Friday, July 27, 2007

Potluck! (Yspahan, Dungeon Twister, Louis XIV, Jungle Speed) 8169

I had everyone bring a game they owned tonight.


Yspahan is a game I'd heard much about recently, but what I heard hadn't intrigued me very much. Having played it, I'm happy Bharmer took the plunge... it's a very good game.

It's a game about trading in the middle east, but the theme is thinly applied. This falls squarely in the category of games where theme could be just about anything (not to imply that the theme isn't appropriate or welcome, just that it's somewhat irrelevant). Really, it's just one in a long line of euros where the goal is to get as many victory points as possible by managing your resources and making tough choices along the way. What sets this game apart for me (after one play, mind you) is that there seems to be several legitimate avenues to success and the level and type of confrontation feels just about perfect. All this, and the game is very short at 45min. to an hour!

Each turn. players must choose between claiming souks for points, building buildings (for points and special powers), claiming spots on the "camel track" and gaining money or camels (a form of currency in the game). One of the most interesting aspecs of the game is the dice mechanic which generates these choices: the starting player rolls eight dice. The dice are then spread on a board with 6 fields. All the dice showing the highest number rolled get placed in the "generate money" field. The dice showing the lowest value is placed in the "generate camels" field. The rest of the dice are spread out according to the value shown on the fields in between in ascending order. Example:

Result=Place the die with the 1 on the camel field, the three dice with 2s on them on the second field, the die with the 4 on the third field and the three 6s on the highest field (because no 3s or 5s were rolled, this leaves the fourth and fifth field empty).

The fields with dice on them determine the choices available to the players. 3 dice on the camels would allow a player to take three camels. 3 dice on the second field allows a player to place three cubes on the sooks of a particular region (among other things). Etc, etc. In this way, the choices are constantly changing, and depending on the situation a player might want to choose something to advance his strategy, or to prevent another player from doing something advantageous to them.

My biggest complaint about the game would be that for such a quick and light game, there are a lot of rules. Once learned, it's easy to ignore this criticism, but I would consider it a barrier to teaching it to some people I think would otherwise enjoy this level of game. On the other hand, rules density shouldn't be a surprise considering one of the main strengths of the game is that many viable strategies are available.

Bharmer won. I came in a reasonably close second and Tilli was third.

Dungeon Twister

Luch arrived and we set up to play Dungeon Twister. Rather than attempt a four player game, we played two simultaneous 2 player games. I really enjoy the game for the balance it brings between strategy and chaos, and the theme helps releive it of some of the dryness it could have had otherwise. The rest of the group isn't enamoured with it, sadly, so I might not get to play much until I find someone who likes it as much as I do.

I won against Kozure 5-0, and Luch won against Bharmer 5-4.

Louis XIV

Another game I like very much, Louis XIV is another example of a very nice strategy game that packs a lot of punch in a short timeframe (and a small box). Now that I think about it, it's also pretty rules heavy. Goes with the territory, I suppose.

Things went very well for me. I was able to get almost all the goods I needed, when I needed them. I completed the mission which gives you a free cube where Louis is every turn... I think that one is very powerful. With it, I managed to fulfill 7 missions over the course of the game, giving me a victory (Bharmer was a close second). Very good game.

We finished off with two rounds of my favorite closer of all time, Jungle Speed . Good times.

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