I’ve been on vacation this week, and took the opportunity to have a small game session in a local pub. It was a decent environment for games, though there was exactly two tables on the non-smoking side that were lit well enough. Not an ideal environment, and if possible, I’ll still prefer places where you don’t have to buy anything (like the big university cafe I’ve frequented).
New games and review copies was the theme of the day. We started with Tower of Babel, which I traded from Tero in Helcon. This Reiner Knizia game hadn’t impressed Tero at all, but I quite liked it.
The offering mechanism makes the building quite interesting. All players are constantly involved and the decisions are delicious. The games strategies seem subtle, and I’m very much looking forward to playing this more. I’ve rated it initially as an eight, but it could be nine with more plays.
One thing is clear, though: the action cards must go. I found their influence in the game somewhat disturbing. Their effects are just too random. Also, I’m not sure why completing the wonders should be rewarded like that. Well, the rumour says the action cards weren’t a part of Knizia’s original design, which I can believe. Anyway, removing them is the simplest thing and improves the game in my opinion.
The game had pretty huge point spreads while we played, but got somewhat closer in the end. Ilari managed a big lead in the end, though, winning the game 90-77-63-61.
Next up was Aqua Romana. I had played it in Essen last year, and now got it as a review copy when it arrived to the Finnish market.
With two players, the game didn’t impress me much, but it isn’t better with four. The game becomes quite a chaotic affair. There were also a bit too many turns with no moves or just one possible move, which pretty much removes all feeling of control. Nobody liked the game much, I think. I’m selling it.
Juho was doing pretty badly, missing lots of turns, but in the end, he got one good worker going, which rescued him from the last place. Ilari, who did much better during the whole game, ended up last for some reason. Interesting.
I wanted to try Celtica with more than two players. I had my expectations — not very good — but I was quite surprised: it was actually quite good!
I mean, of course the four-player game has a bit more chaos and less turns per player than the two-player game, but it also has more timing challenges and more excitement. Our game was definitely exciting! The game is lucky, but there’s also risk management and a bit of a gambling.
I still think the game is better with less players, but it’s not bad with four. It’s probably best with three (like so many games — Aqua Romana is another where I think this applies — two is strategic but perhaps a bit bland, four or more is chaotic and three is the sweet spot).
Juho had to leave, but the rest of us remained to play a game of Der Elefant im Porzellanladen, the new filler card game from Michael Schacht. After first game, I’d say the game is chaotic, funny and ok; not great, but quite good.
The rules had a flaw: they don’t mention what happens when the elephant cards run out (which will happen). We chose the obvious way and reshuffled the deck, but it was very annoying when the rules had nothing about it (particularly as the rules earlier said the elephant cards are removed from the game).
Despite this flaw the game was fun. I particularly like the scoring system: there are four categories and four scorings, and each scoring you choose one category to score (worst card in each colour, best card in each colour, total of one colour, total of all cards). That’s clever.