Friday, July 29, 2011

Increasing realism in abstract eurogames, is it really necessary?

In my previous post, I commented that Glen More's wooden cubes leave a bit to be desired.

And Mayday Games has this set of nicer-looking cubes that match the GM resources.

The question I have is: Is it really worth $10 (plus shipping*) to replace the wood cubes in a game I will probably not play as often as I think I'll play it, for an aesthetic benefit that most people won't care about?

The funny afterthought to that question is: In what other games could I use these tokens?
Just to get some use out of the bits of wood, would I replace the BSG civilian ships with cattle? Power Grid uranium with sheep? ;)

Seriously, though, I'm thinking about it. But not until I actually get a chance to play a few times and see how annoying it really is.
(The legitimate argument for replacing Glen More's cubes is actually that they're a bit too small and may be hard to handle/easy to lose)

P.S. They also have this "mega-set" of meeples which would cover all of my eurogame needs for a long time, but I realy know I don't need that.

* side note, I wish I had thought of this sooner, because I just made a big order of Sleeves from them a few weeks ago, which would solve the shipping-cost question.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Glen Less

Last night's "PlayGamesWithJosh" did not happen in its traditional sense.
But my wife was free and wanted to play boardgames with me, so I grabbed up that opportunity.

I have been so excited to try out Glen More since I picked it up, I set it all up and started reviewing the rules.
Now, I am not the best game-explainer, but I started to go over things with her, and.. well, her eyes just glazed over with the complications.
Glen More seems to be one of those games where you can "just start playing and figure things out as you go", but there are still a lot of bits to point out.
Therefore, the game got vetoed before you could say "I sell my sheep".

So we packed that up and put it away. It will be a game for another time.
(Incidentally, the one thing I do want to say about Glen More is that I think I might need to pick up a pack of alternative wooden meeples to represent the resources. It does cause a bit of an immersion problem, not to mention the cubes being a little too small and lose-able).

So, Power Grid came out of the box instead.
We decided to try the Spain/Portugal map, with the basic deck (no promos).
Fairly straightforward.
The special rules for Spain/Portugal are easy to explain:
If you ONLY own cities in Portugal, then you are not allowed to bid on Nuclear Power Plants.

Now, especially in 2-player, this is pretty silly. You don't have to include Portugal as one of the available regions, (not even with 6 players). Granted, it has some cheap connections, but we really only chose Portugal so we could see how it affected the whole game.
But also, by the time you are interested in nuclear power plants, I'm not sure anybody would be exclusively settling in Portugal, except for a particularly nasty cornering scenario with more players. I think this rule really has zero effect.

3 of the mid-range Wind Plants (18, 22, and 27) are removed from the deck, and placed back on top of the deck in order at the start of Step 2

I'm not sure of the justification of this rule, except to slow down access to the bigger nuclear plants in the mid-game when they are most powerful. By this time, these 3 wind plants aren't extremely desirable.

Uranium replenishes zero during Step 1.
Not so much a "special rule", but notable to the other 2 points. It starts out cheap but doesn't replenish during step 1, and replenishes best during step 2.

Overall, I think that even with more players, Spain/Portugal is kind of "meh" and doesn't change enough from the basic map that I'd really be enthusiastic about trying it again.

I really want to try out the Korea map, because it seems to have the most interesting effect on the rules (2 different markets). Maybe next time...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Play Games With Tree!

Last night, "our RPG group" (the local remnants of the Tufts SGS gamers, more-or-less, plus Matt), met at Tree's place for the first time in a few months, to start up another brand new campaign.
Hopefuilly we will be able to gain momentum on this one and actually have a few sessions.

Tree is GMing for the first time, and has chosen the Pathfinder system (similar to D&D 3.5 but with a whole bunch of tweaks).
The further restriction is that we all need to create primary Divine Casters, at level 1 (which means Clerics or Druids). He has a plan.

My character, Mara, is a Dwarf Druid.
She grew up the same way as all D&D Dwarves do; in the mines, training with the racial weapons, learning how to fight goblins and orcs, yada yada yada. Her mom and dad and siblings are all pretty standard dwarves. But, as a "teenager" (in dwarf terms that's more like late 30s/early 40s) she decided to try and "find herself" and commune with nature. And the rest is history.

Last night's session was all character-generation, and a few individual Character Preludes.
If I can glean anything from my own, he tailored a "mini-quest" for each of us which was specifically and directly given to us by our personal deities.
How this is going to draw us together is anybody's guess, especially because I'm kind of a wandering nomad and the only non-cleric (no Knowledge:Religion amongst other things).
But it should be interesting.

After all of this (and Kerri's awesome food, the major perk to gaming at Tree's house!), we played a game of Power Grid.
Man, I still suck at this game :) But it's nice to be able to play with 5 people.
Tree ended up winning with 16 cities, being able to power them all (with 5, the game ends when someone has 15+), I was still catching up.
I think I spent a little too much time in the #1 spot after buying an expensive plant early, which blocked me off from many opportunities. Some day, I'll learn!
I'm not sure if I was dead-last (we didn't play out the endgame) but I was definitely no higher than 4th place...

Hope to have more gaming again soon!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

No, I don't want any toast!

PlayGamesWithJosh was a success, with an actual turnout of 5 this week.
So, no fears of playing Battlestar Galactica with an inefficient number, and that's what we did.

We played with 5 players, Ionian Nebula as the Destination.
The only "house rule" we used was including Scar in the decks (which was moot), and we took the "trauma tokens in a bag" shortcut which involves not putting physical tokens in Sickbay/Brig or on the initial 3 allies (just draw as appropriate; only will cause a problem if a character with no trauma tokens visits an ally).
At the last minute, despite setting aside some Cosmic Encounter UFOs for it, I decided to give up on the similar plan for Civilian Ships; with only 12 of them, maybe it's not such a big deal.

So, on to the show, here's the short version of how it broke down:

Tori (Shaun) (Cylon from the beginning) ->
Starbuck (Matt) ->
Dee (Me) ->
Gaeta (Kevin) (Cylon inherited from Tori) ->
Chief (Max)

I won't bore you with lots of details, partly because I don't remember (I might even get the details I do share wrong) and partly because I don't need to sound like this (even though this is actually a gamer blog):

Tori was a Cylon from her very first Loyalty Card. And Shaun was playing it really well, we trusted him.
Enough so that, when he felt the time was right, he revealed on an XO from Gaeta (damaging Galactica; the peculiar ruling came up where the Current Player got to choose the Pegasus/Galactica ratio of the 5 damage tokens).
I can't even tell you what was going on at the time, to be honest, except that Tori had no Trauma.

At some point which I _think_ was before Sleeper Phase, President Gaeta and I were both in the Brig, not wanting to have a special visit with Ally Number Six, and Gaeta used his OPG followed by Pardoning me on an XO. That was nice.

We were handling things, our dials were blue, our fuel overflowing (2 ticks above starting), and we hit the sleeper phase at exactly distance 4 (something I'm not fond of, but it happens).
At that point, my 2 loyalty cards were "PG: President Brigged or lose 1 food" (not a concern) and "Final Five: If someone looks at your card, you are executed" (a mild concern, but not for long).
Tori passed her loyalty card to Gaeta. Not a big deal, or so we thought.

A little while later, the Crisis failed (we tanked it) which says that nobody can look at Loyalty cards for the rest of the game. Fine. That makes me safe from asploding.

Not long afterwards, I made a stupid move.
I was sitting on the FTL button, but I chose to XO Pradmiral Gaeta to get him to push the button. He said he could take care of some things...
...and that he did.
He played the Quorum Card (sorry I am bad with names) on me which says "roll a die, and either gain the admiral title or lose morale", and I became Admiral, and then _his_ second action was to Reveal (and push the jump track down 2 spaces, I think).

Fast forward a little further, and the end of the story involves Centurions.
We had an incredible number of Heavy Raider activations come up in succession.
Near the end, a pair of Centurions were 3 hops away from "Humans Lose".
I drew a crisis with a Heavy activation, Starbuck OPG'd it, and another Heavy activation showed up.
Then it was Cylon Gaeta's turn, and he activated Heavies. March-march-march.
Then, lo and behold, the Crisis on Tyrol's turn also had a Heavy activation icon, and Cylon Tori's turn was going to be next.
We conceded. :(

So we still haven't actually ever gotten to the Crossroads phase, but the allies indirectly screwed us.
Our few encounters with them weren't that devastating, and most of us didn't even have trauma to speak of.

But poor Starbuck.
Matt was drawing nothing but Negative Trauma, and being the only pilot, had very little time to get on board and shed trauma to the allies.
It all felt a little too random. So we may never try Ionian Nebula again.

Did I also mention that we ran out of raptors? We may have had just 1 left before the Sleeper Phase, or we may have lost all 4 before, it's another hazy memory.
I swear I wasn't drinking, I just have bad retention :)

After the game of Galactica, nobody wanted to take the time to learn the rules of Glen More and have no idea how long that'd take (myself included), so we played a 5-player game of Dominion.
It involved Pirate Ship, which always changes things, but especially with 5 players it was always hitting treasure. Not much for +actions in the supply, the game went relatively slow, and I don't even remember who won (I think it was Matt with 23 points?) The game definitely ended with lots of Provinces left over (and yes I did find the one I thought I lost; sleeved cards are so sticky!) But Dominion is always an interesting game to figure out how to use the 10 cards at your disposal...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Glen More

Glen More has arrived, been unpacked, unboxed, unpunched, insert trashed, reboxed into Really Useful Boxes and back into the original box.

Glen More is a game that Dave and Robyn Tatu showed me at TempleCon, and I liked it despite not understanding some of the rules (like turn order, which is clever but a bit confusing).
Due to the confusion, I'm not really going to go into a review until I have a session (even a 2-player one) under my belt.
But it's one of those tile-laying Euro games, similar to Carcassone but with a bit of resource management.

Why did I pick it up? Well, I thought about it at the time, and found out it was out of print. So it recently had a new printing, and I figured I would snatch up a copy (with my dirty VTES auction money) before I lost my chance.

Hope to try it soon (but tonight's PGWJ is destined for BSG)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

PGWJ Update July 13, 2011

Blogs are still different enough from Circles that I'll continue to update this..
By the way, if you want a G+ invitation, leave a comment here or email me.

Anyway, last night, two enthusiastic humans came over ready to play a game of BSG.
Unfortunately, it just ended up being the 3 of us. Me, Shaun, and Sarah.

I don't need to tell you, 3-player BSG is not worth opening the box for.

I didn't sell 3-player Power Grid very well.
And neither of them had played Dominion before, and seemed more excited about that. It's probably the best-balanced-for-3 game in my collection anyway. Or at least in the top 3. (Don't ask me for a list; I made that number up).

We played 2 games.
The first game was the base-game Suggested Layout. Cellar, Militia, Moat, etc.
Not-too-surprisingly, even trying to hold back, I won that game by a significant margin. I specifically did not coach them through it.

The second game was chosen all-random except Alchemy and Black Market.
From memory, these were the cards in no particular order:
Fortune Teller
Hunting Party
Ghost Ship

Very Nasty indeed!
Not much in the way of +cards/buys/actions, and so many attacks.
It should go without saying that the Curse deck was exhausted.
Fortune Teller followed by Jester was a frustrating sequence, guaranteeing the gift of a Curse. And Jester on its own definitely accelerated the emptying of piles.

The game ended with Shaun as the big winner, something like 21-11-7, after 3 piles had been depleted and maybe 3 Provinces had gotten purchased total.
We were definitely very close to at least one person ending with a negative score.

Dominion is still strong, don't be a Kingdom Hater...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alta Tensão

I'm really starting to like Power Grid.
Over vacation, Talita and I played twice; once with USA and once with Germany.

So I went ahead and spent more of my "gaming fund" on a couple of expansions.

I picked up the "New Power Plants" deck, the Brazil/Spain board, and the China/Korea board. Exponentially increasing the options of how to play.

Talita agreed to try something new out, and we appropriately tried the Brazil board, with the original deck (leaving out the promos).
The difference with the Brazil map is that "biogas" (garbage) is more prevalent; you can't take out any of the garbage plants when taking random ones out for 2 (or 3) players, and the replenishment rate favors garbage especially in Step 3.

In the end, it didn't feel that much different from the base game; not a bad thing, but I think it's one of the milder variations. The China/Korea board definitely seems to challenge the rules more on both sides. Looking forward to trying them at a PGWJ or just a 2 player with T.

Overall, 2-player Power Grid is not bad. The auction phase is bland, and the game usually ends with a money tiebreaker, but it's still fun. I will play 2p PG over the 2p "hacks" of a lot of other games...