April 24, 2006

California Dreamin'

by Susan Rozmiarek

We havenít been organizing group Adam Spielt orders these days. So very many games are now coming out in English editions that there just havenít been enough European games on our want list to warrant an order. Mark has taken up the slack though, and we were more than happy to add a few games to his order. We got Antike, Himalaya, and California. The first two are hard to find stateside and California had not yet reached our shores when the order was placed. I had to have it since not only is it by a designer I like, but the theme is all about shopping and furnishing a house. I believe Ed would readily confirm that that is indeed a theme I could relate to!


Since the rules were simple and it had a short playing time listed on the box, California seemed a good one to try first. Kevin was feeling quite crabby from a bad day, but Ed and I convinced him to give it a whirl with us. We couldnít convince Shea to play as expected, since his sibling rival was playing, but he did his usual observing and kibitzing much to our annoyance.

California is a simple tile-laying game. Each person has a mansion in front of them with a grid of rooms that they need to renovate by placing a colored tile on it. After that, they can place furniture in it (depicted on another tile of the same color) which will attract a visitor of the matching color who may or may not bring a house-warming gift. They bring a gift only if there is already another visitor present. Why somebody else has to be present for them to show generosity, I have no clue. Perhaps itís only about appearances or something?? This is California after all. ;-) Presents are worth points at the end of the game. There is only one visitor in each of the colors so they change hands quite a bit during the game. There are also bonus tiles for being the first to do certain furniture combinations. On your turn, you either take money from the bank or buy a tile from one of two stores, each displaying four tiles drawn randomly. The price depends on the amount of money in the bank. As it goes down, the price of tiles goes down. If you buy a tile you must place it although you do have room to store one piece of furniture in your attic, two if youíve renovated it. Once the last coin is taken from the bank or the last tile is taken from one of the stores, the day ends. The bank is refilled with four coins, the remaining tiles are discarded and replaced with new ones and another day starts. The game lasts 12 days.

There are lots of nice little tactical decisions to make in the game, although they werenít all apparent at the start. Ed got the most bonuses which won him the game. Kevin got quite frustrated by Ed and I buying tiles right before him that he really needed. This is, of course, one of the aspects of the game. You always need to be watching what your opponents need. Poor Kevin came in a distant last place putting him in an even worse mood. Iím not sure heíll even want to play it again. Sigh. He has become one of those moody teenagers, Iím afraid! I will have to play a wargame with him soon. He always crushes me at those which makes him happy!

So, two nights later, Shea requested that we play California with him. He needed to let his rabbit out for his supervised play time so that meant we had to play in his room. That rabbit must be watched like a hawk as he will chew anything Ė cords, carpet, books. He is obviously part beaver. Unfortunately, my 41 yr. old back was not pleased by having to sit on the floor after I had spent the afternoon wielding a shovel in the yard discovering yet again that our house sits on a giant granite rock. But, I wasnít about to turn down a request to play a game so we set it up and jumped right in since we all knew the rules. Shea had already picked up on all the tactics by watching the previous game and proceeded to steamroll over Ed and me, picking up a few bonuses and a huge pile of gifts. It was amusing to see him snatch a piano and stuff it in his attic before Ed could get it for a bonus. Hee, hee. He won, but we werenít too far behind. Ed pipped me for second by only two points, darn it.

After two plays, I really like the game. I have seen reports of it playing poorly with more players. Without having tried it yet, I have a feeling that the criticism is probably valid. Like they claim, I bet it becomes a lot more random. With three players though, it plays perfectly fine. Itís almost too light for my game group, which seems to be fixated on meaty games for some reason lately. (Havenít they heard yet that the Atkins diet is bad for you?). However, itís perfect for the family and new or casual gamers. With the theme, I bet I could even get some of my non-gaming female friends to try it.

Here are Ed and Shea playing California. We tried to get the normally curious Ranger the Rabbit to pose with the game. Alas, he merely thumped at us and watched from a distance. You'd think all that cardboard to taste would have been a temptation he couldn't resist!

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at April 24, 2006 11:19 AM


Did you see that there is an expansion to California, along the lines of the Hansa Extrakarte?


You need to email your address to them, and you go in the draw to win some games too.

Posted by: Melissa on April 25, 2006 9:25 AM

Dangit~! You took a chance and got a winner(California), I took one for the team and got a lemon!(Die Dolmengotter). Just for that all the Roz's will be forced to play Die Dolmentgotter with me next game day! ;)

Posted by: Mike C. -- on April 25, 2006 10:58 AM

Melissa: Thanks for the link! I usually pay attention to stuff like this but somehow I missed it. I definitely want it.

Mike: Bring Dolmengotter to the next game day and I'll play it for sure. We almost got it, too. You guys had to have missed a rule. Just read all the glowing comments on the 'Geek! Read this review that talks about the rules and strategy and see if you guys missed something: http://www.naturelich.com/games/archives/2005/12/die_dolmengoett.html

Posted by: Susan on April 25, 2006 1:53 PM
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