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Subject: A Brief Look at Enemy Chocolatier rss

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Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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In case you're wondering, I’m not exactly in the habit of purchasing Cheapass games. In fact, this brings the number of such games in my collection to the grand total of two (I think I’ve got a copy of Parts Unknown lying around somewhere). And this is entirely on merit. I’ve had a number of Mr. Ernest’s creations foisted on me throughout the years. Button Men is genuinely clever and I thought Witch Trial was quite decent. The rest, uh, not so much.

But this got some enthusiastic comments on the Geek and it appeared to be a sizable step up from the usual Cheapass fare (in terms of gameplay, if not in components), so I took the plunge and risked a whole six dollars on my purchase. After all, in some ways Enemy Chocolatier seems like the anti-Cheapass game. The fidelity to its theme is very tenuous and there’s absolutely no luck. So I thought it was worth a shot.

Naturally, in our very first game, one player managed to break the game wide open. To illustrate this, I’ll have to explain the design a bit.

The players are trying to control neighborhoods, which give them income, VPs, and, in some cases, special powers. To control a neighborhood, you need to buy up all the houses that make it up. At the beginning of the game, you can only buy certain centrally located ones—the rest become available as the game goes on.

But a couple of the neighborhoods have the special ability “Buy Anywhere”, which means you can purchase houses anywhere on the board. This is significant, since one of the ways to win is to buy houses that match the color in your Secret Recipe. And, wouldn’t you know it, one of the Buy Anywhere neighborhoods was available for purchase at the very start in our game. (The game features a random setup, so the chances of this happening are 50%.) One of our players grabbed that neighborhood after a bit of contention and then started snapping up cheap houses all over the board until his recipe had been met. We were powerless to stop him. The only defense was to reach the VP goal first (the other victory condition), but that wasn’t going to happen, or to grab a Buy Closed neighborhood, which would have allowed the purchaser to temporarily force the player to lose his Buy Anywhere power, but there was no time for that either. Basically, our hero had wrapped up the game through the control of this one neighborhood.

It seems to us that allowing such a neighborhood to be available from the start is a design flaw (as the struggle for this one bit of real estate makes the rest of the game seem pretty meaningless). But even without that problem, none of us really felt like this was our kind of game. It’s over very fast, particularly after each player controls one neighborhood. I guess the main skill is scanning the initial setup, seeing a ready path to victory, and hoping that your method is quicker than everyone else’s. There’s choices, there’s skill, it just seemed kind of...so what? I suppose a lover of abstracts looking for something super fast might go for it. And the game does have its fans. It’s just not for us.

So if I have the chance to buy the house of my dreams sometime in the future and I wind up six dollars short, I guess I’ll know what to blame!
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Tim Stellmach
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Larry Levy wrote:
And, wouldn’t you know it, one of the Buy Anywhere neighborhoods was available for purchase at the very start in our game. (The game features a random setup, so the chances of this happening are 50%.)

Not so.

There's one Buy Anywhere neighborhood that's on the edge of its tile. However, only two tiles out of 6 have full face-to-face contact with the Factory. In the upper left or lower right, there's no orientation in which that Buy Anywhere neighborhood starts in contact with the Factory. So the chance of it starting available for purchase is actually 33.3%. Not a huge difference, but still.

It certainly is the case that owning a Buy Anywhere neighborhood is a fast track to finishing your secret recipe, and it's nicer not to have one of those fights at the very beginning of the game (particularly your first game). But then, it seems as though a player could spend a long time trying to close that neighborhood against other players who were aware of what a threat it was.

Granted, even armed with greater experience, you might not prefer to have the game focus so critically on a particular neighborhood one time in three.
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