Halesowen Board Gamers #17 (04/06/14)

On arrival, a couple of games already seemed to be out on tables indicating what people wanted to play. Neither Power Grid (Although I don’t know that it was actually played in the end) or Legendary really interest me (Tzol’kin…I’d probably enjoy actually playing but it just doesn’t stand out). There just seemed to be myself and Ian having not jumped into a game, so I suggested we play a game of Hive while waiting to see if anyone else turned up.

Hive

I didn’t notice however that James was also not in a game, so he came over to join us. As Hive is 2 player, I suggested Ian/James play against each other instead with myself being a spectator, as it’s quite a short one and I was interested in how others approach the game. In Hive, players have a number of hex tile ‘bugs’ with various movement styles. If they can surround the opposing players queen (With any combination of their opponents/their own tiles), that player wins. Each turn players either place or move (Although they can’t move until their queen is placed, which must be done by the 4th turn), with placement having to be next to their own colour (black/white) tile and not next to their opponents (So you have to start pieces away from the target and use their movement to get them in).

Being their first game, neither James nor Ian seemed to go for any particular strategy, although there was a lot of use of grasshoppers I wasn’t expecting (Grasshoppers jump over a line of pieces), with ants coming out quite late (Ants are one of the more versatile pieces, which can move almost anywhere, though not into tight gaps which beetles/grasshopppers can). Both their beetles (Moves 1 at a time, but can go up on top of the hive, which also allows for ‘disabling’ tiles when its’ on top of them) got placed opposite a gap in a sort of stand-off, as I think if either had moved their beetle the other would have jumped there’s on top (My fault for mentioning you could do that during explaining probably).

It wasn’t too long before players started getting their pieces around their opponents queen. James made use of his queens movement to escape getting trapped before it could happen, while Ian mostly ignored his (queen) bee, leaving almost none of his own pieces surrounding it (Which I think is a fair thing to do, but you probably need to be capturing the enemies quickly or reducing how many pieces the other player has available considerably to get away with it). As Ian left it to be trapped however, he quickly ran out of non-defensive moves he could make, and while he made some pretty cool blocks on movement was unable to stop the last grasshopper jump into the remaining space by his queen, leaving victory to James.

I think it’s a really interesting game (I picked it up at the UK Games Expo btw), which has more strategy than I was mentally giving it credit for whenever I’ve seen it in the past (I mean…it’s just a few tiles, it’s hardly the biggest footprint of game ^^). I’ve only played 4 times but look forward to playing it lots and hopefully inducing some healthy competition with others as I do so!

Boss Monster

Nobody extra turned up, so our next port of call was to jump into Boss Monster, the Dungeon Building Card Game. Boss Monster is a sort of ‘tower defense’ with players building up dungeons leading up to their boss creature, in a bid to kill the various heroes that are attracted to visit their dungeon. The game is played over a few phases – Spawn, Build, Bait & Adventure, and continues until all but one player are eliminated (Take 5+ wounds) or a player reaches 10 Souls (Tiebreak – Least Wounds).

Spawn just has #players heroes come out into town, letting players see what heroes they might attract. Build has each player construct one room in their dungeon (Built to the left to a max of 5, or possibly over another room), hopefully adding enough damage to kill heroes, as well as the right treasure type (Each room has a symbol to denote that it has say, weapons, as treasure) to attract them. The bait phase has heroes in the town move to the dungeon with the most treasure symbols of the type they prefer (So a Fighter goes to a 3 sword dungeon over a 2 sword dungeon), with ties having them stay in town till next turn getting drunk in the bar. Finally, the adventure phase is where the heroes at the entrance to each players dungeon move through – If they aren’t killed they go face up to the side of the players boss as a ‘wound (There’s a symbol on the bottom right so they’re easily stacked and the wounds visible), if they are they are placed face down as a Soul (On the bottom again for neat stacking/splaying).

Players have a number of rooms & spells in their hand, which drives what options they have available to them over the course of the game. One room is drawn at the start of each build phase to hopefully provide options to players.

In our game, everyone got the hang of things very quickly (One of the best things about the game is it’s simplicity to teach). I got a couple of holy relics and a ridiculous amount of spell tomes (Come to me Clerics & Mages), Ian got plenty of Weapons to attract fighters, and James matched my holy relics as well as getting a spread of a bit of everything, but not enough for majority to attract monsters. After a few rounds, James had an unfortunate few rounds where he got no rooms he could place (Only advanced rooms – Advanced rooms must be placed atop a normal room with the same treasure type, replacing it such that there’d be no reason to stack them up or anything). I got a ton of Souls from attacting and taking out Mages, as well as a few of the clerics (Although they mostly just stayed in town as we kept tying with 2 relics each). Ian was doing well and had a powerful dungeon, but just wasn’t attracting quite so many heroes.

When we got to the Epic Heroes, James had a rather epic round where he was able to attract 4 heroes (4!), wiping them all out and jumping from 1 to 9 souls. I played a ‘Zombie Attack’ spell, which sent one back to the start with extra health to try and slow him down (And I think it made him change his building plans and potentially stopped him nabbing a sudden win, although he killed the now Zombified hero without issue). I found myself unable to attract any heroes in the last round, as I’d covered up some of my spellbook symbols and lost the mages interest (I was a bit unsure when I could use ‘destroy this room’ effects which could have changes how things happened. Ian was able to attract 2 heroes (On 8 souls), and while I feared one neither me nor James had what we needed to stop him, even past a jeopardy spell (Which forces a full hand discard and makes everyone draw 2 rooms and 1 spell, to try and find another useful spell). Win for Ian!

I like this game, and I think the art style is very cool, but I think it has a number of flaws. Most of all, its’ very random as to whether you have the right cards to build – rather than player interaction for who has the most of various symbols, it’s pretty much at the decks whim – in addition, its’ possible to draw exclusively cards you can’t even build, screwing you over for 1 or more rounds of the game. In addition, the ‘normal’ heroes range from 4 to 8 in health, but while that’s easy to deal with by about turn 4/5, they spawn from round 2, so some of the players end up taking really early wounds for well…no good reason. A ‘Novice Heroes’ deck with a round or two’s worth of 2/3 health heroes would be a small but much appreciated addition to the game. I think next time I play I’ll have to try a house-rule such as ‘draw 2 keep 1’ or have a few cards out each round to draft from (As I don’t like players missing turns), or use the in-rulebook variant of ‘If a player gains no souls on a turn, he may draw an additional room card’ which should also counter the issue. I really hope future expansions might improve either or both of these problems I have as I do thing its’ an awesome theme and cool game to play otherwise ^^ (Oh, I have the first expansion which we didn’t use – It puts items out for heroes to carry, which give the heroes a special ability making them more interesting than a pile of hit points, as well as a special ability for the player that kills said hero to provide more options ^^).

San Juan

When it came to suggestions for after Boss Monster, we were a bit unsure what to go for, as we’d already played 2 of my games and neither James or Ian had bought anything along with them. I had Among the Stars with me which would have fit in the time, but James saw a copy of San Juan (Dave D’s copy I think) and suggested we play that which we agreed to.

San Juan is a role-selection game, with each turn consisting of players taking one of 5 available roles, which provide a benefit to everyone (Well…except prospector, which is weak but gives no benefit to the other players) but a more powerful benefit to the player. Over the course of the game, players construct various buildings which produce goods or provide special abilities, with the aim being to get the most points by the end of the game.

In our game, as I haven’t played before, I just went for whatever seemed to work so that I could get a feel for the game. An early card let me keep an extra card when the ‘councillor’ role was taken (Doubling it’s benefit as far as I’m concerned), as well as another one I built that produced a good every time the same role was taken (So I pretty much just spammed  Councillor and relied on the other players picks to do everything else). I only built one resource location, which was a silver mine, so every time someone traded I could get a ton of cards despite not really paying attention to that side of the game. James’ strategy seemed to rely on cards where when certain things happened, a card was stacked under the building and was worth 1VP at the games end, and Ian I don’t know so much but he did play an annoying card that made for a 6 card hand limit instead of 7. I also built a crane, which allowed me to build atop other buildings (So I could replace my starting indigo mine) as well as making a Park, which let me built the 7 cost ‘Cathedral’ card…but wasn’t really worth bothering with, as between the other 2 players only 1 ‘6’ cost card got built. I lost, 24-28-32, but I think I’d have got ~27-30 points if I’d not consistently forgotten about my Chapel among other things ^^.

I think it was a very interesting game, and certainly quite different in style to anything else I’ve tried, as well as being quite elegant in style. I don’t quite get the seeming emphasis on goods production/sale, as I’d get 4-5 cards each time even though I’d barely paid it any attention, and with a 6/7 card hand limit any more would be pointless (By emphasis I mean that most things I spent to make buildings were more production things…I feel like the game expected more than just 1 silver mine from me). I did see a ‘tower’ card at the end of the game (Although I never picked one up personally) which allowed a 12 card hand limit, and I could see that being impactful, but only if you had it right from the start. Guess I’ll just have to play again sometime and see how repeated play changes things.

Cheers for reading, was a fun night ^^. Shame I didn’t get to bring out Space Cadets: Dice Duel (I got it via a trade at the Expo), as I think it’d be a great use of 30 minutes, but I don’t know that I convince 4-8 people at halesowen that a real-time dice-rolling game is a good idea ^^ (Particularly as I’ve read it’s better with 6 or 8).

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