Monday, January 14, 2008

Bob Day

Saturday was Bob Day for January. I had specifically asked for any of 4 different games to be brought and taught. Of the 3 that were brought, I got a chance to play 2 of them. This is their story...

Holy Grail Desanctified

I've been trying to obtain a copy of Princes of the Renaissance for a long time. Fortunately for me, I have been unable to do so. The game fell utterly flat. It had all the promise and structure of other great Martin Wallace games, namely Perikles and Liberté, but failed to live up to my expectations.

During the first decade, players snatch up all of the military tiles. This sets the base attack and defense values used for the rest of the game. These values can only be further modified by acquiring city tiles which give you various +1 and +2 adjustments. Once you get to this point, the whole game is all about tweaking the "stock values" of the 5 cities by declaring battles, and auctioning "shares" in them.

Each player has approximately the same military strength (except me because I failed to see this exact problem I am describing) to which is added a single die roll. So battles are won and lost by chance, which increases and decreases city values. This kind of system works in Struggle of Empires and Perikles because attack and defense strengths rise and fall over the course of the games, players have choices where to apply them, and units can be lost. Princes seemed to degrade into players trying to create battles where they benefit no matter who wins and loses, who fights and who doesn't. I found this wholly unappealing.

Geek Buddy Failure

I put a lot of weight on the ratings of my geek buddies because I carefully choose them based on existing matches and/or useful comments. Blue Moon City was a game I had read the rules to twice and dismissed. But my geek buddies said otherwise. This worked well with Beowulf in the past, so I decided to give it a try.

I found the game to be silly. There's no other word for it. There's no long-term or even medium-term planning whatsoever. There are too many card types to do any kind of hand management. Buildings get completed all around you before it becomes your turn again. I don't see any game here at all. Sadly, I have to rate it a 3.

On top of all that, the production quality is horrible. What's that? Why am I picking on Blue Moon City and not on the quality-inferior Princes of the Renaissance? Because it certainly looks like effort was actually made in BMC. If the game is going to be physically dysfunctional, just don't make the effort. It's not as horrible as Fairy Tale, but pretty close.

Princes of the Renaissance image by Terminus_Est


At 7:18 PM, Blogger Seth Jaffee said...

Wow, sounds like the most dissappointing gaming session ever!

With regard to Princes of the Renaissance, I haven't played it, but your description ...players trying to set up combats where they make out no matter who fights or wins... sounds reasonable. But if it's not your thing, then it's not your thing.

Regarding Blue Moon City... I'm not sure if we ever talked about that particular game, but if we did, then I'm sure "I told you so" ;P

I'm not a fan of BMC. I only played it once, and have no desire to play again. I made some comments on BGG about it... I think to sum them up, I see Mission: Red Planet as a game of similar scope, only I like M:RP much, much better.

Hopefully next session will go better for you!

At 7:21 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Game day itself was great. I played a bunch of other good stuff, and I got to cross 2 games off my list that would have otherwise been hovering there until I played them. Now I know.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only played Princes of the Renaissance once but I've been itching for more ever since. Unfortunately at this point I really don't recall much about the game itself, I just recall it being very tense and we had quite a bit of player interaction and negotiating. Picking sides in the war is a pretty clever mechanic, very Wallace-esque.

I can see where you might not have enjoyed the game though. I do recall it being a pretty unforgiving game; letting one person gain too much of an advantage meant they could really run away with things. Out of curiosity would you play it again and see if it is any better with some knowledge under your belt?

As for Blue Moon City, I've always been curious and have heard lots of good things, but the artwork always looked so busy. Fairy Tale is a good comparison... there's a game that is in serious need of a reprint. Fantastic game, terrible art design.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger ekted said...

"Out of curiosity would you play it again and see if it is any better with some knowledge under your belt?"

I might be tempted to try it if someone thought that my characterization was missing something and that they could show me why.

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Princes of the Renaissance most definitely needs another play Jim. I think it is a game that rewards repeated play as the first time or two through, people tend to focus on the military tiles and you end up with the game playing very much like you described.

There are various approaches to the game. You can play as an aggressive military strategy on offense or a very strong defender. You can also ignore the military and merely start fights between others. There is a lot of subtle flexibility that gives the game some significant depth. And I've seen games where there is limited fighting altogether. I'd really give this one another go before writing it off.

As far as Blue Moon City goes, I played it once and immediately sold my copy. I found it wholly unengaging.

Sorry I missed playing a game with you Friday.


At 9:02 PM, Blogger ekted said...

"Sorry I missed playing a game with you Friday."

I saw you leaving to go watch football. You can't TIVO game day, dude. :)

At 6:16 AM, Blogger Pawnstar said...

Your article has reminded me I don't get to play this enough lately.

Princes of the Renaissance has always been more subtle for us than you seem to describe. The totally manipulative mechanisms involved mean that one or two militarily weak players can have great influence over the outcome.

I have successfully achieved victory simply through directing others to do my bidding; this is often a case of pitting the right cities against each other in battle and/or stepping up to defend/attack for the desired result.

If all players are roughly militarily equal then they're missing something; in a game like this a weak army is often as useful as a strong one and in games I've played the armies always seem to be imbalanced. In a five-player game we usually have one player dominating the offensive units, one dominating the defensive units, a couple of middling condotierre and one whose army is so weak that without Papal intervention they are most likely going to lose every battle they are involved with.

Of course, VP will be handed out every time somebody wins a battle; however this is nothing if you have managed to dominate Venice and persuaded somebody else to win every war on Venice's behalf!

At 8:05 AM, Blogger ekted said...

" a game like this a weak army is often as useful as a strong one..."

I guess this is the concept that I did not see. I had the weakest army, and could find nothing to do nor any player/city to affect.

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not going to go into much depth on the game, because I've only played it 5 times and don't care for it all that much, but the weak army is definitely useful in Princes. You can call for a battle to be fought for a city that you want to increase or decrease in value, and then try to win the offensive or defensive position, insuring the city increases or decreases in value.

If you have a weak army, you often have as much sway over city value as the offensively strong players, as long as you can win the right to represent the city on the side that you desire.

The downside is that you are always giving away military VPs in the process. This means that without at least, IMO, 5 players, the non-military strategies are weak because you have to give away too many free VPs because of the way the wreaths gain value.

I personally like the underhandedness of Princes, the thing I don't like, and why I haven't played it in quite a while, is the way that it is auction driven, with the players having very limited access to the resources that are used in those auctions. I find that annoying, because it is so hard to make more auction resources, and they are so important in the game.


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