Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Essen '13 - On the Radar - Amerigo

If you listen to our podcast you will know that I very much enjoy a lot of Stefan Feld’s game designs. I find that his games are pretty tight and often involve difficult decisions about what you want to achieve in-game. And not to forget, the oft “I want to do everything” feeling while playing his games.

Well, Essen marks the release of his fourth and final game of 2013 – Amerigo.

The main mechanic that the game revolves around is the cube tower. Cube towers have been used in games before but in Amerigo its function is radically different.
In Amerigo’s case, the cube tower is the determining source of all the actions available to the players each phase of game.

During each phase, cubes are thrown into the tower and whatever comes out of it determines 2 important factors for that particular phase
1) What type of actions may be executed
2) How many action points are available to the players

In turn order, players will then decide which of the available actions to execute and whether to utilize all their action points on that one particular action. This happens 7 times a round for 5 rounds before the game is over.

This may all sound pretty random with colored cubes tumbling out of the tower, but that’s not exactly the case. The 7 phases of a round are all tagged to the 7 different colored cubes. So each phase only cubes of that particular color are going to be tossed into the tower. This means that it’s much more likely that that particular color of cubes is going to fall into the tray. However, with other colored cubes already seeded in the tower, you can never be sure.

Throughout the game, players are trying to control areas by building ports and villages which give out points based on the island’s size. Other things that players may do are collecting sets of resources & scoring markers, acquiring gold, and also increasing their firepower to fight off the end of round pirate threat. There are special progress tokens that can be obtained which grant players benefits that may be either a one time use, permanent, or end of game only.

Now, you may think that I am most certainly looking forward to it and am excited to see how good it is, but, on the contrary, Amerigo is making me feel slightly cautious and unoptimistic.

I don’t like the abstract area control parts of the game, along with the whole dice tower action selection mechanic. It sounds fiddly with each phase requiring tossing and sorting of cubes rather than concentrating on actual gameplay. The inability to plan ahead of time may also slow the game down considerably.

There also isn’t much in the game that falls under categories of things I like or look for in games, except for the progress markers which give special benefits. I do enjoy set collection as part of games but when it’s tagged to exploring and area control, hmmm, not very certain about that.

Still, it’s considered on my radar as I am hoping to give it a try just to see if my fears are unfounded. The 3 other designs from Feld this year have been pretty good, so I think the fourth and final one should be given a chance despite my somewhat lack of enthusiasm about it from what I have read and seen so far.
And, considering it’s a huge box game, not trying it at Essen may mean I may never have the chance to give it a whirl in the future. 


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