Archive for May 2011
In the days before chess clocks, a player might wait for hours while his opponent decided on a move.
The most notorious slowpoke in England was Elijah “The Bristol Sloth” Williams: In the fourth game of his London match against Henry Thomas Buckle in 1851, Williams lavished such exquisite care on his 25th move that Buckle had time to write two chapters of his History of Civilization.
Buckle won. “The slowness of genius is hard to bear,” he said, “but the slowness of mediocrity is intolerable.”
[Found on Futility Closet.]
(And I’m going to start using that nickname. Who will be The Alamo Sloth?)
Played another two games of Rallyman (actually more like 5-6 individual heats to teach people, but there you go. Not counting the really long course I ran multiple times to improve my time. I went from 10:30 to 13:12 to 15:lots. So … not much improvement. Apparently my first race was lucky).
The second game of Airlines Europe helped to alleviate some fears. The board was still a bit open (4 players), but the player who ignored AA won, and there wasn’t as much “I’ll drop 1 of every stock”. (Part of the problem may be that the 4 player game removes the Yellow Airline, which is right in the middle of the board, but doesn’t remove any of the spaces. A two sided board?)
I’ve played Cartagena twice, or maybe 3 times, which now officially makes it my favorite Colovini game. Actually, I may up my rating, I would have enjoyed this more except for the A.P. (Look, maybe the game deserves some AP, it’s quite clever and Colovini likes thinky abstracts. I just don’t want to play that way). If this had taken 15 minutes, it would have been great.
So last night’s new game was Junta: Viva el Presidente. Here’s my board game progression (discounting children’s games and classics). Junta was one of the first games I played, but it never aged well. It took too long (even in those heady college days).
So let’s just say I’m the target audience for J:VeP. It certainly captures the essence. I’m not sure it’s a great game, but Junta wasn’t either. The president divvies up the loot, people assign their dice to attack and defend, you resolve. If you attack the president you forfeit your loot, if the presidency fails everyone except the president loses theirs. To balance that, the president must give at least one card to each other play. If you successfully attack someone, you get one of their cards (at random). The president can’t attack, and his dice don’t get to roll, unless he loans them out. Many of the cards are money, which buy troops (dice), cards or VP. Each player starts with 1 VP, the Presidency is a VP, and you buy a VP some turns. First to six wins.
It really works as a ‘reboot’ of the series. Good, not great. I probably won’t buy it, but I’d certainly play it again. 45 Minutes instead of 3 hours is fine.
After one play, I like this.
- Getting Air Abacus (“Union Pacific”) shares take you a whole turn instead of just being a free option.
- The choice between trading shares for AA at 1:1 or 3:2 is good.
- Being able to trade in stock on the table for AA, helps players who suddenly find themselves shut out.
- Money to buy routes instead of matching cards is better.
- Handing out a free stock (from the display) for each of the first two scorings means that the player who just missed a turn gets first pick, a clever attempt at balancing. And also ensuring the board is swept at least twice.
I dislike the point scoring track. In UP, first place would be X and 2nd would be X/2, but here you see scoring like 4:2:1, then when it improves 5:3:2 then 6:4:2:1. So a company that “spent” 18 dollars earns the leader something like 5. If I put a single stock of a company down, I may get a few VP in the first scoring (as before) … but now if I get cut out and fall to 3rd for the second scoring, I’ll get a few VP. Points for the majority shareholder grow slowly, and new positions grow quickly.
In short, the design removed the scoring ‘bomb’ from every stock other than AA. It may be that the point of the new game is to slap down 1 of every stock, fight over a company or two, and win AA.
Does the scoring change override the small improvements? Maybe.
I’ve now played a single learning stage and two games against TaoLing.
Simply … Rallyman is a fantastic game with a novel idea — It’s not how many turns you take, it’s how much time. The key mechanism is that each gear (1-5) is a die with two hazard markers (the ’1′ gear only has one hazard marker). There are also two ‘gas’ dice (white, one hazard and 5 blanks each). You start with the gear you were in last turn, or one higher or lower. Then you roll a die and move one space, no matter the gear. You then chain the dice, with the gas being whenever and otherwise you can only go up or down one gear (as you expect).
When you stop, you take a card showing your final gear. 5th gear is 10 seconds, 4th gear is 20, etc. (There the same for each gear, and are also used to show what you can do on your next turn). But if you rolled 3 hazards, you lose control and end your turn. You take the gear card normally, then flip it over. It will show a zeroeth gear ( afull minute!) and if you just spun out or went off the road (which may cost you some tires, which limits the # of dice you can throw).
Of course there are corners, you can take the inside lane at low speed or drift through the outside at higher speed. That takes extra spaces, but if you end your turn in a higher gear, it’s probably worth it. There are also shortcuts (in the dirt) that may cost you some tires, but throw dirt on the road, and bumps, which can let you gain a space or two, at the risk of crashing.
In the advanced game, stages snow (or mixed) and you have to pick your tires. Also, most ingenously … you can choose to attack … you declare your roll in advance and then roll all the dice. For this risk, you gain 1 second per die! Seconds can also be spent on a safe turn to not roll a die, but just place it on a safe side. (The first die is cheap, but they get expensive quickly).
Since it’s a rally, there’s a staggered start; while it could happen that you have to deal with people in your way, that’s typically only if they crash. (So in a four player game, the turn order is A,A,B,A,B,C,A,B,C,D and then front to back from then on). A normal game is 3 stages, but you could play more.
If you want, you can play with checkpoints (announce your time the turn you pass the checkpoint). Or you can play solo and try to best your time for a rally or single stage.
If I sound enthusiastic, it’s because Rallyman is the grail. Simple design, but complex gameplay and strategies. You an study a track, and then discover new tricks. I suspect, at some point for some tracks you get ‘optimal’ designs, but then it becomes “Well, when do I attack and risk a crash, when do I roll one at a time … and when that 2nd hazard comes up do I stop, roll, or spend a few seconds to roll safely?” My feeling is that the game plays at the level you want to play it at. A quick fun game or a cut-throat endeavor.
Maybe it’s the newness talking, but I’ve been remarkably resistant to the cult of the new recently (a fact even commented on at the last game night. “Of course Tao thinks Troyes is meh” (For the record, I upgraded to Meh+ the next day). Finding a game with new, simple mechanics and depth? Great!
Being able to play it with my son as well? Amazing. In fact, in our second game I lost to the TaoLing by 2 minutes! The track is here (course 1), and I was up by 40 seconds going into the last stage … then I lost control in an straightaway with an unlucky roll (3 hazards on a 4 die attack) and suddenly I’m behind. Meanwhile he’s throwing seven die attacks with no problem. It’s still a dice game.
So — I’m amazingly enthusiastic about this one. I’ve upped my rating to an 8. Well see how it goes from there. I’m not going to print out the dirt expansion, but If I’m this stoked in October I’ll get a copy after it’s published.
PPS — The modular board design also allows for a large number of tracks. You can combine the 4 (double sided) boards in a number of ways … they don’t have to line up in a square. The Rallyman site offers many (multi-stage) rallies.
PPPS (May 22nd) — With four I think it’s a bit long. See comments below.
- My “Top 20 outside the Top 200” geeklist inspired other people, which I think is good. I’m surprised how often Cribbage is on the lists … (I just tossed my cribbage board into the game bag last weekend and played a few games). In any case, making the geeklist propelled me to rotate the games I bring to include a good chunk of that.
- The OG’s game of the year summary list. Good list of games worth checking out.
- I recalculated my H-index (conservative estimates of games played before I started tracking) and my number is at least 34. To be fair, I only did this because I wasn’t gaming. I’m not quite so stat-addled that I’ll play Hera & Zeus 3 more times just to bump it up a notch, though.
- There should be an H-Hour index, where you count time spent (in hours) instead of games. Although I think my number would state the same (4 games would have numbers plummet, but I think at least 4 games would have numbers shoot above 35. (Hell, 18xx games alone probably cover my losses).
- I updated my games for trade page, I’ll have an auction in the next month or two, but if any readers/locals want to make an offer first, that would be fine.
- I don’t play Hannibal enough to want the expansion, personally.
- Barnes review of Yggdasil
… of actual gaming content!
I played Troyes last game session. My initial reaction was JASE, but the next day I found myself thinking about it. It certainly has several original ideas (it may be a worker placement type, but that doesn’t feel right. Better to say “Limited Actions” but the exact number of actions are dependent on player actions… there could be anywhere from 6 to 18 actions each turn).
And while it has the lamest theme known to Euros, I like the medieval style artwork on the cards. It may still be a JASE, but I think my initial reaction (“Meh”) was overly cynical and I hope there’s a good game there. Not quite willing to pull the trigger on it, but it will be high on the list of new games.
I also played …. Small world. And I had totally forgot there was a “More powers and races” expansion I didn’t have! I’ll have to correct that. I suffered my worst trouncing in Small World in …. well, forever, I think. Lesson Learned — Do not pick the pixies unless you have a massive spread out power (like Maurading)…or people will just eat you alive. Possibly with a side of hummingbird.
And my new game order arrived — frabjous! The Lewisnky, Monica expansion adds a new map with a few new rules, or some cards to use on the old map. I’m still playing with the nerfed token scoring rules …
Also in the box — Rallyman and Airlines Europe. The former counts as the first “I’m vaguely intrigued and willing to take a flyer” purchase I’ve made in a while. I did a single race just to get a feel for the rules, and then the younger TaoLing and I played a 3-stage rally. Clever push your luck mechanism, plays pretty fast, although I think that a reasonable variant is to time people’s turns with a stop watch and penalize them (maybe getting ~20 seconds for free, or penalizing 1 second for each 5 seconds taken). Pretty little game, too. One or two rules questions, but nothing major.
A.E. is basically a remake of a series I like, so even though it was basically blind purchase, I knew what I was getting. So there.