March 05, 2008

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Gili, David, Yardena, Yedidya, Yitzchak the Smaller, Binyamin, Ben, Dylan

I’m back in Israel. Yardena is a great friend of mine and Rachel’s from when I first moved to Israel; she also worked with Rachel on occasion. She brought two of her children, Yedidya and Yitzchak the Smaller, in search of better games.

Before the Wind

Binyamin 50, Nadine 44, Jon 36

I played this game at the BGG.con. I really liked it; it’s sort of a card game version of the shipping part of Puerto Rico. Let’s call it San Juan II.

When I played it at the con, we played incorrectly so that the core action distribution rules seemed broken. But even as we were playing it, we knew that it shouldn’t work that way, and we were right.

It’s very different from our typical Eurogames. It’s very interactive. The action distribution has a very strong take-that mechanism; but unlike other games with take-that mechanics, it doesn’t feel like the game is brought down by it. That’s because there are too many things that you need to do at the same time, so you can’t spend all your time hosing other people.

It’s very challenging to move forwards when people are arrayed against you, but they are also not moving forwards when this is happening and you can work that into your game play. It’s challenging and fun.

I seem to be pretty bad at it, which is all the more challenging for me. David sat beside me as I played, and he immediately noticed some of my major goof-ups as the game went on, such as trying to by Binyamin’s card which I couldn’t afford instead of trying to buy Nadine’s which I could have.

Ben sat in at the beginning of the game but immediately decided that the game was not for him when we started playing.

Settlers of Catan

Ben+, Yardena, Yedidya, Yitzchak the Smaller

So Ben went to teach these guys how to play their first Eurogame. They had a good time, and promised to come back, even though Ben beat them (stealing Longest Road, I believe). Yedidya actually looked more interested in playing the Arkham Horror game which was going on.

Arkham Horror

Yitzchak, Gili, Dylan, Jon (sort of)

Yitzchak was trying to get a group to play this for sometime, and we finally agreed if it was the shortest boss-guy. It only took three hours and a bit, which included some explanation to Dylan and Gili.

I was allegedly playing as well. However, I couldn’t start until my Before the Wind game finished, which ate into about an hour of game time. And then I called myself away to play Blue Moon with Ben who would otherwise have had no one to play with after only twenty minutes or so.

Yitzchak didn’t seem to mind, as he had played the game solitaire a number of times and could easily play my character at the same time. In fact, even when I was playing, I wasn’t doing much. I made a decision as to move or attack, but otherwise rolled some number of dice when I was told to and how many.

Which is my problem, really. In order to know what to do, you need a vast knowledge of how the game works, and you have to remember at every stage what modifiers are in effect on every card in play around the entire table. This is laborious and probably no one has ever played a game without forgetting something or messing something up.

And in the end, you’re rolling a lot of dice, which is exciting and fun, but not very much in the thinking department. You roll well you succeed, you roll poorly you don’t. I can’t see that there’s much difference between good play and slightly better play. Obviously, it helps to maximize your dice chances. I think I’m just not cut out for this type of game anymore.

Blue Moon

Ben, Jon

I taught this to Ben. he took the Vulcas and I took the Hoaxes. We worked through our decks trading battles back and forth. I managed to get up three dragons near the beginning of the game, but I then lost them. After that, Ben got and lost one dragon a few times until the game’s end, which was a tie. We started another game, but abandoned it midway.

Many people think that I gave Blue Moon a short shrift in my BGG review because I said it was basically a typical Knizia number game with special ability cards added for flavor. The special ability cards do more than add flavor, complained they, as they add all of the tactics.

I don’t deny this, even though it doesn’t really change what I said. It’s still a dry kind of number game. Though numbers figure into Magic, too, Magic doesn’t feel like a number game. It feels much more like a sorcery combat game.

One thing that probably improves Blue Moon after several plays is getting to know your deck. In that way, you’re no longer doing what’s best for each battle, one after the other, but able to plan ahead to future battles. The name of the game is not to win a particular battle, but to win four more than your opponent or to be ahead when the game ends. Which adds a lot to the strategy.

Race for the Galaxy

David 43, Binyamin 42, Nadine 33

I didn’t get to see this, known as San Juan III, but Nadine said it had even less interaction than San Juan. I hear that as you get to know the game better, your role selection choice becomes more interactive, so we can reserve judgment. They liked it, however, so we’ll try it again.

Magic: the Gathering

David++, Jon

David and I dealt out 68 cards each from the new card I brought home. I crafted a neat deck with nearly all Elves and Shapeshifters (G with B and R). It was pretty cool, but it wasn’t as strong and David’s deck (U and G). So I lost, as usual.

Bridge

Yitzchak, Ben, Nadine, Binyamin

These guys seem to like getting all the other games out of the way so that they can end the evening with this.

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