With all the holiday excitement going on recently, I only managed to make it to a couple of game nights in December. But especially since I had already received a couple of new games (thank you Secret Santa!), the last one of the year was at least a really cool one!
Coming out of Essen, Spyrium definitely had a lot of buzz going on as an innovative, medium-weight eurogame that impressed a lot of people. So when it finally showed up at my FLGS, I picked it up, and eventually got it played. In our game, I started off with no clue of what to do. By the middle or so, I had sort of backed into a strategy of converting Spyrium into points during play, upgrading one building to another a couple of times to save on money but wasting a few points in the process. It worked out okay, I guess, except that I hadn’t picked up any Patents at all and had virtually no end-game scoring.
Chris, on the other hand, looked like he was “behind” almost all game long, but had picked up 3 or 4 Patents that let him blow past me in the end to take the win.
Time: 76 minutes
Score: Chris 76, Norton* 66, Ray* 54, Shawn* 51
Ratings: Chris 7.5, Norton 7.5, Shawn 7
Overall, I liked Spyrium quite a bit. The core mechanic of placing the meeples, deciding when to transition to activation, and then having to decide whether to pay more for the other meeples around a card or take money for them is really cool. Sort of like with the cool bidding mechanic in The Speicherstadt, though, the rest of the game is probably just “okay”. But I’m very glad that I own it, and hope that it sees a lot more play in 2014 amidst all of the other new games I’ve just acquired.
Mice and Mystics [BGG]
Speaking of games that have elevated themselves above the rest, I also got in a play of Mice and Mystics during this game night, with us attempting to tackle the 3rd Chapter. I say “attempted” because for the first time at Hypermind, we got smashed by the scenario this time around.
The dice were horrible to us, and with the exception of doing well gambling with the rats, we got our butts handed to us. In the last room we tried to tackle, at least two mice got captured, which I don’t believe had happened before at all. It was still fun, but notably harder than before.
Time: 65 minutes
Score: Chapter 3 – Win; Mice (Chris – Filch, Norton – Colin, Darren – Tilda, James K/Chip – Nez) – Lose
Ratings: Chris 7, Norton 8, Chip 8
I also attempted to play Mice and Mystics with my little girls sometime around Christmas. I set up the first scenario and read them (most of) the intro story. When we got started playing, almost from the beginning, Corinne (my 3-year-old) was losing interest. But I expected that. However, Samantha (my 5-year-old) seemed to be having a really good time, which is exactly what I wanted! She loved rolling the dice and slaying little cockroaches, and was apparently liking the whole story part of the game as well. We finished up the first little fight and took a brief potty break, giving me time to set up for the next room. But when she returned, the spell had apparently been broken, and she was ready to move on to something else. I was a little disappointed, but she’s still young, I guess.
So, while I had mixed results this time around, I still hold out hope that Samantha (and eventually Corinne) will grow into M&M. We’ll see…
From there, I pulled out Coup for the first time to try as a little filler before a few people went home. There was lying and deceit, with Chris winning the first and third games, while I managed to pull out the second.
Time: 13, 8, and 5 minutes
Score: Chris* – 2 wins, Norton* – 1 win, Chip* & Darren* – no wins
Ratings: Chris 6, Norton 6.5, Chip 5
The first thing I’ll say is that Coup beats the pants off of Love Letter. There’s a lot more player agency going on, and you have some actual ability to plan ahead and respond to what other people are doing. But once again, it’s still a very limited game with so little going on in the way of components and rules.
The game is pretty interesting early on, since players know so little, so there’s lots of room for cool bluffing and shenanigans. But it seems like in every game I’ve played, the endgame came down to one player that clearly had an unstoppable advantage. It definitely speeds the game to an end (which is a good thing overall), but it also makes the end a little less than satisfying. And certainly, actually having some roles in hand near the end is dramatically better than others, and I just haven’t had the experience with the game yet to know if that’s a really bad thing or not.
So again, we’ll see how it goes as I get in more plays.
And then as our last game of the evening, I pulled out my shiny, new copy of Trains. Now, as I’ve said before, my group was never much for Dominion. And as I read the rules for Trains, I got pretty worried that it was going to be almost exactly the same thing as Dominion, except with a little board thingy over on the side.
But as we got into it, it didn’t feel nearly as much like Dominion as I’d feared.
In the first game, I managed to build into a number of remote locations and made good use of Collaboration cards to join others in their already established cities. The game was incredibly close, but I managed to pull out a 1-point win over Chris in the end.
But the game was good enough that Chip and I were willing to head right into another play with Kenny and Keith. We used the other side of the board (Osaka), and as we were picking out starting spots, I decided to begin over on the western part of the board in Kobe. Tunnel cards were available (which let you build track through mountains for free), so I sort of planned to be in this remote corner of the board and hopefully not have many other people come and freeload off my stuff.
But that didn’t work out at all, because Keith (who started somewhere near the middle of the board) starting going crazy building out both directions and getting into some of my mountain-isolated areas before I could even do so. Whatever he had done to his deck was working like a charm, and he ran to a decisive (yet still pretty close) victory.
Time: 49 and 58 minutes
Game 1: Norton* 41, Chris* 40, Chip* 31
Game 2: Keith* 50, Kenny* 47, Norton 46, Chip 37
Ratings: Norton 6.5, Keith 8, Kenny ?, Chris 5.5, Chip 6.5
So again, for me and my group, I’d say that Trains has already kicked Dominion’s butt. Because while the actual amount of rules concerning the board play was pretty small, the effect it had on the game was pretty huge. And more than anything else, I’d say that the change it makes is to give some real “purpose” to why you’re building the deck. Because in Dominion and most other primary deckbuilders, playing to just add more cards to your deck feels pretty pointless and empty. But introducing the secondary activity of building track on the board, as small as that might be, makes a pretty huge difference to me anyway.
But I don’t want to make too huge a deal about this. Trains is good, but it’s still not something that I’m just dying to play. So we’ll see how it fares over the long haul.
Other Games Played
Ticket to Ride: Nederland
Time: 98 minutes
Score: Sean* 277, Shawn* 214, Tina* 186
Ratings: Sean 10, Shawn 7, Tina 10
* First play for that Person