Game weekend at Tommy’s, day two

Saturday was a full day of games, though curiously we didn’t play as many games as on Friday night. The games were longer, though. Stefu joined us for Saturday, and Tommy’s brother Miikka did a guest appearance as well. The games were disturbed by an excellent meal of braised reindeer (nope, it wasn’t Rudolph), which is one of the good things you get by having friends from Lapland.

Packeis am Pol. Quick filler to start a day while waiting for Stefu to arrive. I was no good in this, Tommy was an experienced player and Ari an old tournament Chess player. It was decent fun, and it’s probably something I’ll try in BSW one of these days.

fairytale.jpgFairy Tale. Stefu didn’t come yet, so another filler took place. Fairy Tale was much better for me, though I was somewhat surprised by my last place after a game I thought I’d played well. Oh well, it was a learning experience. Fairy Tale is definitely a game I should think about getting for myself: the drafting action was fun. I’d like to try the team game.

Antiquity. Stefu arrived, so it was time for the main course. Stefu and Ari were new to the game. It was Christoforo against Barbara — Ari and Tommy played Barbara, me and Stefu Christoforo (though I was planning to switch later- that strategy didn’t work). I played my best game so far, it was just beautiful. I kept harvesting lots of resources through Forced Labour and used them well. A big bunch of fountains built by everybody kept the famine in check through the game, we had a total of ten graves or less during the whole game.

Ari played a spectacular game for a newbie. I don’t feel bad losing to him at all, since his play was just superb. What a smart guy. I do know something: San Christoforo’s time is up. I’m not using that strategy again, I’m done with it. I’ll have to come up with something else the next time I play.

California. Here Tommy’s brother joined us. Tommy seems to like Schacht’s work for Abacus, thus California was a must-buy for him. For me, California is a Paris Paris, not a Web of Power — that is, one of the Schacht’s worse games. I felt the game was awfully dry and boring. The mechanics are clever (for example the way the items on sale get cheaper every time someone takes more money), but it just didn’t click the way it should. The game wasn’t exciting or fun.

Manila. Now here’s an interesting game. It was definitely fun and excitement, but also a bit lucky. I played a really terrible game. After a decent start it just went down the drain. Still, I was third, with a small margin. Why? I had two jade shares (got one, bought one) and the winner of the game, Tommy, was also pushing jade. That’s why I did well. I didn’t think my performance and placement in the end correlated much, but hey, it’s a light game so I don’t mind. I did drop my rating from eight to seven, though.

Klondike. Another game of Klondike, to show the new boys the game. This time we used the four-nugget rule, which was much better. I also played my best game so far, scoring three points. I’m miserably bad in this game.

Africa. Last game with Tommy’s brother. A pleasant romp through Africa, this was a fairly balanced game all the way through. Good fun.

VOC!. Then it was time for real action. We tried to play VOC!, to found the Dutch East Indies Company, but that was pretty awful. Tommy hadn’t figured out the rules properly, but it turned out that wasn’t too easy. We were baffled by the fact that the rulebook says the game starts in 1590, even though the components start from 1585. That’s what we did (and it turned out to be correct). However, after few rounds of jolly sailing, we aborted the game. It just wasn’t fun, it was all too confusing.

The basic mechanic of sailing by drawing blind on maps was fun, but it also seemed fairly out-of-place in otherwise quite serious game. The game seemed long and dreary outside the sailing, and the confusion we had with the rules certainly did not help. We spent an hour or so scrambling through the first two rounds and quit after that. I might try it again, but it’s unlikely. I can’t understand why Doumen and Wiersinga could’ve done this…

Das Zepter von Zavandor. Next up was a fantastic optimization challenge. In Zepter von Zavandor players invest in gems that provide money to invest in new gems and finally you’ll want to end up with artifacts and sentinels that provide points. Players also advance on tracks which give them special abilities. Very typical optimization stuff, and should be exactly the thing I like. But it isn’t.

Zepter, as far as I see, has few pretty serious problems. First of all, it’s very long. We played for two hours, which felt too long for me, particularly combined with a flaw of run-away leader: it was obvious for a long time that Ari would probably lose and Tommy and Stefu would fight for the victory. It’s a fairly complicated game to figure out the feedback loop that provides most money (compared to say, St. Petersburg, where it’s very simple — and for the length, imagine if St. Pete took two hours or more!).

The game looks like it would need some editing. Stefu particularly spent a lot of time counting money. Money in this game comes in a complicated form of different currencies that make it hard to count and you’ll have to figure out the best way to pay things, as you can’t get change without restrictions. There’s also a hand limit, which will force you to spent some money instead of saving everything you can for the next turn. It all makes the game very math-heavy; if you’re not good at mental maths or don’t like it, stay clear of this game. I’m sure there’s a way to make this game easier on one’s mind by removing this stuff. I’d like to hear from Zavandor experts: why is the hand-limit stuff important? The way I see it saving money in an investment game like this is bound to be a bad strategy compared to just investing it, thus why the need for restriction against saving money?

I’ll play the game again (and I’ll be much wiser the next time), but with these problems, Zepter von Zavandor will not grace my shelves.

Die Nacht der Magier. Here’s a tip: make sure you slide your wizard on the board, not on top of the discs. I won the first round, but after lights were turned on, it was obvious I had cheated: none of the discs in front of me had really moved. Oops. Better watch out the next time. I also noticed that while you can’t see all the pieces in the dark, you can always hear Tommy.

Antike. My first game with correct rules… It was a good, close fight, with different approaches seen around the table. My arabs tried to build lots of temples and advance know-how, which turned out to be a pretty good thing to do. However, everybody else was doing well. The game turned out to be very close, actually. So close, we ended up calling it a draw after we had played 90 minutes and it was becoming obvious it would take a while to end it.

In the end, Stefu and Tommy were fighting for fleets in the Mediterranean, Ari was huddled in his corner and I tried to attack him or get 14 fleets on the Red Sea — all pretty far-fetched ideas. When we ended the game, I was in a position to destroy Ari’s temple, but Tommy could’ve stopped me from doing that… Maybe playing to eight points would’ve made the game end in a more interesting phase; none of us really enjoyed this aspect of the game. It was a very good match and I’m happy to call it a draw, really.

San Juan. Final game of the evening was a San Juan match. Me and Stefu played the city building game, Ari had plantations and a Guild Hall, Tommy some kind of hybrid. In the end, the final scores were 32-31-30-30 to city builders’ triumph. Too bad it was Stefu who won, leaving me without victories on Saturday.

All in all, it was an excellent weekend. Lots of good games, interesting new Nürnberg titles, some other stuff I was interested in trying and good older games. And of course, excellent company! Hopefully the tradition will continue next year.

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3 responses to “Game weekend at Tommy’s, day two”

  1. “The way I see it saving money in an investment game like this is bound to be a bad strategy compared to just investing it, thus why the need for restriction against saving money?”
    I just realised that the saving restriction actually slightly punishes the player(s) in the lead. This is due to the auctions because with the normal rules the players lacking behind can basically buy any left over artifacts for their normal price as the players before them have spent all their money… however this is not a very significant penalty really and definitely not a good exceuse for the tedious moneymanagement & handlimit mechanic.

  2. Mikko, your comments on VOC exactly match my feeling for the game. The blind sailing is fun and party-like, but the rest of the game is very studious. It seems like a bad match.
    In Das Zepter, I believe the reason for the hand limit is to give the more expensive gems their value. Otherwise, a bushel load of cheap gems would be just as valuable as a small number of expensive ones (more valuable, since it would be easier to make exact change). I like the game, but then again math-heavy games are no problem for me. It’s long and doesn’t feature much interaction, so its table time is limited, but I find the optimization problems quite interesting.

  3. But the better gems are already good, as you’re limited to a maximum of 11 gems (and usually less). I think the more expensive gems are already more attractive.
    I do find the optimization problems interesting and lack of interaction doesn’t bother me, but it’s the length of the game (especially combined with the rich-get-richer that’s part of the nature of these kinds of optimization games) that really makes it less attractive.