May 12, 2008

Retro Gaming

by Susan Rozmiarek

We've been going "retro" lately and pulling out some of the lunchtime golden oldies from our collection. How do these light-to-middleweight games that play in under an hour hold up now? Fairly well, actually, although that may be nostalgia talking. All four of these games were popular in my group around the year 2000 and 2001, when we were overtaken with the eurogaming craze. They have all come out sporadically since then, but not much (if at all) in recent years.

Today's offering was Rheinlander, a Knizia game from 1999. We were happy when Face2Face Games decided to republish this as we'd never managed to get a copy of the older Hasbro version. It's an area control game in which you play numbered cards to place knights in the corresponding regions along the Rhine River in order to form duchies. The game still holds up well today and I still like it quite a bit. It's very tactical in nature but you can do some planning and hope you get the right cards. Luck dependent to be sure, but the deck will most likely get shuffled a couple of times, making played cards possibly available again. A feature that I really like is that the rules for expanding allow you to use any card in your hand, often giving you something useful to do even if you don't pull the cards you really want.

Manhattan is another game with teeth that can be played in under an hour and proves that Andreas Seyfarth had at least one solid design in him long before Puerto Rico. This is also an area majority game but this time players are competing to own the most floors of individual skyscrapers and the most floors in an entire city. The board depicts several cities, each a 3X3 grid of building locations. Players have sets of building pieces that have differing numbers of floors. Before each round, they get to decide what pieces they are going to build that round. Cards are played to place the pieces, stacking them on the building site. The cards show on which building spot the piece must be placed, but the player gets to choose the city. This game can get pretty tense with a lot of direct head-butting. I can't believe that I once thought that this game was too mean. I rather enjoy it now. I still haven't played with the Godzilla variant.

Samarkand is a Sid Sackson game about traveling through the desert and buying and trading goods at nomad camps and oases. You are trying to collect sets of goods and then sell them at designated locations on the board. Movement is often determined by a dice roll, but you usually have a choice of direction. You'll have to do the action of the spot on which you land and this will require constant hand and money management. That and the route planning involved makes this still a rather fun, light game.

Café International is perhaps the weakest of this bunch. This is a tile-laying game of seating restaurant patrons at tables and scoring points as you do. Apparently, these people all prefer to sit at tables with others of their nationality and in equal numbers of each gender. This is purely a tactical game of drawing tiles and trying to spot your optimal moves. I loved this easy, gentle sort of game back when first discovering German games but it feels a bit lacking now. The art is quite a hoot though, with its stereotyping, and it is a pleasant game in which to socialize over lunch.

Looking over our shelves, we still have quite a number of older games to return to and see if they still have that spark. Hopefully, I'll have some more of these posts soon.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at May 12, 2008 9:40 AM


It's nice to see that someone else still breaks out Rheinlander from time to time. I always felt that it was an overlooked game, with good pacing and a LOT of player interaction (for better or worse).

Thanks for keeping the blog active. It's always an entertaining read.

Posted by: Mark Gim on May 19, 2008 8:18 AM
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