Archive for January, 2011

1860: Kicked my butt

January 30, 2011

On Saturday four of us played 1860: Railroading on the Isle of Wight.  It was a first play for all four of us.  We gathered at 9:00 a.m. and I knew I needed to depart around 2:00 p.m.  As it turned out I was present for all of the decisions, but missed the endgame conclusion, as I had to get to work.

I have not yet heard the final tallies, but I am sure I was a distant last.  Nevertheless, I loved the game.  I am not sure I can easily characterize this game.  The train rush was present – but Presidents are not on the hook for a replacement engine with their own money.  Instead they get to watch their company be declared Insolvent, and also watch their stock value go plummeting down.

The map is tight, and cruel.  I watched one player basically win the game on the first move of the game.  The Director of the C&N made a bad play, and the IOW director stole the central city market by slapping down a token.  The IOW went on to dominate the early game, while the C&N struggled to ever get much of a reach.  I will certainly watch for this in the future.  Later in the game, I made a Hail Mary pass by starting the S&C -the last company available.  I watched in horror as players sealed of the southern edge of the existing rail network.  I did find one route of some value, but it was clear that I was screwed.

But all this positional stuff was in a rookie game.  So I tell myself that I now know better and will play better now that I have a clue…  Oh and I learned that IWNJ , while centrally located, has a sucky home position.  It is a very low valued station, even when fully promoted.  And 1860 REQUIRES you to always play from your home base on at least one route.  And since the train rush is noticeable, this means the IWNJ is likely to only run from that home token a fair bit of the game.

My initial reaction is that 1860 shows promise.  I look forward to having another go, and hope I might do better.


Age of Reduction

January 26, 2011


At game night this week I played Age of Industry for the second time.  We were four, and it proved popular with all players.  Last time I rated it a strong “good”, but this time I joined with the rest of the players in rating it “excellent”.  Which is to say, we are likely to play more of it.

It is very tempting to compare it to Brass, as it is clearly a refinement of the ideas laid out in Brass.  But I will clearly state that Age of Industry is a different game.

A few thoughts:

  • The game is modular, and I am interested to play on the map of America which has seemingly different challenges built into that scenario due to the differing features on the board.
  • The pace of the game is driven by the players decisions around how many cards they wish to draw.  A player can hasten the end of the game by playing short-handed towards the end.
  • Cards have a hard-to-calculate value.  Early on location cards seem best, as building your network is a slow brick-by-brick process.  In the midgame the specific industry cards seem a bit better, as they give you more flexibility to work within the network you have crafted.  But by endgame, it becomes nearly hopeless to have the right card, so the double “wild” action begins to beckon.
  • Over building your own industries late in the game may be the only viable move unless you have planned better than I managed in our game.
  • Strike when players give you opportunity.  In our game Chester was very opportunistic, while I was very methodical adhering to my development plan.  Chester came in first, I came in fourth.

I am challenged by Age of Industry.  I fear I have some hard lessons ahead of me, and however odd that may sound, it makes me like the game more.  It seems to occupy the same basic game space of Brass, but perhaps it plays a bit faster, and has a few less embellishment to teach.

Brass remains slightly higher in my estimation, but Age of Industry is a worthy game, and I am glad to own it.  I am also pleased it can handle a fifth player, although I have not yet taken advantage of that feature.

Reading Rules

January 23, 2011

I’m not entirely sure why, but I seem to only want to read the rules to a game if I own it.  I understand part of my desire – I really enjoy spreading out the components and manipulating them while reading the rules.  This helps cement the abstract of the rules with the physical of the components.

This past week I amused myself by reading the rules to 1860: Railroading on the Isle of Wight, and then also for Liberté

1860 proved to be an easy read, if a long one.  18xx games have a familiar style of rules, and 1860 did not offer huge variances from the usual oscillation between stock rounds and operating rounds, and of the usual order of operations.  Nevertheless it struck me as an interesting rail game with a vibrant roster of companies, a tight map, and a potential for a very interesting game.  I liked the rules for pacing how the companies open.  Reminiscent of 1825, but perhaps a bit better.

Liberté is a game I have owned before, but one I had not played since 2004.  I did not really love my first and only prior game.  But I was able to re-acquire this game in a recent math trade, and I am interested in trying it again.  In recent years I have come around to be a Martin Wallace fan – at least some of the time.

On a different tangent, I have recently been playing in a RPG.  First time in quite a while.  We are playing Vikings invading England in the days of the Ragnar Brothers.  For amusement I have been showing my fellow players various maps from my boardgames.  The map of Britannia is nice and authoritative.  The map from Fire and Axe is nicely thematic.  And I also showed them the map from Kings and Castles which is one of the old tea towel maps from the modern-day Ragnar Brothers!


January 17, 2011

Rallyman showed up on my doorstep recently.


I played it pretty much immediately with a friend.  And I had a good time too.  I thought I would share my initial reactions, in case anyone who reads this blog might care.

Here is the entry I put up on BGG, along with a “7” rating:

Rallyman arrived in early January 2011, so I promptly got a first play in with a friend that day it arrived.  I was excited to try it, based on the glowing remarks it had garnered from a couple respected geeks here on BGG.

I liked it.  It is an interesting puzzle.  You want to move efficiently, but at the same time you want to minimize your time – which translates to wanting to finish in as high a gear as possible.  Further spice is provided by the randomness of whether you roll a hazard symbol.

But I didn’t love it.  As a 2p game, it was comfortable.  But I could see where waiting for your turn in a 4p game might get tedious.  Also, going later seems like a bit of a ding.  Players who go through the shortcuts before you are bound to throw some dirt onto the curves before you get there.  I think someone who starts fourth has some extra adversity, and might just stay in fourth if the breaks fall normally.

I wish the game had come with 4 sets of dice.  A quibble, passing the dice around is not a big deal,  But I had to remind my opponent every single turn to give me the dice.

So I like it, and I want to play more of it.  I will try the 4p game too.  But I suspect smaller games for 2-3 might be ideal.

That was a week ago, and now I sit here considering if I want to take Rallyman back again tonight.  We might be 2, maybe 3 at the table.  I think Rallyman might work reasonably well with 3.  We’ll see.

It is an attractive game.  You get a moderate sized box, although the cover seems to not fully cover the sides of the box.  Within you find a nice set of dice, four race boards, four little cars, and lots of cards.  The race boards are interesting.  They are geomorphic, but you do not create a continuous circuit.  Instead you lay out a route with a distinct start and stop.  On the back of each board is the exact same layout but with snow and ice on the routes.  You decide what weather you will race in.

The clever bit in this game is the trade-off of moving as many spaces as you can in a turn vs. the desire to end in as high a gear as possible vs. the demands of the corners to gear down.  Each turn, assuming your car is undamaged, you get a potential of 7 moves.  There are 5 black dice, one for each gear.  Each turn you can only use each die once.  Regardless of what you roll on a die, you just move forward one space.  The dice generally have the gear number on each face.  But one or two faces show a hazard symbol.  You must use a sensible progression.  So at the start, you are in neutral, so go could go 1 -2 -3 -4 -5.  Simple eh?

But of course the corners complicate things.  Each corner lists a short route through the corner at a low gear#, and a skidding longer path through the corner at a higher gear number.  If you come in even faster, you will at least lose control of your car, or even crash.  So you really must slow down for the corners.

At the end of a turn you note which gear you last selected.  You take a card for that gear and add it to your “Chrono-Pile” in front of you.  If you ended in 1st gear you will get 50 seconds, 2nd gear is 40 seconds, down to 5th gear where you only get 10 seconds.  At the end of the race, you add up all your time cards.  Whoever did the race in the least amount of time (not turns) will win the race.

On a subsequent turn, you refer to what gear is on top of your Chrono-pile.  If you ended in 4th gear, you start the next turn in 4th gear.  SO now things get a little trickier.  You could roll 4th gear again, but then do you go up to 5th or down to 3rd?  If you picked 5th, you would get a short time card (just 10 seconds) but you couldn’t use the 1-3 gear dice, which means you won’t move that far on the course.

Enter the two white dice – the cruising dice.  Instead of selecting a new gear die, you can roll a white cruising die to continue in your current gear.  So to continue my earlier example…  Starting in 4th gear (from the prior turn) I could choose to roll a while cruising die and move one space.  I could then roll 5th gear, move, then cruise, move, then roll 4th gear (as I had not yet rolled that die on this my second turn) and make a move.  If I really wanted I could then go down through 3rd, 2nd and 1st gears getting three additional spaces.  However, that would mean I would get a painful 50 second card for ending my turn in 1st gear.

Of course, those demanding curves come far too often, and they force you into lower gears and awkward situations.  And we cannot forget those hazard symbols on every die.  If you get three of them in a turn you lose control of your car and end up on the side of the road in neutral, costing you a full minute of time.

There are a few more details, but hopefully this gives you a glimmer of the decision points.  What was unclear to me during our first play was whether taking a longer turn with several moves, but ending in a slow gear was worse or better than taking shorter turns with fewer movements that ended in a high gear.  The trade-off between spaces moved and time accrued seemed hard to judge.

As far as luck – I don’t mind it.  But rolling lots of hazards on the dice will surely ruin some players attitudes.  But the concern I have is the lack of player interaction, and the potential long waits for your turn.  This wasn’t an issue in my 2p game.  But I could see how waiting for 3 other players to optimize their moves might get tedious.

Another fact is that the fourth player will wait a decent amount of time to get started, and the 1st player will wait the same amount of time waiting on others to finish.

So there you have it.  I have some quibbles, but this seems like a nice 2-3 player game.  I like the ‘thinky’ connundrum presented, I like the rally racing theme, and the staggered starts are unique.  On balance I am impressed, but I will miss some of the fun found in fender to fender racing on a circuit; and I am concerned about the downtime I sense is potential.

Out with the Old, In with the Old

January 14, 2011

I have recently completed 11 trades thanks to a holiday “Math Trade” over at BGG.  Here was the shuffle:

Departing the collection:

  • Kreta – I never played that much of it.  I sort of liked it, but it seemed to have a problem with a runaway leader.
  • Command & Colors, with some expansions – I determined this was redundant, and now I will solely concentrate on Memoir for this sort of game.
  • Empire Builder – Not a game I really wanted.
  • British Rails – Ditto, although I had played this one in years gone by.
  • Lord of the Rings Risk – I’m pretty much done with Risk in all its forms.
  • Caylus – Underplayed.  A game I would play if requested.  But I won’t miss it.
  • Titan (AH edition) – I was kidding myself.  A game best left in the past.
  • Amun-Re – Never really got me.  The club may miss this one.
  • Washington’s War – Never played it.  Didn’t see when that might change.
  • Inotaizu (spare copy) – Still have my playing copy though!
  • Die Schatze von Ali Baba – I played it once in 5 years.  It was beautiful and flawed.
  • Teutopolis – The only game of the bunch I might miss a bit.  But I still have Wettstreit.

Coming to Me:

  • Liberte – Revisiting a game I tried once and found annoying.  I’ve come around on liking Wallce’s game more since then.  So I will enjoy giving it another go.
  • 300 The Boardgame – Still sealed.  This may be donated to a prize table.
  • Bean Trader (twice – oops) – We tried this years ago and it didn’t really click for us.  But I never got a second play, and I wanted another try.  The second copy was just foolishness on my part.
  • Take It Easy – Added to my set for 36 to play.
  • Formula De Circuit #33 – This will go over to Rick’s house where the rest of my Formula De stuff lives.
  • Siesta – A game I once owned.  We have been playing a fair bit of this as a filler on Monday nights, and I have come to appreciate it.
  • Jochen der Rochen – Probably slated to go to a prize table.
  • Bargain Hunter – Sealed.  It might also go to a prize table.
  • Hive – This is the older wood edition.  I doubt I play it much, but I will add it to my small game shelf.
  • Seidenstrasse – Looks intriguing.  Reviews are not hopeful.  But I want to try it.
  • 1860 – Railways on the Isle of Wight – The first edition.  I was going to get the reprint.  But the long delay and then the poor component remarks scared me off.  I am pleased to get the 1st edition, even if it doesn’t have the alternate map.

In addition to all that my copy of Rallyman recently arrived.  So its been a busy time of shipping and receiving.  While shipping is sort of expensive, it is a lot cheaper to swap games than to just buy.  Further, this at least doesn’t really add to the game library size.  In fact I did sort of aim on trading down, thinking that would allow my trades to go through, and relieve some of the bulge from my shelves.

multi-player wargames?

January 2, 2011

I played Galactic Emperor twice in the past week or so.  It’s a new game Alex recently got, and I feel like I’ve seen what it has to offer.  I think Galactic Emperor pretty much succeeds at what it tries to do.  It is a relatively fast-playing multi-player wargame.

Each player gets a corner of space which is his, and he cannot ever be thrown out of his home world.  A number of different roles are available, and selected by the players to drive the game (a la Puerto Rico).  These roles bring new planets, needed resources, a market to sell and buy resources at, the ability to build various types of war space ships, and new science (primarily ways to improve your military power). 

In short order Galactic Emperor delivers direct player conflict, as players quickly encounter each other as they spread out on the board.  I think Galactic Emperor succeeds in creating a somewhat variable game filled with lots of smack.  I’m just not so sure I am in the target audience anymore.  Years ago I enjoyed playing Axis & Allies, Shogun and other multi-player wargames.  But GE fell flat for me both times I tried it.  

In our first game I was definitely the weak player, and drew attention from the stronger players, who rightfully suspected I could be pushed around, and they could take my weakly defended planets.  That was not much fun, but I learned my lesson.

In our second game, I minded my knitting and built up a stronger fleet and gradually spread out.  I was playing next to a child, and did not wish to be a jerk, so I largely left him alone.  My right hand opponent, TG, was looking extremely strong, and I was content to let him duke it out with Alex, who had some rough early rounds.

Eventually due to some capricious decisions from the child, and some great battle luck on the part of Alex, my right hand neighbor was overwhelmed and saw his colonies getting divvied up.  And I realized that probably my best play was to also try to chop some of his turf away from him.  But I decided not to.  The idea of adding to a weak players misery wasn’t too appealing, so I instead laid back.  (In fact TG ended up rebuilding, and decided to attack me.)

For me, I guess I am not such a fan of direct smashing of opponents anymore.  Or at least I wasn’t too keen on it these past two weeks.  And I think a chunk of my discomfort stems from the fact that this was a multiplayer game.  I have recently, happily, played some 2p wargames – plenty of smashing there, and no discomfort on my part – that is the whole game to smash your opponent.  But in a multiplayer game, especially one with no elimination, I am not sure I like the idea that the strong should victimize the weak, making their gaming experience unenjoyable.

I am happy to out compete someone in an 18xx game, or a game of Brass, etc.  But this pack mentality in multi-player wargames bothers me.  I’m still processing what I didn’t like about Galactic Emporer.  Years ago I enjoyed playing Rise and Fall, and more recently I have enjoyed Vinci.  These are multi-player games with direct player fighting that do not annoy me.  Both Rise & Fall and Vinci give a player the ability to climb back into the game.  This may be the key difference.

I also like Wallenstein, and Wallenstein definitely features direct player conflict.  But in Wallenstein the conflict is not the point of the game.  It must be considered, but along with feeding your troops, building up your provinces and economic concerns.

Another case is Friedrich.  Friedrich is a fine game, one I wish I could play more of.  3-4 players duke it out constantly.  Why does this work for me, where Galactic Emperor does not?  I’m not sure I have an answer yet.  Hmmm.