Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Another Glorious Game Night

We had a great turn out last night. Almost all the regulars showed up, including my two oldest sons, and we had three tables going for most of the night. Consequently, I'm not going to even try to mention every game played.

Thurn and Taxis, the new Spiel des Jahres winner, was played at least twice last night. Although I wasn't involved in either of those games I did play it over lunch so I got my TnT fix today. The consensus is overwhelmingly positive. Everybody seems to like it very much.

I played a three player game of Blokus Trigon. We used the harder rule set where points must touch points and I do like it just a little better than the more relaxed rule set where it's OK for points to touch sides. This is a very good multi-player abstract. It's arguably a little better than the original Blokus. It was played again late in the evening, this time by four players.

Most of my night was filled with a game of Scepter of Zavandor. This is a very deep, relatively long production style game inspired by the old game Outpost. This was only the second time I'd played the game, the first being well over a year ago. This was the first time I'd played using the new English release by Z-Man games. I like what they've done with the game, adding more explanatory text and improving some of the iconography a bit. (Of course, just having the text in English is a huge improvement. Playing the German version was a bit of a chore for us non-German speakers.) This is one of those games where each little transaction in the game is used to improve your buying power and allow you to build to the next, bigger transaction. If you don't know the strategies (and I don't) then it's very easy to make a misstep early in the game that will ruin your chances in the end game. I came in last in our four player game but I wasn't so far behind third place to feel bad about it. I expected not to do well and was pleased that I did as well as I did. The one flaw in the game, in my opinion, is that there is a very large amount of math involved when taking your turn. During your turn you will spend your magic power (read money) on various things. The problem is that this currency comes in wildly varying denominations and making change is deliberately difficult. It gets even trickier when you have some items that give you discounts on certain things. What is really needed is some way to easily add up your buying power each turn and help you manage all the math. It's almost worth bringing a calculator to the game. Still, it's a fine game and I'm looking forward to playing it again. Now if I can only figure out how to do well at it.

My last game of the evening was Medici, one of Reiner Knizia's classic auction games. This is an excellent game and many in our group just adore it. Personally, I much prefer Knizia's other classic auction game Modern Art but I can understand why this game is so popular. It's a wonderful game but I have two beefs with it: the first is that I have no feel whatsoever as to how much value to place on each auction. I'm sure that just comes with familiarity and if I played it more it wouldn't be a problem. My second beef is with the artwork, which is absolutely atrocious. The designers tried so hard to make a beautiful board but they paid absolutely no attention to function. The scoring track is nearly unreadable. The font used on the cards is so ornate as to be almost unintelligible. But worst of all, the artwork in each of the six scoring areas all uses a similar color scheme so it's impossible to tell at a glance which area corresponds to which card color. There is supposedly a new version of Medici in the making that corrects all of these artistic felonies which I eagerly await.

Also played tonight were Buccaneer, Nexus Ops, Money and Bang! And I'm sure there were other games played as well.


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