Tuesday, November 22
BoardGameGeek.CON: Day 4,Sunday
As the event wound down to it’s final hours we had one game that we had not yet played which I really wanted to try to squeeze in. This was Indonesia. With time running short, I doubted that we would get a full game in and so Maria and I sat down resolved to give a two-player game our best effort. No sooner had we opened the box than Troy (from Australia with whom we had played Kaivai earlier in the week) and Ed (from Oklahoma) joined us at the table. We explained our situation, we had to pack it in by 2:30 to catch a shuttle to the airport and thus were up against a real deadline and the likelihood of not finishing. Both were fine with that and were equally eager to get the game on the table to see how it ticked. I had just started to explain what I knew of the game, from having read the rules previous to arriving at the CON, when Derk came by and volunteered his services as a ‘splainer. Having read a session report of a game that he had participated in, I had the comfort of knowing that he knew his stuff this time. Derk more than made good on his previous explanation efforts (see Kaivai). And so we were soon off and playing. We completed 2/3 of the game, going through the ‘A’ and ‘B’ card sets before time was called, but not by us. The Game Library was packing up and needed our copy. We were minutes from having to call the game ourselves and were at a natural break in the game so it worked out perfectly. We all had a good sense of the mechanics and got our feet wet with thoughts about how things would play out. Maria was enthusiastic enough about it to request that we get a copy, even after I explained how it was an expensive limited print run game available only from German retailers (so how could I turn her down…).
Speaking from my half-played-game experience, the game itself feels like a crossbreeding of a pick-up-and-deliver type train game with the company merging aspects of Acquire resulting in an interesting economic hybrid. Players represent the controlling interests in production and shipping corporations. Production companies earn income through the selling of goods produced to the various cities located on the board. The shipping companies earn their income from the production companies, which must pay for the transportation of their goods to market. Further profits can be realized through the timely sales of corporations through mergers of similar corporations. In our game Edward made a timely merger between two shipping companies to virtually corner the shipping trade and was beginning to reap significant financial rewards from his empire just as time was called. With that we had an inkling of what was under the hood. And things looked pretty good.
Maria and I both shared initial positive reactions to the games components; the board and the pieces themselves are beautifully printed and similarly toned in an aged washed-out color scheme that works well together…except for the boats which are red blue and yellow and feel like a real mismatch with the rest of the components (another opportunity for custom components. I could easily see that my cutting new boats out of different naturally finished tropical woods would provide a real enhancement to maintaining the design concept lost with the original bits). But once one gets past the initial impressions and begins to play some of the subtlety of the board’s markings becomes a bit detrimental. The boundaries of different regions are somewhat difficult to discern and could have been slightly heavier without detracting from the overall imagery. There is also one area where the exact extents of the sea boundaries near Bali are rather ambiguous (which Mikko Sari has mentioned in one of his blog posts and for which the Splotter guys later provide the clarification that the seas are indeed separate, so we played that wrong...). I found these boundary identifications to be the most problematic. The problem also made landfall and manifested itself in the way the card distribution data created legibility issues with some of the internal region boundaries. Less of an issue for me was the script font used for all of the location names. The names were less critical to game play and so the legibility issues for reading names upside down could be overlooked a bit on the grounds of thematic development. However, in that case, the graphic key for locating the regions on the city placement cards are more critical and they are hurt a bit by their size. in spite of all these comments the game remained very playable, but did leave itself room for improvement. I could see that some real effort went into the graphic production, but it looks like the final product was rushed to print in the end before the final stages of quality control could be implemented.
On the cab ride to the airport, which we shared with Matthew Monin (Octavian), Maria and I noted how many games seem to trip at the finish line with less than stellar graphical implementations. Maria noted that Edward Tufte should be required reading for any illustrators working to convey complex information. As Tufte says in the Visual Display of Quantitative Information: "Above all else show the data." If you are at all interested in the graphic presentation of information (which is one of the fundamental functions of a game's board) then I recommend seeking out Tufte.
My Final Thoughts on the CON:
Maria seemed a bit aprehensive about coming to the CON at first and I was initially surprised when she said she wanted to come along. (She had never expressed interest in coming to our local SoCalGamesDay events so I didn't anticipate her interest in flying all the way to Dallas for a similar event that would last for 4 days.)I'm glad she came. The event really opened her eyes to the full spectrum of games (and gamers) out there and seemed to expand her enjoyment of them (both, games and gamers). The real enjoyment for us was having the time to spend together (It was almost our anniversary after all) and to meet such great new people with a shared interest in gaming. There were lots of other people that I wish I had taken the time and inititive to stop and talk to. I never did get to a game of Neuland with Chris Bailey like I had hoped to (let alone meet him. Sorry, Chris!). On the whole we didn't have too much difficulty starting up games we wanted to play, but did have the advantage of being two players for some games by ourselves. I like the open gaming arrangement more than scheduled gaming or tournaments, and find the idea floated elsewhere of having 'players needed' flags an interesting one worth considering. All told Derk and Aldie and their committed volunteers did an excellent job of creating a welcoming environment for us all to feel at home in and in whiich we could enjoy each other's company. And for that I offer my personal thanks.
And as a final seal of approval, Maria has already announced to everyone that we will be back next year. (What can I say other than 'See you next year!')