March 02, 2011

Participants: Jon, Gili, Nadine, Mace, Binyamin

Once again I’m doing this without notes. Bleah.

Fairy Tale

Gili 51, Jon 45, Nadine 36

Scores approximate. I tried a combination strategy only to discover on the first round that Gili, sitting in front of me in the passing order, was using the same strategy. I’m always scared to try the once that need specific cards from a smaller pool (such as 4, or even 1), because, with three players, it just seems unlikely that those cards are actually going to turn up. So I passed them all, and of course they did show up; luckily, no one else tried for them, either.

The baseline seems to be 3 points a card. So when you can score more, you should do it. The 6/1 cards (flip, unflip) are marginally better than 3 points a card, and even better when you have ones to flip down when you must. The game is actually kind of interesting. I think I need to play it more often.

Glory to Rome

Mace +, Jon, Binyamin, Nadine, Gili

First play for all of us, and we all liked the game. However, like Tigris and Euphrates, some of the basic mechanics, while seemingly simple for some of us, caused a lot of confusion again and again for others. I’m not sure why that happens, but sometimes a particular rule is just hard for an otherwise smart person to wrap his or her head around. I think I can teach the game better next time.

GtR looks like shlock, and the “box” that the game comes in is less then shlock. But the game is really good, deep, and satisfying. The game is just a card game, but each card has five different uses: a)cas a role; b) as an extra action for a role whenever anyone plays the role; c) as a resource for building a building; d) as a building that gives you a bonus power when it is completed; or e) simply to tuck away for vp’s at the end of the game. once you get the hang of it, the cards make sense; however, they initially are very confusing, as the bonus power is foremost on the card and it isn’t active unless the card is played as a building and the building completed.

On your turn you play a card as a role (a), and anyone else with the same role card can play it to also do the role (or can pick a card or cards, instead). So, like Puerto Rico, you benefit everyone else by what you choose to do, hopefully benefiting yourself more through the timing or the available resources to select first. On everyone else’s turn, you can play the same role card as they played or pick cards; in addition, everyone, the player whose turn it is and any other player, gets to play the role additional times for each “patron” they have previously played (b).

The roles allow you to take patrons (b), take resources (c), play buildings (d) or add resources or cards to buildings (c/d), steal other players’ resources (c), or convert resources to victory points (c/e). You pretty much have to complete at least one decent building during the game, because, in addition to the points and special power you get from the building, your capacity for patrons and victory point cards increases according to the building’s points.

Owing to the building powers, the game is wild and fun, with your strategy determined by the cards you have at any one time. But you can always choose to draw back up to a full hand (so you can dump or play cards pretty freely), and there are always a lot of options.

The one negative … which I’m not sure is a negative … is that a few buildings can end the game with instant victory for a player, or simply end the game early. I’m not a big fan of that mechanic. I understand that this allows even a “losing” player the chance to win the game, but it makes all the other game play that occurred feel like a waste. In our game, mace won by completing a Forum, and the game ended like that. There are a number of possible responses to this move, but you MUST take them and prepare for them, which disrupts the game flow severely. On the other hand, this was our first game, so the idea of the “game flow” that I got from playing it once may have been illusory. We’ll see.

In the Shadow of the Emperor

Jon, Nadine, Binyamin, Mace

I taught this to Binyamin and Mace and refreshed all of our memories at the same time. It took a long time to explain, and a long time to get through the first two rounds, at which point Binyamin had to call it quits. The game suffered in comparison to Glory to Rome which we had played just before; it’s actually a decent game, but not nearly as exciting.

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