Board game club session: Attribute, Australia

We had a rather pleasant board game club session yesterday. Since Johanna was away on a cruise with her friends, I played until midnight with the last enthusiasts. It was fun, though a bit too late perhaps to be done on regular basis.

This session report will be in pieces, because there were so many new games and I ended up writing quite a bit about them. That should please you, I hope.

We kicked off the session with a seven-player game of Attribute using my Finnish cards. It makes a world of difference! It was a blast, particularly as I won. We used the BrettSpielWelt scoring, which is slightly more complicated than the basic scoring, but Ilari had commented that with the basic scoring, the red and green sheep cards aren’t in balance (reds are better scoring-wise). What’s best, I won! We played another game later, which I ruled as well. Both games had tons of laughter and several bizarre word selections.

Attribute is a really good game, and I really wish there was a proper Finnish edition of it. As there isn’t one, I can’t recommend it full-heartedly to Finnish gamers. Word games just are better with one’s first language. For gamers speaking either English or German it’s a very good choice.

The new Kramer-Kiesling game Australia got some attention and it wasn’t hard to find players for it. We played a five-player game, which is something I probably won’t do again. Australia is a very tactical game and in my opinion those tend to work best with smaller number of players. Australia should work ok with four, I believe, as it’s fairly quick to play. It shouldn’t be prone to analysis paralysis either, as the situations are generally fairly simple.

Even though I’m not terribly keen on very tactical games, Australia was a pleasant experience. It’s clearly lighter than the mask trilogy games; players have just two actions each turn and there’s often no choice for the first action. Still, it’s very much an optimisation puzzle: you go in, do what you can to score points and that’s it.

The map of Australia is divided into areas. All have two projects: a conservation project and an industrialisation project. Conservation is done, when all camps around the area are occupied by rangers. Each camp can hold any number of rangers, but only from one player. Industrialisation tile has a number, which is revealed when someone enters the area. If the camps around the area have exactly that many (tiles range from four to nine) rangers, the tile is scored. Scoring is the same in both cases: whoever started the scoring gets three points and then everybody gets one point for each ranger in the camps around the area.

First action of the turn is often used to fly one’s plane (the game comes with really pretty plastic planes) to a suitable area. Rangers can only be placed where the plane is. Second action is typically a card: cards depict one to four rangers and zero to three coins. They come in different colours, matching the various areas: to play a card, it needs to be of the right colour. Rangers can be placed on one camp around the area where the plane is. That’s it, for most turns. Nothing particularly tricky, but often finding the best spot is not completely obvious (and then again, sometimes it is). Not super light decision-making, but fairly simple.

Money complicates matters. You can either use three dollars to play a wrong-coloured card or four dollars to teleport a ranger on the board. Especially in the end game, when your rangers tend to be tied up on the board, teleporting is golden. You can pick up rangers, but you must fly where the rangers are and spend an action to get them, which is not fun. With five players, having only 10 rangers means you have to manage them well.

We played with advanced rules, which add an windmill on the board. Completed project tiles are placed on a track. When it’s full, rangers played on the wind mill track score points — there’s a small majority subgame there. Rangers can be placed on the wind mill ranger track instead of playing them on board, when you’re in an area near the wind mill. It’s one more thing to take care of, as it usually gives good points to one player in the end of the game.

Our game was fun. I won, which has something to do with it. I got a very substantial lead in the midgame, but Nestori caught me. He did the best single turn during the game, scoring about four areas on his turn. Very effective, it was really beautiful move. However, I managed to score more points in the end, eventually winning the game.

Australia is a very dynamic game. You can fly anywhere to take the advantage of a good scoring opportunity. There’s very little long term planning; it’s what you can do on your turn, and that’s it. I like it. The game changes somewhat when the areas are scored and worrying about your useless rangers becomes an issue. Those who enjoy tactical games should like Australia. The grand strategists will be frustrated by the game’s one-turn-at-a-time nature, but that’s what’s expected.

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