Another good Thursday evening. While waiting for the crowd to gather, I opened the games with Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck. It was chaos, as usual. I failed rolls constantly, while Mari and Jaakko piled up worms. Well, Mari lost most of her worms by the end, but managed to win nonetheless. Heckmeck is nice, but then again, playing it again after a while kind of made me remember why I haven’t played it much… The game certainly tends to overstay its welcome and after a while you’re just waiting for it to end.
Halli Galli, on the other hand, is always a hoot. It is simply a brilliant game, pure fun. Obviously I won both of the games we played — perhaps I should introduce some handicap, start myself off with a smaller pack? Well, my opponents agreed to an immediate rematch, so it wasn’t a disaster. Hannu was so keen he wanted his own copy immediately and played another game later in the evening: another convert won for the cause! I’m seriously considering giving the game a rating of 10.
The main course in our table was Cuba. The game looks very delicious, indeed, with gorgeous art from Michael Menzel and bits to match. The mechanics seemed interesting and did work out rather well in practice.
Cuba is one those engine-building games: there’s resource production, resources are converted to other resources, money and victory points. Players can build buildings with various effects and have in general plenty of avenues to victory. There are just six turns in the game, so whatever you do, you need to be effective and preferably know what you’re going to do.
The turn mechanism is good. There are five different character cards:
- Worker lets you move your worker piece on your plantation board and produce resources (wood, stone and water, used mostly for building) and products (tobacco, sugar cane and citrus fruits, used to make goods and score victory points) according to the worker’s location.
- Tradeswoman lets you buy and sell products and goods (cigars and rum, used to score victory points) on the market.
- Architect lets you build a building. There’s a common stock, mostly one of each, so first come, first served and a player taking his turn before you can foil your plans.
- Foreman lets you use your buildings. Which buildings you can use depends on the location of the worker.
- Mayor lets you put your products and goods on the ship to get victory points.
Players take turns, playing one character card on each turn and doing the action. There are four rounds, so one character remains in hand. The last character played also dictates who’s the starting player for the next round: it’s a position worth striving for. The character saved in hand tells you how many votes you’ll have: there’s an election, you know.
Each turn, four new bills are proposed and whoever has most votes from his character card and from money used to buy more, gets to choose two bills to made into laws. Laws affect taxes and duties (pay the money or the stuff to get victory points), subsidies (own stuff to get victory points) and miscellaneous stuff. Sometimes these are very important, at other times less so.
So, plenty to do! There are many ways to score victory points and in our games we saw quite a few of them in use. I harvested sugar cane, made rum out of it and sold the rum in my rum café (nice euphemism for a bar). Eiska made cigars and used mayor to ship those cigars and various products. Petri had a hotel producing victory points for him — securing a solid lead for the early game, but not enough to win. Mari sold cigars, mostly to her cafe I think. In the end, the game was close: Eiska won with 78 points, while the rest of us had 76, 75 and 72.
Our game took 2.5 hours — a tad long, perhaps, but I can see the game run faster. The players we a bit slow and everybody was new to the game, so with faster players and more experience 90 minutes should be fairly realistic. Cuba is AP prone, so while the box says 75-120 minutes, prepare for up to three hours with five slow players. Sometimes you might have a plan, but then the previous player acting before you will foil it and you’ll have to rethink — that causes delays.
In the end I did enjoy the game. There’s plenty of action and I like how each choice means choosing not do something, that’s something I felt unusually strongly in this game. The rules aren’t perhaps as neat as they could be (there are quite a few rules questions on Geek, many of them rather simple in the end), but nevertheless, Cuba is a good game and definitely worth checking out if one likes these engine games. Time and replays will tell if it’s a really good game — right now I’m rating Cuba as a strong eight.