Eric then departed, leaving John and I to wrap up the evening with two 2-player games.
The first was Kontor, a game I had only played once before at the Gathering. However, we had misplayed a few important rules and failed to appreciate the significance of the scoring method. Thus, I was anxious to give the game another try.
Kontor looks good and the when reading the rules one keeps thinking that this is going to be an exciting, challenging game. Somehow it isn't. There just isn't much tension present. Save for one struggle over control of an island, we each did our own thing and quietly constructed our own islands without any interference from each other. This is exactly what occurred in my first game with Al Newman. The result: a fairly dull game.
In Kontor, players alternate laying tiles, attempting to form islands and take control of those islands. An island is formed when it is completely surrounded by water pieces (or the edge of the 7x7 board). Each 'land' piece depicts a commodity or commodities (wine, spice or tea). The player holding the greatest single superiority in one type of commodity wins control of the island. So, if I have 3 spices, 2 tea chests and 2 wines, while John has 3 tea chests, 2 wines and 1 spice, I'll win the majority as I have a superiority in spice of 'two' over John, the greatest single superiority. Thus, I'd take control of the island.
At game's end (when the 7x7 grid is completely filled with pieces), the five largest islands are scored. The person controlling the most of these five islands is victorious. There is a process to determine the largest islands if several tie for this status.
One would think that players would constantly struggle for control of the islands as they are forming. However, it is usually in one's best interest to avoid doing just that. It is usually much more advantageous to simply work on your own islands, building them to levels of 3 or 4 land pieces before finishing them. John and I did have a nice, tense struggle for control of one island, but that's it. All other islands developed unhindered.
Why? Well, it quickly becomes apparent that the player who lays the first tile in an island has a 'leg-up' on his opponent. I could try to contest by laying another piece, but then he'll likely follow by laying yet another piece, and so on. Sure, we both used the 'ship' piece (which can force an opponent to remove a piece from the board IF that land piece has a ship symbol on it and has an adjacent water piece), but it, again, was sort of a 'tit for tat' procedure. This one contest did prove quite intense and if the entire game was like this, I'd be eager to play it again and again. However, it was the ONLY struggle we had, with the rest of the game simply being 'you lay a tile, I'll lay a tile'. A shame.
I'm sure if one had a remarkable memory he could track exactly what tiles a player held in his hand (they are drawn from face-up stacks). A player then might be able to calculate if the tile mix in each player's hand was at the right mixture so as to make a conflict over an island worthwhile. However, this 'memorization' would prove to be painful to most gamers who attempted this procedure and would undoubtedly slow the game down tremendously.
Maybe I'm missing something here. As mentioned, the game READS well, but so far it seems rather dull and unexciting. I'm certainly going to try it again and sincerely hope my opinion changes.
In any case, I bested John, 3 - 2.
Ratings: Both 4's.