Sunday, November 13
BoardGameGeek.CON: Day 2, Friday
After our late gaming the night before, we got a late start on Friday. Before the Game Library closed on Thursday night we had checked out Mexica, and still had Kaivai from our sesson the night before. We grabbed a table, opened up Mexica and began to set it up while reading through the rules. With Mexica being one of Kramer's 'mask' trilogy (Java, Mexica, Tikal) and both having played Tikal before, we had a sense of what to expect in regards to the action point mechanic. I enjoy the diagramatic simplicity and clarity achieved on the player aid cards for Tikal and Mexica (and I assume Java, but haven't seen those). Once you have been told what the various actions are the diagrams are very clear reminders of the actions and their costs. When we were just about ready to start Jon Grimm stopped by and we eagerly requested he grab a seat and join in. Jon was familiar with the game and was ready to start, though it had been a few years since his last play.
Jon (white) and I (orange) quickly got into an arms race over two of the high scoring regions whiile Maria (yellow) wandered off on her own and started racking up control over multiple smaller regions. Through some cunning blocking manouvers, Jon got the better of me in both regions and I moved on to set up some smaller regions which I thought might be less contested. Jon meanwhile ventured over into Maria's area and added a couple temples here and there to pick up some second place scorings and had enough time to make it back to the starting square for the mid game scoring bonus. Maria made it back as well, but I decided to set myself up for the upcoming 10 point capulli token. Unfortunately Maria was able on her turn to move and form a 10 point district before my turn (why didn't I see that coming?) so I had to settle for 8 points. Jon and Maria contnued to build the larger point districts as I built uncontested smaller ones. The capulli tokens ran out with all of us having several buildings left to build and one large unbuilt portion of the board left open. Maria burned the rest of the canal tiles by filling in various small regions left open and began to build up in the last open district and I got one big one is to try and hold second place. I teleported into one other of Maria's uncontested regions and built to score in second to end the game. Again, Jon made it back to the start temple for the bonus. Neither Maria or I did. In the end, my uncontested regions and second in the big leftover area district was enough for a win: Jon 93, Maria 97, Jeff 110.
I prefer Tikal. Though some of that may be a fondness for the game that hooked me in, I also like the discover aspect and the unfolding of the board. Both games suffer under the weight of analysis prone players. I found the canal building and canal movement to be quite interesting adn could see that portion of the game really opening up more with further plays. I'll have to get a game of Java in sometime soon to compare it as well.
My rating: 7 (Tikal is an 8)
We had a great time playing with Jon so we immediately started another game together... Kaivai. We added one more to our group (sorry, I've forgotten your name) and I tried my best to provide a clear explanation of the game. I emphasized the economy, roles of the buildings, the scarcity of influence tokens, and the end game scoring. It seems that my explanation was sufficient as we were able to get under way smoothly and continue without too many peeks back at the rules (except once in particular to find where in the rules it said you could pass your whole turn and collect two influence tokens, and that was to help out Mark Johnson's group, which had missed the rule. They ended up aborting thier game, as it just didn't click for them.) In this playing, the meeting huts were used more effectively and ended up bringing our fourth player from third place to tied for first. I built up a large fishing fleet and was in the lead throughout much of the game until the end when my score was matched. Once again, the game ran on too long, probably a bit over three hours. At times the game dragged as players pondered their move. In spit of that, I still am intrigued by the game and enjoy it in concept. I only wish it were shorter by at least half.
Jon was eager to introduce us to Caylus, having played the night before. We were joined by one of Jon's fellow game-group members John Gravitt. John and Jon are part of Ed and Susan's posse over at the Game Ranch. Sam A rounded out the group to 5. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that at least one game of Caylus was in play at any moment during the CON, primarily thanks to the efforts of Valerie Putman who became the honorary Caylus instructor for the full run of the event. However, in our game, Jon had the honors of introducing the game and did a great job himself.
(I plan to come back and add a description of the game itself here later... In the meantime you can find a good one here)
Our game turned out to be a tough crowd. There were several occasions when players (red and green) dared to choose ahead of the provost in hopes of getting some prime building benefits early only to be shut down by other players moving provost back. Red, in particular, continued to push his luck only to be shut down each time, with growing frustration. Red and green then tried to broker a deal to ensure that they would get their actions executed, but that also failed in the end when it relied on black to commiserate. This in no way dampened my enthusiasm for the game, if anything it enhanced it.
I felt that the game has a nice narrative feel to the way it progresses. The basic actions remain the same throughout but the mix of buildings that have been recently built is always expanding/changing.
As far as length goes, Caylus is another longer game. We thought we were moving along at a brisk pace. The beginning does go fast but, as more buildings are built, the options increase and each round takes longer to complete. We ended up clocking in at about 3 hours, but in this case it didn't feel like it. We were involved throughout and time flew by.
My Rating: 8
We got a quick game of 6 nimmt in while waiting for a pizza order to arrive. We played with Theresa and Alan, whom we met the night before playing Werewolf, and Annise and Jason, whom we had dinner with the next evening. The game was new to Annise and Jason but they caught on immediately and each had two very low scoring hands until through a series of unfortunate events, Theresa ended the game quickly in the third round with a collection of points she refused to count but was enough to end the game and then some.
While Maria went off to play another game of Werewolf I joined Mark Johnson, Greg Wilzbach and Tim for Mark's personal variant for the original Entdecker. This is the only way I had played Entdecker until this recent weekend when James and I got another game in with Mark (at a local Games Gathering), this time with the original rules. The game plays well both ways though feel more gamery with Mark's modfications. Mark won each time we played, and both times made some use of the strategy of picking up small small islands which close and score by creating a condition where a remaining corner of a 4 square tile grid an only contian one tile type and is thus automatically placed. It seems that in our playing of the two versions that the original Entdecker is more likely to produce discoveries of larger islands as there is no added cost for sailing in for the other edges of the board or for sailing past another player's encampment markers, as in Mark's variant. In both versions though there does seem to be a strategic benefit to independently trying to make and score a series of small two tile islands and to pick up the discovery token bonus by placing a settlement marker, as this gains points for you only. When another player begins formaing a larger island it is then advantageous to switch into a defensive posture by adding a token to the island to collect second place scoring there. It seems that the incremental steps gained from solo scoring the small islands are often enough to stay in the running and likely the win. I should try the New Entdecker next to see how it compares. So far I certainly enjoy the exploration theming of Entdecker and think that Mark has done a excellent job of expanding on Klaus Teuber's base game.
My rating: 7
After the werewolves got Maria, she came to join Mark and I for a final game for the night. I had a copy of Hansa out from the Library, a game which Mark had recently discussed on his BGTG podcast (show #41). I had played once before when Hansa had just come out and enjoyed it then but never got around to picking it up. Hansa is an interesting little pick up and deliver game. It is very tactical, as where you begin your turn depends on the actions of the other players. In our game ther were several turns in which it seemed that Mark and Maria's actions meshed together very well for both of them and left me on the short end of a cycling loop which I had trouble breaking out of. I find the artwork of Hansa particularly beautiful, with the yellowed greens and browns giving the board a feeling of antiquity. Maria particularly enjoyed this one and its length would ensure it further play within our busy daily scheudles. I should get this one soon.
My rating: 7
It was now 2:30 am and sleep was definitely in order, especially since tomorrow's flea market started at 9:00 AM and I wanted to check it out.