Saturday, 28 July 2012

boardgaming in photos

13 Jul 2012. Playing Taj Mahal at OTK Cheras. This is classic Knizia, and it has been quite a while since I last played. We had 3 players, and I was the only one who had played before. I should be the stronger player since I taught the game, but Allen completely dominated this game. He made many province-to-province connections, and also kept the 2VP bonus card throughout most of the game. He kept competing for princesses so that he could hold on to the 2VP bonus card. We never managed to wrest it from him. I really need to relearn the tricks to this game.

Taj Mahal made me miss the Eurogames of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. There are not many such games nowadays, I feel. These games don’t have many rules, but they have good strategic depth and they have good player interaction. The hot Eurogames nowadays seem to be much heavier rules-wise. There are more moving parts and more components, but in terms of strategic depth, are they really that much better than these older Eurogames? I’m not sure. I wonder whether the designers of these newer Eurogames have lost focus a little. Are they adding some not-very-necessary aspects to games and forgetting the purer aspect of strategic richness (as opposed to richness in theme, number of choices, number of moving parts)? More choices may not mean more strategic depth. “More paths to victory” may not mean more strategic depth. When playing Taj Mahal, and later Santiago, I was suddenly reminded of one of the signs of greatness in Eurogames - crafting strategic depth with a minimalistic ruleset.

5-player Santiago at OTK Cheras. It had been ages since I last played. I thought I could teach the game by referring to my concise reference sheets (I have a copy on my phone), but I ended up doing a lousy job, confusing even myself. Thankfully Jeff was there to save the day. Santiago is an auction game and a bribery game. Players bid for plantation tiles, place them onto the board, and then try to bribe the irrigation guy to expand the irrigation network in the direction they want. Plantation tiles not irrigated will spoil every round, initially having ownership cubes removed, and eventually the tiles themselves get flipped over to the wasteland side if still not irrigated. You score based on the size of a plantation multiplied by your cubes on it. E.g. the white player scores 10pts for the bigger banana (yellow) plantation - 5 connected tiles x 2 white cubes.

I thought I did rather poorly, not being able to get into many big plantations. I thought I was surely going to end up in one of the last two positions. To my surprise I came second. I think a decision in the late game to pay dearly for a pea tile and then to use my personal irrigation canal to keep it from spoiling was what saved me. Every player has one personal irrigation canal for the whole game, and only one player will get to use it in any round. So it is valuable and must not be wasted. I invested much in that particular round in order to boost my presence in a large pea plantation. Thankfully it was worth it. In Santiago the key is to focus on getting yourself into big plantations. Small plantations are rarely worth the trouble.

Santiago was a satisfying experience. However I suspect if it were published today, I would have completely ignored it, dismissing it as too simple. I think I am losing sight of what a good game should be like. I should rethink this.

14 Jul 2012. Roll Through The Ages on the iPhone. I thought I did exceptionally well when I scored 71pts (Late Bronze Age expansion used), but when I checked my records, I found out that this wasn’t even in my top 3. My previous highest record was 77pts. And I’m pretty sure even 77pts is not uncommon.

The chart is wrong. This part of the app has always been broken. I don’t know why they never bothered to fix it. Thankfully the actual score calculation is correct. the red parts are showing penalties (disasters), but I should not have so much red showing. I only had 3pts deducted the whole game.

My developments. Empire was nice. 10pts for the the development itself, plus 1pt for each of my seven cities.

20 Jul 2012. Playing Gosu on BoardGameArena (BGA). This is the discard pile. Impressive, isn’t it?

I played against Han, and this game really went back and forth. I had a good hand in round 1 and beat him soundly. Then in round 2 he made good use of the trailing player bonus. Many of his cards were powered up because he was the trailing player. He got many powerful cards played, and also decimated my army. It was a crushing defeat. In round 3, things didn’t look so good for me. I decided to concede this round to conserve my strength for the next round. In round 4, it was my turn to enjoy the trailing player bonus, since Han was leading 2:1. However he only needed to win one more round to win the game. I needed to win two rounds consecutively. Thankfully I managed to make good use of the trailing player bonus. I won round 4, and managed to stay in a strong enough position to be able to win round 5 without the trailing player bonus. I did not win by much in the last round.

Gosu continues to be an interesting and relatively quick card game. It’s not really that big in the combo aspect. It’s much more about making difficult choices among the many goblins you can choose from, and making the most out of the goblins’ powers based on your situation. In that sense it’s a quite tactical. The more strategic view is picking the goblins to keep in your army for the long haul, e.g. those with good activation powers.


Greg Aleknevicus said...

I think your comments regarding the simple rules, but complex gameplay, or early eurogames is spot-on. I've grown disenchanted with more recent releases as they seem much more complex rule-wise, without any increase in strategic depth.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Greg,
It was indeed a wake-up call for me, when I revisited these old classics. I should do this more. I had thought I had "graduated" to more complex Eurogames. Now I realise "graduate" may not be an accurate description at all.

By the way, do you still do writing on boardgames? I was a big fan of The Games Journal.

Greg Aleknevicus said...

It seems to be a common trait of dedicated eurogamers (those who spend a notable amount of time trawling the internet for information) to focus very heavily on the latest and greatest (the so-called "cult of the new"). I think this may be a failing (although I would never deem to tell people how they should spend their leisure time).

Rather than enjoy the excellent games they own, they'll constantly search for something better. While this sounds reasonable, the net effect is that they spend the majority of their time playing less-enjoyable games.

I came to the realization that my favourite 200 or 300 games are more than enough to last my lifetime and so I lost interest in newer titles. Since almost all content written about games (whether it be in magazines, blogs, or on the BoardGameGeek) concerns what's new, my enthusiasm for writing waned.

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