Here we go, once again, with a massive two-week-long game report. It’s a doozy, and not a single game is repeated…
~~ Game Night on March 27, 2012 ~~
with the Palace expansion
The week before this, I played in a game of Revolution! and got my butt kicked. But this time around, I made the jump from worst to first and secured the freaking win! Mostly, I just focused my efforts on getting into the Cathedral (and picking up the 6 points from the Priest each time I did so), the Fortress, and the Town Hall. In fact, by the end of the game, I didn’t have any cubes anywhere else, and despite getting totally screwed over by having someone pull of switcheroo shenanigans to force a tie in the Fortress (and lose me 50 points), I still held onto enough to keep the victory all to myself.
Josh was the master of the “auction” all game long, picking up all sorts of tokens (having as many as 10 on one turn alone) left and right and playing the mind game of the blind bidding better than anyone. But if anything, it seemed like he actually got a little too distracted by it and didn’t put all that power into action enough to actually score points.
Josh’s crazy 10 tokens one turn…
Time: 55 minutes
Score: Norton 119, Chris 105, Josh 101, James D* 51, Kenny* 51, Chip 39
Ratings: Norton 8, Chris 8, Josh 8.5, James D 8, Kenny 8, Chip 8.5
Contrary to what you might first thinl, there actually is a lot of room for strategy in Revolution! The thing about it is, however, that you have to navigate through so much player-induced chaos to finally get at it. And even though I won this time due in very large part to a strategy I decided on very early in the game, there were still a lot of factors outside my control that could have foiled my plans. But that’s one of the coolest things about Revolution!; how it brings together things like strategy, psychology, flexibility, and misdirection. And even if you’re totally out of contention for one reason or another, just playing the little bidding game each turn is pretty fun, regardless of whether or not you actually get what you want. The more I think about it, the more I have to say about this game, so expect a full review sometime soon.
Black Friday [BGG]
So, I actually picked up Black Friday from Shawn a few weeks back, and I really wanted to get it played because I had heard some nice things from an online friend or two (mostly Eric Martin on the Death of Monopoly). The biggest problem is that the freaking rules are pretty atrocious, and even after 4 or 5 read-throughs, the actual system and flow of the game was still pretty opaque to me. Four others agreed to join me, though, as I stumbled through the rules and tried to make a go of it.
Black Friday is, as you might guess, a singularly-focused stock market game. You have these five abstracted commodities that all start at the same level and then, through a very odd and convoluted process, see variation in their value throughout the game.
I did pretty terribly, mostly because I invested heavily in one commodity (blue) when its price was quite low. I figured that, you know, the point would be to buy low and sell high. But the issue is that, despite lots of people doing the same thing and it being one of the most sought-after stocks, the price never went up. In fact, by the end of the game, pretty much all the stock except for green had crashed (which, if we had actually paid attention to the game title, should have been pretty much expected).
Now, I guess in retrospect, I can see that this does actually model a realistic stock-market phenomenon. Apparently, Green was an actual rare substance in the market, because so many of its little markers were apparently left in the bag, while most of the blue markers were in circulation. So even though people bought up blue because it was cheap, the market was pretty much saturated by it and therefore there was no real increase in value through the game. The problem with this is that in real life, investors have a lot more informaion about the relative rarity/availability of something. And more than that, I think that I just came in with some sort of expectation that the actions of the players buying and selling would have a greater impact on the market values. In reality, driving the prices down through selling stock was a pretty direct process, but seeing prices rise was far more disconnected and influenced by randomness than I would have thought. So in the end, I was mostly disappointed in the actual game experience.
Still, I see enough interesting stuff going on in the game that I’d like to play at least another time or two, so maybe my opinions will change as I gain more expderience with it.
Time: 90 minutes
Score: Alton* 11, Chris J* 10, Shawn* 9, Chip* 8, Norton* 8
Ratings: Alton 8, Chris J 5, Shawn 7.5, Chip 6.5, Norton 6.5
Slide 5 [BGG]
Just that morning, I had heard Doug and Shelley on Garrett’s Games & Geekiness talk about the whole 6 Nimmt family of games, which reminded me that I actually had one of the english versions of the game, Slide 5. So I brought it along and that’s how we ended the evening.
Game 1: Norton 1, James D* 3, Alton* 7, Kenny* 17, Chris J* 25
Game 2: James D 1, Chris J 14, Norton 15, Kenny 16, Alton 23
Game 3: James D 9, Norton 10, Alton 12, Kenny 17, Chris J 25
Game 4: James D 8, Norton 11, Alton 11, Chris J 13, Kenny 26
Ratings: James D 8.5, Norton 8, Alton 7, Kenny 8, Chris J 8
Slide 5/6 Nimmt/Category 5 or whatever else it may eventually be called is really a nice little filler game. It feels very similar to No Thanks! in a lot of ways, except that it trades some of the direct control of the bidding process for a nice hand-management element. I definitely need to bring this more often.
~~ Game Night on April 3, 2012 ~~
1812: The Invasion of Canada [BGG]
So now I finally get to this week’s game night. I arrived a little later than normal, so I had to wait for a while before the current round of games wrapped up. Once it did, I jumped into a game of our new Game of the Month!, 1812: The Invasion of Canada. I played the British Regulars on the Canadian side with Shawn (the Native Americans) and Kenny (the Canadian Militia) against the Americans, Alton (Regulars) and Keith (Militia).
1812 is a light wargame that mostly uses cards to drive actions and custom dice for each faction to quickly determine combat results. Much like Popular Front, turn order each round is determined randomly, so multiple factions on the same side may get to act back-to-back, and if you go last in one round, there’s a chance that you could take two turns in a row by going first in the next.
The Americans have a pretty significant force on the border at the start of the game, and the first place they struck was on the eastern edge of the map. They took Amerherstburg briefly, but then I was able to lead back in a coalition force that drove them out, and the British Regular army I placed there was apparently some sort of proto-commando force, because they fended off at least 2 or 3 other attacks throughout the game.
There was a huge buildup in the center of the board for most of the game, first by the Americans and then by the Canadians. At one point, we launched an attack into American territory and made some nice headway (taking Buffalo). But then, almost before we had finished celebrating our glorious victory, Alton and Keith assembled this ridiculous mob of an army and took it back. The game gave us a really nice break at that point, however, since Keith didn’t have a land based movement card on his next turn, and, due also to some poor dice rolling, ended up squandering some of the mob on ship-based landings along the coast of Lake Erie. We did what we could to regroup in the meantime, and when the huge attack finally came into the territory containing Fort Erie, we were able to withstand the assault and drive them back.
The Canadians pushing into American territory, and then the American response!
The game didn’t last much longer as we played out our third Treaty card and pushed back deep into the center of the American territory to win pretty convincingly.
The map at the end of the game. All of the little Union Jack counters are cities that Canada controlled in American territory; each worth a VP.
Time: 66 minutes
Score: Canadians (Norton*, Kenny, & Shawn) – 7, Americans (Alton & Keith) – 0
Ratings: Norton 7, Kenny 8, Shawn 8, Alton 9, Keith 8
I had a really good time with 1812: The Invasion of Canada. It’s very light and has a lot of randomness, but it also has all that excitement of seeing how the dice either makes you a hero or a martyr. I really like how the sides seem pretty asymmertical, with the Americans seeming to have greater mobility and maybe overall greater power, but the Canadians having a greater advantage in having to protect less territory and having some defensive strengths.
But I can’t help but compare it to Popular Front, which was (of course) our Game of the Month! in February. They’re both pretty light in wargame terms, but Popular Front seems to have significantly more depth to me. 1812 has a lot more of the traditional wargamey trappings (with massing armies and lots of dice rolling), while Popular Front is much more abstract and cerebral. But to my eurogame-tainted mind, I definitely like the hand-management/deterministic combat of PF a lot better than the more random and, admittedly, often more exciting dice-rolling of 1812.
Still, I had enough fun with it that I look forward to getting in at least another play or two with it this month, so we’ll see how it holds up.
Lords of Waterdeep [BGG]
Everyone at game night was talking about Lords of Waterdeep. I had heard enough good things about it that I was probably going to pick it up already, but I didn’t even have that option because Hypermind had already sold out of it! I was defintely interested in seeing it for myself, though, so after another long break in my evening (caused by some people leaving and then Kenny and Keith ditching me to play Space Hulk off in the corner by themselves), we finally got into it.
Lords of Waterdeep is basically an entry-level eurogame with a fairly strong Dungeons & Dragons theme attached to it. The main mechanic is worker placement, where you try to gather the resources (adventurers of different types, such as Fighters, Clerics, Wizards, etc.) to complete Quest cards. Pretty much all quests give you points, but some also give you other resources or some lasting ability as well. Everyone is also dealt a secret “Lord of Waterdeep” card at the beginning of the game, which essentially serves as your “mission” for the game, because for each quest you complete of the two types identified on it, you’ll score some bonus points at the end of the game.
In our game, the experienced players (everyone but Chip and Me) definitely jumped out to a much stronger start. There’s not a huge engine-building facet to the game, but there is a little opportunity to put together some of the quests that give special powers and build some synergy in working out your actions, and I can already see how I could be a lot more efficient in future plays.
I tried to mess with Sceadeau’s plans a little on the last turn, but he was able to overcome my little roadblock (a mandatory quest that he had to do before completing any others) and still stay ahead for the win.
Time: 76 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 154, Alton 144, James D 131, Norton* 115, Chip* 106
Ratings: Sceadeau 9, Alton 9, James D 9, Norton 8, Chip 8
Lords of Waterdeep seems really solid. In fact, we voted it in as our Game of the Month! for May, so you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about it from me a little later on!
Wiz War [BGG]
I recently picked up the new version of Wiz War, and was pretty anxious to see how it worked out as well. I’ve never had the chance to play any of the prior 7 editions of the game, but it was pretty cool that Keith actually played a lot of it back in the day. There were a few big changes, but I think overall it was a very similar experience for him.
Just in case you really don’t know anything about it, Wiz War is a chaotic battle royale between 2-4 wizards who are all trying to either steal their opponent’s treasures or just wipe them out. The core rules are pretty simple, but most of the stuff you do each turn is driven by playing cards from your hand to cast spells.
In our game, I ran out and stole one of Keith’s treasures pretty quickly (thanks to a card that let me eat a wall to get easy access, but Chip was pretty much doing the same thing to me at the same time. I ran into Keith and had a little rumble with him that left him pretty hurt, but then while we were still mixing it up (and I was busy changing into a werewolf to finish him off), Chip stole away the treasure I had liberated from Keith and dropped it on his home spot for the win.
Chip winning while Keith and I messed with each other…
Score: Chip* 2, Norton 0, Keith 0
Ratings: Chip 7, Norton 7, Keith 7.5
Yeah, Wiz War is really chaotic. But it’s also pretty darn quick and fun, so I think it’ll be a keeper for now.
A la Carte [BGG]
It was very late by this point, but I felt like I had spent half the night watching other people play, so I really wanted to get in another game before calling it quits. I also acquired A la Carte recently, and I thought it might be a good way to wrap things up. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how thoroughly terrible I’d be at it.
James actually jumped in after the first 2 or 3 rounds, and he still beat me. But the real difference in the game came at two points. First of all, I had already properly seasoned a dish that would score me 6 points, and all I needed to do was carefully heat it up to the proper temperature on my next turn to complete it. But Chip has this little power that he had acquired that let him season someone else’s dish, so he freaking ruined my excellent Coq au vin and then was the only person to successfully flip his crepe, so he got the commanding win.
My beautiful dish just before Chip ruined it, and then the trashcan filled with all our mistakes…
Time: 31 minutes
Score: Chip* 11, James D* 3, Keith* 3, Norton* 1
Ratings: Chip 7, James D 6, Keith 4, Norton 7
A la Carte is pretty fun for what it is, but it’s absolutely too cute for words. It probably redefines “overproduced” in practically every way, and the mere toy factor of playing with little spice bottles, cardboard stoves, and actual metal pans is just too fun to ignore.
Other Games Played
There’s just too many to go into detail, so here’s a list and some pictures: