Tuesday, 22 May 2012

boardgaming in photos

6 Apr 2012. Tower of Babel is a lesser known Reiner Knizia design. It looks a little drab, but is quite a clever medium weight game. Rules are actually light-weight, but strategy is definitely medium-weight. On your turn you only have two options - to build or not to build. However, behind that there are many considerations and sub-options, e.g. which wonder of the world to work on, which type of resource to use, etc.

The two main ways of scoring are (a) being majority contributor at completion of a wonder and (b) holding many resource tokens at game end. The former requires careful manipulation of timing because wonders completed later score higher, but when the game ends, incomplete wonders score much less. There's a push-your-luck element. The latter often forces you to make the tough decision between letting another player claim the token and letting him become a bigger contributor in wonder construction. Tower of Babel is a game of few rules, but subtle strategies and tricky decisions.

8 Apr 2012. Maori. Playing with all the advanced rules makes this a satisfying medium-weight game. It becomes more challenging and requires careful planning. It has the rather overused multiple ways of scoring aspect, but I find the spatial element fun and engaging.

All trees must point north, so tile placement is trickier. However you choose tiles from a grid and don't blind draw.

11 Apr 2012. I downloaded Blokus on the iPhone for free. This is the two-player Blokus Duo which is included in the app. I have only played one game and cannot yet tell how good the AI is. I find using touch-screen controls to manipulate the pieces too cumbersome compared to physical-touch manipulation of real game pieces, so I never bothered to play a second game.

18 May 2012. Ora et Labora. This was probably the first time I used building actions to score many points. In my previous games I largely neglected this aspect and focused on only buildings and settlements. One of my buildings, the House of the Brotherhood, let me buy 10VP for $5, and I had used it four times.

My monastery (yellow banner cards) and monastery town around it. That piece of hillside land at the bottom right was wasted. I never managed to build anything on it before the game ended. Money down the drain.

19 May 2012. Caylus at BoardGameArena (BGA). I recently started playing some boardgames at BGA with Allen and Han (who is working abroad now). Games at BGA are real-time / live games, unlike the PBEM-like format at SlothNinja. We scheduled a virtual boardgame session to meet up online to play, using Skype for banter and rules questions. This was a first for me.

The user interface at BGA is quite good and easy to learn. I struggled more with remembering the rules of Caylus.

Mid game. All but one wooden buildings have been constructed. I've never managed to learn to play Caylus well, and will need more plays to improve my game. One thing that's stopping me is the game is a dry cube conversion exercise. The setting doesn't excite me at all. There are other shallower games that excite me more. I will need much will power to look past that boring setting in order to learn the intricacies and strategies underneath. It'll be a challenge, with so many other attractive games singing siren songs to me.

21 May 2012. Kahuna, a clever and confrontational two-player game. I was black and Allen was white. This was Round 1, and we were still establishing our power bases.

Round 3, and competition was fierce. Allen had destroyed some of my bridges and removed my control over some islands. Thankfully I still managed to control one island more than him at the end of Round 3, and I won by tiebreaker.

21 May 2012. Stone Age. Another game played against Allen at BGA. I had played this before, but it was quite some time ago and I had forgotten many details. Playing it as a two-player game seems to be less interesting than with more players though.

One thing good about playing at BGA is the computer does all the maths for you. I lost by a big margin, 288 to 202.

End game situation. Stone Age is a pleasant worker placement game, and I can understand its wide appeal. It has resource collection, a little civ building / development, set collection, and dice. It sits comfortably in the medium-weight range, and is something that a wide variety of gamers can enjoy. I guess in a way it's like 7 Wonders. Smooth to play, easy to learn, and sits in a pleasant middle ground. What Stone Age lacks for me is an interesting quirk that draws me. The design almost feels too safe. I'd happily play it, but would not request it. In comparison with 7 Wonders, I find that 7 Wonders can be played at a deeper strategic level (e.g. carefully considering others' tableaus and wonders), and I am often presented with interesting and difficult choices (multiple cards I want but must pick only one).

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