Rolling heads and black swords
Monday gaming started out with Brian, Scott, and myself and we opened with a few quick games of Race. While playing, another Scott sat down with us, who was visiting from Manhattan, Kansas. He actually was looking for the TCBY that recently closed in the same shopping center and saw the gaming store and stopped in. Al and Sean soon showed up and we began to debate what to play while Old Scott and Ol' Brian went to go play baseball. Al had a copy of Guillotine with him, and two people sitting at the next table volunteered, "If you're going to play Guillotine, we'd like to join." So we invited Benjamin and Nina to sit with us, and the six of us started this light little game. Nothing says "Great subject for a cartoony card game!" like the French Revolution beheadings.
In Guillotine, you deal out a line of 12 noble cards. Each is worth points from 1-5 (a few are negative points) and has a suit (military, clergy, aristocracy, government, if I remember correctly) and you go around the table taking the card from the front of the line into your scoring pile as you execute them. Chop chop. Every player also has a hand of action cards which let you change the order of the line to allow you to execute a noble worth more points, or stick someone with a noble worth less, or change the value of nobles in your score pile, etc. You play through three "days" (represented by emptying the line of nobles or sometimes playing a card that ends the day early) and count up your points at the end of the third day and that's pretty much it. The box says it plays 1-5. We played 6 and had a good time both times we played (it's very quick, maybe 15 minutes per game), but I got the impression that with maybe 3 players, there's a lot more "Oh yeah? Take THAT!" opportunities available to each player. As it was, the person who got the most points (which was pretty much a function of luck depending on how the initial line of nobles was laid out) was usually so far separated in turn order from the rest of the players that they were hard to target, so they would inevitably coast to the win. Cute game. It's a filler. 'nuff said.
We then brought out the options of Lifeboats, Bang, and Shadows over Camelot. Our new friends thought Shadows over Camelot looked interesting, and Sean has been wanting to play for a while, so this was a great opportunity to play it.
I think most everyone in the group knows this game, but for those who might not, everyone plays a knight who jumps around from Arthurian quest to Arthurian quest trying to bring glory to Camelot without letting it get sacked by siege engines, which come out with failed quests. In the first game, one of the first cards to come out was the Dark Forest, which prevents anyone from playing good Holy Grail cards. The only way to get rid of it is to be victorious in another quest. Meanwhile, Despair (anti-Grail) cards piled up quickly. Therefore, we ran around trying to finish a quest. New Scott managed to fight back the Picts and the Dark Forest went away. However, we had used up quite a few Merlin cards to prevent the grail from being lost, and had used up a couple of life points trying to speed along the quests and prevent siege engines from coming out around Camelot. I lost a battle with the Black Knight, knocking me and Sean down to one life, and then a card came out which killed us off before we got a chance to heal ourselves. The remaining knights tromped around, but Benjamin, who had been revealed as the traitor, emerged victorious as Camelot fell into ruin.
After getting whacked, Steve (who had showed up during the game), Brian and I played a game of Glory To Rome while Sean, Al, Scott, Benjamin and Nina tried their hand at a second go-round of Shadows over Camelot (in which I heard that defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory as the good guys were coasting to the win). (Classic Scott had to go after baseball.) In GTR, we were all doing ok (meaning it wasn't a blowout yet) until I let Brian complete the Scriptorum, which lets him finish any building with one marble. He quickly took all my marble via the Bridge despite my two Leigonnaires. He also had the Circus (right?) which let him use each patron twice. With a huge number of buildings completed, he managed to think for the number of influence he had. So he drew to his hand limit (7) then drew an additional 23 cards. I've never seen that before. I hope to never see it again. Needless to say, Steve and I got fed to Brian's lions.
Brian then suggested Agricola, which I had mentioned I wanted to play. Steve hates animals and games about happy things, so he went to watch the main group while Brian and I built farms. I think I've played four games now, and each game has had a different number of players. And they each play very differently. I got a hand which I thought was great (one free wood when taking wood, two free clay when taking clay, one extra free food or reed when fishing) and I had dreams of building a mighty stone mansion in short order. But quickly, I found myself using every action to scrape together food while building the house. Without extra food, I couldn't afford to grow my family, and no family growth means your efficiency engine stalls. In my opinion, the fireplaces and animal growth contine to be particularly appealing, primarily because you can insta-cook the animals without needing actions. Fishing takes an action (and delaying the action lets someone else take the food and block you from it), and baking bread takes several potentially blockable actions as well (one for the baking, one for the sowing, etc., and you're limited in the number of grain you can covert with an oven, whereas no such limit exists with the animals). Without a fireplace, I felt more restricted than I thought I would. I think getting that fireplace and starting some animal husbandry has to come before family growth, at least the way I play. Brian got animal growth started early, and with good food flow managed to get the rest of his farm humming and won easily.
Good game. I keep thinking this game will get kind of "samey" after a while, since your farm generally looks close to the same at the end of every game (a mix of 4-5 houses, some pastures, a couple of crops, a veggie or two, etc.). But the path of getting there is really different each time, and that's the part that keeps pulling me back to play again. It feels like plotting a journey--you know where you're starting, and you know where you'll (hopefully) end up, but the path in between is this big maze and you have to figure out how to logically navigate it every step along the way. Plus I like that there's a lot of thinking two or three moves ahead, which is forced by the harvests. I find myself evaluating constantly "How many food do I need at the next harvest? How will I get that food? What actions are left over after getting that food? (a la Fat Tony: "Where is the money? Why aren't you out getting the money?")
Brian and I came out of the side room to find that Benjamin, Nina, and Al had left. New Scott, Sean, and Steve were engaged in a game of Clans in which they were moving around colorful huts. Beyond that, I couldn't tell who was winning. Brian and I had to leave, so I'll let someone else fill in the blanks.
Good to see some fresh faces. Playing at DL on Mondays is a good thing, I think.
Labels: session report