We had quite a game night this week, with about 16 or so people involved, including a couple of new people to our gatherings. Due to getting off work early for Gwen’s ultrasound, I actually made it to Hypermind extra early, which gave me the chance to try out…
I had heard several people on BGG and elsewhere praise this little filler-length Monopoly-like game, and I wanted to check it out for myself. At its core, you’re doing pretty much the same thing that you do in regular Monopoly, collecting sets of properties and charging rent for them, and the winning condition is to complete three full sets. Many of the cards are the properties themselves, which you can just play (for free) from your hand as one of your three actions each turn. You can also play cards to your bank, which you use to pay out rent (among other things). Payments must come from you bank (not your hand), and if you don’t have enough in your bank, you must pay by giving them your properties (which also have a cash value listed on them). And finally, there are also lots of action cards, which do different things like allow you to charge rent, draw more cards, and steal or trade properties.
My long-time buddy Steve, Mark, and Michelle joined me for a couple of games, with Steve running away with the first game and Mark stealing the second away from me.
Time: 11 and 19 minutes
Game 1: Steve* 3, Me* 1, Michelle* 0, Mark* 0
Game 2: Mark 3, Me 2, Michelle 1, Steve 0
Ratings: Steve 8, Mark 8, Me 6, Michelle 8
Overall, I was pretty impressed by Monopoly Deal. If anything, you probably get about as much fun from playing it as you would from regular Monopoly, but in 15 mintues or so instead of 3 hours. I think that its biggest strength is in its familiarity to non-gamers, though, because it would be a great way to get people into playing something new that still didn’t feel all that new because of the Monopoly branding.
My biggest issue with the game, however, is balance. Or, more appropriately, the lack thereof. And specifically (though not exclusively), I’m talking about the Deal Breaker card, which lets you steal one entire set of properties from another player. You don’t have to trade them or pay them anything, you just take it away and stick it with all your other stuff. As Chris pointed out while casually watching us play, the name of the game is Monopoly Deal, and the name of the card is Deal Breaker. So obviously, somebody on the inside knew that the card was a bit too much.
But while the existence of that card cartainly dropped the game a rating point or so in my mind, it still doesn’t ruin it completely. For $5 and 15 minutes of investment, it’s still a nice little card game, and I’d probably recommend that most of you pick it up if you’re at all interested.
Blue Moon City
Blue Moon City has been making a bit of a come-back in our sessions lately, and it was the next choice at our table this week. Chris joined Michelle and I, which was the first 3-player game that I’ve ever played. It was also the first time I’ve played with the expansion buildings.
Anyway, I did some work to set myself up for the late game with my early contributions (rather than completing buildings myself), so almost by default I missed out on the early tributes to the tower. I sort of ran with it from there, though, choosing to forego moving back to the center and instead hording crystals until I happened to pass by the tower. Chris jumped out to a huge early lead with 3 of his 5 required tributes. I didn’t draw many of the gray cards that helped me move, though, and stuck myself in a corner at one point, and ended up having a few wasted turns.
In the end, even though I dumped lots of crystals for 4 tributes, I was only half-way to what I needed for the last one when Chris won the game.
Time: 47 minutes
Score: Chris 5, Me 4, Michelle 3
Ratings: Chris 8.5, Me 8, Michelle 8
I’ve talked about it some recently, and I continue to think that it’s a really cool game. In addition to the semi-cooperative element I mentioned then, I also like the “don’t-set-up-your-opponents” aspect that is similar to Samurai in a lot of ways. But almost in the reverse of that sentiment, you also get some of the “be-second-in-a-lot-of-places” strategy from area-majority games like El Grande. ‘Tis definitely worth more play.
We had enough people and copies of the game to play 3 games of Vegas Showdown at the same time, but one table wouldn’t play along (shame on you, Kenny, for leading them astray!) My table, however, jumped right in. Tom was new, and Keith (one of our new gamers that found us through BGG) had only played online, so it was good to go through the rules again. Keith apparently learned his lessons well from online play, though, jumping out to an early lead through focusing a lot on restaurants and rooms that gave fame points directly. He was also helped out a lot by one event that gave 3 fame points per restaurant, which netted him 12 points at the time it came out.
I focused more on building up my income early, but also picked up a couple of lounges for the fame points and to fill space. At one point, after I had already built a Restaurant and Buffet, I bid on and won a Five-Star Steakhouse. As I was happily placing it in my hotel-casino, though, someone pointed out that I couldn’t place it until I had a Fancy Restaurant. Eventually, one came out and I bought it, but then on the next turn (when I would have taken Publicity and placed it), we flipped three cards out of four showing the large tile, causing the stack to run out and ended the game.
As we totalled up, Keith’s lead proved to be insurmountable without the addition of my 5-Star Restaurant. It would have been at least 7 more points for me (from the room itself and completing a 3/4 diamond), and I think I would have also taken the greatest population from someone else (maybe even Keith himself), resulting in a 2 or 4 point swing as well. But them’s the breaks, as they say, and so instead I tied for second.
My final hotel/casino, along with the unrealized Five-Star Steakhouse addition
Time: 60ish minutes
Score: Keith 58, Chris 52, Me 52, Tom* 43
Ratings: Keith ?, Chris 8.5, Me 7.5, Tom 7.5
Vegas Showdown is performing pretty well as Game of the Month! for me. For this week, Kenny had put together a “Vegas Mix” playlist for the musical theme, including approximately 13.8 versions of “Viva Las Vegas”. And while I was slightly less than ecstatic about the music, I had a lot of fun in the game. There’s a lot of strategy in how you choose to build your casino, a lot of competition and tactical play in the auctions, and then a nicely appropriate dose of randomness with the event cards to keep it exciting and just a bit unpredictable. I think that it’ll have plenty of stamina to last the whole month.
In waiting for one of the other tables to finish up, we played a big 6-player game of Escalation!
Time: 28 minutes (for 6 hands)
Score: Me 42, Keith* 46, Chip 54, Chris 56, Mark 59, Tom* 68
Ratings: Me 7, Keith ?, Chip 7, Chris 7, Mark 7.5, Tom 6.5
I joked with Keith afterwards that my win in Escalation! was just as significant as his win in Vegas Showdown. ‘Cause, you know, it’s not.
Nine of us then split into stereo games of Witch’s Brew, one of our favorite fillers. Daphne had never played before, but you wouldn’t have known that based on her play or her score. In fact, whether she meant to or not, there were several turns where she was unopposed for most of her roles, and she always seemed to be in the perfect position to get what she needed. I didn’t do nearly as well, but at least I didn’t tie with Kenny and Steve for last place, ’cause they were just terrible .
Time: 40 minutes
Score: Daphne* 25, Brad 22, Me 19, Ken 17, Steve 17
Ratings: Daphne 8, Brad 8, Me 8, Ken 8, Steve 8
It was already pretty late, but I really wanted to get Macao back to the table. When I suggested it, the same three players that played it with me the first time immediately jumped at the chance. Adam was interested in it as well, but was content to listen to the rules and watch a few turns (with his primitive money brain… his words, not mine) and then leave early.
We were thinking that the game would move quicker for us in a second play, but that wasn’t really the case. It still lasted right at two hours, but there was a definite improvement in how efficient we all were with our planning (as evidenced by scoring about 25 points more than last time). I jumped out to an early lead all over the place, keeping myself ahead on the wall and moving out into the shipping lanes while putting together a nice little combo of cards that gave me 2 Prestige Points a turn.
Chip came on stronger and stronger as the game progressed, however, especially doing well in the city with a card that let him claim quarters for one less action cube, and then shipping the goods he obtained all over the place. I put together a chain of good myself to claim the 5-PP spot in three different ports. I actually had the card to double the payout for shipments of paper, but couldn’t get it activated early enough to use it the first time.
I also set myself up to possibly get a huge chain (okay, just 7) of quarters. But on the penultimate turn, Tom, for no good reason other than to screw with me, claimed the one quarter that could have joined together the two halves of my chain. I did my best to whine and moan about how he was being a kingmaker and giving the game to Chip, but he did it anyway. Of course, Kenny could have done it too, and Chip had taken a move from Tom that would have been his obvious alternative to do, but still, I wasn’t going to make it easy on him.
In the end, though, it didn’t matter. I managed to activate all my cards on the last turn, deliver a paper good for 6 points, raise the money I needed to buy PP from the do-hickey track (investment track? prestige-point acquisition track? heck if I can remember…), and make sure that I’d finish first on the wall just in case I tied with someone. One of my cards gave me 1 PP per city quarter I had claimed, so I still racked up 14 points from it and kept myself a good 6 points ahead of Chip for the win.
Time: 117 minutes
Score: Me 83, Chip 77, Ken 50, Tom 42
Ratings: Me 8.5, Chip 8, Ken 9, Tom 8.5
Macao is quickly moving its way up into my favorite games. Two of my favorite elements in games are: 1) multiple paths to victory, and 2) the need to adapt your strategy to what the game and other players throw at you. And Macao has both of those in spades!
In a lot of ways, Macao actually reminds me of Agricola. You’ve got the ability to put together combinations of cards to build a little engine, screw with your opponents in non-direct ways, and finish in about 2 hours. And as of right now, even as much as I like Agricola, I’m feeling that I may actually end up liking Macao even more. It’s hard right now to even explain why I like it so much, but what I do know is that 2 hours have flown by like 30 minutes both times I’ve played, and I’d play again right now if I could.
Other Games Played
Time: 15 minutes (is that right?)
Score: Chris 47, Chip 41, Tom* 37, Keith* 21
Ratings: Chris 9, Chip 9, Tom 7.5, Keith ?
Race for the Galaxy
Time: ? minutes
Score: Mark – 3 wins, Alton and Chip (who only played in one game) – No wins
Ratings: Mark 10, Alton 10, Chip 8
Roll Through the Ages
Time: 15 minutes
Score: Steve 19, Ken 15, Adam 7
Ratings: Steve 9, Ken 8, Adam 8
The Settlers of Catan
Time: 165 minutes
Score: Brad 12+, Beth 12(?), Alton 10, Charles 9, Keith 7, Michelle 6
Ratings: Brad 8, Beth 8, Alton 10, Charles 9, Keith 8, Michelle 10
The Stars Are Right
Time: ? minutes
Score: Kenny 10, Steve 9, Adam* 8, Michelle 4
Ratings: Kenny 7.5, Steve 6.5, Adam 7, Michelle 8
Tribune (VP variant)
Time: 50ish minutes
Score: Beth 36, Alton 26, Charles 22, Michelle 19, Adam 10
Ratings: Beth 9, Alton 10, Charles 9, Michelle 8.5, Adam 7
Time: ? minutes
Score: Ken 101, Daphne* 78, Brad 69, Steve 58
Ratings: Ken 8, Daphne 8, Brad 8, Steve 8
Time: 42 minutes
Score: Chip 79, Alton 62, Mark 62
Ratings: Chip 8, Alton 8.5, Mark 8.5
Chip actually filled up his entire hotel/casino to end the game. I’d never seen that before, but of course, I haven’t seen many 3-player games either. It was right impressive either way, though.
Time: 22 minutes
Score: Mark 26, Chip 22, Chris 19, Tom* 15
Ratings: Mark 8.5, Chip 8.5, Chris 9, Tom 7
* First play for that Person