Okay… I am going to keep up and not get months behind again. I promise… I hope, anyway.
So this past week at game night, I had plans. Big plans! Since I had missed the previous week and have some other things coming up soon that might keep me away again, my wife Gwen took pity on me and let me bypass the family dinner to get there extra early. So even with working a little late, I was inside ye olde FLGS at 5:30, two big bags full o’ games in tow, looking for some hot, gaming action.
It didn’t take long then for me to jump right into it. Five Tribes had already seen some measure of play in the group, but I wasn’t ever able to partake before now. But since I now have my own copy (as crumpled as it was by the gorilla that apparently works in the USPS sorting facility), it was high time that I got it to the table as well.
Chris had played at least once before, so he helped make sure that I knew what I was doing from my perusal of the rules. Ray also joined us, though his understanding was a little incomplete before the 3rd or 4th turn of the game.
I had heard how important collecting the merchandise cards could be (as in, every winner in our group so far has focused on them so far), so I tried to make a point to grab some green meeples early on and start building my set. I also picked up a couple of Djinns early, one of which was totally useless (the one that adds more meeples to the board), and one which got me some good points (being able to pay an elder or slave to place another Palace). I don’t know that I had a really solid “strategy” going on, really, but I felt like I played pretty competently.
Somehow, and despite my efforts to focus on the cards a lot, Chris managed to finagle his way into a complete set of all 9 types by endgame. And on top of that, he definitely taught me some about using Assassins to kill off meeples and claiming tiles that way. So while it was at least close, he still edged me out in the end to take the victory.
Time: 66 minutes
Score: Chris 181, Norton* 168, Ray* 136
Ratings: Chris 8.5, Norton 8, Ray 7
My expectations for Five Tribes were pretty high. Between all the hype coming out of GenCon and now Essen, and then the good buzz it’s already had in my group, I was a little afraid that it would actually let me down when I finally played it myself. Well… it didn’t. In fact, it pretty much met or exceeded what I had hoped it would be!
It’s definitely more complicated than many other Days of Wonder games (as the box sort of warns people of), but once you get past the learning curve of the different actions that you can use (both from the meeples and the location powers), it’s not all that difficult to understand or play. So for the more experienced family gamers or as a lighter game for hardcore gamers, it seems to be just perfect. I don’t tend to make many predictions like this, but if it’s not nominated (and probably win) the Kennerspiel des Jahres next year, then I really don’t understand what that award is aiming at.
If there is a downside, the potential for analysis paralysis would probably be it, though. It didn’t bother us at game night, but when I played with my wife over the weekend (twice, even!), she got a little locked up in trying to make the “right” or “best” move. Still, though, I don’t like to blame games for what are essentially player “problems”, and with the way I play it, I don’t feel it’s overly AP-inducing to me, anyway.
So, I’m thrilled to now own Five Tribes, and figure that it’s going to continue to be a hit both at home and with my gamer friends for a long time!
By then, some others had joined game night, and having exactly 7 people, it seemed to be a good idea to start a quick game of Bang! The Dice Game to do something all together for a change. Of course, just as we were about to deal out the role cards, Keith walked in, but Kenny just peeled off to play some Space Hulk with him instead, leaving us with probably the “ideal” 6 players we needed for the game.
The game went quick, though. Even though Chris, the Sheriff, didn’t know it at first, his fate was pretty much sealed by the fact that we was surrounded by all three Outlaws (with James on the right side and me and Chip on the other). We took it easy on him for the first round, but then got more and more aggressive as we started to take some damage as well. And on top of that, the Indians apparently had it out for him, taking a chunk or two out of him through the game as well. Heck, it seems like he even got hurt from playing with dynamite at one point!
Time: 12 minutes
Score: Outlaws (Chip, Norton, & James K) – Win, Lawmen (Chris – Sheriff, Ray & Darren – Deputies) & Renegade (Stacy) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 7, Chris 6.5
Bang! The Dice Game isn’t the best game in the world or anything, but for what it is (a light, social dice game that plays in 15-30 minutes), it’s pretty hard to beat.
So, I’ve not been a huge fan of the DC Deck-Building game, but I also haven’t found it so offensive that I refuse to play or anything like that. So when, as we were all shuffling ourselves up and trying to figure out what to play, Darren mentioned that he had the new Crisis Expansion for it and wanted to get it played, I was happy to join in.
Even as casual a comic book fan as I am, Crisis on Infinite Earths and the ensuing reboot of the whole DC universe afterwards hit right when I was probably the most into comics I’ve ever been. And while I like the Marvel universe as well, I’m probably a bigger DC fan because of how much better and more mature the storylines were in DC back then in the late 80’s/early 90’s.
All that being said, I had some pretty high hopes that the Crisis expansion would give me some of the payoff that the story itself gave me. And especially considering that it turns the game into a full coop game (which I generally like a lot anyway), I was looking for good things. And for the first 45 minutes or so, I’d say that I was definitely enjoying the cooperative deck-building thing that the game was delivering.
But then, the game kept going for another 95 minutes. By the end, it was way less good. And despite starting with this huge stack of cards in the main deck, we lost because we had gone through the whole freaking thing and still not won. In fact, we still had 2 or 3 more supervillains and Crisis cards to go before reaching the Anti-Monitor and having even a shot at winning.
Time: 140 minutes
Score: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Win; Heroes (Norton, Darren, & Ray) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 3
Yeah, I gave it a “3”. That means “Bad” on my rating scale. “Something is broken and/or actively un-fun in the game… I don’t like that at all.” So what made it so terribly bad, prompting me to Tweet “Truly torturous” just after playing?
First of all, there were some changes to the basic gameplay that I found a little strange. Rather than always refilling the central array of cards back up to 5 each turn, but instead, you just always add one new card (since the deck is a timer for the game). This wasn’t really bad, just different.
A little more strange is the fact that when you defeat villains, you no longer put them into your deck. Some people had always found it stupid that villains would come to work for you once you beat them, but clearly, it never meant that the villain itself was coming back to lend you its power. Thematically, it was always that the experience you gained from the encounter gave you an advantage in the future. And that’s why not adding them to your deck in the version just doesn’t make sense to me.
Of course, one problematic issue from villains potentially being in your deck, but which also comes up from other cards you might purchase, is the Attack powers that some of them have. Since the base game is semi-cooperative, it makes sense to have cards that attack the other players. But when you go fully coop, all the sudden that card that was a benefit in holding back an opponent becomes a detriment to all of you accomplishing your goal. It just makes the whole cooperative premise to Crisis feel shoehorned in and less cohesive.
But the truly horrible part of the game, what made it drag on freaking forever, was the Crisis cards. In the base game, you have a stack of Supervillains that you have to work your way through. In the expansion, each of those Supervillains is paired with a Crisis card. Before you can accomplish the condition of the Crisis card, all regular villains must be defeated in the array of available cards, and then the Crisis card must be accomplished before you can take out the Supervillain. In theory, this isn’t all that bad, but what really pissed me off was how random and irrelevant most of the Crisis cards seemed to be.
For instance, one Crisis card had every player reveal the top card of their decks, and if any of those cards had a cost of exactly 2, it would be defeated. But of course, this first requires the decks to have cards in them that cost 2. And then, it has to be on the top of the deck rather than further down or (as we had a few times) drawn into your hand. The only way we finally beat it was when I realized that my special hero power (for the Crisis version of Martian Manhunter) lets a player put a hero back on top of their deck on a turn when I play 2 or more heroes. It still took us a few rounds before I both had 2 heroes to play in my hand and another person had a hero of cost 2 in their discard piles, but eventually we managed to get past it.
Another card I can remember is that every player had to discard cards of a total cost of 8 from their hands. And it seemed like forever before we all had 1) enough high-value cards in our hand to actually discard 8 cost cards, and 2) were willing to get rid of them without crippling our deck in the process.
Again, I know that cooperative games should be difficult, and that they often involve a significant amount of luck in the way the challenge plays out. But at least half of the time, the Crisis cards felt so random that we as players just didn’t have any real choice or agency to make a difference. And especially as we got into the late game, there were several turns when we weren’t able to pass the Crisis card, so we couldn’t fight the Supervillain (even though we had a ton of power in our hands), and there wasn’t anything in the array of cards we wanted to buy, so we basically just discarded our hands and passed the turn.
Therefore, the equation of the game looks sort of like this: (Random gameplay + limited player agency + meaningless turns)/140 minutes = sucky, annoying game that ruined most of my game night.
Other Games Played
Time: 58 minutes
Score: Stacy 115, Chip* 111, Chris 90
Ratings: Chris 7
Ra: The Dice Game
Time: 15 minutes
Score: Chris 32, Chip 28, Stacy 26
Ratings: Chris 8
Time: ?? minutes (still in progress when I left)
Score: ?? (but I assume they lost)
Ratings: ?? (probably pretty good)