I saw Wilco in Bend on Saturday night. Check out some nice photos at this guy's Flickr set. This might be the best concert I've ever seen. The last time I saw Jeff Tweedy live was in the Cicero's basement bar in 1989 while attending Washington University. I will try not to ever miss him again if lands anywhere close to Portland.
Summary: A promising game that suffers from poor components and a turn sequence that I'm afraid will lead far too often to draws. It just doesn't stack up well to other 2 player abstracts on my shelf, notably the GIPF series and Ingenious.
Mechanics: Players alternate placing tiles from their hand on the game board grid to influence the movement of four different dragons. The goal is to have one of the dragons attack your opponent's home base while protecting your own base. The tiles are Asian themed (think Chinese dragons) and usually either draw a dragon closer or push a dragon away, allowing players to force the dragon to approach certain areas of the board.
Components: The game would shine with quality wooden components for the dragons and home bases, but instead the publisher provided scored cardboard to fold and shape into the appropriate pieces. As a publisher I can relate to the manufacturing choice - I'm sure it was a cost factor. The board and tiles are very decent quality.
Thoughts on the Game: Jacob and I played two games, each to draws, and came away feeling a little bored and disappointed. One issue is the player sequence - the first player always places a tile first, followed by the other player. Then the dragons move. This means the second player always gets to respond to the first. I don't like this flow in abstract games - nothing wrong with a first or second player advantage, but the break in flow to move the dragons magnifies the effect throughout the game.
I'm sure if we played several more games we would have found some solid strategies, but in both of our plays (we alternated start player) we found it far too easy for the second player to play defensively and force a draw. If you want a game that involves some randomness with tile draws combined with solid abstract play, stick to Ingenious.
Next weekend I'll be spending about 3.5 days in Sunriver with Doug and crowd at his "WBC West" event. This will involve mostly wargaming with a little bit of lighter fare thrown in at nights. Doug and I will also be seeing Wilco play in Bend on Saturday night.
Going to an event like this where I'll be playing new (to me) wargames requires some preparation. Two games I want to play are Napoleonic Wars and FAB:Bulge. At a minimum preparation means setting up the game and working through a sample solitaire turn or two, but Jacob's eyes lit up when I suggested we play a wargame on Saturday afternoon / evening. He chose Napoleonic Wars and I set out to read enough of the rules to get us started. I let Jacob play the French - slightly less to manage in a 2 player game as he starts off only controlling France and Spain, while the coalition player runs Russia, Great Britain, and Austria.
As expected the first few rounds were slow going. A round consists of a series of impulses (usually card plays) by each nation in a fixed order. Like many other card-driven games (CDGs), the player usually has the choice of activating an event or playing the card for operation points which can be used for movement, drafting new troops, and influencing diplomatic relations. Jacob turned east from the start, marching Napoleon's army towards Austria. I had to respond by gathering Austrian forces and bringing Russian troops in to reinforce, ultimately joining the Austrians and Russians together in a single army. Meanwhile, the British harassed the French and Spanish in the seas, taking control of the Atlantic and Med by the 3rd round or so.
We got sidetracked later Saturday evening watching the Olympics and resumed our play on Sunday morning. We knew we would get one turn in max after the first turn ended, so when the peace phases came up and we had to choose how many cards to give up to influence the die roll, I had a choice to make. Jacob was in the lead by one point by virtue of a key he took in his last move in Austria and sacrificed a card to add one to the peace roll (if a 6 is rolled on a single D6 the game ends). I could have given up 2 cards from any of the 3 countries I controlled, but opted to give up just a single card and let the die roll, knowing we would have to end the game anyway. Of course a 6 was rolled and the game ended with Jacob victorious - not a satisfying ending but appropriate. We learned enough to get down most of the mechanics and Jacob looks forward to another play. I also still need to introduce him to Hannibal.