Saturday, October 08, 2005

Big is IN

Wednesday this week found us down a player once more, as Kozure was unable to attend. What works with three? Not too much in my collection, as it turns out. I didn't feel like Puerto Rico, and we had just played Robo-Rally (I am going to make it a point to make my next purchase 3 player friendly...) Anyway, I settled on a jumbo sized game of Carcassonne (with EVERY expansion included) to start out the evening. I have also had an itch to play Duel of Ages for quite a while now, so I was determined to make it work for three (DoA says it's a game for 2-16 players, but in fact the game consists strictly of two teams... a 3 player game would force 1 player to play twice as many characters as the others... far from ideal).

Started with Carc. I really like this game, because it's exactly as complex and strategic as you want to make it (sure, it's random... but it works for what it is) . With all expansions in, it's got quite a lot going on! We played with: "The River","The King and Scout", "The Count of Carcassonne", "Inns and Cathedrals", "Traders and Builders" and "The Princess and the Dragon" (As far as I know, that is every expansion available). Since we don't seem to get around to playing any one game really often, remembering all the rules for each expansion was a little daunting (particularly "The Count" and "The Princess and the Dragon"). What this mega game really pointed out, for me, is how well most of these expansions ratchet up the strategy just a little bit at a time. There are two, however, which are exceptions: The Count is fairly complex and fiddly in comparison to most, but luckily I like what it adds. The same can't be said for "The Prncess and the Dragon". The rules this adds are interesting in principle (various ways of getting meeples off the board, along with a method to get meeples into unfinished cities/roads/cloisters), but in practice it doesn't quite fit. I've said before that I felt this expansion would probably best be played on it's own, and this session backs that up. The fairy, in particular, is a pain to keep track of with so much going on. I'd love to try this mega-Carc again sometime soon, but without "The Princess and the Dragon", I think it would be much better.

For the record, I made an effort to go for goods and large cities (to snag the King). I did manage to get the majority in 2 of 3 goods, but unfortunately, Luch managed to beat me out for every large city or road I would try to build! In the end, he won by quite a large margin (I find that the more expansions we play with, the larger the spread in scores). This didn't seem to be Shemp's night... he had a hard time getting things going and came in last.

Next up was Duel of Ages.I checked out the official website and downloaded their 3-4 player variant rules (termed "Cutthroat Rules") and decided to give them a try. How did it go? Great! The rules add minor changes which effectively eliminate many of the problems inherent in any 3 player free for all battle game (two fight it out, and the third swoops in to win, or two gang up on the third, leaving that player no chance).

The changes are fairly simple: 2 players form a temporary alliance, and the third is termed the "Loner". The loner gets an additional character+ 2 equipment to start, but is otherwise at a disadvantage due to fewer characters compared to the alliance. The "Alliance" take their turn as though they were 1 team (i.e., they both move, then they both battle, then they both do challenges, etc). They are considered allies as far as special powers, combat and movement go. HOWEVER, the twist is that once a player manages to kill one of the Loner's characters, that player becomes the NEW Loner,drawing a new character+2 equipment at the start of his/ her next turn (the previous Loner joins forces with the third player in the Alliance). This interesting mechanic constantly shifts the forces of power, keeps the target moving to avoid kingmaker problems and creates interesting temporary alliances. There are also changes in the scoring which gives diminishing points for placing 1st or 2nd in the labyrinths.

We played a simple game, including only the basic labyrinths and no special keys. We used 5 characters apiece (4 might have been better). I started out as the Loner, and drew a competent mix of fast and powerful characters. I was fairly successful in completing challenges (drawing far too many mounts than I needed as rewards). In time, my Robin Hood was killed and Luch took over as loner. I did eventually get the title back (drawing the pile of WeeWaks for my trouble), and had a very successful finish with a score of 13-3-1 (or something like that).

Unfortunately, this session didn't feature too many really memorable moments. The game mostly involved each player making straight lines to their labyrinths, with a few combats along the way. Not sure why it didn't click, but I'm not going to blame the 3 player variant, as I'm quite happy with how that turned out.

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