Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Blogger

I just updated my blog to the new Google-based one because they stopped letting me login using the old system. If anything bad happens, there's nothing I can do about it.

It looks like the feeds may have been messed up by this change. I had to resubscribe on BlogLines to make them work. If anyone gets the feed for this post, let me know so I don't have to notify people to update. Thanks.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Game Nights

I participated in 2 fantastic game nights this week.

The first started off rather slowly while we were waiting for people to show up and be ready to play. Two of us played Factory Fun and Lost Cities. The former was no better and no worse than my first experience. The latter was my first time with the real game--all my other plays being on BSW. I think the cards are just too big and difficult to shuffle. Perhaps they felt the need to take up space in the box.

The night ended with a 4p game of Goa. One player had played once before, and, for the other two, it was the first time. As with similar auction/action games, like Princes of Florence, the essence of the game is the evaluation of the resources that players are bidding on. And, as in Ra, the values of the various resources are different for each player. For example, if you have no ships, a tile that gives you a few ships may be worth a lot, but to another player with many ships or the ship track upgraded to 4, it might be worth little. Will you get it cheaply? Will he force you to pay more? This was a learning game, but everyone got right into it quickly. We had 2 players with flat development boards, and 2 players with some tracks on row 1 and some on row 4. The big surprise was the ending scores: 34-35-37-38

On the second game night, with 3 players, we did our usual "pick 3, pick 2, pick 1" thing.

The first round was a choice between die Magier von Pangea, Terra Nova, and Masons. Terra Nova was chosen. Did I ever tell you this is a nasty game? It has some of the flavor of Hey! That's My Fish!, in the movement and blocking mechanisms, but rather than removing hexes as you pick up pieces, you place blocks to form walls. Enclosed areas score points for the player with the most pieces inside, but only if they have 3 or fewer terrain types in them. You can place walls adjacent to any piece you have moved this turn. You can use your pieces to block movement and wall placement. I would describe the nastiness of this game in this way: Imagine Carcassonne. You are about the finish off a big city where you will score 30 points when another player slips in and places a wall inside, closing off a much smaller space which only gives you 6 points.

Our second game was a choice between Medina, Maharaja, and Beowulf, the mythic hero winning out. I was glad to play this again as I am still looking for its essence. I had to teach the game to both of my opponents. This is a game of hand management and planning. However, I find myself tempted to compete heavily at every episode. I certain this is a bad thing, but it doesn't help me break the habit. Some episodes have positive rewards, even for the "losers", but this being a Knizia game, I'm not convinced that that is a good time to back off early. I played way too conservatively, and ended without a scratch, but only 24 fame. The player with 2 wounds and a scratch had 37 points. I'm definitely starting to see that there something here beyond my vision, which bodes well for the game. That, and the fact that everyone loved it.

Our third and final game was a choice between Liberté, Mission: Red Planet, and Louis XIV. These were not my 3 picks! I had to remove one of them for the final chooser. This decision was painful! I hadn't played a full game of any of these, and I wanted to play them all, dammit! After successfully making a Will Check, I put his majesté back on the shelf, expecting soon to be sending my astronauts to Mars. To my utter surprise, Liberté was selected. I even warned them that this game would take a while to explain and to play, but they were keen. Onward!...

This game is really difficult to look at and evaluate the situation. In this rare case, it is not the fault of poor physical design. It is the sheer nature of the 2-dimensional matrix of players vs factions. However, if the game was just this, it would ultimately fall flat. The essense of this game is the personal display: a set of 4 or 5 cards left in front of you rather than discarding them. These cards, if still there at the start of the next round, are picked back up into your hand to be used again. This is a great way to recycle useful cards. Cards in your personal display are also used to break ties during the election. Liberté is all about ties.

Since the regions are resolved in a fixed order, you must figure out where the ties are, when they will be evaluated, whom they will be against, and what cards each of those players will have (at that point) to use in breaking the tie. Having all your ties later in the sequence means the opponents might have fewer cards with which to compete against you. Being last in the player order means you get to decide which card(s), if any, to play. There is a certain magic in the way all of this comes together.

The first round ended with a split of all the 3 major VP's between the players: 5, 2, and 3. The Moderates, won the election and all players had presence in government, making the Terror and Purge cards very dangerous. At the end of year 2, I could see that the radicals were going to win, and that I had control of them by quite a large spread. To my dismay, the Radicals achieved 16 votes--one short of a Radical Landslide win for me! The same player went last 3 rounds in a row, and used this position to win a couple of battles and some regional VP's. In fact, we were unable to come back from this, although I don't think we worked well against the leader. Final scores: 15-17-30!

We ran into one strange rules issue during play. If anyone reading this blog who knows the game could answer this question, I'd appreciate it.

Liber image by GeoMan