Once again I ventured to Lahti and Peter Munter’s board game weekend. After all, I had to go and rescue my sleeping bag I had forgotten there last time. For the record, it didn’t survive: Munter’s dog (a huge Great Dane, and I’m not talking about Mik Svellov now) had eaten it’s storage bag. Munter, being the generous guy he is, made it all up to me.
Because there’s no way to sleep properly at the event, I decided to skip Friday and head to Lahti early on Saturday. It was a wise decision. I met Tommy and Reko at Lahti railroad station, as they were paying a visit to Munter’s game store Puolenkuun pelit to benefit from the board game weekend sale.
When we got back to Munter’s, we dove into Neuland. I’ve been thinking about the game a lot since I last played it, and it was good to get another go. Now I knew what to do from the start. Reko didn’t, and got into lots of trouble at one point. He struggled on valiantly and in the end tied the second place with me as Tommy scored the victory.
My loss was caused by underestimation of the value of the weaponsmith (many major advances in the end require weapons) and one tactical blunder; I should’ve occupied a weaver, but I didn’t. That one move probably cost me the game, had I any chance of winning. Nonetheless, it was fun. Neuland is a good game and I really would like to have it. It’s not even that hard, after all. Sure, you’ll be totally clueless in your first game, but the mechanics are rather elegant. There are few games that are worth two hours of time like Neuland.
Next up was one of Tommy’s favourites, Lost Valley. You should know that Tommy is an avid fisherman and likes to trek around Lapland a lot. I guess Lost Valley strikes a chord with Tommy’s inner (and outer) fisherman. Me, I’m not an outdoors kind of guy, unlike my father or my grandparents. Despite that I found Lost Valley quite an enjoyable ride.
Avoiding comparison to Goldland is probably an impossible task here. The games have a lot in common: players carry around useful items, restricted by limited space. Items are used to solve problems that the unknown wilderness presents. However while Goldland is a rather rigid race towards the temple in the corner, Lost Valley offers more freedom of exploration.
Players will probably follow the river towards its source; the fact that movement by the river bank is faster will guarantee it. However, there’s always the option to head out in the wild and go look for the precious mountain gold instead of the easy-to-find river gold. Whatever the course, the problems are the same: finding food, getting timber and collecting gold.
Gold can be used to buy useful items that facilitate some action, but there’s little room for items. Players can only get two large items, so typically it’s either the sieve (for river gold) or dynamite (for mountain gold) and canoe (for moving on the river) or horse (for moving inlands). Specialization is a must. Making that decision is one of the key points of the whole Lost Valley experience.
We played twice. In the first game, Tommy won easily. He also got the second game, but this time it was closer: I collected loads of river gold fast, while he struggled with the lack of forests near his mountain mines (mining gold takes lots of timber). Had I been one turn faster, I would’ve won. Both games were very pleasant and thanks for the randomly generated maps, very different. The game can take many courses depending on how the map turns out. If you’re looking for a clever game with a very solid theme, Lost Valley is a sure bet.
After Lost Valley we played Fresh Fish, one of the two games I had brought with me. I had packed some glass beads with the game and having proper-sized reserve markers really made a difference. All I need is fifth colour of glass beads and I’ll toss the teeny-weeny cubes out. Our game was a real newbie fest. I had most experience; I scored 15 points. Tommy had played once in Essen, though he claimed he didn’t quite get the hang of the road expropriation there; he scored 9 points. Kimmo and Samu had never even heard of the game; Samu got 1 point and Kimmo got -1. Ouch.
I know I made one big blunder with my fish shop, but the rest of it was just good play from everybody else. Samu in particular got good routes. Kimmo had loads of money left in the end, which was key to his victory.
Choosing the next game was a harder task. We ended up with Pueblo. Our host had a rotating marble cheese plate dedicated for the game, and indeed, being able to turn the game around made a big difference. I played well, I think, managing to place all my pieces on just two levels and hiding them pretty well. Imagine my disappointment, when I lost to Tommy by just one point!
Whatever the result, Pueblo is always fun to play and quite unlike anything else. I should probably try to get the game at some point. It’s an interesting challenge, trying to place the odd-shaped pieces, but at the same time the game is very intuitive and easy to teach.
Tommy chose the next game, and picked another recent favourite of his: Einfach Genial. It was such an addictive ride for our two newbies that we played second game right away. I’m proud to say that I, finally, won both games. Second game was particularly close, as the points were spread 10-11-12-13. I think I finally got it: I advanced my own scores well, but also played defensively and spoiled scoring opportunities for others. It took few games to figure that out, but now I have more eye for defensive plays.
Einfach Genial is a solid, good game, but I don’t know — I’m in no rush to buy it myself. If I can score a promotional copy, I’ll get it, sure. The game’s fun, but at the same time it’s perhaps a tad dry or something. I know Tommy’s very excited about the game (it’s one of his few 10’s at the Geek), but for me it’s just one of the good, solid games.
Our last game before Tommy had to leave (he and Reko left around midnight on Saturday, after arriving on Friday and having practically no sleep since — a wise move, if you ask me) was Attika, another 10 for Tommy. It was an exciting match, though I was out of the game fairly soon, trapped in a bad location. In the end it was a very close match between Tommy and Samu; Samu lost, but with one more card it would’ve been his victory. It was fun to watch, even though I wasn’t really involved in the epic struggle for the first place.
The second game I had brought with me was Intrige. I thought I could find a crowd suited for this nasty game and yeah, I did. It went down quite well, with heavy bribing going on all the time. I was second to last, so I’m quite sure I’m doing something wrong. Perhaps I’m not bribing enough? I mean the other guys wasted a lot of money in their bribes and there’s no way they got it all back in their salaries; however, I guess I’ve had a wrong mindset there, as the money is probably recovered in bribes received from other players.
It’s an interesting game anyway and it’s fun to see how people play it, what kind of alliances and friendship pacts evolve. There was quite little betraying going on, no real backstabs. Just some misleading, not even proper lying.
After submitting myself to torture (a game of Lightning Reaction), I played a match of Gang of Four. It was fun, it’s been a while since I last played the game. What’s even better, the game was over fairly soon and Munter, who had just started on the roll having won two deals, lost to me thanks to two deals I won. Had the game lasted for deal or two, the situation might’ve been different. Hooray for me.
After a night of few hours of low-quality sleeping, I was ready for another day. Sundays are usually quiet when it comes to games, but I did play two games. First up was a three-player game of Dos Rios. Since my previous game was such a disaster, I was interested to play the game again. This time it went much better: the game didn’t end quite that soon and what’s more important, I won.
My victory wasn’t obvious, as the game was quite even. I didn’t get much wood so I didn’t build many dams, unlike Sami, the owner of the game and the other player with previous experience. I had a bit of a struggle with the dams built by the other players, but hey: it’s not about building dams, it’s about building casas and haciendas, and that’s what I did. Most of my success came down to a very good round, where I managed to score 600 pesetas or whatever the currency is in the game. My final lucky break came when Sami took a forest from my control instead of a field (he had a choice of the two) and gave me the 100 I needed to build my last two houses.
Dos Rios is a fun game and the river mechanism is just excellent. I’m still a bit undecided on the chaos of the game. Right now, however, it’s one of the more interesting three-player games I have, so it’s going nowhere yet. I’m also somewhat curious to try the game with two players. Four — I’ve already abandoned that, without even trying. It can’t be good.
Finally, I played a game of Pimp: The Backhanding. I regret that. I’ll write another entry on that pile of rubbish, to keep this entry as a session report. One moralistic rant coming right up, so stay tuned.
It was an interesting weekend. I didn’t play many new games — just two, actually — but any chance to play Neuland is a welcome opportunity. Meeting Tommy, Reko and Peter was certainly a pleasure. Thanks to Peter for hosting the event!