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 WondersBinyamin 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 IIIBinyamin 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 RicoNadine 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 WarBinyamin 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.