May 20, 2010

Participants: Jon, Abraham, Nadine, Ksenia

Regular game night was pre-empted by Motzai Shavuot, and I put out a call if anyone wanted to play a mini-games night on a Thursday. Abraham was the only responder. However, Nadine joined a little later, and then we rope Ksenia in.

Summoner Wars

Jon+, Abraham

First play for me. I played Orcs, Abraham played Elves.

Summoner Wars is one of a number of recent grid based fantasy combat card games. I guess some people just can’t help but want to try to turn the random draw of a card game into something more akin to a war game. I haven’t been too impressed with attempts I’ve experienced until now. They tend to be slow and cumbersome games.

Worse yet, Summoner wars uses dice-based combat resolution, which I generally abhor; that, at least, I recognize as personal taste. Its inclusion is not an objective detraction from the game.

My verdict from my one play is that this is the best of the lot. While I still don’t enjoy dice-based combat, those who don’t mind it will find this game at least not cumbersome. It plays quickly, with ample room for both strategy and tactics, although the strategy might be gone after the first few rounds.

Essentially: you start with some guys on the board, each of whom rolls a number of dice. Each die roll above a 2 is a hit for one point of damage. Each guy takes some number of hits to kill. The object is to kill the opponent’s Boss. You draw up to five cards each round, and can summon more guys using your stash of mana. You gain mana by tossing cards into your mana stash at the end of the round, or by killing opponent’s guys. You also have a number of instant spells which don’t cost anything (other than not throwing the card out into your mana pile).

Move around, attack, move around, attack, etc.

I played aggressively, which is what usually gets me killed in war and CC games. However, as this was a quick game, it worked quite well here. It may not always work quite as well in this game, but it should always work well enough to be a decent strategy.

Homesteaders

Jon 61, Abraham 43

First play for Abraham. It might have been my first two-player game of this.

While a very tightly-controlled game flow, and oh so obviously from the mind of a Puerto Rico fanatic, I really like this game. A lot. I hope to play it many more times. I think Abraham liked it, as well, though maybe not as much as I do.

Dungeon Lords

Abraham, Jon, Nadine, Ksenia

First play for all of us except Abraham. Dungeon Lords is a vast and sprawling epic of a game, which to me left me with the same uneasy feeling I had after playing Caylus: about 20% too much work for the game. There is both a whole lot more calculating than there should be, and then too many times when you’re just turning the cards over to see what comes next without anything to do.

That said, it’s a very interesting and potentially fun game. FWIW, Nadine and Ksenia both thought it was much better than Caylus and thoroughly enjoyed it, without my reservations.

It has so many mechanics and moving parts, but they think that they fit together so nicely that it’s not a problem. I’m just kind of overwhelmed. We played for 3 hours, and almost half of that time was explaining the game play. The other half allowed us to make it through one year, which is half of the game, after which we called it quits for the night. Abraham was slightly ahead, despite having almost no defenses in his dungeon. I think I would have been ahead if I hadn’t overlooked that I was a gold short for taxes (worth -3 points).

I suspect you will be reading more reports here on the game, soon.

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