Thursday, October 29, 2009

29th Oct 2009 Session Report: A New Friend...

I got to know Ivan over the Singapore Boardgame Meetup forums when he posted a thread looking for A Game of Throne LCG players. I too had ordered the game and was eagerly looking for other "kakis" (gaming pals), recognizing that such games had a niche appeal. We arranged a time and he dropped by this evening for a game.

Van was busy so we started with a game of joust. He took Baratheon while I, Lannister, figuring some familiarity from my last play couldn't do any harm. I found out later that he had started reading the books so looks like he is even more into the Game of Thrones universe than I am. The game was a close affair, ending 15-13 in his favour. I was plotting my victory in the next round when he played an event card to stand Robert Baratheon for a military challenge, nabbing 3 power tokens at a go. 1 for the unopposed challenge and 2 for his Renown key word and special ability.

Despite being his first play, Ivan had familiarized himself well with the rules, and we played more carefully, ensuring we took note of the special text on the various cards. Play flowed relatively smoothly and none of the potential timing difficulties of different effects came up.

Though keen at another go, I requested for a change so that Van would join in. I went with Endeavor after spending time last night to run through the rules. They were relatively easy to explain and we began the game without a hitch. It took a few turns to grasp the nuances of the game but it would definitely qualify as a gateway of sorts in my book. It ended 62 (Van) - 55 (Ivan) - 48 (Me).

I like the simplicity of the rules and relatively short playtime. We probably took about 90 min inclusive of setup and rules. The setup and final scoring were a bit of a hassle but still bearable I suppose. It was clear that the game was one of efficiency and potential poster child of eurogames. It was important to manage your status tracks so as to maximize your glory points and occupy strategic cities in a bid to nab connections, both of which award glory points at the end of the game. I remember 2 point cities in the rules but we seemed to have missed them during the game. Will look out for them next time round. Van commented the game felt rather similar to other games, particularly Age of Empires III which she preferred. I am still on the fence, it seems like it might possibly fill a niche in my collection but I will probably need a few more plays before I'm ready to make a decision.

Ivan had some time left so I looked for a short game to intro him to. I wanted to go for China but Van preferred Ra. Van continuing her dominance took the game with 33 points to my 27 and Ivan's 20. It was a particular quick game with the Ra tiles appearing in a flurry in 2 of the 3 rounds. In fact, in those rounds, none of us managed to utilize our numbered tiles fully. Oh well, at least it kept the game short!

27th Oct 2009 Session Report: First Go At A Game Of Thrones LCG

Just received my package of games - Endeavor, Chicago Express, A Game of Thrones LCG and Catan Card Game Expansions Set (Thanks FT!). I've been looking towards this order, particularly A Game of Thrones LCG. I have always been intrigued by CCG gameplay but never got into Magic the Gathering due to its theme and cost. When I found out about the Core Set of A Game of Thrones LCG, it seemed exactly what I was looking for - ready to play decks with an appealing theme, plus a fair dose of complexity to keep things interesting.

I wasn't sure whether it would be Van's cup of tea but she obliged me with a game or two. I started with the Lannister deck and Van with Stark. She whitewashed me 15-0 the first game - ouch! Stark is strong military and once Van got a couple of her characters out, she ended up slaughtering whichever characters I succeeded in marshalling each turn. This led to a couple of unopposed challenges per turn and it wasn't long before she started racking up power tokens.

In the second game, I was wary about lagging in terms of military strength. I leveraged on the wealth of the Lannisters to marshall multiple characters each turn. This gave me a significant advantage and despite Van utilizing a particular vicious plot card which wiped out all characters in play, my victory wouldn't be denied. I took the game 15-4.

The joust format (1 vs. 1) didn't seem as interesting as the melee format (multiplayer) as described in the rules. Van seemed bored by it so my hopes of attracting her with the game appeared to be dashed. I personally liked the variety of card effects though we missed quite a few due to our unfamiliarity with them. The timing of card actions, passive effects and responses also seemed a tat complicated despite having gone through the FAQ. Hopefully it will be clearer with further plays. I usually get rid of games that don't even marginally appeal to Van but this might be the exception - for some reason, such gameplay does appeal to me. Perhaps just perhaps, trying the melee format might improve her perception of it somewhat - enough for her to play it once awhile. Oh well, one can always hope (:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

20 Oct 2009 Session Report: A New Kind Of Monopoly...

Mel and Liz came over for dinner tonight. Mel being early took the opportunity to teach us a game he had been gushing about for some time - Monopoly Deal Card Game. Mel has never been much of a gamer outside of sports and computer games so it was a surprise to me that he had taken so much to a card game.

We played 4 games over the course of the night with me taking 2 games, while Van and Mel took the other 2 respectively. I must say I was somewhat impressed by the fun generated. The game is heavily luck-dependent and the winner usually boils down to the one who draws the right (best) cards. But I love the "take-that" feature of the game. We initially played with our individual banked money hidden but subsequently we played with it revealed and my my, what a brutal game (in a good way at least for me!) it evolved into. It allowed us to specifically target opponents low in cash so as to takeover their properties. There were also some of those moments which got the whole table in an uproar. The one which remained in my mind was the one when Van used her 1st action to rob me of my yellow set + house (which I stole from her earlier) with the Deal Breaker and followed it up by calling for rent combined with the Double Rent card. Ouch!

Some cards like the Deal Breaker are very powerful and may boil down to the luck of the draw. Nonetheless with its short game length and rather addictive nature, it appears to be an excellent filler. In fact, I probably enjoy it more than No Thanks! at the moment...

Other games played were China (Me 61, Van 50, Mel 39) and Liar's Dice (both games won by me).

12th Oct 2009 Session Report: 2-player Le Havre

Van surprised me by offering to game tonight so I took advantage of her enthusiasm to have a go at the full game of Le Havre. Our only previous attempt at 2-player was the shortened game which felt somewhat abrupt so I was reluctant at attempting it again despite the attractive playtime.

Van took the win 260+ to 230+ and I noted that we took as long (about 2 hours) to finish our 2-player game as our 3-player game with Marcus. My AP (analysis paralysis) contributed somewhat to the time taken as I guess I wasn't used to the short intervals between decisions. With 2 players, you have not just more actions to take over the course of the full game but they also come fast and furious at times since you take every alternate action.

I realized that there's a nice strategic and tactical tension in the game. I aimed for a coke shipping strategy but I discovered that I could blindly pursue that strategy without first evaluating the most profitable action each turn. Le Havre after all is still an efficiency game and a player taking the most tactically superior action each turn will probably do well. This evaluation however isn't easy with the number of buildings which increases over the course of the game. Comparing the piles of resources available may be more straightforward but definitely not when compared to possible returns when taking building actions. One may opt for a coke shipping strategy but the timing as to when to take the necessary steps towards the strategy is highly significant.

I clearly made some sub-optimal moves in the game, pursuing the strategy on turns when superior tactical moves were available. This lead me to be shut out of the solitary Wharf for a significant period which led to my downfall as I accumulated 8 loans and struggled to feed myself subsequently as the requirements rose. I waited for Van to build the Wharf but made a mental mistake when I realized I lacked the necessary resources to build a wooden ship. The rest was history...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

8th Oct 2009 Session Report: 2-Player Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale has been on the trading block for awhile but seeing the lack of interest, I decided to have another go at it with Van. One of the common complains of the 2-player game is that it only cycles through 40% of the cards. As such I opted to play 10 rounds of the draft so that every card would pass through our hands.

First, the good points. The game definitely felt much less random than before when I played with 3. Choices were more tactical in deciding which cards to pick for personal use and which to pick so as to deprive your opponent. There is also a need to prioritize when you obtain a hand with a few attractive cards. You basically aim to leave the card you want which is most unattractive to your opponent, in hope that it will be returned to you. The fact that all cards came into play also meant that combos were more meaningful and we were actively looking out for cards that would complement the cards in our tableau.

On the other hand, the fact that we cycled through all the cards meant those with * and *3 dominated. I took the win with 161 points mainly due to the reason that I paid more attention to those cards than Van. I checked out some other 2-player variants at BGG and suspect I will adopt one which allows about 60-80% of the cards to be cycled through instead. This will hopefully balance out the strength of the * and *3 cards versus the 1 and 6/7/8 pointers.

And while we paid more attention to each other's cards this time round, the natural instinct is still to give more attention to the cards you are pursuing. Perhaps this was down to inexperience because as the cards in our tableau grew, we paid decreased attention to what each other was acquiring.

The level of interaction is still dissatisfactory but the 2-player game is far more interesting than with 3. Not gonna take it off the trading block just yet but I'm definitely keen to try the game with 4 where partnerships can be formed, and is widely regarded as THE way to play the game.

6th Oct 2009 Session Report: Catan Card Game Revisited...

Van offered to game with me on my off day. I suggested either Catan Card Game or Le Havre since I was in the mood for something heavier. Expectedly, Van picked Catan Card Game which was a game we both enjoyed but haven't played in awhile after our spurt of 10+ tournament styled games. On a side note, I traded for an extra set of the game recently and made an order for the expansions set. Looking forward to deck build with the full array of cards.

Instead of using our previous decks, Van suggested just picking randomly. Not fully understanding what she meant, I proceeded to divide the cards into 2 and getting us to pick 33 from the pile we ended up with. My deck was built around trade ships and resource doublers. It paid off quickly with me successfully rushing to my 5th settlement before Van. I was doing well and had a commerce advantage, which allowed me to rob Van a couple of times.

However, the turning point came when Van built a Marketplace which allowed her to take hold of the Windmill token which was in my control for most of the game. This was coupled with an early Pirate ship attack of one of my trade ships. I was slow to regain the advantage, perhaps somewhat complacent that I was inching towards victory. Alas, I was at 12 VPs ready to claim victory the next round when Van snatched it before my very eyes with another VP build. Despite generating resources at a slower pace, she was successful in running out a couple of red buildings. This together with control of both the Knight and Windmill tokens was sufficient for the win.

I realized while I probably built a stronger deck than her, I was reluctant to spent resources searching out the right cards often enough. As such, most of my action cards failed to see the light, and I ended up building for VPs with the cards in hand rather than sourcing for those with appropriate abilities.

Even with deck building, the game didn't take overtly long which was a plus. Looking forward to the full tournament game where we would no longer need to share cards. A hefty investment purchasing 2 sets of the original and expansions set but I guess it's worth it considering Van likes the game and it scratches the CCG deck-building itch. I also recently ordered A Game of Thrones LCG Core Set which I'm looking forward to, but I suspect that will be more for the CCG play as I'm unlikely to be willing to fork out the extra dough for deck building, which would easily trump that of the Catan Card Game with expansion packs being released monthly.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Do I Think Of My Games?

Added comments to all my current and former games at BGG. Got a bit lazy so kept most short and sweet. I'm one who typically view the glass half empty so even for games I rate highly, I seem to have more criticism than praise. I guess I have almost always found criticisms more helpful to me in evaluating potential purchases, so I'm just returning the favour.