Board game club session: Spinergy, In the Shadow of the Emperor

Saturday’s board game club session continued:

Another game having some buzz about it was Spinergy. We got nine players to play it, which was nice. Spinergy is highly creative party game, where one player spins three words from a device with three word rings that can be spun. Say there’s “fly, “hay stack” and “trash”. Now the other players are given a task from a card, which describes a situation and a task. One we had in our game was “You’re a chef in a one-star restaurant. Last night was a total catastrophe; everything went wrong. Describe what happened.” and that’s what you need to do. The description, which needs to be written is just few minutes, must fit the task and include the three words.

This is what I wrote: “Cardinal tips over the hay stack, which stuns the soupbearer. Fly arrives in the soup. A trash flyes in Pope’s tournedos. A monstrous devastation!” Why so complicated? Because the spinner has come up with three words he expects the other players to use. If you’re caught using one of them, the spinner steals your points. For example in this case I was certain the spinner would choose “waiter, thus the “soupbearer” and so on. Of course it’s possible to write random surrealist dada poetry to every task and make spinner’s task impossible, but anyone who would do that is not welcome to play party games with me.

The tasks vary a lot. There’s storytelling, creating jokes, even singing (fortunately those are rare). Not everybody is going to like this much creativity, but those who are able to come up with all this stuff are going to just love Spinergy. I think it might be a bit too demanding to be taken out in any situation like most party games, but with right people it’s one of the best.

However, like in many party games, the rules weren’t completely usable without resorting to house rules. We played using the correct rules, where you can’t use the spinned words in compound words. Unfortunately that doesn’t work with Finnish, which is a compounding language unlike English. Many points were lost when a spinned word was used in a compound. That’ll be changed in future games. The scoring isn’t perfect, either, but in a game like this it isn’t that important. Spinners didn’t get points often, but that would probably change if a full three-round game was played and spinners would get a better idea of the other players’ thought patterns.

What’s most important is that we had a blast. The game worked well with nine players, and would be fine with few more. One last note: like Tom Vasel says, I recommend playing with double time. 75 seconds just isn’t enough to come up with decent answers. Three minutes is fine, and we even used triple time on one task, which was particularly difficult (creating a light bulb joke).

Labyrinth — Die Schatzjadg is a new game in the Amazing Labyrinth brand. It has little to do with the original game, though — there’s a labyrint and it looks about the same. However, this one is a pattern recognition game. I’d say it’s Ricochet Robot for kids: quite like it, but easier. It’s even too easy for adults. There’s also a bit of a guessing problem. Players need to trace their way through a labyrint and call out the number of treasures that can be reached. It’s usually fairly small number (four to six or so), so if someone gets it wrong, the best approach is usually to call one less or more.

For kids, it’s probably better, but for adults it’s not quite hard enough, I think. It fell a bit flat, that’s for sure. Maybe using two puzzles at the same time would make it more interesting, I’ll have to try that.

Africa is making a comeback: I’ve played it twice in a fairly short time. That’s not bad, because it’s a really solid game. Our five-player game had two newbies, who we taught with the best method for this game: tell the minimum needed and add rules for the different tiles when they come up. Africa has a bit too complicated rules when they’re laid out in the whole, but given piece by piece it’s ok.

Another game with great expectations was In the Shadow of the Emperor. It fulfilled them, indeed. It was quite as meaty as I expected. There are just so many things to take care of: taking over elector seats, the Emperor election, generation management, gaining income… This game will take several playings before I’ll figure it all out. But it was fun, that’s for sure.

There are lots of cool mechanics. The aging of the barons is interesting, that’s for sure. It’s fairly easy to extend the lifespan of the barons (and we did see some really old guys stretched out for far too long), but what’s more important is to take care of the age structure. It’s not fun to lose three or four barons at the same turn, especially if you’re getting a girl that turn. Each turn players get one descendant, who is either boy or girl. The action cards you used last turn determine the sex: the cards are pink or blue, and if you have more blue cards, you’ll get a boy. There’s another layer of decision making there, as both boys and girls have their benefits. Boys are generally better, but the cards that create girls are pretty good, too. Tricky!

Our game saw lots of stability. Everybody got to be the emperor, but the electors were fairly stable. That’s not good, because you won’t score points for keeping the position — only getting a new elector chosen scores points. Clever idea. It was very much a practise game, that’s for sure.

Our game took pretty closely 90 minutes, which is good for a first game. Somebody in the Geek mentioned four-player game taking 270 minutes — what a nightmare! It’s just five turns, you know… I don’t think it’ll get much faster, but 90 minutes is pretty good for a game this complicated. In the Shadow of the Emperor is a real gamer’s game, with clever mechanics and untypically authentic and strong theme.

We wanted to play a quick High Society game, but we didn’t get that — for the first time I had a full game, where the last doubler was the last card. I lost due to money, Ville had one million more. What a shame.

After a game of Crokinole we played the final game of the evening: a four-player game of Power Grid. It was a good game. I thought I was doing well, but then wasted too much money in the power plant market and when Olli surprised us by connecting his 17th city, I had fuel to power up 12 cities. I was expecting the game to end next turn… My bad, I had a good start which I blew. Olli played his cards well; congratulations are due. It was a good game, even though I lost, and that’s what matters in the end.

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One thought on “Board game club session: Spinergy, In the Shadow of the Emperor”

  1. Re: Shadow of the Emperor
    I’ve played it three times now and I still feel I haven’t figured anything out (well, except the obvious of course). At first it seemed to be a really cool game, but by now I’m not so sure.
    It still feels like: I do lots of stuff, other players do lots of stuff and then we count points… that’s ok when you play for the first time, but it should change after a while, shouldn’t it?

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