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Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quick Hits >> Attika, Basari and Cloud 9

Got some good three player gaming in tonight with Jorge and Eva. I gave Hacienda another go, which I'll admit is better with three than with five. I won a close game (beating Eva by 1 point... One point!!) but things still feel a bit empy. The final score was 125-134-100...

The best part of the night was getting to try three new games. I recently acquired Attika and Basari via trade, and Jorge & Eva offered up Cloud 9 as a nice, light filler that works well at the local boardgame meetups. Here's how things went.

Basari
Jorge: 104
Eva: 90
Jay: 83

I tried picking roles I felt the others were also picking, to get in on as many trades as possible, rather than trying to pick actions I thought would benefit me the most -- as such, when I guessed wrong, I was left with marginally useful results. On the last two turns, they were able to make some mutually beneficial bribes that catapulted Eva from last place to contention, blowing past me in the process.

Bottom Line: 6.5/10 Nice, light game of guesswork, a bit of bluffing, and trying to figure out what your opponents want. I like the bartering system of escalating bids to bribe another player for the right to use an action. The board, however, is clumsy -- I can now see the attraction to the card decks used in Ein, Stein & Reich, the revisioning of Basari.

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Cloud 9
Jorge: 36
Eva: 58
Jay: 52

Not really much to report on strategy. I made some poor guesses, and threw some dice combinations I didn't have the cards to back up. It's pretty light, even for a filler, but the fun is in the interaction and chit-chat more than the decision making.

Bottom Line: 6.5/10 Harmless, light and fluffy filler fun. A bit of card counting and risk management is all the decision making there is to find in this breezy push your luck game. Quick pace, ultra-easy rules and a light theme work well. Nice, sturdy cards, but the long game board is one of the most horribly warped monstrosities I've ever seen -- with so many pronounced folds and backfolds, it never lays flat, so the scoring markers slide all over the place. The board drops it down half a point from a 7.

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Attika
Jorge: 29
Eva: 26
Jay: 30 (all tiles placed)

Jorge and Eva had played 2 player games online, and quickly grew disenchanted by the overwhelming role of luck in the early game, but were up for giving the three player game a try. I struggled trying to figure out the best placement of tiles to maximize efficiency, but I do think I made some good decisions to go along with my above average luck of the draw. Eva was seriously hampered by having her starting city, Corinth, on the bottom of her "black" pile of chits, while Jorge and I had our starting cities at the top. A very close game, as only the use of two amphorae at the very end gave me the extra actions I needed to win -- with exactly the right number/mix of cards in my hand to build my last building, the silver mine!

Bottom Line: 6/10 I really like the components and feel of the gameplay pacing, but I was taken aback at the huge role of luck. If one player gets their core city as the first draw from their stack of black tiles, they have a huge advantage over someone with that starting city further down the stack. If that can be addressed, I do like the efficiency decisions facing players, and the cascade effect of building structures for free or reduced costs if timed properly. As is, the outcome is determined by the setup of the player's tile stacks more than their decisions. Once you balance the starting tile draws, the rest of the game is quite enjoyable, and would probably hover right around a 7.

5 Comments:

  • I don't think there is as much luck in Attika as you think. Yes, there is some, but the better player will almost always win. Have you read the excellent strategy guide? I had trouble seeing the depth in the game until I read it, and it has become much more enjoyable for me.

    It started as maybe a 6 for me, and has climbed to a 9.

    Here is a link to the guide:
    Attika Strategy Guide

    By Blogger Mark Haberman, at 6:30 AM  

  • Mark -- thanks for the link! I really enjoyed Attika, but I still think there's a bit of luck. Especially after talking about it more post-game with Jorge and Eva and then noodling around on my own with the bits.

    If you're interested to test this theory out, find several players of equal skill. Let one of them start with their main city as the free draw from their black backed stack. Have everyone else start with that city on the bottom of their stack.

    This is an extreme situation, but the enormous advantage gained by placing your main city for very cheap (since so many open spots are available at the start) and the chaining of 6-8 cheap/free builds from that one play is very, very difficult to overcome.

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 11:04 AM  

  • Based on several plays on BSW it seems to me that Attika is quite strategic. There is some luck, but after playing several games you can mitigate a significant amount of bad luck.

    By Blogger Jon, at 5:33 PM  

  • Is there some strategy? Sure. However I think the strategic concepts in Attica are way too easy to grasp. Alan's strategy guide does not say anything that the average player should not be able to figure out on his own after the second game.

    For me, Attika lost its luster after very few games: It's not easy to make trick plays or hide your intentions. IMO, the game just doesn't give the players enough tools to play with. There are just not enough tough decisions for my liking. To tell you the truth, Basari felt meatier to me.

    Add some 'Kill Dr Lucky syndrome', and games that can be decided many turns before the game is actually over, and you get a game I just don't like very much, just like St Petersburg. Give me El Grande or Traumfabrik any day.

    By Blogger hibikir, at 1:07 PM  

  • As a player of 80+ games of Attika, let me tell you, drawing your capital intially sucks. A chump that lays down Athens/Sparta/whatever at the start will find it quickly surrounded. It's almost as bad as drawing your Harbor.

    By Blogger Ryan Walberg, at 7:12 AM  

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