Over the month of my paternity leave, Gwen and I actually managed, even amongst the chaos of now having two little girls under the age of 3, to find a little time to play some boardgames together. In addition to the already mentioned Peloponnes, we also got in a few plays of some of our other old standbys (Pandemic, 10 Days in… and Tobago). But I also managed to convince her to try our a couple of new games as well…
I thought that Gwen would appreciate the theme and neat color-mixing mechanics of Fresco, as well as getting into some of the hidden worker placement stuff as well. It wasn’t until I was setting up for the game that I realized how the 2-player game used a “dummy” player, which didn’t make me very happy. It wasn’t necessarily ideal, but it worked better than I thought it would, and we had quite a bit of fun with it.
I built up a pretty good lead in fulfilling more of the big-point fresco tiles, but Gwen made up a lot of ground at the end through all the extra money that she had collected. It wasn’t quite enough, though, so I still managed to pull out a respectable win.
In talking with her, I think that the dummy player (pictured to the left) bothered her more than it did me (probably because I was expecting it to be really terrible). But the biggest issue that she had with the game was in getting confused about how turn order worked. Every turn begins with players deciding how early they get up, which determines how happy their workers are, how much paint will cost at the market, and (of course) turn order for the rest of the round. The confusing part is that the order of deciding when to get up is determined by score (with the person in last place getting to choose first, and then working your way up to the leader). Plus, she sort of felt that the whole game was a little bit too fiddly or clunky with how much manipulation you had to do with setting up the market booths, moving workers and master painters back and forth, and dealing with paint cubes and money all the time.
Still, we were both interested enough afterwards that I think we’re planning on playing again soon with the inclusion of one or two of the little expansions included in the box. If anything, and even despite the fact that the game really wasn’t intended for 2 players, I was sort of more excited about it than I have been after my previous plays.
The Fresco is restored!
The big hit of our time off together was definitely Goa. We’re both really big fans of The Princes of Florence (which each of us would have described as our favorite game at one point or another), and I was able to reel her in with the promise of some similarities between the games, both in general weight and in the auction/action phase division of the turns. Plus, Goa is designed for 2-4 players, so it’s a lot more appropriate for us to play just between the two of us (withough using any kind of variant or anything).
We have played 3 games so far. In the first, I won pretty handily (43-33), but then once she got the hang of things, she has managed to win both other games (35-33 and then 39-36).
I’ve only played one game of Goa with multiple opponents, so I’ll just comment a little on the 2-player experience without trying a lot to contrast it to the 3- or 4-player game.
The auction mechanic itself works well for 2-players, which is a pretty rare thing. At the beginning of this phase, players put their markers out on the board (in a neat little chain that gives a cool spatial element to the game) to decide which tiles will be up for auction. Then, when one of the tiles you marked comes up, you are the “auctioneer” for it. The other person will make a bid for the tile, and you have to choose to either accept the bid (giving them the tile and you their money) or you have to out bid them (giving you the tile but sending your money to the bank).
Here are the tiles laid out for auction at the beginning of the second half of the game.
It’s very similar to the auctions that I’ve seen before in Medici vs. Strozzi (a 2-player only game) and Key Harvest, but the spatial element adds so much more because it sets up a lot of tough choices about whether to choose a tile that you really want (to make sure that it gets auctioned) or that your opponent really wants (which could help them, but give you a lot of money). And it also creates this cool little semi-closed economy, where anything you pay for a tile either goes straight to your opponent or leaves the game, therefore giving your opponent’s money greater weight (since they would have a higher percentage of the available cash in the game).
And with only the flag (the start player marker, which also gives an extra action each turn) and two tiles up for auction each turn, the game is really tight with 2-players. There are just so many tiles that will never see play, so having the flag becomes even more important, since it lets you decide which little section of the auction board will get some attention (it starts the chain of which tiles will be auctioned in the turn). Plus, serving as auctioneer for 2 of the 3 auctions in a turn is pretty powerful.
After the auctions are over, players take turn performing 3 (or potentially more) actions each turn. Most of these actions are tied to the five different columns on your player board, which do things like give you ships, replenish the spices on your plantations (won at auction) and colonies, give you money (the only way to introduce more money into the system), let you draw expedition cards (which do all kinds of things), and found colonies. In addition, you can spend an action (along with spices and ships) to advance on one of these columns, granting you a greater benefit each time you use it.
There’s not a lot you can do to affect each other in the action phase, so it sort of turns in the the stereotypical “multiplayer solitaire” scenario. But that doesn’t bother me at all, because sometimes when you’re playing with your spouse, it’s a very good thing to minimize direct conflict. With the ability to focus in certain areas over others and an almost infinite variety of combinations in how you use your actions, Goa really slides right into the kind of game that I love the most. There’s so much room to experiment and explore strategies, and while some people online feel that a “best” path may have been found, I’m certainly no where near it yet.
And even if you don’t win the game, you can still feel pretty cool about the engine that you’ve built. Playing out your actions is just a lot of fun, and you get at least some sense of accomplishment just from seeing it work. And while I like some tension in my games from time to time, I was actually a little relieved when playing Goa that it didn’t stress me out as much as something like Macao or Agricola.
Overall, we thought the game was pretty great. I personally rate it a 9/10, and Gwen seems really excited to get it back to the table pretty often. Unless something changes, it will definitely find its way into my top 10 pretty soon.
Ya see?!! Goa blew Corinne’s socks off!!!