The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘Alhambra

On the new games front —


I haven’t been actively avoiding new games, but I haven’t been jumping into them either. I’ve been revisiting old games. I suppose I should try Seasons, at least.

  • I got a copy of expansion #2 to Smarty Party, which I didn’t know existed. It’s still infuriating.
  • I (finally) printed out the 2nd edition rules for No Retreat! I need to get that back to the table. This is one of the few games I’m planning on bringing to the Gathering to play. I was inspired by the latest P500 geeklist, which had a number of interesting sounding games. I preordered four (including the new No Retreat! for North Africa, which should be out in a 3-4 months).¬† I may wake up and undo the other three, as they are all long games.
  • Best¬†Who Would Win Debate I’ve ever heard — Conan vs Darth Vader at Science Fair. Not a great game, but amusing.
  • Now that Isotropic is dead, played a few games of Dominion (Dark Ages) face to face. Still good.
  • Also played a few games of Ticket to Ride (1910), Wiz War, Alhambra and a few older games got a play as well over the last month.
  • Coup is still the go-to filler de jour. I’ll probably have fifty plays within 48 hours. Netrunner broke 150 plays recently.

(FYI — My P500s — No Retreat! The North African Front, Churchill, Unconditional Surrender and The Supreme Commander).

Written by taogaming

April 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

Fixed Fun Games & Heckmeck im Bratwurmeck

Many Euro games take three or four players. Sometimes up to two or five. Few Euros play with six or more. There are many reasons (or at least, there are many theories) as to why this is so, but I think one reason is that the games have a fixed amount of fun.

When Alhambra came out (two years ago), the reaction at the Gathering split — about half loved it, half hated it. It quickly became apparent how many people played often dictated the feeling. More players means less fun.

Usually, it’s because you sit around during other players’ turns. So the game takes the same amount of time, but you get to do less. The fun dilutes. These are ‘fixed fun’ games.
Diplomacy doesn’t dilute. Add or remove a player and you may change the balance (or variant), but each player gets the same amount of time to play.

This isn’t a binary “Fixed vs non-fixed” choice; there’s an elasticity of fun (as compared to number of players). In Puerto Rico, you lose control with players, but not as badly as Alhambra. Most games are in the middle, and designs that have fixed fun would be well advised to keep to lower limits. Struggle of Empires leans towards the “fixed” column, but mitigates by taking away an action round.

Heckmeck im Bratwurmeck, Knizia’s dice game, is a fixed fun game. I played it with four players, and loved it. Basically, you roll dice and keep all dice showing a single number, re-rolling the rest. But you can’t keep a number you rolled before. Also, the dice show worms (as well as 1-5), and you need to keep at least one worm (worms are valued at 5). If you have a value higher than the lowest available tile (which run 21-36), you can claim it. If you have the value equal to each player’s most recently claimed tile, you steal it. If you crap out and have at least one tile, you return it (and sometimes remove the highest tile from the game). When no unclaimed tiles remain, you score (each tile shows 1-4 worms, which are points).

The reason I mention that it’s a fixed fun game is that the box lists 2-7 players. Guess what you get to do when it’s not your turn? Nothing. Ok, you get to watch dice tumbling across the table. I’m surprised that anyone who played with six or seven liked the game, but apparently some still thought it was OK. With seven, the game takes an hour (because one of the two ‘timers’ in the game only functions when I player craps out and has a tile). But with 2-4, the game takes half as long, and each player gets more time with the dice.

I played Heckmeck twice, and will buy a copy (after the move). It’s a cute filler, nothing more. But I’d never dream of playing with a crowd.

Written by taogaming

April 18, 2005 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Reviews

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Thursday Night Gaming (3/10/05)

Yet again nobody wanted to play a long game, so I ended up playing Attika twice (2 player), Primordial Soup (the English Re-release of Ursuppe) and Alhambra. Ursuppe falls a bit short of “Modern Day Classic”, but it’s still good. For anyone who bought the English set — the German expansion is bilingual and will work reasonably well (the money doesn’t match, but that’s it).

Written by taogaming

March 11, 2005 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Alhambra Revisited

Another updated review:

April 23rd, 2003.

A running joke:

"What's Alhambra like?"
"Have you played 'Stimmt So?'"
"It's just like that."

If you’ve played Stimmt So, you are done. It’s just like that. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

For those poor few of us who have no frame of reference, a description is in order. In Alhambra, you are trying to build up a city in the desert. Each player starts with some money (in various currencies) and a fountain tile. Four tiles are available for purchase (one tile in each currency) and four money cards are available. Money comes from 1-9 and in four currencies, which I conveniently label “Blue, Yellow, Orange and Red”, although they have names. Tiles come in a variety of colors and wall configurations.

Most turns, a player either takes some money or buy a tile. Taking money is simple: You take one of the face up cards. But, you can also take multiple cards, so long as the total value is five or less. You purchase a tile by paying the appropriate amount of the correct currency. Overpaying is accepted, but you get no change back. The tile must then be placed in your city with the following rules:

  • No rotation,
  • Wall must touch wall, open edges must touch open edges (at least one edge must touch an existing tile,
  • You must be able to trace a path from that tile back to the fountain, without leaving the city (water is life!)
  • No surrounded gaps

If a player can’t (or doesn’t want to) place a tile in a legal position, he can put it into the reserves. Later, a player can skip a turn to add a tile from the reserve to his city.

One other rule: if a player buys a tile exactly, he gets another action! So a turn could be buy a tile exactly, buy another tile exactly, and take some money. Only after all purchases must the new tile(s) be placed, a nice side benefit.

Shuffled into the deck of currency are two scoring cards (they are put in the second and fourth of five roughly equal stacks). During the first scoring, the leader in each set is paid out. During the second scoring, first and second place in each set pay out. There is a final scoring: when there are not enough tiles to make a full set of four, then players reveal their money and highest in each denomination gets the remaindered tile to add to his city (if desired), and first, second and third in each set pay out. Also, during each scoring, players receive points for the length of the longest external section of wall. What’s the point of building up a nice city if barbarians are at the gates? Most points wins.

Alhambra is a nice tactical game. Snagging a tile that you can buy exactly is easy, but when to buy other tiles or take money is a tough choice. Do you want to buy an expensive Palace, or wait and hope for a cheaper one to show up later? Do you take a Red ‘9’, or take two cards that total ‘5’ that let you pay for those tiles exactly and hope that they’ll be there next turn?

Alhambra looks fine. Players build up their cities, which are on sturdy tiles. The components are fine, and the game graciously includes two markers for each player: one for scoring, and one to let everyone know who’s who! [Thereby avoiding a pet peeve]. One the downside, the “Red” and “Orange” currencies are tough to tell apart, but they at least gave each currency its own symbol (albeit a small one).

A big complaint against Alhambra was that with five or six players, it’s too random. In fact, anyone whose first game had five or six dismissed the game. After playing a few times, I understand completely. How can you plan ahead if anything you don’t buy is likely to be gone on your next turn, and you have money in four non-exchangeable currencies? No, Alhambra should be played with four or three. [There are special rules for two players, but I can’t speak to those as the rules were in German]. Three works very well, since you get more turns. And since you have more tiles, getting a nice long wall takes on more importance; players even struggle in finding locations to play their tiles, which doesn’t seem to happen much with four players.

So I think that as long as you have a small game (three or four, maybe two), Alhambra certainly delivers the enjoyment. A little better than Stimmt So, or so they tell me.

Bonus: Stimmt So Rules, as they were explained to me.
Just like Alhambra, but no tile placement (You just collect sets) and only one currency card (no taking multiple cards that add up to five). So you could play Stimmt So with an Alhambra set. Personally, the new rules seem much more interesting to me.

Alhambra hasn’t hit the table recently, but that’s a function of many new games. It certainly deserved the acoolades. However, I still don’t recommend playing this with more than four. The newer sets have much nicer color scheme, so much so that I was mildly tempted to upgrade. I greatly prefer Alhambra to Carcassone, but both games are light enough that I’d rather play something meatier most of the time.

Author 	  Dirk Henn
Players   2-6 (3-4, IMO)
Company   Queen
Time 	  45 minutes
Cost 	  $30

Written by taogaming

February 16, 2005 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Reviews

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