Four of the normal gang got together for some gaming and hockey watching action. Three of us were there early enough to watch a rather uneventful second period of Senators vs Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. Go Sabres Go! (yeah, don't try to make sense of that...) There was some utterly atrocious Play-by-Play on CBC...so bad that we turned off the TV sound and listened to the radio broadcast. Our fourth showed up and after some chit-chat we ventured downstairs to break out some games.
The guys were stunned, stunned I say, when I claimed to have a new game for which I already knew the rules, and they wanted proof. Among others, I had brought along Taluva. This was the only game I brought that caps at four players, and since we were only four this day I figured it may be one of the only chances to get it on the table. Most often we are 5 or 6, which limit things somewhat.
I had picked up this game in the recent weeks and already had quite a few plays in against my 6 year old son. (See my Child's Play Session Report at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/160026 for how that's going.) I've been itching to play it with more serious, backstabbing and evil players. Luckily there is no shortage of this kind of player in our group!
The first game was a quicky, learning the rules affair. I probably had an unfair advantage, having played this game with my son a good number of times already -- I already had a couple of tricks to try while the other guys were figuring things out. The game ended with a premature win for me after I exhausted my three temples and two towers. I was able to build to an uncontested third level in one area to place the second tower, and the way my huts were situated the others could not pop enough to prevent this.
The second game was much tighter. Three of us each had both towers in play while the fourth couldn't find a foothold in the high ground. People started interfering with each other much earlier and more viciously. And by 'people', I mean two of the others. OK, me too. The fourth was going for a more 'enlightened self-interest' approach. My last move allowed this fellow to leap frog into third place, but also put me in position to place 3 of my huts. This gave me a tie with one of other cut-throaters. Even though Mr Self Interest had the same number of temples placed as us, we beat him on towers. Having tied both on towers and huts, we were left to share the victory.
One back-stabber was wondering what he did in that game to end up in such a bad place. We theorized that he was so focused on disrupting other people that he didn't do enough to advance his own position. So while there was a good amount of 'bash the leader' and 'screw the fellow on your left', it didn't prove to be a viable strategy by itself -- there's some balance you need to succeed.
The third game was the most tense, from my perspective. There was a lot of interference going on here. I was finally able to pull off the move I wanted to do all night -- build a settlement to a size that can support a temple, break the settlement where the temple joins and then build another temple. All night long the fellow on my right would always anticipate this and break things up before I could pull it off. Finally getting this proved to be the game breaker in the third match. The guys saw immediately what I was doing, but the positioning of my huts didn't allow them to break up my settlement. One hut was in a valley and others were on the second level, but in such a way that no tile could fit to pop them. It was still tight -- I needed to get a second temple out otherwise the fellow I tied with in the previous game would win on the strength of his two towers. On the penultimate turn, I was able to get a settlement on multiple levels (again with one hut in a valley) which would require four tiles in order for enough to be popped to stop me. With only three opponents, this wasn't going to happen before I placed the temple. Being the only one with all three temples in play, I took the game.
This is a very fun little game that can be extremely annoying, but in a good way as there can be lots to think about. Playing four players against backstabbers is quite different than playing two player against my son. It's more tense for one, and more back-stabby for another. It can fill a couple of roles, from light, fast fun to serious cut-throat play. The games are over quickly, so it can be a fun filler, but so far the play is engaging enough that it can be the only game we play that night.
It's too bad that it caps at 4 players. This will prevent us from getting it on the table on a regular basis.
And I determined that my suspicion was correct -- the 'premature' ending is more common (almost unavoidable) in the 2 player game, while the 'normal' ending is much more likely when playing 4 players. It would be interesting to play with 3 cut-throat players to see which is more likely.