We had a really good games weekend last weekend. Tommy came over Friday afternoon with a bunch of interesting games to try. We were joined on Saturday by Manu and Robert. After dinner Manu left, but was later replaced by Tommy’s wife Laura, who also happened to be in town.
Even though our flat turns to a sweaty hellhole during the Summer, it was fun for once to have a game weekend at our place instead of going somewhere else.
It was a pleasant weekend. I had a list of games I wanted to try, but most of those didn’t happen. In the other hand, I tried several new and interesting games and played many old favourites.
Instead of doing a chronological list, here’s some kind of overview of the weekend, in a descending order of interest. It’s such a big list and it takes too much time to write at once, so you’ll get several smaller installments.
Roads & Boats was the ultimate main even of the weekend. Tommy bought the game from Essen last year and finally we got around actually playing the game. It went surprisingly smooth: we had the pieces sorted in 15 minutes, Tommy explained the rules in 30 minutes and off we went. The game was over in under three hours, even though there were four of us and only Tommy had tried solitaire play before.
We had some mistakes, though. The worst was mixing up mountains and rocks (the rulebook doesn’t say which one is which explicitly), so instead of just doing quarries to get bricks, we had to make clay pits and stone factories. I also thought mining was impossible, until I realised our error. After that we got into mining, but we had already lost a lot of time.
That probably explains the fastness of our game. We built the wonder a lot. When the game ended, Manu and Robert had two pieces of gold, I had one and Tommy had just built his mine. Robert won the game with just 53 points. I was just few turns away from a mint, so without the initial mix-up with the terrain types, it would’ve been different.
It was fun, even though the game was over a bit prematurely. Tommy lost bad, despite his experience. I think that was because of his lack of respect for logistics. He was the only one to end the game with only donkeys (and a raft), while the rest of us had three wagons. Robert was the first one to breed donkeys, while I was the first one to build roads and wagons. They make a huge difference — even roads with donkeys help moving stuff a lot.
There are many things I would do differently the second time and that’s the unpleasant thing with this game — next game is probably in October. I want to play again now! What a game; despite its length, Roads & Boats is solid fun. It’s a bit hard to get these days, but I think I’m getting Antiquity instead. I guess it’s similar enough in scope and mechanics; it should be even faster and it’s definitely more easy to find. I’ll probably buy one at Essen.
Manila was a real surprise hit. I didn’t have great expectations, but found the game very pleasant. Sure, there are dice and they have a large role, but it’s not a luck-fest in my opinion. There’s room for probabilities and taking risks, which load a lot of good excitement in the die rolls.
I enjoy it, and will probably get it. I’m not sure how long it’ll last, but it should provide good entertainment for a while. I also like the bits, especially the coins. What a great idea to make them that dark, instead of bright colours — now the coins actually look like they’ve been in use for a long time. Neat effect.
We did use the game-shortening variant where the markers start one step further. Even though Franz-Benno Delonge doesn’t like that, I think it’s probably a good thing, as Manila doesn’t get any better if it’s longer.
Developing the factories is fun, but there’s one catch: the game really requires focusing in one aspect, and that sucks a bit of fun out of it. I’d like to do more balanced development, but that’s a sure way to lose the game. Perhaps some kind of bonus for more balanced development would allow for more diverse strategies — now, after the dismal failure in the first game I just ended up pushing the pollution levels down each game and that’s it.
So, as the game is in that little interaction camp some people don’t like and as the game’s also a bit bland, I can see why it hasn’t garnered more following. I do think it’s a pleasant little game and I’ll probably get it, too, so I can show it to the folks at Jyväskylä, who should enjoy it as well.
Memoir ’44 was the two-player game favourite of the weekend. I haven’t played it much, and neither had Tommy. Well, now we fixed that problem with five games. We played five different scenarios, too, to get a better picture of what the scenario book can offer.
The best scenario so far is the last one, Saverne Gap, Vosges. It’s a really exciting match-up, with rather clever terrain effects. Overall, I found the scenarios interesting — there’s lots of good design there. For example the Mont Mouchet, which might look like a clear case for Axis: they have Tigers against the French Resistance. However, the heavily forested terrain turns the tables as the French troops can move around with no troubles, while the tanks are nearly useless as the French forces keep to the woods.
It’s all very exciting and I’m not at all bothered by the luck element. I know I had some really good luck with the dice, and then some worse, but it all pans out pretty well in the long run and it really adds to the excitement of the game.