Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 13, 2011

Participants: Jon, Jessica, Nadine, Binyamin, Tzvi Yehuda, Zachary

Zachary and Jessica both returned for a second visit. Binyamin brought T"Y to game night because they won't be able to make it to Games Day next week.

7 Wonders

Binyamin 59, Jessica 53, Jon 50, T"Y 50, Zachary 49, Nadine 40

First play for all of us except for Binyamin and T"Y. Of course I'd heard about this game on BGG, but I never really took a closer look, assuming it was some kind of long civilization building game. It was entirely unlike what I was expecting.

The game is simply a card game, a cross between Fairy Tale and Race for the Galaxy. The game comes with huge over-produced but beautiful boards and bits in a large box; but it's just a card game; the boards and bits are essentially superfluous.

Each player gets 7 cards. Pick one to play and pass the rest to your neighbor. Repeat until you've each played 6 cards. Repeat 3 times (a total of 18 cards). That's it.

The cards can "produce" resources, give you military power, give you victory points, add to sets (that also give victory points), or have some other minor effect (give you cash, reduce the cash you need to play something). Many of the cards also allow you to play future cards for free, i.e. if you have card A in play, you can play card B without requiring its resource cost.

In addition to the above, you can also toss a card out for 3 money, or place it face down to activate one of the three stages of your city, each of which requires some resources and gives you a similar benefit to playing certain cards.

Resource "payments" is not actually a payment; you just need to have it in play. A resource never gets used up. If you lack the resources you need to play a card, but one of your neighbors' has that resource, you can pay two cash to that neighbor and utilize his or hers.

That's it, really. What's good about it is that you have to pass away all those cards you want while deciding which one to play; as the game progresses, you might want to not pass a card that will give your neighbor too many points. You also have many areas in which to concentrate: the brown cards, the grey cards, the blue cards, building your city, the green sets, etc. Naturally, you won't get the cards you need to focus perfectly.

Like certain other games, if you are focusing on a strategy that others are ignoring, you are in much better shape than if you are competing for the same card types.

What's bad about the game is a) it's really light. That's not much of a problem, but you might have been expecting something more substantial. And b) the tableau and its effects become crowded and difficult to review as the game goes on. You may have 12 cards that you can play for free now; each time you get new cards, you have to review all the cards you have in play and check the names of all the cards you were passed. Then you have to do the same for each of your neighbors. This can be time consuming, so, in my first game, I didn't do much peeping into my neighbors' fields. But you really have to in order to do well.

It's really, really Eurogamey: the theme might as well be vegetable gardens as ancient wonders. In any case, I didn't notice the theme while I was playing, despite the nice artwork. And there's hardly a whiff of confrontation. You get certain extra points if you have more military strength than your neighbors at the end of each round, but they only lose one point for it if you do. The rest is simply denying them the cards they need.

We enjoyed it and would play again to explore it more. Nadine in particular liked it and found it easy to pick up and understand, compared to some other recent games. Nadine concentrated on blue cards but didn't succeed, as you can see. I tried for early brown resources and then green sets, with some late military might (late military might is worth a lot more than early might is). I don't really know what Binyamin did to win.

Age of Empires III

Binyamin 142, Zachary 110ish, T"Y 80ish

Zachary requested this, and it was his first play. I think he enjoyed it, but I don't know anything about how the game went.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 49, Jessica 47, Jon 46

First play for Jessica, who is probably the brightest non-gamer to join our group. She professes to be confuses initially, but she picks up games very quickly. I helped her through the first few rounds, but she was already making confident and reasonable choices by mid-game.

Nadine was first player and achieved a tobacco monopoly, though she never got any corn. She took a mid-game Harbor in place of a Factory. I was second and took an early sugar, a coffee to play in front of Jessica, and a Factory. I only got a trade good at the end of mid-game; enough to buy two big buildings, but not quite enough to buy anything else. Jessica had the first trade good, a coffee, and Guild Hall, filling out the entire building.

Havoc: The Hundred Years War

Binyamin 29, Nadine 28, T"Y 26, Jessica 18, Jon 16

First play for Jessica. As you can see, I lost every game I played this evening. I suggested this game because it was a light game for five, and we hadn't played it in quite some time.

Still a fun game, though we still can't figure out the rules for how dogs work. I think I understood it once, but I lost it again.

With five players, I wasn't able to get anything approaching a straight flush, but I had a mid-range of three and four of a kinds. I took some mid-game wins and second places, but the rest of my attacks, including Agincourt, I was defeated and wasted my resources entirely. Binyamin was behind at mid-game, and he only came in first in the seventh battle, but he squeaked out a win with that.


Nadine said...

7 Wonders - My blue strategy almost worked - in the third round I was dealt the six point and seven point cards that I could play for free, which would have helped. But Binyamin needed to redeal. Relying on luck isn't a good strategy though, you need to build resources in the first phase, which I didn't do. I agree about there being too much small print on to review on too many cards, which is related to my liking games less when you need to play a lot to get to know the cards, like Race to the Galaxy. Puerto Rico - Our game group is so nice to new players that you didn't even mention that we're nice to new players.

jess said...

you guys are very nice to new players, which is why i'll keep coming back :)
as a rookie, i can't offer any commentary on the games, other than to say i enjoyed playing both 7 Wonders and Puerto Rico. i liked Havoc as well, it just took a while to wrap my head around the rules. on the next go 'round i'll probably be able to play a bit more intelligently - i suppose that's true for all the games.
and yes, i do confuse easily.
as for scrabble, it's been a while since i've played and i think i need to play some more to get my chops back. (same goes for chess, if i can get someone to play with me. hint, hint)