Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Year - New Games

Finally! Another post! I'll bet you were beginning to worry.

Last night was my first game night of 2008. It was a good one. I stayed way too late and we had a ton of new games to play this time.

When I arrived, Kai and the Seattle crew were halfway through a game of Martin Wallace's Brass (they came early to get a jump on it). Not surprisingly, we haven't got this game in the store just yet (it's not widely available in the states) but it's coming soon. I haven't played it myself but everyone in our group who has played it loves it.

My first game of the night was Felix: Cat in the Sack. I've played it several times now and it's a fantastic little filler. I've talked about this enough recently so I think I'll just leave it at that for now.

Next I played an old classic: Modern Art. This is the auction game to beat all auction games. In this game players put paintings up for auction using just about every form of auction known to man. There are four rounds and at the end of each round the paintings are ranked based upon how many of each type were auctioned off that round and their ranking determines how much they are worth at the end of the round. The more paintings of a given type are auctioned off, the more those paintings will be worth at the end of the round. This makes for a fantastic game where players can be just as successful by running auctions as they can for buying paintings. In fact, I came in second and hardly bought any paintings at all; rather I was consistently able to auction off paintings that I knew would go for a lot of money. If you've never played this game you really should. It's one of the best. Be warned though, the component quality is rather chincey. Don't let that turn you off though. The components are plenty good enough to enjoy the game.

Next up for me: Richard Breese's new game Key Harvest. Richard Breese is one of my very favorite game designers. He's done some of my favorite games such as Reef Encounter and Keythedral. One of the things that impresses me the most about Richard is that he's a self-made successful game designer. His early games were all self published and he's managed to make that work for him. That's very unusual for this business. It helps that all of his games are consistently excellent. This was the first time I'd played Key Harvest and I got creamed. I was particularly worried when after more than an hour I clearly had no hope of catching the leader and it looked as if the game wasn't even close to finishing. That was due to the fact that we had drawn an unusually low number of event tiles up to that point. Thankfully, it didn't take long for that anomaly to correct itself and we drew several event tiles in quick succession to finally end the game. My first impressions of this game are favorable but I didn't care for it as much as some of his other games. I suspect that getting my butt kicked had something to do with that. *grin* The artwork is (as usual for his games) wonderful and the mechanics are sound but I think the game went a little long. Now that I know how to play, I'll have to play it again once or twice before forming a real opinion.

Meanwhile, the Brass players moved on to play Hamburgum. This is another game by Mac Gerids, who I like to refer to as "that rondel guy" because all of his games feature a rondel mechanism. A rondel is a circular action chart. Each player has a marker on the rondel and they are allowed to move that marker up to a certain number of spaces clockwise around the rondel. Whatever space they choose to land on dictates the action they can take on their turn. In this way, you get some control over which actions you take but your choices are limited based upon your previous action. You may skip over action A to race to action B but that means that you won't be able to take action A until you've first done a few other things. It's a great mechanic which has been a wonderful success in Mac's other games: Antike and Imperial. Our guys liked Hamburgum enough that they played it twice in a row last night so that says something.

Another new game that I didn't get to play last night is Kingsburg. I didn't get a chance to get a good look at this one but I did walk over and take a brief look at the bits which were very attractive. Lots of dice are involved which might be a turnoff for some but the guys on the Geek seem to think pretty highly of it as it currently has a 7.6 rating. I didn't get a chance to learn what our guys thought of it but it looked pretty good to me. I'm looking forward to giving this one a try.

My next game was a quick game of Chateau Roquefort. This is technically a kids' game from the wonderful folks at Zoch. In this game, players control a set of four mice who scurry across the roof of a castle looking for cheese. The danger is that the castle is a little rickety and there's a very good chance that one of your mice just might fall through the roof into the dungeons below, never to be seen again. The game is played on a wonderful 3D playing area that uses the bottom of the box to represent the castle and the dungeons beneath. The playing surface is made up of a layer of sliding cardboard tiles (very much like the tiles in aMAZEing Labyrinth if you're familiar with that game) overlaid with a cardboard grille that has holes in it which reveal only some of the tiles beneath. On top of that is a layer of cardboard rectangles which represent the roof of the chateau and cover up the playing surface. Players have four actions on each turn with which they can uncover sections of the roof, move their mice onto one space or another, and/or shift the tiles under the grid. If they manage to get two of their mice onto spaces that show the same type of cheese (there are seven) then they collect a cheese in that type. Be the first to collect four different types of cheese and you win the game. But some of the tiles have holes in them and if you're unlucky enough to have a hole slide under one of your mice then that mouse is out of the game. It's a very fun game that appeals to both kids and adults. And the bits are to die for.

My closer for the evening was one of the games in the new collection: Mü and Lots More. Mü is my very favorite trick-taking card game and I was pretty excited when I heard that Amigo and Rio Grande Games were putting out a brand new compilation of trick taking games centered around Mü. We played Njet, which is a rather unique changing partnership trick-taking game where players first determine trump, supertrump, teams and so on via a process of elimination. The way that works is there is a chart listing all of the different possibilities and players take turns covering up (and thereby eliminating) options until only one option in each category remains. The remaining options are the trump, starting player, etc. for that hand. I thought it was a very good game and it played very well with three players. It's not as good as Mü but then that shouldn't surprise anybody since I have yet to find another trick taking game that is. (Yes, I think it's better than Bridge, and yes, I know that many will disagree with me but I'm entitled to my opinion.) My hope for Mü and Lots More was that at least one of the other three games included in the box would be good enough to justify buying this larger, more expensive version of Mü in preference to the older collection: Mü & More. I think Njet is good enough to justify the extra cost, but perhaps only just barely. I haven't played the other two games (Was Sticht and Meinz) yet but I'm looking forward to trying them. I'll post a full review once I've tried them all.

Well I think I've gone on long enough for today. We've got lots of new games to try over the next few weeks so I'm looking forward to giving them all a try. If you're in the neighborhood, come try them with us! We meet in the Microsoft building 50 cafeteria every Tuesday night at 5pm.


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