Sunday, August 24, 2014

Interlude: Board Gaming

A good friend from college was/is holding a board gaming event this weekend, ytand was so kind as to invite me!  So a substantial portion of yesterday was spent playing new games.  The following are not exactly reviews and not exactly after-action-reports.

King of Tokyo: Fast and fairly straightforward; timing is the interesting part here I think.

Colosseum: Specialized in lions, which nobody else wanted, and then pulled the emperor and consuls into my final and largest show.  Even with all that, won
narrowly by stealing the soldier specialization in the last trading phase; thanks Emily!  I had fun even though I was behind most of the game.

Flashpoint: This game was like the last (and best) ten minute of every game of Dwarf Fortress, where everything's on fire and you're trying to save your legendary cheesemaker not because it really matters but because it's fun.  But with friends!  A+ would die in a collapsing burning house again.

Diamonds: A trick-taking game with lots of little fiddly bits and weird stuff going on.  Not really a fan of trick-taking games to start with, and the additions didn't do anything for me.  Meh.

Seven Wonders: Had never played before, while some members of group had logged over one hundred games.  Still, got set up with a simple wonder and Queen Tomyris (who reflects military defeats), and just sort of built a pile of resources and score-buildings.  Ended up in the middle of the pack score-wise, though I did have an advisor.  Was fun, though not a very sociable game as we played it; maybe I was just too busy to talk.

Sentinel Tactics: Mistakes were made.  My first instinct is to say that we made the classical mistake we make every time we teach a new wargame - give each new player a very small force.  As a consequence, when that force gets shat on, people are bored and/or frustrated and have no other units to command.  Yes, units come back up at end of turn in this particular game, but the frustration remains (unaided by the fact that I for one was very hungry by this point in the evening).  I suspect that the game was designed primarily for 1v1 rather than one hero per player.  Likewise, dividing a force between more players tends to reduce the ability of the units on the field to operate in concert, which grants more experienced players with more units under their individual command an even larger advantage than playing against a single inexperienced opponent might.  Unfortunately, our one experienced player seemed substantially more interested in winning than teaching, and dealt more damage on turn two alone than we dealt during the entire game.  Finally, I suspect that we were not exactly running balanced forces.  All three members of Team Evil had three actions per turn and some very nasty abilities, while all three members of Team Good had two actions per round and some decent but rather less spectacular abilities.  I suspect three good vs two evil might've been a better matchup, but maybe we were just bad.  In any case, not necessarily a poorly-designed system, but a less-than-stellar playthrough.

Arabian Nights: I did not expect this one to be fun, and by all rights it shouldn't've been, but it was.  It is a sort of storytelling game, with an enormous book full of pick-your-own-adventure tables.  Our hapless heroes wandered around the Arab world suffering mainly misadventures.  I got some pretty bad randomness, and at one point was Insane, Accursed, Ensorcelled, and Wounded all at once, which left me with little-to-no control over my actions and without the benefit of most of my skills.  As a result, Ali Baba spent most of the game wandering around the interior of Africa in a daze instead of sailing to Madagascar, there to fight a monster, as was his quest.  When I finally did make it to Madagascar, I was sucked back to Africa by a whirlpool before I could fight the monster, and when I made it back to Madagascar again I was imprisoned for fighting some dervishes (and then we called the game for the evening, since two of the other players had basically 'won' by this point).  I suspect that my skill selection was lousy; I don't think I ever heard a Quick Thinking test called, I only recall Weapon Use caming up twice (and one of those was the dervishes, where I still basically lost), and Stealth and Stealing came up a few times but not for me.  I suspect Seafaring, Wilderness Lore, Wisdom, Piety, Appearance, or Courtly Graces would've seen me in better stead, but by Allah I was out to kill that monster and had no way of knowing beforehand that my skill choices were not great for anything else.  And yet, for all that, the game was still fairly entertaining.  I suspect it would work better with three players than five, in part because other peoples' late-game turns started to get pretty long sometimes, but it wasn't bad.

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