A Trading Venture across the Catacombs of the Americas over the Weekend

My long-time buddy (and, somewhat oddly, distant cousin) Steve had a gaming party on Saturday, and I was able to participate in at least a portion of the fun and all of the lasagna-ey goodness that he (and his wife Michelle) offered!

I arrived early (or rather, on time, which was apparently unusual for the rest of the invitees) and after talking for a bit, got started with playing Traders of Carthage.  We were tit-for-tat most of the game, but then he managed to get a huge payout for a blue delivery that I didn’t have any part in, and I couldn’t get my red delivered in time before he ended the game and won by two measely points.  Traders of Carthage is just an incredible little card game, and I can’t for the life of me understand why I and/or my group don’t play it more.  It’s like a masterpiece of efficient game design and is all about being forced to work with your opponents while still trying to get the best out of the deal.  I need to bring it along more to game night.

As we were finishing, Britt showed up and had with him a brand “new” (as in, just broken out of its original skrink wrap) copy of Sid Sackson’s Venture.  It’s a card game of forming conglomerates that is vaguely reminiscent of Acquire.  Mechanically, you’re using a deck of money (capital) cards to buy company cards that you combine into sets.  Each set (conglomerate) can have no more than one card of each color (different company types), which score at certain points in the game (when a Profit card comes up in the Capital deck) based on how many cards are in the set and how many components (a series of letters along the top of the cards) that they all have in common. 

At first, I was worried that it would all come down to the luck of how good your capital cards were, but then Steve happened to ask what the little symbols next to some of the numbers meant.  Because the low-value capital cards can also be combined into sets (based on these symbols) that are worth significantly more money.  Little things like this help to balance out the game and show just how freaking brilliant Sid Sackson was. 

As it went, I managed to put together a complete (6-company) conglomerate sharing two different letters sometime in the midgame, and it helped me jump way out into the lead.  Steve and Britt tried to break it up, but I was able to draw the cards I needed to steal back companies and also get together another couple of conglomerates as well to keep myself ahead and win the game by a pretty significant margin.

If there’s anything negative to say about Venture, it’d mainly be that it seemed to go on just a little too long.  The Proxy Fight cards (which allow you to steal companies from an opponent) are also pretty powerful, and since they come up randomly in the capital deck, the unmitigated luck factor related to them may be a pretty significant detriment for some.  To me, I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t have to pay the owner of the company your money when you use one of the Proxy Fight cards, which would at least add in that little bit of mitigation to ease the sting of having your conglomerate dismantled.  Still, it was pretty fun, and I’d look forward to playing it again sometime.

Man!  I just kicked their butts!!!

At this point, Kenny finally called and said that he was on his way.  Britt had been wanting to play Catacombs, so we set it up figuring that it would be easy for Kenny to jump in when he got there.  As it was, both he and Michelle ended up joining the game!  I was playing the Sorcerer, but it really didn’t matter since I ended up killing the party before they even reached the final battle.

In the Level 2 room just before facing the Catacomb Lord, I had a Crypt Spider, two Centaurs, and some zombies.  The heroes had trouble moving up, so I was able to sit back and snipe at them in relative safety.  It didn’t hurt, of course, that Britt’s Barbarian decided to rage and then didn’t actually hit anything at all in any of his four flicks.  It was close, but my victory was sealed when I managed to get the Spider out into the perfect spot to web both of the non-incapacitated heroes.  We all had a lot of fun, though, and then it was time for some awesome, homemade lasagna!

Kenny lines up his shot while Steve, Michelle, and Britt watch in horror…
Unfortunately, I then had to head home because Gwen had to work and our babysitter had somewhere to be in the mid-afternoon.  I’m sure they had a great time all afternoon, and I’d love to know what all they played!

On Sunday, at least, Gwen and I did find a few moments to play the new 10 Days in the Americas from Out of the Box (which they kindly sent me as a review copy).  We’ve been pretty big fans of the whole 10 Days in… series, and were excited to see how this one was different.  Basically, the “new” mechanic in the game is that you can now take “cruises” which connect one ship to another, travelling through a chain of one or more of the five ocean/sea zones.  In other 10 Days games, you had to use ships just like airplanes; with a country on either side of them.  But now, you could (for example) travel from the USA to the North Atlantic, then to the Caribbean, then to the South Pacific (thru the Panama canal) and finally land in Peru. 

Samantha was pretty wound up, though, so we only got in one game.  I’m looking forward to exploring it further, however, and I’m very interested in trying out the new 20 Days Around the World rules that they’ve also released.  My plan is to write up a review of the whole series sometimes soon, so we’ll see how that turns out…


  1. After you left Chris, we broke out another old game that I picked up several months ago in trade, Blood Royale. BR was first published by Games Workshop in 1987 and is now out of print. In BR players attempt to accumulate the most gold. (The motto of the game is ‘wealth is power; power is wealth’.) Gold is gained through acquiring and cashing in sets of trade goods and luxury items, which are produced each turn in certain areas on the 14th Century map of western Europe. Gold can also be gotten through extortion, trade deals and marriage contracts.

    Marriage actually highlights one of the best facets of the game, growing your feudal family and ensuring that your line of succession guarantees your dynasty’s long life over the game’s 100 years of play (each turn is considered five years.). It is time consuming to roll up each personage, but it is a hoot to find that your newborn has the strength of Hercules, but the grace of a Billy Carter or that your new character is mediocre in every attribute. The GW character sheets are great b/c they help you track age, parents, lineage, strength, constitution, charisma and marriage.
    Interestingly, Kenny’s Italian king failed his low survival roll in the first turn, and Kenny was left with a 5 year old king and the Queen mother as regent. Apparently news of the king’s death led to widespread rebellions that incapacitated Italy for decades. Add to this a failed invasion of Bavaria, and Italy was simply screwed.
    Finally, Kenny was able to marry his queen to a non-player family’s top male, but none of these children would be in line for the Italian throne. Kenny’s charismatic child king came of age, married and started having offspring. He was able to put down the rebellions. Unfortunately for Kenny, Steve’s English forces landed in the Iberian peninsula, threatening Italy’s expansion.
    As sometimes happens in negotiation/scheming games, I spoke to Kenny about an alliance against the quickly growing English during Steve’s bathroom break. When Steven returned, my French landed troops in England to take an iron mine from Steve, and Kenny prepared for a full invasion of Spain.
    It was almost dinner time. So we called the game, naming Steve’s family the greatest in Europe.

    BR is not a war game. War is a part of the game, but BR is more of an economic and political game. Event cards caused chaos or granted opportunities for aggrandizement. A family member with great attributes can save the game for you, while a poor character can hinder your plans.
    The rulebook is quite bad, even by 1980s standards. Important rules are tucked away in side notes or long passages without highlight. Some of the rules shows their age, but despite this, Kenny, Steve and I left the table saying, “I enjoyed this. Let’s play again…and with a full five players next time.”
    I am looking forward to another play in the near future!

  2. Chris Norwood

    That sounds pretty cool.

    I guess that I’ve just become a game snob over the last few years (which is a long way from the game slut that I used to be), and I have this aversion to older and longer games that I’m afraid will be “inefficient” and/or way too long for the fun they give.  I’d usually just rather play a number of shorter/newer/cleaner games for the same time investment.

    It’s sort of the TI3 issue.  I really like the game for the most part, but I never really feel like I’m having 4-8 hours worth of fun when I’m playing.  If it took 2-3 hours for the same bang, then it’d be freaking awesome, but as it is, I’d rather play several shorter games that, when added together, give a greater average fun per time (or just do some roleplaying, which seems to have its own and completely separate “fun economy”).

    All that being said, I’m not necessarily downing Blood Royale, because I’ve never played it and don’t even really know much about it (other than what you just wrote).  I guess I’m just explaining why I haven’t really jumped at the chance to play it before now when you’ve mentioned it.

  3. No worries, Chris.

    I understand completely. In fact, I agree completely in regards to TI3. Since I started playing the 90 minute Galactic Emperor, it scratches the same itch and does much of the same things that TI3 does in 7+ hours. I would much rather play GE than TI3 and have time for another game or two afterward.

    That said, there are some older titles that I will invest the time.

    It is interesting how many older games are time drains (or brain drains—advanced squad leader, anyone?), but we never saw them as such when they were new. We made the time to play them. Now, we don’t—telling ourselves and others that we just don’t have the time for those long games any longer.

    That said, I still love me some Ameritrash—or Games Workshop trash as the case may be.

  4. Kenny

    I hope you can come to Game Night sometime, Dating Websites!

  5. Chris Ingersoll

    No time — too busy dating websites.

  6. Adam Koehler

    I enjoy the fact that the ellipses are filled with commas …,,..,

  7. Clearly the dots’n’commas are binary code. Dating Website’s message is ’26;’ interestingly enough, Adam’s ostensibly-random example is ’25.’ Clearly you and Dating Websites are in cahoots, Adam!

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  13. I really like the game for the most part, but I never really feel like I’m having 4-8 hours worth of fun when I’m playing. If it took 2-3 hours for the same bang, then it’d be freaking awesome………

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