As has become our weekly tradition, my wife and I got together with friends of ours (brothers Mark and Mike) for dinner, fun conversation, and a couple games.
This week, Mike brought along his copy of Niagra. My wife is not a very heavy gamer - she prefers lighter fare for the most part. Ticket to Ride has been her favorite to date, Carcassone went over well, but Settlers was almost a complete flop. We figured that Niagra would be a nice, light and easy game to try out.
Tracy and I had never played the game, while Mark and Mike had done a couple of dry runs. We started off by playing a couple sample rounds to get a feel for how it worked, then jumped into our first game.
In game 1, Mark wound up winning fairly quickly, by collecting 4 white gems. Highlights of the game included one turn where all of us, except for Tracy, watched our canoes go over the falls. I was also the first person in the group to steal a gem - of course, I made the mistake of stealing that gem from Tracy, and almost wound up sleeping on the couch as a result! Lowlights included several counting errors - Tracy and I especially kept playing tiles either 1 too high, or 1 too low for what we were trying to accomplish. We definitely enjoyed the game though, and since it went so fast, we decided to re-set and play again.
In game 2, Mark again won. This time it took him only 5 or 6 turns. We kept playing this time, ostensibly to see who would take second and third, but really just because we were enjoying the game! In this second game, Mark (and later, Mike and I) really began working both canoes at once. We played with a couple expansions: the 2-slot canoes and the beaver. Mark, in his second turn, had a brilliant move and was able to move his 2-slot canoe to one of the gem areas (the first one on the river - I don't remember if it's brown or purple), grab a pair of gems, then launch his 1-slot canoe to the same area and grab another gem. On his next turn, he was able to land both boats, getting himself 3/4 of the way to a win. Meanwhile, Tracy and I both still had counting issues (maybe it was the wine? ). Ultimately, I took second place, stealing from Tracy again in the process (what can I say, I just don't learn!) and Tracy took third.
This seemed to lend support to one of the rules I read in a geek list recently: When the owner of a game introduces that game to a group, they lose approximately 84% of the time. Poor, poor Mike.
Mike wound up reviewing the rules overnight, and found several minor things we did wrong - which is why this is only a Session Report and not a review: I'll want to get a few more games under my belt and get a full understanding of the rules before I'd feel comfortable submitting a review for it. He also found one significant mistake we made: we played with 9 gems of each type on the board, but should have played with only 7 of each. This would have made competition for the various gems much more intense, and might have shifted our strategies significantly.
But my first impression of the game is that it's a fun game that's pretty easy to pick up. Yes, it seems like it'd be great for families with kids - but it's a good time for grown-ups too!
I would recommend using 2 more gems of each type than you have players, e.g. 5 of each gem with 3 players and 6 of each gem with 4 players. This makes it equally difficult to get 4 of one gem colour no matter how many players there are.