Tuesday, August 5, 2014

3rd August: Much fun pimping and brain melting was done!

Our friend from USA is back with new games so that definitely warrants a gaming session. That and also I don't have many gaming sessions left with my friends in Singapore (only 2 more weekends left!) so definitely wanted to get as much gaming in as I can. It will probably be quite some time before I see them again! *sob*... :P

So many things to build but so little money... sigh
First up is City Council which plays 3-5 from Golden Egg games. I saw this on display at GENCON 2013 and it looked interesting but I was not too sold on it then and they were not running any demos I believe. Anyway, I managed to borrow a copy from a friend to try and we played a 3 player game of this. Essentially players are trying to manage a city together and ensure it does not get overly populated OR criminalized else everyone loses. At the same time, they are trying to gain points by fulfilling the needs of certain interest groups in the city. A player reaching 11 points will trigger the end of game and at the end of that round, whoever has the most points will win the game.

I think this works best with 5. With 3, we found some council roles were not used because we did not want
to give advantage (extra favor cards) to anyone. The proposing aspect was a little bit of an exercise in futility too because we all knew which buildings/actions we need to do for the city to survive and we will usually just go along with it. Money was surprisingly tight in our game and the flood of blue collared workers was alarming which we tried our best to set them all to work. That in turn though produced too many goods, which we could not use effectively and some pollution. It was only near the end that we manage to generate power but that was also not very effective because we did not have many zones completely filled in for the use of energy to be effective and we ended up with way too much energy. The most critical decision came at the last round because I was trying to manipulate the other 2 opponents to execute the buildings I want so that I can score enough points to bring me to 12 (we were ALL at 10 points at this time) but I could not do it without potentially jeopardizing the city. In the end, someone else won with just that 1 point to cause the game to end and win the game.
Art is ok and the game is very thematic. The buildings all make thematic sense and I especially love the prison where you can get the criminal elements in your city to work for you twice before they are reformed. I had originally thought this was a Sim-city style game but realized its more of a city management game. In this aspect, it reminds me of Archipelago which was largely frowned upon by my gaming groups mainly because of the "if I can't win, then no one else shall win!" mentality adopted by many. I did not have this feeling going into this game but I can see how this can be exploited. So while I may try this game again, I think there are some flaws in the game that will push me away.

Our brains melted as we chugged along to this 3-4 hour game!
Next up, we have 5 players and we jumped into a meaty game of Kohle & Kolonie. I have heard quite a bit of this game and its predecessor (Ruff something ;p ) and really wanted to try this but never managed to get a copy because buying it and shipping it to Singapore will be costly. So I was tempting my friend who went back to USA to grab a copy and I was excited to hear that he did :)
This is a BEAR to explain and go through. My goodness the original rules are chunky and do have some errors and I am so glad someone posted an unofficial rewrite of the rules which I heartily recommend to anyone who attempts to play this game... that is until I post my How to Play video ;p I will suggest that you play the first round of the game as you explain as it will be much more easier for players to grasp the concepts rather than explain EVERYTHING to them before the game starts. Also, I recommend trying to be as thematic as you can when explaining as it will help in understanding the game.
Players are mining companies trying to speculate by purchasing mines and improving technologies. Players can also distribute their miners along various train lines on the board while obtaining steam engines (not trains mind you!) and minimizing their exposure risks to mining disasters.
The game is played over 5 rounds with many phases in between the rounds but essentially 2 action rounds for players to perform. At the end, there will be some end game scoring and the player with the most points will win the game. I will not go into too much details of the game as I think I will cover them in my video so I will just touch on some of the good and bad points of the game.
Setup can be quite tedious especially if everything is not separated clearly. This game will definitely benefit from nice segregated foam trays or bags. You will also have to seed the grey workers on the board. Each player will also have many boards to arrange in front of them so this game requires quite a bit of table space.
Art work is functional but questionable. Using similar looking faces but different facing (one left, one right) to denote workers and miners (players' cubes) could have been addressed to make things clearer for everyone. There are some typos as well. Luckily once you have played the game once, everything will become crystal clear.
Rules is definitely one of the pain points in the game and it made me really appreciate games that have very clear and intuitive rulebooks.
Other than the above pain points, the game was a blast to play. There are quite a lot of things you can do and I suspect many avenues to score points in the game. While it was only 2 actions per round, you can obtain bonus actions that you can choose to use each round but if you hold on to them, are worth 4 points each at the end of the game. The game does go faster in the later rounds as players become more used to the flow of the game and can plan ahead as to what they want to do. Money is also incredibly tight in the game and when Consolidation comes around from Round 3 onwards, it can be very painful to be lacking in money. There is much interaction between players as well because certain technologies when upgraded will make it more costly for everyone to build settlements or buy steam engines. Players with mines in a same region will also be competing for Consolidation because not only will they convert their small mine(s) into a large mine and therefore scoring points, they may also stand to win all the steam engines (including those from other players!). Disasters are kind of fun because players hope their discs do not get drawn out of a bag if they could not protect all their minds. So we were chanting our opponents' colors when drawing the disc.
Initially I felt it was up to me to stop people as I had a hand in a lot of mines but I could not fight all of them during consolidation so felt sad when I had to lose the small mines for a miserable 2 points each. We had a player who was scoring 10 points each round due to having a LOT of wagons which we felt it was kind of imbalanced but I ended the game with a surprising 2nd after another player failed to consolidate successfully and lost 3 steam engines for a painful 15 points. I also swooped in last minute to have a complete Yellow Track for 12+7 = 19 points in the end. I ended at 126 but was about 30+ points behind the leader. I cannot wait to try this again (very soon too! :P) and hopefully I can have some video up before I fly for New York! RECOMMENDED!

so Guests my Geisha serviced are placed on top of the Geisha.. *GRIN*

Last game of the night was Mai-star. Now I have played Seiji's original version with the art I like and I wanted to try the latest AEG one. I must say that the art is equally impressive (even more so perhaps?) and with the english text it does make the game easier to understand, explain and play.
We played 3 rounds and much banter and naughty jokes were made. I know Geishas are not meant to perform services in "that" way but we could not help it and made jokes about Guests placement and how we are concerned for them and did not want the Sumo wrestler being serviced by our Geisha that sort of thing. Well we also just finished a brain burning game of Kohle & Kolonie so you have to forgive us :P
There are some cards in the game that seem a little imbalanced especially the one that allows you to discard your entire hand and thus ending the round. We managed to overload our friend with too many cards and end the round before he could use it though, thus giving him negative 20 points in the final round for a total of minus 5. Great fun and a very light filler. Seiji did it again with Mai-star in my opinion! RECOMMENDED!

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