Loofish Ramblings

My thoughts and ponderings on games and gaming, including lunch time sessions, couple and family gaming and thoughts on the games that are catching my eye.
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A Weekend of Games

United States
North Carolina
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I read in a blog somewhere on BGG that the more time you spend on BGG, the less you play games. So if you are reading less, you are playing more. I have been finding it also follows that if you are busy reading (catching up on the subscriptions!) then you also aren't writing anything either.

I did manage a fair bit of playing over the last few days though (and got behind in my reading, ah well). With a mix of old and new games too.

Things kick off with a game night at my friend Rick's house. After some intro chatter, we broke into 2 groups. One played some light games - I saw Liar's Dice and BANG! - while 5 of us took up the glory that is Amun-Re. The tagline for this game is my favorite game that I don't own, even though there may be games out there that I like better. But I don't own it (it don't go so well 2 player) so I only play it once in a while. After some refreshing of the rules (it was a somewhat dusty game even for me, but others had not played it in even longer), we dived in. I had money troubles throughout and stood aghast as others were able to build up their mighty monuments. Partly it was my lack of any of the money related power cards (a knock often heard against the game is the randomness inherent in the power cards), but it came to a head when I jumped over another bid (using one of the cards I did get) and got a region that I needed for a bonus card, only to find it cost me the ability to build a pyramid there. Meanwhile others built pyramids - Gary managed the biggest on both sides in the Old Kingdom (as well as such devotion to Amun-Re that he retained the start player throughout the game). He was unsurprisingly the big leader at the mid-point and he seemed to be heading for a win, but both Brad and my wife made big moves the second half, getting big sets of pyramids (building on the shoulders of those built before). In the final round, Gary again won the largest sacrifice bonus with 12, but my wife was 2nd with only 3 (and 2 of us stole from the pot). In the final accounting, my wife leaped into first place and then as we compared the gold we had left, she and Gary were tied. Which meant that they both gained an identical bonus and my wife won the game!

We rehuffled a bit and Brad taught four of us Seasons. The heart of the game is that you have 9 cards (we played the preset beginner decks) that you split into 3, representing the cards you will have to play in each of the 3 years that the game spans. You gather energy tokens (4 colors, each related to a season) and increase your ability to summon more cards, all the time trying to score crystals, which are the VP but are also a resource of their own. On your turn, you roll dice according to the current season then each player gets to pick a die, giving them resources. Then you spend them as you are able, to play cards or score points. Hard to grasp at first, it was quite smooth after a couple of turns.

Of course, having to define a pile of cards for your opening hand before really understanding the game was tricky - I looked for cards that would be repeatedly useful. The boost in summoning so I could play more was good. The 1 energy token credit on each card played was awesome. The others were all playing cards that stole crystals so I remained solidly on a big fat zero for the first 2 and a half years, but they were all doing it to each other too, so no one was hugely in front. Then in summer of year 3 I played the cards I had been saving, jumping from last to first and then pushing the game on so I might keep some of my gains before the leeches took it all away again. I almost made it, as I got 101, but so did my wife. And she had the tie-breaker on me. *sigh*

I am predisposed to liking this game as card combos and special power card games are right in my wheelhouse, but it was really engaging. Will keep an eye out for another game of this.

Meanwhile the party game was finishing up on the next table and a few left then, so it was 6 left for one more game. That game turned out to be Tongiaki. Now Tongiaki (a game where you and your fellow players sail boats from Tonga across dangerous waters to other Pacific islands which are worth points if you can keep a boat on there) is a light game and subject to large luck swings: an example is our game, where one set of boats went straight into a 4 color wave and drowned while another swept onto the 5 point beaches of Hawaii. I do admire the mechanic that makes you want to cooperate with your fellow players (if you sail alone, the chance of making it to an island are much lower) so I can take the slings and arrows there, but the sin that Tongiaki does commit is giving players too many turns of doing almost nothing. Turns that go: If I don't play a boat on that island, Rick will sail me away from there and I'll probably drown, so my amazing move is add 1 boat, next player. This is the king of right place at the right time games, where you can do amazing if you hit the waves just right, but for me, my desire to play it again just hit the rocks.

The next day, we played Fleet. This arrived Friday night, my first Kickstarter game. That they mentioned Race for the Galaxy in the designer diary was a huge draw and that situation where you "would have won if you'd drawn the 6-point development you'd needed" which we had just been talking about after a game made it especially interesting somehow. So I read over the rules (very well written by the way, quite clear) and we played it, 2 player, my wife and I, using only the basic cards, so no Salty Captains or other promos.

First game was an eye-opener. There is a difference between reading rules and understanding them as they are being played. A penny dropped for me right after I won the Shrimp boat license while my wife got the Processing Vessel license. We both got to fish but she could get the processing and thus extra cards/money. I had a nice discount as long as I could find another shrimp boat but was otherwise short of working capital. Eventually I got multiple shrimp licenses and my fleet began to expand rapidly - just about the time my wife's enormous fleet was done and we were adding up points.

That called for an immediate rematch though and we both played more thoughtfully the second game. We both did better and both got a premium license (both Pubs!) but it still felt a little like the game finished abruptly (out of licenses). I got my shrimp discount working a lot quicker though and had a good sized fleet, while my wife's cod draw was not quite so effective - she seemed to underestimate the value of the shrimp discount. Reflecting upon the game, both of us enjoyed it for what it was but I was hoping for more real decisions - not sure how to put it, but with the license requirement, the limited card drawing and money being tight, your options on your turn are limited almost to the point of singularity, especially early in the game. And the end game is almost the opposite, no real decision-making because you can do much more and so it is just what scores the most?

That all said, it seems to tickle my brain in some way because I have been thinking about it since playing. Adding in the Captain and the Inuit will give more on board options. Plus a big plus for the smooth game play. There is partly my expectation, that this is another Race for the Galaxy level short-but-dense game. A high mark to reach. We'll give it some more table time.

The other event of the weekend was my local game store, Sci-Fi Genre, had its grand reopening this weekend. It moved to a much (much!) bigger space, changed its name (now it is Atomic Empire) and they also have a lot more space. I know I mentioned that already but it was a point worth making twice. So folks of the Triangle, go check it out.

We of course bought something to commemorate the occasion. In fact, under my wife's watchful eye, we somehow ended up with 3 things: Rattus, Rat Hot and Piece o' Cake. Apart from increasing the rodent-themed games portion of my collection, it make us want cake too. But we settled on playing the cake cutting game instead. Very simple game in concept, the mechanic is literally "I cut, you choose". The addition of collecting slices or eating them adds an extra dimension to the game and I just found it light fun and surprisingly low in calories (especially that game where I hardly ate any slices). Two player it felt a little odd and I am sure it will even better with more players (though my kids wouldn't sit still to try it with us on Sunday, having urgent stuff to do upstairs). But even with 2, I found myself thinking hard over whether to eat or keep each piece or how to cut the pie so I get what I want. So simple in presentation, it is a game with layers.
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