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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Burning down, with a session

Burning down the unplayed games – a lite version for those counting calories.

I'm making steady progress in the number of games I own that I've never played. I keep track of these in four categories

  1. Games I'll never play. The only reason I still own them is they're in storage and I haven't dug them out – there's 6 games in this category.)
  2. Non-wargame expansions. There's now 9 items here, and six of them are Age of Steam expansions. Knocked one off last weekend (session report follows.)
  3. Wargames including expansions. I have 119 items in this category, though that includes some miniatures games as well. This is the category that is going to see the most eBay activity from me over the next year. Many of these games I acquired more as reference material than anything and have no intention to play. Most, however, are going to be sold.
  4. Everything else. Down to 22 in this category.

It's the everything else category that gets the most attention. Of course, it doesn't help that I've acquired 13 of those 22 games since the start of the year.

The nine games that I've owned since before new years that I've never played are:

  • 1856
  • 1860
  • Attribut
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Druidenwalzer
  • Fjords
  • Indonesia
  • Labyrinth - Die Schatzjagd
  • Res Publica

That's a pretty manageable list. Chris and I (among others) have talked about trying out the 18xx series, so I'm optimistic about the first two coming off the list. Attribut will definitely get played at some family gathering or other. I'm bringing Indonesia to our Sunriver gaming retreat in a few weeks. Hopefully, it'll come off the list there. Jodie and I will end up playing Fjords and Druidenwalzer sometime soon, so I'm not worried about those.

That leaves Cosmic Encounter, the Labyrinth game, and Res Publica. None of these are really screaming "play me!" right now, and they haven't for a while. Of course I have the least desirable versions of CE and RP (the Avalon Hill version of CE, and the Avalanche Press version of RP) so they won't bring THAT much in sales. But I'm this close to putting them both on the sale block.

This Saturday I was able to host our monthly Saturday gaming gathering. Due to a variety of reasons, I haven't been able to host anything in a while, so it was refreshing to have the guys over for a few hours.

Dave and Chuck arrived a few minutes after 10, and we knew Doug would be showing up around noon, so we had tried to pick out a good 2-hour three-player game. We settled on the Italy map for Age of Steam (part of expansion #4.)

This expansion tweaks the standard rules a fair amount. Among the changes are:

  • No towns
  • No income reduction
  • You can issue shares at any time, but they only pay $3 unless you issue them in the proper phase.
  • You can build as many track tiles as you can afford, but you can only complete one link per turn, and cannot build incomplete links.
  • There are no black cities – instead, when you move a black cube it reduces the income of the link's owner by one instead of raising it.

There's a handful of other changes, but the above change the game enough to make it play very differently.

Once we got a couple turns in, the three of us were starting to get into the feel of the game. Early on, Dave and I had both started building in the north, and Chuck had the south all to himself – it was looking like Chuck had the inside track. Dave decided to contest the body of the penisula with Chuck, leaving me mostly alone in the north. About 2/3 of the game, I started charging to the lead, and it looked like I was going to pull off the win. As the game drew to a close, I ran out of high-payoff deliveries, and a timely black cube movement by Dave gave him what looked to be a bit of breathing space.

When the final tally came in, Dave had beaten Chuck 192 - 189 - 161. My big problem was the lack of built tiles – building in the north gave me a lot of deliveries, but it was a lot of short routes.

All three of us played relatively nice. We all had plenty of opportunities to move black cubes and reduce others' incomes, but we (mostly) decided to build up our own positions instead. As a result, we all had a lot of spare cash at the end. I could definitely see a more antagonistic game keeping the income WAY down.

All in all, this might be the best three-player map for AoS. The game was tight the entire time, leading to a number of tough decisions down the stretch. And we played it in under two hours.

After AoS, Doug joined us just in time to head off to lunch. Upon return, we cracked open Reef Encounter – a game none of us had played. To put it mildly, there's a lot going on here. You're trying to score points by building up and then eating reefs you grow over time. You do this by trading cubes for tiles and tiles for cubes (in varying types of color-agreement and/or placement) claiming reefs of a certain number of tiles with shrimp, and having your parrot fish eat the reef. There's also relative strengths of reefs (a white reef might be able to eat pink on this turn, but it will likely be changed later, etc.) At the end of the game, tiles your parrot fish have eaten are worth a point each plus a point each for every other color of tiles they dominate.

As you can tell by the rambling nature of the previous paragraph, I really don't fully understand what's going on in this game. Yet I won. (on a tiebreaker over Dave.) My initial reaction to the game was identical to my reaction to Antiquity. This is a game that has a lot of things working together, and it takes practice to figure out how it flows.

I'll definitely play it again (though probably not with four unless it's by email – way too much down time) but I don't know if I'll be buying this one. Breese's previous effort, Keythedral, and a game arc that is, IMO, way too short – this seems to be an overcorrection. It just seems to be a longer game than necessary.

After that, Doug had to take off (he apparently was up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 or something suitably lame like that :) ) and Jodie joined us for a quick game of Palazzo. Chuck won it relatively handily with Jodie second, me third, and Dave last. If there was some way to mitigate the luck factor on what tile gets placed in the center, this game would improve markedly. Maybe having to pay 10 for the newly-drawn tile no matter how many other tiles are there? Dunno. It's decent filler, but not one of Knizia's better efforts.


  • At 1:28 AM, Anonymous Peer Sylvester said…

    You should try out "Res Publica". After all - it only takes 30 Minutes. Its very possible to squeeze it in somewhere...

  • At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    While the 18XX are great games, neither 1956 or 1860 are good games to learn on, tho they are among my favourite 18XX. Both games are rife with McGuffins and (frankly) chrome that make them poor teachers of the base system. Start with one of the simpler systems, such as one of the smaller state games, 1830, 1825 etc and you're far more likely to do better.

  • At 4:23 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Hey, 6:30am for me in Doug Years is like 3am for Normal People.


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