October 6, 2005

September Gaming

by Susan Rozmiarek

Gaming has been rather sparse for me this month, although we did host one very fun game day, stopped by at another and Iíve been playing more games with my kids. Here are some quick thoughts on most of the games I played this month:


Poison: This was an impulse buy from my local games store. Itís a rather overproduced card game but at $15, the retail price it still pretty low and itís a Knizia design so I felt good about buying it without knowing much about it. It feels a little bit like Coloretto and Too Many Cooks. I thought it okay and my son liked it, plus it has a good Halloween theme. It also went over fairly well with our group as another filler. Iím not sorry I picked it up.

The cauldrons where the players make the potions during Poison.
StrataGem: On the other hand, this impulse buy definitely falls into the ďho humĒ category. Itís a simple card game of each player trying to build a grid of cards in front of him. The cards are numbered and depict different gems. The idea is to build rows of like gems, numbers or consecutive numbers. All rows, orthogonal and diagonal, score at the end of each round. The problem is, there are too many different ways a row can score and it is very tedious to add them up each round. There is also a bit of screwage in the game, but it is pretty easy to overcome. All-in-all, itís not a bad game but rather just a blah one.

Hyle7: My son Shea loves think-y abstracts so I pulled this excellent one out to entertain us before his bedtime. The game consists of a bunch of wooden discs in lots of pretty colors. The board is a 7x7 grid. One player is ďOrderĒ and tries to form symmetrical rows of discs. The other player is ďChaosĒ and tries to prevent him. On the Chaos playerís turn, he randomly draws a disc from a bag and places it on any empty spot on the board. The Order player then gets to slide any disc on the board through any number of empty orthogonal spaces. When the board fills up, the Order player scores his symmetrical runs and then players switch sides and repeat. As expected, Shea really liked this game. We really donít play this type of game very competitively. Most of the fun comes from discussing each otherís moves as we play.

Candamir: The First Settlers: Iíve now played this several times and Iíll soon be writing a review of it. I finally got to play with the corrected tile set and Iím happy to say that it corrected at least one of my criticisms in that this time there was a good bit of trading. I suspect that the overly long game length has been corrected as well but this playing had a few players that took their time. REALLY took their time. The thing is, they enjoyed it and didnít seem to think the game was going too long at all. I didnít really mind either, but my normal group would have been gnawing off their fingers in frustration. Itís interesting to observe totally different playing styles. Some people sit back and savor their games while with others itís a race to see how many games they can cram into an evening. I am probably somewhere in the middle.

Elfenland: Before Ticket to Ride, this was my very favorite Alan Moon game and one of the ones that plunged me into gaming fanaticism years ago. I still love it. In case you are wondering (and I know you are) we play that you are dealt eight new cards every round and then discard down to eight. I do hate those mean logs and wish they werenít in the game. I donít even like to play mine; they just irritate the heck out of me. I won this game by the tip of a unicornís horn.

With Mike Chapel showing up, we had six for the classic Elfenland.
Jambo: Neat little game of buying and selling goods for profit that looks intimidating with all the special cards. Surprisingly, it is really easy to understand once you get going and the text on each card explains its use very well.

RoboRally: An old favorite but a new version. I liked how they did away with the virtual robots but was very disappointed with the flimsy boards. Also, I got an option (Radio Control) which seemed too powerful. The chaos it created was fun though although my victims would not agree! The rules contain many board configurations that are rated by difficulty which is nice.

Jon, Susan, Mark, Mike and Ed finish off the day with a couple of games of the new Robo Rally.
Alexander the Great: A potentially really good ďgamerís gameĒ with badly written rules. A variant has come out that will hopefully slow down the killer strategy that won our game. The game was very tense with some agonizing decisions over how to secretly allocate my sparse resources while trying to guess how my opponents were allocating theirs. Iím not sure I actually enjoyed the game however, and need to play it again.

Alexander the Great after the first turn.
Shadows Over Camelot: My third playing and I FINALLY got to play a good guy. I was going throw a tantrum if I pulled that Traitor card again. Playing on the side of Good was definitely less stressful with having so many friends on your side.

Kreta: Iíve saved the best for last. This was the Game Find of the Month for me, fresh from Germany in an Adam Spielt order. It sounded like yet another Area Control game (yawn) but it turned out to have enough originality in the way the parts come together to make me happy. It has mechanisms that remind me of other games but they are used here together in a fresh way. It really clicked with me and Iím surprised it hasnít gotten more attention in the online forums.

The fully populated island of Kreta.

For more pictures from this gaming session and others, see our Gaming Picture Gallery.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at October 6, 2005 10:13 AM

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