Saturday, October 20, 2007

Camel. Hump. (Princes of Florence, Through the Desert, China)

BHarmer's pick this week. A random assortment of games, but good ones.

Princes of Florence

We opened up with one of my all time favorites, Princes of Florence. As far as I'm concerned, there is no better optimisation game. What does this type of game need to do well? Players need to be largely in control of their fates, but there needs to be just a little luck to keep things from becoming static, and just enough player interaction that a player might feel the pressure to change an otherwise ideal strategy to react to evolving circumstances.

I've tried a few different strategies in this game. The pure builder and jester strategies are both popular, but since they are fairly obvious the competition for those resources are typically pretty tight (making them less effective as a result). Instead of going a middle road, as I usually do lately, I decided to try to simply bulk up my professions early and see if the extra hand size would carry me through the game. I auctioned for a recruiter card on the first round and purchased a profession as my first action. I purchased another profession on the second round. This meant that, along with the jester I had won in the auction, my works were worth a minimum of 8 (6 profession cards and 2 for the jester). As a large number of my professions required forests and the freedom of religion or opinion, I was able to gather what I needed and play a large number of works cost effectively.

Things didn't go perfectly, though. The profession cards and prestige cards I drew didn't match up well with my hand. As I tried to bid up other players I got stuck with a builder I didn't want. I miscalculated on a turn and nearly made it impossible for myself to complete my plan to complete two works on the final round. These things make me happy, because if they never happened, the game would quickly become very boring. I'm glad the resources are so limited, I'm glad that there are so few turns, and I'm glad that I can use the auction to make life difficult for other players (and that it can come back and bite me).

It was a very tight game until the end. I won due to the two works on my last round.

Through the Desert

After the usual griping about the terrible colours that the camels come in, we played two rounds of this excellent little game. Kozure killed us in the first, with a good number of 'longest chains' and surrounded areas. I won the second, largely due to a large 21 point area of the board I was able to cordon off. This is probably the first time that my initial placement amounted to more than just 'I'll place this camel near those two water holes' or 'between these two palm trees'. I placed a camel halfway up the edge of the board, and placed two blockers to the right of it. Since the blockers matched the colour of the other player's camels in the area, it was tricky for them to come block my land grab. Obviously, in a five player game the odds of having a placement strategy work are minimal since it's just luck no one saw what I was doing or even that they didn't place a camel or two in a place which would have screwed up my plan unknowingly. Still, they didn't and it worked! Still, it's pretty cool that despite what seemed like a game winning move, the lead was pretty small since I had to forego so many other scoring opportunities (water holes, palm trees, longest chains) in order to make it work.

Oh, and I ALMOST enclosed a circle right in the middle of the board. That would have been cool (damn you Kozure!!!)


We ended with China, another excellent game which packs a punch in very little time. 4 Players is pretty much as high as it will go before kind of breaking down, though (and 3 is best). Luch usually seems to go heavy on advisors, and Kozure normally seems to go majorities and chains. I went advisors as well, so I was in frequent competition with Luch. Not sure who won the game, because we realized later that we forgot to score the roads! Minus those, I had won, but I was very weak in connections so it could have been anyone's game.

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