Thursday session: Dolmengötter, Vegas Showdown, Tarot

Die Dolmengötter box

Die Dolmengötter is an ugly game. The theme is also silly: the game is abstract as heck, and while I understand that theming it must’ve been a real struggle, one wonders if this is a game that should simply be an abstract without any attempt at theme. Thomas Odenhoven’s other game, Portobello Market, works better in this respect (though Dolmengötter is the better game of the two in any other sense).

These minor problems make the game rather unattractive and I skipped it back in Essen 2005. I’ve been interested in it along the way, every now and then, mostly thanks to JC Lawrence’s comments on Geek, and when Tommy had it for sale, I bought it. The game hit the table yesterday and was a success, at least in my opinion.

I played the game twice, with three and four players. The idea is fairly simple and the rules are pleasantly easy to explain. Druids run around the board dropping stones on the stone places that are on the border between the different areas on the board. Once a player has a majority of stones around an area, he gets to place his dolmen in the area. To get a majority, one needs opponents: one stone alone isn’t enough.

Once someone has a majority, another player can equalize. In that case the player places a dolmen, but it goes under the stack of dolmens. So, whenever a player gets a majority, dolmen goes on top of the pile and when equalizing, the dolmens go under the stack. What’s that all about, then, I hear you ask.

Well, once an area is complete (or game is over), the stack is scored. Each dolmen has a point value (1-4 points) and that is multiplied by a factor depending from the location in the stack. Top of the stack gets highest factor (up to 5x), while bottom of the stack is worth less. So, a dolmen can be worth one point (1×1) or twenty points (5×4) depending on where it is.

It’s all very interesting, and figuring out the best way to place the stones and the dolmens isn’t easy. Players need help from others, because the worst thing you can do is just place your stones in circles where nobody else goes, they’re wasted there all alone. To get cooperation, you need incentives, because nobody isn’t going to just help you without getting anything for themselves.

What’s best, the game can be played in 20-30 minutes. It moves fast and left me wanting more. I’ll be carrying this one around on Thursday nights for a medium filler purposes because the rules are so easy to teach. I’ll have to try JC Lawrence’s variant at some point.

Vegas Showdown box

Vegas Showdown was the other new game I wanted to try and we got that done as well. This one took about 60 minutes to play with three players, which was nice. The rule book isn’t very good, I found it frustratingly vague about certain things, but we were able to play the game without any problems.

It’s good. Players buy stuff from auction, in an attempt to improve their casino hotels. When you buy stuff, you get more revenue and population in your hotel and you also try to collect as much fame as possible. I like they way income is based on lower of revenue and population, which makes raising income a slow progress. The feedback loop is very mellow.

I like the game. We had a close game, too, all players within six points and a minor change would’ve changed the final order (I won). While the game was close, it perhaps lacked tension a bit, but that might be because we had just three players. Vegas Showdown feels like a family version of an engine game, perhaps, in many respects. I think the game would work pretty well with non-gamers as well, thanks to the very attractive theme. For more hardened gamers, it’s more of a relaxing little snack.

Still, it’s a good game and certainly worth the 20 euros or so I paid.

We finished off with few hands of Slovenian Tarok. I think this was the first time I ended the game on positive points? Out of the four hands we played, I took the lead in three. First one I lost, second won after lots of excitement about the identity of my partner and in the third one, I rocked. The first five cards or so I saw of my hand included all the three major trumps.

I chose to play solo three, which I won easily (well, 42 card points, which was enough), scoring a declared Trula and undeclared (and I wonder why) pagat ultimo for a total of 91 points. Sweet. So this is how it feels like to have a hand of good cards…

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