Sunday, 6 January 2013

miscellaneous and photos

Children and Agricola

In November I played a few games of Agricola with my children, Shee Yun, 7, and Chen Rui, then 5. They enjoyed doing "farm things", but the strategies eluded them. They didn't know how to plan ahead. The stack of food tokens on the Fishing space always tempted them. They lived for the next round of feeding (harvest), and didn't properly develop their crop farming or animal husbandry. I guess they were not quite ready for Agricola yet. Only a crazy gamer dad would ask his children at such ages to play Agricola. However the girls did enjoy the games, just that I had to guide them now and then. Chen Rui bluntly said to me: I don't know what I want to do. Indeed there are so many different actions to pick from in Agricola. No wonder she felt overwhelmed. Surprisingly the children sat through our 1.5-hour 3-player game with no problem at all. I think it is because they felt engaged all the time.

I tried to help them survive by avoiding actions that I think were urgent to them. I tried to point out strategies when I saw them getting into trouble. Unfortunately Chen Rui still ended up with one begging card. But maybe I should be thankful that it was only one.

There is definitely a charm in Agricola, despite the constant pressure to feed your family. The children didn't "get" the game, but they enjoyed it.

Examples in rulebooks

Do you read them? I'm usually too lazy to read them, but they can be quite useful in illustrating concepts that are difficult to explain in words only. I tend to feel that the main text should already cover every rule, so examples are just extra / optional material. I guess I do sometimes read them when I don't understand what the main text is saying, but more often than not I skip them. The result is sometimes I misinterpret some rules. Having played so many different games, it is easy to slip into a smart Alec mode and think that you know it all.


26 Nov 2012. I played The Bottle Imp with Chung and Ben in Hong Kong. They are old friends and I only get to meet them once every two or three (or more) years, and what do we do? We play games! Most normal people will think we are nuts. I taught them the game, and I really enjoyed this session. We played many hands, using the target score of 200. It was fun to refresh myself on the tactics and the tricks in this game, and it was fun to see how Chung and Ben picked up the strategies. This really is a very clever trick-taking game. Once you know the game better, understanding your starting hand becomes very interesting. You already plan your general strategy for the round based on your starting hand, what cards your opponents have passed to you, and what cards you have passed to them at the start of the round. A wonderful 3-player game.

Both of them beat me soundly in the end. How embarrassing.

Dec 2012. I bought Cafe International on iOS. An old game, but a good one. This is an older generation Eurogame, published in 1989. It seems there has been a shift in the Eurogame style between then and now. Back then Eurogames were simpler, but still have much strategy and clever decision making. They were succinct and lean. Now the popular Eurogames seem to be more complex and have more moving parts, but I'm not sure whether strategy-wise they are that much richer. I may be biased by nostalgia. If a game like Cafe International, Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne is released today, it may not attract much attention and I may not even be interested to read about them at all. Eurogamers (including me) have shifted their preference to more complex designs, so the complex designs are the ones getting the buzz nowadays. Medium- and light-weight games don't get much limelight. E.g. the recent Qin from Reiner Knizia is of similar complexity to Samurai and Through the Desert, but it is getting much less attention. I guess it is also because of the huge increase in the number of games being released that it is hard for any new game to stand out among its peers.

The iOS version of Cafe International seems to be a mix of Cafe International the board game and Cafe International the card game. When tables get filled up, the table and guests are removed and a new table is drawn. I still think Cafe International is a clever and fun game. Playing it is like catching up with an old friend.

21 Dec 2012. Allen alerted me about Haggis on iOS. He said I should go buy it...

... because my blog is quoted on the app page. Woo hoo! I'm famous! (yes, I still get excited over such things, which means I am not famous) It says: Hiew's Boardgame Blog - "Fans of traditional card games definitely should give Haggis a try."

25 Dec 2012. It has been a long time since I last played Through the Ages, one of the few games I rate a 10. I played with Michelle on Christmas Day, and it was wonderful. Slightly rusty, but I did not lose my touch, at least not much. The Game Designer (a.k.a. Sid Meier) and Computer combo scored me a ton of points. However I miscalculated and failed to complete a wonder at game end.

I bought San Juan on the iOS when it was on sale during the Christmas period. The implementation is good, and the AI's seem decent enough. I have not played many games yet, so I have yet to decide whether the AI's are strong enough. I've won both the games I played. Han, Allen and I were hoping to play this online, but it turns out there is no async mode. We have to be online at the same time to play. That is disappointing.

Since I play Ascension (on my iPhone) more or less every day now, I bought both the expansions. I like them. Many interesting card powers. This is one particularly fun combo that I managed to make with one of the new cards.

This is the Dream Machine construct. In Ascension, constructs are cards that you play in a tableau area in front of you and their powers are active every round, as opposed to normal cards which you play and use for one turn and then they get discarded to wait for the next reshuffle. The Dream Machine doesn't seem like much at first glance, despite the high cost of $7. It lets you return another Mechana construct you have in play to your hand, so that you can play it again if you want to. In this recent game I played, I realised how powerful the Dream Machine can be if paired up with other Mechana Constructs that take effect when being played.

I had the Personal Wormhole construct in this game. I kept using Dream Machine to take Personal Wormhole back into my hand, and then I played Personal Wormhole again to banish (remove permanently) a card in my discard pile or hand. This helped me cull my deck almost every turn, as opposed to those culling cards (with the banish ability) which I could use once per run through my deck.

Later on I had the Burrower Mark II construct played as well. This construct let me draw a card whenever I played it or another Mechana construct. Combined with the Dream Machine, it meant I could draw an extra card every turn.

I won this game, but it was quite close. Of my 10 starting cards, I had culled 7. Only 3 Apprentice cards left (rightmost).


Han said...

We start with 12 cards in Ascension, so you culled 9 cards (the 2 militia cards).

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I thought we start with 10 cards in Ascension, 8 Apprentice and 2 Militia?

Aik Yong said...

yup, wasn't it 10 cards?

hopstodge said...

Have you tried Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small? You don't have to worry about food and just get to build a nice farm with loads of animals in it. I play this with my 6-year-old from time to time and she still needs a little help, but she's getting there. Only two players, though.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I have read the rules to Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small. However I have not had the chance to try it out. I think it's available to be tried at OTK, where I often play. So hopefully I'll get it try it out some day and decide whether it's something I want to buy.