Saturday, March 19, 2011

Helping people is wrong (Survive!, Clans, Ra, Acquire)

After a significant period where we played at Shemp's house every week to accommodate my sons' swim schedules, we switched to Thursdays and played at Kozure's place. In addition to giving us a longer block of time to play games, we had a few additional players... Tilitumbleroo and Kozure Junior, the eldest (a very bright 6 year old).


Our first game was Survive!, a classic game from the 80's recently resurrected by Stronghold games. This is a game of lighthearted nastiness where players try to get their people off a sinking island without getting eaten by sharks and sea monsters. It's very simple to play, so it's great for a wide audience, but it does have a mean streak because on a player's turn in addition to moving their people they must select an island tile to sink and move a monster... often leading to the fatalities of other player's pawns. Kozure Junior joined us for this game and made it a foursome. A few turns in, he asked if he was supposed to help or hinder the other players... to which we answered that helping people is wrong. Clearly, games teach important life lessons!

Many fatalities later, Kozure emerged victorious beating myself and Shemp by a single point! Kozure Junior finished just 2-3 points behind, so it was all very close.


Tilitumbleroo was hoping to play Acquire after she put the kids to bed, so as this was happening we started a game of Ra. Just to see what it was like, we opted to play on the Ipad instead of the physical game. Although Kozure amassed a large inventory of monuments, it was quite as much as he needed to surpass me. I was shocked when the score came up and I had won!

I play games frequently on my Iphone and I do quite enjoy it, however this was my first time playing in person against other players in this way. Although I think it would be dreadful on the Iphone, on the Ipad it's a decent experience. The obvious advantages of doing away with setup and takedown and of automatically tracking scores are nice but the tactile feeling is gone and the experience feels muted. In particular, the animations that they introduce to spice things up become annoying after a short time, even though they surely take less time than the physical actions used to take! Anyway, if I was going on a trip, this would be a great substitute for the real thing but I'll continue playing the boxed version for now.


We played Clans to finish up the time before our game of Acquire. I was green, but I played as red for a few turns (red being my normal colour when playing games). I recovered early enough that it didn't matter. We actually paused the game so that we could start Acquire and came back to it later, but for the sake of simplicity I won't break up the description. The green and red hut people both came within spitting distance of winning but in the end green (me) was triumphant. Go green!


Acquire is the last of Shemp's Christmas buying spree. I had been looking forward to playing it for quite some time so this was definitely the highlight of the evening. It's a game from the 60s that, I had been told, still felt fresh today. Judging from the board, a grid of numbered spaces reminiscent of a battleship board, and the hotel chain building theme, I anticipated something in the same vein as Chinatown. It wasn't. Acquire is a business speculation game, not a negotiation game. It reminds me a bit of the casino growing aspect of Lords of Vegas, though far more streamlined.

In Acquire, players are investing in growing hotel chains. Players each have a screen hiding 6 random tiles that identify locations on the board. On a turn, a player must place one of these tiles.

If the placed tile created a grouping of two on the board, a hotel chain is formed. The player may now invest in this or any other
previously founded hotel chain by purchasing a total of 3 shares. The value of each share is determined by the current size of the chain (obviously, this means there is great incentive to invest early, before shares become too expensive).

Another possibility is that the placement of the tile joins two or more existing hotel chains. If so, the larger hotel subsumes the smaller one. Investors in the larger chain benefit because the larger size means higher share value. The investors in the smaller chain benefit because they get paid out. The largest and 2nd largest shareholders get a bonus and everybody can sell their shares at their current value. It's important to note that there is NO WAY to make money in this game unless a hotel chain you've invested in gets taken over. This means that after an initial buying spree, players start running out of money and are looking to have one of their chains absorbed into a larger one. In the end, though, being majority shareholder in the big chains will pay out huge returns so it's probably important not to focus exclusively on the smaller companies. It's quite a nice dynamic and I can see how many modern games could trace their mechanics back to those found here. Overall, although the gameplay felt quite abstract I found it to be a lot of fun and definitely able to stand up against current designs.

In our game, I benefited from the first take over and found myself with more cash than the other players which felt like a large advantage. Over the course of the game, I felt like I lost some ground and it seemed like Kozure was really taking off. Tilitumbleroo was also doing quite well. I felt that I had a very good stock portfolio, and that I might catch up in the endgame. At one point, I was playing an escalation war with all three other players as we were all purchasing shares to try to get a majority before merging some of the last available companies. The shares ran out and I was locked out. Kozure and Tili ended up as 1st and 2nd and did quite well. Kozure ended the game by merging the last company, but as the smaller one liquidated we all realized that Tili was able to convert shares to the larger one and this put here in the lead. When all the money was counted, her majority holding meant the difference and she won.

Lots of fun, very tense, great design.

No comments:

Post a Comment