Saturday, 23 May 2015

Labour Day gaming: Hoity Toity, Attika, Ark

In Malaysia we had a long Labour Day weekend 1 - 4 May 2015. Labour day was on Friday, and Wesak Day on Monday. Michelle and I decided to have a family boardgame day. We revisited some games which we hadn't played for quite a while, and I also introduced some new games to the kids.

At the Gates of Loyang. I am lukewarm but Michelle likes it, but if she suggests to play, I'm more than happy to oblige. I'm not a big fan of this particular design from Uwe Rosenberg because I see it as a logistical exercise of coordinating supply and demand, ideally maximising supply and then optimising demand (unmet demand results in penalty).

These three are my regular customers, i.e. I have signed contracts to deliver vegetables to them for four consecutive rounds. Unkept promises can result in a penalty.

In our game Michelle forgot to open a new field in two rounds, resulting in a shortage in fields. The mistake probably happened around mid game, but we only discovered it in the late game. It was too late to fix. Needless to say, she didn't win.

This is a German version of Attika which I bought in Taiwan around 2004. I don't know German, so it is slightly inconvenient. I need to refer to the player board more often. In Attika your objective is to be the first to construct all 30 of your buildings (the round tokens). However there is an instant win condition, which is to connect two temples using your chain of buildings. Based on the current board situation in this photo, the connection victory is not possible. I (green) would need to add a terrain tile at the upper left in order to join up my separate territories. Michelle (red) would need to add a terrain tile at the lower left to reach that temple on the left.

This is the player board and also a reference sheet. It tells you how the buildings related to one another - which building when constructed next to another can be constructed for free. I use the blue player's components to mark the buildings I have already constructed.

Michelle managed a connection victory using her streets (strasse) to reach the temple on the left. This is so easy feat. Connection victories are difficult because they are normally easy to defend against. The tricky part is how much effort you are willing to spend on defense because it could mean sacrificing efficiency in constructing all your buildings as quickly as possible.

This is the main board of Power Grid: Factory Manager. It has the Power Grid brand slapped on it, but is a wholly independent game. Not an expansion, not a variant. It is quite a compact game. Not short, or simple, but compact. There are only five rounds. There aren't really that many decisions to make. However most of these decisions are important. That's what I mean by compact. You need to understand the game reasonably well to understand the implications in order to make sound decisions.

I played a 2-player game with Michelle, and around mid game an interesting situation arose. We had made all three of the best storage solutions tiles available to be purchased. I was start player, and I had good cashflow. I could afford to buy two of these tiles, which would boost my storage capacity to the max, and I would not need to worry about it for the rest of the game. I could also choose to buy only the best tile among the three, which would still give me a very strong boost, but I would not hit the max. The challenge was deciding whether I would need that additional storage capacity towards game end. If I could not boost my production capacity to match my maxed out storage capacity, that storage capacity would be wasted. If I spent my money on two storage solutions, that would mean less money for other machinery. So I decided to buy only one storage solution. Michelle took the plunge and bought both.

I had better cashflow throughout the game. However when we reached the last round, I found my growth hampered by my storage capacity. It was too late for regret. Michelle's income surpassed me in the last round, and because the profit in the last round was doubled, she managed to amass just enough wealth to beat me. I should have been bolder and made that investment in mid game. I had let the opportunity pass me by.

Chen Rui (8) playing Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld. The 4-player partnership game is great fun. The card rack she is using is from Ticket To Ride: Asia.

This is Hoity Toity, a.k.a. Adel Verpflichtet, a.k.a. By Hook or by Crook. I had not played this for a very long time. Michelle had played it before, but had forgotten all the rules. It was as good as playing for the first time. I find it a very good family game. It definitely deserves the Spiel des Jahres award. The pace is brisk, actions are simple, there is no down time, and everyone feels involved all the time. It is a joy to play.

Like rock-paper-scissors, this is a game about guessing your opponents' intentions. Everyone makes decisions simultaneously, and then reveals them together. Every round, you can decide to go to the auction house or to the exhibition hall. Among those who have decided to go to the auction house, you secretly decide whether you will bid for an artifact, or you will try to steal the money paid in the transaction. If more than one player wants to buy an artifact, naturally the highest bidder wins the auction and gets the artifact. If there is only one player trying to steal money, he succeeds. That is, of course, subject to someone having bought an artifact that round.

Among the players who have decided to go to the exhibition hall, there are then three options, which they also pick simultaneously. Players can exhibit their artifacts, and those with the most impressive sets score points. They can try to steal artifacts, provided that someone else is exhibiting so there are artifacts to steal in the first place. They can try to arrest thieves to score points, which is of course subject to thieves being present.

The outcomes of your decisions very much depend on what others are doing. Player interaction is high.

These are my artifacts. When putting up an exhibition, you must display at least three artifacts, and there can be no gaps in the alphabets. The alphabets run from A to F. The middle alphabets like C and D are often more hotly contested because you need them to link up the others. I only have one D artifact. I need to be careful not to lose it to thieves, because it would break my nice big collection of artifacts into two smaller and much weaker sets.

This is Ark, a game about helping Noah load his ark before the flood starts. This looks like a children's game but it is not simple at all. There are many restrictions when you load animals. Carnivores cannot share a cabin with other animals smaller than them. Herbivores cannot share a cabin with provisions (vegetables). The total weight on the port and starboard halves of the ark must not be too much off balance. Animals from specific climates must be stored in rooms of the appropriate climate. After our game Michelle said she needed to take a nap to recover.

Even the children looked very serious when playing.

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