Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mommy, let's have a corn wash! (In the Shadow of the Emperor, Blue Moon City)

Ignoring the blog title is probably best.

This is likely my last post until Bharmer returns, because I'll be away next week. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to play some four player games and chose In the Shadow of the Emperor, Blue Moon City, Pandemic and Wings of War. ItSotE took much longer than I expected, so neither Pandemic or Wings of War made it to the table.

In the Shadow of the Emperor

I'm not sure what I expected from this game, but this wasn't it. For whatever reason, I thought this was going to be a dry, short, abstract middleweight euro. It's not that.

(of course, I shouldn't have expected that Kozure would purchase a game of that description. Those are typically more my thing)

In fact, it's a fairly complex but thematically engaging game. A euro for sure, and abstract enough, but the mechanics work with the subject matter. It's a political struggle that starts in the individual regions of germany and ultimately leads to the choice of emperor for the Holy Roman Empire. A clever series of mechanics which see your nobles age and marry is well integrated and makes it even less likely that you will feel like you are just pushing abstract pieces around a gameboard for victory points.

Despite the fact that the game only lasts through 5 elections, it goes on for quite a while. Our game took 2.5 hours, although it didn't really feel like it. It's a zero luck game, so there is a lot of pondering going on.

The game reminded me somewhat of Agricola (though the rest of the group likened it more to Wallace's Way Out West). In a weird twist of fate, as I was playing the game someone else wrote this at the Toa of Gaming blog: What are the odds of two people making that same observation over a 4 year old game at the same time? Weird. Anyway, my comparison boils down the the action selection mechanism, which feels a lot like Agricola to me (though this game has the added benefit of marrying the efficiency game with area control board play to give it a better sense of interaction).

As an aside, "worker placement" as a named mechanism has been bugging me for a while because it doesn't really feel like an independent mechanic (in the same way that "area control", the "rondel", "Role selection" are distinct from each other). Isn't worker placement simply inverted role selection? Is the distinction that these games typically allow you to increase the number of roles you can take on?

I tried pretty hard early on to take on Shemp and get elected as Emperor right away. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong rival... he had played before (and won). I was barely treading water with my understanding of the intertwined mechanisms at work. He outsmarted me at every turn and I wasted round after round accomplishing very little. He won again, with Luch a relatively close second, Kozure third and me dead last.

In retrospect, I realize I severely undervalued the towers (which is the equivalent of not growing your family in Agricola) and tried too hard to stay in control of the regions I already possessed (which garners no victory points). Lesson learned.

I wasn't totally enamored with the game. I'm not sure if it was my mood, or my preconceived notion of playing several quicker/ simpler games that evening. Still, it's a very intriguing game and will probably get better with familiarity. I just hope the analysis paralysis doesn't become too much of a problem and diminishes with experience rather than worsen.

Blue Moon City

We finished up with Blue Moon City. It's a game I enjoy very much, and is pretty much a poster boy for the type of game I expected In the Shadow of the Emperor would be: relatively short, mechanically engaging, paper thin theme.

I didn't play particularly well. Luch won and I was still several turns away from placing my last cube. Normally, this is a pretty tight game, but in this match I wasn't even close!

Pandemic and Wings of War will have to wait. Until next time, wash your cars with corn!

No comments:

Post a Comment