Reducing Doug's To Play List

I've been playing games for 40 years, and usually have a small pile of things "in the queue", waiting for some table time. I will try and use this blog as an incentive to get some of these games on the table, and played. As I work through the list, I will tap in some rambling impressions.
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February 25th, 2015 - Recent Gaming - Tolkien, 1830, Polis, En Garde, Five Tribes, Sankt Petersburg

Doug Adams
Australia
Oakleigh
Victoria
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Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
My son continues his Tolkien nerdling development, and we seem to hammer out four or five games of this a day. I estimate we have played this sixty times already this year. I've experimented with various setups, such as deploying Frodo forwards, or holding Gandalf and/or Boromir back. It's fun and rather alarming watching Harrison spot and exploit weak play by daddy, and stomp all over it. He loves holding Saruman back until Gandalf is out of the way, and then causing carnage among the weaker characters. His new trick is using the Warg to force Boromir into a fight. Great fun to watch the little gamer developing, and great to give this great game a solid run.

Lord of the Rings
Harrison really wanted to try the King of Coops, so we relented and broke it out over the weekend. Janet, Harrison and I played three Hobbits, and open handed on the table so we could talk about it as we played. I don't think Janet and I had played it since Harrison was born, so that is at least six years, so this was a refresher game. We made it to space 57 before we all were caught by Sauron, and became tiny, hungry black riders.

It was great to get this game out again. It emphasized that this really is the best cooperative game I've played. So thematically well connected (Dave Farquhar's influence again, I suspect), with so many different spheres where the game can hammer you. Other cooperative games are fun, but most of them feel like toys with little replayability. I will try and get this game onto the table a lot more this year.

After our game, Harrison and I put on the old BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, and we listened to The Ring Goes South episode. Harrison now romps around the house bellowing in his best Michael Hordern "Fool of a Took!". Then, to compound the problem and totally break our son, I made the HUGE mistake of showing little Gandalf this ...



Go First Dice
These are quite cool. Roger was telling me about them in January, and I checked them out at the time, and dismissed them as too expensive. However, I came into some birthday money in February and decided to order a couple of sets. They arrived yesterday morning.

So what are they? Essentially they are four D12 dice that will determine a start player. Additionally, they will also determine a player seating order if you so desire it. It all sounds rather basic, but the distribution of the numbers across the four dice (1-48) has been balanced out to provide an even distribution of results across the four dice.

Janet and I sat down and recorded the results of 150 rolls, and the results seemed to be pretty fair and flat, so they appear to work. Cute, geeky, but I like them.

1830
After some pleasant cocking about with 1825 in January, I've moved on to 1830, and have a couple of games going online, using Rails and Dropbox. In my five player game I've already messed up by literally tossing money away (buying the B&O private, then under-parring the company), and my three player game is waiting for one player to fire up. Loving the journey, and will try and play a lot more of this game.

En Garde
I was reading on one of Mark Johnson's Boardgames To Go fora that he has started up a 10x10 challenge this year. I am not really across the 10x10 thing, as I sort of do the opposite - try to spend 2-3 weeks with a single game, blog about it, then move on. Still, I checked out Mark's list of 10 games and was very surprised to see just how vast the range of online boardgaming options are available these days. I spotted En Garde, an oldie from way, way back, and signed up for an online game with Mark.

I hadn't played this in years and immediately went down three bouts to zero, with barely a chance of touching Mark. Luckily I was playing left handed, so flipped to my right hand, and came back with the next two tilts. The score was 3-2 (first to 5 wins), but Mark just smiled and declared "I'm not left handed either". He cleaned me up 5-2. I bet he has six fingers, the rotter.

Fun stuff, and highlights what Knizia could do with a small deck of cards. The online version is clean and functional.

Ready for a rematch!
Polis: Fight for the Hegemony
Another game from Mark Johnson's 10x10 challenge. I played this a couple of times in 2012, after a speculative purchase, and was very, very impressed. A very clever design, using clean mechanics to simulate the complex Peloponnesian War. I remembered it was easy to play, but also easy to screw it up - a deep, unforgiving game.

I signed up and started a game with Mark. I figured he would be so inundated with game offers, I would have a week or two to brush up on the rules. But no, inside a few hours I was notified it was my Athenian turn. Hoplites were being deployed into Boiotia, and the game was prodding me to take two actions. I rapidly scanned the rules, vaguely recalled that silver, wheat and prestige were important, and concentrated on getting that during the first round.

I tapped Attika for the silver, then marched into Boiotia to grab the metal. I besieged Thebes and won a 50/50. I constructed a couple of merchants, and quickly traded for the required wheat, then wondered about strategy. I then came up with a paper-thin Athenian plan of building a fleet and trying to blockade the eastern sea areas, cutting Sparta off from most of the trade markets. Hopefully, Pericles would be proud of me. However, while I was doing that, Mark somehow bankrupted himself, with not enough wheat to feed his population, and the game ended on the first round.

Hopefully we can play again soon. The web port is very slick, and the game is sneaky deep, and excellent.

Five Tribes
I turned up to game night last night with Lord of the Rings, expecting to play a five player game, possibly with the Sauron expansion. Roger had already arrived and had Five Tribes half set up on the table. Apparently we were four players now and he had decided to play this instead. Oh joy, a new Days of Wonder game - a company who had been on the slide for several years.

Fighting down my urge to go home and study Polis: Fight for the Hegemony rules and 1830 tile upgrades, I resigned myself to an hour or two of average-ness. Thankfully, the game was pretty simple, and slightly above average. A Mancala variant, with lashings of point salad stuff layered over the top. A lot more accessible than Trajan, and it wasn't half bad. I need to ponder it a little more but these were my takeaways...

1 possibly the best new Days of Wonder game since Colosseum.
2 slave cards? I haven't gone looking, but I bet there's a thread or two about that.
3 very tactical - no need to look at the board until it's your turn.
4 no point making strategic plans, they will be changed on you by a very fluid game board.
5 The palm trees look like Lisa Simpson, and the camels look like whales, or turtles, or camels.
6 My game was simply simply cashing in four white guys for two Djinns, assassinating to get a few camels out, and spending the rest of the game seizing green market cards. I scored 90 points for those green cards, and won by about 30 points back to second place.

Initial rating 6 - solid stuff.

Ugh.
Sankt Petersburg (zweite edition)
I spotted this in Roger's pile of games, so suggested this as I didn't have having to learn a second new game in me. We've played a ton of Sankt Petersburg over the years, but this apparently is a new edition. I didn't know this was even a thing, so was curious to see what they had done to it.

Why sheep happy?
Well, poor Sankt Petersburg has had some game-scaping done to it, and the results aren't good. The bright blue game board is now a dull affair that reminded me a little of what they did to Medici a decade or more ago. The crisp, clear cartoon-woodcut cards from the original edition have been replaced by truly ugly, muddy, dull cards. The prices and icons on the workers are now very difficult to see, and the upgrade cards that have the boxed price around it (to clearly denote it is an upgrade) ... well they still have the box, but it is almost invisible. Also, the quality of the art is truly appalling. Roger told us these were all game designers, but I couldn't spot one I recognised, apart from possibly Doris Matthaus. Poor Doris - the artist did her no favours.

The one redeeming card was the happy sheep card.

Luckily, the game is still the same, with possibly a tweaked price or two. And the game is a good game. Once I began playing, I quickly ignored the poor production and began thinking about the important stuff. I went for a flat path of worker, building and aristocrat cards, built a victory point lead, and managed to manufacture the end of the game by ensuring the worker deck drained before the other victory point engines overtook me. If the game had gone one extra round, I would have been caught. I won by about 5 points.

When I got home I gave my first edition Sankt Petersburg a big hug, and told it I'd never take it for granted again. I gave my Amigo Medici an affectionate pat too.
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