Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dis-Joint-Ed (Tikal, Set, San Juan, Wheedle)

i'm writing the blog, but I wasn't there the whole night.

From what I understand, the evening started with Ouch and Bharmer playing Tikal. Treasure vs Temple, it seems. I don't know who won. This was followed by Set once Kozure arrived. I've never played, so I can't say much.

San Juan

I arrived around 9:30, and we played San Juan for the first time at WAGS (side note, I wrote recently that I purchased a lot of games recently which were unlikely to see much play because they were 4 player max. Well, Shemp will be bowing out for an undetermined length of time, so I may have been wrong).

As I've said before, San Juan is a rather clever simplification/ conversion of Puerto Rico into a card game. As this was my second game, I felt a little more in control than I did the first time. At this point, I'm thinking that it's a good game which benefits greatly from the streamlining it's received compared to it's big brother, but the loss of player interaction drags it down a bit.

In our game, Bharmer started a very lucrative chapel early while Kozure went production happy (to match his Guild Hall). I went City Hall. It was pretty close, but Kozure beat us out.


We had a bit of time before the end of the evening, and we had this Knizia card game sitting around (an unplayed impulse buy on the part of Tili). I'll be honest and say that I would never have bought this game based on the presentation alone... it's about as bland as they come. Then, I read the rules. If I had a shred of interest before, I lost it. Wow, it sounded dull.

Anyway, we started playing... and it was a lot of fun!

It's simple enough. The theme is stock trading. You split the deck evenly between the players and put a card in the center of the table. Each card is a stock from a fictional company, and the card in the center is a company in trouble. The point is to collect majorities and monopolies in stocks, and you do that simply by yelling out what you want in real time, making deals with whoever will listen and/ or swapping a card from your hand with the one in the center of the table. When you think you have a better hand than the rest of the players, you yell "stop" and trading ends immediately. There is a small catch... if the calling player has a single card which doesn't score points the entire round is a scratch (for all players) and the calling player loses points. Also, the centre card (the card which represents the company in trouble) converts all those cards into point losses that round!

Hands are scored and the next round begins.

Anyway, the dealmaking and frantic swapping of cards was fun. This is a game you could play with anybody and have a good time. You can concentrate on gaining majorities in small stocks quickly, you can try to pick up a monopoly in a stock everyone seems to be giving away, you can swap a card in the center of the table at the last minute in the hopes of messing someone's stock collection. Not rocket science, but still a good time.

I hear it's based on "Pit", but I haven't played that so I couldn't tell you if it's better or worse.


  1. I also arrived late, so I only got in two games of Set before you arrived.

    Set is more or less a puzzle/logic game, sort of like an IQ test question with a built in timer/competition element. You deal out twelve cards, each of which shows between one and three symbols, each of which being an oval, a diamond or a squiggly shape, coloured red, green or purple and unfilled, solid-filled or hatched.

    The object is to identify a set of three cards whose characteristics (number of objects, colour of objects, shape of objects and fill of objects) are either the same, or unique to each card for each characteristic. This is easier demonstrated than spelled out in words, so I won't bore you with a more detailed explanation except to say that it's both easier and harder than it sounds at times.

    If you think identify a set, you call out "set!" and point to the cards that you believe make up the set. The other players confirm whether it is, in fact a set, and if it is, the player collects the three cards as a set for one point. If the cards identified as a set do not actually comprise a set, the player loses a previously won set (losing a point).

    Play continues until the deck runs out.

    Tili actually bought this as a gift for my father-in-law, who plays the game online. He declined the gift, indicating that Tili and I would probably get more use out of it.

    The game is clever and simple, but not my cup of tea. It's good to keep up mental sharpness and probably as a fun game for younger kids once they get to about 8 or 9. Fortunately it doesn't take up much room.

    San Juan is a tight little game, relatively quick, nicely illustrated and fairly interesting. With very little direct interaction (not even trading!) and no way of aiding or hindering the plans of your opponents, it's an even more passive game than Puerto Rico which is pretty passive-aggressive to begin with. That said, I can appreciate the skill of the design and its attraction, without being terribly excited about it myself.

    Wouldn't mind it coming up again though, by any means.

  2. I was hoping that Set was a game themed around evil Egyptian gods. Maybe there's a retheme in there waiting to be done.

    Easy, I meant to ask this the previous time you brought up San Juan, but what is it that you find needs streamlining about Puerto Rico? Is the extensive setup your only complaint, or are there other difficulties that you feel are cleaned up in San Juan?

    From your description of Wheedle, I'm getting a "Falling!" vibe, even though it seems completely off base. Is it?

  3. There are a couple of things which bother me about Puerto Rico:

    1) The setup. I hate having to count hundreds of victory points and colonists every time. Follow that by referring to the rulebook for starting money and plantations according to number of players. Then stack the buildings. It's just annoying.

    2) There are lots of independent sub-systems which make explanation and retention of the rules tougher than it should be. For whatever reason, whenever I play a game with several disparate subsystems working together, I always wonder why they couldn't simply have consolidated a few. I felt similarly about Shogun.

    3) Puerto Rico is a game which scratches the same itch that other games such as Princes of Florence, El Grande and Taj Mahal do. For whatever reason, those other games seem much more elegant and better designed to me... more "streamlined".

    San Juan, as I wrote, has lost some important bits of flavour from Puerto Rico, which is a shame. Still, it comes close and yet plays much more smoothly and without fuss. It's not quite the "home run" replacement to PR I was hoping it would be, but I do like it.

    ...Oh, and Wheedle is nothing like "Falling". For one, it actually seems to work. It's good, give it a shot.