."

To make matters still worse, Marianne somehow got herself mixed up in the company of one Miss Elizabeth Perkins, who in all respects was a fine young woman - save for the very unfortunate flaw of not being able to keep a secret to herself for more than three seconds, so chatty and gossipy she was.

And on top of it all, despite Alice Barstow's efforts on behalf of the Yorks that her friend, the regal Miss Penelope Hill who had family in London, should come see them, Miss Hill was of the opinion that the Yorks were "presently not suitable to visit after that awfulness with Miss Norris and the horse."

But that wasn't the worst.

At the end of the season, rumor had spread throughout Derbyshire that Charles Fairchild was interested in visiting places that had the most comfortable essential necessities for family living. The Stuarts and the Yorks both wrote, inviting him to come, but he plumped so hurriedly for the Stuarts' gorgeous imported marble floor that the Viscountess York sat depressed in her English garden for three whole days.

Game Mechanics/AI Notes
So... busy turn as courtship rounds always are. I was able to boot the heiress after taking her money, but on Marianne Waters' Invitation, I got a Gossip, whose attack favor only works in multiplayer. So that's a -3 Victory Points Guest I will only play if I have to, and who I'd love to immediately boot. So many damn awful guests.

The loss of reputation cost by Miss Norris's visit knocked me back down to Reputation 1, Position 3. Miss Penelope Hill, who would net me my first Prestige Guest invite thanks to her family's London connections, will only visit if my Reputation is Level 2. Sigh.

On courtship, my only hope was to draw an Estate focus for a win or a Sporting focus for a tie. As the above text indicates...



This also hurts for the fourth and final courtship, which takes into account all of the previously revealed focuses. It's 7-1 Service advantage for AI now and it's only going to get worse as the game progresses.

Needless to say, AI won and as a result, they draw a Victory Point card. In a multiplayer game, they'd also get their choice of Charles or Elizabeth Fairchild added to their active hand until the next courtship.

On the bright side, we finally caught a break in the Market. The AI removed the Smoking Room... and the draw landed the second Flower Room! I still have a shot to get that Objective, since I already have an English Garden! That would be worth a potentially game-saving 11 Victory Points.

In the standard game, after the first courtship, you discard an objective card. Easy one here - the VP bonus stack for Monuments. There's only one left (thanks, jackass AI), so it's useless.

Here's the state after the first season:



I'm ahead in the Estate game so far, though need to flip the Main Gazebo that's currently -2 points to give myself a comfortable lead there for the next two seasons.

Essentials and Service I'm pretty much dead. Sporting is still a dead heat.

Here's my board:



My hand, objectives, and money:



Note: In a multiplayer game, Objectives cards would be face down if I remember right. Let me go look. Yep, face-down because they represent "the private passions of the family outside of the public pursuit of the Fairchilds".

Guest draws, on the other hand, are always revealed because this is Derbyshire. People know who knows who and who might go visit who.

That's the end of Season 1. I'm in bad shape, but there's still 3 more seasons to go. I'm loving the theme, flavor, and play of this game so far.. and I'm still just doing the solo play base game.
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Old 09-13-2020, 10:09 AM   #8
Izulde
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Round 1 - Season 2
So a couple of things to note here; a couple of which you might have spotted in the previous posts.

1. The Service tiles are moved from the Market to the Service Market Reserve, in order to clear up space for more interesting and VP-rich tiles from other areas.

2. This will happen next turn, but in the second season, players draw two more Objectives cards - giving them 6 total. There's a discard phase after every courtship, just like the first one, so eventually I'll have 5 total.

All right... so I have three cards in hand - only two of which I can play. This seems like an excellent turn to Pass, which I do.

Passing involves the following:

1. You bring your entire discard pile back to your hand. There's no maximum hand size.

2. Your servants are all refreshed to Available Service.

3. There's a choice - either you can collect 200 pounds in tenants' rent or you can refresh the market. That Flower Room is sitting there and we need the money anyway, so this is an easy call. Get that 200 pounds and go up to 500 pounds.

Thankfully, the AI eats something not the Flower Room, or I would have literally cried. Flower Room shifts to the 700 pounds position.

Round 2 - Season 2
Let's see what Objectives cards I drew:



Estate tiles each worth 1 Victory Point and another group that ties into the Flower Room. Right now, that Estates objective is worth 4 Victory Points - not a ton, but still in play for the Final 3. Obviously the Flower Room and any Garden is automatically a keep for the 11 Victory Points we've already secured.

You can also see the helpful Pass flow card that outlines what I detailed above. Each player has that card and two other handy reference cards for what symbols mean. All really well-designed and smart to include enough to be put in everyone's starter box.

Thanks to the pass, I have 500 pounds, my full deck in hand, and a full complement of staff. This sets up a turn that will look quiet on the surface, but be explosive in its ramifications.

Having been pestered by his mother about securing funds for her long-cherished Flower Room, Allen Waters, the heir to the house, takes tea out in the main gazebo with Sir Richard Beeston. After a lengthy conversation, Sir Richard purchases Bricklebutter for 200 pounds. "It'll be quite fun to have the horse involved with an American heiress," Sir Richard quipped. "And it'll have that little mess out of your hair."

It was a shrewd bargain, for with the money, at long last, the Viscountess Beatrice realized her dream of stunning natural scenery in the York estates. No expense was spared on that Flower Room - a full 700 pounds ensured the most exotic, stunning, and impressive specimens would be worthy of placement there; to say nothing of hiring a gardener who specialized in the care of such precious plants.

Further, Allen Waters' shrewdness in disposing of the Bricklebutter matter helped remove a little of the still lingering stench surrounding that incident. (I took the one Reputation point option from Allen, rather than the money - first time I did that).

AI Turn
Fenced Paddock scavenged. Who cares?

Either way, this was a small turn on the surface, but huge in its ramifications, because I was able to buy the Flower Room and fulfill the Nature Group objective. It also sets up the rest of the season...

Round 3 - Season 2
Most of the time, you want to host an activity in a tile that's going to flip to the rose side, which will generally increase your Victory Points. But sometimes, that's just not going to be possible because either all your tiles are flipped or, as in this case, you don't have the required Reputation to host an event there. Lacking the servants and/or people in your deck to play an option is also something that sometimes happens.

Fortunately, one of the flipped tiles, when played again, generates just enough Reputation to finally erase the hanging cloud of Miss Norris and Bricklebutter's rendezvous.



Despite her trepidation after the unfortunate whist game, Viscountess Beatrice decided it would be enjoyable to host a cassino game and invited Lady Sarah Lewis and Miss Penelope Atwood to join her for a three-player competition. The two oldest friends of the Yorks did so, and on their way to the estates, chatted in the carriage about the fun they had during the Bowls tournament the season before.

The Viscountess played skillfully, winning 100 pounds off Lady Lewis and the acclaim from her shrewd play and winnings spread throughout Derbyshire, at last restoring the reputation of the Yorks so that....

Round 4, Season 2
...

Finally, not only did Viscountess Beatrice at last have her beloved Flower Room (and a most expensive one at that!), she was able to invite Miss Penelope Hill to come to a viewing. Despite the American heiress incident she caused, Miss Alice Barstow was welcomed back into the family's good graces and asked to also come by and see those wondrous blooms.



Miss Hill was so enraptured by the beauty of the Flower Room, upon returning home, she wrote enthusiastically and glowingly of the space and its collection to all of her acquaintances. Word spread, catching the attention of some luminous names indeed...

...Not least of which was Charles Fairchild himself, who wrote the Yorks to ask if he could come and see the estates and this absolutely magnificent Flower Room he'd heard so much about it.

It was the single greatest coup of the Yorks yet in their quest to restore their good name. And as a history of the family would later relate:

"No single event had a greater impact on the family fortunes than the construction of what is now called the Beatrice Flower Gallery. This floral space not only fulfilled one of the Yorks' greatest ambitions, but it persuaded the family's first guest of some distinction - Miss Penelope Hill - to grace the estate. Her letters and enthusiastic reports put the Yorks on the radar of such august names as the Dowager Countess of Bristol, the hotly pursued Charles Fairchild, and - in the biggest coup of all - Countess Mary of Conventry, one of the most important and esteemed members of the nobility in that time period."

Game Notes
What an absolutely massive turn. So many pulls of great guests - from the Flower Room activity, from Miss Penelope Hill (both earning a Prestige Guest draw), and even Miss Alice Barstow pulled a Casual Guest who won't cause the reputation issues that Miss Norris did.

But the biggest turn happened during Courtship. As you've probably already guessed...



At 9 points, because we're in a Solo Play game, we already know that we're equal to the Stuarts in Estate score at the final Courtship two seasons from now and - should we be lucky enough to pull the second Estate focus - can beat them again in the third courtship.

I opted for Charles Fairchild because he's worth more Reputation Points. At 2.1 reputation and halfway through the game, we're way behind the curve in Reputation and are at risk for another incident that we simply can't afford.

I'm thinking right now that Season 3 is going to hit Reputation building pretty heavily. We have an 8 card hand and 100 pounds in the bank. This will be a pretty important season coming up. Season 2 was all about stabilizing and getting us to the point where we can truly advance.

Post-courtship, I sadly discard the Literature Objective. Kills me thematically and personally to do that, but the way the Objectives are playing out, one is already locked down (Nature Group); we only need one of the libraries for the Domestic Group; and right now, Guests and Estate 1 point per 3 guests/Estate tile are fighting for the third slot if we get the Domestic Group objective.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:12 PM   #9
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Round 1 - Season 3
The second Village Fair of the year takes place, netting the Yorks a decent amount of money and reputation thanks to their long-term planning way back in the first season.

Charles Fairchild is eager to visit the estate, and the family wastes no time in having him out on the green, engaging a delightful game of bowling and conversation with the lovely Marianne Waters. Young Fairchild's attentions and flirtations with Miss Waters has Derbyshire buzzing for the next few weeks.



Game Mechanics Notes
Huge reputation power play here - 3 Reputation for Charles and because he's a Prestige Guest (2 fleur-di-lys), the Admirer Bonus on Marianne Waters kicks in, for a grand total of 5 Reputation points - or a whole entire Reputation level. That's why I try to keep the family daughter in hand in the mid-late game - so I can get that Admirer Bonus.

Yep, it's another reuse of a flipped tile, but we need the money. That's 500 pounds. The Gabled Conservatory is in the Market, but still too expensive.

Round 2 - Season 3
Fresh off their smashing success in pairing Charles Fairchild and Marianne Waters, starting rumors of a potential engagement, the Yorks are able to receive their first genuinely important guest.

Regina Washburn, daughter of the Viscount Hampton, comes to visit, with the highlight being the opportunity to paint a portrait of Lager, the Yorks' newest steed who replaced the scandal-ridden (and ridden) Bricklebutter. Simultaneously, the dour baronet, Sir Alan Fulford brings his gloomy self because, as he remarked one dinner, "Horses are far better than people." The chance to make a new equine friend - though not in the way Miss Norris did - simply could not be passed by.



Game Mechanics
I'm not reporting the AI eating, but it's happening. Just know that so far the Gabled Conservatory is still in play. But a problem arises - the duplicate Conservatory is now on the Market. Under the new rules, the duplicate is stacked on the original. This is a very dangerous situation in Solo Play - if the AI eats that space, I lose both Conservatories. No hope of a return like with the Flower Room. That would devastate my Objectives hopes.

Round 3 - Season 3
Big round, because this is the Builders' Holiday.

Why is that important? Because under normal rules, you can only buy one Improvement Tile per round. On the Builder's Holiday, you can buy as many as you have funds for.

Currently, we have 700 pounds. Our draw last turn, off the see 3, keep 2 of Regina and the Baronet's coming to look at the new horse, presented me the opportunity of an American heiress, who I kept because of the huge amount of money.

We're also at 4.1 Reputation, and based on the cards in hand, we can make a play that will net us major money and allow us to take a Reputation hit, because that doesn't resolve until after the activity. Curiously enough, we'll have two negative hits this round.

I'll skip the story mode for now and just present the snapshot:



Huge event here - We net 600 pounds in total, giving us 1300 pounds to play with in the market. We're also able to mitigate the scandal of yet another American heiress (no doubt wagging tongues are making jokes about if Miss Hawkins will excuse herself from the constitutional in the English garden to go enjoy some private time with Lager) by inviting the impoverished Margaret Stowell (whose Ducal relation can't be bothered to help, apparently).

So... the safe play is to buy the Gabled Conservatory. There's a Main Library and a Music Room on the Market, either one of which would fulfill an Objective if I buy it after the Conservatory. I can't buy the Conservatory and one of them - too much money. But I could buy the Conservatory and something cheaper.

The risky play is to buy the State Room and something else that's really cheap. In the Prestige category, it's worth 5 Victory Points unflipped and would make the perfect setting for the big pre-Courtship event in the final season. (Not to mention being worth 5 Reputation Points - a whole level when played).

An additional argument for the State Room: Currently we're at 2 points in the Prestige category. The Stuarts will be at 5 at the Courtship. Purchasing the State Room would put us at 7 prestige points and give us another category to win in courtship.

As I'm looking at the market, my options are clear - pick either the State Room or the Conservatory and the South Lawn, which will put us at 4 Sporting points, ahead of the Stuarts at the third courtship, and automatically tied during the final courtship.

Moneywise:
Conservatory + South Lawn = 900 pounds. 400 pounds left over.
State Room + South Lawn = 1200 pounds. 100 pounds left over.

I make my choice:



I couldn't resist the opportunity to hedge my courtship bets. Those 7 points puts us ahead in the Prestige category for the rest of the game. Now the only way I lose the third courtship is if the Fairchilds are especially interested in Service (Note: I made a mistake in the story in Season 1. It was the Largest Wine Cellar that Charles Fairchild went to see on the Stuarts' estate, not the marble floor).

And most importantly, I have a space to host the game's potential biggest event in the final season - a space that will move me up a whole entire Reputation level by itself (formal affairs in a state room do tend to rather boost one's acclaim). That could be a differencemaker in end-game scoring.

Now I have to wait for the AI roll...

...Whew. It did not eat the Gabled Conservatory tiles!!!!

Round 4 - Season 3
When Miss Norris copulated with Bricklebutter, a white hot rage surged through Viscountess Beatrice. Now, however, the matriarch of the York family was filled with an icy fury.

1300 pounds - more than the family had seen in years all at once - and George ignored her repeated entreaties for a conservatory. "No, no, it will be far more impressive if we have a state room," he said.

But that wasn't enough. To build his monstrosity, he ordered the dismantling of the vast library that had long been a hallmark of the estate. All those beautiful books now lay dusty and forgotten in storage.

So different from their early courtship and marriage. George used to read poetry aloud to her. They spent many a companionable evening in silence there, each reading their chosen book.

But that all changed over this past year. First it was, "People do not read very much anymore. Best to give our literary dreams." That she had accepted without comment.

Then he started reading less often at night with her. Too obsessed with what would impress the Fairchilds, who appeared not to care for reading - or writing of any kind for that matter. No, they liked being waited on and having a pretty estate, filled with attractive things.

There's more to life than the damned Fairchilds, she'd wanted to tell him. But he wouldn't hear of it.

And so, one morning over breakfast, after weeks of the silent treatment, she spoke to her husband.

"You will get me my conservatory, George, or as God is my witness, I will never touch you again."

The viscount, fearing for the loss of all physical pleasures, became frantic. He organized yet another bowling tournament, collected a special tax from the tenants, and invited Miss Katherine Eden to participate if she paid 100 pounds entry fee. She did.



And so the Yorks were finally able to get the conservatory Viscountess Beatrice long sought, just as her patience at long last brought her a flower room.

But George had a victory in his own right. That season, the Fairchilds expressed interest in the most luxurious interior accommodations possible, and though the Stuarts had installed their own new plush comforts, it was the elegance of the new state room that swayed Elizabeth Fairchild to request an invitation to visit.



Game Mechanics
Whew! The gamble paid off! It was scary for a moment there, and there's still the question of money before the AI eats the Objective tiles, but we steal another courtship as a result of my gamble and are set up to complete at least one more fat VP Objective.

I chose Elizabeth to get a prestige guest draw, in case the 1 VP per 3 guests ends up netting more than 1 VP per Estate title and we can't complete the two Objectives that needed the Conservatory.

As it's shaping up, I think the game will ultimately have played out like this:

Season 1: Bad beats put us way behind
Season 2: Stabilizing
Season 3: We take the lead
Season 4: We expand our lead and post a blowout victory

We'll see, however. One more season to go.
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Old 09-17-2020, 11:51 PM   #10
Vince, Pt. II
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Awesome run through so far. Jenn and I have played a game and a half at 2 players (standard game, no expansions, not the long game), and we're really enjoying it.
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Old 09-18-2020, 06:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince, Pt. II View Post
Awesome run through so far. Jenn and I have played a game and a half at 2 players (standard game, no expansions, not the long game), and we're really enjoying it.

Thanks! It's probably my favorite board game of all time so far. The solo play is really well designed and runs through quicker than I expected in the standard game. Can't wait to try the extended game and then see if I can contribute to the discussion of how solo opponent rules can be incorporated into Upstairs/Downstairs rather than the new Solo Estate Challenge mode (which I'll try, too.)

I'm really looking forward to seeing how it plays with multiple people. I imagine the strategies are far more different - especially since you don't have the built-in advantage of knowing what targets to beat in specific areas.
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Old 09-19-2020, 03:05 AM   #12
Vince, Pt. II
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I'm eager to get a more-than-two player game in. The Builder's Market feels pretty stagnant with only two players, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of risk to letting the tile you need hang out for a bit on the market. I think it would be a much more dynamic game with it changing more often.

We're now three games in, all standard length, two just plain vanilla and the last one tonight with all the extras from both expansions. We've covered all six houses so far (each of us have played three of them), and Howard, who starts with the Cook, is by far my favorite. Jenn completely waxed me in our first game, we played a very tight game that I won in the second, and in this last one I cruised to an easy win with Howard.

I was able to pull a level 4 prestige guest early, then used the Cook to bring him into an event while only at reputation 2. That cascaded into me ending up with nearly 50 points just in Gentry alone - I took good advantage of one of the Promotional cards for an actress who dinged my reputation, but allowed me to add 3 casual guests to any event - without having to provide service to them - and gave me some absolutely monstrous turns. I ended up splurging on the Ball Room and had a 9-Guest event (default 6 plus 3 from the actress), and then a 12-Guest event (9 guests on the back of the Ball Room tile) on the final turn.

I'm loving that all three of our games have been won by a completely different path; Jenn cruised on the back of a huge Estate Improvement + Objective score in the first game. My victory in the second game was a muddy affair with no huge emphasis. And this last one was all gentry all the time.

It's been a huge blast so far, and as I said I cannot wait to get it to the table with more than two players at once!
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Old 09-19-2020, 07:18 AM   #13
Izulde
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince, Pt. II View Post
I'm eager to get a more-than-two player game in. The Builder's Market feels pretty stagnant with only two players, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of risk to letting the tile you need hang out for a bit on the market. I think it would be a much more dynamic game with it changing more often.

Agreed. That's also one advantage of solo play - you're guaranteed the AI will eat a tile every turn.

Quote:
We're now three games in, all standard length, two just plain vanilla and the last one tonight with all the extras from both expansions. We've covered all six houses so far (each of us have played three of them), and Howard, who starts with the Cook, is by far my favorite. Jenn completely waxed me in our first game, we played a very tight game that I won in the second, and in this last one I cruised to an easy win with Howard.

I was able to pull a level 4 prestige guest early, then used the Cook to bring him into an event while only at reputation 2. That cascaded into me ending up with nearly 50 points just in Gentry alone - I took good advantage of one of the Promotional cards for an actress who dinged my reputation, but allowed me to add 3 casual guests to any event - without having to provide service to them - and gave me some absolutely monstrous turns. I ended up splurging on the Ball Room and had a 9-Guest event (default 6 plus 3 from the actress), and then a 12-Guest event (9 guests on the back of the Ball Room tile) on the final turn.

I feel like Howard might need to be houserule banned from 2 player games. I haven't cracked open US/DS yet, but my sense that the Cook is way too OP in 2-player games unless you spend a turn early to buy your own Cook, or hope you get the improvement tile that lets you steal an opponent's staff member. Might need more testing, though.

Quote:
I'm loving that all three of our games have been won by a completely different path; Jenn cruised on the back of a huge Estate Improvement + Objective score in the first game. My victory in the second game was a muddy affair with no huge emphasis. And this last one was all gentry all the time.

It's been a huge blast so far, and as I said I cannot wait to get it to the table with more than two players at once!

Yeah I think a six player game with all families in play would be absolutely amazing. And agreed that the different routes to victory make for much more varied gameplay. I noticed I have a tendency in solo games so far to really want to go for Estate Improvement tiles, though that might just be how the Objectives play out.

Okay, time to get the final turn finished and post, with end-game scoring.
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Old 09-19-2020, 09:30 AM   #14
Izulde
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Round 1, Season 4
So I have a huge problem caused by my lack of long-range planning. The biggest event of the game is next turn and due to my failure to make a key move earlier, I have two choices:

1. Hire extra staff like I should have earlier and invite 3 ladies to the new Gabled Conservatory.

2. Pass the turn to refresh service, get 200 pounds, and, most importantly, refill my hand with my discard pile to enable hosting a formal affair in the new State Room.

After way too much thought, I opt to pass. I feel like there's a much bigger ROI on the State room play than on the more conservative (no pun intended) ladies play.

Round 2, Season 4
So what's this big event? The National Holiday. On this turn, you can host any event no matter your Reputation, and invite any guest - again, Reputation doesn't matter. The only limitation - you have to be able to provide service to all guests.

Based on my pass last turn, you know what's coming...


Edit. Note: Flipped to Rose side because pics were during cleanup

This was the culmination of all the Yorks' dreams. Even though the Viscountess and Viscount had bitter fights over the last year, and scandals arose, it all seemed worth it as Viscount George watched the guests in all their best finery fully engaged in frolic about the State Room at a grand, glorious Christmas party.

Here was Mary, Countess of Coventry and wife to the powerful Earl of Coventry being attended by the lady's maid and the head housekeeper. In a corner of the room, no less than the Duke of Longford himself - Lord Richard - was engaged in a spirited discussion with Marianne. Could his daughter win over a Duke? Perhaps Charles Fairchild was shooting too low, mused George.

Countess Madeline of Nollwood, who thank God didn't need service because she brought along her very special female companion, was back already after having had a delightful time in the English Garden just a short time ago. Deep in conversation with Lady Sarah Lewis and that woman's own very special companion, it seemed that little group of four women was getting along smashingly.



Yes, reflected George. This would be an event that was talked about for years as the one that finally put the Yorks solidly back on top of the Derbyshire social register.

A few evenings later, as he lay in bed with Beatrice, "I'll give you whatever you want , dear. Duke Richard gave us a line on tea import investments that will net us 600 pounds, and the tenants gave us a Christmas bonus of 200 pounds, which means we're 1,200 pounds to the good. I don't want to make the mistake I did last time."

Beatrice smiled, narrowing her eyes in thought.

"Mmm... yes, I'd like a music room. And after that, if the workers are still around, you're going to give me my library back."

"Of course, dear."

The Viscountess never explained why she wanted a music room first over a library, though some speculated that she'd been charmed by the live musicians who'd played at the Christmas party and consequently desired to have a fitting venue to play any time she wished.

Game Mechanics:

A whole reputation level from hosting the event. Another whole level from the combination of Countess of Coventry and the admirer bonus from that minx Marianne mixing with Duke Richard. That's 2.1 levels of reputation from this formal affair.

Money? 600 pounds from Duke Richard, 200 pounds from George, 100 pounds from Lady Sarah - That's 900 pounds that came out of this party.

Guests? Muted there - a Prestige Guest from Lady Madeline and a Casual Guest from Marianne.

Two Victory Point cards drawn - 1 each from Duke Richard and Countess Mary. *Two*. For comparison, winning a Courtship event draws you 1 Victory Point card.

This is the kind of huge swing play this turn was designed for. If I'd invested in staff earlier, I could have made this an even huger gain, but either way, this is damned impressive.

Round 3, Season 4
Viscountess Beatrice decided one visit to the Flower Room to see the blooms wasn't enough, and so she invited completely forgiven Alice Barstow and Elizabeth Fairchild to join her.



While the women were in conversation, Beatrice mentioned the troubles of having disreputable guests in one's register. Elizabeth Fairchild - who incidentally showed no interest whatsoever in marrying any time soon - remarked that she would be quite happy to assist in helping the Yorks be rid of those troublesome people.

And so it came to pass that Anne Hawkins and Margaret Stowell suddenly found themselves persona non grata - money and a Ducal relative aside.



Later that month, work began on the reconstruction of a library in the York manor. It was a glorious time for Beatrice, having her precious books once again back on proper shelves.

Simultaneously, a great upheaval occurred in the marketplace.



Game Mechanics Notes
On a 20 on the AI roll, the market replaces itself. Suddenly, the last monument appears. I accidentally took an extra turn because I forgot to move the white piece, so the last turn is illegal, I just realized.

Basically I'm going to summarize. On the last turn that was illegal, we got just enough for the monument. Which in turn netted us the final courtship by the narrowest of margins - 38-37.

Illegal game score:


If we remove that illegal last turn, here's how the final scoring changed:

-8 Charles Fairchild
-4 Victory Points card
(+12 to Opponents)
-7 Improvement Victory Points
-7 Reputation Victory Points
+1 Wealth (200 pounds)

So that's... 157 to 113, or a 44 point margin of victory. Still a sizable win.

Because of that illegal turn, I'm scrapping the epilogue I had written for the story mode.

But it's a good lesson to make sure I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do each turn.

Next up, we're going to try playing against an Expert opponent and with a different family. Still the standard game.
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Old 09-19-2020, 12:51 PM   #15
Izulde
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A few other notes from the first game:

Most Common York Activity: Bowling - 4 times (including last legal turn)
You generally want to be flipping tiles to the rose side, because that's worth more Victory Points generally (and increases your chances in courtships), but I found myself going repeatedly to the Bowling Green tile for that 200 pounds - 4 times bowling of 16 turns = 25% of the time, we were doing the bowls thing.

Victory Points Distribution (Adjusted Score)
Objective/Milestone VP - 39 points - 24.8% [Average: 11.1%] (+13.7%)
Gentry VP - 39 points - 24.8% (Average: 21.6%) (+3.2%)
Improvement Tile VP - 31 points - 19.8% (Average 26.7%) (-6.9%)
Reputation VP - 21 points - 13.4%(Average: 16.6%) (-3.2%)
Courtship/VP Cards VP - 14 points - 8.9% (Average 8.3%) (+0.6%)
Service VP - 12 points - 7.6% (Average 13.3%) (-5.7%)
Wealth VP - 1 point - 0.6% (Average 2.4%) (-1.8%)

The average is based on 48 playtest games. So as you can see, the Objectives from that game (and the Gentry) really powered that victory - combining for almost 50% of my point total by themselves.

Although the improvement tiles were much lower than the average, let's see what the final board state looked like:



Take out the Monument tile - that was on the illegal turn.

At first blush, it looks like the Estate tiles were the big focus. But in terms of Victory Points:

Prestige: 14 points - 43.8%
Estate: 12 points - 37.5%
Sporting: 4 points - 12.5%
Service: 2 points - 6.3%
(100.3 due to rounding up of Prestige and Service)

81.3% came from Prestige and Estate combined, and Prestige being #1 shows the value of those big value tiles (flipped State Room and Music Room).

Let's move on to the next game:





The Ponsonby family are the Wessex' mortal enemy due to their newfound wealth. You can see their 300 pounds bonus here. And yay, a bearded patriarch and blonde daughter! I also love the purple box. This might end up my favorite family.



Our opponents. I skipped the Intermediate level, because I feel like I have a good handle on the base game with Wessex expansion now. Of note: There is virtually zero chance of beating the Hanovers in Prestige in Round 1 courtship. They start with a super luxurious estate.



Starting casual guests and objectives draw.



Opening market.

Round 1, Season 1
I have a feeling Service is going to play a far heavier role in this game than the Yorks - one of our Objectives rewards it and the opening market points in that direction.

To that end, first turn is the standard Private Study. The Earl collects tenant rent and though the money tempts, the Viscount works on improving reputation instead.

500 pounds = me spending all of it to grab the Butlers' pantry, which immediately nets me an Underbutler.

Underbutler
The tall, black Meeple fills every single male role in the base game (Butler, Footman, Valet) and every role in the Upstairs/Downstairs expansion except the Useful Man. So that's a powerful addition to the staff.

The AI eats the Morning Room, which I'm a little sad about. I love the modular 1, 2, or 3 gentry. I drew both tiles, so no Morning Room for us this game.

Round 2, Season 1
Countess Mabel and the business-savvy Caroline West go bowling on the lawn. I spend 100 pounds on the Brushing Room, which allows me to use the Footman as a Valet if there are no other Valets available. That means if I have the whole staff available, I can provide service to 3 gentlemen who require a valet. Already I'm in great, versatile shape with the staff.

The AI eats the French Garden, which is a big Estate tile - even larger than the English Garden we saw last game. Unfortunate.

Round 3, Season 1
Story Mode
Having expanded their staff with an Underbutler and added a brushing room to educate the young footman in how to serve as a valet, the Ponsonbys turned their attention to expanding their social network. To that end, the extraordinarily connected Thomas Handle, Esquire was invited to afternoon tea.

Young Handle was a prattling poppinjay notorious for schmoozing. Lady Margaret absolutely and utterly refused to put up with his braggadocio despite Countess Mabel's entreaties. Fearful that Thomas would decline the invitation to tea, the Countess struck upon the idea of inviting Miss Agnes Dansby to be his partner. Surely he would be impressed by someone whose lineage went all the way back to Richard III!

Miss Dansby reluctantly agreed, remarking, "I'm only agreeing to this because of our long friendship. But so help me, do not ask me to entertain him again!"

Thomas eagerly agreed upon hearing that the impressive Miss Dansby would also be at tea. All afternoon, he spoke at length about knowing the sporty Viscountess Peele and the "simply hilarious James Hereford who I play cards with quite frequently". While the Viscountess was certainly a worthy guest, witty Squire Hereford also had a penchant for gambling and get-rich-quick schemes. Not the kind of guest one wanted to invite.

The afternoon was not a total loss, however. In the course of conversation about how impressive the Ponsonby staff was, the two discovered they both knew the Viscountess of Abernathy, a shrew who was notorious for excessive demands of staff and dismissive of young people.

"I can't stand the woman myself," said Thomas.

A point in her favor, Miss Dansby thought wryly, though she did not give voice to that - instead sardonically observing that perhaps a good tumble would serve the uptight Viscountess well.



The village fair took place around this time, as it always did. And with the money in reserve, the Ponsonbys delected to spend most of it to construct a Heritage Guest Suite - so impressive a place to stay that it would earn even more favor with most of their present guest list.

Game Mechanics
This ended up being an important early turn in terms of setting up the first courtship. With the Gazebo flip and the purchase of the Heritage Guest Suite, we're now ahead in every category but Prestige (which I'm not even going to challenge any time soon).

I kept the same three monuments, so I just have to hope one doesn't come up and spoil my plans. So far it hasn't *knocks on pressed fake wood*

Bye-bye to the Croquet Lawn, which I'm kinda mad about. It's one of the rare tiles I've seen so far where playing it a second time actually nets more than the base activity.

Round 4, Season 1
Story Mode
The Ponsonbys lost no time in making use of their new guest suite, inviting the exceptional horseman and baronet, Sir Richard Brannaugh to stay at the manor. Sir Richard was as particular about assistance as he was his horses, traveling with his hand-picked right-hand man and refusing the help of any other servants.

The baronet and his man both spoke glowingly of how refreshing their sleep was there after that day's riding and said they would tell everyone they knew that this was the best bed in Derbyshire.



Game Mechanics
My decision to have Viscount Edward take the Reputation point over the 100 pounds in Round 1 proved prescient, because in combination with the reputation boost provided by the Village Fair and Miss Dansby last round, it was just enough to put me at 2.1 Reputation - hosting eligible for the Baronet.

Courtship is a 75% chance to go my way.



It does. Score a VP card for me and Elizabeth Fairchild, because at 2.3 Reputation, I feel like the Prestige Guest is worth more than the extra rep Charles Fairchild provides.

Edit: Horrible news - the AI eats the Hillside Kennels, which might well kill any chance I had to fulfill the Gentleman's Group Objective.
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Last edited by Izulde : 09-19-2020 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 09-19-2020, 03:21 PM   #16
Izulde
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I forgot to mention in my edit - the Objective I discarded after Season 1.

I hemmed and hawed on this - the Gentleman's Group would be the smartest play given the Kennels got eaten. But we lucked out with the Flower Room last game, and the Monuments are almost always gobbled up by the AI, so I discard that instead. Even if I get a Monument, that's only 3 VP - not enough to move the needle.

After Season 1, the shift of Service tiles to the Market Reserve happens, which has a major impact on the board. To wit:



Very interesting market - Estate tiles haven't really come up much this game so far.

Round 1, Season 2
Last game, I passed on this turn. This go-round, I have a sizable hand so passing doesn't really make sense. I could flip the Front Parlour with a game of Whist, but then I remember I was short on staff last time. This also feels like a good spot to hire a couple more Lady's Maids, since I have a lot of women who require that type of service.

Yeah, let's do that. I play the Butler's Room, which lets me buy any two servants of the Lady's Maid, Valet, or Footman in the base game. I grab two ladies' maids.

Away go the Riding Stables. Too bad - that's a neat little tile.

Round 2, Season 2
Time to draw the two Objective cards:



...Wow. Great call by me to hire the two maids last turn - that's 6 Victory Points in my back pocket already in Season 2. Service tiles are presently 3 VP; Sporting tiles 1 VP. And so far, we haven't had any money engines (such as an American heiress or a Prestige guest with fatty cash) show up. Might be slim pickings this time for Objective VPs - in line with the average.

Story Mode
Following the expansion to a stunning eight servants, the Ponsonbys decided to return to the most popular form of entertainment in Derbyshire - bowling. Elizabeth Fairchild was game for a game. Recognizing the importance of making sure Miss Fairchild enjoyed her time at the bowls, Countess Mabel arranged for the gregarious, yet clumsy and naive Sir Thomas Ralphs to be her opponent.

This decision was a shrewd machination on multiple levels. Sir Thomas's fumbling fingers guaranteed Miss Fairchild would win, his volubility would ensure sparkling conversation, and his utter innocence no doubt gave Miss Fairchild a sense of superiority over the unknowing man.

The plan proceeded precisely as expected and additionally helped restock the estate's coffers - though it went unspent for the moment.

Game Mechanics Notes
The State Room, which I planned to buy next turn, got eaten. Shoot. Oh well, still an attractive market.

Round 3, Season 2
Now it's time to pass. I spent three servants last turn, and I don't have the Servants' Quarters to pull a freebie from there.

With the 600 pounds on hand, I purchase the Lionheart Suite. Intriguing tile that I haven't played yet.

Crud. Next tile that shows up - Garden Maze. And sure enough, the AI nails the roll to buy it. They're now at 11 Estate points, which crushes us if it comes up in the next courtship. The Hanovers will be at 16 in Courtship 3 and at final courtship. So there's literally no point in buying Estate tiles now. Especially since that's a 14 point gap from here on out.

Round 4, Season 2
Story Mode
An array of possibilities lay before the family now that their entire staff was on hand. After much conversation and debate, they opted to - just as they had with the Heritage Guest Suite - make immediate use of the Lionheart Suite.

News of the palatial room reached the ears of the lovable, one-legged Viscountess Hazel of Crosse. Though thought highly of, Hazel was a spinster whose age and deformity meant she received little in the way of male attention or company. Hence, she thrilled at the chance to stay in the Lionheart Suite and be personally attended one-on-one by the Ponsonby's handsome (in her eyes), single butler.

So delighted was the Viscountess of Crosse that she told literally everyone in Derbyshire of the family's kindnesses and the absolutely wonderful service she received. She also made a sizable donation to the manor's treasury, "Because you've made me a happier woman than I've been in years. My own staff is ever so grumbling and sullen about the extra care I need."



Game Mechanics
Okay, so the Lionheart Suite needs a little explanation:

You draw a Prestige Guest and play it on the Suite - You don't need to provide service because the Butler is so good at it. And as far as I know, you don't need to match the Reputation because of how prestigious it is to have such a luxurious room to stay in. That guest's favors are then doubled.

In terms of this draw, that's an entire 1.1 levels of Reputation and 200 pounds. Money is meh, but that rep jump leaps us to 4.2. We're well on pace to reach max level (7 in standard game) by the end of the game - 4 points for Reputation level, so 28 VP.

[u]Story (Continued)[/b]
Word soon spread throughout Derbyshire. Elizabeth Fairchild had such a wonderful time thoroughly besting Sir Thomas Ralphs (in multiple ways) that sporting activities became her new great passion. And though neither the Ponsonbys nor the Hanovers had any great recreational facilities, nor did anyone else in Derbyshire. And so Elizabeth Fairchild vowed to return again at the soonest opportunity.



Game Mechanics (Continued)
What a cheap, dinky courtship victory - 2 points to 1. But that's the way it goes sometimes. Luck holds court here.

It'd take a miracle now to get the Gentleman's Group, so I toss that Objective card.

Which reminds me - see the Lionheart Suite flipping into a Monument. By discarding the 3 VP for Monuments objective, I cost myself 3 points. Elmo shrug gif. It happens.
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Old 09-20-2020, 01:16 PM   #17
Izulde
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Join Date: Sep 2004
I forgot to mention - I tossed the Gentleman's Group Objective card. Halfway through the game and I'm still at 0 for 3. Almost no chance of hitting it, now.

Round 1, Season 3
Miss Caroline West came to Derbyshire to sell some of her trade goods at the Midsummer Fair, and since she was already in the area, decided to come to the Ponsonby Manor in the evenings for pleasant, leisurely games of whist with Countess Mabel.

With the money from the fair and the Countess's whist winnings off Miss West, the family had enough funds to add a Long Gallery filled with some of the best local art.

Round 2, Season 3
It'd become a Ponsonby habit to immediately take advantage of their new estate developments upon completion of construction, and the same was true late that summer.

Earl Theodore and Viscount Edward personally gave a tour of the initial collection to Elizabeth Fairchild and Sir Thomas Ralphs. Miss Fairchild, who highly preferred music, nonetheless entertained the gathering with witty remarks about being the only woman in a group of men. Though some local rumor started about there being something going on between her and Sir Thomas, who was delighted to once again be in her company, nothing could be further from the truth.

For you see, Miss Elizabeth had already dismissed him as a viable suitor during the bowls game the season before. A charming young man to be sure, but under no circumstances one she could ever take seriously as a potential match. The steady, calm Edward, on the other hand, became more and more attractive with each passing minute.

Poor Sir Thomas was clueless to the subtle undercurrent passing between the other two young people, eagerly nattering away and fancying his chances with Miss Elizabeth like an overeager puppy who knows nothing of life's harsh cruelties.



Though the coffers were meager, certain low-level upgrades became dirt cheap that season. Thus, a Croquet Lawn was added for a mere 100 pounds.

Round 3, Season 3
Odd as it sounds, the sickly, obese Dowager Countess Rebecca of Clare absolutely loved the game of croquet. And when she heard of a new lawn installed on the Ponsonby grounds, she eagerly sent off a missive, requesting to come and play.

As she would later explain, "It's the one sport someone like me can play and have a chance at winning."

The Ponsonbys were ecstatic to receive such a powerfully important guest and saw a perfect opponent in Richard Brannaugh's return. The knighted baronet was only too happy to accept - on condition that he and his man could sleep in the Heritage Guest Suite again. "Best sleep in the whole damn country," Sir Richard wrote.

This, request, too was acceded to, and after Sir Richard misplayed his last shot in a tight game - thereby allowing the portly Rebecca to win on her next play - the county chatted for weeks about how one of England's finest horsemen was bested at sport by a large, unwell woman.

Of course, the more shrewd silently saw what really happened - Sir Richard did his hosts a great favor by allowing their far more important guest a victory and doing it in such a way that it seemed happenstance rather than deliberate to most observers.



Still, everyone was quite happy - the Ponsonbys enjoyed great esteem, the Dowager Countess Rebecca talked for the rest of her days about the day she beat Sir Richard at croquet, and Sir Richard got to sleep in his favorite room. (the Dowager Countess, of course, was accorded the Lionheart Suite).

The only ones who weren't happy? The two ladies' maids who had to give personal attendance to the Countess Clare. As the two junior maids hired together the season before, such duties doubtless befell them due to their lack of seniority. But that made the experience no less unpleasant - especially since one did not care for sports at all, and the other had a brother who suffered brain damage as a result of being hit by a too fiercely struck ball.

All of this aside, the emphasis on outdoor activities that season continued with Riding Stables installed on the opposite side of the vast lawn. The family would have liked to add even more, as it was the high point of the building season, but they lacked money to do so.

Game Mechanics
Builders Holiday and I can only afford one thing. Feels bad, man. Feels freaking horrible, actually. Oh well.

In the feels good, man category: I discarded the Gentleman's Group at the start of this season. The Billiards room came up earlier, and this turn, the AI ate it. Yay, smart choices me!

Round 4, Season 3
It was an extended summer that year, and so the Ponsonbys continued to enjoy the outdoors. As had become tradition, they took the horses out of their new stables one glorious afternoon for a ride. In their company were the striking Lady Alessandra Suffolk, daughter of the Marquess, and that puffed up popinjay Thomas Handle, who spent the whole time talking about how the roads in London were so much better than the country ones of Derbyshire.

Nearly everyone considered drowning Handle in a nearby bog, but resisted the temptation - barely.



The money acquired in this time period paid for the construction of a dining room in the north wing of the manor, plans made for the hosting of a formal dinner before the year was out.

The young are known for their fickleness, as Viscountess Caroline Abernathy would say. And yet, Elizabeth Fairchild showed herself to be the exception - her newly discovered love of sports the season before proved an all-consuming, permanent passion.



Game Mechanics
I went in heavy on the Sporting this season because, as the game documentation notes, it's a smart play to focus on building up the already revealed courtship focuses.

And it paid off beautifully - once again, we barely outscored the Hanovers 7-5. That last turn flip of the Riding Stables took us from 4 to 7 (-1 initially as you can see above, +2 on the flip).

We're at 6.5, so already the Ponsonbys are guaranteed to hit max Reputation before game's end and will surpass the Yorks in that category. We're at 4 VP cards to the AI's 0, too.

I belatedly realize at this point I only drew one Objective card way back when I was supposed to draw 2. No problem because it's solo play, but I need to remind myself next time.

It's the Epicurean Group - Breakfast Room and North Dining Room - worth 9 VP. Luckily, I just bought the North Dining Room, so I only need the Breakfast Room to come up in this season and get it.

The toss is easy - Service for 1 VP. Though we're currently at 0 pounds, I see a path to 1,200 by game end, and Sporting will continue to get our attention. It's now doubly important and that's the money-generating category of estate improvements.
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Old 09-23-2020, 06:44 PM   #18
Izulde
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Join Date: Sep 2004
I'm going to skip the end game report for this game. Why?

Because I've accidentally cheated by giving myself 4 extra turns. On the courtship turn, you just draw the courtship card. You don't host activities, as I discovered while watching Dan's solo play game with Upstairs/Downstairs expansion and some promotional tiles included. Ope.

I've also erred in how I handle scavenges. When there's no purchase, it's the *next* turn that gets a -5 on the roll. There's no immediate re-roll.

The video:

Kayenta Games—Original Solo Mode with Upstairs Donwstairs Servants - YouTube
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Old 09-26-2020, 05:41 PM   #19
Izulde
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So normally I play a game on the weekends. But my dog keeps knocking the pieces every which way off the table and I'm paranoid I'm going to lose pieces (might have lost an Objective card).

That means I'll have to wait to play another game until I get the house and moved into it. Though I don't have a table, I do have a desk I can use to set games up well out of dog's reach (especially his tail).

Another reason for y'all to cheer for me to get the house this week and the underwriter to stop being a horse's hind end about holding it up.
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