Game Night

First up was a 4-player Flaschenteufel. I won by a big margin, largely because as usual the new players (Jeff and Roger) took a couple rounds to really get the hang of the game. I don’t know how many hands it takes, but this game is so unusual it’s going to take anyone a few to have any idea at all what’s going on. I am still unsure on the debate as to whether this is better with 3 or 4; I like 4 personally, but I am sympathetic to the 3 argument. It’s a game that is quite different based on the number playing.

We played some 4-player San Juan. I finally managed to win one, this time on the strength of a Silver Smelter for my first build plus all three monuments plus a City Hall (I couldn’t find a Triumphal Arch in time). Carl went with the Guild Hall strategy which did well but couldn’t pull it out. Those monuments are very good value for money later in the game. Again, I think the 3 and 4-player version of the game are actually quite different. I like the 4-player version a little better, although they are both good.

Roger had brought a homemade version of Code 777 he was wanting to play, so we gave it a try. Each player has a 3-digit number, each of which is in a particular color, which all the other players can see but he or she cannot. Then each player draws a card which asks various question (can you see more red or orange numbers? How many players have a duplicate number?). This is a really brutal deduction game, but unlike Swartzarbeit, I’m not sure it’s an actual game. You need to devise the rules and patterns for how to eliminate possibilities, but I’m not sure there is any actual decision-making element to it at any level. Neat and challenging, I wouldn’t mind playing again, but Ricochet Robot is more my speed.

Roger was still here after everyone else had to leave, so we played a game of YINSH. This is an interesting but very tough game – I thought the post-GIPF games in this series were supposed to be quick so they could be played as side games to GIPF itself! YINSH is very chaotic, with a lot of available moves and each player able to affect large portions of the board. I’m starting to see the patterns, so I did enjoy this game, but it’s the first in the GIPF series that hasn’t had a huge “wow, that’s neat” kind of reaction, and I do wish it were a bit shorter, like the compact ZERTZ, TAMSK, and DVONN.

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Game Night

My gaming seems to have become a bit wargame-heavy recently, so it’s good to get back to some lighter stuff.

We started off with a quick round of Liar’s Dice, in which I’m happy to say I didn’t get trounced. I didn’t win either, but still, I hung in there for most of the game which is better than I have been doing.

Then we played a 5-player game of Mü, a game which I thought the world of early on but somehow have little enthusiasm for anymore. It’s still a pretty good game, and certainly I enjoyed it for quite a while … but I dunno, these days it seems like a lot of effort for more of the same, I wish it were shorter. If you haven’t played it and like classic card games I certainly recommend you do so, but I guess after however many games I played of it (25 at least, probably more) I’m just done … I thought after a break of a few years I could get some of the enthusiasm back, but such has not been the case unfortunately.

So, when we had two more players show, I begged out of the Mü; we decided to do Flaschenteufel. I think after 6 or 7 games I finally rounded the corner on this one and am starting to see the patterns. I still made one boneheaded play (never lead middling yellow trump), but managed to pull it out. The score before the last hand was 87-87-86! We had one very interesting hand when all the low trump came out in a flurry, and it looked like the 7 or 8 might get stuck with the bottle. Very nice game I think. Now that I know what I’m doing more or less, we’ll see how much longer it’s good for. I queried the table as to whether they thought 3 or 4 was better, and I was in the minority at preferring 4. On balance, I did come to appreciate the 3-player game more after this game, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much.

Then we had the obligatory game of Tichu, and the other three of us went to play some Attika. I’ve noted before that this game does have a rather serious problem, but it’s still a decent enough little game. The nasty kingmaker issues don’t come up every game, and 3 players is a significant improvement over 4 in this respect. People have complained about the randomness in the game, which hasn’t bothered me as much as the Kill Dr. Lucky syndrome, but this game I did get bitten by it – if I could have drawn a single hill card in my last 10 or so draws I would have won :). But I couldn’t, so I didn’t. This game has settled into sort of a bipolar rating for me, a 6 or 7 if the game plays cleanly, or a 2 or 3 if the game is decided by a failed block. I don’t want to overstate the point because I did enjoy the first 5 or so games a fair amount, but somehow just getting 5 plays out of a game doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

Game Night

Lots of little stuff today, almost an entire evening of filler – nothing that topped my play list, but some good stuff nonetheless:

Flaschenteufel has come out a lot recently, and we played with 4. Definitely a significantly better game with 4 than 3, I think. I did quite poorly this time – I started out well with this game, but it’s been downhill ever since. Maybe this should be telling me something :). This is one of those games that it’s sooo easy to make a mistake that you realize as soon as the card hits the table that you miscalculated and now you’re hosed. We played 4 hands, which probably isn’t quite enough; but the target of 500 in the rulebook is too much, I think – maybe 250 would be better.

Tichu is a neat game I think, but I’m not the huge fan that many in my group are. I guess my main gripe is length, not sure it’s something I want to play for the 90-120 minutes required for the hands to balance out. Somehow, it feels like I’m playing what I was dealt more than playing a game. I don’t want to overstate this point, because Tichu is a pretty good game, much better than any of the other “climbing” games I’ve played … just not one that blows me away, I prefer games that are a little more tactical.

I can’t think of anything at all to say about another Wizard game.

Pitchcar is the new edition of Carabande, and it appears to be generally superior in quality. I also like a lot that it has 8 different colors of cars instead of 4 colors each duplicated once. The tracks seem to be of nicer manufacture than the original, too. Unfortunately, they aren’t quite compatible; if they were, I’d pick up one, but I already own Carabande. I’m told the Pitchcar action set is missing the jump, but the jump was the weakest part of the action set anyway.

Feurio is another game that scores on its simplicity and approachability. Good lighter fare, neat and clever game, not to taxing. Better with 4 than 3. I can see the ceiling coming at around 8-10 games, though. Not too shabby, and it’ll probably come out occasionally after that, but not a real classic.

We then played Die Fugger again for the second week in a row with 3. It solidified in my opinion as a decent but not great little filler. Some tension, some choices, but a lot of luck of the draw and not as much control as you’d like. It also seems a touch bland. But it is easy to explain, short, and with some good stuff. One of Adlung’s more solid games, I think. Not worth the price from the US retailers I’d have to say, but get it as a throw-in from Adam Spielt or something.

We then had a really unusual game of Can’t Stop. The first 3 columns closed out were 12, 11, 10, and even at that point nobody had more than 5 clicks on the 7 column. More great filler.

Some other games that got played tonight included Breaking Away (great game, but the first time it’s been out here in probably 2-3 years; we used to play it quite a bit) and the Lord of the Rings Trivia Game. None of our real Lord of the Rings geeks were actually playing in it, though, so I think it resulted in a closer (and non-trivially longer) game. There have been some rumblings that the starting allotment of resourced might be just a bit too low in that game, especially if it’s a more casual crowd; that might be a nice way to handicap the game, giving double or triple the starting resources to the less-well-versed players. I’ll have to put a note in the box to think about that for next time (if I don’t put a note in, I won’t remember it until halfway through the next game I play).

Princes of the Renaissance, Flaschenteufel, Logistico

Matt came by to pick up his portion of the Adam Spielt order, and we played a couple of the new games while we were at it:

Princes of the Renaissance is the new Martin Wallace/Warfrog release. I’ve got decidedly mixed feelings towards Warfrog (and Martin Wallace games in general), as far too often it seems that the first play seems interesting, but then subsequent plays reveal serious fundamental imbalances in the game (Way out West was far too biased towards shoot-outs, in Empires of the Ancient World the sea areas are far too important, in Tyros the last turns are meaningless and there are few actual play options once you understand the game, The White Lotus was neat but far to repetitive, Liberte had far too little control for the intellectual work … and so it goes. Although I should say I have not played Age of Steam, largely because Volldampf did not move me, but I think Volldampf was OK gamewise, just not my thing). Anyway, Princes of the Renaissance is an Auction/Special Powers game, perhaps in the mold of Magellan, but more high-end. You buy chits (usually people) from the various cities which work almost like shares – each city will have an endgame status value, which will translate into VPs for each chit you own from that city. That status will be affected by wars, as players can provoke conflict between the cities which will likely increase and decrease somebody’s status. You also try to amass chits with complimentary special powers.

Anyway, I thought this was a neat game, as did Kim and Matt. I definitely would like to play again. Bearing in mind my previous history with Martin Wallace, I am unwilling to purchase it just yet, but hopefully Matt will bring down his copy again sometime.

Flaschenteufel – Well, not much more to say on this one. It was fun. I haven’t yet gotten past the learning phase, so I can’t say yet whether it will be a long-term thing.

Logistico – This was a game I thought Kim would like, as she is a big Roads & Boats and Crayon Rails fan. Turns out, she wasn’t that impressed, although Matt liked it a bit. I think my opinion is now settled, it’s a game that is interesting enough in the play and route-finding, but I don’t think it works overall as a game. There is too much randomness in the setup, and the game is too skewed towards delivery in the endgame. I still think it’s a fun game to play (although you can’t play with anyone who will get too bogged down in the analysis), but in the end it’s just not quite there.

Game Night

Schwarzarbeit is a deduction game from Andrea Meyer, designer of ad acta which I liked a lot, and Friedmann Friese, designer of many off-beat games, some of which are even good. I liked this quite a bit – it’s a deduction game as I said, but it’s a very different one in that it’s not “rigorous” like Clue – you aren’t allowed to take notes, the amount of information you get is not great, and you don’t win by ascertaining one or two incontrovertible facts – you instead try to make good guesses, and good probabilistic plays. This makes it an interesting game to me, and I thought it was fun. Probably not a high-ceiling game once the tactics are figured out, but one that has a nice “figure out how the game works” appeal as you develop those tactics.

We then played one hand of Die Siben Siegal while waiting for Milton to finish his sandwich from Quizno’s. I liked this one a lot last week, but it’s hard to play just one hand, like many card games. You really need to play at least one deal around the table to make the affair worthwhile.

Logistico is the new game from Cwali, and while I kinda liked it, it did not go over well at all with the rest of the group who found it a little tedious and calculational I think. Even though I liked it, I must admit it’s less successful than Morisi or ZooSim. It’s a route-finding game, and a good one, but it’s a bit of a one-idea game that goes on a bit past where it should. Not terrible, fun if you like that sort of thing (it may be a game Kim ends up liking), I thought it was at least decent, but hard to ignore the fact that half the players were begging for the game to end. Another problem may be that the early game is simply too irrelevant – the game seems that it will be decided by a few big payoffs at the end, with most of the first few turns just being a matter of pushing around a few bucks. Anyway, as I say, not bad, but a pretty standard pick-up-and-deliver game and not really up to Cwali’s previous standards I think.

Feurio! is hard to comment on. We played 3 players, and on the one hand, I wasn’t quite as impressed the second time out as I was last week. On the other hand, I discovered we had played the 3-player version slightly wrong (we hadn’t used the 4 neutral firefighters per player). Not a truly inspiring game, but short, very simple, and with some choices. Need to play again with 3 with the correct rules to judge.

While I was playing Feurio!, Kim was playing Flaschenteufel, and it got some positive feedback from the involved players. Kim liked it a lot, but on the other had, she did quite well in the one hand they ended up playing in the time we took to play a game of Feurio 🙂

Last was Bohnaparte. We played with 5. I enjoyed it, but came to a realization … it’s Nuclear War for the new millennium. Sure, it’s got a lot more interesting choices (how do you invest your talers, in attack, or defense, do you trade for money or ammo, which territories are you going after), but the result is a matter of luck, favorable geography, and avoiding getting ganged up on. The game is still a lot of fun, I thought, but it’s not a serious game. The new Dschingis Bohn may be a bit of an improvement, basically Bohnaparte streamlined a bit by experience, but while I like them they are unlikely to get a huge amount of combined play.

Game Night

Just a short session for me, as I had to pick up Kim at the airport.

Die Sieben Siegel – This is quite a neat new Steffan Dorra game. With so many of these small-box card games being endless rehashes of basic trick-taking games, it’s always nice to see one with a genuinely new and interesting idea. In this one, it’s basically just Oh Hell (without the growing hands, each hand is 15 tricks), but the kicker is that when you bid, you specify which suit each trick will be. This is clearly tough, but it also makes the play quite interesting because you know not only how many tricks each player thinks they will take, but what colors, and this gives you some interesting choices. I quite liked this and will probably pick up a copy myself.

Feurio! – The general buzz I’d been getting on this was a little mixed, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I actually quite liked it, though. The theme is really well done – I like how the fire spreads, I won’t say it’s “realistic”, but the game has a really good sense for its theme. The choices in placing your firefighters are interesting. The game is short. It could be over-analyzed, which is something to watch for, but it shouldn’t be a major problem as this is not an intense game. Not quite the sleeper hit that Trias was last year, but I’m happy with my purchase and it’ll be good for a number of plays anyway, I suspect.

Flaschenteufel – From the company that brought us the endearingly odd Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, we have another off-the-wall trick taking game. In this one, cards are uniquely numbered, and the high card wins tricks, with suit being relevant only for determining which card you can play (you must follow suit if possible, as usual). The odd thing is that there is a breakpoint, which starts at 19 – everything below the break is trump, and the highest trump played (if any) wins. Then, that winning trump card becomes the new breakpoint. The kicker is, the last person to win a trump trick is hosed – he loses points instead of gaining them. The other interesting thing is that the suits are not evenly distributed, with red being generally high, yellow being low, and blue being more even. This is a really neat game, a really different trick-taking game which presents a really interesting process of just figuring out how the game works, and this usually works for me. How long will it be good for? I don’t know, but Jekyll & Hyde did better than I expected in the end.