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We played this board for the first time last night with four people. It ended up being a two-two split east-west. The second western starting player got absolutely creamed. I was the first western starting player and I came in third by a nose. The two players who started in the east came in one-two with not all that much effort. Only an extremely lucky starting cube draw and a reliance on the production action managed to save my hide and prevent a much bigger gap between second and third spots.
I have a suspicion that, had the second western player started in the east, I would have easily cruised to victory in the game, thanks to the starting cube allotment. His choice seemed to be predicated on "wanting to even out the board" and "not wanting to leave me all alone in the west" (which was, as it turned out, a somewhat wise decision: by the time he had to choose, his choice was to leave me alone in the west with some attractive cube placements, or take the third best eastern starting spot and some extra starting capital: not a great choice). The upshot of his decision was that he did exactly as he thought he should do, and it succeeded: he stopped me from doing very well in the game at the cost of completely hosing himself over the long term.
I'm not sure that a 3-1 arrangement in this game is really practicable, because I have a suspicion that it favours the western player too much, especially if the player's allowed to choose production, and is left alone to play vertically along the western edge and not help the eastern players crack the mountain at all. To combat this, the eastern players are going to have to lean heavily on transcontinental shipments, and in our game there just wasn't much opportunity for that.
I think a 4-2 arrangement would work better because it would crowd the resources in the west and east and really generate a push to the middle of the map (in the 3-1, I don't think there's much incentive at all for the western player to head east).
I also haven't tried it, but suspect that a 3-2 arrangement, with experienced players, might work also, as long as the western players were careful to come to a sensible division of wealth.
Our general consensus was that this map was not, in fact, all that good for four because there was far too much wealth on the board for four players, and that it would play better with six (or at least, with five, if the players were all sensible about the meta-game).
St. Louis Park
Good analysis. We tried this map with a 4-1 split with a brand new player alone in the west. It made for a very competitive game in the east and gave the new player an opportunity to get used to the game mechanics before there was major competition over the western cubes. I am eager to try the 4-2 split with experienced players.