Sunday, December 3

Session Report: Beyond Monopoly

Yesterday I spent the day at Beyond Monopoly for the first time in a couple of months. I'd missed the last few due to family commitments, holidays and production. It felt good to be back.

As I arrived, Andy, Alan and Rob were going to play Saboteur by Frederic Moyersoen, and they offered me a seat. By the time we'd got the game set up Adrian, Mike and Paul D had joined in too. We played a single round, then Adrian, Mike and Paul left to play Oltre Mare. Fortunately we were able to pick up Wolfgang, Kevin and Keith who filled the seats. We eight played another two rounds. I'm still not convinced about Saboteur, I like the idea of two teams both playing co-operatively against each other, I like the idea of hidden roles so that you don't know who is one your side. But somehow it just doesn't seem to come together. I spent large periods of the rounds with no useful cards to play, and even when I did I couldn't play a card which would keep my role secret. It was alright, but I'm not enamoured of it. Final scores: Rob 8, Andy 7, Alan 6, Adrian 3, Mike 3, Me 3, Wolfgang 2, Kevin 0, Keith 0.

My second game of the day was Modern Art an auction game by Reiner Knizia. Rob, Alan and I were nearly joined by Hugo of Bode Gueims, but he sat out in the end to let Jeff and his Wife (whose name I've forgotten) play with us. I'd not played Modern Art before, and I enjoyed it - it covers an awful lot of different types of auction as you bid for works by different artists, trying to gauge which artist will be the most popular. It's very interesting, as you get to choose which paintings to offer for sale, and then bid for them - bearing in mind that the money you spend goes to the person who is offering the painting. I didn't think much of the artwork, the Pop Art ones were ok, the rest were crap though. It's hard to gauge how much to pay, Rob, Alan and I were fairly conservative in our spending while Jeff and his Wife spent money like water. In the end it paid off for them: Jeff 462, Jeff's Wife 444, Me 391, Rob 358, Alan 242.

Over our lunch break I introduced Alan to Hive and we played a couple of games. I really like Hive, it appears so simple on the face of it, but with so many choices to make it's surprisingly deep. I managed to beat Alan twice, but I'd imagine now he's got a couple of games under his belt he'll beat me fairly soon.

After lunch Alan (who was fast turning into my games chum of the day) wanted something a bit meatier. It was time to break out one of Jon's freebies. Jon had tried to prise some free games out of publishers at Essen for the club - it worked - he came back with sixty-odd. We chose Shogun by Dirk Henn, a re-themed version of Wallenstein.

We were joined by Hugo, Paul and Andrew for a 5-player. After punching it out we started going through the rules, since none of us had played it before. The rules seemed a little intimating, and there were lots of components but the pieces looked beautiful and I'd heard good things about Wallenstein (it's ranked very highly on BoardGameGeek. After the first turn it was pretty straightforward, and I really enjoyed it - the theme helped, I'm a big fan of feudal Japan as a setting for games, books and films. There was a nice balance of combat and resource management. I'm not convinced about the battle-tower as a method for resolving combat, but it's a nice component so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for now. At the end of the first year I was winning, having a lot of territories, and a good mix of buildings, however in the second round I lost a few territories and was pipped at the post by Paul. Final scores: Paul 47, Me 45, Hugo 43, Alan 40 and Andrew 24.

The final game of the day was a nice quick game of Diamant by Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti. Paul had to leave, so it was just Alan, Andrew, Hugo and I.

I'd played this before at Paul's games night so I knew what to expect. It's a fast and fun press-your-luck filler. We played the five mines, with Hugo building up a fairly unassailable lead early on. The middle mines were really unlucky drawing lots of disasters right at the beginning. After a few cards I was the only person left in the last mine, again we'd had a lot of disasters so the others pulled out. I chose to stay in and try to beat Hugo's score, but I quickly hit another disaster and lost everything. Final scores: Hugo 68, Andrew 36, Alan 24, Me 21.

It was a really good day - I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the evening I did some construction, finishing the boxes for the next batch.


andyb said...

Nice report. Shame we didn't get to play more games together.. but it sounds like you kept Al busy anyway.

I guess I'm never going to convince you about saboteur... granted it has plenty of flaws, and couldn't approach being a balanced game if it tried, but it's just so much fun, and really it's the table talk that makes the game.

Jack said...

I agree that the table talk adds a lot to the game, but the game itself just doesn't quite sit right with me, it's too hard to hide your nature, and so I just feel the game could have been better - not that I can think of a way to make it work though!

I like Guillotine for this type of play (quick and light for a large number of players).

hmocc said...

I didn't try Saboteur, so I'm not going to comment on that.

On the games I played (Shogun, Diamant) I was a bit disappointed with both. I think it's the hype that surrounds the games - and I am a sucker for hyped games - that ruins the experience.

Shogun is a good game, but to me, on Saturday it felt a bit like a glorified Risk, playable in 2 hours, maynly because it didn't seem very challenging.

I liked the management aspect of the game and the bidding for the privileges, but I think that we played the rice/revolt rules wrongly, as with every rice "collection" a revolt marker should have been issued. But I just thought about it later on.

Because it wasn't, all of us were constantly using the (same) highest rice producing regions to "avoid" revolts in Winter, and this made our lives really easy.

I think that is a rule we need to clarify in future plays, as if it goes as I think it does, the game will become more difficult, with more agonizing decisions to make. Thus much more interesting and rewarding.

Diamant was worse, as it felt clumsy and with no difficult decisions. And my luck was spot on, much to my surprise. Diamant is obviously a children's game. To me, even a filler game has to engage me thoroughly, which Diamant didn't.

The other games I played were Mensa (Ingenious - R. Knizia), Urland (sequel to Ursuppe), H!T'sMF! (or Penguins), and Cartagena. These, I really enjoyed Mensa - really good abstract - and Urland (very clever). Cartagena was ok and Penguins I already knew and love.

Jack said...

Yeah, I found on the Geek that we'd got the revolt rules wrong - my interpretation seemed wrong as I was reading them but it wasn't clear how it should work - but you're right - a revolt marker every time you claim rice or war chests. This would have made the game much more tight, with decisions about where to harvest being more thought provoking.

I like Diamant, it's simple, and requires very little thought - it's all down to luck, and whether you've got the guts to ride it out. If you're after a strategic game I'd go elsewhere.

I love H!TMF! too, it's a great game, but I've not played Urland (or Ursuppe for that matter), Ingenious or Cartagena - next time!

It was good to see you again Hugo - next time you, Jeff and I can have th Border Reivers re-match we keep talking about...

hmocc said...

I'll be looking forward to that! Behold and beware of the Portuguese reiving party!!!

Jack said...

You're on :-) But I don't remember the Portuguese getting involved ;-)

AndyB said...

Al said he wasn't that taken with Shogun either... he said that by the end of the game the board looked very similar to how it had started, except for one player I think.
I should probably mention to him about the revolt rules.

Diamant is a fun filler, but I found it grew old and stale very quickly... I'd much rather play 'you know what', though I will still play diamant.

I was disappointed with Urland.. perhaps because I got quite screwed over and was always a long way behind the others. It all seemed to be too much of a gamble to me, and beginning the game with two turns doing nothing didn't help.

H!TMF! and Cartagena were good, as were Through the Desert, Red Planet and Fiji.