March 04, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gili, Binyamin, Bill, Nadine, David K

A low-key game night full of games.

Metropolys

Binyamin 42, Bill 39, Nadine 36

Binyamin taught this Ystari game to the other two. It looked like a typical Ystari game; I find their games to be clever and complicated, but soulless. I don’t know how the others felt about this game.

Dominion

David K 34, Gili 29, Jon 27

First play for all of us, although David had played twice online. Dominion is The game of the last year or so (not counting Agricola), and it’s deck-building mechanics made me fairly sure that the game would be well-received by our group. It was, for the most part.

I really like the deck-building, and the way adding, removing, and swapping cards makes such a difference to your play. I like how some cards are better early and some late, and so on. It’s very clever, and the different types of cards seem like they will make for many interesting plays.

We played a number of different strategies, and many seemed to have possibilities. And, since many different ones will be available in future games, we’ll always have to be on our toes.

However, there are a number of drawbacks.

The most glaring is that the game is quite obviously far far better as a computer game than a tabletop game. One, you constantly have to shuffle your cards, which is just insane, especially when you have so few of them. Two, you constantly have to keep track of how many actions and buys you have left. The buys usually don’t matter too much, except when you accidentally buy two cards but are only allowed to buy one. But the actions can be confusing. Third, you constantly have to check how many cards are left in each deck, where a nice number over the deck back would come in handy.

A few other drawbacks: The game end is somewhat problematic. In our second game (see below), we all concentrated on three certain cards. As a result, the only person to buy any victory points at all won without breaking a sweat, as she could finish two piles with only one card each on her turn before any of us noticed. I guess everyone should play different strategies, but, unlike PR, you have to choose different strategies in order to prop the game up, not just because of the limited resources.

The interaction, apart from the two possible times that something can run out, is nearly non-existent. Often one of us just took his turn as the last player was finishing. Thank goodness for the few cards that add a bit of interaction, like the militia.

And as I mentioned on my blog, the box insert is supposed to help you keep your cards in order, but it’s strange arrangement and differently sized slots are most confusing.

Lastly, I spent an hour trying to understand the game setup. It is very difficult to understand that the ten kingdoms mean “select ten of the card types and only play with those ten types.” I couldn’t figure out what a kingdom was for the life of me. Eventually I figured it out, about the time that David was explaining it to us. Very very poor instructions. They could have included an illustration of the setup.

In our game, we played with the suggested starting kingdoms. David played the Markets, while I played Mines and Golds. David won, but he also started with a better first draw (5/2 vs my 4/3) and also the markets let him buy 2 things (3 and 1 VP cards) when he had 7 coins, while I could only buy one thing with 7 points, since I didn’t have a second buy.

Although David won, and I see how the markets are like free coin cards, I don’t think they are a killer strategy; decent, but not killer. We will have to see.

Gili 9, David 3, Jon 3, Binyamin 3

As noted, this game ended way too quickly and quite unexpectedly for all players. Gili simply realized she could end the game by removing the last two cards from two piles, and she was the only one with a VP card.

Pillars of the Earth

David 58, Binyamin 57, Gili 45

Binyamin had only played once before, a few years ago.

Puerto Rico

Jon 63, Nadine 52, Bill 48

Bill hasn’t played this much. I played the first half of the game and my second Dominion game simultaneously. Bill had tobacco and Small Market and eventually Factory and Wharf. Nadine on my left got coffee and eventually Harbor.

I got coffee and Harbor, too, in front of her. I also got all five goods, and several times passed over building or several coins on cards in favor of just pushing through victory points. I only abandoned this once to get Guild Hall (maxed out at 10) at the end of the game, although I suffered a small shipping point loss to Nadine to do so.

Fairy Tale

Jon 33, Nadine 32, Bill 28

I suggested this again, believing that I will continue to like it more and more each time I play, as I become familiar with what works and what doesn’t. It’s true, but the large random factor of what cards are available to me in the game are still so very high. Somehow this is ok in Geschenkt, but here it’s frustrating to try something and have no chance to accomplish it not because your opponent thwarted it (which also happens) but because the card never even appears.

If you can let that go, the game is actually quite good, and pretty fast, which makes it a nice filler.

Bill 41, Nadine 37, Jon 35

In this game, I tried a variation: two rounds of picking from 8 cards and playing 6. It gave us more control as to our comboes (plus), but less cards entered the game making rarer comboes even more difficult (minus).

I have several other ideas on how to fix the game. I’ll have to try them.

Bridge

Jon/David, Binyamin/Nadine

We played only one hand before I kicked them out.

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