Game Recap 9/9/05
Jorge, Eva, Jay
Game called on account of Chester...
I got there before Chester, and based on the general BGG consensus that San Marco is a good 3 player game, we set it up for Jorge, Eva and me while we waited. We only got about 1/2 through the game before Chester arrived, and we called it there. But it was more than enough to get the real feel for how the game would play out, if not the nuances and strategies. I was really impressed with what I saw, and enjoy the "I cut, you choose" dynamic, which makes for some really interesting decisions -- which can sometimes beautifullly backfire!
My initial reaction is very favorable, and I could see San Marco becoming a popular area control game and settling in around an 8.0 or so in my ratings.
I've become quite fond of Beowulf, with its slight push your luck elements and interesting hand management decisions. I also like dropping out and "drafting" your rewards/penalties, which feels a bit like For Sale, and has drawn several comparisons to Taj Mahal. I was very surprised by the end results, as I had pretty solid luck when drawing for Risks and drew better than average alliance tokens. I thought I was close to the lead, despite having a wound at the end of the game, and was quite surpised to be not a close second, but actually 3rd.
Now with 3 games played, I do see some issues with the Risk element for drawing cards. It's too good an option, and can wreak havoc over the course of the game -- the game is too short to really have the luck of the draw balance out, and someone hurt by one poor Risk can be seriously impaired, while another one draws well, benefiting in the current episode as well as the next episode (by virtue of card conservation).
That said, the game is quick enough that it's not overly annoying, though I think there should be some sort of limit to the maximum number of times you can Risk, either in an Episode or overall in the game. Perhaps you start with 5 VPs or so, and each time you risk, you lose one of the VPs -- then there's something far more tangible to balance it against.
Current Rating: 7.0 ... Unchanged after three plays. I think it's found its spot. A fun game, with a few blemishes.
Tower of Babel
Despite being soundly trounced, I still really like Tower of Babel. While it seems like a mish mash of Knizia game elements at first, they work together surprisingly well. I made two poor decisions, where I tried to build things and the offered bids weren't enough to allow me to complete projects, essentially giving the other players points while I got nothing -- the first examples I've seen in the game where passing was advantageous.
It was an odd quirk that I noted I never even had the option of attempting to finish off a wonder until the game was nearly over -- while Chester was able to finish off the 2nd wonder, drew the special card giving him and extra action, then used it immediately to finish off the next wonder, as well -- giving him a very strong advantage. When I finally did get to complete a wonder and draw a special card, it was a useless card, as it was literally impossible to play by the end of the game (earn 3x value if your bid isn't selected -- when I had only 2 color cards in my hands, and I knew those wouldn't be selected based on the endgame situation).
So, after a few plays, my only real beef is the huge discrepancy in utility of the special cards. I think a Draw X and Pick 1 option would be better, as it's too easy to get stuck with a real stinker, while someone else draws an enormously powerful card for exactly the right situation.
Current Rating: 7.5 (up from 7.0) While the quirk of special cards bothers me, my rating improved oh-so-slightly based on a better understanding of the value of different action, and seeing how things fit together more.... and the fact that I can see this appealing to a broader range of gamers than most games I've played recently.
Tigris & Euphrates
To end the evening, Chester wanted to play something he was familiar with, and I wanted somethign that played in under and hour. Well, Chester got what he wanted! :) It ended up clocking in at an hour and a half, but was still a lot of fun. Yes, you heard me right -- I had fun playing Tigris & Euphrates for the first time ever!
First, Jorge and Chester had the right mindset, as Eva and I are still learning the game -- while I know mechanically how the game "functions" the strategies and domino-effects of triggering conflicts still elude me. So we were able to solicit feedback, take back some turns that didn't trigger the events we thought they would, and so on. Very much a learning process for me.
I was hammered down very early on, losing literally every conflict I was involved in (as attacker and defender) giving Jorge and Chester some significant points early in the game. My main quibble with T&E (aside from evaluation of actions) is how it can easily be a player's best move to completely crush an already weakened player -- kicking the dog and further distancing (and frustrating) a player who is already taking it in the pants. And taking it in the pants repeatendly for an hour and a half generally isn't much fun.
Ah, but the last turn of the game was what made it all for me. I had tried to plan ahead and map out a turn to turn my pathetic 3 points in blue and 4 points in black into something competitive. I placed a tile and triggered external conflict, drawing suspicion and questions of "are you sure you want to do that?" as earlier in the game. But my planning was correct, and I was able to win both of the conflicts involved, gaining crucial points in blue and black, as well as securing a treasure cube and ending the game.
Despite coming in third, my last turn improved my score dramatically, and had just a single conflict gone my way earlier, or a single tile placement been made better, I could have had a legitimate shot at the game. Regardless, I did pretty well for how badly pummeled I was earlier in the game.
Current Rating: 7 (from 6.5) Another slight increase, as another puzzle piece fell into place. I can definitely appreciate why some people enjoy the game so much, but a good deal of strategy, planning and anticipation elude me -- and I'm not sure how to get over that barrier.