Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cleopatra vs. Blue Moon City

I recently got to play both Cleopatra (2nd play) and Blue Moon City (1st play) in the same day. Blue Moon City I totally enjoyed; Cleopatra, I can do without. Why? The card play.

Your task in both games is to accumulate cards so you can build something but not all card management is created equal. In Blue Moon City, your choices can be so many and varied that your sense of tension is almost constant. This is due to the special actions that the cards can be used for instead of using them to build. I never felt that I had no good choices since cards let you change the color of other cards, move your token farther to get where you want to be, move a dragon somewhere convenient, use 2 brown cards as wild. Just because I have a hand of red but I’m not near the red buildings, doesn’t mean I’m stuck. Even near the end of the game when un-built buildings were spaced far apart, I wasn’t waiting for just the one right card as there were several ways I could manage the cards and my movement.

Cleopatra, on the other hand, feels stifling. There is so little control over the cards, both in what you get and what you can do with what you get. Everything you can build requires an architect so if you can’t get one you’re stuck. A couple of buildings require marble and lapis and again if you can’t acquire the necessary card(s), you have no where to go, no choices. There’s no trading, no discarding cards to draw new ones although you can go over your hand limit when you choose which pile of cards to take and hope something you need is in there, face down. Any special action card you play has the same risks—no guarantee of success and at least one corruption token. I understand that this game doesn’t quite qualify as a hand management game but rather a test of efficiency--build with the least amount of corruption--but to me, it lacks tension and fun. Towards the end of the game, I was just hoping someone would build the last thing just to get it over with.

I love card games and games that use cards to control your actions. When they’re done well, they should give you tough decisions and make you squirm when you have to choose. They should always give you an option, “an out”, somewhere to go besides sitting and waiting for that special card. Maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges but no game should make you feel like the end is dragging on so that you say a little prayer to the Goddess of Gaming to PLEASE, make it end!

I like to watch old movies while I’m busy around the house and one day I had on “It Happened One Night”. It’s funny how your mind goes leaping around from place to place and the next thing I knew I had linked the last word of the movie title with the first word of a game title. Go fig. Here’s the result of some movie-game title combinations.

It Happened One Nacht Der Magier
The African Queen’s Necklace
It’s a Wonderful Lifeboat
Dirty Dancing Dice
Hey! That’s My Fish Called Wanda
Home is where I stack my Games.



Gerald McD said...

That's a great comparison of two games. Interesting observations.

I enjoyed the movie/game list, especially since most of those are some of my favorite movies. Nice job!

Shannon Appelcline said...

I think it's a good comparison, and starts to both explain my own issues with Cleopatra and to layout a general design for card games of this sort.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comparion, Mary. While Cleopatra was never anywhere close to my wishlist, this does make me happier that I decided to buy BMC.

Now if I coul just get it on the table :(