Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pod People - The Games

In a previous post, Pod People, I gave you some of the highlights of my trip to Santa Clarita in January. Now I want to take a minute to give you my impressions of some of the games I played.

Tsuro

This was my first time to play Tsuro... I'd heard nice things about it, but I hadn't given it a try. At it's heart, it's a simpler, quicker cousin to Metro/Iron Horse. It'll be easier to teach & and to rope non-gamers into - and it plays with up to 8 players. All is good here...

...except for the goofy Dragon tile rule, which none of us could make heads or tails of. Once I get that figured out, I'd like to own a copy of the game.

Ark

Ark was one of my Christmas presents, and I'd had a great time playing one game with my wife & family. So, I volunteered to teach Dave, Erin & Nikki (sp?). We made it through 3-4 rounds of turns before Ryan "Rain On Fluff Daddy's Pitiful Parade" Wheeler walked in and asked what we were doing.

Seems I'd managed to blow a key rule: you get to draw cards OR play, not both. (BTW, the game works my wrong way... sigh.) I think I blew another rule... but I don't remember what it was. (Yes, when I can finally update my website sometime later this spring, it'll go on the
Lost & Found rules page.)

Jenseit von Thebes

All the positive buzz about Jenseit von Thebes had me intriguied... the first printing sold out in 2004, the second printing sold out in 2005, it's hard to find and well-thought-of by a number of folks I like (Mark Johnson, Joe Huber, etc.)

And I was not disappointed. This is an exploration/archaeology game that manages to have enough decisions to feel some control while enough luck to really feel like an exploration game. I thoroughly enjoyed the four player game we played - of course, it didn't hurt that I won.

The one glitch in our game is that the exhibitions came out at weird times - 7 of them in the first year (3 before any of us could gather artifacts) and 1 in the last year (that came too late for any of us to attend). On playing again, I would probably use some kind of variant that kept the exhibitions out of the top of the deck. (Ryan Davis suggested 3 cards per player, which seems about right... maybe 4.)

Now, my hope & dream is that a game company like Goldsieber decides to pick this one up and give it the "Goldland" treatment... imagine it! 5 bags with chunky round tiles for each of the dig sites, a Franz V. board, archaeologist pawns, better art & better quality cards... sigh. I'd buy a copy in a heartbeat.

Akaba

One of Braeden's Christmas presents was the Haba game, Akaba - and I got to play it twice this last weekend. Both times there was lots of hooting & hollering... this game manages to be great fun for adults & kids.

For those who haven't seen it, Akaba is a race/memory game... but the way you move your flying carpet pieces is with puffs of air from a squeeze bulb. Nifty!

Zahltag

This was the "discovery" of the weekend for me, as I had the opportunity to play this with Dave Arnott & Mark Johnson on Saturday afternoon. It's a very different kind of bidding game (you're actually lowballing rather than "winning" a bid) and there are some tricky ways to manipulate the labor market. Zahltag is fast (30 minutes or so) and a lot of fun.

I did really lousy at it, but I enjoyed it immensely. If anyone wants to get rid of a copy, I'm looking for it!

Reef Encounter

I have since played Reef Encounter a 2nd time, but it's important to note my initial impression... I felt like I was manipulating bits rather than immersed in a game. After a second playing, I can "see" the game better, but I'm not sure I'm going to like it any more because of that.

Trump Tricks Game!

Yet another trick-taking game, saved only by the fact that I played it with Dave & Mark. Otherwise, just more of the same. (I'd rather be playing Victory & Honor or Control Nut.)v

Route 66

After the insanely lukewarm reception this game got with the Fresno Gamers, I brought it out with trepdiation... but Dave & Mark (and I!) enjoyed ourselves immensely. It's a "take that" game with an odd race design - you want to get from Chicago to L.A. as fast as possible, then take your sweet time on the return trip (you get credit for sightseeing). I think it's a great "once a year" game from Wolfgang Riedesser, who is a designing hero of mine.

Hochst Verdachtig

Dave drove me back to Fresno and got a quickie introduction to the joys of kid gaming. First up was this game of detectives chasing a crook, powered by a tilting board. As usual, the Haba bits are scrumptious and the gameplay is good. This could be played without the random elements (die roll for number of moves, varied values on the victory point cards) but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Rein Damit

We also played Haba's Rein Damit (which is NOT actually a cuss word!) - it's a game about feeding the animals in the zoo that uses the same basic mechanism as Bounce It In. Take a ball and bounce it into the grid at the spot you need. I like this one enough that we have enlarged copies of the artwork on the walls of our nursery.

Louis XIV

I'm sure it's better with more players (we played with 2) but I didn't find Louis XIV particularly compelling. It's Alladin's Dragons with some added depth. Since I'm not a big fan of AD, I didn't fall deeply in love with this one, either.

Africa

One of my favorite exploration games - it's great with 2 players!

Fjords

I've come to realize that I like Fjords for the same reason I like Carcassonne - I like building the board with tiles AND I can "see" the game really well. That translates into great fun for me. Fjords is shorter, but with less variety than Carc.

Kardinal & Konig: Das Duell

A two player variant for Web of Power created by Michael Schacht, I think it works like a charm, though it works best with 2 experienced players.

Kayanak

Any game where you poke holes through paper "ice" in order to fish for ball bearings with a magnet is time well spent in my book.

Industrial Waste (x2)

Two games of two player Industrial Waste convinced both Dave & I that the game is broken with 2 players... while the system works, there is no way to come back when you fall behind.

1 comment:

Joe Huber said...

Mark,

* I wouldn't hope for Goldsieber doing a spiffy presentation these days. The Noris influence is clear in their current line. Now, a Days of Wonder presentation...

* Agreed entirely on Akaba - it's a great little game, whether playing with only adults or with kids.

* You're ~6 months late on Zahltag - my last spare wandered off around that time.

* Trump, Tricks, Game - agreed, though I want to give it another play.

* You should definitely try Louis XIV again (in, say, 12 days for instance). There is an enjoyable game there - and one that doesn't remind me in the least of Alladin's Dragons.

Joe