Saturday, 15 March 2014

in photos: Metropolys, Elasund, Ra

7 Feb 2014. Metropolys, an older game which I have not played for quite a while. I brought it to I think nowadays I'm usually the only dinosaur who brings these older games there to play. I don't buy many new games.

The unique feature of Metropolys is the bidding mechanism. The start player of a round bids for a building spot by placing one of his numbered buildings there. If another player overbids him, he places his own higher-numbered building not at the same spot, but on an adjacent vacant spot. That means the winning bid and eventual construction can end up being far far away from the original spot put up for bidding. There are many ways of scoring - specific spots have points, having tallest buildings in an area scores points (i.e. area majority), and also there are two secret objectives per player which score points too.

This is not a very complex game, but we played rather slowly. We were probably discussing and calculating and analysing more than we were playing. We had bystanders participating in the analysis and speculation too. Game nerds are nuts, especially these heavy Eurogame fans sometimes simply cannot not analyse a board situation to death.

It has been a while since I last played Bohnanza, the classic that made Uwe Rosenberg famous. I taught a group of new players, and we had a wonderful time. This is a good ice-breaker because of the constant trading and negotiations.

28 Feb 2014. Again, I brought an oldie to - Elasund, by Klaus Teuber of The Settlers of Catan fame. The Settlers of Catan is so famous in Germany that someone wrote a novel using it as a setting. In the novel, Elasund is the first major city on Catan. Elasund went full circle to become a boardgame.

Elasund has many familiar elements, yet feels very different. You do roll dice every round to see who gains money and influence. If you roll a 7, there is no production, and someone may get robbed. Your objective is to reach 10VP's, which is done mainly by constructing buildings, walls, and the church. There is a nasty streak in this game. Your buildings can get torn down when someone else builds another building. You need to stake permits onto the building site before you build, and sometimes your permits can be used by your opponents to build their own buildings.

I played with Chee Seng, Wai Yan and Ivan. I think it was the first time for all of them. We had too many 7's in our game. Yes I know 7 is expected to be the most common result when rolling two dice, but the frequency we were getting was simply indecent. And despite having so strategically placed my buildings on the 6 and 8 rows, I'm getting a paltry income because of the horrible die rolls. Aarrgghh! There is definitely luck is this game (and I'm not saying this because I lost miserably), but there is definitely strategy too. The granularity is similar to The Settlers of Catan. The complexity is slightly higher, and it's a little nastier too of course.

The cubes in the photo are used to mark building ownership. They are also used to keep track of victory points. Everyone has 10 cubes, and if all get placed onto the board, you win. That's a convenient way to track VP's.

Another classic - Ra. We did a 5P game. I had decided early on to focus on monuments. The final turn was the most tense. Chee Seng was the last player with any sun left, so he was the one drawing tiles from the bag. The rest of us were eagerly chanting Ra! Ra! Ra! hoping he would draw Ra tiles to end the epoch and thus the game. However every single tile that he drew was useful. He didn't draw any disaster or any Ra tile. Eventually he filled up all eight spots, and happily bagged the lot. I think he scored about 10VP from that single turn, which won him the game.

Ra has a special place in my heart. It was one of the heavily played games when I first got into the hobby, although it wasn't one of my favourites. At the time it was out of print and I home-made my own copy. Now I would shudder at the thought of cutting out so many tiles. I taught my colleagues in Taiwan the game, and they loved it. Around the time of my birthday we had a gathering to play boardgames, and when we played Ra, they insisted that I be the start player. When I drew the first tile out of the bag, I was stunned. The tile in my hand was coloured. My copy of the game was black-and-white because I printed it using a black-and-white printer. It turned out that my friends had bought a copy for me from the German eBay as my birthday present. That was unforgettable.


Anonymous said...

Very nice entry on games from the golden age of boardgames. These are the kind of boardgames that will stay with us in the long run, unlike most of the "top" games these days.

This is one more reason why I like your blog (long ago I commented about your baseball references, perhaps you remember).

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hello hello! Indeed I do miss some of these older classics. I can't say for sure they are all better than the more recent games. It may just be nostalgia affecting our perception. I wonder whether the boardgame hobby is becoming a little like the pop music industry. People will always favour the songs they listened to in their youth.