Thursday, July 22, 2004

El Grande becomes...Gigante

Last night we played the El Grande Expansions for the first time (both the "King and Intrigue" and the "Grand Inquisitor and Colonies" in two separate sessions). It was an interesting experience for a couple of reasons:
1) I remembered, and relived, how LOST I was the first time I played the game.
2) El Grande already ranks as one of my favorite games (top 2), so changing it for the better would be difficult to do.

The verdict? I had a good time, but I had the sense that the expansions are really targeted to people who have played the existing game and are looking for variety.

The first expansion changed the flavour of the game by giving players the opportunity to predefine the actions they hope to get during the game, which would probably be a great change if you really knew how every card impacted the game... but we haven't played enough to know that so it ended up being pretty random. The whole thing felt, to me, very different than the basic game... even though on the surface it seemed like the less drastic of the two expansions.

Shemp won this one, but to be honest I felt so "lost" for strategy when playing it that I can't really even guess how he won, or why we lost. It was all a bit of a haze... One thing was clear, he got way more caballeros on the board way faster than we did. He pulled out to an early lead and we never caught up. With only four players, only two "actions" ever happen (since the highest bid is always the king, and the lowest is always the intriguant). This made the turns go faster, but also made them a bit monotonous for me.

If the first expansion is about re-interpreting the basic game, the second is more about adding to it. New territories, goods, tables limiting the number of caballeros in a region and, last but not least, the grand inquisitor all extend the scope of the game. Personally, I felt that this expansion seemed like "El Grande Extreme"... A more complex version of the same game. Again, a good idea if you are bored with the original, but not necessary yet for me. The grand inquisitor was an interesting addition (a phantom exra player), but the goods seemed unbalanced to the point that I am left wondering if there could be a successful strategy other than racing to get them. Lastly, The limiting table was kind of a non-issue... if it wasn't refered to by some cards, I'm sure you could take it out and not feel much of an impact either way.

In the end, it boiled down to Kozure being the "Uber-Inquisitor" vs my race for gold and goods (Shemp and ????? were to busy fighting over Grenada).

I won! Go Goods and Gold!

Between the two, I preferred the Grand Inquisitor version. It diffused some aspects of the game that I enjoy (bidding for limited actions, fighting on a crowded board, properly using the castillo, etc) but added new opportunities and strategies at the same time. I'd play both of them again, but for a little while I think that I will stick to the basic game for most sessions...

No rating, for now.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Tilibumbleroo+Wags= Shemp wins

Last night, we played the Spiele Des Jahres game of the year winner, "Ticket to Ride" and a very odd time travel themed game called Chrononauts.
Ticket to Ride was a fun game. Simple enough but with good strategy. Basically boils down to collecting trains of similar colours to claim train routes between major cities for points. We had a good time picking at it's various production flaws (the Star of David", and unfortunate colour coding among others), but all in all it was quite an attractive and entertaining game. It seems that Days of Wonder specializes in medium weight strategy/ high production values games. Shemp and Tilitumbleroo battled for the longest train ride, while Kozure and Easy spun their wheels. In the end, Shemp pulled a win.

This led us to an interesting observation: Just about every time that Tilibumleroo plays a game with us, Shemp wins.

She didn't join us for the second game of TtR, and three players proved to be quite different experience. Without the luxury of multiple routes between cities, it became a game of "Grab your route while you can" (at least for me). Lucky for me, most of my plans worked out (except I ran out of trains and missed a big ticket...Bah!) and I won.

Next up was Chrononauts. this is a very strange game involving time travel, the effect of altering timelines and the chaos of having several people try to do it at once. This game managed to be incredibly complex and simple at the same time. I found myself a little frustrated by having to always corelate the year in which I had to alter time with the year I wanted the ripple effect to take place in (couldn't they have put that on the cards?) and a little discouraged by the amount of chaos in the game... but by the second game I started to see the balance in the game come through. A fun diversion game, but i wasn't the only one who commented on how messed up it must have been to try to design this game!

By the way, Tilibumbleroo joined us for both hands of Chrononauts and Shemp won both times. hmmmmmm.....

Ticket to Ride: 7
Chrononauts: 5

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Communication Received

Kozure has selected; the theme for this week is "TRAVEL". His edited message below:

Recently arrived is "Ticket to Ride". Apparently it's a quick play, even with four or five players, so I'll take one other choice. The other game we'll try is "Chrononauts", a game of time-travel, which I haven't been able to test with multiple players yet (it had one or two plays with two player and seemed interesting). If we still have some time to kill, I'd also like to try out "Castles", which has nothing to do with the theme, but needs multiple-player evaluation anyway.

In keeping with the hot weather, the need for a relatively quick and easy meal to allow for learning and playing several games, and the theme of "travel", the meal this week will be a "picnic".

Cole-slaw, potato salad, cold cuts, vegetables and buns.

See you torrow!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Speed Tigris & Euphrates doesn't work...

Last night we played our second game of Traders of Genoa and our third or fourth game of Tigris and Euphrates. In Traders of Genoa, we discovered that the person you THINK is in the lead often isn't, and that even if you think you are dead last.... you probably aren't. In the end, ????? (who's mysterious shirt pocket kept producing goods, small orders and money) took the game by a slim margin over Kozure (who thought he was last). Everyone thought I was in first because I had a great first few rounds, but the truth was I couldn't get anything going beyond that I wasn't even close. Shemp discovered that his attempt at not going overboard on dealmaking backfired, and HilzaCanuck showed that ????? doesn't have a patent on "Screw yr Neighbor" type play.

Most importantly, we discovered that screwage and salt are both very funny.

I stand by my earlier assertion that this game is highly dependent on the crowd and the mood. Just in the course of last night's game, I went through phases of really liking it and finding it boring... in tune with everyone's participation in the game (sometimes, it just felt like people were really into it, with bidding and conversation flowing freely, while at other times people were distracted and didn't seem to care). I think the main flaw of the game is that many turns can go by where it seems that there isn't much to gain. It can also be difficult to get things going with assembling the proper supplies. The strategy to a successful game seems elusive, unlike Domaine which seemed to reveal itself at a fairly rapid pace. I still look forward to playing it again, though, and I think it will get better with time.

Tigris proved to be the brain-burner it's chalked up to be. I discovered that :
1) it's very difficult to play effectively when only drawing black and blue.
2) Shemp has a habit of stealing my temples and keeping them
3) Human players are much tougher than Java ones

Shemp won that one by a large margin.

Lastly, we tried a game of SPEED Tigris and Euphrates (since SPEED Carcassonne worked so well).
It was 73h 5uXX0r

Without time to think, people mostly focused on growing their own personal kingdom. Clashes did happen near the end, but they were poorly planned (In fact, I won the game because Shemp attacked me and lost on the last round, beefing up my weakest sphere).

I still really like this game. I find myself wishing I had the opportunity to play this one, in particular, more often. It's involving without needing too much of a time commitment, and the enjoyment doesn't come from novelty... so I don't think it will get old.

Easy Off

Monday, July 05, 2004

Genoine Tigrises!

So, my gaming choices for the week are Traders of Genoa followed by Tigris and Euphrates. We should probably bring something else as filler, so I'll ask Kozure to bring star munchkin along (That's a short game, right?)
For dinner, I dictate those new Portabello burgers from President's choice.
You have been warned.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Dominating Carcasses

This week, we (yes, you heard right... WE. I actually made it this time) played a new game called Domaine. This is by the famed designer of Settlers of Catan, Klaus Teuber.
There are similarities: the guy likes random terrain, he likes soldiers which don't really fight (smacks of Canada, you might say), he likes home bases with minimum distances between them and finally, he likes resource hoarding. Still, in practice the similarities are only on the surface, and it all feels fresh and different enough that the game stands on it's own. Everyone tries to fence in little "domaines" and then expand them to include as many resources as possible (forests, towns and castles score points, mines supply money). Since everyone is competing for the same resources, soldiers are deployed to prevent being overrun (it's very simple formula: If you have more soldiers than the other player, you can grow your kingdom into the other's). The winner is the one who can score a set number of points first.
The scoring system is interesting: Your score is the total value of the resources you control, so if another player expands his kingdom and takes over a village you had previously controlled, that player gets the points AND YOU LOSE THEM.
Our first game was funny, because we were all learning and we discovered fairly early on that we all made some really dumb moves, and we were all paying for it. I would say we actually came close to "breaking" the system because we almost couldn't get anything going! In the end, it came down to a couple of really huge territories going to ?????, which won him the game.
Our second game was much better strategically, although I'm sure it will take many plays before we really get it down. In a tight contest, Shemp pulled a win with what would arguably be the oddest shaped territory we will likely ever see in the game.

To finish it off, we played two games of Carcassonne. The last game we played "Speedy Carcassone", giving very little thought to our moves and finishing it off in 15 minutes. The strangest thing: It was a lot of fun that way! I'm sure we'll be doing that again...

Oh yeah, and Shemp is 7h3 5uxx0r

Rating (Domaine):7