Participants: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Binyamin
Wow, we’re back up to four people. Woot!
Jon, Nadine, Gili
I bought this because I’d heard it was a cross between Magic and something, I saw some demo videos, and it looked like it might fit some of the group. It was not a hit with us three, and I’ll tell you why.
You start the game with 7 cards and 2 tokens. On your turn you can play a card, play a token, or pass. If you pass, you can’t play for the rest of the round. You play a card in front of you like you do in Fairy Tale, only here you have to play certain cards before you can play other cards, and you have strict limits on how many cards and how many of each type.
Most cards do something when they come into play, such as let you draw a card, or flip over or discard one of your opponents’ cards, or they have some global effect.
You can play your tokens to draw a card (play both to draw three) or to activate certain cards’ abilities.
The round ends after everyone has passed, and the player with the most points from cards in play gains a VP. Everyone un-flips all of their cards and gets back their two tokens. However, you do not clear the board or draw any more cards. You just start the next round.
The game ends when someone has three VP.
The game has a steep learning curve. We had no idea what was going on for a while. We had no idea how the second and subsequent rounds would make any sense if you didn’t draw cards between rounds and you already had basically full boards; wouldn’t whomever was winning just keep winning? We didn’t know why anyone would pass if they had cards to play to increase their score; holding them back for future rounds didn’t seem to make sense.
We were hampered in all of this by cards that are not intuitive or clear. The text of what they do is small and hard to read from any distance. A card’s effect might occur when it comes into play, or out of play, or while it’s in play, or when it is mutated, or some other event occurs, but there’s no obvious way to know which card does what from the wall of 20 or 30 cards in play on the table at any one time. (We figure out that a yellow halo around a number means some kind of general effect, but that was the extent of it.)
It appears that the game was played and designed by a group of guys who knew the cards inside out and didn’t take into account that new players don’t have their familiarity. That’s probably not true; probably all the new players they tested it on were teenage Magic geeks who have a greater love for figuring out how a game works than actually playing the game.
Despite all of this, I could tell that there was something to the game. As the first round went on, I began to see how cards interacted and the opportunities for making interesting combinations. When the second turn began, we got new cards through spending our tokens; they were never used to activate powers, because we would have needed some other way to get new cards at the beginning of the round … think.
Gili was far behind at the end of round one, but she won round two, so it’s definitely possible for a lot to happen from one round to the next.
There were two other problems. First of all, there’s nothing to do on other players’ turns, and these can take a long time with the wrong players. And second of all, there’s nothing to do once you’ve passed until the end of the round, and that can take an even longer time.
We quit after two rounds. I’d like to get more familiar with the cards and try again with two players.
Nadine 39, Gili 35, Jon 35, Binyamin 21
Second play for me, first play for everyone else. Tobago hits a light spot where Carcassonne, Settlers, and Ticket to Ride hit. It’s got a light theme, pretty components – but not too many, and a quick, clear ending. It’s got too much luck to be very strategic. While there are a lot of choices as to what to do on a round, there’s not a great loss if you make a slightly worse choice or a slightly better choice: place your card here or there mostly doesn’t matter, except near the end of the game.
The defining mechanism of the game is the most fun, and that’s figuring out what spaces on the board get defined by the cards as they come into play. The other defining mechanism, the treasure distribution, is where the luck comes in, and it screwed over Binyamin once, which was once too many for him. Actually, as long as you have at least one amulet, it’s not that big of a deal. All things being fairly equal, the winner is essentially random, You have to play quite well, or specifically well in the way the game is going, to win regardless of mild-swings of luck. Nadine managed to play specifically well for the way our game went, without knowing that she was doing it.
Gili very much like it.
Jon, Nadine, Binyamin
First play for Binyamin. We only managed to get in two rounds of this before Binyamin had to leave for the night. However, it was enough for Binyamin to know that he wants to buy the game to have for the groups he teaches.
We played with 2 red cards and 5 yellow cards, and also with the three gun token worth only two guns as far as gunfights go but three guns as far as scoring and money and so on. It didn’t matter too much; we really have to play this with four or five players.