My blog is starting to look like a photo gallery for games of Through the Ages. I can't help taking photos every time I play Through the Ages. Every game tells a story, a history of civilisations. So, here are some more histories...
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Friday, 29 May 2009
I became a hobby gamer in around 2003-2004. My addiction to www.boardgamegeek.com started at that time too. Having been buying games, reading about games and playing games so much for the past 5 years, I sometimes find myself a little jaded, a little tired of recurring themes in games, recurring game mechanics, recurring arguments and complaints at BGG, recurring inside jokes. Quite often when I read game reviews, I just skip to the conclusion paragraph. If it sounds interesting, I go back to start at the beginning. Maybe it's information overload.
Many games get published every year, and there is a lot of information on the internet about them. However I find that it is becoming rarer and rarer that a new game would interest me. Sometimes just looking at a few pictures of a game and reading a few comments of it are enough to turn me off the game. I can't even muster the will to read a review. Don't even talk about going through the rules (which many game publishers now post onto the internet - a good thing). I'm probably being completely unfair to these games, not giving them a chance at all. Games like Royal Palace, Stone Age, Diamonds Club, A Castle for all Seasons, Finca. These are all mostly getting positive reviews, but I simply can't muster much interest. I probably sound like a Euro-bashing Ameritrasher. Even with new Ameritrash games, there aren't many that interest me either, and I don't name them here because I don't even remember their names.
Being picky about games is good for my wallet. However, despite this so-called jadedness, I still have a lot of games on my watchlist, and I don't think I will be able to meet my (probably too unrealistic) target of buying only 12 games in 2009. I'm already at 10 games bought. Maybe 20 is a more realistic target. Games that interest me usually satisfy one of these conditions:
- ... has something unique - a mechanic, a theme, etc. Space Alert is a real-time and cooperative game. Tales of the Arabian Nights, a game where you build a story. Somehow, I don't really have a Friedemann Friese game hot on my watchlist at the moment, although he's famous for quirky themes. I do have Fauna in the lukewarm section of my watchlist, and, pardon my snobbishness, it was there before it got the Spiel des Jahres nomination.
- ... is an expansion of a game I like. Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium, 2nd expansion to my most played game. Keltis expansion - the one with the alternate board. There are many spin-offs of the Keltis brand, Reiner Knizia's first SdJ-winning game. Galaxy Trucker expansion. Tribune expansion. Pandemic: On the Brink.
- ... is by a designer I like, and is of a type of game that I like. Automobile by Martin Wallace, which the designer himself likes a lot. However somehow his After the Flood and Waterloo do not interest me much. Le Havre by Uwe Rosenberg of Agricola fame, which I have already bought. I'm also watching his upcoming Gates of Loyang.
- ... is something new to me. I'm thinking of getting into some simpler wargames, thus Conflict of Heroes. I have played two block wargames (admittedly probably at the easier end of the spectrum), Hammer of the Scots and Crusader Rex. Should I try Rommel in the Desert?
Chicago Express is a game that I'm interested in but can't quite categorise. It's sounds interesting to me, in that the rules are simple but their interaction is complex. This is a game that's quick but the decisions are tough.
I wonder how long these games will last until they gradually drop to the lukewarm or cold sections of my watchlist. My watchlist has more than 130 games, because I rarely delete games from it. They just gradually get downgraded. It's good to hold off buying games, because sometimes after waiting half a year or more, some games will become less interesting compared to when I first heard of them, and they will be downgraded. Less games to buy. Money saved. Newer games also tend to push older games down the list. So it's good to procrastinate.
Umm... I hope I'm not making anyone's wallet bleed more than it should by naming so many games here...
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Agricola has solo rules, and I decided to give it a try. You can play a solo campaign, consisting of 8 games. In each game there is a target score and you must meet this target. For every 2 points by which you exceed the target, you get 1 free food for the next game. Also for each game you can "freeze" one of your Occupations played in that game, to become a free and permanent Occupation from the next game onwards. One big difference is adults eat 3 food instead of 2 when harvests come. Also the 3 wood space only gets 2 wood every round. Other than that the rules are mostly the same as the 2-player game.
I completed one campaign. I didn't quite like it. I don't think I'll play another solo game again. Without competition, it becomes a game of micro-planning - you plan a few turns ahead when to take what goods, or when to take which actions. The 3-food requirement is tough at the earlier stages of the game, but once you build up your food engine, the game becomes too easy (or someone please point out if I played wrong). You can max out almost everything - 5 family members, stone house with 5 rooms, 5 fields, 4 vegetables, 8 grain, 8 sheep, etc etc. It becomes an exercise in squeezing out every single point you can from the game system. Reviewers of Agricola say that it is good because you can't have everything, that the game ends before you can do all that you want to do. Having played a solo campaign, I feel this deeply. When you can do almost everything, and have to do bean-counting to squeeze out that one more Minor Improvement worth 1 point, it isn't very fun or tense anymore.
The variety in the Minor Improvements and Occupations helps to make it tolerable. Having some free Occupations at the start of the game is fun and helps a lot. I had Wet Nurse from Game 2 onwards, which helped tremendously in this campaign.
I find that solo versions of games tend to be a poorer substitute for the real thing. Call me dirty-minded, but I can't help thinking about the analogy of another fun exercise that's better with a partner than by yourself (and let's not start talking about 3-player games...). Race for the Galaxy has a quite different solo game. I do play it now and then, but I definitely prefer playing against real opponents to playing against the robot. I find the Agricola solo game much less interesting than the multiplayer game. Pandemic is a pretty good solo game, maybe because it's cooperative. There is much tension in where diseases will pop up and what cards you'll draw. In Agricola's solo game, the only unknown is the order in which the round cards turn up. I rarely bother to analyse or plan around that.
I took a lot of photos of my Agricola solo campaign. I had thought it would be interesting to analyse, but after finishing the games I just couldn't be bothered. Since I have spent so much effort taking the photos, I don't want it to go to waste. Maybe someone else will find this interesting. So here they are. The photos of my 8 games will generally be in this order:
- Occupation and Minor Improvement cards that I was dealt, and starting Occupations from previous games.
- Cards that I have played by game end.
- My farm.
- The order in which the round cards appeared.