Saturday, September 01, 2007

Transformers Risk and some other things

In general I am a believer in replaying games. It’s one of the reasons I buy games I like, so that I can play them again next week, next month, next year or next decade. At Gamers@Dockers sessions however, I quite often find myself playing new games, either physically new, or games that I haven’t played before.

On some occasions this is because it is a game that I haven’t played before, but I wanted to and because somebody was there who had the game and new how to play it I seized the opportunity. Sometimes it is because someone has just bought and brought a new game and wants to try it out. One of our members runs a OLGS so he often brings demo copies of new stock to play. Other times somebody just wants people to play their favourite game(s) and is recruiting people to play.

Transformer Risk
fell into the ‘someone had just bought and brought a new game’ category. We had actually lined up a game of Fury of Dracula, but it had still not arrived at the building and Transformers Risk was there. REGGY sticks by his claims that he bought it to play with his ten year old son.

Four player Transformers Risk is team play, red and yellow versus purple and black. At this point I must admit that my knowledge of Transformers doesn’t go much past the words Megatron, Decipticon and robots transforming into vehicles and vice versa. Therefore I it is possible that I am unable to appreciate or convey the richly themed aspects of the game that some others may pick up on.

A quick run through the rules had us on top of everything with the possible exception of the spinning discs and the “secret” factories. C’mon people , you slide the region and it is written right there on the board “Secret Factory”, it is hardly a very well kept secret is it? The spinning discs were conceptually OK, but we could find no mention in the rules of whether they started open or closed. We opted for closed, or mostly closed in the case of Asia^H^H^H^H the green territory since it will always be at least partially open.

Mr Skeletor
had never played Risk face to face before, although had played it on the PC. B5mith didn’t make any admission about his Risk pedigree, I used to play it a bit in my younger days, but the only time in the last five or so years would have been my one game of Risk 2210 at the same venue.

Fans of the original Risk may look at the map of the Transformers planet and remark that it looks an awful lot like the Earth. Obviously not I say, I mean there’s two paths into Australia instead of one and you can go North and South from North America to South America, I mean from the Red region to the Yellow region. Totally different! And let’s not forget the Secret Factories shall we? Or maybe we should, since they are meant to be secret aren’t they?

Anyway during the setup phase Mr Skeletor built predominantly in the Red region and I built mainly in the Yellow. We also branched out twards the other areas including some well garrisoned outposts in the middle of bad guys territory which caused them to waste more and more resources defending the neighbouring territories.

During the first turn Mr Skeletor and I consolidated our hold on the Red and Yellow continents and defended the approaches. We also caused some havoc from our outposts in enemy territory, especially against the secret factory (which was clearly marked on all our maps).

Since resources are scarce and you can only win a maximum of one card per turn, it didn’t seem worth over-extending ourselves. Where we were close together we operated in concert, for example Mr Skeletor softened up one of the bad guy territories in our area and then in my turn I cleared it out.

When day 2 arrived we each held a complete territory. This gave us bonus robots, not many admittedly, but every robot helps. We continued our attacks into their territories, picking of their large concentrations and keeping our home territory defended. I conducted much more reckless assaults from my base near the “secret” factory figuring that they were going to come and get me anyway so I may as well cause as much grief as possible before they did.

Our two pronged assault in to Asia was very successful and by this stage unless we were doomed to forever roll ones it was just a matter of time before we overwhelmed our opposition as we were probably producing three time as many robots as they were and could afford to drop them into the front line to use as assault troops.

Despite some spirited defence it was all over red rover by the end of turn four. Total annihilation of the bad guys had been achieved. I’m not sure if Mr Skeletor’s singing of the Transformers theme helped, but it did add to the theme.

To quote and old real estate expression, the important thing during initial placement is “location, location, location”. Our initial placements were much more consolidated and defensible and we took advantage of that.

The special areas are cute, but given that you will win a maximum of six cards in a game and some them don’t even have the ability to activate one of the areas, I am guessing that aren’t likely to be used very often. Especially if the alternative use for the card is to add one to any die roll for the turn.

This said, as far as my admittedly limited experience in Risk variants go, this is a good one. Limited resources makes it a more strategic game and the fixed or capped number of turns should keep playing time reasonable.

I also got to try Ahoy, Logistico and Factory Fun.

Ahoy is a short game and good strategy is reliant on memory. If you memory is faulty you will probably not go well at all. There is some strategy involved with the memory aspect, so elder children would probably enjoy it.

Logistico is one those games that is, for me, going to require a few plays to get a complete understanding of the different possibilities and strategies that may be there. Did we deliver too much early in the game for low rewards, or was that just safe guarding it from being exploited by other players for large rewards later in the game? I am not at all sure.

Factory Fun, is it a game or a puzzle? You are definitely competing against other players for the choice of machines. You either want the best machine (i.e. most valuable) or the one that suits your factory the best. You need to know what qualifies the machines in this aspect and then pick the appropriate machine before somebody else does. This is a very quick but tense phase. Where’s the machine with blue outputs but no brown input? Is there one, yes there it is, oh no wait that’s a blue input not output, ah there it is, drats someone else has taken it. Is my red reservoir still accessible because everything that is left needs red… etc.

When placing the machine consideration must be taken for allowing room for future machines, both leaving room for them and efficiently using the output of one machine as the input of another (which is greatly rewarded). Substantial rebuilding of your factory is allowed, but this costs money and you may not have enough.

We were all happy enough the first time to jump straight back in for a second play.

The highlight of my gaming month though was finally getting Melissa to play Formula Dé, we had seven players, six of whom hadn't played before. We played a one lap race on the Zandvoort 2 track and it seemed to go well.

Mmm meeples taste like...

1 comment:

Fellonmyhead said...

Fraser:
Mr Skeletor had never played Risk face to face before, although had played it on the PC.

Well there goes his FATtie credibility; with credentials like "never played risk face-to-face" one has to wonder...