New Year’s Gaming

Alex and Amy hosted their annual game day on New Year’s Day.  I enjoyed playing A Brief History of the World with Rob, Alex, Zack, and Lawrence.  Everyone was familiar with the earlier version, and so teaching the game was delightfully easy.  The parent game, History of the World takes quite a long time to play, my recollection is hazy, but I think it runs close to 1 hour per player- so a 6 player game runs close to 5-6 hours.  I did not time our game, but I think we played the Brief History version in less than 3 hours.

Shorter is nice, but what is key, is that the game is still full of the interesting parts from the original.  There are two main changes.  The empire selection is now basically foolproofed so that the leader should not ever get a great choice.  (In the original, it was unlikely, but it could still happen.)  In this new version battle has been reworked, and in a very clever way.  I like how it mimics historic stories of a mammoth siege which when the city finally fell the surrounding lands quickly were overwhelmed.  Well done.  I doubt I will ever suggest the old version again.  I feel the new version has kept the best parts of the original, and shortened the game to a point I can actually play it on an evening session.

Rob, Sally, Julie and I then played World Without End.  This is the game based on the sequel to Ken Follet’s best-selling book Pillars of the Earth.  To be clear, Ken Follet is the author of the books, not the games.  The original book is a great read, and one I would easily recommend to anyone interested in the great cathedrals of Europe.  The game Pillars of the Earth is not a bad game, but not a favorite of mine.  Also, while I loved the original book, Pillars of the Earth, I merely liked the sequel, World Without End.  So combined with my ho-hum reaction to the Pillars game, and my ho-hum reaction to the World Without End novel, I had not seriously considered the new World Without End game.

Rob taught us how to play, and with a minimum of fuss, we were soon tracking through the arc of the story.   Briefly, the cathedral is already built.  Wool and cloth sales develop.  The plague comes to town.  An ambitious builder wants to build a bridge, and then later an impressive tower on the cathedral.  (Ken Follet would shudder to see this synopsis.)  Rob and I were the only two players who had read the books, and I think we may have gotten a bit more out of the game’s theme for it.

So how was it?  Good.   Not great, though.  Comparing this game to Pillars is attractive, but ultimately unhelpful,  Pillars had bidding and worker placement mechanics.  World Without End is about resource gathering and management done by card play.  The artwork and theme are tightly related, but the gameplay is not.  I’m glad they are so different, as I had wondered if this second game would just be a reflection of the first.  It is not, and I am more impressed with how this game takes you through the saga of the story.  In this regard I think World Without End is a better game than Pillars of the Earth.  However, I didn’t see enough here to make me want to go buy a copy for my collection.

My final game was a quick game of Through the Desert, played with Zack, Julie and Amy.  I once owned this game, having traded it years ago.  I seem to have trouble coping with too many color inputs.  The whole combination of 4 player colors atop 6 different camel colors turns the board into a sea of color for me.  Through the Desert is a solid strategy game.  But it is one I will never request.  (as an aside, I also dismissed Liberte from my collection for similar reasons.

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