Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Small Games that Feel Big (Small World, Dominion: Intrigue)

Despite the unfortunate absence of Bharmer and Agent Easy this week, we managed to make it together on a *gasp* Tuesday.

We played two of this year's hot ticket games - Small World and Dominion: Intrigue.

I don't have time to go into a full length rules summary and critique of either, but both games are quick and relatively easy to learn. The kerfuffle on BGG about ambiguous rules in Small World is overblown - the only major rule omission (in my opinion) was the definition of what order you place survivors of attacks (active player first, then left from there). The rest can be worked out with common sense, though the clarification document at BGG does help.

We played Dominion first. I was hoping it would catch on well with our group and by post-game discussion with Luch and Shemp, it's a hit. I was reflecting that it actually combines many of the addictive qualities of CCGs in an even more compressed time-frame - like getting a faster buzz from a drink or *ahem* "pharmaceutical". You get deck-building, deck-optimization, shuffling, card-collection, power-combos (frequently every turn) and a number of other aspects of already addictive CCGs like Magic and Jyhad all rolled into a single 30-40 minute package. It is like a crack version of Magic... can you can make concentrated crack out of crack? Meth? Whatever.

We played two games in two hours, including set-up and rules explanation. Future games should go even more quickly. Our first game was a little extended because although we could have ended it much earlier, no one was quite sure who was winning, so we kept playing a number of turns after somone could have ended it.

Having played Dominion (the "vanilla" base set, that is) on Saturday, it was fresh in my mind for comparison. Base Dominion is faster, but with less choices. Intrigue gives you more choices and more complex card interactions. Both are good on their own merits and it would definitely be good to own both.

A note on teaching Dominion - the suggested "Victory Dance" deck in the Intrigue rulebook is a good teaching deck. However you choose to teach Dominion, try to have a relatively non-punishing deck to teach with - preferably one without curses or too many agonizing decision cards.

The first game was very close: Luch 45 (or was it 47?), Shemp 43 and me with 41. I actually ended it thinking I was ahead. Shemp scored 15 points with Dukes (five duchies times three dukes).

The second game was less close: Luch 63, Kozure 37, Shemp 29. Luch ran away with it after striking the 8 treasure goal line early and snapping up six of the twelve provinces to my three.

Small World is a polished up and tricked-out version of the Vinci rules, (previously discussed) with a cute fantasy theme. I bought it mostly for my high school friends for when we get together monthly, since they tend to prefer conquest-y games. Iwas actually thinking the game would be denser than it turned out, but there's definitely strategy. The reinforcement die does add in a little randomizing spice. The components (as usual from a Days of Wonder published game) are gorgeous, the insert is 90% well done (the unit counter tray could have been done better, counters still flip over and get stuck in the bottom and are subsequently hard to dig out).

Gameplay is fun and quick. We got through rules explanation and a full three player game in 50 minutes. Not as much of a hit as Dominion, but still liked enough.

Both good games in my book - I'm sorry Bharmer and Agent Easy had to miss them.

Next time!

1 comment: