I hate it when I have to miss game night. My 3-year-old spent a good part of yesterday throwing up, so between caring for her and feeling a little queasy myself, I wasn’t able to make it back up to Burlington last night. But at least I can think back to last week and relive some of my gaming experiences and catch up on my reports at the same time!
Venture Forth [BGG]
Venture Forth is another of Minion Games’ new boardgames, which is an atypical adventure game with a Greek mythology theme. Probably even more than atypical, because it’s actually very different from pretty much any other adventure game I’ve ever played before. Probably the most unique element is the idea that each character in the game has an “Ambition”, and rather than having some sort of experience point system to lets them “level up”, they instead have the opportunity to score points and level up any time that they satisfy their Ambition.
For example, one of my characters was the Artist, who had the ambition, “Sketch Drawings: Encounter a non-vicious enemy.” So any time that I encountered a non-vicious enemy in the game, win or lose, I could spend will cubes to earn points and possibly level up that character.
Three of my adventurers, full of will cubes (the white ones) along with some despair cubes (the black ones) and ready to level up when they finally satisfied their ambitions!
The other mechanics in the game included having to place encounter cards along paths on the board, which each give you some resource (usually money or will cubes) as you place them. Once a path is complete a player can take a “Venture Forth” action to travel along it and face the different encounters (either fighting monsters or having the chance to recruit new adventurers). Plus, each path also has a little encounter token on it that gives some additional resources and lets you draw treasure cards.
I find these elements pretty interesting, but unfortunately, the game as a whole didn’t go over well at all last week. Chip and I had a pretty good time with it, but both Alton and Keith were very turned off by it. Particularly, I think they were frustrated at how difficult it was to achieve some of the ambitions compared to some others, and then also by the fact that completing a path often just set someone else to Venture Forth on it. The game also went on a little too long for what it was.
Time: 100 minutes
Score: Chip* 55, Norton* 49, Keith* 46, Alton* 34
Ratings: Chip 6, Norton 7, Keith 3, Alton 5
Personally, I still think the game has some real potential. I agree that some ambitions are a lot easier to satisfy than others, but I need to examine this balance a little (to see if the harder ones are always tied to higher-strength characters, which would balance them out pretty well), and I think that having even a game or two under your belt would help you make better choices about which characters you wanted to recruit once you understood how likely it would be to meet their ambition.
And as for the “setting other people up” part of placing encounter cards, I’m pretty sure that this is a feature of the game and not a bug. It creates a very Coloretto-like situation, where you have the choice to either make that perfect path for you to use on your next turn but have to hope that no one else takes it first, or you do something else and hope that another player sets you up instead. And by the end of the game, we were all pretty bunched up in the same part of the map, which may or may not have been a good idea for players depending on how opportunistic they were trying to be. If you want to do your own thing and not try to leech off of other people, then you need to play the game in such a way to keep yourself more isolated.
Still, though, I’m not exactly blown away by the game (as I was by their other two recent releases, Kingdom of Solomon and The Manhattan Project). But I definitely want to give it a more fair shake now that I at least sort of know what I’m doing in it.
As you may have picked up on by now, I’m a pretty big Stefan Feld fan, so I was very happy to finally get in a play of his Kennerspiel-des-Jahres-nominated game, Strasbourg, last week as well. It’s basically a pure auction game that also includes some resource management and hidden-goal completion as the basis of the scoring.
The really “innovative mechanic” [and on a side note, I can’t write that without hearing Russ Wakelin’s voice (of the D6Generation podcast) saying it in a booming echo] of the game is that you get these 24 cards (of varying values from 1 to 6) at the beginning of the game that are your only resource for bidding on the auctions. In each of the 5 rounds, you can choose to draw as many of them as you want and group them into however many piles you want, but the catch is that those are the only 24 cards that you’ll ever have, and any drawn for a turn must be used that turn or discarded. There’s a small possibility of reclaiming a few cards when you lose some of the auctions, but for the most part, you’re stuck with what you have.
In our game, Sceadeau (having played before and, you know, being himself) won pretty handily, but I managed to complete the 3 contract cards I had kept at the start of the game (which give points for achieveing different conditions in the game; think along the lines of the Ticket cards in Ticket to Ride), and made a pretty good showing as well. Keith and Kenny, well, they didn’t manage to complete most (any?) of their contracts and will do better next time, I’m sure.
Time: 75 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 68, Norton* 52, Keith *26, Kenny* 19
Ratings: Sceadeau 8, Norton 7.5, Keith 7, Kenny 7
I really liked this game. Even though the actual mechanics were very different, it felt similar to The Speicherstadt, which is another Feld game with a unique auction/bidding mechanic. I love the tough choices and limited resources that force you to focus more on certain turns and areas of the game where you think you’ll get the most benefit. But I still see some real room for taking different approaches to the game, and the variable contract cards also sort of give you different goals from one play to the next. It’s definitely high on my wishlist, and I look forward to more plays!
I’ve also realized that there are a lot of Feld games that I still haven’t played. Mostly, it’s because of limited variety in the U.S., but some are just because I haven’t had the chance locally to see them in person. So, if anyone out there wants to pass along a copy of Trajan, The Castles of Burgundy, or Luna, just let me know!
Sentinels of the Multiverse [BGG]
To wrap up the evening, we jumped into a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse against Baron Blade on the Wagner Mars Base. I was playing Tachyon, so I had lots of fun drawing lots of cards and occasionally beating the crap out of something with my super speed. Sceadeau (as The Wraith) put together an arsenal of equipment that, by the end of the game, pretty much had Baron Blade all wrapped up and impotent. Kenny was doing crazy stuff with the Visionary that I didn’t quite understand (since I’ve never played as her). And unfortunately, Keith once again got the least-exciting hero, Legacy this time, who mostly just gave some benefits to the rest of the team.
The problem with this play is that we didn’t really have any challenge taking down Baron Blade at all, even though we used his “Advanced” power. I had the least hit points by the end, but most of my damage was self-inflicted by an ongoing power that had me continually running around the planet for some reason that apparently let me draw and play more cards.
Time: 39 minutes
Score: Heroes (Norton – Tachyon, Keith – Legacy, Kenny* – Visionary, & Sceadeau – The Wraith) – Win; Baron Blade (on Wagner Mars Base) – Lose
Ratings: Nortojn 7.5, Keith 6.5, Kenny 7.5, Sceadeau 7
Yeah, the mechanical weakness of Sentinels continues to become more evident. It’s a fun experience most of the time, and it’s certainly filled with themey goodness, but the whole shebang is tarnished a little when you just don’t ever really feel challenged.
I actually wish that they’d do something along the lines of releasing an expansion that gave villains with either different versions for different numbers of heroes, or who were just tailored for a particular number of heroes (so you’d have martial-arts expert Lady Kick-yer-butt who was appropriate for solo or partner play, and then Cosmic Lord Eat-yer-planet that would be hard for even 5 heroes to defeat). I’ve already bought into Rook City, so we’ll see what that adds, I guess…
Since I didn’t get to play any games last night, maybe I’ll be able to sacrifice some sleep another night this week to do something game-related. I’d love to take a solo run at some of the Khazad-dum quests for the Lord of the Rings LCG, or maybe try out The Conquest of Planet Earth solo, or playtest Acute Care, or, who knows, maybe record something…
Speaking of that, if any of you don’t regularly listen to the Garrett’s Games & Geekiness podcast (and really, you’re missing out if you don’t), they actually included a clip from me talking about my Top 5 games of 2011 in their latest episode as part of a contest they’re running, so head over and check it out!
Other Games Played
Ascension: Storm of Souls
Time: 30 and ?? minutes
Score: Solo Player Opponent 62, Shawn 47
Game 2: Jay 116, Matt 55, Shawn 51, Chris A. 51
Ratings: All 10’s
Time: 127 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 53, Shawn 26, Chris 24, Chris C. 19, Sean 19
Ratings: Sceadeau ?, Shawn 9, Chris 9, Chris C 9, Sean ?
Time: 101 minutes
Score: Sean* 55, Shawn* 50, Jay* 45, Chris 43
Ratings: Sean ?, Shawn 7.5, Jay 7, Chris 7.5
Time: ?? minutes
Time: 80 minutes
Score: Nell* 120, Stacy 117, James 103, Brian* 90
Ratings: Nell 7, Stacy 9, James 8, Brian 7
* First play for that Person