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Thinking Out Loud

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gaming Bits & Settlers of Candamir

Got some good three player gaming in last night with Chris and Justin. Three is such an awkward number to game with. Some games simply don't work well with three players, as it either invariably comes down to two-on-one, or is lopsided enough that a moderate lead can be insurmountable. So we tried a few different games out with three, and overall, I was very pleased.

I showed up a bit earlier than Justin, so Chris and I played a game of Harry's Grand Slam Baseball. I'm simply amazed at how incredibly fun this quick card game is. It's lighter than light, but there's just enough hand management and some built in tension, not to mention the great treatment of the original 60s game -- well, Harry's Grand Slam Baseball is far more than the sum of its parts. Kudos to Out of the Box for keeping the original design and artwork but adding a few modern wrinkles that mesh well (the storage tin, diamond and scoreboard).

Next up was Candamir: The First Settlers, which was largely disappointing (see below). That was followed by Can't Stop (Sid Sackson), San Marco (Alan Moon/Aaron Weissblum) and Oasis (also Alan Moon/Aaron Weissblum). My opinion of Can't Stop went up a notch, and I was amazed how incredibly different the feel is face to face after 20+ playings on BrettSpieleWelt.

San Marco and Oasis are both odd ducks. I really, really like them conceptually. I really, really like the production quality and decisions generated. But both games can be incredibly frustrating -- it feels you can be done in by luck of the draw (yours or your opponents') with little room to maneuver or fight back. But thankfully both games are quick enough (45 minutes with 3 players) that it doesn't irk me as much as it would in a longer game.

Oddly, Justin won San Marco running away, but seemed to feel (from what I can tell) that his decisions had less to do with him winning than luck of the draw and selection position. Chris won Oasis running away and I think he felt pretty much the same about that -- getting to pick first when another player's offer was the maximum possible score at that time, etc. I rate both games considerably higher than either of them (both solid 8s for me, in the 5-6 range for them).

Despite these odd sessions, I still think they are both excellent games. I'd still only recommend playing San Marco with three, but I really want to try Oasis with four to see if it opens up the gameplay experience a bit more. I'll have to mull them over a bit more before commenting further.

Candamir: The First Settlers (Mayfair Games/Klaus Teuber)

I picked up Candamir for 50% off at a local hobby shop, which seemed like a real steal considering the nice production quality, and the comments that sounded like Candamir shared some of the adventure nuance and flavor of Starfarers of Catan (which is by far my favorite Catan game). After skimming the rules, I felt I had a pretty good handle on the game, but went to http://www.profeasy.com/ to run through the online tutorial. Let me say that (despite a few interface quirks) the profeasy.com tutorials are incredibly well conceived -- after running through the 10-15 minute tutorial, you know everything you need to know about the game.

Unfortunately, while the tutorial only took 10-15 minutes and captured everything there was to know about the game, the actual game took just over an hour and a half, but featured very little beyond what the tutorial showed. There are some interesting mechanics and features (such as using a deck of cards to show how your character can move along the board and what he might encounter in the wilderness), but overall it drags on and on.

It felt about 30-40 minutes too long for the experience it provided, which is too bad. It was vaguely reminiscent of Starfarers, but lacked the cleaner production and integration of the adventure elements. It also felt like there was very, very little interaction between players, as aside from the nominal trade phase, you don't really compete. And with three players, there's very little incentive to trade.

Bottom Line: 5.5/10 -- I think Candamir's failure is in trying to accomplish too much. The game is easy to get into and seems to offer a lot of potential, but quickly becomes repetitive and drags on at the end, as players need to move farther and farther, taking longer and longer, to accomplish their goals. That said, I do like the adventure concept, as characters develop, earn experience, provide for the needs of the villagers, explore and do other adventure-y things. It's just too darn long. I think I'd play it once or twice with my nephew, but can't see ever playing this again with more sophisticated gamers.


  • I enjoy Oasis, but find it just doesn't get as much interest in our family group as many other games we have. It's been quite a while since we played it.

    By Blogger Gerald McD, at 4:43 PM  

  • I, too, really like Oasis but I've yet to find the desire to try it with only 3 players. Doesn't the choosing of offers lose something with 3?

    By Blogger sodaklady, at 5:35 PM  

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