In the spirit of trying to finally catch up, I’m going to double-up this week on game night reports. And almost picking up where last week left off, I faced at least one other game in this session that, perhaps, set new records in my group for getting the lowest average ratings. But on the other hand, I also managed to play a new game (to me, at least), that I can’t stop thinking about, so let’s start with that one…
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar [BGG]
Yeah, I’m coming to this party a little late. But better late than never, I suppose, especially with how excited I was to finally get my copy to the table. Now, I had read the rules a few times and felt pretty good about teaching it, but it was also pretty cool that Stacy had played before and could make sure I didn’t miss anything, so I feel like the whole getting people up to speed on it thing went well.
And then, really, I feel like the game played pretty well, too. What you’re actually doing on a turn-by-turn basis in Tzolk’in isn’t all that complicated to understand. The hard part (which just happens to be the freaking brilliant part as well), is figuring out how to use the very simple mechanic of either putting out or taking back your workers to do what you need in the context of the big ‘ole, cool-as-heck calendar do-jobby in the middle of the board. The timing of getting what you need, when you need it is really tricky, and it often seems to involve working on both long-term and short-term goals at the same time to manage the workers being where you want them.
A couple of others in the game did some cool things early on that I took note of. Stacy (the one of us with experience in the game) managed to nab both of the farm “buildings” that reduced how much you fed each worker by 1 corn, therefore making all of his workers free from all upkeep for the rest of the game. I’ve thought a lot about how I would play if I could do the same thing sometime, actually, which would have started by getting all 6 available workers active.
But anyway, the other was that Chip pretty quickly maxed out the agriculture technology track, which gave him the benefit that every time he gained another level in it for the rest of the game, he could advance on one of the god tracks instead. He used this to max out two of those tracks and pick up a lot of points from both. Chip’s only weakness at game end was that he didn’t build any of the Monuments to score bonus end-game points.
My approach was to start by building up some infrastructure in the technology tracks as well, and then to focus on putting together items rewarded by one of the Monuments for the game. I started by advancing the Resources track, thinking that I would either go for the Monument that rewarded wood harvest tiles or the one that was based on the number of buildings/monuments you constructed. As the game wore on, I thought that the latter would be better for some reason, so I also then advanced the Construction technology track as well. And in the end, I managed to construct a total of 8 buildings and the monument for a total of 18 bonus points, plus I was able to max out the one god track that Chip didn’t dominate.
I won, which was nice, and my closest threat actually came from Keith, who had focused almost exclusively on getting crystal skulls into Chichen Itza (or “Chicken Pizza” as both Stacy and I referred to it).
Time: 125 minutes
Score: Norton* 70, Keith* 65, Stacy 59, Chip* 54
Ratings: Norton 8.5, Keith 7, Stacy 9, Chip 5
I enjoyed playing Tzolk’in a lot, even though it did seem to go a little slow at times. I found it to be just the right balance between having relatively simple and constrained choices on any one turn, but still included a healthy dose of long-term planning/strategy and forward thinking about how to time your actions to get the most benefit from them. It’s also found its way into my thoughts a number of times since then as well, “haunting” me with a number of different strategies and facets that I’d like to explore through play.
Unfortunately, it didn’t wow Keith and Chip as much as it did Stacy and me. I didn’t press them much at the time, but I’d really like to know what issues they had with it, or even just what part of the experience didn’t do much for them.
Dragon Rampage [BGG]
Kenny wrapped up a game he had been playing around this time and joined us as Chip pulled out Dragon Rampage for the first time. Now, Dragon Rampage is a dice-rolling game where you try to perform certain actions each turn by rolling sets of like faces. Each action has a limited number of spots you can claim, and the players who get them are the ones that had the best rolls for that action.
On the surface, what makes the game interesting conceptually is that there are three ways it can end: by killing the dragon, when someone gets killed by the dragon, or if someone manages to totally escape from the dungeon. And what’s cool about it is that the bonus scoring for the game changes based on how the game ends (rewarding fighting the dragon if it’s killed, but rewarding how close you are to the exit if someone escapes, for instance). You also get points for damaging the dragon and from collecting treasures, and in the end, Stacy took the win based mostly on hoarding treasures and dealing a decent amount of damage.
Time: 88 minutes
Score: Stacy* 24, Chip* 23, Keith* 20, Kenny* 5, Norton* 3
Ratings: Stacy 2, Chip 4, Keith 4, Kenny 4, Norton 2.5
Like I said, the concept of Dragon Rampage was pretty solid. But unfortunately, it just wasn’t a very good game to actually play. It uses the tired Yahtzee-esque “roll and set dice aside three times” mechanic as its core, and then had a number of tokens of different strengths for each player that they would use to claim the action spaces. In effect, though, it became pretty tedious and fiddly the more we played, mostly because there wasn’t anything you could do when it wasn’t your turn other than watch other people roll dice.
The thing that probably turned me off most about the game, though, was that it seemed to play favorites with the different strategies available in it. For the most part, after the first third or so of the game anyway, three of the five of us were doing more of the “running” strategy, while only Chip and Keith were actively trying to kill the dragon. But on two, back-to-back turns when all three of the runners had invested a good number of dice in the Flee action, an event card was drawn that prevented all Flee actions for the round. Now, if there were an equal number of cards that somehow prevented damage to the dragon, I would have written it off to the whim of chance in the game we played. But what we found when we searched the deck, however, was that there was no such nerfing card for the combat strategy, which made me essentially feel betrayed that the game had seemingly offered me a viable strategy that it, in fact, it worked preferentially against compared to the other obvious strategies.
That wasn’t the only issue I had with the game, but it was sort of the last nail in the coffin for me. Like many other Richard Launius games, I apparently just don’t appreciate the kind and/or amount of luck that he brings into his designs, and as far as I can remember, I don’t think my group has ever collectively rated a game any worse than we did Dragon Rampage.
The Walking Dead Card Game [BGG]
And then to wrap up the evening, I pulled out the “brand new” Walking Dead Card Game. I say “brand new” in scare quotes, of course, because it’s actually just a retheme of Wolfgang Kramer’s 6 Nimmt/Category 5/Slide 5. I picked it up because I wanted a nicer version than my flimsy and cheap Slide 5 deck, and because I had heard that there was actually a new variant in the box that added in “Hero” cards in some way.
This new “Hero” version is basically the opposite of the traditional (“Survival”) mode, where instead of trying to avoid taking cards/points, you actively try to collapse piles and collect them. You’re dealt out 15 cards (rather than 10) at the beginning of the hand, in addition to getting a Hero card. On each turn, you can choose to put either 1 or 2 cards facedown, which are then revealed simultaneously with everyone else’s and placed onto the piles from lowest to highest. But if one of your cards is a Hero, then your cards will be placed first. Overall, this added in a couple of nice wrinkles into the game, but once again, I think they sounded better in concept than they actually worked in reality. Keeping up with 15 cards rather than the normal 10 made it notably harder to manage your hand early on, and then the switch to wanting to take cards seemed to make it a lot more unpredictable in knowing what your opponents would and could do with their cards.
But anyway, in our game, I thought I had won until we realized as we were cleaning up that we had totally botched the order that cards should have been placed on the piles. So while I tallied up 30 points, I have no idea exactly what my real score was, as Chip should have had some indetermined value greater than the 7 that he had in his score pile.
Before we closed up shop, though, we decided to play the “normal” version of the game as well, which has a 10-card hand and you’re trying not to get points. Keith did a brilliant job of purposefully taking a couple of 1-point piles that then let him not take any more to sail to the win.
Time: 16 and 15 minutes
Game 1 (“Hero” version): Keith 27, Norton <30*, Kenny 14, Chip >7
Game 2 (“Survivor”/Classic version): Keith 2, Chip 8, Norton 20, Kenny 23
Ratings: Keith 6/7, Chip 5.5/7.5, Norton 6/8, Kenny 6/8
Like I basically said above, I found the new variant to the game to be interesting, but notably inferior to the original. I’m still glad that I have this new, themed edition of the game (especially being a fan of the show), but I’ll probably mostly play with the “real” version.
And just to complain about one other little thing, I really wish that they had used a bit more variety in the card art in the game. I understand that they wanted to be clear with the point values of the cards (since the 1-point cards all have just one zombie on them, for instance), but it bothered me that all of the 1-point cards had the exact same image on them. With all the screen shots available from the show, I really wish that even though they could have kept the number of zombies in the pictures related to the value, it would have been nice if the pictures would have all been different.
But that’s a pretty minor nit-pick, so I think I’ll stop there and let y’all go.
Other Games Played
Ascension: Rise of the Vigil
Time: 23 and 29 minutes
Game 1: Chris 66, Derek 51
Game 2: Chris 92, Derek 39
Ratings: Chris 9
Time: 8 minutes
Score: Derek* $70k, James K $68k, Chris $56k
Ratings: Chris 8
Time: 17 minutes
Score: Derek 22, Stacy* 17, Chris 17, James K* 13, Keith* 12
Ratings: Chris 6, James K 6.5
Time: 61 minutes
Score: Chris 108, James K* 104, Derek* 93, Darren 87
Ratings: Chris 9.5, James K 9
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 24 and 18 minutes
Game 1: Chris 41, Derek 39
Game 2: Derek 55, Chris 47
Ratings: Chris 10
Ticket to Ride: Marklin
Time: 75 minutes
Score: Sean 191+, Shawn 191-, Ben 108, Tina 103
Ratings: All 10’s
A play of Sedition Wars that I couldn’t find a report sheet for…
* First play for that Person