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Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Holiday Games II

Advanced Civ

On the Tuesday before Christmas I was lucky enough to participate in a game of Advanced Civilization. There were only 6 of us so the board was pretty much wide open. Six is the smallest number of players where the whole board is open for settlement. I had been wanting to try Cavedog's strategy ideas for some time now http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/46874 . But when it came down to it, I forgot to read the article again before playing. So I went with my usual strategy of losing.

I hadn't played for a year or so. Before that it had probably been 2 years. As I grow older there just aren't many opportunities to play 12 hour games.

We had a good group assembled to play. The game was over in about 8 hours. That is remarkably fast. Trading went fast each round. There were 2 guys who fought quite a bit the last half of the game, once they started to lose they drug their other neighbors into the fray. That caused the movement phase to go rather slowly at times, but it was still the fastest game of Civilization that I have ever encountered.

The winner was able to collect every civilization card. I had never seen that happen before. He was able to use the mining card to a very good advantage. I came in second. I was plagued by catastrophes the whole game. I never really had a full compliment of 9 cities for most of the game. We were the only two that managed to avoid most of the conflict. Civilization was never designed to be a game that rewarded aggressive, war-like behavior. It rarely pays to attack a neighbor. Let that be a lesson to ya'.


Brought Heroscape to play with the kids on the Thursday after Christmas. I am here to tell ya, young teenage boys and girls love that game. I had brought it with me a couple weeks before. Since introducing the kids to the game 2 weeks previously two of the kids had acquired it for themselves. (I think they talked their parents into getting it for Christmas.)

Heroscape is a good game for kids. There aren't any nit-picky rules. Play is intuitive and straight forward. But best of all the characters are cool and a couple are big. Big game pieces always impress kids. The terrain is nifty also. Players construct terrain with interlocking pieces that fit together in Lego-esque fashion.

We played two games in 2 hours. I stayed out of each of the games initially, but as kids left I was lucky enough to be able to take their spot. The first game was 2 teams of 2. I don't remember who won, but it was fun. The second game was a three player free for all. I ended up taking this one kid's spot when he left. Then myself and another kid ganged up on the kid who had acquired the game for Christmas. If we didn't he would have steam-rolled us. He had been playing quite a bit and had his tactics down.

I am really looking forward to the promised expansions. It is simply a fun, quick, war-game, dice-fest.

Chinatown, Bootleggers

Hadn't planned on staying up late for New Year's Eve. Thought we would have a couple friends over and hit the hay before midnight. We ended up playing games until 2 am.

First to hit the table was Chinatown. This is a game I have had for some time and have been looking forward to playing. So far it has only been published in German, so an English rule translation is a must.

Chinatown is a pure negotiation/trading game. The board is a birds-eye-view of Chinatown, New York City. Players acquire property and businesses, trade them, build, and then collect money depending on how large each business is. The winner is the person with the most money at the end of 6 rounds.

It wasn't a bad game, nor was it as good as I had expected. Granted, I played with a pretty stingy group, and it was a learning game for all of us. I will try it again with a group that has a better grasp of the value of a trade. (What? You want $10,000 for that property, forget it. Wellllll, it will allow you to build your 6 business and give you $14,000 income for each of the next 3 rounds. How about $2000, and a bag of Cheetos? How about $10,000? No deal. I ain't gonna let you rip me off.)

Didn't care for Chinatown. But it has a lot of potential. Played it one more time that evening, after Bootleggers, it simply reinforced my initial impression that I was playing with the wrong group. Do note that they, all 4 of them, liked it. I was the odd man out.

Bootleggers is the latest offering from Eagle Games. Players take on the role of a mobster during the Prohibition era. Players control the production, transportation and sales of illegal booze, and try to end the game with the most money.

I found the game to be full of theme and mildly interesting. It lasts about 1-1.5 hours longer than the fun it provides. Bootleggers is just too long for what it is. Our learning game clocked in at more than 3 hours, possibly 4.

Strategic depth is slight to nonexistent. The only real strategy is to get enough influence markers on a speakeasy to become the controlling mobster. This allows you to get extra money in your pocket. The strategy is easily blocked by other players on the larger speakeasys, and if you do succeed "thug cards" can be played to take out some of your influence markers.

We played with 5 players. I suspect the 6 player game is slightly better, because the extra and largest speakeasy becomes available for play. I do wonder if one of the medium speakeasys should be eliminated in a 5 player game, instead of the large one. It seems as though there would be more options if that were the case. As it was, we had influence markers sitting in our back rooms that we were unable to place for the last 2 or 3 rounds.

I seem to remember a game of Settlers of Catan and Dune in there somewhere, also. I can't remember when or how exactly, but I think I won Settlers. It was my first experience with Dune, a game that I have looked forward to playing ever since I found out that my friend owned it. As I recall, I lost my ass, but it was a very good game. I am looking forward to this one again.

Not bad for a couple weeks worth of gaming.

And before you click out of here, say a short prayer for the victims of the Southeast Asia tidal wave.

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