Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Which We Carry Boats Everywhere...

I arrived at Dragon's Lair a little early, and found Jeff and Chris playing Jambo. I was reviewing some player aids for some new-to-me games when Dennis arrived. We started a two-player game of Knights while waiting for Jambo to finish, but as soon as we had started Jambo finished! So Chris and Jeff joined in and we restarted... Knights is a dice-fest - you are rolling six dice three times trying to "beat" the dice shown on a card you are attempting to take into your hand. The twist is that any 6 you roll is dead - not useful in your hand, and cannot be re-rolled. The cards have different abilities, and the one we vastly underrated at game start were the "dice" cards, which gives you an extra die of a given number virtually - it's in addition to the six dice you are rolling. Chris got one of these early, and proceeded to use it to clean up. The game was still pretty tight, but there was no way to slow him down with that advantage.

As we wrapped (or rolled) up that game, Jon and Tiffany arrived, so we searched the bags for a six player game. Out came the odd little trivia game Fast Figure... In this game the answers to the question are always numbers from 1 to 100. Previously answered cards stay on the board, and the first person to put their answer card in the correct gap wins the question - so if the question is "number of US states at the time of the Pearl Harbor bombings", then Dennis would win if his answer card was down between the already-on-the-table 41 and 70. The game feels very frantic, and I've learned I'm no good at trivia-under-pressure - but it's fun to play the odds and drop your card in a "gap" of about 60 numbers... The game came down to the last hand, where Jon gathered enough points to come within 1 of Jeff, and Chris won the final question to race past me, leaving me in last.

Next out was the Dilbert version of The Great Dalmuti, called Corporate Shuffle. I have nothing much to say about this one, except that executive leadership stinks and art imitated life - I remained stuck in the lower-middle-class of the corporate world.

Tiffany needed to leave at this point, saying something about us giving her a pain in the neck I believe (hope that gets better!), and we pulled out a Tanga cheapie called Tongiaki. I actually really like this game - there are only a few actions you can take each turn, but it can still be a brain burner. Everyone populates "islands" with their boats, and once a beach is full the small fleets ship out in search of new islands and territory to explore. You need help, since ocean passage is treacherous - if you uncover an ocean tile with a number, you need at least that many different colors of boats (each player is a color) to survive the trip. The person who initiated the journey chooses the dispersement of ships on the new island if everyone survives. Each island has a point value between 2 and 5, and you score at game end for each island you have a boat presence on. The few other times I've played this game there are many an opportunity to screw your neighbor as you ship everyone ELSE'S boats off to certain doom at sea - but in this game the concept of islands was slightly skewed. I think we wound up with two large land masses at game end... there was still plenty of strategy available, but not nearly enough ocean voyaging, or watery graves. It seems like boats were not the optimal travel vehicle for the game we played...

Our final game was Prophecy, an RPG that with the two-treasure variant clocked in at just over 90 minutes with five players. This game is a lot of fun, and incredibly frustrating all at the same time. Gathering items, experience, and bonuses you build your combined "strength" and "willpower", and battle monsters and villains with those strengths. There's tons to explore, and many different paths to take toward victory - but Dennis is the master of them all. The rest of us kept fighting monsters with three lives, only to lose the third battle... I wish I was better at this game, and think I'll try to study up some - some games just come to me naturally, and others I don't seem to grasp the correct strategy at all for several plays - and this one falls in the latter category. I at least got close to winning one of the treasures in this game - I was a turn away from grabbing my first one at game end - but it was far too little too late. All I know is next game I want to be the "Master of Pain" - that dude is cool.

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At 5:36 PM, December 11, 2007, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

Knights -- I tried to get that +3 card from Chris early and failed. I think I was saving my dice karma for Prophecy. I worry that the game might lock with two crappy cards on the stacks and everyone passing a weak tower like a doobie, but the game was well worth a buck.

Fast Figure -- I like the idea, but it totally breaks down with more players, as playing the odds is absolutely a better idea than waiting to hear the question. I'm interested in the variant of playing a card from your hand; it adds a nice "Are You an Idiot?" twist of randomness to a trivia game. Questions range from ludicrously easy to pretty darn hard.

Corporate Shuffle -- Using Ave Caesar scoring was effective at (a) creating an exciting finish for Tiffany, Jeff, and I, and (b) showing just how out of it a bad start leaves you.

Tongiaki -- I enjoyed this despite (a) there being no actual "islands", just one long peninsula, (b) Jon being the Navigator of Death, and (c) Chris going AFK. Would play again.

Prophecy -- The setup variant we used took a good game and made it really good:

1. Draw two skills from your topmost training school. Keep one, plus (8 - cost) in XP.
2. Draw two Common items. Keep one, plus (8 - cost) in gold.
3. Place one adventure card face-up in each Plains, Forest, and Mountain.

This gave every character a personality and immediate destinations, and allowed the formulation of a plan. I'm now 3-0 in this game. Much of that is luck (drawing the crazy-strong Great Sword rare when the Two-Handed Fighting skill was available), but a little of it is one simple rule: nothing is as important as boosting your Strength and Willpower. Focus all of your energy on just that. I went from 4 to 6 Strength by the end of Turn 4, and once I had the sword, only Jon threatened -- and only because he nearly maxed on Willpower.

Despite the nostalgia factor, Prophecy has passed Talisman for me. Now make some expansions!

At 6:18 PM, December 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one thing that almost certainly would help Fast Figure is to make you keep your card where it is when you make your first guess. That would make people hesitate a bit more and listen to the question, especially when there are more gaps to cover. Overall it just felt too disorganized to me to be much fun. The questions rarely mattered, as the game probably would have played almost the same if the reader just said, "Place your cards!" and then just revealed the number without reading any question at all.

I actually enjoyed Corporate Shuffle quite a bit, despite the fact that I didn't score very highly. (Damn you, corporate takover!) The 11 card was an amusing additional element, as it is essentially the Tichu dog and can only be gotten rid of by leading it. It reminded me of Tichu quite a bit, and several times I had to decide whether to break up a pair or three of a kind to take a shot at getting the lead. I'd definitely play it again.

Tongiaki--yeah, I'm still working through that turn. Ok, pick this boat up, place this one, ship here...no wait...bounce back and rearrange them, ship again...now ship this one, fill up this dock...no wait, go back. Ahhh, the possibilities. Yeah, I know that turn didn't take long at all. Gooood times.

Prophecy is growing on me. I am always a sucker for fantasy and adventuring games. When I think about it, Talisman, and Runebound, I like Prophecy for the fact that there is always something to do, especially since most of the adventure spaces and guild spaces have face up cards. Talisman and Runebound, on the other hand, both require drawing a face down card once you get to the encounter. Being face up lets you figure out your next moves when it's not your turn, and reducing downtime is huge in these games. In addition, the map is small and many of the spaces are connected in various ways, which also makes the game move faster.

I think I like the Runebound art better than any of the other games, and I like the Talisman player interaction better than the others (although player interaction is always dicey in these games, as when everyone has to kill the foozle, going after another character instead can breed some minor ill will).

I agree that the variants used in Prophecy definitely sped up the game a bit and let you get to the enjoyable part of the game faster.

At 11:57 PM, December 11, 2007, Blogger Tiffany said...

Monday night was fun, I am just sad that i couldn't stay longer. you all weren't a pain in the neck at all, i would blame it on work but I wasn't even at work when i strained the muscle on my neck. I need to make more Monday night gaming nights happen in my schedule. i forget how fun they are. And fairly soon i will drop off the face of the planet for an undetermined amount of time. Silly grad school and its qualifying exams. It is a good thing that I went home when I did. My roommate needed to go to the hospital and she took some convincing. She is still there, actually, so it is good that I came home when I did.

But I liked the Dilbert Version better than the Great Dalmuti. BUt that might be because I was not a greater and or lesser peon for most of the game. :)

I have mixed feelings about Fast Figure - mostly because of the changing the place marker bit. I think it would have made it more interesting if it was possible not to score because no one got it correct. But those are just the late night thoughts from work.

At 9:16 AM, December 12, 2007, Blogger Jeff said...

Re: dice karma

The dice hated me in both Prophecy and Knights. Hopefully that means I've built up some good rolls for future games. Still, both are solid games, and yes, Prophecy > Talisman even after figuring in nostalgia.

Re: Fast Figure

Ditto what Dennis said - a neat but seriously flawed idea. House rules/variants are required

Re: Tongiaki

I thought I had made a big mistake picking this up in a math trade, but I'm glad I own it. At first it seems like a big pile of random, and there is a considerable amount of chaos and a little bit of luck-of-the-draw, but there's also a lot of interesting decisions to be made.


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