This quiz picture speaks for itself but can you name the game?
Last time the picture was of a new purchase for me, City of Iron by Ryan Laukat a designer whose games greatly appeal to me, “Above and below” and “8 Minute Empire” being two other examples. “I” correctly named it as the second edition.
This week we did not have a warm up but went straight into the main games, Table 1 commenced with Dogs of War. From what little I understand of this game the players invest in the 6 “houses” that are available and aid them in what is best described as matches of Tug-of-War (each round there are 3 matches between the houses). A players end score is based on their investment in the houses and how they fared together with some in game scoring, BQ who played it explains a bit more :-
BQ > Dogs of War: As a mercenary faction, one allocates soldiers and captains to three simultaneous battles between six great houses, in each of four rounds, in most cases gaining instant rewards as the captain is placed. When all players have committed all the military might they can (or want to), each battle is resolved, and participants in each of the three winning collective armies usually gain victory points. The mercenary with the most captains in each battle also gets a bonus. End game bonuses can also be acquired by supporting the house(s) that do best over the course of the game. I messed up my first turn royally by recruiting insufficient soldiers, but scrabbled my way back into the fight by the end of the game. And a fight it truly is - betrayal, misdirection, cowardice, crushing defeats and horrible reversals of fortune. The huge busts representing one's captains are pretty, but somewhat unwieldy and fiddly. So: overproduced, yes; at times frustrating, yes; but fun...? For me, absolutely yes!
My table went with Bruxelles 1893, this is quite a complex game with a lot of rules (which are far too many for me to cover here) and it took me a while to explain them all and I thank everyone for their patience with me, once the iconography is understood and the first round played the game mechanics do start to slot into place and you appreciate how everything meshes together. The idea is to gather the most victory points through the many sources which are available, the main game mechanic is worker placement which allows you to collect people cards, paintings, sell paintings, collect building resources or build buildings, each of which is a mini-game within the larger game framework where cash, workers and building resources all lay limitations on what you can do, for instance the people cards allow you to obtain in-game bonuses, however each people card you keep has a fee which must be paid at the end of the game, failure to do so results in a loss of 5 points for each.
It is the mix of these mini-structures within the game which gives it its depth and charm however as often happens with some of the games I bring to the club the dynamics change dependent on the number of players, playing 2 player control of people cards is quite important however 5 player this proved not to be the case and in fact it was hard to say which mini-game had the upper hand and I believe this games sweet spot is 4 players. Congratulations to “S” who won convincingly outdistancing the rest of players who were all within a few points of one another.
J > The 5 player game of Bruxelles was a fun learning/intro game. The game is deep enough that it takes a while to play with the full player count. I believe this might be better played at 4 or even 3. It helped that I watched Rahdo's runthrough on YouTube before the meet. I don't think it gave me an advantage, however, as I only finished third. I did stick to one majority area contol points and watched how it unfolded. In hindsight, I should have been more aggressive at blocking. I'll save for future plays. I think the theme and art is very well done. I particularly enjoyed the movable grid mechanic and the lose a worker only if you've got majority mechanic. I would love to play this again before it gets replaced in finite brain or I can just go through my youtube viewing history.
S > I really enjoyed Bruxelles. It's pretty complicated for a first playthrough because of all the mechanisms for points scoring. I think the error I made was over committing to a single means of scoring points. Good fun though, I'd be interested in trying again.
In the meantime a couple of later arrivals commenced a 2 player game on Table 3, of Sushi Go!. This game is quick, fun and versatile, it currently leads the table of most played games at the club, a simple card game with some great graphics.
Their next game was Love Letter: Batman, this simple bluff and deduction game is almost as popular as Sushi Go! at the club sitting in 5th position of most played games.
Table 1 went on to play Steam Time, I know nothing about this game so I am handing over to BQ here :-
BQ > Steam Time: Adventurers with time-travelling airships stuffed full with strange machines powered by preternatural crystals, we boldly dived into the stream of time and visited ancient monuments in their prime, met historical personages and explored civilizations before they were archaeology. Or, put another way, we played an entertaining worker placement game, where the "workers" were airships, and placing them on various space on a number of randomly-ordered boards representing the ancient monuments allows various actions to be taken: acquiring secret endgame scoring cards; gaining instant bonuses that may also be usable by other players; mining crystals to power our various machines; upgrading our airships to provide regular income of money/crystals/victory points; grabbing cash from the bank; and gaining exclusive bonuses, of variable value depending on how many crystals are powering a specific machine in one's airship. We each seemed to pursue slightly different paths to getting points, some more successful than others...all in all, I rather liked it.
Table 2 went on to play lightening Port Royal with 5 players, the game did crack along at a fast pace and we finished it in under 20 minutes, not bad considering the last time it was played 5 player at the club I believe it went on for what I believe was a couple of hours.
J > Speed Port Royal. There is an elegance to a game played by decent aficionados of the analog art whose familiarity with the game allows for a clean and quick gameplay. It's a testament to the robustness of game design. I personally took away a rule clarification that I will apply to my home games.
The last game on Table 2 was Skull, we have played this at the club before however to slightly different rules, in previous games the caller has had a choice of which discs in others stacks to flip, however this time you had to flip other players discs from top to bottom but like the other version you are not compelled to flip all of another’s discs just as many as you want from each stack so long as it is top to bottom. This rule had the effect of players committing more discs to their stack and changed the emphasis of the game from probabilities to deduction. I cannot say that there is more skill playing this way but the general feeling was it played better, I would be happy playing either way but what I can say is that playing this way screwed with my head and I found myself laughing throughout the game as I tried to come to terms with players bids which always appeared to be contrary to what I expected, however I did manage to notch up a win despite my brain arguing with me throughout.
J > Skull. We played 2 games of this and with the clarified rules of stacking the mats, I feel, the game plays better and faster.