Due to Samantha being a little sick this week (and therefore staying with my Mom rather than coming with me to Burlington), I actually made it to game night early for a change! Things were already underway, however, and I soon jumped into a game with Graham and his friend Aric, with Charles joining us as well.
Both Graham and I had picked up Fresco over the last week or so, but he and Aric actually managed to get it played already. I knew the rules, of course, so basically we had three people trying to teach Charles. Apparently, we did a good job, because he won the game. It was pretty close all throughout, though, with Aric and Graham jumping out early since they knew what they were doing. I managed at one point to complete both 11-point fresco tiles on the same turn (with the Bishop at least nearby for both), and sped along to a massive lead. Unfortunately, I tapped myself out in doing so, and couldn’t manage to get anything going again before the game ended. In retrospect, I should have probably gone straight to collecting money on every turn after that, and I think I would have done a little better. As it turned out, though, I didn’t think about going straight for money until the last turn, and Charles managed to jump past me by exactly one point for the win. And unfortunately, this wan’t the last time I’d lose by one point this week.
Time: 57 minutes
Score: Charles* 59, Me* 58, Graham 54, Aric 53
Ratings: Charles 7, Me 7.5, Graham 8, Aric 7
Fresco was fun, but I’m probably a little underwhelmed with it right now. I really love the theme and some of the unique mechanics (paint mixing and get-up time/happiness), though, and I’m being optimistic that I’ll get more into it with more play and the inclusion of the expansions.
I was informed that I had made it into the “championship game” of Macao for this week. Apparently, Alton and some others had been tracking the outcomes of our Macao games over the last month or more, and as the culmination of its reign as Game of the Month! , we had this all-star, final table epic game to decide the undisputed cham-peen of Macao. Invited participants included Adam, Alton, Chip, and myself.
Alton even brought green felt to lay down beneath the board, just to make it look extra nice.
It was special.
We had to wait for Adam to arrive, so we got things all set up and I played in the game of Catacombs run by Michelle (see below) for a little while. But once Adam got there, it was on like Donkey Kong!
I picked up the Silk Storage card early on, as well as the Crane, which made it easier for me to activate buildings. I jumped out early on the wall, but Alton spent cubes very aggressively and soon took the lead there for the rest of the game. I got the Lacquerware Storage card later on as well, and so I fell into a delivery strategy where I tried to pick up very particular goods from the city and then get them where they needed to go. By the end of the game, I delivered all three silk tiles and two of the lacquerware, and had the Smithy to get a few extra points from the city, since most of my quarters weren’t connected.
Interestingly enough, Alton went with a very similar strategy. He got the Spice Storage (I think) early on, but made a point to pick up all three jade tiles as well. By keeping himself in first place on the wall, he was in the perfect position to grab Jade Storage when it came up as well, and scored something like 40 points on one turn delivering all his goods and paying for the tribute. He also had the Residence (which I would have loved to get, since I had 11 building cards) to add a few extra points.
Chip looked solid for most of the game, but never really put together anything special to get the extra little push he needed. The game was very close in a lot of ways, and he seemed to fall just a little behind the curve, especially in regards to the wall, and that seemed to just multiply his difficulties as the game went on.
Adam, on the other hand, seems to have some crazy preternatural ability to put together card combos and to accumulate action cubes. He was undefeated coming into the game, and he looked hard to beat in this game as well. He started slow, but was just storing up cubes for later when he had massive turn after massive turn, clearing his tableau, moving up 3 spaces on the wall, and/or sailing all around the board. It looked ugly for all of us.
In the end, when all the goods were delivered, the points were totalled, and the dust settled, three of us were within a point of each other. Unfortunately, as I alluded to before, I was a point behind. But Alton and Adam found themselves, quite oddly, tied at 63 points. The tie-breaker, which we all knew, was position on the wall. But for the first time ever, all three of us had made it to the very end of the wall track. At the time, we made the assumption that the last space worked just like the other spaces on the track, and that moving onto the space would put you on top of the stack. Much to our surprise, however, we learned later on in the evening that this is not the case, and since Alton got there first, he claimed the title of Macao Master for the Hypermind Boardgamers.
The leaders on the score track (above)…
And then what we thought the wall order was (bottom-left) along with what the order actually was (bottom right)
Adam… sorry you had to learn about it this way. You should have stayed later, and then you would have received your disappointment in person. But you are no longer undefeated, and Alton has stolen your crown.
Time: 115 minutes
Score: Alton 63 (+), Adam 63 (-), Me 62, Chip 56
Ratings: Alton 8.5, Adam 9, Me 9, Chip 8
This game was really interesting. I’ve never seen so many goods delivered (all but 4) or the city so fractured. Every decision seemed to be vital, and as it turned out, even one point here or there could clearly have made a difference. My main “regret” is wondering whether there would have been any way for me to have not taken the one penalty marker I had, which would have won me the game. Or to get one more quarter or to have paid the tribute one more time. But the economy of the game, along with the calibur of my competition, made any different choices difficult as well, and not necessarily any better in the end.
Macao is a really great game. It is still firmly in my top 10, and I hope that it will continue to see at least somewhat regular play going into the future. Mainly, of course, because I want a rematch to try and take the title away from the Old Man…
Having a taste of it earlier in the evening, I jumped at the chance to play Catacombs again, this time with new players Chris, Adam, and James. I was the Overseer, and chose to be the Dragon.
Things started off very poorly for the heroes, and my skeletal archers managed to do a great deal of damage to them on the very first turn. They started to get the hang both of the flicking and the tactics of the game pretty quickly, however, and did much better in the coming rooms. At the Merchant, Chris picked up both the Cloak of Invisibility and the Poisoned Knife, which meant that he could deal an un-defensible 2 points of damage to any creature he chose in every room. That was ugly for me later on.
In one room, I had 12 undead creatures waiting to eat their faces, but they fell with amazing alacrity, with the heroes taking out several of them with single attacks. I think that it only took them 2 or 3 rounds to kill everything, and barely suffered a scratch in the process.
By the time they faced the Dragon, I really wasn’t sure how it’d turn out. The freaking Thief kept disappearing and reappearing, and while I killed the Barbarian pretty easily, everyone else still had decent health due to a productive trip to the healer. I did my best to use my fire spirits, but with only four to work with, they weren’t nearly as useful as I’d hoped they would be. In the end, while I could have run away and tried to drag the game out longer, I had the dragon charge at them, only to be struck down on the next round.
Time: 76 minutes
Score: Adventurers (Adam* – Wizard, James* – Barbarian, Chris* – Thief & Elf) Win!, Overseer (Me – Dragon) Lose
Ratings: Adam 8, James 6, Chris 7.5, Me 8
Catacombs is just awesome… for me, at least. I love flicking games, I like the dungeon-crawl theme, and I really appreciate how your skill with the flicking affects your character’s skill with combat. But some people (like James) who aren’t good at the skill or don’t appreciate how it limits their actions, probably won’t like it at all. For the most part, though, I’ve found that people tend to like it, and I think that it’s a crapload of fun.
It was freaking late, but I really wanted to get Cyclades to the table, and I had four others willing to join me. The first thing we had to figure out was how to pronounce the name of the game. Tom Vasel had butchered it by saying “si-claydes”. Scott Nicholson preferred “si-claa-days”. But we finally decided that the more “realistic” pronounciation would probably be “kik-la-dees” or “kik-laa-days”. So we feel superior…
As far as the game goes, however, I wasn’t so superior. I knew that the winning condition was to get two metropolises, but my ideas about how to go about it were way off-base. I thought I’d build up some military, get a good economic engine, and then worry about building or conquering the metropolises I’d need. It might have worked… if the game had lasted another hour or more.
However, Kenny and Charles jumped out to a far more focused strategy. Charles got four Philosophers early and turned that into a metropolis. Kenny, meanwhile, had three of the four building he needed on an island right next door to Charles, and had a decent army built up there as well. Since I claim the title of “The Obviator”, I quickly pointed this fact out to the rest of the table, since I also realized that a longer game would give me a chance. Surprisingly, however, Charles took the initiative to claim Ares and make an alpha strike first, taking Kenny’s island and then completing the metropolis on his next turn, putting him in a position to win.
David was ready to strike at Charles’ home island, but Charles “Released the Kraken!” and took out the ship he needed to get his soldiers there. All was lost, it seemed, and it was all due to Michelle and her not wanting to play along with our bidding shenanigans that would have given David a chance. But in the end, Michelle redeemed herself by using her powers as Zeus to mill through the monster deck and find the Pegasus, which allowed her to invade Charles’ island and take away one of his metropolises.
It was a short reprieve, however, because Charles managed to complete another metropolis before anyone could stop him.
Time: 78 minutes
Score: Charles* – Win (2); Michelle* (1), Kenny*, David* & Me* – Lose
Ratings: Charles 8, Michelle 8, Kenny 7, David 9, Me 8
I liked what I saw in Cyclades. I so totally failed to play it well, though, so I’ll reserve further comments until after I’ve really explored it more.
Multiple boards for scaled setup, multiple sculpts for minis, gorgeous art… Cyclades certainly looks great!
Other Games Played
Time: ~180 minutes
Score: Investigators (Charles, Brett, Ken & Steve) – Win; Ancient Being of Unimaginable Power – Lose
Ratings: Charles 8, Brett 8, Ken 7, Steve 8
Score: Overseer (Michelle – Gorgon) Win; Heroes (Graham – Wizard, Aric – Thief, The David – Barbarian & Elf) Lose
Ratings: Michelle 9, Graham 7, Aric 6, The David 9
Time: 15 minutes (for 3 hands)
Score: Chris 69, James 95
Ratings: Chris 7, James 7
Time: 22 minutes
Score: Treasure Hunters (Chris, Cristian*, James* & Brandon*) – Win, Forbidden Island – Lose
Ratings: Chris 8, James 7, Brandon 8
Time: 65 minutes
Score: Humans (Ken, Matt* & Steve) – Win, Pandemic – Lose
Ratings: Ken 9, Matt 9, Steve 9
Time: 54 minutes
Score: Michelle* 16, Graham* 8, Aric* 5, David* 5
Ratings: Michelle 7, Graham 6.5, Aric 7, David 6
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 96 minutes (for 3 games)
Score: James – 2 wins, Brett – 1 win, Alton & Chris – no wins!
Ratings: All 10’s
Roll Through the Ages
Time: 42 minutes
Score: Aric* 12, Graham 7, Michelle 6
Ratings: Aric 8, Graham 8, Michelle 9
Small World (with expansions)
Time: 40 minutes
Score: James 83, Chris 75, Cristian* 70
Ratings: James 7, Chris 9
Time: 10 minutes
Score: Brett* 13, Kenny* 11, Charles 6, Michelle 1, David* 1
Ratings: Brett 6.5, Kenny 7.5, Charles 6, Michelle 8, David 6
Same to you, Steve!
* First play for that Person