Weekend Game Report – 8/8/2015 and 8/9/15

Weekends tend to be either work or play, and even when they are play, what I may want to do (play board games) can often be usurped by dinners, parties, or nights out on the town. This weekend I had the pleasure of both work and play, and I actually got a fair bit of gaming in for how busy we tend to be.

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

Sister-in-law packing/birthday party

My sister-in-law Karen’s birthday was this weekend, and all she wanted was a packing party! She is leaving for Seattle before we are, and as such she wants to get her apartment all packed up. Knowing Karen fairly well, I knew that she would like to play a couple of games, and I knew that she would enjoy two of my new GenCon acquisitions, The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits, and Firefly: Shiny Dice. Once we were all done packing (full disclosure, my father-in-law and I bailed after taking apart a very large and complicated bed to go see a movie), I broke out the games. Karen and I were the only players in both games, and neither of us had played either game prior.

Games played:

The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits

 

 

Brief overview

The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits is a card game where players are putting either poison or wine into goblets on the table. In addition they are bidding on which goblet they want for themselves. When all cards have been played, each player takes their goblet and reveals the contents. If there is more poison than wine, you die! The round repeats until only one person remains!

Thoughts

We played three rounds of The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits. In each game it became apparent which goblet each of us were placing our wine and poison into. Sometimes we could adapt and sometimes we could not. The fact that each player has the same seven cards, four of which add up to a total of sixteen poison with the other three adding up to a total of twelve wine makes it very difficult to overcome the opponent’s poison cards. Each player also gets one Sicilian card which will be either poison or wine so that can help. I think with two players you telegraph your moves too easily. Karen won two of our three games, and in the third game, we were both killed by poison.

Exposition

Though I’ve only played with two players, I feel that the game will gain a lot from adding even one more player. Bidding/bluffing games never really work well when there are only two players, and this one seems to be no different. I think over time, practicing with two players, that strategies could be developed and the gameplay could become intriguing, but for now I’m looking to play with more players.

Firefly: Shiny Dice

Brief overview

Firefly: Shiny Dice is a push your luck style dice game in which each player is trying to use their ten crew dice (comprised of the outlaw crew of the Serenity and the passengers of Serenity) to smuggle supplies and overcome the forces of evil, five dice representing three of the major bad guys from the television show. For each bad guy you defeat you add one hundred points to the pool, and for every two supplies you deliver you add one hundred points to your personal points. At the end of each round you must choose to lay low (collect the prize pool and pass the dice to the next player) or keep on flyin’ (re-roll any of your crew that aren’t KO’d as well as all five bad guy dice and go another round)! If at the end of a round you have even one bad guy that isn’t defeated, your turn ends, and all points in the prize pool are discarded. After three rounds per player, the game ends and whoever has the most points is the winner.

Thoughts

I enjoyed the choices that you have to make in this game. It isn’t just about collecting sets of symbols or numbers like most push your luck dice games. Each die face has a unique effect and it really matters which characters you roll to overcome the bad guys, which all have different effects on the board as well. Unfortunately, Karen received the short straw, and was knocked out in at least two of her three rounds, while I was knocked out in only one of my rounds. As a result I won by a landslide.

Exposition

This game, like most push your luck style games, has very little player interaction. The best you can do is make everyone else lose one hundred points if you roll four or five matching bad guys, but if you roll five, then your turn is over as well. So if someone is far out ahead in even the first round, it is unlikely that you will catch them unless they have two bad turns while you have two good turns.

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Boardgame Pair-a-Dice Board Games at Escape Brewery

My friend Richard set up a game day at a local brewery and I was very happy to be able to attend. I was prepping for the day by going through the games I wanted to take, mostly consisting of new GenCon purchases, and making sure that they were all punched and bagged, and that I was at least familiar with the rules enough to teach. As I was doing so, my wife Jan saw Nefarious and said “what is that game?” “It’s the Mad Scientist game” I told her, to which she replied “I want to be a mad scientist!” So we played a game right then and there! Later when we got to the brewery, Nefarious was also the first game that we played, this time with six players. After that I learned the rules for Takenoko while the others played Splendor, then I jumped in on the next round of Splendor, after which we closed out the day with Takenoko. The only game I had played prior to this day was a demo of Nefarious at GenCon.

Games played:

Nefarious

Brief overview

Nefarious is a simultaneous action selection game where each player is a mad scientist bent on global domination! The way you achieve global domination is by creating nefarious inventions, each of which will be worth a certain number of points and may or may not have an affect on the game. In order to obtain the ideas for these inventions you have to do research, and to be able to afford these inventions, you have to work and/or send spies to see what your colleagues are up to! As with every mad scientist story… there is always a twist! And in Nefarious there are actually two twists! Two twist cards are chosen at the beginning of the game which affect the base rules of the game. For example, one of the cards says “Ignore all effects that affect everyone else”. Once a mad scientist reaches twenty points, the last round is triggered, and the mad scientist with the highest point total is the winner! If there’s a tie, then play continues until a winner emerges.

Thoughts

I have thoroughly enjoyed the three games that I have played of Nefarious. I demo’d it once at GenCon with six players, I played it once with just me and Jan, and we played it again at the board game event at Escape Brewery, and in each case, though I lost every game, I had a really good time. I enjoy action selection, and the theme of this game is spot on. The art and color palette of the game match perfectly as well.

Exposition

I don’t think that there are any issues that arise from changing the number of players, but it will take more plays to make that determination. One issue I have is that the quality of the cards is sub-par, the cards are incredibly thin and bend very easily, and while the invention cards can be sleeved, the Twist cards are oversized, and therefore sleeves would be difficult to obtain for them.

Splendor

Brief overview

Splendor is essentially a set collection game consisting of poker chips with pictures of gems on them (four different colors), and cards with gems, a cost, and potentially a victory point value. On each player’s turn, they decide whether to take three chips, one each from different color stacks, or two chips from the same stack, or to buy one of the available cards from three increasing tiers using the chips that they have collected. Once a card is collected, it stays in your inventory permanently and can then be used towards the purchase of other cards which require the gem printed on the card. There is also a “wild” chip that when you take it, also lets you take a single available card and “claim” it. You don’t have to be able to pay for it at the time. Finally, there are several tiles that you may claim if you own the number of cards specified on the tile. The first player to fifteen points triggers the last round and whoever has the most points at the end of the round is the winner.

Thoughts

To be honest, I was not fond of this game, and I was bored while playing it. The two players who had played just one game before ran away with the lead. That in itself isn’t really a problem, but the game just seems to be a rehash of mechanics from one other game in particular, and I was expecting a more original game for as much hype as this game had.

Exposition

I have three problems with Splendor. The first is that it is essentially a watered down Ticket to Ride. My second problem is that there is too much “take that” in the game. The last problem I have is the lack of theme. In both Splendor and Ticket to Ride, players are choosing to collect colored tokens or cards in order to pay for cards or railway links. The core of both games is nearly identical. Where Splendor falls short of Ticket to Ride in my opinion is the “take that” aspect. In TTR, your routes are hidden information, and as such an opponent may or may not steal a link you were hoping to obtain, but it is rare that they do so knowingly. Sure, towards the end of the game your opponent has two long segments and it is obvious they are trying to link them together, then block away, but what I’m talking about is in the early game. In the one game of Splendor I played, I had the card I wanted to buy stolen out from under me no less than four times. Yes, part of that I could have avoided by paying better attention to what my opponents were focusing on, and adjusting my play accordingly. However, the addition of the wild chip and “claimed” cards, makes it even worse. Could I adapt to these issues? Yes I could, and repeated play would give me more insight into the balance between taking chips and buying cards with and without points on them, but the real question is do I want to? This brings me to the third point. I have ticket to ride which is a well themed game which uses a similar mechanic. While I don’t have an issue with abstract games, I do have an issue with abstract games where they paste on theme for no reason… and really what is the theme? I am collecting gems for free, to be able to buy… gems? Off the top of my head I could easily see the game with a baking theme and nearly identical gameplay where each tier of items takes you to the next tier. You could even add in a money component so that you aren’t just stealing the initial ingredients, and you sell the completed baked goods to earn money for the next round. I think it is safe to say that Splendor is not for me. I’ll play it if someone else wants to, but I certainly won’t request it, nor will I be purchasing it.

Takenoko

Brief overview

Takenoko is an action selection game where the players are attempting to gain the Emperor’s favor by meeting objectives which are designated via cards of three different categories; panda, gardener, and layout. Panda cards want you to feed the panda certain colors of bamboo, gardener cards want you to grow certain colors and of bamboo to various heights, and layout cards want you to have specific color plots of land in specific configurations. On each player’s turn they take two actions from the five available; expand the garden, move the panda (and then eat), move the gardener (and then grow bamboo), irrigate the land, or obtain new objectives from the Emperor. If at any point during your turn you meet any of the objectives on the cards in your hand, you may play those objectives, getting the points for those objectives. When a player plays their seventh objective (for four players), the round finishes and the person with the highest point total is the winner.

Thoughts

I enjoyed playing Takenoko quite a bit. I always like it when mechanics and theme play nice together, and this game certainly does that well. I like that no one player “owns” anything on the board, and that all players move the panda and the gardener. Yes, the other players can affect your plans, but at the same time, you know it ahead of time that you can not assume that either the panda or the gardener will be where you left them on your turn. It is far more likely that they have both moved by then.

Exposition

Takenoko is a fun game with a great theme, cute components, and a solid action selection mechanic and modular board system. Balancing your actions and objectives to achieve the best possible outcome is the goal, but you have to be flexible to the ever-changing board and you can’t rely on the fact that anything will be as you left it. I could see some decent strategy coming out of this too if you decide to focus on your opponents and taking steps to stop their plan. Perhaps it is obvious that a player wants the panda to eat pink bamboo, so you put a fence around the last open pink bamboo spot on the board. I look forward to future plays and may look to add it to my collection, as it would be fun for my wife, sister and niece to play.

Wrap Up

On top of a very busy weekend of gaming, I also got some work in there with a little bit of packing and such. It is a fine balance that I have to keep in the coming weeks, as I want to see my friends and play games and such as much as possible, but at the same time we have a lot of work to do in order to make a very massive move. I’m not sure how this will all balance out. I know that it will involve a lot of work, packing, making arrangements, etc… but I will make time for my friends because soon enough, while I will have free time, I won’t be here, and while we can keep connected in this crazy interconnected world we live in, it is not the same as putting wood to cardboard in person.

 

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2 thoughts on “Weekend Game Report – 8/8/2015 and 8/9/15

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