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Subject: My first night with Balloon Cup rss

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Josh Chen
United States
Aliso Viejo
California
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Hey folks, finally got my hands on this game for the first time tonight.

Premise: I love playing Battle Line and Lost Cities with my girlfriend. So after I saw someone recommended this game along with these other 2 games that I already have in the recommendation forum, it has been on my radar for a while.

The first game we played was with the designer's rule where we can only put cards on the opponents side after we have completed our own side first. We also reinforced his rule of no 3-for-1 cube trades. The game was very easy to be explained to my girlfriend since she has experience with Battle Line and Lost Cities already. I just referred to putting down the card like in Battle Line where you try to claim a certain "capture point". She understood it rather quickly and we started playing.

In the middle of the game, we each have a few cubes of our own and I was surprised that the cards would run out about 2 times before the game was over. I was spoiled with Battle Line and Lost Cities where the game ends when the deck is gone. I had to reshuffle when it was only a third of the way into the game. I was also surprised that the pacing of the first game was kind of slow too! We went down to the last 2 cubes in the bag but we couldn't draw it since it is not enough to fill the 4 cube field card. I had to put the empty field card aside while trying to finish the rest of the field cards.

We were aware of the "lock-up" situation already and there were quite a few times that we have draw out 2 gray cubes. The flow of the game was interrupted when I have to put the cube back and re-draw. I was also checking to see if we have too many of the other colors and sometimes we will have too much blue or green on the field as well. This constant checking when I draw cubes out from the bag has bothered me a little bit.

During the game we had to constantly check our hand size to make sure we have 8 cards. The reason behind that is that when we win a field, we often forgot to draw a new card. There was once that my girlfriend only had 6 cards in her hands and I had to remind her and let her draw the next 2 cards. This, however, is our own fault of being inexperienced with the game.

The second game we went with the same rule that we have to finish our side first but we could trade 3-for-1. That did make the game go a little bit faster in the end. It kind of gives an extra push to the finish line. I definitely like the 3-for-1 trade better.

Here are my thoughts:

Pros:

a)I like the fact that both games ended up pretty close with 3-2 trophy victories. In a glance it doesn't seem like the game would have a run-away leader problem.

Cons:
a)Not enough tension. In those 2 games we only had one time where we were building on the same point (4 cubes field) and my girlfriend slammed down a 10 green to claim victory over the 4 cubes and winning that point by only 1 point. The other "capture points" we won were a little bit lack-luster because with the cards we have, we can deduce that we wouldn't win(due to multiple 13s or 1s being put down already), so we ended up working on the point that we feel we've won. This makes the game to feel a little bit like a "multi-solitaire".

b) The game is somewhat fiddly. (Sorry Stephen Glenn, I know you would like to think your game is elegantly designed) I am not saying this is a fiddly game per se like the definition, but what I am trying to say is that: In comparison with the other quick games that we own, such as Battle Line,Lost Cities, Jaipur, Biblios, or even San Juan, it is a little bit more fiddly than usual. I have to constantly watch out for lock-up cubes, reshuffle, and at the end of the game, put out the empty field cards since we no longer can fill them.

So for the people who enjoyed the game, I wonder if my gaming experience will improve if I go with the Publisher's rule where we can play on both sides at all times? Will that actually give me more tension? Or it will actually make me not like the game more since it only creates chaos but not tension?

I kind of wish the game is a little bit more nail biting like Battle Line, but it hasn't live up to my expectations just yet. Am I wrong to say that the game kind of plays itself a little bit since there is a little too much randomness to my taste? (cube draw + card draw)

Thanks for reading.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Walnut Creek
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porkchop_tw wrote:
So for the people who enjoyed the game, I wonder if my gaming experience will improve if I go with the Publisher's rule where we can play on both sides at all times? Will that actually give me more tension?

We find that the publisher's rule reduces tension, rather than increasing it. That's because if you can play on the other side at any time, you never face the painful decision of which crap card to play on which tile on your side. My wife isn't as fond of that "frustration" form of tension, so we have also tried a house rule where when one color of one tile on your side is full, you can start playing that color on that tile on the other side. Personally, I like the designer's rule best.

I have mixed feelings about the 3-for-1 trade, so am ok playing with or without it.

Quote:
I kind of wish the game is a little bit more nail biting like Battle Line, but it hasn't live up to my expectations just yet. Am I wrong to say that the game kind of plays itself a little bit since there is a little too much randomness to my taste? (cube draw + card draw)

I would suggest giving it a few more tries, to see if more tactics and strategies reveal themselves to you. Have you started picking your battles based on what cubes you and your opponent already have? My wife started hiding her cubes when I started trying that. As another example, there should be some times where you thought you would win a tile, but then decide to abandon it after your opponent plays a strong card or two.

I doubt it will live up to Battle Line (which I have only read about), but it should have as much tension and strategy as Jaipur (which we have really enjoyed). We don't really like head-to-head combat games in general. The reason we bought, play, and enjoy Balloon Cup is really because of the theme, which has personal meaning to us. If not for that, we would have no interest in this game.

As a side note, we don't pay close attention to trying to prevent the "lock up" problem, and it has only hit us once or twice. We rarely draw more then one gray at a time, and 2 gray is ok if others aren't already out. I think the Piñata re-implementation solves the lockup problem by adding wildcards, so you might prefer that. I haven't played it so I don't know where it would fit in the tension-o-meter.
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Ron Lacer
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Springfield
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I wouldn't be so worried about the lock-up 'problem'. With over 400 logged plays, I think I have had maybe half a dozen games end up that way.

As for the 3-for-1 trade, I totally love this rule! A major part of my end game strategy is to see if I can win by giving a cup to my opponent so that I can then trade in 3 of that color to win another cup. And when your opponent is aware of this strategy it can turn the end game into quite a tense little dance.

Also, I have never tried playing it with the designer's rule about playing only on your side until you have filled it, but I don't think I would like it that way. I enjoy the decision making involved with trying to decide whether to reinforce your side or to attack your opponent. Seems to me that it would be too limiting if you did not have the option.
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@spielfriek
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porkchop_tw wrote:
(Sorry Stephen Glenn, I know you would like to think your game is elegantly designed)


Apology accepted.
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Josh Chen
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Aliso Viejo
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A quick update. After a 9-month hiatus of shelving the game, we played again last night. After both my fiancee (girlfriend then) and I gained a lot more experience with board and card games in general, to our surprise, this game plays pretty good. I've first let go of the fear of locking up. I've read on the forum that the chances of that happening is pretty slim. The only color that I've been looking out for is the grey cubes since they are least in number but fortunately I didn't draw 2 at the same time last night. The game went a lot faster because both of us are now more used to more complex board games and that is a plus in my book.

Oh and even though I enjoy Battle Line very much, my fiancee found the game dull and too confrontational. We are burnt out on playing Lost Cities so last night the game of Balloon Cup was surprisingly refreshing and brings back a little bit of nostalgia.

I've upped my rating of the game and my fiancee rated it a 7/10 after the game last night.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Good to hear.

If you enjoy the "2p fight over multiple battles at the same time" format (like Balloon Cup and Battle Line), you might also explore Campaign Manager 2008 and Battle For Souls.
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