October 28, 2015

Participants: Jon, David, Nisan, Nadine, Binyamin G, Gili, Roman

Fairy Tale

Nisan 54, Jon 48, David 40

David and Nisan arrived a little early, so I tried this on them with only the basic cards. Using only the basic cards is necessary in order to have a hope of obtaining combinations, but the game is a bit flat. The special cards make the game less flat, but make the combinations more difficult. Perhaps picking from 6 and playing 4 would be a better game experience (instead of picking from 5 and playing 3).

First play for Nisan.

Bora Bora

Jon 154, Roman 135, David 131, Gili 113

First play for everyone except for Gili. Gili was slightly ahead of me and then slightly behind me until the final counting, whereupon both David and Roman shot ahead by finishing their last three missions. I shot ahead with bonuses in both buildings and jewels, as well as a strong island showing.

Bora Bora seems, after one play, to be, like Caylus and Die Macher, a well-balanced game that works, but is too complicated for its own good. It’s one thing to have 5 or 6 different interlocking mechanics, but this one has upwards of 15 of them, and only some of them make any thematic sense. The goods and buildings mechanism is the most strange, and the forced arrangement of storing goods the most unnecessary. So is the division between people into men and women. A few other games inhabit spaces close to this, such as Agricola, but somehow Agricola’s tight, sensible theme and limited decision mechanics squeaks it through.

In Bora Bora, you get 18 actions during the game plus any actions on the people you acquire (up to two, one man and one woman). The actions are three dice to assign to seven different action options in each of six rounds. The value of your action is the value of your die (so higher is better), but you can only use an action if your die is less than the value of any other die already place on that action (so lower is sometimes better). But “gods” (we called them “dogs”) you acquire can let you get around that, but only if you also have offering tokens to use with them, unless you got a free dog action by having the highest priest value last round …. etc. Forget it, it’s too complicated.

It was fun, because the game worked, there were many strategic paths, and the decisions were harrowing. But it was painful, because every move by every other player locked away actions that you desperately needed, so you watched your plans crumble, sometimes before you got to take a single action. I suppose that is true for every worker placement game; and even in this game, there is sometimes (but not always) a way to do something the long way that you couldn’t do the short way. I’m not sure yet. Perhaps experience will soften the frustration. One more thing: as typical with dice rolls and card flips, just a bit too much of one’s ability to progress is determined by how the order of the card flips favors one player over another.

Before my first turn, I decided to take the bonuses in buildings and jewels, and that’s what I did. In order to achieve this, I was required to take 5 people, build 6 island spaces, and place 3 priests. I fulfilled 7 missions. Gili was sure that fulfilling 9 missions was the way to go, and that is what she did in her previous 4 games. In this game, either through the odd order that people and missions turned up, or through fierce competition, she was thwarted in every direction. Roman collected several items to move him up in turn order, but he only achieved full success in that starting from mid-game.

Update: It turns out we missed a scoring rule: you get 6 points for filling up your building space (with buildings or with goods) and ANOTHER 6 points for using all of your buildings. This means that using all of your buildings automatically nets you +12 points (since it also fills your building space). So I actually have 6 more points. Similarly (although this doesn’t apply to any of us for the game we played) you get 6 points for using all of your huts and 6 points for filling all of the spaces with people; if you did the latter, you had to have done the former.

El Grande

Nadine (56  75 102) 157, Binyamin G (63  69 104) 151, Nisan (53  59 88) 142

First play for Binyamin and Nisan, who foolishly asked Nadine to teach them El Grande. Nadine writes:

Second number is just before second scoring to show I was ahead. Nisan took Score first place in all regions early on. Special scoring was taken most rounds, Intrigue was taken more often than I expected – these guys were willing to think. I scored first place in the three 5 regions twice with special scoring. Binyamin G was good at remembering what was in the Castillo, except the last round. They discussed card selection and move options extensively, partly because they were both new to the game. We placed all our Caballeros, except Binyamin G had one left.

Star Realms

Nadine +, Binyamin G

First play for Nadine. Nadine writes:

Binyamin G taught this game, which is similar to Thunderstone but simpler. You start with 50 life points, and buy cards and attack. I had over 20 points when I killed him. It’s nice for a quick two-player game.

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