Saturday, 18 April 2009

buying games, Wasabi

I bought some new games recently. Could not resist the temptation when I read about the latest shipment at Imagine Games. Actually when I first scanned through the list there were no must-buys, and I had initially told myself that I won't buy any new game, that I should only buy games that feel I cannot not own. I was even thinking of limiting myself to one game per month in 2009, i.e. 12 new games in a year, to force myself to be very selective when buying games. From 2004 to 2008, I bought on average about 24 games a year.

I ended up buying four new games.

The first was A Game of Thrones LCG (Living Card Game). I am a big fan of the novels by George R R Martin, and had previously pre-ordered this together with Han at Amazon. There was some problem with the pre-order at Amazon, so Han cancelled it. I was never into CCG's (Collectible Card Games), and do not want to spend money on a CCG. When I found out that A Game of Thrones CCG was getting converted into the LCG format (when you buy a set of cards you know exactly what cards you are getting, unlike the CCG format where you buy random packs of cards), I was interested. Since I had previously decide on impulse to buy it (cheap shipping), I should follow through on my decision right?

I also bought Wasabi. I was interested in it and wanted to try it. Not sure how much I'd like it, so ideally I can try-before-buy. It's something quite different from the games that I have. And the Japanese food theme definitely is quite unusual, and attractive too. Next, Metropolys, which I have played before in Hong Kong last year, and liked. Its spatial element and bidding system are quite unique. Lastly, Keltis (the German version, and not the English version Lost Cities the boardgame) is also a game I have played before earlier this year. I liked it more than I expected. Some similarities to Lost Cities, but it has some additional elements which I found interesting and liked. I didn't know Imagine Games stocks Keltis, and had thought they only have Lost Cities the boardgame. I prefer the artwork of Keltis, and also I'm interested in the expansions already planned for it, which have not yet been announced for Lost Cities the boardgame yet.

It's rather silly that I have to justify to myself (and even blog about it) why I am buying a game. Well, a few games.

And while I am trying to control my game buying, it doesn't help when my wife encourages me to buy. She says I am often so stressed out at work, I should reward myself. She says I can afford them, and they are something I can keep and play again and again, unlike some other pastimes which are "one-time-use". She says I don't spend much other on other hobbies / interests / addictions / vices anyway, so I should pamper myself occasionally. These all sound like excuses gamers give to their spouses when "seeking approval" to buy games, not the other way round. *grumble grumble* women and shopping... I guess I should be thankful and tell myself that it's a good problem to have.

I wasn't planning to go on and on and on about buying games. Let's move on. To Wasabi.

I think Z-man games, publisher of Wasabi is a good publisher, publishing many interesting games and having much variety. Zev, the man behind the one-man company (I assume), is an adventurer and explorer, trying many different things, publishing many first-time game designers. Very interesting publisher.

Wasabi is a game where players compete in making sushi. You get recipes requiring different numbers and types of ingredients. You pick and play ingredients onto a common board, trying to line them up to match your recipes. You complete a sushi when you get all the required ingredients together in the same row or column in an unbroken line. If the order of the ingredients is exactly like on the recipe, you, my young trainee chef, have got, ssssstyle! You earn extra wasabi cubes (worth 1VP each) for this achievement.

Every time you complete a recipe, you draw a new one. You also get to pick a special power card, which you can use to help complete other recipes. You get to do cool things when you play these cards, e.g. stacking an ingredient on top of another, playing 2 ingredients instead of 1, or even slapping down a nasty patch of wasabi to render 4 spaces (with or without ingredients on them) unuseable, annoying your opponents no end.

The game is very simple to explain, and looks gorgeous.

Gameplay is more thinky than the looks suggest. Sometimes you really need to sit and stare and think about how you can complete you recipe, especially for those tough 5-ingredient ones. I think this is unavoidable for beginners, but one should beware of slowing down the game to a halt because of analysis paralysis. Sometimes you feel like you are trying to solve a complex puzzle.

Michelle was very focused on Wasabi and couldn't even spare the distraction of smiling at the camera.

A menu...

... which is actually just a holder for your recipes. It can be tiring holding this menu. A Scrabble-styled tile holder or a Memoir 44-styled card holder would work better, but of course that wouldn't be as cool as a menu. Aesthetics vs practicality. I'm usually on the practicality side, but in this instance I'm OK with the menus.

Very colourful components.

The wasabi cubes. The saucer (which comes with the game) is a real saucer!

The recipes, and the markers showing the victory points scored for completed recipes.

I think there is a fair bit of luck in the game, in terms of what kind of recipes you draw and at what time, whether the starting 3 ingredients are useful or not, whether your recipes have overlapping ingredients, whether the ingredients played by other players happen to be useful to you, and also whether you are helping them when you play ingredients. Because of this I think the game should be played lightly. Don't take it too seriously.

There can be nasty play. If your opponent is trying to complete his/her 5-ingredient order, it will likely be easy to spot, and you probably can disrupt his/her plans easily, by playing a random ingredient, or switching ingredients etc. Completing the 5-ingredient recipe is not easy.

There are a few different approaches in deciding the order of completing your recipes. Everyone has a total of ten recipes at the start of the game: four 2-ingredient recipes, three 3-ingredient recipes, two 4-ingredient recipes, and one 5-ingredient recipe. Some players may want to do the harder recipes earlier, because there is more empty space on the board. Some players may want to do the easier recipes early and quickly, in order to collect special power cards which can then help to complete the harder recipes. Some players may want to take a middle path of doing the medium difficulty ones first, then doing the easy ones spread out throughout the game for collecting power cards, in order to help complete the hard ones before the game ends.

Having played a few games, I quite enjoy the game. One thing that I realised is the importance of the power cards. You use them quite often, and they are very very handy. When reading the rules I had expected them to be just a little extra spice, but they turned out to be quite central to your strategy. You need to compete with your opponents in grabbing the power cards that you need, sometimes you may even need to grab them simply to deny them from your opponents.

I look forward to playing more of Wasabi. It should easily reach my target of playing all new games bought in 2009 at least 5 times.


Aik Yong said...

i find the full on chaos of Wasabi makes the game quite meh to me. There's nothing wrong with the game, there's a bit of strategy, but the chaos makes it mothing more than a fast distraction.

Only thing going for it is the colourful components.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

i guess it can be quite chaotic with more players. so far i have only played with 2p.

Notso said...

That is hillarious that your wife feeds your hobby/vice. Maybe she just likes a guy who is "troubled." hehe Or maybe she figures that if you spend, then she can spend too. ;-)

Hiew Chok Sien said...

You are right. My wife enjoys shopping. Thankfully she doesn't buy expensive stuff. In fact she's thrilled when she finds a good bargain. And thankfully she enjoys buying just day-to-day necessities - oranges are cheap today, let's buy a bunch; baby diapers are on special offer, let's stock up; the fish is fresh, let's buy two, etc. So the food and basic necessities at home can probably last us more than a month if there is a war.