Sunday, 21 July 2013

"Et in Arcadia Ego"

Strangely, not a player elimination game...
Arkadia (thanks Jon)
The copy of this game is Jon’s slightly dubious claim-to-fame – namely because he picked it up brand new for £1, and also that it turns out to be a complementary copy sent to none other than Reina Knizia himself. Jon did moan that Dr K could have bothered to stick the tiles to the top of the castle pieces – there’s no pleasing some people….
Paul and Tom joined Jon, and everyone needed a rules explanation (as Paul & Jon’s only other experiences of the game had been in the dim and distant past…). It’s remarkably simple – either place a building tile, or place workers. If a building is surrounded, the castle can be built, and 4 times during the game, each player can trigger a scoring for themselves, which also provides them with 2 new workers for their supply.
The game trots along at a nice pace, and it was Tom who was first to achieve a nice juicy score, trading in a number of red seals at a high value. He then proceeded to cover the silver castle tiles, to limit Jon’s scoring opportunities. Paul also traded in a couple of nice sets of seals, which made it difficult to tell who was winning.
Paul made a very nice move late on, placing a building which completed 3 separate buildings, allowing him to manipulate the seals’ values to his own advantage, whereas a second move landed him a hatful of seals. Jon was the only player to have used his 4 scoring tokens before the last round, which meant that he had 2 more workers to play with. This enabled him to liberate some late seals, but it was a question of how valuable they would be.
The end of the game came suddenly, with Jon triggering the final round. Paul and Tom both had 1 scoring token left, and therefore lost the use of the 2 extra workers. Jon was last to play and increased the value of the red seals by 1. In the final scoring Paul gleefully revealed a single red seal, and even more gleefully revealed that he had beaten Jon by a single point. (Actually, Jon had 2 red seals himself, so the move was still worth doing, but it was a nice end to the game!)
There was genuine surprise that Tom was 25 points behind, as he had been trading in some high value seals during the game. Whatever the reason, this game was met with positive approval, being sub 60-mins in length, with some nice mechanisms, plenty of choices and a fair bit of interaction. RK’s loss is our gain….
Paul 101; Jon 100; Tom 76
Less of the aquatic wildlife and more of the undestimated playing time...
Eight-Minute Empire (Jon)
Carolina brought out this new game, which promises an area control game in 8 minutes flat. With a few minutes to kill whilst the Kingsburg boys finished, it seemed the perfect choice. She was joined by Jon, Tom, Paul and Magnus (who we thought came from Swindon, but it turned out to be Sweden….)
The game has a small board, made up of several continents, divided into regions and separated by water. Players purchase cards that have a set-collection element, as well as a one-off special ability (place cubes / move cubes / move across water / build cities). Control of regions / continents and sets of cards are scored at the end of the game. That’s it. Players have a very limited amount of money, so purchasing cards provides some interesting decisions. Do you try to collect all of one type of commodity (Paul & Jon), or do you focus more on the special abilities, moving your cubes around the map?
Whatever happened, the scores were incredibly close, with only 2 points separating all the players. Paul came out on top, but a stewards enquiry revealed that he couldn’t score 2 sets of the same commodity, so he shared the victory with Tom & Magnus.
Opinion? Well, 8 minutes it certainly isn’t (more like 20), but it’s still a very enjoyable little ‘super-filler’. It’s one of those rare beasts that leaves you feeling that you’ve played a ‘proper’ game in a short time frame – which are a winner in my book. It has echoes of Rattus about it (move cubes around a small board using special abilities), but is actually quite different. Definitely worth another outing…
Paul 11 (or 10!); Magnus 10; Tom 10; Carolina 9; Jon 9
If you’re looking for brevity, Woody is on hand with these two “eight-minute session reports”
Kingsburg (thanks Woody)
Played over five years [game time not real time!-Ed], each made up of resource acquisition, building, rewards for the leading player, assistance for the weakest player and a battle against the common enemy.

Roll dice .. get a low score = get first pick, roll a high score = wait your turn but potentially get better stuff ! Use the stuff to build buildings or expand your army for the impending fights.

A nice mechanism to balance out the luck of the dice, not too heavy .. worth another game !
Woody 43 Gareth II 42 Phil 41 Andy 37
Kingdom Builder (thanks Woody)

A nice light finish ... Jon showed us all how it was done and that understanding all the tiles will help formulate a plan .. something the rest of us clearly didn't have ! Nice work Jon ....
Jon 80 Woody 58 Magnus 57 Gareth 24
When in Rome...
Trajan – ‘If not first to the forum…’ (thanks Neill)
It was off to Rome for Barry, Dan II, Amanda and me under the expert tutelage of Emperor Barry himself. He’d discovered the delights of this game through our sister club in Richmond and it was yet another Feld I own and had yet to experience. Dan’s final quote on the game, above, rang true, but we didn’t know that at the start!
So, what did we get up to? Well the set up was pretty long, the rules explanation also had to be, there is much on offer here; an interesting action selection mechanism based around a rondel; the opportunity to maximise each turn with many add-ons available; and an excellent time track that can throw the best laid plans out of kilter.
Once you’ve gotten your head around all these different bits and bobs it’s then trying to create some sort of strategy; to concentrate on one or two of the six different action areas, or to try and cover each in at least a little way? Barry clearly had favoured routes for the journey and he showed us how to pick up on the better options as they revealed themselves. This is certainly a Dan-type game – as if there isn’t one! – and he also frequently doubled up his actions racing off into a significant lead about a third of the way through.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Amanda and I took a little longer to get to grips with all the options, concentrating a bit in specific areas but not really making inroads into them! As with all Feld’s I have played so far, once you have a couple of rounds played through you know what you’re doing. Yes, there’s plenty to consider but it is pretty straight-forward to learn and play. You realise soon enough where you’ve gone wrong!
Endgame scoring was interesting too. Dan’s lead was already large but he picked up another good Senate bonus tile that pushed him out of sight. Barry’s forum tiles provided him with a nifty lift to take second place despite my card collection through shipping – something I always avoid in Castles of Burgundy funnily enough – getting me close to him. Overall, another very impressive game, I love the number of options open and the battle to try and meld them into the highest possible score it one I’m very keen to try again… if only there weren’t so many good games around at the moment!
Dan II – 166, Barry – 138, Neil – 129, Amanda – 117.
And now for the famous Roman general...
Agricola – All Creatures Big & Small (thanks Neil)
With Amanda and Barry riding off into the sun set I spotted Jon’s copy of this, perfect to teach to Dan in the half hour we had remaining. We opted for some special building and were blessed with the Fence Manufacturer that went unused. The others were much more interesting with me picking up the Boar Pen, and Dan going for the Pig Pen and something to do with using his land.
I went for expanding the farm bit time, picking up three expansions and filling each comfortably. Dan went for a compact farm but filled it to the brim and picked up the half-timbered house in the last round.
We were pretty close on animals with me having just one more. Dan scored well through sheeps and pigs but losing out on horses, mainly because I maxed out on there gaining another three points on Dan in the animal bonuses. We had the same points on the bonuses and thus I sneaked a win, quite a rarity with Dan II as the opposition. Okay, so he’d never played it before and it must have been my twelfth game I guess…
Neil – 48, Dan II – 44.
More Latin for our final report.
Rattus Cartus (thanks Paul)
After the 20 minute game of Eight Minute Empire, Tom and Paul eyed up another version of a favourite of theirs, Rattus Cartus, to take them through until the end of the evening. Philip and Karolina were the other two medieval plague battlers.

The game is essentially a card game with a scoring track, rat tokens and victory point chips. The theme and flavour is the same as vanilla Rattus, but the game play very different. The plague is still spreading, and the cast of characters to defend their populations are exactly the same - the merchant, the knight, the king, the peasant, the witch and the priest. The pictures and iconography are identical. But there is no map, each person is assigned a set number of rats, and to avoid instant loss of the game, each player must ensure that they keep the number of rats to less that the total of points on a blind selection of cards. The witch, proving more popular in this game than the board game, allows sneak peeks at the blind cards, although Philip was the only one to use this extensively.

In addition to class cards, there are jokers (yes, they are wild) and swords (don't ask Tom about these, as they involve cards being given from the player at the point of the blade to the sword wielder - it happened several times to him).

Points are largely awarded for placing sets of characters cards that match a nominated class, but this is balanced by having to take rats for trying to go too quickly.

Paul was lagging behind for much of the game, having fun with the cutlass. Philip was indulging in some witchery, calculating at the number of rat tokens we'd all need to surpass. Karolina seemed to be pushing her scoring markers out in front. Tom was bravely liking his wounds while forging up the board.

Towards the end Philip (the only person that knew) told us that we need not bother about the rats as they wouldn't be a bother, so we all promptly guarded for an endgame vermin onslaught. He was telling the truth though and we were all a very long way from harm's door, so Tom, Karolina and Paul wasted some of their last turn.

Paul managed to pip Karolina by one point at the end, which he'd done in each of the games he'd played during the evening - no point in wasting any effort in a whitewash is there?
Paul 33, Karolina 32, Philip 29, Tom 19

P.S “Et in Arcadia Ego” is a Latin proverb meaning roughly “There is also Death in Paradise.”

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