Board game club: Age of Steam, End of the Triumvirate

Box front: Age of Steam

It’s been a while since my last visit to the board game club. Yesterday I was able to go, and had enough time, too, to play some heavier games. We started with Age of Steam: Mississippi Steamboats, one of Ted Alspach’s expansions. It’s a long and narrow board, split by the big river. Urbanization doesn’t turn towns to cities, but adds new cities to the river as steamboats. Goods can be moved to the boats, from the boats and cross the river through the boats. On the banks, distances between cities are fairly long.

It’s a strange expansion. It was fun, but the boats are quite random (they move 2d6 hexes each turn), so you can’t really count on them — which was, sort of, the point of my strategy. I did a marvellous move on the last turn, though: I carried a blue cube from a city to the steamboat next to the city — but took the cube for a ride, passing it first south by the river, then across the river on a different steamboat, then up the river on the other bank and from there to the waiting steamboat, for six links. Pretty neat!

So, not a bad expansion, but not one of my favourites, either. Mississippi Steamboats doesn’t make my "this one needs to be played again" list right now.

Ubongo box

I played the big Ubongo — actually first time with the correct rules. Last time I played, we picked up the gems after the timer had run out, in a peaceful and ordered fashion. I prefer the more hectic version. The guys who I played with deserve some credit: they hadn’t played before, but opted for the more difficult version straight away.

End of the Triumvirate box

After some quick card games (Coloretto, good fun after a long break and Briscola, which was pretty good with just two), it was time for The End of the Triumvirate, which I bought from Tommy last Spring. Now I got it on the table!

It’s a three-player semiwargame set in the ancient Rome, where Caesar, Pompeius and Crassus duke it out, fighting for the ultimate power in Rome. There are three paths to victory: military dominance, political power and gaining superior competence. The players move their character, leading legions and collecting money. Battles are simple affairs: one-for-one attrition battles with a small random element included to spice things up.

It’s a clean, neat game and rather well done. It’s just that I don’t really like the genre… The whole concept of preventing other players from winning the game as the main purpose of the game just doesn’t work for me. Here it’s almost ok, as the game is forced to progress and end fairly soon (it can’t just go on forever, which would make it really, really bad), so yeah, I could see myself playing this again — it was sort of fun. However, this one goes to the trade pile. Good game, sure, but not for me.

Zooloretto

Zooloretto box frontReview of Zooloretto in Finnish.

Zooloretto is the latest game in the Coloretto family. This zoo-themed family game is based on a familiar mechanism that works so well in the small card game. This big box board game turned out be another success for Michael Schacht.

A simple idea

The basic idea is the same: there are eight kinds of animals, and players try to collect only some of them. The animals you collect go to your zoo, where you have room for three different kinds of animals (four, if you expand). Extra animals go to your stables, where they’ll hurt your score in the end. There’s limited room even for those animals you want, so you better be careful.

Players are faced with simple decisions each turn: do you take a cart and the tiles (animals, coins and stalls) in it, or do you draw another tile to add to the carts? There’s a cart per player and each cart holds three tiles. If you take a cart, you’re out until everybody else has taken a cart and a new round begins.

Of course you try to set yourself up with the best possible carts, but more often it’s really about setting other players up with as miserable set as possible. The first turn will be somewhat random, but after that things get interesting. There’s a definite mean side to the game!

Additional details

That’s the basic mechanism, but there are other things. I mentioned coins: you can use them to expand your zoo, move animals around and buy animals from other players’ stables. Collecting coins gives you flexibility. Stalls help with scoring, both by themselves and by allowing the scoring of enclosures with only few animals in them (regularly only full or almost full enclosures score).

Finally, there are babies. Some animals are fertile males, some fertile females (most just aren’t fertile) and if the two meet in the same enclosure, a baby animal is born. That’s cute, and what’s most important, influences the values of the animal tiles in an interesting way.

These extra features spice up the game. They’re quite elegant, too, the game doesn’t feel clunky. The money actions could use a memory aid on the player boards, but play a game or two and they aren’t a problem anymore.

Overview

As a result, there’s a game that’s clever, simple, has some nice interaction between players but nothing too major and looks cute, too. Clear Spiel des Jahres material, and no wonder it was a finalist (and my bet for the big winner!). The game works with the full scale of 2-5 players, but the two-player game is slightly dull and the five-player game has bit of downtime, so I’d say it’s best with three or four.

Zooloretto with two

Zooloretto box frontI got a review copy of Zooloretto, latest entry to the Coloretto family. It’s out now in Finnish (with Swedish, Norwegian and Danish rules included). The box was bigger than I expected, a full Kosmos-size box. Cute panda!

The game isn’t a ripoff, but something quite clever. In its heart lies the basic Coloretto system: you either add to the sets or take one. The aim is to collect lots of certain types of items and avoid others. Here you are filling your zoo with animals, and the extra animals are bad for you.

There are some twists, though. You can shuffle the animals around a bit using money, you can buy extra space or even the animals someone else has deemed unnecessary and stored away — you can get necessary critters, but at the same time you help your opponent.

I played with Johanna and the two-player game worked pretty well. Nothing spectacular, but I expect the multi-player game to be better. The game seems quite good, really, as a family game. There’s some interaction between players, but nothing too nasty — though the game has a mean streak somewhere there.

Geschenkt

A new review is up at my Finnish game site: Geschenkt. I’ve reached ten plays fairly quickly with this one, mostly because nobody is satisfied with just one play. It’s always hey, I got it, let’s play again — that alone is a sign of a good game. And that’s it, pretty much: Geschenkt is … Continue reading Geschenkt

Finnish Players’ Picks 2004

Ok, finally: Finnish Players’ Picks 2004 voting is over, votes have been tallied and I can announce the results: Puerto Rico wins, again. Carcassonne is second and catches up, losing only by two votes. Once again, there’s a GeekList of the top games (here’s last year’s list). The whole list can be seen at the … Continue reading Finnish Players’ Picks 2004

Board game club session

Our board game club session yesterday started a bit slowly, with only four players present for a long time. However, that was really not a problem, because four people is quite enough to play good games and more gamers trickled in during the afternoon. My first game was a two-player match of Crokinole. It was … Continue reading Board game club session

Lahti Board Game Weekend, Saturday

After less-than-well slept night (maybe the real-size Space Marine helmets I slept next to haunted my sleep?) it was a new day and new games. The breakfast — eggs, bacon, french fries — was sturdy and sure to clog arteries. That’s just nice. The first game of the morning was a classic — Dragon’s Gold. … Continue reading Lahti Board Game Weekend, Saturday

Weekend games, Sunday

Sunday began with a game of Mamma Mia! with the kids. They’ve become fans quickly, I guess I’ll just have to keep on taking the game with me from now on. I’d also throw a guess that it’s going to appear on the next Adam Spielt order, too… Land Unter, here are the kids. Kids, … Continue reading Weekend games, Sunday

Wednesday Games, part 7: Mü, Tichu

Another pleasant session of Wednesday games! I started with a game of Balloon Cup with Erkka, who was first to arrive. He also won that game… While we were at it, Olli and Vesa arrived. They played a game of East-West while waiting for us to finish. Olli had to leave for a while, but … Continue reading Wednesday Games, part 7: Mü, Tichu

Coloretto

Finnish visitors can go read my Finnish review of Coloretto. English visitors can just read on. Coloretto is a rather nice little game. It’s a very simple game, one of those one-minute rules games. You can teach the rules in a minute and once you’ve heard them, you can throw away the rules — they … Continue reading Coloretto