Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Short Game thoughts

There's been a flood of new games1 recently. Too many to play all of them, and all too many of them have turned out to be sizable time commitments. I've been spoiled by Taluva, Ur, Yspahan and the like. Bring back my one hour game!

So here's my thoughts on recent games. Not really reviews. Just impressions and thoughts.

Tide of Iron
Unplayed. Not sure if I'll actually get around to it. A couple of customers like it though.

Notre Dame
I love drafting cards. Years spent drafting Magic: The gathering have left me with a passion for "choose one and pass the rest" I'm glad that this design space is being explored. Notre Dame is pretty good, and also probably the shortest of the latest crop. I think experienced players could play it in under 45 minutes. I still haven't figured out if one of the seven actions is just completely underpowered, or if there's some way to exploit it. Not going to blow anyone away, but a fun game.

Do you like the Great Battles of History series? No? Move along.2

An interesting game with lots of neat bits (both bits and bitz), slick execution, two ways to play... and about 45 minutes too much game. At 75 minutes this would be great. At the 120 minutes it's taken to play 5 turns, I've been dissapointed. High points involve collecting chariot riding poets, some decent auctioning (using the variant rules), and a very constricted build tree. Low points involve a trading phase that can drag and those extra 45 minutes. Sadly I don't know how I could speed it up.

Age of Empires III3
Glenn Drover has really found his place in the world of game design. He takes other peoples ideas and respins them into a form that is identifiable, but uniquely his. It's not just the excess of sculpted plastic pieces, but something else that links his games together. Drawing heavily on the action selection mechanisms of Caylus, AoE brings special worker pieces, action tiles, and some area control into the mix. Unfortunately, it hasn't fixed the only real complaint I have about Caylus - the time it takes for beginners to play the game. We can often get through 3-4 games in an evening, but AoE took 3.5 hours for the first game. Obviously it would speed up a bit with play, but it is definitely too long. Otherwise I enjoyed it. Is it worth the extra money for the plastic bitz? No. A smaller box and cheaper pieces would have been a better game.

Stack Market
I'm excited, but every game group since this appeared has been five players. Bring me four players! Bring me tall stacks of cubical corporations!

And then there's the faceless rest that are waiting for me to play. Several that I don't think I'll get to play for a while, and some that are on my short list. Many of them also cap out at 4 players, so are suffering just like Stack Market. Oh well.



1at least new-to-domestic games. While I'm always happy to play imports, specifically post essen, or what have you, I tend to consider a game 'unavailable' until it gets a domestic release, or the European publisher will return my emails. Of course it's the retailer in me - tracking the 'newness' of a game by when it shows up on my shelves. But it does often come down to exposure. Even if it is easy to find the game at a FOGS - if it needs a rules translation and people can't pick it up off the shelf, it really isn't 'available'. It's just available to the fanatics who do crazy things like blog about games. Sheesh.

2I don't move along. Samurai plus GBH? yay!

3Ah, such an improvement over Age of Empires II, this returns the series to it's roots and reminds us all of how much we loved the original.


Anonymous said...

Regarding Age of Empires, you wrote, "A smaller box and cheaper pieces would have been a better game."

I totally disagree. Part of the joy of this game is its wonderful production values: the plastic colonists, the wonderful silver and gold coins, the beautiful board. I think it is a wonderful combination of Ameritrash sensibilities with Eurogame mechanics.

I've also never had a game take 3.5 hours. They've taken 2-3 hours.

I would really encourage people to give this game a look. If you like Puerto Rico, you'll love this.

I enjoy your posts and look forward to more of them.

Anonymous said...

AoE3 times have ranged from a two to four hours. All have involved at least one new player, but the four hour was with four new players (and only my second play). The variable turn order seems to mess people up. When I got impatient and started calling out red, yellow, blue, etc., it seemed to speed the game up some. Also, how can someone not have a couple moves prioritized in their head when it's their turn? We've enjoyed it and I expect to keep enjoying it.

I am mixed on the pieces. If there was a $30 version with cardboard as opposed to the $42 with plastic, I'd still take the plastic. But $60 list is going to keep casual gamers from picking it up which is a shame, because this could be a decent gateway game for computer AoE players. Is there really any reason (other than volume) this needs to cost more than Heroscape?

Anonymous said...

In Colosseum, what if each player had the option to make only three offers on their turn to trade? These would be "take it or leave it" offers. Would that speed things up? I agree that the most likely "extra" time is going to be in the trading sessions. So far, it hasn't been a bid deal for us, but I can see how it could consume a lot of time.

Aaron_ said...

Re: AoE cost/pieces.

It really is the cost of the game weighing in with the pieces themselves. I could actually rant about the physical design of the game for some length of time, but the short version is the same as Scott says - at $60 SRP, it has passed the price point it needs to attract the casual purchase.

$60 is a "I'll play it first" price point.

Joe Belanger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Belanger said...

When we trade in Colosseum, there are a couple of things that we do to speed it up.

#1 We place our trade-able items apart from our items that we need.

#2 I personally ask each person if there is anything there that they would like. Then I ask, "Are you passing?"

#3 Sometimes I need to remind people that a miracle will not occur and the only items up for trade are already out.

Our games go pretty quickly and the trading is the least time consuming part of our games.

Hope this helps.