Thursday, January 17, 2008

January 16, 2008

Participants: Jon, Binyamin, Nadine, Ben, Yitzchak, Gili, Cliff, Raphi

Nadine invited Cliff, who lives in our area. Strange that he's never come before, as he has experience with many Euro and war games. Not only that, but he brought his daughter Raphi who also plays. Hopefully, they will begin coming often. (Nadine says that he has four children and thought the game night ended earlier, which is why he hasn't come sooner.)

Blue Moon

Binyamin+, Jon

I took out Blue Moon to learn how to play it. As I read the rules, I began to get a sinking feeling.

I like Knizia's board games, but I find his card games to be too simplistic. Lost Cities, Flinke Pinke, and so on are clever and diverting enough for a child, but not for me. They are basically number games; throw the numbers around and hope to end up with the right ones. The decisions are usually fairly trivial and entirely too mathematical.

I honestly expected Blue Moon to be something entirely different, given its rich theme and comparison to Magic-lite. Yet, upon reading the rules, it became clear that this was just one more game of numbered cards and little else.

To make matters worse, the price of the game was inflated, as often happens, with fancy bits of useless pieces; it's a card game, and could be sold for four dollars if created simpler. To make matters even worse, the pictures on the cards are horribly sexist and borderline pornographic. This is a common complaint about the game, but it's still true.

Nevertheless, I gamely decided to try it out with Binyamin, looking at the rules as we played. We played around halfway through one game until wee essentially got the rules, and the restarted a fresh game.

Thankfully, the game turns out to be better than expected. Far better than Lost Cities, anyway.

Each round, you must place a creature or withdraw from the battle. If not withdrawing, you can also play a booster card on your creature or a support card. Any creature you play next round covers up any previous creatures and boosters that you've already played.

Each creature and most support cards have two sets of numbers on them: fire and earth. The first person to start a battle decides which number will be used for comparison during this battle. Every time it's your turn to play, you can only play if the relevant number of the creature you put down plus support cards will at least tie the corresponding total of your opponent.

Some cards have special abilities that boost the numbers of other cards or cancel cards of your opponents, so long as they're in play and uncovered.

So the essential mechanic is: if you put down your high card first, your opponent might withdraw and you'll win. But if he can answer your card, you will have to cover over your creature with another one which might be lower, in which case you would have to withdraw. So you might be better off placing a lower card first, rather than a higher one, saving your higher one for when you really need it. Or something like that.

After every battle, the person who won gets one or two points and all cards played are discarded. The game ends when someone has three more points than his opponent and is about to get his fourth. Otherwise, when someone runs out of cards, the score at the end of the game is your point differential over your opponent. Play a number of games until one person has won five points.

It's an ok game. There is unexplored tactics and strategy still to discover, which I'll happily do when I play again. The real interest in the game appears to be in buying the expansion sets and then creating decks, ala Magic.

Mr Jack

Jon (Criminal)+, Binyamin (Detective)

Binyamin wanted to see how to successfully play Criminal. Unfortunately for him, he left everyone in the dark at the end of round three, and it was then possible for me to escape at the beginning of round four.

I've come to appreciate the possibility of Criminal to win by simply not trying to escape. It's more of a puzzle than a game. And it's a bit frustrating that your strategy is entirely dictated by the card flips. If they flip one way, you have to do this, and if they flip the other way, you have to do that. It's a nice game, however.

El Grande

Nadine 132, Yitzchak 117, Ben 113, Gili 96

A high scoring game, as you can see. Nadine ended up ahead by the end of round three, and so it was expected that she would win by the end of the game, as she usually does. And so she did.

Round three scores: Nadine 52, Yitzchak 38, Gili 34, Ben 31
Round six scores: Nadine 86, Ben 74, Yitzchak 72, Gili 59

Magic: the Gathering

Binyamin+, Jon

This is rather pathetic. Binyamin and I Rochester drafted with some of my new cards. I ended up with a far, far, far superior deck of white flyers and tons of red direct damage. Binyamins was a basic hodgepodge of creatures. I lost the one game we played because I didn't draw a red land until I was down to 6 points, and my non-land cards were all red. Pure mana screw.

We didn't have a chance to play another game.

Power Grid

Cliff 11+, Jon 11-, Binyamin 11--, Raphi 10

I taught them this game, as it's a good game to get into for people who already know some gaming. We played on the easy US Eastern seaboard. I pretty much started out well and stayed that way.

I decided to end the game by building six cities right before Stage 3 started, as I had a reasonable hope that I would win on money anyway. Binyamin, Cliff, and I could all power 11, and Raphi could only power 10. But I had lots more money. Still, at th end, I was left with 30 and Cliff still had 49 or so.

If I had waited one more round, it would have come down to auctioning over the three 6 city power plants that were available. And that meant leaving my fate into the hands of others' possibly irrational actions.


Ben, Jon, Binyamin, Yitzchak, Nadine

Binyamin and I both took up hands during Power Grid with the other three players.


Mikko said...

Actually, I think there's plenty in Blue Moon without deck building, as long as you have all the decks.

The art is daft, but I do like the game quite a bit. It's clever, and there's more to it than you'd think based on the rules. The different decks have quite a different feel and way to play.

Seth Ben-Ezra said...

Yeah, I share your concerns about the art. My decks are all marked up, where my wife drew clothes on people who needed it.

That said, this is one of my favorite two-player games. So I thought I'd share Shannon Appelcline's article here which made a huge difference in my understanding of the game.