Monday, 21 September 2009

Snow Tails

I am back in KK (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah) again, and as usual, am visiting Carcasean boardgame cafe frequently again to play games. I am looking forward to playing many new games, and to writing about them too.

The first new game this time is Snow Tails, a game about dog sled racing. You have a sled pulled by two dogs. You "drive" your sled by playing cards. Every player has his own deck of canine cards, with numbers 1 to 5. On your turn, you must play 1 to 3 cards (if playing more than one, they must be of the same number). They can be applied to left dog, right dog or brake. The number of spaces your sled moves is left dog number + right dog number - brake number. If your two dogs are not pulling at the some strength, your sled will drift to the left or right, depending on which dog is pulling harder. That's how you turn.

My speed was 4, i.e. I would move 4 steps. 5+2-3=4. My drift is 3 and is to the left (5-2=3). I can distribute these 3 drift steps any way I like among my four forward moves.

Then there are damages. You have a hand of 5 cards. If you slide past a corner too fast, or bang into a tree, or bang against the wall, you get dent cards. Dent cards basically occupy hand space, so you will have less flexibility when managing your cards. If you get 5 dent cards, your sled falls apart and you lose immediately.

I played this with Han and Chong Sean, and we played one of the intermediate difficulty tracks, since we are veteran gamers, ahem. We had trees (technically they are called saplings), and we had one section where the track narrowed dangerously. We had one hairpin turn too. We were quite conservative in taking dents. Throughout the game Han and Chong Sean only had one dent each. I was the only one with 2 dents, and I regretted very much for allowing the second one to happen. The cost in flexibility was much more than I had expected. Chong Sean cruised to a comfortable win. I was slightly behind Han, and we both crossed the finish line on the same round. However, I was lucky to draw a 5 card, and although in real time I crossed the line after him, because I passed the line further than he did, I was considered to have beaten him by a hair. That was an unexpected twist, as I had been doing quite poorly for the last stretch of the race, due to my 2 dents.

I was green, and was first to enter the forest. Being positioned where I was, I had blocked one possible path for Han and Chong Sean.

Snow Tails is simple and interesting. There is actualy some thought that you need to put into how you play your cards. There is also some forward planning you need to do - what card to play on your next turn, how to maneuver your sled to avoid trees, to turn corners, to not overspeed when entering corners. I was slightly surprised by the game. There is more thought to it than I had expected. I had thought it would be simpler and more tactical.

With three players, we did have some player interaction, e.g. trying to get into each other's way, trying to block another player's path, but it wasn't really a lot. I think the game will be more interesting with more players. It supports up to 5.


Chris Norwood said...

Howdy, Hiew!

I was just reading, and it struck me how backwards the drifting rule is in Snow Tails. In "real life", the slower dog would drag and pull the sled towards its direction, not towards the faster dog. I haven't had the chance to play the game yet, and I guess that I had always assumed that drifting worked "correctly", but now I'm afraid that I would get confused by how counter-intuitive this is.

Am I making sense, or is my thinking just wrong here?

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Hi Chris,

Drifting towards the stronger dog seems logical to me. I imagine two people having a tug of war, so the rope would move towards the stronger person. I can understand your logic too - a slower dog "pinning" the sled, and the faster dog causing the sled to turn to the other side. I hadn't thought from this angle until I read your post.

I went to double-check the rules, just to be sure. The drift is towards the stronger dog. Phew... so I didn't play it wrong.