Friday, July 04, 2008

Whoa. Dude. The idol is... like... made of g o l d. (Puerto Rico, Glory to Rome x2, China, Hollywood Blockbuster)

It was me, Luch and Bharmer tonight.

I know games generally go quicker with fewer players, but I was surprised how many games we got in our short 4 hour window.

Puerto Rico

The #1 game on BGG continues to pop up once in a while. I started with corn, decided I’d go for coffee, then got stuck with tobacco. I then decided to buy a factory and collect sugar and indigo for the set! I didn’t gain much from shipping, but the money I was making from the factory allowed me to buy two large buildings and win the game. Bharmer did manage quite a bit of shipping, but didn’t get as many points from buildings.

Glory to Rome

We were able to play two more hands of Glory to Rome, and I’m happy to say that it’s turning out to be a great game. One thing we all just came to understand is that the game can end very abruptly when a powerful combo of buildings gets built. The thing is, since GtR features an abnormally high number of such powerful buildings and combos, you really have to watch what’s going on.

In our first game, we were once again just sort of building buildings to see what they do. I came across a building called the scriptorium which allowed me to complete any building I wanted with just a single marble. That’s very powerful. In no time, I completed a series of random buildings I had started, one of which was the colosseum… a building that ends the game. Since no one had used their vaults, I knew I had won.

It all happened pretty abruptly.

Bharmer mentioned he didn’t feel very satisfied by the game, so he chose to have us play it again.

This time, things went rather differently. Luch built a building (the name escapes me), that allows the player to use the powers of his unbuilt buildings as though they were completed. He then started a virtual city of foundations and became so flush with special abilities it was probably impossible to keep track of them. I was keeping up with the joneses on the building front, but simultaneously stashing material in the vault. Near the end, Luch started completing buildings but most of his potential went unrealized, as the last in town site was chosen and the game ended. Since I was the only player to have played in the vault, I received a couple of bonus chits, and those six points gave me the win (though it was otherwise very close).

Now that we’ve played three times, I can definitely say that I really enjoy it. The games play out very differently each time due to the huge impacts the cards can have. The end can show up out of nowhere, and games can vary wildly in length depending on what triggers the end of the game, but it’s a card game so I don’t put it in the same context as most boardgames. I’m enjoying having to make the most of the cards I’ve got, and seeing how all the powers work together.
I think as a group we tend to undervalue the vault, but I’m pretty confident there’s a successfully strategy that counters that method as well.


What can be said about playing China? Luch often wins, and this week was no exception. He simply knows how to get those advisor connections going. He was ahead by the equivalent of a third of our score.

Hollywood Blockbuster

Amazingly, we still had time for another game. I pulled out my latest math trade acquisition, Hollywood Blockbuster, and we gave it a whirl.
I had read it was similar to RA. That actually scared me a little, because if there is something I dislike, it’s when game A resembles game B too much in my collection. Those fears were unfounded, as HB feels like a very different game.

Over four rounds, players try to auction sets of actors, special effects, directors, music and cinematography of various quality to try to complete the movies they have on deck. A particular movie might require a main actor, a cinematographer, and two composers. Once a player has won enough auctions to have a chip placed on each of these spaces, he/she adds up all the stars on the various items they’ve collected and the movie is scored.
Various awards are given for first film in a given genre, best film of the quarter, best direction, etc. There is even an award for worst movie, so there is actually some benefit in trying to make a really bad movie. The whole process is quite straightforward and I think the theme would actually appeal to a lot of people that aren’t normally gamers. (I’ll let you know after I try to get my sister to play). Although the continuous auctions create a definite parallel with RA, the simpler collection conditions and the lack of Sun Tile constraint and disasters makes this feel much more approachable (though RA is the better gamer’s game). The most serious flaw HB has is a result of patent law... Sadly, all the movies and actors in the game are “satires” or “caricatures” of real world movies and actors. Although the drawings themselves are pretty good for the most part, the “funny” names of famous people and movies are kind of lame. Personally, I prefer to just refer to everybody by their real names.
Anyway, over the course of the game I made Forrest Gump directed by Tarantino and staring Tom Cruise which won Best Picture. Then, Raiders of the Lost Ark staring Keanu Reeves managed to come in as the worst movie ever. Imagine that.
I liked it. Redistributing all the money you paid to win an auction to other players is a strange thing, but it seems to work. All in all, I’m happy with the game.

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