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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

And Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Gathering Games Review

First, I apologize for being later with this than I had hoped - dinner out last night went quite late (although it was at a very good - and, apparently, authentic - Chinese restaurant, so it was quite worth it), and I've been in training at work, so my brain has been a bit full.

With that said, though, one of the reasons I joined the Blog was because I'd had a chance to try out quite a few new games at that OTHER Gathering in Ohio, and I wanted to share some of my opinions. I didn't get a chance to play all of the new stuff that was available, but I did get a chance to try most of the big names - I'm going to focus on the ones I enjoyed (mostly because I'm not interested in writing about the ones I didn't).

The general consensus at the Gathering was that there weren't any real blockbusters - in general, I agree with this, although I thought there where quite a few games that, while not crossing the threshold of greatness are were, at least, into the realm of the very good.

Thurn und Taxis was my favorite new releases - it's a middle-weight game, and, like many German games isn't strongly themed. The theme here is building postal routes in and around Germany. The game does allow for some strategy, both in card selection and in placement on the board. It also had the advantage of being quite quick - I think typical playing time of the 3 games I played was an hour or less (probably closer to 45 minutes). I enjoyed this one each time I played it, although I haven't played since the Gathering, so I've not played frequently enough to have an opinion on the "first player advantage" issue I've seen discussed. This one is definitely going onto the wish list, and I'd give it (after 3 plays) a solid 7 on the BGG scale.

Augsburg 1520 was the best heavier game I played. The theme here is players are bankers in, oddly enough, Augsburg (I presume circa 1520). Through collecting the appropriate cards, you seek to provide loans to the different members of the royal family - the real goal being the influence that comes from having the royals in your debt (literally). The heart of the game is a rather unique auction system, that combines bidding numbers of cards (so sets of the same type are worth quite a bit), with using the values of the cards themselves to break ties if people bid the same size set. The other element is that you must develop your personal economy to bring in enough money to buy cards from the set you receive - you use your influence with the Royals to move up the social ladder (with corresponding improvements to your income, or ability to collect cards). I only got a chance to play this one once, but I'm very interested in trying it again - so I give it a provisional thumbs-up, and a provisonal 8 rating.

Nottingham is a game I've not heard mentioned to often, although I liked it quite a bit. It's definitely pretty light - and judging from other peoples comments also depended on a group willing to enjoy a game with a fair bit of chaos - but I found it enjoyable. It's again lightly themed (Robin Hood, as you might imagine), but what it really is is a set collecting game, with the different valued cards also having a "power" to them - for example, one of the values lets you steal a card from an opponent, should it be the one you draw. The ambush cards (one of the other cards power) allow another player to steal someones attempt to lay down a meld - unless the other player lays down a meld larger than what would normally be required. Worth a look if your group enjoys light, fun card games - but this game would definitely lose it's luster if players draw out their turns. I really enjoyed this, and would rate it a 7.

California was another game I really enjoyed, although I must admit a general bias in favor of Michael Schacht's games (Kardinal & K├Ânig is one of my favorite games, and I also enjoy Hansa quite a bit). It's another quick, fairly light game about accumulating "things", and hence attracting people to your house - you get points if you attract more than one other person (e.g. you have a party at your place to show off your stuff). There are bonus scorings for particular sets of things, and a unique "bidding" mechanism, where on your turn, you may buy one of the things on offer, or take money - but by taking money, you reduce the price the other players will pay on their turn. Another one that is on the wishlist. I give California an 8.

These were my favorite games of the Gathering - I may spend some time next week talking about other games I liked, or I may go off in anothe direction (I'm still pondering that issue).

Until then, happy gaming!


  • At 2:45 PM, Blogger KC said…

    Hmmm. My first read of "compose post at lunch" was of course "compost lunch." You don't suppose ... nah ...

  • At 8:03 PM, Blogger Tim said…

    No, "compost lunch" happens later in the afternoon . . .


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