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Boy am I behind on blogging...this is an old draft, and the stuff it describes happened Nov. 7-8 and then Nov. 14-15.
Last weekend [Nov. 7-8] I had the opportunity to try Fury of Dracula (third edition) and ended up playing it multiple times! I had heard great things about this hidden movement game, and it seemed like a big deal when FFG decided to make a new edition, as it had been OOP before. The premise of the game is that Dracula is sneaking around Europe while four hunters try to track him down and kill him. It is extremely engrossing, especially with the soundscape that my friend Troy introduced me to:
You want a game like this to have a cat-and-mouse feel to it, only more balanced, and FoD does that beautifully. Every game feels tense and exciting, and I feel so invested in the characters. It's actually a similar experience to Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, which is near and dear to my heart. There are only two downsides to Fury of Dracula. #1, it takes several hours to play. This is not a quick weeknight dalliance. #2, they split the rules up into two different books, so there is no one comprehensive source for all the rules. (Plus IMO there is not enough redundancy in the rules -- some things should be stated in more than one section.) But even so, I think FoD is a masterpiece. Maybe we can get in a game at IndyCon?
This weekend included a bunch of Pandemic Legacy, since in my infinite wisdom I decided to join two different campaigns. No regrets so far, it's so much fun and I love playing with each group. First group lost both January games, then won February and March. Second group won January and then lost the first February game. (plus Sydney is already on panic level 3...)
Denise taught us The Gallerist and for whatever reason, I just was not feeling it. Beautiful game, great player aid, thematic mechanics, outstanding (and beautiful!) teacher, but here's the thing. There comes a point in all rules explanations when I can't hold any more "abstract" info in my head without seeing it played and trying things out. With this game, I somehow hit that point MUCH earlier than usual, and involuntarily tuned out MOST of Denise's explanation. I was in a fog, like the effect in movies where there is a huge explosion and the main character's hearing is blown out for a few long, disorienting moments.
Anyway, we managed to squeeze in a full game. You buy and sell art, support the artists whose work you have, draw visitors to your gallery, etc. Not sure if I would play it again...it would depend on the other options.
That weekend we also got to play The Grizzled with Andy and John. I really like it and we haven't even played with the trap cards yet. Tl;dr: WWI themed co-op card game, surprisingly playable and not too depressing (for me personally). This one's a keeper IMO. In lieu of saying anything further, I will plug Dan's excellent biff at Space-Biff!
More catch-up posts to come! And the slow cooker mozz meatballs were fab. You dice up mozzarella cheese and make stuffed meatballs with it. Our recipe came from "Tasty" on Facebook. Om nom.
It's the end of the year, and we're already seeing the rise of Geeklists and guild votes for the best X games of the year. If you're like many board game geeks, you might be wondering how, exactly, to pick 20 or so games out of your collection of over 100 games (or 200, or even 500).
Here's how I did my top 20 solo games in less than 1 hour (and subsequent years I can do it in less than 30 minutes).
Optional Step 0: I record my solo games with the assistance of the wonderful BG Stats iOS app, but BGG provides a method for recording games as well (and which BG Stats syncs with). I figure that any game I didn't manage to play within the last 365 days probably isn't a contender for top 20. This still left me with 150 games to sort through.
Other filters can include ratings; say, only consider the games you rated an 8 or above. For those of us with hefty collections or a healthy appetite for play, this can still be over 100 games to consider.
Step 1: Index cards (you can buy half-size index cards too) are a necessity, because you're going to be rearranging them in a stack as you go through this exercise. Write each of your games (either filtered as above or just your collection) on the index cards, one game per index card.
Step 2: Pick a random card listing a game that you thought was kinda good and even a contender for top 20. We will call this the pivot card. Place it aside. Going through your stack, parcel cards out into two piles: games that you think are not as good, and games you think are as good or even better.
The games in the "good or even better" pile are obvious contenders for top 20. If you have more than 20 games in this pile, then the "not as good" pile and your pivot game are out of the running.
Step 3a: More than 20 games in good or even better pile: Repeat step 2, picking a new pivot from your good or even better pile, until you end up with a pile of 20 or fewer games.
Step 3b: Less than 20 games in good or even better pile: All the games in the "good or even better" pile are contenders. Take the most recent "not as good" pile and repeat step 2 on it, until you end up with a "good or even better" pile small enough that it can be added to the contenders to create a 20-card stack.
Step 4: Sort your top 20 games. You can do this via quick sort (which I can outline in a further post if people want) or bubble sort (what Tom Vasel does) or just plain old eyeing your list and shuffling stuff around until it makes sense.
Notes on pivots: If your pivot is "as good as" at least one game in the "good as or better" pile, include your pivot in the next selection round. Otherwise leave your pivot out.
Here's an example of picking the top 3 games from a list of 20 games (these are not my top 20 solo games for 2015, by the way, so no spoilers yet ):
Fistful of Penguins
Legends of Andor
Tiny Epic Galaxies
Lord of the Rings: Adventure Deck Game
Viva Java: I'm Just Going to Call this the Dice Game
Above and Below
Ora et Labora
Valley of the Kings
Dungeon Solitaire: 4 Tombs
Pivot: Above and Below
Pivot: Above and Below
"Not as good" pile
1. Red Cliffs
3. Tiny Epic Galaxies
5. LotR Adventure Deck Game
6. Bowling Solitaire
7. Yardmaster Express
8. Ora et Labora
9. Valley of the Kings
11. Dungeon Solitaire: 4 Tombs
"As good or better" pile
1. Fistful of Penguins
2. Endless Nightmare
3. Mage Knight
4. Legends of Andor
6. VivaJava Dice Game
7. Al Cabohne
Pivot: Mage Knight
"Not as good" pile
1. A Fistful of Penguins
2. Endless Nightmare
4. VivaJava Dice Game
5. Al Cabohne
"As good or better" pile
1. Legends of Andor
Pivot: Endless Nightmare
"Contender" pile [we leave this alone]
1. Mage Knight
2. Legends of Andor
"Not as good" pile
1. VivaJava Dice Game
2. Al Cabohne
"As good or better" pile
1. Fistful of Penguins
1. Mage Knight
2. Legends of Andor
Fistful of Penguins wins over Ciub
- Mage Knight
- Legends of Andor
- Fistful of Penguins
From here we eye the list and re-order it as necessary.
I hope this helps you create your very own "X games of the year" lists!
One Thousand Plays Later – Volume I
At the start of 2013, I decided to start logging plays. At first, the only information I logged was the game played, but more recently, I have started logging player names, scores, locations, winners, etc.
On November 24th , 2015, I reached 1000 plays. The following is a list of my 10 top played games and my thoughts on each one. Play #1000 was 7 Steps.
Plays in 2013: 263 [26.3%]
Plays in 2014: 358 [35.8%]
Plays in 2015: 379 [37.9%]
(as of Nov 24, 2015)
#10. La Boca [Plays: 25]
First Logged Play: November 10, 2013
I recall Eric Martin posting a video explaining La Boca in early 2013. Sadly, there was no English version at the time, so I waited for Z-Man to eventually publish it here. In November, I am at the game store, I see the english version of La Boca on the shelf and instantly buy it.
You and your (changing) partners try to complete the puzzle as quickly as possible. However, there is a communication element as each player only sees one part of the puzzle. The faster you complete it, the more points you and your partner are awarded. Since everyone plays with each other player twice, then the overall, best performing player will win.
The game comes with two modes of difficulty, and in my personal opinion, the harder red block mode is significantly more difficult. But that keeps the game fresh, as you can play an easy round, a hard round, etc. This is also a good party game as it doesn't require that you be present while it is not your turn. I've thought about expansions and it would be easy to come up with some. They could throw in another block and a new set of cards; they could change the size and configuration of the grid, etc. However, I don't think the game really needs it, as the 2 difficulty levels and changing partnerships keep the game interesting.
It's a shame that Z-Man has dropped this one. But it seems that Thames & Kosmos is bringing over some of the Kosmos games. Maybe they'll bring back La Boca.
#9. Würfel Bohnanza [Plays: 26]
First Logged Play: October 30, 2014
Bohnanza is a favorite of mine, so when I discovered there was a dice game, I had to seek it out. I knew it would be a hit with my family.
This is basically a yahtzee type game (fun fact: I have never played Yahtzee) where players roll dice up to 7 times, keeping at least 1 of the rolled dice every time. You use these kept dice to make combinations depicted on the cards. When you complete a certain number of combinations, you collect a certain number of coins.
This one is not quite as good as the card game, and it doesn't even give you the same feeling of playing Bohnanza but it just works. It plays quickly and works at all player counts. Smooth gameplay with intuitive rules. The game isn't very interactive but you should always be watching what your opponents roll as you can use their just rolled dice to instantly complete your combinations. This helps the game keep moving along.
#8. Takenoko [Plays: 27]
First Logged Play: December 25, 2013
This game was a gift that I received for Christmas 2013. Since the game looks visually appealing, it was easy to get to the table. The rules are also very easy, which makes the game easy to get into.
More recently, I've played this less and less. There's just no way to mess with your opponents. I was hoping that the expansion would make the game a bit more balanced but what I've seen didn't interest me. That said, I still recommend this game. I just think that I've played it enough. I basically only play it now if it's requested.
#7. Hanabi [Plays: 30]
First Logged Play: March 23, 2015
I bought this one after watching the Game Night episode for it.
This one has gotten most of its plays in the same year I bought it. It helps if you switch up groups sometimes as for me the novelty of the game (not seeing your cards) has sort of worn off. As for SdJ award that Hanabi received, I think La Boca (which I discussed earlier) was more deserving of it [and it sucks that La Boca wasn't even a finalist, although it was on the Jury's recommendation list].
It is my favorite cooperative game though, and I think it's a very pure co-op in the sense that most (if not all) players have to contribute for the group to score highly. There is no problem with quarterbacking in this game. More recently, I have begun to play this one again. I have acquired some promo tiles that change the bonus you get when correctly playing a 5. It should breathe some new life into this now classic.
#6. Ticket to Ride [Plays: 31]
First Logged Play: January 13, 2013
This was one of the games that I first bought when I started playing games back in 2012. I would estimate about 30 - 35 unlogged plays in that year which would bring up my plays to 61 – 66 plays.
Not much to say about this game to be honest. It's a classic now, lots of different maps that add subtle changes to the game to keep it fresh, and really is a crowd-pleaser, for lack of a better term. This is one of the games that I use to introduce people to games and it works every time.
#5. 6 nimmt! [Plays: 34]
First Logged Play: November 29, 2014
After learning about Wolfgang Kramer games, I decided to buy this small, unassuming card game based mostly on it's designer's pedigree. Instant hit.
The mechanism of the game is very simple, avoid cards as best as you can. This one works great with pretty much anyone and it plays up to 10 people. There is no downtime since players play simultaneously, which makes it a perfect game for playing it with new players and at (certain) social gatherings.
I am glad that this game has finally gotten a proper release here in the States thanks to Mayfair.
#4. Carcassonne [Plays: 42]
First Logged Play: February 17, 2013
I acquired this one around the same time as Ticket to Ride. I played it and liked it but I really got into it more recently as a great 2P game. Carcassonne is probably the best representative game of the Eurogame genre: simple and intuitive rules with smooth game play.
This game, in my opinion, is best at the lower player counts. As far as expansions go, it seems to me that the general consensus is that Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders are the go to expansions and I would agree. The others change the game too much by adding unnecessary features.
#3. Patchwork [Plays: 51]
First Logged Play: March 5, 2015
Agricola, Le Havre, At the Gates of Loyang, Caverna: The Cave Farmers, Ora et Labora, Bohnanza; all authored by Uwe Rosenberg, arguably my favorite game designer. When I learned that in 2014 he was putting out a new 2-player game, I knew I had to check it out. Another instant hit and, also, the newest game on this list.
I am a fan of light abstract games, and Patchwork successfully merges this abstract puzzle game with a small economic mechanism. The game is very intuitive and there has never been a moment where someone asks, “what happens now?” Because of its accessibilty, this game has quickly seen many plays. As I write this, however, I am kind of burnt out on it. I do think the game is very re-playable, but I think it's best to play this a max of once or twice a month to keep the magic intact.
#2. Abluxxen [Plays: 65]
First Logged Play: September 6, 2014
Browsing BGG as usual, I stumble upon a video explanation of Abluxxen by Eric Martin. A few days after watching the video, I ordered the game on amazon.de. I instantly liked it the first time I played. The more you play it, the better it gets. You start to notice tendencies that other players have, which forces you to switch up your tactics. You can start with a terrible hand and with smart plays and a bit of luck (abluxxen is not as luck dependent as one might initially feel, IMO) turn that hand into a winner.
Another thing that is interesting is that at different player counts, this game feels very different. The core game remains the same (aside from some small additions in the official 2-player Duel variant) but the tempo of the game is changed dramatically. In a 2-Player Duel (which IMO is the only way the game is worth playing at 2P) the game is much more strategic and it is easy to acquire lots of cards and do massive plays of 6, 7 and 8 of a kind. With 3 players, the game is quite a bit faster, and players can try to avoid conflict so they can peacefully play their cards. With 4 and 5 players, you have to be much more careful as there are 3 or 4 other players that can potentially steal your cards.
If you are a fan of “pure” card games, I highly recommend checking this one out. It accomplishes so much without needing special rules or game changing abilities.
#1. Bohnanza [Plays: 68]
First Logged Play: January 6, 2013
Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and Bohnanza were some of the first great games that I played back in 2012. These are classic games that have and will always remain great. It's no surprise that each of these is in my Top 10 of my most played games.
To me, Bohnanza is the definitive meaning of “new and interesting” card games. OK, it's not so new with its 1997 release date, but in my opinion a (modern) game is only as new (or old) as it is for the player. This game is so different to traditional card games that it easily interests people with the fact that you can't rearrange your cards, something that is done by habit. This small restriction is surprising in that it drives most of the game. It's also a game that is very interactive, with trades happening every turn.
The original German version played 3 to 5 players, which I think are the best player counts. The English version by Rio Grande Games includes, iirc, (most of) the cards in the Bohnanza Erweiterungs-Set and it plays 2-7 players (with some adapted rules for a 2P duel variant). I think the game is not so great with 6 or 7 players as it sort of drags on.
Other Favorites (Honorable Mentions?):
Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Plays: 17]
First Logged Play: February 8, 2014
Many called it “Agricola 2.0” and I would mostly agree with this statement. While Agricola had been my all time favorite for about 1.5 years, Caverna came along and made the farming life much less stressful; thus becoming my current favorite game. Many people say that this game needs an expansion but I don't necessarily feel that way. Certainly, it could use some more variability, and as of mid November, Uwe Rosenberg has shown interest in making Hand Cards [like Agricola's occupations/improvements] for the players to playtest. Time will tell if this ends up working out and maybe we'll see a Caverna: Gamer's Deck expansion in a couple years.
Asara [Plays: 16]
First Logged Play: November 20, 2014
A nice and smooth worker placement game from designer team Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. Stone Age used to be my go to introductory worker placement game but Asara's quicker playtime and more easily understood scoring mechanism have replaced it.
As some BGG users have pointed out, Asara is the first game in what seems to be a series of “tile collection” games, where throughout the game players are buying differently priced tiles that will also score differently in the end.
The Palaces of Carrara(2012) and Coal Baron (2013) are also in this series of games, both of which I own and really enjoy for how streamlined they are. As of writing this, I await my pre-ordered copy of Porta Nigra, which is Kramer and Kiesling's latest game of this series (but of course, this time they are plastic pieces instead of cardboard).
After 3 years in the hobby, I have seen my gaming interests change. When I first started playing, I felt that the truly worthwhile games were the longer, 3Hr+ games. If a game was bigger and the rules more complex, it had to be better, right? I'd say that starting around late 2013, my favorite games are the shorter ones, with 1 hour or so being the sweet spot. I still enjoy games that take long, such as Power Grid, Agricola, Ora et Labora, Caverna, etc but I don't find myself seeking more of those games. Rather, I am interested in simple games with depth that is not readily apparent; Games where repeated plays are rewarded. Card and dice games are ones that most easily fit this description, as (to me it seems that) larger board games have equally large aspirations to be the next great game. Looking at my current collection, I don't think that this list will change very easily, but who knows what will happen one thousand plays later.
It’s now been a week and Netrunner has managed to hit the table 11 times, with my own Netrunner stash growing considerably through trades snagging up some deals and necessary importing, I’ve enough Netrunner for 5 minutes.
(Note there is still 3 more data packs to arrive through a trade and Creation and Control is flying its way to me from the USA).
Tuesday I found myself free on time due to an IT failure with the remote servers at university, meaning lessons were cancelled! Me being the good student who still attended (didn’t get the memo, until 20 minutes after class was meant to start). So what better time to get in some more games of Netrunner at the local Board games Cafe, Dice and Donuts! Alice got to be my unlucky opponent, she provided me with decks as mine still sat on a truck or similar. Alice was running as Leela Patel and I was playing as Haarpsichord Studios described as a “horrible, shoot shoot the runner deck”, which it turned out to be. The combination of Traffic Accident and Scorched Earth, gave me my first win within a few turns, I hadn’t even felt that we had started playing but it was game over. I’d even managed to score one Breaking News.
My second game didn’t go quite according to plan Alice managed to keep the tags off and I wasn’t able to draw any combinations that had allowed me to win the first game so Alice managed to score agendas turn after turn due to bad draws, and being able to bounce the little unrezzed ICE I had in place, which was super annoying, allowing her to win the game outright.
Wednesday normally would be Board game night, Come join us at the Adelphi, Preston UK every Wednesday from 7PM!
Myself and Mark decided to make it a net runner night instead. In preparation for the store Tournament the day after. A group of us have all started net runner at a similar time, some getting back into the game, some starting out fresh like myself.
With my net runner stuff now in my hands and cards and decks waiting to be built, I of course did what anyone does and googled away for deck ideas, I came up trumps with 4 decks that I really liked and could build from my two core sets, giving me plenty of options. I built Weyland and Haas Biotech as my corporation decks and Noise and Gabe as my two runners. Having played previously as Kate twice against my Brother I opted for a change..
We managed to get in 5 games! I played in all 5 somehow, the first game saw me playing as Noise against Haas Bioroid played by Rachel, only her second game of net runner after also being taught by Dave. With me not being sure of how to play as Noise and Rachel still grasping the rules, we did require the rule book on several occasions but we managed. Noise ability of placing the top card from R&D into archives proved incredibly useful and allowed me to find multiple agendas in a matter of turns, giving me my second win!
Then we switched with Rachel playing noise being tutored by Mark and me as HB. This didn’t go so well with Rachel milling my R&D within a matter of rounds with Medium and finding agendas in my archives as I simply couldn’t afford to Rez the ice I had laid out giving her the win, I did managed to fast advance one measly agenda.
Next up was Mark this time playing as Gabe and myself again as HB, having already encountered Gabe i was aware of his ability to gain mark multiple credits and potentially break through ice should he manage successful runs on HQ followed by other successful runs. Sure enough Gabe had the credits piling up and was able to break through my defences and find one Agenda, which created an opportunity for me to fast advance an agenda next turn tying us.
The turns followed a similar suit with Mark slowly building credits and me unable to find agendas in my R&D, it was surely a matter of time before either he broke through into R&D and was able to find an Agenda or I was able to score any. Mark managed to break through the ICE over R&D finding himself a Private Security Agenda, however I then drew an accelerated Beta test allowing me to fast score and draw the top 3 cards from R&D all of which happened to all be Agendas, ending up in my archives which was horribly under protected. Allowing Mark to score and win.
But there’s no time like the present for a rematch, this time I managed to fast advanced early and drawing multiple ICE of the top of R&D setting me up well for early game providing me with scoring opportunities, allowing me to win the game before Mark had got anything really setup in his rig.
With that Mark was done, but Brad was looking for a game, so I was happy to oblige and Mark was happy to ‘tutor’ me. I’m not sure if this was helpful or not, but it did leave to occasions of
“What about that unreeled asset”
“Don’t worry about that, focus on R&D”
Meaning Brad was able to set up Ice and assets, he also scored an Agenda and set himself up with a SanSanCity grid setting him up nicely for the win. Although I did manage to find an Agenda in the archives with Noises ability. Brad was firmly set up for the win. With that the pub was closing and it was home time...
Tomorrow store tournament, the aim to come anything but last!
I recently played Russian Railroads for the first time. It was fun. The systems all fed into each other, cool combos were made, and I finished second. I scored three hundred and fifty points. I felt like a titan of industry… sort of. But as I got to thinking about where I would rank this game, all kinds of natural comparisons began to draw themselves in my head, and it led me to one, singular conclusion. Russian Railroads is a board game that is a jack of all trades, and a master of none.
There is no aspect of Russian Railroads for which I can’t call to mind another game that does it better. This post will revolve around three specific examples where I felt that was the case.
#1 - Caverna
‘Worker placement’ games are a dime a dozen. Listing them all off would take forever. Listing the good ones would be, at best, too lengthy for this, and at worst terribly subjective. And don’t get me wrong - this game is ‘good.’ I just don’t think it’s ‘great.’ This was said better by rahdo, but there are moves that are clearly better than other moves. There is a right move, and it is usually apparent to you (or should be if you want to stand any chance of winning - more on that later). On top of that, the right move for you is usually going to be the same right move for someone else. There’s very little sense of diversification. Sure, there are a couple strategies that might work, but everyone needs to take the same actions very often in order to make those strategies all happen.
Russian Railroads tries to offer a way out by means of the varied rail tracks and the industry track. The problem there is that the industry track is the only one that requires different actions than the others. It’s a frustrating dogfight, and the industry track tends to feel more like a consolation prize, especially when you have to choose between factories and locomotives at most points during the game. Hint: the locomotive will probably be what you want almost every time.
Contrast this with Caverna, which goes out of its way to provide players with several moves that are almost equally attractive, also allowing them to choose among any number of strategies. Instead of 90% of the game being fighting for the best choices, the only thing worth racing for here is the ability to make more dwarves. After that, the strategies are endless. And when you get to more than 3 players, making additional dwarves becomes easier, too! It really turns the players loose with an abundance of spots while reducing the conflict when the only manifestation of that conflict comes in making everyone else feel frustrated that you took the ONE clear best move. Yes, this also crops up when certain accumulation spots become too tantalizing to ignore, but the chances are that you don’t really need that 18 wood anyway.
Spyrium was another recent new-to-me game, and I instantly fell in love with it. The way your placement of your workers affects the choices of the other players is intriguing, and provides more ‘good’ choices than most other games I’ve seen. But I’m not here to talk primarily about the worker placement aspects of Spyrium - no, I’m here to talk about the engine-building aspects of Spyrium.
In Spyrium, you are trying to add buildings to your tableau to help you more efficiently produce and process the eponymous green ore. Like most other games of this ilk, you start off with next to nothing, and by the end of the game you are making huge turns to give yourself swaths of points. Sure, it’s not even close to the multiple hundreds you can score in Russian Railroads, but the sense of escalation and engine-building is largely the same. You are creating your own worker placement spots, you are competing on the main ‘board,’ are able to reap real consolation prizes when your plans on the main board don’t quite work out, and are also able to drive your engine toward an endgame strategy where it practically runs on its own the last couple turns, and you get to admire your handiwork for the last round or so as you make the most out of it.
I’d say this is just as satisfying as the last round of Russian Railroads, but I’d have to be in a particular gaming mood to feel that way. The journey to that point in Railroads would hinge entirely on making all of the right moves at all of the right times. Everyone is trying to do the same, and keeping all those plates in the air doesn’t necessarily equate to a good time, especially when after a few rounds the machine that will be the most efficient is likely already clear. The game could just as easily be four rounds long instead of 7 and the end result would be the same. Has anyone played a game of Russian Railroads where it’s swung dramatically in the last couple rounds? Does it happen often? Are there enough roads to victory to allow every player to have a fighting chance?
Another thing I find interesting about games like Spyrium is that they are games that require the players to really play each other - simple worker placement attempts this, but you often never have to really read your opponent’s strategy to know how to get what you want and deny them what they want. Spyrium, like Troyes or Tournay, is a pleasant level of interaction for those who don’t like direct combat but for whom multiplayer solitaire is a bit boring. And Russian Railroads is the very definition of multiplayer solitaire.
Finally, Spyrium lasts six rounds to Russian Railroads' seven, and would easily play as fast, if not faster, than a table of RR veterans. In that case, I'll have my meat and potatoes - you can keep your five-year plan.
Train games are also a dime a dozen, it seems. Very common general theme. Not to say that theme is necessary to a good game, or to the evaluation of it, but it can give a game extra credit where it might otherwise not have some. It also provides a very superficial but present degree of similarity that might lead people to compare the game’s other elements in order to make a judgment call. I’m immediately drawn to make such a comparison to Snowdonia.
The constantly predictable game states of Russian Railroads don’t really allow for the game to change after it begins. You have a single objective - make big combos and score big points - and very little will happen to throw a wrench into that. The inherent narrative of Russian Railroads is strictly a mathematical one. Again, sometimes I like that in a game, other times I don’t. And as I already mentioned, when it comes to sticking to that strategy, Russian Railroads is unforgiving - I prefer Caverna over Agricola, if that tells you anything there.
Snowdonia is a more leisurely game - the points you score are basically chosen by you by way of taking contract cards and in the small achievements you make throughout the game. It’s much more casual that way. It’s also much more dynamic - the endgame trigger can happen anytime, and it’s not always in the player’s hands. You have to make the most of what you can while you can, but you still have to make the choice of what that path will be. Also ever-changing is the weather - it will affect how efficient your actions are, and might even make certain actions completely unavailable for a round or two. I love games that have random things happen as long as that randomness affect everyone equally - this is one of those games. And you can also see this coming - you know at all times what the weather will be two rounds from now.
Order and timing play a huge part in Snowdonia as well - each action usually has more than one space allocated to it, but depending whether you claim the first, second, or maybe third spot in a given action impacts greatly the attractiveness of the other spots. Do you want to take the first player marker, but have the last choice of resources? Do you want to claim the first rubble-clearing spot knowing that doing so will allow the player in the second spot to claim an achievement on the next station card? Russian Railroads also has the usual “do I or don’t I?” of worker placement games, but Snowdonia adds another level of depth to that choice, giving that same question more meaning over the course of the game.
So why did I devote so much thought to this game (that I don’t love) anyway? I’d say that about half of the people I game with love it. They had been shocked that I’d never played it, and insisted that I need to. I’ve done so twice so far, and I like it enough to be willing to play it again a few times to see what other secrets it might reveal to me, but I’m not really holding my breath. It does scratch a particular itch, just no more or less than most other worker placement games I own. It could fill the “standard worker placement game” slot in anyone’s collection and be a worthy filler of that role. In the end, however, it just has that “dry euro” feel people talk about all the time. It’s the feel that a friend of mine said turned him off to most heavier board gaming - a ‘sameness’ to it, a lack of something special to set it apart from the flock of other themeless euros. It has all the moving pieces of a truly great game, but it’s missing a spark for me that the other games mentioned above provide.
Play Report: For my last play of this game, the random scenario was Western 15, which is a late war scenario pitting an Italian/British combined force against the Austria-Hungarian navy. The Allies want to bombard a couple Austrian ports, while the Central powers want to, of course, stop them. This is another large scenario, with lots of ships on each side, but the scenario puts them into specific fleets for you, and the Allies are even given their fleet orders, so there isn't that much to do except roll dice and plot movement. I played the Central powers, and had to figure out the best way to scare off the Allied ships. To make things more complicated, the Central powers player doesn't even get all of his ships until you roll a "6" on a die once the action starts. The Allied forces started bombarding my ports on turn 4, and I didn't even get my Battle fleet released until turn 14. Then it took 13 more turns to even get to where the bombardment was taking place, and then the Allies just ran away and avoided contact. I lost, 18 to 53.
Great War at Sea: Mediterranean - Final Impressions: While I find this game, and the Great War at Sea system as a whole, to be interesting, I would be lying if I said that I found it to be fun. Plotting fleet movement and trying to outsmart your opponent before any shots are ever fired is the most enjoyable part of the game. Once the game starts, though, it is too much of a slog, with a whole lot of die rolling and not that much action. The players do have meaningful decisions to make, but I find the whole thing kind of boring once the planning is over. I doubt that I will ever play this game again unless one of my friends wants to play it very strongly.
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. If you didn't celebrate it, I hope you had a good Thursday. In either case, it's time for number eight on the list, what I consider the best "push your luck" game I own (it even received the Gold Push Your Luck Award), Incan Gold.
After my first play of Incan Gold, it was a top five contender, and while it didn't hold onto a top five spot, it's settled quite nicely here. In Incan Gold, players are exploring temples, trying to get treasure and artifacts back to their tent before being taken out by the hazards that await them. Simple game. Each player has a tent and two cards. The tent keeps their jewels and the cards tell everyone whether they're going further into the temple or if they're heading out, grabbing treasure on their way to the exit.
Players have to be careful though. Hazards are possible to come up at any time. The first time a hazard shows, players are okay to continue if they wish, but if a hazard shows up twice, it's time to escape...and you're not going to get anything from your expedition.
Players also need to be aware of their opponents. Players divvy out treasure equally and any leftovers remain on the card. Should a player exit on his own, he gets to grab up all the leftover loot for himself, which can make for a big payout. However, should multiple players decide to leave at the same time, once again, players will have to divvy up the leftovers. So deciding when to leave is just as important as deciding whether to go further.
I have to admit, this is one of the few games where every time I play I get completely sucked into the theme. I'm nearly shaking with each flip of the cards when I choose to continue on after having already come across four or five. I've also had times where I've gone back to the camp since there were loads of leftover jewels, only to sit and watch my opponents collect 40 more jewels as they decided to carry on. And then I had the last laugh and cheered when they got hit by a second hazard of the same kind and lost all of those jewels. It's such an awesome game.
That's it for today! Tomorrow, we carry on with another excellent game. In the meantime, I leave you with this clue:
Well, of course we had to go to family first - we went to my brother in law's for turkey and ham and seven kinds of pie. I got stuck sitting next to my brother in law's wife's dotty cousin, who talked nonstop in a sort of Short Attention Span Theater performance piece, but fortunately there was wine
But after we got back and recovered from the carb overload, we played Pandemic Legacy again, March this time. It's funny, so far my campaign with Darren is mirroring my campaign with my other group - two losses in January, wins in both February and March. And in case anyone is wondering, no, we're not making the same choices about nearly anything. So it'll be amusing to see how long this streak keeps up!
After that, we wanted to play La Granja again.
image by deniseibase, on Flickr
Darren had played it once before at Great Lakes Games, but not since, and so I retaught the rules. I think I was overconfident since he was a comparative noob because I overextended myself in a ridiculous manner. It came down to the last year and few if any of my plans had come to pass. But I could still do it! If I could get ONE pig from the revenue phase, I could get fifteen more points due to various machinations. Could I do it? Could I get one more pig?
Of course not. I finished with an absolutely lousy forty points. Darren had 44 for the win - I'll get you next time!
Also wanted to show off my new square baking cups!
image by deniseibase, on Flickr
Kevin Wemyes at Great Lakes Games had a bunch of these, and they were SO handy for bit control & cleanup. I've had round ones before, but they seemed to tip easier - the walls were a little taller to a smaller base. These are perfect!
That was it for Thanksgiving! Hope you all had a great holiday!
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