Saturday, 18 June 2011

Giants

Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Giants is a game about erecting Moai statues on Easter Island. Players are tribes who carve statues and hats, move them to sites along the beach, and raise them, gaining victory points.

Each player's tribe starts with a chieftain, a shaman (or what Malaysians call a bomoh) and a villager. In addition to these workers, players also manage 3 other currencies. Markers are used for bidding for available statues at the start of each round, and for marking ownership of statues or hats which are not yet erected. Rongo half-tablets are used for tie-breaking as well as for giving the chieftain bomoh powers. Logs can be chopped from the tiny forest on Easter Island, and used for transporting statues.

At the start of each round, a random number of statues of different sizes are made available to be fought over via blind bidding, committing tribesmen and markers. Size is important because it is a multiplier for the value of the statue. Naturally a bigger statue is also harder to transport.

The main part of the game is placing your tribesmen and logs onto the board. You place them so that they can transport statues and hats. Bigger statues need more tribesmen or logs to move. Other players can use your tribesmen, and you can't refuse, but you gain 1 victory point per tribesman used. Sometimes you want to place your men at strategic locations to entice others to use them.

Bomohs can be placed at some special locations to get you special items, e.g. additional villagers, additional markers, logs and hats.

Once the worker placement is done, it's time to move stuff. When a statue reaches a site, you place an ownership tile there face down. That means you need to remember which one is yours. Each site has a different value for statue and hat. The value is higher at sites that are further away from the statue or hat quarries. The two quarries are on opposite sides of the island, so a site with a high statue value has a low hat value, and vice versa.

The game ends once a player builds a certain number of statues.

Chieftains have square bases, shamans / bomohs have 8-pointed star bases, villagers have round bases. The statue on the left is wearing the blue tribe's marker. If you can't transport a statue or hat all the way to a site to be erected, you better mark it with your marker, or it may get stolen from you next round. In the lower right is the only small forest on the island, and half of it has been chopped up.

These dice in the centre are used to determine how many statues are available each round, and how big they are.

The Play

I played a 4-player game with Allen, Peter and Heng. I found the resources in the game to be very tight. We played with the shorter variant where you start with an extra villager, but even with this I felt the things that could be done in the early were very limited. Much effort needed to go into building up our tribes.

The blind bidding at the start of every round was very critical. It is important to get high valued statues. A size 3 statue transported to a distant site can be worth many points. It can be very painful to commit a lot in the bidding and still lose out, because it means a lot of wasted resources.

We also needed to work on building up our tribes. We needed more men, more markers.

In the foreground: logs. Along the coastline you can see some sites for erecting statues. One statue has already been erected.

This chain of tribesmen reminds me of a queue of men passing water buckets to save a fire. The concept of transporting statues in this game is not far off.

What I found most interesting was the tension between competition and cooperation. Sometimes you want others to help you, yet you will also often hesitate whether to use their help or to just use your own tribesmen so that they don't gain points from helping you. Every round the placement of tribesmen creates a transportation network. You want to influence this to help you and to hinder your opponents, which is tricky, and sometimes impossible. There is diplomacy and "manipulating" your opponents. Players may try to work together to not help the leader. You want to appear weak to encourage others to use your tribesmen, so that you'll earn points.

Multiple players can place tribesmen on the same space, so there is no blocking like in most worker placement games. You hinder your opponents mostly by not placing your tribesmen where your opponents can use them, and by claiming statue sites before they do.

Allen went for speed, erecting statues at nearby and low valued sites. Hats that he put on his statues were high valued, since they were far from the hat quarry.

I think Peter had the most of the size-3 statues. He also did his tribesmen placement very well, gaining many points from helping others. He won the game by a big margin.

Near game end I got myself a size-3 statue, but didn't manage to get it erected in time. It was a bit of a gamble when I fought for that statue in the auction. I knew Allen was going to erect his last statue soon which would trigger the game end, but I wasn't exactly sure how soon.

completed statue with hat.

Near game end. Many statues have been erected. The artwork and components of this game is excellent.

The Thoughts

Giants is one very good-looking game. It is a game of collaborative network building, in which the network is refreshed every round. There is a tricky balance between wanting and not wanting to help others, as well as wanting and declining help from others. These are all driven by how the network is built, i.e. how tribesmen are placed.

The growth of your tribe (gaining villagers, markers, logs and half-tablets) is important, to allow you to be competitive and efficient. The question is not whether to improve your tribe. It is which aspect to improve first and how far you want to improve it.

The blind bidding for statues is very important. How many statues are available each round and how many get claimed by players drive the tempo of the game. There is some memory element, but it's not a big part.

Timing is important. There is a race to claim sites. Game length is variable and sometimes players want to manipulate it in different ways.

3 comments:

seema said...

nice

Cecrow said...

Haven't heard of this one. The cooperation/competition dichotomy is interesting.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

and often you can't really stop others. you can't force others to use your people. you can block them from placing their workers anywhere they want. the only areas where you can directly stop others are (a) winning the statues in the blind bidding auctions and (b) erecting a statue at a site which they also want. there is one aspect which i hadn't written about. you can actually book a site by placing your base there. we didn't do this in our game, probably because everyone forgot about it. :-P okay, i was a bad teacher for not remembering this and reminding the others about it.