Introduction Welcome to this week's Swedish Meatballs discussion list, episode #75. The Meatballs are a division of BGG's GameChat League, where groups of geeks blabber about topics they find interesting in a semi-open format. Civil comments from non-members are fine and even encouraged, but only members should add items (usually your weekly games played or anything else you find interesting to add).
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This week's topic Most of the Meatballs will know by now I'm fond of languages, and that is why I opened with a somewhat old-fashioned Dutch saying: De eerste klap is een daalder waard (roughly pronounced as duh ayr'-stuh klap is uhn daal'-duhr waard, a as in 'path', aa as in 'Maarten' ) which means, literally, 'the first clap is worth a thaler'. It goes back to the time when between farmers livestock was sold off by repeatedly clapping on the other party's hand, at the same time announcing a bid. It is still practised today, as can be seen in this video. (Likely the custom is widespread.) In any case, the saying signifies that in order to be successful in a trade, you must make a good opening bid: get that right, and it will be worth money in its own right.
I was reminded of that saying when looking over my notes I had prepared prior Spiel. A game I play there has just one occasion to show off what it is capable of, and based on that experience I will decide what I'm going to do with it: forget its existence, try again in a more relaxed and controlled environment, or purchase it. From the game's point of view it has to make, proverbially, a good opening bid as to maximise its chances of worming itself into my good graces. On the other hand, I will likely have already been influenced by several tidbits of information released earlier: synopses, rules, images of prototypes, reports from playtesters, and more. It's a bit of a difficult situation to be in for both parties, and seems to follow its own rules. I thought it would make a nice topic of discussion to see how the Meatballs dealt with this. Welcome to First Impressions Are Everything. (I advise you to read through the questions first as to minimise spillover from one answer into the next question.)
Okay, even met de billen bloot, lads! (Another saying, I promise it's the last one: ay'-vuhn met duh bil'-luhn bloat; e as in the NY 'Mets', i as in 'pill'; lit. 'uncover your buttocks for a spell'; tr. 'be honest and frank for a moment'.) You saw a weird title, you saw I was the author.
What was your first impression on seeing this list's topic?
And remember, this is for posterity, so... be honest.
Suppose for the moment that you are an unwritten but experienced leaf, browsing through some Spiel-preview list. A completely new and to you hitherto unknown game scrolls into view. It already has a few tidbits of information: a synopsis, name of author and illustrator, publisher, some game mechanics, a bit of discussion from play testers, images (some of prototypes), pre-ordering info, and even a working link to a rule book.
What do you do now? What are the things you look at first? Do you trust gut feelings at this stage already, or is your opinion rationally derived?
Suppose that a different amount of information is available.
What information do you absolutely require for you to be comfortable with your first impression, and why?
Kickstarter gave a whole new impulse to the concept of 'pre-ordering'. A pre-order is in my opinion nothing but acting on a powerful feeling of expectation to the point of putting money on the line to back up your claim. It isn't, however, the first such system: GMT have their hugely successful P500 (later P750), and the ability to pre-order has been around for as long as I can remember. For this question, assume that the game is not physically available yet, you cannot order it anywhere.
How do you stand in relation to pre-ordering (in the widest sense of the word)? Why do you do it, or why not? What are 'trigger occasions' for you?
You've formed your first impression based on the information available, and you decide to have a go at the game at some fair or con. You are in luck: an empty table is waiting for you and a few other players, with the game ready and waiting.
How does your initial first impression change based on this first encounter? If it doesn't change, can you think of reasons which would have you change your mind (e.g., print quality, table cleaned up or not, ...)?
Suppose that your middle name is 'Lee Ambolt' and that you blow a month's worth of paycheck to have games delivered straight to your home instead of going to some fair or con.
Do the above questions now have different answers?
So, you and your fellow players are well underway with the game.
What would need to happen for your group to decide to 'abandon ship', i.e., break off the game without finishing it properly? Would this be an event that you already foresaw or could have foreseen when you formed your first impression of the the game prior to having had any physical contact with it?
Abandon Ship is a cute game, by the way. A very 'thematic' Knizia, for a change :-).
You and your fellow players have persevered, and finished the game. Now comes a phase I have jokingly referred to as 'the post mortem', when players start talking about what conspired throughout the game, discussing perceived strengths and weaknesses, making bold claims about unbeatable strategies, whining about singling out-tactics, attempting to cheer up brooding and heavily losing Maartensunlucky sods, and more. But this post mortem is special: it's the first.
How often do your first (pre-encounter) impressions correspond favourably to the impressions gleaned from actual play? Have you become better at judging a game from meager information at your disposal? Or perhaps worse?
Assume for the moment you were at a fair or con again. You've completed the first game, discussed matters with your peers. Now comes a crucial question: How are you going to proceed with this game in the future?
How does the answer to that question depend on what you have learned during the game? For example, what must a game do, or how must it appeal to your first impressions, in order for you to decide to purchase it?
Of course, if you already own the game, then matters take a somewhat different path into the future:
What must a game do to remain in your collection? Have you ever purchased a game where its first impression was that bad you sold it on immediately, for example?
There is a school of thought prevalent amongst gamers that a new game has exactly one chance at showing off its moves. In my opinion this is a silly attitude as many heavier games simply are not capable of doing that on the first go, let alone that the players themselves are not likely to be aware of all major strategic and tactical avenues. We're all wise and experienced Meatballs (or so I'd like to think...) so I'm going to assume that we all know to give heavier games more chances.
But how many? At what ordinal do you draw the line for 'impressions' to end? Have there been games which you've given decidedly more or less chances than your average or usual amount? What caused this?
Or, if you feel more philosophically inclined, discuss the following hypothesis:
There is no end point for the number of 'impressions': every hand you play is an impression in its own right. What changes however is the 'Δ impression' as gamers become more and more aware of how the game plays out under different circumstances, and are so impressed less and less.
First impressions are (at least in my case) tied up with powerful, instinctive emotions which are at times hard to ignore, much as I'd like to arrive at things in a rational and objective way: I'm only human. In the previous questions I've assumed that the impression was favourable, but the game was less so. The other way around is also possible, and then the impression will actually keep you from playing a title which may actually turn out to be pretty good when you're 'forced' or 'made' to play it.
How often does the above scenario happen to you? Have there been games which you unjustly avoided? Was there a common denominator to that avoidance? What would need to happen for you to be 'forced' or 'made' to play a title you've been avoiding based on first impressions?
I'm sure that many, if not all, would agree to the statement that first impressions are powerful motivators. But that doesn't need to mean that you need to rely on them every time you encounter something new or unexpected.
Can you give examples of games you've approached without any single first impression at all, basically where you 'just sat down and played', irrespective of what was on the table or who was at the table? How did this turn out? Would you recommend the experience to others?
So, how did the actual list correspond to your first impressions of it?
This entry has been intentionally reserved for experiences with first impressions not adequately addressed in the previous questions and/or discussions.
Please add your weekly, monthly, yearly, whateverly played games next. It may be fun to try and tie in those played games with the impressions you had of them at first—no need to do this for every game, but a few words about a select few would be nice.
First play of On the Underground in ages. I'd been thinking of selling it but really enjoyed it this time. It's a nice 'next-step' network building game and I haven't seen anything like the way the Passenger works in another game. Helps a lot that it's on a map I'm intimately familiar with too.
One round of Timeline: Inventions, which I won because I remembered the date of Impression: Sunrise from my last game. That is the inherent problem with this type of trivia game, though there are plenty of expansion packs to help replayability.
John brought along Kolejka, or the Polish queuing game. I really like the aesthetics and it definitely achieves the educational aim of its publisher, the Institute for National Remembrance. I enjoyed our play, but I can't see that there's much lasting value for gamers.
I had brought On The Cards, or trick-taking Fluxx. It's a deck of standard cards plus a deck of rules cards, 4 of which define a trick-taking/climbing game. You play a round, then the winner takes one of the rule cards, revealing a new one. I like that the rules only change gradually, but a small change can still make a big difference to the play.
Sunday - Pax Porfiriana day!
Paul and I were very keen to get in some more plays of Pax, so we got together a group who already knew the rules. I played four times in a row (three 3p, one 4p) and had a blast. Extreme game-to-game variability, which some will see as a lack of balance. But you don't play Eklund games for balance; if you do, you'll only be disapointed.
Before that all started, we had a couple of quick games of Skyline. Nice little push-your-luck dice filler that I'd happily play again. I was outrageously lucky too, which helped
Played 1889 and 18EU Saturday from 10:15 until about 9:15, though there was a break for lunch in there. 1889 took just under 4 hours -- two of us had played it before, one guy had played other 18xx but not 1889, and one guy had never played 18xx at all. So who won? You guessed it: the player totally new to 18xx. He picked it up really quickly, and the stock market was really quite active and nasty at times. I found out over lunch that he designed Space Empires: 4x. Smart guy. Anyway, not a whole lot of money separated the players, and I managed third. I love 1889.
18EU was different. That took around 6 hours. It's a big game, and 1830 strategy really won't help you; there are too many little changes: Y cities that can only have certain track and upgrades, minor companies instead of privates, grey upgrade tiles, merging to form major companies, partial withholding, incremental capitalization, buying your tokens up front, etc. I kept looking at investment opportunities and my initial thought was "where is his permanent train going to come from?" and I kept forgetting that he'd be able to afford that train if I gave him the money for a share. The token wars at the end were pretty terrific. I came in last by about a hundred dollars. The guy who won, by the way, started with three of the Italian companies. The initial minor auction might set the tone for the game, but the "Northern Companies are more powerful than the Southern companies" argument is probably only true for experienced players and/or sharks. The rest of us can just play the game a few times and not worry about it. I have a Rails/Dropbox game of 18EU going at the moment as well against some more experienced players, and I'm learning more from them now that I've seen a game full to completion. Anyway, I mismanaged my route, thinking I could token Paris, but Paris has this odd split where two tokens go south and two go north, so my plans were derailed when I tried to token the south to go north. Oops. I also could have bought a Pullman way earlier than I did, so I left money on the table there. I merged one SR too late and only had three minors to everyone else's 4 minors (4p game can't divide minors evenly), and so I needed to play differently than I did. Unfortunately, I don't know what that is yet.
One aside about game day at the FLGS: there was a tournament going on at the time for a game called Cardfight!! Vanguard. The BGG page for the game is surprisingly empty, but the tournament was packed. Once again, say it with me: "The hobby is bigger than BGG."
Rest of my plays were 2p. Parade is a marvelous game at 2p, and I know there are other fans of it here. Battle Line was played without the Tactics cards. I won 5-0 against my brother in the first game, he won 3-2 in the second.
2p Animal Upon Animal is not nearly as silly as it could be, especially if you lay a snake next to the alligator early on; only having 2p's worth of animals means everything actually fits on that base, so the game was won because he ran out of animals (he rolled a "place two animals" and I didn't), not because anything fell down. We could have kept stacking.
(The preceding paragraph was brought to you by an attempt to complain about Animal Upon Animal as a strategy game that you try to win. I feel dirty now.)
I'll make comments on specific games later. One thing I have to mention right now is that I'm realizing that a game usually requires at least a bit of depth or detail or whatever you want to call it in order for me to achieve more than a 6 or 7 rating. For example, Rich introduced me to Coup, Love Letter and R. I found the three of these to be spectacular for such a small set of components and small rules set. And, I could see playing these games quite a bit. In fact, I've added them all to different wishlists (hoping they'll be available here in the States). But, if I had my choice to play any game I wanted then games like these three would not be part of the conversation.
I have managed to get in a fair bit of gaming over the last week.
Terra Mystica has me hooked, I played it three times last week.
Martin has already mentioned the Pax Porfirians day. I played in the other group of three, so only joined Martin when two of the guys left and we played a four. Great game, scratches the same itch that I Get from playing large sprawling civ. or Ameritrash style games but in a playable time.
I assumed Suburbia was the city building game of Essen, I am now thinking it might be Ginkgopolis . I love be drafting and area control element if the game. Played it 3 times last week.
I was persuaded to play Polis : Fight for the Hegemony. It's a Eurogame in a grognards trench coat. I quite enjoyed playing the game at the the time but looking back theres a lot of goods conversion, lots of interlocking restrictions on what you can do and not enough fighting. The battle card system is a bit like 1989s.
Other plays included loads of Skyline, Palaces of Carrara (advanced game) , love letter and Pantheon
You'll have undoubtedly noticed that I have been rather absent the past dozen installments or so. There's a few good reasons for this, the most important of which is that according to all medical tests available my partner and I can expect a healthy infant son to arrive in our midst by mid-February. Needless to say, the preparations for this event are a little time-consuming since this is our first child. Also, the typical pregnancy symptoms are taking their toll on my sweetheart whose need for rest and sleep, with which she was already generously endowed, has skyrocketed in the past few months. That leaves me in charge of most of the household, and with precious few hours for gaming-related matters. There's still a huge stack of games waiting to be transported to the closet, and I'm not even sure I'll get to play them any time soon.
A few random games played over the past few weeks which may be interesting for the here and now:
Terra Mystica — Terra Mystica I played during the Spellenspektakel fair in Eindhoven; the event has been organised again, although I'm not quite sure this was something which should have been done. I found I'm rather spoilt with Spiel, although the Spellenspektakel is great because it has tons of playing area. In any case, I played the game with 3, from a suggested starting condition. I found the game rough to get into, with a lot of actions to digest prior to making a few tentative moves, but once you're underway nothing new appears so the game basically reinforces itself. That is a Good Thing™.
I played the Dryads/Druids, whose strong points are in devotion, so I poured lots of resources in that area. My partner on the other hand had the Fakirs (I think they're called) whose specialty is in terraforming. At one point she was terraforming like mad, grabbing tons of points that way, and upgrading small settlements to those little Catan-cities with ease. As a result she had a vast army of priests just sitting there and at one point innocently inquired what to do with them. Well, devotion? I replied. That was a mistake, for in two action rounds she undid what had taken me five rounds to achieve, with a special ability to back me up, no less. Thanks to strong scoring in both devotion and areas, she beat the crap out of me, finishing with nearly twice the amount of points. I wasn't too happy about that: I didn't have the feeling I had been playing that bad. The 3rd player was mostly playing on his own, and utilised his race's ability (with an affinity for cash, can't remember which) to turn a lot of money into points at the end, netting him a deserved second place.
I think the designers have balls of steel to create a luckless perfect information game, but they seemed to have pulled it off pretty well. I'm not sure I like it all that much, though. The game pretty much determines your path by altering specific abilities of your chosen race. I'm not saying that it is easy to play the race well (there have already been several discussions in that direction in the game's subforums) or that there isn't other variation (there is) but that the design probably isn't as 'free' as you might imagine. I also think the supporting mechanisms are really quite 'supportive' ('overwhelming' is a better word) for a core of simplistic area control with some adjacency interaction. Terra Mystica is well underway to become a game with lots of buttons and switches for the fact of having these. I'll play again at this stage, but I'm not sure about purchasing it.
Confucius — Alphabet Challenger. Although we're technically at 'G', Confucius we skipped because we wanted to play the game with 5. It wasn't that great an experience, I'm afraid. The gifts are still brilliant, but the game they are embedded in isn't that hot. In this episode the available army spaces were quickly filled out, blocking development in that direction quite effectively; and despite a healthy use of gifts the amount of influence per player in the ministries was so small that their restrictions really weren't much of an issue. In fact, most of the time the restrictions were circumvented with student examinations and Emperor's Gifts and Petitions. Adding insult to injury we were all strapped for cash most of the time, meaning that the extra actions brought to us by gifts were largely wasted on the procurement of cash. It all made for a rather dull experience.
I think the game is definitely better with 4, when gift restrictions can really bite, and you don't have to hand out as many gifts too in order to make your presence felt. Still, the fact that a lot of actions are wasted on simple collection of money doesn't sit well with me. I've downgraded my rate by one point: both for money actions and rather unoptimal scaling. This is a 4P-only game yet says 3 to 5 on the box.
Yedo — A game which had me reminding of Princes of Florence with a worker placement action phase. Initially my impression of the game and its rule book was rather negative: lots of text, lots of artwork... Simply too much to absorb by my tired Spiel mind. Upon playing however I discovered that the turn structure of the game was quite clear (to the point of being processional) and that in the beginning the playing rythm was even pleasant. But at some point I began to hit snags of random capriciousness: utterly random event cards which nullified expensive worker placements, or semi-randomly drawn mission cards which required semi-randomly drawn weapons to be fulfilled. I chose my missions based on weapon overlap, then discovered that the shuriken I needed was 3/4rs down the draw stack. I poured a ton of resources in there to get what I need. I found some throwing stars in the end and scored a good deal of points, true, but you're not doing anything useful in the game in the meantime; and that I found annoying.
To this dat my partner and I disagree about the effect of randomness in these missions and their prerequisites. In my opinion it is a sign of bad design if a game allows for 'lucky' and 'unlucky' randomness, even if the rewards for difficult missions (as is the case in Yedo) is greater. Someone who has lots of luck will find the game much easier to play than someone who does not; and since switching missions is just again a lucky action in the hope of finding something more appropriate... No. There is a 'trade' phase to allow this sort of thing to even out, but really, all this does is announce to the rest of the world 'Look, I really, really need 'X' for that mission'. A savvy gamer will put the price for 'X' very high indeed. That all said and done, there were definitely parts we liked (once underway play is easy, the flavour text on the mission cards is at times even humourous),... but also quite a few we didn't: the artwork was lavish to the point of unclarity (little of the board is actually used), and Yedo lasted too many rounds too. My partner would like to play again, I'm more hesitant.
Homesteaders — Homesteaders is precisely the kind of euro I don't like. It is intended for people who like to discuss paths to victory, calculate effectivity of choices knowing what is still in the draw stacks ahead, classify these as part of certain strategies, and compare high scores. The game itself I found to be a dry exercise in constructing a snowball engine with some bidding and action selection aspects. A fine game in the genre, nou doubt, but not for me. I vastly prefer something like Glen More in this case: at least that title attempts to try something novel and tries to compare relative efficiencies instead of absolute ones.
I was a BGG.Con, so I had a big bushel of plays this week.
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - I played this 4 times. (Teaching it 3 of the times). This game is more than just a cool gimmick. It would be a good game even without the cool gears.
The Great Zimbabwe - I played this 3 times. I'm not sure how much I like this game, but I ended up playing it a lot. It's certainly very interesting. It's my first splotter, and I like it in spite of the theme and art.
Suburbia - I taught and played this twice. This is a real fun game. I really like it, but the goals may be a little too powerful.
Terra Mystica - I taught and played this twice. I'm going sour on this game. I'll still play it if it's on the table, but I doubt I'll be suggesting it. It's just too long for what's going on. With quick players, it could be fun, though.
Love Letter - I played this twice. Once with just Julie and once with 4 people. I think it works better with four, but it's a fine filler.
Libertalia - I played this twice. The first time was slow, but the second game was pretty fun. There's a good game in here somewhere, but there's too much chaos and too much time spent reading the text on the cards for my taste.
Bears! - I played this twice. I didn't really expect a lot of this game, but it's a really good filler. I bought it, and my wife approved. It's a real-time dice rolling game, like Escape, but it's much better than Escape.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple - I played this twice. It's an OK game, but it would have been a great game if I'd won that trip to Essen they were giving away.
Zombicide - I played this with the Chief from the Dice Tower. He knows how to teach a game. It's a co-op zombie killing game, and if you're into that sort of thing, this is as good as it gets. I got to play as a character who looked just like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.
Vegas Showdown - I got to play this for the first time right before I traded my copy away. It's a fine game, which I'll gladly play again, but I won't miss owning it.
New Amsterdam - The Unknown Parker Brother and his wife taught this to Julie and I. It's a good game, but thanks to some production delays, they didn't have any available at Essen. It'll probably never generate any buzz and will just be another hidden gem. The one thing that really struck me is how many vowels the Dutch put into the word "New".
Redshirts - I got this as a door prize and tried it with Julie. We obviously got some rules wrong. There are new rules on BGG which I'll print up before we try it again.
Race for the Galaxy - I still don't understand the special language of this game. Everytime I'd play a card, it would give me extra cards or points that I wasn't expecting. One of these days, I really need to learn this game.
Can't Stop - Played this while waiting for the prize drawing on Saturday night. It's a perfect game when you're tired of learning new games all week. It also gave us an excuse to stay at a great table right by the stage.
NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game - Julie and I played this while the designer told us what to do. Julie liked it, so we bought it. It's a fine 2p deduction game. The deck comes with 4 games, but we just played the first one. It's a lot like Mr. Jack, but with only cards.
We played Archaeology: The Card Game for the first time of Saturday. It was me, my wife, and our two oldest kids. It was a success! I have been eying this game forever, but it has been out print at times and not that many Swedish stores have added it to their stock, so it was only now in my latest purchase that I found a copy at a store where I also found all the other games I wanted. It is "only" a set-collection game, and I am sure it does not bring much new to the table, but we have no other set-collection card games in the family and as a family-game this has a lot to offer. The treasure-digging theme certainly adds to the allure of the game.
I also got to play Trajan for the second time, this time with four players. I liked it more than my first two-player session of the game, but I am fairly certain it will never become a favorite. The thematic dis-connect is huge, and I just can't drop the feeling that what I am doing on my own little board has absolutely nothing to do with what happens on the main board. It feels as if I am remote-controlling the game, and I don't like that. Still, I would like to play the game again, as I did some stupid things and would like to see if I can avoid those mistakes next time.
Also got in a session of Pickomino with two players who had not tried it before, and it was a hit. A great filler, with a wide appeal.
We quit half-through a session of Spank the Monkey, since we all wanted to play Trajan instead, and that was being set up at another table (for the first time in ages I was at a gaming club). Spank is silly fun, and if the game-length was more controllable I could even see myself buying the game to play with the kids. As it is now, the game can drastically overstay its welcome, and I will not try to play this game again. Glad to have had the chance to try it though.
A few games of this the other day, and frankly I got completely stomped. One of the games D had Oziah the Peerless and a Twofold Askara, so she got to kill two giant creatures for tons of points, one of which was Lord Steal -Seth's-Best-Card-From-His-Hand (which happened to be the best card in my deck), and ended up destroying me by roughly 30 points.
We played a 5-player game of Phoenicia, which I don't think we'd ever done. This was a shame, because it turned out that the advice I gave to one of the new players "Fort is really useful because you'll need those extra people and they're hard to come by" was based largely on my 2p experience, and in our 5p game the early fort-buyer had a lot of buyer's remorse and blamed my bad advice. One of the newbies almost won on victory points, but the auctioning kept up a steady stream, and so the big cards came out just a turn or two before she could win and handed the game back to the high-income folks.
I think we also played some Race for the Galaxy this week, but that's sufficiently commonplace that I've forgotten whether it's even true.
So I had both my weekly friday extravaganza and my monthly public Cafe Express (mediocre food chain, good gaming) meet ups.
The Friday one actually didn't have much gaming, it had the mini-drama of me not being willing to be dragged into a game of Bootleggers nor Monsters Menace America and then pulling out. Only to play another game of Puerto Rico where I did surprisingly OK, but not great. I also got to play another game of Quo Vadis. It fits in a nice little niche of "super filler" but it really requires 4 or 5 -- and I think it will get much better if you have multiple plays of the game -- its hard to think of what to negotiate until you see how it plays through once.
The Sunday one had more than two games...actually a lot more. Lets list tem out.
Road to Canterbury Mamma Mia Shark Quo Vadis Transamerica Dominion Dark Ages Mamma Mia
Road to Canterbury, seems to be a classic euro area control game, ie multiple areas to battle over, and multiple paths to victory (getting the most victory points), no resource conversion, hand management, and controlled randomness via card draw, and a little spice added in with a deck of special cards. Not bad for what it is, the cheeky theme is by far the most original part of the game -- if you can call taking your cues off an old english novel original. But I have to say, I like area control so this was a fun little game. I definitely will be playing it more. The great art from Hieronymus Bosh makes all the difference. I have to say, the designer was very wise to Limit the game to 2P and 3P.
So after that first play of Road to Canterbury I learned us Mamma Mia -- and a special shout out to my gaming buddies, I had borrowed the game from my friday gamenight host never having played it before...and I didn't get to read the rules before sunday so this was and instance of the DREADED read the rules and play experience. So many, many thanks to them. And yes it is a great memory game. So between Bohnanza and this game I think we can legitimately say that Uwe is a great game designer.
Another round of shark, and yes its a nice little nasty game. I'm currently still on the 6 board, but I will print out the 5 board at some point. Also the rules I'm playing with now are that for mergers of big groups, the active player only gets 1 buck, but avoids the pain of all his opponents who have to lose money due to the price drop. The second play cements it as a very nice little game, not necessarily a classic, but definitely under mentioned here on the geek.
Quo Vadis, its good 4P, better 5P. Makes getting into the senate even harder. I might make it a house rule to limit the chamber to the number of players. Maybe not. We'll see if it keeps getting this many plays. Hopefully if it gets people more creative in their negotiating. At the very least, this kicks Chinatown off of my wishlist -- I got all the negotiating I need here, and it doesn't overstay its welcome like Chinatown does.
Transamerica, I did aweful at it...but I still like it. I'm a bit torn on Vexation. I used to think it was required, but this was an old copy without Vexation...and I have to say it has its charms, avoiding that nastiness.
Domnion Dark Ages, a nice little expansion if for only one thing - RATS. I love that card. So cute! Otherwise, I'm not a huge fan of Dominion. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to play with the basic rule, if the Rats card is not in the game, I'm not playing.
And then finally a 2P game of Mamma Mia to close out the night. I was curious cause the box says 2-5. Its not bad 2P, though not as good as it was 3P (and I suspect 4P and 5P). But either way it was fun so hard to complain.
Three sessions last week. One visit to LoB, Royal Society of Gamers with Martin and lunch time gaming at work.
12th November at LoB
I was mugged by The Great Zimbabwe and so were two of the other players. At the beginning of the game all players have a victory requirement of 20. This is the number of points you need to get to win. The main way to score points is to build monuments.
To build monuments higher than one level (level one monuments score one point, the higher you build the more you score) you need craftsmen. As well as producing resources craftsmen can get you income, which is much needed early in the game. The thing is every craftsman you take, your victory requirement goes up.
There is also a deck of specialists. They do all sorts of thing like help you make money (Cows actually), place water on the board, (this can help reduce distances), place new resources on the board and more. Guess what, each specialist you take increases your victory requirements.
There are also Gods that you can worship, you can only have one god and when you take it, it’s yours for the rest of the game (so are craftsmen and specialists). Gods give various abilities and of course increase your victory requirements.
So three of us where seduced by all the lovely cards and started picking them up like they were going out of style. One player, took a craftsman, which increased his VR to 22. On what turned out to be the last turn of the game, he then took the god that does nothing except reduce your VR by two, reached 20 points and won the game.
The rest of us had VR in the high 30’s and were not even close to 20 points.
So what did I learn? When playing this game only take cards you actually need, don’t take them because they look good and seem like a good idea.
Finally won a game of Fleet. For once Scott got fooled by a game and made the mistake I made in my first game. He went for a Cod licence first. The Cod licence allows you to draw a card every time you launch a boat, and more cards are essential to do well at this game. The thing is most player don’t actually launch many boats during the game. Three to five seems to be about the norm in games I have played. So it’s worth 3 to 5 cards, making it the worst licence in the game.
In fact pretty much the whole game is about the licences, the boats are just a distraction.
A quick game of Fairy Tale. I like it, enjoy playing it but rarely do well at it.
Then on to my first game of Coup. Martin did warn me that it was a bluffing game. Sure enough not really my type of game (though I did win), but a million times better than the horrible Skull and Roses.
13th November at Karl’s
As Martin already mentioned, five of us met up to play a couple of games and record for the podcast. I enjoy Kolejka, it’s a light game but good fun. On the Cards was OK. I found myself thing about it afterwards and in a good way. Happy to play some more.
15th November at work
Thursday lunch time and it’s games day. This time I introduced the guys to Dixit. I always enjoy playing this light game though I am not very good at it.
Don't hang around, 'cause two's a crowd on my cloud, baby.
If I were to hang my head, I'd miss all the rainbows. And I'd drown in raindrops instead.
This is one popular family game that I never played at all. Never knew anyone who played it. But my wife says she and her family used to play, and she has fond memories of it.
Because she said that, I bought her a copy of the game one Christmas, many years ago. It never came out of its shrinkwrap, and I don't know if I could find it today; it must be stuck away somewhere.
However, as fate would have it, an Android smartphone version of the game ("Safe Trip or Not") was recently released. I read a review that made it sound good, so I bought it and tried it.
I've played quite a few times in the past week or so, and I'm having more fun with it than its mediocre Geek rating suggests I would. It's a fine filler game to play during lunch breaks. Probably wouldn't be my first choice for a game to play with others, but it works great as a phone game.
Besides that, I've continued to be on a renewed Dominoes kick. I've played several dominoes games a day for the past week or two (solo versus a computer AI). These plays have reminded me that even the Block and Draw games (the simplest and most ordinary of domino games) can actually be quite challenging and interesting. Enough so for me, anyway.
It's nice to write a solid entry for once - I had feared that the gaming bug had disappeared and I would be leaving the Meatballs and stilling my BGG account; however gaming with friends back home and attending BGG Con seems to have staved off this hazard.
My first game this week was a 3p of Homesteaders. Unlike Maarten I do like the old economic snowball (and dislike the "pip by one" of majority games), and Homesteaders is among the most minimalist in the genre. The long hiatus and dazed state meant I was off my game (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!), and despite a great start I moved to VP generation too early, didn't bid up the player with the best economy, and came a distinct second-place. I seem to have misplaced my ability to figure out and harass opponents' scoring paths and to time the expansion-to-exploitation transition; hopefully I'll recover after more games.
At BGG Con, the jetlag was not treating me well, and I had trouble sleeping at the right time.
My first game was Kingdom Builder, which I started to teach, only to mess up the place-3-at-a-time rule. Oops, I used to be so good at this stuff. Fortunately, someone who had played the game in the last 7 months stepped in and we had a great 4p game that I should have put more effort into, as my indifferent plays had me 2nd by 1VP. The combinatorial powers and scoring keeps Kingdom Builder fresh for me; I'd like to try the expansion. One of the newbie players was returning to the game, as his first play left him bewildered about the fuss. I don't think he ended up any more enlightened (and I didn't get to persuade him), but KB remains a solid light game for me.
Next up was the dice game Skyline, which was a bonus somewhere or other. It's a very light dice game that seemed to be fragile to giving the next player too big an opportunity. Unfortunately we were all clueless until the last-seated player grabbed up the huge pile of dice in the scrapyard, built the tallest skyscraper, and won the game. I'd give the game another chance, but it was definitely anticlimatic.
Up next was the irresistible Super Dungeon Explore, a hack-and-slash dungeon-crawler with a "chibi" aesthetic and surprisingly sophisticated mechanics (area buffs, area attacks, a dozen status effects, and some pretty varied characters). The DM rolled atrociously throughout the game and the 4 heroes absolutely trashed the dungeon, tearing apart hordes of massed kobolds. He threw in the towel when the dwarf killed 8 kobolds in one attack and 2 trolls failed to land a single point of damage. While the DM was annoyed, the rest of us had a very good time.
Walnut Grove was an excruciating experience, in both the teaching and the playing. After sorting out the rules, it turned out that Walnut Grove was a very simple game with extremely limited interaction, "Agricola for 7-year-olds" one player put it.
I jumped into a game of Article 27: The UN Security Council Game, which I've had my eye on for a while. It was great - a pure negotiation game patterned after the UN Security Council. We were a very cooperative group, paying off naysayers to let proposals through (all 5 passed). I ended up winning by a decent margin, mostly by being late to bribe, getting most of my secret issue, and then threatening to veto when a few of the other players' secret issues were on the table. A great game that I'd put ahead of I'm the Boss because of the reduced luck (no card draw) and purer focus on wheeling and dealing.
I had been reading up on the new Essen releases the night before, and it was finally time to try them. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar demonstrated my utter lack of short-term visualisation skills as I finished with half the points of first place. I was impressed by the gears, and the way rewards increased the longer workers were left on them; however I wonder if this game will be remembered 12 months later.
I joined a game of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, only to suffer through yet another poor learning experience. It took an hour to set up the board, with an inordinate amount of time spent straightening cards and god knows what else. When I got my hands on the rulebook, I was horrified to see how dense and poorly organised it was; nevertheless we finally started the game. No doubt we cheated somewhere, and we unwittingly omitted the inventions that would have made the scenario many times easier, but I appreciated the ambition of the game: a thematic co-op with depth. In this way it reminded me of another monster of a game, Mage Knight.
Having read a designer diary discussing the mechanic, I was tickled to see how reluctant we were to have our morale fall. The game began brutally difficult, with plenty of starvation and exposure wounds early on. By the time we scraped together enough food, the weather had soured and we were struggling against yet another trial. While struggling against the elements, we realised we were out of time and needed to be collecting wood for the pile every turn - and just made it right before the scenario end. I don't know how deep Robinson Crusoe really is, and am a little disappointed by how few question-mark cards we turned over (you only draw them when you're being risky), but despite everything I had a great session.
I was up bright and early to play the apparently much vaunted Terra Mystica, which my fantasy-hating friend assured me was themed with the same care as Hansa Teutonica. It's a solid Euro with some amusing mechanics (I liked the mana cycle, the resource production and the building upgrades) and a surprising amount of asymmetry, and the 3 hours passed faster than I expected. The veteran won by a significant amount through repeatedly using his VP-scoring power; I came in second through goal-chasing and the largest cluster; I ignored the cultist tracks and the oval powers to my detriment. Overall, while I liked the factions and the (simple) spatial play, it's not compelling enough for me to earn a place in the "long games I play" category.
Seasons is a pretty little medium-weight game that's good for a few plays. I liked the turning of the seasons, the shifting of the resources, the big chunky dice, and the drafting. The veteran players had powers that (1) sucked VP from everyone else and (2) reduced everyone's VP by 4 almost every turn. I ended up scoring all my points on the very last turn, racing into 1st place by 2VP.
I played two games of Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium with Matthew. In the first game he built up military without having the cards to score; I started with a small economy and when I drew military cards I changed gears. In the second game, he put down a bunch of Alien discounts and big expensive worlds; I military rushed to end the game before he could play more high-scoring cards (such as Alien Technology Institute, which I feared he was holding).
From the uninspiring box art I expected Suburbia to be some kind of worker placement Euro; it was actually an easy-to-play combo-based tile-laying game, where powers triggered not just off tiles in your own tableau, but frequently in other players' too. It's not groundbreaking by any means, but it's smooth and consistent, and played 4p in around 1 hour. The simplicity of the game and its modern (the colours even match Simcity!) theme appeal, and I'll be acquiring it shortly.
I heard about Space Cadets last year or something and as a Space Alert fan was eager to try it out. Brad was in the game, and did well with the Weapons Control (I was hopeless with the Sensors), and we narrowly lost the mission. I liked the game a lot but worry the sensors and weapons loading games lack the randomness that would prevent them becoming too easy with experience. On the whole there was less inter-player coordination than in Space Alert, but the variety of mini-games was a plus.
Someone somewhere praised Zombicide in my presence, so when the opportunity appeared, I sat down for a game. My last experience with this theme was in the execrable Zombies!!!; there were points where Zombicide became a bit tedious, but the zombie movement rules (they move to the loudest noise, or closest player if visible) introduced some unexpected depth as we tried to create decoys and diversions. The items, special powers and leveling up were enjoyable too.
In the end it created quite a story: our team of 4 split up to reach the objectives; my pair found some critical scenario-winning items, which we split between us; the other pair found the last one. Unfortunately my pair started to be encircled - I slipped through the closing noose, abandoning my partner (and his key item, Water). I rendezvous'd with the other two, and we first shook/exterminated our pursuers and then tried to help the last friend, who was now trapped behind a horde of zombies. Due to my conservative/cowardly play, one of the group of 3 was killed - though fortunately not the one with the 3rd key item. While the player with the Water tried to sneak through the zombie horde, I searched for replacement Water so we could leave him behind. I found it, and the two of us abandoned the last player...
Matthew had been playing Ginkgopolis at least once every day for a week; I wanted to try. I started by putting down lots of powers, but neglected actually scoring points and ended up last. The game was the kind of thing I like: middleweight, easy to understand, smooth to play, my one taste issue was the area majority, when led to my resounding defeat.
At 1am I foolishly decided to play The Great Zimbabwe, which I had heard was a Splotter game that was actually short (longest playtime 2 hours). Due to a last minute addition we played 5p, and the economy ended up incredibly tight. One player decided that he would ignore craftsmen and just build out monuments, using the 2 monuments per turn god and the no zoning restrictions specialist. I nabbed the spider god (as he was the only one I recognised, and his power circumvented much of the resource tightness caused by 5p). The game ground to a crawl with huge bids for first player and lots of poring over hubs and connections and resource availability. During this time, the monument player just crept inexorably to his VR score. It turned out to be very close, but he won, at 4am. The owner of the game was anxious to argue that the in-game depression was due to newbie misplays on our part; I think the economy is pretty fragile.