It’s been ages since I’ve been to SVB for a variety of reasons, but I think it’s time I started making an effort to go more regularly, even if not at the every-week thing it used to be.
First up was Global Powers. I had played this once before, and while the reception was not great, it seemed to have enough there to intrigue me to play. So I made up some english cards and made an effort to haul it out again, which I was finally able to do tonight. I must admit, that after the effort I went to in order to play this game, it actually angered me.
Why? Well, for one, the action cards are outrageously unbalanced. The idea is to build up your politicians to control areas, but the politicians are a very scarce commodity – in the 5-player game, under good circumstances, you are bringing on 2, 3, maybe 4 a turn on a good turn. Then someone turns around and plays Riots or Revolution, which can sweep 12-15 or more politicians off of the table quite easily. When Revolution was first played virtually everyone at the table’s jaw dropped, and bickering started immediately over how this couldn’t possibly be right. It was though, at least according to the translation on BoardGameGeek. Plus the cards are incredibly uneven, with several being just this side of worthless and others being the equivalent of a large nuclear device. This was deeply unsettling.
Add in a playing time that is way too much – the box says 2 hours, but for the first couple games there is no way you are going to get a turn in much less than 60-90 minutes, and the game will probably go 3-4 turns. And finally, it’s just way too much work. You’ve got to form coalitions to do virtually anything, and usually these decisions don’t rise to a level of importance to get you to care.
We actually packed the entire game in after less than a turn; unusual for me, but this game just wasn’t working. In fairness, part of it was that this is a big, meatier game and it just wasn’t the right game for one or two of our players, I think; I also am guessing that some of us would have liked to continue, just to see it out. But the bottom line is, as I say, it just wasn’t working.
The shame of it is, there is some neat stuff in here and some interesting ideas. But it’s just too klunky, too long, and those cards are brutally unbalanced. I think it says something that this is actually quite a unique game – usually enough for me to cut a game a lot of slack – but it just didn’t do it for me at all. I suspect this is a game that the designer and his friends quite enjoyed, and if you have the same mindset as they do, you might like it. I did not. These small-press games are always a bit dicey; I think I had been lulled into a false sense of security by recent success with Bewitched, Cwali, and Splotter (well, with Roads and Boats anyway for the latter).
Anyway, after that deep disappointment, Rich & I went on to the far superior Wizard Kings (interestingly, there were two guys playing Hammer of the Scots right next door – good to see Columbia getting some play). This was the Surprise Attack scenario from my web site, this time I played the Undead attackers vs. Rich’s Elven Defenders. Having now played this variant twice, I think the Undead may require a minor boost. They’ve lost some important advantages the Dwarves have (better spells, the ability to maneuver around in the mountains near the board edge), and not replaced it with much. Although, I would also play quite differently next time. When playing the Dwarves, I usually use a two-pronged attack, one from the northeast driving into the heart of board 1, while the other enters on the west edge and either drives towards the center of board 4, or pivots and turns left into board 1 to link up with the second prong. This, however, is a very poor strategy for the Undead who just can’t deal with the terrain in the northeast. I think they need to drive all-out for board 4, bypassing most of the Elven at-start units; use their big, fast flyers coupled with the cavalry to threaten almost the whole south board. I should probably try this approach before fiddling the balance any, generally I’ve been extremely happy with this scenario, I’ve played it at least a dozen times in its various formats. Anyway, an awesome system, great game, one of Columbia’s best – as I’ve said before, I need to find time to finish out some scenarios I’ve been toying with.