Wednesday, October 11, 2006

M:RP, P:RotA, H!TMF!, FoD

It's that time of year again. The time of year when Alaskans get money from the state just for living here. I invested my portion of the state's wealth with a guy from Nigeria. He has a foolproof plan to make millions, and by this time next year I hope to be retired and gaming full time.

In the meantime boardgaming in these parts has been lean for the last couple months. Time for blogging has been even more scarce. However I have had the opportunity to play a couple games that haven't gotten as much attention as they deserve.

First up, and for the second time this week, is Mission: Red Planet. Bruno Faidutti and Bruno Cathala have teamed up to nearly double the yearly output of French culture with this gem of a game.

In M:RP players send astronauts to various regions on Mars. The player with the most astronauts in each region earns points for controlling that region. There are also secret goals that are dealt each player, and each player has the opportunity to acquire more secret goals as the game progresses. The comparisons to El Grande are unavoidable. Even though Mission Red Planet is not as heavy as El Grande let me stress that M:RP is not a "dumbed down" version of El Grande. M:RP is a well designed, original game in its own right.

Both El Grande and Mission: Red Planet are area control games. Both games require tokens to be moved from supply to a staging area before they can be moved to the board. Both games allow players to affect their opponents in small ways, such as removing opponent's men from the board or the staging area. Both games allow players to move their own men about the board in small ways. There are three scoring rounds in both games. And I could continue with similarities.

There are also substantial differences in the games. For starters the theme of M:RP fits much better with the mechanics of the game, hence the theme does not feel tacked on. There is a role selection mechanism that I am told resembles Citadels, a game I have never played. The players with the second and third most men in a region do not score points. M:RP has an exploration element. Men removed by opponents are dead and not available for future turns. And I could continue with differences in game play.

Mission: Red Planet seems to straddle the line between American theme, and Euro simplicity and depth. It should appeal to both camps without alienating either.

DW and I don't see eye to eye on many games, unless we agree they suck. M:RP is a notable exception, although DW is wrong on one point: It did take entirely too long to get the box open.

Fury of Dracula got a little buzz when it was re-released due to the fact the original version was fetching astronomical prices on E-Bay. The buzz ended fairly quickly.

I waited as long as possible to try FoD due to the comparisons to Scotland Yard.

I. Hate. Scotland. Yard.

Fury of Dracula turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of recent months, perhaps as big a surprise as Tempus. FoD was as good a game as I had expected Tempus to be, whereas Tempus sucked beyond belief. (As a side note: I can't believe I waited with bated breath for over a year for the English release of Tempus.)

One player takes the role of the Count, the other players are teamed up to hunt him down. Dracula must move each turn and secretly records his path using cards. There is one card that corresponds to every city on the map. When the hunters run across Dracula's trail, Dracula must reveal the city card. Dracula may have left a trap in the city, in which case the hunters need to resolve it before moving on. Random cards come into play that may benefit or hinder either side. Unlike Scotland Yard the hunters need to kill Dracula in order to win, not just land on him.

You will probably find yourself referring to the rules frequently in your first couple games. Fury of Dracula does have a strong theme, and with the strong theme comes the corresponding non-streamlined, non-intuitive rules. Unlike Scotland Yard, FoD is engaging for both the Dracula player and his pursuers.

So Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean was supposedly designed by a couple guys who teach corporate workshops on teamwork? Could be. Don't let that deter you from trying the game. The implementation of the corporate version into a boardgame was very well done by Z-Man Games.

Players take the role of Aegean islanders competing to finish the game with the most developed island.

Take the building and trading elements from Settlers of Catan, add steroids, add some civilization building elements, add both basic and rare commodities, add some exploration, add some Barry Bonds' "herbal supplements", add a twelve round time limit and you have the framework for the game.

Parthenon is hindered from getting an internet buzz because of the fact that you can and will get screwed beyond recovery early in the game if you are unfamiliar with the game. Let me stress: once you get that first game under your belt and are more familiar with the calamities that can befall you, you can better protect yourself. Parthenon is a game that gets better with familiarity.

Perhaps I should have added "risk management" to my earlier description of the game.

Hey! That's My Fish! OK. So this one has been getting some good buzz. Just let me reiterate that is as good as the buzz would lead you to believe. Good, quick, family-friendly filler.

1 comment:

Dame Koldfoot said...

I must admit, I agree with Coldie on his assessment of Mission: Red Planet and Fury of Dracula. Both were very fun to play.

In playing Mission: Red Planet, our friend, who was convinced he was losing, ended up winning. I was just happy I earned more points than Coldie. This is a strong themed game without much down time. The character cards are lively and the ships look oddly like Coca-Cola bottles.

Fury of Dracula is one I am looking forward to playing again. The hunter's work cooperatively to track the Count. Each hunter has different abilities to help him or her in this task. It took a while to find the count's trail and by that time he had hit the Atlantic Ocean and our search began all over again. The Fury of Dracula makes me want to watch Bram Stoker's Dracula and Van Helsing all over again.