Tonight was a fairly long and late game night for us. Since we sometimes have different preferences about what to play, we have come up with a nice system to select games. I choose 3 games I would like to play, and Mary Ann picks one of them. For the next game we switch roles.
Downfall of Pompeii (x2)
I was lucky enough to get this on the table the day after I received it. I had just finished my first solo pass through a game when Mary Ann came home. Perhaps seeing it in play was the reason she chose it over El Grande and Mexica. I didn't get a great vibe about this game from my geek buddies, but I had read the rules myself, and thought it would be good enough to own.
After playing twice, I understand what people don't like about it, but it didn't bother me. I'll address the issues here:
>> It's too random.
It is very random. You draw cards that tell you what you can do. You draw tiles that determine where the lava flows. These 2 factors are no more random than Ticket to Ride, and you have more meaningful choices in Pompeii. I could do without the Omen cards, unless they allowed all players to remove a piece.
>> There's not much to do in the first half of the game.
It does feel like this, doesn't it? But there are interesting choices. One, you want to get as many piece on the board as possible, which gives you the best chance to save the most. Two, you want to clump those pieces as much as possible, so you can perform longer moves during the second half. Three, you want your pieces as close to the gates as possible. And four, you want a nice scattering of pieces, so that a blocked gate or two doesn't completely wipe you out. These are opposing forces in some cases.
>> The two halves of the game seem unrelated.
This might be true for you if you focus only on theme. One theme is adding people, and one is removing people. When I'm playing a piece onto the board, I'm thinking about how I am going to get it out a gate. How far is it? Where will the lava be coming from? I think a slightly better design would have been to ramp down the playing of people and ramp up the lava at the same time. This would have allowed players to do both actions in inter-related ways. Of course, this would not have been thematic; you don't stay and have babies when the volcano erupts.
>> There's little player interaction.
Perhaps. In some sense, you are playing against the game as much as against the opponents. But one of the opponents is a volcano after all. You compete for board position, but only if you hold cards that allow you to do so (I found almost no cards useless). You selectively play lava tiles to kill or surround the opponents' people and block the gates. You also play a game of leapfrog with the opponents' people. Being the first to leave a space is more beneficial. This is the opposite of games like Verflixxt. In fact, the second half feels a little like Through the Desert in this regards.
I think Pompeii will hold up as a light and fun choice. The deck preparation is a little much, but at least you do it once and don't have to mess with it again like in Power Grid. The volcano mechanism is very thematic, but serves virtually no purpose (only to break ties). I think it's just a gimmick to sell the game. 17-7 and 17-14.
Mary Ann's 3 games were Entdecker (new), Keythedral, and Magna Grecia. A tough choice for me--which was great--but I opted for the one least played. Since we had played this for the first time recently, we dove right in, and it played pretty quickly.
We used the standard setup. Mary Ann went right after the +10 island and a fortification, while I opted for the cheaper approach, placing as many scouts as I could. Once a nice central sea lane opened up, I dropped my own fort on it. This only gained me a single toll, but otherwise hindered my opponent's choices.
Unlike Carcassonne, in Entdecker when there's a single-tile hole, it gets filled in automatically. This rule can be used to huge tactical advantage. You can explore an "easy" tile to force the fill-in of a difficult one without having to pay the 4 gold for it.
My abundance of scouts gave me 5 huts (with no 5's!) to her 2. I was also ahead about 15 points. Mary Ann did a great job catching up in scouts, but could not catch up in points. 123-87.
Our first play with our new copy. Our games of Phoenix are getting nasty. When we first started playing, we'd pretty much just do our own thing until someone finished their side. Now we are swapping pieces when it hurts, and changing the blocks for the win. 24-15
Downfall of Pompeii image by GeoMan