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Oi! Hands off...
Only 2 again!
But rather than being tired and collapsed-out, Ben and John were fresh for the fight (to quote Bonnie Tyler) and ready to play some new, and meaty games. And what a satisfying evening it was!
Rabbit Hunt was first, a bizarre little creation from the Far East (I want to say Taiwan, or Korea at a push). Memory games aren't to everyone's taste, but luckily this one isn't pure memory - there's some significant strategy in placing good tiles where you can get at them and playing hide and seek with your rabbits. It has a strong resemblance to Dracula, which I've maintained for a long time is very under-rated. Our game went down to the wire, and admittedly a bit of guess-work; John winning by being better at guessing. But don't hold that against the game.
I received a copy of Artus for my birthday last week, and was itching to get it to the table, although a bit apprehensive about the mixed reviews here on the Geek. It quickly became apparent that - even with two players - the game can get somewhat unpredictable. But, equally quickly, the idea sprang forth that this is not a game of strategy. It's about risk management and optimising your hands based on the knowledge of a 22-card deck (one which, naturally, will be quickly learned). I find it curiously compulsive, as it happens. We enjoyed it so much that we played a second game, sharing the honours.
Time for the 'big heavy' of the night, and we pulled out Louis XIV and spent some time getting to grips with the cumbersome instruction booklet. Ye Gods - this one is tough to learn and no mistake! It didn't help that I had the player aids from the Treasure Chest expansion, which are fundamentally incorrect if you're trying to play the base game. After staggering through the first round and putting myself so far behind that I couldn't possibly win, the game became somewhat easier to play, although certainly no easier to win. The possible highlight was a conversation with one of a nearby table of Oxford Undergraduates and trying to convince him that while Settlers is indeed a very good game, this is about three steps up the difficulty ladder. John illustrated this by waving an influence marker and saying: "there are only three places I can put this; I've been thinking about this for 5 minutes, and I still don't know where to put it". This, in fact, is often an overriding characteristic of John's gameplay, although it was quite understandable in this case. Still, at least the fellow had played Settlers and didn't ask 'is it like Monopoly?' (see the subtitle of this blog). I made a bit of a comeback in rounds 2 & 3 and ended up losing only by 2VPs.
Incidentally, I was baffled by the coats-of-arms scoring. You draw them FACE DOWN but then score a bonus point for having the most of each type? What sort of stupid idea is that in a heavy strategy game? I don't think it will take much effort to persuade people that our house rule is NOT to play these bonuses in the future.
Taluva was the first game of the evening that we had played before, and one we both enjoy hugely. John threw up a Temple in double-quick time, but I soon had a Tower to match it. By that time, his second Temple was in play, so I had to resort to some despairing defence. A couple of mis-plays from JP gave me the opportunity to get the second Tower up, and then it was just a desperate race to get rid of our huts. John eventually pipped me by just a single hut.
This game was a little worrying because it seemed far more procedural than our previous attempts at Taluva. I'd assumed it was a game that scaled very well, but perhaps it's a little weaker with two than I'd hitherto imagined.
An excellent evening, all told, and a very convincing argument in favour of gaming with two. Regrettably, I had to pass up the opportunity of introducing KingBrick to the Oxford students - I reckon they'd have liked that.