Chairman Mike did a fabulous job writing up our recent gaming weekend out on the coast, but I still wanted to share some of the impressions of the games I played. There were no stinkers in the entire batch and I had an amazingly fun time.
Command & Colors: Ancients
Mike and I managed to play 3 two-player games before anyone else arrived, and this was our first. I continue to rate this game very highly in terms of playability and speed - I haven't had a game run over an hour since my first play. I continue to have a hard time winning this game, and this one proved no exception.
One of my favorite 2-player card games. Mike plays faster than anyone I've played so far (in terms of laying down sets), so I was forced to adjust a bit and managed two have a huge scoring second round. This put me well out of reach in the third and I won easily. I think this was one of only 3 wins for me all weekend, but who's counting?
Combat Commander: Europe
We played a fairly bizarre scenario (#7?) with a randomized setup for the Russian player followed by a clustered setup by the German. This allowed me to position myself to cut off one of Mike's leaders and it was downhill most of the game for him from there. It didn't hurt that I was able to bring in a crack paratroop squad to steal a couple of control points on the other side of the board. This is still my favorite game of the year and I'll be anxiously awaiting the first expansion soon I expect.
Doug and Mimi taught this to me and I quite liked it. It had an Elfenland / King of the Elves feel to me with a few nice twists (such as card play similar to Havoc).
Julie and I are expecting to try this at the end of the game class we are teaching (it concludes just before spring break at the end of March) so I wanted to try this again. What a blast - I did poorly, but this is a great game that I need to play more often. I'm very concerned about teaching 3-5 graders the game and playing it within 50 minutes. I wonder if there are any simplified rules out there?
This game has been on my hope-to-try list for quite some time and I enjoyed it. Felt very much like a lighter version of Ys and I can see some real depth to the game. I'm fairly certain Matt won this one.
Canal Mania (x2)
The hit of the weekend for me, coming out twice with 5 players. The game is taking about 2 hours to play, which is a bit long. There's also enough downtime in the game to do 3 loads of laundry during two hours (trust me, I know...) so I think I'll prefer it with 3 players in the long run. I think with three experienced players we can get the time down to 1 hour. I did OK in both games, finishing about in the middle but very much in the running during the second game. I'm glad that the second edition is going to balance the benefits of construction and running goods, as I think there's way too much opportunity to get imbalanced scoring on goods as it is (especially if players aren't paying attention when putting goods out).
This was by far the longest game I played over the weekend, and while it was fun I didn't have the same great feeling as I did after 18FL and 1850 (maybe because I finished dead last?). I think Mimi was somewhat reluctant to play, but she played fabulously and beat us all. I was too tied into my major line and didn't get enough participation in some other quality rails.
Power Grid - Easter Europe
Power Grid is a game I still love but I'm just not very good at. The Eastern Europe map is quite different than most - very cheap raw goods but expensive connections.
Man, what a great game with miserable components. I'd love to do a rework of the graphical elements on this game and make it playable. I think I'm going to take a sharpie to the board and cards to make the regions distinguishable. Ken Crangle informed me later that we played wrong in a big way - one of the cards (Terror?) requires that the red faction be in charge in order to play, and we missed this. Boy, did we have a pile of generals' heads built up in the game box! Our last 2 battles went without a winner as a result, so this was a pretty broken game. Still fun though.
Saturday night I ran a quick session of Agon, an indie RPG set in Greek mythology. I stumbled a bit with the system and made a few mistakes (this was my first play), but I think everyone had a good time. Wes is a very experience role-player and did a great job as a player, adding good color text and helping prop me up when I struggled.
Die Säulen der Erde
Sunday after lunch Ken, Mike and I played this Essen release. I only played 1 turn of the game at Essen, standing in for Jim Ginn as he had to run off in the middle of game. So, I had a basic idea of the mechanics but no sense of strategy. Mike maintained a solid lead throughout the game, but I think I had a decent understanding of the economic system at play and made mostly good moves. Ken adopted a strategy of converting gold into victory points, and I'm not sure that's a winnable approach (though I'm glad he tried - it was interesting seeing the economics). I think I'll want to buy this one when Mayfair ships the English version in a month or two.