Thursday, March 12, 2009

Calpulli - in - space!!! (Mexica, Space Alert! x2, Jungle Speed)

It's been a few weeks, I was glad to be back.

I traded away a few games recently for Mexica, an older title from the Kramer & Kielsing's "Mask Trilogy" (Tikal, Java and Mexica). Tikal is a game I really like, and Mexica has been described as a faster playing and shorter game that still has interesting gameplay. I've had a few opportunities to get it at trades over the years, and always passed. Finally, curiosity finally got the better of me.

Like the rest of the Mask trilogy, Mexica is essentially an area majority game. Here, players place canal tiles to subdivide a large island into smaller regions (which is worth points), and then try to earn further points by gaining majorities in the created regions (the measure of a player's influence in a region is determined by having the largest temples).

Another characteristic it shares with Tikal and Java is that it's based on the action point system. Mexica gives 6 points with which to build canals, temples, bridges, or simply to move around the board. One twist is that up to 2 points may be carried over to future rounds.

I found that the game is certainly shorter than Tikal, but that the level of confrontation and opportunity for "screwage" is far higher than I would normally associate with a "light" game. In my mind, this is much more of a medium weight game... in line with Settlers of Catan and the like.

We started by settling the edge of the board and working our way inwards. There was a substantial amount of nasty blocking and stealing of majorities by all players (a good thing), but Kozure seemed to always be a few steps ahead. The fact that he secured the majority in the unfounded region at the center of the board when the game ended only cemented his win.

I've now played twice (once with WAGS, and once with my in-laws) and both games have been very enjoyable. I have this strange feeling that the incentive to actually end the first round might prove to be lacking, since the first player to do it is at a substantial disadvantage, but we'll see.

Space Alert!

We attempted Space Alert! again, this time with 4 players. After we got creamed in our first session, we decided it would be best if we tried again. Hopefully experience counts for something, right? No. We died again.

This game is certainly an odd duck. My enthusiasm for it has not diminished, despite our continued dismal showings. On the other hand, the group still doesn't seem sold on it (not sure what Luch thought of it). The chaos factor is high, and apparently our ability to self organize under pressure is lacking.

- We have difficulty setting targets, like "fire guns in the red sector on the 6th phase" and making them happen.
- We don't pay enough attention to the text on the threats that come up. In this session, we coordinated an attack on an internal threat, but it was unharmed because none of us noticed it would move around the ship when it crossed the "X" event.
- etc. etc.

Anyway, I had a great time, despite sucking at it. I'm sure that if we kept playing it we'd get better and eventually succeed frequently but I don't get the sense that our group will ever find out! Oh well, at least it plays solo.

Shemp also mentioned that he was surprised I liked the game since I have often complained about unnecessary "fiddliness" in the past. He's right, but for the type of gaming experience this game offers it doesn't bother me. I wish it had been streamlined more, of course, but I also give it credit for being an original idea for a game.

Jungle Speed

We ended with Jungle Speed. It's been a while, so we were all quite rusty. I warmed up in time, and won the game after a shaky start. Fun game usual... perfect for what it is!

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