Wow. I just figured out that I’m three freaking weeks behind on my game night reports. I’ll tackle a couple of them here and then try to nab the last one soon. But really, both of these game nights were dominated by playing one main game, so they sort of go together pretty well. Before I get to that game, though, I started off the first week by playing a quick game of…
~ April 16, 2013 ~
Salmon Run [BGG]
As I mentioned in my last podcast, this game also saw a little bit of the “getting left behind” phenomenon that I saw the last time I played it. For everyone other than James, though, we were pretty close right till the end, so I’m definitely thinking that it’s mostly something related to playing it with 5 players, so maybe 3-4 is the more ideal number for the game.
But I still love it, just to be clear.
Time: 22 minutes
Score: Chris – Win; Chip, Norton, James E, & Keith – Lose
Ratings: Chip 6, Norton 8, Keith 7
The “big game” I mentioned earlier was, of course, CO2. I really hate, by the way, that I can’t make the freaking 2 subscripted. As a former chemistry major, I feel totally dissatisfied that when I write it on my blog, I might come across as some dim-witted yahoo that probably doesn’t even know it’s the chemical formula for carbon dioxide but is trying to make sense of it sort of like how you have to puzzle over stupid vanity license plate like NVERLA8 or HIOFCER or HLPMEOB1 (okay, the last one is pretty cool, I guess, but you still get the point). But anyway, we pulled out CO2 and I tried my best to teach it.
The thing about teaching CO2, though, is that the rulebook doesn’t really have yer back when you do such a thing. It was hard enough to make sense of when I was reading it in bed for the 3rd or 4th time (enough to resort to watching a video to learn how to play, which I never do by the way), but attempting to actually reference it when a rule question came up in the game was sorta like waking up alone in a bathtub full of ice with a huge scar on your back and realizing that the “clinical trial” you signed up for wasn’t quite what the brochure led you to believe.
But again, I keep getting distracted.
CO2 is a game about global warming. And more specifically, it’s about being owners of eco-friendly power companies that want to save the planet by eliminating the need for nasty, evil fossil-fuel-burning plants and their noxious emissions before the earth is too far gone to save. So the actions you have to choose from on your turn are to either propose a “green” power plant in a region, “install” an already-proposed plant (which means to do things like establish the infrastructure necessary to support it), or to actually construct a plant that has already been installed. You then have a few secondary actions (using cards, scientists, and/or the market) to get more expertise, resources, and money to, you know, get stuff done.
Points come mostly from building plants, completing personal (“Company”) and open (“UN”) goal cards, by collecting income each turn based on your expertise in the five different types of green energy, and by turning in money at the end of the game.
To be honest, though, I don’t remember a lot of specifics about this first game that we played. I do remember lots of rule questions and poorly-translated, ambiguous statements in the aforementioned rulebook, but I don’t remember a lot about the actual gameplay. We never really came that close to utter destruction of the human race, but we did suffer some calamities each turn for the last half or so of the game. And really, we don’t see that the auto-loss condition (of reaching 500 ppm on the CO2 scale) is that big a threat if players know at all what they’re doing (because, believe me, we barely had a clue and still did fine with that).
The main thing I remember is that I won mostly because I paid more attention to the UN goal cards and built the plants I needed to collect more of them than anyone else did. Keith and Chip came close because they focused a lot on getting money, which paid out a lot for them in the final summary. But I also found out later (from reading the official FAQ, of course) that we had made a number of mistakes that could have made some difference.
Time: 184 minutes
Score: Norton* 130, Keith* 125, Chip* 123, Josh* 84
Ratings: Norton 8, Keith 5, Chip 5, Josh 7.5
But I’ll hold off on commentary until after my second play down below, so let’s move on to the next week…
~ April 23, 2013 ~
Traders of Carthage [BGG]
The second week in question started off with a little game to fill in some time while others were still finishing up games. But Traders of Carthage isn’t just fluff, so Chip, Kenny, and I were really looking forward to playing it.
Now, if you haven’t seen Traders of Carthage before, it’s a real shame. It’s tragically out of print right now, though, so I apologize that you’ll have to shell out $50-$100 to get ahold of it right now. It’s a great game, but $100 is still a little much.
But anyway, the cool thing about Traders of Carthage is that it’s another card game where the cards can serve more than one purpose. In your hand, they can be used either as currency or to protect other cards, but if you buy them from the market using currency cards, they are placed in front of you as goods to (hopefully) be delivered. And what I find pretty fascinating is that once cards have been taken into one state (either in hand or in the tableau), they can never change to the other. But while they still sit in the market or farm, they exist with equal potential to be either, sort of like a modern-day Schrödinger’s cat in a simplistic quantum-theory experiment.
And of course, when I think of quantum theory, I think of the Uncertainty Principle, which makes me think of Werner Heisenberg. And thinking of Heisenberg makes me think of Breaking Bad, which makes me even happier.
But anyway, once again, I digress. The other cool thing is that while all the quantum-theory-card-play is great and all, the little element that sort of makes Traders of Carthage is that players also have the option to reserve one card rather that either taking them as currency or buying them out of the market. And whether you’re using it to grab something that you either can’t afford or is still in the farm (which isn’t available to pick up quite yet), or if you’re just trying to delay because you don’t want to do anything else right now, this one little element adds a ton to the choices you have each turn.
Finally, then, let me say that our particular play of the game was really great. There was planning, jumping on bandwagons, spiteful screwage, and cool pulling off of shenanigans aplenty, but unfortunately, in the end Chip came out ahead.
Time: 43 minutes
Score: Chip 19, Norton 17, Kenny 12
Ratings: Chip 8, Norton 8.5, Kenny 7.5
I’ve talked enough about it already, I suppose. So maybe just use your time wisely to start a letter campaign to get Z-Man or whoever else to finally reprint the dern thing.
While Traders of Carthage may be a notable notch above “fluff filler”, Coloretto rides the line a lot closer. But still, I really like how every single turn involves the tough choice of either “take a pile” or “add a card”. It was close, but I still managed to edge out the new guy to take the win.
Time: 21 minutes
Score: Norton 28, Dan* 26, Kenny 24, Chip 21, Scott* 21
Ratings: Norton 8, Dan ?, Kenny 8.5, Chip 7.5, Scott 7
If Coloretto has any “flaw”, I’d say it’s the existence of the wild cards. In almost every case, the best move is always to take any pile that contains a wild, because it is always the best card you could get with no exceptions. But we were thinking afterwards that one way to maybe temper the power of the wild cards would be to require a player to assign it to one color when it was taken, rather than waiting till the end of the game to assign it to wherever it would do the most good. That way, while it’s still exactly the card you want at the moment, things could still change later (like having the chance to pick up more cards of your primary color “naturally”) that would make the choice a little less clear.
I’d be interested in hearing what other Coloretto veterans think of our little idea.
Okay then, let’s get back to CO2 (Arggghhhh! Heisenberg would be so ashamed of me for not having a subscripted 2).
In this second week, I played a 2-player game with Stacy. I had identified all of “my” mistakes from the week before (which were, of course, mostly due to the crappy rulebook, but who’s counting), so the rules teach went much better, and gameplay was way smoother. It was also a lot quicker, which was probably equally due to the lower player count and me actually having a freaking clue about how it was supposed to work.
Since I did have “the clue”, of course, I also didn’t have much trouble winning the game. But Stacy made a good run of it, and was a lot more proficient by the time it wrapped up.
Time: 112 minutes
Score: Norton 200, Stacy 143
Ratings: Norton 8, Stacy 8
In addition to these two games, I also got in a solo play using the solitaire variant from the rulebook on the next weekend, so I feel really good about my understanding of at least the basic gameplay right now. And for the most part, I’m enjoying it quite a bit. At least a couple of my opponents agree with me (Josh and Stacy), but the reality of that first game is that a couple of others (Keith and Chip) didn’t think much of it at all.
Now, I know that length is one part of it, but I think that the promise of the game is that it can be a lot quicker. And while the “under 2 hours” of my 2-player game may be a little short for more people, I also don’t think it would be all that much longer, since the relative number of actions in the game is still pretty similar (50 total actions in a 2-player game vs. 60 in a 4-player game). So I hope that this won’t be the only thing holding my friends back from trying it again.
The other issue, though, is more about the choices you have in the game. Now, from my perspective, I like the nature of the game and how it flows. But if I’m going to nitpick it, CO2 does feel a little one-dimensional. LIterally all you are doing as your action is to play some part in constructing a power plant. And while there are multiple ways to score points, I don’t see them as being so much ways to specialize in one particular strategy or another as much as it is that all players sort of have to do a bit of everything to be competitive. And especially in higher-player-count games, the number of actions you get to personally take in the game drops pretty dramatically (25 with 2 players, 20 with 3, 15 with 4, and 12 with 5), which would seem to make chaos a much bigger factor in how the game turns out.
But still, especially with 3 players (which I’m sort of assuming is the ideal player count), I could see CO2 continuing to have a lot of potential. But I’ve written a lot here, so maybe it’s time to go and get ready to actually play more games this evening…
Other Games Played
Commands & Colors: Napoleonics
Time: 90 minutes
Score: Scott 6, Dan 3
Ratings: Scott 9, Dan 7
Time: 135 minutes
Score: Ken 253, Darren 65
Ratings: Ken 7, Darren 8
Priests of Ra
Time: 81 minutes
Score: Sean* 61, Darren 59, Stacy 57, Shawn* 53, Chris* 42
Ratings: Sean ?, Darren ?, Stacy 9, Shawn 8, Chris 8.5
Ra: The Dice Game
Time: 24 and ? minutes
Game 1: Keith 41, Ken 36, Chris 29, James K 23
Game 2: Scott 34, Ken (the Wrath of Ra) 30, Chip 24, Dan 23
Ratings: Keith 7, Ken 9, Chris Ra!, James K ?, Scott 6, Chip 9, Dan 5
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 36 minutes
Game 1: Chris 43(+9), James E 43(+4), Derreck* 32
Game 2: Chris 31(+10), Ken 32(+3), Derreck 17
Ratings: Chris 10, Ken 9.5
Time: 11 minutes
Score: Police (Chris, Darren*, James K*, James E & Derreck) – Win; Mr. X (Keith) – Lose
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 52, ?, and 52 minutes
Game 1: Heroes (Chris – Ra Horus, Darren – Chrono Ranger, & James K – Omnitron X) – Win; The Dreamer in the Final Wasteland – Lose
Game 2: Advanced Voss in Megagopolis – Win; Heroes (Chris – Fixer, Darren – Fanatic, Derek – Expatriette, & James K – Legacy) – Lose
Game 3: Heroes (Chris – Tempest, Darren – Fanatic, Derek – Wraith, & James K – Omnitron X) – Win; Advanced Voss in Megagopolis – Lose
Ratings: Chris & James K – 10
Time: 10 minutes
Score: Ken 0, Chris 2, Darren* 2, Keith 2, Chip 2, James E* 4
Score: Scott* 88, Chip 80, Dan* 61
Ratings: Scott 7, Chip 9, Dan 6.5
* First play for that Person