Thursday, August 19, 2004

My Castle is My Domain(e)

Note: When I wrote this, there was no evidence of Easy's blog. I pressed publish, and the Blogger website went into paroxyms of refreshing the same page over and over again. When it was finished, I saw my log posted. When I came back, I noted my blog was missing and now Easy's with a much earlier publish time, was present. I have no idea what happened. Here's my blog, for the record.

Well, what’s a games night without a theme? Well, a themeless games night, but beyond that, it’s boring and uninspired. Fortunately, we had Shemp to lend a thought to “Mediaeval” games night. The dinner lasagne didn’t quite fit in, but we had “hearty cheese fritos” to help out.

The night opened with Castle, the game aforementioned. With four players, the gameplay tilts over from the tactical side of things to a little more random in nature. Easy caught on quickly, but not quickly enough to deny Shemp the win.

We then switched to Domaine, which I thought had been reviewed before, but I can’t currently find any mention in our blog. Domaine is a game of expansion and territory enclosure, by one of our favourite game designers, Klaus Teuber. It allows two to four players, with slight modifications for two player play, and the theme is that you are lesser royalty (dukes or counts or what-have-you) trying to divide up the spoils of a kingdom before the king returns from a long journey. This theme makes a lot less sense than its original Germanic predecessor, Lowenherz, where they’re doing the dividing while the king is dying. That’s political correctness for you, I guess.

The board is a well drawn map of what looks like a fantasy kingdom – nine moveable large cardboard squares, arranged into a square with the castle at the centre – with each of the nine squares being divided into around eight to ten by eight to ten (can’t remember the exact number) 2 cm grid by light black lines. Terrain of plain, forest, mines (diamond, bronze, silver and gold), towns and a castle is indicated clearly and with fair quality.

The mechanic is very simple – each player executes one of two actions per turn – play a card by paying gold for it, which allows you to either: 1) erect walls to enclose a “domain”, 2) expand already enclosed domains, 3) place knights which protect your own domain and allow you to expand into others, 4) create alliances which stops either domain from expanding into each other, or 5) cause knights from other domains to “defect” into yours.

A second possible action is to sell a card to the chancery – a temporary holding area - for the second (smaller) value printed on the card – one of only two ways to gain money.

After performing one of the two actions, the player then draws from either the chancery or the draw pile to replenish his or her hand.

Players score points by enclosing forest, towns and the castle (1, 3 and 5 points). Additionally, players can supplement their income by enclosing mines, each type providing one gold piece at the beginning of a turn each. Enclosing three of one type of mine scores 5 points.

Victory is gained by points – either by reaching a maximum dictated by the number of players, or by having the most points when all possible cards have been played. Extra money also counts for points – the player with the most scores 5, the second wealthiest scores 3.

For our first game of Domaine, we misremembered (Bushism) some of the rules, forgetting proper rules for placement of knights and the very important rule of only taking one action per turn. Fortunately, this had the effect of speeding up the game.

I got pretty badly boxed in the first game, but wasn’t doing too badly when ????? leapt ahead into the lead for the win.

The second game, we corrected our misrememberings of the rules and played correctly. I was doing better this time around, but Easy took advantage of a really easy massive land grab late in the game and sealed the win. Domaine is interesting for the need to not only grow your own earnings, but also pay attention and smack down other players who might sneak their way into a massive inheritance.

This technique is henceforth christened “snuclear” or “snuculear” tactics, after Easy and Shemp’s strange, giddy exchange. “Snuclear” apparently involves really, really sneaky tactics, to the point of being nuclear sneaky. Apparently.

The evening was ended with a round of Castle, which started out with a huge siege engine vs. soldier battle and ended with a lot of people trying to kill-the-leader Easy, which didn’t help us in the end. Easy took us down, leaving the rest of us just steps from playing out.

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