Thursday, August 10, 2006

Getting the red haired step children out to play (Pueblo, Domaine, Tower of Babel, Aladdin's Dragons, Carcassonne: The City)

A big pile of games played this week. Bharmer and Kozure couldn't join us, but JayWowzer rounded us out to a foursome. I chose a number of games which rarely get played in the group. Many don't get out often simply because they are four player, but most of them have oddities which make them "niche" games in my mind.

Prior to JayWowzer's arrival, we played a three player game of Pueblo. We had Shemp's wife choose the locations for the "Sacred Sites", and the resulting board was devilishly difficult. As usual, Luch displayed a knack for burying himself deep behind other player's pieces. He had quite a lead up to the end of the game. Unfortunately for him, in the last round he was forced to play two very costly pieces (he misplayed the block order, leaving him with 2 coloured ones to place last). Once the final score was calculated, the shaman saw more of Luch than he could handle... giving me an unlikely win (I still have a sneaking suspicion that we counted something incorrectly... Luch was REALLY well buried except on that one face). I really enjoy pulling this one out every once in a while... it's a nice change of pace.

Domaine was next. It had been a long time, and we always seem to play this one incorrectly. Still, it's a great game if you are in the mood fore some good, confrontational fun. However, as I've often mentioned, the game is pretty fragile... If everyone isn't paying attention, a player can inadvertently get a windfall. Unfortunately, this kind of happened. Luch and I didn't do what we needed to do to prevent JayWowzer from winning the game as he inherited a huge territory down the middle! Oh well, it's a part of the game to manipulate things to be in the right place at the right time, for all I know he might have orchestrated the whole thing! I thought I had a good shot until it happened, though.

Tower of Babel saw it's first play in some time. Always an enigma, I like to give this one a shot once in a while. There is no game in my collection which eludes me as much as this one... I understand the mechanics, but I don't understand the strategy. After last night, I came to the conclusion that it's a fragile game in a lot of ways: 1) the tendency is to hoard cards and complete works on your own. Once that starts, the game gets boring real fast because everyone is just waiting for their turn to build their monument (and the ultimate winner is probably determined by the player who is lucky enough to draw the needed cards first.) 2) Since the bidding strategy isn't obvious, many players are making bad bids. This has the compounding effect of making a "well played" bid irrelevant, since there is usually a better (i.e. poorly played) one available. Anticipating what others might do becomes basically impossible. 3) the bonus cards just don't work very well. Some are significantly better than others (hmmm, would you like to exchange 5 cards or take a 2nd turn... I wonder). With all that, I'm still going to keep giving it chances until it clicks or someone offers me something for it in trade. It's certainly not bad, and it's short for an area control/ bidding type game. We'll see. I spent the game trying to accumulate purple chips, 2nd/3rd placement points on temples and scorned auction points. I was feeling pretty good about my prospects and in fact I thought I won the game... until Luch pulled out 2 of his bonus cards which gave it to him!

As I was returning Aladdin's Dragons to JayWowzer, we played a farewell session. As with many bidding games, it takes a while to get familiar with the relative values of items and enjoyment of the game increases with repeated play. I played my worst game so far (coming in last with 5 artifacts, while Luch had 7), but I won't hold that against it. One aspect of the game which revealed itself to me this game: go for spells early AND USE THEM,,, as the game progresses, they become nearly impossible to play! I was also surprised to see that very few players had to pass over artifacts this game due to insufficient funds. By contrast, it was quite commonplace in our first few games.

Last, but not least, was Carcassonne: The City. I don't often play this since I actually prefer the base game (particularly with the first two expansions), but it's still quite good. I stumbled across a pretty lucrative tower guard when I started the second round, so I eventually tried to maximize that by placing the notable buildings in his view (ignoring most other scoring methods). If I had thought of it earlier, it probably would have worked out better. As it was, I managed a decent 2nd place to Luch.

Well, this was definitely Luch's night. Out of 5 games, he won 3 (and nearly won a 4th).

1 comment:

  1. I am bloggered. Locked out. Of my own blog. bleh.