MACE 2010, Part 2: The Boardgames!

As I said in the first part of my review, I pretty much lived in the baordgame room this year at MACE.  So here’s a relatively brief rundown of what I played and how they went:

Macao

My first boardgame of the day (and the only one that I bothered to sign up for) was Macao.  Well, actually, a few of us played a quick game of Parade as we waited for the official start of the first event block, but Macao was the first real game.  Doug was techinically the GM for the sesion, and we were joined by Will, who was completely new to it.  I had played it the most (since it’s in my top 10 and a former Game of the Month! for my group), so I was able to do pretty well and get the win.

The main card synergy that I pulled off was in getting both the Host and the Pub, which netted me 3 gold per turn, added one more from the Coachman, and added the Count which let me activate any card for 4 gold instead of the required action cubes.  Since I was trying out a big money strategy anyway, I also picked up the Diplomat, which let me buy VP twice in a couple of rounds, and added that to the 20 points I earned from delivering paper (using Paper Storage), I did quite well with somewhere up around 90 points total.

But Doug and Will also had a good time with the game, putting together some nice combinations themselves and still scoring fairly well (especially for Will’s first play).  Doug already owns it, of course, and Will seemed to be pretty impressed with it as well.

Goa

We had a good time together, so we just kept our place and discussed what to play next.  We decided on Goa (since it’s hard to come by these days), so I taught it to them and got started.  

I started off pretty balanced, trying to advance columns to level 2 before using them, and then focused myself later on card drawing and colonization.  Will ran with money as his main strategy later on, and managed to bully some of the final auctions with it, picking up some really useful extra actions along the way.  Doug struggled early, but then found his stride and was right on our heels in the endgame as well.  I still managed to pull out the win, but it was close all around. 

While they both enjoyed Macao, I think that Goa really blew them away.  As I mentioned in my last post about it, one cool thing about Goa is that you can still have fun with it even if you’re not really close to winning.  Just the exploration of your strategy and seeing your plans come together on any scale is cool.  But since they actually were competitive on their first play, it was even more exciting for all of us.

Goa just keeps impressing me.  I think that I need to play Sceadeau now and get my butt kicked so that I can learn something and take it to the next level.

Alhambra

After finishing up with Fiasco, Tom and I made our way back to the boardgame room where we met up with Jim, who I’ve known from previous MACE‘s and occasionally from Hypermind.  We talked about a few games, but decided to try out Alhambra next, since neither Tom nor I had ever played before.  Despite our newness, Jim included a few expansions (the diamond currency cards, change coins, the cards that let you use one currency for another, and maybe one other one) that he said made the game a little easier to play for your first time.

Partly through lucking into most all the diamond cards and having a lot of exact change, and partly through what I would like to think was crafty gaming, I actually managed to secure yet another win!  While Tom and Jim focused on a few colors in their city, I diversified pretty well and scored in almost all of them to some extent, which helped a lot.

After just one play of Alhambra, I can see why it won the SdJ.  There’s only one thing that makes me uneasy about it, and that’s the fact that it’s not really designed for 2-person play (you’ve got to use a dummy player, which usually sucks).  If it was more 2-player friendly, I would buy it in a heartbeat, since I think that Gwen would like it as well.  But as it is, I’ll have to think more about it.

Space Hulk: Death Angel

From there, Tom, Jim and I pulled out Space Hulk: Death Angel and gave it a try.  I had played one solitaire game before, but this was the first full game I’d played.  The first thing that surprised me was how fast the game moved.  I’m not talking necessarily about total play time, but more about how quickly one or both blip piles would be exhausted and that we’d travel to another location.

We had some dramatic moments, including me losing our Librarian early on against a massive swarm of 2 genestealers and the Sergeant Lorenzo taking out 3 genestealers (out of a swarm of 7) before going down himself in a blaze of glory.   

But otherwise, the game actually went really well for us and we survived with 5 space marines left.  I think that I need to reread the rules, though, not for actual rule clarifications, but to check on how much we can confer about our choices.   I don’t think that we went too far, but I need to be a little more clear on exactly how open players are supposed to be before I pull it out multiplayer again.  It was fun, though, and is a really nice cooperative implementation of the Space Hulk theme, especially for the price point and component limitations (being a card-only game).


Brother Lorenzo meeting his glorious death!

Egizia

Jim and Tom had another game scheduled, so I took a little break and ended up hooking up with Will, Sceadeau and Sceadeau’s friend (but for the life of me I can’t remember her name!).  Sceadeau has brought Egizia with him several times to game night, but I’ve never had the chance to join in with it, so he pulled it out next and taught Will and me how to play.

For most of the game, the score was really close.  We changed leaders after every turn, and even the newest players (me included) seemed to get figure things out pretty quickly.  Sceadeau really knew what he was doing most, of course, and managed to consistently pick up the best cards and actions, so by the last turn he was able to pull off all sorts of shenanigans and win by a comfortable margin.  I, unfortunately, didn’t do so well and finished in last place.

Egizia has a really cool little worker-placement mechanic, where you always have to place further downriver (since all of the actions occupy spaced along the Nile) than the last worker you placed.  I really loved this innovation on the genre, and thought that the decisions it forced were really interesting because of all that you had to consider.  

However, there was also something that I really didn’t care for, and that was the Sphinx cards.  One of the spaces let you deliver stone to draw cards from the Sphinx deck, which each gave some opportunity for end-game scoring depending on all sorts of things.  Everyone was dealt one randomly at the beginning of the game, and then when you take the action you’d usually draw 3-4 cards and keep one.  But my experience was that, even with the drawing of multiple cards each time I went, I had pretty terrible luck in what I got. 


My initial card was virtually impossible to complete (without knowing that I had it, Sceadeau even mentioned how terrible it was at one point in the game), and then throughout the game I consistently drew things that I couldn’t complete unless everyone else unwittingly helped me (mostly to complete the obelisk).  Because other than the luck that I had with the draw, I felt like I played a pretty solid game, and while I may still have lost, I would have been a lot closer than the 9 or 10 points I was behind the next player. 
 
And beyond my personal experience in this particular play, I just don’t care that much for mechanics like this, where one component in the game is so powerful that you can’t ignore it, and that you don’t even know how well others are doing until you all start playing out your cards and adding up points once the game is over.  This same thing bothers me about Stone Age and its civilization cards.  Egizia feels a lot like Stone Age to me overall, in fact, which may be part of why I’m not crazy about it.         

Catacombs (check out my review of Catacombs)

Will had mentioned being interested in Catacombs earlier in the day, and since it was getting a little late for really heavy games, we thought that it would be a good time to pull it out.  No one else had played before, so I took the role of the Overseer and chose the Sorcerer as my Catacomb Lord.

The players had a tough time figuring out what kind of tactics to use (and getting the feel for the flicking technique), so I hurt them much worse than I should have in the first couple of rooms.  After they upgraded their equipment with the Merchant, they did a little better with the next few rooms, but everyone except for the wizard was still pretty low on health as they visited the healer.

They limped through the level 2 room and then finally proceeded to face my Sorcerer and his minions.  They pulled the old “teleport the Barbarian/rage in the backfield” trick, which did some damage to my monsters (killing the Cerberus outright), but also got the Barbarian killed immediately.  And then a few turns later, the wizard was alone against 3 monsters and the Sorcerer, and quickly fell himself to the incapacitating attack of the Catacomb Lord.

Everyone seemed to have a great time with Catacombs (as people tend to do, in my experience), so I was very glad that I brought it along.  Now I just can’t wait for the expansion to come out!

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer 

It was quite late by now, so Tom joined Will, Sceadeau and me for a last game of Ascension to end the day.  Whatever I was doing didn’t work at all, and I ended up getting one of the worst scores that I’ve ever had.  Sceadeau, meanwhile, saw that there were a lot of demons coming up early and starting buying Heavy Infantry like a madman.  So by the end of the game, he had 7 of them in his deck, along with 55 points in honor crystals (all from killing stuff) and a handful of other cards for a total of 77 points, which blew the rest of us away.


 
Wrap-up 

The only disappointing thing about MACE this year was that I didn’t get to participate in it more.  I still had a great time while I was there, of course, and strongly encourage more of you in the area to come out next year to make it even better.

Thanks, as always, to Ron and Jeff, as well as all the other volunteers, GM’s and other players for making it a great convention!


Just one little area of the baordgame room.  The whole joint was hoppin’ all day long!

Previous MACE Reports!
MACE Report 2009
MACE Report 2008

4 Comments

  1. Chris Ingersoll

    It’s weird that you find the Sphinx cards’ swingy-ness so distasteful since they’re more or less equivalent to the Prestige cards in Princes.

    I do agree that the outcome of Egizia is more or less determined by them, and I got some awkward ones in my only play thus far, but I don’t really see the difference overall.

  2. Chris Norwood

    It’s different because in Princes, getting a Presige card requires winning an auction for it, which is the only thing that you’ll get from the auction in that round.  It’s a strategic choice that you make in lieu of something else.  You have some choice about when you try to win one (at the beginning when you have time to plan around it vs. later on as a last ditch effort at getting some extra points), and their effects are more or less on par with other actions/items that you could have performed/obtained in the same auction (depending on what your other choices and overall strategy are). 

    But you can do just fine in Princes without ever drawing or completing any Prestige cards (because you invested yourself elsewhere instead), and you’re usually only completing a small number (1-3) of them in a particular game.  In Egizia (and Stone Age), there isn’t really any choice.  You must invest heavily in drawing and satisfying the cards if you want to do well.  And especially in Egizia, the draw is still at best semi-random (so while I like the worker-placement mechanics of Egizia better than Stone Age, I like the victory-point cards even less).

    I also find it sort of distasteful to have the big “let’s count up our completed cards” phase after the “real” game is over to see who won.  It’s ultimately just a matter of personal preference, but it feels a little too much to me like someone stealing or cheating when they play all of these hidden cards to score lots of points and beat you.  I know that it’s not actually cheating, of course, but it just feels wrong to me.

  3. Keith Carter

    Sounds like it was a lot of fun. I am sorry I missed Mace. I did not realize it was going on. I am definitely going next year.

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