Last weekend in Jyväskylä was good gaming time. As usual, I brought a bunch on games we played a lot. It’s refreshingly different, playing the same games over and over again instead of playing a variety of games just once or twice. I won’t bother with detailed session reports, but here’s a rundown of the games we played.
St. Petersburg was a must. I had given it as a Christmas gift and it had been played a lot: every day during the Christmas holidays! We played twice and I couldn’t win either game. Both games were won by the heaviest concentration of nobles and to be honest, I’m starting to think the strategies are a bit one-sided: most aristocrats usually wins. It’s a race to get most different aristocrats, and that’s getting a bit boring. Of course it’s not possible to forget buildings (and with in a difference of aristocrat or at most two, games are won or lost by the buildings), but still — aristocrats are too important.
Attika — last time I played Attika was in May! It was about time and the return to Greece was great fun. It’s a lovely game, and I should probably make an effort to play it more.
DaVinci Code was another Christmas gift. I played three quick two-player games with my mother, wanting to see how the game works that way. It doesn’t — it isn’t a particulary good two-player game.
Mogul is quick and nasty and has a clever bidding mechanism. My kind of game, that is! I like it, even though it didn’t do that well with others. There’s increasing tension as the inevitable crash is coming and the bidding system is wicked. It’s another really good filler game.
Dawn Under was really well-liked. Even my brother stayed around after dinner to try it — and that’s something I’ve never seen! Must’ve been the vampires, as he’s a huge fan of White Wolf Vampire games (except the RPG). It was great fun, trying to find places to rest in. Some were better in it than others — my brother didn’t succeed at all, while Ismo won several games and did well in others. All had a blast with the game.
One thing I learned: the rats are stupid. In early game, they are a boring bonus as the graves are mostly empty. In any point of the game, they break the flow of the game. Toss them out, that’s my opinion! We also found out that the game scales well, as we played with all numbers from three to six. There’s one caveat: end game can be unsatisfying. When someone has only one vampire, the game usually ends when someone else makes a mistake. It didn’t bother me, but if the player with the one vampire only opens graves he knows are empty and thus avoids mistakes, it can be annoying. But then again, that isn’t so easy…
Die Sieben Siegel was, however, the biggest hit of the weekend. I first thought the game would be too difficult for the smaller boys, but that turned out to be wrong. In fact, in our first two games, younger, Severi, collected just six penalty points, winning both games hands down. Meanwhile I, for example, collected 27 points in the same ten hands. Ouch.
Right now Die Sieben Siegel is one of the better trick-taking games in my opinion. The concept of good and bad cards is rather fluid, as the goal is not to collect lots of tricks but to predict exactly which tricks you take (amount and suit). Hand full of very good cards is actually quite tricky, there’s more room for mistakes.
There’s been lots of discussion about the saboteur. Instead of predicting tricks, one player can be saboteur, trying to prevent others from scoring. Saboteur gets four points, which are reduced by every black seal (unwanted trick) taken by other players. If saboteur takes lots of tricks, others will take penalty points for overpredicting, but so will saboteur. Saboteur needs to take as few tricks as possible, making other players take more tricks than they predicted. But that’s tricky!
In any case, saboteur is far from being the obvious choice like some people have complained. Reducing the penalty points isn’t trivial, while scoring zero can be easy with good cards. However, when we played with just three players, saboteur became the obvious choice as the penalties leapt up (winner of our six-hand game had 17 points). In three-player games, saboteur could be worth five points. With more, it’s not necessary. In any case, I think Die Sieben Siegel is best with four or five players.
It was a good weekend, games and all (tasting a madeira wine from 1980 — the year I was born — was also rather interesting — it had a pleasant and refined taste, just like me). Next weekend is another games weekend, this time at Tommy and Laura (like last year or the year before). It should be different kind of weekend, with lots of new games and only one or two games of each title.