As the tradition goes (last year, the year before that, the weekend before that, the year before that…), I met Tommy for a day of games. So, this year it was just me and him, and just a single day. It was great fun nonetheless.
We kicked off with 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight. It’s a small 18xx game, for two or three players basically. It worked well with just two of us. The map is small and the game quite constricted.
I enjoyed it. The game features interesting stock market moves: a company that pays out big dividends gets a huge boost in share value. So, dropping the value to keep money in company to buy a better train is not a big deal, as the new train and the increased revenue will make the share value soar.
I lost, in the end, 13000-11000 or so. That’s still the largest number of points I’ve collected in any game, I suppose… My fate was sealed quite early, when we bought our second companies. I invested in FYN, which in retrospect was a really, really daft move. I might’ve got my investment back, maybe, while Tommy’s second company was a major money maker. Well, you live and learn, and starting new companies is one part of the 18xx game I feel a bit uncertain about.
So, it’s good, and if I played four-hour games more than few times each year, I’d probably hunt down a copy. It’s that good.
After four hours of trackbuilding and stock markets, we moved to World War II. I revisited the Belgian chateau in Combat Commander: Europe, as I thought that would be an interesting introduction scenario — enough stuff, clear objective and so on. Well, that wasn’t quite as successful as 1860.
Tommy, playing the Allied liberators, assaulted the chateau in a very straightforward manner. Protected by smoke he did a pretty good job, too. In the end I did squeeze the victory: he was doing well, but wasn’t quite finished in the chateau when he ran out of time.
Tommy’s initial rating is six, so he clearly didn’t love it. I can see why — this playing made me to drop my rating to eight as well. I like it still, but the game just feels a tad too long for the meat of it. Antiquity, for example, seems to offer more decision-making goodness in the same timeframe.
Next up was some three-player games as Tommy’s wife Laura joined us. I didn’t mind: Space Dealer was high on my list of games I’d like to try. I’m glad to have that past me now, as I wasn’t quite enamoured with the game. The concept is great, but it just wasn’t that interesting.
The rules are a bit muddy, and I think adding some of the advanced rules could help, but somehow it was quite stale. I had time to SMS my wife while playing — so much for time pressure… We ran out of objectives to fulfill in the end, too, which added some extra frustration. I can try the game again, but I have definitely no need to buy it.
Factory Fun, in the other hand, was good fun and something I wouldn’t mind owning. As puzzle games come, this is pretty solid offering, and while newbies will find it hard to beat an experienced players, building your factory is a fun exercise.
Well, maybe not, if you lack the visualization skills necessary, but still — I think it’s pretty fun to arrange the pipes and the machines, and once you get them connected and something’s kind of working in your factory, it gets pretty entertaining.
Through the Ages has been another title I’ve been curious to try. The concept is great: a civilization game that moves swiftly and does away with the boring military stuff. There’s no map and no units to move on it — isn’t that just great!
The game is quite abstract and it took me a while to wrap my head around the system and figure out how it works (and I’m still a bit fuzzy about the happy faces stuff). So there’s a learning curve there, and it’s of the steeper variety. However, once you figure it all out, it makes sense. The system is just brilliant. One of the definitely highlights in the world of new games, I’d say.
Despite the length of the full game (we played an advanced game, and I very much want to play a full one as soon as possible), this one’s definitely on my buy this list once the new edition comes out (unless they ruin it somehow).
While waiting for sauna, we played a quick game of Celtica. My victories were scarce during the day, but this one I won, thanks to Tommy’s reckless card drawing — he played more cards on just about every turn, giving me the first shot on just about every round (not a small advantage, come to think of it). I still think Celtica is a great filler and one of the better games of 2006.
Then, as the last game of the evening, Goa. Last time I played it, it left me with a sour taste. I should like it, and now, given another chance, I did enjoy it better. It’s not a bad two-player game, either. Not my favourite optimization game, no, but clearly better than I initially thought.
So, it was a fine day of games (add in some Guitar Hero II on PS2, that was fun as well). The two-player concept worked great. Playing some Splotter games would’ve been nice, but since both me and Tommy do prefer the new games, this was good.