Saturday, June 04, 2005

Darth Y'all

This week, we were able to discuss Revenge of the Sith fully, which natuarally lead to a couple of rounds of Star Wars: Epic Duels! Also on tap were a giant pizza from Pizzaville, and two rounds of Löwenherz - I don't believe either of those were related to Lucasfilm, but I can't be positive about it, either.

We started out with a round of Epic Duels, playing teams of two against two - Easy and I played the dark side, while Kozure and Luch were the light side. Everyone selects their characters, which come in sets of two or three, and have (in theory?) been balanced. A setting also needs to be selected - there are several included in the game, which represent locations from the Star Wars films, and are gridded off into squares. Each major character has a pre-designated starting spot on each board - secondary characters must be placed in immediate proximity to their major character. From here, the goal is simply to destroy the other side of the force.

Movement around the board is achieved by rolling a custom dice, which allows you to move either one of your characters, or all, depending on the outcome of the roll. After movement, a player may play cards from their character's custom deck, usually to harm another player's character, which would be allowed to play a card to defend. Some characters use close range attacks; others are line-of-sight. Characters attuned to "The Force" can sometimes attack in other ways, as well. Damage is counted on special cards that come with the game - some characters can withstand more than others.

I've probably played this game a five or six times now, but Wednesday was the first time that it has 'clicked' for me. I think the key to keeping this one fun is to keep gameplay quick, make sure you are fully awake, and don't take any losses too personally. Gaining some familiarity with the various characters helps things out as well, since all have different "special" cards that can affect your play tactics. I had a lot of fun with the first round and also a later one, where Luch and I were the dark side against Kozure and Easy's light side.

The experience of playing Löwenherz was quite interesting - it seemed that players' opinions shifted over the course of the night. We had played this game once previously, but had unfortunately made some errors, undermining our attempt to get a real feel for what it is all about. This night was a triumph for us in one respect - I think that we managed to play Löwenherz by the actual rules, a first in our experience with both it and it's cousin, Domaine.

The first game was a narrow victory for me, while Easy destroyed the field in our second round by pursuing a strategy for monopolizing silver mines - I personally don't think that strategy would work with the same group a second time, but who knows, really? I think that we started out the evening preferring Domaine, after one game preferred Löwenherz, and by the end of the evening preferred Domaine again - if that recollection isn't correct, I'm sure we'll all read about it in the comments!

Luch felt that Domaine plays quicker, with fewer options to consider. I'm not so sure about that, but thought it was interesting to see how two games with such similar concepts and rules can be changed by a mechanical tweak - in this case, replacing the auction of Löwenherz with the purchase mechanic of Domaine. All in all, I found the evening to very interesting, revealing new aspects of some games that we have played before.

A great success!


  1. Shemp,

    Glad you remembered that title... I had forgotten and it made me laugh again.

    Star Wars Epic Duels wsa likewise more fun for me this time than it had been the last few plays. Can't explain why, but it could simply be that it had been a while and I was a little sick of it back then.

    Also, I think that keeping the attack card secret until the defense card is chosen (i.e. the correct way) improves the game quite a bit.

    Lowenhurtz was lots of fun. I think that it, and Domaine, are underrated games (of course, for Domaine it took me several plays to beleive that it was more balanced than I originally thought, so I wouldn't be surprised if many people felt the same way and didn't play again).

    The first game was more of a crap shoot as everyone remembered how to play the game (at least, it was for me). I got the sense that mines were the only source of big points (other than large land grabs, which are much fewer in this than Domaine). For the second game, I placed my domaines specifically to catch as many mines as possible and it panned out. Of course, early alliances between Shemp and I helped quite a bit, with moderately rich kingdoms at stake in both games.

    One of the reasons I liked Lowenhurtz more on first impression was the negotiation aspect. I thought it added an interesting dimension to the events which take place every turn. Playing four players is a must, because without all four, there would likely not be much to negotiate (3 players=3 actions)! As long as the pace is kept snappy, it's a nice addition. However, the limited way which knights are added and kingdoms are expanded means that the board shifts much slower and it's harder to turn the tide. In Domaine, sneak attacks were the norm, but here things are more predictable. I think that this, and the fact that mines seem very quickly to be the best strategy, lowers my feelings for the game somewhat in comparison to Domaine (this is only a dissapointment because at first glance, you get the impression that many routes to victory are available... large land grabs, military superiority, etc If one path is the strongest, then everyone is likely to try it, which makes things less interesting)

    Of course, that sounds a whole lot like my criticism of Domaine at the beginning, so I woudn't be surprised if I took it all back later on!

  2. I was going to attempt to explain the title, but really, it stands on it's own. Inherently Funny. Glad you enjoyed.

  3. OK, I have to get one thing off my chest...

    The game title is spelled "Löwenherz". For the umlaut-challenged, you could get by with Lowenherz, though technically it would be misspelled in German (and who is more technical than those efficient Germans?).

    It is not "Lowenhertz" or "Lowenhurtz" or "Great Googly Moogly".

    Löwen = "Lion's"
    herz = "heart"

    ...a reference to English king Richard I ("the Lionhearted") who spent a lot of time away from the country in crusades (and as a hostage) and consequently had a very weak grasp on his nobles, who proceeded to carve up the country into little power centres, much as we find in the game.


    OK, rant over.

    I'm just mad 'cause I evidently am an untermensch when it comes to this game.

    I thought I liked it more at first, but then as the games progressed, I decided I didn't like it as much as I do Domaine. It's hard to put a finger on, but the mechanic of silver mines giving you victory points doesn't seem to make much sense, and not losing victory points when you lose territory seems really wrong.

    Epic Duels - I'm stunned that I've played it wrong all this time. Serves me right for skimming rules, I guess. Fun to play, but in small doses, with long breaks between.

  4. I was thinking about just calling it "Low&hurts", but your (spelling) sensitive nature caused me to do the umlaut work.

    Maybe we should join forces to smash Easy this week, eh?

  5. Or "Low When Hurts".

    Oh, and I think I read that Luch is plotting against you, so watch your back. Also, that Kozure one has always looked shifty.

    We should stick toghether, bruthai!

  6. Anonymous7:04 PM

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