I left my house an hour and a half after the horrific terror attack in Har Nof. There was tons of traffic, the taxi driver eventually turned around to go back to Jerusalem, where the traffic was even worse, but he made it onto the other road to the airport, and at the airport there was no one so it was quick. He hadn’t heard about the attack. On the plane, after some seat switching by others, I ended up with an empty seat next to me. I watched Boyhood, Noah, Maleficent, Sex Tapes and most of Grease, while thinking about what was going on in Israel as people found out who the victims were. With a lot of walking, I found the kosher sandwiches at Newark, and bought extras for the con. I also had an empty seat on the flight to Dallas, which was delayed so I arrived after 1 am Dallas time.
Wednesday morning I got in line at 8:40, and was in the main room waiting area, closer than I’ve been except maybe in 2011. One of the free games was Rialto, a good game I played with Chris and Jim last year. I got to registration, which opened at 10, at 10:20, and Rialto was already gone. I got a dexterity game and a robot themed small filler. I wanted to play Stefan Feld’s AquaSphere and Alchemist in Hot Games, but it’s hard to coordinate having players and a teacher available at the right time. Those games weren’t available, but La Granja was just starting. I had voted for it for Hot Games, but wasn’t particularly thrilled by another farming themed game. I joined at the last spot, red, which I never play. They were reading the rules, I went over and asked a Team Geek guy to come teach it when he was available. A few minutes later I saw him teaching La Granja, I hadn’t noticed there was another table. He finally made it over to us which helped a bit.
It’s a great, elegant game, with a lot of good, relevant choices and paths to victory points. I like that there are unlimited free actions to exchange goods and money to help facilitate the actual actions you want. Cards can be used in one of four positions – deliveries, farm expansion, goods, and benefits. I used money benefits and expanded my farm twice, which gave me more cards. I got a victory point benefit for the turn order track and focused on getting that to work. I made a mistake once with the work placement actions, I should have first taken a competitive spot for a VP and my non-competitive action later. I made two deliveries which let you place on the hex area where you can knock off other players. I got knocked off once, and the player closest to me in points got knocked off twice, earlier in the game. I won by 3 points, he said he would have won if he hadn’t been knocked off which is true. The game would be even more interesting with all experienced players, though then I wouldn’t do as well. I heard other people say it was the best new game they played, I agree. 40, 37, 31, 30
I walked around a bit, then was able to get into a game of AquaSphere, red again. The game is very nice looking, but has a lot of difficult choices with limits and constraints which is frustrating. It’s very difficult to calculate the benefits of actions and trade-offs, because there are positive and negative points affected by a red line mechanic on the victory point track. If you pass the red line, which costs a crystal, negative points can’t move you back across the line. First round I hadn’t thought I’d need a crystal, but somehow had area control points, so that cost me 7 points because it would have also prevented negative points. But I lost by more than 7. 3 out of 4 of us got all the letters on the research station, diminishing the value, or making it necessary rather than a relevant bonus. You do gain by thinking and calculating so it’s not a bad game, but I don’t like those types of choices and calculations. 79, 70, 62 (me), 52. A guy playing next asked me how I liked it and I said not so much, though I had expected to because I like Stefan Feld games. He asked which one was my favorite, I said Year of the Dragon, he said ‘me too’ so he realized that didn’t bode well, I didn’t hear how he liked it.
By the co-designer of Troyes, Sebastien Dujardin. A very nice game of its type. Similarities to Glory to Rome and 7 Wonders. There’s a board with terrain, which you can make more or less important to your strategy. You play cards by color, either activating all the cards of that color, or discarding for different benefits in each colors. Temples give end game points or are wild for discarding. I got a good victory point system going in blue, gaining 6 or 12 victory points in a turn, more than the others. After I ran out of ships for blue, there was only one barbarian tile left, conquering it ends the game, and it was almost complete surrounded which would conquer it. I discarded for 2 VPs per turn because I thought the game would end in a round or two. But it went on for over 8 rounds, and the other players were placing temples and getting points in other ways. I also forgot that I could discard for money and resources, though I had done it earlier. So I should have invested in setting up another track. A nice medium weight game with interrelated mechanics and good possibilities to explore. 56, 51, 50 (me), 46.