It's been Ages
by Susan Rozmiarek
Soccer practice started this week and it was my turn to take Kevin, so I missed our weekly gaming group. However, last week I was able to go and miraculously got to play an "older" game - Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery, while the hardcore Cult of the New members (I used to be one) struggled through some new game called Carson City at the other table.
AoE III shares the honor of being my favorite worker placement game along with Pillars of the Earth. With both games, I feel the theme as I play, and both have just the right amount of luck to still allow me to pursue a strategy while retaining some uncertainty for excitement. It's been a while since I've played, but AoE III hasn't lost its shine one bit. There are several different strategies you can choose, mainly driven by which capital building you are able to get. I got the Monastery in Age I, giving me a free missionary each turn. I then scored the Cathedral in the second Age, which gave my missionaries an extra colonist when they arrived in the New World. This not only made it easier to get lots of colonists in the New world, but it also made it easier to be the first with three in a newly discovered region to grab the trade good there. By also placing in the Trade Good and Merchant Shipping event boxes whenever I could, I had a pretty nice income stream throughout the game. I mostly ignored discoveries. In the last Age, I was able to get Glory, giving me 2 VP for every region in which I had colonists, dovetailing nicely into the strategy I had been pursuing. Unfortunately, I had to settle for second place as I wasn't able to come close to the warmongering Mike Chapel. He went for having majorities in the colonies from the get go, and had a demanding lead from the scoring at the end of Age I and II.
As I whined earlier, I missed my regular gaming night this past week. While Ed was off playing fun stuff like Snow Tails and Ghost Stories, I was sitting in my dark car next to a soccer field in the next town over watching a sadistic coach torture my son. This was not as dull as it could have been, because of the nifty toy that Ed gave me for my birthday last year - an iTouch. This little technological miracle is my new obsession and I've been ferreting out the best games for it to amuse myself in such situations. Thanks to help from an app called Appminer that lets me know what apps are on sale, I now have a vast collection of games loaded onto it, many of which I got for free or a buck. My current favorite is Sword of Fargoal, styled after old school games like Rogue. It's a dungeon crawl in which your hero is searching for a sword, fighting monsters, finding items, and leveling up as he progresses deeper into the dungeon. The only irritating thing is that while it saves your game so that you don't have to finish in one sitting, it does not allow you to save your game so that if your character gets toasted by dragon or bashed by a troll, you can restart it from right before your death. Apparently, those games of old did this so that people wouldn't blow through them too quickly. I found out the hard way after getting my character all the way to level 12 and then getting a little reckless. Anyway, I'm on my third game of it and still haven't found that dang sword.
I bought but haven't tried Reiner Knizia's Money. It just went on sale in the app store. This card game has always been a favorite of mine. Shannon Appelcline, who writes excellent board game reviews, created this iPhone version. He talks about it here.
at January 22, 2010 7:42 PM