Archive for the 'What I Like' Category

Weekend Gaming: Busy Labor Day

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day!

We spent all day Saturday painting our house with the help of our friends and family.  It was a lot of fun, and things got done very quickly.

Following all that Gina called it a night early, while Joe, Kevin, Phil and I played games.  We started out with Railways of the Western US.  The game started with three service bounties and two hotels available, but even with only four people I did not take any of them.  Hotel Denver wasn’t available by my turn, and the only Service Bounty was for Bismarck, which didn’t have an easy delivery.  I ended up taking Government Land Grants and using them to build my tracks.  I took control of the North Western area, but really wasn’t able to maximize the deliveries until too late in the game.

Kevin spent a bunch of bonds, but started off quickly with service bounties and major lines in the lower right portion of the board, but the debt was too much.  Phil was working around Denver early, but then took on the task of connecting San Francisco to Omaha.  Joe Had control of the West coast, and though he started slower, he was able to get the train upgrades needed to really ship a lot up and down the coast.

I managed to finish the game with only four debt, but I hadn’t been making many points so I still ended up in last place.  Kevin was close to Joe, but the his debt did him in.  Joe’s deliveries had carried him to the win.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then broke out Ginkopolis for a quick break.  I managed to win with 60 points by focusing on the construction.  I had bonuses that propelled things and I was able to take control of two larger areas, much to Kevin’s chagrin.  He was urbanizing a bunch and had a solid grip on a huge red area until Phil split it.

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We finished the evening with Dominant Species.  I was playing as the reptiles, Kevin had the birds, Joe the arachnids and Phil was the insects.  I was pushing for dominance through heavy adaptation, but about halfway through the game, Joe ended up with the same adaptations as I had, negating my dominance.  Phil managed to take control of the tundra early, and scored a bunch of points before the rest of us realized what was happening.  Kevin moved in to kick Phil out, but it was too little too late.  Phil had spread all over by that point and was scoring a bunch of point in dominance as well.

I did manage to score 45 points from dominance with nine tiles at the end, but it wasn’t enough to catch Phil.  Kevin and I tied, and Joe brought up the rear.

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After a busy Saturday, Sunday was definitely a day of rest.  We did get together with Phil and Kevin, though and started the night with Caylus.  I wanted to focus heavily on building, but Phil ended up doing the same thing.  This resulted in a ton of building built early.  The Lawyer wasn’t built until after the gold space, so there wasn’t any civilian builds for most of the game.

Once I realized that the building strategy wasn’t going to work very well, I started just gathering as many resources as possible to assist in the building of the castle.  Kevin and Gina had supplied a little, but no one was heavily focused.  I was able to out supply Kevin on most turns and earned enough favor to help continue my supplies.  Kevin did manage to build a prestige building for 16 points, but I had supplied enough to hold the lead.

The game was accelerating quickly, since there were so many building past the Bailiff, the Provost was constantly out in front.  Without that speed, I don’t think I would have been able to sustain  the lead, and Kevin would likely have been able to catch up with buildings.  The game did end quickly, and I held the lead by a few points.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finished the night with Terra Mystica.  I was playing the Witches, Phil the Darklings, Joe the Giants, Gina the Morbanks, and Kevin the Halflings.  Everyone started off crammed into the middle and a lot of us went for strongholds early for the first turn bonus.  I was also able to pop out a couple dwellings and a bridge, costing me a large chunk of my power.  After turn two, though, I wasn’t feeling good about the game, as Joe and Kevin had kind of blocked me in in the center, and Phil was getting in the way in the lower right.  I didn’t think I was going to get much going at that point.

I stayed the course, though.  I built a Sanctuary on round three to get my first town and took the favor lowering the requirement for towns from 7 to 6.  I was then able to easily build a town in the lower right on the following turn.  That really changed everything.  I had the income and had enough time left to build a third town in the upper right.  I was also able to fully develop my shipping to connect my empire and tied Joe for first.

At the end, I held one of the cult, and was in second in two others.  Kevin had similar position and we were neck and neck all game.  The points for my empire were the difference maker, and I ended up beating Kevin by three points.

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Until next time, happy gaming!

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What I Like: Agricola

Theme:
Agricola is a game about farming.  Each player represents the head of a family that is trying to develop the best farm while keeping in mind the needs of their family.

Components:
The game comes with a large number of colored wooden discs, cubes, and rods representing everything from wood to grain, cows, sheep, boars, family members, fences, etc.  The pieces are well crafted and the colors makes sense for what they represent (i.e. wood is brown discs, grain is yellow discs, vegatbles are orange discs, sheep are white cubes).  The game boards are all made of a heavy cardboard with very nice, clear graphics on them.

Three separate decks are supplied with the game.  One advertised for beginners, another for “Interactive” games and another for Complex games.  The cards are nice quality, and a little smaller than a standard playing card.  The artwork is cartoony but consistent and the text on them is clear and understandable.

Gameplay:
At the start of the game, each player is given a 3×5 grid representing their farm with a two room wooden house on it, two family members and a hand of seven minor improvements and seven occupations.  The cards can be played over the course of the game and typically provide bonuses for certain actions and/or bonus points at the end of the game.

The game is then broken down into 14 rounds.  In each round, the players take turns sending their family members out to do various tasks around the farm.  Tasks include things like plowing a field, gathering grain, gathering animals, building more rooms, playing improvements and occupations, etc.

At the end of the 4th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 14th rounds there is a harvest.  During the harvest a few things happen: grain that has been planted is harvested, animals produce offspring, and the family must be fed.  If a player fails to feed his family, they receive begging cards that subtract from the player’s end game score.  This means that as a player is working toward their goal of having the best farm at the end of the game, they also need to be conscious of how they will be feeding their family throughout the game.

Once the harvest on the 14th round is complete, the game ends and points are scored.  The player with the most points at the end is the winner.

Points can be gained from a variety of sources.  The number of fields, pastures, sheep, boars, cows, grain and vegetables all can provide a maximum of four points each if the threshold in that category is met.  If a player has nothing in one or more of those categories, though, points are lost.  Points are also gained based on the number of rooms in the player’s house, the number of family members and from improvements and occupations.

What I like:

  • I like the cards that get dealt at the beginning of the game.  I enjoy trying to find the best combinations and they provide little goals to achieve throughout the game.
  • I like that the base game comes with three different decks of varying complexity.  Within a single deck there is a lot of variability and replayability, and with three the possibilities are nigh-endless.
  • I like the spacial aspect of the farm.  It is not terribly punishing if something is in the wrong place, but a little planning can go a long way.
  • I like the necessity to feed the family periodically.  It provides a sense of urgency throughout the game.
  • I like that the game rewards variety while not overly punishing specialization.

What I like less:

  • A bad starting hand can significantly impact the final scoring.  If a player has a hand with few options to score bonus points, it can be difficult to compete with a player whose hand has a large number of bonus point opportunities.
  • The importance of growing the family.  More actions are almost always better, and the player that gets an early lead can have a big advantage.  Even considering that a bigger family requires more food, it never feels like having a smaller family is a good thing.

Conclusion:
I have played Agricola with two, three, four and five players and it has always worked well.  There are enough action spaces that it never feels too crowded, while still providing competition for important actions.  It provides that perfect balance of wanting to do a lot in a round but not having quite enough actions to do everything.  It rewards long term planning while providing short term consequences.  In short, I like Agricola.

Until next time, happy gaming.


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