Games, games and more games!
A full day this month, and as several people had attended Essen, it was my first chance to try out all the Essen goodies. However, first we had to wait for everyone to show up, and given the players present I suggested Fauna as a warmup game - it was particularly good as we could add extra people in if needed, and on the green side of the cards was easy enough that it wasn't too long.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue was first - and I loved it. You really get the feel of fighting a fire - it's been done very well thematically. I'm not going to rush out and buy it, because I can play Paul's copy every month, but I may look out for it on trade, especially if it turns out to stand up to lots of replay. One room rapidly was taken over by fire, and then the fire engine turned up and the hose soon sorted that room - but then a room on the opposite side went up in flames! We lost the cat, but none of the people, which surprised Paul as in 5 plays so far he'd never won, but then he'd not played with gamers before.
Next came Goblins, Inc., which I enjoyed playing once, but can't imagine wanting to play again. Just too chaotic for me - I'd rather play Galaxy Trucker. Some nice touches, such as the working in pairs, then the pairs switching around. The goal cards felt like a nice idea, but turned out to be very random, as did the tactics cards and dice rolling. The turning and shooting idea I did like, but the rulebook made it sound like there might be more decisions than there actually were in practice.
OddVille was next, as I needed a filler while waiting for another table to finish, so I could play one of the shrink-wrapped goodies with the game's owner. Oddville wasn't amazing - very forgettable. There were some nice ideas, but as a game it felt almost like the game played you, and although there was some control and some decisions, not enough to excite. I messed up my last turn by building a region (I could have build several of them), and then all the cards I owned vanishing back to their stacks and dealing myself one at random. I think I'd prefer that mechanic if you had more choice over the characters you got. The building side worked better, but as each player only built a few buildings over the course of the game, and often were fairly forced in which they bought, it wasn't as fun as it might have been.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island came next. I'd heard the rules weren't great, but hadn't anticipated taking over half an hour just to set up the game, as the images in the rulebook just didn't give enough information to actually set-up easily - half the components seemed to have different pictures in the rulebook to their real-life counterparts, or instructions such as "Separate these two types of cards" without it being at all obvious how to do so! After we'd waded through setup we still had an hour of rules to wade through, by which time one player was saying maybe he would join another table instead, and I think we were all tired out! However, once we'd started playing, despite constant rules queries (I don't think the rulebook stayed in the box for more than 5 minutes at a time), the game did start to flow, although we discovered a couple of very minor rules errors as the game proceeded, as other events happening made things clear. Despite a negative first impression, from the fiddliness and terrible rulebook, I actually came out of this one more excited than for any of the other games I played that day, which surprised me. Again I'm not going to rush out and buy it, but I can think of one person in particular I would recommend it to, and I'd happily play again, as long as at least one person in the group knew the rules! I really enjoyed the event deck in particular - "There's something in the bushes watching you....", and then chuck the card in the event deck and see what happens later!
After that most of the owners of Essen games departed, and anyway we were all too brain-fried for another new game, so it was familiar games and fillers to end the day - Shipyard first - I'd packed it in the hope of getting a game, as it seems like ages since I've played (probably about two months!), and found one player it was new to, and another who'd actually punched my copy, but only played once more since. A fourth joined us before we finished the rules. I went for military pairs, while the other players went sails (never works!), fast ships, and size 5 ships. At end game I almost lapped the losing player, and there was a nice spread in scores.
I'd brought Cutthroat Caverns as Paul asked me to last month, not having tried it. Sadly we had one rather inept player, who kept doing huge amounts of damage to the monsters and not killing them, handing points to others, and meant the game didn't work that well, but it was still fun.
After that we needed a fillers so I suggested Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown. Everyone else rapidly sailed off Tonga, but I just kept repopulating there, and didn't worry about sailing. This meant that at one point I had almost all of my boats on the board, and no-one else had more than 5!!! Needless to say I won, despite being shut off half the board after the initial sailing phase, just because I had so many more boats around.
The next filler was The Bucket King. I had a complete disaster as the player to my right seemed to be reading my hand and always playing a card I couldn't beat but could only tie! As my pyramid got low (which happened in about three turns!), I did manage to start taking out my left-hand neighbours. We then all tried to gang up on Timothy by taking out his green bucket at the bottom of his pyramid, which would have lost him half his pyramid, but sadly the player to his right ran out of green cards just as Timothy did, so we couldn't attack him further. He got very paranoid though, and was removing pairs of buckets from that side rather than singles from the other, just to protect it! As we couldn't take his green out he won, easily, with a huge pile of buckets left still!
We finished with Halli Galli, and I was amazed by how good Timothy was at this game - he wasn't the person I would have expected to be so good at a speed game - especially we got down to three players!