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.