This Week's Gaming Goodness
We had a lighter than usual turnout this Tuesday since several of our regulars are on vacation but we still managed to get in plenty of good games.
First up for me was The Downfall of Pompeii. This game is by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, the same guy who gave us Carcassonne. It's a relatively light game about the Roman town that was famously eradicated in 79 A.D. when nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted. The game is played in two parts. In part one, players rush to put as many of their citizens in Pompeii as they can. Then in part two, players rush to pull as many of their citizens out of the city as they can before the lava engulfs the city. The number of citizens you manage to rescue is your score. There's a fair amount of luck to this game. In the first part, moves are heavily dictated by a card draw and in the second part, moves are heavily influenced by a tile draw. Still, in spite of that heavy random factor, I never really felt like I didn't have any interesting decisions to make and I felt like I had enough control over the game to influence my score. There is also a pretty large amount of "Take That!" in this game: with plenty of opportunities to arbitrarily choose one or more pieces belonging to an opponent and toss them into the volcano, never to be seen again. So if you like your games to be purely friendly and sweet then this might not be the game for you. As for me, I quite enjoy a good pagan sacrifice every now and then so I enjoyed this game quite a bit and look forward to playing it again.
Next up was an old classic from the Alea big-box series: Chinatown. Chinatown is a pure negotiation game. Players are investing in businesses and real-estate in New York's Chinatown. On each turn, players receive a randomly selected set of business locations and a random set of buisness tiles which can be placed in those business locations. Each tile has the name of a business and a number denoting how many matching tiles are required to make complete set. Businesses are worth more when built from orthogonally connected sets of matching tiles and worth even more if they are formed from a complete set of tiles. On each turn, after players receive their lots and business tiles there is a round of heavy negotiation where players are free to trade just about anything with one another: business sites, business tiles, and cash. After the dust from the trading settles, players are free to place as many business tiles as they like on their plots. Business are scored, income is generated, and the next round begins. This repeats for several rounds and whoever winds up with the most money wins the game. I enjoyed Chinatown but I can tell it's never going to be one of my favorite games and this particular group perhaps wasn't the best group to play it with. Some in our group tend to be pretty competitive and negotiation rounds seemed to last forever with plenty of heated discussion ensuing. I deliberately played more to get the feel of the game and just to enjoy myself and as a result I lost quite badly. Still, I enjoyed it.
Next up for me was a short game of Sticheln. Nothing is quite so delicious as someone leading high in his "pain suit" and getting punished for it. Unless it's when it happens twice in one night. So much fun from such a simple game.
Finally, four of us stuck around for our traditional closer: Tichu. I could discuss the outcome of this game but I don't really want to dwell on ugly disasters so instead I'll briefly mention the Tichu game we played over lunch that day: my partner and I were down by roughly four hundred points. Our opponents had just barely gone over 900 points. Things looked bleak for our heroes. Then one of our opponents called "Tichu". We barely managed to set him and after several more hard fought hands the final score was 1010 to 990 in our favor! A delightful comeback! Too bad the evening game didn't go nearly so well. I don't want to talk about it.
Come join us next week! We meet every Tuesday night at 5 in Microsoft's building 50 cafeteria.