Okay, I had to stretch a bit to make my title-naming thing work this week, but I managed to get through it. It’s a lot harder when you play 7 games than it is with 3, but I’m certainly not going to complain about playing more games. Instead, I think that I’ll just talk about them!
Gryphon Game Line
Denise, the owner of Hypermind, has recently also become a rep for FRED Distribution, and I volunteered to learn and teach her some of the demo games that they sent. We got three of the ones from the Gryphon Games label to the table this week, and overall, we were pretty impressed:
Modern Art: The Card Game (also released as Master’s Gallery, bookshelf series #9)
Basically, Reiner Knizia used the set-collection and scoring mechanisms out of Modern Art and made this extremely quick little card-game filler. Since auctions are the main element of Modern Art, you might think that this version would suck in a significant way, but I was actually rather impressed. My only real issue with the game is that the symbols/actions that are present on only some cards give an unfair advantage to people who happen to draw them. But considering that the game only takes 10-15 minutes to play (which has been pretty consistent over 4 plays of it so far), I’m willing to live with it. I’m particularly impressed by the timing aspect of the game, since when a round ends can make a huge difference in scoring.
I played two games of this with Gwen and my brother Tony over the weekend, and then another two games on Tuesday. I didn’t really keep any stats from the weekend, though…
Time: 12 and 11 minutes
Game 1: Me 116, Brad 79, Denise 76
Game 2: Mark 69, Denise 61, Brad 61, Me 57
Ratings: Mark 7.5, Denise 8, Brad 8, Me 6.5
Looting London (bookshelf series #7)
This is a nice little game where you play sets of cards to claim tiles that are both worth points individually and which influence the solving of 5 different thefts around London, which give bonus points to the player with the most evidence solving it. But the neatest thing about it is that there is also a little trail or web of evidence, and only the tiles at the bottom of the grid are available to be taken. While it’s not a terribly heavy game, I do see some more potential for experimentation and strategy with the game, especially since you can also “bury” evidence to get to tiles higher up in a column. The only downside I see right now is that you only draw one card per turn, which makes for lots of fiddly, boring turns where everyone is just drawing one card each in turn. But I think it’s definitely worth some more play.
Time: 14 minutes
Score: Chris 20, Chip 19, Steve 15, Me 13, James 8
Ratings: Chris 6.5, Chip 7.5, Steve 7, Me 6.5, James 6.5
Take It Easy!
While BGG just lists this reprint as a FRED production, the copy we played definitely had the Gryphon imprint. Anyway, none of us had ever played this 26-year-old puzzle game, so we gave it a shot later in the evening. I was the caller with 5 other players, and the game went really well. Like, everybody else loved the game and rated it an 8 or above. I thought it was quite solid myself, but still felt that it was a bit too thin and simplistic for my tastes. Either way, I have a feeling that it will show up more in the coming weeks and months.
Time: 15 minutes
Score: Brad 160, Josh 149, Chip 140, Me 139, Denise 134, Mark 79
Ratings: Brad 8, Josh 8, Chip 8.5, Me 6, Denise 8.5, Mark 8
Like I said, I was impressed by the quality of all three games, especially considering their incredible brevity. All three games played in under 15 minutes while still giving a significant level of enjoyment. I’m going to keep my eye especially on the Bookshelf Series, and may have to pick up a few of them myself.
After the bevy of activity with this Game of the Month! last week, it was strange that it only saw one play on Tuesday night. I hope that my spectacular “It’s a Small World” playlist didn’t have anything to do with it!!! Anyway, after random determination of turn order, Chris Ingersoll found himself in the terrible and dreaded 4th position, which had not yet been able to win a game of Small World all month long. Would Chris’ skill overcome the disadvantage of his position??? Read on and see!!!
The initial selection of Races and Powers was a bit sick, with such combos as the Pillaging Skeletons, Wealthy Ghouls, Diplomat Elves, Bivouacking Sorcerers, and Commando Halflings. If you don’t know much about the game, then trust me, those are all really strong. Anyway, Chip started us off and grabbed the Skeletons, which could both score extra points and generate new units by killing stuff. Steve grabbed the Wealthy Ghouls and promptly declined them on the next turn to pick up the Bivouacking Sorcerers. I went third, and took a bit of a gamble in choosing the Stout Dwarves, grabbing three regions including two mines and then declining immediately at the end of the first turn. Despite losing one of my mines and my other region on the next turn, the other mine stuck around for 5 more turns (until I declined my next race) and scored me 10 more points. Chris chose the Mounted Humans and went on a rampage through the upper-left corner of the map, racking up a lot of bonus points from his fields.
With the Hill Amazons I chose next, I started from the bottom-
right corner and spread myself to the left across the bottom of the map, picking up as many Hills as I could. I rumbled with Steve’s Sorcerers (as did everyone else when we decided to put an end to them and their Ghoul minions) and later his Dragon Master Orcs, and also had a scuffle with Chip’s Forest Ratmen. For the most part, Chris and I were on opposite sides of the lake and didn’t get too confrontational, so it was up to Chip and Steve to put a stop to his Commando Halflings. Through selective abandonment, I managed to keep the Amazons alive for 6 total turns, scoring 10 or more points in each.
In the last two turns, we all made last-ditch efforts with new races. Chip ended with the Diplomat Elves, Steve had the Alchemist Tritons, Chris took the Flying Trolls, and I picked up the Heroic Giants. As we tallied our scores, Chris made a valiant effort but came up 3 points short of the win as I took the day! While the other players knew that I was doing pretty well for most of the game, I think that my steady 10-13 point scoring never drew the attention that some of the other races did when they would rack up 14-16 points in a turn. So, by spreading out and laying low, I managed to get the win.
Time: 55 minutes
Score: Me 87, Chris 84, Steve 68, Chip 63
Ratings: Me 8, Chris 9, Steve 8.5, Chip 7.5
There’s not much more to say about Small World that I haven’t already covered, so now I just need to gather my thoughts for the review of it I’m working on.
Chip brought this cool race game to the table this week. While I’ve heard of Daytona 500 before, I wasn’t really aware of this reimplementation of it. The components (especially the two, double-sided boards) were fantastic, and the game wasn’t too shabby either. I had a pretty cruddy hand of cards that weren’t particularly good for any car, so I just took the last car available at the minimum $10k. Thankfully, James and Chris had some cards that were great for me, which led them both to bet on my car and push it into first place. My bets weren’t so bad either, though, since I put them on the second and third place finishers. In the end, Chris and I actually tied in the game with $370k, but we sort of unofficially house-ruled that I got the win since my car actually won the race.
Time: 24 minutes
Score: Me $370k*, Chris $370k, Chip $340k, James $320k, Steve $280k, Brad $130k
Ratings: Me 7.5, Chris 7, Chip 8.5, James 10, Steve 8, Brad 7
Some of the guys wanted to play again, and I hate now that I discouraged it. I could really see Top Race being something that a race fan would play over and over again, and it’s light enough for non-gamers to really understand and enjoy as well. While I’m not much into auto races, I still had a lot of fun with it and would love to try it out a few more times, maybe even using the advanced rules and playing a 3-race series. If it weren’t strictly an import, I might would even consider picking it up since my dad and some other family members are really into NASCAR (even though this technically is a representation of Formula 1 racing).
I just love this auction game (enough that I’m currently writing a review of it), and was able to get in a 4-player game with Chris (who had played before), Brad, and Steve. The game was very tense and thoughtful, but I managed to pick up and hold the Metro card all game long. As the endgame neared, I had a plan to complete two more instanced of my secret objective (having 3 buildings in a region), but Brad made a pretty big play error which allowed Steve to take the initiative, play out his last two buildings, and end the game a little too early. Thankfully, based on the strength of claiming two highest-building bonuses, I was able to remain undefeated and take the game anyway. Chris, however, pulled the fountain objective, which can be extremely lucrative but really hard to pull off, and he finished last.
Time: 35 minutes
Score: Me 37, Steve 33, Brad 23, Chris 16
Ratings: Me 8.5, Steve 8, Brad 8, Chris 8
Again, I won’t get into too much discussion about it now, but Metropolys continues to rise in my opinion of it, and it’s even beginning to challenge my favorite auction game, which would be…
This was a strange game of Ra. After being the last person with suns left in the first epoch and pushing my luck against the wily old sun god, I used my suns early in the second and third phases and ended up watching the action for several minutes as the game ended. My scoring was based on getting the Pharaoh bonus all three epochs, having a few river tiles, a few assorted god and gold tiles, and making sure that I would get the bonus for most suns at the end of the game. I knew that, despite neither of us bothering much with monuments, Alton was my main competition in the game. But I didn’t really have any idea of exactly how we compared until he announced his score and totally blew me out of the water. He shared the Pharaoh bonus with me once, had a mess of rivers, and scored for civilizations a couple of times, but I had no idea that he was able to get 15 more points than I did. I call shenanigans!!! But then again, Ra can just surprise you like that sometimes.
Time: 42 minutes
Score: Alton 60, Me 45, Mark 42, Josh 21
Ratings: Alton 10, Me 9, Mark 9, Josh 7
It was late at that point, and we all called it a night. Another great game night, and four new games played! Woo-hoo!
Other Games Played
Time: 45 and ? minutes
Game 1: Josh 120, Mark 110
Game 2: Alton 138, Josh 132, Mark 130
Ratings: Alton 9, Josh 8, Mark 8.5
Time: 60 and 45 minutes
Game 1: Mark $1.19mil, Robert $1.04mil, Alton $990k, Josh $870k
Game 2: Alton $1.37mil, Mark $1.25mil, Josh $1.2mil
Ratings: Mark 9, Alton 9, Robert 9, Josh 9
Time: 18 minutes
Score: Chip 52, Steve 42, Chris 41
Ratings: Chip 8.5, Steve 7, Chris 9
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Mark 67, Alton 65, Josh 24
Ratings: Mark 10, Alton 10, Josh 10
Time: 37 and 44 minutes
Game 1: James 16, Chip 14, Josh 5, Alton 2
Game 2: James 19, Alton 6, Chip 5, Josh 1
Ratings: James 8.5, Chip 8.5, Alton 9, Josh ?
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