January 30, 2007

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine

These two were the only ones to brave the cold and snow to my house.

Odin’s Ravens

Gili 5, Jon 4

We only played this until Nadine came. Once both players get the hang of it, each round can be fairly close. But before we’re completely used to the patterns, rounds are still a bit too long. As a result, it wasn’t an entirely thrilling game, but I expect that it will be a bit better with two more experienced opponents.

Notre Dame

Gili 81, Jon 72, Nadine 58

Both of them were eager to get to this game, again. It seems like a fascinating game with many avenues to explore, but well balanced; time will tell. In the meantime, we’re all still exploring. Like the other best games, you always want to do so much more each round than you can.

Gili won with the cumulative VP track this time. I kept handing these cards to Nadine because they weren’t useful enough to me, and she kept handing them to Gili because they weren’t useful enough to her. I blamed Nadine for not keeping them anyway, and she blamed me for giving them to here. There may be a slight issue with the game if your RHO is overly nice or harsh.

I tried the Park VP bonus strategy again, but it couldn’t compete with the amount Gili got from straight cumulative VPs. I also had lots of cubes at the beginning and picked up five messages. Once again I thought I was doing pretty well, but it wasn’t well enough. Nadine followed something similar, but I made it more difficult for her, as she was my LHO.

Lost Valley

Jon 24, Gili 23, Nadine 21

When I first played this I really liked it, but after a while huge flaws in the mechanics began to appear. Or rather, abusable mechanics. Essentially, once you are comfortably ahead, which can be primarily due to luck, you can massively push forward the end game and solidify your victory. This is not only unfair but very frustrating.

While it didn’t happen in this game, it’s only because Gili was gracious enough not to do it, claiming that the game would have been boring if she had done so.

Even without her having done it, there’s still something lacking in the game play, which is a bit overly fiddly and mechanical. I suspect that it’s because of the very narrow path to victory relying entirely on gold chips. Like Thebes (which is a better game), it is annoying to play well but get unlucky when panning for gold. In Lost Valley, gold is your only source of victory points, and you don’t get too many of them, so random victory points just sucks.

Designers take note: just because something is realistic doesn’t make it a good game mechanic.

I’m thinking that I’m going to have to fix this game, somehow. First I’ll check BGG for variants. But minimally:

– There has to be a limit to the amount of territory that may be explored while there are still unclaimed gold chips.

– Gold chips have to be more determined, or have to have less to do with victory points.

– While it is not a horrible mechanic that one fears expending resources on items that will benefit everyone (sawmills, mines, etc), it also isn’t a great mechanic. Many other games at least give you some benefit for doing it, such as VPs when you build it, or VPs when others use it. LV needs a similar mechanic.

– And, as I already go, each player must start with 2 gold nuggets.

These should go a long way to helping restore the fun into the game.

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