Lowell Kempf(Gnomekin)United States
On Friday, Carrie and I visited a friend who had just moved back to Chicago. It wasn't quite a house-warming visit but it was a chance to see his new place and to play some games.
As I've mentioned before, Right Games in Russia sent me some games for review to help get out the word that they were publishing games in English.
We tried out Potion Making: Practice for the first time. It has been said to be one of the most popular games in Russia but that was more of a warning signal for me. After all, one could argue that Munchkin is one of the most popular games in the U.S. and I would rather watch a Twilight movei marathon than be forced to play Munchkin.
Much to my delight (and a bit to my surprise), Potion Making was actually a lot of fun. The basic idea of the game is that all of the cards are both formulas and ingredients. If cards are on the table, they are ingredients. If they are in your hand, they are formulas. You can either add a card to the table, adding to the available ingredients on hand, or complete a formula using the ingredients from the table to make a potions. One twist is some of the completed potions are ingredients in more complex formulas and you can use other people's completed potions to make more complex potions.
Now, the game is a light one. It is very information heavy game in the sense that every card is a formula and an ingredient. However, with the exception of a few special spell cards, all the cards interact in the same way. And there's also no real way that you have conflict, except by gaffling an ingredient before someone else can use it.
However, the theme is very imersive. The mechanics of the game and the idea of the game join together very well. What's it about? Making potions. What do you do? Mix ingredients together. And the artwork on the card is beautiful and really brings out the theme. It isn't the next Agricola but it is a very pleasant social game.
One thing we wished we had was a mat that showed all sixteen ingredients so we could track what was on the table easier.
After that, we played The Enigma of Leonardo, a game we had already tried as a two-player game. However, I really wanted to see how it would work as a multi-player game.
Each player has a cross of cards and you are trying to match three symbols in a row in your cross, earning a token of that symbol. The game is a race to get seven tokens. You play a card from your hand to replace a card on your cross. However, the card you replace goes onto the next player's cross, replacing the card in the same position. Their old card gets discarded.
The cards are illustrated with pictures from Di Vinci's notebooks and are quite pretty. That said, they really don't play any real part in the mechanics of the game. When you get down to it, the game is completely abstract and they could have themed it with circuits or coins or just abstract symbols.
However, the gameplay is solid. I have never played a game with mechanics quite like it and they really do work. And, since you are messing with another player's stuff, it is a game that you can play nasty if you want to. We agreed that it was a solid and fun game.
The week before, I had played Gheos for the first time and I wanted to play it again.
My first games of Gheos had been very tight, very nasty games where we cut up and destroyed each other's cultures almost constantly. This time, we were a hair less aggressive (at least at first) and continents actually got built up.
What I realized this meant was that when you break up a larger continent, you can end up with an empty continent with more than one wheat symbol on it. With this in mind, we were suddenly able to start cornering whole cultures in a move. We didn't get to keep them, of course. Still, it opened up new ways for the game to work in my eyes.
We wrapped up with him showing us his i-pad and how it could be used as a game system. We played Small World, which goes really fast when all the house-keeping is done for you. It was neat but I just can't justify getting one just to play games.