The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

New Essen Games, and a shocking confession

Tried three new games (two from Essen).

Eight of us tried Coach Ride to Devil’s Castle. I knew this was an interesting idea, and I think it worked, but it wasn’t unanimous. Scott Tepper’s review details the mechanics, suffice to say that there are two teams, and you are trying to identify your team-mates, and acquire the necessary objects to win. The game ends when one player takes their turn and says “Myself (and possibly two more players) have the necessary objects to win.” Then you flip up the people, verify that they are on the same team, and verify that they have the necessary objects. Each named player must have at least one object, too. At least, that’s my reading. If the announcement is correct, that team wins. If wrong, the team opposing the announcer wins.

The interesting part is … no communication. (In theory). The play of the cards will often allow one player to see another’s affiliation (or items). You can attack another player … the winner can either steal an item, or see the loser’s affiliation.

Not only can you build up a number of known facts, you can deduce items. The teams need different items to win. If someone offers you an item you need, chances are they are your team-mate. People keep supporting those you are attacking (or being attacked by)? Probably the other team.

You can bluff to deceive, but you’ll be bluffing your team-mates as well.

Our game (with rules) took about an hour, and had a bit more communication than zero. Ah well. This is one of those games where your first play will have everyone confused. I enjoyed it after one game, but we need to play again to figure things out. You can get into a position where other people know a lot more and your starting item doesn’t really help you. Unbalanced starting position … you’ll have to hope one of your team-mates did better. Also, each player gets a mild “modify the rules” power, and I don’t think those are balanced. But at 1 hour for the first game (and possibly dropping 15-30 minutes with an experienced group) I enjoyed it. We’ll have to see. [I do recommend trimming the deck as suggested for your first game].

Antler Island was ok. Much better than Shear Panic. (The sheep herd idea worked well, but all the scoring ideas felt random). Our game took ~45 minutes, with rules. A planning/simultaneous selection with some flexibility in how your reveal. This could possibly be played deeply, not that I did. Worth trying again, but no way would I shell out $80 (or even $50) for this. Not my type of game.

I can see why some people consider Galaxy Trucker the Hit of Essen. The game theme reminded me of the infamous “S.P.I.V.s,” but it’s somewhat friendlier. There are three “Trips.” Each trip starts by building your space ship. You flip up tiles, one at a time, and add them to your ship (or reject them, or put them in a holding tank). You have to connect everything legally, Carcassone style (edges that have a connector must match with all other edges). Ships have various components, thrusters, lasers, crew components, shields, batteries, storage, and a few specials. You can also take time to scout the route, looking at some of the cards you’ll encounter. But it’s real time. When one player finishes, they start a timer on everyone. Once time is up, you order ships 1st to 4th, shuffle up the cards, and go. The cards could be bad, like pirates, smugglers, asteroids, or a combat zone. Those tend to blast parts of your ship away (which may cause other parts, no longer connected to the core, to fall away). You can also pick up goods at planets, etc. It’s random. The 2nd and 3rd day have more cards, and also allow you to have bigger spaceships. You get money for finishing the haul first, and any spare goods you manage to acquire (or money earned from defeating pirates, etc).

I enjoyed it, and I’d play again. Short randomness is good. I’m not sure this has long term potential, but it’s more to my tastes than Antler Island.

Speaking of Randomness, I also played the new edition of Talisman. Without all the expansions, it was relatively quick. Perhaps a touch under 2 hours (for 5 people). Again, as games get longer the randomness becomes more annoying, but four out of the five players had a reasonable shot at winning (ie … got to the final space of the board or were one step away) and the fifth player had the strongest character! So I can’t complain this time, as it was close. Not something I’d play often, but not as bad as I remembered.

Update: Here’s the SABG discussion of Kutschfahrt (and the other games). Talisman took almost 2:30, but the rules took about 30 minutes (partially because people were in and out).


Written by taogaming

October 27, 2007 at 6:02 pm

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