Great game. Its division between the Old and New Kingdoms gives it a structure quite different from most games, the bidding allows for a lot of "I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!" moments, and I love the building aspects because, well, I like building things. Certainly one of the best Knizias I have played.
I'm heavily biased here, since not only is the designer a friend, but I playtested this game for many years before it was finally published. But I love it. It's an area control game in which adjacency is really important, because sometimes things that happen in one region can influence another. The basic idea is that each district requires certain services, but they have a hierarchy of needs which must be fulfilled in a certain order. I tend to like area-control games in general, and I love the way that the city develops differently every game.
This is really addictive. The building aspect of it is really interesting and fun as you try to puzzle out the best way to build out your castle. The auction is DIFFICULT and I like it a lot. The secret goals mostly aren't huge game changers but give you something to go for, which is how I like them. Good stuff and I find myself playing over and over again.
A complex balancing act that keeps you on your toes. You need to keep up all the various aspects of your civilization throughout the game and will definitely lose ground if you let something slip. I really like that about it; I was deeply engrossed the whole time I was playing and have been considering various possible strategies the ever since. Could see this getting regular play. The game can change drastically with different groups.
I am not convinced that the advanced setup is an improvement over the set one. (4 plays)
Excellent. I'd describe it as "efficient".. each action you take must benefit you as much as possible, BOTH in the long and the short term, and you have very few actions allowed to you. Since value is very dynamic due to the tech tracks and when things come up, there is always some question as to what things are worth. Lots to think about here.
After several plays it's become a little more manageable to me and I'm just liking it better and better. Even if you are pretty flush with resources, there's always something more you need to attend to to get where you need to be.
I was very impressed with Navegador. It's a Mac Gerdts rondel applied to an exploration game with some economic elements and it works beautifully. Players can focus on any of several different elements, and there are different costs to each, and it's very important to keep your eye on who else might go for what you want. A lot you can do, and a definite rise and fall in the action. By far the best of the rondel games I've played.
I'm a librarian, and I've been saying for a while that there ought to be a game about collection development, in which the prestige value of your library is determined by what everyone else has. Though inexplicably Egypt-themed (you know, with the famous Great Auction Houses of Giza), this is that game. It's set collection with the twist that the value of each item decreases the more people own it.
Other than that, this is a very unusual auction game whose hype I'd been wrongly ignoring. There are several interesting things about it--perhaps most importantly the opening and closing of the various auction spaces, which gives the game a much more fluid (rather than phase-bound) feel. Also interesting: the money available is a fixed amount which simply circulates among players. And the ability to set yourself up to profit from an auction is something that, as far as I can tell, is unique to this game.
In short, this is really clever and interesting, and I'd love to play it some more. Too bad it only plays four.
The first thing to understand is that this is really a card game in disguise. Then: Presents many options, plays quickly, and finds really interesting (but subtle) ways to provide player interaction. There are many clever things about this game--the limited nature of cubes, the way Notre Dame works, the importance of the card passing, the additive nature of the districts... I like it a lot.
Update: When I finally win a game, I am often tempted to revise its rating downward. In the case of Notre Dame, I raised it, because there are so many interesting things going on in this game and even though I won decisively, there were a couple of decisions that I had seriously considered making differently.
Further update: DO NOT underestimate the importance of the cards you pass your opponents! Notre Dame puts their fate in your hands in a way that few board games (as opposed to card games) do.
It took me a while to get into Power Grid--but this is an engrossing game that runs smoothly, too. It's really about deciding when to end the game, and one of the things that makes this a really great game is the degree to which its workings (turn order, the economy, cities available, game length) can be manipulated. It offers a high degree of control and a lot of really interesting things to think about--but at the same time, there is a high degree of tension that comes from not know exactly what will happen next.
Decreases the time investment--I like it a lot. Advantageous placement is very different from the base game--the middle is useful, because you need to get to EVERYTHING. Power plants run out!! Moves even faster when combined with the Power Plant Deck 2. (3 plays)
China map. I liked this quite a bit. It's a nice tight map in which the cheapest section is a peninsula (!). The mechanic of the less random card deck is also quite interesting. Putting out one card fewer than the number of players really increases the tension while bidding. When we played, it was a pretty cash-poor game and I think this was directly related to this. (1 play)
Korea map. Coal is even tougher than usual; if you have a big coal plant, you just have to hope fervently that Step 3 will not come up. Takes a little longer for nuclear to be good too. Very interesting map. (1 play)
Wow, Italy is really tight. It makes for quite a different game, as all the players try to squeeze into the worthwhile cities while they can. Interesting, but for now I think I prefer Benelux or the base maps. (1 play)
France is pretty much exactly the same as Germany, but with crazy nukes. (1 play)
P.S. I love Ra. This is a great game. I love how the values are constantly shifting and always difficult to calculate. I love the tension and the importance of each decision. The game has GREAT replayability and it is always exciting. One of the best auction games out there.
I think it is more balanced, particularly the Observatory, and new stuff like the Sycophant and the New Farmer is very interesting (though I am still unsure whether the New Farmer is actually worthwhile). And I really like playing with five. And the game has much the same feel as the original, though it's hard to get used to remembering the fifth player. Even without five, the game is quite different because it is longer and that changes the timing. This is great stuff. Seriously considering bumping this up to a 10. Playing with both expansions and four players increases the length and arc of the game, making it more of a gamer's game than heretofore.(4 plays)
Best game of 2009? I think so. It's very complex, with rondels referring to a single, central rondel, in a way that gives you a LOT of options but narrows down what you are thinking about at any given time--a number of deeper trees rather than a giant wide tree. I like that. I also like collecting bits that will eventually be a ship, and figuring out the best way to fit these together. The secret goals, which I don't always like in other games, work here to provide some direction as to what to work on. And it's always fun deciding whether you want a fast ship, a very important ship, a ship that you can easily drive in the dark, or what, and getting to test out the thing you've been building is also a bonus in a building game. I also enjoy the slightly whimsical art. There's a lot here, it's long, and it certainly isn't for everyone, but I love it.
After three plays, I feel like I am starting to get a handle on this one. The secret is that the tech track is shorter than it looks, and it's possible to get ambitious earlier than one might assume. There are a ton of things going on in this game, many having to do with the tradeoff between playing for the turn bonuses, which are pretty significant, and playing to keep up with your own plans, which you'll need. If you can afford to do both these things, you've set up your economy better than I've ever been able to do! It's got variable player powers which can be quite significant but which seem fairly balanced (though not 100% sure about this yet), some jockeying for board position, a little tech track, and an interesting economy based on what you have out on the board at that moment. It still feels fairly tactical--a lot depends on accomplishing what you want in that specific turn--and yet, each turn is wholly dependent on the one before. Would love to have more opportunities to play this.
It's taken me a lot of plays to really appreciate this game, but the more I play it, the better it gets. It's not precisely an economic game; it's about money management and... saving, actually. There's some planning in the game, but the unpredictability keeps it feeling light and.. gambly. I like the events, I like the way the auction works, and probably most of all, I like the arc of the game--though definitely a euro, this one does have a strong narrative or at least groan-inspiring moments.
I don't have enough experience with abstracts to say whether I like them in general; I do know that I often find two-player games to be frustrating and unfulfilling. Not so with YINSH. Thus far, I suspect that it is eminently replayable and I find the development of the board over the course of the game unaccountably fascinating.
EDIT: I still have a lot to learn about this game--the rings actually serve multiple purposes and using them to manipulate the board is what really makes this game interesting--and losing them as you win is (as many others have commented) a very, very clever element of this design.