October 24, 2006

Game Day Report for October 15, 2006

by Susan Rozmiarek

Alongside the buildup to Essen, the exciting first photos, and now the flurry of reports to pore over, gaming goes on as usual thousands of miles away in the middle of Texas. We finally were able host a game day and actually play a few of those games being hyped in far away countries.

While we're talking about conventions, I have to report the very sad news that Ed and I have decided not to attend BGG.con. After looking at all the hurdles and hoops we'd have to try and get over and through, it just isn't worth the effort. After all the hassle, we'd probably only get in one full day of gaming on Saturday. Next year Shea will be old enough to attend and that will eliminate a few of the problems. Sigh.

Leonardo da Vinci

(yet again)

We took this for an outing with the full complement of five players and I've about come to the conclusion that while this is a decent game, it is not really for me. With this many players the competition on the board was fierce in every location, making is very hard to plan and execute a strategy. I still haven't decided if it is better to place workers first (for the tiebreaker advantage) or last (so as not to over commit too early). My tendency in the beginning was the latter, hoping for cheap leftover scraps to then see what I can do with them, a favored technique of mine in other games. But in Leonardo there are too many dogs fighting over the scraps every round. With three players the game was definitely kinder and gentler so this approach worked better. I predict that members of the GGG (Gamer's Game Gamers) are going to have a grand time picking this one apart and I'll be in the front row watching with interest, particularly for anything to do with optimal strategies. Each game ends with me feeling woefully inefficient and wanting to try a new approach next time. So, there is still much for me to explore in the game but I'm not sure that I can overcome the feelings of frustration that sap the fun out of playing. I can only take a certain amount of player interaction in a serious game of planning and so far Leonardo exceeds my limits. I don't like to be messed over constantly by other players, especially if I can't predict it. This is probably why I vastly prefer Princes of Florence. And now that I think about, that is probably part of my problem with Age of Steam. At any rate, I might attempt to write a full review of the Leonardo over the next week or two and attempt to gather up and expand on my thoughts. It will be difficult as I don't feel like I have a good grasp of the game, at least not as much as I would like.

Some observations after this playing:

- I need to try the advance setup where you get to choose your extra starting goodies. We've only played with the beginner's setup. I suffered with having the fewest starting workers in a previous game and watched Ed deal with the same this time. Which leads me too...........

- In every game that I've played, everyone immediately gets sucked into a vicious struggle to recruit more workers. You feel like you have to keep up at least so it's hard to not to get sucked into this battle right away. I wonder if ignoring it at the beginning would be fatal. Probably.

- The winner of our game, Adam, actually chose the action in the council that lets you rearrange the top of the invention card deck. This is the first time I've seen this done and I'm wondering if getting an invention started before it comes out is a good strategy. This is yet another thing I want to try myself.

- It seems quite important to set up for the endgame rounds of just working on current inventions. I tried to do this and just needed to acquire a few particular resources to have both my labs complete a final invention. I committed a good number of workers immediately to those locations to get the tiebreaker advantage and saved some money just in case I wasn't in first. On the latter location, someone came behind me and took first place (still okay) but then I got hosed out of second by the council action. I was one dollar short of being able to get that resource and finish the invention. Had I been able to complete it, I would have gotten almost 20 extra dollars (payout and endgame bonus) and won the game. Very frustrating.

Susan, Adam, Mike, Mark and Ed (taking photo) play Leonardo da Vinci.

Canal Mania

I finally, finally, FINALLY got to play this game. After waiting nearly two months for our copy to arrive off the slow boat from England while everyone who ordered it stateside was playing and raving about it, I finally got to play it myself. Normally this would set me up for The Big Letdown but fortunately this was not the case. My huge, inflated expectations were met. The description of this game being a combination of the best parts of Ticket to Ride and Age of Steam is spot-on. I loved the little feelings of accomplishment throughout the game of completing canals. I loved the fact that even though it might cost an action, you could always get the engineer you needed. I loved the constraints on building, both in types of canals and the maximum length allowed. And finally, I loved having several, but not overly many ways to score points. In fact, I loved the whole game which is not surprising given my great fondness for train games.

I don't know what it is about Ragnar Brothers games but I'm completely charmed by them. So charmed, in fact, that I'm willing to overlook things that many perceive as flaws - the dice in Viking Fury, the random weather screwage in More Backpacks and Blisters, and the down time in Kings & Castles. Their games just feel a little bit different and more original than anything else I play. I vaguely remember a conversation on an internet forum about how British games are different from American or German games but I don't think anyone was able to figure out exactly what that difference is. I'm not sure I would even recognize it when I see it. But, it's there.

Canal building is well underway in Canal Mania.


I'm enjoying this one, although not quite as much as the similar game, Money. The constraint of the fixed way of distributing winning bids, rather than the players choosing as in Money makes for some different nuances. It takes a game or two to see these. The spatial aspects of building your wine cellar are pleasant, but I'm not sure that I like the fact that the hand limit forces you to build and tip off players to exactly what you are collecting. Then again, this introduces more nuances as you might present a tasty bid to encourage an opponent not to outbid you. Money is much more secretive and allows you to pull off nasty surprises at the end when you lay down unexpected sets. Hmmmm. Now I can't decide which game is superior. At any rate, Money is long out of print and Weinhändler is readily available and I can at least say with confidence that it's a decent substitute.

Look at my beautiful cellar stacked with fine wines.

Silk Road

Good grief. The rules to this game are only two pages long! With all the new games we've been learning, the simplicity of this new one was a nice break. This is a game of moving a caravan along a path and getting stuff to trade for even more stuff or sell for money, hopefully. Each city has different choices of actions, one less than the number of players. So, one player is going to get hosed out of doing anything each round, but will be in the driver's seat for the auction next round. The driver's seat means that he will have the last bid of the once around auction with the option to pass and get paid the winning bid. The winner of the auction gets to choose in which direction the caravan will move and then has first pick of the actions at that location. He then chooses who will go next and that player chooses and takes an action and then picks the next player and so on. I was really apprehensive of the rules for choosing the next player as I envisioned much meta-gaming and favoritism. You worry about these things while playing with your spouse. Nobody wants to sleep on the couch! However, I was surprised at how well it actually works as your decision is often based on trying to jockey for position in the next auction or trying to deprive a particular player of a certain action based on what you think he has collected behind his screen. Yes, there is a bit of a memory element which I imagine is easier with fewer players. In our four player game, I had a pretty good general idea who had the most of a commodity and I'm certainly not known for having a good memory. There is some look-ahead and money management as you'll want to have first choice in certain upcoming auctions to guarantee a particular action at a certain location. All-in-all, not a hard game but a very enjoyable one with enough tension to keep me interested.

Silk Road in progress. That giant, looming log is the caravan. I think that I'd run away screaming in terror if that thing rolled into my town!

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at October 24, 2006 8:18 PM


I really enjoyed playing Silk Road and think it deserves some repeat playings. I thought Weinhandler was also good but but it does seem to lack some the straight forward elagance of Money!. As for Canal Mania, I enjoyed playing it too but have to conder my first game a learning game and look forward to playing it again and hopefully be a bit more compentative next the time.

Posted by: Paul Mc on October 29, 2006 1:42 PM

Hey, Susan. I think it's time to post a Leonardo review. Especially since I get the impression you're tepid with the game. If you post a review, I'll be sure to read it!

Posted by: jacob on November 26, 2006 12:19 PM
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