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Subject: Excrutiating detail (?) of a 2P game. rss

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Joe Grundy
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Preamble: I found Dos Rios a hard game to write up... for me it plays out in a quite abstract way. Indeed I've been gently avoiding even playing Dos Rios because I tend to want to think too much over it. In spite of a little proofreading this session report still reflects the slightly dry (sic) feeling I get from this game. When turns happen that may seem especially pivotal in a game I am concerned they make little sense without an entire board status to refer to... the significance only works in terms of the game development, like an abstract game, partly because the game may feel fairly abstract and partly because the mechanisms this game uses are unlike other games.

I also note there aren't a whole lot of sessions reports for this game which has been out for so long, so I'm probably not alone.

What follows is already heavily edited down from my in-play notes.

A little geography: There is a town in the south, one wagon trail each up the east and west sides of the board that take you halfway to the north for only one extra movement step, and the two river heads (sources) are at the north of the board... Green River to the west and Brown River to the east. To win, each player is trying to build three or four casas (houses) for $500 each plus a hacienda for $1000. During play, you have six movement points each turn. You can manouver to send your opponents' men back to the town in the south, have your men place dams to divert the rivers, build houses, and occupy various types of fields for potential harvest. There is a queue of face up harvest cards so you have a preview of which types of spaces are soon to have value. At the end of every turn there is a harvest... each player gets $100 (or a new dam piece) for occupying an appropriate type of field space that has a river flowing through it. Having a casa in a space means no other player's man can end their turn there.

As with most of my games (and all my Dos Rios games) this is me vs my wife.

As usual, we started out seeding the board with our men trying to claim control near the heads of the rivers. It's further to run men to the river heads, and there's fewer "upriver" spaces to cause chaos, so the further upriver you can be the more stable your pickings can be.

Today Black placed two men on the permanent hills half way between the two river heads, which Black then used to run off Red's presence in the north.

In a little early jockeying we each placed a dam on Brown river, with both of us eyeing the "Brown River" harvest that would be Black's first. After Red took the first harvest ($200 in corn) Black ran a man down the river, climbing hills by the river so as to ride down upon his enemy to empty out both Red's positions from Brown river and harvest $200 plus lumber for 1 dam.

At this very early stage, Desperados rode the length of Green river ousting just one man (Red's) from the very head of the river. And in the following turn Red drove off a couple of Black's men, harvested $300 in corn, and the Desperados came right back again this time completely clearing Brown river, knocking off two of Black's and one of Red's to leave just one man on the board... Red's guard at the hill between the rivers.

With the Desperados fully sated for the time being, we looked to play the upper rivers with impunity.

But Black had nothing on the board to build on, so made a weak play for a quick $300 worth of coffee. Red quickly rode down two of those three of Black's men (as expected) and harvested the Green river for $200 plus some lumber for one dam.

Black at last built the first Casa, at the north exit to the west wagon trail, and left a guard there to block passage for Red plus Black left a man in the forest at the middle exit from the wagon trail. Red ousted the man from the forest, but Black's reinforcements reclaimed it. Now with two men in that forest (plus the man/casa blocking the north exit) Black hoped to effectively block a third of Red's access to the board.

Red meanwhile picked up a couple of decent harvests while Black brought together a plan to join the two rivers high up near the sources and thus provide backup irrigation for his casa and men in the south west of the board. Red managed to build an early Hacienda halfway between the heads of the rivers AND harvest a further $500 from Brown river. Black forced three of Red's men back to town, built a casa, and dam the river to dry out some of Red's other holdings, but still managed only a weak $200 profit on a Brown River harvest.

Red started benefitting from her Hacienda at this point, teleporting men there from town for only 2 movement points each. Black's ongoing barricade of the western wagon trail was and remained highly effective, but only a few turns later had thus become completely pointless. We shuffled the Harvest discards, and very soon the Desperados clear the Green River again... but bypassing a man at Red's Hacienda. This is a major frustration for Black whose next plans depended on diverting Green River near the source. After a long ponder Black used five of his six movement points to achieve this single objective anyway. The sixth point on this turn was actually used to abandond a money making location to bring two men together for a stronghold, since without that strength Red would have cleared both those men and occupied both those fields on her next turn anyway.

This is a tight stage of the game. Red had no dams remaining, and Black was doing his best to push that leverage and deny more lumber to Red, which he managed to do for only a few turns.

But Black was feeling the financial pinch by now as Red has done a good job of opportunistic play. (Perhaps Black is trying to plan too much?) We both reached three buildings on the board, but Black was yet to build his Hacienda having instead used his casas to secure strategic looking positions. (But they weren't turning out that strategic since it was Red roping in the profit margins.) None the less, with the rivers now individually supplying the south west Black had been quietly taking moments of opportunity to chain a 5-link syphon of dams across the middle of the board, making it hard for the rivers to do anything else without a dam close to the source. Both players' casas were all still irrigated.

This was definitely the endgame stages, and being poorer Black decided it was high time he started grabbing some quick profits instead of trying to control the board. After much much pondering Black chose the option for more immediate cash rather than permanently drying one of Red's casas but leaving several subtle opportunities to pick up cash and dry out some of Red's options in the next couple of turns. But alas Red used her supernatural powers of Observation and Reason, and in one turn:
- dammed the Green river (merging it with Brown again) to permanently dry out the south west corner of the board including one of Black's casas! (She had no choice... Black had the money for the fourth irrigated building and a win on his next turn, but alas hadn't been able to keep her completely away from lumber for quite long enough.)
- popped a dam in the middle of dry land in the middle of the board, depriving Black of money making opportunities on his next turn.
- dammed the joined river to dry up more of Black's land AND resupply one of her casas AND irrigate two more corn fields... which she occupies and harvests!

CRAP! All Black's opportunities were seen and neatly thwarted AND Red claimed a bumper harvest. This puts Red on $800 with two casas to build, and her casas irrigated so even one build ($500) would win at the moment.

In a belated stroke of luck for Black the Desparados ran three of her men off Brown River.

But let's face it...
Red has: $800, one dam in hand, three buildings out and all irrigated, and four men out in the fields. If she builds one more irrigated casa ($500) she wins. If Black dries her up she can still win by building both casas for $500 each.
Black has: $600, also one dam in hand, a casa and his hacienda yet to build (so he needs another $900) and has one casa dry for good.

This basically looked like "game over".

Even so, we always play our games to conclusion to see just how much of a margin can be achieved/thwarted.
Besides... NEVER SURRENDER! arrrh

Black had to use his last dam to permanently dry a Red casa. Which left no income at all for Black that turn, and only upcoming wheat and coffee harvests would not replenish Black's lumber. Red's hacienda will make her $100 on her next harvest... in wheat. So Black occupied the most likely looking other wheat and built a casa to lock Red out of it. Black also sent Red's last remaining man back to town (just for the personal satisfaction of it). And finally, Black chose to delay that non-income generating coffee harvest, sending it to the back of the harvest queue where it would come up (hopefully awkwardly) for Red in two turns. (But also guarantees more time with no lumber for Black.)

Red's wheat harvest generated only the $100 from her Hacienda. But she also dammed Brown River to irrigate some coffee fields and built her casa on one of them, guaranteeing her next harvest (the coffee Black threw at her) to be at least the $100 she still needed.

As noted, Black had no dams. His next harvest option was coffee, which would guarantee the final $100 to Red. So he delayed that harvest too.

Red occupied a second coffee and harvested $200. Victory on her next turn is assured.

Black squeezes $500 out of his final corn harvest.

Red builds her final casa with $100 to spare, while Black has yet to build his hacienda (which costs $1000) and has $700 in hand.
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