Just got back from my groups May Gaming Weekend, where seven of us spent three and a half days doing nothing but gaming and eating crap food. This first post will only cover the gaming.
To lead off on Wednesday evening, the half day in the set, we sat down to play Heat Pedal to the Metal and got in the first race of a three-race set with weather, sponsors, the works. Very good play. We played again on Saturday and I think my initial assessment in the podcast episode on this game was spot on -- a great foundational system with room to grow, room for house rules to customize the play to each group. Really a nice pickup, and one that I imagine the other people in my group will purchase as well (which perplexes me as they are more than welcome to borrow my copy anytime.)
Through the Desert and hit the table too, which I am thoroughly done with. This is in the turn-of-the-century game era, where you play it three, maybe four times and it becomes uninteresting. I traded my copy away years ago and I don't think there's a single Knizia game that calls out to me. I think much of his work is largely disposable, good for a few plays and then you move it on to another owner. Ingenious still gets a nod from me (coming up in a future podcast episode by the way) but the remainder are largely disposable products. That's not necessarily bad, as that was sort of the thing back then. But I don't think I'm immune to the intended lifespan of the titles from this era.
Knizia has a few "bigger" games that go a little further before running out of gas.
Wings for the Baron, the one-plane rule set. You need to reset your brain when you play this version of the rules, because the bottom half of the cards become much more important, the top half less. In the "campaign" rules you can just dump stuff into whatever slot can earn you a dollar here or a dollar there, and the result is that you sort of have a broad front of attack where every card's top can serve a productive purpose. Not so in the one-plane rule set. You have one way to earn dollars, and you need to scrap and stab and hack your way to the top of a very thin heap to succeed. Recorded a podcast episode on this play of the game, our first revisit, though with the different rule set it's almost like a different game. I think all three of us changed our opinions of it.
Thursday was Level 7 Invasion day. I had never even heard of the game before sitting down to it, but I thoroughly enjoyed. This is by far the biggest cooperative I've ever played and it had lots of dice-chucking goodness. We won with a bit to spare. I'd play this one again next year but it sucked up more or less the entire afternoon so it's not one you pull out casually. Damn aliens . . . why do they always pick Earth to conquer? There's plenty of other planets out there.
Nexus Ops -- still excellent, recorded on this one too. I rolled a lot of 1s so I didn't do well in spite of owning the monolith for most of the game. But that's Nexus Ops for you. You need a break now and again, and you need to be in position to capitalize on it when it appears. My dice came around but it was too late at that point. Always a good play, and my buddy Stephen brought his black light to get photos. Always a good play, although I think there was some disagreement on that in the post-game show recording session. I'll be interested to hear it once released.
Blood Bowl Team Manager . . . because hell yeah. Great play. I tied for the win and we damn near set off the second tie-breaker, which ejects both high-scorers due to obvious collusion and player manipulation, awarding the victory to the third place player. But we were different by on add-on, so I was relegated to the second-place mini trophy instead of the six-foot tall winners cup. So be it, had a good time taking players permanently out of games with dangerous play. Got bonus points for that starting early!
Some games of Coup to fill some time, and it's a Citadels descendant. It's just fine, one of a dozen games in this slot.
Friday brought Primordial Soup, which is very good especially in light of its age. Again, a podcast ep on this one already exists and I don't think my opinion has changed. I got out over my skis on the adaptations and got nuked near the end because of it. But it's still an interesting little game. I'll be interested to see how long stays in my good graces. It too is in that turn-of-the-century timeframe, and I could see it as a Knizia title, though it's not. I may not be as excited about it after play #10, but that's likely a long way off.
Maria -- Man I junked this up. I came in unprepared on the rules, and our learning game only spanned two years. Much of that time was spent fixing my rules misreads and learning how to not destroy entire armies for no reason. I figured that out near the end, but it will be the second play where this one will get its chance. The first two times I played I had a seasoned veteran teaching and coaching and the experience was sublime. I was clearly not in a position to do that this past weekend. Stay tuned.
Ok, here's where things go crazy. Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Game. I wanted to make damn sure this got played due to a disagreement I had with one of my podcast buddies about favored ground and tactical maneuver. This was in the Unmatched episode, where he claimed that the terrain in Unmatched was really interesting and critical to success. I cited Heroscape, Epic Duels and particularly Buffy as counterexamples of truly interesting terrain effects, and Buffy needed to come out because . . . ho boy, the map is everything in Buffy. WE PLAYED FIVE GAMES OF IT. They loved it, couldn't get enough. And as advertised the positioning of people on the board was critical to success. Everything in Buffy is about getting into the right position with the right stuff to bring battle to your enemies and all five plays proved that. Buffy is the quintessential mass-market board game, the best ever created. There's a million copies out there you can pick up on the cheap and I completely recommend you do that. The ultimate late-night gaming weekend game. Three of the players were looking up copies on eBay to buy, because why wouldn't they? Granted, my copy sits unused 364.75 days a year and they all would rather spend the money and closet space to have their own copy. Not my business I suppose.
Saturday -- Root. Root sucks. Don't try to convince me otherwise. The game has dropped in my estimate every time I've played it, and Saturday's run playing the crows was no change. It's a glide path that ends well short of any runway. I kept doing the same two basic things over and over and according to the owner of the game I did the best he's ever seen with the faction. But I wasn't making any decision at all, just doing the same two things over and over, ignoring everyone else playing. I had a shot at the win. It was absurd. I know y'all get all dreamy eyed over Cole Wehrle but damn, the guy that created An Infamous Traffic and John Company (stunning works thematically and mechanically) pooped this thing out in a weekend and everyone thinks it's all that. Cute woodland animals sell it I guess. I have no understanding of why anyone sees this game as anything other than an experiment in game design that isn't player-focused in any way shape or form. Just a big pile of rules for the sake of being a big pile of rules. Enough said on that one.
Another game of Heat, because, damn.
More games of Buffy, because, damn.
And a big-ass game of Firefly, because we had the time and could just play to $15,000 doing anything we wanted. Loved it. I think I'm declaring this the best pirate game ever published, because that's really what it is. Setting the space theme aside this game puts all the fun stuff into play that a pirate game should have, crew, sailing, shooting, Navy interdiction, the works. The only thing missing is sea battles but pirates usually ran from those anyway. As far a big sandbox games go I think Firefly does this as well as any other game.
That is all until NEXT year.