The picture this week is on my “to buy” list and is a nice variation on balancing games.
The last quiz picture was of Railways of the World one of many railway games in the route building genre, and is (to my mind) a simplified version of Age of Steam which for me is a nicer, if slightly longer, game.
I have been away so this post is a list of games played on 17th August (at the bottom) with a full post of what happened on 10th August and which I have only just had time to complete with the break and the Olympic Games to watch. Talking of the Olympic Games if I was in charge I would be replacing Handball with Kabaddi and how come Sumo is not one of the new sports in Tokyo?
Table 1 played Scythe, I still have not played this one yet, but at least my copy is out of shrinkwrap now and I should be giving it a play soon and unlike a few other games I have yet to play at least I have begun to read the rules, implementing them in play is a different matter.
Table 3 established itself as the light table and went with Colt Express which has been covered before, an excellent game which is well deserving of its 2015 Spiel des Jahres award. In brief players play action cards to a common deck which at the end of the round is played out, players are trying to collect all the loot on a train which is something I have given up trying to do as my best plans are always shot to bits (literally) by the other players so I just go for emptying my pistol as fast as possible which brings its own rewards.
My table started with a gentle warm up game Water Lily, players are a team of frogs trying to get across the lily pond, when they exit the board they slide down one of several hidden chutes, the first that enters a given chute will score1 point, the next, 2 then 3 and 4, but the fifth and later score nothing. The board shows lily pads (movement spaces), stacks of frogs in various colours are stacked at one end and the players take a token which tells only them what colour they are for the game.
On a turn a player chooses the top frog token on any stack and moves that piece up to as many lily pads as there were frogs in the stack, the game ends when one colour is no longer represented on the board at which point the lid is removed from the chutes to reveal the scores. This is fun family entertainment, the box fits together nicely to create the board and an additional nice touch is that the game name is only on one side so that it is hidden during play and players just see nice a nicely decorated box.
Table 3 had moved on to Jamaica an interesting pirate game where players race around the board in their ship gaining extra points the closer they are to the finish when the lead ship crosses the line, however more rewards can be gained for pirating along the way, visiting hidden caves or attacking other players all of which slows you down in the overall race. The movement mechanism is interesting in that players select a card from a hand of three which has 2 parts which a morning action and an afternoon action playing them at the right time can bring great rewards.
My table next played Rette Sich Wer Kann aka Lifeboats this lovely back-stabbing game first appeared in 1993 and for a number of years was played quite frequently at conventions. The theme is that a boat has sunk and the crew are trying to reach any island they can using the lifeboats, each player has 2 Steersmen and 4 Sailors and there are 3 islands which score slightly different points for Steersmen and Sailors, the turn-start marker is the Captains log (a nicely polished piece of dowelling) and is used to make tie-break decisions. A turn consists of three phases 1) springing a leak, 2) changing boats and 3) moving a boat forward, a voting wheel is used for phases 1 and 3. Each lifeboat has space for exactly 6 player pawns, however as they are not watertight they spring leaks and if a boat gets a leak a water token will replace one of the pawns causing that piece to be “lost at sea” and out of the game. The choice of which boat gets a leak is done through voting, each player has a wheel which has a segment showing each of the colour boats and a captains hat, so at vote time everyone secretly chooses a colour on their wheel, then all are revealed simultaneously and the boat with the majority colour gets a leak with the Captains Log player breaking the tie.
The game revolves around the negotiations at the table before a vote is made and woe betide anyone who leaves the gaming table no matter how briefly because you can bet that they will find one of their pieces will end up without a boat. The voting wheel is central to the game, players may debate whatever they like and make all sorts of promises, but it is what appears on the wheel that counts even a mistake is binding, some later editions have a set of cards as opposed to a voting wheel. Getting back to the boat with a leak, if there is an empty slot the leak goes there, however if there is no place to put the leak the players in the boat pick a volunteer to jump out, this is also done by voting but only by those with present in the boat and each Steersman provides 2 votes to a sailors single vote. The losing player colour then chooses one of their pieces to swim for help (and is lost out of the game).
Players then in turn order take one piece out of a boat that has not already had a pawn jump out, they then in reverse order jump into a different boat, this can lead to a pawn not being able to find an empty space and ending up out of the game. Finally everyone votes to advance one boat one space and should a boat reach an island the pawns get out and score however if at the end of any phase a boat has more leaks in it than sailors to do the bailing, that boat sinks and all the pawns in it are removed from play.
This game can be brutal and it is possible to end the game with no points, the end score is never known until the last boat is safe or sunk, an early lead can make you a target whilst leaving it too late to come from behind may well leave you in a sinking boat. For me the game has some nice mechanisms which are not found in many other games and they mesh well together here, if you can cope with the back stabbing and play it with 5+ players I highly recommend it.
Table 1 next played Why First? a card race game where players pawns are manipulated on the race track by the cards played, the winner of the game is the player whose pawn is in second place after five rounds.
The last game on my table was Spooky Manor which is not your typical board game, in fact there is no board, no dice, no dobbers and no cards and is really what I would describe as a narrative game bearing vague similarities to the fighting fantasy books of old. The players play as a co-operative group except one who is the narrative reader (NR), the group play a single character deciding how he/she deals with the various problems set in the scenario, on a turn you get a single action (move, examine etc) and the action is interpreted by the NR to fit one of the permissible actions then the NR reads the result, play continues until the group character dies (they may continue from a last "save" spot which is also an action) or solve the problem/story.
This sort of game is completely outside my comfort zone by several yards (if not miles) and it took me a while to get into the whole thing, I did feel that I was playing an old spectrum narrative adventure game with more freedom in actions but inevitably tied in to the scripted “play”. Saying that though there was a lot of fun had by the group especially as the multiple-personalities all tried to control the direction of the character, retracing steps as one player wanted to open a door in one room whilst another wanted to read a book in another, as movement was an action you generally moved to where you wanted an action to take place hoping to persuade the next player to take that action.
As with most RPG’s (role-playing games) I take part in, the “Barbarian” within me came to the fore much to the growing consternation of all, my attitude in most RPG’s is if moves – kill it, if it does not move, kick it until it does move then kill it, this includes furniture, doors and even walls (I hope this did not spoil it for others). I am glad I played, even happier that I was able to relax enough to enjoy it and pleased to try something so far outside my normal gaming pleasures, and although I enjoyed the experience I am unlikely to repeat it but for those of you who do enjoy this type of game it is well worth trying out.