December 19, 2006

Game Day Report for December 15, 2006

by Susan Rozmiarek

With a lot of people taking their end-of-the-year vacation days, John held two consecutive Friday game days and had a respectable crowd each time. I'm not bothering to write up a full report on the first one as the three games I played I've already written enough about. Well, what the heck. I'll quickly squeeze out another comment or two anyways:

Coloretto: This still remains a popular filler and it is so easy to teach.

Wits & Wagers: A party trivia game is not really my type of game but I don't mind playing it once in a while. It is REALLY not Ed's type of game which is why he is probably still in shock after winning this time. I can only hope that he doesn't want to add it to our collection now.

Ticket to Ride: I can only reiterate once again what a fabulous game this is to introduce people to Eurogames. They all seem to love it and I'm still not tired of playing it myself. I'm up to three non-gamer families that have purchased it after playing it with us and one even went on to buy the Europe sequel. Where's my commission?!

Okay, so on to this past Friday. I only got to play two games but both were new and both I really liked. Alas, no pictures as we never seem to remember our camera when we're not hosting.


This is one of the new games from Essen and it was surprisingly good. Surprisingly, because I haven't heard all that much about it. It's about Vikings so it has to be good, right? Players have a set of Viking helmet meeples that they place on ship tiles and then place the ships next to fjords composed of vertical rows of tiles. Each Viking moves onto the fjord space next to it. If there is another Viking already there, they fight, with the loser going to Valhalla and the victor occupying the tile. Losing is not always a bad thing though, because having a majority of Vikings in Valhalla gives you more Vikings to use in the next round. The fjord spaces are of varying terrain type and offer certain things - victory points immediately or at the end of a round, an event card, or influence on a fjord to be added at the end of a round when points are awarded to players with the majority on each fjord. The event cards do numerous things including bonus points for occupying certain terrain types or ensuring victory when battling. There were lots of tactical decisions, which I like, and several different ways to score which was another plus. I probably would not have liked it if it had just been another area majority game. We have sooooo many medium weight games though, so we'll see if it has enough legs to compete for attention on our crowded shelves.

Formidable Foes

I let myself be influenced by negative comments I've read online about this game and so had largely ignored it. Jon brought it though, and I was lured into playing by the hilarious art and the dungeon crawl theme. I've got a soft spot for dungeon crawls and I am often willing to overlook a few flaws to immerse myself in a rich fantasy theme. (OTOH, if I play yet another game with a dry, dull theme set in Renaissance Italy, Rome or trading in the Mediterranean, it better dang well be perfect!) Besides, I like many of Friedemann Friese's games and it turns out that I like this one as well. So, it was stupid of me to let a bit of online criticism deter me from it. It's light, but it's fun and should be a hit with the family. Unfortunately, we now have yet another game we want to buy. Sigh.

The game has players controlling an adventurer fighting their way through a dungeon, killing monsters and collecting gold. Yes, the same old stuff. Yawn. However, what's nice here is that the game all very simple and streamlined without all the fiddly special rules that clutter up most dungeon crawls. And yet, it maintains a lot of thematic feel. Combat is extremely simple. While it does involve a dice roll, instead of taking "hits" like most combat in games, you pay "power points" to make up the difference and defeat the monster. Power points are collected in the game by skipping a turn and you can always make sure you have enough to guarantee victory. Monsters also have wisdom values and yours must be equal to theirs to fight them. You gain wisdom each time you defeat a monster - the higher the monster, the more wisdom you'll get. Monsters are numbered from 1-50 wisdom and appear on the board in numerical order. Keeping pace with the other players in gaining wisdom is very important to keep from finding yourself in a situation where there are no more monsters on the board you can defeat. Fortunately there are some nice catch-up mechanisms. You can gain wisdom slowly by attaching yourself to other players and "learning" from them. There are also a few other things you can do if you are the "dumbest" (least wisdom) player. There are also some neat magic cards in the game that allow you to do some clever things. You get one of these when you defeat a monster. All-in-all this game is much more about managing wisdom and power points, a little route planning, and small tactical decisions than lucky dice rolling. It's also a race to level up and get to monsters before the other players.

Getting behind early in the game and never being able to catch up is one of the criticisms leveled at this game. This happened to Ed very early when I used a magic card to move a monster to me and defeat it. This was the only monster on the board he could defeat plus some bad dice rolls had depleted his power points. However, he hooked up with me and was able to bring up his wisdom level. Once he did that, he was able to quickly defeat a few monsters that caused his wisdom to jump right back up with the rest of us. We ended up tying with gold with me winning the tiebreaker (most power points). If he hadn't been able to do this, my opinion of the game would have been much poorer. I will have to say, it was fun referring to him as the dumbest player for a while!

It seems very important to set yourself up for the end game. The higher level monsters are worth a lot more gold and the game can end rather abruptly. I was on the wrong side of the board near the end, but I had saved a nice magic card that allowed me to switch the level 50 monster with one near me. I defeated him, getting lots of gold and ending the game.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at December 19, 2006 4:08 PM


Lots of reading to catch up on.

Glad you liked Canal Mania. It does have a nice balance of systems and play. I am not sure I am super happy to have paid a lot for the first edition, only to find the second edition will be "fixed"...

We played Walhalla last week for the third time and it 'lost it'. You know when a game is fine, then all of a sudden a sequence of events really throws it all out of whack? Basically we had a run of boats and positioning that left two of the four players unable to get many men on the board. This hurt, and continued to hurt till the end. A little worried by this, but as you say it was struggling for table time anyway.

Posted by: Mike Siggins on December 21, 2006 8:26 PM

Hey guys! Merry Christmas to the whole Rozmiarek clan! I hope Santa leaves lots of great games under the tree!

Posted by: Larry Levy on December 24, 2006 11:51 AM
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