I was late getting there (thanks to the incredibly slow process of buying a new-to-me minivan), but at least I was able to finally get back to game night this week! As I walked in, four different tables were active with boardgamery goodness. Eventually, I was even able to jump into a game…
We had 7 people and a bunch of games that only played up to 6. After some hemming and hawing, we decided to void the warranty on Parade and try it with 7 players anyway. It worked pretty well, except that it went even faster than usual and made it that much more random since each player had less plays throughout the game. Personally, I survived until the very last round having taken only 2 or 3 points, but then had crap in my hand and ended up taking enough in one turn to plunge me from first to worst.
Time: 20 minutes
Score: Keith 6, Britt* 7, Ken 7, Steve* 9, Darren* 10, Josh* 13, Me 16
Ratings: Keith 7, Britt 7, Ken 7, Steve 7, Darren 7, Josh 7, Me 7.5
Yeah, 7 isn’t ideal for this game, but I still enjoy the heck out of this little filler. I still need to develop some little template that would show at a glance how many cards were in the parade, because the continual counting is the worst thing about the game.
Vasco da Gama [BGG]
Gwen and I have played Vasco da Gama a couple of times by ourselves over the last week or two (both of which she won, of course), so I wanted to make a point of getting it played by a larger number of players to see how different it would be. Thankfully, David, Josh and Steve were willing to give it a shot!
The single most important factor in how the game went was that the “first free of charge action marker” started on 10 or 11 and then went higher and higher for the first couple of rounds. This made it very expensive to take the lower numbers, and resulted in a lot of passed actions throughout the game. And since the “killer app” of this game is the pairing of sequence numbers with the workers that you place, all of the new players had at least one or two actions that they eventually realized were ordered backwards (such as placing at expedition before picking up a project or sailors).
But even with the challenges of learning the game, David did a really good job of putting together some strategy. He and I fought for control of the characters for most of the game, and he actually held all four at one point. In the end, though, I managed to be a little more efficient, and when the price for actions dropped a little in the last couple of rounds, I was able to secure the projects I needed on the last turn to sail 20 points worth of ships to forge a comfortable lead and get the win.
Time: 90 minutes
Score: Me 71, David* 53, Josh* 47, Steve* 30
Ratings: Me 7.5, David 7.5, Josh 7.5, Steve 8
Four players in Vasco da Gama is really tight. I figured that it would be that way, since 16 of the 20 sequence numbers must be used each turn. Money was very important, especially when the first free number was so high, and you really have to make some tough choices about how much risk to take on the things you really need to get done.
I liked it with 4, but wonder if 3 might actually be more of the sweet spot for this game. Gwen and I have had fun at 2 players, but it’s almost too open (so that you rarely have to pay for an action unless you really want it). So maybe I’ll work to get it back to the table soon with 3, just to test my hypothesis.
Castle Panic [BGG]
Sceadeau had been a little interested in Castle Panic recently, so I pulled it out next. We had a full complement of 6 players around the table, and things didn’t go well for us at all. It all sort of started on the first turn, when Kenny used three cards to pick off the three little goblins and leave the rest of us to deal with the larger orcs and the troll. Before we hardly knew what was happening, we had two monsters inside our castle and things went straight to hell in a handbasket.
Time: 34 minutes
Score: Invading Hordes – Win; Pittiful defenders (Charles* , Josh*, Steve*, Sceadeau*, Ken and Me) – Lose
Ratings: Charles 7, Josh 7.5, Steve 7, Sceadeau 6, Ken 7, Me 7
Once again, I don’t think this game is as good as it can be when played with its maximum number of players. Basically, you get a lot of downtime when you have to wait for 5 other people to go, which doesn’t suit this game at all. I suppose that the trading element in the game could help keep you a little plugged in, but you usually try to play as many of your cards as you can on your turn, which sort of leaves you out of trading until play comes back to you.
I still like the game, but I’ll try to limit it to 4 or so players in the future.
Hansa Teutonica [BGG]
It was late by this time, but I was really happy to finally get in a play of this buzz-tacular game, and it was pretty cool that it happened just after it won the Golden Geek for both Game of the Year and Best Strategy Game. Sceadeau had already taught and played this once earlier in the evening, but he agreed to do so again because he thinks it may just be that awesome. Josh, Kenny and I were newbies, and I have to admit that I had a tough time following all of the explanation. Whether it was getting too late or I was just being dense, I still didn’t understand how some of the actions and pretty much all of the board-related stuff worked when we got started.
Thankfully, I picked up on things over the first 1/3 or so of the game, and while I knew I wouldn’t compete for the win, I tried to at least make a decent showing by chaining some offices together, and wish that I could have gotten my multiplier up a little higher than my pittiful x2.
Sceadeau, in the the meantime, was going nuts with getting up to 5 actions per turn, using his merchant disc to block people and get a lot of extra cubes when they displaced it, and then “paratrooping” cubes around the board to fill in entire connections and do ridiculous stuff. Charles (the only other one of us who had played before), made some nifty moves as well, and managed to put together a significant network that scored him several points as well.
Kenny and Josh… well, they had fun sort of like I did.
Time: 65 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 48, Charles 29, Me* 21, Ken* 14, Josh* 11
Ratings: Sceadeau 10, Charles 10, Me 8, Ken 7.5, Josh 7.5
Okay, now I see what all the fuss is about. Hansa Teutonica is a glorious little gem of wooden-cube pushing. It is, however, almost the definition of a “soulless eurogame”, and the theme is so completely pasted on that I barely noticed it was there at all. Sceadeau used terms like “paratrooping” or “teleporting” and “hanging out in your attic” to describe various actions and other stuff in the game, which did well to help us decipher the nearly incomprehensible iconography scattered around, but I don’t think that those terms were particularly compliant with the thematic background.
We actually joked that you could probably give it a new theme of “pushing wooden cubes around a board” or “you’re a group of gamers playing a soulless euro in 2010” and no one would notice.
Thankfully, Hansa Teutonica is a really good soulless eurogame, so I didn’t mind its soullessness at all. As long as a game works and makes me think and is engaging on a purely game-mechanic level, I’m pretty okay with it. There are just so many things you can do in this game; so many paths to take and so many strategies to try out. I certainly don’t have any idea about how to do well in the game, but my mind has been racing ever since we finished with ideas that I’d like to try.
We even threw around the idea of making it Game of the Month! in January or so, just so we could give it some of the repeated play that it really needs. But we’ll see about that later…
Other Games Played
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
Time: 44 minutes
Score: Chris 71, James 70, Ken 59, Keith 51
Ratings: Chris 10, James 9, Ken 8, Keith 8
Time: 128 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 218, Graham* 159, Charles* 114, Shawn 62, Beth* 61
Ratings: Sceadeau 10, Graham 8, Charles 9, Shawn 7, Beth 6
Score: Sceadeau 38, Shawn 33, Graham 28, Charles 23, Michelle 20
Ratings: Sceadeau 10, Shawn 7.5, Graham 6, Charles 10, Michelle 8
Time: 35 and 33 minutes
Game 1: Chris* 94, James* 76
Game 2: Keith* 49, James 32, Ken* 30, Chris* 29
Ratings: Chris 8, Keith 7, Ken 7.5, James 8
Time: 95 minutes (for 3 games)
Score: Michelle – 2 wins, David – 1 win
Ratings: Michelle 9, David 8.5
Score: Somebody who is not Sceadeau – Win; Sceadeau** and others – LOSE!
Score: Graham 37, Shawn 35, Sceadeau** 35, Beth 22, Charles 7
Ratings: Graham 6.5, Shawn 10, Sceadau 9, Beth 7, Charles 5
What the heck? What’s up with the 5 (and even the 6.5) rating? Ra is arguably the best auction game ever! That’s just not right!
Time: 76 minutes
Score: Josh 4, Ken 1, Darren* 1, Keith 0, Britt 0
Ratings: Josh 8, Ken 8, Darren 8, Keith 7.5, Britt 8
* First play for that Person
** Notice that Sceadeau did, in fact, lose a couple of games tonight. I don’t know if you can really count Castle Panic (since we all lost), but he definitely didn’t win Ra or a game of Parade which I didn’t have a report sheet for but listed anyway. The rest of us in the Hypermind Boardgamers have to mark such Sceadeau-not-winning occasions with a respectful “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” whenever we can, because they are qui
te hard to come by.