Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
After an October overflowing with great new-to-me games, November was a return to normality. Eight new games and no real stinkers, but only one definite hit.
I picked up the Sid Sackson reissues box set of Sleuth, Monad and Venture at Essen but didn't have time to play any of them. Sleuth was the one I was most excited about, and it didn't disappoint. As one player commented when I taught it today, "It's just like Clue, but without all the stupid walking around!".
This is indeed a pure deduction game, with all of Sackson's hallmark elegance. It also plays a bit like my recent obsession, Hanabi in reverse: instead of trying to push information out to other players and hope they use everything at their disposal to make clever inferences, in Sleuth you're trying to suck all that information in for your own benefit. I'm still working on my notation system, but it seems quite similar to what is required to solve a Sudoku puzzle.
Another Essen pick-up that hit the table this month, only once so far. I love modern-day themes, and filling a newspaper front-page with articles and photos is a much better fit for a spatial placement, individual player-board Euro than the usual tedious palazzo-building! I also really like the way the game throws a wrench in the careful individual planning by allowing you to buy adverts for call-girls and dump them in the middle of your opponents' layouts!
The rules are a little clunky in some ways and the graphic design is pretty spartan (not that I mind), but on the whole Extrablatt feels amazingly modern for a game published in 1991. Drafting, area majority, auctions - all present and correct. Schmiel was way ahead of his time.
I really like the idea and aesthetics of 'the Polish queuing game', but I'm not convinced I'll want to play it much. It achieves its educational aims of evoking the hopelessness of the queuers and the capriciousness of the system. But once you've experienced that, I'm not sure there's much gameplay to keep you coming back.
I'm always interested to try a new Knizia - I think I'm up to 50 now! From reading the rules, the spatial stock-market of Spectaculum sounded a lot like Paris Connection, once you see past the actively unhelpful pasted-on circus theme. That turned out to be pretty accurate, though the market is more volatile than PC and Spectaculum doesn't have the cleverness of shares and tracks being represented by the same cubes. There's a 'gamers variant' that gives a little more choice in track-building, but I prefer the basic rules. Like Kingdom Builder, I think the constraints are the point, and the basic rules keep the game as snappy as it needs to be for something so simple.
On The Cards
Fluxx for trick-taking fans! It's a deck of standard cards plus a deck of rules cards, four of which are flipped over to define a trick-taking/climbing game. You play a round according to those rules, then the winner takes one of the rule cards as a point, revealing a new rule. I like that the rules only change gradually, and it's interesting to see how a small change can still make a big difference to the play. It's nicely put together, but some rules combinations result in rather odd games.
The second game from the box-set was a rare Sackson disappointment for me. The basic set-collection structure works fine, if not exactly evocative of building a business empire. And the balancing of the low and high-value money cards by allowing low cards to be built up into more valuable sets is classic Sackson elegance (later used by Knizia too). But the random, swingy take-that cards seemed oddly out of place in a Sackson design and the game really dragged for us. I won't write it off yet, but it was not a good first impression.
Decent push-your-luck dice filler with more to it than the tedious Zombie Dice and its ilk. I had fun (and was outrageously lucky!) but it's not particularly memorable. I'd play again if it was around but won't seek it out.
Rumble in the Dungeon
I played Rumble in the House a year ago and found it to be an OK 5-minute micro-filler with a bit of bluff. Rumble in the Dungeon is essentially the same game, with one minor tweak that I quite liked.
Oops, missed this one, which I played in the final hours of November. My regular 2p opponent bought this recently and we were both keen to try it. Unfortunately neither of us knew the rules already, and the rulebook is horrid. The game may be asymmetric, but I found having different thematic terminology for 'draw deck', 'hand' and 'discard pile' for each of the players unfortunate to say the least.
Once we finally got going, I found the game surprisingly simple, though Fantasy Flight did their usual best to conceal that under a layer of unnecessary chrome. The asymmetry is really neat, and I like the mind games. I enjoyed the game, and would like to play again, but I do feel that most of the point of it will be getting in really deep with the deck-building and expansion packs. I don't think I'm interested enough for that to be likely.