Monday, November 20, 2006

An evening of Deviance (Diamant, Zombies 4, El Grande, Quo Vadis?)

I thought it would be fun to play a number of games we've played many times before, but with house rules or official variants.

First up was Diamant. We played with a variant I found on BGG which suggested that caves with only 1 ruby in it be replaced with an idol worth 10. This turned out to be a great alternative to the base rules! The idol can't be split, so the only way to pick it up is to be the only one in the cave, or the only one leaving them. When one of these turns up, the tension regarding the otherwise simple stay or go mechanic is brought up a notch. I won the game by being lucky and picking up a couple of idols and lots of diamonds. Very enjoyable... I might never play with the base rules again.

Next was Zombies 4: the end. I didn't actually mean to play this with a variant, I just wanted to give it a spin since it didn't get to play it on Halloween. This is a very silly game which involves searching a forest which grows as the game goes on in search of an old cabin. Zombie dogs are everywhere and the idea is to cast a spell in the old cabin once it is found, in order to dispel the evil. I enjoyed the original Zombies as a funny, silly dicefest. i thought it was worth getting a copy when Kozure decided to sell his... though for variety I tried this standalone expansion set instead since it got good reviews. Sadly, we unwittingly introduced a variant I will term "The boring version of an already questionable game". In the standard rules, when a blank forest tile is brought up, up to 6 zombie dogs are meant to be placed on it. We didn't. Therefore, the only dogs on the board were those specifically called for on the "named" tiles... leaving a rather empty and boring forest for us to explore. Oh well, Luch eventually cast the spell in the old cabin and ended the curse. Good for him (and for us since it finally ended the game). i really didn't enjoy the session much. I think this is partly due to the incorrectly played rules, but I suspect that this is inferior to the original set (the cards didn't seem conducive to a fun game, anyway).

Next was El Grande. In an effort to try to reduce the amount of time between turns, I thought it would be interesting to split the player's actions into two phases. In other words, where a player normally takes an action card and then activates the card's power and/or places caballeros from the court to the board, in this vairant the player chooses one of these two things and then waits for it to come around again before executing his/her second action. The verdict? Suffice it to say that we played the last third of the game using the classic rules. Things didn't seem faster at all! It's quite possible that the major contributor to downtime int his game is analysis, so having two mini-turns simply introduced another round of "thinking". Also, splitting the two phases had the unfortunate effect of broadcasting your intentions to the other plays (the King, in particular, becomes much less usefull).

Last,but not least, was Quo Vadis?. I thought it would be interesting to introduce a set collecting element, so I took out all the chips valued above two and added the lillypads from Knizia'a children game "Leapin' Lilly Pads". We decided to score each lillypad as 1 point, each pair as 3 and each triple as 5. Though it seemed to add a certain amount of analysis paralysis to the game, it was pretty cool to see the tiles turn up and be worth different amounts to different people. This led to some creative deal-making, exactly as I had hoped! Sadly, the one aspect missing is variable income. Picking up a 3 is worth 3. Unlike in, say, Monopoly, the value of a token is pretty easy to measure (in monopoly, the present value must be considered against future potential income). Still, I'd say it was an improvement.


  1. Quo Vadis: You can use set collection for number tokens, too. The first 3 chip is worth 3, the second 4, and so on. Or the first one is worth 2, the second 4, and so on. Or a complete set of 1 to 5 nets a bonus.


  2. That's a great idea. Thanks. This should introduce some interesting decisions regarding the value of the low chips, since they are more common. I also like the idea of getting a complete set. I wonder whether enough chips are accumulated over the course of a game to support this direction, but it would be interesting to try. Have you played with any of these suggestions?