Friday, November 18, 2005

All Hail the Idiot King!

This week's directive from the dictator was interesting:

1. Venue is chzczo?~?~
2. Games is Conspiracy, traders of genoa, and some fillery thing or stuff.
3. me brain no work gud.
4. food~! TBD
5. Snazx bring
6. didn' t i tel you AD cance3lled last wk/


Among other things, Shemp acknowledges existence of (and enthusiasm for) food. More importantly, he declared himself "The Idiot King".

Sadly, I managed to mess up half of the only lucid thing he said... In packing my bag of games for the evening, I got too caught up trying to choose "fillery" games and forgot Conspiracy. The rule of Shemp was denied (or, as he rebutted, "differently realized"). Oh well.

I arrived a little early, so after chatting a little Kozure, Tili and I started a 3 way game of For Sale! until the others arrived. They hadn't played before, but as you can imagine they caught on quickly. Baby Boy was along as spectator, and I think all 3.5 of us enjoyed it.

As Shemp and Luch arrived, we cleared the table and got ready for Traders of Genoa. Shemp reaffirmed that he was the Idiot King, and explained that doing other people's paperwork was slowly making him unable to think. He's right... the only thing that sucks more than paperwork is OTHER PEOPLE's paperwork.

4 player Traders of Genoa. Wow. CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. And a little stingy besides. Deals, probably 75% of them, never exceeded $5. Sharing in the benefits of the action (i.e. splitting the 2 goods), was just about the only common method used to sweetent he pot beyond that. Offering $15 or more for an action virtually ensured you WOULDN'T get it (a suspicious lot, we are). Shemp and Kozure traded privileges, I concentrated on fulfilling orders and dominating the ownership markers and Luch routinely sacrificed cash by ending turns early to deny players any actions. I've done the ownership marker strategy before, but on the other hand I don't think I normally do well at this game, so I'm not sure why I keep trying it. Lucky for me, it worked out this time... I RAKED in cash from my markers and also managed many orders of all types, and won the game just a touch ahead of Kozure (who himself had a fantastic run of large orders and privileges). It was a good game.

Does anyone else feel that the latitude for deal making isn't as wide as it should be? It might be a result of our frugal attitudes, but i'd love to think of a way to find different angles for negotiating (Shemp and Kozure were making interesting trades with their privileges, though). Shemp also introduced the notion of "future consideration", something he once had good success with in Monopoly. In a way, I think the miniscule value of most goods, compared with the undefined value of the action cards and the perceived enormous value of ownership markers and privilege cards makes them hard to trade for one another. It occurs to me now that a clever trade might be to offer a card for which you don't have the appropriate good(s) but the acting player does. Thoughts?

The Idiot King's next proclamation was that he was hoping that others would make game choices for him, and then make it seem like it was his decision all along. So, we reminded him he wanted to play RA.

The first time I played this game, I loved it. That was way back in April, in Jay Wowzer's inaugural session. Others were more lukewarm, but I actively sought after it and eagerly anticipated Uberplay's re-release so I could buy a copy for myself. In the meantime, I taught myself the BSW interface in order to play online. I then enlisted Luch, and I think he now shares my enthusiasm for the game. Lately, Kozure and Tili have joined us occasionally online and, again, I think they really like it (they certainly both showed a knack for the game, beating both me and Luch one most of the games they've played against us).

So... Shemp was the last frontier.

First, a few notes on the new version. I'm working from memory, but I beleive the board and tiles are roughly 30% bigger than the original. That's not a change I appreciate, because the tiles take up room to sort in front of you in addition to the larger board (and creating a player mat to help new players will be challenging unless 11"x17" paper is used). Since there is no advantage to having them larger, the inconvenience is annoying, slight as it is. The new bag is a nice touch, though it barely fits all the tiles. The tiles which remain as players go from one epoch to another are marked with a small red "X", which is nice (but wouldn't the reverse have been more intuitive?). The board has a summary of the scoring and tile distribution, which is also nice (though, again, it could have been done more intuitively... for example, the distribution for the river tile is marked 25/12(2). THis denotes 25 rivers, 12 floods and 2 droughts, but that's not explained anywhere) To make matters worse (and this is a little unbeleivable), the board isn't represented, explained or even talked about in the entire rule book! This will be confusing to new players for sure.

All in all, the reprint is very good but not great (I'm talking component quality, gameplay is identical to the original). It's still very attractive, because the pieces are all of very high quality, but a few design issues could have been done better. To be honest, though, I'm just glad to own it.

The 5 player game started well for me. I managed quite a few points with a good Civilization set, some gold and a God tile. The others were locked in a pharoah war... I thought I might have an advantage not competing in it. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any river or monument strategy working and I ended the game with essentially the same set I had at the end of round 1. I think my familiarity with the game hurt me, though... New players are far more likely to let the pot grow to 7-8 tiles than experienced ones, so my strategy of "get in, grab what you can and get out" which normally works well with 5 players worked against me (my meager aquisitions would have lost me the game under any circumstances, but with this group the disparaty was shameful!!!). Shemp played very well for a first timer, appearing to be the leader for the first few rounds before being passed by Tili and Luch. In the end, Luch garnered many points for multiple monument sets... beating out Tili's impressive reign of Pharoahs and HUGE river.

I think Shemp liked it too.

We finished off with a few more rounds of For Sale! Lots of laughing and groaning. Kozure decided he sucked at the game. I can't remember who won, but it was a nice way to finish off the evening.

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