Monday, March 05, 2007

So, Grendel Ate My Legs... Again.

Christofer Marcusson the Battle-Scarred rolled over in his cot of straw and stared at his guest, one rheumy eye drilling a hole of intensity into the young thane, the other eye-socket a mass of healed burns and claw scars.

"Aye, young thane. I travelled with Beowulf Grendel-slayer in my youth. But beware, says I; The path to glory leads but to the halls of Valhalla, or the sodden bunk of a battered old man."

Marcusson sat up gingerly, leg stumps dangling where powerful calves once donned thick leather boots.

"I have dined in the halls of Hrothgar-King, and I have heard the fell screams of the Sea Hag. I drained full the draughts of the victory over the great Dragon when the great Geat himself fell."

A shadow passed over his one good eye, "and aye, I carried him on his shield to his cremation. He met his doom like a warrior, not as an old and useless churl."

"So hear my tale and know that not all who would sail into glory die happy or in the heat of battle."

Beowulf plus Taj Mahal, two fine auction/bidding games from Knizia, paired up to be our gaming entertainment last week. Unfortunately, as the intro to this entry alludes, my foray into Beowulf was not as successful as previous efforts. I had won both of our previous games with scores in the 40s (or thereabouts). This time I limped away from the final chapter with something like 14 points. At least I avoided the dreaded three-wound penalty of -5 points per wound, which would've probably put me into the negative. Shemp came away with this one, though I believe Easy and Bharmer weren't too far behind. About halfway through, my main goal morphed from coming in first to not being last, which is never a good sign.

This does bring up the question of whether it's very possible to come back after an early game disaster (or disasters) in Beowulf. I suppose later games will tell. I still enjoyed this game, but more from a survival perspective rather than a competition for first standpoint. I just felt like I was almost constantly fighting to keep my head above water (avoiding additional wounds and scratches) instead of being able to gain new cards and points.

This game is both more competitive and shorter than Knizia's previous game with a similar mechanic, Lord of the Rings. I enjoy both, but for very different reasons.

Taj Mahal falls into the category of games which I admire from a design point of view, but don't find very engaging personally. Once again, after falling behind early, I felt like I was largely out of the running for the remainder of the game. There are mechanics to assist in this regard, so I don't intend this as a criticism (yet). Maybe after two or three more games. Easy and Shemp duked it out for first, with Shemp coming in first, I believe and Bharmer not too far behind.

A bad night for me, but enjoyable for friendship and gaming in general as always.

Partially inspired by playing the game this week, I rented "Beowulf and Grendel" (2005 Canadian-Danish-UK co-production) on the weekend. It's not bad - a few great lines and a few real clunkers. Sarah Polly in particular seems out of place. Worth watching, though.


  1. Actually, I won at Taj Mahal.

    I'm really enjoying both of these games. Taj Mahal is a real mind-bender. I can't think of any other game that requires a player to juggle as many factors, while remainingultimately controllable.

    Beowulf is fundamentally very similar, but the experience is quite different. The risking can swing certain scenarios, but in the end I find it exciting rather than frustrating. Kozures comments on the difficulty of coming from behind are interesting. I was on the losing end for the first two games, and it was definitely hard to get out of that predicament. hopefully, it won't turn out to be an insurmountable problem.

    Really liking these ones.

  2. Sorry for crediting the wrong person with the win. I sort of lost track of who was placing first when it became evident that I was in danger of placing last.