Players: Nige, Mark K, Garry
Just three of us this week but two new games to try out. Mammoth Hunters is the latest in the Alea big box series, produced in English by Rio Grande. Yet again, Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum seem to have come up with another winner - we didn't hit the problems that others seem to have reported and, although I suggested playing three instead of four rounds, we went for the full four and wrapped up the game in about 75 minutes.
In each round you attempt to place your hunters in areas close to the mammoths. However, others are doing the same and each area will only support a limited (and, until the end of the round, uncertain) number of hunters. In addition, to be able to place and move hunters, you play 'light' cards which cost a certain number of rocks (the game's currency) and to get rocks you need to play 'dark' cards, which benefit your opponents. So, each round you have to balance the play of light and dark cards in an attempt to further your cause more than your opponents. This mechanism of helping your opponents ensures the game remains close, as you don't choose to help the leader and, if you fall behind, others will tend to play cards to help you rather than others. Some have suggested this makes most of the game pretty academic, but I'm not sure I agree as the later rounds tend to build in tension as the play area contracts (the ice age is coming and the board becomes progressively covered in uninhabitable areas of ice), and more conflict takes place. At the end of each round, hunters from the weaker tribes are killed off to satisfy the population limit of each area and then each remaining hunter scores points depending on how many mammoths are in the same region. Highest total after the end of the fourth round wins.
Our game was very close. We each had a good, bad and mediocre round during the first three scorings. In the final round, I chose to try and go for glory by moving a second mammoth into my strongest region, having judged that there weren't many more cards that would move mammoths left in people's hands. However, Mark K managed to become the strongest tribe in that region and with campfires totaling a big fat zero, the population toll became just too great for me. One more campfire would have let me win in the tie-breaker but, as it was, Nige managed to hold on for the win. As a three player game, this worked very well. The addition of one or two more players will certainly add to the playing time and it may outstay its welcome if it runs to more than two hours but, for now, I really enjoy Mammoth Hunters.
Result: Nige 44, Mark K 43, Garry 41
Ratings: Nige 8, Mark K 8, Garry 7