Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Game Psychiatrist--The Substitute

Dr: Hello, you must be Mary.

M: Hi, where’s Dr. Meepolous?

Dr: He had to be away for the week. I’m Dr. Boardbent. How are you doing today, Mary?

M: Well, Doctor, I think I’m losing my love for gaming.

Dr: Uh-huh, that’s good. Dr. Meepolous will be very happy to hear that.

M: ?? You don’t understand; I’m here because that’s a BAD thing. For the last 3 years, gaming has been a big part of my life. What will I do if I lose interest in it?

Dr: You will spend all that wasted money on something worthwhile. Gambling is a terrible addiction which takes your money and leaves you with nothing.

M: !! Gambling! I don’t gamble, I play board games! Are you sure Dr. Meepolous isn’t in the other room? Maybe this is just a test of some sort. Maybe I’m on TV!

Dr: Oh, board games. Yes. I see. Well, you could read a book or take a class in painting.

M: Doc, I hate to say this, but you’re really beginning to piss me off. Have you ever played any Euro-games?

Dr: Euro-games….hmmm…I played Monopoly once as a child and I used to play Risk in college.

M: That’s it?! THAT’S your idea of board games?! Oh, for the love of Knizia!! (heavy sigh) O.k., Doc, there are other games now; games that don’t take hours and hours to play and leave you feeling like the 9th puppy of an 8-teat dog. (Starting to pace the floor) These games give you decisions to make, get your brain working, give you strategic choices.

Dr: Risk has all those things, Mary.

M: You’re just messing with me, aren’t you? And how many games of Risk did you lose because the dice were siding with the other guy just when you REALLY needed them to come up with a lot of happy little pips on them?

Dr: Mm-hmmm. I see your point.

M: Here’s what I’m going to do for you, Doc, I’m going to bring in a couple of my games to show you. Are you going to be here tomorrow?

Dr: Yes. I have a free hour at 2:00.

M: Great. I’ll see you then.

{M to self: I can’t believe Dr. Meepolous had THAT guy sub for him.}

{Dr. to self: That was TOO easy. I hope she brings in Torres; I’ll play that with any number of players.}
Flandern 1302—A Stagnant Game

I’ve played Flandern 1302 twice, once with 3 players and once with 4, the maximum number of players, and both times I’ve been less than impressed with it; it was, in a word, flat. I was left with the feeling that there should be a good game there but I couldn’t find it.

The board is set up with 6 areas depicting cities, each with 13 spaces to place your tiles in trying to get the majority in the city. Each player has the same hand of cards which include one card for each city that lets you build in that city, a card that lets you build in any city but doesn’t let that tile count until you play in that city again and remove the “under construction” marker, a card that lets you pick up your played cards, and three one-time-use “influence” cards which can give you the chance to play first.

Each player has a set of tiles that match the color of one of the cities but there are also tiles which match the remaining 2 cities. The gray tiles represent another guild vying for superiority in the cities and can be played by anyone. The church tiles can also be played by anyone and add points to the city’s worth when it’s scored.

All players choose a card (or cards, if you want to use your influence to go first) and they are revealed at the same time. The player who plays first is the one who played the most cards but most often all players will choose only 1 card so the start player goes first. If you chose a city card, you can place one of your tiles, one from the neutral guild, or one of the church tiles on that city. The only rules for placement of tiles is that it must be adjacent to a tile already placed and it cannot touch another tile of that color along an edge.

That’s the basics of the game. A city is scored when no more tiles can be added to it.

I can be tenacious when something bugs me so I’ve spent some time trying to figure out why this game doesn’t appeal to me or the other gamers I’ve played it with. My conclusion is that I like a game to have “movement”, the ability to change the board or expand it in some way. My favorite games have that: Magna Grecia, Through the Desert, Torres, Trias, Hacienda, Hansa.

So now I have an answer and my brain proceeds to apply it to this stagnant game. Instead of simply placing a tile on a city, let’s offer you the choice of moving a tile to another city. Now you can change the board and it forces another choice on you: where to put the piece to do you no harm and maybe screwing up someone else in the process. That could work.

The influence cards that let you go first are nice but going first isn’t important very often, at least that was the feeling I got. What if playing the influence card let you take a second turn in the city you chose? Now you can remove a piece from a city and replace it with another. Or you can place 2 tiles in a city in one turn and complete it for scoring. Now THAT’S what I call influence!

Would these changes make the game more appealing to us? I don’t know and it may be a while before I can convince the others to give it a try. There are so many very good games that I rarely get to play, do I even care to waste the time fiddling with this one? And would these changes now make the game even slower since you have more decisions to make? If someone decides to give this a try, I’d love to know what you think.

For all of you who like to play games online, there’s a new PBEM site called MaBi Web which offers Hansa and Richelieu. I’ve played several games of Hansa and I’m very impressed with the graphics and implementation of the game. It’s easy to use and has all the features you want in an online game including letting you start your turn over again—almost a requirement in a game where you can play your turn in so many ways. The site is still in Beta testing so there may still be a bug or two but MaBi is very nice and quickly replies to any questions or problems.

I also want to let you know that I have started my own personal blog where I plan to talk about my gaming as well as other things that pop into my head. Come and visit me at Meeple Monologues.
Until next time, keep your penguins on the ice.



Yehuda Berlinger said...

keep your penguins on the ice

Obviously you didn't see March of the Penguins, or you wouldn't have made such a cruel statement.

Poor baby penguins!


Anonymous said...

Nice article, Mary. You covered a lot of territory there. Thanks for introducing me to Hansa at MaBi Web. It's a fun game, and a neat game site. Now, if I could just find a way to beat you at Hansa....