In what will probably be a vain attempt to catch up and stay on track here on ye olde blogge, now I’ll talk about the next couple of game nights that I managed to attend…
8-Minute Empire [BGG]
As I waltzed in (since I’m prone to spontaneous bursts of dancing from time to time… uh, not really) a game of 8-Minute Empire was just about to get underway. So I sat my big heiney down and got the quick rundown of the rules, then we got started.
Now, first of all, I think that it would be pretty remarkable to actually play this game in just 8 minutes. However, it’s also not all that far off. And the basic premise of drafting one card each turn that both gives you an action and helps you build sets to score at the end of the game is really slick. I didn’t do particularly well in this game, but for the investment, I definitely felt like it had a really good payoff.
Time: 18 minutes
Score: Stacy 25, Chris* 22, Chip 21, Norton* 20
Ratings: Stacy 6.5, Chris 6.5, Chip 6, Norton 6.5
I don’t know much else to say about this, other than maybe it’s going on my want-list. Yeah, unlike some gamers who are really discriminating about what they want to own, I understand that my list is not quite all that an exclusive a club to belong to, it does speak to my overall satisfaction with the experience.
The End of the Triumvirate [BGG]
Mark is relatively new to our game group, and it’s really cool that he owns and brings a collection of games with him that haven’t been played here much, if ever, before. One such game is The End of the Triumvirate, which is a 3-player-only (or preferred, at least) game about the end of the Roman republic.
Ostensibly, it’s sort of a “dudes on a map” kind of game, where you have legionnaires in territories that you can use to attack other areas. And if you manage to have all of your control markers on the board (by conquering a total of 9 provinces), then you can win a military victory. But there is also this little election track mechanic in the game, and if you manage to win 2 elections, you can win a political victory. And if that’s not enough, there are also these two “Competence” tracks that you can increase to get some political and military advantages, and if you manage to complete both of those tracks, you can win a competence victory.
So all that said, this creates a really cool 3-way game where players are simultaneously trying to complete up to 3 distinct goals.
In our game, Mark (the only one of us with experience) started pushing early for the political victory, picking up his first Consul win when the election took place. I had been a little cautious with my moves up to that point, making some investment in buying weapons (which puts cubes of your color into this little bag that is the only random element in the game), so at that point, I started to get a little more aggressive militarily. And then a turn or two later, after Keith moved against Mark as well to try and hurt him as the perceived leader, I managed to take 3 provinces in the same turn and win the military victory.
Time: 36 minutes
Score: Norton* – Win (Military victory); Keith* and Mark – Lose
Ratings: Norton 7, Keith 7, Mark 7
I had a pretty good time playing The End of the Triumvirate, and as I’ve thought about it more since then, I’ve grown to appreciate it even more. It’s pretty ambitious in the balance it seeks to achieve, and really seems to utilize the 3-player format very well. I’m a little afraid that the military victory may be a little too easy to achieve, but then again, I’m sure that experienced players of the game would be a lot harder to challenge in that way, knowing how quickly it could happen. And to fall into that 30-45 minute time frame makes it really nice.
The only real “flaw” is that it’s basically just for 3 players. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but any time you have a barrier to a game like that, it’s inherently going to limit how many times and in how many situations it will be played. But still, overall, I’m very impressed with it.
One of the games I’ve heard the most about recently and was most excited to play is Concordia. Now, this is a game set in the Roman empire, where players expand their influence either throughout Italy itself (on one side of the board) or all throughout the Mediterranean (on the other side). Unlike most/all other Mac Gerdts games, though, it does not use a rondel! Instead, players have a hand of cards that they can play from to activate different actions on each turn. And throughout the game, more cards can be purchased from a sliding market to expand the actions available to them as well as to score points at the end of the game.
Throughout the game, players gather resources from cities, colonize new cities using those resources, buy and sell resources, and try to spread their influence throughout the entire empire. But what’s pretty cool is that the only way to score is based on the cards that you start with or buy throughout the game, because each card is associated with a Roman god, and each god gives points based on some specific condition (like how many colonists you have, how many types of resources you can produce in your cities, or how much money you have at the end of the game). Therefore, you may want a card mostly for the action it gives you, or you may want to get it to have its scoring power, but ideally, you craft your strategy around getting both benefits from the cards you pick up.
In our game, I focused mostly on the production and trade elements of the game, and got cards that helped me make money and then score based on the variety of goods I produced. There’s not a lot of “narrative” in the gameplay, but basically, I tried to focus my expansion onto getting a variety and then on getting into every city that produced cloth (which is the most valuable good). I even picked up a card that specifically made all of my cloth cities produce (since normally, you choose a region where every city produces) and that let me score for every cloth city. And once I had a storehouse full of cloth, I could trade it for lots of money and buy whatever else I needed to get cards or colonize other cities.
In the end, I managed to pull out the win mostly because I bought more cards throughout the game, thus giving me more opportunity to score. Stacy had built up a really nice cluster of colonies that paid off well for him, and Chris rushed to build all of his colonies (one of the end-game triggers), so both of them did pretty well also.\
Time: 81 minutes
Score: Norton* 130, Stacy* 109, Chris* 107, Chip* 91
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Stacy 7, Chris 7.5, Chip 5
I really liked Concordia a lot. The basic mechanics are crazy simple, so most all the complexity comes from the cards you play. The game is sort of vaguely related to a deckbuilding game, actually, because you purchase cards from a central area to add to your deck. But completely unlike those other games, you hold all of your cards in your hand and can play them at any time. The only catch is that once played, the cards go into your discard pile, and you can’t pick them up again until you play the Tribune card (which also gives you money based on how many cards you had played prior to using it). So there’s a lot of cool balance and timing involved in how long you wait to “waste a turn” to recycle your cards.
And then, like I said above, the linking of the victory points to the cards is just brilliant. Because remember, there is no scoring done except for what you get from your cards. Even if you think that you probably have the action cards you need to carry out your strategy, you probably still want to invest in more that match what you’re doing because they are also going to give you the points you need to win. So it’s an exciting little balancing act to weight your short-term goals (like getting the money and/or resources you need to do something), long-term in-game goals (towards accomplishing your overall strategy), and end-game scoring goals (to get rewarded for your strategy).
Just after one play, I also feel like there’s going to be a lot of range to explore strategically in it as well, which is always cool to me. But I’ll see, hopefully, as I get this back to the table a lot more in the near future.
Eldritch Horror [BGG]
Lots of people just love Arkham Horror. I’m not really one of them. I’m a big fan of the Cthulhu mythos in general, and was always really excited about the idea of a cooperative game set in them, but Arkham Horror itself always disappointed me when I tried it out. But when I finally had the chance to pick up Eldritch Horror, I jumped at the chance in the sincere hope that they had ironed out some of the many wrinkles in Arkham’s design that held it back.
Before this play, I had tried out a solo game using 2 investigators against Azathoth… and I lost horribly. Mostly, it was because I basically just didn’t work hard enough to actually accomplish the things you need to do (solving the mystery cards) to win. But I took it to game night expecting 2 or maybe 3 others to join me as we figured our strategy together.
When the evening came, though, we were getting ready to start a 4-player game when one and then another others came up. Not wanting to exclude them, seats were offered, so a 6-player game was apparently in the cards for us.
Now, the basic idea is that each player gets to take 2 actions on their turn. Then based on their location or whether they are in the same space with a token (like monsters, gates, or clues), everyone has an “encounter”. Most encounters have investigators make a check using one or more of their skills, where you roll dice equal to its value and take 5’s and 6’s as successes. So then based on the results, something good or bad would happen to the character.
After all the encounters, a mythos card is flipped that does really bad stuff like advance the doom track, put out new monsters, and open new gates, but which also can place new clues on the board. And like I said above, the way you actually win is to solve three of the four Mystery cards that are specific to the Old One you’re facing before the mythos deck runs out (16 turns) or the doom marker reaches the end of its track.
In our game, our cast of characters included Chip playing Charlie Kane (affectionately called Mr. Drysdale) the politician, Britt playing Lily Chen the martial arts expert, Kenny playing Norman Withers the astronomer, Stacy playing Jacqueline Fine the psychic, Keith playing Mark Harrigan the former soldier, and me as Silas Marsh the sailor.
The first few rounds of the game started with us all working on developing our characters by improving some skills, picking up equipment (which Mr. Drysdale was very helpful with), and getting clues. We’d also put out a local fire here or there when gates and/or monsters would be nearby. But pretty soon, one of the Rumor mythos cards came out, which give sort of a little side quest that has a really bad outcome if you don’t accomplish it. The one we had put the Tick Tock men down in Austrailia, and if we didn’t defeat them before a certain number of turns, we would lose all of the clue tokens from the board and the ones we had already collected. So I sailed my way down there and tried to start taking them on. I almost got distracted into making a detour to the active expedition down in Antarctica, but time was getting short by then, so I headed into battle. While it took me a few turns and cost me a little health, I was well-prepared and eventually came out on top, finishing with a dramatic attack that had 5 out of 6 successes!
Meanwhile, others were actually working to win the game. The first Mystery card involved closing gates that matched the current Omen symbol and then spending clues. That took quite a while, both to accumulate the clues we needed, and then to hit a gate at just the right time. I don’t remember the next mystery, actually, but it didn’t take us too long. But unfortunately, the Doom track was advancing pretty quickly, and things were getting tight.
But then in the end, the last mystery involved us heading to Tunguska where we had to make Observation rolls and spend clues. I had the chance to win the game for us at the end of one turn, and dramatically rolled each die separately… getting 1’s and 2’s on every one of them. So it took us one turn, but eventually Kenny and Chip more or less guaranteed success and we won!
Time: 208 minutes
Score: Humanity (Britt*, Norton, Kenny*, Stacy*, Keith*, & Chip*) – Win; Azathoth – Lose
Ratings: Britt 5, Norton 7, Kenny 7, Stacy 6, Keith 5, Chip 6
Eldritch Horror is almost too big a game to really discuss here. There’s a lot going on, and I can’t begin to touch on all the elements of the game. But the good thing is that I like pretty much all of them. Eldritch is both more streamlined and more thematic than Arkham Horror. I absolutely love how the victory conditions and clue encounters are specific to whatever Old One you’re playing against. And with so many competing priorities going on with the board state and pushing for victory, it’s really important that the players actually cooperate to keep everything in check.
The main downside of the game, though, was its length. At 2-2.5 hours, it seemed like everyone was still engaged and excited by what was happening. But at the 3 hour stage or so, and especially once it seemed pretty clear that we were going to win, the energy definitely faded. Britt also got frustrated by a really bad series of poor dice rolls that rendered his character more or less ineffectual for accomplishing any notable goal. So the randomness of the game certainly hurt his overall impression of it.
And in general, I think that the main “mistake” we made was pushing the player count too high. If we could have finished a 3- or 4-player game in a couple of hours or a little more, I think all of the participants’ ratings would have been a lot higher. But between just going on too long and having a little bit of an anti-climactic ending, the final impression it left was less than positive.
Still, though, I’ve played another two solo games facing other Old Ones, and have had a lot of fun with it. So I definitely look forward to another game with a few less players to see if it behaves better for a smaller group.
Other Games Played
Time: 120 minutes (for 2 games)
Score: Keith – 1 win, Mark* – 1 win (both wins as the Ogre)
Ratings: Keith 9, Mark 9
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 27 minutes
Score: Heroes (Chris and Darren) – Win; Baron Blade and his buddies at Silver Gulch – Lose
Ratings: Chris 10
Time: 32 minutes
Score: Keith – Win; Mark – Lose
Ratings: Keith 7, Mark 8
Castles of Burgundy
Time: 118 minutes
Score: Chris 216, Ray* 195, James E 177, Darren 176
Ratings: Chris 9
Time: 44 minutes
Score: Ray 89, Chris 78, James E* 63
Ratings: Chris 6
Time: 24 minutes
Score: Chris* – Win; James E & Ray – Lose
Ratings: Chris 8
Time: 90 minutes
Score: Kenny 8, Britt* 4
Ratings: Kenny 8,. Britt 7.5
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 42 minutes
Score: Villains (Fright Train, Ermine, and Proletariat) in Megalopolis – Win; Heroes (Chris – Setback, Darren – Team-leader Tachyon, & Ray – EW Absolute Zero) – Lose
Ratings: Chris 10
* First play for that Person