Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This thing all things devours:

Birds, beasts, trees flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

Last night was game night and I played not one, but two games which directly relate to Gollum's riddle.

But not the first one. My first game of the night was Kingsburg. I played this a couple of weeks ago and was glad to play it again. It's definitely got a random element, what with all of those dice, but everybody gets enough rolls to mostly balance things out and I really like how those who roll the worst on a turn get to go first. That mechanism alone takes a lot of the sting out of a bad roll. But still, don't play if you don't like dice. We played with four last night and I think that's about right. It does seem to be a little long for what it is though. Still, I enjoyed it and I'll be happy to play it again. Oh. And I won. That was nice too.

Next I played Khronos. Now this one definitely fits the riddle. It had been a while since I'd brought this one in so I was happy to get it to the table again. I think the idea of having actions rippling through the time-line is extremely clever and makes for a very interesting game. It's not without its flaws though. For one thing, it tends to encourage analysis paralysis. Also, a player who manages to get a large building and then parlay that into a large domain early in the game can become nearly unstoppable. Last night Jason and I were battling over early control of the Age of Might when Adam (may his name ever be cursed) decided that he didn't have anything better to do on his turn but to tip the scale in Jason's favor just before I could seize control. I never completely recovered from the setback and had to settle for second place in a four player game. I'm just happy that I was able to switch gears and gain supremacy in the Age of Faith to partially make up for it. I'm still not sure how I managed to pull that off.

My final game of the night was a new one for me. Chrononauts is a light card game by the folks at Looney Labs. It's been around for quite a while but I'd never played it before tonight. If you've played Fluxx before, then you will have some idea of what Chrononauts is like. It's got a similar draw one, play one mechanic and, like Fluxx, there are cards you play in front of you and other cards which can have some pretty crazy (unbalancing) effects. It's extremely random but there are times when that's not so bad. Here's how the game works. There is a time-line made up of cards which list pivotal historical events that occurred over the last century or so. Playing certain cards can make it so that some of the events on the time-line never occurred (flip cards in the time-line) which in turn creates paradoxes later in the time-line. For example, if the Archduke Ferdinand is never assassinated then World War I wouldn't have happened and that will create paradoxes in the time-line. Players then can play cards that patch the paradoxes. Each player has a pair of goal cards. One lists a set of items, the other lists a set of events on the time-line. If you manage to configure the time-line to match your events or if you manage to collect the right set of items then you win the game. Did I mention that it's very random? Its major redeeming qualities are that it's very easy to teach and easy to play, it comes in a small, portable package (a large deck of cards) and the flavor text on the cards can be very entertaining. It's a fine game for what it is. But don't expect a strategic masterpiece here. We enjoyed it but I can't see us playing it frequently.

Other games played included Imperial and Cold War: CIA vs. KGB.


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