Saturday, December 25, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
1. Universal App or iPad version? Since the main attraction for me is really playing the game on-the-go with friends round the table on an iPad.
2. Game I haven't tried or one I don't like enough to own? At the price of a Starbucks Frappe, a mighty attractive option for sure.
3. Online implementation of some sorts? Samurai has been highly addictive in its asynchronous online mode, 'nuff said.
4. Round-the-table/Hot-seat multiplayer format? The pass-and-play format doesn't appeal to me since I find it easier to get others to sit around and stare at a 10" screen then to pass a device around. Boo for the games with hidden info though...
5. Plays more than 2? Smallworld would be a straight purchase if not for the developers nerfing it to only 2 player multi.
6. Price. My current inclination is to pay US$4.99 for a game with online capabilities like Samurai and Carc and US$2.99 for a game without, like NS Hex and Tichu.
Not all my purchases so far meet all the criteria but check out mostly:
Tichu - Misses on 2 & 4. 3 on the way.
Samurai - Misses only on 4 due to hidden info.
Carc - All hits baby!
Roll Through The Ages - Misses only on 3. Unlikely but at least AI on the way.
NS Hex - Misses on 4 due to hidden info. 3 on the way.
I hate gushing but Carc and Samurai are superbly done. All future releases should hopefully seek to emulate what they offer.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Samurai: Tad more expensive but definitely a very polished product. Online implementation is fantastic. If I use Word with Friends as a benchmark for asynchronous play, this beats it for the ability to set a time limit for each move and online leader boards. I purchased it primarily for future iPad play (but got it now in case of price increase), but I've to say, I'm enjoying the AI/online play tremendously at the moment. I've never played Samurai before I purchased the app. It's probably not a game I need to own a physical copy of as it can be somewhat abstract, but at US$4.99, it's a steal as a substitute.
Neuroshima Hex!: Also a game I've never tried before I bought the app and I must say I rather enjoy it. Playing it even more than Samurai even though it's just against the AI. It is priced more attractively due to lack of online implementation at the moment but developers say it's 'akan datang' (on the way). Suspect price will go up then, so I decided to grab it first. Also another game I don't need a physical copy of, but I can see myself playing it with others over an iPad.
1. Beautiful graphics and interface
2. Be upgraded as universal app soon
3. While multiplayer is in 'hot-seat' format, I see F2F viable on an iPad since there's no hidden info
4. Upcoming AI which should breathe some life into the game after accomplishing the solo achievements
1. No online implementation of any form and none promised.
2. Info divided in separate menus where it would be nice to have it all on one screen. With no separate app for the iPad, I seriously doubt this will change with the universal app.
3. Limited number of solo achievements and current ones aren't too challenging
4. Optimal play seems to always begin with building cities to max out the number of dice available
I suppose the last point is sort of unfair since it's an issue with the game more so than the app. I have never played RTtA before and reviews never convinced me the physical game warranted a purchase due to its multi-player solitaire gameplay. The app (especially at a discounted price of US$2.99) gave me adequate impetus to give it a go. It definitely didn't make me feel as good about the money spent as compared to the Samurai, Carcassonne apps, but I suspect the disappointment is more with the game than the app itself.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Santiago has been on my radar for some time. The only negatives I garnered from the reviews that concerned me were that it was somewhat abstract and that it really only played well with 5 players. Having played it once, I can see why some may criticize it as abstract but it carries sufficient theme not to put me off. I realized recently that while pure abstract games are a no-no for me, some attempt to infuse theme is usually adequate for my tastes as long as the mechanics are interesting enough. Santiago fits the bill for me and even playing with 4 on my first attempt has proved it to be a real gem. It plays quicks (45-60min) with good depth and has straightforward rules which makes it accessible for the casual or perhaps even non-gamer. It reminds me of Chicago Express (another game I'm fond of) in these aspects. However, the auction mechanics are somewhat different and in my opinion, that is where Santiago's brilliance lies.
There are 2 'auction' phases in each round. In the first, players bid for plantation tiles revealed for the round. Each player has to bid a different sum (with the exception of passing) but need not bid a sum higher than the previous bidder. A higher bid will give one the opportunity to pick a more desirable plantation tile. While the tiles which allow for 2 workers are clearly more popular, the kind of crop desired depends on the plantations which each player is attempting to expand. An early pass empowers the player with the role of the canal overseer which accords him the opportunity to earn from bribes or potentially sabotage the productivity of his opponents' plantations.
The 2nd 'auction' phase isn't a typical auction per se but a clever mechanic in which players attempt to influence the decision of the canal overseer with their 'bribes'. The overseer can either take the bribe and follow the proposed canal placement or he can choose to outbid the highest bid to place the canal wherever he desires. The overseer is free to pick any bribe he desires even if it isn't the highest offer - this places immense power in his hands since any damage made to non-irrigated plantations is irreversible. I love this mechanic! It feels like a negotiation game without...the negotiation! One issue I have with games like Chinatown is that it seems to alienate introverted players who may not be so comfortable 'wheeling and dealing' while giving an edge to more vocal, persuasive players. I suppose that's the point of negotiation games but yet an aspect which probably won't go down well with my gaming group. On the other hand, this Santiago facilitates 'negotiation' through a simple once-round mechanic. Sure, banter may help tilt the overseer's decision but ultimately, it boils down to the bribe offered and the board position.
Overall, Santiago is a definite keeper for me!
Havana on the other hand has some interesting mechanics but the means for VP acquisition is mildly disappointing. I enjoy the role selection mechanic which is reminiscent of Citadels, but is enhanced in that the combination of cards chosen further determines turn order. Each subsequent turn only allows the change of a single role card which makes the decision all the more agonizing. Each player also begins with a fixed hand of role cards which means that a role once discarded cannot be repeated till late in the game (when one is left with 2 cards in hand) or by using a specific role to retrieve a previously discarded card. Unfortunately, the game is let down by an uninteresting VP acquisition mechanic based around purchasing buildings. Buildings vary in terms of resources required and VPs rewarded. This reminds me similar mechanics in Stone Age and Keythedral, which took those games a few notches down for me. Havana could have taken some tips from Citadels in this regard by assigning some buildings with special powers. In the case of Citadels, purple buildings allow certain rules to be broken while others provide income bonuses, which adds a set collection dimension to the game.
All in all, some good ideas packed in a quick, relatively accessible game but comes across unpolished due to a rudimentary VP acquisition mechanic.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Interestingly, in my recent 4-player game in which I discovered my mistake, I scored an obscene number of points by pursuing the strategy alone (since I only realized the mistake halfway, I decided that we should continue with it for consistency). I leveraged on the 2 spots on the supervisor's track which allowed me to send 2 goods to the caraven simultaneously. No one challenged me for the buildings linked to those spots since they were generally unattractive in terms of building points and there was just a general disinterest in the caraven and hence supervisor movement. So despite only scoring the caraven once when it filled, I had all the camels filled with my tokens except for one by the mid of the final week. By the time my opponents were on to my strategy, they were more or less helpless to stop me.
With the proper rule in play however, I except much keener competition for the caraven slots which is a boon since it not only opens another viable path to victory but also an area which requires your attention even if you are not going to major on it. Without enough attention from all players, I can see how a player who pursues the Caraven strategy will simply run away with the whole game, especially when coupled with the building power that allows you to draw a card each time you send a cube of yours to the caraven. If the stars line up and you have control of the buildings which flank the same spot on the supervisor's path, you get to send 2 cubes and draw 2 cards - all in a single turn! Ouch :D
Saturday, August 28, 2010
3. Discovered a new 'broken' combo in Glory to Rome. If you've played the game before, you'll know that almost every decent combo can be a 'broken' one. It really boils down to who can get theirs up and running quickly enough. In my 30+ games of GtR, I've NEVER built the Academy before. After all, its power seems rather 'ordinary' at first glance, especially when considered beside its more awe-inducing counterparts. The Academy allows you one Thinker action after each round in which you performed a Craftsman action.
I guess with my recent dabbling in A Game of Thrones LCG, I've learnt how crucial draw can be in determining a win. In this case, I sort of stumbled upon it having taking a couple of Craftsman clients in a 3 player game. What the Academy allows me to do therefore is to exhaust my hand using multiple Craftsman actions and then replenish it fully to 5. It not only enabled me to build speedily but helped me in my push to victory. It's one of the easier combos to pull off since you do not require other buildings in tandem but rather just a couple of Craftsman clients. Sure, your opponents can slow you down by refusing to craft but in a game with few players, it will not be long before you can select the Craftsman action yourself. In this game, I didn't get to build the Shrine or Temple to increase my hand size but I can imagine how it'll make the combo even more efficient.
4. The caravan strategy in Yspahan has been touted as especially powerful and different ones have even gone to the extent to deem it broken. In my 3-player game, I found it incredibly difficult to pull off successfully if your opponents totally ignore the caravan. It is simply impossible to fill quickly enough and the game ended without me succeeding in scoring the caravan once (it only scores when it fills completely). I however only realized midway through that there is a single spot on the supervisor track which allows 2 cubes to be sent to the caravan simultaneously. Perhaps that will be sufficient to pursue the strategy - I'll have to try it out again. Even if your opponents try to block you, at least you will still be able to fill the caravan more quickly even if it means sending their cubes together with yours.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
It was a tough call, but I decided to sell Chinatown even before I unwrapped it. It seems to play best with 5, which was a number I seldom get to play with. Furthermore, for those rare occasions with 5, I would much prefer to bring El Grande or PoF to the table. I was also hesitant about the negotiation mechanic which was largely what the game was about. It seems to require a certain group for the game to truly take-off.
Hopefully, I will get a session going next week. Still waiting to try Yspahan. Tried Dixit 2 about 4 times with my non-gamer friends and they generally enjoyed it. I can see how repeated plays will lead to diminishing utility but I can see the appeal with the masses. My only attempt to teach Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg was miserable as I struggled with the rules explanation, having not played the game before. The game ended on a false declaration (due to an unclear communication of the victory conditions by me) but the run-through gave me a better idea of the game flow and left me a little more confident to explain the rules in future. The game did intrigue me nonetheless and I look forward to bring it to the table soon.
Monday, May 31, 2010
American Rails plays similar to Chicago Express which I own. And I have to admit, it's probably the better game. You get to start anywhere on the board unlike CE's fixed positions, which enhances replayability and offers more strategic options. Secondly, the action mechanism reminiscent of Steam also puts it above CE. I like the fact that each action can only be selected by one player each time round, and your choice of action will determine your turn order subsequently. It definitely adds more depth to the game. The game felt a lot more open, less predictable and many more options available with what you can and want to do with the different companies.
The sole advantage CE has over AR is perhaps its gateway potential. I like the fact that you reduce each player turn effectively down to only 3 options: Auction, Develop, or Expand. However, I find the whole Wabash addition once a company hits Chicago fiddly. Sure it adds an extra layer to the decision-making but new players tend to struggle wrapping their head around that part of the game. Nonetheless, the components of CE are far more attractive and I suppose that always serves as an important hook for casual/non-gamers.
Mid-week, the usual gang came over for our weekly fix of A Game of Thrones LCG. Can't remember much except that Jo (Greyjoy) and I (Lanni) took a close one from Ben (Bara) and Ivan (Martell). We ended off with Ra and Ivan took his first win in that, completely demolishing the rest of us. After Ben left, we managed to squeeze in a game of Dominion:Intrigue and a game of Citadels before calling it a day.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Ivan and my strategy was to ignore Jo and concentrate on Ben to garner power in lieu of Martell's characters with the Vengful mechanic (stand vengful characters when you lose as in defence) as well as triggered effects in the same vein. Ben was thumbed down most of the game with minimal characters and Ivan and I took advantage of that to make unopposed challenges.
Jo got off to a fast start in the second game with his Stark deck. My Lannister deck had limited attachments and he killed off my best characters each turn with Bear Island. Ben wasn't faring much better with good income but limited characters to play after being an Intrigue target of Ivan's.
Ivan had to leave after and the 3 of us ended off with Glory to Rome. Ben and Jo have not played the game much as compared to some of my other gaming partners, and seemed generally lukewarm towards it. I had a couple of good draws and managed to get an obscene combo going with Circus Maximus, Bridge, Collosseum and the Wall. Subsequently, I completed the Temple and Shrine and got my max hand size up to 11. I ended the game by using the remaining in-town sites.
With 3, the optimal strategy seems to be getting as many Craftsmen into your client as quickly as possible. Even if your opponents try to starve you of that action, each time you Craft can be a devastating turn, especially with good buildings available.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
In the first, I teamed up with Jo and his Targaryen deck while Ben teamed up with Ivan who played Greyjoy. In the second, I paired with Ben against Jo and Ivan.
Ivan introduced a new card Wharf Rats which was a real pest. Basically you play the character under the control of your opponent and gift your opponent with a 2M character which cannot be killed. Sounds like a boon so far? Here's the kicker - as long as Wharf Rats remain under your control, you discard a card each time you win a challenge, be it in attack or defence. I ended up discarding a third of my deck. While I suppose it isn't a deathblow by any means considering its 3 gold cost and the additional character granted to your opponent. Nonetheless, being on the receiving end of it, I can attest it was a real annoyance. It also effectively nullified the ability of my Lion Heralds to search the deck for desired cards. In fact, since Wharf Rats is a non-unique card, Ivan could foreseeably play 3 of them on me. Yikes!
Ivan left after the AGoT LCG games while the remaining 3 continued with Tribune. Jo continued his amazing streak at the game, acheiving the 5 victory conditions at the end of the 3rd round. We wanted to try the victory point varient for a change but feared there was inadequate time. Nonetheless I doubt it will change my impressions significantly about the game.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Jo played Targayen while Ivan opted for Greyjoy which seems to have usurped Stark as his fav house. The game started with us closely matched but Ivan blew it open in the 7th and 8th rounds, playing the Rise of the Kraken plot card consecutively. That is a claim 2 card with an extra power token for each unopposed challenge. Yup, it plays as strong as it sounds. He was basically unstoppable especially with the ridiculous inititive of 8 on that plot card too. He picked us apart and romper to victory with Jo and I still at single digit power tokens.
Is Rise of the Kraken overpowered? Probably but perhaps not extremely so that it warrents a ban. Nonetheless, I do wish that the initiative wasn't so ridiculously high that the Greyjoy player not only gets free pick of the titles but also starts the attack. I figure that the other players need to pin down the Greyjoy player early in the game in preparation for the big swing when that plot card comes into play, possibly in 2 consecutive rounds.
The Lannistar deck I played with still needs tweaking. Hopefully I'll have a chance to do so next week.
We ended off with Hansa Teutonica which Van joined us for. This game just continues to shine. I went hard for actions from the get-go, being first to 5. Racked up a nice number of bonus markers too as the flips were attractive, contributing to my score.
I really have no major complains about the game. It IS abstract but doesn't feel that way like true abstract games in the vein of Ingenious and Blokus. The abstractness of Taj Mahal got to me but this one hardly bothers me one bit. I'm seriously thinking of taking my rating up to a 10 on this one.
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Monday, April 5, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
When the full group arrived, we started with Battlestar Galactica. I wanted to use the no-Sympathizer variant but wasn't sure how to further tweak the resources in view that the shortened game variant was a staple. We decided to stick with the Sympathizer in the end. Jo was toaster from the start but sort of gave himself away when he opted not to allow his loyalty card to be checked as offered by one of the Crisis deck cards. We promptly brigged him and he chose to remain brigged in an effort to waste our skills cards instead of revealing. We soon caught on and refrained from throwing in additional skills cards. Furthermore Ben who was playing as Tom Zarek used his special ability to increase the difficulty of the skill check by 2 each time, and successfully halted any attempt to escape by Jo.
Jo lost his Admiral powers, but having already slowed us in our first FTL jump by choosing a destination of distance one. Wei Ning ended up with both the Admiral and President powers somewhere along the line, which spelt doom for us if he too was Cylon. Thankfully for the human race, he proved reliable and Ivan turned out to be the 2nd Cylon after receiving a dubious loyalty card at the Sleeper phase. We had multiple resources in the red by then, which meant it was 4-2 in favour of the humans. We managed to pull out a victory with the Cylons making their move perhaps a little too late.
Jon had to leave after, so the remaining 5 of us proceeded with a game of Chicago Express. The 5 player dynamics proved rather different from the 3-player game which is what I'm more familiar with. You have much less control in the 5-player game and it is far harder to claw back ground after a bad move. As it turned out, I overpaid for the 2nd red share and failed to acquire a monopoly over any of the train companies. It was a close game with the top 3 separated by a single dollar. Wei Ning took the win on his first play - great job!
Wei Ning left soon after and then there were 4, which meant it was time for A Game of Thrones LCG with the usual gang. We had limited time so we paired up and agreed to play till 20 power tokens as a team. I took Lannister as usual and paired with Jo who played as Greyjoy. Ivan and Ben took Targaryen and Baratheon respectively. It was a close one with Jo's combo of the 'Rise of the Kraken' plot card and the 'Assault of the Kraken' event card clinching the win. The plot card gave him an additional power token for each unopposed challenge with a claim of 2. The event card allowed him an additional power challenge that turn provided both were unopposed. This is an awesome clincher combo for Greyjoy and reaped us the 6 power tokens needed for the win.
Friday, March 12, 2010
I had an amazing opening hand, filled with gold producing locations AND characters. Before long, I was running up an income of around 8 each round and was unstoppable as I increased my characters in play. Valar nor Bear Island was in play thankfully and I rushed to 15 power tokens rather comfortably. In a melee game, I made it a point to target Greyjoy rather than Martell for fear of the latter's backlash effects. Ivan struggled with the lack of income locations in his deck - definitely an area he intends to tweak for our next session.
The second game was a much closer affair. I opted for Martell this time round, with Jo trying Greyjoy and Ivan going his new fav - Stark. While he opted not to carry Valar as a plot choice, his Bear Island was nonetheless devastating, having a free kill during dominance of any character without an attachment. It not only depletes your opponents' stock of powerful characters (particularly those with he 'no attachments' trait) but puts him in good stead to win dominance each round. However I played it right this time recognizing Bear Island gives one kill and not one from each opponent which would make it absolutely ridiculous in melee.
Jo also struggled with income, noting he had powerful cards yet was unable to play them. I had no idea how I inched ahead them to win especially when I started unimpressively. But what wa probably integral was Arianne Martell who allows an extra claim for each winning battle she participates in. Considering she had a power icon coupled with a few turns where I had non-kneeling effects, I racked up the power tokens in a jiffy. I suppose it was fortunately I was able to keep her safe from the Bear Island effects by giving her an attachment at the point I marshalled her.
I was keen to play Hansa after but Ivan suggested Chicago Express, not having tried it before. I was surprised to have pulled this game in 2 consecutive seasions. I still have high regard for the game as my pas posts on it indicate but I have to admit the game does feel a little samey with the same player count (which has been 3 for my group). In most cases, Red is the one reaching Chicago first. However, this time round, we split the Red shares evenly so it was Jo and I pushing Blue towards Chicago and reaping the attractive payout afterwards. Jo had an early lead when I foolishly overbid for the 2nd Red share only for him to swoop in for the 3rd share at a cut price the next turn. I managed to claw back the lead with a few well timed auctions and eventually took the win with $90+. Jo and Ivan were both close with $70+ each.
By then we had only time for a filler. We ended up trying the 3-player variant of Battle Line. It was functional but no where as impressive as it's 2-player counterpart.
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Monday, March 8, 2010
Basic premise is that in general production, you are forced to settle for 2 out of 3 of the following:
Likewise for boardgames, one needs to choose 2 out of 3 between the game being:
2. Simple to play
3. Richly detailed
"Richly detailed" seems vague and seemingly pointing to aesthetics but Pulsipher clarifies in a comment to the Boardgame News' post:
"Richly detailed” is intended to refer to the play, not the appearance, though appearance can contribute. It is what I call “atmosphere”, which is different from the way I use theme. Theme should make a difference in the gameplay; atmosphere alone doesn’t affect gameplay.
So nicely manufactured pieces are not in themselves rich detail.
I'm not sure that's the maxim I struggle with since while I don't appreciate abstract games much, a game's atmosphere plays second fiddle to the following:
1. Simple-to-explain rules (gateway potential?)
2. Depth of play (ideally possessing multiple routes to victory)
3. Reasonable game time (under 90min or even better, 60min)
But I suppose this set of criteria differs from the original in that such games are far easier to come by. Here's looking at you Hansa Teutonica and Chicago Express...
We started with Hansa Teutonica. I had an opportunity to tear off the shrink wrap on my personal copy since Marcus didn't bring his. It was a close game with me nabbing victory from Marcus by a single point.
My admiration for the game grows with each play. If this keeps up, I'll have to raise my geek rating for the game from a 9 to a 10. The multiple routes to victory coupled with the reasonable game time makes this a winner in every regard. It has been awhile since a game kept me thinking about possibilities for improved play after the session, especially when I won the game! I have explored a few alternate strategies in my few plays so far, but there seems so many others out there which I'm looking forward to have a hand at. For example, the max I have upgraded my chain multiplier so far is 2 but I can't help but wonder if a strategy largely focused on building a network of offices while maximizing the chain multiplier is viable.
Next up was Vasco Da Gama, another recent Essen release. It was between this or a first attempt at La Citta. I'm always game to try something new but Van needed a break, which she managed to get while Marcus explained the rules to Jo. I was absolutely demolished on my first play of this game but did much better this time round, ceding the game to Marcus by 3 VPs.
The turn order mechanic is undeniably an interesting one. It allows you to jostle for position with your opponents depending on your risk appetite and your wealth. Being overly optimistic, I paid the price on my very first turn, having to forgo an action due to the lack of money to pay for its use. However, I noticed that apart from the first few placements where this happens, the remaining placements simply follow turn order which takes the fizz out of this mechanic in some way. Still a game that I don't mind playing but see no need to own.
We ended the session off with Glory to Rome (what else?). Nice to know that I've gotten over 30 plays off this baby, and especially sweeter that it's current OOP (sorry to rub it in for those of you still awaiting your copy). There have been comments that the luck of the draw plays a significant role in determining the winner. I still beg to differ although this was game where I really didn't have much to work with while Marcus and Van built a slew of powerful buildings. Marcus had the Wall, Bridge and Colosseum. I built the Palisade early but didn't get a sniff of the other Wall so it was painful as you might imagine. My only hope was a Forum victory with both the Bar and the Aqueduct but unfortunately, the rapid pace at which the deck thinned and having my clients fed to the lions turn after turn meant that I was powerless to nab a surprise victory. Nonetheless, it's always cool to see a combo of effects from supposedly "broken" cards and definitely part of the charm of the game. Jo still surprisingly didn't take to the game after his second game. I say "surprisingly" because he's one of the few that has really taken to AGoT and both games seem to share this trait of combo-ing card effects. Then again, he wasn't all that enthralled by Dominion either. Marcus took the win over Van thanks to his bulging stockpile nicely scored by his Wall.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
My collection is rather limited in terms of fillers and party games so when I reach for a gateway game, I reach straight for something like Settlers or even the Princes of Florence with the right numbers. I put it down to impatience in desiring to suss out the potential gamers from the non-gamers from the get-go. Perhaps it's a resignation that non-gamers can never be fully "converted". These are likely the ones who find a game of Setters more stressful than intriguing, and are often overwhelmed by the rules early in the explanation process. The potential gamers on the other hand are not necessarily ones who embrace the game immediately but will nonetheless express some enjoyment of the game, coupled with an openness to try it or other similar games some time down the road.
I decided that this CNY I would pull out my sparkling new Dominion:Intrigue at any gaming opportunities. This was probably unwise, taking into consideration the wordy nature of the Intrigue cards but I was eager to experiment nonetheless. The results were mixed. The first 4-player game I attempted it was made up of half non-gamers. We successfully completed the game but it dragged due to AP by the non-gamers. I guess it's understandable as the buy phase can be particularly challenging with 10 actions cards staring you face-to-face, each with their own set of instructions. They did enjoy it however and seemed open to try it again in future.
The second attempt with a different group wasn't as positive. I opted for set with limited interaction and the multiplayer solitaire was apparent. This group was made up of one casual gamer and two non-gamers and they seemed clearly bored midway through. I suppose the appeal of building the most efficient deck in absence of interaction simply didn't cut it for them. I made a mental note then that interaction would be a key element of my choice of gateway games in future. The game was abandoned halfway due to new guests arriving and they seemed happy to try their hand instead at Band Hero rather than continuing with the game. Time's Up: Title Recall turned out to be far more successful with my friends and their significant others after dinner.
I wised up the next day when my cell group mates came over and opted for lighter fair such as Monopoly Deal Card Game and Tichu. They seemed to enjoy the former more than the latter, reaffirming yet again its charm with non-gamers.
Thankfully, I still managed to get an afternoon of heavier gaming in later in the week. Ivan, Jo and Ben came over and we started with 2 games of Dominion:Intrigue. Their familiarity with LCG play meant that they caught onto the game quickly and we were flying through our hands. In addition, we were able to pick up on the card combinations faster and the games proved to be highly enjoyable. I realized that having interactive cards in play was crucial to my own enjoyment of the game too. Jo won the first game which was set up using the recommended "Secret Schemes" set in the rulebook. I randomized for the 2nd game and it turned out arguably even more exciting, thanks to the interaction of the Torturer and Masquerade action cards. I have listed the set for those who may be interested to give it a go (using only Intrigue cards):
Bridge, Coppersmith, Courtyard, Duke, Masquerade, Mining Village, Minion, Nobles, Secret Chamber, and Torturer.
I took that game with 31 VPs, with Ben close behind at 29.
We then proceeded to the main course which was our customary A Game of Thrones LCG game. In fact we managed 2 games this time round, opting to pair up to earn 30 power tokens. I (Lanni) paired with Ivan (Stark) the first game against Ben (Bara) and Jo (Targ). Stark was weak on Intrigue and Ben and Jo duly took advantage racing to victory. We switched partners and I paired with Ben this time round. The game was closer but we were pipped to victory ultimately. In particular, Stark was devastating with Bear Island out early which enabled targeted kills of opponent characters without attachment(s). However, I got a rule wrong and assumed that Bear Island allowed an execution per opponent. As it turned out, it was only a character per turn. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if I was able to keep more of my characters on the table. Nonetheless, that location card is definitely one to be feared.
With 4 players, this is probably our favoured format as it clearly speeds things up. It's nice having to pay attention to only 2 opponents' armies rather than 3. While the titles do add an additional political element to the game, I am satisfied to leave it for the times when we play with 3. In fact with 3, more of the titles are rotated since they are only refreshed every 2 rounds.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Verdict? As much as I want to like the game especially since it falls into my preferred category of short but relatively deep games, it simply doesn't strike a chord with me. I don't think the issue is with the perceived abstractness of the game as criticized by some but more that at the heart of Tribune, it is ultimately a 'race' game. Players aim to be the fastest in achieving a set of goals. The option of selecting which goals to pursue is a nice touch but it doesn't change the fact that through most of the game, you are preoccupied with your own moves and plans than that of others. In some way, it reminds me of Race for the Galaxy and its subtle interaction which leaves me dissatisfied. It is ironic that I am complaining of a lack of interaction in a worker placement game but that's how I feel playing it despite it also possessing elements of faction
control. I can see how Tribune appeals to some but clearly for me, it's a case of so close yet so far.
We decided to give Battlestar Galactica a go next and this was another new game I was also deliberating over. The uniqueness of the game experience is certainly commendable but I fear the difficulty of bringing it to the table. Its theme appeals more to guys who do not follow series than their female counterparts. In addition it plays best with 5, thus facing extremely stiff competition from El Grande and the Princes of Florence, which are amongst my favourite games.
We played with 4 and with the sympathizer since I had no idea how to adjust for a shortened game without the sympathizer. I took Baltar, Ben Tigh, Jo Boomer and Jon, s. It turned out that there weren't Cylons before the sleeper phase but we struggled with the crisis cards leading to multiple resources in the red. Ben discovered he was a Cylon all along at the sleeper phase and proceeded to scheme against the humans. He didn't to do much as Galactica was hit by waves upon waves of raiders and despite being a jump away from Earth, the humans met with destruction as multiple civilian ships were lost taking the population indicator down to zero.
I don't know. It is an interesting game for sure and probably the best available on the market but something about co-op games leave me ambivalent, even with the traitor mechanism. It also feels a little too random and my decisions don't seem significant enough in determining my fate in-game. Coupled with the difficulty of tabling it, I suppose this is yet another expendable game. Won't mind playing it, just don't like it enough to keep a copy of my own.
The guys came over again later in the week with the addition of Ivan. They were invaluable in helping me sleeve my new copy of Dominion: Intrigue but we couldn't try it with 5. Instead we went with Age of Empires III since Ben and Ivan in particular were keen. I warned them that the 5 player game was prone to AP, having so far only played with 3-4.
In the end, it took over 2 hours together with rules but just as my previous plays, it didn't 'feel' long. Perhaps I do have other preferred games to play with that sort of time frame available but I must admit that AOEIII has seldom disappointed, keeping me engaged throughout. The rest seemed to enjoy it and there were generally favourable comments all round.
We needed a short game to round off the session only Ra and China seemed to scale well with 5 in about half an hour. We went with Ra in the end and just like with AOEIII, I ran away with the victory largely due to my familiarity with the games.
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Saturday, February 6, 2010
We tried drafting for AGoT LCG. I took Lannister and he Stark before drafting for neutral and plot cards. None of us chose Valar or Wildfire for our plot decks leading to a game where the characters continued building up. It was a close affair ending 15-14 in my favour despite Jo winning initiative to go first in the final round.
We played Puerto Rico next which Jo was keen to try. I always shun away from introducing PR for fear of the different building functions overwhelming but surprisingly the rules explanation went smoothly and Jo caught it easily. In fact, I think I find it easier to explain the PR rules than those for Settlers.
Jo played well for his first attempt, racking up shipping points thanks to his 4 corn plantations and Wharf. However, I had a better understanding of the importance of the big buildings and made timely grabs for the Guild and Custom House, resulting in a win, 56-44.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Ben and I opted for familiarity and played with Ivan's Baratheon and Lannister decks, while Ivan unleashed on us his new Martell deck from the recent Princes of the Sun expansion. House Martell has a couple of interesting effects triggered after challenges are lost. It is somewhat unintuitive as you are in a situation where you take one step back to gain two steps forward. It requires far more thoughtful play and bodes well for the strategic depth of the game. I enjoy the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of the various Houses and how a different play strategy is required to utilize each of them successfully.
I struggled with income early on, which is highly ironic for a Lannister deck. I played Wildfire Assault in the early rounds in a bid to rein back my opponents. I leveraged on my draw effects to gain further ground. My advantage in Intrigue reaped me a couple of power tokens through the Lannisport location card which allowed me to pay 1 gold for a power token after each Intrigue challenge I win. This added up quickly and by keeping my power tokens on my House card as opposed to my characters, my progress was undeterred by Ben's Melinsandre, which negates power tokens on opposing characters. In contrast, Ivan struggled as he had a number of card effects which gained him power tokens on his characters. I finally clinched victory with an unopposed power challenge by stealthing Ivan's only unkneeled character with the power symbol.
I played a game of Joust with Ben after Ivan left. I was flooded with income this game but fell prey to Ben's Baratheon power rush. He searched out Stannis Baratheon and racked up power tokens through unopposed challenges as I was unable to defend without a Lord character in play. By the time I managed one, his lead was large unassailable. I played an event card to take out his Robert Baratheon and his mountain of power tokens from Renown but that only delayed the inevitable as he romped to victory shortly after.
In between, we played a 4 player game of Ra with Van joining in. The Ra tiles came fast and furious and my greed got the better of me on the last epoch, opting to hold on to my 13 tile instead of swapping it for a full row. The epoch ended sooner than I expected, and Ben who swooped in on that row with his last tile took the win, with Van a close second.
On Friday, our cell and a couple of friends joined us at our Conrad suite for some games. They were mostly tired after a long day at work but still managed a game of Settlers of Catan.
It occurred to me that despite having explained the game multiple times, I don't seem to have grasped the best formula for it. It is especially ironic considering 1. I'm almost always the 'rules' guy when it comes to new games, and 2. Settlers is like the first Euro I ever played! Somehow, it's difficult to present the rules neatly in a logical flow when there are so many tinny bits here and there to explain e.g. trading, rules governing development cards, etc. I don't think I necessarily do a bad job but I always have a nagging feeling after that my explanation could be better. I probably find it easier to explain more complex games such as Agricola or Puerto Rico as compared to Settlers. Either that or it could simply be the audience I usually pitch Settlers to - opting for it as my go-to "gateway" game and thus facing crowds that may not immediately tune in to such rules and mechanics of Eurogames.
Colin and Kaelyn dropped by halfway through and I was able to introduce them to Monopoly Deal and Citadels. Kaelyn commented Citadels felt very much like a "guys' game". I suppose there's some truth to it considering its medieval theme. For female non-gamers, the theme of the game is probably far more crucial as a 'hook' than its mechanics. Even Van who I consider a gamer of sorts gets turned off by space (read Race for the Galaxy) and medieval (read A Game of Thrones LCG) themes. She may be willing to give them a try but rarely will desire to play them again. Abstracts don't sit well with her either. My most thematic game is arguably Battlestar Galactica but unfortunately, that's the wrong sort of theme for her, especially when she has never watched a single episode of BSG and is unlikely to.