Air Baron » Sessions » Smote by an Oil Fare Hike

Author: ManchotPi
I recently stumbled across the HTML file for some session reports I had written for my high school gaming group. As that website no longer exists, I thought I would post the longer ones here (the vast majority are short little snippets that aren't all that interesting).

This six-player game of Air Baron was what originally caused me to start writing those session reports in the first place. This game really encapsulated for me the ebb-and-flow that comes with a game like Air Baron. I enjoy the contemporary trend of trying to pack a ton of strategy into a one-hour game. But there is something special and epic that comes with a game that lasts two or three hours or more. Of course, I've played really boring three-hour games, too. But, after ten years, it's game like this (or Advanced Civilization or The Civil War) that I remember most clearly. I love the story that unfolds from these games, and I still tell this session report's story to new players as part-warning, part-flavor. This game took place on the evening of December 23, 1999, when some of our club's members were home from college on break.

Bill started characteristically in New York. [Bill always started in New York--always--or in London, which is the "New York-ish" equivalent on my European map. If Bill was in the game, and you built off New York, so were asking for a long and protracted battle.] Andrew started in San Francisco, Jan in LA, Erik in Atlanta, I in Washington, and Katie in Dallas-Ft. Worth. A time of relative peace and expansion followed with me filling Miami, Erik Detroit, Katie Houston, Jan Phoenix, and Andrew part of Denver.

At first it looked like Bill was doing well with lots of money, but then Jan surprised us all by going into a fare-wars rampage. He was able to take over all of LA, Phoenix, Denver, and Houston as well as half of San Francisco and Dallas-Ft. Worth before he ran out of money. If he had had two more dollars, he could have attacked Little Rock with a +4 modifier, which would have been an almost certain victory, giving him the market share to win the game. [And Power Grid players always complain about coming up a few bucks short! I think this tops that; especially due to what followed.]

While he was trying to build back some money, Oil Fare Hike was drawn three times in quick succession (!) and Jan had to pay almost 50 dollars total. He went from owning half the board to a single airport in Honolulu. The rest of us had more cash on hand (and much less Market Share--seeing as Jan owned half the board, there wasn't that much left to go around for five other players). So, we were not hit as hard.

Now, Bill's luck changed when his profits stopped being drawn. The initiative slipped to Katie and me who had lots of money. Katie filled the gigantic void in the west left behind when Jan had to sell off all his spokes. Meanwhile, I took over some of New York and half of Chicago. Jan was forced to declare bankrupcy twice and ended the game owning only San Diego. Katie went on to win with massive amounts of money built up from lots of draws of Dallas-Ft. Worth. [I wish that I had take time-lapse photos of the board (of course back then there were no digital cameras), as it would be cool to see the waves of take-overs pictorially. Hopefully, someone will post such a session report in the future for this game.]
Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:08 pm
Author: sigtaulefty
wow. I've had the oil hike extend games - but that sounds just awful for Jan.

Did he take a loan after the first fuel hike? That probably would've been a good idea - instead of waiting to get paid first - you could pay off the loan to win instead but you'd have that safety net.
Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:52 pm
Author: ManchotPi
You're probably right that a loan would have been a good idea. However, I think that we played with the wrong loan rules--in that we thought that you could only take a loan up to the amount indicated by the space you are on on the market share track. I have since found out that the actual rule is that the maximum loan amount is given by the leader's position on the market share track. (Correct?) Our mis-rule obviously hurts the person behind.

I don't remember how long this game went on after that Oil Fare Apocalypse, but I don't think it was too long (i.e., I don't think Jan had to suffer in obscure boredom for all that long). In addition, the people in this session report were all Air Baron veterans and so knew to take the highs and lows of the luck in stride. (Plus, Jan had just gotten crushed by a French/Russian alliance as the British in Pax Britannica earlier that day--so Lady Luck had clearly not been on his side recently.)

I recently had an Air Baron game where both Oil Fare Hike and Crash were drawn at least five times each. And while that game didn't last too long either, the events did essentially knock two people out of the game rather quickly and leave huge swaths of the board unpopulated. And, then they tried to get back into the game by taking out loans and going into Fare Wars to try to take over empty hubs, but ended up rolling horribly for turn after turn. I felt rather badly about that one, especially as they were new players--I hope that didn't scare them off too badly.
Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:22 pm
Author: gamemark
Ah, yes... more data points to illustrate my belief that the Oil Fare chit is PURE EVIL and should be fixed in some way.
Mon Oct 20, 2008 10:27 pm
Author: Windopaene
So what's the solution to it?
Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:08 am
Author: gamemark
Windopaene wrote:
So what's the solution to it?

Man, if I had the answer to that... sigh.

We play with it but use a "re-draw" every other time - in other words, the first time you draw it, play as normal. The second time you draw it, ignore it & draw another chit. The third time, play as normal, etc. (We've tried this & it keeps the tension without hosing over the game.)

The problem? It's not a very elegant solution.
Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:33 am
Author: sigtaulefty
When I played at the WBC, I believe the rule was that the oil can could not be the first bad chit in the cup. For as bad as the hike is, I think the strike is worse. The hike can be a good thing if you're chasing a runaway fare-warsing hot die roller. The strike gets UGLY if it's pulled enough times.
Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:10 am