Monday, 7 July 2014

It's been a while.....

....and I'm afraid no game development stuff.  Lots of ideas - but getting anything down and firm appears to be a bit beyond me at the moment.

But it's just been stabcon so lets talk about some games that got played.

First up - Promised Land.

Which is best described as "History of the World - Jewish Version" and not least because it was written by the Ragnar Brothers who also made history of the world and shares the historical role swamping of such games.  It was actually my Stabcon purchase last time and had sat on the unplayed shelves until now as I know it was up certain peoples street.

I don't want to do a full write up of it but we played it with six despite being advised it was best with 4 - because people were interested - and that was a mistake.  Oh it worked but there was a lot of downtime between your turns with a notable lack of involvement until your next race (who might well be pathetic).  So to my mind it's a good example of a designer trying to increase the appeal of a game to make a sale despite it not being a good idea.

I think it might also be a good idea to do a draft of races - because at the moment it felt a little random as to what you got.

Next up - Eight minute Empire

It turns out that while I'm not generally a fan of minimalism - I am when it comes to game design.  A pairing away of everything until you get it down to the key decisions.  Which in Eight Minute Empires are - husbanding a very limited (and never to be replenished supply of coin) while using the coins to get the best cards.  Picking between cards that give you the action you want on the board (to control areas that give VP's) or cards that give you the trade resource you want (sets that give you VP's). A nice little bundle of decision making there.  I'd talk more - but there's not a lot more to talk about - see minimalist game design.

The name is a white lie - as I suspect it's "3 people who play stupidly fast might be able to play it in 8 minutes"  - it took us 16 minutes for a game.  But you know what - I'm ok with that because it's was still pretty damn fast.  Would recommend - it's especially good if you might end up waiting for people to arrive or if the main game of the evening ended a little quicker then expected.

I'm certainly going to see if I can find a copy of "Eight minute Empire - Legends" Which is the follow up version.

And finally - Caverna -

This is Agricola with dwarves.  Seriously if they were not made by the same man somebody should get sued.

If you like Agricola and don't own it - I'd go with Caverna over Agricolaat least partially because of the sheer design elements of it but also because there are tweaks such as the 'imitation space' which removes a bunch of frustration, better balance because most people is no longer the best way to win, and because it's added going on adventures which is a whole other way to develop and play.
If you like Agricola and do own it - tricky especially since at £70 it's not cheap.  I've considered buying it - and it's on my Essen list if I can find a cheap UK version (unlikely) but then I'm an obsessive.
If you don't like Agricola- you might still like Caverna because it's simply less mean and less of a struggle to survive but I'd play it to make sure you do actually like it.

If you've no idea what Agricola is I'd better provide some details (or I suppose if you just want some details).

In Caverna you play a family of dwarves who start out with nothing but a simple cave next to a thick forest - and through sending your family members to do specific jobs you can expand your family, while carving and farming a mighty settlement out of the wilderness.  It's a very well themed game - digging out caves gives you stone and makes space to build new things, having iron mines make iron mine actions more effective, if you've got two sheep at the end of a turn you'll end up with 3 sheep, and dogs can look after sheep without them being fenced in.  This is theme is enhanced by the lovely bits - you don't get a cube for a vegetable - you get a carved bit of wood that looks like a pumpkin.  This is not some mad special edition - that is just the game.  Look at them - there so cute!

All of which combined with the fact it's alleged to play with 7 players (you'd be mad to try that - it's for 2-5 players game) makes the box come in at around 3.5 kilo's.  So if you rate your games by weight - it's certainly worth getting.

The key decision comes from the fact that only one person can do a job - and that a lot of jobs get bonus resources added to them if not taken - so what you want and need to do needs to be judged and evaluated a lot against other players actions.  You've got pretty limited interaction with other players - other then trying to work out if they might take the job you want and needing to take that into account when making your decisions.

It's not a simple game - a bunch of rules of remember - and it does have some odd little tweaks that need to be remembered about keeping animals but it's got good iconography  and most of what you need to know is there on the board.  It's also simply less mean then Agricola - it's less of an uphill struggle to get the food you need to survive while actually developing so you feel like your doing better where as a new player in Agricola it can be a struggle to achieve anything.

What might count against it is that Agricola comes with roles and profession that gives each player a slight edge that can drive your play style where as Caverna does not.  Those role give Agricola a massive amount of re-playability (especially with the number of expansions there are) but they can create a very unbalanced game.  Where as Caverna as rooms that yo ucan build which tweak your game - but it's always the same rooms and there available to all.  It's better balanced but less re-playable that's not to say I don't think Caverna can be played and replayed a lot.

I'll also point you onwards to this review of Caverna - because I do rather love the reviews.