I got to Hypermind a little after my usual 6:30 timeframe, only to find that I had thoroughly missed the boat and that everyone was already involved with other games. So I wandered around, checked for new game arrivals, and took some pictures:
Eventually, the marathon Hey! That’s My Fish! series finished up and I was able to slide into a game of the “hot new filler” game around the group, Sultan. I thought I was doing pretty well, until Michelle (sitting to my left) started bidding on pretty much every single gem that I wanted! I still managed to put together 5 of the yellow gems, but was blown away when Adam revealed that he had a set of six and another set of 5 gems. He won… and it wasn’t even close.
Time: 14 minutes
Score: Adam 59, Michelle 32, Tom 32, Me 27, Alton 25
Ratings: Adam 8, Michelle 8, Tom 8, Me7.5, Alton 7
Again, for a 15-minute game, Sultan is pretty incredible. I’d definitely like to add it to my collection, but don’t ever remember seeing it around locally. It’ll be on my wishlist, though, for Christmas list purposes.
With it being the start of a new month, I wanted to make sure that I got in a play of our new Game of the Month!, Nexus Ops. Alton and Tom had never played before (and it has been a while since I’ve played as well), so we went through the rules pretty comprehensively before we got started. I was “lucky” enough to go first, and in my initial exploration, I found a few extra Rock Striders, but not a lot of mining potential. During the first few turns, I offered Tom an alliance (which he accepted), so Alton and Adam formed one as well.
On turn 3 or something, Alton got a unit up onto the Monolith. Unfortunately, Adam was the only one who could do much about it. He actually attacked it directly (in defiance of their treaty) once, but then hung back and tried to use his Rubium Dragon’s breath weapon to eliminate it and still abide by the letter of the alliance’s law. It didn’t work, though, and when Alton fended off an eventual attack by Tom, it became apparent that Alton’s continual drawing of Energize cards (from controlling the Monolith) would be hard to overcome. Still, however, Adam was hesitant to openly attack Alton.
I was very slow to start because I had a significantly limited mining capacity in the areas near my base, and it took so much time for my new units to move through the empty, useless spaces and get out near my border with Adam and the monolith. Eventually, I managed to launch a few attacks at Adam and even take the monolith for a turn or two, playing out a few Secret Mission cards in the process. But Alton was just biding his time, and on the ultimate turn, he played a bevy of Energize cards to move units all over the board, launch several attacks, and play out 7 VP in one turn to end and win the game.
Time: 82 minutes
Score: Alton* 13, Me 7, Tom* 6, Adam 3
Ratings: Alton 8, Me 7, Tom 7.5, Adam 7.5
I have fun with Nexus Ops, and it does a lot of things right. It’s got exploration, unit diversification, resource management, and lots of dice-based but still surprisingly tactical combat. And it all works pretty good, for the kind of game it is. I mean, certainly, it’s a world better than Risk or any number of other similar games.
But it’s still not perfect. In this game, for instance, the distribution of mines was pretty unbalanced. In the areas directly surrounding out home bases (which everyone had explored in the first three turns), I had a total of 10 rubium a turn (the 7 on my home base and 3 from two mines). Everyone else was getting either 11 or 12 each turn, and worst of all, my mines were both right on the border with Adam and the monolith. I made the alliance early because I knew that I’d want all of my forces on that border anyway (away from Tom) protecting my resources.
And speaking of the monolith, it should be clear that control of the monolith is a very powerful thing. I don’t know whether it’s a flaw or a feature how that works. My feeling is that it’s just something that you need to be aware of, and shaking up control of it needs to be a priority in every game.
On the positive side, I really like how Nexus Ops encourages aggressive play. Any victory (even small ones) gets you at least one point, and there’s tons of other Secret Mission cards that can net you even more. In this game, both because of the newness of everyone involved and my “slow to start” position, we did way too much building-up before we got into the action. The monolith needs to be a continuous game of “king of the hill”, and attacks should be happening every turn.
So anyway, I look forward to seeing if the game feels more balanced over the coming weeks as we all better learn to play into its strengths.
Dominion + Seaside [GeekDo]
I’ve owned Dominion since before it was a SdJ winner, and I’ve owned Seaside since Christmas, but I still don’t seem to be able to get them to the table much (or at all in the case of Seaside). Adam had expressed some interest in getting in a game of it this week, so I made sure to include it in my stack o’ games. And once we had a table assembled to play it, I decided to suggest that we try a Seaside-only setup, just to show us what it could do.
We therefore used the “High Seas” set, which was the first one recommended in the Seaside rulebook. Apparently, according to Graham (our resident Dominion expert), this set is made to show that Pirate Ships are pretty powerful, with no defense card being around to help stem the tide of their destruction. Adam and I picked up on this early (before Graham mentioned it), so we were devastating Michelle and Tom’s decks of their money, as well as waging a little war against each other.
I got my ship up to 6 coins and then started trying to buy Provinces. It worked like a charm for 3 or 4 turns, when I would draw at least 2 coins worth of other cards to add to my ship. Adam seemed to be doing the same, and the Province deck was quickly dwindling. Then, apparently, we both hit the wall and started coming up short. With Embargo tokens all over the Estate and Ducky piles, I started picking up Islands when I could, both for their points and the possibility of clearing out some of the other VP cards from my deck.
Meanwhile, Michelle was playing the “draw your deck” game, using lots of Bazaars and Havens and other things. It definitely delayed the game, which was okay until she chose to not pick up Provinces a time or two, just so that she could refine her card-drawing (aka “deck wanking”) engine. While I tried to use other cards to get my buying power up, Adam just started using his Pirate Ships to raid the rest of us a few more times, eventually getting up to 7 coins on his ship, and was able to buy the last Province card to end the game and give him the close win.
Time: 75 minutes
Score: Adam 44, Me 39, Michelle 27, Tom* 12
Ratings: Adam 8, Me 7.5, Michelle 7.5, Tom 7
This game took a long time. Now, we were all new to these particular cards, and none of us are Dominion veterans. And along with that, the continual attacks of the Pirate Ships slowed everyone down. But 75 minutes still seems to be way too long for Dominion. My impression of what it’s supposed to do is to be quick and efficient and addictive, and I don’t know that any of those words would apply to this game.
But on the other hand, maybe my expectations for Dominion are just out of line. This play certainly had more narrative and different approaches to the game than most of my other Dominion games. So maybe (and especially with the expansions), Dominion is supposed to be a longer and deeper experience. As people get more familiar with the cards and faster at taking their turns, the time will inevitably decrease anyway. And at that point, I could see Dominion with Seaside getting to be really fun.
We’ll see, but it’ll still take some friends who are willing to explore it further with me.
Traders of Carthage [GeekDo]
After playing Traders of Carthage with Steve a couple of weekends ago, I really wanted to get it back to the table. I suggested it, and four others showed interest in playing. Technically, the game only supports 4 players, but we went ahead and gave it a shot with one extra person (realizing that we were voiding the warranty in doing so).
It took a few turns for people to really get the hang of the card economy and flow, but once they did, it seemed to work very well. I jumped out to a bit a lead with a nice delivery ot two, but then lost heavily when I emptied my hand to make a purchase and then lost 3 or 4 cards to pirates. Several players had “dynamite” (red goods, which are supposed to be cloth, but look sort of like dynamite) stored up, and I was hoping to end the game before they were able to deliver them, but in a 5-player game, you’re not able to make any consistent influence on the game, and the red ship eventually made it to Carthage.
In the end, it was incredibly close, with all of us having either 11 or 12 points. Adam and Graham were tied, but Adam had accumulated the 8 tokens to end the game, so he won the tiebreaker and claimed the victory.
Time: 49 minutes
Score: Adam* 12 (+8), Graham* 12 (+7), Michelle* 11, Tom* 11, Me 11
Ratings: Adam 7, Graham 8, Michelle 7.5, Tom 7.5, Me 8
With 5-players, Traders of Carthage is a lot more chaotic than I’ve been used to. But at the same time, it was still fun and interesting. It almost became more of a semi-cooperative kind of thing, where you’d have emergent alliances forming to make sure that a particular color did (or didn’t) make it to port. And while there was a bit more downtime than the game probably intends to have, it still seemed to move pretty well. If there is any real issue with having 5 players, it may be that I could easily see a group running out of cards if players scored a little more during the game.
Still, I’m very happy with Traders of Carthage, and plan on bringing it pretty often for a while to come.
Look! There’s some dynamite on the top of the discard pile!
Oh, and look at that. With the exception of his miserable performance in Nexus Ops, Adam was the big winner in all the other games I played in this week! Congrats, Adam! Just don’t play with me next week!!!
Other Games Played
Blue Moon City
Time: 40 minutes
Score: Chip 4, Matt* 3, Alton 3, David 3
Ratings: Chip 9, Matt 8.5, Alton 9.5, David 8
Time: 82 minutes
Score: Graham* – Win; Chip*, Chris, David & Shawn – Lose
Ratings: Graham 7.5, Chip 7.5, Chris 9, David 9, Shawn 9
Time: 42 minutes
Score: Treasure Hunters (Graham, Matt*, Yarden* & David) – Win; Forbidden Island – Lose
Ratings: Graham 8, Matt 7, Yarden 8, David 8.5
Hey! That’s My Fish!
Time: 30-ish minutes (for a 4-game series)
Score: Alton 102, Michelle* 91, Adam* 88, Tom 82
Ratings: Alton 8, Michelle 8, Adam 8.5, Tom 8
Time: 92 minutes
Score: Chip 12, Britt 11, Shawn* 6, Chris 6
Ratings: Chip 7, Britt 7, Shawn 7, Chip 6.5
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Alton 67, Matt 38
Ratings: Alton 10, Matt 10
Time: 31 minutes
Score: Chip 4, Alton 3, David 2, Kenny 1
Ratings: Chip 9, Alton 9, David 9, Kenny 9
Time: 30 minutes
Score: Matt 88; Everyone Else (Yarden, Steve, Graham, Michelle & David) – Insane!!!
Ratings: Matt 8, Yarden 10, Steve 8, Graham 7, Michelle 8, David 6
Waterloo (“a real man’s game”, according to Kenny)
Time: 155 minutes
Score: Ken 18, Britt 10
Ratings: Ken 9, Britt 10
* First play for that Person