Tuesday, 30 October 2012

"It's a Space Station" or "He Found It Less Exciting"

Starting with a game that definitely was exciting (and was not a space station)
Article 27: The UN Security Council Game (thanks Woody)
Article 27 is one of the new games brought back from Essen by Woody.

A game of negotiation, manipulation and downright deceit ... players represent a country at the UN Security Council.

In each round, one player acts as the UN Secretary General, presents a proposal to the Council and presides over a negotiation period that lasts no more than five minutes. The proposal will affect five issues – military, currency, etc. – in various ways, and each player has a secret document for the round that tells him how a change in each issue will affect him. All players openly negotiate on what they need in terms of points and bribes in order to vote for that proposal.

After at most five minutes, the Secretary General closes negotiations by banging his wooden gavel, then players vote yes or no on the proposal. Any "no" vote kills the proposal, as in the United Nation's actual Security Council – but vetoing a proposal costs a player points, so he might prefer to look for deals that will enable him to say "yes". The Secretary General scores a bonus when his proposal succeeds, so he and others who will benefit might be willing to negotiate to make the proposal sweet for all.

Each player scores based on bribe money on hand, points scored from proposal cards, and how well the player fulfilled the secret agenda card he received at the start of the game.

In the end, Jon won having managed to take multiple bribes during his stint as Secretary General. Woody in second with 5 of his 6 secret agendas passing, while Philip in last had all of his secret agendas thrown out (and his proposal as S-G vetoed- ed).

This is definitely a light game but with enough to keep enjoyment levels up (unless you are Soren !).
Jon 54 Woody 45 James 44 Soren 42 Neil 39 Philip 30
Another light game which inspired both of today’s post titles...

Among the Stars
James explained this light exercise in science fiction card drafting. The players are alien races building, yes, space stations. Each race has a special power, which seems not to matter much. There are four years in which players have 7 cards (6 in first year) to play. However, instead of playing all 7 cards you are dealt you choose one and then pass the remaining 6 to your neighbour. Play continues in this way until the cards run out at which point the year ends. You play a card three ways- either for the particular room it shows, which costs credits and scores VPs, or discarding for money, or discarding to build a power reactor, which gives you more power- needed to install some of the more valuable cards and especially military assets. From the second round dispute cards appear, which add VPs to player A while subtracting them from player B based on such things as who has the most power reactors. That is really the height of the player interaction in the game.
There are also some long term goals set at the beginning of the game, for most rooms of a certain type etc. James’ alien special power was to set another long term goal in secret. This and the fact that he had played before allowed him to claim most of the long term goals for an easy win. I came last with my military focused space station. I was underwhelmed by this one- if I want to play a fairly quick space-themed card game I’ll choose Race for the Galaxy any day. Sorry, no scores recorded...
Returning from space via Mars...

Mission Red Planet (thanks Jon)
There was an hour still left of the evening, so plenty of time for a ‘proper’ game – and Mission Red Planet was the selection of Noel, Jon and Neil. Noel and Jon had played before, but Neil needed a rules explanation. Unfortunately, not enough emphasis was put on the warning that the Discovery cards could be brutal (Noel and Jon had actually forgotten this fact I think – at least, that’s the mitigation that they are claiming…)
This game plays quite well with 3 players – there is slightly less chaos, and plans can be made and executed (to a certain extent!) However, there are less spaceships launching, so it is more difficult to land on particular zones of Mars.
After the first scoring, Neil had collected the most tokens, but during the next few rounds, Noel challenged him in a couple of areas. Jon had decided to lump all of his astronauts on a couple of zones, and then used one of his characters to spread them out into neighbouring areas. The second scoring was a little more even, but with time rapidly running out, the players dumped as many astronauts as possible onto the Martian surface.
Both Neil and Noel moved astronauts about on the planet on their final turn, but as Neil went second, he was able to make the most of this ability and claim a couple of areas from Noel.
On the face of it, it looked like it was going to be close, with Neil and Jon in a strong position. However, when the Discovery cards were turned over, everything changed, as in one area that Neil had committed multiple astronauts to take the majority from Neil, he was forced to remove all those astronauts and Noel took the 15 points on offer instead. He was also unfortunate that another region unexpectedly didn’t score for him and he was left with a paltry total of only 29, whilst the unexpected bonus for Noel allowed him to pip Jon for the victory.
This is a really nice game, with some solid mechanisms and a good level of interaction. However, those Discovery cards really need tweaking otherwise I don’t think that Neil will be over-keen on playing again!
Noel 58; Jon 54; Neil 29
We’ll finish with another on the “less exciting” chart.

Love Letter (thanks Jon)
A quick filler was needed, so James brought out another Essen purchase – with the fanfare of “it’s only a deck of 16 cards”.
Basically each player has a hand (if you can call it that!) of 1 card, and on his turn picks up another card and then has to play one. The cards have various effects and a numerical value between 1 and 8. After the draw pile has been exhausted (about 3 minutes), whoever is holding the highest valued card in their hand wins.
Sometimes ‘less is more’ (see Linq) and ‘the best things come in small packages’ (see Verrater….and my wife…) but unfortunately, this game doesn’t appear to hold to these assertions. It appears to dissolve into ‘hunt the princess’ (the highest value card), and whoever is lucky enough to draw that card seems to win (or lose, if they draw it right at the beginning and are targeted by a soldier).
Shame – I really wanted to like this one…. (ps – terrible name…) 

“It’s a Space Station” is a quotation from A New Hope. “He found it less exciting” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers.

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