July 1, 2009

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Nadine, Shachar, Gili

Shachar came for his first time. He’s the son of some synagogue members of ours, and he (or his mom) was interested in trying some games other than Chess.

Traders of Carthage

Jon 14, Shachar 12, Nadine 10, Elijah 6

Scores were something like that. First play for Shachar, and second play for Nadine and Elijah. Nadine wasn’t overly impressed, but then she’s not often overly impressed with lighter games.

Antike

Jon/Gili 7, Nadine 5, Elijah 4, Shachar 2

First play for Shachar, second or third for the others. First 5 player game for me. It took ten minutes of wrangling to settle on this game, as nearly every other game was vetoed by either Elijah, Gili, or Nadine.

Five is definitely more crowded than three, but the reduced number of points needed to win makes the game feel about the same overall. I still totally love this game, though I recognize it has possible problems of ganging up and definite problems of king-making.

Shachar declared his hatred for the luck of Risk, and I offered this as an alternative. Though he did rather poorly, he really liked it. Asked for the name, and possibly intends to buy it. Gili was the least happy to play, but coming in tied for first helped raise her spirits about the game a little.

How did we tie? …

We played on the Arabian side. I played Greece, Shachar played Syria, Nadine the Black Sea region, Gili Arabia, and Elijah North Africa. We all got to one point fairly quickly, and Nadine even led to two points.

Nadine was defending her borders and growing rather slowly. Gili had the advantage of isolation for nearly the entire game. Elijah and Shachar traded skirmishes in the center of the board, which kept them occupied. Then I leaped ahead with some seas sailed.

Add to that 10 cities and two know-hows (sailing and navigation), and the last two points seemed like it would be my capturing two of Shachar’s or Elijah’s temples. But in the meantime, Gili had also grown to five points, and she only needed 2 additional ships to gain a seven seas card, 13 gold to gain the free know-how point (for all know-hows), or 1 additional temple. She was going to win in two turns unless I won first.

Elijah dropped a boatload of fleets to stop me ransacking his temple, and I could now either occupy 14 seas or sack one temple; I would lose too many ships to do both. And then it would take me a few more rounds to get my last point. So it looked like Gili would win after all.

But then Elijah, seeing that Gili was about to win, abandoned defense on his own temple to sack one of Shachar’s, which just let me get enough manpower to sack his. He simply wanted to end with one more point. Mind you, my sacking only worked by bending the theme pretty badly: some of my further away ships had to clear out Elijah’s remaining ship defenses, and then my closer ships could just make it far enough to reach his temple.

I had gone first in turn order, so we let the round finish and Gili ended with her points anyway. If Elijah hadn’t king-made, Gili would simply have won.

Bridge Troll

Elijah 45, Jon 44, Nadine 36

The designer sent me a copy of this new game.

Bridge Troll is a blind-bid set-collection card game. You play trolls trying to snag the people crossing your bridges. Each round a number of people try to cross, and players simultaneously reveal bids for picking order. Cards are then collected one at a time by bidding players, until all cards are gone (there are often more than the number of bidding players). You may opt not to bid in order to collect more cubes for bidding; you then collect no cards.

Some of the cards are bad, and all the cards must be taken. So if there are N+2 cards, and 1 of them is bad, second highest bidder is going to get stuck taking the bad card on his second pick. So going first is not always good. Sometimes, if all but one player passes, one player gets all the available cards, which is usually a windfall.

Each card has two values: food and money. When you collect the card, you assign it to one of the two piles, generally the one with the higher value. At the end of every turn, you trade in matching values of food and money for victory points. E.g. a card worth 7 money can be matched with a card worth 6 food for 6 victory points. If you passed in the bidding, you can also use cubes to make up the value discrepancy at a rate of 2 cubes / 1 value of discrepancy.

Naturally, some of the cards also have special abilities. Some are bad, as I mentioned, and will sack your highest food or money card. That’s the gist of the game.

The components are very nice, for those who care about such things. The theme is silly.

It was pretty easy to understand most of the rules, although one or two cards were confusing and one, at least, was hidden somewhere in the rules and I couldn’t find it (we just guessed the meaning of the card; we got it right). I completely forgot one of the rules: about players snagging the bids the other players made during the round. Without this rule, we were forced to pass some of the rounds in order to restock on bidding cubes. With the rule, we may not have needed to do that.

The game flows rather quickly. Decisions were light. The hardest decision was what to bid, and that was somewhat random. A few times you had to decide whether to take a card whose ultimate value would be determined if managed to get access to some later card.

You have to manage you bidding cubes (at least the way we played, you did). I don’t mind blind bidding – I rather like it in some games – but in this game the results of the bids were a tad too important to be left to this mechanic, so it detracted from the game for us; a different more strategic bidding mechanism would have been more interesting to us, but the result would also have been a much weightier game, not necessarily fitting to the theme and intent of the designer.

Overall, it definitely works. No obvious problems, quite fun if you like this sort of filler-type game. Though Nadine complained during the first half of the game, by the end she came around to admitting that it wasn’t too bad (she doesn’t like light filler games in general). On the other hand, other than the pictures of the trolls, she loved the components: the weather die, the card and cube colors, and everything else. That was a plus for her.

The fact that it plays for up to six is also a big bonus for the game. And it probably plays better with more players than it did with only three. I thought it was fun and would be happy to play again.

In our game, Elijah lucked out on collecting a number of helpful special cards which he used to good effect. I worked on managing my bidding cubes, and that helped too, but a few times I took the face down card as a gamble and lost.

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One thought on “July 1, 2009

  1. Though I admit that Elijah was king-maker in the Anitke game, I don't consider his play itelf as king-making. He saw that the game was ending that round and played to maximize his score.

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