The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Warning — Contains Actual Content

Many new games last night.

Ciao Ciao — You roll a die (hidden from everyone else) and then claim how many spaces you get to move. If you get challenged, the challenger moves that many spaces (and the failed bluffer falls of the bridge and gets reset). But the problem with dice bluffing is that you don’t really have information, but have all the luck of dice. I rolled well. I won.  Indifferent.

Mordred — We had a rule wrong for part of the game. I don’t particularly care for Wallace designs in general. There may be a game here, but I didn’t find it last night. Indifferent.

Uchronia — A text book example of how one change organically ripples and creates a similar sounding game that feels much different (read — worse) than the original. The lack of following means you sit out a lot more. Also, the fact that the buildings are face up and built from a common stock (instead of in your hand) means that you have less planning. (And, come to think of it, you have to have a matching card in the pool to build it, so another random thing).

Even so, still an OK game. But I’d never play this when I can play Glory to Rome. Indifferent.

Terra Mystica — As I tweeted, I’d have probably written 5k words by now if this came out a few years ago. TM has a lot of exploration space … Technically a luckless game, apart from setup, but oh what a setup. Each player picks one of 7 colors … and each color has two races. So in a five player game there are (by my calculations) 672 combinations of races (21 different combinations of colors excluded, and for each set of 5 colors 32 possible combinations of races). That doesn’t include the other (random) setup stuff,  before you pick races, but the number of combinations is huge.

So the strategy space is huge. I just wonder if it has depth once you’ve got a handle on that.

Terra Mysica had a ton of moving part, so much so that I felt like I was playing an early game of Race … you play the game and then the winner comes as a surprise and you wonder “How? Why?” (OK, our game of five with four novices wasn’t a big surprise, but it was close). You have to manage workers, money, power, priests and the spatial element of the board. There’s competition for acts (not worker placement, but some of the actions are exclusive). You have a temporal aspect …  apart from the race for board position you get a scroll when you pass the action round. Passing first gives you first pick of three scrolls … but then you put your scroll back, so there are always three scrolls, and the one you put back may have been better. So sometimes people want to pass to grab a good scroll, and other times people are trying to delay to wait to grab an opponent’s scroll (and force them to take a chaff).  But one race may desperately need what you despise…

So … a lot going on. The player mats do have a lot of information, but some of it was rather subtly conveyed (if I had noticed I could convert workers to money, I would certainly have improved my score, and possibly). You spend your first hour staring at your position, then maybe halfway through the game you start noticing what others are doing. After another game perhaps you start really understanding a race or two. And each race has a different power, setup, bonus abilities. Not just a simple “Epsilon Eridani versus New Sparta” that you can take in at a glance.

I just wonder if a game that has that much variation in “homeworlds” should be a game that takes two hours.

And, once I did have a (rough) handle on things, it seems like many of my choices weren’t hard … many small optimizations and a few “A or B” long term choices. Since I couldn’t really evaluate them, I just picked whatever seemed best. Perhaps those will become harder as I grok the game, or perhaps one will be obviously dominant. It could go either way.

Still, better an intriguing game of dubious replayability than another shrug. Rating — Suggest for novelty and hook, time will tell.

Other random thought — I wouldn’t play this with two, but this does seem like a fixed-fun game, so I’d hope to try with 3-4, instead of five. Unlikely in the near future (as the one copy will be full).

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Written by taogaming

December 5, 2012 at 12:23 am

One Response

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  1. ” I just wonder if it has depth once you’ve got a handle on that.” There’s a tension between playing to your strengths as a race, and taking the turn-specific actions that give VPs. But that’s not dynamic; you can effectively plot your grand build strategy before taking turn 1, unless you get unexpectedly boxed in.

    Frederic Bush

    December 5, 2012 at 1:59 am


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