Game Night

It was kind of a light evening, with just Richard & I showing up early, and Ray and his kids slightly after that. The younger kids wanted to player HeroClix, so they did that while Richard & I played 2-player Feurio. This actually worked out pretty well; I wasn’t sold on the 3-player version of the game, while I liked the 4-player. 2-player is actually quite nice, there is some additional decision-making (which color of firefighter to place each turn) and given the large number of firefighters you have access to, you have a little more flexibility in doing blocking moves. I probably tried to block a bit too agressively, as I lost a close game.

Kim (who had been delayed with work-related activities) and Carl showed up in the meantime, so we did two games – Kim & Carl & I played Acquire while the others played Can’t Stop.

Acquire is a mysterious game to me. On the one hand, it certainly seems that there is a great deal of luck involved in the tile draws. On the other hand, there is crushing emperical evidence that this is absolutely not the case, as the same skilled players convincingly win game after game. Acquire has proved resistant to my abilities to analyze, much as Puerto Rico was.

So I went into this game with more of a “risk analysis” mindset on stock purchases. I stayed away from getting involved in any chains in which I had no information, i.e., no tiles nearby that might conceivably turn into merger tiles, especially when immediate neighboring chains are far off. This meant I largely ended up hoarding my cash early, which worked well as I was able to anticipate the first round of mergers and had cash flexibility after Carl & Kim were tapped out, so was able to get in on all the early mergers. I lost a bit of my focus in the middle game, though, which I think is where the game is won and lost. The first round of mergers is just the test to stay in; if you don’t get payouts early, you’re out of it. The middle game is where you get a lot more control, since options become more limited and crucial tilies more plentiful. I made a few ill-advised stock purchases, getting into the big-priced hotels to fight for the end-of-game payouts too early, before I had cash to burn, so I came in second.

By forcing myself to think a bit differently, I came away with more appreciation for the game. Acquire really is a great game, and worthy of its classic label. It’s a simple game with remarkable subtlety. Compare to Big Boss, which is very Acquire-ish; but the economic system in Big Boss succumbed to about 5 minutes of analysis, and I went on to a crushing victory in that game the first time I played. Acquire is far more subtle, with a very interesting mix of analysis and risk.

Last game of the night was Titan: the Arena, a classic game that hasn’t come out in a while. I like this one a lot, much more in fact than either its predecessor (Grand National Derby) or its successor (Galaxy: The Arena). It’s a nice light game, but one with some significant strategy – sort of like Clash of the Gladiators, although a more subtle game in that since your fate in Titan is so intertwined with the other players. Somehow, for me, the special powers of Titan: The Arena give the game a fun factor which was absent from Grand National Derby. Glad to see this classic will be rereleased in 2004 by Fantasy Flight.

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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).

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.