Rheinlander, Pax Pamir and Steam Works

The quiz photo this time is of a crackingly good abstract game I picked up in a charity shop last week, can you put a name to it?

Last weeks quiz photo was correctly guessed by “G” as Speed Circuit, this race game really set the standards for all following grand prix style games and had quite a big fan base in the 1980’s where many games were played by post and in my guesstimation was probably the third most popular multiplayer postal game of the 1980’s (pre-internet days), Diplomacy and Railway Rivals being the other two.

The first game on Table 1 was Hive, a 2 player strategy game that can be quite quick, each player has a team of various bugs with the goal to be to completely surround your opponents Queen Bee with either/both players pieces. The Queen Bee must be placed within the first 4 turns after that a player can either place a new piece adjacent to only their own pieces or move a piece of theirs which is already in play. The different pieces and their movement peculiarities make this an interesting tactical game.

J > Hive is a good game. Simple concept. Quality Bakelite pieces. Lots of replay value. I've played this on Board Game Arena but have never won it. Tonight was my first time playing with a physical copy. I have to say that this has moved up on my wishlist.

The first game on Table 2 was Fearsome Floors, in this game the players try to get their team of pieces from one corner of the board to the diagonally opposite corner, pieces move up to the number on their face and after everyone has moved all their pieces a monster moves across the board and devours anyone it lands on, players can avoid being eaten by hiding behind pillars and teleports.

The monster gets among the player pieces near the start space

The monster gets among the player pieces near the start space

The Monster

The Monster

It is a fun game which can lead to some headaches when trying to calculate where the monster will move on its turn as it can move anywhere between 5 and 20 spaces and behind a pillar can end up being in front of a pillar.

Table 1 played a couple of quick games, the first was Stoplights a simple card game which I know nothing about.

 BQ > Stoplights was an easy to learn, enjoyable little filler game. As Jeric alluded to, we didn't really get too far into it before I annihilated my opponents with a strategic master-stroke. Or was handed the win by a momentary lapse in concentration. One of the two...

J > I've only played Stoplights as a 2 player before tonight. Our game was too quick to really explore its complexities. The object of the game is to be the first player to make a row or diagonal of 5 lights of your colour. The game can play very quickly and easily replayable.
 

The second was Love Letter: Batman which I have covered a couple of times before.

J > We also played Batman: Love Letter as a 4-player. I discovered that I had been playing a house rule all along by turning over the first card.

The first main game on Table 1 was Discoveries a simplified version of Lewis and Clark played with dice. On a turn a player can place all their dice with showing the same face, these dice are generally used to set up movement, collect native cards or take a journey along a card in their possession, once a card has been travelled it goes into the players score pile, the Indian cards make travelling easier and aid the player with other dice options.

The white players dice (left), natives (right) and current travel card (top)

The white players dice (left), natives (right) and current travel card (top)

Some helpful native cards

Some helpful native cards

BQ > Discoveries is a very nice, "dice management" game, and is indeed beautiful to look at. I also find it very thematic: you explore, and then write it up in your Journal...it just *feels* right. Turns are suprisingly quick, and I always feel like I've something interesting to do. I forgot a couple of actions available to me that might have seen me do better - I should've use the swap-out to replace a lower point value exploration card with a exploration flora/fauna card that would have improved my final score <sigh>. I'll be bringing it again soon, I think.

J > Discoveries was an excellent mid weight game. The artwork was excellent. I found the dice to be really light as if they were made of balsa wood. The gameplay is not too complex. I like the "grab other people's dice from the common pool" mechanic. I would love to play this again.

Pax Pamir player board

Pax Pamir player board

Table 3 played Pax Pamir a game I am quite interested in playing however I have been told that the play can be quite chaotic something I am not always comfortable with. I know little about the game so forgive me if I have anything incorrect here, the players are Afghan tribal leaders and are trying to gain influence with the various powers (Russian, British and Afghan) and whoever has the most influence in the relevant “power” when it gains rule, wins the game, part of the mechanism of the game is buying cards from the market and it is these cards that give the game its depth and variety.

The cards held by one player part way through the game.

The cards held by one player part way through the game.

Table 2 played Steam Works by TMG, in this game the players take on the role of machine builders and create various contraptions from the given components to collect victory points. On a turn players place one of their workers to undertake an action which can be collecting a power source, collecting a machine part, building a 2 part machine or placing him on any machine in play.

Two simple machines - the left is clockwork and gives 3 cash and a tile from the conveyer belts, the second is electrical and gives cash if you destroy a power source, converts cash to victory points and gives an automaton for the turn (an extra worker)

Two simple machines - the left is clockwork and gives 3 cash and a tile from the conveyer belts, the second is electrical and gives cash if you destroy a power source, converts cash to victory points and gives an automaton for the turn (an extra worker)

Machines are built with one of three power sources (clockwork, steam or electricity) and a machine part which in order to work needs to match the power source, machines are capable of many things but generally they generate cash, power sources, machine parts and towards the end of the game victory points, they also build larger machines or upgrade smaller machines to bigger machines. The game revolves around creating bigger and better machines, not only can you use them for your own ends but you gain victory points if others use them. My first time of playing (at home) I was thoroughly confused about what worked best with what, my second play at the club left me a little less confused but not necessarily any wiser and I managed a humble second place.

Some of the machines in play at the games end

Some of the machines in play at the games end

It has an interesting catch-up mechanism in that if anyone does build a game-winning machine others are equally likely to gain its benefit as the owner. The skill in the game is spotting the good machines first and getting the benefits before others spot them, it is an interesting game but can be lengthy time-wise until familiarity is gained with the different tiles and their powers.

Table 1 moved on to Sector 41 a move and explore game played on a grid of shuffled face-down tiles. On a turn players move their ships to explore tiles, when revealed the tile may have one of many random effects, the game does seem to be quite luck based but as a short fun random event game it is quite playable.

The play area of Sector 41 near the games end.

The play area of Sector 41 near the games end.

BQ > Sector 41...Sector 41...hmm. For a £3.99 BoardGame Guru special offer it was...well, OK. Perhaps it would need more plays to get to grips with the interactions of all the various heavenly bodies on the tiles, but I did feel that it was a little chaotic and random for my tastes. I think if there were fewer different types of tile, it might be better, although again familiarity might help with that, but I ask myself whether there's enough game there to keep me interested while I learn the tile powers. However, I'll give it another try sometime before I make a final assessment.

J > Sector 41 was a longer game than I expected and that's after the game ended early before the guardian started eliminating explorers. I had a very difficult time collecting points as I couldn't make a chain of tile movement as well my competitors. I wasn't sure whether this was just the luck of the tile spread or I wasn't taking advantage of the "space fold" where the row of tiles are cycled to the edge like a conveyor belt.

Table 3 played Rheinländer  a 1999 game from Reiner Knizia, it is quite a simple area control game where a players turn is to place a knight piece in an area adjacent to the numbered river space of the card they play from a limited hand. Two or more adjacent knights form a duchy with the majority holder of knights ruling the duchy, takeovers are common as adjacent duchies merge and compensation is paid to the loser. The 2005 version has some nice miniatures but as far as I am aware the rules have remained unchanged.

The board (from the back of the box)

The board (from the back of the box)

The last game played was Port Royal which has been covered before, the game is well balanced no matter how many players (2-5) and I can highly recommend  picking this one up if you are after a nice light game with a little bit of bite to add to your collection.