Just after Christmas, I opened up the game room to my group and had a 14-hour (or so) game day. Of coruse, to earn the right to have the game day, I had to put in a 14-hour “clean the house” day just before Christmas (I was still mopping floors, in rooms no one would use on the game day of course, at 1am).
But it was so totally worth it, with three others joining me all day (Tom, Keith, and Sceadeau) and my brother Tony playing with us for a few hours in the morning. Gwen even managed to jump into a few games while the grandparents kept the girls, so fun was had by all!
Throughout the day, we played 9 different games (one of the twice!), with a nice mix of old and new and where everyone learned at least one or two new games.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Sentinels of the Multiverse was on the very top of my Christmas wishlist (at least partially because I’d already Kickstarted the expansion), so I was very excited to get it to the table. We played against Omnitron (the sentient robot factory) and set it on Insula Primalis (the “lost world” setting with dinosaurs and man-eating plants). I was Absolute Zero, Tom was Tachyon, Keith was The Wraith, and Tony was Ra.
The game’s rules are really simple, but we all still struggled all game long with the multitude of card interactions and in trying to get our heads around how exactly each hero worked. Our efforts were frustrated some by the fact that Omnitron has a few cards that destroy all equipment, which really screwed Keith and me up a time or two. I was still able to do some persistent damage to the villain, but I think that Keith was a little frustrated at being ineffective most of the game.
But Tom was just going nuts with Tachyon, dealing more and more damage all the time. Tony was also able to pour on the damage by the end, and despite us all having to deal with ravenous T-Rexes, thieving pterodactyls, and a horde of robotic drones, we managed to fell the giant robot factory and win the game. But it was pretty darn close, with most of us being at or under 10 hp by the end.
I had a lot of fun with Sentinels of the Multiverse. More than anything else, the theme just leapt out at me, practically forcing me to imagine the scenes as they took place. I imagine that figuring out how the decks work is sort of like a new superhero figuring out their powers, so I had a great time even with the lingering confusion over individual card rulings and interactions. I will certainly play a lot of this, and hope that the game proves to be as great as the theme already appears to be!
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Continuing with a coop-heavy start to the day, we then jumped into a game of Flash Point: Fire Rescue. Sceadeau had arrived by then, and he wanted to try out a strategy of basically just staying in the fire engine and switching between the Fire Captain (who can move other characters) and the Driver/Operator (who is really good at using the deck gun on the fire engine). I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure I was the CAFS Firefighter, and we also had the Rescue Specialist, Paramedic, and HazMat Technician.
With 5 players, we had a lot of hot spots, which lets things get out of hand pretty quickly. With use of the deck gun, though, we actually kept a decent control over the fire for most of the game. We were doing well rescuing victims and were on the way to a win, but then the house started taking too much damage, and eventually a few explosive chain reactions went all nuts and collapsed the house.
In contrast to some of my previous plays, the management of the board and all the dice rolling started to fade into the background a little bit for me this time around. Others had told me that it would get better as the upkeep became more second-nature, and they were right. Once again, the theme of the game is so strong, and I definitely felt it this play. If anything, the greatest strength of Flash Point is that there’s very little “gaminess” about it. You do the things that you should do as a firefighter, which are both intuitive and give you the best chance for success. This has actually been one of my biggest challenges in designing Acute Care, because in early playtests, making your patients sicker was the best way to win!
But anyway, I think that most of us had fun, even if we lost. Tony also had to go at this point, but Gwen joined us for a couple of games of…
I had played TransAmerica a couple of times and obviously liked it enough to pick it up, but for some reason, I hadn’t pulled it off my shelf in forever. I don’t need to get into the details of the actual play, but suffice it to say that we all had a really good time. Gwen won both games, first as the base game and then another with the Vexation expansion, and I bet that she and I will try it out 2-player sometime soon.
In fact, I actually ended up introducing it to a group of casual/non-gamers on New Year’s Eve, and they really loved it as well! It’s just so simple to pick up and play, but I still think that there’s at least a kernel of strategy involved, even in the base game. But then to have the simple addition of a few colored track in the expansion, which turns up the gameplay a notch towards being more gamerly, is just such a great option. After the holidays, I’d definitely say that TransAmerica is definitely my go-to game to introduce new people to the hobby!
The Princes of Florence
We were trying to decide what to do next, and The Princes of Florence (obviously one of my, and Gwen’s, favorite games) came up. It was a person or two’s first game, but the rest of us tried to make it clear about some of the relative values of some of the items (the Jester, mostly).
Personally, I started off pretty well, but then made a total boneheaded move in taking Prestige Points for an early work instead of Florin. I thought my money would go a little further, but then ended up being pretty helpless in the auctions near the endgame, and totally screwed myself over in picking up things in the right order (like not having an important building I needed on turn 6).
Sceadeau (aided somewhat by inexperienced play by some others) totally rocked the Jester/Profession/Recruiter strategy and won by a decent margin. Gwen did pretty well with her typical “balanced” strategy, and Keith even held his own (and beat me) with a Builder-heavy approach. I agree that the game is a little dry, even for people who like dry games, but it’s also such a perfect eurogame specimen and will always be at the top of my favorite games.
Kingdom Builder was next to hit the table, and while I don’t remember a lot about it (since individual plays tend to be pretty unremarkable), I think that Keith and I sort of competed for the center of the board. In the end, though, he connected to more castles or something like that to edge me out for the win.
In the game, we also used a variant that Sceadeau suggested to fix the biggest flaw of the game, which is getting the same terrain card in your first two draws. Basically, everyone is just dealt 2 cards on their first turn, and for whatever reason, they can choose to either discard one of the cards (if they’re the same, for instance) and draw for their 2nd turn as normal, or they can hold and play the 2nd card as their second turn move. It worked really well, and after being screwed over a couple of times already in previous games by the double draw, I doubt that I’ll play without this variant again.
I then got to break in my Anniversary-gift copy of Belfort as the next game. This is the portion of the report that I will label “what might have been if not for the Kingmaking of Keith”, because despite being in a game with Sceadeau, I actually looked to be in pretty good shape against him going into the final scoring.
I’m definitely still getting my head around Belfort, but I had worked hard to diversify myself pretty well to score in several areas each time, rather than working too terribly hard to win any of them. In the one region I did have majority in, however, Keith was the only other player with a presence. He had the last move, and was already going to score the 3 points for 2nd place. He had a number of resources, though, and was going to be able to lay down a couple or 3 more buildings in a region or two of the city. Rather than invade a different region where he could have actually gained a point or 3, he instead chose to tie me in the region we shared, which didn’t score him any extra points but did cost me the 2 point difference between 1st and 2nd.
Pure, unadulterated (but totally unprovoked) hate against me…
In the end, what was my relative score to Sceadeau? I lost by 1 freaking point, of course…
Speaking of losing by exactly one, freaking point to Sceadeau, Lancaster was the next thing we pulled out. Sceadeau was the only one who had played it before, but I vaguely remembered Doug Garrett and maybe the Spiel guys talking about it when it was nominated for the Kennerspeil des Jahres.
It’s basically a worker-placement game (as is Belfort), but it also has a number of neat twists. The workers (knights) have different strengths, which comes into play because some locations require stronger knights to claim them, and because stronger knights can kick weaker knights out of locations! There’s also a number of neat scoring mechanics and a tough choice with each location you place in between getting its power and claiming one of its nobles for the end-game set-collection scoring that they’re involved in.
It’s also got a cool little battle mechanic where you work together to fight off the French (and get benefits for it, of course, a neat voting/political element, and a number of little elements thrown in. I knew I was close as the game came near to its end, but I really didn’t realize how close it was until we tallyed up our final scores. Once again, as I alluded to above, I finished one point behind Sceadeau.
I had a really great time with Lancaster. It’s another euro-mechanics-mash-up game, but it does it so well that I don’t find that to be a detriment at all. The theme is very abstracted, of course, but I actually find it to work very well, and I hope to add this to my collection at some point.
I’ve heard about Domaine forever, but for one reason or another had never had the chance to play. After finally learning and playing it at Big-Butt Game Day, however, I think I was better off beforehand. It wasn’t a terrible game, but my initial impression was that between the variations in the starting locations and the draw of the cards, some people definitely had significant advantages over others. I’m sure I could have played more effectively, but I don’t really know that anyone could have stopped Keith after he completed his first Domaine. I’d be willing to try it again if someone wanted me to, but I won’t be seeking it out again from my own interest.
And finally, we finished up with a quick game of Chronicle. Gwen joined us once again to wrap up the evening (since the girls were finally in bed), and she absolutely hated it. I won pretty handily, which didn’t help, and she apparently doesn’t like trick-taking games as much as I thought she did. So I guess it won’t hit the table away from game night very much…
In all, it was a great day of gaming! I was very glad to finally be able to open my game room back open to visitors, and now that the girls are getting a little bit older, I hope to make it a more regular event! If you’re at least semi-local, drop me a line or keep an eye on the Hypermind Boardgamers guild to catch the next one!