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Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Holiday games

Holiday Gaming I.

Had a couple good game days over the Holidays. It all started the weekend before Christmas.

A Game of Thrones

Got to play "A Game of Thrones" with my wife and 3 other friends. I was the only person who had played the game, so I was in the role of teacher. I had originally intended to play with 4 friends and exclude my lovely wife, alas one of them showed up late, so we started without him and included my wife.

I was skeptical of including my wife in the game, "AGoT" is not a game she would normally like. She hated it.We got in 4 or 5 rounds and called the game when the fourth friend arrived. We decided to start something else and include him. It was apparent not everyone was enjoying "AGoT".

I bought the game when I first saw it because I knew she had read the book "A Game of Thrones" that the game is based on. I figured the theme would draw her in. It did, she just didn't like it after her initial enthusiasm. I played the game once with the Anchorage Miniature Club http://home.gci.net/~stevepr/AMGC.html several months ago. After playing with them (I had already bought the game) I realized the game wouldn't appeal to my wife, so it sat unplayed for several months.

"A Game of Thrones" does a good job of capturing the intrigue in the book of the same name. It is very much like "Diplomacy", Christian T. Peterson, the designer, credits "Diplomacy" as an inspiration when he designed the game. Players are crowded into a rather limited playing area, and are limited as to the size of their armies. It is impossible to field an army of more than 4 units in a single territory, and that is even rare. More than likely players will be limited to 3 or 4 armies of no more than 3 units. This forces players into treaties and alliances, much the same as in "Diplomacy".

I won't get into mechanics here. I have a lot more to write in this initial entry. Let it suffice to say that I enjoyed the game. I got a chance to play again a couple days later. More on that in a while.

Goa and AGoT, again

Played a game of Goa on the Monday afternoon. Several of my friends had light or nonexistent work schedules that week, so it was a good gaming week.

I like Goa. I really liked it after I first played it, but I have found a couple problems with the game over time. The first is simply flow. The game doesn't flow well from auction round to action round. Number 2: Apart from the auction rounds Goa is more of a one player puzzle than an interactive game.

Two clues about the game. Ships are more important than you would think. Ships may be the most important track to move on. Taxation is not important. You should be able to manage your income by proper placement of the auction chits, this is a learned art, but your game will improve dramatically if you don't tax more than once, possibly twice each game.

I have read articles on the game where people claim the game is broken. They tend to claim that you can win hands down if you run up the Exploration track, or the Taxation track. I agree that new players don't utilize the Exploration track nearly enough, but I am certain that you should lose your shirt if you use the taxation method and are playing against competent opponents.

As a rule of thumb, I like to draw exploration cards on my last action each round if there is nothing better to do, many people tax if there is nothing better to do. I don't like to draw ships as the last action, because you could win some in the auction. Likewise filling up the plantations/colonies with spice is risky, because you could win some in the auction. If you win a plantation in the auction, and you just filled that type of spice it was a wasted move. It is always more efficient to win items in auction (for a reasonable price) than using an action to acquire it.

I came in second, one point behind the winner. Third place was one point behind me. The winner bought a bunch of exploration cards on the last turn, and got lucky. I think he ended up with 4 matching symbols. This stroke of luck does give me pause, however. If not broken, maybe the game is "bent".

After "Goa" we switched to "A Game of Thrones". We had 6 players, so we had one guy run to the store and pick up the expansion while the rest of us played Goa.To make a long story short, one guy got pissed and quit after 5 or 6 rounds. It was very reminiscent of someone getting pissed and quitting a game of "Diplomacy". Different players saw the incident differently, but we generally agree that it involved some breaking-of-agreements, and suicidal runs against the guy who broke the treaty.We tried to play a couple rounds with his units as neutral units. One player grabbed a quick victory because of this. No one complained much. After the one guy stormed off it was kind of uncomfortable for everyone.

All in all it wasn't a bad couple days.

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