Friday, July 07, 2006

Control your Areas (China x2, El Grande, Saboteur)

Area control was the theme of the evening. China, El Grande and Louis XIV were chosen, but we ran out of time and had to substitute Saboteur for Louis.

The first game we played was 3 player, my favorite number for China. At 3, you can react to what is going on and feel like you have some control over the board. At the other end of the scale, too much happens between turns and I feel like my only option is to see "what points can I score/ secure RIGHT NOW", with no regard to long term strategy. Shemp and I went for a balanced approach between roads, houses and advisors. Luch, who often uses the advisor angle, did so again to good effect: when all was said and done, he made huge gains and leaped to the forefront. Lucky for me, I was the only one to complete a long road, and those 4 points gave me a slim victory.

Bharmer then arrived and we played a second game with four. He had never played before, but as usual he picked up pretty quick. He and Luch fought over advisors, while I went for a house/ long road strategy. Bharmer made impressive gains on his placements at the end, but I received 20 points from a well placed fortification (12 for a 6 segment road, and 8 for the majority in the region) and won again. I was shaping up to be a good night for me! I don't think the other players were very comfortable with the fortification pieces, since Shemp was the only one to actually play his. In both games, this probably gave me a bit of an unfair advantage.

El Grande, the king of Area Control games, was next. I am always excited when we can play this, particularly with 5 players. Luch had talked it up to Bharmer, so I think he was quite looking forward to it as well.

It was a fun game, and unusual in the sense that the cards which came up consolidated our caballeros more than usual, and several were removed. The result was that each player had just a few concentrations in 3 or 4 regions (often predermining who might fight for 2nd or 3rd in a region). I had the lead for most of the game, but Shemp eventually breezed past me and managed to hold on to the lead. I think Bharmer came in second, which is pretty impressive for the first time out (I don't know about you, but I was pretty clueless the first time I played EG). The only downside is that things were moving a little slower than usual, but that might be because we had a new player and none of us had played for a while.

Saboteur was reasonably fun, but something needs to be done about the card mix. The game always seems heavily balanced for or against the saboteurs, meaning that whichever side wins the first hand will likely win EVERY subsequent hand unless the number of players changes. Too bad, because it's an interesting concept and simple enough to play with a wide group of people... it just needs better tension. Maybe I'll buy a 2nd copy used and try to add more "good" labyrinth pieces, relying on the hazards and rockfalls to aid the saboteurs. Either way, priority= low.

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