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What BOARD GAME(s) have you been playing?
And also a mass-market game from the Bicycle Playing Card company called Exchange, a light bluffing/take that game pretending it's a stock market game.
A straightforward, and yet odd, stock market game. Each round players secretly choose which of three assets they want to buy or sell, and how many. Buy low, sell high. You get the drift.
There are two interesting things at work here. First, you reveal your intentions in stages. First, what you plan on exchanging. Then, what you plan to do with it (buy or sell). And finally, you manipulate the market some. Second, if the price of an asset goes too high or too low, it's a "bubble", and the price swings over to the other side. (Not sure why trashing an asset below a price suddenly causes it to surge, but hey.)
Unfortunately, the interesting parts are drowned out by other elements. The most egregious is the "Market Forces" card that is drawn each round. A completely random event that can change the outcome. You can pay $50 to see the Market Forces card in advance, but it still adds a level of randomness that can turn off even someone usually fine with such things. Second, the five rounds just aren't much to work with. But, paradoxically, thirdly, what one does isn't interesting enough to justify more rounds. And finally, the cards that give you starting resources don't seem particularly balanced. I started with ten bonds and a couple of the other things. I sold the non-bonds and bought a few more bonds. And then just waited. Sure enough, the ten "free" bonds won me the game.
This is a very light game, probably intended for casual gamers, but I think it would be frustrating for any audience. It's just not very good.
Adding: it's very weird to me that the game aspires to simulate the market, along with bubbles, yet the only adjustment of price is done by direct manipulation of the price. Actually buying and selling items doesn't have any effect (and they indirectly act opposite of reality: if a lot of people are selling, they will push the price up). Sure, it's a casual game not trying to be an exact depiction, but without it, all the players are doing is trying to guess what others are doing, which seems like it would usually be obvious and there isn't a whole lot you can do based on the information anyway. So ultimately this ends up being a great game for anyone who doesn't know that For Sale, No Thanks, or 6 Nimmt exists. I guess that applies to the target audience, but damn, they'd be better served by those games being sold in Target.
My twins are back from college, so I convinced Tegan to play (Tad is always down for Dune Imperium, he says it his favorite game). I ignored my own advice and added in the Rise of IX expansion for a teaching game. It was not a good move. The game started with Tad slowing moving up the VP track while I was concentrating on getting both of my Dreadnoughts. since I snagged Prince Rhemus as my character and they are worth 4 troops instead of 3. Tegan was learning very quickly and enjoying the game until we had a conflict card that was worth a VP with additional VPs that could be secured with Solari and Spice. I had both of my Juggernauts available and she was down one because she had won the round before. She went all in as did I but I came out ahead while Tad sat the conflict out. I secured 3 VP to put me at 7, she was stuck at 5 and tad moved up to 8. The next conflict card was for TWO VP and neither me nor Tegan drew the cards we needed to get our troops back up. That really soured her on the game since she had intrigue cards she could use to stop Tad but no cards to go to the spaces she needed to secure troops. Tad ended up with 24 total "swords" and I stalled at 16, so he took the win. Tegan really disliked that there was no real way to stop Tad but, then again, we went all in the round before, so it weakened both of us. The final VP tally was 10 for Tad, 9 for me (secured a Intrigue card that let me buy a VP and earned one on the tracks), and Tegan with only 6. I think that extra "tick" of depth that IX adds was just a shade too much for her to gather all the nuances of how one location affects another. Hopefully the sour feeling wears off and she will be willing to try again.
It's rules are a bit of a mess and it's one of those games where they use a lot of symbols that in theory intuitively mean something to you, but they don't. And other places where the rules and the player boards seemed to contradict each other a bit. First time playing a "big" game, so you know how that goes. But I have a job in information display so all of this gets critiqued in the back of my brain while I'm trying to play adding to the impression. So be it.
We had two very odd brushes with take-that mechanisms, that were about as weak as you can get and still give it the name. For the first I had to hand a throw-away card from my hand to the guy next to me, and in the other I put "Venom" markers on that same guy's action cards, but they were flushed on his next turn and had zero effect. It's almost like they had planned for take-thats in the game, changed their mind, and then overlooked removing a few of the cards that do it. Every one of us were more or less just doing our thing based on the cards that came to us, pulling from a common field occasionally for cards or chits, and cruising along.
And that's . . . fine. I'm sure we'll play again and I imagine it will go much faster and I'll understand things a little more intuitively. It has a Terraforming Mars feel to it, but Mars has all this super cool text on it about science and engineering. Ark Nova has great animal photos and could have great text. But it pretty much just has game effects written on each card. Missed opportunity. We ended up looking stuff up on our phones instead, like whether Lemurs are monkeys or not. Ran long, so we finished halfway through. I won with -13 points.
The limited hand size and inability to sell cards ( unless you manage to get certain animals into your enclosure ) ensure that players that get behind stay behind.
Its all the rage on BGG for now but I do wonder how much staying power it will have .
It's pretty promising, although I had a lot of the same feelings that Dan Thurot did in his preview about it not being quite dialed for the 1-episode game.
Leder seems to do a lot of polishing post-Kickstarter, so I have strong hopes for this. The core was interesting, and we all felt engaged throughout the whole game. Even though the last turn scoring was starting to look pretty set in stone, we still had some room to elbow each other around.
If you're iffy on it, a wait and see approach might be the most appropriate. I'm not sure I'd have backed it off the first play, but I want to go back to it again with some experience. I'm also interested in the actual "Arc" part (yet to be released), as the game definitely felt like it had an abrupt end to me.
We then tried the board that has barriers all over it. This makes it much more tactical, as you have to kill the other bot by firing lasers, and you can't shoot very far. I ended up winning this one.
Finally we played on the board that has lightning beams that cause a damage if the bot passes through one. This was a pitched battle that went back and forth quite a bit, until I ultimately lost. We did not use the cards that can enhance your bot but I think we will try them next time. Of the 3 boards, honestly the base one with pits is the best. It makes for a quick game, rather than chasing each other around for 20 minutes trying to do a lot of second-guessing.
We then set up Deathwatch Overkill, and I let him take the Deathwatch side since it's easier and they often win, what with their two attack phases per round and their ability to heal. On round 1, his four marines eviscerated every genestealer I had on the board.
Unfortunately for him, the next round I was able to play a card that slowed his troops down by one, making one of his Deathwatch literally unable to move. I also played a card that allowed all of my units on a single board to attack twice. This proved sufficient to kill the marine on the motorcycle, who had driven on ahead and was all alone....
The next turn, I spawned hybrids with grenade launchers, and they managed to bring down a second Deathwatch for the win. It was my first victory at the game as the genestealers, ever. Perhaps this was because we jumped into mission 4, and the early ones are very lopsided in favor of the Imperium of Man.
I went for mission completion and was hampered by shitty engine rolls. Stupidly, I bought the M-Comp mod but never the engine one. Matt took a big lead and then an event, Socialist Merchants, came out with gave people presents (energy and money) for how far behind the leader they were. I eventually caught up with Matt and had a level three ship kitted out, but then another great turn boosted him ahead. I was fulfilling missions like crazy but not fast enough to catch him. He won by ramming into Chris' ship and destroying it (but surviving himself), killing a level 3 ship and claiming the "Viking" title (ram someone to death and survive). A glorious victory.
All told it was about 5 hours. The problem with Xia is that while you can play to 10 points, a lot of stuff won't happen in the game because it's just not enough time. It was great to actually get the full (nearly, 2 tiles were left) board built, level 3 ships, and so on. Can't wait to play it again.
Legomancer wrote: He won by ramming into Chris' ship and destroying it (but surviving himself), killing a level 3 ship and claiming the "Viking" title (ram someone to death and survive). A glorious victory.
I've decided all games need to end this way. I'm not playing Viticulture unless I can ram my vineyard into someone else's.
Presumably in Ark Nova you're building something, in this case a zoo, which should be pretty cool from a thematic point of view and there is some very impressive art on the cards to support the concept. But halfway through last night's game it became apparent that that "building something" positive feedback that I get from games as simple as Carc or Alhambra is missing here. The epithet is "pasted-on theme" but in this game's particular case I don't think the match between the machinery and the art is sufficient enough to support even that. The images and concepts on the cards don't make sense with the purposes they're supposed to be filling in the game. I'd wager the game had a different theme (or no theme at all) in development, then had this placed over top of it at a later time. The result is a shuttling in and out of the thematic concepts, needing to simply ignore them when they don't aid or actively conflict with understanding. There's a pretty solid chunk of that. Perhaps this one's theme is stapled-on? I don't know. But regardless, you never get the feeling that you're building anything, and the player board in front of you is just a bunch of arbitrary pieces that have nothing about them that elicits a "this is my zoo" feeling. It's just a place you put hexes on to free up other widgets in the game.
So. With that out of the way, the game play itself should be reasonably solid, right? Big euro, lots of moving parts that conflict with each other, some level of scarcity to keep the tension up. There's virtually no scarcity so that can be set aside. There's a board where you pull pieces from that all players have access to but there's a lot there, and frankly the pieces you're selecting are less important than the items unlock when you select them, and everyone has their own copy of those. Your selections let you move two scoring pieces around the track and there's a fixed number of places you can use to advance them. On several occasions I asked "where can I still go that will move my marker ahead more spaces?" and we all examined the board to find the ones we were missing. So everyone is in the same point-scoring chute, marking all those spaces to finish the task of making your two scoring pawns meet in the middle. Not a lot of options to ignore any of them, because you're going to need all of them eventually.
What remains is the cards, a remarkably large deck of animals, sponsors, and odd effects cards, some of which turn into pumpkins at some point. They can be the equivalent of an empty draw later in the game. And others have hefty pre-reqs that more or less make them worthless at the start of the game. And if that's not perilous enough, some have clearly been wired down with things like "to a max of 4" written on them when you could potentially score much, much more if they were left to their own devices. The result is that you keep bumping into legalese wiring diagrams in the card text (and iconography which I just detest in general) in a game about furry animals. Any blind draw from the deck is potentially a lost turn, or potentially a serious review of legal jargon and discussion with other players in order to determine if the card can even execute for you. Some cards are face-up in the middle, one of the few points of contention in the game. That part is fine, seems to work as intended.
So, in the big picture, the game just doesn't seem to hum for me. It's an activity more than a competition. For some titles that's fine, but this one has a Through The Ages sort of magnitude to it without satisfying that big-game craving that serious gamers get when they sit down to a special play with their fellow nerds.
There's some great parts to the play that I like. There's five actions to take, that become more powerful the longer you don't select them and that works really well. But the names of the actions and their execution are clunky, which may be due to issues with translation from the original German. (Even the box cover is a curious Teutonic collection of graphical elements . . . we had a discussion about that halfway through the game and came to no good conclusion of what the cheesy MS Paint crystal hand is supposed to mean.) I had a card that was in "Sponsors", one of the five action categories, that had chickens on it. Chickens were sponsoring my zoo? I think the Sponsors action would have been better named Business Decision or something similar, as the cards there seemed to be about ways to attract business, bring in school groups, have a farm animal section (the chickens), that kind of thing. And it may well be that in German the game's thematic elements work better.
So I'd be willing to sit down to it again. But at the end of the play the owner of the game asked, "so keep it or trade it?" That's not the kind of question you ask if you think it's a keeper. He decided to keep it at least a little longer because one of the guys that likes this kind of game has been away. But given the time it takes to play there's a lot of other titles that can fill that slot, a place where there's less room for B-level titles.
As incredible as Xia sounds (and especially your write-ups), I just can't see myself ever sitting down for a 5-hour game (which in my group most likely would be 10 hours). Aside from the obvious enjoyment you get from it, how do you convince others to dedicate that much time?
Legomancer wrote: All told it was about 5 hours. The problem with Xia is that while you can play to 10 points, a lot of stuff won't happen in the game because it's just not enough time. It was great to actually get the full (nearly, 2 tiles were left) board built, level 3 ships, and so on. Can't wait to play it again.