New game session: Farlander, Terra Nova

Once again I met Olli for games, this time focusing on new material. We started with Farlander, since Olli had just bumped into it in a shop. The game looks nice, and inside the pretty box lies a simple war game. It’s so simple and minimalistic that I’m having a hard time calling it a war game, actually — it’s themed on conflict and sure, pieces are beaten by other pieces, yet even Chess has more theme to its mechanisms.

The game is played on a small map formed of tiles to provide randomness. First players lay their pieces on the board (there are 24 areas and 36 pieces per player, which means three pieces per area if they are evenly distributed). Each area holds only pieces of one colour and only up to five pieces.

Then starts the war. Each turn a player must attack. You can attack, if you have more troops than your opponent. Opponent counts only the province you’re attacking, you can count every province adjacent to that province. You remove your opponent’s pieces and move in up to five pieces from neighbouring provinces, so that each area contains at least one piece after your move.

As you can see, the combat isn’t very realistic. Supreme force takes it all, with no losses. You only lose maneuverability, because a province with just one piece is fairly useless (it can support, but since you have to move troops to the new province, a group of one-troop provinces can’t attack).

It all kind of reminds me of Dvonn: two phases, the conquering moves which lead to decreasing maneuverability… it’s fairly superficial, but still, there’s a bit of a connection.

Is it fun? Not much, at least with two players. The first game was a tie, second was my victory after Olli made some blunders. There’s some strategy in it, or tactics, more than meets the eye first — the order of provinces to conquer is significant. However, I just can’t see an even match with two experienced players as very interesting.

With more players, it’s different. It’s very chaotic and tactical, I’d say, and I’m afraid it’s going to be even worse. Well, that’ll be seen when I try it. As our two-player games took just 10 minutes each or less, I’m willing to give it another go with more players. No more two-player games, however.

The game looks very nice, though. The pieces are cylinders and thus annoying; I’d prefer non-rolling cubes. It’s an interesting exercise in minimalism, and could be an interesting game for kids.

Next up was another new game, Terra Nova. The game sounds a lot like multi-player Amazons: you move your men on board, setting up borders and trying to divide the area into smaller lands.

I didn’t like Amazons much, so I guess it’s no surprise I didn’t enjoy Terra Nova either. The game is very open in the beginning — you’ve got a board full of men, but no borders set, so the game feels very open. It’s a bit tough for a newbie. As the game progresses and the borders are set, the decisions are constricted and the game gets easier to play.

I won’t play this again with two players. It just wasn’t fun. Terra Nova isn’t a bad game (it’s chock full of tactical decisions on how to make the best move on each turn), but it’s certainly one I don’t enjoy. I’m willing to try it with three players, though. I think that’s optimal, because there’s a point-sharing mechanism in play (area is scored by the player with most men inside, if multiple players are tied they split points), which doesn’t quite come into play with two players. With four, there’s way too much chaos for my tastes.

We wrapped up the session with three rounds of Battle Line, bringing my total games played count for that game over the 50 game milestone. Hooray! It’s a great game… I particularly enjyoed the last round, which was a clean 3-0 victory for me (I built 9-9-9, 10-10-10 and 6-6-6 in the middle).

(Edit: had to close commenting on this when the entry became a total spam-trap.)

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