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Game of the year, 2003
Recommended Card Games
Only two of us tonight, out of the four of us who originally said they could make it, train troubles prevented Boog from turning up and as a result Oggie troubled by his ongoing World of Warcraft and Pot Noodle addiction, decided to cancel (who needs Chinese gold farmers when there is an Oggie about). So after much debate (i.e. 30 seconds) we decided to give Dominion a good two player thrashing to see if it really cut the mustard in a two player setting or was just another over-hyped Magic the Gathering (MtG) replacement.
Five (!) games later we had run through the remaining untried start-up variants and a more advanced variant where we started with all the action card sets out on the table and took turns discarding sets until we hit the requisite number to allow us to start the game.
Both Steve and I have played MtG and in fact the Piddinghoe gamers started out as a regular Tuesday night MtG session down the pub. In other words we both have an affinity for deck building including creating card combos to follow a certain strategy to win. Of course Dominion is all about drafting the right mix of cards into your deck as you play, gaining additional money, victory points or action cards, all of which cycle back into your deck constantly changing the feel of the game.
Depth and replayability is a natural concern when playing a non-CCG game based around CCG drafting principals and mechanics and it probably comes as no surprise that a large number of expansions are rumoured to be planned for the game. In this respect it was good to note that every game played differently and whilst it is simpler to play vs MtG, there is sufficient strategy to suck you into the game and to have fun whilst doing so. A major advantage to me over MtG is that because all players start each game with a basic deck of 7 gold+3 VPs and all players have access to the same set of cards to improve their deck, it avoids MtGs poor starting hand syndrome. In other words if the combos you create don't come off, then it's entirely down to your own ability to draft as you play vs poor randomization of your starting deck.
Parallels with MtG aside, the game is essentially a race to collect sufficient VPs to win the game when one of the ending conditions is met and to put it simply, the player who is the most efficient at this will win. Interactions between players are fairly limited in the sense that only a few cards negatively impact your opponent and using them doesn't always seem to yield an advantage plus if you focus too heavily on being nasty then you may well lose the game. This said the nastiest card of this type (by far) is the one that allows you to take gold out of your opponents deck and this card in particular seemed to be worth using a fair amount. Counter-strategies are usually possible but as I have already said sometimes that over-use of nasty cards can lead to your opponents downfall anyway, so why prevent it!
One thing to note is that both of us found at times that our decks became too ordered over time and so we adopted a house rule that of our own choice or by request a deck could be given a thorough shuffle.
As you may gather I quite like this game, it does appear to be a best as a two player game but since the game is open to variants, I wouldnít be at all surprised to see someone came up with a better 3 or 4 player variant vs the vanilla version of the rules. With 8 plays this has already become the most played game of Essen 2008 and I doubt it will be consigned to the loft anytime soon!
Scores : Steve 50, Andy 40
Ratings: Steve 8, Andy 8
Scores : Steve 36, Andy 20
Ratings: Steve 8, Andy 8
Scores : Andy 40, Steve 20
Ratings: Andy 8, Steve 8
Scores : Andy 33, Steve 31
Ratings: Andy 8, Steve 8
Scores : Andy 50, Steve 36
Ratings: Andy 8, Steve 8
Princes of Machu Picchu, The
Apparently Boog was going to honour us with a report. But I took more than ten minutes to enter the scores onto the site so he's forgotten everything about it now. Luckily I can still remember the salient points, so here we go.
By coincidence, all four of us were involved in the other game of this we had, while we were at Essen. That was only a couple of months ago so we all had the advantage that we sort of knew what we were doing this time. In particular, we were well aware of the importance of gaining as many scoring cards as possible as that's almost the only way to score any VPs. These cards are obtained by moving one of your dobbers up something called the Inca track. Thus we saw a lot of attention being paid to any action which allowed a movement.
This is largely driven by sacrificing llamas at various temples so we saw lots of llama farms springing up on the board. Most of the sacrifices require the player to have collected one or more of the various types of god tiles. So the strategy seems simple enough - grow llamas, get god tiles, move dobber, pick up VP cards, bask in victory. Sadly - or perhaps fortunately - things aren't quite so straightforward. There are various other resources in the game and these are all needed to claim the god tiles.
Thus we all started off trying to build up our economic engines. This is done by building farms which produce the resources. These are built by trading in sets of resources at various locations on the board. One of each resource can be taken for free each day. Others may optionally be produced at existing farms. So each day largely sees a race for each of the freebies, triggering farm production. An auction house allows for resources to be swapped as necessary. And then the resources are traded in for either farms or god tiles. Much of the variability in the game comes from the decision of which resource farms to build, how many of each, and how quickly to start snapping up the god tiles. This has to be balanced against running up the Inca track to get VP cards. Lots of cards are good. However, they are not worth anything in themselves. Each card shows two symbols, each of which represents either a farm or a god. It is possession of the appropriate farms and tiles which actually generates points.
Cards also have a secondary purpose. Each one shows a number of gold symbols. These may or may not be relevant, depending upon how the game ends. The end is triggered by either completing a certain number of turns (days) or by running out of god tiles. Theoretically the game can also end if you run out of VP points, but this seems unlikely. If the running-out-of-days condition ends the game, then the person with the most gold symbols multiplies there score by three and the second most by two.
In theory this is supposed to give two possible major strategies. Farm symbols are easier to score as they need less resources. God tiles are harder to score. And victory cards with god tile symbols also have more gold symbols. So you can aim for lots of farms and try to steer the game to an early conclusion. Or collect god tile symbols and aim to run out of days.
This is where I think things fall down a little. There are things you can do to encourage the game to run long Ė spend turns taking the actions which cause a day to end. But you canít do a lot to encourage the game to run short. For the latter to happen, you really need all of the god tiles to be taken. As youíre unlikely to be scoring for each different type, that leaves you depending upon other players to do part of your job for you and collect those which are useless to you. Worse, those collecting lots of god tiles probably want the other end condition so donít have an incentive to hoover them all up. So whilst the idea is sound in principle, Iím not convinced that it works that well in practice. But perhaps this is just inexperience with the game talking.
Anyway, the game has fortunately been interesting enough so far that we havenít worried about this. And interesting enough that itís unlikely to be a big issue for a while yet. It could, though, make the difference between what is a good game and could have been a very good game.
A glance at the scores will show that we did quite a bit better this time than in our previous game, which ended with scores of 11 and less. Though in this game we had the gold multiplication ending, which bumped up a couple of scores quite considerably.
Scores : Boog 54, Oggie 42, Paul 24, Andy 15
Ratings: Boog 8, Oggie 8, Paul 8, Andy 8
Scores : Oggie 13, Paul 10, Boog -2, Andy -23
Ratings: Oggie 9, Paul 8, Boog 9, Andy 8
Age of Steam
Scores : Tel 115, Andy 101, Paul 68
Ratings: Tel 9, Andy 9, Paul 9
Scores : Paul 17, Tel 16, Andy 15
Ratings: Paul 9, Tel 9, Andy 8
Scores : Tel 9, Andy 9, Paul 0
Ratings: Tel 7, Andy 6, Paul 8
Winner(s): Tel, Andy
Scores : Andy 40, Frank 34, Chrissy 31, Oggie 20
Ratings: Andy 7, Frank 7, Chrissy 8, Oggie 7
Scores : Frank 41, Oggie 32, Chrissy 30, Andy 29
Ratings: Frank 9, Oggie 7, Chrissy 8, Andy 7
Scores : Oggie 85, Boog 72, Paul 67, Andy 57, Frank 53, Steve 50, Tel 45, Anne 19
Ratings: Oggie 9, Boog 9, Paul 8, Andy 9, Frank 8, Steve 8, Tel 8, Anne 9
Scores : Oggie 3, Paul 2, Andy 1, Boog 0, Frank 0, Anne 0, Tel 0, Steve 0
Ratings: Oggie 7, Paul 8, Andy 8, Boog 9, Frank 6, Anne 8, Tel 8, Steve 8
Time is Money
Scores : Paul 2200, Oggie 1900, Andy 1790, Boog 1790, Frank 1690, Steve 1670, Anne 1630, Tel 1560
Ratings: Paul 8, Oggie 8, Andy 7, Boog 8, Frank 7, Steve 7, Anne 7, Tel 7