Last week’s game night (well, game night from 2 weeks ago at this point) was a little out of the norm for me. We had a small group of new folks stop by, and I spent the bulk of my time playing a few games with them. And in addition to meeting some cool new people, I also got to play a few new games as well.
Since I really didn’t know how much experience the new people had with games, or how long they were planning to hang out, I started the evening with Coup. I figured that it’s quick, the actual rules are relatively simple, and most of the actual play comes down to the bluffing and interaction of the players with each other rather than their interaction with the game mechanics.
And, simply put, it worked great! Clearly, they are all very accomplished and well-skilled liars, so they took right to the game and the atmosphere it breeds. There’s a bit of a learning curve with the game in understanding and internalizing the powers of the different roles, but they climbed it with no problem and were able to really move on to playing it intuitively in no time.
I actually tried to bring Coup out over the holidays at a New Year’s Eve party I attended. Now, the people at this gathering are definitely not “gamers” by any means, and most of what we play at this annual gathering are party-style games. But for all the reasons I mentioned above, I thought they might be able to pick up on Coup as well.
And again, to put it simply, it just didn’t work out at all. Even from just the big-picture concept of bluffing/lying about your roles, I hit resistance at every turn. They had trouble understanding the roles and how they interacted, and weren’t good at all with lying or knowing why they’d even want to lie. So in the end, I pushed it quickly to end and moved on to playing Tapple or something more along those lines.
Time: 22 minutes
Score: Brett*- Win; Norton, Jesus*, James K*, Matt*, & Kat* – Lose
Ratings: Norton 6.5, James K 7
Overall, I’m still enjoying Coup quite a bit. Like I’ve said before about it and other “micro” games, you still shouldn’t expect too much, but there’s definitely a nice kernel of fun and experience in Coup to have. And since so much of the game is dependent on the actions and engagement of the players around the table, there’s even quite a bit of range possible in how the game plays out and feels depending on who’s in it.
Kakerlakenpoker Royal [BGG]
Another game I got for Christmas is Kakerlakenpoker Royal (I always think of the “royale with cheese” conversation from Pulp Fiction when I say that). I had heard a lot about how good it was, and wanted to try it out as well.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with Kakerlakenpoker as I had hoped I’d be. There’s still a nice little nugget of bluffing and interesting decisions to make about calling/passing, but it just seemed to drag on a little too much for what it is. I’m also not a huge fan of games where you officially just have one loser.
Time: 25 minutes
Score: Matt* – 1 card; Norton* – 2 cards; Brett*, James K*, & Kat* – a few cards; Jesus* – Lose
Ratings: Norton 5.5
Escape: The Curse of the Temple [BGG]
So after the slight let down with Kakerlakenpoker, I wanted to try something that would be a little more dynamic and engaging. One of my other recent acquisitions over Christmas was Escape: The Curse of the Temple, and it seemed to fit the bill very well.
Now, I had never actually played Escape before, but I was relatively sure that I had a good handle on the rules, and explaining what to do went well. The worst logistical part of playing was actually that I had to play the soundtrack from my iPad, and with the ambient noise around in the game store that evening, it was really hard to hear much of anything.
Therefore, we “won” the first two games we played, but we sort of accidentally cheated because, try as we might, we couldn’t hear when the gong would sound to make us go back to the starting room. But in a lot of ways, that was a nice way for us to learn how to play the game without having that big disruption to interfere with your activity.
But then, I happened to notice that on the Queen downloads section, there is a soundtrack that only has the events on it (start, end, and return to start space). Amazingly, our two trial runs prepared us well, and we still managed to win.
Later on in the evening, I actually finished off game night showing it to Chip and Ray, where we split our two games, losing the first and winning the second.
Time: 10, 10, 7, 10, and 9 minutes
Session 1: Brett*, Norton*, Jesus*, Kat*, & Matt – 3 wins*
Session 2: Chip*, Norton, & Ray* – 1 win & 1 loss
Ratings: Norton 7, Chip 7
Escape was a real blast! I, of course, enjoy cooperative games a lot, and I’m also pretty fond of real-time games. So as I had always thought, Escape was a really good fit for me. I found the tasks (i.e. what you had to roll) to be easy to both read and interpret. So within that first game or so, actually navigating through the game became pretty intuitive, where your whole focus could actually be on making the choices about what task to complete next and moving where you needed to be.
Of course, you’re also free to holler and whine about how the freaking dice hate you and you can’t ever rolling a freaking key to save your freaking life! Or maybe that’s just me…
But anyway, pretty much everyone in both sessions had a good time with it. It’s do-able, but certainly not easy, and I’m also interested in seeing what adding in the curses and treasures will do to mix it up even more. Either way, I can see this game being a long-term staple both in my game group and, eventually, with my family at home.
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia [BGG]
At this point, the new group joined Chris to learn about Sentinels of the Multiverse, which let me jump into my “main event” for the evening: my brand-new, shiny Kickstarter version of Euphoria. Chip and I were very interested in giving it a try, and Ray (who had just finished playing it with Chris’ brand-new, shiny Kickstarter copy) was willing to give it some back-to-back love as well.
Now, Euphoria is basically a worker-placement game, but it uses dice as the workers in a pretty unique way. On your turn, you place one of your dice into a location, or you can potentially place more than one if you roll doubles (or triples/quadruples, I suppose). If you either don’t have any dice left or you just want to do so for some other reason, the other thing you can do on your turn is to retrieve as many dice as you want from the board. But any time you retrieve or gain new dice, you roll them and do a Knowledge Check.
Knowledge checks are a little scary, though, because after rolling them, you total up all the pips on any unplaced dice you have and add in your “knowledge” value. If this number is 16 or more, then one of your workers has come to see the reality of his situation and abandons you (which means you lose a die). This little thing, though, is enormous in how it makes you think about the game. Because both in thinking about acquiring new dice and in when and how you retrieve them, you always have to consider the possibility of failing a knowledge check. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
In our game, I decided to keep two Recruit cards from the Wasteland area, with the idea that I would push its tunnel really hard (using the power of my first Recruit) in order to reveal the second one, and then I would try to max Wasteland out on the Allegiance track to place two Authority on them as well. Chip also used a Wasteland recruit, which helped out as well, and getting the clay from the tunnel also allowed me to jump in on a number of markets.
Chip’s other recruit turned out to be an Icarite, so he made use of the markets there a number of times. And one of his powers let him do something like pay a couple of extra artifact cards to place a second Authority token when he used a market, which seemed crazy good. And once it was up and running, he basically concentrated on getting cards to power it, finally winning by flipping over his moral choice card to place his last Authority token.
Time: 58 minutes
Score: Chip* 10, Norton* 8, Ray 8
Ratings: Chip 7, Norton 7, Ray 7
I really liked Euphoria in this first play. And in thinking about it since, I like it even better. I’m a pretty big fan of worker placement in general, and the extra twists that the knowledge checks and “place or retrieve” choice introduces are really cool. And Euphoria even solves one of the biggest problems of dice placement games by having you roll when you retrieve them, rather than just before you place them, which gives you some time to plan ahead and avoid analysis paralysis.
I love the theme, and while it’s not quite as heavily integrated into the game as I’d hoped, there are a number of nice ways that it comes through in play.
There’s a lot of room for developing different strategies in the game, most of which revolve around the choice of which Recruit cards you use. To some extent, you’re all going to be doing a bit of everything, but there’s also a lot of room to focus on certain areas and actions in choosing your own path.
If there are any qualms I might have with it after this first play, I’m a little worried that the Recruit cards might not be as well balanced as I would have hoped. But that’s hard to say right now, so I won’t give too much attention to a problem that might not even exist. Regardless, I enjoyed my first game of Euphoria a lot, and I can’t wait to get it back to the table!
Other Games Played
Devastation of Indines
Time: 51 minutes
Game 1: James E* – Win, Chris – Lose
Game 2: Ray* – Win, Jay* – Lose
Ratings: Chris 9
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
Time: 102 minutes
Score: Darren* 10, Matt* 8, Chris 6, Jay* 6, Ray* 5
Ratings: Darren 7, Chris 7
Ogre/GEV (Mk III attack; Icepick)
Time: 60 and 120 minutes
Game 1: Darren* – Win; Jeff* – Lose
Game 2: Kenny – Win; Keith – Lose
Ratings: Kenny 8.5, Keith 8
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 46 minutes
Score: Heroes (Brett, James E, Jesus*, Matt B*, Jeff C*) – Win; Baron Blood on Insula Primalis – Lose
Ratings: Chris 10
* First play for that Person