Alright, here we go again with a 2-fer-1 game night report that spans the last 3 weeks (since I missed a week due to vacation). But before I get into the games we did play, let me whine a little about something we didn’t play. Most namely, the abject failure that was our Game of the Month! for September, Troyes.
I really don’t know what the heck was going on with it. I mean, it had sort of been “on deck” for several months as it was deferred for Alien Frontiers, then because we didn’t want back-to-back dice-placement games, and then because we just had the wild hair up our butts to play Lost Worlds for a while. But at no point that I can remember did anyone actually ever say something like, “You know what, I don’t really want to play Troyes very much, so maybe we shouldn’t make it GotM!”
I mean, maybe we all took it too much for granted that someone wanted to play it (but apparently, that was just me and Shawn, the ones who own it), but you really need to speak up either in person at game night, here, or at the BGG guild if you don’t think a game is going to be interesting enough to hold up all month long. And in this case, there clearly wasn’t enough interest to play the game after the first freaking week of the month, so it was basically like we didn’t even have a GotM! at all.
Anyway, that’s enough about that, so let’s get on with the actual reports…
The Speicherstadt [BGG]
I’ve actually owned The Speicherstadt since my birthday back in June, but for one reason or another, I hadn’t gotten it to the table prior to this month. It’s a very simple game built around one really cool auction-like mechanic and some set-collection scoring mechanics, but it packs quite a punch in terms of interesting interactions and tough decisions on almost every action.
On each turn, one more card than there are players are laid out on the board. Players have 3 meeples that they place, one at a time, in turn order above cards that they want to purchase. Starting from the left-most card, the person who placed the first meeple above that card has the chance to buy it at a cost of 1 coin per meeple placed there. If they can’t or don’t want to buy it, they remove their meeple and the player owning the next meeple has a chance to buy it for one coin less (since 1 meeple has been removed). You go through several turns organized into 4 “seasons” with several other little twists and card interactions, but that’s the core of how to play.
Just before resolving the “Purchase” phase of the turn when the cards are bought…
What I’ve found in all my plays so far, however, is that everyone has been pretty blown away by how tough and interesting the choices are. Money is really tight, and you must play differently based on whether you have a decent amount or are poor. You also have to balance whether to use resources to get more money or to score points. And the influence of turn order, the order of the cards (since you work left-to-right) and what you and others have already collected play into all of these decisions as well. We’ve also discovered that there are a few really cool meeple-placement shenanigans that you can use to either make it harder for others or to make your cost cheaper.
As you can see from our ratings below, it’s definitely been a big hit with pretty much everyone. It’s relatively quick (although slightly prone to overanalysis in considering all the stuff above) and easy to teach, so I definitely hope to play it a lot more in the coming months.
Time: 68, 48 & 50 minutes
Game 1 (2-wks ago): Chip* 19, Norton* 18, Stacy* 16, Keith* 15, Sean* 3
Game 2 (this week): Josh* 30, Kenny* 29, Norton 23
Game 3 (this week): Cary* 24, Sceadeau* 21, Norton 21, Alton* 14
Ratings: Chip 7.5, Norton 8, Stacy 7.5, Keith 8, Sean 7.5, Josh 8.5, Kenny 8.5, Cary 8.5, Sceadeau 8, Alton 8.5
Can you guess what this card was finally purchased for?
Exactly 1 coin!
I (blue) had 2 coins, Kenny (orange) had 1, and Josh (black) had 3, so Josh was the only one in a position to actually afford it.
White Elephant! It was fun! I can’t wait to get my real copy, which really looks great, by the way…
Time: 9 minutes
Score: Keith 19, Chip 15, Norton 15, Stacy 11, Sean 10
Ratings: Keith 6, Chip 7, Norton 7.5, Stacy 7, Sean 7
We were looking for a game that everyone could play near the end of game night 2 weeks ago, and we discovered that neither Keith nor Stacy had ever played Citadels (our Game of the Month! way back in July 2007, btw), so we decided to remedy that.
As always, things are a little slow with new people (or if you’re just rusty on the roles), so the game maybe dragged a little at times. But interestingly enough, the new guys actually placed 1st and 2nd, so we were a little embarassed. We all still had fun, though, and you can always check out my full review of it if you want to know more.
Time: 66 minutes
Score: Keith* 34, Stacy* 20, Alton 19, Norton 15, Chip 14, Kenny 13
Ratings: Keith 7, Stacy 8, Alton 10, Norton 8, Chip 7, Kenny 8
For Sale [BGG]
It had also been a while since I’d played For Sale, so we pulled it out to finish the night off at the 1st game night. I really don’t play this game nearly enough, because it’s nearly a perfect filler, and it’s probably the easiest auction game ever to explain to new or non-gamers.
Time: 14 minutes
Score: Kenny $65k, Norton $63k, Keith $59k, Alton $52k
Ratings: Kenny 8, Norton 8, Keith 8, Alton 8
Elder Sign [BGG]
This week (in addition to play 2 games of Speicherstadt), I was excited to get the chance to play Elder Sign, which I’ve been really interested in since I first heard about it. Not being a huge fan of Arkham Horror, I was still hesitant, but the play time and price point had me hoping that it would really be good.
As it turned out, there were actually 6 people interested in playing (half of us completely new to it), so almost immediately I was even more worried that it would drag on forever and be a bad experience. Thankfully, I had absolutely nothing to worry about, because it was a total blast.
Kenny, Alton, Keith, Chris, and Shawn fighting with me to keep the ancient evil at bay…
Since I was still trying to get the mechanics down, I wasn’t quite as focused on the “story” that the game was telling for most of the time, so it’s a little hard for me to write any kind of narrative here. I do remember lots of monsters climbing up through the potty in the public lavatory, though, and how Alton absolutely rocked the ohter worlds any time he stepped through a gate. We managed to work together pretty well, and in the end accumulated the 11 Elder Signs needed to seal Ithaqua away for the time being at least.
Time: 60 minutes
Score: Intrepid Investigators (Alton*, Chris, Norton*, Keith, Kenny & Shawn*) – Win!, Ithaqua – Lose
Ratings: Alton 8.5, Chris 8, Norton 8, Keith 7, Kenny 8, Shawn 8
The evil is defeated!
As I mentioned, I (and others) liked Elder Sign a lot. It moved well, was interesting, and seemed to present quite a few interesting choices each turn. I liked the dice mechanics, and while there’s some level of re-rolling (and contrary to some of the other commentary I’ve heard about it), I didn’t get the Yahtzee vibe from it at all. In fact, I thought that the idea of having multiple challenges that you can (mostly) complete in any order, but that would reduce the size of your dice pool (by committing dice to complete it) was pretty brillliant.
I’ll have to admit that I didn’t really engage with the theme much in this first play, but at the same time, the art and general graphic design still did a nice job of at least providing a solid setting/backdrop to what we were doing. And now that the rules are more familiar to me, I also think that there could definitely be another level available to engage with the theme if I were to take the time to really read all the flavor text and invest some thought in constructing the game’s narrative as I was playing it.
After this play, I immediately picked up a copy, and have already tried a solo game over one lunch at work. I’ll definitelty be playing it more, so stay tuned if you’re interested.
Completing both tasks on an adventure card…
* First play for that Person