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Thinking Out Loud

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Quick Hits >> Masons, Blokus Trigon, Thurn & Taxis

I got out for a little impromptu gaming last night with Jay Moore and his wife, Sarah, who graciously invited me over for dinner and a little gaming. In between talking about kids and games and component manufacturing, we actually got a few games in -- three, to be precise.

Masons: I'm a fan of Leo Colovini games, and after mentioning that I liked Alexandros' quirk of having to open up scoring opportunities on your turn which the other players can take advantage of, several folks recommended I check out Masons. I'm glad I did. I ended up with a fairly strong win, by virtue of some 10-14 point scoring cards early in the game, then two 7+ city scoring cards at 9 pts a pop on the 2nd to last turn. I believe the final spread was 134 - 122 - 101 or something like that.

Bottom Line: 7.5/10. A very nice light game with excellent components. Creates the illusion of needing to plan in advance to take advantage of scoring cards, but with so much changing from turn to turn it's hard to do anything other than optimize your current turn while making adaptable plans for the next. I like the ability for the trailing player to cycle scoring cards, as some cards are far, far less valuable than others and the values change frequently during the game. Should "feel" lighter, but does cause some Analysis Paralysis.

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Blokus Trigon: I was excited to get to play this. It has all the interesting gameplay of original Blokus, but visualing the triangular-based pieces was more challenging for me. I ended up winning by playing out all my pieces, with my smallest piece last for the maximum 20 point bonus.

Bottom Line: 9/10. Trigon is an excellent 3-player variant for Blokus, with stellar production and the same challenging gameplay. Is certainly worth acquiring if you're a fan of Travel Blokus or the original Blokus.

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Thurn und Taxis: We wrapped up the evening with TuT. I liked some of the elements, but overall was disappointed. Perhaps my opinion would improve with additional plays, but I felt that once falling behind, it was nearly impossible to come back. Jay ended up securing a lvl 6 carriage before I had my lvl 5 carriage, so I knew that if he continued at this pace, he'd be able to end the game and it was highly likely that the route I had in play at the time he snagged the lvl 6 carriage would be the last one I could work on in the game -- leading to a bit of frustration knowing that this was it, 3 or 4 turns before the game ended.

It was very close, Jay ended up winning 18-17-14. I had the 17, and could have snuck out the win if any of the 6 face up cards or the top card from the draw matched one of 6 possible path points for my current route, since it would have been 6 long and let me sneak the 2 VP chip for route length. In that regard, a bit disappointing that the planning and execution felt it came down to a lottery. Either the card would be there or it wouldn't. At that point, strategy didn't matter any more.

Bottom Line: 6/10. Sure, it's much better than Ticket to Ride, but that's really not saying much in my opinion. Using Germany as the map kept spatial relations difficult to determine, especially once the board started filling up with houses. Luck still plays a large part -- perhaps determining the outcome. If I need to purge the draw cards to get 1 card I need while the player to my left happens to get 2 cards he needs at a time, until he can play 2 cards at a time, I'm going to suffer. Especially since there is no way to "catch up" in the game. The game discourages falling behind by having everyone coming in late to a region scoring progressively fewer points. One small spell of bad luck early in the game feels like it would result in an unrecoverable position.

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