June 14, 2007

Game Night Report for June 7, 2007

by Susan Rozmiarek

Ed and I were determined to go to Mark's on Thursday so when yet another soccer conflict came up we stood our ground. (The season is OVER people!). We abandoned our kids to an evening of computer gaming and whatever kids do when left alone (I don't want to know) and headed down to Round Rock.

Dancing Dice

I was amused to walk in and find the four guys getting a girlie game of Dancing Dice going. I'm not really sure why I was amused as it's been played many times before in our group. At least they saved the pink dice for me. Mark was grumbling about "fluff" from the moment I sat down to the game's end. I can't argue that Dancing Dice isn't a very fluffy game but it's nice to play a nearly mindless warm-up while waiting for others to show up. The luster has worn off the game some now and I felt a bit bored but maybe it was because nobody else was really getting into it. But since I have a thing for dice, especially unusual dice, our copy is safe from the trade pile for now.


John came toting a container full of all kinds of new gaming goodies. Since Ed and I have been responsible adults lately with our money going for things like car repairs and home maintenance, we have severely curtailed our game buying which, I can tell you, is no fun at all. So, I wanted to try them all. We settled on Vikings which is a new game from Rio Grande and Hans im Glück. After playing Fire & Axe a few times recently in which I got to do all kinds of Viking things, this game was rather lame as far as the theme goes. This game could have been about nearly anything. Vikings are all the rage this year, like pirates before, and I guess this was not lost on the publisher and/or designer. At any rate, behind the transparent theme is a pretty solid Eurogame with some of the usual stuff - a little luck, an auction for start player, tile placement, and resource management, all of which provide some interesting decisions. The new twist is a clever system for purchasing tiles with a rotating wheel that while not exactly the same, reminded me a tiny bit of Pillars of the Earth with its decreasing costs. I felt a little frustrated and constrained the whole game, though. Jon snagged an early goldsmith with very few others coming out until toward the end of the game. Because of that, John and I were strapped for cash most of the game, while Jon monopolized the start player position and got first pick of the tiles with the ability to pay for any of them. For an entire round I had zero money and was forced to take free tiles which, given the tight limits on placement, I couldn't use and was forced to throw out. It was really frustrating. Jon walloped us.

A few years ago, I would have had to have this game but our collection has gotten bloated with this sort of smooth, clever, medium-weight Euro. How many do we need? My tastes seem to be running lately more towards theme-heavy, fiddly games with dice. Lots and lots of dice. I've finally overdosed on games like Vikings and my ho-hum reaction is part of the backlash. Still, it seems to be a solid game and I'd certainly be willing to play it again.

Age of Discovery

I really, really wanted to get the secret mission card that people have been moaning about being too hard. This is the one that requires a player to own all of the ships on an expedition to get bonus points. I'd been thinking about an effective strategy to accomplish its goal and was eager to try it out. Lucky, lucky me, I got my wish! Alas, I fell victim in the beginning from another situation that has been griped about online. I was dealt initial trade cards that did not match my flagship. Plus, they were expensive trade cards and part of my strategy hinged on getting cheap, quick trades completed. It has been suggested by some to allow players to exchange bad initial cards for different ones, but since there were a few matching ships available for sale, I decided to accept my fate.

Despite my initial bad luck, I was able to claim two cheap expeditions fairly quickly. Then I concentrated on acquiring and completing cheap expeditions by just committing my ships for a quick turnaround. Doug saw me doing this and started doing it as well. He had the mission card that requires the player to have at least half of the ships on an expedition. I ended up doing pretty with my secret mission, owning four expeditions and completing five contracts. I also managed to throw a few ships on valuable expeditions here and there. However, I came nowhere near Doug in points. Even had I maxed out my secret mission bonus points, I wouldn't have been close. Had I focused on trying to slow him down, I'm afraid it would have been at the cost of my goals and I still would have lost. John had what is perceived as the easy secret mission, that of just having at least one ship on expeditions. He ended up in a distant last. I'm starting to think that that mission isn't all that great because even though it is easy to achieve, it doesn't award many points. Sigh. I'm still not sure what to think of this game. I like the game play well enough and the designer and playtesters insist that the cards are balanced, but I just don't know. Now that the game has hit the stores, I'm hoping to hear more people's experiences with it.

As I write this, I am missing this week's game night due to some severe thunderstorms that hit just as I needed to leave for the journey down to Mark's house. I opted to stay safe and dry at home, especially since I had the hope of continuing an ongoing game of Runebound already in progress with my son Shea. Unfortunately, Shea spent last night at a friend's birthday sleepover that was apparently lacking the sleep part. I have been unable to pry him off the couch where he is watching some boring documentary that would make me drowsy too. Oh, well.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at June 14, 2007 9:35 PM


Thanks for your thoughts on Vikings. I've been contemplating getting it and had about decided that it was a "no". When I saw that it was one of the games you'd played, I thought, "Oh-oh, she's going to convince me to buy it." I'm glad I was wrong. :) I think your ho-hum attitude has slipped over to my house, too.

Posted by: Mary (Sodaklady) on June 14, 2007 11:22 PM

Doin' the Cha-Cha!

Got to love the Dancin' Dice!

Posted by: Mike C. -- on June 15, 2007 10:21 AM

Mike - we needed you there for the DD game to liven it up. Too many poker faces!

Mary - I'm all ga-ga over Runebound right now. All my lust for new games is being channeled toward RB expansions! I'm not sure why I'm so apathetic about games like Vikings these days. If I can figure it out it would make a good blog entry. Despite my distaste for some of the Ameritrash rantings a while back on BGG, some of their comments hit a few chords with me. Perhaps it is just a phase.

And yes, my attitude has likely invaded your house too if you are excited over Tide of Iron! :-) I'm not quite ready to tackle that yet. Maybe if they added elven units it would tempt me. Battlelore is likely to be my next obsession.

Posted by: Susan on June 15, 2007 3:13 PM

Tide of Iron isn't that hard to learn really and beats Battlelore all to pieces (I made a pun!) as far as I'm concerned. Check out the brilliant review by isaacc.

Posted by: Mary (Sodaklady) on June 16, 2007 1:32 PM

I share your same opinion of Vikings. I played twice back in April, trying both the basic and advanced versions. Neither excited me terribly. It just felt "there", with no spice or anything to excite me. It isn't a bad game ... it is just bland. Like you, I would have rushed to acquire the game a few years ago, but now I don't feel the need to own or play it.

I need to play Age of Discovery again, but I'm having a difficult time overcoming my horror over the mission cards after my initial playing. I'm going to play it again ... eventually ... before passing final judgment.

Regarding Tide of Iron, I differ from Mary's assessment. I find the game a challenge to learn, even with a wealth of Squad Leader experience under my belt. The game is good, but very, VERY fiddly with lots of rules.

Posted by: Greg Schloesser on June 29, 2007 3:49 PM
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