This has become quite a big report after I’ve stored up 3 weeks of game night without writing one. And what’s cool is that I played 5 “new” (to me, anyway) games over this time, at least a couple of which really surprised me (in a positive way, even!). So, without further ado, here we go!
We’re starting some work in my game group to support building up our Netrunner community a little more. All four of these games were against John or Keith, both of whom are basically just getting into it.
To start with, John played some of my “complex” decks against me. In the first game, I tried out the new NBN identity (Near Earth Hub) from the Upstalk data pack, and managed to fast-advance my way to victory. I then took the same Noise deck that he played and promptly lost embarrassingly to my HB Engineering the Future deck. I really want to make Noise work (because his whole ability to play viruses and make the corp discard cards from R&D is so freaking cool), but I just haven’t figured it out at all quite yet. Heck, maybe it’s not even possible right now, but I’m gonna remain positive that it may eventually come into its own, especially with some of the other virus cards that’ll be in upcoming packs.
Our third game together (a week or two later, though) had John once again taking my HB Deck as I played the new Shaper identity, Nasir Meidan. Nasir has this really cool ability that any time he encounters a piece of ICE that was just rezzed, he loses all the money in his credit pool and gains credits equal to the rez cost of the ICE. So both to work around and to take advantage of this ability, I’ve built a deck that’s all about having things to do with the money just prior to losing it (with Personal Workshop, Self-modifying Code, Clone Chips, and other stuff) and to get some recurring credits (from The Toolbox and Cyberfeeder) to power my icebreakers. It was a really cool (and long) game, where I eventually got out my whole breaker suite (Battering Ram, Gordian Blade, and Garrotte), but he had mounds of mostly-rezzed big ICE protecting his servers. On the last turn, though, he made the same mistake I made in Regionals when he installed the game-point agenda in a server that was really nasty (in trashing programs and doing brain damage), but that didn’t actually end the run very effectively. So after clicking thru the Eli at the top of the server, I limped my way through the rest of the ICE, losing my whole rig and 2 cards from hand in the process, but still took the win by stealing the agenda.
The last game I played this week was against Keith, who had played once a long, long time ago, but has picked up a Core set recently and is interested in really getting into the game. We’re thinking of getting a league started soon, and to encourage newer players, we’re probably going to start off with having the decks be core-only for the first 2-4 weeks. So in the vein, I recently got a 3rd core set for the express purpose of building core-only/introductory decks to use in teaching the game. Our friend Kenny has also started doing the same, so Keith actually took his NBN deck as I played my Criminal one. It was basically a learning game, so it took a little longer than it should, but I think Keith was starting to get his head around it by the time we were done.
Time: 45, 30, 68, and 55 minutes
Game 1: Norton (NBN Near Earth Hub) 7, John (Anarch – Noise) 4
Game 2: John (HB Engineering the Future) 7, Norton (Anarch – Noise) 0
Game 3: Norton (Shaper – Nasir Meidan) 9, John (HB EtF) 6
Game 4: Norton (Core-only Criminal) 7, Keith* (Core-only NBN) 2
Ratings: Norton 10, John 8.5
Just in case any of you happen to be in the local area (central NC/Burlington-Graham), we’d be happy to get you plugged into the developing league as well. Our FLGS has supposedly ordered a prize-support kit, so we’re hoping to make it a real thing pretty soon.
Moving on then, the next game I got in was my first play of Russian Railroads at an actual game night. I had played with my wife a few times and once with her and my brother, but it was really cool to finally get it to the table with my game-night buddies. Partly because I wanted to try out something a little different from my “usual” strategy (which is to push on the Trans Siberian railroad with assistance from the Moscow-St. Petersburg line), I decided to instead try and max out my use of the Industry track with help from both of the shorter ones.
For a lot of the game, it seemed to be working really well. I managed to get my initial industry tracker to move up pretty quickly, and in the process pulled off some cool shenanigans where I triggered the ruble space 3 times in one turn to have a huge bank of 8 or so of them (while everyone else was completely poor, even). And then in activating the bonus token spaces on the Moskow-St. Petersburg line, I started the second token and sort of started all over in the last few turns of the game. Unfortunately, the real limitation on industry is that it’s still basically capped on how many points it can earn, so I was really struggling in the last turn or two to maximize my points.
Meanwhile, Keith was approaching the game with a whole different mindset than I had used before. While I had been jumping on the biggest, quickest spaces most of the time (like the 3-track for 2 workers spaces for black and silver), he focused more on being efficient with his workers and getting the better bang for his buck in using the 2-for-1 spaces, as well as focusing on getting his Trans Siberian railroad going. He also pounded on getting Engineers as much as he could, winning the big bonus despite my huge stack of money, as well as picking up some points from other avenues (like activating the factories that scored for engineers and locomotives). So in the end, and despite my early-game dominant position, Keith made the big come-from-behind move and took the win.
Time: 94 minutes
Score: Keith 425, Norton 379, John* 365
Ratings: Keith 8, Norton 7, John 8
I have to say that this play of Russian Railroads did a lot for my opinion of it. It still doesn’t have quite the breadth of strategy that I would like to see in it, but at the same time, I also feel like some measure of group-think (if just my wife and me can be considered a “group”) limited what I was able to see in the game previously. Even if you’re always going to be using some mixture of the same 2 or 3 things in the game, there’s definitely more subtlety and tactical choice there than I was thinking previously. So, therefore, I still want to see more from it, and will hopefully have more chance to play it soon.
I’ve already written my full review for Fidelitas, so you can check that out to hear what I think of it, or you can just go on over to Kickstarter and purchase the game yourself if you’d be so inclined.
Time: 13 and 17 minutes
Game 1: Keith* 8, John* 3, Norton 3
Game 2: John 9, Norton 7, Keith 5
Ratings: John 6, Keith 6.5, Norton 6.5
As a bit of a departure from our regular fare, I brought along family-favorite Bugs in the Kitchen to game night a few weeks ago. For some crazy, bug-infested and frantic fun, it’s hard to beat!
Now, for some reason that I can’t always articulate, I occasionally find myself having an aversion to a particular game from time to time. And whether it was because I’m more of a DC fan, because I’m more than a little burned-out on deckbuilding games, or whatever else was going on with me, dudgummit, I just didn’t want to like the Marvel Legendary game. I had pretty much purposefully avoided it in the past, and despite all the good press and several expansions and sequels that have and are coming out for it, I still just didn’t want to bother with it.
But then, for an equally random and unspecified reason, I had a whim to pick it up using a coupon and gift certificate that I got for Barnes & Noble back from my birthday. And over the last month or so, both as a solo game and with others, I’ve really surprised myself by coming to really enjoy the game.
It’s been long enough that I don’t remember a lot of detail about any one game, but I can certainly remember the experience that I’ve pretty consistently found that it gives me…
Time: 44 and 59 minutes
Game 1: Doctor Doom – Win; Chris*, Ray*, & Norton – Lose
Game 2: Norton 35, James E* 20, John 10, Loki – Lose
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Chris 6, James E 9, John 8.5
Two things really stand out to me about Legendary. First is the way that the Scheme in each play really changes up the game in a very real and thematic way. Between the wrinkles introduced with each Scheme Twist, the victory and loss conditions for each Scheme, and the way that the Scheme intersects with each Mastermind’s abilities, I feel very much like I’m experiencing a “realistic” superhero story each time I play.
Mechanically, I also love the way that the different hero cards key off of each other. Whether it’s based on the team affiliation or the skill icons, every play is a really cool little puzzle of trying to figure out which things you’ll focus on and how you can get them to work together to make the best deck you can. And since the icons usually vary within a hero’s cards but also cross over between different heroes, there’s usually a lot of options with each setup that you can pursue.
I’m not going to fully review it quite yet, but I have gone ahead and picked up most (all, maybe?) of the expansions, and I really can’t wait to continue exploring all that Legendary has in store for me with this added wealth of heroes, masterminds, and schemes.
On the next game night, I spent more time with Stacy and others exploring the more “euro” side of the hobby. Since it can hold up to 8 players, we started off with a play of SdJ-winner Camel Up.
There’s not much to really say about any one play of Camel Up, though. We rolled the dice, made some wagers, and crazy camel stacking ensued. In the end, my extremely improbable bet for the winner turned out to come true, but it still wasn’t enough to overtake Ray.
Time: 36 minutes
Score: Ray* 32, James K* 23, Chris* 21, Norton* 21, Stacy 19, James E* 14, Mark* 8
Ratings: Ray 7, James K 6, Chris 6.5, Norton 6.5, Stacy 7, James E 5, Mark 7
Camel Up is really cute. For what it is (an almost-totally-random little dice-based race game), it’s fun. But really, there’s not much meaningful choice here at all. Your options tend to be either totally unpredictable or painfully obvious. But still, it’s colorful and silly and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome, so I can see why it would be a good winner.
Stepping up from the SdJ to the slightly more meaty KdJ winner, I then tried out Istanbul for the first time. Both Stacy and Keith had played a couple of times, so we went straight to the “long path” setup for the tiles, which I was totally cool with.
The basic idea of Istanbul is that you move your merchant around to these different areas of the city to collect different goods, sell or other wise use those goods to do different things, and eventually to buy or win 5 rubies to win the game. At each location, though, you have to either drop off one of your little helper discs or pick one back up, so the real skill of the game is in deciding how to plan out your moves to run some little kind of “engine” to win the game without being too inefficient in having to waste moves in picking up your helpers.
Again, without any real detail, Stacy did a much better job of it than I did. Keith and I scored the same, but he was actually just a turn or two from picking up another ruby or two, so the numbers don’t really tell the whole story here.
Time: 31 minutes
Score: Stacy 5, Keith 3, Norton* 3
Ratings: Stacy 8, Keith 7, Norton 6.5
For what it is, I really liked Istanbul a lot. It’s extremely efficient and quick, and I’d say that it’s approachable enough for almost anyone to play. It may be just a little step above Ticket to Ride in complexity (since it’s not quite as obvious what you should be doing in the game), but it’s actually a little shorter than TtR, which is really nice. So while it’s not necessarily something that I would see me and my gamer friends pulling out all the time, I do plan on picking it up sometime so that it will be available to my family as my girls get a little older.
Then, I pulled out a truly classic, euro-style auction game that I recently picked up. I have heard lots and lots about Santiago for years, and wanted to see if it was as good, and as cutthroat, as I’ve been told. And in our first game, I’d say that I got at least part of that experience, anyway.
We definitely engaged well with the auction part of the game. But since it was everyone’s first play, I think we sort of played a little bit too nice in how we placed our tiles on the board to create the different fields. While we tried to get a little “dirty” in making bribes later on in the game, we had set things up so well by then that almost anywhere could be watered with very little trouble, so it sort of lacked a little of the tension that I know the game is known for.
I was basically in control of this huge potato farm for most of the game. So once I had a big investment in it and knew I was scoring a lot of points, I started to try and get my fingers into a number of the other larger fields as well. But as the game moved towards its end, Keith once again managed to pull from behind, this time by going practically “all in” on a huge sugarcane farm, to score a bunch of points and steal away my victory.
Time: 65 minutes
Score: Keith* 120, Norton* 107, Stacy* 104, Kenny* 100
Ratings: Keith 7, Norton 7, Stacy 7, Kenny 7.5
We all walked away from Santiago feeling really good about it. The auction was nice and set up some really cool little decisions about which tiles to choose and where to place them, and we definitely feel like there’s a lot more room to explore in how we could place our tiles to mess with each other and then bribe the canal overseer to screw over people even more. If there’s any little concern that we might have about it, it would be that in the last turn especially, the values of all the fields are open and calculable, which could potentially result in some analysis paralysis and/or spreadsheeting of the final turn that might kind of ruin an otherwise fun game. But I guess that’s only a problem if you let it be, and I don’t know that my group would care that much for that kind of approach.
And then to finish off this marathon of a report, the last thing we played a couple of weeks ago was Blueprints. Now, I was willing to play and all, but definitely most of what I had heard about this game was a lot more on the negative side. So as the game was being taught and we got into it, I had pretty low expectations for it. But perhaps because of the fact that I didn’t expect much, I actually ended up being pretty happy with the experience of the game.
Basically, at the beginning of each round, every player is given a little “blueprint” card picturing a structure that they’re going to try and build by drafting 6 dice from the middle of the table. There are a few different colors of dice that all score differently (based on their position in the structure, how many of the color you have, or the value of their pips), and you also score for completing the structure as pictured on your card.
Since I was apparently destined to be bridesmaid over the last few weeks, I once again came in second as Kenny edged me out this time.
Time: 38 minutes
Score: Kenny* 12, Norton* 10, Keith* 2, Stacy* 2
Ratings: Kenny 7, Norton 6, Keith 7, Stacy 7
Again, for what it is and is trying to do, I though Blueprints was a pretty good game. I’m a little worried that some colors of dice are inherently more valuable/powerful than others, but especially if this is something you plan to use with your family or casual gamer friends, I think you could do a lot worse. But like a lot of others have said before, prepare to pick up a larger bag to draw the dice from, because the one included in the game is barely big enough to squeeze them all in to start with.
Other Games Played
Time: 59 minutes
Score: Sceadeau* 160, Chris* 120, Divoran 119
Ratings: Chris 7
Ascension: Realms Unraveled
Time: 21 and 44 minutes
Game 1: Chris 87
Game 2: James E 97, Chris 80, Mark* 64, Ray 55
Ratings: Chris 10
Time: 20 minutes
Score: Chris – Win; James E, Mark, & ray – Lose
Ratings: Chris 9
Time: 30 minutes
Score: Chris* 24, James E* 23, Ray* 17
Ratings: Chris 7
Time: 18 minutes
Score: Chris, Divoran, & Sceadeau – 24
Ratings: Chris 9
Time: 46 minutes
Score: Chris * 6, Ray 3
Ratings: Chris 5
Time: 39 minutes
Game 1: Magneto (Cosmic Cube) – Win; Chris, James K*, & Ray – Lose
Game 2: James E 32, Ray 23, John 11, Nakia 7 Vs. ?
Ratings: Chris 7, James K 7.5, James E 7.5, Ray 10, John 8.5, Nakia 10
Time: 53 minutes
Score: Mark* 99, Chris* 82, James E* 79, Ray* 62
Ratings: Mark 7, Chris 6, James E 7
Time: 99 and 92 minutes
Game 1: Chris* 145, James E* 120, Mark 108, Ray* 100
Game 2: James E 139, Chris 101, Mark 96, Ray 88
Ratings: Chris 9, James E 9, Mark 8.5, Ray 8
Time: 35 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 32, Chris 25, Divoran 23, Keith 22
Ratings: Chris 8
* First play for that Person