Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
Life's a piece of shit when you look at it, life's a laugh and death's the joke, it's true.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
So life kind of took over the past few weeks, or maybe the opposite. I have been finding and buying and fixing up bikes for me and Cat, busy with two huge work projects that are well beyond the scope of my occupation, hosting my sister-in-law and nephew for a week, and taking Linus on hour-long walks whenever I can on the weekends. I don't really remember the last time we sat down to play a game, and I've fallen off a lot of discussions here on BGG.
Had a medium heavy game night last week. It was pretty fun, just a little out of character.
First stop was On the Underground. This was only my second play of the game. Its got a simple elegant ruleset just marred by some shitty graphic design. Otherwise it was an interesting 3P game. I played it 2P once and was underwhelmed, I think having the third player is a good thing, I'm happy I gave it a second chance. Its a bit dry, but mechanically solid.
Then In the Year of the Dragon. I had always assumed my wife would not like it because she doesn't like it when the game forces her to lose stuff. But I think the way I present the game (that you just have to realize that people are temporary) has worked out fairly well cause she and many other players actually quite liked it. I really, really enjoy this game. The fact you only have 12 actions and 11 recruitments per game really makes for a tight tense play. There is a little randomness and a shitton of room for skill. I did not play well by any stretch of the imagination but I did manage to win against 3 noobs. I can't stand any of Feld's other games, but this gets better with every play.
And finally Acquire. It was most like a little late to be playing but I enjoyed it. I did not do well, I don't think my brain works well with this game, but my wife really enjoyed it and maybe we'll get my mother-in-law into this game. Its really a simple game that is also incredibly tense. Between tile draws, hidden stocks, 5P, playing against other players' purchases, its really, really excellent. And unlike Shark, it doesn't seem to run to long for what it is.
Tuesday, playing with colleagues: RR until others arrived Dixit as it became a favorite of the current crowd Santiago de Cuba with those who want something more; I strongly believe this game is best with three. Las Vegas in the end.
Weekend - went to the hills with the choir (rehearsals, hiking, wine tasting). On Friday: Love Letter with my wife and two friends. They all enjoyed it (so did I). Oh Hell! (well, the rules are 90% the same, with two standard decks of cards and now 7 players - damn I had the much more interesting Sluff Off! with me but that's for only 5 players). On Saturday: RR 2x with a friend; I won the first set (2:0) but he catched up speed and won the second (1:2). Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel 3x and lost each one. Still fun short filler. Scum: The Food Chain Game (well, the rules are 90% the same, with two standard decks of cards and now 8 players. I have played so many climbing games since I played it last that I thought a run of cards is also playable so they laughed at me when I tried it. Damn. But well, this is one of the luck factors in the game that can help you get out of the swamp).
On Sunday, after arriving home, one play of 6 nimmt! Junior with my son, now with the "fewer cards collected wins" rule. I'm still not satisfied with this one: it's like Hisss with more complex card placement rules but the same "no decision" gameplay. A game for 5-year-olds should have a little decision-making included at least.
He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
This game is terrible.
It's funny how GREAT it should be, seriously, and then to actually play it and realize how terrible they made it.
It takes too long.
It has long times, scattered throughout the game, where people absolutely need to stop and make decisions.
During this time, the other 3 players have all the information they're going to get, and have already planned, so there is nothing more for them to be working on during this time, except waiting for the other guy to move so you can move your 9 or 12 spaces.
Then, an event hit and a guy lost two turns and all loads. Seriously. Like, he was a turn away from making another 30 million but no, he is the only one stuck there and unable to do anything for two turns. Ridiculously bad event design. They make the game less fun. So take them out, you're still left with the uneven thinking times.
"It's not hard to design a game that works, the real challenge is making one that people want to play again and again."--Martin Wallace
Chicago Express (6p) Eat Poop You Cat (6p) Ladies & Gentlemen (6p) Love Letter (2p) Hive (2p) Innovation (2p) Ingenious (2p)
Nerd Club met last Monday at my neighbor's house, and I do love when I can play multiplayer things without getting in my car. Eat Poop You Cat is an activity, but it was fun to do while we finished dinner.
If I never play Ladies & Gentlemen again, it will still have been worth every cent. There is nothing like watching your big Italian friend beg your quiet brother for a tiara because it matches the parasol he already has. L&G is not a strategy game. It is not. It is improv. It is speaking in an accent and saying ridiculous things and pretending you're a Victorian couple who has no contact whatsoever with hardship or hard work. The game is not a sum of the strategic decisions, nor is it the game mechanisms, which are not novel. It's about the company you have and the ability to let yourself go for a few minutes to take part in a large satire. It's about making cankle jokes when you play a Gossip card.
Having said all that, I really do not know how frequently this can get played and still be funny. As an occasional highly-group dependent filler? Yes. Because, conveniently for me, I happen to have that group.
After L&G, my "wife" said "OK, we need trains, stat." Out came CE. We had 6p, and we use the Erie expansion in that case (the Erie is a fifth company with a single share that opens after one of the industrial cities is reached, and the Erie is the only company that can move Eastward toward NYC from Buffalo). I came in third after botching the endgame, as I was hoping to win the Wabash and get two dividends from it (one when I hit Chicago and one when the game ended). I got zero, as the other players colluded to end the game right there. Crap.
I also introduced a colleague to Innovation last week, and he loved it. He's a former MtG player and seemed to pick things up very quickly. He beat me on Achievements 6-0, as I had nothing to put cards into my score pile and then never could get my Factory engine working as he very quickly outiconned me in everything. I ended the game with 15 whole points. But he spent the weekend getting spanked on Isotropic, and we have plans to play over our lunch hours occasionally.
Ingenious was against my wife, and we played it in bed. She's been sick, and I got to be a nurse, chef, Dad, Handyman, and housecleaner this past weekend. She felt well enough to play Love Letter one night and Ingenious the next.
Outlook for the week is good: usual plans to play cards with my neighbor, my wife has requested Finca, and I'll be spending Friday with my brother. I'll be learning Ascension, of all things, but I'm trading him Glory to Rome for it. How much of this comes to fruition I have no idea. As we know, life intervenes.
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Thursday: another new group for me, this one a budding one organised by a guy I know from BGG (he designed the Pax Porfiriana playmat). It ended up being just him, his friend, me and a Spanish chap who randomly saw the game boxes and introduced himself. Great fun and a nice venue - a vegetarian cafe/bar.
Guildhall - This was... OK. Seems a little long and a little bland. I didn't like the way the game ended either - the first player hit 20VP and won, but two of the three of us would have reached 20 that turn too.
The Palaces of Carrara - I dived straight into the advanced game even though the others hadn't played before, and maybe that was a mistake. By the time they'd got their heads round it, I'd blitzkrieged the game-end objectives, to everyone's surprise. The objectives were 4 city buildings, 20VP on the board and 4 identical objects. I put up 3 Porta buildings in the cheapest city including an 8-cost to upgrade it, scored the city and the Portas to get the VP and objects and then built a random cheap building to end the game. Took about 10 turns!
Las Vegas - hadn't played this in a while and it's just as fun as I remembered. This is what dice fillers should be.
Romans Go Home! - a hit! Really a neat little filler, and I managed to pull off the alternative victory condition.
Saturday: at home
A couple of games of Cribbage with Sarah. I won the first fairly comfortably but she just pipped me to the post in the second.
Another light week of games for me. I did discover Cardline: Animals which I think is really nice as a quick game to play with kids.
(1) Cardline: Animals - This works really well with kids and we tried it three times. Once, we organizing by size, once by weight and once by lifespan. My 5 to 9 year old kids all had no trouble. I did have to show my 5 year old what different lengths were sometimes, but mostly it's just relative so they can make their best guess based on what they know. The Globetrotter version of this game sounds interesting, but I suspect it will be better suited for older kids and adults. This Animals version will probably work with adults too as a very light and quick game.
(2) Love Letter - Tried this again with 3 players after not playing for a while. It went well and we had fun. I still think Mascarade is better, but I thought Love Letter was leaving my collection and maybe it isn't.
Nuns on the Run at a friend's monthly game night. I don't play this much because it's better with more people. We had a good game with 7p, plus I won. The only sad part is that I went home early afterward and later learned I'd missed a Merchant of Venus game.
Some gaming with my mom and brother: Belfort 10 Days in Asia Pastiche We actually got together with the intent of playing Roads & Boats, but clearly we failed.
No Alphabet challenge this week as we're trying to get unplayed games bought at Spiel 2012 onto the table. I only have one game and one expansion left (of the in total 15 titles I purchased), but my gaming partner is not so lucky so we'll be playing these for the next few weeks.
Jerusalem (3P) — An interesting design in that it is a pure majorities game published at a time when this genre was more or less forgotten. That it was sold two years later at massive discounts is not a good sign. Upon playing we discovered that Jerusalem unfortunately wasn't a hidden gem we happened to like: it is dull, and nearly without something to genuinely call its own. Majorities are straightforward and only award first place; this is tied to a very straightforward resource mechanism: money to bid for the turn order and some expensive recruitment of influence; plain influence; and prestige points which have to be turned into tower sections at the end of each turn provided the player has sufficient points. Sections get progressively more expensive the higher the tower becomes. It's like Loyang's prestige path, but then with an obligatory requirement to step forward if you can. The cherries on the cake are action cards (which appear not entirely useless) and a few major events which wreak havoc with all player positions (yay).
And that is all. Quite frankly, while Jerusalem seems to work, I can see no feature whatsoever which would have me pick this over any of the other majorities games I have at my disposal. I suppose that if you have nothing else to choose from it is a moderately OK game... but that's precisely the point. The other games allow various levels of involvement in the regions on the board, but not so Jerusalem with its rather singular approach to them. All sorts of leeching strategies do not work in this game: instead you simply collect influence and pepper it across the board in a rather confrontational manner. I don't think this was a good design decision: majorities don't lend themselves much for this sort of approach. The publisher has gone through a lot of effort to make the game work on a thematic level too, with lots of atmospheric artwork, but frankly all that we grizzled gamers were interested in were the icons, which had been painted in dull and undiscerning colours. Perhaps if Jerusalem had been released 5 to 10 years earlier it might have struck a chord with the gaming population, but in this day and age it feels superfluous and dated. The game is going to be moved to the trade pile.
Pandemic (3P) — Not an unplayed game, but a title none of us had played much in recent years. So we dusted it off, looked up the rules, and started it on Normal level (5 epidemics). Taking advantage of a rather good distribution of coloured cards we first created a medicine against the Red disease in the east, and then eradicated it. By that time the Black disease had grown dangerous in Central Asia, as did the Blue on the west coast of the US, but we managed to keep outbreaks under control until we hit number 7. One more and we would be toast. By that time we had found cures against Yellow (a fairly quiet disease in this game) and Blue (and none too soon, for it proved a tough bugger to clear through normal means). Fortunately I had a bit of luck with the cards, and drew a 4th black card into my hand which I could exchange for a cure on my next turn (as I had the role of the Scientist). We won!
We had a little spot of trouble with the rules about whether in the action of exchanging knowledge the active player could only give or give and receive; we played according to the latter interpretation (which isn't as clearly mentioned in the Dutch rulebook) and it turned out we were right.
I think eradicating the Red disease, although involved, was a good call, as it meant that some of the outbreak cards we drew would have no function. Of course the red location cards would also become less valuable, but on the other hand, they served as quick no-brainer stopovers and discard fodder.
We enjoyed ourselves, and that was nice after the disappointing performance of Jerusalem.
Not much time this week for the list or for gaming.
Last week I played a great game of Homesteaders, opening with a turn 2 Gold Mine (via a turn 1 Pass). The next most experienced player won, using a turn 5 Church. I ended up taking Charity in the final round - perhaps things would have been different if I had taken even more debt.