New York Slice and Lancaster

The quiz picture this time is a very new game to my collection, lovely box artwork the piece of paper masks title and author.

Last time the picture was of the box of Fields of Arle. I had thought to add the clue that it was a 2 player game but then I thought that the farming association in the picture was enough to take you to Uwe Rosenburg and thence to the game itself. I was wrong.

Last week we played the following games at the club.

 A players Pyramid in the game Pyramids

A players Pyramid in the game Pyramids

 Costa Rica layout at game start

Costa Rica layout at game start

 The special "Apple" piece in Santo Domingo

The special "Apple" piece in Santo Domingo

Although not my type of game I did enjoy playing New York Slice which is a simple set collecting game for 2-6 players. There are 69 slices of pizza which after shuffling are placed face down into 6 stacks of 11 slices (leaving 3 left out of the game), each slice has several pieces of information, the first is a number of pepperoni slices which each count as 1 point if you eat them, the second is there may be 1 or more anchovies on the slice, these each count as a negative point if the slice is kept face up for scoring, the third is the background toppings of the pizza, each different background counts as a different “suit” for collection, to help each different “suit” is indicated by a specific number, this number also indicates how many of that slice there are in the game and how many points it is worth at the end of the game for the player that has a clear majority of that “suit” (number).

 The tiles in New York Slice, the presentation is brilliant

The tiles in New York Slice, the presentation is brilliant

On a turn one of the players becomes the “slicer” (this role passes round the table each turn) and takes one of the stacks and deals in the order of the stack the slices out into a complete pizza, they then divide the pizza however they wish into as many portions as there are players, they may not alter the position of any of the slices they just indicate what the portions are, each turn the player also adds a “Today’s Special” card which is a special ability to one of the portions. The players then around the table take one of the portions, they then decide what to do with each slice of that portion, keep it as part of a set or eat it for the pepperoni points, once the choice has been made that cannot be changed, if they take a “Today’s Special” card they keep it in front of them until used, they are all self explanatory. There are some special slices, a joker slice and some with two “suits” on, they act as half points for both “suits” (effectively tie-breakers). The game is quite quick and generally fairly intuitive, however as the game goes into its last 2 rounds it slows down a bit as some serious decision making has to be made. We played it twice 3-player and it was quite enjoyable, the win went to the player who had the most “Today’s Special” cards however I do not think they were the cause of the win, they just helped. It would be interesting to play it with more players however I cannot help thinking that 6-player there will be little control and it may be more of a lottery, but this is just a guess. Strongly recommended as a filler game, give it a try if you can.

Lancaster was released in 2011 and is quite an intricate game for the amount of rules you get, I will not be able to cover it all in these brief paragraphs but I will do my best. In short it is a worker placement game where you are trying to obtain victory points through placement of Knights (your workers). Each player has a pool of knights, 3 level 1’s, 2 level 2’s, a level 3 and a level 4, however you only start off with a level 1 and a level 2 Knight, these levels are important as level/rank is not only their fighting strength but also grants access to certain areas of the board. The board itself shows most of England with 9 cities dotted about, each city has a reward and three (in a 4 player game) Noble tokens, each City has a different type of Noble, at the bottom of the board is France where there are always 2-4 conflicts to be resolved, to the side of the main board is the “Laws board” which contains 3 current laws and 3 laws which may come into being.

 England showing the cities and their rewards.

England showing the cities and their rewards.

Victory points come from three main sources namely conflicts in France, Laws in force and some end-game scoring which can be worth up to 52 points, there is also one city on the board that has a reward of 6 points. A round of the game (of which there are 5) is split into three phases 1) Placement of Knights, 2) Voting on Laws, 3) Collecting Knights and rewards. Knights are placed in 3 areas, either in a city (in which case their personal strength has got to be at least that of the City), on a conflict space in France or on their own castle, however Knights on City Spaces (for which there is only room for one Knight) can be replaced provided the replacer can match the City strength of the City and can beat the strength of the Knight currently holding it and for this purpose he may add squires each squire adding 1 strength), the usurped Knight goes back to the player and can be used again this round. Knight Placement continues until all players have placed all there Knights.

 The conflict part of the board, rewards for going to France are shown on the blue octagonal tiles

The conflict part of the board, rewards for going to France are shown on the blue octagonal tiles

 3 Current Laws, the first gives 3 VP for every conflict you are involved in.

3 Current Laws, the first gives 3 VP for every conflict you are involved in.

The next phase is Laws, there are 3 new Laws which are voted on one at a time every round, if the Law is successful the oldest Law is removed from play and the new Law added to the end of the queue, it is possible that none of the new Laws are passed or all three are passed, it all depends on the voting, for each vote a player has a Nay and Yea vote to which he may add extra weight with voting cubes (each Noble provides 1 vote and further votes can be obtained as rewards). After all the voting the three Laws are processed one at a time and have a criteria which must be met and a reward early in the game it is an advancement of some sort but later in the game it rewards Victory Points.

 A player board showing 3 Nobles (at top) 3 renovations to the castle, and some Knights on the left ready to be placed.

A player board showing 3 Nobles (at top) 3 renovations to the castle, and some Knights on the left ready to be placed.

In the last phase Knights are retrieved from the board first from the Cities for which a player may take either the Noble token for that City or the reward for the City or for a payment of 3 coins they may take both, rewards are 1) Increase a Knight level, 2) Take a new level 1 Knight, 3) Build a section of Castle, 4) collect 2 coins, 2 squires and the start token, 5) collect 6 points, 6) Journey to France for Conflict, there are 2 of each of the first 3 rewards. Rewards are then collected from Knights placed in your Castle and from built sections of your Castle (for which no Knight is required to collect the reward). Finally conflicts in France take place, the conflict is won if the total strength of all Knights present matches or exceeds the total on the Conflict tile if so victory points are awarded dependent on the Individual player strengths with the highest reward going to the strongest player, ties are broken in favour of “last to arrive” which can lead to some interesting situations.    

 The scores at the end of our game at the club, the differences belie what was a close fought contest

The scores at the end of our game at the club, the differences belie what was a close fought contest

The game mechanics interlock excellently to make a nice tight game, resources (money, squires and votes) are hard to come by but you cannot be locked out from them, there is a lot of interaction whereby players fight for control of Cities and for dominance of the Conflicts in France. Although it plays 2-5 the 2 player version (with special rules) was nowhere as interesting as 3 player and 4 player games I have played. I can highly recommend Lancaster but not as a 2 player game.