Two old fashioned games this week.
Empires is of course the de-IPed reprint of Glenn Drover’s Age of Empires III, which was one of the first hybrid worker placement games. I didn’t really care much about it when it was first released (although Bill Abner constantly reminded me of the wrongness of my opinion), but I welcomed the chance to get back to it and see how this game, which was kind of ahead of its time has aged. The answer is really well. Compared to today’s Kickstarter treadmill WP games, this one is surprisingly tight and it hews closely to a 4x template. It’s like a full blown 4x game of conquering the New World but metered and measured out like Caylus. Yet it feels like a DoaM at times.
I’ve really been enjoying it. There is a lot of dimension to it, lots of opportunities to explore, and the way it manages economics, exploration, conflict and development is just right as far as I’m concerned. The new edition is cool, it comes in a typically gigantic Eagle Games box with tons of plastic figures and metal doubloons. The gaudy Paul Niemeyer artwork is gone. And it has a two-sided board so you can play a “world map” version. All in all, I was surprised to find how much I liked this after giving it a second (really like fourth) chance).
The other review is for a much lighter game, Tumult Royale. It’s designed by Klaus Teuber and his son Benjamin and it is just about as old school German game as it gets. 45 minutes, fairly light, quite clever and with a hint of satire. The idea is that everyone plays a noble robbing goods from the local peasantry in order to build self-aggrandizing statues across the land (which is built kind of like Domaine or Lowenherz). Before each round, you spin a REAL SPINNER to see how many goods of each type have to be left for the peasants after a 20 second, Galaxy Trucker-like real time mad grab for tiles. If the players take too much, they tumult and the greediest player gets penalized. It’s a neat little game that I fear won’t find an audience, because for the most part that audience was in 1994. But if you like this kind of thing, it’s one to look out for.
I finally “got” A Study in Emerald. It’s pretty great. But it is definitely Martin Wallace, so it’s wonky and sloppy in some ways. But the intrigue and the gameplay are really top flight. It’s pretty cool how it doesn’t necessarily retell the Gaiman story, but it builds a game environment sort of around its setting. As far as the 1st edition/2nd edition thing…don’t ask me, I only have the 2nd. From what I have read, the streamlining and revisions do cut away some detail, but they also take some of the more shaky or complicated parts along so it’s kind of a net gain. It’s still weirdly confusing, sometimes obtuse and the rules are tough to learn and teach, let alone the strategy. So I’m kind of not concerned about it. Although the 1st edition box definitely looks better, I can at least attest to that.
Talon continues to delight. But I am getting to a stage where I’d really rather put Armada on the table because there’s just more there. Yet it’s so easy to play and so easy to set up that it’s hard to resist. It is the accessible Star Fleet Battles you have always wanted, or at least hat I have always wanted.
I have a prototype of the new Climate expansion for Evolution. I’ll report on that next week. It looks pretty cool, it adds (obviously) climate to your custom-made biome.
This week- more plays of Healthy Heart Hospital and I’m getting back into Archipelago. God help me.