Friday 19 May 2023

boardgaming in photos: Race for the Galaxy, Machi Koro, Star Realms


Younger daughter Chen Rui once saw me play Race for the Galaxy on my iPad and expressed interest. Since then I kept reminding myself to find an opportunity to teach her the game. By now she probably isn't all that keen. She was just curious then. I was just looking for an excuse to get her to play games with me. 

My copy of Race for the Galaxy includes three expansions, so the card deck is huge. In order to teach Chen Rui to play, I removed all cards from the expansions. The base game already has many cards, many more than the average card game. It is complicated enough. Better not overwhelm her. I had not played the physical game for a long time. I used to play this regularly with my wife Michelle when the children were young. That was before they went to primary school, ages ago. Now that I played the physical game again, it was full of nostalgia. Nowadays I play Race for the Galaxy only on the iPad, against AI's. 

I let Chen Rui use the light blue player cards. In Race for the Galaxy every player gets a set of player cards. I use green. Michelle used to play red. 

Playing the physical copy feels different from playing the digital version. On the iPad, the tempo is fast, and I am often lazy to think too much. I don't spend much effort to analyse and to think. I must admit I'm a little sloppy. The tempo in the physical game is slower, and I get to smell the roses a bit more. I am a bit more relaxed and take more time to consider my options. It is a nice change of pace. 

Race for the Galaxy has a second and a third expansion arc. Expansions from different arcs cannot be mixed. I bought expansions in the second arc, but not the third. By the time I got to the second arc, Michelle and I no longer played the game regularly. We did play the second arc, and based on those games we played, I liked the first arc better. When the third arc came out, I read about it but never bought it. If it ever gets released in the digital version I would buy it and give it a go. 

The digital version is pretty good. When I play, I normally play two AI opponents. My iPad is old and if I add a third AI, it can't handle the additional computing and often crashes. When I boot up the game on the iPad, I can play 7 or 8 games in one breath, and it takes maybe 45 minutes or so. I learned a few tricks from the AI's. 

Chen Rui suggested Machi Koro. When my daughters were younger, the three of us often played Machi Koro. We all liked it. It had been a while since we played. Chen Rui and I tried playing just the base game, but using the market mechanism introduced in the expansions. I prefer having the market mechanism, but had not tried it with the base game. I wasn't sure whether it would work well. After trying it out, we concluded that it worked just fine. 

In the base game we only needed to build four landmarks. That felt rather short. I was too used to needing to build six landmarks. 

In the base game, normally all the buildings are sorted and laid out, and made available to everyone at all times. This is just like Dominion. If you have in mind a particular strategy, you can keep at it and buy as many of the buildings needed as you want. The only thing stopping you is other players buying what you want. So in the base game it is easier to execute planned strategies. 

With the market mechanism, there will only be 10 types of buildings available at any time. Buildings are drawn from a facedown deck. During set up you draw them and add them to the market until you have 10 types. If you draw a building which already exists, you group the similar cards. Whenever anyone buys the last one of any particular building, you draw a new building from the deck, until you reach 10 types. When using this market mechanism, there may be only one copy of a particular building you want. It becomes much harder to execute any perfect strategy. You need to adapt to the situation in the market. At the same time you need to react to your opponents' strategies. 

I bought many convenience stores (green #4 building). If I rolled a 4 I would make $12. I would stick to rolling one die for a while. Chen Rui was starting to roll two dice, so my mines (blue #9) could help me. Blue buildings activate on all players' rolls. 

Later Chen Rui and I asked elder daughter Shee Yun whether she wanted to join us. We played with the first expansion, which has boats. I asked them to pose for a photo, to reenact one taken seven years ago.  

April 2023

June 2016

We hear this all the time - "kids grow up so quickly!"  Now both my children have completed secondary school. The three of us don't game together as much as we used to, but it is still great fun when we have our sessions. 

This particular game of Star Realms was rather extreme. My life points (actually it's called Authority) went all the way to 109. Normally players start with 50, and your goal is to reduce your opponent's life points to 0. I more than doubled my life points because I had many blue cards in my deck. 

I am still regularly playing Star Realms and Ascension on my phone, more or less daily. I have almost all the expansions. I have played Ascension for more than 10 years, and Star Realms more than 8 years. 1500+ plays of Ascension, and 1100+ for Star Realms. I should promote them a bit since they've given me so much joy. Go buy them! 


Paul Owen said...

Three classic games!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

At risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, I'd say the classics are the best. :-P