Monday, July 23, 2012

Tyranny of the Vacant House: Santiago De Cuba

Another brutal game of Santiago De Cuba under my belt, and a feeling I must write again of the woe brought by letting your pesos run out.

Pesos are used in a couple of different ways. In fact, exactly 2.

1) Paying your driver advances the car one space for every peso. When you move the car, you get one free space and every space after is peso time.

2) Paying the pickpocket (poor, misguided El Zorro…he robs his victims, then gives the spoils to someone else?) is a fairly painless way to avoid having to give up something more valuable, like a good or a victory point.

Since the gamers on are often clever gentlemen, the more debased and unholy a strategy the more likely it will be picked up and used at every opportunity.

In a 2-player game of Santiago de Cuba, it boils down to this: if you allow your opponent to get any significant peso advantage, you are a dead man. Tthe world suddenly becomes a cold and inhospitable place.

I have dished this out and I have taken it. No matter how many trips your driver might take you around town, if you are peso-poor you always seem to be visiting the same place.

The worst location to be in Santiago: an empty vendor stall.

Empty vendor stalls don't have goods to give you. And you can't even move your pawn to a building to gain any additional benefit. You just sit in the car and wait for your next turn.

The strategy is super effective! And so prevalent. Every game I now play, the first place I "own" with dirty Alonso the Lawyer is the damnable newspaper publisher and his vendor-stall closing abilities.

In my last game, this didn't stop my opponent from winning. But it did force him to use a higher level of strategy which was at least entertaining for me (and probably even more for him). We both won. Although he won more with an actual win. But instead of staring at a closed set of double doors, I got to see a car expertly driven around town raking in an insane quantity of fruit before cashing it in for twice the victory points I was expecting.

Completely broken, I think not. But a communal driver in Cuba's second largest city must be ready for all the sneaky methods of getting ahead his comrades might employ.

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