Mike and I had a great day of gaming this Saturday even though I had forgotten it was Saturday so wasn’t ready when Mike showed up at 8:00 in the morning. Due to my not-quite-ready-for-thinking brain, we started out with a simple game of Roma. This is a game that we both still enjoy as it’s fast and doesn’t require that all of your brain cells be in attendance. This time the Forums came out in the first and second rounds, no “gotcha” cards were played, and the game ended in about 10 minutes with Mike winning by a few points.
My brain awakened, we next played Jambo. I enjoy the play of this game very much but never seem to manage the right balance of Utility cards to allow drawing lots of cards and also manipulating what goods I have. In the last 2 times we played, I also have had a hard time getting a small market, which isn’t necessary to win but it sure doesn’t hurt! As usual, Mike won. I think he had about 20 points more than I did but after 10-12, who’s counting?
We played DVONN, which I think Mike has never played or it was so long ago that it makes no difference. Mike is an excellent game player, much sharper than I am in almost every way, but this game just did not click with him. I ended up owning every stack.
Mike requested Glory to Rome. We’ve played twice before, once vanilla and once with the buildings, and we’re both very impressed with the depth and variety in this game. This time we also found that it’s possible to overuse the Jacks, especially early in the game. Play drug almost to a halt because the draw pool was either empty or had only 1 card. This makes the Laborer and Patron roles useless, and the Legionary less useful. It didn’t help that for two or three turns I chose roles that I knew Mike wouldn’t want to follow. This didn’t add anything to the draw pool but may have helped me win the game.
Now I get to the game that I really want to talk about: Druidenwalzer. This is one of the first games I bought which means I’ve had it for about four years and have played it maybe three times. See, the thing is that the game in this small box, part of the Kosmos 2-player line, can turn your brain into a liquid that pours from your ears and leaves you with a strong desire to take a long walk in a quiet garden. Every time I’ve played it before, it left me impressed with the strange workings of it but too worn out to do more than put it back in the box. Many months would go by before playing again and, of course, it was like playing it the first time. “Oh, wow..that was..brain hurts..wow.” This time I made Mike promise that we’d play it twice. And we did, but with a break in between to play Boom Blox on the Wii and let our brains cool off.
The set up is simple; each player has a set of 4 trees, numbered 1-4, and a Cult tile (also called a discard tile), a set of 30 cards, and 3 Druids. The Tree tiles are laid out with the 1’s opposite each other, 2’s opposite each other, etc. The players deal 5 cards to each of their trees, 4 face down and the top one face up, draw 3 cards for their hand and set the rest aside to draw another 3 cards when their hand is empty. The moon player then places his three Druids on three of his trees, the sun player then places his Druids. The game is ready to begin, moon player playing first.
BGG image by Propose.
On your turn you can do one of three things. The first two are easy: 1)discard a card either from your hand or from beneath one of your trees; 2)move one of your Druids to a different tree. The third option is the heart of the game and the part that is tricky to wrap your head around.
A quick word about the cards before I tell you about option 3. Each card has a number between 1 and 5, and arrows showing either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. The third option is to play one of the cards from your hand on the pile beneath one of your trees. This begins the Druid’s Dance. First you will mark the tree where the card was played with the wooden ring. Then each card with the same number as the card you played (including on your opponent’s side) will “dance” in the direction shown on the card. But they don’t move the number, which is what your brain wants to do; they move the number that is on the tree tile. This card now covers whatever card was on the top of the pile, or can end up being discarded if it ends up on the Cult tile. Finally the Druids have a show of strength, which is just what it sounds like: the highest number wins, ties do nothing. The winner places a chit on the loser’s tree, six such chits will kill the tree. The winner of the show of strength discards the winning card to his Cult tile and turns over the next card on that pile. Killing two of your opponent’s trees makes you the John Travolta of dancing druids.
The first game, for me, has always been spent talking to myself, becoming comfortable with the card play and the dance that results from it. I’ve never had the chance to explore any tactical abilities other than to move a druid from a nearly dead tree to a fresh one. This time, with back-to-back playing, I thought of moving my druid in order to have it on a tree with a higher strength for the next dance. You could also move it to a lower strength tree, provided it doesn’t have too many hit chits on it, in order to run the other player out of cards under his tree when he wins the dance. Having no cards beneath your tree is a good way to lose it no matter the number of opponent’s chits on it. Another tactic is to move your opponent’s high cards to your Cult tile so they’ll be in your deck when you reshuffle, and conversely, move low numbers to your opponent’s discard tile.
We both enjoyed our second play and felt more in control. It gave us a chance to look beyond the brain melting aspect and see some of the possibilities in the play. I’ve always been impressed with the game but now I actually can’t wait to play again.