W. Eric Martin
With a half-hour left in the evening for both me and Max, I pushed for Viva Pamplona, a game new to Max, Dave, and Sarah. After going over the brief rules, we then ran the strangest VP game I've ever encountered. The bull charged only once, and otherwise was galloping 3, 4, or 5 spaces each turn. We kept saying that the bull had to stop at some point and gambled by keeping our dudes close, but the bull entered the arena before anyone else. After paying the penalties, Dave won with a grand score of 4, Max and Sarah tied for second with 1, and I finished with exactly 0.
Everyone was convinced that the bull movement was an aberration, so despite bumping against the half-hour mark, we set up the race and played again. The bull stuttered more in this game, moving 1 or 2 spaces several times, but it charged only twice. Unfortunately, Sarah netted beaucoup points the second time, and combined with decent arena placement, she won with 53 points. I had 47, Dave had 40-something, and Max threw in his chips in disgust as his dudes were the first in the arena and had been bullied far more than they had bullied.
Taking a closer look at the bull deck gives a breakdown of:
3 Movement 1
3 Movement 2
5 Movement 3
3 Movement 4
2 Movement 5
This gives 46 spaces of movement divided over 22 cards, which means on average the bull moves a little more than 2 spaces each turn. In our first game, we must have drawn all the 5s and 4s with only one Charge -- a strange mix, but one that's bound to occur in a card-based game. I have also had a game in which the bull charged again and again without moving as the pawns moved far, far away, scoring everyone no points and making the game more about arena placement and bullying than machismo.
Some people I've introduced Viva Pamplona to have soured on the game after one race, yet I find it delightful -- as long as everyone takes their turns within 15 seconds or so. Yes, you have decisions to make, but they're not so complicated that you have to explore every possibility of movement. You have to consider bullying, traveling in packs for safety, or being near the bull; just consider quickly and keep the game moving!