Oh, how nice it is to return to game night. While I did try to make the best of missing last week (finishing up my first podcast and all), it was still rough to go almost 2 weeks without playing any real boardgames at all. And then to make it even worse, I was running late due to some family members being in the hospital, so I was even more anxious than normal when I walked into Hypermind, fearing that I would waste even more time waiting for a new game to start…
Thankfully, I was able to jump right into a game of Catacombs! Kenny was taking the role of the Catacomb Lord against his two younger cousins (who are more like his niece & nephew, actually) and Chip. Since there were only 3 other hero players, the Barbarian was more or less available heading into the last two rooms. And even better, he had not used either of his rages so far in the game, and I was able to wreck Kenny’s stuff all up with them.
In the first room I played, I slid along the board edge to initially wound one of the centaurs in the room, then continued the rage to alternate between it and the giant scorpion, eliminating both and maybe even wounding another centaur in the process. Shayne was the Wizard, and he made nice use of his familiar and magic missile to take out one of the Minotaurs who were the biggest remaining threat in the room. In all, we made it through pretty well.
So then we headed into the final room against the Lich and his undead horde. Knowing that we still had the Teleport/Rage tactic available (where the Wizard teleports the Barbarian behind enemy lines and lets him go all Incredible Hulk on their heineys), Kenny came up with this configuration to protect his Lich and Crypt Spider:
It was a good idea, but it didn’t help much. With my first shot, I “broke” the formation, then proceeded to alternate between the Spider and the Lich, taking out lesser undead as collateral damage as well. This was all he had left after my go:
… and “After” (along with my stack of kills)
So it was pretty easy going as we mopped up the rest and won the game.
Time: 75 minutes
Score: Heroes (Chip, Shayne, Mayci, & Norton) – Win; Lich (Kenny) – Lose
Ratings: Chip 8.5, Shayne 10, Mayci ?, Norton 8, Kenny 8.5
Catacombs is so cool. It probably would have been a much different game if I were involved from the beginning and Kenny hadn’t worn his kid gloves most of the time with them, but it was still a lot of fun. And, of course, if you don’t know that much about Catacombs, you really need to read my full review.
Lords of Waterdeep [BGG]
It’s been a crazy month at game night (or half the time, actually not being at game night, that is), so I haven’t actually gotten in a play of the current Game of the Month! before this week. My copy, in fact, had never seen play, so I made sure that I both played it and used my virgin copy to do so.
I don’t remember it’s name right now, but I was dealt the Lord of Waterdeep who likes Arcana and Skullduggery, so I jumped at the chance to build a building that gave 2 rogues and a wizard to whoever chose it, plus I would get either one as my benefit as the owner. And later on, I completed a plot quest that let me place an agent where an opponent had already placed, so by the end, I was able to wait until someone else used the building (giving me a small benefit) and then place there as well to gain an additional 3 cubes. The only real downside to my gameplan was that I waited a pretty long time (in setting up all this infrastructure) before I actually started completing quests.
Shawn and Sean, however, jockeyed back and forth for the lead all game long. It seemed like every Intrigue card I drew was a Mandatory Quest, so I more or less alternated giving them to the “Sheawns”, who were gathering enough cubes that it never really mattered anyway. In the end, I managed to pull off the 25 point Skullduggery quest, but Sean kept just a bit of an edge over Shawn and me based on all the buildings he constructed and controlled all through the game, so he got the win in a very close game.
Time: 71 minutes
Score: Sean 123, Shawn 121, Norton 121, Keith* 102
Ratings: Sean 8, Shawn 9, Norton 7.5, Keith ?
Lords of Waterdeep was as good in my second play as it was in the first. It’s not the deepest game in the world, but at the same time, I also don’t see any real merit in most of backlash I’ve heard against it recently. The underlying mechanics are pretty simple and familiar, but the sheer variability in the game due to the effect of which buildings and quests come out in any one play is pretty incredible. But you definitely get the feeling that you’re building towards something and the sense of accomplishment from putting your “engine” together, even if it is a little less intricate than a lot of other, heavier games. And again, for the audience that I’m assuming Wizards of the Coast is trying to reach with it, Lords of Waterdeep is a really incredible introduction to eurogames.
Stacy wanted to leave, but we coerced him into a game of Coloretto. It was fun.
Time: 23 minutes
Score: Brad* 36, Norton 32, Chip 31, Stacy 30, Kenny 25
Ratings: Brad 7, Norton 7, Chip 8, Stacy 8, Kenny 8
Just before this game, some of the guys were playing Parade, and I sort of got to thinking about both of these games. In the “big picture”, the actual outcome of both games is pretty luck-based, which could turn some people off. But for both, I really don’t mind the luck for two main reasons.
First of all, they’re really light games. They play quickly and don’t ask for a lot of investment, so it’s hard to really care all that much about how they turn out. But more than that even, I just find a lot of enjoyment in the actual playing of both games.
In Coloretto, the choice each turn about whether to take a pile or flip a new card is both so simple and so agonizing. In the end, whatever choice you make may be somewhat invalidated by the whims of fate, but in the moment of the choice itself, it’s brilliantly exquisite. Similarly, in Parade, the hand-management of how you plan your card plays and the “damage control” element of deciding which bad choice is the least detrimental to you is so interesting to me. Again, luck may be against you and even the best play and planning may be ruined, but that doesn’t really diminish the fun of the moment.
But in comparison to games like No Thanks! and 6 Nimmt/Slide 5, which I feel are at least somewhat less luck-based, however, I do find Parade and Coloretto to be a little less compelling. But when it comes to fillers, not much of anything can really compare favorably to No Thanks! anyway.
Walnut Grove [BGG]
And then to finish off the evening, I introduced Walnut Grove to Kenny and Brad. My explanation went a lot better than last time, though, so it certainly started off a lot smoother for everyone involved. I focused my efforts on building a huge yellow area and getting extra yellow workers, which sort of “worked”, but was also really painful on the many turns where I had to pay double upkeep for all yellow dudes. And then Kenny went and bought the improvement tile that gives points for your biggest area out from under me, so I had to switch gears a little and focus on getting lots of coins and the Safe tile (which makes all coins worth an extra point).
But the game was actually quite close, with just 5 points separating first and last.
Time: 58 minutes
Score: Norton 28, Brad* 25, Kenny* 23
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Brad 7, Kenny 8
Walnut Grove is a bit of an odd game. Sort of to go along with my comments about Coloretto and Parade, I feel like the depth of the choices in Walnut Grove outgrow the overall depth of the game itself. I mean, you’ve just got 8 “years” with only 2 or 3 real decision points in each for the whole game. And the randomness of your tile draws puts some significant limits on how much control you can have over your long-term plan.
But I don’t feel like the game is “easy” or “automatic” or anything like that at all. If anything, the choice about what to do with, say, a sub-optimal tile draw is even more excrutiating (and therefore interesting) than getting what you already know you want, because tiles are such a limited resource that you have to do something meaningful with every one of them. And again, you’ve only got 8 actions in town, so how much do you try to just meet your basic needs and how much do you invest in end-game scoring?
My (left) and Kenny’s (right) farms at the end of the game…
And the cool thing for me so far is that I do actually see where player choice makes a notable difference both in their strategy as it plays out and in the eventual outcome of the game. My main concern right now is that I’m a bit afraid it may be a little “too balanced”, meaning that you’re going to score pretty much the same number of points no matter what choice you make (which is especially true of the Improvement Tiles). But still, I’m having a lot of fun with it, as are pretty much all the other people I’ve played it with so far, so I’m definitely glad to own this one.
Other Games Played
Castles of Burgundy
Time: 48 minutes
Score: Chris 184, Stacy 175
Ratings: Chris 8.5, Stacy ?
Time: 90 minutes
Score: Sean* 4, Shawn 3, Darren* 3, Keith* 3
Ratings: Sean 8, Shawn 8.5, Darren ?, Keith 8
Time: 47 minutes
Score: Mayci 56, Ken 50, Chris 48, Shayne 47, Matt T* 44
Ratings: Chris 5
Lords of Waterdeep
Time: 48 minutes
Score: Stacy 134, James K 131, Chris 115, Matt T 89
Ratings: Stacy ?, James K 9, Chris 8.5, Matt T 8
Time: 27 minutes
Score: Chip 14, Brad 15, Ken 19, Stacy 37
Ratings: Chip 8, Brad 7, Ken 8, Stacy 37***
Score: Chip 1st, Kenny 2nd, Brad 3rd, Shayne 4th, Mayci 5th
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 33 minutes
Score: Heroes (Chris – Bunker, Matt T – Tachyon, Robert* – Visionary, Sean* – Haka, & James K – Legacy) – Win; Grand Warlord Voss at Pike Industries – Lose
Ratings: Chris 9, Matt T 10, James K 10
Time: 15 & 21 minutes
Score: Shayne 103, Mayci* 98, Kenny 64(& nuts)
Game 2: Kenny 104, Shayne 80, Matt 100(& Loony), & Mayci 76 (& mental)
Ratings: Kenny8, Shayne 7, Mayci 7, Matt 7
* First play for that Person