Gaming Charity & Recent Games Played

The heart-breaking misery of the poor people of Haiti has inspired some amazing generosity from the gamer-community.  As I write the members at Boardgamegeek have raised over $30,000 in donations to various charities.  I’m participating in my own way.  I created a sale list of 8 of my used games that I would donate all profits to a charity.  Turns out others also wanted to do this, and so several of us have thrown our games on the same list.  My eight games are going for a collective total of just over $400, with a few more days before the auction closes.  The entire list looks like it will generate over $1000 in donations.  I am gratified by the success of the effort.  Perhaps not as selfless, but one of my online game store suppliers, FunAgain Games had a sale last Friday, where all profits were also donated.  So I ordered 4 games from them, which ought to be arriving soon.

This past week had me playing Travel Ingenious (4 times), Endeavor, and God’s Playground.  Ingenious was a diversion while I kept a friend distracted in the waiting room of a hospital.  Great game that is easy to teach.  I bought this copy of the game when recently in NYC.  It was nice to get it into action so quickly, albeit due to a surgery upon a friend’s wife.  (She is recovering nicely, thank goodness.)  Endeavor continues to kick my butt.  I keep getting lost in the swirl of options.  As this is a low luck game, I need to make some basic decisions about what I am trying to accomplish and rigidly hold myself to that strategy.  In some ways Endeavor is starting to remind my of Prices of Florence, in that you need to adopt a strategy and apply it with discipline.

Last night was my first effort at teaching God’s Playground.  I am still impressed, and was very pleased that Chester and Chris both expressed pleasure with the game.  This is not an elegant game.  Tons of phases, lots of chrome, but a very fun romp through Poland’s history.  Since I know nothing about Poland’s history, it seems wonderfully immersive, and any gaps or errors do not trouble me.  It is a gamey game, and a few things are starting to emerge that bother me about the game.  I will tell you my complaints in just a moment.  But I first want to re-stress that this game is hitting a sweet spot.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  But only for serious gamers, who won’t rue spending three hours on a game with significant doses of luck leavened with heavy strategy.

I will not attempt to summarize the rules.  They are long and convoluted.  Fortunately game play is reasonably intuitive, and the rules generally make sense within the great theme.  But there are a couple points that seem too gamey.

1.  Why is the cube pool so tight?  Should a player actually be successful in retaining a good presence of noble cubes on the board, that same player will sometimes find it is impossible to record enough hits on the enemy he is attacking to vanquish them.  You only have 20 cubes per player.  If most cubes are on the board, that means you have, perhaps, such a small number of them to mark “hits” that you may not be able to record all of your hits.

2.  Why is King’s cube pool so tight?  In one of our turns, the King’s army was mighty.  We naturally used him to push back some of the bigger threats to Poland, having him campaign with our baronial forces.  We quickly ran out of King’s cubes, which meant the King’s army ceased to be helpful in our campaign phase.

3.  The Hapsburgs and Ottoman special rules are murky.  We believe we sorted our way through them.  But starting turn 4 with Hapsburg political influence markers on the board, with Hapsburg military forces coming behind them, left us wondering… If a Hapsburg military cube came in contact with a Hapsburg political pawn, would the political pawn depart, (as it would with any other enemy cube)?

4.  I cannot understand how you are supposed to hold on to Little Poland.  The Hapsburg political pawns murder the Polish noble cubes at a prodigious rate.  If you manage to fend them off your reward is either 9 Hapsburg military cubes or 8 Ottoman cubes on the final turn.  So far, both games I’ve played has had Little Poland burned to the ground.  I would hope building estates in any province would be a reasonable decision.

Some complain Martin Wallace games sometimes have needless complexity.  I don’t know.  The # of rules involved in God’s Playground does imbue a certain amount of overhead.  But as we played, I kept going “a- ha” as I constantly saw a move I should have made.  A better understanding of the ramifications of some of the previous game phases would have allowed for a much better decision – allowing a clever move in the later game phase.

This game probably does have a certain “sameness” from session to session.  So far I am loving it.  But I recognize it might be played out.  However, as it is a 3-hour game strictly for 3 players.  I cannot imagine this is a game that will ever get played often enough in such a short amount of time for this niggle to trouble me.

It was interesting to note that while three of us played God’s Playground on Tuesday night, the next table over had 5 gamer’s playing their first rendition of Rise of Empires.  Clearly a Martin Wallace game night at the Bistro.


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