Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mission: Game Night

Once again I arrived a little late. It seems like every time I'm just about to leave for game night someone pops into my office or something comes up and causes me to fall behind schedule. Argh! But I finally arrived and the turnout was pretty good last night.

My first game of the night was Mission: Red Planet, a game from Asmodée games by the two Brunos: Bruno Cathala and Bruno Fiadutti. This is a majority control game where players try to have a majority of astronauts (which, in this game at least, look like little colored vitamin pills) in different areas on Mars. There are two twists to the game that make it interesting. First, astronauts aren't placed directly on the planet, instead they're loaded into space ships which must fill up before embarking to their destinations. This creates a bit of a time delay that allows other players to react to some of your declared intentions before they actually take effect. The second twist is that astronauts are placed using a role selection mechanic similar to Citadels. Some roles let you place a lot of astronauts, others let you place only one but give you other special abilities such as changing a ship's destination, moving astronauts that have already landed on the planet, or destroying a ship entirely. There are also a number of elements that introduce a fair amount of randomness. I enjoyed the game quite a bit but it's not likely to become one of my very favorites. I'll definitely play it again.

Next I finally got in my game of Shogun. You may remember that last week I was annoyed that Shogun was started without me. Well this week I made it very clear that I wanted to play and I got my wish. There were four of us and (except for one player who was very new to the game) the final scores were all very tight. Shogun is a remake of Wallenstein. This time the theme is warlords fighting for dominance in 16th century Japan. There are a couple of minor rules changes which I think improve the game (particularly the auction at the beginning of each season for special abilities and turn order) and of course the map is quite different. In fact, it's the different map which really makes Shogun a different game from Wallenstein. The topography of the map (no matter which of the two sides you choose) is significantly different from the German map in Wallenstein. Wallenstein's map is relatively square but Shogun's map is long and thin. This stretched topography means that it is easier for two players to grab the provinces at either end of the map and seal them off behind a wall of defenses. That can give a pretty strong advantage and indeed that's what happened in our game. I had one side of the map and Jason had the other, with Mike and Kai left to duke it out in the middle. In spite of the fact that Mike and Kai agreed to a truce early in the game so they could concentrate on battling Jason and me, our strongly fortified positions did seem to lead to a slight advantage and he and I ended up in first and second place respectively. But it was close enough that it could easily have gone the other way so I'm not sure that the topography significantly unbalances the game. There may very well be good ways to mitigate the slight advantage.

Wrapping up the night for me was yet another game of Tichu. Mike and I squared off against Kai and Curt. In spite of getting some truly awful hands and losing a couple of tichu calls, Mike and I managed to eek out a win.

Other games played tonight included On the Underground and a new game prototype that Christopher is working on.


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