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Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Quick Comments on 3 Games

Played each of these games once, so far.

Manila- I've been looking at this game in my local game store for several months now. It was on my buy list, but not very high on it. Looks like a good game to play with a mixed group of adults and kids. I got to play my friend's copy with him and two kids aged 8 and 12. Manila was slightly over the 8 year old's head, and the 12 year old was pretty bored, although both of them beat the other adult by a significant margin.

Manila is essentially a betting game. Safe bets pay off less than riskier bets. Each round dice are rolled and boats moved accordingly. Boats that look like they will reach port within the 3 turns get bet on heavily. If a boat reaches port every token on the boat earns an equal share of the payoff, although the last players to bet on the boat pay more than the first players to do so. Players can also place tokens on the port. If a boat docks in that spot he earns money for helping off load the boat. If a boat fails to make port it goes to the ship yard for repairs. Tokens can be placed in the shipyard to earn money for repairing ships.

There are a couple items added to keep the game from getting too static. Players can invest in pirates to hi-jack entire shipments. There are two pilots who can move boats forward and backward a space or two.

Interesting game. I am glad I got a chance to play it before buying it. I won't be buying it. I am content to just play my friend's copy of the game.

Tower of Babel- I've owned this one for several months. Took a while to get this one played.

It's not a complex game, but it is kind of hard to explain in a short review. There are 7 Wonders of the World plus the Tower of Babel being built in this game. Each wonder requires 3 random and different assortments of goods in order to build it.

On his turn, a player chooses a wonder to build. Every other player offers needed goods to the active player. The active player chooses goods from the other players. If he chooses your goods you get to place building markers equal to the amount you offered on the wonder. When the wonder is eventually completed the player with the most building markers scores a bunch of points. If the active player does not choose the goods you offered to help build the wonder you score one point for each good that you offered.

For example, a wonder might require 3 camels, 5 cranes, and 6 boats to be built. I choose the 3 camel chip. The other players place camel cards face down. I have 2 camel cards in my hand, but every other player offered me two camel cards. I have to choose one of the player's offer, and add one card from my own hand to fulfill the requirements on the chip. The players whose cards I did not choose each score 2 points, since they offered me two cards which I did not choose. The player whose cards I chose places 2 building pieces on the wonder and I place one.

It is a good game with a couple "Knizia twists". First, if you don't help your opponents build the wonders by contributing cards you will never earn any victory points. Secondly, if you are the active player, you help your opponents whether or not you choose their goods.

I think I will need to play a couple more times before I pronounce it to be good, or average. However, I don't think I would have bought this game if I had played someone else's copy first.

Once Upon a Time- A story telling game. Interesting concept. Kind of an informal game for players with active imaginations. I thought it might be a game for a certain type of kid, a kid with an active imagination that is. Too bad it sucks. Sucks hard.

I know the perfect person to play this game with, or so I thought. She hated it. I hated it. It is not nearly as kid friendly a game as I had expected. Might be good filler for RPGers.

Briefly, players are dealt a hand of cards with certain elements on them like "Prince", "Castle", "Happy", etc. Players must weave a story using the elements they are dealt. Players also receive a "Happily Ever After" card which has an ending on it, such as, "As dawn broke they could see it was perfect", "His dedication had broken the spell", "And when they died they passed it on to their children".

When players use an element in the story which they have a card for, they can discard that card. When they have no cards left they can play their "Happily Ever After" card and win the game if the card fits with the ending of the story.

Opponents can veto the story line if the story doesn't make sense, or follow the spirit of the story, or a player starts telling a story just to discard cards as fast as he can. You lose your turn and draw a card if your opponents aren't buying your story. There are also "interrupt" cards, which opponents can play to take the story away from you and start telling it themselves. Interrupt cards simply have an element on them and if that particular element is mentioned by an opponent, a player can discard it and pick up the story where the opponent left off.

I suspect Once Upon A Time rocks if you are stoned, and are only familiar with Monopoly and Battleship. It might be as bad as Fluxx, but I'll never play it again to find out.

Good Gaming,

Hi, Coldfoot.

It's a pity, but I agree with your comments on ONCE UPON A TIME. I love storytelling (ask my kids!) and I love games; one would think you could make the two genres could work together, right?

So far, the best storytelling game I've stumbled across has been NANOFICTIONARY, and that's mostly because the story element cards are funny and cleverly drawn.

Like ONCE UPON A TIME, Nano relies on a judging mechanic that I think is essentially flawed. Judging just seems clumsy at best. It works for APPLES TO APPLES but not with this game.
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