I feel like I’m always saying this, but gee whiz, time seems to move so dern fast sometimes. Between taking our little staycation weekend before last, trying to work on my game (Acute Care) for an Unpub event this past weekend (which I’ll write about sometime “soon”), and then just the freaking busyness I live with all the time, I now find myself trying to catch up for game night reports from 2 and 3 weeks ago. The two weeks straddle two different months, so we finished up Lancaster as Game of the Month! and then brought in Kingdom Builder at the last minute for September (since we had sorta forgotten to vote on it at a more appropriate time). Chris Kirkman from Dice Hate Me was also able to join us on September 4, so I got to try at least one of the new hotness games from GenCon.
But that’s more than enough introduction, so let’s get on with the games!
~August 28, 2012~
For the first time in a really long while, I actually managed to play the Game of the Month! every week during its reign. Lancaster is a fun little game with some neat twists, but in my opinion, it really didn’t stand up too well to the intense scrutiny of repeated plays.
In this last game, things went pretty much exactly according to the script, with Chris getting an advantage in how many Knights he had in the first couple of turns, which then let him build up other things and win the game. I was trying to do the same thing, but the first two turns went his way instead of mine, and there wasn’t really anything that we could do after that.
Time: 87 minutes
Score: Chris 74, Norton 58, Scott* 56, Stacy 37, Tom* 30
Ratings: Chris 7.5, Norton 6.5, Tom 7
I’m planning on writing/recording a full review of Lancaster soon, so I won’t go into much more detail now, but the basic idea of what disappoints me about it is that it’s very one-dimensional. Even though it has a really nice and different take on its worker-placement mechanic, it suffers from the same drawback of many others, where the strength of getting more workers trumps pretty much any other resource or advantage that you could get with other actions or choices. And while I originally hoped that the various options in the game (getting more knights, advancing your knights, building up your castle, working on the parliament, fighting battles in France, and influencing nobles) would provide room for “multiple paths to victory”, I’m pretty disappointed that, in actuality, having more knights enables you to do pretty much everything else on your singular road to winning. It’s not a terrible game or anything, but after 5 plays, I feel like I’ve pretty much seen all it has to offer.
Shadows Over Camelot [BGG]
From there, we stuck with the Knight theme and pulled out an old favorite, Shadows Over Camelot. Now, I’ve had a pretty long history with Shadows, since it was one of the very first modern/”euro” games that I ever played (along with Citadels). And while it may be a little clunky compared to some more recent games (especially newer coop games), it’s still pretty cool to bring back to the table every so often.
In this play, we had one new player and a few that had pretty limited experience, so we did have a traitor, but I used a variant I’d heard about before where we didn’t deal out the loyalty cards until after the 3rd round. I also only included a total of 6 cards (5 loyal and 1 traitor) rather than using them all, so while it was possible that no one would be a traitor, it was really likely.
I own the expansion, but since most of us were new or rusty, I only included the new black and white cards (which were already shuffled into the decks). But sort of because this, we didn’t see any of the Despair cards (which work on the Grail quest) until after we had already won it. Winning it so early worried me a little (since all the despair cards would then add seige engines), but it worked out okay. I won the Lancelot quest and then a number of us took Excalibur, so in the end we were just trying to fend off the engines as some others fought back the Picts for the win.
Tom was the traitor, and while there may have been a couple of points when I would have gotten more aggressive (especially about falsely accusing a person or two near the end of the game) about it, I don’t know that there was much more he could have done.
Time: 79 minutes
Score: Loyal Knights (Norton, Kenny, Scott*, & Stacy) – Win (10 white swords); Evil Traitor (Tom) and forces of Shadow – Lose (2 black swords)
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Kenny 8, Scott 7, Stacy 8, Tom 8
Again, I wouldn’t necessarily call Shadows Over Camelot a great game at this point, but it still does what it does really well. As a relatively simple coop with a nice traitor element, I think it’s still the best game in the genre.
The Great Heartland Hauling Co. [BGG]
We then finished off the night with a game of The Great Heartland Hauling Co., but since I’ve already reviewed it and my opinion hasn’t changed or anything, let’s just move on…
Time: 27 minutes
Score: Scott* 31, Tom* 30, Norton 24, Kenny 17
Ratings: Scott ?, Tom 7.5, Norton 8, Kenny 7.5
~September 4, 2012~
Caveman Curling [BGG]
I arrived a little early the next week, so Chip and I jumped into a game of Caveman Curling. I’m usually pretty good with flicking games, but I just can’t seem to get a decent feel for this one, and Chip kicked me around in a 6-0 rout. Chris Kirkman then joined us for a 3-player game, but Chip still continued his perfect night by smacking us around 4-0-0.
Time: 11 and 25 minutes
Game 1: Chip 6, Norton 0
Game 2: Chip 4, Chris K 0, Norton 0
Ratings: Chip 8.5, Chris K 7.5, Norton 7.5
I already complained about the price of Caveman Curling and how the Kickstarter rewards ruined the value of the base game for me, so maybe I’ll just stop here by saying that I wish I could go back in time and back it to get the “full” game.
Android: Netrunner [BGG]
Back in the day, I was big into CCG’s. I played a metric crap-ton of Magic: The Gathering, a notable amount of Babylon 5, bought a lot of cards for Rage and Shadowfist that I barely ever actually used, and accumulated a rather large stack of now-useless other CCG/TCG titles. But for some ridiculously odd and nearly unfathomable reason, I never picked up any Netrunner cards at all. I was even pretty much into Cyberpunk (both the RPG and the genre in general), so for the last 16 years or so, I’ve missed out on what many consider to be one of the best CCG’s ever.
But thanks to Fantasy Flight games and Chris Ingersoll (who taught it to me), I changed all that a couple of weeks ago.
I played the ‘Runner and Chris was the Corporation. It took a little while before I really had a decent idea what I was doing, and Chris was probably already out of reach. But I found the whole experience exceedinly interesting. I can’t formulate any sort of real opinion at this point, but I can definitely say that I’m ready and willing to try it again, and if it continues to gain popularity in the group, I may look into investing in this LCG as well.
Time: 55 minutes
Score: Chris 8, Norton* 2
Ratings: Chris 10 Norton 7.5
I hadn’t really heard much about Seasons prior to Origins, I guess… maybe? But since then, and especially coming out of GenCon, it’s become the freaking bee’s knees or something. So I was definitely interested in trying it out when Chris mentioned it.
Just in case you haven’t seen or read much about it, though, the basic idea is that you have this circular time track divided into the four seasons. In a season, you roll certain dice that players then take turns claiming in order to get various resources that will let them play cards from their hand. One die will always be left over, on which there’s an indicator about how far to advance the time track, potentially moving to the next season and eventually to enter a new year (with the game lasting for 3 years).
Now, the real meat of the game are actually the cards, which you start off by either drafting before the game or (in your first few games) just using one of the pre-prepared sets. But you then divide your “deck” among the three years based on when you think its effect will be most useful. So to then play a card, you pay certain resources listed on it and get its effect. And for the most part, the gameplay then centers around what sorts of combinations of effects that you get from these cards.
Especially from my first play, it’s pretty hard to even give a decent rundown about what exactly happened. Mostly, a lot of time was spent reading our cards and the cards played by everyone else. Chris got a lead basically by playing a couple copies of a card that was worth 30 VP’s which you played by sacrificing 20 VP from the scoring track. But since he had a combo that let him play one of them pretty much for free, it was a little abusive. But again, that’s sort of the whole game (playing abusive combos), so he just managed to get the “biggest shenanigans” award and won.
Time: 50 minutes
Score: Chris* 161, Norton* 136, Chris K 136, Shawn 49
Ratings: Chris 7, Norton 6.5, Chris K 8, Shawn 7
After my first play, I have to say that I was pretty underwhealmed by Seasons. The thing is, it seems like a game that I should love. My assumption is that the game was designed to mimic the whole combo-building element that you get from a lot of CCG’s and similar games. There’s lot of text and unique abilities on every card, and given that this sort of combo-building was one of the things I liked best about CCG’s, I’m not sure why it really didn’t grab me more.
Part of it may be the downtime, which I would expect to get better once all the players knew the cards better (and didn’t have to read every single one every time). But at the same time, it also seems like one of those games where a good portion of the decisions are actually made before you ever start (when you draft and then divide your cards into the different years). Because that’s when you would actually be planning and putting together the combos, while the actual turn-by-turn decisions would just be about picking up the pieces you needed (based on the random die rolls) to get your engine going.
But another thing bothering me may just be the brute force by which the whole card combo thing is done. In Magic: The Gathering, building a combo deck was often a high-risk, high-reward proposition. You inserted the cards you needed for the combo into your deck, and then had to fend off your opponent’s more conventional attacks long enough to assemble the engine in play and get it running, hopefully winning the game once it was going. But there was always that tension of having to race against the “clock” of whatever the other player was doing, where being disrupted or failing to draw that one card you needed for even one extra turn might screw up your plans.
In Seasons, however, the combo is essentially just handed to you… just like it’s handed to every other player as well. And then the game is sort of just an exercise in everyone playing out their combo and telling each other what it’s doing. It definitely lacked any real tension or excitement for me, anyway.
But, of course, I don’t mean to read too much into this one, solitary play. I’d definitely like to play it again now that I’m at least somewhat familiar with it and what the cards can do. But for certain, this one experience dropped it almost completely off my list of things to potentially buy.
And then, to end the night, a few of us pulled out Farmageddon. This is such a cool, little “take that” sort of game that is just a lot of fun. It seems like having two different decks of cards that you draw from and use in different ways would be clunky or something, but the game is really quite elegant and seamless in spite of that. There’s definitely a good deal of chaos in the outcome of any particular play, but at the same time, it always seems to feel like your decisions do matter and you have the ability to pull off some pretty cool little maneuvers every so often. We definitely had a great time with it once again, and Farmageddon is now on my short list of fillers to bring to pretty much any game-playing session.
Time: 38 minutes
Score: Scott* $64, Kenny $46, Norton $31, Keith $29
Ratings: Scott 8, Kenny 8.25, Norton 7.5, Keith 7.5
Other Games Played
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 31 minutes
Score: Chris 37, Steve 30, Ken 26
Ratings: Chris 10
Time: 90 minutes
Score: Chris 54+, Stacy 54, Steve* 49, Ken* 44
Ratings: Chris 8
Score: Scott* 30, Chip 26, Kenny 17
Ratings: Scott ?, Chip 8, Kenny 8
The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
Score: Chris K 30, Chip 25, Sean* 11, Shawn* 11
Ratings: Chris K 9, Chip 8, Sean 8, Shawn 8
Time: 53 minutes
Score: Shawn 45, Chris 40, James K 39, Sean 38, Ken 34
Ratings: Shawn 8, Chris 8, James K 7.5, Sean 8, Ken 7.5
Time: 50 and 72 minutes
Score: Ken* – Win, Shawn* – Lose
Game 2: Scott* 8, Ken 4
Ratings: Scott 8, Ken 7.5, Shawn 8
Score: Sean* $370mil, Shawn* $310mil, Chris K $280mil, Chip* $250mil
Ratings: Sean 8, Shawn 8, Chris K 8.5, Chip 7
Time: 70 minutes
Score: Scott 2, Chip 1, Ken 0, Keith 0
Ratings: Scott 7, Chip 6, Ken 8, Keith 6
* First play for that Person