Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for February, 2007

My Personal Gaming Evolution

Posted by sodaklady on February 23, 2007

There’s a lot of new Eurogames out now that I should be drooling over; itching to get my hands on, and I’m not: Hermagor, On the Underground, Mr. Jack to name a few. There are soon-to-be-released games that many are talking about but I don’t even care: Age of Empires III, Notre Dame, Die Baumeister von Arkadia. I read about them and they sound good but I don’t get that “gotta have it” feeling. Truthfully, it’s more of a “been there, done that” feeling.

What I’m most looking forward to is Tide of Iron. It’s a war game and something that I’d never have believed I’d be interested in even a year ago. Maybe it’s not such a strange evolution given how much I like Command & Colors: Ancients. It seems to be about the same weight but with a totally different style of play.

Today I was browsing BGN and saw a post about the newest game planned by Fantasy Flight called Tannhauser. I’d never heard of it so clicked over to Fantasy Flight Games to read their first posts about it. It sounds like a cross between an RPG-type board game and a war game. Well, since my husband, Richard, enjoyed our first play of World of Warcraft that Mike brought over 2 weekends ago, I’m giving this one some serious consideration. This one is giving me the itch and I can’t wait to hear more about it.

To me, this is a strange evolution. I always think of FF games as ones with tons of different types of pieces and dozens of card decks and have been put off by all the fiddling with bags and bags of pieces to sort through during the game. “Now where are those chits for weapons?” “I know that beastie is around here somewhere; which bag was it in?”

Anyway, I’ll be watching for the next posts and hoping that it continues to intrigue me.

Posted in Game-related Thoughts | 1 Comment »

My Favorite Game

Posted by sodaklady on February 19, 2007

Magna Grecia by Michael Schacht and Leo Colovini.

This was originally posted on my previous blog, Meeple Monologues, on Sept. 24, 2006.

Magna Grecia

After a long absence from the game table, I got to play Magna Grecia again on Saturday and it reminded me why this is still my favorite among the heavier games in my collection.

I originally bought it when there was very little information to be found because of the Turn Tiles, which are still very cool and one of the reasons I enjoy the game. This is the only bit of luck in the game and the second most-complained about aspect. The tiles show the turn order as well as the allowed actions for the current turn—the number of roads you can build, the number of city tiles you can place, or the number of tiles you can restock to your supply. They are shuffled and stacked in such a way that there is randomness to the turn order but you will never go too long without being first player. Some people don’t like this randomness but I think it’s unique and interesting. The other complaint I’ve read about deals with the color on the edge of each tile which can be glimpsed while the tiles are stacked and give away who will be the first player for each turn. The simple solution is to stack the tiles face down.

The most popular complaint for this game is, of course, the color scheme. I have to agree even though I have no problem discerning the difference between red, orange, yellow and brown. It sounds lovely in an aesthetically pleasing, decorator sense but for a board game, it’s a bad combination.

Alright, now that we’ve gotten the complaints out of the way, let’s talk about what really sings about this game. This takes us back to the Turn Tiles which each have a different combination of road and city tiles that you can lay on that turn and a number of tiles (in any combination of road/city) that you can restock. Since you can only do 2 of the 3 actions each turn, this game has a very tough hand-management aspect which I love. It reminds me of Hacienda which also forces you do choose between building what you feel you really need and restocking your hand. The difference in Magna Grecia is that you not only see what this turn has to offer, but the next turn as well because 2 Turn Tiles are displayed. This removes the luck of the draw that games like Hacienda and China have; you always know what’s coming up and you have no one to blame but yourself for a bad choice of actions.

The scoring is straight forward in Magna Grecia. I don’t have to deal with getting cards to turn into cubes which I use to buy buildings that have powers which I can use to earn points. (The preceding is an exaggeration and not intended to represent any particular game.) Markets placed in your cities, or a market in another player’s city that connect to one of your cities earn a point for each road leading somewhere. Temples earn 4 points for the most prominent city (the one with the most roads) that connects to it. I don’t like games where I have to deal with the “trickle down” system to earn points.

Another under-appreciated design feature is the distribution of city tiles and road tiles that each player has. The first time I played, I built small cities and lots of roads with the result that I ran out of roads before the last turn. This small but important feature means you are forced to build bigger cities rather than just run roads all over the countryside. Others have complained about this but I see it as hand-management within hand-management and I think it’s excellent.

To make the game even more interesting, let’s throw in money management. You see, not all of your actions are free. Every city tile you place costs you 1 point, building a market in someone else’s city costs you 1 point for each city tile in that city plus 1 point for each market already there. At the beginning of the game, you are given a set amount of points to spend and when they’re gone you either don’t place any more city tiles or markets, or you sell one of your markets.

This leads to the most interesting and lucrative strategy of the game, let’s call it the Sell and Expand strategy. The rules allow each player to have only one market in a city but what if you expand one city so that it connects to another city, creating one large city? One of those markets is eliminated from the game. The trick is to sell one of the markets before you expand your city and eliminate the sold market. I’ve read arguments about this not being a profitable move but in the game I played Saturday, I expanded a 5-point city, scored the 5 points, expanded again and scored the 7 points and at the end of the game scored 9 points for my new and improved city. To put it clearly, I scored my original 5-point city three times. I won by a considerable amount so I don’t want to argue about it!

Since I am not put off by “Take That” games, let’s not forget that aspect of Magna Grecia. You can cut off people’s roads if they leave them unfinished or build a road that blocks an opponent from reaching his destination. You build a cheap market in an opponent’s city and, if you’ve chosen well, share his points. You may decide to Super Size your turn action, catching your opposition off guard.

Ah, yes, Super Sizing your turn. Another wonderful option in case there weren’t already enough. If you so choose, you can decide to take only one action this turn (instead of two) but now you’re allowed more city or road tiles to build or more tiles to replenish. This can be a very handy and surprising move, getting you where you want to go before someone can cut you off or block you.

Magna Grecia is an excellent game that keeps the tension on through every turn, every decision. It’s a shame that the color scheme, especially the nauseatingly yellow board in the original production, kept so many people from enjoying this bit of brilliance from Leo Colovini and Michael Schacht. Rio Grande Games now shows it as being out of print and that really is too bad because, in my estimation, it’s a wonderful gamer’s game.

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Taluva

Posted by sodaklady on February 17, 2007

taluva.JPGTaluva is a 2-4 person tile-laying game where you build the board on each turn like Carcassonne. That being said, you can stop comparing this to Carcassonne from now on. This plays much differently although the tactics you’ll discover are just as subtle.

Each tile is shaped like 3 hexes stuck together to form a rough triangular shape with each hex showing one of six terrain types on it. The art is beautiful, if a little busy, and forms a very picturesque island when the game is finished.

The pieces are unique shapes representing huts, temples and towers which you will place on the ever-expanding board to build your settlements. I like the shapes for their uniqueness but the hut pieces are a bit hard to handle.

There are two ways to win and one way to lose before the game is finished. The first way to win is if all of the tiles have been placed, the player with the most temples on the board wins. If there’s a tie, then you compare towers built; the huts break any final tie. A premature win is when you manage to build all of two of the types of buildings. You are immediately out of the game if you cannot build on your turn. I like that rule; it forces you to be efficient, especially with your huts. In my trial run with this game, I actually beat myself that way. Well, never mind that.

On your turn you first draw and place a tile, then you must build.

A tile can be placed directly on the table or on top of 2 or 3 other tiles simulating the volcanic eruptions that build the island. When you place a tile on the 2nd or 3rd level you may wipe out huts, which are removed from play. This can be useful in slowing down your opponent but it can also be used to help yourself.

Your choices for building are:

1) Start a settlement. Place a single hut on any 1st level terrain except the volcano.

2) Expand a settlement. Choose a terrain type and place huts on each space of that type next to your settlement. One hut is placed on any 1st level terrain, two on a 2nd level terrain and three on a 3rd level terrain. This can clear out your supply of huts very quickly if you’re not careful.

3) Build a Temple. A temple can only be placed in a settlement of at least three spaces. Your may not build a 2nd temple in any settlement.

4) Build a Tower. A tower is placed on the third level next to your settlement. You may not build a 2nd tower in any settlement.

I’ve played this two or three times with Richard, once with three players and once with four players and I thought it played well each time. I’d recommend drawing your tile a bit before your turn to give you time to consider all of your options.

It’s early yet but so far I’m impressed with the clever, subtle ways you can hinder an opponent. It also makes you work to find a way to slow down your opponent while still improving your own position. Continually decimating someone else’s settlement doesn’t get you closer to winning if you can’t help yourself in the same move. It plays quickly, and the rules are logical if you use a little imagination. It may be an abstract in disguise but the theme works very well, in my opinion.

Posted in Game-related Thoughts, New Game, Reviews | 4 Comments »

Snowman Murdered in Black Hawk

Posted by sodaklady on February 17, 2007

This quiet suburb of Rapid City was shocked this morning when the body of a snowman was discovered in the front yard of the Weisbeck family. Officer Flake, standing by the snow outline of the victim, was reluctant to give any details. He did say that the shovel lying nearby appeared to be the murder weapon but any prints had melted by the time the police arrived. The Weisbeck family had no comment. ~~~~~~~

Officer Flake inspects the scene

My daughter, Cori, who will be 24 next week, and I had a lot of fun building our snow scene this morning. Our main influence was Calvin & Hobbes with a bit of CSI thrown in.

Posted in Humor | 3 Comments »

Dice Should Have Life

Posted by sodaklady on February 16, 2007

I don’t mind dice in a game; they add a bit of randomness and unpredictability that many games require.  But dice should have life.

The dice that come with the first edition of Command & Colors: Ancients are dead.  They will, of course, give you a random solution when thrown but there’s no fun in it; no thrill as you wait for the result.  They drop to the table and bounce once or twice then lie there with their answer staring at you as if to say, “There, are you happy now?”

Dice should roll and spin, adding to the suspense so that when they finally stop, you realize that you’ve been holding your breath.  I want time to yell, “Come on, green dot!  We need to kick some Roman butt!”  I want to watch them dance and swirl, catching glimpses of that which I yearn for.  “Green dot.  Green dot.”

The only way these dice would grant me the desired anticipation is if I threw them across the room eight or ten feet and bounced them off of a wall.  Ah, but then I’d have to get up and walk over there to pick them up each time.  No, these definitely need to be replaced.  Maybe the cats would like them!

Posted in Game-related Thoughts | 3 Comments »

Getting Started

Posted by sodaklady on February 16, 2007

To any readers who have followed me here from Blogger, thank you.  I hope you’ll leave a comment to let me know.  To any new readers, welcome to my world of board gaming.

I, along with thousands of others around the world, love playing board games.  Not your everyday, seen-it-on-tv, bought it at Toys R Us games but what we enthusiasts call Euro-games.  I’ll mainly be writing about these games, what I’ve played or just bought and what I think of them as well as thoughts on gaming in general.

It’s going to take a few days to get everything organized the way I want here in my new home at Word Press but I’m going to start with a couple of my favorite posts from my previous blog.  I hope you enjoy them, too.

Posted in Game-related Thoughts | 7 Comments »