Well, I finally made back to the monthly Board Game Marathons for the first time since November. My game plays for the week, naturally, also got a lot higher. Add in the fact that I was gone last week, and didn't have a chance to blog about playing last week, and you have a lot of games here, some new, some old. Buckle your seatbelts; this is going to be a long entry. Feel free to skip around to the games you want to read. The Finca entry is pretty funny, and Sid Meier's Civ has some interesting comments on strategy, so you may want to check those out first.
Merchants & Marauders is the new hotness from Zman. The designer, Christian Markussan has been very active on BGG about trying to get this game published for several years now. He had found a publisher in Eurogames several years back, before Eurogames got out of the game publishing business and dropped his game. I was pretty bummed at that point, because every pirate game I had ever played had sucked balls. Well, then good news came along that Zman was going to publish it, which ultimately probably was better for the game anyway. The components are gorgeous and well made. The board has that particular kind of matte finish that I'm not a big fan of, the same one as from a lot of other Zman games like Pandemic and Duel in the Dark, the one which I think shows wear too easily, but other than that minor quibble, the cards, art, cardboard pieces and plastic ships all look great.
And, finally, somebody has put together a pirate game that doesn't suck. Yes, I'm calling you out, Pirateer, Pirate's Cove, Armada, and every other pirate game out there. Blackbeard is the only major one that isn't on my shit list, as I still haven't had a chance to try it. Merchants & Marauders, however, has finally managed to take a pirate theme and make a good game out of it. I can't give it a wholehearted stamp of approval yet, because the game we played was kind of anticlimactic, and I managed to win without even upgrading my ship. But I bet that if the other players had attacked me like they could have and should have, I would have lost most of that gold that was the major source of my Glory Points, and there would have been another winner. I won't be buying this one based on the strength of that one play, but I would be happy to play again to see if I want it. 7/10
Finca. Oh, god, Finca. It's been a long time since a play of a game left me with this much revulsion. I'll just copy what I wrote over on BGG, as I don't think I can improve on it.
"Holy boring repetitive crap, Batman! Finca is pretty much exactly like a million other games, only this one has different art and a different title like all the rest of these cookie-cutter boring pieces that seem to still sell despite my fervent wish for them to die. In this one... well, you're on Majorca, which is obvious because... because... because there's fruit. That you have to deliver to a market. But there's very specific way to harvest this fruit, which is wandering around on windmill blades with your farmers. And when there's a lot of farmers on one windmill blade, they want to go really far. And when there's a lot of farmers on the blade they're moving to, that means they have a great harvest. And when the farmers pass 90 and 270 degrees on a windmill blade, a donkey and cart fall out of the sky and patiently wait to deliver the fruit to market.
If it's somehow not obvious to you already, this is another game that has absolutely no connection to any kind of theme, much less the theme which is put on there. Some joker thought of an interesting mechanic, used the random page finder on Wikipedia to find a theme, and then convinced a publisher to put nice art and components with this soulless mishmash. And now it's Uncle Set Collector's Game of The Month for people to play and forget about by the time Essen rolls around again." 4/10
Got in another play of Fantasy Flight's newish Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, one of my games of the year last year. This was my third play, and I decided to try an economic victory. I won in a landslide, and I have some suspicions now about the strength of that playstyle. Not only do coins give you a viable way to win the game, they also give you a great tech engine, which means you can keep up militarily and fall back on a military or tech strategy to win the game. Compare with the military or cultural strategies which rail you into one path, and make it very difficult to deviate from that path. I'm hoping that this session was an aberration due to some combination of luck and inexperienced opponents, but if I can manage to pull this off consistently against the Civ vets in my group, then I'm going to have to put a house rule in there. Word on BGG is that limiting the coin gathering techs to only three coins alleviates the problem. 9/10
Also at the marathon was Kaivai, which apparently is rare and/or has a new printing, or is somehow exciting to people who get into heavy Euros. Certainly the signs seemed to point in that direction, as I played it with Adrian, who is so wired into the cult of the new that he burned out on Agricola before it was even published in the states, playing with his homemade copy. And Kevin, too, said something about the game being rare. This is a decent game, and totally not for me. The gameplay is overly tight and unforgiving. I didn't get caught out in the cold, but a couple of other players did, and the game is pretty long for being able to be functionally eliminated in the first two turns. The theme is about polynesian island colonization, and it's cool, but I didn't really feel like I learned anything from the game. It's just too mechanics-focused and dry. 6/10
After playing Field Commander: Rommel several times, I decided to obtain a copy of Field Commander: Alexander, as the theme appealed more to me, and it would at least be worth a lark before trading it away when I was finished. It's fine, if not exceptional. The same solid system is reproduced here from FC:Rommel and I think some of it doesn't work as well in this period, but as an overview of the conqueror's life, it is alright. I think once I play through this one, I will trade it and likely not return to the series again unless there's a medieval themed one of some kind. Still, the game is good, I enjoy it, it just isn't good enough to keep around or play through more than once. 7/10
Also tried another solitaire game I had recently acquired, Patton's Best. This is an old Avalon Hill game, and one I had gotten along with a slew of others when a couple local gamers were getting rid of a lot of their old games. I definitely enjoyed this, and even played it twice in a row, a real rarity for me. It's still not as good as stuff I'd play with 2+ players, but I will probably keep it around for a few more plays. I'm a little concerned about it getting very same-y over many plays, but it certainly taught me a lot about tank warfare. 8/10
Auf Achse is a Wolfgang Kramer game, a spiel des Jahres winner from 1987, back in the days when Kramer did stuff other than just tile-laying action point games like Tikal and Hacienda. It's a good game, although the cartoony style really turned me off. I think there's a game here, but I couldn't help feeling like I was playing with playmobil toys the whole time long. It's also a little shorter than I like, and a little bit drier. I suppose it's worth a shot if you want to play a pathing game with your kids. 6/10
My second play of Kingsburg was this weekend. We played with the king's reinforcement variant from the To Forge a Realm expansion, though that's it from that box. It was more fun than I remembered, though not exactly earth-shattering. I felt like I was getting crappy rolls all game long. I don't think I once rolled above a 13, which was intensely frustrating. I don't think I'll ever own this, but I enjoy it on a once- to twice-per-year basis. Base game 7/10, expansion 5/10
Bermuda Triangle is a gimmick game worth playing once, and no more. Actually, let me revise that. It's worth playing half of a time. By the end it has overstayed its already limited welcome. BT is a glorified roll-and-move from the 70s. The storm is a big plastic piece with magnets in it, that if the spinner dictates, will sweep over your magnetized ships and suck them up, never to be seen again. The gameplay is a narrow sliver above terrible, with decisions present but mostly meaningless. 3/10
Played Vegas Showdown at WAGN. Rob had bought it off of me about a year ago, but had never gotten a chance to play it, so it was a first time for him. I do enjoy this game, and this is one of the first times I had ever wondered if I had made the wrong decision in selling a game, before reflecting that I had never missed it until I played it, and I am still able to play it frequently as there's a couple copies floating around in our game group. VS has this interesting feeling of being a light game, while actually having a lot of depth to it. That's my favorite type of Euro, one which you can think about, but doesn't scare off the lighter gamers. I think this is still one of the better ones of the genre, worlds better than the drier mechanical predecessor Princes of Florence. 7/10
For the first time in almost three years, I played Through the Desert. Tara's jaw just about hit the floor when I suggested it. It's time to put it away for another three years, as it was pretty much exactly how I remembered it, which was far too abstract, and obsessed with a tempo. I lose interest in the game pretty quickly, and want it to be done after the first few moves. I feel like, after the setup, I'm mostly just playing out my setup, and responding to threats rather than playing proactively. Not my cup of tea. 5/10
And finally, finally we are onto the last game I played, which was everybody's favorite bite size game, Dominion. We played with a few cards from Seaside. This session overstayed its welcome, as I often find with Dominion. Once people start building decks that draw all sorts of cards and give new actions, gameplay bogs down quickly. Curses also slow the game down pretty significantly. I always feel kind of dirty when I'm done with this game, like I could have done so much better, and this session was no exception. Base game: 6/10, Seaside 4/10