My last two weeks at game night have been a little odd. In the first one, I played two tactical ship combat games, both for the first time, while at the second I was limited to playing a number of super-filler type games. And even though I was sort of accidentally shoe-horned into odd “themes” both nights, I still had a great time with almost everything I tried. So, let’s take a trip back a couple of weeks and start on…
~ April 2, 2013 ~
Sails of Glory [BGG]
I’ve already written a full review for Sails of Glory, so I probably don’t need to write much more about it. But let me start by saying that a lot of people in my group were very excited to try it out. We played a couple of games on this night involving 5 different people, and both of them went very well.
In both games, I played on the French side, first controlling the Genereaux, a ship of the line, and then captaining the smaller Courageuse in the second play. I’d say that we didn’t really use any perceptible strategy in the first game (since we were still mostly just trying to figure out the rules and fight against the wind mechanic. And despite Britt misunderstanding how to use the maneuver cards, the British (he and Keith) managed to totally take out Kenny (my “wingman”) and then focus their fire to eliminate me as well.
In the second game, Josh took over the Genereaux and I decided to form up with him and try to concentrate fire from the beginning. Keith swung wide to our left with his smaller ship, the HMS Terpsichore, which let Josh and I swarm all over Britt’s HMS Defence. He and Josh traded volleys, but with my added firepower as well, the British ship came out far worse for the wear.
At one point, Britt and I collided nose-to-nose, and despite the fact that he had the higher “burden” (more mass, basically), there was no move that either of us could make (in the basic game, at least) to disentangle ourselves. So while he and I traded musket fire, Josh was able to come around and deliver another broadside to sink the British frigate. From there, Josh and I pursued then wounded Terpsichore across the board (learning to work with the wind the whole way) and finally sink her as well.
Time: 59 and 47 minutes
Game 1: English (Keith* & Britt*) – Win; French (Kenny* & Norton*) – Lose
Game 2: Fronch (Norton & Josh) – Win; British (Keith & Britt) – Lose
Ratings: Keith 7, Britt 7.5, Norton 7.5, Kenny 7, Josh 8
Again, if you want to know what I think of Sails of Glory, check out my full review.
If there’s anything I would add, it might be that we sort of discovered we may have been using the range ruler wrong and pulling for the wrong chit piles for long- and short-range artillery fire. For some reason, the close-range pile is the “B” pile, while the long-range is the “A”. And as I think over it, the label of “A” vs. “B” is probably what caused me to assume that we should use the other end of the ruler (because, really, don’t you think that the “A” pool should be the one for close range?). But anyway, that’s just something to watch out for if you have the chance to play the game anytime soon.
Gunship: First Strike [BGG]
As I talked about a long time ago, I’ve been pretty interested in Gunship: First Strike since before it even hit Kickstarter. I backed its campaign and got lots of little add-ons and expansion thingies from it, and have been trying to get it to the table ever since it finally came in. While it will technically plays up to 4 people, it still basically feels like a 2-player game, so I wanted to try it out that way first to make sure I understood what to do. But after my buddy Shawn stood me up for planned games a few weeks in a row, I was beginning to get discouraged about it.
But then Britt came to my rescue and suffered through my rules “explanation” that I tried to remember and read through since it had been a month or more from the last time I read them. We just used a basic setup (not using any of the “Upgrades” from the KS campaign to make our ships more unique) for our Gunships, and then got down to bid’ness trading fire back and forth.
As far as the session itself goes, it’s hard to really talk about the overall arc of the game. There aren’t all that many tactical choices to make, so for the first half or so of the game, it felt like we were basically just stading toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring trading blows between our Gunships while our Carriers shot at each other as well.
Once the shilelds on the Carriers started to go, things got a little more interesting when we started making attack runs on them. And if there was a really big difference in the game, it was probably that when I rolled defensive fire against Britt during his runs, I got tons of hits, while he only got mediocre results from rolling against me. Otherwise, he took a more conservative route with his Gunship, returning back to his Carrier a couple of times to repair and reload, while I tended to push on with a ship that was held together by chewing gum and duct tape.
As we came down to the end, my carrier was at just 1 hp left whis his had 2 hp. I managed to roll higher on the totally random initiative check, though so when it came to my turn, I had first shot at ending the game. I made my attack run, and Britt rolled a relatively decent 4 hits against me. Now, I had but 1 functioning weapon (my torpedo launcher), and if he hit it, I would have been totally helpless to defeat his carrier. But thankfully, the random hit allocation die never chose to take it out, thus letting me play the torpedo and critical damage cards I had drawn that turn to take him out and win the game.
Unfortunately, I got one rule pretty badly wrong at one point (thinking that I could use Blasters to shoot at his carrier from long range), but once we caught it, I think we managed to put things right. Just in case I missed some ongoing effect, though, I’m giving myself a big ole’ asterisk on the win anyway.
Time: 61 minutes
Score: Norton* – Win* (1 hp left), Britt* – Lose
Ratings: Norton 7, Britt 7
I’m pretty ambivalent about Gunship: First Strike right now. The concept is great, but I’m questioning a few points of implementation. The most confusing thing overall is that every type of attack is a little different. If you’re shooting at or between fighters, you roll the dice and need to get fighter hits. If Gunships are shooting at each other, then no dice are involved at all, and all effects are based solely on card play. But then when you shoot at this immense Carrier, Torpedoes hit automaticall, but you have to roll dice for each bomb you drop on it (unless the shields aren’t down, because then you just do 1 damage for all the bombs without any die rolls). It’s just too needlessly complex, especially with how difficult it is to reference the rulebook.
The next thing I’m disappointed in is the lack of tactical choice in the game, particularly regarding movement. Space if basically divided into 3 areas in the game: space around your carrier, space around your opponent’s carrier, and then space in-between the carriers. And while you can technically spend all of your 3 actions on a turn to make moves, I don’t see much advantage at all to moving much of anywhere for most of the game. I mean, certainly, you’ll want to fly back to your carrier for repairs at some point, and you’ll want to make attack runs on the enemy carrier later on in the game, but on several turns, we’d shoot all the guns we had cards for in 1 or 2 actions, and then pass on the 3rd because we couldn’t see any real purpose or advantage that we could get from moving around somewhere.
I know why they simplified movement to this point, but it seems to me to be too abstract and simple as it is. And I hate the feeling of having to waste 1 or 2 actions on a turn just because there was literally no interesting choice to make to use them. The game is very card-driven, which is okay I guess, but I really wish that either there was another non-card-based action (other than movement) or that there were more places to go (or ways to spend movement points, like investing in “evasive maneuvers” or something to help your defense) to make movement more interesting.
The last thing I’ll say is that I’m really glad I have all the Kickstarter stuff. One of the main things I was looking forward to about Gunship is that you get to “customize” your Gunship at the start of the game, choosing which weapons you want to put onto different areas. But in the base game, you only have 3 weapons to choose from, and you’re probably going to want all of them to have a well-rounded ship. In the expanded game, though, there is a small deck of Upgrade cards that you either randomly draw from or draft that can replace some of the core components of your ship, and I think that they would make ship design a world more interesting. So rather than being a real negative right now, it’s more of a “get through that first game and move on” warning to anyone who picks this up (and, of course, make sure that you get the upgrade cards if you’re buying it now!).
We then ended that night with a really cool game of Biblios. The end was pretty amazing, because this was the final values of the 5 factions:
I won the blue, while Chip, Keith, and Kenny all each won either brown, green, or red. So it all came down to who controlled orange, right? It would have been that way, except that every single one of us had discarded all of our orange cards during the auction phase! I guess we all figured that we weren’t going to win it, so why hold on to the cards, but if anyone had kept just 1 of them, they would have won! As it was, my color was the only one worth 4 points, so I took the win.
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Norton 4, Chip 3, Keith 3, Stacy* 3
Ratings: All 8’s!
Biblios is just so good. I talked more about it on Episode 4 of the podcast though (as part of my top 10 fillers), so you can check that out if you’d like.
~ April 9, 2013 ~
The Great Heartland Hauling Co. [BGG]
The next week, I got to game night really late. But so did Chip, and hardly anyone else was there either. It didn’t help that Denise didn’t turn on the A/C and it was a freaking hundred degrees in the play area, of course. But games are too important to let a little thing like tempting spontaneous combustion hold you back, so we soldiered on!
While Chip and I waited for others to arrive or finish up the other game being played, we pulled out The Great Heartland Hauling Co. and tried out some of the more advanced variants (the Badlands expansion and the truck stops). It was a close game, but having to rack up $50 takes a lot more work than the $30 you need in a 4-player game. And it seemed like I had a lot of turns where I had to spend money to move, which wasted an inordinate percentage of my profits. Still, though, it was basically just a turn or two difference, as Chip edged me out for the win.
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Chip $53, Norton $49
Ratings: Chip 8, Norton 8
Heartland Hauling is really good. I wrote a full review of it back when it was on Kickstarter, and I’d say that it’s only getting better with more play and inclusion of the advanced variants.
A la Carte [BGG]
I’ve owned this for a while, and have had a few requests to bring it back to game night. So the next thing we found ourselves doing was pulling out ridiculously over-produced cardboard stoves, metal frying pans, and little bottles full of colored plastic doohickeys.
I only wish that the actual gameplay lived up to the components in this one. But instead, I’m relatively convinced that success in the game has a lot more to do with the fickle whims of chance rather than any physical skill or strategic prowess of the players. If you’re not looking for too much, though, it’s still pretty cute.
Time: 27 minutes
Score: Chip 16, Kenny 15, Norton 10, Chris* 7
Ratings: Chip 6.5, Kenny 7.5, Norton 6, Chris 6.5
Chris then pulled out a new purchase of his, Indigo, that I had heard some good things about but never really looked into very much before. What I found is that it bears a lot of similarity to Tsuro, which is an exceedingly simple game that is reviled by some and beloved by others. But no matter what you think of that earlier game, Indigo definitely has a lot more choice, and potentially, more real strategy in how it’s played.
Basically, you’re playing out hexagonal tiles that have paths coming through all 6 sides. You play them out to make these jewels (that are seeded in the center and along the edges of the board) travel along a path that brings them into one of your home bases. And what’s really cool is that you always (in the 4-player game, at least) share those bases with another player, so you sort of have semi-alliances formed with multiple opponents as you try to bring in nearby jewels to your shared scoring area.
There’s not much to say about the actual play of the game, though. We did take slightly different approaches in the two games we played, though, where in the first we almost always played tiles directly next to a jewel to make it move right then, but in the second we played some tiles into empty areas that wouldn’t be connected to until later. But really, I don’t know that it made a huge difference either way.
Time: 18 and 20 minutes
Game 1: Kenny* 11, Chip 10, Norton* 9, Chris 8
Game 2: Chip 14, Chris 9, Norton 5, Kenny 4
Ratings: Chip 7, Kenny 8, Norton 7.5, Chris 8
I liked Indigo quite a bit. It’s very light and full of player-based uncertainty (chaos) and randomness, but it was still interesting since it’s so freaking quick! I don’t actually know whether there’s a perceptibly greater amount of control in Indigo than there is in Tsuro, but you sure feel like you do, and the whole shifting/uneasy alliance that goes on due to sharing the goals is really cool and interesting. I’d love to pick this up at some point to try with my wife (and kids eventually) and to have as a nice filler.
Africana is a solid euro-style game that probably fits into that “next step” level of complexity just above true gateway games like Ticket to Ride. It’s all about taking expeditions across Africa to score points and collect little treasures. One of the neat things is that when you go to the start city of one of the expeditions (which are defined by a deck of cards that fill in the 5 expedition spaces), you can “invest” in it by placing one of your little wooden discs. In addition to putting you in the “race” to complete that expedition (by going to the end city on the card), you also get a little bonus of either drawing a card or getting 1-2 coins. And then if you’re the one to complete it, you get a larger number of coins (2-4, I think) and some victory points.
In addition, you can choose to use your coins as you action to flip through one of the “books” on the board and buy some other cards that (once you arrive in the city named on them, anyway) give you coins, VP’s, a special ability, and/or picture a trinket that can score you points at endgame based on some set-collection criteria.
Movement is key to the game, but movement cards are pretty hard to come by (you either have to spend your whole turn to draw 2 cards, or pick them up through investing in expeditions). But you start the game with one “wild” movement card that you can use every turn, and can pick up another permanent card or two using some of the “book” cards.
So anyway, I managed to do pretty well in the game despite it being my first play. Mostly on the strength of finishing 3 expeditions in the last couple of turns which were all worth 4 or 5 points, I managed to edge out Chip and Kenny for the win.
Time: 65 minutes
Score: Norton* 55, Chip 44, Kenny 42
Ratings: Norton 8, Chip 8, Kenny 8
I liked Africana a lot. It’s the kind of game that almost anyone can play, it looks good, and I think it has some nice room for replayability and strategic choice. And more than anything else, it seems to strike a nice balance in how difficult it is to get things done. For instance, moving around the board isn’t really easy, since drawing cards is pretty limited and you have to match cards to the symbols of cities you want to move to, but it’s also not frustratingly hard since you always have 1 wild card in your hand and cities have 2-3 symbols attached to them. It challenges you to think ahead and be efficient in what you do, but even if you fall behind and aren’t doing so well, you wouldn’t necessarily know that until the end of the game when scoring is done.
So anyway, I’d love to play it again, and Africana jumped right onto my wishlist since I think it would be a good game to play with my wife and eventually my little girls as well.
Santiago de Cuba [BGG]
And finally, the last game we played at this game night (which seems forever ago now) was Santiago de Cuba. This report has gone on for way too long, though, and I just reviewed the game on my podcast, so I think I’ll cheat a little and stop now…
Time: 37 minutes
Score: Chip 32, Norton 27, Kenny 23
Ratings: Chip 8, Norton 8, Kenny 8
Other Games Played
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Time: 19 minutes
Score: Firefighters (Chip, Chris, and Stacy) – Win; The Fire – Lose
Ratings: Chris 8
Time: 12 and 18 minutes
Game 1: Josh* 13, Chris* 10, Darren* 8, James K* 7
Game 2: Chip* 12, Darren 11, Stacy* 7, Chris 5
Ratings: Chip 7, Darren 8, Stacy 8, Chris 8, James K 7
King of Tokyo
Time: ?? and 48 minutes
Game 1: Stacy – Win; Sean, Ben, Jow, & Shawn – Lose
Game 2: Chip* – Win; Keith*, Josh*, Kenny, & Stacy – Lose
Ratings: Chip 8, Stacy 8, Sean 9, Ben 9.75, Joe 8, Shawn 9, Keith 8, Josh 8, Kenny 8
Lord of the Fries
Time: 39 minutes
Score: Chris 76, James K* 50, Josh* -3, Britt* -20, Ken* -56
Ratings: Chris 6.5
Ra: The Dice Game
Time: 39 minutes
Score: Kenny 64, Keith 48, Josh 44
Ratings: Keith 8
Santiago de Cuba
Time: 41 minutes
Score: Chip 33, Stacy* 32, Chris* 29, Darren* 20
Ratings: Chip 8, Stacy 8, Chris 7, Darren 6
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 23 minutes
Score: Heroes (Chris, Darren, James K, & Derreck) – Win; Citizen Dawn in the Realm of Discord – Lose
Ratings: all 10’s
Settlers of Catan
Score: Joe* 10, Sean 9, Shawn 5, Ben 4
Ratings: Joe 9, Sean 10, Shawn 8.5, Ben 7
Ticket to Ride: Legendary Asia
Time: 60 minutes
Score: Joe* 104, Sean* 103, Ben* 86, Shawn *72
Ratings: Joe 9, Sean 10, Ben 10, Shawn 10
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 16, 20, & 47 minutes
Game 1: Heroes (Chris, Darren, & James K) – Win; Grand Warlord Voss in Silver Gulch – Lose
Game 2: Heroes (Chris, Darren, James, & Derreck) – Win; Kismet at Wagner Moon Base – Lose
Game 3: Heroes (Chris, Darren, James, & Derreck) – Win; ??? – Lose
Ratings: all 10’s
* First play for that Person