Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Africa, Felix: The Cat in the Sack

Yet another visit to Carcasean, this time two new games.

On 28 Dec 2007 I played Africa (2 player game against Michelle), and Felix: The Cat in the Sack (5 player game, using my home-made version).

Africa is not a highly ranked game at Boardgamegeek. When I told Chong Sean (owner of Carcasean) I was interested to try it, he seemed to be amazed that I was interested even to try it. He asked me, "After reading the rules, do you expect it will be fun?". After we played the game, and Michelle told him it was fun, he was surprised.

Africa is about exploring Africa (of course). There are face-down chips placed all over a map of Africa, and you explore. You discover natural resources (gold and diamonds), you collect trade goods, you find animals and try to herd them together, you find nomads and try to relocate them to places with more space, you find monuments, you set up camps to extract natural resources or to study the animals / people / monuments. Throughout the game, you move your explorer, you turn over tiles, and do various actions, and earn victory points along the way. You do this until the 11th monument is discovered. Then the game ends. At game end, there is also some scoring for the gold, diamonds and trade goods.

The exploration of Africa is well underway.

Michelle liked Africa, which totally upset Chong Sean. :-D Hey, I just realised she was wearing a T-shirt from Africa - from Egypt!

The white Indiana Jones and the brown Indiana Jones fighting over a tent.

These camps were set up to study the animals, nomads and monuments. 1VP for each adjacent.

Africa was a pleasant surprise for me. It is quite a light game. There is a lot of luck. Yet somehow I do enjoy it. I don't know whether it's something I'd enjoy after playing for the tenth time, but my first play was definitely enjoyable. Michelle liked it too. I think one thing that makes the game fun is the "lucky draw" factor. In this game, every time you turn over a tile is a lucky draw. Also, every turn you try to maximise your score. You try to make clever moves like setting up camp, or moving already revealed animals or nomads. There is some, but not a lot of, player interaction. You can compete in gold / diamonds / trade goods. You can compete for good spots to set up camp. You can also try to block your opponents' explorers using your own explorer.

I like Africa. I think it's fun. This is a game that should be played in a relaxed way.

Felix: The Cat in the Sack, is a recently released game. The designer, Friedemann Friese, is well known for unique and strange themes for this game (and also for many F's in his games' names, and green colour in his games, and his green hair). The theme in this game is not too weird, but it certainly has an interesting twist in its auction mechanism.

I home-made this game after reading the rules. It's cheaper, and I don't need to wait for the English release. This is my first time making a colour-printed game, because I used my father's printer. I don't have a printer at home, and the laser printers at the office are black & white. I enjoy home-making games, searching the internet for pictures, creating the components on Powerpoint. I can even choose to change the theme of the game.

I played Felix: The Cat in the Sack twice with 5 players - Michelle, Chong Sean, and two other customers (I think). This is an auction game, and what is unique about it is you usually do not know for sure the value of the sack which you are bidding for. As people drop off from the auction, information about the sack is gradually revealed. However, often you won't know what that last card is, even if you are one of the last two players competing for that sack.

Chong Sean and two other players joined us to play a 5-player game of Felix: The Cat in the Sack. We used Chong Sean's high quality poker chips.

My home-made version. Printed in colour this time.

Every player starts the game with 9 cards. There are cat cards with positive and negative values, dog cards which may chase away cats, and even a rabbit card with value 0. In every round, each player places a card into the sack in the middle of the table. This is the sack which everyone will bid for. One card is revealed before the auction starts. Each time a player drops off from the auction, one more can is revealed. By the time there are 2 players remaining, there will still be one card unrevealed. Only when the sack is won, the last card will be revealed. So, usually no one will know for sure what the total value of the sack until that moment. The only exception is when you are the one who played that last card.

When you pass, you earn some money. The later you pass, the more you earn. So, it is probably possible to win the game without winning any auctions. At game end, you add up your money and the value of your cards to determine your final score.

There is some psychology in the game. By watching how other players bid or concede, you can try to guess what kind of card they have played into the sack. The game is also about risk management - should you press on with the bidding, or drop off and gain money immediately. Sometimes you actually earn more money by dropping off than winning the sack, e.g. when the value of the sack is low, or when the amount bid is high. It is even possible to lose money when you win an auction, when the amount bid is higher than the value of the sack. Sometimes the value of the sack can even be negative!

Although there are some clever twists in the game, I found it to be quite random. There seems to be many ways to guess the value of the sack, and it seems you should have quite a bit of control. However, I find that I often ended up having to make wild guesses. There seems to be quite a bit of luck in the game to me. So, overall it was just an OK game for me. Maybe having 5 players make things more random and chaotic than I like. Perhaps I should try with fewer players.


seweng said...

nice blog!!!very impressed!!!and got elaine inside!hehehe...sure to visit this site often...well done!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

i guess you are a friend of elaine. :-) well, the next time i'm back in kk maybe you can join us to play too. or maybe you just just ask her to bring you there without waiting. ;-)