Gwen and I haven’t found as much time lately as we’d like to play games together (something about trying to wrestle two little girls into bed seems to wear us out for some reason), but over the last few weekends we’ve managed to get a few things to the table. In addition to some of our standbys [like Tobago, Ticket to Ride, Ricochet Robots, Goa, and the real-time OOB card games (7 ate 9, Super Circles, and Run Wild)], I’ve also managed to introduce her to Alien Frontiers, Code 777, and Puerto Rico.
We love those cute little bouncy robots…
After my preordered copy finally arrived and I had played a game of it at game night, I thought I’d see what Gwen thought Alien Frontiers. Unfortunately, I could tell almost immediately that it wasn’t going to work too well for us.
Mostly, it was because we don’t do so well with games that rely on direct conflict against each other. We’re cool with some competition for resources or other indirect stuff like that, but since there’s no “nice” way to play Alien Frontiers (at least not one that gives you a chance at winning, anyway), it was bound to cause maritial discord.
And while it works pretty well as a 2-player game, I still think that the game is best with 4 people. I know that it’s necessary to block off certain spots on the board with less players just to keep it tight and interesting, but it’s also sort of annoying when you’re already waiting for doubles to build another ship (die), and then when you finally do so, your opponent is already sitting in the one spot at that location. It makes the game feel even more random than it already is, which isn’t really a good thing.
Gwen had been wanting to try out Code 777 since I got it for Christmas, but I was a little skeptical whether it would really work for just 2 people. In setup, though, you still pull out 4 of the tile holders and place three tiles on each one that both of us can see. The game then plays normally, with each of us taking all three tile racks that we could see (the two dummy racks and our opponent’s) into account when we answered the questions.
I was actually a little surprised at how well it went, but in the end, I still don’t think that it’s ideal with 2 either. You get so much less information on a turn than you do with 4 or 5, and the point of view for your opponent never changes. If anything, I think the game actually took longer than it does with more players.
But more than anything else, I don’t think Gwen had much fun with it. She understood and appreciated it, but didn’t really enjoy herself much. So I doubt that this will make it back to our table either.
I’m sort of in love with Puerto Rico right now, and I’ve desperately been wanting to introduce it to Gwen as well. But since it’s supposed to be a 3-5 player game, I’ve been pretty hesitant to try it out, even with the official 2-player variant.. On Friday night, however, we got the girls to bed a little extra early and were both up for something a little more involved, so I pulled it out anyway.
Basically, the variant limits all the violet buildings to just one copy each, identifies the number of colonists and VP for 2-players (like always), uses the 4- and 6-spot ships, and removes 3 Quarries (leaving 5). Actual game play is pretty much normal, however, except that instead of only choosing one role each round, players take turns picking roles until they have each performed three of them, leaving only one untaken (and getting a doubloon) on each round.
Gwen was pretty quiet early on, but picked up really quickly on how important money was early on and made really solid choices all game long. She definitely fell more into the “VP from buildings” strategy while I focused mostly on shipping lots of goods (especially corn) using the Harbor and Wharf. In the end, I got something like 12 bonus points from the Customs House to score 82 points, while Gwen played out both the Guild Hall and Fortress to come in at 70 points, which I thought was a pretty incredible first game.
Gwen joked all game long about having a taco truck to feed all her colonists, and for most of the time, she even had an extra dude left over in San Juan to man it!
Afterwards, she told me that she really liked it, maybe even more than Goa in some ways (which we both like a lot). I had a great time with it as well, and I think that it has just that right level of indirect conflict and competition that can still be tense and challenging for us without getting too confrontational. I certainly didn’t go for the throat every time that I could, but I also wouldn’t say that I really pulled any punches when it would have obviously been the best move for me.
And as far as the variant goes, I was pretty impressed with it as well. I mean, clearly, you’re not going to get exactly the same experience as you would with more players, but it was similar enough that I was very satisfied and felt it was the same overall game. Probably the biggest difference was that 6 of the 7 roles were performed each round. This dramiatically changed my decision-making from turn to turn, and even while playing I couln’t quite understand why they didn’t make it that each player would choose 2 roles each per round (which would leave 3 roles unclaimed, much like the “real” game). Since we played, I’ve also read that many people play with the Governor choosing 3 roles and the other player choosing 2, which reduces the total roles used a little as well as intensifying the danger of choosing the Craftsman unwisely (since you never have back-to-back role picks), so I think I’ll try that out next time we play.
It was definitely a big hit, though, and I think that Puerto Rico (in some state of 2-player variant) will hit our table pretty often, which makes me very happy!